I am a Christian from Turkey.  Grace to you.  I couldn’t understand the connection between 1420 BC. and the letters of Tel el Amarna. In an article at your site you say that; “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.” I also believe that Exodus was at 1420 BC. But what is the connection between this date and letters. Why not 1430 or 1440 BC.?
Do you have any other academic sources about the 1420 BC. Actually this date (1420) is very important for my study. Thank you so much. God bless you.


It is very challenging to date the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land.  I have mentioned the Tel el Amarna letters as possible archaeological evidence for the conquest if parts of Canaan under Joshua.  I believe that this is helpful support, but should be used a bit cautiously.  One of the Tel el Amarna letters has a local ruler in Canaan asking for help because the “Hapiru” were attacking the land.  Might these be the Hebrews?  I say this is likely but not proved.

You ask why 1420 rather than 1440 BC.  The answer is that neither date can be ruled out, either by biblical or archaeological information.  However, experts who take both biblical and archaeological data seriously usually push the date forward to at least 1420 BC.  Some move it as far forward as 1280 BC!  As for dates, it is difficult to avoid circular reasoning in efforts to establish the date of the Exodus and the conquest.  It is tempting to pick a particular Pharaoh, identify him as the one whose heart was hardened and then produce an approximate date for the Exodus, then, having chosen a date, to subsequently try to give evidence that one has chosen the correct Pharaoh.  

One of the common dates given for the Exodus is in the last 20 years of the 15th century BC–about 1420-1400 BC.  This allows for an approximately 400 years from the time of Abraham and Isaac and about 300-350 years for the time of the Judges, which seems to fit biblical time frames.  If this is the case, then the Pharaoh of the Exodus might be Amenhotep III or even Amenhotep II.   If we accept the thesis that either Amenhotep II or III was the Pharaoh of the Exodus and that the Exodus happened about 1410 BC, then the conquest falls somewhere around 1370 BC.  This is several years before the traditionally accepted years of the reign of Akhenaten (who changed his name from Amenhotep IV because of this religious reforms).  The dates for Akhenaten I used in the article above are perhaps a bit too early.  The dates of the reigns of the Pharaohs is the subject of some controversy.  Consensus dates for Akhenaten are approximately the mid 1350s to the mid 1330s BC.   Given the uncertainty in the dates of the rule of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, as well as an even greater uncertainty about the date of the Exodus, it is reasonable to conclude that Akhenaten may be the Pharaoh, not of the Exodus, but of the conquest under Joshua.  The particular Tel el Amarna letter which mentions the Hapiru can be considered further evidence for this view, but I would not push this too hard.   It is far from hard proof.  It is wise to be cautious about the meaning of the word Hapiru and about the date of the Exodus.

I am not sure exactly why you find the date 1420 BC to be so important.  I suggest that you not place your faith too strongly on any particular Pharaoh or date for the Exodus.  One thing which may be causing you confusion is that I mention in this article 1420 BC and then say this fits with Akhenaten in 1387-1366.  Perhaps you are forgetting that the conquest is a bit more than 40 years after the Exodus.  So, an Exodus in 1420 BC means a conquest some time after 1380 BC.   In any case, please remind yourself that the Christian faith does not stand or fall based on a particular date for the Exodus.

If you want more information on the Egyptian Pharaohs, you should consult any good Egyptian history: The more recent the better.  New information is coming in all the time.  I suggest you take the dates given by historians with a grain of salt.  Scholars tend to be too confident of their dates at times.  However, you should assume that the order and names of rulers as well as the dates of their rule are approximately correct.

John Oakes

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