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The Mount Ebal Curse Inscription: Response to Scott Stripling

Mount Ebal is in the news. The site of a biblical altar built by Joshua and a physical altar discovered by Adam Zertal is now the site of a proposed 40-letter inscription of curses and the name Yahweh (Yhw). The announcement was made by Scott Stripling on March 24, 2022, at the Lanier Theological Seminary. As one might expect, the notice caused a disturbance in the force as the sensational claims rippled through the world of biblical scholarship.

The purpose of this blog is not to address the inscription itself. Instead it is to follow up on Stripling’s answers to some of the questions raised by the audience. They referred to the Exodus, its occurrence and its dating. In his response, Stripling stated the discovery “tips the scale in favor of an earlier date” by which he means the 15th century BCE and not the more commonly used 13th century BCE date of Ramses II. He also mentioned that his views on the Exodus were recently published in the book Five Views of the Exodus.

As you can see from the image of the book, Scott and I were two of the contributors to the book. Since the publication in 2021, he has a new inscription and I have another Exodus-related book, The Exodus: An Egyptian Story. Two of the remaining contributors, Jim Hoffmeier and Gary Rendsburg, have just published a co-authored article on the route of the Exodus. So far, only the fifth contributor, Ron Hendel, seems resistant to the allure of the Exodus!

The format of the book deserves notice. Each of us wrote a 10,000-word article for the book. Once that was edited by Mark Janzen, we each then received copies of the contributions of the other four writers. Then we wrote up to 2,000-word responses on each one or 8,000 words in total. Finally, we then responded to the responses in a 1,000 word rejoinder increased to 1,500 words. So when you read a chapter, you see the original contribution, the responses of the other four writers, and your response to them for 19,500 words in total. This allows the reader (student) to encounter five different views (and they were different!) in dialog with each other in a single book, a clever format. Naturally none of us convinced the others of the merits of our own view. When it comes to the Exodus, no one ever changes their mind although Jim has shifted between early (Stripling) and late (me) datings for the Exodus.

Below is a slightly emended version of my “Response to the Scot Stripling” in the book Five Views of the Exodus.

Stripling takes the position that an historical Exodus occurred in the 15th century BC. He is aware that his position is at variance with the other contributors to this book as well as with most biblical scholars, especially those who completely reject an historical Exodus. In his contribution, Stripling takes great pains to substantiate the 15th century claim both archaeologically and biblically.

There is a problem in his intentions as expressed in the final paragraph entitled “Theological Implications.” He claims that the archaeological truth of an historical Exodus suggests other biblical stories also should be considered historical: they “deserve a presuppositional expectation of accuracy.” In other words, the Bible is true. This truth is not simply limited to the historical act of human beings leaving Egypt, but true in a theological sense. His concluding sentences reveal the truth of this contribution: “Ultimately, if the Bible is true, then the God of the Bible holds a moral claim on all of humanity.  Nothing could have more far-reaching implications.”

That’s the problem. Consider another historical conundrum involving text and archaeology: the Trojan War as told in the Iliad. Suppose archaeologists definitively proved that a war between the Mycenaeans and Trojans really did occur and in the 12th century BC. Actually, such a claim is hardly farfetched. It is quite reasonable now for classical scholars to accept the historicity of such a confrontation. Does that prove anything about Zeus? If one accepts the historicity of the Trojan War, is one then obligated to accept the existence of the gods of the Mycenaeans and be guided by their moral claims?

If the American Revolution really occurred in history, does that mean the United States is a city on a hill and God’s New Israel?

If the Russian Revolution really occurred in history, does that mean that the Soviet Union really was the “wave of the future”?

Similarly Stripling is wrong to suggest that a 1446 BC historical Exodus means “the God of the Bible holds a moral claim on all of humanity.”

In my own contribution to this book, I, too, claim there was an historical Exodus. However, I make no religious or theological conclusions based on that historicity.  I am quite willing to accept that Ramesses II really did pray to his father Amun-Ra at the battle of Kadesh shortly before the Exodus without accepting or even commenting on the existence of that deity or any claims that deity has on all humanity. Similarly, I am quite willing to accept that Moses prayed to the God of Israel before and during the historical Exodus without it meaning that such a deity exists, chose Israel, or intervened in history. So even if Stripling and I agreed on the date, our understandings of the meaning of the historicity of the Exodus are substantially different.

These differences carryover into the proof itself. Suppose archaeologists not only could confirm the historicity of the Iliad but the existence of individuals like Achilles, Hector, and Agamemnon. What would that prove about their dialog, motives, and actions? Not much. Suppose one excavated Valley Forge, Saratoga, and Yorktown and proved that there really had been a war between England and the United States. What would that prove about what the human characters who participated in the war actually said, did, and their motives? Even with voluminous correspondence and documents authentically dated to specific people on specific dates about specific events there is still much room for debate. What exactly does the Declaration of Independence mean? Now eliminate all those texts and try to write a history of the American Revolution based on the archaeology alone.

In response, you may say, we have the equivalent texts from the Exodus, we have the biblical texts. Stripling is aware of this problem. He writes: “The Pentateuch is clearly of ancient origin.” He cites some example from the eighth century BC to suggest that a biblical account of the Exodus is much older. That still leaves centuries between the 15th century date and the earliest Israelite writing about the foundational of event of their own history. By contrast, I subscribe to the view that the Song of Miriam among other brief writings and names originated as part of the 13th century BC Exodus. Israel did not exist in silence for centuries after its creation in the midst a world that had writing and songs.

Turning to the biblical evidence, Stripling places great emphasis on I Kgs 6:1 to calculate his historical Exodus in 1446 BC. Other contributors to this book have raised questions regarding this supposition in their own original contributions even before the responses. They apparently anticipated the citation of this verse [by Stripling] and launched a preemptive strike. Therefore there is no need for me to repeat here what they already have said.

I do wish to elaborate on two points raised in Rendsburg’s contribution. He notes that Babylonian king Nabonidus in the sixth century BC claimed that an Akkadian named Naram-Sin ruled 3200 years earlier. This archaeologically authentic text from the sixth century postulates a date based on the formula of 40 years x 8 x 10 periods. The number “40” will be familiar to biblical readers and from the Mesha Stele which Rendsburg does not site. The point here is not to attempt to understand what these and similar numbers in other texts meant to the Babylonians or Moabites or Egyptians; instead the intention is to recognize that numbers convey non-literal messages. Regardless of what the precise message was, it was not a literal message. It was not a literal message in Moab. It was not a literal message in Babylon. It was not a literal message in Egypt. And it was not a literal message in Israel. The recognition that I Kgs 6:1 should not be taken as a literal number invalidates the basis of Stripling’s approach. He starts with an inappropriate interpretation of the biblical text to determine his date of the Exodus and then turns to the archaeology to prove it.

There are additional issues with the dating. How exactly did Israel maintain such a detailed and precise chronological measurement for all those years? If the Egyptian and Mesopotamian states with their vast bureaucracies employed round numbers that delivered messages and little Moab did too, the likelihood is that Israel did as well. Furthermore, the biblical texts have a very extensive chronological framework. How does this date fit within the larger scope? One might think that its placement is part of a larger message. Did a biblical writer seek to proclaim that not only was the temple in Jerusalem the cosmic geographic center, its creation also was at the cosmic chronological center of the universe? Stripling extracts a verse from the Bible without providing any context or explanation for it.

The same considerations apply to Stripling’s use of Judges 11:26. I agree with him that Jephthah is an historical figure. I also agree that 1100 BC is a reasonable date for him. I disagree with the implication that the written story dates to the same time. I disagree that the writer of this verse had any access to the actual words historical Jephthah spoke just as Homer did not have access to the actual words of any of the figures in the Iliad. His judgment may also be questioned.

The 300 years cited in this verse also is likely to have been a symbolic figure delivering a message even if we can’t quite decipher it. In a separate publication on time, I focused on the number “40” [Peter Feinman, “The Hyksos and the Exodus: Two 400-Year Stories,” in Beal, Richard and Scurlock, Joann, ed., What Difference Does Time Make? (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2019), 136-151]. I noted in passing the usage of numbers based on 3 (30, 300) without offering any explanation for it. In Rendsburg’s contribution to this book, he suggests that the average generation may have been 30 years. Typically, scholars consider 25 years to be the biological generation and, perhaps, 40 to be the symbolic duration. Rendsburg’s observations raises the possibility that perhaps different writers employed different numerical schemes, one based on 3 and the other based on 4. I don’t know if this is so but in reading these contributions, I think it is an idea worth exploring. The point here is that Stripling simply accepts numbers on face value as literally true. While that may be valid for an economic document when someone is buying sheep or goats, it does not seem to be accurate in the official narratives in the ancient Near East. And I haven’t even mentioned the issue of body counts!

Another historical question concerning the 15th century BC date for an historical Exodus, is where’s Israel? In other words, where is Israel prior to Ramesses II and the 13th century BC Exodus? Stripling is aware of this issue. He attempts to fill the gap by citing the work of Douglas Petrovich on early alphabet inscriptions including “three of which purport to document the exodus and associated people and events.” “Purport” is not the strongest of affirmations available to use. This uncertainty is reinforced further on when Stripling writes “If Petrovich is correct…” Stripling is aware that Petrovich’s interpretations have not met with wide acceptance. I suspect it is limited to those who already accept a 15th century BC date for the Exodus and are wrestling with the challenge of filling the gap.

