LMB's Exodus Proposal

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at mail.pjsnet.com
Wed Sep 20 13:36:05 EDT 2000

Dear Lloyd,

You stated that the mention of Ramses and Pithom were "acceptable markers"
because they appeared "to fit your chronology" which has Moses being
Ptah-Mose, son of Seti I.

You state you don't know how large the group is that fled from Egypt, but
that in pursuing the fleeing Asiatics, Egyptian barges are sunk at Yam Suph,
The "Reed Sea."  Where are you locating this "Reed Sea," at Lake Bardawil,
Lake Timsah, the Bitter Lakes or the Gulf of Suez ?

Do I understand you correctly that the Egyptians are pursuing the Israelites
"in barges," which are sunk in a gale ? How did the Israelites cross this
sea, by barge, or by some other means ? Surely you must have some idea of
the numbers involved in the escape from Egypt if you have Egyptians pursuing
them "in barges." So, how many are we talking about, 12, 25, 50, 100, 200 or
more individuals "fleeing" for Sinai ? How many barges would these fleeing
slaves require, if they used barges ?

What archaeological or literary (Egyptian) evidence "exists" to suggest to
you that barges were being used to cross a body of water called the Reed
Sea, to get to Sinai from Egypt ? I seem to recall Herodotus stated that
Pharaoh Necho began to build a Canal from Lake Timsah (the east end of Wadi
Tumilat) to the Gulf of Suez, but abandoned the enterprise upon consulting
an oracle. I know that several Persian erected boundary markers were found
by archaeologists, these markers state that the canal from the Red Sea to
Egypt was the work of Darius of Persia (after 525 BCE). I think Herodotus
mentioned docks near the head of the Suez gulf supposedly built by Necho.
But all this is "too late" for your scenario. There were, however, in New
Kingdom times, Egyptian ports on the Red Sea much further south at Qousseir,
for trade with Punt (perhaps the Ptolemaic era port of Opone, modern Hafun
?) in Somalia, but they are "way too far south" for fleeing Hebrews from the
Eastern Delta and the land of Goshen.

You suggest furthermore that Hebrews reached Massah/Meribah somewhere in
Sinai. Have you determined where this place is ? If you have, is there
"pottery debris" to substantiate that this place is "properly identified"
per your scenario ? According to archaeological surveys conducted by Israeli
archaeologists of the Sinai, after "the Six Days War," no trace was found of
an Exodus, no campfires, no pottery debris, and no graves (600,000 armed
Hebrew warriors according to the Hebrew Bible would have made campfires,
while thousands were killed for worshipping the golden calf at Mt. Horeb,
and their customs would have forbidden them not to make graves, but graves
have been found in Sinai of the Early Bronze Age called Nawamis). So, I am
keenly interested in the "hard archaeological evidence" for your scenario in

"I place the Exodus under Rameses mostly because the mention
of the store cities of Pithom and Rameses, said to be built with slave
labor.  Also, it fits my overall chronology from Abram to Abimelech.
You know it until Joshua."

"I do not posit some mass exodus.  I don't know how large the group was.  No
one does.  Also, I do not posit a long history of slave life.  The 400 years
of Gen 15 is obviously both symbolic (10x40) and exaggerating a time of
four generations from Abraham.  So the slavery was perhaps only one or
two generations long.

"In my new book this is my main point
about Moses.  I extend the reconstruction only slightly to say that he was
the son of Seti I,
brother of Rameses II, a Levite or "convert" to the Hebrew cause, and that
he negotiated the
release of the slaves, possibly after Rameses' son was assassinated.  I also
think that the
Egyptian pursuers were sunk in their barges at the Sea of Reed by a gale,
that the Levites
were made priests at Meribah/Massah, and that the Ten Words were given there
(Horeb is
located near Massah in E).  I also think that he married Zipporah at
Hazaroth, named a
Cushanite (not Cushite) woman.  So with Moses and the Exodus we are dealing
with massive
legends superimposed upon a real individual."

"My work on chronology
has led me closer to the traditional low dating of Moses. I put Abram's
generation at c. 1440, Isaac's at c. 1400, Jacob's and Joseph's (!) at 1360
and Moses' at 1320 and Joshua's at 1280."

