Who was Pharaoh when Moses lived?
Manetho was a historian in the first or second century BC. Historians today rely heavily on Manetho for their chronology of Egyptian history. According to Manetho "Amenophis" was the pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. Amenophis is the Greek name for "Amenhotep". There were four pharaohs called Amenhotep. All of them reigned in the 18th Dynasty. Using the "High Chronology" Amenhotep I reigned 1550-1529 BC, and the last one, Amenhotep IV, reigned 1377-1361 BC.
Taking the "480th year" in 1 Kings 6:1 as a literal figure also gives an Amenhotep as the king of the Exodus, Amenhotep II. In my view, that the pharaoh of the Exodus was Amenhotep II is very well attested, as I hope to show.
The dates for the High Chronology for the 18th Dynasty differ by 25 years from the Low Chronology - both are equally acceptable to Egyptologists but the High Chronology fits the Biblical chronology and the Low Chronology does not. In fact the High Chronology assumes a heliacal rising of Sirius to have been observed from Memphis rather than any other Egyptian location. There is good evidence that such observations were made from Memphis, and really no serious evidence they were made elsewhere.
The reigns of the pharaohs using the High Chronology are:-
18th Dynasty (which started just after the Hyksos were defeated)
Ahmose - 1575-1550 - 25 years (length of reign)
Amenhotep I - 1550-1529 - 21 years
Thutmose I - 1529-1517 - 12 years
Thutmose II - 1517-1504 - 13 years
Thutmose III - 1504-1450 - 54 years
Hatshepsut - 1498-1483 (a co-regency with Thutmose III) - 15 years
Amenhotep II - 1452-1425 (brief co-regency with Thutmose III) - 27 years
Thutmose IV - 1425-1415 - 10 years
Amenhotep III - 1415-1377 - 38 years
Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) - 1377-1361 - 16 years
Nefernefruaten - 1363-1361 (another co-regency) - 2 years
Tutankhamun - 1361-1352 - 9 years
Ay - 1352-1348 - 4 years
Horemheb - 1348-1320 - 28 years
Rameses I - 1306-1305 - 1 year
Sety I - 1305-1290 - 15 years
Rameses II - 1290-1224 - 66 years
Merenptah - 1224-1214 - 10 years
I shall give a number of reasons why Amenhotep II was the pharaoh of the Exodus.
As already said, Manetho says it was an Amenhotep who was the pharaoh of the Exodus.
The Jubilee Year of Ezekiel
In Leviticus 25 a Jubilee Year every 49 years was instituted. The years began to be counted from the year the Israelites entered the Promised Land. The Israelites followed a lunar calendar where every month began with the first appearing of the crescent moon after the New Moon. Each year began after the New Moon in the month of Tishri (in about September): this month was the beginning of the agricultural year. But in a Jubilee Year the year began, with the blowing of trumpets on the tenth day of the month (Lev 25:9). In Ezekiel 40:1 the verse should read
In the twenty fifth year of our captivity on Rosh Hashanah (New Year's Day), on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the self-same day the hand of the LORD was upon me.... Ezekiel 40:1.
What Ezekiel is telling us is that the year was a Jubilee Year. In the second century was written a document called the Seder Olam. It was an attempt by a Jewish Rabbi to produce a chronology for Jewish history. The author of the Seder Olam tells us that this Jubilee referred to in Ezekiel 40:1 was the 17th Jubilee. Now Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 bc, and 14 years after was 573 bc. 17 * 49 years is 833 years and 833 plus 573 is 1406 bc, which is the year the Israelites entered the Promised Land and took Jericho. 40 years of wandering in the wilderness means that the Exodus happened in 1446 bc. With the High Chronology for the 18th Dynasty 1446 bc falls in the reign of Amenhotep II and just 5 years after the end of the reign of Thutmoses III.
Working back from the reign of Solomon gives exactly the same year
Multiple methods give the date the Temple of Solomon began to be built as 967 bc. 479 years before that is 1446 bc (1 Kings 6:1), exactly the same as the calculation using Ezekiel's Jubilee and 17 Jubilee cycles, and thus also takes us to the reign of Amenhotep II. For more on this see How do Christians reconcile archeology with the Bible in the account of the Battle of Jericho?
