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The Date of the Exodus According to Ancient Writers
by Dr. Stephen C. Meyers
This book is a result of my dissertation entitled "The Date of the Exodus in Ancient Writings." The first chapter deals with three major groups of ancient writers. Firstly, ancient Jewish writers will be considered that especially mention chronology concerning the Exodus. Secondly, ancient secular writers that gave opinions about the origins of the Jews will be considered. Finally, a look at the early church fathers that constructed chronologies of the Old Testament.
One of the most important considerations is what the Biblical writers themselves said about the date of the Exodus. Chapter two will consider both the Old and New Testament writers concerning the Exodus. The last chapter will focus on the archaeological evidence that has been found that best fits into the chronology of the Exodus. The most important discovery is the Merneptah stele that mentions Israel which forced the revision of a number of liberal theories.
The purpose of this paper is to show that most of the ancient writers equated the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt around 1570-50 BC Most ancient writers put the Jews in Egypt for 215 years or less. All took the 400 or 430 years to cover the time in Egypt and Canaan. Most counted the 400 years from the birth of Isaac, or Abraham's entry into the land of Canaan. None of the ancient writers including the apostle Paul said the Jews were in Egypt for 430 years.
Finally, the archaeological evidence will be considered that best fits with the chronology of the Exodus. This paper will demonstrate that the best explanation of the evidence is that the Jews were in Egypt at the time of the Hyksos. The expulsion of the Hyksos should be equated with the Exodus from Egypt in the Bible. One of the major stumbling blocks for the conservative is their understanding of the 480 years from the founding of the temple to the Exodus. This number does not include the one hundred and eleven years of oppression in the book of Judges that ancient writers included in their totals.
The evidence from the Sinai best puts the wanderings in the wilderness during the Middle Bronze age. The conquest of Canaan is best to be equated with the destructions at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. From Egyptian topographical lists there are cities listed which seem to indicate that the Jews are already in Canaan when Thutmose III campaigned there around 1480 BC The Amarna letters tell about the Hapiru who seem to be the Hebrews during the time of the judges. The name "Israel" seems to be a late word used to describe the league of 12 tribes that later became the nation of Israel.
Liberal scholars place Israel in Canaan around the 13th century BC while conservative scholars place Israel in Canaan at 1406 BC Both conclusions seem to be wrong according to archaeological evidence and ancient writers which will be demonstrated in these coming chapters.
There are three main groups of writers that need to be considered. Firstly, the Jewish writers who interpret the 430 years in Egypt, and the chronology of the Exodus. Secondly, secular writers who tell about the origins of the Jews, and finally, a look at the chronologies of the early church fathers concerning the Exodus.
The Jewish historian Josephus who lived at the time of Christ, wrote The Antiquity of the Jews, The Jewish War, and Against Apion. In his book, The Antiquity of the Jews, Josephus interprets the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 as starting with Abraham's entrance into Canaan and ending at the Exodus. Josephus states:
They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt (1830, 59; Book 2.15.2).
This follows the Septuagint (LXX) reading of Exodus 12:40 which says, "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years" (1970, 88; 1979, 109). Whiston in his notes on Josephus is puzzled by the Masoretic text (MT) that leaves out "Canaan" when Masoretic chronology clearly shows that Israel only stayed half of the 430 years in Egypt (1830, 59).
In The Antiquity of the Jews (1830, 166; Book 8.3.1) Josephus says the exodus occurred 592 years before the Temple of Solomon was built which is about 960 BC. So the exodus, according to Josephus, was about 1552 BC or 1,020 years from Abraham's entry into Canaan. In Against Apion (1926, 299; Book 2.19) Josephus says the exodus was 612 years before the temple. This difference is probably due to the counting of the years of the judges. This places the exodus at about the same time as the expulsion of the Hyksos. The entrance into Egypt (1830, 59) was 215 years before the exodus which would be about 1767 BC. This date is close to the beginning of the second intermediate period in Egypt when the Hyksos rose to power. The Hyksos were considered foreign rulers of lower Egypt. Their capital was Avaris which was later named Pi-Rameses.
I Kings 6:1 states that the exodus was 480 years before the Temple of Solomon was built, yet Josephus clearly states 592 years in his book The Antiquity of the Jews. The difference seems to be in the way the rule of the Judges was calculated. Josephus seems to include the oppressions as well as the judges, whereas the writer of Kings excludes the the rule of oppressors, as was customary at this time (Jackson and Lake 1979, 151). This amounts to about 111 years difference.
Josephus in his book Against Apion argues that the Jews are of great antiquity going back some 5,000 years. The further back your ancestry went the greater the wisdom and respect you received. Josephus quotes a number of secular historians to prove his point.
Josephus quotes Manetho who wrote a history of Egypt. Josephus says, "Manetho has granted us one fact. He has admitted that our race (the Jews) was not of Egyptian origin, but came into Egypt from elsewhere, conquered it, and afterwards left it" (1926, 267; Book 1.252). Manetho identifies Israel with the Hyksos which where expelled by Ahmose from Egypt. Josephus quotes Manetho describing this expulsion by saying:
Then the kings of the Thebaid and of the rest of Egypt rose in revolt against the shepherds (Hyksos), and a great war broke out, which was of long duration. Under a king named Misphragmouthosis, the shepherds, he says, were defeated, driven out of all the rest of Egypt, and confined in a place called Auaris, containing ten thousand arourae. The shepherds, according to Manetho, enclosed the whole area with a great strong wall, in order to secure all their possessions and spoils. Thoummosis, the son of Misphragmouthosis (he continues), invested the walls with an army of 480,000 men, and endeavored to reduce them to submission by siege. Despairing of achieving his object, he concluded a treaty, under which they were all to evacuate Egypt and go whither they would unmolested. Upon these terms no fewer than two hundred and forty thousand, entire households with their possessions, left Egypt, and traversed the desert to Syria. Then, terrified by the might of the Assyrians, who at that time were the masters of Asia, they built a city in the country now called Judaea, capable of accommodating their vast company, and gave it the name of Jerusalem (1926,197-99; Against Apion, Book 1.85-90; Manetho 1940, 86, n.2).
Later Josephus quotes Manetho again saying "After the departure of the pastoral people from Egypt to Jerusalem Tethmosis, the king who expelled them from of Egypt" (1926, 201; Book 1.94). Tethmosis is a corrupt form of Ahmose who expelled the Hyksos (Gardiner 1961, 444). In the other passage quoted above "Misphragmuthosis" who is Thutmose III is said to drive them out along with his son Thummosis (Thutmose IV). This must be a misquote for Africanus, Eusebius, and Tatian all quote Manetho saying Ahmose expelled the Hyksos.
From Manetho, Josephus calculates the exodus as three hundred and ninety three years before Danaus arrived in Argos (about 1290 BC), which would place the exodus at 1683 BC, and a thousand years before the Trojan war (1186 BC; 1926, 205, 257; Against Apion I.103-5). The thousand years seems to be a round exaggerated number that is unreliable, or a mistake of the Trojan war for the first Olympiad (776 BC). For in Eusebius it is only 400+ years from the Trojan war and 1020 years from the first Olympiad (1981, 524, 533). From Phoenician history Josephus proves that the temple of Solomon was built a hundred and forty-three years and eight months earlier than the foundation of Carthage by the Tyrians (814 BC; 1926, 205-7; Against Apion I.106-11; Rowton 1950, 20). This would put the building of the temple at 957 BC which seems to be a very accurate date.
Josephus also mentions Chaeremon who wrote a history of Egypt which tells about a contaminated people (the Jews) being exiled from Egypt by Amenophis. When the Jews reached the border of Egypt they united with other exiles, but were denied permission to leave, so they marched back against Egypt. Amenophis fled to Ethiopia were Ramesses was born in a cave. When Ramesses reached manhood he drove the Jews out of Egypt into Syria (1926, 281; Against Apion I.288).
Another writer Lysimachus, said that because the Jews were afflicted with leprosy and other diseases King Bocchoris deported them to the wilderness where Moses led them to Jerusalem. This is not Bocchoris of the 24th Dynasty but a much older Bocchoris as mentioned by Diodorus. Lysimachus said this happened 1700 years ago (1926, 285; Against Apion I.340, II.16). Lysimachus probably lived in the first century BC, which would put the exodus around 1700+ BC This date does not take into account any overlap of reigns.
