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Do we have a good idea as to which Pharaoh(s) were around during the time of Moses' life? What internal and external evidence exists to back up those claims? Do any Christian traditions attach any significance to correlating the events of Moses' life to the reign of a specific Pharaoh?

The movie The Prince of Egypt mentions Ramses as the name of Moses' adoptive mother's son (and the future Pharaoh, both when Moses kills the Egyptian at 40 and when he returns to Egypt when he is 80), but I don't know what the basis is for this claim.

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  • If I have time I may answer from this documentary now available from NETFLIX: Patterns of Evidence EXODUS.
    – user13992
    Sep 30, 2015 at 7:33

7 Answers 7

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Of course this is more of a historical-archeological question as the Bible does not directly answer but I have stumbled across a fairly convincing argument that would place Thutmose II as the Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus.

I first came across the argument in Alfred Edersheim’s Bible History. He typically pays attention to ancient monuments and secular history, as he was a historian at Oxford. He was also a Jewish man and Jewish historian converted to Christianity which makes him the most reliable source of Jewish culture and history at the time of Christ.

In his book he argues that all the records of Thutmose II best fit into the Exodus narrative:

Now this Thothmes II. began his reign very brilliantly. But after a while there is a perfect blank in the monumental records about him. But we read of a general revolt after his death among the nations whom his father had conquered. Of course, one could not expect to find on Egyptian monuments an account of the disasters which the nation sustained at the Exodus, nor how Pharaoh and his host had perished in the Red Sea. But we do find in his reign the conditions which we should have expected under such circumstances, viz., a brief, prosperous reign, then a sudden collapse; the king dead; no son to succeed him; the throne occupied by the widow of the Pharaoh, and for twenty years no attempt to recover the supremacy of Egypt over the revolted nations in Canaan and east of the Jordan. Lastly, the character of his queen, as it appears on the monuments, is that of a proud and bitterly superstitious woman, just such as we would have expected to encourage Pharaoh in "hardening his heart" against Jehovah. But the chain of coincidences does not break even here. From the Egyptian documents we learn that in the preceding reign - that is, just before the children of Israel entered the desert of Sinai - the Egyptians ceased to occupy the mines which they had until then worked in that peninsula. Further, we learn that, during the latter part of Israel's stay in the wilderness, the Egyptian king, Thothmes III., carried on and completed his wars in Canaan, and that just immediately before the entry of Israel into Palestine the great confederacy of Canaanitish kings against him was quite broken up. (Alfred Edersheim’s Bible History, Vol 2)

What adds striking support of this argument is just this year an online article was published saying a ‘Harvard University educated archaeologist and president of the Paleontological Research Corporation, Dr. Joel Klenck, states an array of archaeological discoveries evidence a crisis during the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose II’. You can find the find the article here.

In this article it is mentioned that:

The mummy of Thutmose II is the only corpse of a pharaoh during the Eighteenth Dynasty covered with cysts from an unknown malady. (Paleontological Research Corporation, Dr. Joel Klenck)

Possibly his body was fished out of the sea and mummified and that the ‘cysts’ were part of the plagues/boils which he had suffered? This article is really worth reading as it makes a strong case that fits the Moses narrative. The article does not mention the Bible or Moses, but I find it hard to believe the author is not making the implication but for some reason not stating it.

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  • "which makes him the most reliable source of Jewish culture and history at the time of Christ" This is questionable - Edersheim had various biases, because he was no longer a Jew and a certain sort of Christian. More accurately, he had some first-hand knowledge of Rabbinic Judaism, but I can find no reference supporting the idea he was a professional historian at Oxford. Rather, it seems he was a theologian and preacher. Dec 15, 2022 at 23:54
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+100

