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Understanding the Record of Ancient Egypt from a Biblical Perspective

It is difficult to imagine how Moses could be so audacious as to rewrite world history from and
for the perspective of less than 10% of people living in the world at the time of Torah’s writing. If
the President of Israel were to write world events as they occurred today, it would probably look
like the pages of one or more of Israel’s local daily newspapers. Major events like the present
day crisis in Egypt would occupy a few pages at most, 95% of the paper would be filled with
local news. The Israelites had lived in the great land of Egypt for 210 years, yet Torah almost
ignores the Egyptian record entirely.

Torah and its consistent, orthodox, cultural teachings tells that one fifth of the Israelite
population left Egypt. Targum Yonathan calculates that 2.4 million Egyptians left together with
600,000 Israelite men over the age of 20 and their families which equates to the same number.
In all 2.4 millions Israelites died in the last days before leaving Egypt and a total of 4.8 million
people left Egypt.

The national pandemonium in Egypt at that time would have been serious, chaotic and intense
especially in the region of the eastern Nile delta where, according to Torah, the Israelites were
housed in a place called Goshen. There is good archaeological evidence of climatic upheaval at
precisely the same time the Torah dates Exodus - 1300 BCE. The Egyptian record and most
archaeologists attest the chaos to the arrival of a Sea people. However despite the abundant
literature devoted to the Sea peoples, we still do not know exactly who they were, where they
came from, why they attacked, and, finally, where they disappeared to after their raids.

The Bible’s version of Exodus is arguably history’s most frequently told story, but archaeologists
claim that not one piece of discovered evidence proves the event occurred. According to the
highest professional standards of archaeology they would be correct. How can it be that such a
famous story, from a book more than 2 billion people believe to be credible, has not one iota of
evidence about the mass Exodus from Egypt?

The Egyptian record is replete with stories, letters and statements written on papyrus, carved
into rocks and painted on walls. These have been studied extensively for hundreds of years by
archaeologists the world over. Each entombed pharaoh provides a chronological clue as to the
progression of the record of kings. So surely if we simply use the chronology of Torah, as
understood by orthodox Jews who expect it to be 100% accurate, then within a reasonable shot,
we should enjoy pinpoint accuracy into the Egyptian record. Well its not that simple, not
because believers in Torah want it both ways, but the Egyptian chronology is fraught with
problems.

I wrote an article expressing the archaeological bias that prevents validation of the story of
Israel in Egypt. The general consensus argues absence of evidence, but I argue it exists.
However, I cannot rely on archaeological bias in order to prove deception endemic in the
Egyptian record. Instead l argue that the record itself was written during the lives of numerous
Pharaohs to embellish their reign and spin a political intrigue that would be perceived by future
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generations to uphold the glory of Egyptian gods and men. In the process Israel’s story would
be deemphasized and marginalized to delay the impending demise of the Egyptian kingdom.
According to Torah, Israel left Egypt on the night of 15 Nissan 2448 years from creation. Since
2013 CE is the year 5773 of the Hebrew Calendar, it took place 3325 years ago in the year
1312 BCE. The Egyptian record is not as specific, there is no reliable dating system so the
chronological opinions of archaeologists vary. In any event using the dates chosen for the
climatic upheaval article we proceed. According to the reference chronology of Jonathan N.
Tubb:


According to the reference chronology of Christopher Bronk Ramsey, et al (the first two columns
being archaeologists Shaw and Hornung followed by - carbon dating from:to ascension ranges:



To begin with the term BC or BCE is not as simple as it seems. Although it refers to the date of
Jesus birth, it cannot be attributed accurately other than by stating this year to be 2013 years
from that date. Because there is no proof that Jesus existed or when the world was created,
carbon dating seems to be the only constant that allows us to match the two calendars.
According to Torah and the chart above we are seeking the reign of a leader in the year 1312
BCE. However, the carbon dating report states: “In one case, although the internal consistency
is satisfactory, seven dates from one single 19th Dynasty tomb are ~200 years older than the
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historical age ascribed to them (see dates ascribed to Ramses I/Seti I in table S1). In this
instance, we have concluded that there must be an archaeological problem and have excluded
the dates from the model.” The following chart describes the significance of the problem in
synchronizing chronologies:



Since we cannot rely on dates to pinpoint a specific period in Egypt’s history, we have to rely on
other science, artwork and representations of the story told from one pharaoh to another. Even
general assumptions of a 50 year range either side of the fixed Hebrew date would be
problematic given other volatility in the dating of the Egyptian record.