It isn’t as if there were no Egyptian records during this period from 1446 BC to the documented appearance of Israel in the Merneptah Stele c. 1207 BC.  No Pharaoh mentioned Israel during this time despite the various campaigns to Canaan with their lists? Instead, Israel is mentioned precisely when one would expect it to be identified by name: after its creation in the time of Ramesses II.

As for the Habiru/Hebrew connection, the best that can be said is that it is one of the great false leads in biblical scholarship. Stripling presents them as “nomadic marauders in the Late Bronze Age.” They are better described as displaced people who at times served as warriors or mercenaries. There is no archaeological connection between the biblical Hebrews and the archaeological Habiru. The basis for the purported connection is the need to find Israel in history prior to Ramesses II.

Stripling is right to mention the Shasu and their god Yhw. These intriguing people and deity are a necessary part of the attempt to reconstruct the historical context in which Israel emerged. However one should not overstate the case. Stripling’s comment that “Yhw is broadly understood to refer to Yahweh, the God of the Israelites” is slightly deceptive. Yes, Yhw is broadly understood to refer to Yahweh. The questions then to be raised are, first, how Israel, a people named after El, became connected with that word, and second, how that Shasu deity Yhw became defined as the deity who led Israel out of Egypt. Stripling states that the “Bible refers to the nomads or semi-nomads in fourteenth-century Palestine Yahweh as Hebrews or Israelites” but provides no verses to substantiate this assertion. Personally, I lean towards the Midianite or Kenite hypotheses [I actually revised this hypothesis in a previous blog (Egyptologists, Biblical Scholars, and The Exodus) to account for the contact between Moses and the Shasu during Seti’s campaign against them in Year 1.] In this scenario, Moses allies with anti-Egyptian nomads. He then redefines the Shasu deity into an Israelite one who acts in history in what becomes the Exodus. Regardless of whether or not one accepts my view, more is needed than Stripling provides to explain how Israel shared a deity name with the Shasu.

These ruminations lead to my last point. At some point an historical Exodus in 1446 BC requires real human beings to have decided to act against Pharaoh, the mightiest human in their known world. There is no such consideration in Stripling’s contribution. The implicit assumption that the biblical text provides the explanation for the human motivations should be made explicit and justified. The issue of “where is the man Moses?” arises with other contributors as well and will be elaborated on in my final comments.

This response was written while I was working on The Exodus: A Egyptian Story published six months later. Some of the points raised can be raised again in regard to the Mount Ebal curse inscription. Chris Rollston has touched on some of them in his own post on it. I am sure there is more to come when the inscription is made available to the public.

The Mount Ebal inscription reminds me of déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra once said. Think back to the discovery of the Tel Dan Stela. Remember how it could be anything except a mention of David? There was no explanation that couldn’t be accepted as long as it did not accept the name David. The same applies to the altar at Mount Ebal itself. Once again, it could be anything except an altar. As it turns out, that altar routinely is dated to the Iron I period which is later than Stripling dates the inscription. He offered no explanation for that gap. So at this point it is probably correct to say: “More to come.”

Egyptologists, Biblical Scholars, and The Exodus

Egyptologists and Biblical scholars treat the Exodus differently. They approach the idea of an historical Exodus from different assumptions and perspectives and they respond differently to new information about the Exodus. In this blog, I present a speculative case study on how the two disciplines will react differently to the same information drawing on my own book, The Exodus, An Egyptian Story.

The information for this comparison derives from the life of Moses as an Egyptian before he fled from Ramses into the wilderness (in the book) and encountered the Kenites (not in the book). Specifically,

1. Moses helped plan and organize Seti’s campaigns against the Shasu and the Canaanites.
2. Moses was popular with the Egyptian military.
3. Moses was probably 10 to 15 years older than Ramses (not mentioned in the book).

Based on this information derived from Egyptian sources, how would Egyptologists and Biblical scholars react?


As previously stated, Egyptologists avoid the Exodus like plague. No Egyptologist wants to jeopardize their academic careers by delving into the historicity of the Exodus. They can accept based on Manetho and Donald Redford, that it has something to do with the Hyksos, but beyond that tidbit, they do not wish to get involved.

In the previous blog (Passover and Pharaoh Smites the Enemy), I presented information from Kara Cooney in her new book The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World. She expresses the normally academically taboo of having changed her mind about a fundamental truth in her discipline. She refers to herself as a recovering Egyptologist from an abusive relationship. In Egyptology, she is referring to the traditional acceptance of the concept of maat in a positive sense while overlooking or being blind to the violence it legitimizes by Pharaoh in the real world.

Ramses and the Exodus figure in her study. She asserts that Ramses tried to convince the populace that he was truly what he said he was. At the Battle of Kadesh, we are to understand that if it had not been for the heroics of Ramses combined with the blessings of Amun [whom Ramses beseeched], that Egypt would have lost. Cooney claims that Ramses compared himself to Seth, the god of violence who the Egyptians believed could vanish Apophis, the force of chaos, every night in the seventh hour [when as it turns out, the historical Passover occurred]. Cooney adds that we can be sure that some of the military knew the complicated truth, particularly the ones who were there at the battle. [In my book, I cite other Egyptologists making that same claim and would have included her if her book had been published earlier. The military people who knew the truth were the ones who either participated in the Exodus or who allowed it to occur without interfering.]

According to Cooney, Ramses portrayed himself in innovative ways not previously seen before in a Pharaoh. He appeared in the company of his men, driving his horses into the maelstrom of battle, even getting off his chariot and fighting hand-to-hand with his sword. Strategically, this Ramses positioned himself as the direct patron of Egypt’s mercenaries. This depiction is part of new development within Egyptology where the Delta in general and the military in particular are described as “diverse,” an equivalent of “mixed multitude.”

Finally Cooney daringly states that “This zeitgeist is an origination point for the Exodus story in the Hebrew Bible….I am not saying that Ramses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus or that such a series of events actually happened in reality, supernaturally aided or not. But I am saying that the biblical narrative holds kernels of truth” (243-244). To the best of my knowledge Cooney is neither an evangelical Christian nor an Orthodox Jew and she still is in good standing as an Egyptologist despite situating a possible historical Exodus in a real-world Egyptian context.

Now Cooney has the opportunity to take the next step as an Egyptologist and incorporate new information/interpretations. She writes of Ramses excelling in the art of spin and hyperbole (211). Her Ramses seeks to be like Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator (239). She asks “What kinds of insecurities was this king hiding?” (212). Now she has the answer. As suggested in the three points above, Moses was Maximus while the younger Ramses was Commodus. The Sun God lived in the shadow of the man Moses his entire life. Ramses acted exactly the way Cooney describes and had the exact insecurities she asked about and the Exodus did occur precisely in the zeitgeist she portrays at the hour she mentions without realizing it. The missing ingredient that pulls the pieces together into a coherent narrative is Moses. With Moses, she can build on her presentation to tell a fuller story about Ramses than she does without him. The existence of Moses does not threaten her paradigms or standing as an Egyptologist; it enables her to be a better one by applying this new information/interpretation from a book she has read and for which she has written a recommendation.


The situation is quite different for biblical scholars. Consider the following interpretations which are legitimate in scholarship today:

1. The Israelites were Shasu.
2. The Israelites were nomads.
3. The Israelites were revolting Canaanites.
4. The Israelites were Canaanites of long duration filling a void.
5. Israel did not leave Egypt, Egypt left Canaan.
6. There was not one Exodus but multiple teeny-weeny exodii.
7. A teeny-weeny “Pilgrim” exodus group spread its experience to all Canaan.
8. The Exodus story was (piously) concocted in Exilic times.
9. The Exodus story was (piously) concocted in Post-Exilic times.
10. The Exodus story was (piously) concocted in Hellenistic times.

Has anyone suggested Roman or Byzantine times yet?

All these legitimate interpretations within biblical scholarship share one trait in common – they reject the very notion of “Yahweh led thee out of the land of Egypt.” It’s as if any explanation for the American Revolution is acceptable as long as it does not include the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” except as something concocted centuries later.

Now consider the opportunity available to biblical scholarship following the same information available to Cooney. When Moses flees to the wilderness he does so as one who previously had organized, planned, and participated in a campaign against the Shasu. He is no Sinuhe. He already knows the name “Yahweh” but “led thee out of the land of Egypt” is his new hope, vision, and political goal.

Moses does not encounter the Kenites by chance. These smiths are the one neutral or protected people among the various Shasu tribes. They offer him a sanctuary or safe haven. Moses marries into/is inducted into the Kenite tribe. He now has the mark of Cain which renders him safe from those he had fought as a Hyksos Egyptian under Seti. At this point Moses does not expect to be wandering in the wilderness when he leads people out of Egypt against the will of Ramses.  Some of the Shasu decide to assist Moses in his effort against Egypt. Later they will become Calebites and be included in the Exodus narrative alongside those who did depart from Egypt. The kingdom of Judah under David thus will be an odd combination of Canaanite Jebusites (Elyon) who had been allies of Egypt, Amorite Benjaminites (Shaddai) who had been part of the Exodus from Egypt and had a Mesopotamian orientation, and Shasu Calebites (Yahweh) who became allies of Israel during the Exodus.

