We discussed last time about how Pharaoh’s heart gets hardened. This specific phrase occurs twenty times in Exodus, the first ten being Pharaoh’s doing and the next ten being Divine hardening. By the point that Pharaoh allows Israel to leave, we are left with the question of how much of a man is even left. Our reason would cause us to recognize that the Egyptian gods have failed against the might of this Hebrew God, and at some point we would recognize, as the advisers and the rest of Egypt recognized, that it is more beneficial to allow the Hebrews freedom than for all of Egypt to collapse.
In the search for the pharaoh of the Exodus, it isn’t difficult to figure out. 1 Kings 6:1 tells us that the Israelites exited Egypt 480 years before Solomon began building the Temple in 966 BC. That puts us at a window of about 1446 BC when the Israelites left Egypt. If we take the Scripture seriously, then we must take into account some of the drastic things it claims. If the Ten Plagues were even remotely close to the epoch recorded in Exodus, then we must expect an Egypt that is almost utterly demolished. In fact, if the Bible is even speaking partial truth, that these plagues took place, but not with the magnanimity described in Scripture, then we’re at least looking for a severe enough decline in Egypt that they would be allowed to go into the wilderness for worship.
So, the question is simple. At what time period, with what pharaoh, do we find a collapsed Egypt around the date 1446 BC? It seems simple enough, right? Where do we find in Egypt’s history a time where there could have been plagues, plundering, a severe loss of labor (which entails economic collapse), a massive military loss (the mighty northern army by the delta being drown in the Red Sea), and the loss of a Pharaoh? It seems like only one time in all of Egypt’s history could fit that bill…
Bible scholars are all over the map, some even placing the exodus in the 19th dynasty instead of 18th, but if we stick to about 200 years or so around 1446, we can have a decent examination that will satisfy all scholars. The time of the Hyksos in ancient Egypt were the people of Canaan swarming down into Egypt and realizing that they outnumber Egypt 10 to 1. This would be the time of famine recorded in Genesis 42 (0r s0). But, in the 18th dynasty, Ahmose unified Egypt once again. Then, the next two pharaohs (Amenhotep I and Thutmose I) build Egypt up. This incline continued for Thutmose II, and when Thutmose III came to rule (only being seven), his aunt Hatshepsut took over. About 20 years later, her name disappears, and her face is hacked off of everything. So Thutmose III comes to power. It is his rule, and not Ramses the Great, that stands alone – bar none – as the greatest time of Egyptian history. They have the greatest wealth, power, size, etc Egypt has ever seen.
He cannot be the pharaoh of the exodus, because after his reign Egypt continues an incline on getting even more powerful. It isn’t until you come to Amenhotep III (a grandson of Thutmose III) that we start to see some interesting things. Under Amenhotep III’s rule, Egypt suddenly pulls out of Canaan, leaving the region without organized kingdom. The Hittites, who have deliberately evaded any quarrel with Egypt up to this point, suddenly attack Mitanni (allies of Egypt) with hopes of success. Up to this point, Egypt was the superpower to fear, and the Hittites had no chance whatsoever to go against them in battle without being wiped off the face of the map.
Suddenly, Assyria, which was just a vassal state of Mitanni, becomes a mighty kingdom. With Mitanni out of the picture, Assyria rises to control Mesopotamia. Now rises a new king of Egypt: Akhenaten. He was originally Amenhotep IV, but changed his name to respect a new ‘god’ (dumping all of the old gods of Egypt). This man sees the decline of Egypt through his father and grandfather, and dumps the gods of Egypt that they knew, only to embrace a quasi-monotheism.
King Tut, the infamous boy-king of Egypt, dies at about 19 years old. His widow then writes to the enemy Hittites asking for a man to marry, because Tut has no sons. So, essentially, something happened around the kingdom of Akhenaten, the father of Tut, that resulted in no pharaoh in Egypt, the queen requesting an enemy to be given the throne, Egypt pulling out of all of their conquered regions, and the enemies of Egypt having no fear of growing into super-powers and/or attacking Egypt’s allies.
Who do you think is the pharaoh of the exodus?
Now, I write all of this because we need to understand the importance of what God is saying here with “Israel is my firstborn son.” Let us examine that more thoroughly in the next post, but with this understanding of how far God would go, to utterly ruin a nation (but not obliterate), we need to have a lot of reverence and respect for Israel. Let us not cast off this verse as “bizarre”, “out-dated”, or currently “obsolete”. Let us also not perform the equally grievous act of putting Israel on a pedestal that she does not deserve. Israel is the firstborn of God, and there are many questions associated with that statement that need to be dug through.