Did Joseph Serve Under the Hyksos ?

The variant reading of Exodus 12:40 and the Sojourn in Egypt


The popular Bible cartoon Prince of Egypt has served to reignite interest in the Bible and the Scriptures. Unfortunately, like Cecil B. DeMille's epic Ten Commandments, the movie portrays the Pharaoh of the Exodus as Ramses. This view, popularized in recent years, was never held by any scholar before William Albright whose shift for the date of the Exodus, as well as its serious repercussion upon the belief in the Conquest of Canaan by Joshua, has been well documented. It is not necessary to repeat here what has been said and published many time before except that those who accept the late date for the Exodus have found their faith waivering because they have misplaced their faith and trusted in fallible archaeologists rather than the infallible Scriptures.

It is no small coincidence that those who do hold to a late date for the Exodus (circa 1280 B.C.) argue not from evidence of the Exodus but predominantly from the Sojourn of Joseph four hundred years earlier. They spend far more time arguing, from both internal and external evidence, that Joseph must have sojourned under the Hyksos rule circa 1650-1700 B.C. These Hyksos were a semitic race who conquered northern Egypt and were eventually driven out. The survivors who remained were enslaved by the Egyptian people. Since Exodus 12:40 tells us that the Jews lived in Egypt four hundred and thirty years then the date for the Exodus must be circa 1280 B.C. Conservative scholars simply reply that the statement of 1 Kings 6:1 is just as clear and that the archaeological evidence for a temple errection between 958 B.C. or 970 B.C. is universally accepted (thus the Exodus would be circa 1440 B.C.). Thus, the "tenative" archaeology of Joseph is invalid and Joseph must have reigned much earlier than the Hyksos. Most, however, are unaware that the Great Protestant Reformers such as Matthew Henry disagreed, and agreed, with both views. Matthew Henry, as well as most of the other Great Reformers, followed the variant chronology of Exodus 12:40 which states that "the time that the sons of Israel lived in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." If this chronology is true then the Exodus would indeed have occured in 1440 B.C. as conservatives believe, but the sojourn of Joseph would have been during the Hyksos era as is supported by both the Bible and archaeology.

This variant chronology, footnoted in many Bibles, has all but left the archaeological debate in recent years. It is, however, this singular verse that can not only clarify many Bible passages, both Old and New Testament, but also clear up much of the archaeological problems that occur in dating the Egyptian Sojourn and the Exodus. Indeed, it can even enlighten the testimony of Egyptian historians such as Manetho who reluctantly, and unfavably, admits to the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Despite such a profound admidtion by an ancienct Egyptian Priest most scholars are unwilling to give support to Manetho's testimony as true evidence of the Exodus (the reasons for this will be explained later in this article).

At this point, it is suffice to say that I shall first attempt to prove that the Egyptian sojourn was not 430 years as the Masorette text reads but 215 years as read by other ancient scrolls and attested by the Apostle Paul himself. I shall do this by examining the Dead Sea Scrolls, textual criticism, and the testimony of other Scripture verses as well. The second part of this article will show the weight of archaeology in favor of Joseph sojourn under the Hyksos, how this enlightens the Scriptures, explains how the Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph (Exodus 1:8)" arose, and finally its importance in clarifying Manetho's bizarre account of the Exodus.

The Testimony of Paul and the Prophets

Paul makes a remarkable statement in the book of Galatians. When discussing Abraham and the promise made to his seed, the Apostle Paul immediately follows by saying that the Law, "came 430 years later (Galatians 3:17)." Paul seems to indicate that the Law was 430 years after Abraham's covenant. The Masoretic chronology, however, would make it 645 years later! Eugene Merrill has attempted to explain this away by arguing that Paul was referring to the repetition of God's promise to Jacob. The context of Galatians, however, makes clear that Paul is repeatedly speaking of Abraham himself, not Joseph. Paul even quotes from Genesis 24, making careful note the specific promised seed. The implication is that Paul clearly believed the time between Abraham and Moses was only 430 years.