This scenario was not in my book. That study was limited to Egyptian sources. This reconstruction partakes of biblical exegesis which would have added a whole new dimension to the book and made it much longer. However it does reveal the opportunity available to a biblical scholar if one should abandon one of the accepted Exodus paradigms listed above.

A recent article “Was King David a Nomad. New Theory Sparks Storm Among Israeli Archaeologists” by Ariel David (Haaretz), highlights the challenge. He writes: “Most scholars agree that the preceding stories [to David] in the Bible, such as the Patriarchs cycle and the Exodus are not historical events and are essentially foundation myths.” Exactly. That is the paradigm from which one must not deviate if one is to be taken seriously within biblical scholarship.

An example of this restriction may be seen in the current issue of Biblical Archaeological Review. Daniel Master, Wheaton College, has an article “Piece by Piece: Exploring the Origins of the Philistines. The article is not about the Exodus but is reflective of biblical scholarship towards the Exodus. Master makes three claims in the article.

1. based on the archaeology, the Philistines came from Crete.
2. based on archaeology, the Philistines remembered their Cretan origin centuries later even after they had assimilated with the 12th century BCE population.
3. based on textual information, Israel also remembered the Philistine origin in Crete.

The unstated implication of the analysis is that is that if both the Philistines and the Israelites could remember the Philistine migration from Crete, why couldn’t Israel similarly remember its departure from Egypt? Of course, Israel could and did. So while Egyptologist Cooney can directly posit an historical Exodus in the zeitgeist of Ramses II, Master only implies that one occurred.


An anomalous situation may develop. Theoretically, Egyptologists can accept as legitimate an historical reconstruction of a Moses-led Exodus against the will of Ramses based on Egyptian evidence that is not trying to prove the Bible true because it does not threaten any deeply held Egyptological attitudes towards the event. By contrast, biblical scholars cannot accept as legitimate an historical reconstruction of a Moses-led Exodus against the will of Ramses based on Egyptian evidence that is not trying to prove the Bible true because it does threaten deeply held biblical scholar attitudes towards the event as listed above.

As long as Egyptologists continue to avoid the Exodus like the plague, there is no problem for biblical scholars. The more Egyptologists are willing to accept as legitimate an Egyptian based historical reconstruction of the Exodus, the more the onus shifts to biblical scholars as to why they cannot. Obviously the disruption to the timeline of Israelite history and writing of the Hebrew Bible would be significantly affected if an historical reconstruction of the Exodus in the time of Ramses is accepted as legitimate. The revised “Kenite Hypothesis” described above is just the tip of the iceberg of the potential changes which would follow. So the question becomes not whether this historical construction is correct, but if it is even legitimate based on the Egyptian, not biblical, evidence.

Passover and Pharaoh Smites the Enemy

Narmer's Palette

To understand historical Passover it must be placed in the context of Egyptian violence. Egyptologists who avoid the Exodus like the plague do not do this. Biblical scholars who know that there was no historical Passover do not do this either. They confine themselves to literary and/or ritual studies. However to understand historical Yahweh smites the Pharaoh’s men, one must understand the ideology and action of Pharaoh smites the enemy which Passover turns topsy turvy.


In her new book The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World (Washington D.C., National Geographic, 2021), Egyptologist Kara Cooney refers to herself as a recovering Egyptologist from an abusive relationship. She does so in her opening chapter entitled “We Are all Pharaoh’s Groupies.” She states, “I work in a field of apologists who believe in an Egypt of truth, beauty, and power—and in many ways, I am still an adherent to my chosen faith.”

Now her eyes have been opened to the truth of ancient Egypt… or so she claims. One example she cites is the treatment of ma’at. Generally, Egyptologists understand this term positively. By this perception, Cooney is referring to the traditional view that posits ma’at as an expression of the best of Egyptian culture. It reflects understanding of the harmonious and ordered universe in contrast to the ever-present chaos which threatens it. After all, who wouldn’t favor the ordered sense of well-being of a society governed by the rules of ma’at to the disorganized world of chaos?

Cooney’s concern is for the always-overlooked flip side of ma’at in the real world. For Pharaoh, ma’at a tool of control. It is an authoritarian political ideology that justifies the power to oppress. In other words, it provides the ruler with carte blanche to act against those who disrupt ma’at as the forces of chaos. Specifically, smiting the enemy is “a necessary cruelty against those who harm the king’s people.” She sees Narmer’s Palette as celebrating the horrific subject matter while the moment of carnage itself is not displayed by the artisans. Cooney concludes that “ancient Egypt seemed better at hiding how cruel they could be, masking the viciousness with a morality that communicated a necessity for pain in search of what was right.”

Cooney focuses on the practical application of the doctrine of ma’at by a ruling king. She observes that in “ancient Egypt the most violent rhetoric occurred in textual form and not in visual imagery.” She refers to the laudatory hymns and dramatic reenactments of battles. In my book, The Exodus: An Egyptian Story, I present the skull of Seqenenre as a striking example of the physical reality of “Pharaoh strikes the enemy.” The (racist) failure to recognize the skull as such derives from the refusal of Egyptologists to accept the kings of the 15th Dynasty as real Pharaohs.

Pharaoh himself does not of course do the smiting in Egypt. He has people to do the dirty deed. Cooney claims “the elites were the ones actually tasked with creating the blood and gore.” Without intending to, Cooney has identified the people who died in the historical Passover. The very people tasked by Pharaoh with the responsibility for smiting Moses and his supporters were the ones who were smited first instead.

Cooney concludes, “I, myself, have been co-opted, unable to recognize the propaganda that the ancient Egyptians were creating.” And all this is just chapter one. The rest of the book describes the violence perpetrated by leading royal figures—Khufu, Senwosret III, Akhnaton, Ramses II, and Piankhy. Her observations about Ramses II are particularly relevant to understanding the historical Exodus but outside the scope of this blog.

After this review of the savage brutal, and violent reigns of these kings, Cooney closes with some devastating comments about her field and her complicity in it.

           We Egyptologists are members of the ancient Egyptian law-and-order party.

            We Egyptologists often become apologists for a return to good kingship as the only thing that can save people from themselves.

            In effect, the ancient Egyptians have hoodwinked us into believing that those periods of monarchical centralization were exactly the times when most ancient Egyptians themselves would have preferred to live … [because] the ideology of authoritarianism is seductive.

            The Book of Gates incantation connects the patriarch’s [Pharaoh] use of violence to maintain a cosmic purpose.

She tells her grad students that Egyptology is dead. She herself is a “recovering Egyptologist. She acknowledges how the clever ideology of Egyptian Pharaohs worked on her mind and now recognizes how Egyptologists acquiesce to these ancient spin doctors. “[A]lmost all our scholarship is uncritically supportive of authoritarian policies. Unfortunately her book was published the same month as mine and I was unable to incorporate her comments especially on Ramses and the use of the term “Intermediate” by Egyptologists into it. Fortunately she was willing to write an endorsement of the book (see below).


The very question of the existence of sanctioned murder in ancient Egyptian is a contentious one. Egyptologists who have studied this aspect of Egyptian life have expressed obstacles against this recognition that Egyptians ceremonially killed other Egyptians in public. The very idea touches a raw nerve – the sacrifice of humans is abhorrent so how could the civilized ancient Egyptians have done it?

… the more a topic touches on the scholars’ religious and political viewpoints, the less they are able or willing to evaluate the evidence as objectively as possible. The same is true of topics that touch on subjects to which we have strong emotional reactions (Kerry Muhlestein, Violence in the service of order: The religious framework for sanctioned killing in ancient Egypt, British Archaeological Reports International Series 2299, Oxford: Archaeopress, 2011).

Muhlestein is referring here not to the Exodus but to the perception among scholars that they, the cultured educated intellectuals of Western Civilization view themselves as the “cultural inheritors of Egypt.” They therefore put on “intellectual blinders” so as not to see their cultural ancestors engaged in such repellent behavior. The challenge then, according to Muhlestein, is to confront the historical reality that ancient Egypt engaged in public human sacrifice and to understand it in the Egyptian context. Laurel Bestock cautions that one should resist the temptation to interpret Egyptian imagery of violence as a direct report of actual events. The imagery is part of a larger ideologically driven narrative and not true to history (Violence and Power in Ancient Egypt: Images and Ideology before the New Kingdom (Routledge: New York, 2018).

However, even as Bestock cautions us she lays the groundwork for royal violence. The king is the figure of power. She declares that everyone else is, at least potentially, violently subject to him. The Egyptian values of kingship require a king to be violently physically dominant. The very right to smash heads was an exclusive power of the king. She wonders if smiting scenes were part of a royal ceremony, a drama that included named characters with set roles. Still, this definition of kingship certainly is suggestive that such violence occurred in the physical world and not just metaphorically or theatrically.