Just a few verses of scripture greatly help us to determine who the pharaoh of the Exodus was. The scriptures are these:-
And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian Exodus 2:15
And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died Exodus 2:23
And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. Acts 7:30
And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life. Exodus 4:19
So, after killing an Egyptian soldier who was over the Israelite slaves, Moses fled and was in the land of Midian for 40 years. At the end of 40 years God told him that the Pharaoh who had sought to kill him was dead. We should then expect to find a pharaoh who reigned for at least 35 years or more. The Exodus would have happened after the death of this pharaoh. There are only three pharaohs who reigned this long in the 18th and 19th Dynasties: Thutmoses III (1504-1450), Amenhotep III (1415-1377) and Rameses II (1290-1224). After them reigned Amenhotep II (1452-1425), Amenhotep IV (1377-1361) and Merneptah (1224-1214), respectively. One of these three would have been the pharaoh of the Exodus.
Looking at Kenneth Kitchen's Exodus date of 1260 BC the one who had sought to kill Moses had been dead for nearly 30 years because Ramesses II became pharaoh in 1290 BC: in such a case the Biblical account does not fit the Egyptian chronology. But if early 1446 BC is the date of the Exodus then the LORD appeared to Moses late 1447 bc, 5 years after the death of Thutmoses III.
The Merneptah Stele
After the Exodus, according to the Bible, the Israelites were 40 years in the wilderness and after that they conquered the Promised Land. In his fourth year pharaoh Merneptah attacked the land of Canaan/the Promised Land. He set up a monument to commemorate his success. On this stele, now in the Cairo Museum, he celebrates that he defeated the people of Israel. It is the first mention of the people of Israel in the Promised Land/Canaan. What is especially noteworthy is that the hieroglyph for "Israel" has added another hieroglyph meaning "people group", meaning it was "the people of Israel" who were defeated: the stele deliberately and specifically excludes the possibility of "the land of Israel was defeated". It is impossible for the Israelites to leave Egypt after the death of Rameses II, to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, to conquer Canaan, and then to be defeated by Merneptah in his fourth year. Plainly, Rameses II could not be the pharaoh who died mentioned in Exodus 2:23 and 4:19, and so Merneptah cannot be the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
The Soleb Inscription mentioning the name Yahweh
The Soleb Inscription was produced in the reign of Amenhotep III 1415-1377 bc. It mentions the enemies of Egypt to the north of Egypt from "the land of the nomads of Yahweh", and was produced either while the Israelites were 40 years as "nomads" in the Sinai wilderness or shortly thereafter. If the Exodus happened after the reign of Amenhotep III then this pharaoh knew the name of the God of the Israelites before Moses knew! That sounds unlikely. For more information on the Soleb Inscription see Of what date is the oldest inscription of Yahweh found?
Because of the Soleb Inscription Amenhotep III cannot be the pharaoh who died, referred to in Exodus 2:23 and 4:19, because according to the Soleb Inscription Amenhotep III already knows the name of Yahweh. Neither he nor the pharaoh following his reign could have said "Who is Yahweh that I should obey his voice?" Besides that, the Soleb Inscription clearly shows that the Shasu, the Israelite nomads, are no longer in Egypt because they have their own land. This means that Exodus 2:23 and 4:19 must be referring to a previous pharaoh who reigned a long time. This points to Thutmoses III, and the pharaoh of the Exodus therefore would, once again, be Amenhotep II.
The building of the store-cities of Raamses and Pithom
One of the main reasons why a late Exodus date of about 1250 bc has been chosen by some in the past has been the following verse:
Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. Exodus 1:11 (ESV)
It has been supposed that the name Raamses is named after Rameses II. During his reign Rameses II did indeed build the city of Pi-Ramesses. It became one of the largest cities "of all time" (i.e. of all time in the ancient world before 330 bc). It was built on the site which was the capital city of the Hyksos during their rule of northern Egypt; at that time it was called Avaris. About 1050 bc the branch of the Nile on which Pi-Ramesses was sited silted up and Pi-Ramesse had to be abandoned. Many of the bricks were re-used at other cities and many of the statues of Rameses II were moved to a new capital city called "Tanis". The city of Pi-Ramesses became largely forgotten, and its location was a mystery until modern times. Excavations by Manfred Bietak near Qantir at Tell El Dab'a have produced great results.
City of Rameses - storage facilities built early in the 18th Dynasty
The Bible says that Raamses was built as a "store city". There is no evidence that it was built as a store city by Rameses II. This was one of the reasons liberal scholars scorned the Bible testimony: "Look", they said, "Raamses was never built as a store city"! However, Manfred Bietak in his excavations says "we encountered numerous silos from the time of Ahmose and Amenhotep I" (See Manfred Bietak's lecture "Manfred Bietak (introduced by Thomas Schneider) - KEYNOTE address" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfpRUj9qoEU starting from 19:46 leading up to 20:30). These silos were built from the beginning of the 18th Dynasty, using slave labour. So we now have evidence that Peru-Nefer, which later was called Raamses, was indeed built as a store city beginning in the reign of Ahmose about 1575 bc. Why the Bible calls the city Raamses shall be looked at later, but meanwhile....