It should be noted that Syncellus quotes Manetho as saying that Joseph went into Egypt as a slave in the 4th year of Aphophis, and rose to power in the 17th year of his reign (Manetho 1940, 239). From Josephus one can learn that Jacob went into Egypt about the beginning of the second intermediate period (1780 BC), identifies the Hyksos with the Jews (1926, 255; Against Apion I.224), and the great exodus from Egypt was the expulsion of the Hyksos around 1570-50 BC Josephus counted the 430 years from Abraham's entrance into Canaan to the Exodus, and 405 years from the birth of Isaac to the Exodus (See Table 1).
OT Chronology in Josephus' Writings
|Event||# yrs||Year of World||Year BC|
|Birth of Abraham||3548||2062 BC|
|Abraham enters Canaan||75||3623||1987 BC|
|To Birth of Isaac||25||3648||1962 BC|
|To Death of Isaac||185||3833||1777 BC|
|Jacob enters Egypt||5||3838||1772 BC|
|To the Exodus||215||4053||1552 BC|
|To Moses Death||40||4093||1512 BC|
|To Eli's Death||476||4569||1036 BC|
|To David's Death||72||4641||964 BC|
|To Solomon's Temple||4||4645||960 BC*|
|David's to Ahab's Death||163||4804||850 BC|
|To Captivity of 10 Tribes||157||4961||722 BC|
|To Cyrus the Great||182||5143||539 BC|
|To Death of Alexander||253||5396||323 BC|
|To Death of J.Maccabeus||170||5566||160 BC|
|To Herod's Temple finished||132||5698||18 BC|
|*Below this line dates are taken from known history. Above this line dates are calculated according to Josephus. There are 1053 years from Solomon's Temple to Herod's Temple according to Josephus, but actually there are only 932 years between them. This is a 13% error over known dates.|
Seder Olam Rabbah
Seder Olam Rabbah means "Book of the Order of the World." It was written by Jose Ben Halafta who died about 160 AD It is the oldest Jewish chronicle we have. It was later updated in Seder Olam Zutta in the 8th century AD. On the next page is Table 2 with a summary of dates (Finegan 1964, 127-8; Frank 1956, 11-12). Note that there are only 400 years from the birth of Isaac to the exodus, and 405 years in Josephus, but there is about a 2,000 year difference in dates from the creation of the world to the Exodus. It seems that Josephus follows the LXX while Seder Olam Rabbah follows the Masoritic text-type. From the Exodus to the First Temple is 480 years, and from the First Temple to the Second Temple is also 480 years. Some scholars see this as a deliberate manipulation of dates to divide the time periods equally.
OT Chronology in Seder Olam Zutta
|Event||# yrs||Year of world||Year BC|
|Adam to Noah||1056||1056||2832 BC|
|Noah to Flood||600||1656||2232 BC|
|To Tower of Babel||340||1996||1892 BC|
|To Birth of Isaac||52||2048||1840 BC|
|To the Exodus||400||2448||1440 BC|
|To Canaan||40||2488||1400 BC*|
|To 1st Temple||440||2928||960 BC|
|Destruction 1st||410||3338||586 BC|
|2nd Temple||420||3828||70 AD|
|*Below this line dates are taken from Known history. Above this line dates are calculated according to Seder Olam Zutta. There are 900 years from Solomon's Temple to the Second Temple's destruction according to Seder Olam Zutta, but actually there are 1030 years between them. This is a 12.6% error under known dates.|
The actual time between the First and Second Temple is about 430 years. There is an additional 50 years due to overlap and coregency. It should also be noted that the Second Temple is said to have stood for 420 years, when it actually stood for 585 years from 516 BC to 70 AD There is a 165 year difference in subtraction of years probably in the Persian rule which is given only 34 years. In Josephus there is an addition of 121 years which is a 13% error over known dates, while Seder Olam Zutta has a 12.6% error under known dates.
Book of Jubilees
The book of Jubilees is the supposed account of events from creation revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Events are dated according to their jubilee year. The Exodus happened 2,410 years after the creation of the world. Compare this with Seder Olam Rabbah which says 2,448 years from creation and Josephus who says 4,053. According to the book of Jubilees Adam stayed 8 years in Eden which leaves 2,401 years or forty-nine jubilees. The book of Jubilees defends the 364 day calendar year which assures that festivals fall on the same day of the year. The date of this book is about 100 BC (Charlesworth, 1985, 35-142). According to the book of Jubilees (see Table 2) there are 8 jubilees plus eight years from Abraham's entrance into Canaan (41th jubilee, 13:8) to the Exodus (49th jubilee, 50:4) which equals exactly 400 years (14:14-16). Jacob went down into Egypt "on the first of the fourth month in the second year of the third week of the forty-fifth jubilee" (45:1). The exodus occurred "forty-nine jubilees from the days of Adam until this day and one week and two years" (50:4). This amounts to about 182 years in Egypt from the time of Jacob, but 205 years from Joseph's descent into Egypt which is just over 4 jubilees. The book ends with the exodus from Egypt.
Book of Jubilees
|Event||Year of Jubilee||Years Between||Year of the World|
|Adam in Garden||8|
|Tower of Babel||33,2,1||514||1632|
|Abraham enters Canaan||40,7,1||378||2010|
|Joseph enters Egypt||2205|
|Jacob enters Egypt||45,3,2||185||2228|
|* The first number is the year of Jubilee which must be multiplied by 49. The second number is the "week" which must be multiplied by 7. The third number is the year which must be added to the other totals to get the year of the world, or year from the creation of the world.|
Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities traces Biblical history from Adam to David (Charlesworth 1985, 297-377). The date of this writing is probably around the time of Christ. Pseudo-Philo states that there are 1,652 years from Adam to the flood while Philo says there are 2,242 years. This is probably due to the MT and LXX sources used.
In Pseudo-Philo when Moses was born Amram is told: Indeed your sons will dwell in a land not their own and will be brought into bondage and afflicted 400 years. And behold from the time when the word of God that he spoke to Abraham was spoken, there are 350 years; from the time when we became slaves in Egypt, there are 130 years (9:3-4).
When one adds 80 years from Moses' birth to the exodus, one arrives at 430 years from the promise given to Abraham to the exodus, and 210 years for the time spent in Egypt.
Demetrius is the earliest datable Jewish author who writes in Greek around the third century BC There are six fragments of his writings. Five of fragments are preserved in Eusebius' book Preparation of the Gospel. One other fragment is found in Clement of Alexandria's book Stromata. Demetrius' chronology reflects the work of the Septuagint written a century earlier.
In Fragment 2 it says: But Joseph (he says) was already in Egypt, [at age] 39; and from Adam until Joseph's brothers came into Egypt there were 3,624 years; and from the deluge until Jacob's coming into Egypt, 1360 years; and from the time when Abraham was chosen from among the gentiles and came from Haran into Canaan until Jacob and his family came into Egypt there were 215 years (Charlesworth 1985, 851-2).
The subtraction of 1,360 from 3,624 years, results in the total of 2,264 years between Adam and the flood. This is only two years difference from the Septuagint which is probably due to the tradition of Genesis 11:10. There are 215 years from Abraham's entrance into Canaan to Egypt. This means the stay in Egypt was at the most 215 years, and at the least 185 years.
Eupolemus was a Jewish writer who composed a book about the history of Israel from Moses to Solomon prior to the first century BC There are only five fragments that have been pre-served by Alexander Polyhistor's book On the Jews which are quoted by Eusebius and Clement of Alexandria.
Fragment 2 says: Then Joshua the son of Nun prophesied for thirty years; he lived one hundred and ten years and pitched the sacred tabernacle in Shiloh. After this Samuel was prophet. Then by the will of God Saul was chosen by Samuel to be king and died after ruling twenty-one years (Charlesworth 1985, 866).
In Fragment 5 it says: Eupolemus also says in a similar treatise that all the years from Adam to the fifth year of the reign of Demetrius (while Ptolemy was in his twelfth year as king of Egypt) are five thousand, one hundred and forty-nine; and from the time when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt to the aforementioned date there are two? thousand, five hundred and eighty years (Charlesworth 1985, 871-2).