The smiting scenes demand careful scrutiny. Related to these scenes of sanctioned murder are the scenes of brutality and pain preceding the act. Mark Janzen refers to these scenes as the “iconography of humiliation.” The king communicated his dominance over foreign captives often through degrading imagery. The victims are shown in tortuous poses of humiliating helplessness (The Iconography of Humiliation: The Depiction and Treatment of Bound Foreigners in New Kingdom Egypt, The University of Memphis, PhD Thesis, 2013). Janzen has collected examples of these bound foreigners. We know that horror movies still draw today. The famous smiting scene from “Psycho” has become part of American mythology. But for the ancient Egyptian such images of cruel pain and horrible death were sanctioned … and by the king!

Instruction to Merikare (Middle Kingdom)

The hothead is an inciter of citizens,
He creates factions among the young;
If you find that citizens adhere to him,

Denounce him before the councilors,
Suppress [him], he is a rebel,
The talker is a troublemaker for the city,
Curb the multitude, suppress its heat,
… (Miriam Lichtheim, Egyptian Literature, Volume I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1975).

These instructions to a king warn of the danger of the hotheaded rebel who can rouse the multitude. One presumes the warning to the king was offered because such situations had arisen in Egypt. Those occurrences are not likely to have been part of the official records of the king.

The focus then shifts to the punishment of disrupters of ma’at. After the text specifies what the king must do maintain ma’at, the Instructions states:

Thus will the land be well-ordered;
Except for the rebel whose plans are found out,
For god knows the treason plotters,
God smites the rebels in blood.
 He who is silent toward violence diminishes the offerings.
God will attack the rebel for the sake of the temple,
He will be overcome for what he has done

One hardly needs to be an Egyptologist to recognize that in this world it is the king who is called upon in these Instructions to the king to be the one to implement the punishment against the rebels. To rebel against the king is to pay for it with your life.

I speculate that within the Egyptian context, Moses was the heated man. He was the hothead. He was the rebel. He was an inciter of citizens. He created factions. He violated ma’at. Therefore, one should expect Pharaoh to seek to respond to this heated man in accordance with Egyptian rules.

I speculate that Ramses correctly regarded Moses as an Apophis, a disrupter of ma’at. Therefore he decided to treat the hot headed rebel in accordance with Egyptian customs.

I speculate that Ramses intended to act at dawn of New Year against Moses and his followers when Sekhmet/Mut, the goddess of plagues and disease, acted as the destroyer of humanity. Moses knew this and did not wait to die before the face of Pharaoh (sunrise) would appear again.

Historical Passover where Yahweh smites Pharaoh’s tasked killers should be understood within this context of Pharaoh smites the enemy who disrupts ma’at.

What Do Egyptologists Think of the Exodus?

What do Egyptologists think of the Exodus? In The Exodus, An Egyptian Story, I examined leading (English) histories of Egypt from 1905 to 2010 to determine what these prominent Egyptologists thought about the Exodus. Later in the book, I repeated the process to see what these same people or co-authors if a multi-authored book, thought about the Hyksos. Only then did I offer my own historical reconstruction.

Below are 8 examples. I have excluded some well-known Egyptian books which had nothing to say about the Exodus.

1905 A History of Egypt: From the XIXth to the XXXth Dynasties by W. M. Flinders Petrie. He appears to take the position that the mention of Israel in the recently-discovered Merneptah Stela complicates rather than elucidates the question of the Exodus.

The name of the people of Israel here is very surprising in every way: it is the only instance of the name Israel on any monument, and it is four centuries before any mention of the race in cuneiform: it is clearly outside of our literary information, which has led to the belief that there were no Israelites in Palestine between the going into Egypt and the entry at Jericho; whereas here are Israelites mentioned with Ynuamu in North Palestine, at a time which must be while the historic Israel was outside of Palestine. The only likely conclusion is that there were others of the tribe left behind, or immediately returning, at the time of the famine; and that these kept up the family traditions about sites which were known in later times (114).

According to this view, not all the Israelites sojourned to Egypt or else some returned fairly quickly. Merneptah then attacked these Israelites already in the land of Canaan and not those who left in the Exodus. Petrie recognized that this view created a problem. He attempted to resolve his dilemma through reconciling biblical chronologies and Egyptian texts on Semitic people entering Egypt in the time of Merneptah.

Some objection may be raised to accepting the periods stated in the early Israelite history; but if their residence in Egypt is granted, we must suppose that they had an educated class which could keep the necessary accounts and records which were an incessant feature of Egyptian life. The known character of the Egyptian and Syrian civilisation of the time must cause a great difficulty to those who would deny all use of writing to the Israelites. The details of the course followed by the Israelites at the Exodus have been much disputed, owing to the insufficiency of data; but the result of Naville’s discussion of it is reasonable and generally accepted [N(aville). P(ithom). 27] (115).

He appears to be citing The Store City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus but I am not sure about the page reference (Naville 1885).

1912 A History of Egypt, from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest by James Henry Breasted: He had written about the discovery of the Merneptah Stela with its mention of Israel as soon as the discovery had been made. Certainly he was current with the archaeological work that might touch on the Exodus. In his own history of Egypt, Breasted wrote:

There is probably little question of the correctness of the Hebrew tradition in attributing the oppression of some tribe of their ancestors to the builder of Pithom (Fig. 162) and Ramses; that a tribe of their forefathers should have fled the country to escape such labour is quite in accord with what we know of the time (1912, 446-447).

Breasted even posited a route for the Israelites to take in their departure.

Although there was never a continuous fortification of any length across the Isthmus of Suez, there was a line of strongholds, of which Tharu was one and probably Ramses another, stretching well across the zone along which Egypt might be entered from Asia. This zone did not extend to the southern half of the isthmus, but was confined to the territory between Lake Timsah and the Mediterranean, whence the line of fortresses extended southward, passed the lake and bent westward into the Wadi Tumilat. Hence Hebrew tradition depicts the escape of the Israelites across the southern half of the isthmus south of the line of defences, which might have stopped them (1912, 447)

Breasted finally referred to a dilemma caused by the Merneptah Stele. It seemed to verify the Exodus event while simultaneously casting doubt on the biblical account.

After a reign of at least ten years Merneptah passed away (1215 B.C.) and was buried at Thebes in the valley with his ancestors. His body has recently been found there, quite discomfiting the adherents of the theory that, as the undoubted Pharaoh of the Hebrew exodus, he must have been drowned in the Red Sea! (1912, 472).

1924 The Cambridge Ancient History with contributions by James Henry Breasted on “The Age of Ramses” and S. A. Cook on “The Rise of Israel.” Breasted’s chapter repeats what he had written in his own history of Egypt.

Foreign intercourse, especially with Palestine and Syria, was now more intimate than ever….Although there was never a continuous fortification of any length across the Isthmus of Suez, there was a line of strongholds, of which Tharu was one and Per-Ramses another, stretching well across the zone along which Egypt might be entered from Asia. This zone did not extend to the southern side of the isthmus, but was confined to the territory between Lake Timsah and the Mediterranean, whence the line of fortresses extended southward, passed the lake and bent westward into the Wadi Tumilat. Hence it is that Hebrew tradition depicts the escape of the Israelites across the southern half of the isthmus south of the line of defences, which might have stopped them (1924, 153)….

The country swarmed with Semitic and other Asiatic slaves. It is quite plausible that Ramses II, probably the builder of Pithom and Raamses, store-cities of the eastern Delta, should have been the Pharaoh who figured in the tradition of the Israelites, and that a group of their ancestors, after a friendly reception, were subjected to slave labour in the building of the two places mentioned (1924, 154).

Merneptah passed away (1215 B.C.) after a reign of at least ten years and was buried at Thebes in the valley with his ancestors. His body has been found there —a discovery somewhat disconcerting to those who held that, as the Pharaoh of the Israelite exodus, he must have been drowned in the Red Sea (see p. 356,n. 2) (1912, 170).

The implication is that an Exodus did occur.

Cook devotes approximately 25 pages to the topics of the biblical text and the Exodus. His interests are more textual than archaeological. He summarizes the biblical account of the Exodus and Conquest. He refers to the literary process of the creation of the textual record which concluded centuries after the date of Ramses or Merneptah. There is no evidence for either event. He spends a great deal of time examining the biblical text in the land of Canaan (and the wilderness) and less so in Egypt itself. The clearest expression of his views appears in two footnotes:

1. While the strongest arguments against the ‘critical’ position have indicated the weakness of elaborate ‘reconstructions’ based upon data which prove to be much more complicated than was thought, no alternative position and no other fruitful lines of enquiry have attracted serious attention.
2. Four groups of theories have prevailed as to the Exodus. Broadly speaking, they associate themselves with (i) the Hyksos (i.e. before the XVIIIth Dynasty), (2) the age of Thutmose III and Amenhotep III and IV (the ‘Amarna Age,’XVIIIth Dynasty); (3) the age of Ramses II and Merneptah (XIXth Dynasty); and (4) a later period (XXth Dynasty). Each of the groups has points in its favour, but deals so drastically with the biblical evidence that should any one of them be justified (through fresh external evidence), the very secondary character of the biblical narratives will only be more unmistakable. Most can be said in favour of (2) and (3); cf. p. 153 sq. [referring to Breasted’s contribution above] (1924, 356).

