Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

Archaeological finds from Egypt

This article describes events in Egyptian history that can be correlated to Biblical accounts. For a discussion of the surrounding issues, especially chronology, refer to Archaeology Questions.

Menes, first king of Egypt

According to the Bible, the progenitor of the Egyptians was Mizraim, a grandson of Noah. Even today, the Egyptians refer to their country as Misr. The first Pharaoh of Egypt was Menes. The fourth century historian Eusebius considered the similarity in the names sufficient to suggest that Menes might have been Mizraim himself.

The Giza Pyramid

The overall trend in pyramid quality is that of deterioration as time passes. That is, the earlier pyramids were more sophisticated than the later ones. However, the great pyramid of the fourth dynasty Pharaoh Khufu (image) is bigger and more accurately constructed than the earlier pyramids. The Bible records that Abraham visited Egypt. Abraham originally hailed from Ur of the Chaldees. The Chaldeans were experts in trigonometry, astronomy, etc. According to Flavius Josephus, the secular Jewish historian, Abraham shared his knowledge of astronomy and trigonometry with the Egyptians. This makes sense - Abraham's inputs helped Khufu to break the overall trend of deteriorating pyramid quality.

Senuswret I and Mentuhotep

A manual for interpreting dreams was found in Egypt. It is now in the British Museum (see image). It helps us appreciate the concern of the prisoners about how their dreams could be interpreted (Genesis 40:7-8) and also of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:7-8).
 
Pharaoh Senuswret I of dynasty 12 had a vizier called Mentuhotep who "appears as the alter ego of the king. When he arrived, the great personages bowed down before him at the outer door of the royal palace" [Emille Brugsch, Egypt Under the Pharaohs]. This was an unusual honor in Egypt for someone other than Pharaoh himself, but this account is absolutely consistent with the Biblical record, which claims that Joseph became a great prime minister in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:43).

According to the Bible, Joseph was Jacob's son [Jacob is the ancestor of all Israelis] and lived in Israel. His brothers, moved with envy, sold him as a slave to traders who were going to Egypt. Moses eventually became prime minister of Egypt when he was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream and predict that Egypt would have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.

There is a canal from the Nile to the Faiyyum Oasis dug in the 12th dynasty called Joseph's canal (see image). This makes sense if we assume that (like the Bible claims) Joseph (Mentuhotep) was the PM and was making efforts to lessen the severity of the famine.

Ameni, a provincial governor of Sesostris I wrote on his tomb [in the cliffs of Beni Hassan, halfway between Cairo and Luxor]: "No one was unhappy in my days, not even in the years of the famine, for I had tilled all the fields of the Nome of Mah, upto its northern and southern frontiers. Thus I prolonged the life of its inhabitants and preserved the food which it produced." This  makes perfect sense if Joseph did what the Bible claims he did: oversee the collection of the bumper harvest of the 7 years of plenty and make sure people had enough food in the famine!

Just south of Aswan in the Nile river is the island of Sehel. During the Greek period, it was a playground for budding scribes who copied earlier writings. On a rock known as "Hungry Rock", a scribe has written: "I was in mourning on my throne. Those of the palace were in great affliction, because Hapy [the Nile god] had failed to come in time in a period of 7 years. Grain was scant, jernels were dried up, scarce was every kind of food". This is exactly what we can expect from the Biblical record, which says that despite Joseph's efforts, food prices rose significantly towards the end of the famine.

The Oppression of Israel

Fast forward a couple of centuries later to around a 1600 BC and you come across the grim looking Pharaoh Sesostris III, (see the image to the right)  who wrote on his Semna stela:

"I made my boundary, I went further south than my forefathers. I increased what was bequeathed to me...I am a king who speaks and acts. My heart's intentions are carried out by my arm. I am one who is agressive in order to seize, impatient in order to succeed, and who does not allow a matter to lie in his heart... aggression is valour while retreat is cowardice."

According to the Bible, the Israelites came to Israel at Joseph's behest. Later a king arose, who did not know Joseph, and sensing a threat in the increasing Israelite population, enslaved them (Exodus 1: 7-14). Sesostris III seems to fit the bill. He was responsible for a lot of building in the biblical Raamses area. The Bible records that the Israelites "built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses" (Exodus 1:11).