A Royal Palace at Tell El Dab'a (that is Peru-Nefer, later called Raamses)
It used to be argued that the account of Aaron and Moses going regularly to the Palace to speak to pharaoh meant that there had to be a palace in the Nile delta within reach for them to continually visit: since there was no palace known in the delta region, and the only known palace was at Thebes, many miles away, therefore the Exodus could not have happened in the 1400s bc.
Well the palace has turned up! Manfred Bietak found royal palaces of huge size, a palace of 13 acres, 5.5 hectares, "an enormous palace, only explicable as a royal palace" at Tell El dab'a (Peru-nefer, later Raamses). By 1995 he had attributed the era of the palace discovery to the early 18th dynasty. "We can date it to the time from Thutmoses II until Amenhotep II" (see video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfpRUj9qoEU from 26:02 to 26:30). See also 'Rich beyond the Dreams of Avaris: Tell el-Dabʿa and the Aegean World: A Guide for the Perplexed': A Response to Eric H. Cline by Manfred Bietak, on jstor.org, first published in "The Annual of the British School at Athens", vol. 95, year 2000.
The Royal Palace at Tell El Dab'a - abandoned
The Royal Palace at Tell El Dab'a ceased to be used during the reign of Amenhotep II. (See video at 26:30-26:35). Maybe some disaster happened for this to have happened?
Raamses an anachronism - Other examples of anachronisms in Scripture
How then is the name Raamses in Exodus 1:11 to be explained? It could be an anachronism. When the book of Exodus was originally written Exodus 1:11 contained the original name of the site, but at a later date after the name of the city was changed to Rameses, so the Scripture also was changed to Raamses. Is there any other examples of anachronisms? Yes. In Genesis 11:28 we read that Haran died in "Ur of the Chaldees". This is likely an anachronism because the Chaldeans did not go to Ur in southern Iraq until about 600 bc. An even more clear anachronism is found in Genesis 14:14 where we read that Abraham pursued the enemy as far as "Dan", whereas it was not called Dan until after the Danites had conquered Laish in the time of the Judges. And in Genesis 47:11 we read that Pharaoh gave the Israelites, when they first came into Egypt in about 1870 bc the best of the land, "in the land of Rameses". Rameses is clearly an anachronism in Genesis 47:11; and there is no reason to doubt it is in Exodus 1:11 also.
Probably the name of the location in the 18th Dynasty was "Peru-Nefer" the principle sea port of Egypt.
But what is critically important to remember is that the city of Raamses was abandoned when that branch of the Nile silted up about 1100 BC. Making the change in the Bible text from, maybe, "Peru-Nefer" to "Raamses" would most certainly have happened before 1100 BC, when the term Raamses would have been understood by the reader. The anachronistic change could not have happened at any (much) later date.
Ceramic Pottery production at Tell El Dab'a (Peru-Nefer/Raamses)
Manfred Bietak claims that the "Canaanites" continued at Avaris/Peru-Nefer after the removal from Egypt of the Hyksos about 1575 bc. The evidence is the continued production of "Canaanite" pottery until the reign of Thutmoses III. The end of the reign of Thutmoses III was just five years before the Exodus: five years is such a short time archaeologically. What could explain the continuation and then the ceasing of pottery production? If it was not the Hyksos but the Israelites who were the main producers then it could easily mean that the ceasing of the pottery production is explained by Israelite people leaving Peru-Nefer at the time of the Exodus early in the reign of Amenhotep II. (See the video at 21:52-23:45).
The abandonment of Peru-Nefer as a harbour
The site was abandoned for about 50 years as a harbour during the reign of Thutmoses IV. One wonders if actually it was abandoned during the reign of the previous pharaoh, Amenhotep II. There is no clear reason in Egyptian history for this abandonment. Some disaster must have happened, because Peru-Nefer was ideal as the principle sea port for Egypt.
The city of Raamses ceased to exist about 1050 bc
It is important to realize that the city of Raamses ceased to exist about 1050 bc. The branch of the Nile Raamses straddled silted up, and Raamses had to be abandoned. It was never possible to return to it. And yet the author of Genesis and Exodus knew about this city and its name! It is a sure sign that Genesis could not have been written hundreds of years later around the time of the Babylonian Captivity or later: by that time the city of Raamses would have been entirely forgotten. "The use of [the names] Rameses and Raamses in the text of Genesis and Exodus long after the Delta Capital had been abandoned around 1100 bc makes little sense." (Hoffmeier, p122). What Hoffmeier is saying is that the mere existence of these names in the Biblical text is evidence of authorship centuries before the period supposed by the Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis.