All in all, Cook does not give much credence to the Exodus account.

1951 The Burden of Egypt by John A. Wilson: The revised title, The Culture of Ancient Egypt, for this edition probably reflects an editorial decision to reduce the judgmental harshness of the original title. However, his antithetical views towards Egypt shine through especially when he was contrasting Egypt with Israel. Wilson included references to Hebrews at scattered moments in his telling of the Egyptian story and delivered a powerful message through them. He concluded his chapter on the First Intermediate Period entitled “The First Illness” with the observation that the “disciplined unity of the state became more important than the rights and opportunities of individuals, the concept of equality and social justice was finally swallowed up. This was the story of a people who once caught a clear but distant view of the Promised Land who ended up wandering in the wilderness” (1951, 124). Here Wilson was disparaging Egypt for having discovered the value of the individual man and then abandoning it. The implication is that Israel succeeded where Egypt failed.

Wilson rejected the notion that Atonism, the religion of Akhnaton was ancestral to Hebrew monotheism (1951, 225-229). He concluded this section with the comment that “The fuller realization of the meaning of God’s cherishing care was to be made by other and later peoples”(1951, 229).

Wilson declared that the Merneptah Stela mentioning Israel means the “Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt” had to have occurred earlier (1951, 255). He stated his own thesis that the Hebrews took little from Egypt and expressed his obligation to present his own view of the Exodus. For Wilson, the biblical account “is a simple and honest attempt to tell the tale of Jahweh’s preservation of His people and is given simplicity and directness for the purposes of national cohesion by making the climax the deliverance of the people from the mighty Egyptian nation” (1951, 255).

Wilson provided some details on how this happened. His Israel truly was a mixed multitude. It consisted of people who had had an exodus from Egypt under the Hyksos, were subjects of the Egyptian Empire in Palestine, were captives taken to Egypt, were Habiru, and were a small group who succeeded in making the Exodus from Egypt. That Egyptianized group outwitted some Pharaoh and escaped into the Sinai wilderness. This group is the tribe of Levi and they were missionaries of a new cult. That cult “struck a responsive chord in every heart which had suffered under Egyptian domination” (1951, 256). The Levites brought unity to the diverse peoples of Canaan.

Wilson expressed scant regard for the people these Israelites left. As slave troops on building projects, they were in no position to learn the ways of Egypt nor should they have wanted to. “Their simple desert souls would see and shrink from some of the abominations of the effete civilization and long to escape dreary enslavement rather than admire the cultural triumphs of the land of bondage … By the time the Hebrews were intellectually mature enough to seek for models of expression from neighbors, Egypt was a senile and repetitive culture, which had nothing dynamic to give” (1951, 256; see also 251). Wilson concluded his book with additional denunciations of the Egyptian way of life compared to the Hebrews and the Greeks (1951, 314-318).

1961 Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction by Sir Alan Gardiner – Gardiner alluded to the Exodus without taking a stand. He mentioned the Merneptah Stela and various wilderness-related inscriptions proponents of an historical Exodus cite but never definitively offered his own opinion despite his earlier supposition about the Hyksos. (See previous post The Egyptian Exploration Fund and the Exodus for Hoffmeier’s comment on the impact of Gardiner on separating Egyptology from Exodus studies.)

1975 “Egypt: From the Inception of the Nineteenth Dynasty to the Death of Ramesses III,” in The Cambridge Ancient History by Raymond Faulkner – Faulkner has little to say except to dismiss the Exodus as an event in history

The second point that arises is the mention of Israel, the only instance known from any Egyptian text. Until the discovery of this stela in 1896 the general belief was that Merneptah was the pharaoh of the Exodus, yet here in the middle of his reign we find Israel already settled in Palestine. Discussion of this problem has been endless, but the fact remains that there is no positive evidence relating to the date of the Exodus (1975, 234).

1988 A History of Ancient Egypt by Nicolas Grimal (1992 English translation) – “It is considered possible that the Jewish Exodus may have taken place during the reign of Ramesses II” (1988, 258). Grimal then mentioned the “Apiru” implying they might be a source for the people of the Exodus without stating it. He noted that there is no surviving record of the Exodus in Egyptian sources which he did not think was surprising: “the Egyptians had no reason to attach any importance to the Hebrews” (1992, 258). Grimal deemed it “possible to reconstruct the course of events leading up to the Exodus…” (1992, 258). He did so through the Egyptian education Moses would have received as a member of the court in the time of Horemheb (1323-1295 BCE). He posited that Seti I then would have sent this trained person back to his people to assist in the building of the fortifications in the eastern Delta and the future city of Piramesse. He dated Moses’s murder of the Egyptian guard, flight to Midian, marriage, acceptance of the Burning Bush revelation, and return to Egypt to the first years of the reign of Ramses II. Grimal treated Pharaoh’s objection to allowing the Hebrews to depart into the wilderness as understandable given that this territory was a constant threat during years two to eight of his reign (1988, 258-259).

2010 The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson – He accepted that the building activities at Per-Ramesses, the capital under Seti and Ramses II, provided a background for the biblical building stories. He characterized the likely Semitic-speaking laborers on the building projects as migrant workers rather than slaves. The sources are silent on any Exodus of the Hebrews. He opined that the biblical story may be a conflation of multiple unrelated historical events. However, he acknowledged that “Ramses was not one to let the truth stand in the way of his news agenda” (2010, 313).

None of these Egyptologists seem to have considered the possibility that Ramses claimed success in the Exodus just as he had at Kadesh … or to recognize that portions of his claim of victory at Kadesh were composed after his failure in the Exodus as well. Come to think of it, neither do biblical scholars.

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The Egyptian Exploration Fund and the Exodus

When I was researching The Exodus: An Egyptian Story, I learned to my surprise that when the Egyptian Exploration Fund (EEF), now the Egyptian Exploration Society (EES) was founded in 1882, the Exodus was a foundational goal. The Fund sought to find the route of the Exodus.

This interest in the Exodus can be traced to the concerns of the two founders, Amelia B. Edwards, author of A Thousand Miles Up the Nile, and Reginald Stuart Poole of the British Museum. Edwards’s story is a remarkable one in its own right. As a woman of no money and no formal training in Egyptology who had spent decades of her life in totally unrelated activities, her formidable presence in the world of Egyptology would have been a surprise to those who had known her.

Equally surprising would have been her commitment to find the route of the Exodus. From my own admittedly limited research, there is nothing in her earlier life to indicate this effort that would dominate the last decade of her life.

With Poole, the quest is not as surprising. At age 17, Poole had published Horae Aegyptiacae, or the Chronology of Ancient Egypt (1851). He supported an Egyptian chronology that was consistent with the biblical chronology of a 4004 BCE creation date. Poole became part of a vigorous debate in England in the 1850s about the antiquity of man. The debate initially was spurred by the geology of Charles Lyell. Biblical commentaries from the time include extremely lengthy small-print reconcilement of geology and Genesis.

Related to the date debate was the race one. The 1850s also was a time of pre-Adamite hypotheses. Part of the debate revolved around the separation of the Caucasian people in the Bible from the pre-Adamite people who had originated in the Nile Valley and spread throughout Asia and Africa. This information was not included in my book. However the whole topic of race and the antiquity of the human race or races was part of the intellectual background of one of the founders of the EEF. Egypt and the Bible were battlegrounds in the fight.

At that time, archaeology was seen as a weapon that would prove the Bible. The discoveries by Austen Henry Layard, Hendrich Schliemann, and George Smith all were examples of how archaeology could substantiate ancient texts. Then in 1882, there was an opening for the position of Professorship of Hebrew at Oxford. Samuel Rolles Driver who was more receptive to German Higher Criticism received the position. Archibald H. Sayce who would become a prolific writer on behalf of the monuments and the Bible did not. Sayce did however join a new organization.

Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF)
March 30, 1882

A society has been formed for the purpose of excavating the ancient sites of the Egyptian Delta…The general plan drawn out has received the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Bath and Wells, Durham and Lincoln, the Chief Rabbi, Archdeacon Arson… (Egyptian Exploration Fund, “Egyptian Antiquities,” The Times, 30 March 1882, 8).

The religious affiliations of some the founders of the organization attest that the EEF was not simply an archaeological organization. Biblical religion was at the core of its identity.

Yet here [at Zoan-Tanis] must undoubtedly lie concealed the documents of a lost period of Bible history⸺documents which we may confidently hope will furnish the key to a whole series of perplexing problems.

The position of the Land of Goshen is now ascertained. The site of its capital, Goshen, is indicated only by a lofty mound; but under this mound, if anywhere, are to be found the missing records of those four centuries of the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt which are passed over in a few verses of the Bible, so that the history of the Israelites during that age is almost blank (Egyptian Exploration Fund, “Egyptian Antiquities,” The Times, 30 March 1882, 8).

Edwards took a leading role in promoting the biblical connection of the new organization. Indeed, Knowledge, a new popular science magazine first published in 1881, marketed the Exodus as a lure to potential readers.