Some less than conservative scholars have merely dismissed Paul's statement as an error based on the Septuagint reading but this cannot be dismissed so flippantly by the innerrantist for, even if Paul did follow the Septuagint, the fact remains that if Paul's words are innerrantly inspired by God, then they cannot be discarded. This would only lend credibility to the Septuagint variant. It is, however, unlikely that Paul was following the Septuagint. While he was certainly well educated in Greek, it is very likely that Paul preferred the Hebrew, the original and his own language. Indeed, while many quotes made by Paul are very similar to the Septuagint readings, most vary in some form. It is usually better to assume that readings which are similar to the Septuagint were in fact Paul's own translations, or used only when Paul agreed with the translation. In fact, early Christian tradition hold that the Apostle Paul (Saul at the time) while studying under Rabbi Gamaliel was given a translation of Job, which he buried in a wall, saying he preferred only the Hebrew. It would, therefore, appear that the variant reading was extant in Hebrew in Paul's day. Indeed, the Samaritan Hebrew Pentateuch proves this and it would, therefore, be folly to assume that no other Hebrew text had this variant. Nevertheless, the source of Paul's statement is irrelevant since the inspiration of his words is true. Paul clearly believed that the Law, and therefore Moses, was 430 years after Abraham.

Some object to this reading on the basis of the prophecy of Genesis 15:13 which was also quoted by Steven in Acts 7:6. It reads;

"And God said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.'"

Certainly, this translation gives the idea that the Israelites would be "enslaved and oppressed" for four hundred years. However, there are several reasons to reject this interpretation. First, if the slavery was to last four hundred years then this would not be consistent with either reading. Regardless of which view is taken, it is agreed that the slavery of the Jews did not begin until after Joseph died and until after the Hyksos (who will be explained later) were driven out of Egypt, which was in the mid-sixteenth century B.C., approximately one hundred years before the Exodus. Otherwise, we would have to accept the idea that the Jews became slaves while Joseph, who would live approximately seventy one years after his father's entry into Egypt, was still alive! This would clearly contradict the statement that "there arose a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph (Exodus 1:8)."

It is more likely that the four hundred years spoken of refers not just to slavery but to the entire sojourn, of which slavery was the worst and final stage. The great Reformer Matthew Henry applied this prophecy to the Canaanite sojourn as well as the Egyptian sojourn. He states that the Hebrews were strangers, "first in Canaan (Ps. 105:12) and afterwards in Egypt." This is supported by Genesis which refers to Abraham as a sojourner and a stranger in Canaan. In fact, in Genesis 23:4 Abraham refers to himself as a "sojourner" in Canaan and in Genesis 26:3 God tells Isaac not to go down to Egypt but to stay and sojourn in Canaan. Furthermore, it must be pointed out that Canaan was not an independent nation at this time, but a disputed territory which many nations fought over. In fact, Egypt had treaties with much of Canaan at the time of Abraham's life. In other words, even when Abraham was not in Egypt, he may have been living on land which was under treaty by Egypt. Abimelek, for example, the King of Gerar, almost certainly had a treaty with Egypt. Although archaeology cannot prove this relationship, the region where he ruled was under Egyptian influence, if not authority, from the twenty-first to the early eighteenth century B.C.

The best reason, however, to believe that this four hundred years refers back to Abraham and Canaan is the rest of the prophecy;

"But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. And as for you, a you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they shall return here (Genesis 15:14-16)."

If the Jews are to return in the fourth generation then this would not make sense in the context of a 430 years sojourn in Egypt. However, if the 400 years refers back to Abraham and the fourth generation refers specifically to those Hebrews who were sojourned in Egypt, then this would be consistent with the genealogy of Exodus 6:16-20 and the fact that Moses was the great-grandson of Levi. Levi would be the first generation of the Egyptian sojourn, Kohath the second, Amran the third, and Moses would be of the fourth generation who led the Exodus out of Egypt and bondage.

