The Historical Moses and the Plagues of Egypt
In this document I present an overview of my interpretation of the Exodus events, as presented in my book Thera and the Exodus. It is shown how various events, persons, legends and myths combine to present a coherent account of the actual exodus events, and also how various persons in various exodus narratives can be linked to historical people. In fact, a better title for my book may have been How Legends and Myths Reveal the Truth about the Exodus!
- 1. Moses vs Crown Prince Tuthmosis
- 2. The Egyptian Prince Who Sent Messengers to Jerusalem
- 3. The Queen of Sheba
- 4. The History of the Queen of Sheba
- 5. The Treacherous Banquet
- 6. The Megiddo Ivory
- 7. Nefertiti
- 8. The Hittites
- 9. Helen of Troy
- 10. Saul vs Labayu
- 11. David
- 12. Solomon
- 13. Joseph vs Yuya
- 14. Amenhotep III and his Retreat into Ethiopia
- 15. The Army That Vanished
- 16. Sesostris
- 17. The Hyksos and the Hebrew Sojourn in Egypt
- 18. Moses and the Oracle
- 19. The Exodus – A Real Event?
- 20. The Plagues of Egypt
- 21. The Parting of the Sea
- 22. The Plunder of Egypt
- 23. The Eruptions of Thera
- 24. The El Arish Shrine Text
- 25. Akhenaten
By clicking on the hyperlinked topics below, the reader can jump to summaries of these topics as discussed in Thera and the Exodus and back again. Please note the reader will have to consult the book to look up my sources (references), and only new ideas or facts that I have come upon after the publication of the book will be referenced here. I have to apologise in advance – the summaries are written in such a way that the reader does not have to read sequentially through the topics, or will not miss much if a specific topic is skipped. This unfortunately leads to repetition of certain arguments between topics.
As background, the Old Testament relates how Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was named Israel, was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. When Joseph refused the sexual advances of his master Potiphar’s wife, she accused him of attempted rape and he was thrown into prison. There he correctly interpreted a dream of the Pharaoh, who eventually promoted Joseph to the position of vizier, the second most powerful man in Egypt next to the Pharaoh himself. During a famine Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt for food and were allowed to remain in Egypt.
Over time the Israelites grew in number, to the great concern of the Egyptian population and their king. A new king, who did not know Joseph, eventually decided to enslave the Israelites and they had to endure oppression until the arrival of Moses, a Jewish baby who was adopted by the wife of the pharaoh because of his beauty. Moses supposedly killed an Egyptian slave who had assaulted an Israeli slave and had to flee Egypt. In Midian God revealed himself to Moses in a burning bush and instructed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses interacted with the Pharaoh and brought ten plagues upon Egypt before the Pharaoh reluctantly gave the Israelites permission to leave. However, he soon regretted this decision and instructed his army to pursue the fleeing Israelites. The Israelites were trapped by the Red Sea, but Moses held out his staff and the Red Sea was parted, allowing the Israelites to cross on dry land, with walls of water standing upright on both sides. However, when the Egyptians attempted to follow them, the walls of water collapsed on them and the entire Egyptian army was drowned. The Israelites based themselves at Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The Israelites wandered in the desert for an additional 40 years before Moses died and they entered and conquered Canaan, their promised land.
One of the greatest enigmas surrounding the Old Testament is the identity of Moses, if such a person ever existed. In his book Act of God, Graham Phillips points out that the only set of circumstances in Egyptian history that matches those of the biblical Moses are those surrounding Crown Prince Tuthmosis, the prince who disappeared from the Egyptian scene under mysterious circumstances. In this section of The Moses Puzzle I show that Phillips was correct in his identification of Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis, and present information that Phillips somehow overlooked.
The clearest evidence linking Moses to the rule of Amenhotep III is presented by Josephus’ account in which, according to Manetho, Moses was a priest named Osarsiph who had led a rebellion against “fictitious” a king called Amenhotep, who had a scribe who was called Amenhotep, the son of Papis. It is a known fact that Amenhotep III had a famous scribe called Amehotep, the son of Hapu. Some scholars identify the king called Amenhotep with Akhenaten, but it nevertheless places Moses in the Amarna era. Apion records that Moses abandoned the customs of his forefathers and directed his prayers towards sun-rising, i.e. the sun worship that characterized the Amarna era.