Without archaeological underpinnings, I don't see how your proposals can be
seriously regarded. You have to show hard archaeological evidence of a
presence in the Sinai, which has eluded modern Israeli archaeologists. To
date, the only evidence from the dynasty that you suggest the Exodus occured
in, appears only along the Via Maris, the biblical Way of the Philistines. A
well-traveled route, fortified and garrisoned under the 18th-20th dynasty
Pharaohs who used it constantly to subdue Canaan following the Hyksos
expulsion of ca. 1540 BCE.

You have dismissed my arguments about Zoan as an anachronism, of no
consequence to your theory. Perhaps Rameses is an anachronism as well ? It
certainly wasn't built by Ramses II in 1450 BCE when the Exodus occured
according to 1 Kings. Perhaps the Hebrews were not aware Rameses was a
capital, but only a treasure city, thus they made Zoan the capital in Psalms
? All that is proved by the presence of a city called Rameses in the Exodus
text, is that the text cannot be any earlier than the period of Ramses II.
It doesn't prove the event occured during his reign or shortly thereafter,
as you and many others seem to assume. You claim Pithom fits your
chronology. My understanding is that scholars are divided about which site
is Pithom. Herodotus' mention of Necho's canal has it passing the vicinity
of Patumus, which some take to be Pithom. If this is so, it lies somewhere
within Wadi Tumilat. Some have suggest Tell el Maskhutah at the east end of
the wadi. But this site was unoccupied from just before the Hyksos expulsion
until Necho founded a fort there to protect the new canal he was building to
the Red Sea. Although statues from Ramses II era were found there, no
pottery debris exists of that era, the debris is either Hyksos or Saite
(Necho and Persian) as well as Ptolemaic, causing the excavators to realize
Necho probably brought the Ramesside statuary to the site. Tell Retabah has
been suggested as an alternate site for Pithom, it has statues of Ramses II,
but I am not aware of the pottery debris situation. If it is like
Maskhutah's, then Pithom didn't exist in 19th-20th Dynasty times. To make
things even more confusing, a pilgrim visiting Egypt ca. 5th century CE, was
told by guides that Ramses was only 15 roman miles west of Heroopolis
(Maskhutah ?), suggesting Ramses was understood to be in Wadi Tumilat, and
not the capital of Pi-Ramses in the Delta !

If tell el Maskhutah is Pithom (or Succoth according to others), the pottery
debris, being Hyksos and Saite/Persian suggests the Pentateuchal narrative
is a late creation after Necho's reign, because the site was abandoned ca.
1450, 1280, 1250 BCE during the various posited Exoduses. If 600,000 fleeing
Isrealite warriors with families briefly camped there, they left no pottery
debris, something which I regard as highly unlikely.

Redford has noted that the Pentateuchal texts suggest Israel "dwells apart
from the Egyptians" somewhere in the Eastern Delta. His study of Egyptian
texts and inscriptions and led him to assert that at no time was there a
sizeable community of Asiatics living apart from the Egyptians during New
Kingdom times. Such slaves as existed in Egypt were widely scattered across
the length and breadth of Egypt, in service to Nobles, Temple estates, and
victorious soldiers. So, a sizable body of Asiatics in the eastern delta in
New Kingdom times living apart as portrayed in the Pentateuchal texts is
pure fiction. The only time these conditions were met was under the Hyksos
who controlled the eastern Delta until their expulsion ca. 1540 BCE. For me,
the "historical kernel" behind the Pentateuch's "fictious Exodus" is the
Hyksos expulsion.

Redford also noted that under the New Kingdom pharaohs, the eastern frontier
was heavily fortified to prevent another invasion from Canaan. Even Wadi
Tumilat is believed to have been fortified. "Fat Chance" of any slaves
escaping through this heavily guarded frontier in New KIngdom times !

I am not convinced, for the above reasons, by your arguments that "any kind
of an Exodus occured" in the days of Seti I, no matter what the numbers
were, 12 or 200 individuals. If any Egyptian religious ideas penetrated the
Hebrew mindset, it would most likely have occured when Egypt ruled over
Canaan in New Kingdom times, or perhaps under Necho who controlled breifly

All the best,


Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg

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