Eugene Merrill has attempted to redefine "generation" as a hundred years based on the alleged "juxtaposition" of Genesis 15:13's four hundred years and 15:16 forth generation. Citing William Albright, whose errors and misplaced faith have already been alluded to above, he states that the Hebrew word for generation, Dor, actually means "lifetime." In fact, there is no Hebrew lexicon or dictionary that will define the word in this manner. A generation may be used generically as an "age," but not an individual's "lifetime." In any case, this cannot dismiss the genealogy of Moses which outlines his ancestors back four generations to Levi who entered Egypt with his brothers.

Moses' Ancestry

Exodus 6:16-20 tells us that Moses was the great-grandson of Levi and this creates a major problem for the Masoretic Chronology of the Egyptian sojourn for it is not consistent with its own chronology for Moses' ancestry. If this is true, then how could 430 years have elapsed! Let us consider the verses carefully;

"These are the names of the sons of Levi to their generations; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The length of Levi's life was one hundred and seventy-three years. The sons of Gershon; Libni and Shemei to their families. The sons of Kohath; Amran, Izhar, Hebrew, and Uzziel. The length of Kohath's life was one hundred and thirty-three years. The sons of Merari; Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites to their generations. Amran took his aunt, Jochebed, to be his wife and she gave birth to Aaron and Moses for him. The length of Amran's life was one hundred and thirty-seven years." Exodus 6:16-20

In an attempt to explain this away many authors have resorted to a variety of interpretive wiles. Eugene Merrill, former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, simply attempts to dismiss this a description of "clans" but offers no real textual proof of this other than a reference to Joshua 7:16 which he claims is "parallel in structure" to Exodus 6:16-20. In fact, Joshua 7:16 has nothing to do with chronology or genealogy but is a descriptive account of an individual, Achan, who is being punished for his sin. The account is once again very specific that, although he is from the clan of Zimri, Zimri is his grand-father. How does this illustrate that Exodus 6:16-20 is not a genealogical account but a listing of clans? This does nothing to clarify Exodus 6:16-20, only to distract us from it. Indeed, after alluding to this "parallel" structure Merrill then goes on to say that it is preposterous to suggests that Moses could only be forth generation since 1 Chronicles 7:27 lists Joshua as eleventh generation from Jacob. Once again, this is merely a distraction, not an exegetical thesis. When on considers that Moses was old enough to be Joshua's grandfather and the fact that Moses' genealogy does not go back to Jacob, but only to Levi, this really only supports the fact that Moses was forth generation! By taking 1 Chronicles 7:27 as a straight forward genealogy while allegorizing Exodus 6:16-20, Merrill has really defeated his own argument.

In the final analysis Eugene Merrill has chosen an allegorical interpretation. He suggest that the 430 years apply to the sum total of years that each of the individuals spent in Egypt, and therefore, many of the years overlap. Of course, such and argument would only allegorize Exodus 12:40 rather than Exodus 6:20 as Merrill hopes. In other words, this argument would only allegorize the 430 years as symbolic for the time that Moses ancestors spent in Egypt but it would not extend the length of time between Levi and Moses. It is a distraction that does nothing to extend the interval between Levi and Moses. Moses is still the great-grandson of Levi, and removed by only a few hundred years. Such arguments, therefore, only lends credibility to the fact that these two Masoretic verses appear incompatible. The only way that these two verse can be reconciled is if the variant reading is the correct one.