That Moses had indeed led a successful rebellion against the Pharaoh is confirmed by Cheremon, Lysimachus, Africanus and Artapanus. From the Book of Exodus and other sources we learn that after the Israelites had plundered Egypt, they left the country armed and laden with treasure (see “The Plunder of Egypt”).
According to Artapanus, Chenephres, the Pharaoh of the Oppression,
“having given the name Apis to a bull, commanded the troops to found a temple for him, and bade them bring and bury there the animals which had been consecrated by Moses”
The burial of the first Apis bull was performed at a cemetery in Saqqara during the reign of Amenhotep III, and Prince Tuthmosis, as high priest of Ptah, assisted his father during the burial ceremony. This event unequivocally identifies Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis.
Another clear identification of Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis is given by a very peculiar event, namely the request by an Egyptian prince to the rulers of Jerusalem, that they should join him in his fight against Egypt (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”). In Manetho’s account the person who sent the messengers is called Moses, in the El Arish Shrine Text he is identified as the son of the ruling king, and in The Story of Joseph and Asenath as the eldest son of the king (i.e. his firstborn son), who had turned against his father. Given the Amenhotep III era setting, that person could not have been anyone else but Crown Prince Tuthmosis.
Although it is widely believed that Crown Prince Tuthmosis had died relatively young (as also interpreted as such from the Israelite side in the Story of Joseph and Asenath), these accounts make it abundantly clear that he had not – his escape from a fiery death (the “burning bush” episode) is discussed in the “Plagues of Egypt” section.
Although the Old Testament claims that several generations had passed between Joseph and Moses, Justin makes Joseph the father of Moses, and Cheremon makes them contemporaries who rebelled against Amenhotep. Ahmed Osman has identified the biblical Joseph as Yuya, the highest ranking court official of Amenhotep III (see Joseph vs Yuya”). Amenhotep had married Tiye, the daughter of Yuya and his wife Thuya, and Moses would as Crown Prince Tuthmosis have been Yuya’s (Joseph’s) grandson, not his son. With Yuya and Thuya probably both being of Jewish descent, Tiye, the mother of Tuthmosis (Moses) would then indeed have been Jewish as claimed in the Bible. The Hebrew scribes who penned down the Torah would never have acknowledged that Moses’ father would have been a full blooded Egyptian king.
Legends about Moses suggest that he was not just any prince in the royal household, but none other than the crown to the heir, the firstborn of the king. According to Josephus, the Pharaoh’s crown was given to Moses as an infant, i.e. he was the designated heir to the throne. Moses had also commanded the Egyptian army during a successful campaign against Ethiopia, a privilege no doubt reserved for the king’s crown prince (it is possible, however, that Josephus or his sources simply confused Amenhotep’s retreat into Ethiopia as an invasion by Moses). In the Koran it is stated that Moses was the one who used to ride in the carriage of the Pharaoh and dress like the Pharaoh, so that he was called ‘the son of Pharaoh’ by the people. This could hardly have happened to an adopted son, specifically from the Hebrews.
In Manetho’s account of the Exodus, Amenhotep’s scribe of the same name advised his king to expel all “polluted” (plague infected) people from Egypt, which would have included Egyptians as well as slaves. In Thera and the Exodus I argue that the priesthood of Amun had later convinced Amenhotep that, following as a last resort the practices of their northern Asiatic neighbours, all the firstborn in Egypt should be sacrificed in order to appease Sekhmet, the goddess of destruction. Several other ancient historians also mention the role of this scribe in the Exodus events (see “Moses and the Oracle”). In other words, these accounts can all be linked back to Manetho’s, which unfolded during the reign of Amenhotep III.
As pointed out by Osman, the remains of the greatest ever leader of Israel, Moses, were buried in an unknown grave. This paradox in Jewish history is readily explained if Moses and Crown Prince Tuthmosis had indeed been the same person – “Moses” would initially have been one of the oppressors of the Israelites. In fact, Moses had most likely been murdered and his corpse abandoned by Joshua and his followers. This is confirmed by Jewish accounts that Moses repeatedly but in vain begged for his life to be spared, then begged the Israelites for forgiveness for injuries he might have done them, and died shortly afterwards.