The date of Demetrius is 158/7 BC This puts the date of creation at 5,307/6 BC For the date of the exodus Freudenthal and Jacoby amend the text from two to one thousand years which would put the exodus at 1738 BC which is close to the Septuagint dating as is the date for creation (Charlesworth 1985, 872, e).
Artapanus was a Jewish writer probably between the the second and third century BC Three fragments are preserved by Eusebius. Artapanus probably was writing to counteract some of the charges of Manetho who said Moses invaded Egypt. Artapanus says that the Arabs plundered Egypt. This may reflect the account of the Jews despoiling the Egyptians (Ex. 3:22, 12:36).
In Fragment 3 it says: Artapanus says in his 'On the Jews' that when Abraham [Joseph] had died and his son Mempsasthenoth, and also the king of the Egyptians, his son Palmanothes succeeded to dominion. The latter treated the Jews badly. First he built Sais and founded the temple there. Then he established the shrine at Heliopolis. This man begat a daughter Merris, whom he betrothed to a certain Chenephres who was king over the regions beyond Memphis (for at that time there were many kings of Egypt). Since she was barren she adopted that child of one of the Jews and named it Moses (Charlesworth 1985, 898).
The phrases "king over the regions beyond Memphis," and "at that time there were many kings of Egypt" seems to best describe the Hyksos period. The Hyksos only controlled Egypt as far as Memphis (lower Egypt). Other kings ruled over upper Egypt. Sais equals Tanis or Avaris. King Chenephres is probably the twenty-fifth king in the Turin Papyrus 1730 BC, Kha'neferre Sebekhotp IV of the thirteenth Dynasty (Manetho 1940, 73, n.3).
Artapanus' description of the first plague of Egypt is due to the flooding of the Nile. He says: Proceeding a little he struck the Nile with the rod. The river became flooded and deluged all Egypt. From that time also its 'Inundation' takes place. The water became stagnant and stank and destroyed the creatures that lived in rivers and the people perished from thirst (Charlesworth 1985, 902).
Artapanus also relates two different views of the crossing of the Red Sea. He says:Now the Memphites say that Moses was familiar with the countryside and watched for the ebb tide and he conveyed the multitude across through the dry sea. But the Heliopolitans say that .... a divine voice came to Moses to strike the sea with his rod and divide it. When Moses heard, he touched the water with the rod and thus the flowing water separated and the host went through a dry path (Charlesworth 1985, Vol.2, 902).
There is an interesting parallel about Alexander the Great crossing the Pamphylian Sea. Josephus says, "the Pamphylian Sea retired and afforded them (Alexander and his army) a passage through itself, when they had no other way to go" (1830, 61) Callisthen wrote how "the Pamphylian Sea did not only open a passage for Alexander, but, by rising and elevating its waters, did pay homage as its king" (Josephus 1830, 61).
Arian comments: He (Alexander) himself conducted those that were with him by the sea-shore. This road is impassable at any other time than when the north wind blows; but if the south wind prevail, there is no passing by the shore. Now at this time, after strong south winds, a north wind blew, and that not without the Divine Providence, and afforded him as easy and quick passage" (Josephus 1830, 61).
Strabo also writes about Alexander the Great's crossing by saying: There is a mountain called Climax, which adjoins to the Sea of Pamphylia, leaving a narrow passage on the shore, which, in calm weather, is bare, so as be passable by travellers....But Alexander fell into the winter season, and committing himself chiefly to fortune, he marched on before the waves retired; and so it happened that they were a whole day in journeying over it, and were under water up to the navel" (Josephus 1830, 61).
There is another parallel in the Assyrian annals of Sargon that says, "But I, Sargon,....led my army over the Tigris and the Euphrates, at the peak of the flood, the spring flood, as (if it be) dry ground" (ANET, 1969, 287). It is interesting to note that Josephus refers to the crossing of the Pamphylian Sea as proof that God can part the sea if it is His will. It was not just a strange accident.
Testament of Moses
The Testament of Moses is a farewell exhortation given by Moses to Joshua just before his death. It prophesied the history of Israel from their entrance into Canaan to the end times. The most probable date for this text is the first century AD. The farewell speech of Moses to Joshua is said to be "twenty five hundred years after the creation of the world" (Charlesworth 1983, 927). This is close to the Seder Olam which gives the date of 2,488 for the death of Moses. This implies that the writer of the Testament of Moses was following a Masoretic type text, and that the 400 years covers the time in Canaan as well as Egypt.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave in 1947 by a shepherd who was searching for a stray goat. In 1949 excavations began of the cave, and later 10 more caves were discovered. In cave four alone 15,000 fragments were found from 550 different manuscripts. Fragments were numbered so that 4Q559 means it was found in cave 4, at Qumran, fragment #559.
1Q Genesis Apocryphon
The Genesis Apocryphon is one of the seven major Dead Sea scrolls that were found in Cave I at Qumran in 1947. The genre of this scroll is somewhere between targum and midrash. The text is in Aramaic. In the story of Abraham's journey to Egypt, the Pharaoh is specifically named "Pharaoh Zoan, the king of Egypt" (20.14; Fritzmyer 1971, 63). The Greek word for "Zoan" is "Tanis".
Fritzmyer comments: The Pharaoh is named here after his dynastic residence. In thus identifying the Pharaoh, the author of this text witnesses to a first century belief among Jews that Abram's descent to Egypt was connected with the Hyksos Period of Egyptian history (roughly ca. 1720-1550 BC). The title 'Pharaoh Zoan' suggests that the Egyptian ruler was living at the Hyksos capital of Avaris, later known as Raamses (Exodus 1:11; 12.37), and still later as Zoan (the name used here). The mention of Tanis in Jubilees 13.12 would also point to this same tradition (1971, 117).
Zoan or Tanis was the residence of the Pharaohs during the twenty-first and twenty-second Dynasties about 1070-715 BC It was a major political and commercial center during the Ptolemaic period about 332-30 BC It is located at modern San el-Hagar on the Tanitic branch of the Nile. Numbers 13:22 states that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan (Na'aman 1981, 489; Albright 1957, 242). It was still an important city in the times of Isaiah and Ezekiel (Isa. 19:11, 13; Ez. 30:14). Because so many monuments were found at Tanis inscribed with the name Ramses, it was thought that Tanis was the store-city of Ramses mentioned in Exodus 1:11. However, it was discovered that these monuments were moved to Tanis from probably Qantir or Tell ed-Dab'a some fifteen miles south on the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile which was the site of the Hyksos capital of Avaris. It seems most likely that "Zoan" and "Ramesses" are anachronistic for "Avaris".
4Q559 Biblical Chronology
There are five fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls that list a chronology. Fragments two and three go from Abraham to Aaron with the formula X was Y years old when he begot Z which says:
Abraham was 99 years old when he begot Isaac.Isaac was 60 years old when he begot Jacob. Jacob was 65 years old when he begot Levi. Levi was 34 years old when he begot Qahat. Qahat was 29 years old when he begot Amram. Amram was 110 years old when he begot Aaron (Martinez 1996, 228).
When these numbers are all tallied from the birth of Isaac to Aaron there are 298 years. At least 80 years need to be added to get to the Exodus, but this is only 378 years. This may indicate that Aaron was 22 years older than Moses unless the 400 years are calculated from the promise to Abraham. In Fragment 4 Joshua is said to be 35 years in Gilgal and in Timnath Serah for 20 years (Martinez 1996, 288). Joshua died when he was 110 years old of which forty years were spent in the wilderness. This would make Joshua 15 years old when he left Egypt.
4Q180-1 Ages of the World
These fragments deal with predestination that God from the very beginning has foreordained history (Wise, Abegg, & Cook 1996, 238). Ten generations were decreed from Shem to Abraham.
Fragment one of 4Q180 says: Interpretation concerning the ages which God has made: An age to achieve [all that there is] and all that will be. Before creating them he determined their operations [according to the precise sequence of the ages,] one age after another age. And this is engraved on the [heavenly] tablets [for the sons of men,] [for] /all/ the ages of their dominion. This is the sequence of the so[ns of Noah, from Shem to Abraham,] [unt]il he sired Isaac; the ten ge[nerations] (Martinez 1992, 211-12).
