Archaeology, Main, z424
Leave a Comment

Another possible candidate for the Pharaoh of the Exodus: Thutmose III

Painted relief of Thutmose III at the Luxor Museum in Egypt
Credit: EditorfromMars/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 4.0

Dating the reigns of Egyptian pharaohs is extremely challenging with few archaeologists agreeing with each other on suggested dates.

Though movies of the Exodus have traditionally pointed to Pharaoh Ramses (1303 BC to 1213 BC) as the Exodus pharaoh, there is agreement among Bible scholars that it definitely wasn’t him because the Exodus took place much earlier than that date.

Perhaps the best evidence of this is the Merneptah Stele. Discovered in Egypt by Sir Finders Petrie in 1896, it contains the earliest known reference to Israel outside the Bible.

It was erected by Pharaoh Merneptah (1213 BC to 1203 BC), the 13th son of Ramses, around 1208 BC. On the ten-foot victory stele, he describes his great, somewhat exaggerated, victory over Israel:

“Israel is wasted, its seed is not; And Hurru [Canaan] is become a widow because of Egypt.”

As many have pointed out, if the Exodus is dated to the reign of his father, Ramses, as some have suggested, there would not have been enough time for Israel to have developed into a nation.

After their leaving Egypt, the Hebrews wandered around the wilderness for 40 years and spent seven years conquering Canaan. They then needed to develop their settlements and establishing a nation and seventy or so years was certainly not enough time to do this.

Most believe that Merneptah’s attack took place during the book of Judges, when Israel was without a king and in disarray politically.

So how do we date the Exodus?

There are two facts which need to be considered.

First we need a start date for the Exodus and the Bible seems to provide that.

In Genesis, we read how Joseph rose up to power in Egypt and invited his family to live there because of the drought.

A new King over Egypt

In Exodus 1:8, we read that a new king came to power in Egypt, who did not know Joseph.

It is an unusual but telling statement. There was a period of time in Egypt’s history when the Hyksos invaded Egypt (1800 BC) and drove the Egyptian government into the southern half of the Nile Delta.

The Hyksos were Semitic, cousins of the Hebrew, with a similar language and culture. It would seem that that Joseph rose to power while the Hyksos ruled the Northern half of Egypt.

13 | What is so mysterious about an Egyptian guard?

However, under Pharaoh Ahmose (1550 BC to 1525 BC), the Egyptians were able to drive the Hyksos out of Northern Egypt and regain control.

We are told of this event in the Bible:

 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” (Exodus 1:8-10 ESV)

First, we read that his new King did not know Joseph. This was because Joseph and his family had been invited to live in Egypt under the Hyksos.

Having just driven out the Hyksos, Ahmose also realized that Hebrews were culturally similar to the Hyksos, and he feared they would join the Hyksos if they tried to retake Egypt.

This resulted in Pharaoh Ahmose putting the Hebrews into slavery. It was during this period, that Moses ended up being raised by one of the Ahmose’s daughters in the Pharaoh’s court.

Moses was 80 years old at the Exodus

The second major factor that we need to consider is this. We are told in Exodus 7:7, that Moses was 80 years old when God raised him up to lead Israel out of Egypt.

He spent about 40 years being raised in the Pharaoh’s court and another 40 years as a shepherd in Midian where he fled after killing an Egyptian soldier who was beating a Hebrew slave.

So obviously, the pharaoh of the Exodus was not Ahmose.

So if the new king referred to in Exodus 1:8 is Pharaoh Ahmose, determining the pharaoh of the Exodus may be a simple mathematical calculation.

Who was the Egyptian Pharaoh when Moses was 80 years old?

The countdown to the Exodus Pharaoh

But we still have two problems. Though we know Moses was born during Ahmose’s reign, we don’t know if it was in the first year or the fifth year?

After coming to the throne, Ahmose first forced the Hebrews into slavery in order to slow their population growth (Exodus 1:12). When that failed, he ordered the Hebrew wives to kill the male babies and when they refused to obey (Exodus 1:15-17), he ordered the male babies to be thrown into the Nile (Exodus 1:22).

Moses was born sometime during this last phase meaning it would be completely reasonable to presume several years had already passed.

The second problem is dating the reign of the pharaohs. There is little agreement on these dates which are often disputed and adjusted. Note the differences can be significant.

With that in mind, the following chart provides a breakdown of the Pharaohs that followed Ahmose, giving the approximate dates for their reign, plus a subtotal of the years that passed.

Pharaoh Name:Description: Years of reign:Subtotal:
Ahmose IThe Pharaoh who drove the Hyksos out of Egypt. He is referred to in Exodus 1:8 as the New Egyptian king who did not know Joseph.(1550–1525 BC) 25-year reign25 years
Amenhotep ISon of Ahmose and possibly the pharaoh on the throne when Moses killed the Egyptian soldier and fled into the wilderness (Exodus 2:11-13).(1525–1504 BC) 21-year reign46 years
Thutmose IFather unknown. Possibly Amenhotep I However, some archaeological records state that Amenhotep I died childless.(1506–1493 BC)
13-year reign
59 years
Thutmose IISon of Thutmose I(1493–1479 BC)
13-year reign
62 years
HatshepsutWife of Thutmose II. This is one of the rare occasions a female held the role of Egyptian Pharaoh. (1478–1458 BC)
20-year reign
82 years
Thutmose IIISon of Thutmose II, but from another wife named Iset. Most likely candidate for the Exodus Pharaoh considering we know that the Pharaoh was a man (Exodus 7:15)(1479-1425 BC)
59-year reign
141 years

We know that the Pharaoh of the Exodus was a man (Exodus 7:15). This rules out Hatshepsut, the wife of Thutmose II, who ruled between 1478 and 1458 BC and was within the 80-year time frame.

This means that Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC) is the most likely candidate for the pharaoh of the Exodus.

However, it should be noted that other reigning configurations have Thutmose II fitting within the 80-year time frame.

In my podcast, I mistakenly thought Amenhotep I was the Pharaoh, but Moses’ 80-year age at the time the plagues started makes that impossible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.