The origin of the name ‘Moses’ may simply have been (Tuth)Mosis. The Hebrew scribes would never have acknowledged that their greatest leader ever was named after an Egyptian god (Thoth). The name Tuthmosis is also rendered Thutmose, Tuthmose, Tutmosis, Thothmes and Djhutmose.
In conclusion, there appears to be more than sufficient evidence to identify the biblical Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis. Other topics in “The Moses Puzzle” link the Exodus to the Amarna era and therefore to Amenhotep III and his court.
A key event in the identification of the Exodus role players was recorded by Manetho, according to whom the biblical Moses was a priest during the reign of Amenhotep, who had a famous scribe called Amenhotep, the son of Papis (i.e. Amenhotep III, whose famous scribe was also known as Amenhotep, the son of Hapu). Other texts (the El Arish Shrine Text, The Story of Joseph and Asenath) unequivocally identify this priest as Crown Prince Tuthmosis, the eldest son of Amenhotep III.
- Manetho’s account
- The El Arish Shrine Text
- The Queen of Sheba
- The Story of Joseph and Asenath
- Correlation between and interpretation of the above accounts
“But when these men were gotten into it, and found the place fit for a revolt, they appointed themselves a ruler out of the priests of Heliopolis, whose name was Osarsiph, and they took their oaths that they would be obedient to him in all things.... he gave order that they should use the multitude of the hands they had in building walls about their City, and make themselves ready for a war with king Amenophis, while he did himself take into his friendship the other priests, and those that were polluted with them, and sent ambassadors to those shepherds who had been driven out of the land by Tefilmosis to the city called Jerusalem; whereby he informed them of his own affairs, and of the state of those others that had been treated after such an ignominious manner, and desired that they would come with one consent to his assistance in this war against Egypt. He also promised that he would, in the first place, bring them back to their ancient city and country Avaris, and provide a plentiful maintenance for their multitude; that he would protect them and fight for them as occasion should require, and would easily reduce the country under their dominion.
These shepherds were all very glad of this message, and came away with alacrity all together, being in number two hundred thousand men; and in a little time they came to Avaris. And now Amenophis the king of Egypt, upon his being informed of their invasion, was in great confusion, as calling to mind what Amenophis, the son of Papis, had foretold him …He then passed on with the rest of the Egyptians, being three hundred thousand of the most warlike of them, against the enemy, who met them. Yet did he not join battle with them; but thinking that would be to fight against the gods, he returned back and came to Memphis, where he took Apis and the other sacred animals which he had sent for to him, and presently marched into Ethiopia, together with his whole army and multitude of Egyptians; for the king of Ethiopia was under an obligation to him, on which account he received him, and took care of all the multitude that was with him, while the country supplied all that was necessary for the food of the men.”
The El Arish Shrine Text
“Then the children of the dragon Apep, the evil-doers [of Usheru?] and of the red country came upon the road of At Nebes, invading Egypt at nightfall …
Now it came to pass that the majesty of Shu obtained the whole land, none could stand before him, no other god was in the mouth of his soldiers [but sickness came upon him?] …. confusion seized the eyes?: he made his chapel …. evil fell upon this land, a great disturbance in the palace, disturbed …. those who were of the household of Shu. … The majesty of Shu departed to heaven with his attendants.
Now these [nine] days were in violence and tempest: none whether god or man could see the face of his fellow. The majesty of Seb came forth appearing? on the throne of his father Shu: every royal dwelling? did him homage.
… his majesty (Seb) was in his castle of Ruling the Two Lands in the Land of Henna? his majesty had sent messengers to summon to him the foreigners and Asiatics from their land.”
In this text Asiatics invade Egypt, Shu ‘departs to heaven’ with his assistants, Seb, his son, usurps his father’s throne, and only then sends messengers to summon to him the Asiatics from their land. Whoever wrote inscribed this text, seems to have had the sequence of events a bit muddled up – the messengers were sent first, upon which the Asiatics invaded Egypt.