Rosalie David, who is in charge of the Egyptian department of the Manchester Museum writes:

"It is apparent that Asiatics were present in the town [Kahun] in some numbers, and this may have reflected the situation elsewhere in Egypt. It can be stated that these people were loosely classed by the Egyptians as Asiatics, although their exact homeland in Syria or Palestine cannot be determined...the reason for their presence in Egypt remains unclear".

The reason she's unclear is that she is unaware or is ignoring the Biblical record and is probably following the conventional (wrong) chronology. The presence of Asiatic slaves makes perfect sense in the light of the Bible.

Renowned skeptic Austrian archaeologist Manfred Bietak says:

“We uncovered the remains of a huge town of 250 hectares with a population of 25,000–30,000 individuals. These were people who originated from Canaan, Syria–Palestine. Originally they may have come here as subjects of the Egyptian crown or with the blessing of the Egyptian crown. Obviously, this town enjoyed something like a special status, like a free zone, something like that.” 

He goes on to mention several details consistent with the Biblical picture of Israel in Egypt (Exodus 1 and 2), but he rejects the idea that these Semites were the Exodus Israelis because it is too early for them according to the conventional chronology. 

The 12th dynasty ends with Amenemhet III, who had no sons. His daughter Sobekneferu also did not have a son. If a son was desperately needed, the Nile god of fertility had to be solicited.

In Exodus 2:5 onwards, the Bible records the daughter of Pharaoh coming for a dip in the Nile, and finding the Israelite baby Moses in a casket. He had been left there by his mother, who was trying to protect him from Pharaoh's orders - to kill every Israelite male child.

She adopted him as her own son. There's no reason for an Egyptian princess to adopt a slave child as son - unless she considers it an answer to prayer from Hapy, the Nile god of fertility.

The Bible says that the Israelites made bricks using straw. Surely enough, the pyramid of Amenemhet III (shown in the image) has bricks held together with straw. Straw is also found in bricks used in the buildings at Tanis, were Asiatic slaves were present [the ancient pyramids were made using huge stone blocks, not bricks].

The Bible also records that when Moses grew up, he killed an Egyptian, incurred the wrath of Pharaoh and fled to Midian (Arabia). As we look at the late 12th dynasty, we can't help notice Amenemhet IV, the junior co-regent of Amenemhet III whose parents are unnamed, and who abruptly disappears from the records when Amenemhet III is still ruling. Amenemhet IV never reigned independently, and when Amenemhet III died, the mantle fell on Sobekneferu, who thus became queen of Egypt, the last ruler of the 12th dynasty. Amenemhet IV may therefore have well been Moses!

The Exodus

Some confusion seems to have existed at the start of Dynasty 13. Perhaps there were several kings struggling for supremacy. Some stability seems to have been brought by Neferhotep I.It is significant that in the Bible when God asks Moses to return to Egypt, He mentions that those who sought to kill him were all dead (Exodus 4:19). All those who wanted to kill Moses were from dynasty 12, but now dynasty 13 had begun to rule!

The Liverpool Museum contains a bronze cobra rod belonging to a magician from this period. In Exodus 7:8 onwards, the Bible records that when Moses and Aaron asked Pharaoh for permission for the Israelites to leave, they demonstrated that God was guiding them by throwing down Moses' rod and having it turn into a snake. The Bible says that the Egyptian magicians replicated the sign, and Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave.

Then followed various plagues (see Exodus 7:14 onwards). The Nile was turned to blood, to demonstrate Jehovah's superiority over the Nile god Hapy. The plague of frogs demonstrated that Egypt's frog god Heqet was a farce. The subsequent plagues killed Egyptian livestock, demonstrating Jehovah's superiority over the Serapis bull and the cow goddess Hathor. The ninth plague struck at Egypt's chief god - Ra the Sun. There was darkness all over Egypt for three days, except in the place where the Isrealites lived (Exodus 10:22).