Henry Morris, the normally conservative creationist author, argues that "she gave birth to Aaron and Moses" actually means that she was the ancestor of Aaron and Moses! He believes that the Hebrew word Yalad implies ancestral relationship rather than actual begetting. However, Morris does not know Hebrew himself but draws from the argument of others, who are actually referring to the Greek equivalent (although this too is doubtful), not the Hebrew. Indeed, no Hebrew lexicon will define Yalad in this manner. The famed Hebrew scholar William Gesenius devotes almost two pages of his lexicon to this word but nowhere implies any such connotation. Yalad is the word given for a mother who gives birth. When applied to a man its natural meaning is to "beget" as the King James translates it. Since modern English has no male equivalent for giving birth the NAS translates such verses as "was born to." Most modern translations, however, simply say "became the father of (NAB)" or "was the father (NRSV)" which is more easily misinterpreted.

Still, the Bible Knowledge Commentary suggest that Amran, the father of Moses, was not the same Amran who was the son of Levi, but that many generations are left out of the passage. This, of course, is highly speculative and has no Biblical support. If it were true then 1 Chronicles 6:1 would also have to be abridged although it is presented as a complete genealogy.

Clearly, the chronology and genealogy of the Scriptures seem to fit in exceptionally well with the variant chronology. If it did not, one would wonder why so many authors must spend so much time reconciling the Masoretic chronology with these verses.

Textual Criticism and the Dead Sea Scrolls

If archaeology, as well as the Biblical text, lends credibility to the variant chronology then the final question is how did the variant come to exist? If the variant was the original, then how was it lost, and if it was not the original, how did it come to be?

New Testament textual critic Bruce Metzger has referred to textual criticism as "an art as well as a science." While this is true, Metzger was referring to New Testament criticism. Although New Testament textual criticism and Old Testament textual criticism share many of the same methodologies there are several major differences. First, there is a massive amount textual data which exist for the New Testament as opposed to the Old Testament but it is the unique manner in which the Old Testament was transmitted and copied through the ages that gives it its authority from a textual point of view. Most Bibles up to the present have chosen to follow the best and most complete Hebrew text available which is that of the Masorettes, referred to simply as the Masoretic text. As a whole, there is no better text, and none that can be trusted like it. Nevertheless, scholars have to recognize that, like the Majority text of New Testament criticism, it too may have minor mistakes. Recently, some modern Bibles have even begun to footnote those passages where they believe the Masoretic text may be error. One such passage is Exodus 12:40.

Let us begin by looking at the textual evidence itself. Because of the unique manner of the transmission of the Hebrew text as well as its antiquity, it has become necessary to categorize different Hebrew text to a specific tradition of transmission. The Masoretic text is "a medieval representative of an ancient text of the Bible which already was accepted as the sole text by a stream of Judaism." This text type can be traced back to the Council of Jamnia in the late first century A.D. and is also representative of many of the Dead Sea scrolls. However, Emanuel Tov prefers to call these "proto-Masoretic texts" since they are not identical with the Masoretic text. It is assumed that the tradition of "proto-Masoretic" texts eventually became formalized in the late first century, but they cannot be considered identical.

The Samaritan text is an ancient text type that has been criticized for unprofessional revisions. The Samaritans were a Jewish sect that were not well liked by the orthodox Jewish community (this was the reason for Jesus' "Good Samaritan parable") and had built a temple on Mount Gerizim which was scorned by the majority of the Jewish community (this is also why Jesus was once asked where they should worship). As a result of this scorn the Samaritans tended to change the location of Solomon's temple to Mt. Gerizim in certain Bible passages so as to lend credibility to their community's claims. Such tampering with the text has been good reason why scholars are reluctant to follow the Samaritan text unless it agrees with other crucial text, as it does here. Nevertheless, Tov calls these changes "relatively thin" and points out that most of the differences between Masoretic and Samaritan text are "found in all the pre-Samaritan texts which preceded it," including some Dead Sea scrolls. \par \tab Although the Septuagint is not a Hebrew text, it is a Greek translation that was begun as long ago, allegedly by Ptolemy II Philadephus in the mid third century B.C. While some doubt this story, there is no doubt that the translation was undertaken by \i at least\i0 the second century B.C. As such, it must have been translated from Hebrew texts that are far older than the Masorette texts. It is, therefore, held to be a testament to Hebrew manuscripts that no longer exists. This is born out by the similarity in some Dead Sea scrolls and the Septuagint variants. Like the Samaritan text, however, there are too many problems with it to be taken independently of other witnesses but when it does agree with other variants, it has great weight.