The Queen of Sheba
Various legends about the Queen of Sheba relate that messengers were sent back and forth between Solomon in Jerusalem and this queen, before she eventually arrived at his court. Although ‘Sheba’ is usually interpreted to refer a place in Yemen, Josephus calls this queen the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia, and the New Testament refers to her as the Queen of the South. How is it possible that Josephus could have made such a glaring mistake? The most logical explanation is that he was absolutely right. In Thera and the Exodus I show that Saul, David and Solomon were Amarna contemporaries (see “Saul vs Labayu”), and this queen was in all probability the daughter of Bathsheba (meaning ‘daughter of Sheba’) the wife of David. That she sent her daughter to Joseph in Egypt is suggested by the Arabic History of the Queen of Sheba, and once she had become queen of Egypt, she would have been know as Sheba’s queen, Sheba having been the arch rival of David.
In the Koran it is stated that the people of her country worshipped the sun (the Aten, during the Amarna period), and he Megiddo ivory shows an Egyptian queen with a crown like Nefertiti’s, a Hittite lyrist, captive kings, etc, visiting a Canaanite king on his throne (see “The Queen of Sheba”, “The Megiddo Ivory”). It would seem, then, that the ambassadors or messengers sent by Moses (the king’s son) were led by the Queen of Sheba, who could not have been anyone but Nefertiti.
The Story of Joseph and Asenath
We now come to an unexpected source that relates the ‘messenger’ story from the Israelite side. In The Story of Joseph and Asenath we find a crucial piece of evidence to support Manetho’s version of events (Chapters XXIII onwards) – the eldest son of the ruling pharaoh wanted to turn against his father (kill him and Joseph) and had sent messengers to the tribes of Israel and summoned them to appear before him, supposedly because he had been wronged by Joseph and had wanted to take Joseph’s beautiful wife, Asenetah, for himself. He recognized their superiority as soldiers (compared to the Egyptians) and promised the Israelites riches, women, houses and estates. Some of them evidently refused the offer, while others accepted. The king’s son also promised to kill his father. At the same time Asenath was to go on a journey to a country estate, escorted by 600 men and 50 outrunners. They were led into an ambush from which she narrowly escaped. Benjamin, one of the brothers of Joseph, is suddenly found in her chariot and saves her life by critically wounding the king’s son with a stone. In the end, the king’s son dies and is greatly mourned by his father. The pharaoh died (at the age of 109) and left his crown to Joseph, who was king of Egypt for 48 years. After this “Joseph gave the crown to Pharaoh’s grandson, and Joseph was like a father to him in Egypt”.
Correlation between and interpretation of the above accounts
- All four accounts relate that messengers (ambassadors) were sent from Egypt to Jerusalem (Canaan, land of the Asiatics). Furthermore, Osarsiph’s promise to the shepherds driven out by Tefilmosis (Ahmose) to Jerusalem, that he would return their ancient city and country Avaris to them, confirms that the Israelites and the Hyksos were one and the same people (see “The Hyksos and the Israelites”).
- Manetho’s account leaves no doubt that these events occurred during the reign of Amenhotep III. The El Arish Shrine text states that it was the king’s son who sent the messengers, and in The Story of Joseph and Asenath it was the king’s eldest son who had sent the messengers, i.e. Crown Prince Tuthmosis.
- The Story of Joseph and Asenath links Joseph directly to the person who sent the messengers to the Jews, namely the eldest son of the king, Crown Prince Tuthmosis. In other words, Joseph and Yuya were indeed one and the same person (see “Joseph vs Yuya”).
- In three of these accounts, the Asiatics/Israelites are summoned to come to the person who sent the messengers (Moses / the king’s son / the king’s eldest son), and in two they are specifically instructed to join Moses / the King’s son in a war against Egypt.
- In Manetho’s account Moses promises the shepherds in Jerusalem “plentiful maintenance for their multitude” as well as the return of the land to them. In The Story of Joseph and Asenath the king’s son promises them riches, women, houses and estates.
- In three accounts the Israelites / Asiatics invade Egypt.
- In Manetho’s account Moses and his rebels effectively drove Amenhotep III from Egypt to Ethiopia and ravaged the country (Egypt). In the El Arish text the king (Shu) and his attendants “departed to heaven” (see “The Army That Vanished”) and Seb usurped his father’s throne. In The Story of Joseph and Asenath the pharaoh died and left his throne to Joseph, who passed it on to the Pharaoh’s grandson, and to whom Joseph was like a father.
