Atheists And The Dark Secrets of Egyptian History

It is a patent fact… that the chronological element in early Egyptian history is in a state of almost hopeless obscurity.

—George Rawlinson, A History of Egypt (1886)

The Devastation of Egypt

The Exodus destroyed Egypt. Its cattle and crops were gone. The firstborn in every household was dead. The king and the heir to the throne were dead. The army and the chariots were at the bottom of the Red Sea. The nation’s slave labor force, some 2 million men and women or so, had just left the country, and they had taken most of the nation’s gold and jewels with them. Pestilence, fire, and thirst had taken an enormous toll. Egypt’s gods had failed, and her people’s worldview was shattered. Her confidence gone, Egypt was ripe for invasion.

Archaeology and the Bible

Something this dramatic should have left a huge imprint on Egyptian history. Even if the Egyptians refused to record such a humiliating defeat, the consequences of that defeat should echo through the archaeological records of the Near East. But they don’t. So an obvious question arises: Are we looking in the wrong place?

1 Kings 6:1 says that Solomon began to build the Temple in Jerusalem 480 years after the Exodus. Solomon reigned about 960 BC. If we count back 480 years along the timeline of Egyptian history, we come to Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, and to kings and queens we read about in school: Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhnaton, and the boy king we call Tut. Egyptologists know this era well. And they know that the kind of Exodus that Scripture describes won’t fit within its boundaries. Egyptian history is full of chaos and destruction, but this time period doesn’t seem to be one of them.

Rather than reexamining Egypt’s chronology, Bible scholars have generally offered two solutions to this apparent problem: 1) The Bible is simply wrong about the date. Infallibility doesn’t apply to chronology. 2) The Exodus wasn’t as big of deal or devastating as scripture seems to indicate. Maybe there were fewer people; maybe the plagues were less severe; maybe God exaggerates for effect. Both of these explanations seriously call into question our ability to read and understand scripture and to trust what it says.

Hermeneutics: How to Read the Bible

Hermeneutics is the science and art of interpreting scripture. Traditional Christian hermeneutics takes for granted the doctrines of verbal inspiration and infallibility. That is, Christian theology believes that the Bible is the word of God and that its words are the words of God. As such, the words of the Bible are true. All of them are true. They are true to who God is and to the universe God has made. They are true theologically, historically, and scientifically. And, they are true when they speak of chronology.

Traditional hermeneutics does, of course, allow for the figurative, the mystical, even the allegorical in scripture, if the context and the rest of scripture support such an interpretation. Once we know the context of a passage, including the literary form in which it occurs, we can usually tell easily whether God means us to understand its words literally or in some other sense. In the case of numbered days or years, the interpretation is usually straightforward. The prophets and poets sometimes use a hundred years or a thousand year to stand for a very long or full amount of time (Isa. 65:20; Ps. 90:4). We do the same in common speech. On a very, very few occasions, the prophets may use numbered days or years in a purely symbolic manner—or they may not. In all other cases, numbers that mark off days and years describe real chronology, time that can be measured by the clock and the calendar. After all, God can tell time. He created time in the beginning, and He numbered off its first days early on, one by one (Gen. 1).

Hermeneutics and Gnosticism

The story of the Bible is set in real space and real time. It is a matter of history and geography. The things it describes actually happened. Any hermeneutic that plays fast and loose with this truth is at odds with Scripture and what it says about itself. The plea that this geographical fact or that historical incident does not involve the basic issues of salvation completely misses the point. Our Savior is God. Can God communicate with us accurately or not? Can we trust what He says? Does He really care about His material, temporal creation? If the 480 years are in question, then what about the third day that witnessed Christ’s resurrection? Was that a real calendar day? Or is it, too, open to fudging? Did the resurrection really happen the way scripture says it did? If not, we are lost (1 Cor. 15).

The historicity of scripture and the honor of God stand or fall together. To argue otherwise is to drift toward Gnosticism. For the Gnostic, the real is the spiritual, the ideal. Truth is in ideas, not facts. History as history is fundamentally irrelevant to man’s search for truth. Truth is supra-historical and supra-rational. For the Gnostic, Jesus may have “risen from the dead” even if His body was still in the grave on the fourth day. So if we say, “The date and manner of the Exodus really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that God somehow saved His people,” we are playing the Gnostic hermeneutic.