All extant Masoretic text read "the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." The Samaritan Hebrew Pentateuch reads "the time that the sons of Israel lived in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." The Septuagint reads "the time that the sons of Israel lived in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years."

This brings us to the Dead Sea scrolls. Only one Dead Sea scroll attests directly to this verse. However, it does not agree with either the Masorette, Samaritan, or Septuagint texts. It is similar to the Masoretic text in that it lacks the name of Canaan but very similar to the Samaritan in that it contains the Hebrew idiom, "in the land of." 4QExod thus reads, "in the land of Egypt."

Although 2QExod (2Q2) does not specifically attest to this part of verse 12:40, because the scroll is torn at that point, the amount of space between the tear and verse 41 indicates that there is more than enough room for the variant found in 4QExod, although probably not the entire Samaritan variant. It is probable, although unsure, that this manuscript contained at least the variant of 4QExod .

This is actually a more significant variant than might at first glance be thought. It provides a perfect explanation for how the variant in the Masoretic text occurred. One major tenet of textual criticism is the need to explain how a variant came to exist. If the Masoretic text were the original, then there is no explanation for how the Samaritan and Septuagint variants arose. If, however, the Samaritan variant was the original then it is logical that the scribes eye passed from the first "in the land" to the second (a common scribal error called "homoioteleuton"), thus inadvertently dropping out "the land of Canaan." Eventually, the Masoertic text would then drop the unnecessary idiom of "in the land".

The Hyksos Period

The Hyksos were a Semitic race who once conquered Egypt and reigned from approximately 1720-1550 B.C. They assumed the throne and practices of the old Egyptian rulers and continued to follow the customs of the Egyptians but when the Hyksos were finally driven out by the Egyptians, the Egyptian government attempted to stamp out every piece of evidence that the Hyksos had ever lived. Indeed, we only know of the Hyksos rule from neighboring countries and their historical records but the Egyptian history tells us nothing of it until Manetho. They merely wished to pretend that it never happened. This is generally agreed to be the reason for the rise of a King "who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8)."

The controversy, however, is not really whether or not the Bible indicates that Joseph's rise to power was under the Hyksos rule, but the relationship of the Hyksos rule to the date of the Exodus. For the time being it should be noted that there is a strong indication that Joseph did rule in the Hyksos reign. Several times the Bible emphasizes the fact that Potiphar was an Egyptian (Genesis 39:1-5). Some have suggested that this is only reasonable if the Egyptians were not in power at the time. Otherwise, the statement would be redundant and irrelevant; all officers would have been Egyptian. In addition, the Hyksos were the first to introduce the horse and chariot to Egypt. Therefore, the mention of Joseph's chariot in Genesis 46:29 suggest that the Hyksos were already in power. Moreover, Genesis 47:17 provides the first mention of horses in the Bible and yet the Egyptians are trading for them. This would not be consistent with a pre-Hyksos Dynasty.

Other argument for Hyksos rule are more tenuous but worthy of mention. It was the Hyksos who ruled from Avaris-Tanis, the same city which most conservative scholars associate with the "city of Raamses" of Exodus 1:11. It seems likely that the Jews would be slaves here rather than elsewhere, if this was the place where they had lived since Jacob's entry into Egypt. It is also the city from which Manetho, the ancient Egyptian historian, records the Jews as having departed from. It would, therefore, be logical to assume that Jacob entered Avaris-Tanis, where Joseph would have been ruling with the Pharaoh. This would only be true, however, if the Hyksos were in power for the Egyptians had not ruled from this cite since the Hyksos Dynasties. A second argument is that the statement, "every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34 : see also Genesis 43:32)," would only be true if the Hyksos rule had already begun, for the name Hyksos means "shepherd king." Critics will argue that such a saying would not be consistent with the Hyksos rule since Hyksos would have no revulsion to shepherds. Nevertheless, the Egyptians were not pleased with Hyksos rule since they fought a "War of Liberation" to get rid of them. While these final arguments are not as strong as the earlier, they do illustrate serious problems that cannot be discounted so easily.