- The account of Asenath being accompanied by 600 soldiers to a ‘country estate’ matches Nefertiti’s visit, as the Queen of Sheba, to Jerusalem.
- The death of the king’s son, as perceived by the Israelites, confirms that Crown Prince Tuthmosis was believed to have died (see “Moses vs Tuthmosis” and “The Plagues of Egypt”). However, Manetho’s account that it was Moses who sent the messengers to Jerusalem, and Artapanus’ identification of Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis through the burial of the first Apis bull (see “Moses vs Tuthmosis”), make it clear that he had survived whatever death was intended for him. The Israelites from Jerusalem would not have known that he would become the future Moses.
Surprising confirmation from Genesis and Exodus
The thought just occurred to me, whether the Old Testament as we know it, would not by any chance, in one way or another, also refer to an invasion of Egypt by the Israelites. And lo and behold, it does - Joseph’s brothers, exactly the same guys who, in the Story of Jospeh and Asenath, invaded Egypt at the request of the king’s eldest son, so that he (this son of the king), could kill his own father. Following the usual justification of their deeds, and the embellishments, etc., etc., we read in Josephus’ account of Joseph and his brothers, that they (the brothers) had come to Egypt, supposedly because of a famine in their land (Israel / Palestine may have been suffering the same deadly plagues that Egypt was), and that they had left Egypt and with “wagons full of corn, and gold, and silver.” This matches Manetho’s description of the Hyksos rulers invading Egypt and plundering it for at least a decade. In Genesis 45 we read that Joseph supplied his brothers with transport wagons and silver money for their journey back to Jerusalem. It is even indirectly admitted in Exodus that the Israelites had plundered Egypt for more than a decade, 17 years in fact, and that they "had possession in it" (Exodus 47: 27-28). This more or less matches Manetho's "fatally determined 13 years", which Amenhotep III spent in Nubia.
In Exodus 12:36 we read “The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” This must have been an attempt by a scribe or scribes who could not deny that the Israelites had plundered Egypt, but needed some feeble justification (nonsense, of course) for why or how Egypt had been plundered. The ancient scribes must have assumed that all of these events had happened in sequence (Joseph and his brothers settling in Egypt and the Israelites growing in numbers, followed by their enslavement and then the Exodus), not knowing or realizing that Joseph (Yuya) was a central figure in the Exodus from Egypt of the Hebrews earlier enslaved by Ahmose I and the Tuthmosid family.
According to the Old Testament, the Queen of Sheba had heard of Solomon’s famed wisdom and came from her country to try him with questions and talk to him about ‘all that she had on her mind’. Impressed with his wisdom, she showered him with gifts including gold and spices. He reciprocated by giving her more than she had given him, upon which she and her servants returned to her country.
Most scholars seem to agree that the country of ‘Sheba’ was a country called Saba with its capital at Marib in modern Yemen. However, Josephus refers to her as the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia, the New Testament calls her Queen of the South and in the Ethiopian cultural work called the Kebra Nagast, Sheba was located in Ethiopia. Therefore, in direct contrast to modern interpretation, all the ancient references to the location of the country called Sheba place it in Egypt and Ethiopia, countries that are located directly south of Israel.Furthermore, it is rather absurd to think that a queen would travel more than 2000 km on land to a foreign king, simply to bring him gifts, ask him a few questions and then travel the 2000 km back to her own country. The legend of Solomon’s fabled wisdom as the reason for her visit must be seen as an embellishment by later scribes who had no idea why the visit had actually taken place. Solomon’s fame as a world leader who received tribute from other kings of the world is likewise nothing more than an attempt to explain how Solomon ended up with so much wealth – it was the wealth plundered from Egypt (see “Solomon”, “The Plunder of Egypt” and “Messengers to Jerusalem”).