Was Rameses II. The Pharaoh of the Oppression

In an early number, probably the next, an important series of papers by Miss Amelia B. Edwards, the eminent authoress and Egyptologist, on the question, “Was Rameses II. the Oppressor of the Hebrews” will be commenced. (Knowledge, May 12, 1882, 583)

A second promo appeared two weeks later.

In the next volume will appear the first of a most interesting series of papers by Miss Amelia B. Edwards placing beyond dispute or cavil the identity of the Pharaoh of the Oppression. (Knowledge, May 26, 1882, 617)

The discovery of the mummy of Ramses II in 1881 may have triggered the series.

Edwards authored a 16-part series from June 2, 1882, to Jan 19, 1883, on Ramses as the Pharaoh of oppression. She started with Joseph possibly under Pharaoh Apophis in the attempt to fill the story of the 430 year sojourn. I vaguely recall one of the sources also vaguely recalling that the series had been consolidated into a single pamphlet by someone. Regardless of the accuracy of Edwards’s analysis, it is an important historiographical source on the state of Exodus scholarship in England at the time, especially one based on Egyptian archaeology and not simply on biblical exegesis.

We have, at all events, the evidence of the Book of Exodus, and the testimony of several Egyptian documents, to show that, from the time of Ramesses II, when the new “treasure-city” was built and Goshen city ceased to be the chief town of the province, the old name of the Nome fell into either partial or complete disuse and the “land” or county of Goshen came to be called after its new capital, “the land of Ramesses.” (Knowledge, September 15, 1882, 260)

This quotation comes from “IX.- The Land of Goshen.” The area included the Wadi Tumilat which was the focus of the effort to locate the route of the Exodus. The first excavation authorized by the EEF was to find that route in that wadi. The excavation seemed to strike pay dirt for the fledging organization. The excavations quickly led to the publication of The Store City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus by Edouard Naville (1885), the excavator.

Poole celebrated the discovery of “the very walls on which the enslaved Hebrews worked … It is the first step towards delineating the route of the Exodus” (“The Progress of Discovery in Egypt,” The Academy 23:563 1883:140). The bricks might even be for sale until he realized how big they were. (David Gange, Dialogues with the Dead: Egyptology in British Culture and Religion, 1822-1922 Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013: 187)

In the meantime, Poole had published Cities of Egypt also in 1882. Edwards’s review of the book reveals the intentions of the founders of the EEF

Remembering the enthusiasm excited by the discovery of the Chaldaean Deluge-tablets [Gilgamesh Epic], one asks with wonder how that enthusiasm is compatible with our indifference to the far more momentous discoveries which await the Egyptian explorer…Such records are more vitally important than all the Deluge legends recently collected from every corner of the globe… (The Academy, December 2, 1882, 389)

In the review, Edwards was quite vigorous in calling the English flock to the task at hand.

[I]t is first of all needful to wake the Bible-loving, church- and chapel-going English people from their long sloth, and to make them see that now, if ever, it is a serious duty, and not a mere archaeological pastime, to contribute funds for the purpose of conducting excavations on a foreign soil. (The Academy, December 2, 1882, 390)

This quest for the route of the Exodus in Egyptology proved to be short lived. Just as Assyriology had been heavily indebted to biblical studies before becoming an independent discipline, so too with Egyptology. Now the Exodus is practically a taboo subject within the field.

With the work of these early Egyptologists, the search for the biblical cities associated with the exodus was on. But it seems that [Alan] Gardiner’s strong condemnation of those whom we might call biblical Egyptologists, continues to cast a pall over serious investigation of biblical history with the aid of Egyptology. Since the 1930s there have been only a few Egyptologists who have integrated their work with biblical studies, in particular as it relates to the exodus tradition. (James Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 52).

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400 Years a Slave

400 Hundred Year Stele Line Drawing (Wikipedia)

400 years is in the news. The time period has been the topic of some tweets and interviews by Kanye West in relation to slavery in the United States. Putting aside the Emancipation Proclamation, the 400 year time period of Middle-Passage blacks in America calls to mind other 400 year periods in American history.

  • In 1893, America celebrated the Columbus quadricentennial one year late in a famous exposition in Chicago
  • In 2007, Jamestown celebrated its quadricentennial including a royal visit from England
  • In 2009, New York, Vermont, and Canada celebrated the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson and Samuel Champlain including a royal visit from the Netherlands
  • In 2011, Protestants especially in the United States and the United Kingdom celebrated the quadricentennial of the publication off the King James Version of the Bible.


400 year anniversaries are a big deal. They involve long memories and cultural continuity.

In biblical terms, the 400 year time period is well known and for its connection to slavery:

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13).

But is not the only 400-year period known from ancient times. As it turns out there is another memory of a 400-year period and from Pharaoh Ramses II, the traditional pharaoh of the Exodus. Ramses II honored the legacy of the Hyksos in Egypt commemorating their sojourn in the land in year 400, month 4, season 3, day 4 on an artifact appropriately called the Four Hundred Year Stele. The idea that there is a connection between these two 400-year traditions from the 17th to 13th centuries BCE involving West Semites in the Delta in the time of Ramses is not new. The connection between the two cultural memories was the subject of my paper last November at the annual conference of the American Schools of Oriental Research (to be published as “The Hyksos and the Exodus: Two 400-Year Stories,” in Richard Beal and Joann Scurlock, ed., What Difference Does Time Make? [Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns]).

Let’s examine the significance of the number and then turn to the issue of connections. To begin with there is the number four. Assyriologist Piotr Michalowski observes:

Not to be content to be kings of Sumer and Akkad, these [Akkadian] rulers added still another forceful epithet, “king of the four corners of the universe,” or, in Sumerian, “kings of the heaven’s four corners,” in a sense driving home the notion of “everything.”1

This sense of “everything” through the use of “four” continued across the millennia in Mesopotamian times from Akkadians to Assyrians.

Four certainly is known in the biblical tradition and in the same cosmic sense. There are the four rivers of the garden encompassing the world (Gen. 2:10). There are the four cities Nimrod rules encompassing the empires from in the beginning to the present of the author if one dismisses Egypt (Gen. 10:8-10). There are the four kingdoms of chaos who are defeated by the warrior-shepherd(/king) of Hebron in this version of the cosmos and chaos tradition (Gen. 14). And there are the four kingdoms in the Daniel tradition (Daniel 7:2-7) thereby raising the perennial question of who would be the fifth kingdom. These examples all attest to the cosmic dimension of the number 4 and its sense of completeness.

Raising the number four by a factor of ten continues the metaphorical not literal dimension of numbers. Forty also is number well-known from the biblical tradition in a variety of examples and settings. It rains for forty nights and forty days (Gen. 7:4, 12, and 17; 8:6). Israel wanders in the wilderness for forty years (Ex. 16:35; Num. 14:33-34; 32:13; Deut. 2:7; 8:2, 4; 29:5; Josh. 5:6; Neh. 9:21; Ps. 95;10; Amos 5:25; Acts 13:18; Heb. 3:9, 17). Moses and Elijah were on the mountain for forty days and forty nights (Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 11, 18; 10:10; I Kings 19:8). There are additional examples of the use of forty as well.

The extensive use of the number 40 across a wide range of times, people, and circumstances suggests some intrinsic value was associated with the number 40 beyond a literal meaning. My sense of the usage is that 4 x 10 also implies a totality, the completion or fulfillment of a measure of time, a way of marking periods or cycles, and is not to be taken literally. It signifies the right amount in time or for an action. God forbid Hazael should have brought 41 camel loads (II Kings 8:9) or Moses and Elijah should have remained on the mountain top for only 39 days and nights. Those actions would have disrupted the cosmic order. The audience expected 40.

The number 40 also is attested outside the biblical narrative. In the Mesha Stele, Mesha, the king of Moab, declares that Israel had ruled over the land of Moab for forty years.

Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba, and dwelled there his days and much of his son’s days, forty years.

The more challenging question is to determine how it came to be that Mesha used the same number used so frequently in biblical accounts. In this regard, the task is similar to that between the two usages of 400 by Ramses and the story of oppression in Egypt ending with Ramses. The idea that there is no connection between the biblical 40 and 400 and the non-biblical usages by Mesha and Ramses would be considered farfetched in any discipline other than biblical studies.

Ramses didn’t only use 400 years in the appropriately named “Four Hundred Year Stele.” He also used 4 for the day and the month. He probably would have used four for the season too except Egypt only had three. Egyptologist James Hoffmeier characterizes this dating as “odd, raising the possibility of some sort of symbolism.”2 The stele commemorates the action of his father Seti I infusing the Baal-Seth identity in the new Egyptian capital at Avaris at the birth of the new dynasty. In a sense, the action officially demarcated the cessation of the Amarna Era (chaos) and the primacy of the Baal-Seth deity at Avaris (order) over the Amun-Re deity at Thebes in the 18th Dynasty. All these machinations automatically have political overtones. While the politics of the birth of the 19th Dynasty are beyond the scope of this post, one should remain cognizant that those developments form the backdrop to the Four Hundred Year Stele.