Egypt’s Timeline: Its Nature and Origin

But if we take the words of scripture seriously, we must conclude that Egypt’s history can’t be what the textbooks claim it is. The timeline we know must be horribly wrong.

This should not be an altogether surprising suggestion, even for secular archaeologists. The pagan world in general had no regard for sequential time. Its thought forms were governed by recurring cycles, not by the linear flow of history. The truth is the ancient Egyptians didn’t keep good historical records. They didn’t leave behind a standardized chronology or timeline. They didn’t even leave us a complete list of their kings.

The first list of Egyptian dynasties was compiled by Manetho, an Egyptian priest, who lived about 300 BC. But we don’t have his list. We have fragments of it recorded by later historians. These records are not only incomplete, but incongruous. Yet Manetho’s work is the foundation for Egyptian chronology and history. Initially, historians simply laid out these supposed dynasties end to end with the assumptions that one king followed another without overlap or co-regency. (Imagine if you developed papal history and chronology this way.) This gave Egypt a timeline that stretched back, right across the Flood, to 5000 BC. Eventually, Egyptologists began to question this methodology. They made corrections, partly by recognizing that some of the dynasties overlapped or were concurrent. But even now, after all these corrections, Egypt’s first Dynasty is still set at 3000 BC, well before the Flood.

Reconstructing the Timeline

Immanuel Velikovsky was one of the first to suggest a rationale and method for reconstructing Egypt’s timeline. His book was appropriately titled Ages in Chaos (Doubleday, 1952). Twenty years later, an Adventist scholar, Dr. Donovan Courville, developed a similar approach to what he called The Exodus Problem (1971). Both men argued for a more extensive overlapping of dynasties than Egyptologists have so far been willing to accept. In fact, they argue that some of the so-called dynasties were not dynasties at all, but lists of local rulers who governed as vice regents for particular pharaohs. The total effect of their suggestions is a severe shortening of Egypt’s chronology and history and the elimination of the “dark ages” in the timeline.

The reconstructions suggested by Velikovsky and Courville offer a number of surprising correlations. Thutmose III, who created Egypt’s largest empire, becomes the pharaoh who sacked Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 11). Akhenaton, once hailed as history’s first monotheist, becomes a contemporary of Israel’s later prophets. And Hatshepsut might just be the Queen of Sheba.

The Exodus now falls within the 13th Dynasty, which was succeeded by the invading Hyksos, a nomadic tribe from the wilderness (the biblical Amalekites?). And now we have an Egyptian record that seems to shed some light on the Exodus. This papyrus manuscript comes from around the 13th Dynasty. It was first translated by Alan H. Gardiner in 1909. He called it The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage and more often it is simply called the “Ipuwer Papyrus.” Here are few lines from Gardiner’s translation:

Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere. (2.5)

Forsooth, the river is blood, yet men drink of it. (2.10)

Forsooth, gates, columns, and walls are consumed by fire… (2.11)

Forsooth, men are few. He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere. (2.13)

Forsooth, the Desert is throughout the Land. The nomes are laid waste. A foreign tribe from abroad has come to Egypt. (3.1)

Forsooth, gold and lapis lazuli, silver and malachite, carnelian and bronze, stone of Yebhet and […] are fastened on the necks of female slaves. (3.2-3.3)

Indeed, grain has perished on every side. (People) are stripped of clothes, spices, and oil. Everybody says: there is none. (6.3)

Rewriting and More Rewriting

Velikovsky’s ideas met with stiff academic rejection followed by a carefully engineered silence. Courville’s book sank with hardly a splash, or so it seemed. But in 1993 Peter James and a team of secular scholars again challenged the standard chronology of Egypt in their book, Centuries of Darkness. Their conclusion: Egyptian chronology is inflated. It is too long by 300 years. The third “dark age” or intermediate period never happened. They make initial suggestions for correcting the problem. These suggestions involve (of course) overlapping dynasties. They realize there is still a great deal of work to do because the chronology and history of every ancient Mediterranean nation has been tied to that of Egypt!