Under the circumstances, we turn to individual pieces of evidence discovered to date. Egyptian
dynasties are traced back 5200 years using the conventional chronology, in context according
to Torah, Israel was exiled in Egypt for 210 years during the period 3535 - 3325 years ago or
1522 - 1312 BCE. As a reminder, the year zero on the Gregorian calendar in context of
Hebrew’s fixed dating system is arbitrary dependent on when on Hebrew’s fixed timeline the
Gregorian calendar started. Thus Israel should be visible in some portion of 4% of Egypt’s
historical record, which should be concentrated in the approximate periods suggested.

Israel’s impact on Egypt at the beginning of their sojourn would have been limited because only
70 Israelites arrived initially with Jacob. However, after 210 years estimates, based on Torah’s
statements put Israel’s population at ±2.4 million people. Using population regression
techniques this may have been somewhere between 5 and 10% of greater Egypt’s population.
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According to Torah Jacob’s ancestor Abraham had previously
spent time in Egypt where he established relationships. The event
of Isaac’s birth is preceded by Abrahams marriage to Hagar,
considered to be a daughter of Egypt’s pharaoh and the
circumcision of their son Ishmael at the age of 13. Egyptian boys
were circumcised as depicted in this ~2300 BCE sixth dynasty
relief. The Hebrew calendar dates Abraham and Ishmael’s
circumcisions to 2048 or 3725 years ago making it the year 1712
BCE. Therefore, we must assume
from this the practice of circumcision was already common
amongst the nations before Ishmael or there is a problem with
Egypt’s archaeological dating, a gap of 600 or more years. After
Isaac’s birth Torah and its traditional teaching relays that Hagar
and Ishmael went back to live in Egypt. Sometime later Jacob’s
brother Esau married Ishmael’s daughter (Basemath) Mahalath.
This marriage aligned the future lineage of the Egyptian king
with the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Esau.

A carved ivory
discovered in the
Megiddo excavation
reveals two
prisoners being
presented as
captives to a leader
who is not
Egyptian. The men
are circumcised.
Megiddo
discoveries are
attributed to two
time periods based
on the stratum analysis up to the earlier 950-1050 BCE and later period to ~550 BCE. Megiddo
also presents chronological difficulties.

The ivory specifically depicts two captives that are circumcised. The harp does not appear to be
an Israelite instrument and the throne is typical and may have followed the design of the
prophetic visions. In any event the King on the throne is bearded as are his soldiers. The two
Semites may be Israelites, bearded and circumcised.





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Ancient Egyptian carved scene of circumcision, from the
inner northern wall of the Temple of Khonspekhrod at
the Precinct of Mut, Luxor, Egypt. Eighteenth dynasty,
Amenhotep III, c. 1360 BCE.






From the Tomb of Seti I it is
apparent the bearded man
second from the right has fringes
hanging from his skirt (colors
may vary from these modern
renditions). The same fringe adornment appears in the ivory, detached and
floating in the image. A close examination of the image reveals three strand
fringes on the top of his skirt and a four strand fringe on the waist band.


Megiddo was a critical site, a strategic hill and settlement for travellers from the south (Egypt)
along the coastal route of Canaan (Israel) to the north, Assyria and beyond. It marked the
optimal geographical point to turn east to the lower Galilee across flat land to the inner country
of the Hittites and Assyrians. There are several battle sequences discovered in and associated
with Rameses II that relate to his campaigns to suppress occupants of the Galilee, Hittites and
Assyrians. Following the Battle of Kadesh Egyptian artists recorded the campaign as a
significant victory for Egypt and Rameses II, however the record from Hittite King Muwatalli II
renders Rameses depictions a gross over exaggeration of the outcome, which most experts
consider to have been a draw - at best.

Among the many ancient images and reliefs in Egypt, I selected five primary images of
campaigns depicting various battlefronts, each elevates Rameses the victor. Regardless, the
outcomes were pronounced as victories and paraded through Egypt accordingly. A closer
analysis of the images and sequence may signal a few important details. The predominant
feature of image (a) is the water and dead bodies of the apparent and unarmed enemy floating
in it. Empty chariots are plenty and occasionally Egyptian soldiers, appear to be dying or dead.
It’s a very strange depiction of an enemy that did not resist despite their apparent
disproportional representation.