In Luke chapter three there are 11 generations from Shem to Abraham because "Cainan" is included in the LXX, but not in the Masoritic text. This fragment, 4Q180, follows the MT, and not the LXX. Josephus also says that Abraham is the tenth from Noah, and Noah is the tenth from Adam (1830, 31; Antiquities of the Jews Book I.7.5). Enoch is called the 7th from Adam in Jude 14 which follows this same numbering pattern. Ten is a nice round number for genealogies, as is the 3 groups of 14 names of Matthew's genealogy in chapter one which suggests an edited version. It is critical in understanding ancient chronology that names are added and omitted from genealogies in order to be symmetrical (Wilson 1977).
1Q21 Words of Levi
This fragment is about the testament of Levi, the last words he uttered before dying. This was part of a larger collection of testaments called Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Levi summarizes his life by saying:
I was nineteen years old when I became a priest, and I was twenty-eight when I took a wife for myself, and I was forty-eight when God brought us into the land of Egypt. I lived eighty-nine years in Egypt. In all I lived 137 years and I saw my descendants to the third generation before I died (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 1996, 257).
According to this fragment Levi saw the deliver of Israel, Moses and Aaron, before he died. Levi was 94 years old when Amram married Jochebed who were the parents of Aaron and Moses. This was after only 46 years in Egypt. The time in Egypt was at least 89 years to over 126 years plus when the 80 years for Moses is taken into account. When Levi was 118 years old his brother Joseph died. This seems to indicate that the stay in Egypt was much shorter than 200 years.
4Q543-48 The Vision of Amram
The opening paragraph of this fragment gives some helpful chronological information. It is the testament of Amram who is the father of Aaron and Moses. It says: A Copy of the book 'The Words of the Vision of Amram [son of Levi.' It contains everything that] he told his sons and everything that he commanded them on [the day he died, in the] one hundred and thirty-sixth year, that is the year of [his death, in the one hundred] and fifty-second year of [Israel's sojourn in Egypt...] (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 1996, 434). The text continues to say that Amram and Kohath went back to Canaan to build tombs for their fathers. While they were in Canaan a war broke out between the Philistines and Egypt. As a result they could not return to Egypt because the border of Egypt was closed for 41 years. The Philistines are anachronistic, they came much later. This could be referring to the Hyksos. This probably happened when Jacob died, and Joseph buried him in Canaan (Genesis 50:14). Note that Israel had been 152 years in Egypt when Amram died.
4Q252 Commentary on Genesis
This commentary like the other ones at Qumran use the pesher method of interpretation in which hidden secrets are unlocked from the text. This fragment starts with the Flood story in Genesis 6 which is a polemic for the 364 day year. Next, Noah cursed Canaan and gave his land (Canaan) to Abraham. The personal name Canaan is the same as the place name Canaan.
The fragment then says: Terah was one hundred and forty years old when he left Ur of the Chaldees and went to Haran and Ab[ram was s]eventy. And he dwelt five years in Haran. Then [Terah died] six[ty years after Abram] went out [to] the land of Canaan (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 1996, 276).
The age of Terah, 205 years, agrees with the Masoretic Text rather than the Samaritan Pentateuch which has 145 years. In 4Q225 Abraham stayed 20 years in Haran where in this text it is only five years (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 1996, 262). There are other fragments that tell about the Exodus, but they do not contain any chronological information that would help date the Exodus. In 1Q22 are the words of Moses in Deuteronomy. 4Q158 reworks Genesis and Exodus. 4Q226 tells how Joshua is to cross the Jordan, and not Moses. 4Q243-5 mentions the 400 years in Egypt. 4Q374 is a discourse on the Exodus and conquest of Canaan. 4Q378-9 are psalms of Joshua. 4Q422 tells about the plagues on Egypt. 4Q522 lists cities like in Joshua 13-21 with some additional cities not mentioned in the Bible.
In conclusion, all the ancient Jewish writers took the 430 or 400 years to cover the time in Egypt as well as Canaan. The Book of Jubilees counted 400 years from Abraham's entry into Canaan. Most of the Jewish writers counted the 400 years from Isaac's birth to the exodus. See Table 4. The actual time in Egypt was only 185 to 215 years according to most writers; however, Midrash Abkhir specifically states 86 years in Egypt (Rappoport 1966, Vol.2, 286-7). At the time of Abraham, Canaan was controlled by Egypt. Another important note is that most of the Jewish writers pushed the date of the exodus back to about the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos. Joseph would have rose to power just before or during the time of the Hyksos.
OT Chronology in Jewish Writings
|Jewish Writer Of||Entry into Canaan||Promise to Abraham to Exodus||Isaac's Birth to Exodus||Time in Egypt||Date of Exodus Creation||Solomon Temple Exodus|
|Seder Olam Zutta||400||2,448||480|
|Book of Jubilees||400||185||2,410|
|Testament Of Moses||400?||2,420|
|Targum Neofiti I||430||400||210|
Manetho was an Egyptian priest who wrote a history of Egypt in Greek in the third century BC His writings are mainly preserved by quotations in the writings of Josephus, Africanus, and Eusebius. As noted earlier Josephus quotes Manetho to show the antiquity of the Jews. Manetho equated the Hyksos with the Jews. The Hyksos were foreign rulers of Lower Egypt from about 1663 BC to 1555 BC They were expelled from Egypt by Ahmose who founded the 18th Dynasty.
Manetho describes the rise of the Hyksos by writing: Tutimaeus. In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us; and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow; and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others. Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis. He had his seat at Memphis, levying tribute from Upper and Lower Egypt, and always leaving garrisons behind in the most advantageous positions (1940, 79-81).
Scholars think that "Tutimaios" is Ded-mose of the 13th Dynasty who is called "a mighty king beloved of his army...overthrowing the (refractory) who had rebelled against him, who directs slaughter against them that had attacked (him);...who repels all foreign lands and recues his city" (Redford 1992, 104). It seems that the Hyksos took Memphis forcing Ded-mose to retreat to Thebes while Nubia in the South rebelled. The Hyksos made "Salitis" their king which is no doubt Sheshy of the 15th Dynasty. Note that they took Egypt "without striking a blow." Some think that the Hyksos gradually gained control of Egypt. There was a large influx of Asiatics from the 12th Dynasty until the Hyksos took over. A wall painting in the tomb of Khnum-hotep III at Beni Hasan shows a caravan of 37 Asiatics coming to Egypt around 1890 BC (ANEP 1969, fig.3). Other scholars like Redford think there was a swift battle campaign that gave the Hyksos control of lower Egypt (1992, 101-6).
There is a good possibility that The Admonitions of Ipuwer (ANET 1969, 441-44; Lichtheim 1975, 149-63) was written about the second intermediate period when the Hyksos rose to power. Van Seters in his book The Hyksos (1966, 103-20) strongly argues for this time period. Many Asiatics have displaced Egyptians in places of authority. Foreigners are said to be everywhere (1:9). The river is turned to blood (2:10). It is during the Hyksos rule that Joseph is said to have ruled in Egypt according to Eusebius' quote of Manetho (Manetho 1940, 97). Manetho explains the meaning of Hyksos by saying: Their race as a whole was called Hyksos, that is 'king-shepherds': for hyk in sacred language means 'king' and sos in common speech is 'shepherd' or 'shepherds': hence the compound word 'Hyksos'. Some say they were Arabs (1940, 83-85).
In another copy "Hyksos" is said to mean "captive-shepherds" (1940, 85). They are said to have ruled Egypt for 511 years. This number does not take into account kings ruling at the same time, or overlapping reigns for the actual time is less than 106 years. Most scholars think that the proper translation for "Hyksos" is "Ruler from foreign lands" (Redford 1992, 100). It seems clear from Manetho's history of Egypt that the Exodus from Egypt is equated with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by Ahmose, thereby making the Hyksos the same as the Jews.