Leiden Museum, Holland has a papyrus fragment from Memphis, written by a scribe called Ipuwer. To be fair, it is dated from the 19th dynasty, but it well may have been a copy of a 12th dynasty document:

"Nay but the heart is violent. Plague stalks through the land and blood is everywhere. Nay, but the river is blood. Does a man drink from it? As a human he rejects it. He thirsts for water. ...Nay, but gates columns and walls are consumed by fire...It has come to this. The king has been taken away by poor men"

The last plague was the death of the first-born. Pharaoh relented and let the people of Israel leave. In fact, the Bible records that the terrified Egyptians forced the Israelites to depart in a hurry.

Ludicrous? Not really. The Egyptologist Flinders Petrie took some of the household articles that the Israelites left behind to Manchester Museum, England. Rosalie David, who is in charge of the Egyptian department of the Manchester Museum goes on to write about her "Asiatics": "It is evident that the completion of the king's pyramid was not the reason why Kahun's inhabitants eventually deserted the town, abandoning their tools and other possessions in the shops and houses. The quantity, range and type of articles of everyday use which were left behind (image) in the houses suggest that the departure was sudden and unpremeditated."

The Bible also records that the Passover was instituted to commemorate this liberation, and Jews to this day celebrate it! 

Neferhotep had a son called Wahneferhotep, but it is significant that he did not become king. Neferhotep was succeeded by his brother Sobkhotpe IV. 

God had indeed fulfilled his prophecy, in a way only He could, after nearly 500 years!

All was not over yet! Pharaoh had a change of heart and ordered the Egyptian army to pursue the Israelites, who were near the Red Sea after three days of walking. God split the Red Sea and the Israelites crossed over at the straits of Tiran in the gulf of Aquaba.  the Egyptians pursuing them were drowned when God released the waters of the Red Sea. It is significant that the mummy of Neferhotep I has not been found.

The Hyksos

Shortly after the reign of Neferhotep I, Egypt was taken over by a mysterious people called the Hyksos. Josephus quotes Manetho as saying that they conquered Egypt without a battle, were of low birth from the east, and enslaved many native Egyptians. While we might think that Manetho was merely prejudiced against the foreign Hyksos and so called them of low birth, it is significant hat they did not leave any grand architecture in Egypt.

Where was the mighty Egyptian army? How could these people conquer Egypt without a battle?!

Everything makes sense in the light of the Bible! The Bible mentions that shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, they were attacked by the Amalekites, a crude band of nomads who roamed between Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Israelites managed to thwart them. In the course of the encounter the Amalekites would surely have learnt of the Israelites' liberation from Egypt. Obviously, if Pharaoh's great army was floating in the Red Sea, there was nothing to stop this group of plunder-happy nomads from storming into Egypt!!

A few centuries later, Sequenenre and Amhosis directed Egyptian forces that expelled the Hyksos out of Egypt. Again, this makes sense in the light of the Biblical record. In 1 Samuel 15:1 onwards, the prophet Samuel asks Saul to destroy the Amalekites around 400 years after the Exodus.

Nefrubity and Hatshepsut

By the revised chronology, Thutmosis of Dynasty 18 would be contemperaneous with king Solomon of Israel (971-931 BC). He had two daughters, Nefrubity and Hatshepsut. Nefrubity disappears abruptly from Egyptian records, while Hatshepsut goes on to become one of the female monarchs in Egypt. According to the Bible, Solomon had a treaty with Pharaoh and married his daughter (1 Kings 3:1). Perhaps he married Nefrubity.

Hatshepsut describes a trip she made to the beautiful land of Punt from where she got lavish gifts. This suggests that she may have been the same as the Queen of Sheba mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 10:1 onwards)

Shishak's plundering of Jerusalem

Hatshepsut was succeeded by Thutmosis III. He records his assault on Megiddo, a fortified city in Israel:

"The capturing of Megiddo is the capturing of a thousand towns...Now the princes of this foreign country came on their bellies to kiss the ground to the glory of his majesty and beg breath for their nostrils because his arm was so great, because the prowess of Amon was so great over every foreign country."

What correlation does this have with the Bible? 1 Kings 14:25 mentions that Shishak king of Egypt came and plundered the temple at Jerusalem without a battle at Jerusalem - this makes sense if the crucial battle was fought at Megiddo.