The authors of Centuries of Darkness devote only one chapter to Israel’s history. They make only a passing reference to the Exodus before they go on to discuss Israel’s later history. But along the way they make this telling observation:

“The dates the Old Testament gives, even those for historical periods which are potentially useful to archaeology, have been altered, mangled or rejected in arbitrary fashion. It seems that the Bible has suffered from this kind of hypercritical treatment simply because it is the Bible. A similar approach would never have been taken with the sacred literature of other ancient Near Eastern societies (162).”

Is it possible that secular scholars reject biblical chronology simply because it’s the chronology contained in the Bible? Of course, we all have presuppositions that control our interpretation of the facts.

Conclusion

When God destroyed Egypt, He established His reputation among the nations of the Near East for a thousand years and more (Josh. 2:9-11; 1 Sam. 4:8; Jer. 32:20-21). It is no wonder that unbelievers want to believe the Exodus never happened. Given their worldview and attendant presuppositions, I really don’t blame them. But it is tragic that Christians writing commentaries and study notes (in the name of Jesus) are so quick to sell short the great acts of God in history simply because they fear secular criticism. Sadder still is the fact that so-called Christian scholars think God cares so little for chronology and history. It’s as if God has to stand in the dock before all the feeble minded textbook writers, college professors and popular journalists of our day. Fear of secular criticism creates not only desperately poor hermeneutics but an ineffectual witness and life in the faith. God’s word is true… jot and tittle.

For Further Reading:

James Jordan, “Chronology and Gnosticism, “ Biblical Chronology, vol. 10, no. 5 (May 1998).

Donovan Courville, The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications (Loma Linda, CA: Crest Challenge Books, 1971).

Peter James et al., Centuries of Darkness (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1993).

John Ashton & David Down, Unwrapping the Pharaohs, How Egyptian Archaeology Confirms the Biblical Timeline (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2006).

Gary North, Moses and Pharaoh, Dominion Religion Versus Power Religion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985).

About Bill Heid

Bill Heid
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Bill Heid is president and founder of Solutions From Science, one of the fastest growing companies in the preparedness and survival industry. Bill started his first business before the age of 21, and has been an incurable entrepreneur and marketer ever since. He is a proponent of families working together for common goals, whether it is growing vegetables in a backyard garden or building a family business.

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14 Comments

  • commonsense March 30, 2011 04.56 pm

    Great article! It’s a shame that as a subscriber, I have to run from the subscription pop-up, though. No matter how many times I click never show this again, it follows me through the article like an annoying in-law at a family reunion!

    Reply 
  • myparentskid April 01, 2011 08.05 pm

    Kudos !! Very well written, very informative, information I can use..
    Thank you..

    Reply 
  • SammiD April 02, 2011 09.15 pm

    This is off the grid news??
    I’m really disapointed in the direction you went with this.

    Reply 
    • CaSurveyor April 11, 2011 11.57 am

      Sammi,
      This is important education, helping us understand real world history.
      A valuable article to the curious.

      Reply 
  • booklet April 11, 2011 10.49 am

    Check out Ron Wyatt finding of the Egyptian chariot from the area where the Bible said Egyptian drowned trying to capture Moses and the people crossing the Red Sea,

    Reply 
  • REX May 27, 2011 11.14 pm

    Sakkara Egyptian kings list reveals after Pepi II died the next king was Mentuhotep II meaning the 7-10 and part of the 11th Egyptian dynasty kings never existed. Pepi II reign 2278-2184 B.C. now is lowered to 2003-1913 B.C. since the 7-10 & part of the 11th dynasties are gone. Pepi II had trade with Sodom. Abraham lived in the time of Sodom. Senusret III fought at Shechem in Joseph’s lifetime. Abraham lived 1992-1817 B.C. Isaac 1892-1712 B.C. Jacob 1832-1685 B.C. Joseph 1741-1631 B.C. Egypt: Pepi II 2003-1913 B.C. Mentuhotep II 1913-1862 B.C. Mentuhotep III 1862-1850 B.C. Mentuhotep IV 1850-1843 B.C. Amenemhet I 1843-1813 B.C. Senusret I 1813-1777 B.C. Amenemhet II 1777-1743 B.C. Senusret II 1743-1724 B.C. & Senusret III 1724-1685 B.C. There are many kings listed in fraudulent dynasties. Eliminate these dynasties and ancient Egyptian history will match the Bible.