The slave raid of Amenhotep II
The Memphis Stele of Amenhotep II states that in November of his seventh year Amenhotep II raided the Levant. This is a peculiar time to launch an attack: usually an attack would begin in the spring to give enough time of good summer weather to defeat the enemy. But this attack was different; because Amenhotep II returned to Egypt with "89,600" slaves ("Israel in Egypt" by James Hoffmeier, page 113. Also, Doug Petrovich makes much of this attack). This number is far higher than most campaigns where the capture of slaves appears to have been merely a by-product of a military campaign. The natural conclusion is that this gathering of slaves was the main purpose of his attack: it was a "slave raid". If the Exodus happened in the spring of 1446 bc then it is remarkable that this raid probably happened about seven months after the Exodus.
The successor to Amenhotep II
The last plague was the death of the first-born: this included the death of pharaoh's own first-born son. When the tomb of Amenhotep II was opened there was found the mummies of eight other pharaohs and three women. Also found was the mummy of an eleven year old boy, most likely the son of a pharaoh. It is not possible (yet) to say if he was the son of Amenhotep II.
The successor to Amenhotep II was Thutmoses IV. Though he was a son of Amenhotep II he does not seem to have been the original heir. I quote from the "British Museum Dictionary of
Ancient Egypt", by Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson, on Thutmose IV, page 290:
"The so-called Dream Stele at Gaza describes how he was offered the throne of Egypt in return for removing the sand from the Great Sphinx. Since he does not seem to have been the actual heir to the throne, it is possible that this inscription formed part of the legitimizing of his accession."
So he was a son of Amenhotep II but it appears he was not the heir, which suggests the true heir, the elder brother of Thutmose IV, died before his father Amenhotep II.
The date of the fall of Jericho
There are many reasons for believing that Jericho fell about 1406 bc and thus an Exodus of 1446. For more on this see the following:
How do Christians reconcile archeology with the Bible in the account of the Battle of Jericho?
The Amarna Letters
The Amarna letters are appeals for help to pharaoh from city kings in the land of Canaan because these kings are being attacked by "the Habiru". I believe the Habiru are the Hebrews. The date of the Amarna letters is perfect for a conquest starting 1406 bc. For more on this see: How do Christians reconcile archeology with the Bible in the account of the Battle of Jericho?
Joseph ruled Egypt during the 12th Dynasty, which fits neatly with an Exodus about 1446 bc
For more on this see Why we do we "know" that Joseph wasn't Hyksos?
The city of Hazor in the land of Canaan was destroyed only twice
Archaeological evidence shows the city of Hazor was destroyed only twice before the time of Solomon, once on the 1400s bc and once in the 1200s bc. If Joshua destroyed Hazor (Joshua 11) in a conquest of the 1200s then where is the archaeological evidence for the destruction of Deborah and Barak (Judges 4)?
Clearly the 1200s destruction must have been that of Deborah & Barak, and the previous destruction was by Joshua, which puts his destruction in the late 1400s.
For more on this topic see the article by Doug Petrovich:
Continuity of settlement in Canaan during the 1400s
The idea of a 1200s conquest was made popular by the archaeologist William Albright from the 1930s. He promoted this until his death. The reason he promoted it was he saw very little archaeological evidence of a change of the people in Canaan during the late 1400s/early 1300s: the pottery was the same, the housing was the same. Furthermore there was almost no evidence of any cities being destroyed by the invading Israelites in the 1400s.
What we need to remember is that the LORD gave a promise to the Israelites through Moses:
And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;
Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)
At the end of the life of Joshua, this promise the LORD was at pains to remind the Israelites He had fulfilled. He had given them the land with all its benefits:
And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat.
Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. (Joshua 24:13,14)
This wonderful provision was later remembered in song by the Israelites:
And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness:
And gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labour of the people;
That they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 105:43-45)
((In fact, Joshua 24:13-14 should be noted by all Christians: God has given salvation and all its benefits to us for which we did not labour. The conquest is clearly a picture of how our salvation is given to us. We did not work for it - our Lord did all the labour for us.))
William Albright should have realized that the aim of the conquest was always not to destroy the cities but rather to preserve as much as possible, except for those cities which the LORD said should be destroyed: Jericho, Ai, and Hazor. The continuation of the culture in Canaan in the 1400s and the lack of destruction of cities in Canaan is not evidence against a 1400s conquest, but evidence for a 1400s conquest.
For more on this see "The Rise & Fall of the 13th century Exodus-Conquest Theory" by Bryant Wood at