I argue that the ‘Sheba’ referred to in her title does not reflect a country, but a man called Sheba. Sheba was the fiercest public opponent of David and was eventually hunted down and killed by David. It was most likely this Sheba whose daughter Bathsheba was married to Uriah, the Hittite (“bath-Sheba” means “daughter of Sheba” in Hebrew). Uriah was murdered by David, who then took Bathsheba as his wife. David murdered Bathsheba’s son by Uriah the moment he was born, but fearing for the safety of the daughter she had with Uriah, Bathsheba must already have sent the child to Joseph in Egypt. This daughter would become one of the most beautiful queens Egypt had ever seen, Nefertiti (see “Nefertiti”), or Sheba’s Queen.
The following points support the above hypothesis:
- According to one particular Old Testament legend Moses had fled to the king of Ethiopia, the capital of which was called Sheba , as also claimed by Josephus . In the Arabic legend called The History of the Queen of Sheba it is stated that “Sheba” was the name of the king who founded the kingdom and also the name of the capital of the country (the country called Sheba) . In other words, it seems that a tradition that “Sheba” was initially a person, and not a place, had been preserved in these rather garbled legends about the exploits of Moses. Furthermore, it places Sheba in Ethiopia. The exploits of the Queen of Sheba and the tyrant she faced (see “The History of the Queen of Sheba”) places her in Ethiopia, matching Josephus’ claim that she was called the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.
- In his book A Test of Time David Rohl shows that the Amarna contemporaries Labayu and Dadua can be equated with the biblical kings Saul and David. Rohl used this link to move the Amarna period later in time, to ca. 1000 BCE, the conventional dating of Israel’s United Monarch under King David. However, he should rather have moved the poorly attested era of United Monarchy earlier in time to match the well-established dating of the Amarna era. Solomon was, therefore, also an Amarna contemporary.
- The Koran refers to her as the queen of the country where they worship the sun. The worship of the Aten (the sun disk) was probably the most outstanding characteristic of the Amarna era and the only significant queen of Egypt during the Amarna era was Nefertiti.
- When the United Monarchy is moved back in time to match the Amarna period, it can be shown that the so-called Megiddo ivory depicts a visit by an Egyptian queen to a Canaanite king (see “Megiddo Ivory”). Several aspects of the Megiddo ivory can be linked to the Queen of Sheba, the Amarna era and Nefertiti herself.
- By comparing numerous common aspects of their lives, Ahmed Osman has shown that the biblical Joseph and the Egyptian courtier Yuya must have been one and the same person. In “Messengers to Jerusalem” I show that the link between Joseph and Yuya is unequivocally confirmed by the Jewish legend The Story of Joseph and Asenath. That Bathsheba must have sent a daughter to be raised by Joseph in Egypt is likewise confirmed by The History of the Queen of Sheba, in which it is recorded that she was raised by a vizier who had fallen from grace with his king, but was reunited with and promoted to vizier by the same king (see “The History of Queen of Sheba”). This matches the biblical Joseph who had fallen from grace with his master, but became the second most powerful man in Egypt after the king himself.
- Herodotus refers to the Queen of Sheba as Nitocris (Nicaule) and relates that she had invited the murderers of her brother to a banquet, during which she had them drowned. A similar murder is described in The History of the Queen of Sheba and all indications are that it was Nefertiti who had avenged the murder of her husband Akhenaten (see “The Treacherous Banquet”).
- Finally, one must consider the real reason why Sheba’s queen had visited Solomon. In Thera and the Exodus I postulate that the ambassadors (or messengers) sent by Moses (Crown Prince Tuthmosis) must have been of a high enough stature to convince a vassal state of Egypt to go to war with its masters. Had only a man on a camel been sent, he would probably have been executed for suggesting revolution against the king of Egypt. However, if this delegation had been headed by Nefertiti at the request of Tuthmosis, to whom she most likely had been betrothed before calamity struck Egypt, she would have been taken much more seriously. The gifts she brought Solomon were in all probability merely a promise that there would be more wealth awaiting Solomon in Egypt, were he to join the rebellion against Egypt. She would also have had a more private goal for visiting Solomon – he would have been her half-brother by Bathsheba. In The Story of Joseph and Asenath, which relates the arrival of the messengers from Tuthmosis as experienced by the Israelites, it is also recorded that Asenath, readily identifiable as Nefertiti and not Joseph’s wife (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”), had been escorted by more than 600 soldiers on a trip to a country estate. That trip would in all probability have been Nefertiti’s visit to Jerusalem.