    Reply 
    • Lujack Skylark July 08, 2011 12.06 pm

      Abydos Egyptian kings lists shows after Amenemhet IV dies(12th dynasty) the next king is Ahmose (18th dynasty). Queen Sobekneferu is Amenemhet IV’s sister who reigned 3 years between Amenemhet IV and Ahmose. Kamose is Ahmose’s brother who also reigned 3 years. Perhaps queen Sobekneferu and Kamose were rivals and the foreigners Hyksos living in Egypt in large numbers since Senusret III’s reign sided with queen Sobekneferu. It was Senusert III who confiscated all the land of the nomarchs. The 12th dynasty was the enemy of Thebes and Kamose and Ahmose came from Thebes.

      Senusret III, Amenemhet III and Amenemhet IV and the civil war which follows. Senusret III 39 yrs. Amenemhet III 45 years and Amenemhet IV’s 9 yrs. = 93 years. Joseph lived 93 years in Egypt and when Joseph died the prosperity of the 12th dynasty ended. Perhaps what happened to queen Sobekneferu now has been solved.

      Reply 
    • Lujack Skylark July 21, 2011 03.11 pm

      Abraham lived at UR when Pepi II’s troops patrolled Canaan. After Pepi II’s troops withdraw from Canaan late in his reign Abraham and Sarah visit Egypt. There was chaos in Egypt. Abraham feared for his life. (Genesis 12:12) God plagues Egypt. (Genesis 12:17) Abraham then lives safely in Canaan.

      Isaac lived for 180 years. (Genesis 35:28) Through the partial reign of Mentuhotep II, Mentuhotep III-IV, Amenemhet I,Senusret I,Amenemhet II,Senusret II and part of Senusret III’s reign. God protected Isaac. Sensuret III invaded Canaan shortly after Isaac died. Isaac died 10 years before Jacob entered Egypt.
      From Mentuhotep II’s reign to Senusret II’s no Egyptian troops were in Canaan.

      Jacob age 130 enters Egypt and lives there 17 years when Joseph is governor. God protected both Jacob and Joseph.

      Moses was saved by princess Hatshepsut. Thutmose III invaded the Middle-East and required all conquered people’s to worship Egyptian gods. Moses would not worship Egyptian gods. The 10 plagues strike Egypt. Thutmose III then is defeated in the Exodus. God saved the Hebrew people. Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV, Amenhotep III and Akenaton all received tribute from the Amorites proving the Amorite 400 years of power had been broken. (Genesis 15:13-16)

      There are 521 years from the Exodus to Rehoboam’s 5th year. (1 Kings 14:25) Some 520 years there was no Egyptian troops fighting the Israelites. What a miracle! (1 Kings 6:1 480 years + 36 more years Solomon reigned and Rehoboam’s 5th year = 521 years!)

      We can see how in ancient history God saved the Hebrew people.

      Reply 
  • Lujack Skylark June 23, 2011 01.03 am

    Exodus 1:8 A pharaoh arose in Egypt who knew not Joseph. Joseph’s name was struck from Egyptian records before Moses was born. This is the reason the pharaoh of the Exodus is not listed in the bible. The Egyptians hated foreigners. Thus their history was eliminated from Egyptian records just like queen Hatshepsut’s name was stricken from Egyptian records cause she was the princess who saved infant Moses.

    Reply 
  • REX June 23, 2011 01.19 am

    The Ipuwer Papyrus is related to Genesis 12:17 plagues which occurred when Abraham visited Egypt at the end of Pepi II’s reign. The plagues were so bad after Pepi II died, the Egyptians were eating their children. Sakkara kings list reveals after Pepi II died the next king was Mentuhotep II the king who won victory in the civil war which occured when Pepi II died. Mentuhotep II reunited Egypt some 39 years after Pepi II’s death.
    Sodom,Canaan was destroyed some 20 years after Pepi II had died.