This issue will be debated for a long time. However, Henry H. Halley addresses this issue with great clarity. In his book, Halley's Bible Handbook, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 113, "There are two leading opinions: Amenhotep II (1450-1420 B.C.), or Merneptah (1250-1220 B.C.). Merneptah was the son of Rameses II, who was a master builder & creator of the Ramesseum, located across the River Nile from modern day Luxor, and the city of Pi-Ramesses. Rameses II, A.K.A. Ramesses the Great or Ramses, is one of the most notable and powerful pharaohs of all time. If Moses was raised by the daughter of Ramses II and Nefertari, then the Exodus occurred under the leadership of Merneptah and the cruel enslavement of the Jews occurred under the leadership of Ramses II. Many scholars believe this based upon the Scripture "Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses." Ex. 1:11, KJV.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) agrees, but adds that it could have been Amenhotep II. The belief that it was Amenhotep II is somewhat confusing; and yet, compelling! It revolves around Pharaoh's daughter. "If, as many think, the Pharaoh of the Oppression was Thothmes III [a.k.a. Thutmose III, Tuthmosis III, Thutmosis, Thothmes], then Pharaoh's daughter was some unknown princess. Some have thought she was Hatshepsut, the "Queen Elizabeth of Egypt." (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, "Pharaoh's Daughter", Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.). Why is it important to determine who the daughter of Pharaoh was? By determining who the Pharaoh's daughter was, we can determine who the Pharaoh was. The problem is tumultuous and I will attempt to explain it below.

By the way, the belief that she was Hatshepsut, the "Queen Elizabeth of Egypt" is also mentioned in Halley's Handbook, p. 112. She was the daughter of Thotmes I. And she was co-regent (co-Pharaoh) with Thotmes II and Thotmes III.

Apparently, Thotmes II married his half-sister, Hatshepsut, who was the real "ruling" power of Egypt. Upon his death, Thotmes III took his place, with Hatshepsut still in power. When she died, Thotmes III extended the empire, built many monuments, constructed a mighty Navy; and is considered the greatest conqueror in Egyptian history.

But, here is where the theory gets confusing. If Thotmes III is the Pharaoh of Moses' time, how could his firstborn son die by the death angel of Exodus? When his firstborn son died two years before? Apparently, Thotmes III, appointed Amenhotep II to be his co-regent two or three years before the Exodus. Thotmes III sent Amenhotep II to lead a battle against the Syrians. So when the death angel swept over the land, it was Amenhotep II's firstborn who died. Furthermore, history records that Thotmes III died in the same year (in the Red Sea).

Hence, the confusion as to whether it was Thotmes III or Amenhotep II who was the pharaoh of Moses' time. It was both. Whose son died? Amenhotep II. And history does record that shortly after his co-regency began, his son died mysteriously.

Thotmes II & Thotmes III were pharaohs during the time of Moses' upbringing. Thotmes III was the Pharaoh during the years that Moses was living in Midian. Thotmes III & Amenhotep II were pharaohs when the Exodus began.

Furthermore, if you take a careful look at the Scriptures, it says in 1 Kings 6:1, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD." We only need to trace the time from the fourth year of Solomon's reign and go backwards in time 480 years, you come to the time of Amenhotep II's reign.

Which of the two pharaoh's did Moses oppose? Let the scholars debate that issue. As for me, I believe it was Amenhotep II. After all, it was his son that died! Amenhotep II went to war with the Syrians because he was younger, more virile and did not believe that Moses' threat would amount to a hill of beans.

Could it have been Ramses II? Yes, there is a lot of evidence to show that it was him. It's the timeline that I have a problem with!

The debate will go on and on; but this is for certain, archaeology confirms that the Pharaohs came to power and are now gone, yet the Jews are still living among us. Let God be praised!

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    Welcome to C.SE. Normally, I tell people that when you get the chance to check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. I say normally, because you appear to have read it thoroughly, and given one of the best answers I think I've seen on this site yes. At the risk of sounding too needy, please, please, please continue to contribute :) Your answer is absolutely amazing - well sourced, neutral POV, and engagingly written. Thank you, thank you! Nov 30, 2013 at 20:14
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    Agreed! I heartily welcome you to Christianity.SE and encourage you participate more! :) Nov 30, 2013 at 22:35
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    Thank you for you'r knowledge. I would also like to mention that as a newcomer you'r answer is very well put together and thought out. Welcome to the community!
    – Jeremy
    Dec 3, 2013 at 15:39
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The short answer is: No one knows.