Cornelius Tacitus was born about 55 AD He became a senator under Vespasian in 69 AD, until the death of Domitian in 96 AD Tacitus wrote a book called Histories that cover the years from Nero's death to the death of Domitian. In this book he has a brief discussion about the history of the Jews before describing the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Tacitus states: Most authors agree that once during a plague in Egypt which caused bodily disfigurement, King Bocchoris approached the oracle of Ammon and asked for a remedy, whereupon he was told to purge his kingdom and to transport this race (the Jews) into other lands, since it was hateful to the gods. So the Hebrews were searched out and gathered together; then, being abandoned in the desert, while all others lay idle and weeping, one only of the exiles, Moses by name, warned them not to hope for help from the gods or men, for they were deserted by both, but to trust to themselves, regarding as a guide sent from heaven to one whose assistance should first give them escape from their present distress. They agreed, and then set out on their journey in utter ignorance, but trusting to chance. Nothing caused them so much distress as scarcity of water, and in fact they had already fallen exhausted over the plain nigh unto death, when a herd of wild asses moved from their pasturage to a rock that was shaded by a grove of trees. Moses followed them, and, conjecturing the truth from the grassy ground, discovered abundant streams of water. This relieved them, and they marched six days continuously, and on the seventh seized a country, expelling the former inhabitants; there they founded a city and dedicated a temple. To establish his influence over this people for all time, Moses introduced new religious practices, quite opposed to those of all other religions. The Jews regard as profane all that we hold sacred; on the other hand, they permit all that we abhor(book V.III; 1925, 179; 1964, 272).
Althrough Tacitus has a number of differences with the Bible, there are a number of important similarities. Tacitus acknowledges that there was a plague in Egypt, the Jews were expelled out of Egypt, Moses was their leader, and they conquered a new country. Tacitus gives us a secular view point on Jewish origins.
Diodorus of Sicily
Diodorus was born in Agyrium, Sicily before 100 BC He traveled widely and wrote a general history in 40 books which have only partly survived. Diodorus writes: Now that we are about to record the war against the Jews, we consider it appropriate to give first a summary count of the establishment of the nation, from its origins, and of the practices observed among them. When in ancient times a pestilence arose in Egypt, the common people ascribed their troubles to the workings of a divine agency; for indeed with many strangers of all sorts dwelling in their midst and practicing different rites of religion and sacrifice, their own traditional observances in honour of the gods had fallen into disuse. Hence the natives of the land surmised that unless they removed the foreigners, their troubles would never be resolved. At once, therefore, the aliens were driven from the country, and the most outstanding and active among them banded together and, as some say, were cast ashore in Greece and certain other regions; their leaders were notable men, chief among them being Danaus and Cadmus. But the greater number were driven into what is now called Judaea, which is not far distant from Egypt and was at that time utterly uninhabited. The colony was headed by a man called Moses, outstanding both for his wisdom and for his courage. On taking possession of the land he founded, besides other cities, one that is now the most renowned of all, called Jerusalem. In addition he established the temple that they hold in chief veneration, instituted their forms of worship and ritual, drew up their laws and ordered their political institutions. He also divided them into twelve tribes, since this is regarded as the most perfect number and corresponds to the number of months that make up a year. But he had no images whatsoever of the gods made for them, being of the opinion that God is not in human form (Book XL.3; 279-283).
Diodorus agrees with the Bible that there was a plague in Egypt, the Jews led by Moses were expelled from Egypt, they took possession of the land of Judaea, and set up a temple. The description of "many strangers of all sorts dwelling in their midst and practicing different rites of religion and sacrifice, their own traditional observances in honour of the gods had fallen into disuse" best pictures the Hyksos period. The Hyksos worshipped the god Seth who was identified with the Canaanite Baal. The other gods of Egypt were not as important. In the inscription of the Speos Artemidos Queen Hatshepsut describes the restoration of temples that were desolated by the Hyksos. Queen Hatshepsut says: I have restored that which was ruins, I have raised up that which was unfinished since the Asiatics (Hyksos) were in the midst of Avaris of the Northland, and the barbarians were in the midst of them, overthrowing that which was made, while they ruled in ignorance of Re (Breasted 1988, Vol. 2, 125).
Herodotus is known as the father of history. He was a Greek writer born in Asia Minor about 484 BC He traveled extensively in Asia Minor, Babylon, Egypt, and Greece. Herodotus wrote Histories which was later divided into nine books. Book Two deals with the history and culture of Egypt. Herodotus describes the Hyksos period by saying: Thus they reckon that for a hundred and six years Egypt was in great misery and the temples so long shut were never opened. So much do the people hate the memory of these two kings that they do not greatly wish to name them, and call the pyramids after the shepherd Philitis, who then pastured his flocks in this place (Book ii, 128; 1920, 431).
Eusebius in his book The Preparation for the Gospel tries to show the antiquity of the Jews by referring to what Herodotus had said indirectly. Eusebius says: Herodotus also has made mention of this revolt and of Amosis in his second Book; and, in a certain way, of the Jews themselves, enumerating them among those who practice circumcision, and calling them the Assyrians in Palestine, perhaps on account of Abraham (1981, 525-26; Herodotus 1920, 319; Book ii, 36).
Herodotus in Book Two tells of Sennacherib's campaign down to Egypt. Sethos, the king of Egypt and priest of Hephaestus, had a dream where a god stood before him, and bid him to take courage for he would be safe from Sennacherib's army. Herodotus says: One night a multitude of fieldmice swarmed over the Assyrian camp and devoured their quivers and their bows and the handles of their shields likewise, insomuch that they fled the next day unarmed and many fell (Book ii, 141; 1920, 449).
This story seems to be the same as the one in the Old Testament where Sennacherib surrounds Jerusalem, King Hezekiah prays for deliverance, and Isaiah comforts king Hezekiah by telling him that God will "send a blast (spirit) upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and he shall return to his own land" (Isaiah 37:7; II Kings 19; II Chronicles 32). The "angel of the Lord" which some see as a Hebraism for the "plague," smote 185,000 Assyrians in one night (Alexander 1953, 73). The word "smote" implies a smiting with a disease (Young 1969, Vol. 2, 505). Mice is a Greek symbol for pestilence (Herodotus 1920, 447, n.2). This was probably the bubonic plague (NIV note Isaiah 37:36; 1985, 1069). Both the Bible and Herodotus agree that this "plague" happened in one night, and Sennacherib's army left, yet the other parts of the story are different. According to Herodotus it is the god Hephaestus (Vulcan) who brings deliverance not Yahweh, but this is typical of ancient stories where opposite sides claim their god was victorious. In conclusion, a majority of secular writers place the Exodus from Egypt with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by Ahmose, equating the Jews with the Hyksos. Two accounts say that Bocchoris was king. The time of the Exodus is said to be 1,020 years before the first Olympiad (776 BC) which would be 1796 BC or three hundred and ninety three years before Danaus arrived in Argos (1290 BC), which would place the exodus at 1683 BC Other accounts just give general information about the origins of the Jews (See Table 5 for a summary).
Secular Writings on the Exodus
|Secular Writer||Description of Jews||Exodus=Hyksos Expulsion||Pharaoh of Exodus||Date of Exodus|
|Ptolemy of Medes||"Division of Egyptian Army"||yes||Ahmose||1570-50|
Julius Africanus was born about 200 AD He was a pupil of Heraclas in Alexandria around 228-32 AD He wrote a famous letter to Aristides to reconcile the differences in the genealogies of Christ given by Matthew and Luke. Africanus also wrote a letter to Origen, and the Five Books of Chronology.
Africanus in his book on chronology writes: Up to the time of the Olympiads (776 BC) there is no certain history among the Greeks....But if the Attic time-reckoning is taken as the standard for affairs prior to these, then from Ogygus...up to the first Olympiad...there are altogether 1020 years.... And at his time Moses left Egypt. And we demonstrate in the following manner how reliable is the statement that this happened at that date. From the exodus to Moses up to Cyrus (55th Olympiad), who reigned after the captivity, are 1237 years. For the remaining years of Moses are 40. The years of Jesus (Joshua), who led the people after him, are 25; those elders, who were judges after Jesus, are 30; those of the judges, whose history is given in the book of Judges, are 490; those of the priests Eli and Samuel are 90; those of the successive kings of the Hebrews are 490. Then come the 70 years of the captivity (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol.VI, 132-3).