    Reply 
  • Lujack Skylark July 08, 2011 01.09 pm

    Forget the dynasties. Look at the history of each Egyptian king. (1) Pepi II had trade with Sodom. Abraham had connections with Sodom. Genesis 12:17 A plague struck Egypt at the end of Pepi II’s reign. (2) Mentuhotep II had a severe water shortage. Wells were dug along Nubian trade route. Genesis 21:19 & Genesis 21:25 God provided Hagar with a well. Abraham has a dispute with the Philistines over a well. (3) Senusret I called Throat Sliter of Asiatics now reigns over Egypt. Genesis 26:2 God tells Isaac not to enter Egypt. (4) Senusert III annexed Canaan after fighting a war near Shechem. Genesis 47:13-17 & Genesis 35:1-6 Joseph managed both the economies of Egypt and Canaan. Jacob flees Shechem to Bethel before entering Egypt. (5) Senusret III 39 years, Amenemhet III 45 years and Amenemhet IV 9 years equal 93 years. Genesis 37:2 & Genesis 50:26 Joseph lived in Egypt for 93 years. Canaanite Hyksos entered Egypt during Senusret III’s reign. (6) Ahmose hated foreigners in Egypt. Ahmose destroyed Heliopolis, Egypt Biblical On and all records of Joseph. (Genesis 41:45 Biblical On) So later a pharaoh would arise who knew not Joseph. (7) Thutmose I knew not Joseph. Exodus 1:8 Thutmose I was the slayer of Hebrew male babies. (8) Princess Hatshepsut would save Moses life. Exodus 2:5-10 (9)Thutmose II was too sickly to reign. Queen Hatshepsut reigned for him. (10) Thutmose III was the pharaoh of the Exodus. 1 Kings 6:1 the 4th year of king Solomon was 480 years after the Exodus making Thutmose III the Exodus king. (11) Amenhotep III receives the Tel-Amarna letters from Canaanite kings stating the Haribu (Hebrews) are attacking Canaan. (12) Akenaton’s cousin is Tushratta the Cushan-Rishathaim in Judges 3:8 showing us the Hebrews are already in Canaan. Akenaton’s poem to Aton is similar to Psalms 104 also proving the Hebrews were already in the land of Canaan. Follow the history of the kings not the phony dynasty set up and you will uncover the truth!

    Reply 
  • Timothy February 22, 2012 07.25 pm

    It was Hyksos leader Sheshi who lead the Canaanite/Hyksos into Egypt during Senusret III’s reign when Jacob entered Egypt. Sheshi was king/administrator of Avaris. Some Minoans also settled at Avaris.

    Yakubher = (Yakov/Yakub/Jacob) reigns for a few years after Jacob and Senusret III had died. Yakubher rules in the early part of Amenemhet III’s reign.

    Khyan reigns at Avaris almost to the end of Amenemhet III’s reign. Khyan has trade with the Minoans on the island of Crete. Amenemhet III also has trade with the island of Crete.

    Apepi I reigns at Avaris in the reigns of Amenemhet III, Amenemhet IV, queen Sobekneferu and Ahmose reigns. Apepi I goes to war against Kamose in Sobekneferu’s reign. Apepi I also goes to war against Kamose father Seqenenre Tao.

    Apepi II or Khamudi is driven out of Egypt by Thebean king Ahmose. The Hyksos were in Egypt for 94 years.

    Abydos Egyptian kings list shows after Amenemhet IV the next king is Ahmose. This research indicates the Abydos Egyptian kings list is right!

    Minoans and Hebrews become friends in Amenhotep I reign. Minoans are the mixed crowd in Exodus 12:38
    Josephus stated Thermuthis (from the Thutmose family) was the princess who saved baby Moses. The princess was Hatshepsut whose father Thutmose I had Hebrew male babies slain.