You might think it would be a simple matter of saying, "The Exodus occurred in such-and-such a year, look up who was Pharaoh in that year, problem solved." But in practice scholars debate just when the various Pharaohs ruled, and they debate even more when the Exodus happened. I've seen theories that range from Pepi II, generally put about 2200 BC, to Rameses II, ca 1250 BC. Scholars pushing for Pepi have to say that Moses really lived much earlier than generally thought and Pepi much later, etc.

That said, most conservative scholars put the Exodus about 1450 BC, which would put it during the reign of Thutmose II or Thutmose III. Liberal scholars put the Exodus later, around 1250 BC, in the time of Rameses II.

Discussions of the Pharaoh of the Exodus tend to focus on the better known Pharaohs, like Rameses. But a case could be made that this is backwards: the Pharaoh of the Exodus would have gone down in Egyptian history as a failure—someone best glossed over. As Mike notes, Thutmose II was rather undistinguished and lived about the right time, so he may be a good guess.

(As I write this Mike and I are the only two answers, and we are agreeing. Don't take this to mean there is broad consensus: there are many contrary opinions out there, many with good historical arguments to back them up.)

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    -1, though maybe I'm being too severe. Scholars debate everything in the Bible.. this does not mean the Bible is not clear.. the Bible has two entirely independent ways of calculating the date of the Exodus, and both produce exactly the same date of 1446 bc. Egyptologists are clear that there are only two possible chronologies for the 18th dynasty, the High and the Low Chronology.. the High fits very beautifully with Scripture and the Low does not fit at all. See my article below. Jul 8, 2020 at 13:18
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    Also, the archaeologists/historians who today are hanging on to 1250 bc as the date of the Exodus are the likes of Kenneth Kitchen and James Hoffmeier: I think it is more than unfair to say they are "liberal scholars", I think it is just plain wrong. Both these men have produced wonderful works seeking to defend Scripture against liberal assault. All that can be said is I think they are wrong and Kenneth Kitchen's interpretation of 1 Kings 6:1 has been unduly influenced by archaeologists (such as William Albright), and he is liberal on this single point.. everyone is allowed one mistake. Jul 8, 2020 at 13:27
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    Those that are really liberal scholars today are simply saying, not that the Exodus happened about 1250 bc, but that it didn't happen at all. Jul 8, 2020 at 13:33
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    Well, okay, if you object to the phrase "liberals scholars say ..." and prefer "the liberal position is ...", fine with me. And yes, it's true that liberals have shifted from a late date for the Exodus to saying it never happened at all. I suspect that was all something of a trick: They say, "The Bible says the Exodus happened in 1250 BC, but then if we look at history this causes all kinds of problems and there's no evidence to support it, therefore the Exodus must never have happened at all." But that's another subject that isn't relevant to the current question.
    – Jay
    Jul 8, 2020 at 17:08
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Who was Pharaoh when Moses lived?

Amenhotep II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, in 1446 bc.

This answer takes the 480 years in 1 Kings 6:1 as a literal number.

Summary

Ahmose was the Pharaoh who began the enslavement of the Israelites, after driving out the Hyksos.

Thutmose I ordered the killing of the baby boys, as soon as he became Pharaoh.

Thutmose II was Moses's adoptive father.

Moses would have been the next Pharaoh after Thutmose II, but he refused, refusing "to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter", Hebrews 11:24.

Hatshepsut was the Princess who adopted Moses. She was the daughter of Thutmose I, and wife of her half-brother Thutmose II. Her father Thutmose I had also married his half-sister: it was these incestuous marriages which prevented the royal marriages from having baby boys, in fact prevented them being able to have many children at all. The Bible says the Princess had compassion on the baby hidden in the basket in the river, but there was also a more self-interested motive in adopting Moses.. the desire to maintain her rank and power in the future as the mother of a future Pharaoh. If a prospective pharaoh was not the son of the Royal Marriage then he would be given the daughter of a Royal Marriage to consolidate his right to the throne and to ensure the offspring had Divine blood. Both Hatshepsut and her mother were daughters of a Royal Marriage.