Thutmosis depicted his loot on the walls of his shrine. Among the objects are 300 shields of gold and doors overlaid with gold. 1 Kings 14:26 and 1 Kings 10:17 specifically mention that Shishak took away all the three hundred gold shields that Solomon had made. 1 Kings 6:32 mentions the doors overlaid with gold that Solomon had made.

[Don't get put off with the dissimilarity in the names Shishak and Thutmosis III. Misr and Egypt are miles apart in spelling and sound, and yet refer to the same place!]

The Stele of Pharaoh Mernephtah

This stele in the Cairo Museum in Egypt. Erected by Pharaoh Merneptah, it contains the only mention in the whole of Egypt of the name "Israel". After a list of all those the pharaoh has defeated it says, "Israel is forsaken, her seed is not." Merneptah was the son of Rameses II; Rameses I was a nobody who only ruled for two years. The writing on this stele is consistent with the destruction of Israel in 722 BC by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser.

Zerah the Nubian

Thutmosis III was succeeded by his son Amenhotep II, who boasts of various campaigns into Syria and Palestine. However, there is one campaign in which he mentions his plunder as consisting of merely, two horses, a chariot, and some bows and arrows. This would have been an admission of defeat. [Like most monarchs, Egyptian Pharaohs would never admit defeat explicitly]. Thus, Amenhotep II may have been the same as Zerah the Ethiopian/Cushite that Asa king of Judah defeated (2 Chronices 14:12). The Biblical author may have classified him as a Cushite (Ethiopian) because the 18th dynasty had their main center at Luxor, Southern Egypt.

Taharqa, Necho II, Hophra

Pharaoh Taharka of dynasty 25 ruled from 690 to 664 BC, and he can be identified as Tiharka king of Ethiopia who opposed Sennacherib king of Assyria when he came to attack Judah (2 Kings 19:9). Again, he is called a king of Ethiopia because that's where he originally was from - he took over Egypt.

The Bible also mentions Necho II of dynasty 26. The Jewish king Josiah tried to intercept him as went to fight the Babylonians at Carchemish (2 Chronicles 35:20-21). Necho is also known for a canal he tried to build between the Nile and the Red Sea.

The Bible also mentions Pharaoh Hophra (see image). In 570 BC, his general Amasis rebelled against him and made himself king. Hophra took refuge in Babylon. In 587 BC, Jeremiah prophesied:

"Thus says Jehovah:Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life" (Jeremiah 44:30).

This prophecy was fulfilled when (according to Herodotus) Amasis handed Hophra to the Egyptians and they strangled him to death.  

The Elephantine Papyri

These letters were discovered in the 1890s on the Elephantine island in the Nile, near Aswan, Egypt. They have been dated 500-400 BC and are now in the Brooklyn Museum. Their language and format is similar to the letters mentioned in Ezra 4:11-22 and Ezra 5:6-17. Moreover, one of the Elephantine letters mentions Delaiah and Shelemiah, sons of Sanballat, who is also mentioned in the book of Nehemiah. Thus, these letters authenticate Ezra and Nehemiah.

The End of Egyptian Civilization

Around 588 BC, Ezekiel prophesied that Egypt would be a base kingdom (Ezekiel 29:14). After the 26th dynasty, which ended in 525 BC, Egypt ceased to be a major force. The Assyrian rulers of Dynasty 26 were replaced by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. After the rise of Islam, Egypt was taken over by the Arabs. The descendants of the ancient Egyptians (the Copts of modern Egypt - who are now Orthodox Christians) reel today under the oppression of the Muslim Arabs. Ezekiel's prophecy has been fulfilled with devastating accuracy.

Conclusion

The Biblical record mentions the same events as Egyptian history does, in the same sequence. Although the dates of these events according to the Conventional Egyptian Chronology (CEC) do not match the Biblical dates, separate secular evidence calls for a modification in the CEC, and when this is done, the dates match. Egyptian archaeology thus provides evidence for the authenticity of the Bible. The Bible is thus true in its history and geography. Therefore, it is logical to believe what it says about theology, because unlike other books, its theology is intertwined with its history and geography.