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(a)
(b)


(b)

(c)
(d)
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(e)










Image (b) the Battle of Dapur clearly depicts a battle scene with resistance as Rameses army
attempts to conquer a fortified construction on an elevated hill. The adjacent image depicts an
archaeological reconstruction of the Palace at Megiddo by the Oriental Institute at the University
of Chicago. Image (c) is more subdued in that there is little fighting, it depicts a continuity
sequence where Rameses has conquered enemies, tramples them, takes a few prisoners of
war and appears to progressing toward the objective in the center of the image. Image (d)
appears as the primary battlefront and may relate to the structure depicted in image (c), the
central fortress with restricted access remains intact during the battle which appears to take
place in Rameses advance toward it. Finally image (e) depicts the armies return to Egypt and a
victorious Rameses.

I propose the building surrounded by water in the top left of image (a) (see original relief,
negative partial image below)
represents a destination to which
the artist depicts the enemy of the
Egyptian army is headed despite
their apparent defeat. The
ultimate objective of the enemy
becomes that of Egypt’s and to
which a later image depicts it
eventually arrived; image (d). The
palace in image (b) is stipulated
as the Siege of Dapur in the
Ramesseum in Thebes. I suggest
it occurred in the process of
Egypt’s armies arriving at image
(d), the Battle of Kadesh. Specifically I consider these images a sequence of campaigns that
took place in progress during a period in the order shown.

Further, I postulate the first image depicts the exodus event of Israelites from Egypt and that
Rameses lost soldiers in the sea during the chase. When Israel crossed over he lost the ability
to cross the water to give full chase to the unarmed enemy. He returned to Egypt and geared up
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to chase the Israelites. Expecting them to eventually head for the coastal route into Israel he
eventually gave chase, but did not expect them to remain outside of Israel wandering the desert
for 40 years. In pursuit Rameses made his way through Ashkelon and possibly other cities in
the south of Israel, to Megiddo where he attacked the Hittite, Canaanite or Jewish/Israelite
occupants. Either they continued on the campaign hunting Israelites, making their way to
Kadesh or they returned to Egypt, but they arrived at Kadesh (wherever that is) at some point.
Rameses II never located all the Israelites he was chasing depicted in formation in image (a).

In a final twist of archaeological fate, the work of Frank J. Yurco declares Rameses as depicted
in several of these later campaigns to be none other than Merenptah his successor and at least
one who appears to have erased Rameses image. Whilst Yurco postulates a different theory
regarding the images above, he introduces the prospect that Merenptah was the one
responsible for chasing Israel in the battles that ensued. Regardless, a pattern of action is
depicted in campaigns to southern, northern Israel, Lebanon and Syria. These were clearly
depicted in the various artworks that were commissioned at that period of time. As suggested by
Yurco, if Rameses name is not present at the massive and very important national sites that
declare battle victories and peace agreements, we must ask why?

Torah tells us the Israelites under Jacob were settled in Goshen and that Hebron, in Israel was
established seven years before Zoan in Egypt. It also tells that Abraham came to the land of
Canaan (Israel) which was
drought stricken before he
travelled beyond to Egypt. It
is likely Abraham was
associated with the
establishment of Hebron and
Zoan became a town of
Egyptian officialdom
established by Abraham
shortly after he arrived. In a
recent discovery using
infrared technology, archaeologists discovered a massive and ancient city buried call Tanis,
which is buried beneath the earth. Tanis was known by many names. Ancient Egyptians called it
Djanet, and Torah refers to the site as Zoan. Today it's called Sân el-Hagar. There is no Hebrew
letter for “J” or “Dj” it would have been substituted over time with “G” making Dhanet - Ganet.
The letter “t” in Hebrew is also used for the sound “sh”. Therefore its possible that Ganet
became Ganesh which Torah referred to as Goshen and that this took place in the 210 years of
Israel’s occupation in this area of the eastern Nile delta. Remarkably the modern name of the
town Sân el-Hagar relates to the Egyptian princes Hagar, the daughter of Pharaoh, given as a
handmaid to Abraham’s first wife Sarah, that Abraham later married and who bore him Ishmael.

If 2.4 million Egyptians of mixed race in Goshen converged with 2.4 millions Israelites, a total of
4.8 million people would have departed. Somewhere around 10-15% of the population who
previously secured the eastern approach to inner Egypt would have left it wide open to future
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infiltrators and raiders. The huge departing group would have stretched 100 Kilometers through
the desert as they left the region, refugees of an afflicted land and nation. With such vast
numbers it’s no wonder we can see into their existence in the Egyptian record, however there is
little record of such a mass population nomadically living in the desert over 40 years as they
made their way to Canaan (Israel).