From Moses to Cyrus there are 1237 years. When this is added to the date of Cyrus, 539 BC we get 1776 BC When 1020 is added to 776 BC we get 1796 BC Note the large number of 490 for the book of Judges, and compare this with Acts 13:20 of 450 years. It is better to correlate events that coincide, than rely on the way ancient writers calculated life-spans and reigns since there may be an overlap. The event of the exodus is said to coincide with the reign of Ahmose (1570-50 BC).
Africanus writes: Polemo, for instance, in the first book of his Greek History, says; In the time of Apis, son of Phoroneus, a division of the army of the Egyptians left Egypt, and settled in Palestine called Syrian, not far from Arabia; these are evidently those who were with Moses. And Apion the son of Poseidonius, the most laborious of grammarians, in his book Against the Jews, and in his fourth book of his History, says that in the time of Inachus king of Argos, when Amosis reigned over Egypt, the Jews revolted under the leadership of Moses. And Herodotus also makes mention of this revolt, and of Amosis, in his second book (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol.VI, 134). Therefore Africanus equated the exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos by Ahmose (Amosis) around 1570-50 BC.
Eusebius was born in Palestine about 263 AD and died about 339 AD He was appointed bishop of Caesarea in 313-14 AD Eusebius was the first to attempt a comprehensive history of the church. His theology became suspect when he supported the banishment of Athanasius at the Council of Tyre. The writings of Eusebius were very important for the church. He wrote Ecclesiastical History (1955), Chronological Canons (Eusebius Werke: Die Chronik Des Hieronymus 1956), Preparation for the Gospel (1981), which is the first part of the Demonstration of the Gospel, and many other writings. Eusebius preserves a number of quotes from important authors whose works have been lost.
Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History is based on his Chronological Canons which in turn relies on Africanus' Five Books of Chronology. The Greek text of Eusebius' Chronological Canons has been lost, but the Armenian and Latin versions are extant. Jerome translated this book into Latin probably around 381 AD in Constantinople. There are nearly a dozen extant manuscripts in Latin.
The Chronological Canons is divided into four columns which begin with year one of Abraham which corresponds to the 43rd year of Ninus of Assyria, year one of the 16th Dynasty of Egypt, and the 22nd year of the second king of Sicyon. In the introduction Eusebius notes that the Septuagint, Hebrew, and Samaritan texts all agree on the total of 505 years from the birth of Abraham to the Exodus from Egypt. In the 75th year of Abraham a promise of a heir is made by God. This begins the first year of the promise which was fulfilled exactly 430 years later when Moses departs from Egypt. When 75 years is subtracted from 505 years the answer is 430 years from the promise to the Exodus. According to Eusebius the bondage in Egypt started at the death of Joseph and continued for 144 years until the exodus. Moses was born in the 64th year of bondage which was the 350th year of the promise.
From the exodus from Egypt to the building of Solomon's temple is 479 years according to Eusebius. It is interesting to see how these years are tabulated. Moses led the people in the wilderness for 40 years. Joshua then led the people for 27 years. The period of the judges is 328 years. The 10 years of Elon are omitted because it is not in the Septuagint, but in the Hebrew. The numbering of the oppressions is not listed. Samuel and Saul are combined together for 40 years. David is king for 40 years, and in the 4th year of Solomon the temple is begun. This totals 479 years. This places the exodus at 1513 BC, the capture of Troy at 1182, and the dedication of the Temple at 1033 BC If Solomon is dated to 966 BC, then this would put the Exodus at 1446 BC This is a 67 year difference. Thiele goes a long way in his book The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1983) to explain how overlap and coregency account for this difference. The Egyptian dynasties seem to be way out of order by about 209 years because Eusebius does not take overlap and coregency into account. As a result of this, he is the only early church father that does not place the exodus at the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos.
Syncellus notes: Eusebius alone places in this reign (of Cencheres) the exodus of Israel under Moses, although no argument supports him, but all his predecessors hold a contrary view, as he testifies (Manetho 1920, 115). Eusebius quotes a number of secular writers to show how ancient the Jewish people are. In his The Preparation for the Gospel he quotes Clement on Ptolemaeus of Mendes saying: Now this Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) was a priest, who published The Acts of the Kings of Egypt in three whole books, and says that the departure of the Jews out of Egypt under Moses as their leader took place in the time of Amosis king of Egypt; from which it is clearly seen that Moses flourished in the time of Inachus (1981, 525). The time of Inachus is said to be about twenty generations or 400 years before the Trojan War (1182 BC; 1981, 533). Twenty years are counted for each generation. The Olympiads began 407 years after the Trojan War in 776 BC (1981, 532). This puts the time of the Exodus around 1582 BC. The Exodus is also said to be at the same time of Ogyges in which there was a great flood in Greece. There are 1020 years from Ogyges to the first Olympiad which would place Ogyges and the Exodus at 1796 BC (1981, 524).
Again Eusebius in his The Preparation for the Gospel quotes Clement on Ctesias saying: And whether the Assyrian history is many years earlier than the Hellenic, will appear from what Ctesias says. In the four hundred and second year of the Assyrian empire, and in the thiry-second year of the reign of Beluchus the eight, the movement of Moses out of Egypt took place in the time of Amosis King of Egypt, and of Inachus king of Argos (1981, 533). If the beginning of the Assyrian empire is equated with the Dynasty of Puzur-Ashur at around 2000 BC, then the Exodus would be about 1598 BC which is near the end of the Hyksos rule (Roux 1964, 504-5).
Hippolytus was born around 160, or 170 AD and died 235 AD during the Roman persecution of the Christians when he was sent to the mines of Sardinia. He is said to be a disciple of Irenaeus. He refused to recognize Callistus I as bishop of Rome because of a doctrinal controversy over the nature of the Trinity. He said that the Son was subordinate to the Father and the Holy Spirit, while Callistus said they were equal. Hippolytus is considered by some as the first antipope, yet in the end he returned to the catholic church. A statue of Hippolytus was unearthed in 1551 listing his writings which were mostly fragmentary until 1842 when a manuscript was discovered in a monastery on Mt. Athos of his Refutation of All Heresies (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol.5).
One of the major controversies that almost split the early church was the observance of Easter. Hippolytus contemptuously writes against the Quartadecimanians of Asia who say that "the pascha should be observed on the fourteenth day of the first month according to the law, no matter on what day of the week it might fall" (Schaff 1910, Vol.2, 211). The Roman church always celebrated Christ's death on Friday, and his resurrection on the Sunday after the March full moon. To prove his point Hippolytus wrote a chronology to demonstrate the time of the pascha which was probably based on his more encompassing work the Chronicles which goes all the way back to Adam.
In the Chronicles (Hippolytus Werke: Die Chronik 1929) from the promise to Abraham who was 75 years old until the exodus is 430 years. There are 40 years in the wilderness. Joshua ruled 31 years. The time of the judges including Saul is 480 years. David ruled 40 years. This gives a total of 595 years from the exodus to the building of Solomon's Temple. Hippolytus calculates the 480 years from the judges through Saul until the reign of David. The periods of oppression are included in his calculations. There are 478 years from David to Zedekiah. If the building of the Solomon's Temple is placed around 960 BC then the Exodus would have occurred about 1555 BC which is near when the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt.
Clement of Alexandria
Clement was born in Greece around 150 AD into heathenism. He was learned in all branches of Hellenic literature and philosophy. His thirst for truth was not satisfied until his adult years when he turned to Christianity. He went on long journeys seeking the most distinguished teachers until he found Pantaenus of Egypt. In 189 AD he succeeded Pantaenus as head of the school in Alexandria. Clement, rising far above the prejudices of his time, united Biblical and Hellenic learning to become the father of Alexandrian Christian philosophy, yet his theology was an eclectic mixture. His three major works were Exhortation to the Greeks, Educator, and Stromata meaning "miscellanies."
Clement in his Stromata chapter 21 argues that the laws of Moses are superior to Greek philosophy because of their antiquity. He quotes a number of writers to show how ancient Moses was and therefore greater. He quotes Ptolemy of Mendes saying: The exodus of the Jews from Egypt, under the conduct of Moses, took place while Amosis was king of Egypt. Whence it is seen that Moses flourished in the time of Inachus....And from the time of Inachus to the Trojan war twenty generations or more are reckoned; let us say, four hundred years and more (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol 2, 324).
