Amenhotep II: Pharaoh of the Exodus

Statue of Amenhotep II at the Egyptian Museum (Turin)

The Bible nowhere mentions the name of the pharaoh of the Exodus, but Bible students have always been curious as to who he was. No doubt, some Christians will be wary of trying to discover something the Bible has not clearly revealed; but in studying this question one can come away with his faith increased in the Bible as the unerring word of God. Although the Bible does not specifically name the pharaoh of the Exodus, enough data is supplied for us to be relatively sure who he was.

Admittedly, there are two schools of thought concerning the date of the Exodus, the early date and late date theories. Proponents of the late date theory (1290 B.C.) are clearly in the majority, but they reject clear Biblical statements with reference to the date of the Exodus. Therefore their arguments in favor of a particular pharaoh will not be considered in this article.

The Book of First Kings states, “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 6:1 KJV).

This statement in Kings along with Egyptian and other secular records make it fairly straightforward to determine who was Pharaoh of Egypt and at approximately what time the Exodus occurred.

Before proceeding, the exact date of the Exodus must be established. The central text for this crucial historical event, (1 Kings 6:1), connects the Exodus to later Israelite history by noting that Solomon began constructing the Temple in the 480th year after the Exodus, signifying an elapsed time of 479+ years. All but the minimalists agree that the counting of the 479+ years should begin with May of 967 or 966 BC, depending on whether one accepts Young’s or Thiele’s version of Solomon’s regnal dates. Thus the 479+ years began either in 1446 or 1445 BC, either of which can be substantiated by the Biblical text and harmonized with the conclusions drawn from the present work.

A compelling argument for choosing 1446 BC is that the Jubilee cycles agree with this date exactly, yet are completely independent of the 479+ years of 1 Kings 6:1. The Jubilee dates are precise only if the priests began counting years when they entered the land in 1406 BC (Leviticus 25:2–10). The Talmud lists 17 cycles from Israel’s entry into Canaan until the last Jubilee in 574 BC, which is 14 years after Jerusalem’s destruction by using the Tishri calendar, a statement also found in chapter 11 of The Seder ‘Olam, which predates the Talmud. Consequently, 1446 BC is preferred over 1445 BC.

Wikipedia has a decent summary of all the plagues that Moses smote Egypt with under God’s authority (Plagues of Egypt).

And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether. Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold. And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people. And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger. And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
(Exodus 11:1-10 KJV)

The tenth plague upon Egypt specified that the firstborn of all classes of people, from pharaoh who sat on the throne to the lowest slave girl behind the millstone, along with the firstborn among the livestock, would all die at the hands of the Death Angel (Exodus 11:5). Being that the throne was included in this edict, one might expect that pharaoh himself—if he actually was the firstborn son of his father, which was the normal protocol for succession under Egypt’s dynastic rule—would have died during this last and most terrible plague (Exodus 12:29–30). However, since the exodus-pharaoh obviously lived through the final plague, he could not have been “the king’s eldest son,” a title the Egyptians liberally used of pharaoh’s eldest son, who stood in line behind his father as the heir apparent to the Egyptian throne. Therefore, in order for Amenhotep II to qualify as a legitimate candidate for the exodus-pharaoh, he could not have been “the king’s eldest son.”

Amenhotep II indeed would have survived the tenth plague, because he was not the firstborn son of Thutmose III. In the words of Redford, the idea that Amenhotep II was the eldest son of Thutmose III “does not seem possible in the light of our present knowledge.” Toward the middle of Thutmose III’s reign, in Year 24, the heir to the throne was not Amenhotep II, but Amenemhet, who was called “the king’s eldest son.” There is little doubt that he was the older half-brother of Amenhotep II who died before he could assume the throne. In an inscription from the Karnak Festival Hall that dates to Year 24, Amenemhet was being appointed to an administrative position in the temple of Amun, Appointing the king’s eldest son Amenemhet as overseer of cattle.” Since Amenemhet probably was no longer a child when the inscription was composed, he would have been born fairly early in the coregency of Thutmose III and Hatshepsut. Therefore, Amenhotep II would not have died during the tenth plague, as the record bears out that he was not the firstborn son of Thutmose III.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine. And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. This day came ye out in the month Abib. And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters. And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year. And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD’S. And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem. And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt. And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
(Exodus 13:1-22 KJV)

From most historical sources, it would appear that Amenhotep II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus. His father was probably Thutmose III, and it appears that Amenemhet was Thutmoses III’s firstborn son who died at the hand of the Angel of Death (Malach HaMavet). It also appears that Thutmose IV, son of Amenhotep II, was not the legitimate successor to the throne.

