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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Pharaoh of the Exode

Owing to the deep interest in the history of that event, extraordinary efforts have been made by Biblical scholars to identify this Egyptian king, whose name is .not-given in the sacred narrative. Most writers have been content to, compare the-chronologies of Egypt and the Bible together, and rest in the simple synchronism, a result necessarily problematical from the acknowledged uncertainty of both these chronological schemes. Thus the Speaker's Commentary (1:455, Amer. ed.) concludes that the Egyptian monarch in question was Thothmes III; but this result depends upon a series of chronological calculations and comparisons every step in which is debatable. The most favorite identification, however, of late, has been with Menephthah I, son of Rameses II, or the great Sesostris. This is adopted by Brugsch, Bunsen, Chabas, Ebers, Lenormant, Lepsius, Rawlinson, De Rouge, Vigouroux, and others. We give the reasons pro ct con.

1. Josephus cites (Apion, 1:26 sq.) Manetho as stating that Moses was identical with a certain Osarsiph, or Egyptian priest of Heliopolis, who headed a revolt of a band of lepers in the reign of Amenophis; and this prince appears to be the Menephthah (or Mernephthah) of the monuments, and the Amenophath or Amenephthes of the 19th dynasty of Manetho's lists, by reason of his association, in the above account in Josephus, with Sethos or Rameses as his son, and Rhampses (or Rameses) as his father. But Josephus himself expressly and somewhat passionately contradicts the identification in question, and he alleges, and goes far to prove, numerous inconsistencies and fallacies in it, arguing, in, short, that the whole story is a mendacious invention, and especially dwelling upon the fact that the insurgents in that case, so far from succeeding in their escape from Egypt, were ultimately subdued and destroyed by the Egyptians.. The statements of Manetho himself, as extant in Syncellus and Eusebius, make no mention of-this identification, but variously name Amosis (head of the 18th dynasty) and Achencheroes (ninth king of the same dynasty) as the Pharaoh of the Exode.

In another passage (Apion, 1:32, 33) Josephus gives a similar narrative from Cheremon: but, as he justly shows, the contradictions of the story are there still more apparent. In a third account, from Lysimachus (ibid. 34) the Egyptian king's name is given as Bocchoris, and so all trace of identity disappears. Josephus himself repeatedly affirms that Manetho's own work gave Tethmosis (or Thummoses, son of Alisphragmuthosis [Misphragmuthosis]) as the name of the Pharaoh of the Exode.

2. The circumstances of Rameses II, father of the Egyptian king under consideration, are supposed to favor his identification with the Pharaoh of the oppression. and so to coincide with the theory in question. Thus he was a great builder of cities, especially (it is alleged) of Pi-Tum and Pi-Ramses, which are held to be the Pithom and Raameses of the Bible. But the last identifications are extremely doubtful, and the name Rameses appears as that of a district as early as Joseph's day (Genesis 47:11). The identification of an oppressed or conquered people in his reign, named Aperu on the monuments, with the Hebrews, is equally doubtful, both in the reading and application; it is at all events certain that the people so named were foreign serfs, and that they were employed in large numbers at a period considerably later than the Exode (Brugsch, Hist. of Egypt, 2:129). Opposed to this identification is the well-known character of the Rameses in question as a just and humane prince, who cannot have been guilty of the atrocious policy of drowning all the male children of a portion of his subjects.

3. The character and circumstances of Menephthah himself are not given with sufficient detail in the Egyptian chronicles or monuments to enable us to say with definiteness whether; they agree or, disagree with the Biblical account.... There is nothing in them, however, which tallies with the overthrow at the Red Sea. It, as the history in Exodus implies, and as later Scriptural notices expressly affirm (e.g. Psalms 136:15), the Egyptian king was himself: drowned there, it cannot have been Menephthah, who certainly reigned much longer than the brief interval between Moses' return to Egypt (Exodus 4:19; comp. 2:15) and the Exode. Moreover, Menephthah was one of a large family of sons born to Rameses during his long reign, and this militates decidedly against the adoption of Moses as heir through a daughter. Dr. Schaff adduces (Through Bible Lands, page 102) a circumstance-mentioned by Herodotus (2:111), that the successor of Sesostris (supposed to be Rameses II) was smitten with blindness for ten years as a punishment for hurling his spear into the Nile during an extraordinary overflow; but this looks to us very little, like the catastrophe at the Red Sea; and, besides, the historian calls the king in question Pheron, and he names his successor Proteus, words which have no place in the dynastic lists.

4. Finally and,conclusively, the chronology of the period will not allow this identification. The lowest date for the Exode is the Rabbinical, B.C. 1312; Usher's is 1491; Hales's, 1614; our own, 1658; while the dates assigned to the end of Menepothah's reign are as follows: Mariette, cir. B.C., 1288; Lepsius, 1273; Wilkinson, 1200; ours, 1175. The difference, in any case, is from a quarter of a century to, four centuries and a half. It is useless to plead the uncertainty of the dates in either line, because it is precisely here that both the Egyptian and the Biblical chronologies begin to be definite; and the tendency of modern criticism is to widen rather than contract the discrepancy at this point. This objection has not escaped Josephus, who expressly remarks (Apion, 1:27) that, according to Manetho, "Moses lived many generations earlier" than the king in question, or, more definitely (ibid. 26), 518 years, or, according to his own detailed estimate (ibid. 15), exactly 327 years. Our calculation, 483 years, is nearly a mean between. these. Josephus further states (Apion, 2:2) that Solomon built the temple 612years after the Jews came out of Egypt" (he elsewhere makes it variously 592 and 632 years in our own scheme it was 648 years); and he fortifies this date by. a reference to the then well-known contemporaneous Tyrian annals. He adds (ibid.) that the date of the Exode, according to the above notice of Lysimachus (i.e., as occurring under king Bocchoris) would make it "1700 years ago," or about B.C. 1630, which again is substantially our date. We conclude therefore that Josephus at least (from whom, be it noted, the whole basis of this proposed identification is derived) was clear and consistent as well as definitely grounded in his chronology, both in its Biblical and its Egyptian relations; and like him we must decidedly reject this synchronism. (See MANETHO).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pharaoh of the Exode'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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