    Queen Hatshepsut worshipped the cow goddess Hathor. Minoan boys loved jumping over bulls and the Hebrews after the Exodus in the wilderness worshipped the golden calf.

    Egypt experienced a darkness which could be felt-(Ash) Exodus 10:21-22. Thera had blown up creating darkness over Egypt and Crete for 3 days. Archaeologist Manfred Bietak found pumice and Thutmose III artifacts in the same strata and there were no Minoan fresoes painted in Egyptian tombs after Thutmose III died. Why? The Minoans left with the Hebrews in the Exodus.

    Reply 
  • Lujack Skylark January 13, 2013 07.13 pm

    Joseph’s global famine (Genesis 41:57) now has been verified! Spread the news! Educate the world to ancient world history connected with Biblical History.

    Shang Dynasty emperor Ching Tang some Chinese historians stated his reign began in 1747 B.C. There are others who believe his reign began in 1675 B.C. Chinese emperor Ching Tang was recorded having a seven year famine verifying Joseph’s seven year famine in Genesis chapter 41. This seven year famine occurred 1704-1697 B.C. Emperor Ching Tang must have been reigning during this time in world history.

    JOSEPH 7 YEAR FAMINE

    Joseph lived for 110 years 1741-1631 B.C. (Genesis 50:26) Joseph age 30 (Genesis 41:40-46) became governor of Egypt in 1711 B.C. There was 7 years of great harvest and the second year of famine Joseph age 39 in 1702 B.C. met his father Jacob age 130 (Genesis 47:9) in Egypt. Global famine 1704-1697 B.C. (Genesis 41:1-57)

    (1) Jacob brought the starving Hebrew people into Egypt settling near Biblical On (Genesis 41:45) Heliopolis, Egypt in 1702 B.C.

    (2) Starving Hyksos Canaanite chieftain Sheshi lead his people into Avaris, Egypt trading their horses for bread (Genesis 47:13-17) in 1702 B.C. during the world famine. (Genesis 41:57)

    (3) Starving Minoans from Crete also settle in Egypt’s delta in 1700 B.C. Other Minoans migrate to mainland Greece in 1700 B.C. spreading their Minoan culture there.

    (4) Starving Indo-European Sealanders invade Amorite Babylon king Abi-Eshuh 1710-1684 B.C. settling in southern Babylonia in 1700 B.C. Abi-Eshuh dams up the Tigris river trying to starve the Sealanders out.

    (5) Starving Indo-European tribes invade Dravidan dominated India in 1700 B.C. Indo-Europeans destroy the Dravidan Mohenjo-Daro civilizatin in 1700 B.C.

    (6)Starving Indo-European tribes invade western China in 1700 B.C. Chinese archaelogist discovered Indo-European mummies in western China. The Indo-Europeans introduced the Chinese to the horse driven chariot. NOTE: Indo-European Kassites were first to use the horse driven chariot attacking Babylon in the reign of Amorite Babylon king Samsu-iluna 1750-1711 B.C. in his 9th year in 1741 B.C. NOTE: Joseph age 30 was given the Egyptian pharaoh’s 2nd chariot in 1711 B.C. (Genesis 41:43)

    (7) Chinese Shang Dynasty very early in the dynasty recorded a 7 year famine verifying Joseph’s account of the 7 year global famine in Egypt. (Genesis 41:57)

    (8) The American agricultural Indians establish the Poverty Point Mound Culture in Louisiana in 1700 B.C. building their first city in North America during the world famine.

    (9) Olmecs migrate into the Yucatan Peninsula in 1700 B.C. Archaeologist state the Olmecs invented plumbing and the Olmecs were interested in water conservtion at this time in world history.

    (10) Joseph’s account of the world famine (Genesis 41:57) is supported by archaelogy and the migrations of ancient people’s in 1700 B.C. Why not pass this information along to people who are interested in Biblical history.

    Reply 
  • Neopets January 22, 2013 10.30 am

    You really make it seem so easy together with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be actually one thing which I feel I’d by no means understand. It kind of feels too complex and extremely extensive for me. I am looking forward to your next post, I will attempt to get the hang of it!

    Reply 

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