Again my sense is this higher factor of 4 and 102 signifies a unit of completion or perfection. In this case, Ramses is referring to a period of time or cycle that presumably has now concluded. I propose that in the Four Hundred Stele, Ramses sought to merge the two traditions as his father had. The time of the onset of the new Egyptian dynasty was the time of the completion of a period in history. He integrated the Hyksos timeline into the Egyptian one. Instead of the Hyksos ruling during an “intermediate period” as in Egyptology today, the Hyksos were the beginning of a cycle which concluded with the post-Amarna restoration. What had been separate now became one. Baal began both periods in history. From this point forward, the two peoples were chronologically merged into a single timeline in Egyptian history. It was morning in Egypt. Here comes the sun on a new day in Egyptian history. Ramses had delivered a political message in his present through the metaphorical values of the numbers he chose to publicly proclaim in the organization of temporal epochs.

Egyptologist Hans Goedicke dates the Four Hundred Year stele to shortly after year 34 in the reign of Ramses. He asks:

Why should Ramses in the second half of his reign suddenly have an urge to foster the legitimacy of his rule and that of his family, after they had occupied the throne for more than fifty years?3

I propose that the origins of the stele are to be found in the aftermath of the Battle of Kadesh during the reign of Ramses II.

This famous battle between Egypt and the Hittites in Year 5 of the reign of Ramses II is famous for important reasons:

  1. the size of the armed forces in a Bronze Age battle was huge and rare
  2. the numerous descriptions of the battle in image and text by Ramses II
  3. the existence of an alternate vision of the battle by the Hittites
  4. the ineptitude of the new Pharaoh in falling into a trap
  5. the rescue of Ramses by a Semitic military contingent
  6. the motifs used by Egypt which could be appropriated by others for their own purposes.


Just as Waterloo and D-Day live on in the cultural memory of western civilization so too Egypt’s two main battles in the Levant, Thutmose III at Megiddo and Ramses II at Kadesh lived on in the cultural memory of the Canaanites.

There were geopolitical consequences to the battle. Egyptologist Donald Redford claims that after the battle of Kadesh:

Headmen of Canaanite towns, vassals of Egypt, were impressed by what they divined as inherent weaknesses in Pharaoh’s forces: poor intelligence and a tendency to panic. Rebellion was possible; Egypt could be beaten….In the wake of the retreating Egyptians, all Canaan flared into open revolt….It was Ramesses’s darkest hour.4

Redford limits this awareness to Canaanites in the land of Canaan. Redford is correct about Canaanites revolting in the land of Canaan following Ramses’s poor performance as commander in chief.  The destruction in Hazor is simply the most prominent example of the “Canaanite spring,” the unrest Ramses now had to face in land of Canaan.

Meanwhile, all was not quiet on the home front either. As Thomas Thompson astutely comments on the significance of the battle of Kadesh beyond the battle itself.

After this defeat, Ramses II’s army was racked with revolts. It had borne the brunt of the cost of his expensive misadventure….Civil unrest and religious opposition at home was doubly encouraged….A series of plots and intrigues by court factions bitter over the military failure at Kadesh effectively paralyzed royal authority and its control of import groups within the army.5

One might take issue to the extent to which unrest and intrigue occurred, but the basic thrust of the observation appears valid. Kadesh exposed the shortcomings the leader of the country and people responded to that weakness. Thompson has honed in on the precise time when the potential for disruption of ma’at in the political arena had occurred.

I propose that that it was this very disruption which led to the two 400-year traditions in Egypt and Israel. Baruch Halpern suggests that if the Israelites scribes knew the 400 Year stele, that such knowledge is evidence of the portrayal of Israel as Hyksos and the identification of Ramses as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. He asserts the Israelites linked themselves to the memory of the Hyksos in Egypt probably during the time of Solomon when relationships between the two countries were good and monuments were being relocated from Goshen/Avaris to Tanis where the 400-year stele ultimately was found.6 He does not appear to consider the possibility that the some Hyksos actually led the people who left Egypt in the time of Ramses II and that therefore these linkages were always part of the Israelite cultural heritage right from the start. After his failure at Kadesh and the departure of Hyksos Levites and others to liberate the land of Canaan from Egyptian hegemony, Ramses sought to shore up his support with the Hyksos who had remained in the land with the Four Hundred Year Stele. The Hyksos Levites who had left Egypt after the Battle of Kadesh and then became Israelite later incorporated that event into their own cultural memory. After all, they too had been in the land of Egypt for 400 years before they left. Once you realize that the Levites were Hyksos all the pieces fall into place.



  1. Piotr Michalowski, “Masters of the Four Corners of the Heavens: Views of the Universe in Early Mesopotamian Writings,” in Kurt A. Raaflaub and Richard J.A. Talbert., ed., Geography and Ethnography: Perceptions of the World in Pre-modern Societies (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 147-168, here 153.
  2. James K. Hoffmeier, “What Is the Biblical Date for the Exodus? A Response to Bryant Wood,” JETS 50 2007:225-247, here 238n.74.
  3. Hans Goedicke, “Some Remarks on the 400-Year Stela,” CdE 41 1966:23-37, here 24.
  4. Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 185.
  5. Thomas L. Thompson, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 153.
  6. Baruch Halpern, The Exodus from Egypt: Myth or Reality,” in Hershel Shanks, William G. Dever, Baruch Halpern, P. Kyle McCarter, The Rise of Ancient Israel: Symposium at the Smithsonian Institution, October 26, 1991 (Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeological Society, 1992), 86-117, here 98-101; and Baruch Halpern, “Fracturing the Exodus, as Told by Edward Everett Horton,” in Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Schneider, and William H. C. Propp, ed. Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience (New York: Springer, 2015), 293-304,  here 299.

Were the Levites Hyksos? – No! That Would Mean Having to Take the Exodus Seriously as a Secular Event in History

Was he a Hyksos?

Were the Levites Hyksos? Both the Levites and the Hyksos garner their fair share of attention in their respective disciplines, biblical scholarship for the former and Egyptology for the latter, but never the twain shall met. The association with the Hyksos, the West Semitic warriors from across the river with a 400-year tradition of being in Egypt at the time of Ramses II, with the Exodus is millennia old. As recounted by 1st century CE Jewish historian Josephus, the Egyptians already had a centuries-old tradition linking the Hyksos to the Exodus. The idea of their being some relationship between at least some Hyksos and the Israelites is more acceptable in Egyptology than in biblical studies. It would mean real people in the real world in a real political context of some kind left Egypt and settled in Canaan, ideas that are unacceptable to biblical scholars.1

The Levites are better known the Hyksos and their role in Israelite history and the writing of the Hebrew Bible is much more acceptable. Tracing their involvement over time in the writing by biblical scholars is considered a valid and legitimate academic undertaking. But even given this connection between the writing of the Hebrew Bible and the Levites, there is still something which doesn’t quite sit right with biblical scholars. 2

One would be remiss in this investigation of the Levites to Israelite history and biblical writing if one ignored that sometimes the Levites themselves were the subject of stories that portray a distinctly non-priestly picture of them. Typically one thinks of priests in ritualistic settings. They offer sacrifices, maintain the holiness of the sanctuary, and perform rituals at the sacred times. But with the Levites, there is a legacy of violence associated with them as well. The verses typically cited to illustrate that aspect of their identity are:

Genesis 34:25 On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came upon the city unawares, and killed all the males.

Genesis 49:5 Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 6 O my soul, come not into their council; O my spirit, be not joined to their company; for in their anger they slay men, and in their wantonness they hamstring oxen. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

Exodus 32:27 And he [Moses] said to them, “Thus says Yahweh God of Israel, ‘Put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Deuteronomy 33:8 And of Levi he said, “Give to Levi thy Thummim, and thy Urim to thy godly one, whom thou didst test at Massah, with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; 9 who said of his father and mother, ‘I regard them not’; he disowned his brothers, and ignored his children. For they observed thy word, and kept thy covenant. 10 They shall teach Jacob thy ordinances, and Israel thy law; they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt offering upon thy altar. 11 Bless, O Yahweh, his substance, and accept the work of his hands; crush the loins of his adversaries, of those that hate him, that they rise not again.’”

Exactly how it came to be that the Levites and violence are so closely linked is not clear. 3

Biblical scholars have endeavored to plumb this facet of this violent attribute of the Levites, priests of Moses or Mushites. For example, in Mark Leuchter’s oral presentation on “The Fightin’ Mushites” two years prior to his published paper, he stated in his abstract:

The priestly line founded by Moses (the “Mushites” following [biblical scholar Frank M.] Cross and others) stands out most prominently in this regard in premonarchic tradition and, subsequently in the northern kingdom…But how did the Mushites establish themselves as a dominant priestly house, and at what point did Moses himself become a typological symbol of the Levites more broadly. 4

Leuchter finds his answers in the violent Mushite legacy of Moses slaying the Egyptian taskmaster who beat a Hebrew:

One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Ex.2:11-12).