Thutmose III, Moses younger (adoptive) half-brother, was the one who tried to kill Moses, and from whom Moses fled. (Moses had a better claim to the throne than Thutmose III, because Moses was the adopted son of the Royal Marriage, whereas Thutmose III was the son of a concubine.)

And Amenhotep II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

Manetho's testimony

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 and the High Chronology for the 18th dynasty also gives an Amenhotep as the king of the Exodus, Amenhotep II.

King List for the 18th and 19th dynasties

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

19th dynasty

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.

Manetho's testimony

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 start of the agricultural year. But in a Jubilee Year the year began, with the blowing of trumpets on the 10th 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 10th 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 of Jewish history. The author of the Seder Olam tells us that this Jubilee referred to in Ezekiel 40:1 was the 17th. Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 bc, & the 14th after was 574 bc. 17 * 49 years is 833 years and 833 + 574 is 1407 bc, starting Tishri (Sept/Oct), which is Spring 1406 bc, the year the Israelites entered the Promised Land. And 40 years 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?

Scripture and the death of the Pharaoh who sought to kill Moses

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.

Judges 11:26

Here Jephthah remonstrates with the king of the Ammonites. It is usually said this event happened around 1075 BC. And "three hundred years" (Judges 11:26) before this was 1375 BC. Forty years in the wilderness would mean the Exodus happened 1415 BC. Seeing as the three hundred years Jephthah quotes is a round number this fits well with an Exodus of 1446 BC.

Acts 13:20

Here the Apostle Paul says "and after that he gave them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet". Since Samuel anointed David to be king about 1015 BC then 450 years before this was 1465 BC. Clearly Paul's 450 years is too large, and one must suppose he chose it because his listeners believed that was the correct number of years - it was not Paul's main objective to give an accurate number of years.. so he went along with his listeners presuppositions.

But the point here is that Paul's 450 years fits much better for a 1446 BC Exodus date than a mid 13th century date, for which it does not fit all.

1 Chronicles 6:33-37

This passage of Samuel the prophet's genealogy gives 18 generations between Korah in Moses's time and Heman, a singer in David's time. If we add a generation to bring it to Solomon's time then there are 19 generations. Kenneth Kitchen and others argue that the 480 years mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1 is really twelve generations of 40 years each, and is really saying there were 12 generations between the Exodus and the start of the building of Solomon's temple in 967 BC. Since a generation is really closer to 25 years then 25 times 12 is 300 years, and 300 before 967 is 1267 BC: thus the Exodus happened about 1267 BC.

However, here in 1 Chronicles 6:33-37 there are 19 generations between the Exodus and 967 BC. Taking Kenneth Kitchen's 25 years per generation gives 475 years, remarkably close to the 480 years given in 1 Kings 6:1, and once again giving evidence the Exodus was in the middle of the 15th century BC.

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 had formerly been "Avaris", the capital city of the Hyksos during their rule of northern Egypt. 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 the new capital city, "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....

Pithom as a store city

At Pithom was a temple to the god Atum after which the town is named. Below is the layout for the Ramesseum mortuary temple at Thebes. All the rooms surrounding the temple are storage rooms made of mud brick.

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Again, below is the mortuary temple of Seti I. Once again storage magazines made of mud brick form some of the outer rooms of the temple complex.

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A similar layout, with storage rooms of mud brick, probably existed for the temple of Atum at Pithom. The storage rooms were built for the storage of grain and other foods for the maintenance of the priests.

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! At Ezbet Helmi (just west of Tall Az Zahirah where is the archaeological site for Tell El Dab'a) 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.