According to Torah, the people that left were forged into a nation after crossing the Yam Suf
(Red/Reed Sea) and receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. This nation lived nomadically, eating from
a substance known as Mann (Manna) and other meat of birds and kosher foods gathered along
the way. The nation is said to have lived in an elevated spiritual state throughout their period in
the desert. Many did not want to leave their comfortable state when they were confronted with
the prospect of fighting for their land in Canaan.

Archaeological deposits could be scattered anywhere in an
areas spanning more than 40,000 kilometers squared
because the precise route the Israelites followed in the
desert during this time is unknown. Further, given their
lightweight mode, the only real hope for evidentiary proof of
this journey, may be the remaining bones of the deceased
that were buried and remain scattered along the route. Soft
and hard implements were unlikely to be willingly discarded
as is the frugal pattern of bedouins.

Although Torah allegorically speaks of 42 journeys in the desert, most scholars translate its
meaning to 9 physical journeys to sites where the nation camped for extended periods before
arriving in Israel. Along their probable route, there are two identified sites that offer enormous
potential. One in Israel has been well
excavated and carefully preserved, the
other in Saudi Arabia, which is fenced off,
restricted and where little excavation has
taken place or been published. Given the
limited information from the Saudi site, it
may be reasonable to assume the it would
offer similar findings to the site in Israel
were full access to be provided.

Among the many findings are rock
paintings which at each site share a
remarkable resemblance and appear to be from the same time period, other findings include,
altars, rock formations, flints, carvings, tombstones, monuments, markers and a myriad of
information not yet explained. These pictures represent the many excavated examples found at
Mount Karkom in Israel’s Sinai and the limited images obtained without permission in Saudi
Arabia at Jebel El Lawz.

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According to Torah, Israel, which is the assumed name of the patriarch Jacob, comprised 70
people when they arrived in Egypt. Joseph was Egypt’s Vizier at the time which would have
enabled his family to quickly become integrated to the upper echelon of Egyptian society within
a relatively short period. Therefore, one would expect to this group referred to by its recently
acquired national identifier in the name of its patriarch - ‘Israel’, somewhere in the Egyptian
record.

The Merenptah Stele in the Egyptian museum specifically boasts victory in a campaign in
Canaan against Israel. Most of the text glorifies Merenptah's victories over enemies from Libya
and their Sea People allies, but the final two lines mention a campaign in Canaan, where
Merenptah says he defeated and destroyed Ashkalon, Gezer, Yanoam and Israel.

Ashkelon appears to be the first
victory in Canaan, and the image
(b) states in its hieroglyphic that
it is a depiction of that battle.
However, no archaeology in
Ashkelon has ever revealed
such an elaborate palatial
structure as the one depicted in
the illustration of the relief. The
palace in Image (b) is built on a
specific mound while
construction in Ashkelon is
primarily built on a fortified sand
dune. In the last lines of the
hieroglyphic text are written the
words “Israel is laid waste and
his seed is not”.

In the period immediately
following Israel’s re-entry to the
land under Joshua, there was no
king appointed by the tribes. The
tribe of Dan were allocated the smallest portion of land by Joshua. Despite their relatively large
numbers, they failed to conquer their land from the occupants along the Mediterranean in the
approximate area of Gaza to Ashdod and Ashkelon. They borrowed from Yehuda’s adjacent
land, but they remained restless in this high traffic region along the coastal route. Rather than
aggressively pursue the occupants and transients of their land and in order to accommodate the
growth of their tribe, they discovered land in the North of Israel. Beyond the Biblical boundaries
they conquered the city known to them as Laish where some of the tribe of Dan immigrated.
This is the source location of the Jordan River’s water, which became known as Banias where
later the Hittites/Greeks built a temple. The tribe of Dan continued to live a nomadic life and
unlike other tribes they were led by one primary family, the Shuamites. The Shuamites were
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without a state since they had not conquered and occupied their land like the other tribes. They
frequently travelled the road trail from Gaza/Ashkelon/Ashdod through Beit El and up to Laish in
the north visiting family who had immigrated or remained behind.

