Exodus is perhaps the greatest salvation event mentioned in the Old Testament. There is no wonder then that Hollywood has over the years exploited the event to come up with movies that have captured our imagination. Exodus was the redemption of an entire nation and it was led by Moses. The Bible was a beautiful baby and a handsome young man. When he passed by, he used to attract stares. This is why the Bollywood actors playing the role of Moses have such remarkable features. But the Pharaoh, who is a villain in the plot, has been played by actors with imposing muscularity. But if we hold that Ramses was the Pharaoh of the Exodus then the casting was inappropriate. Ramses was barely 5 feet tall. The description of International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) does not match with Ramses at many points. In fact it does not fit any of the Pharaohs from the 19th Dynasty. The sole reason that people Ramses as the Pharaoh of Exodus is because Bible states: children of Israel built the cities of Ramses and Pitham. Apart from this there are no other resemblances of Ramses with the description in Bible. This lack of resemblance can be simply clarified by: the writer of the Biblical paragraph used the name of the city in his own time and not the unused name.
Getting the Facts Straight
To search for the real Pharaoh of Exodus it is important to get the facts straight. It is mentioned in the Bible that:
- The Pharaoh was drowned in the Red Sea while chasing the Israelites.
- The first born heir of the Pharaoh was killed when the death angel had passed over Egypt killing all first born in the nation including the household of Pharaoh.
- In Kings 6:1 it is mentioned that: “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Zif…”
Now let us focus on finding clues from these three key facts. The final point helps us pin point the timing of Exodus.
Searching for Answers
As per the third clue we can assume that 4th year of King Solomon’s reign which is “480 years after the Israelites came out of Egypt”. Setting this as a benchmark let us try and do some math. The fourth year of King Solomon’s reign means 968 BC (may give or take a year). Now we need to add 480 years to 968 BC and it gives us 1448 BC. This means we have a match, as ISBE states the Exodus happened around 1450 BC.
As per the first clue we need to have a dead Pharaoh with a dead first born to fit the Biblical description. Do we have any matches?
Delving Deep into History
We will return back to the calculations. But let us first take a closer look at history. The Bible states that Moses was 80 years old when led Israelites out of Egypt. This means Moses was born around 1530 BC (add 80 to 1450 BC). This means Moses was born during the reign of Thutmose I, who was a cruel ruler. The character of Thutmose I is perfect for him to decree the killing of infants. He was a very cruel ruler who showcased the head of Nubian King on the forward most part of his barge. He had a fear that the Israelites would overrun his country. It is mentioned in the Bible that the count of Israelites was growing faster than the Egyptians and they were more than 2 million in population when the Exodus took place.
Mother of Moses
During his reign Thutmose I built a large palace at Memphis where it is held that the daughter of Pharaoh found Moses and raised him. As Moses grew up during the reign of Thutmose I and II, so Hatshepsut was the most possible mother of Moses. She was the daughter of Thutmose I and wife of Thutmose II. In those days, marrying a brother or sister was the common norm in the royalty to keep the throne in the family.
It is mentioned in the Bible that the daughter of a Pharaoh, Thermuthis was taking a stroll down the river bank when she saw a basket float by. She asked her swimmers to retrieve the basket and within it was a beautiful infant. Thermuthis named the child Moses which in the Egyptian language means “saved from water”. Hatshepsut was mentioned as Thermuthis as people back then tended to align themselves with some form of animal gods. Thermuthis symbolizes the Serpent God who is a protector, provider and nourisher of every infant. Hatshepsut’s character matches perfectly with the description of Pharaoh’s daughter mentioned in the Bible. She had a kind heart and held every Egyptian not above or below her.
Back to History
When Thutmose I died Hatshepsut’s brother ascended on the throne as Thutmose II. She was married to her brother. But Thutmose II lived 3-4 years after the marriage. After Thutmose II’s death Hatshepsut wanted Moses to be the next Pharaoh, but he was too young then. Apart from this the Pharaoh had a son of a commoner called Thutmose III. As Thutmose was too young to rule, so Hatshepsut became the interim Pharaoh. Under her realm Egypt saw exponential growth. There were great constructions everywhere. When Thutmose III grew older he became the co-regent and ruled side by side with Hatshepsut. While Thutmose III was responsible for the military affairs, Hatshepsut looked through the domestic affairs. It is learned that Hatshepsut always had a special place for Moses and this made Thutmose III hate her. When Moses was convicted of killing Egyptian, Thutmose III did not have the slightest hesitation in decreeing a death order for Moses. So, Moses fled and did not return for another 40 years.
When Moses returned at the age of 80 years, Thutmose III was the sole Pharaoh. Thutmose III had started a campaign to demolish all buildings constructed in the reign of Hatshepsut and wipe her memory from history. Though, his work was halted by untimely death.
Putting Together the Pieces
It is interesting to note that, as per historical accounts, Thutmose III dies around 1450 BC same year as Moses turned 80 and happening of Exodus. So, the timeline perfectly fits Thutmose III as the Pharaoh of Exodus. He might have died chasing the Israelites.
But there is a problem. As per the Bible the Pharaoh should have lost his first born child in the same year. Thutmose III did not lose his first born child. His first born child had died long before and his successor was second son Amenhotep II. But there is an explanation for this too. The fact is that two years before the death of Thutmose III he made his 18 year old son Amenhotep II his co-regent. So, there were two Pharaohs ruling Egypt during the Exodus. It is learned that in 1450 BC Amenhotep II was in Syria on a military campaign when he received news that his unnamed first born child was dead.
In the annals of history it is recorded that Amenhotep II and Thutmose III co-ruled Egypt for two years and it is during this tenure that the Exodus took place. Thutmose III died and his grandson was the first born child to pass away.