About the palaces found at Tell El Dab'a Bryant Wood writes:-

"A series of royal scarabs were found there, covering the period of the early 18th Dynasty from its founder, Ahmosis (ca. 1570–1546 bc), to Amenhotep II (ca. 1453–1419 bc). Southwest of Palace F were storage rooms and possibly part of a ritual complex. The main palace, Palace G, was located 255 ft. southeast of Palace F, with an open courtyard between the two. Palace G occupied an area 259 x 543 ft., or 3 1/4 acres. To the immediate southwest were workshops, and further to the southwest were city-like buildings. Palace G was built on a platform 23 ft. high with entry via a ramp on the northeast side. The entrance led into a large open courtyard 150 ft. square with columns on three sides. Proceeding to the southwest, one passed through three rows of columns into a vestibule that had two rows of columns. This marked the beginning of the palace proper, which probably had one or more stories above. The vestibule led into a hypostyle hall to the northwest and a reception hall with four rows of columns to the southwest. It was undoubtedly here in this reception hall where Moses and Aaron met with Pharaoh. Beyond these rooms were the private apartments of the royal family. These would have included private reception rooms, banquet rooms, dressing rooms, bathrooms, and sleeping quarters." ("The Rise and Fall of the 13th Century Exodus-Conquest Theory" by Bryant Wood)

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. Compare also Gen 35:16,19 with 1 Chron 4:4. 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. In particular the scarabs found at Jericho point to this date, and subsequent investigatons in the 1990s have shown that the wall Kathleen Kenyon said fell in about 1550 BC was only built about 1450 BC. 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 How 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: https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/51/51-3/JETS%2051-3%20489-512%20Petrovich.pdf

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 https://biblearchaeology.org/research/conquest-of-canaan/2579-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-13th-century-exodusconquest-theory

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  • Those two added diagrams are interesting. Worth editing in today. The evidence for an exodus around 1446 b.c. is persuasive.
    – Anne
    Dec 13, 2022 at 15:18
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This question appears to assume there really was an Exodus from Egypt, as described in the Book of Exodus, although it should be noted that the strong consensus of scholars is that the Exodus did not really occur as described in the Bible. There is no mention of Moses or the Exodus in Egyptian records, but we can use the Egyptian king list to identify a pharaoh alive at the time the biblical Exodus would have taken place. The pharaohs of the relevant period in the Late Bronze Age, with approximate dates:

  • Amenhotep I (1526–1506)
  • Thutmose I (1506–1493)
  • Thutmose II (1493–1479 BCE)
  • Hatshepsut (1473–1458)
  • Thutmose III (1479–1425)
  • Amenhotep II (1427–1401)
  • Thutmose IV (1401 – 1391)
  • Amenhotep III (1391–1353)
  • Akhenaten (1353–1336)
  • Smenkhkare (1335-1334)
  • Neferneferuaten (1334–1332)
  • Tutankhamun (1332–1323)
  • Ay (1323–1319)
  • Horemheb (? -1292)
  • Ramesses I (1292–1290)
  • Seti I (1290–1279)
  • Ramesses II (1279–1213)
  • Merneptah (1213-1203)

1 Kings 6:1 places the Exodus from Egypt approximately 1440 BCE, because this verse dates the Exodus 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon's reign, and the Bible dates this year of Solomon's reign at 960 BCE. This would place the Exodus in the middle of the reign of Thutmose III. On this basis, Moses was born approximately 1520 BCE, in the reign of Amenhotep I.

However, the year 1440 BCE is historically impossible, if only because of the existence of the Armana letters, which prove conclusively that until around 1350 BCE, Canaanite cities right across Palestine continued to be ruled by local petty kings under the suzerainty of Egypt. The Exodus could not credibly be placed before the time of the Amarna letters, ruling out all pharaohs before Akhenaten.

We find Ramesside references in the story of the Exodus, including the city of Pi-Ramesses, which would appear to place the Exodus in the reign of Ramesses II. It appears, on literary grounds, the biblical Exodus story would have been written long after the time of Ramesses II. The name Pi-Ramesses means "House of Ramesses", and the city was a royal city until the tenth century BCE, when the name was changed to Ramesses, as we find in the Bible. The author of Exodus was not aware that Pi-Ramesses had been a royal city, referring to it simply as a "store-city".