Although the Christian community historically has accepted that the exodus-pharaoh died in the Red Sea when his army drowned, there is no such statement to this effect in Exodus, the only first-hand source for the event, or anywhere else in Scripture. One of the most important principles that a theologian (Doug Petrovich ThM MA) was taught during his seminary studies is this: “Say everything the text says; say no more, and say no less!” Saying more than what is written in the text is known as eisegesis, or reading into the text what the interpreter presupposes it to say. Eisegesis must be avoided here. What does the text actually say about the fate of this pharaoh? Moses only states that the Lord would “be honored through pharaoh” by the destruction of his army (Exodos 14:4), but throughout the entire narrative of Exodus, Moses never explicitly states that pharaoh died along with his army.

Those who advocate that Pharaoh died with his army in the Red Sea is in the Book of Psalms, which says, “He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left” (Psalms 106:9-11 KJV).

I much prefer to believe that Pharaoh Amenhotep II returned to his palace and temples knowing well that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob defeated him and his army without any intervention from mankind. I can assure you that  Pharaoh Amenhotep II died a believer.

Hatshepsut who was the daughter of Thutmose I was the Egyptian princess who drew Moses from the Nile and legally adopted him to be her son and put him in line to be pharaoh. When Moses fled from Thutmose III in 1486 B.C. for slaying an Egyptian this put an abrupt end to Hatshepsut’s co-regency. Hatshepsut died shortly after Moses’ departure. Some say that Thutmose III had a hand in this either directly or indirectly.

Thutmose III apparently did something that only occurred one additional time in the span of Egyptian history. The Egyptian people viewed their pharaohs as being a god in the flesh. The temple of Hatshepsut lies along the Nile in the Diro Valley , just across from Karnak , where one can see what remains of Hatshepsut’s figure. Thutmose III, who undoubtedly hated her, completely eradicated nearly all her monuments throughout Egypt. Only on one other occasion would Egyptian authorities eradicate the monuments of a previous pharaoh and erase his name wherever found. This raises the question of any record of Moses and his place in Egyptian history.

The renowned conqueror Thutmose III led 17 military campaigns into the Levant, but his son—in stark contrast—led only two or three. While many scholars have attempted to determine the exact number, there exists a virtual dearth of discussion about this sharp decline. Aharoni attributes it to an underlying diminishment of Egyptian power: “Already in the days of Amenhotep II, the son of Thutmose III, cracks began to appear in the structure of the Egyptian Empire.” Vandersleyen hints at the dissipation of Egypt’s might by the end of Amenhotep II’s reign: “It seems possible to consider this reign as unsuccessful, a time of decline: a few exploits abroad, a few preserved memorials, an almost complete absence of sources after the ninth year of the reign.” Yet the intervening years featured neither Egypt’s engagement/loss in war nor a significant change in the political climate. Der Manuelian writes, “Despite Thutmose III’s military success, Mitanni remained Egypt’s primary adversary in Dynasty 18, and there is no reason to doubt her continued aggressive policy in the reign of the young King Amenhotep II.”

A papyrus dating from the end of the Old Kingdom was found in the early 19th century in Egypt. It seems to be an eyewitness account of the events preceding the dissolution of the Old Kingdom. Its author, an Egyptian named Ipuwer, writes:

  • Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.
  • The river is blood.
  • That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin!
  • Trees are destroyed.
  • No fruit or herbs are found.
  • Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.
  • Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.
  • The land is not light [dark].

This papyrus which supposedly dates from the Old Kingdom seems to discuss many of the plagues brought upon Egypt preceding the Exodus. Although science may date this as an Old Kingdom document, any researcher will discover that many Egyptologists cannot even agree on which date any particular pharaoh was on the throne, let alone when a papyrus document was created.

Much of this information has been taken directly out of the Holy Bible. Secular and historical information was extracted from the following sources.

  1. The Exodus and Ancient Egyptian Records
  2. The Exodus: True or False
  3. A Historical Timeline of the Bible
  4. Who Was The Pharaoh Of The Exodus?

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