My question is do we have any answer to the question of the Pharaohs in Genesis/Exodus that some say no names so no way to verify. and because of no names no reliability. Any help on this?


A good question.   For whatever reason, the fact is that Exodus does not name the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  Several have been proposed to be the historical Pharaoh whose heart was hardened and who eventually let the Jewish slaves leave Egypt.  Candidates include Thutmose III (14790-1425 BC) Amenhotep II (1427-1401 BC) and Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC).  Conservative Bible scholars are divided into those who believe the Exodus happened late in the 1400s BC (about 1420 BC) and those who claim it happened in the early 1200s BC (about 1280 BC).  I have looked at these theories and lean toward the 1400s BC.  Many people claim that the biblical story is a fable, with no historical basis at all.  As far as I know, the fact that the Pharaoh is not named does not change the question of reliability significantly. 

The fact is that we cannot prove absolutely who the Pharaoh of the Exodus is, but there is some evidence to be found in the Tel el Amarna letters.  These were a group of letters from leaders in Canaan written to officials in Egypt about local issues in Canaan.  The Tel el-Amarna tablets were discovered in the ruins of the Egyptian city of Amarna.  The city was built by Akhnaton, who ruled Egypt from 1387 to 1366 BC. The tablets are letters from local officials in Palestine and Syria, describing the situation in their provinces, requesting supplies and so forth. The letters in general describe a state of near anarchy in the outlying reaches of the Egyptian realms.  Most interestingly, the Amarna letters appear to mention events recorded in the book of Joshua. A number of the letters mention cities falling to an invading group. Specifically, they mention the fall of Gezer, Ashkelon and Lachish. All three of these cities are mentioned in the list of conquered cities in Joshua. This is quite significant, because the book of Joshua clearly implies that not all the cities of Canaan were conquered. Megiddo and Jerusalem were notable hold-outs. These cities are not mentioned in the el-Amarna letters as being conquered. One of the letters found at el-Amarna is from a certain Abdi-Hiba, governor of Jebus (later known as Jerusalem). The letter is addressed to Akhnaton, which implies it was written somewhere between 1387 and 1366 BC. This fits well with an approximate date of the exodus of 1420 BC. In the letter, Abdi-Hiba pleaded for military aid from Pharaoh Akhnaton;

The Habiru plunder all lands of the king. If archers are here this year, then the lands of the king, the lord, will remain; but if the archers are not here, then the lands of the king, my lord, are lost.?

Could the Habiru (or Apiru) of this letter be the armies of the Hebrews, conquering large parts of Canaan from the native dynasties, as described in Joshua? Some archaeologists have denied this contention. Many do so because they like to date the conquest to some time around 1270 BC. The obvious similarity of the spelling, combined with the perfect correspondence with the list of conquered cities makes the identification of the Habiru of the Tel el-Amarna letters with the Hebrews in the Bible seem likely.

There is additional evidence.  Archaeologists have brought forth evidence that both Jericho and Hazor were destroyed and burned during the late fifteenth or early fourteenth century BC. 

Is the biblical account of the Exodus reliable history?  It is fair to say that there is significant evidence that it did indeed happen about 1420 AD, but it would be an overstatement to say that this has been proved by the evidence.  I do not believe the lack of a name for the Pharaoh impacts this conclusion all that much.

John Oakes, PhD

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