The Merneptah stele tells us that Merneptah invaded Palestine in about 1208 BCE, following a period of revolt against Egyptian rule and defeated the still-existing Canaanite cities as well as the Israelites, who seem to have been a rural people, with no cities of their own. This makes it unlikely that Merneptah was the pharaoh at the time of the biblical Exodus.

Although there are historical difficulties, Ramesses II best fits the description of the pharaoh at the time of the biblical Exodus. His long reign (1279–1213 BCE) begins after the time of the Amarna letters, the only original documents we have that tell us of Egyptian control of Palestine during the preceding centuries. It also precedes the victory over the Israelites, commemorated in the Merneptah stele. Most importantly, it provide context for the Ramesside references in the story of the Exodus.

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  • 1
    -1 vote. You very misleadingly only list the reign years of the Pharaohs for the Low Chronology and make absolutely no mention of the High Chronology for the 18th dynasty.. where the reigns start and end 25 years earlier: the 18th dynasty Low Chronology does not fit the Scripural testimony, the High Chronology fits. You claim the dates of the Amarna Letters is decisive... they are most certainly not. See section on Amarna Letters here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/3160/… Jul 8, 2020 at 13:05
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Once we realize the Exodus happened in 1446 bc (see my other answer) the only viable Pharaoh for the one who wanted to kill Moses is Thutmoses III, and thus the only viable Pharaoh for the Exodus is Amenhotep II.

Important in identifying the Pharaoh of the Exodus and its timing are three records: Moses was away from Egypt for forty years with his father-in-law Jethro (Acts of the Apostles 7:23, Exodus 7:7); during that time the King of Egypt who wanted to kill him died (Exodus 2:23); the Battle of Megiddo fought by Thutmoses III happened on 1 Shemu 21 in his 23rd year, which was recorded as an Egyptian lunar day 1, i.e. at the time of the new moon.

From this data we conclude that the Pharaoh from which Moses fled reigned at least 35 years (Thutmoses III reigned 54 years), and he died before the established date of the Exodus of 1446 bc (see my other answer). So a New Moon happening on 1 Shemu 21 between about 1487 and 1477 bc (54 years subtract 23 years = 31 years; so at least 31 years before the Exodus) is what we need to find. There is one and only one option: in 1482 bc a new crescent moon was observed on 1 Shemu 22 (see webpage of Rita Gautschy, "Last and First Sighting of Lunar Crescent"). The Egyptian Lunar Day 1 was one or two days previous to the first sighting of the lunar crescent after the New Moon.

From this data the reign of Thutmoses III can be established, with the exact date for his coronation and death.

From the above evidence in the eleven year range from 1488 to 1477 we get the only possible date for the Battle of Megiddo of 16th May 1482. From this we can calculate the date of the coronation of Thutmoses III on 1 Shemu 4 as the 4th May 1504 bc, and his death on 3 Peret 30 as 18th March 1450 bc, which dates comply with what is called the High Chronology for the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt.

[The conversion of Julian dates to Egyptian dates and vice versa is made possible by the Ptolemaic Royal Cannon which began with year 1 of the Babylonian King Nabonassar; and by the fact that the Egyptian Civil Calendar had 365 days and the Julian Calendar has 365.25 days. 1 Akhet 1, the first day of the month 1 Akhet, of year 1 of the Royal Cannon was February 26th, 747 bc (Julian). For 751 bc 1 Akhet 1 was 27th February (a leap year falling in 749 bc).

There are 12 months in the Egyptian Calendar of 30 days each. 5 extra days are added to make 365 days in a year. The months are 1 Akhet, 2 Akhet, 3 Akhet, 4 Akhet, 1 Peret, 2 Peret, 3 Peret, 4 Peret, 1 Shemu, 2 Shemu, 3 Shemu and 4 Shemu.]

Post Script

A very useful video is produced by the "Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdZSYUJfBo8 entitled "Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?"

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I agree with Mike's answer that Thutmoses II was probably the Pharaoh of the Exodus for the reasons he stated and because it fits my possible timeline below.

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