- Baring-Gould, Rev. S., Legends of Old Testament Characters from the Talmud and Other Sources, MacMillan and Co., 1871, p. 256.
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 2.10.2.
- Baring-Gould, p. 344.
While completing my book Thera and the Exodus, I stumbled upon a book by Sabine Baring-Gould called Legends of Old Testament Characters from the Talmud and Other Sources . This book presents a legend called The History of the Queen of Sheba, listed in full in Thera and the Exodus (Appendix I), which presents very specific information about this fabled queen.
- Baring-Gould, Rev. S., Legends of Old Testament Characters from the Talmud and Other Sources, MacMillan and Co., 1871.
we read of a very peculiar incident it the life of this famous queen. The sex-obsessed tyrant who ruled her country had asked the vizier who brought her up for her hand. She arranged a ‘magnificent banquet’ for the marriage ceremony, got her husband drunk afterwards and stabbed him to death. The Queen of Sheba can be linked to Nefertiti (see “Queen of Sheba”, “Nefertiti”), so is there any evidence to be found that could link Nefertiti to such a deceitful event?
We find two other ‘treacherous banquet’ events in legends pertaining to Egyptian. The first involves a legend recorded by Herodotus about a queen called Nitocris, who was preceded by hundred and thirty male kings that came after Menes (Min):
They say that she succeeded her brother, he had been king of Egypt, and was put to death by his subjects, who then placed her upon the throne. Bent on avenging his death, she devised a cunning scheme by which she destroyed a vast number of Egyptians. She constructed a spacious underground chamber, and, on pretence of inaugurating it, contrived the following: Inviting to a banquet those of the Egyptians whom she knew to have had the chief share in the murder of her brother, she suddenly, as they were feasting, let the river in upon them, by means of a secret duct of large size. This, and this only, did they tell me of her, except that, when she had done as I have said, she threw herself into an apartment full of ashes, that she might escape the vengeance whereto she would otherwise have been exposed.
According to Josephus, Herodotus referred the queen who succeeded the hundred and thirty kings as Nicaule, and he states that it was she, as the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia, who had visited Solomon. In other words, the Nitocris and Nefertiti must have been one and the same person. Could the above legend apply to Nefertiti?
In what is generally known as the Zannanza affair, the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I had received a letter from an Egyptian queen, asking him for one of his sons as a husband,
My husband died. A son I have not. But to you, they say, the sons are many. If you were to give me a son of yours, he would become my husband. Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband! I am afraid!
He who was my husband has died. A son I have not! Never shall I take a servant of mine and make him my husband! I have written to no other country; only to you have I written! They say your sons are many: so give me one of your sons! To me he will be husband, but in Egypt he will be king!
The Hittite king eventually sent his son Zannanza to Egypt, but he was assassinated along the way, leading to hostilities between the two countries. Nicholas Reeves presents a strong case that the king and queen were Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, who had six daughters but no sons. In fact, there is additional circumstantial evidence which suggests that the queen in question was Nefertiti:
- One should first and foremost ask whether a set of circumstances ever existed in Egypt that would allow an Egyptian queen to make such a request. To this question there is only one answer – the Amarna era. At the time of Akhenaten’s death, after which Nefertiti had become sole ruler (as Smenkhkare, see Thera and the Exodus), Egypt had been overrun by Egyptian rebels and Asiatic forces from Jerusalem. With the bulk of the Egyptian army and the Egyptian elite still in Ethiopia, it would make sense that she thought it possible to appoint a foreigner as her husband and king of Egypt, perhaps hoping that she could force the Egyptian army to remain in Ethiopia.
From the above legends one can conclude that Nefertiti had avenged the murder of her husband Akhenaten (not her brother’s) by setting up a banquet at which his murderers had been killed. She would afterwards have had ample reason to fear for her life, as suggested by Herodotus’ account of Nitocris and the letters to the Hittite king.
