Egyptian History and the Bible

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 29, 2015 2 comments

by Steve Risner

History. I'm a fan. My first love in academics is science. My second would be history. I have seen in many discussions that skeptics of the Biblical account use what they believe is recorded history as an example of well known facts that demonstrate the unreliable nature of God's Word. I’m sure many of these skeptics believe what they're suggesting. But the facts surrounding the accuracy of ancient historical records are less than settled and, in fact, there is a great movement towards reconciling ancient chronologies to better accommodate the Biblical chronology (whether intentionally or unintentionally). Today, I will use primarily Egyptian history as it is one often cited as evidence against the Biblical account.

First, let me say that the only reason I can see to doubt the clear text of Scripture is to compromise it with secularism and its rejection of God. But we should not adapt the Bible to fit the most recent version of history described by secularists. I say this because some have tried to suggest the Bible is allegorical in its opening chapters. There is literally no Biblical support for such beliefs. Hebrew scholars such as James Barr suggest, “...probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the [idea] that ... the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story.” This means a simple reading of the text can give us approximate dates of events found in Genesis. Using this method of arithmetic (known as addition and subtraction), we calculate that the creation of the earth took place just over 4000 BC, that the Flood occurred about 2400 BC, Abraham trusted in God around 1900 BC, and the Exodus was about 1500 BC. Any attempt to suggest any of these dates are incorrect is not based on the Bible but on extra-biblical beliefs, i.e. placing something else on equal footing with God's Word or even placing something else on higher footing than Scripture. But, as we'll see shortly, historical evidence supports Scripture far better than it supports the secular model of history.

Egyptian history is fascinating. Some would suggest it spans far into the past—further than the Flood. This is a major problem for a natural reading of the early parts of Genesis since all of mankind, save 8 people, was destroyed in the Flood. So skeptics will criticize the Bible because its chronology disagrees with the popularly believed chronology of ancient Egypt. But this argument assumes that the Egyptian chronology is correct and the Biblical chronology is wrong. One might just as easily argue that the Egyptian chronology is wrong, because it disagrees with the Bible. Do you see the problem there?

The currently accepted chronology of Egypt is not one of antiquity. It was actually not even devised until the 20th century. It was heaped in assumptions (that are unsupported) but is now held on to as truth. The standard Egyptian chronology causes problems for nearly every other civilization that it is used to date. Egyptian history isn't labeled with dates. It is based on the assumption that no two Egyptian dynasties ruled simultaneously which is demonstrably false. There were frequently ruling parties that ruled together in different parts of the nation of Egypt. Adjusting the history for this, which many historians are beginning to support, will alter the Egyptian time line such that it coincides perfectly with the Biblical account. Let me explain.

First of all, the Byzantine historian Constantinus Manasses wrote that Egypt existed for 1663 years. If we do the math from the year that Persia conquered Egypt, we find Egypt was founded by Mizraim, Noah's grandson, in 2188 BC. This was well after the Tower of Babel dispersion—over 150 years. The currently accepted chronology adds nearly 1000 total years to the national history of Egypt. This is one issue with the Bible we can clear up readily.

Secondly, we have the Hebrews in Egypt, according to the Bible, with no evidence of such an occupation. That is the claim, anyway. But using the standard Egyptian chronology developed within the last 100 years, which has already been shown to give us erroneous results, it doesn't line up with ancient historians and it's based on false assumptions. It's said the Hebrews should have existed in Egypt during the 18th dynasty. There is no archeological record of such a thing—no Hebrews, no slaves, no Exodus, no Moses. That's because the Hebrews were there more likely during the 12th dynasty. When the timeline is adjusted to fit other well-known events, it seems it fits the Biblical time line rather well. Let me explain further.

We can deduce the date of the Exodus by looking at I Kings 6:1, which tells us “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.” Historians agree for the most part that Solomon's 4th year would have been 966 BC. Working backwards, we're roughly at 1500 BC for the Exodus. Let's go further.

There seems there is enough evidence to support the existence of a Pharoah, Amenemhet III, who was a tyrant that enslaved a large number of foreigners. He had a son, Amenemhet IV. Mysteriously, Amenemhet IV vanishes without a word from all the ancient records. Amenemhet III had a daughter, Sobekneferu, who had no children. She became Pharaoh for 8 years and ended the 12th dynasty. The 12th dynasty was the time of the building of the pyramids. Why would the Egyptians need an entire nation of slaves if not to build these great structures?

You may be wondering why these names—Amenemhet and Sobekneferu—are not found in the Bible. It's common for names to be changed or for different peoples to refer to the same character with different names. In this case, the pharaoh in question is simply referred to as “pharaoh.” And if you look for such a nasty character during the 18th dynasty, you most certainly will not find him. You'd be 350 years or so too late. So the story is that Amenemhet III was the mentioned pharaoh. Sobekneferu found Moses in the river and adopted him. If she had no children, it would make sense for her to go to the river to pray to a god to provide her with a child. It would also make sense that a child, Moses, floating among the reeds that she found would be considered a gift from that god. He became Amenemhet IV. But Moses chose to identify himself with the Hebrews and, therefore, vanished from Egyptian record. Sobekneferu ruled 8 years after her father's death. When she died, so did the 12th dynasty. Another source of skepticism possibly taken care of.

But what of the plagues? Certainly such a devastating slew of events would have a record. Keep in mind we're talking about 3500 years ago or so. We're blessed to have any record of any of it. But we do find, written on papyrus some very interesting information. “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 with fire… Nay but men are few. He that lays his brother in the ground is everywhere… Nay but the son of the high-born man is no longer to be recognized… The stranger people from outside are come into Egypt… Nay, but corn has perished everywhere. People are stripped of clothing, perfume and oil. Everyone says "there is no more". The storehouse is bare… It has come to this. The king has been taken away by poor men.” (Erman, A., Ipuwer Papyrus, Leiden Museum, quoted from The Ancient Egyptians, a source book of their writings, Harper and Row, New York, pp. 94—101, 1966). To me, this sounds an awful lot like the land was devastated much like the Biblical account.

What about the Exodus? There is evidence that the slaves who lived in Kahun were the Israelites and that they left in a great hurry, leaving much of their belongings behind. This is in line with the Biblical account.

There are many other civilizations that confirm the Biblical account of historical events and people. When analyzed with an open mind, the truth of Scripture can be confirmed with external evidence. If one's desire is to fuel a hatred for the God of the Bible, no evidence will be seen that supports the Word of God. The closed mind cannot find God because he or she desires only to live in separation from their Creator. Any evidence that contradicts this notion will be brushed aside and ignored. The open minded and critically thinking individual can see God all around and appreciate evidence of His existence and the authenticity of His Word.


Charlie said...

Great stuff. And if there is any doubt about this, view the documentary "Patterns of Evidence: Exodus". The stuff Steve talks about here is REAL and it backs up every point the Bible makes.

Bill said...

You can also look at the latter chapters of Daniel and how they are validated by events in Egyptian history some 300 to 400 years later.