The estimate of 400 years from the Trojan War (1182 BC) would be 1582 BC which is close to the time of Ahmose. Clement goes on to say that Joshua succeeded Moses by 27 years. The period of the judges down through Saul is 463 years and seven months which includes Eli as judge for 40 years, and Samuel as contemporary of Saul for 27 years. Then Saul reigned 20 more years, and David reigned 40 years. Clement notes a discrepancy by saying: From Joshua the son of Nun, then till David received the kingdom, there intervene, according to some, four hundred and fifty years. But, as the chronology set forth shows, five hundred and twenty three years and seven months are comprehended till the death of David (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol. 2, 326).
He also notes that during the time of the judges some combine the years of Abatthan with Ebrom. Clements says, "From Moses, then to the age of Solomon, as some say, are five hundred and ninety-five years, and as others, five hundred and seventy-six." This is much more than the 480 years in I Kings 6:1. This would put the exodus around 1561 to 1542 BC. The Philistines did not oppress Israel until over 350 years after the exodus late in the book of Judges according to Clement.
Tatian the Assyrian was born around 110 AD somewhere in Mesopotamia, and died around 172 AD After Tatian became disgusted with heathenism, he says: I sought how I might be able to discover truth. And, while I was giving my most earnest attention to the matter, I happened to meet with certain barbaric writings (the Bible), too old to be compared with the opinions of the Greeks, and too divine to be compared with their errors; and I was led to put faith in these by unpretending cast of the language, the inartifical character of the writers, the foreknowledge displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts, and the declaration of the government of the universe as centred in one Being....Therefore being initiated and instructed in these things, I wish to put away my former errors as the follies of childhood (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol.2, 77).
Tatian became a pupil of Justin Martyr in Rome. In his old age he drifted to asceticism and close to Gnosticism. Tatian's two major works that have survived are Diatessaron which is a harmony of the four gospels, and Address to the Greeks which exposes the absurdities of Greek mythologies, and demonstrates the antiquity and superiority of the Jews. In this book he quotes ancient writers to prove the antiquity of Moses. He quotes Manetho to show that the Jews departed from Egypt in the time of king Ahmose who lived at the same time as Inachus who is four hundred years earlier than the Trojan War which happened 407 years before the Olympiads started (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol.2, 80-1). The Olympiads started in 776 BC which would place the Trojan War at 1183 BC, and the exodus at 1583 BC.
Theophilus of Antioch was born around 115 AD He was born a pagan, and converted to Christianity after a careful study of the Bible. He became the bishop of Antioch in the eighth year of Marcus Aurelius' reign which is 168 AD, and died in 181 or 188 AD Theophilus wrote several works against heresies, but the one that has survived is his letter to Autolycus. Archbishop Usher praises Theophilus as the founder of the science of Biblical Chronology. In Theophilus to Autolycus he writes: And Moses, becoming the leader of the Jews, as we have already stated, was expelled from the land of Egypt by the king, Pharaoh, whose name was Amasis (Ahmose)....and been enslaved by king Tethmosis (Ded-mose), as already said, built for him strong cities, Peitho, and Rameses, and On, which is Heliopolis (Book 3, Chapter 20; Ante-Nicene Fathers 1975, Vol.II, 117).
Theophilus disagrees with Manetho who said the Jews were banish from Egypt because of leprosy, and the king of the exodus lived for another 25 years. He dates the building of Solomon's Temple as 566 years after the exodus. The Temple is also said to exist 143 years 8 months before the founding of Carthage in about 814 BC This would place the exodus at about 1523 BC (Ibid). Theophilus states that the Hebrews sojourned 430 years in Egypt. From Isaac's birth to Moses' death is 660 years. From Joshua's rule to David's reign is 496 years. From Solomon to Babylonian captivity is 518 years. From Cyrus to Emperor Aurelius is 744 years. Thus the total number of years from the creation of the world to his day was 5698 years (Ibid, 120). See the following tables.
Time of Exodus According to Early Church Fathers
|Church Fathers||Israel=Hyksos||Exodus=Hyksos Expulsion||Pharaoh of Exodus||Date of Exodus BC|
OT Chronology of Early Church Fathers
|Church Fathers||Promise to Abraham||Time in Egypt to Exodus||Time of Judges||Solomon's Temple-Exodus|
Time of Exodus Compared to Secular History
|Event at Exodus||#of Years in between||Date of Exodus|
|Inachus King of Argos|
|Trojan War*||400||1582 BC|
|Inachus to 1st Olympiad**||1020||1796 BC|
|Ogyges of Athens|
1st Great at Flood to Trojan War
|Ogyges to 1st Olympiad||1020||1796 BC|
|King Bocchoris to Lysimachus||1700||1700+BC|
|King Hirom to Founding of Carthage***||150||(957 BC)|
|King Hirom to the Exodus||612||1569 BC|
|* The Trojan War was about 1182 BC|
|** The 1st Olympiad was about 776 BC|
|*** The Founding of Carthage is about 814 BC, although Apion said Carthage was founded in the 1st Olympiad according to Josephus (Against Apion Book ii.17-19). King Hirom was contemporaneous with King Solomon.|
In conclusion, almost all of the early church fathers took the 430 years in Egypt as starting with the promise to Abraham when he was 75 years old until the exodus. Only Eusebius states the time of 144 years of servitude in Egypt, and Theophilus as 430. All of the early church fathers stated that the exodus was more than 480 years from the founding of Solomon's Temple, except Eusebius. Others said 595 years from Solomon's Temple placing the exodus around 1561 BC All except Eusebius say Ahmose is the Pharaoh of the exodus who expelled the Hyksos from Egypt (Manetho 1940, 115; See Tables 5-7). We now want to turn our attention to what the Biblical writers say about the time in Egypt, and the exodus.
First of all, several verses from the Old Testament will be considered, then verses from the New Testament. The key verses in the Old Testament are Genesis 15:13, Exodus 12:40, and I Kings 6:1. The key verses for the New Testament are Acts 13:20 and Galatians 3:17.
Old Testament Writers
Genesis 15:13 says that Abraham and his seed will be strangers in a land for 400 years. This seems to be a round number for Exodus 12:40 specifically says 430 years (Kitchen 1967, 53; Hamilton 1990, 435; Wenham 1987, 332). According to a number of ancient Jewish writers, and church fathers that have already been discussed, the 430 years started with the promise of a heir to Abraham while the 400 hundred years started with the birth of Isaac 30 years later. Bullinger calls this verse an example of "Epitrechon" which is a "parenthetic addition by way of statement thrown in, not complete in itself" (1968, 472). Bullinger diagrams the structure of Genesis 15:13 as follows:
A\Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is
B\and shall serve them;
B\and they shall afflict them;
A\four hundred years.
The four hundred years clearly applies to the whole sojourn and not just to the time in Egypt is evidenced by Jewish midrash in Genesis Rabbah which interprets Genesis 15: 13 by stating "this means, until four hundred years after seed shall be granted to thee" (Freedman and Simon 1939, Vol.1, 373). Neusner comments, "The Israelites will not serve as slaves for four hundred years, but that figure refers to the passage of time from Isaac's birth" (1985, Vol.2, 140; 4Q464).
In the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan in Genesis 15:13 it says, "Know for certain that your children will be residents in a land that is not theirs, because you did not believe." This is the only targum the expresses the idea that slavery in Egypt was punishment for Abraham's lack of faith" (1992, 61).
In the Babylonian Talmud in the Sanhedrin there is an interesting story about the Ephraimites who erred in counting the 400 years beginning from the promise to Abraham instead of the birth of Isaac which resulted in them leaving Egypt 30 years too early (Epstein 1935, 619).
In Midrash Abkhir Michael, guardian angel of Israel contends with Uzza, guardian angel of the Egyptians. Uzza says: Now my people, the Egyptians, have had dominion over the nation of Israel only eighty-six years. The Israelites are therefore still bound to serve the Egyptians for another three hundred and fourteen years. Michael replies....they have indeed been strangers in Egypt ever since the date of Isaac's birth, and the period of four hundred years has now elapsed (Rappoport 1966, Vol.2, 286-7).
