[by Dean Smith] When you read of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt in the Book of Exodus, the Bible records the country undergoing ten significant plagues or judgments before the Egyptian Pharaoh finally allowed the Jews to leave. The plagues were catastrophic and some have suggested that something of this magnitude should be mentioned in the Egyptian records.
And in fact there is. First we have the Leiden I 344 papyrus on display at the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Holland. It presents the Exodus plagues from an Egyptian perspective. It refers to six of the plagues including the water turning to blood and a massive darkness on the land.
However, there is yet a another artifact that supports the Exodus account. It is called the “Ahmose Tempest Stela” or “Storm Stela.” The broken pieces of the stela were discovered between 1947 and 1951. A stela is an upright slab of rock used to remember or commemorate significant events in a nation’s history.
In his article, Proof for the Biblical Exodus, Simcha Jacobavici writes this 1.8 meter stela was discovered in the Temple of Karnak located in the ancient city of Thebes. The hieroglyphics on the slab were recently translated by two professors from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute — Robert Ritner and Nadine Moeller.
What they found was interesting. They said the slab referred to a massive darkness that occurred in both Upper and Lower Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose. It was so unusual that it deserved its own stela marking the event.
Darkness was the ninth plague mentioned in the Book of Exodus:
21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings. (Exodus 10:21-23 NASV)
Notice how the darkness is described as being so thick it could be felt. It lasted for three days and it was so dark people could not see each other. But there was an interesting exception: the Israelis had light in their dwellings. This implied that the Egyptians didn’t.
Now back to the Stela.
After translating the hieroglyphics, the authors said the Stela described a period of darkness in Egypt, that was so intense it was impossible to even see people standing beside you. It also said the darkness was so heavy that the Egyptians were unable to light torches. Ritner and Moeller said it reads: “no torches could be lit in the two lands.”
The Stela differs from the Biblical account in that it records the darkness lasting seven days. The Biblical record says a thick darkness lasted three days during which no one left their homes, but there may have been a gradual lifting after the third day.
The Stela also refers to a massive storm that hit Egypt that it connected to the darkness. The Stela notes the storm was so severe it flooded temples, literally washing them away. Death was everywhere. Bodies were floating down the Nile and it added that every home was affected by death.
This may be references to two of the other plagues that hit Egypt. In particular the 7th and 10th suggesting the Stela lumped these separate incidents together.
The seventh plague involved a massive hail and rain storm that killed many.
23 Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt. (Exodus 9:23 NASV)
The 10th plague, where God struck dead the first-born of Egypt, specifically states every home was affected:
“and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. (Exodus 12:29-30 NASV).
But perhaps the most significant statement on the Stela is who it blames for the catastrophe. The Stela speaks of a “God” (singular) who was more powerful than any of the Egyptian gods as the cause.
And this was exactly the intent of the plagues. When Pharaoh first refused to allow the Jews to leave, Moses warned him:
“May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. (Exodus 8:10 NASV)
Who was Pharaoh Ahmose?
Pharaoh Ahmose was an interesting Pharaoh. He was the one who drove the dreaded Hyksos out of Egypt, returning control to the Egyptians. The Hyksos were a Semitic tribe, cousins of the Jews, who had conquered Egypt around 1900 – 1800 BC. They took control of upper Egypt, driving most of the Egyptians into the lower half.
The Leiden Papyrus which I mentioned earlier similarly says the plagues took place during the time of the Hyksos.
I believe the book of Genesis provides clear evidence that Joseph rose to power during the Hyksos period. Being Semitic, both groups shared a similar language and culture which aided Joseph’s acceptance. It was for this same reason, the Hyksos’ rulers allowed Joseph’s family to settle in Egypt, where the Jews grew and flourished (Genesis 47:11).
In Exodus 1:8, we read a new king came into Egypt, who did not know Joseph. This was Pharaoh Ahmose who drove the Hyksos out of Upper Egypt. Note how it says, the new king subjugated the Jews because he was fearful they would join with the Egyptian’s enemy (the Hyksos) if they tried to retake Egypt. Ahmose saw the two ethnic groups — Jews and Hyksos — as being allies.
10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us.” (Exodus 1:8, 10 NASV)
So Ahmose oppressed the Jews. During this time, God raised up Moses to deliver Israel. Since Moses’ rise to power involved a number of years, I suspect the Pharaoh of the Exodus was not Ahmose, but rather his son Amenhotep I. It is entirely possible Ahmose was still alive but very elderly and that Amenhotep I was basically the man in charge and the one who Moses dealt with.
The archaeological record says that Amenhotep I died childless, his son having died as an infant. Exodus 12:29 records that the Pharaoh’s firstborn was killed.
This Stela has been known for decades. The connection to the Biblical plagues was obvious, but secularists disregarded it as being little more than a metaphor of a massive flooding that took place in Egypt. Christians ignored it because it did not fit the traditional who the Exodus Pharaoh was — namely Ramses who lived about 300 years later.
In their report, the two professors believe the stela accurately portrays events that took place in Egypt — it was not a metaphor. Removing God from the equation, they attribute the darkness to a massive volcanic eruption that took place on the Mediterranean island of Thera. However, though they presented evidence the two events — Ahmose’ reign and the volcanic eruption — happened at the same time, most believe they are separated by hundreds of years.
Read more in this series:
- The Mystery of the Egyptian Guard
- Does an ancient papyrus speak of the Exodus from an Egyptian perspective?
- Yet another confirmation of the Jews exodus out of Egypt?
- Another confirmation of Exodus: Has a statue of Joseph been found?
- Was a Pharaoh’s violent death curiously connected to to Joseph?
- Proof for the Biblical Exodus: Breaking Israel News
- The Ahmose ‘Tempest Stela’, Thera and Comparative Chronology: The University of Chicago Press