Following that event, Moses flees to Midian where he marries Zipporah and they have a son Gershom. Leuchter dismisses the biblical “stranger in a strange land” explanation for the name of Gershom as its true meaning. Citing various scholars, Leuchter links the shared root GRSH (גרש) to the action of the shepherds who “drove away” the women watering at the well before Moses turned the table on them. Thus the son was named after the action whereby his parents met. Leuchter then suggests that term Gershom was less a name than a title signifying a Mushite who acts to defend the weak be it the Hebrew man in Egypt or the Midianite women in the wilderness. In the remainder of the article, Leuchter elaborates on the continuity of this marital prowess tradition. 5

Richard Elliott Friedman, author of the recent The Exodus: How It Happened and Why It Matters, pushed the Levite identity back to the origin of Israel into Egypt itself. In his earlier book Who Wrote the Bible?, Friedman suggests that perhaps of the people who became Israel only the Levites had been slaves in Egypt. He cites the Egyptian names of key Israelites such as Moses and Aaron=s grandson Phinehas as part of this Egyptian heritage. Since the Levites in Egypt were mere slaves, Friedman does not address the writing or literacy skills of these marginalized people. Nor does he speculate on how these Levites acquired their violent image if they were slaves in Egypt. Years after that 1987 publication he returned to that subject online and promised a forthcoming book about it now published. But even though he has identified the Levites as critical to the writing of the Hebrew Bible, the now-published book does not address the writing legacy these Levites brought with them when they crossed over the river Nile to the promised land or the origin of their violent heritage. 6

It is possible to put these pieces together to suggest the critical role of the Levites in the origin of Israel and the writing of the Hebrew Bible. For violent Semites in the land of Egypt there are two realistic choices: the Hyksos and the n’rn. N’rn is a Semitic word. In Egypt, they were the soldiers who rescued Ramses II when he marched headstrong into a Hittite trap on the Orontes in Syria in Year 5 (1274 BCE). They appear out of nowhere without explanation and are depicted as Egyptians in a battle relief. Even more amazingly, Ramses credits them for the “victory” at Kadesh, a battle he also claimed to have won all by himself! The n’rn also appear in the Karnak Inscription of Pharaoh Merneptah, the son and successor to Ramses who claimed to have destroyed the seed of Israel. Generally, the n’rn are considered to be Canaanites from multiple locations now fighting on behalf of Egypt, but their ethnicity is under debate among Egyptologists. However, the Karnak Inscription clearly differentiates the n’rn from the victorious Egyptian troops even as they are likened to each other. One might even inquire why Merneptah chose to compare his Egyptian troops to the n’rn in the first place. Evidently their fighting reputation was well-known. 7

The Hyksos are an intriguing piece in the puzzle. There is no inherent reason why Hyksos could not have been included in the n’rn who rescued Ramses or their commanding officers. According to Manfred Bietak, the excavator Avaris/Pi-Ramesse, the capital city of both the Hyksos and Ramses:

The end of Hyksos rule in Egypt from the historical point of view is a subject rarely addressed in Egyptology….In Egyptology, the impact of Hyksos rule on Egypt has been largely neglected in research if not ignored….[I]t is only logical to postulate that the presence of several ten thousands people of Western Asiatic people in north-eastern Egypt over a period of over 300 years (c. 1830-1530 BCE) must have had an impact on successive New Kingdom culture. 8

Levite n’rn would have a military heritage but not the writing and cultural experience of the Hyksos who had once ruled Egypt and remained a more elite and educated group. Either way, Friedman’s violent slave Levites make more sense if they had a military background.

I suggest that the missing link in all these musings is the recognition that the Levites were Hyksos. I am not claiming that all the Hyksos became Israelites nor I am claiming that all Israelites were Levite. I am claiming that the Levites who left Egypt provided the leadership for the people who became Israel. They were literate. They were warriors. They were aware of the world picture. They were known to Ramses who honored the Hyksos collectively for their 400-years in Egypt in the appropriately named 400 Year Stela. 9  They were the right people in the right place at the right time to contemplate leaving Egypt to liberate the land of Canaan from Egyptian hegemony under the leadership of the Levite Moses. Recognizing that Levites were Hyksos who became Israelites in opposition to Ramses means the Exodus occurred in the real world. By contrast biblical scholarship takes pride in having freed itself some such myths as an historical Exodus. Ironically, it will be easier for Egyptologists to deal with a real world Exodus than for biblical scholars.


1. For the Hyksos, see Bietak, Manfred, “The Aftermath of the Hyksos in Avaris,” in Rakefet Sela-Sheffy and Gideon Toury, ed., Culture Contacts and the Making of Cultures: Papers in Homage to Itamar Even-Zohar (Tel Aviv: Unit of Culture Research Tel Aviv University, 2011), 19-65; Bietak, Manfed, “On the Historicity of the Exodus: What Egyptology Today Can Contribute to Assessing the Sojourn in Egypt,” in Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Schneider and William H.C. Propp, ed., Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience (Heidelberg-New York- Dordrecht-London 2015), 17-36; Marée, Marcel, ed., The Second Intermediate Period (Thirteenth-Seventeenth Dynasties): Current Research, Future Prospects (OLA 192; Leuven: Peters, 2010); Oren, Eliezer D., ed., The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives (Philadelphia, 1997); Redford, Donald B., “The Hyksos Invasion in History and Tradition,” Orientalia 39 1970: 1-51; Redford, Donald B., and Weinstein, James, “Hyksos,” Anchor Bible Dictionary III: 341-348; Ryholt, K. S. B., The Political Situation in Egypt During the Second Intermediate Period c. 1800-1550 B.C. (Copenhagen: K.S.B. Ryholt and Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997); Van Seters, John, The Hyksos: A New Investigation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966).

2. For the Levites, see Cohen, Martin A., “The Role of the Shilonite Priesthood in the United Monarchy of Ancient Israel,” Hebrew Union College Annual 36 1965:39-98; Frolov, Serge, “’Days of Shiloh’ in the Kingdom of Israel,” Biblica 76 1995:210-218; Halpern, Baruch, “Levitic Participation in the Reform Cult of Jeroboam I,” Journal of Biblical Literature 95 1976:31-42; Polk, Timothy, The Levites in the Davidic-Solomonic Empire,” Studia Biblica et Theologica 9 1979:3-22; Rehm, Merlin, “Levites and Priests,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary IV:297-310; Robinson, Robert B., “The Levites in the Pre-Monarchic Period,” Studia Biblica et Theologica 8 1978:3-24.

3. Joel Baden, “The Violent Origins of the Levites: Text and Tradition,” in Mark A. Leuchter and Jeremy M. Hutton, ed., Levites and Priests in Biblical History and Tradition (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 103-116; Richard Elliott Friedman, “Levites and Priests in History and Tradition,” paper presented at the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature, San Diego, November 24, 2014; Mark A. Leuchter, “The Fightin’ Mushites,” Vetus Testamentum 62 2012:479-500.

4. Mark A. Leuchter, “The Fightin’ Mushites,” paper presented at the Columbia Hebrew Bible Seminar, March 17, 2010. The published article dates the presentation to February, 2010.

5. Leucheter, “The Fightin’ Mushites,” 492-494.

6. Richard Elliott Friedman, The Exodus: How It Happened and Why It Matters (New York: Harper, 2017); Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?,(New York: Summit Books, 1987), 82; Richard Elliott Friedman, “The Historical Exodus: The Evidence for the Levites Leaving Egypt and the Introduction of YHWH into Israel,” The Torah: A Historical and Contextual Approach, undated,‑historical‑exodus/ and “The Exodus Is not Fiction: An Interview with Richard Elliot Friedman” Reform Judaism, undated,‑not‑fiction. See also Richard Elliott Friedman, “Love Your Neighbor: Only Israelites or Everyone?,” BAR 40/5 2014:48-52.

7. For the role of these Semitic soldiers in the showdown with the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh, see Goedicke, Hans, “Considerations of the Battle of Kadesh,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 52 1966:71-80; Kitchen, Kenneth A., Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II (Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips, 1982), 60; Manassa, Colleen, The Great Karnak Inscriptions of Merneptah: Grand Strategy in the 13th Century BC (YES 5; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 53; Morris, Ellen, The Architecture of Imperialism: Military Bases and the Evolution of Foreign Policy in Egypt’s New Kingdom (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 362-366; Obsomer, Claude, “La Bataille de Qadech de Ramsès: Les n’arin, sekou tepy et questions d’itinéraires,” in Christina Karlshausen and Claude Obsomer, ed., De la Nubie à Qadech: La Guerre dans l’Égypte/From Nubia to Kadesh: War in Ancient Egypt (Brussels: Safran Publishers, 2016), 81-168; Schulman, Alan, “The N’RN at the Battle of Kadesh,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 1 1962:47-52; Schulman, Alan, “The N’RN at Kadesh Once Again,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 11 1981:7-19; Spalinger, Anthony, “Notes on the Reliefs of the Battle of Kadesh,” in Hans Goedicke, ed., Perspectives on the Battle of Kadesh (Baltimore: Halgo Inc., 1985), 1-42, here 3; Zudhi, Omar, “Benteshina and the N’rn Division,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 8 1977-1978: 141-142.

8. Bietak, “The Aftermath of the Hyksos in Avaris,” 20-21.

9. Peter Feinman, “The Hyksos and the Exodus: Two 400-Year Stories.” Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Schools of Oriental Research, November 16, 2017, publication forthcoming Beal, Richard and Scurlock, JoAnn, ed., What Difference Does Time Make? (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, forthcoming).

Portions excerpted from Jerusalem Throne Games by Peter Feinman