The most serious objection to this, however, has been the Biblical chronology. If the Masoretic text is correct then the Biblical date for Joseph would have to be 430 years before the Exodus, which conservatives date at approximately 1441 B.C. This date would be before the Hyksos conquest of circa 1720 B.C.. Since liberal scholars place the Exodus around 1280 B.C. they can accept both the Hyksos rule for Joseph's sojourn and the Masoretic chronology. If, however, the variant reading of the Samaritan Hebrew Pentateuch and the Septuagint is correct, then the Biblical date for the Exodus remains intact and the rule of the Hyksos greatly enhances our appreciation of Joseph's rise to power and the hatred that later Egyptian rulers would have for the Jewish people.

Who Were the Habiru?

Embroiled in this debate is the question of whether or not there is archaeological evidence for the existence of Joseph, or for that matter, Moses in Egypt. Secular scholars and critics argue that there is no evidence that the Exodus ever occurred. However, most scholars do not expect to find direct evidence in Egypt. There are several reasons for this. First, the Exodus was only a magnanimous occasion for the Jews; for the Egyptians it was a humiliation. Egyptian historians are in full agreement that the ancient Egyptians employed not true historians, but ministers of propaganda. Indeed, what we know of the Hyksos rule and the reign of the famous Pharaoh Akhenaten come not from the Egyptians but from neighboring countries, Egyptian archaeology, and later day Egyptian historians. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the Egyptians leave no records at the time of the Exodus. Second, the Bible records no major events which would have left a direct impact on archaeology. There is no physical destruction of monuments or tombs, nor any description of massive burial sites, monument erections, or writings that were left behind in Egypt. Nonetheless, some critics have argued that the vanquishing of Pharaoh's army would have left enormous political repercussions throughout the Middle East. To this, conservatives reply that Pharaoh had many armies and people. The defeat was a humiliation but would not have seriously endanger his political power any more than a lost battle. Nevertheless, it is possible that Egypt did suffer a set back in foreign affairs.

In 1887, the infamous Armana tablets, the correspondence between Asiatic kings and the Egyptian court, were found. In these tablets Palestinian Kings repeatedly requested the assistance of the Pharaoh in dealing with invaders called the "Habiru." Despite these pleas, Pharaoh is either reluctant or unwilling to send help. This is particularly interesting since these Habiru were once considered synonymous with the Hebrews. The Hebrew pronunciation of "Hebrew" is "H'ebberu," which many associate with the "Habiru" of this correspondence. In 1936 Stephen Caiger could say confidently that "as far as the name goes, Habiru and Hebrew are identical." In addition, the fact that both occupied the area in Palestine gives confidence that they may be one and the same.

This argument, however, has become greatly doubted in recent years for a variety of reasons. While some have pointed out that the siege of Jerusalem, Lachish, and Shechem by the Habiru fits the description of Joshua's invasion almost precisely, others have pointed out that "Habiru" has been etymologically associated with the Sumerian verb "murder." Hence, it has been argued that the Habiru were simply murderers and bandits.

If, however, the Habiru are to be connected with the Hebrews then the Jews would already be living in Israel at this time (the 14th century). Indeed, A. T. Olmstead, who was no evangelical, even thought that he had identified the "Iashuia" of the Armana Tablets with Joshua. This would obviously support the early date for the Exodus (circa 1440 B.C.) and was almost universally accepted before the late date became popular. In addition, it may be evidence of the diminished power of Egypt, who failed to rescue their allies from the Habiru invaders.