Frank Yurco’s discovered that some scenes which include image (a) at the Karnak temple built
by Rameses II, were usurped by later Pharaohs. Merenptah depicted the battle of
Ashkelon/Megiddo in image (b), Kadesh image (d) and the peace treaty as upheld by Pharaoh’s
Amenese and Setty II also revealed a relationship to the “Israel” mentioned on the Merenptah
stele. As important as this discovery is to the archaeological record, it does not go far enough. A
close study of Israel’s traditional record shows they arrived in Israel 3 years before the battle of
Kadesh in 1275 BCE at precisely the time of Merenptah rule. This period was during the 20
years whilst Samson was a judge of Israel, up till the peace treaty of Kadesh .

The story of Micah from the book of Judges
as told in Me’am Loez, reveals that the tribe
of Dan, the Shuamites must be the Shasu,
with their strange headdress, depicted in the
images displayed in Karnak. The Shasu
snaked through Israel from South to North
and harassed the Egyptian army as it made
its way through Israel to the north and the
battle of Kadesh on the Orentes river.
Although no direct match for Merenptah’s
might, they made life difficult, particularly in
the hill country and won frequent mention on
the scenes of Karnak as a result. The Libyan and Sea people which are the main subject of the
Merenptah stele may constitute the Philistines who occupied southern Israel and against whom
Merenptah fought. This is important because the battle scene known as Ashkelon in image (b)
does not win support from scholars that these were depictions of Shasu being fought. Clearly
they were not Shasu, more likely Philistines, a mixture of Sea People, Libyans and Canaanites.

Now we can finally understand the hieroglyphic translation on Merenptah’s Stele - ‘Israel as
people without a city,state’. The author was referring the term Israel to personify the Shasu, the
tribe of Dan who had not conquered their land like the other tribes had already done. He did this
to bring news to Egypt that Israel had finally been conquered and Rameses II’s name restored.
The erased battle reliefs to the left of the Peace treaty are the story, Rameses II and Merenptah
did not want Egypt to perpetuate. Rameses II did not achieve, therefore could not have
recorded a victory in the same way Merenptah did and he used the Shasu to state how he had
wiped out Israel in the process of his Canaanite campaigns.

When we return to the Ivory discovered at Megiddo, we can now see the strange headdress on
the circumcised prisoners and identify it with the relief at Karnak. We can also confirm that the
short skirts which are depicted as being different to other Canaanite dress in fact contain the
Jewish adornment known as tzit-tzit the holy strings which are attached to the four corners of a
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garment. The men in the Ivory are Shasu, Shuamites members of the Israelite tribe of Dan and
their holy tzit-tzit were cut from their stripped garments as displayed on the ivory. The Shasu are
spoken of extensively in the various Papyrus Anastasi and described therein. Notwithstanding
the various battle scenes surviving and erased, I maintain the artist and author incorrectly
depicted image (b) as Ashkelon. I believe it to be Megiddo and it relates to the Ivory depiction of
Shashu who were captured for harassing the Egyptian army. I believe the image on the ivory
may be that of Merenptah’s son Prince Kha-em-Wast. The image of the Shashu is immediately
to the right of the Peace Treaty and is depicted as a battle on an open plane in contrast to the
other images and is more likely to be depiction of Ashkelon or Gezer.

The enemies mentioned on the Merenptah Stele apparently simultaneously bothered Egypt.
Sea People, Libyans, Canaanites and Israelites seem to converge at a sensitive time in Egypt’s
history. Vacating the upper eastern Nile delta at Tanis or Goshen left Egypt wide open for an
attack and during the 40 years of Israel’s Exodus, Rameses II and Merenptah were kept very
busy defending. Absent of these converging enemies, Egypt may have found the strength to
chase Israel on their desert sojourn. It was not until the 43
rd
year after Israel’s departure that
Egypt were able to leave its borders having secured its eastern Nile delta. As Israel penetrated
Canaan from the East moving West, Egypt was moving through Canaan in the south in
preparation for its northerly advance to the battle of Kadesh, which by now should appear to the
reader as being a collection of battles that took place in pursuit of multiple enemies including the
Shashu who had migrated north to Laish (Israel/Lebanon/Syria border town) with their elite
armed forces.

Many questions remain unanswered. However, there is certainly sufficient evidence to call into
question the utility of archaeological based interpretations absent an educated and unbiased
view studied from the accuracy of Torah. Few if any have ever attempted to center the Egyptian
record at or around the time of Israel’s exile and Exodus on the Torah perspective. This paper
hopes to motivate and call for adequate scientific reconsideration.