Genesis 15 goes on to say in verse 16, "But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (KJV). Albright interprets the word "generation" as "lifetime" (1961, 50). In Exodus 6:16-20 four generations are given from Levi to Moses which add up to 407 years which overlap, yet in I Chronicles 7:22-27 there are ten generations listed. Wilson's work shows how fluid genealogies are in the ancient world (1977, 57-135). The Jews would arrange genealogies symmetrically not chrono- logically. Unimportant names were left out. Ommission of names is common as seen in Matthew 1 where several names are left out, and one repeated, so there are three groups of 14 names. Therefore the best interpretation of Genesis 15:13 is given by Bullinger who takes the 400 years from Abraham's sojourn to the Exodus, and does not confine the 400 years to the time in Egypt as many conservative scholars do.
In Exodus 12:40 the Hebrew Text says 430 years in "Egypt," but the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch say "Egypt and Canaan." There are two ways to explain the difference in the Massoritic text of Exodus 12:40. One is that it is due to omission, or two, it is an addition by the LXX to clarify the chronology. The shorter Massoritic text is preferred here since the Dead Sea Scrolls have the shorter text (DJD 12, 1994, 116). The LXX is probably trying to explain the chronology. The part (Egypt) seems to be used for the whole because the ancient readers understood that Egypt controlled Canaan at this time, and Canaan was considered a vassal of Egypt. This figure of speech is called "synecdoche". This is also the way the Babylonian Talmud interprets this passage.
In the Babylonian Talmud in Megillah it states "And the abode of the children of Israel which they sayed in Egypt and in other lands was four hundred years" (Epstein 1935, 50; 9a). Clearly here the four hundred years included the time in Canaan. According to Bullinger Abraham and Isaac are included by synecdoche in the "children of Israel" (1968, 648). Bullinger sees this verse as an "epitrechon" just like in Genesis 15:13. He says: It does not say (as most commentators read it) that they were or had been in Egypt 430 years. It was "the sojourning of the children of Israel" which continued during that time, while the Epitrechon, "who dwelt in Egypt," is a parenthetical interposition thrown in as a further explanation as to these children of Israel (1968, 473).
The Targum Neofiti I in Exodus 12:40-1 says: The days that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt (were) thirty weeks of years, that is two hundred and ten years, But the number was four hundred and thirty years since the Lord had spoken to Abraham, from the time he had spoken to him on the fifteenth of Nisan between the pieces until the day they went forth from Egypt. Thirty years passed from the time that this covenant was made until Isaac was born, and four hundred <years> from (the time) that Isaac was born until they went out redeemed from Egypt, and on that very day all the hosts of the Lord went out redeemed from the land of Egypt (1994, 194-5). This Targum has a very ingenious way to explain the difference in numbers of 400 and 430. The 400 years are from Isaac's birth while the 430 are from the promise to Abraham. Other Jewish writings follow this interpretation like Seder Olam Rabbah (Rappoport 1966, Vol 2, 286-87).
I Kings 6:1
I Kings 6:1 specifically states that there are 480 years (MT; 440 LXX) between the Exodus and the building of the Temple in the 4th year of Solomon. Miller sees here a carefully designed Masoretic tradition of the history of Israel which emphasizes four key points; 480 years from the the Exodus to the first temple, 480 years from the first temple to the end of the Exile and second temple, and another 480 years to the Maccabean re-dedication of the second temple which ended with the first Great Year of 4,000 years (1976, 76). Assyrian texts repeat 580 years (James 1993, 294; Na'aman 1984, 115-123). In Genesis Rabbah the sons of Korah prophesied these 480 years (Freedman and Simon 1939, Vol.2, 973).
One must first understand the cultural use of numbers in the ancient Near East. The first important point is that round numbers are used. They did not have computers to measure 1/100 of a second as we do today. Genesis 15:13 seems best explained this way, yet Jewish scribes went to great lengths to harmonize scripture to the very year.
The second point is overlap or coregency is not taken into account. This is specially demonstrated by the kings of Israel and Judah. Thiele points this out in his book The Mysterious Numbers of Hebrew Kings (1983). There seems to be some overlap with Samuel, Saul, and David.
A third point is that genealogies are very fluid as shown by Wilson (1977). This is seen in the genealogy of Aaron which comes out to exactly 430 years in four generations, yet there was clearly an overlap. This is the way they counted. There is also highly selective genealogies where certain names are left out like in Matthew one. In other genealogies names are switched around like in the genealogy of Esau (compare Genesis 36:9-14, 15-19, and I Chronicles 1:35-36; Wilson 1977, 167-183).
A fourth point is the deleting of certain numbers like the years of oppression in the book of Judges. This is the way Eusebius counted. During the 18th Dynasty of Egypt which would be comtemporary with Moses, there were deletions of the foreign rulers, the Hyksos. In both the Abydos list and the Sakkara list the foreign rulers, the Hyksos, are left out (Gardiner 1961, 440). Even constructions of Akhenaten were demolished because of his unwanted religious revolution, and others usurped by Ramses II (Gardiner 1961, 245). Why would Israel even want to include foreign rulers in their 480 years count when the other nations of this time did not?
The best way to harmonize the 480 years with the 592 of most of the ancient writers, is that the years of oppression are omitted which amounts to 111 years (Lightfoot 1979, Vol.4, 118; Jackson and Lake 1979, 150-1; Bimson 1981, 81-84; Kitchen 1967, 72-75). The only other way is to say that there are 111 years of overlap. Acts 13:20 seems to mitigate against this view, as well as the archaeological evidence (Bimson 1981, 74-94; 1980, 84-85).
Acts 13:20 clearly states that the time period of the judges was 450 years. There are some textual problems with where to place the 450 years. Some scholars say because of the Alexandrian text it is the total of the time in Egypt plus the 40 years in the wilderness plus 10 years for Joshua to conquer Canaan, but no ancient writer that we have looked at takes this view. The years in Egypt were not 400, and the time for Joshua is much longer about 25 years. Jackson and Lake state, "The Western and Antiochian texts and the majority of the modern editors think the 450 ought to refer to the period of the judges" (1979, 150). Ropes explains that the variations were probably intended to prevent the reader from misinterpreting the 450 years as the time being spent to conquer Canaan (Barrett 1994, 633; Courville 1971, 7). The 450 years seems to be the addition of all the judges including Eli (339 years) and the years of oppression (111 years; Lightfoot 1979, Vol 4, 118; See Table 8). Josephus seems to follow this addition as well as most of the other ancient Jewish writers and Church Fathers.
The New Testament reaffirms the 400 years stated in Genesis 15:13 in Acts 7:6 where Stephen addresses the counsel saying that Abraham's seed "should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years" (KJV). In the Greek, the main sentence is "Seed will be sojourner" with the two verbs and 400 years modifying "sojourner". The interpretation that the four hundred years applies to the whole sojourn is seen in Galatians 3:17. The conclusive proof to what the 400 years cover is specifically stated in Galatians 3:16-17 (KJV): Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (17) And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. Paul, no doubt following the Septuagint and the Jewish thought of his day, states that the Law of Moses came 430 years after the promise to Abraham. If the Exodus was around 1550 BC then Abraham was in Canaan around 1980 BC near the beginning of the 12th Dynasty in Egypt. This would place Joseph in Egypt during the rise of the Hyksos to power at the end of the 12th Dynasty. Today there is a major problem in understanding these verses because of the fundamentalist position of taking every word of scripture literally with out taking into account the figure of speeches used in Hebrew, and the way the Jews tabulated a chronology and constructed a genealogy. When all of these things are taken into account scripture and history can be harmonized.
Totals for the Book of Judges
|The Judges||The Oppressors|
|Othniel 40||Chusham 8|
|Ehud 80||Eglon 18|
|Deborah 40||Sisera 20|
|Gideon 40||Midian 7|
|Abimelech 3||Ammon 18|
|Tola 23||Philistines 40|
|Jair 22||Total 111|
|Elon 10||Total 339|
|Abdon 8||Grand Total 450|