While there are other problems related to the Habiru there does appear to be relation between the Habiru and the Hebrews. Most scholars now believe that the Habiru is a generic term which included Hebrews as well as other Semitic races. Eugene Merrill has pointed out that the word Hebrew in Hebrew is synonymous with an Eberite, those descended from Eber. He then suggest that the Habiru may be Eberites, and not necessarily the Jews. If this is so, then the confusion between Habiru and Jew may also explain the confusion created by Manetho's Egyptian account of the Exodus.

Manetho's Account

In the 3rd century B.C. the Egyptian priest Manetho records the first admission that the Exodus did occur. It is known only from extensive quotations by the first century historian Josephus and yet Josephus actually refutes Manetho's account as inaccurate and subject to Egyptian prejudice. Indeed, historians are of the opinion that Manetho's history has many corruptions and inaccuracies, but it is not Manetho's accuracy that is relevant, only the acknowledgment of the event itself.

Manetho begins his chronicle by discussing the reign and domination of the Hyksos. According to Manetho, whose dates have always been suspect, Egypt was ruled by the Hyksos for a period of "five hundred and eleven years." After this the Egyptians fought to drive the Hyksos people out of Egypt. He states that some of the Hyksos people were sealed up in the city Avaris but were eventually driven out by the Pharaoh Thummosis. He then states that these same people went on to found the city of Jerusalem in Judea. What is more intriguing, however, is that while Manetho identifies this group with the Hebrews he then recounts a period of several hundred years later wherein he identifies a heretic Egyptian priest named Osarsiph and his followers. We are told that Osarsiph and his followers were enslaved in Avaris by Amenophis for many years till Osarsiph sent dispatch to Jerusalem to request their assistance in his struggles against Egypt. The people of Jerusalem then came and "set the cities and villages on fire, but were not satisfied till they had been guilty of sacrilege, and destroyed the images of the gods." Manetho then concludes by stating that Osarsiph, "when he was gone over to these people, his name was changed, and he was called Moses."

Obviously, Manetho's account creates several problems. First, while he identifies the Hyksos people as the founders of Jerusalem he also describes the Exodus several hundred years later with the help of the same people. Manetho fails to distinguish the Hebrews from the Hyksos. This is also indicated by his confusion over whether the Hyksos were the "shepherd kings" or the "shepherd captives." Logically, however, this makes sense from an Egyptian bias. The Hyksos, who were "shepherd kings" were driven out, but the Jews remained behind where they became "shepherd captives." For the Egyptian, they were both Semitic people who had ruled over them. It is not illogical that Manetho would fail to distinguish between the two people. This may also be the case with the Habiru. The Habiru mentioned as conquering Canaan would most likely be synonymous with Israelites although the term may have been used for other Semitic races as well.

As for Manetho' account, all that is important is that he acknowledges that Moses led his people out of Egypt and that a Semitic race conquered Canaan. Another point of interest, however, is that Manetho does record the Exodus as having occurred out of Avaris. Moreover, the first Exodus account is said to have occurred under Thummosis. This could well be associated with Thutmose III, who most conservative scholars believe was the last Pharaoh of the oppression, and father of Amenhotep II, the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

Conclusions

While it cannot be proven which reading is the original there can be no doubt that the variant chronology existed several hundred years before the New Testament Era. The apostle Paul almost certainly subscribed to the variant chronology as his statement in Galatians 3:17 illustrates. Likewise, the strong indication of Moses' genealogy and the prophecy of Israel's return in the forth generation, of which Moses belonged, confirm that the sojourn spoken of in Exodus 12:40 was in both Canaan and Egypt. If this is so then the archaeology of the Hyksos can help enlighten the circumstances and events surrounding Joseph and the Egyptian sojourn.

Note : Endnotes were removed for space but can be found in my forthcoming book, Controversies in the Old Testament.

Copyright = David Criswell = 2004 = All rights reserved


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