The other legend pertaining to Egypt relates how the legendary king Sesostris narrowly escaped being murdered by his brother,
This Sesostris, the priests went on to say, upon his return home, accompanied by vast multitudes of the people whose countries he had subdued, was received by his brother, whom he had made viceroy of Egypt on his departure, at Daphnae near Pelusium, and invited by him to a banquet, which he attended, together with his sons. Then his brother piled a quantity of wood all round the building, and having so done set it all alight. Sesostris, discovering what had happened, took counsel instantly with his wife, who had accompanied him to the feast, and was advised by her to lay two of their six sons upon the fire, and so make a bridge across the flames, whereby the rest might affect their escape. Sesostris did as she recommended, and thus while two of his sons were burnt to death, he himself and his other children were saved. The king then returned to his own land and took vengeance upon his brother.
The vast majority of scholars appear to accept Manetho’s identification of Sesostris as Senusret, due to the phonetic similarity of the names. However, none of them appear to have considered the possibility that Sesostris, and its variants Sesonchosis and Sesoösis are simply concatenations of Greek words (see “Sesostris”), and can be linked to Tuthmosis III, the most powerful Egyptian ruler ever. In Thera and the Exodus I point out that some legends about Sesostris (Tuthmosis III) had mistakenly been attributed to the other, and perhaps the most glorious king of Egypt, Amenhotep III. The ‘brother’ Amehotep III would have left in charge of Egypt after his departure (to Ethiopia) would most likely have been Ay, who would have overseen matters during the reign of the inexperienced Akhenaten. The fact that Sesostris (as Amenhotep III) sacrificed two of his sons in the fire accords with the Amenhotep’s instruction that all the firstborn in Egypt should be sacrificed in fires (see “Plagues of Egypt”).
As discussed in “Helen of Troy”, there is a similar tale of deceit in one of the legends about the Trojan War. In Homer’s Odyssey Agamemnon (Amenhotep III) is invited to a banquet by his wife and her lover Aegisthus, and murdered afterwards.
To conclude, we have four inter-related incidents of a banquet at which the guests or the most important guest were killed. In The History of the Queen of Sheba it was the tyrant (Amenhotep III) who was killed, Sesostris (as Amenhotep III) narrowly escaped death, in Homer’s Odyssey he (Agamemnon) is killed, and Nitocris’ guests were killed. It is clear that nobody knew exactly what had happened, and the fact that Amenhotep III had long before disappeared into Egypt, or that Akhenaten had been murdered, must have given rise to the belief that the king of Egypt died at the banquet. Herodotus’ account, in which Nitocris avenged the murder of her brother, is probably most accurate – it would have been Nefertiti who had avenged the murder of Akhenaten.
Finally, one can only speculate what the fate of the Nefertiti (as the Queen of Sheba or Zannanza’s queen) might have been, but there are indications that she had met with a violent end. In the El Arish Shrine text Tefnut (Nefertiti) is ‘seized by force’ by Seb (Crown Prince Tuthmosis), but according to Manetho it was Armias (Ay) who had ‘used violence to the queen’. In the Koran it is stated that
….because she believed in Moses, her husband cruelly tormented her, fastening her hands and feet to four stakes, and laying a large millstone on her breast, her face, at the same time, being exposed to the scorching beams of the sun … at length God received her soul. … but no more than four of the other sex had attained perfection; … Asia the wife of Pharaoh, …
The wife of the pharaoh who ‘believed in Moses’ could not have been anyone but Nefertiti, who, at the request of Crown Prince Tuthmosis (Moses), had visited Solomon to convince him to come to Egypt and aid Tuthmosis in his war against his father (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”).
An intriguing relief carved from hippopotamus incisors was found in the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1350-1150 BCE) strata of Megiddo, and depicts a Canaanite king being visited by what appears to be an Egyptian queen. Its early date, more than anything else, has probably prevented scholars from seriously considering that the scene may depict Solomon being visited by an Egyptian queen. The United Monarchy of Israel, which represents the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon, is traditionally dated to around 1000 BCE, which would preclude such an association. However, David Rohl, in his A Test of Time, has shown that Saul as Labayu and David as Dadua were indeed Amarna contemporaries, and therefore Solomon as well (see “Saul vs Labayu”). Rohl even remarks that the flat-topped crown worn by the queen is similar to those worn by the royal ladies of the Amarna court. For some reason he did not risk identifying her with Nefertiti (see “Nefertiti”). With Rohl’s identification of Solomon (by implication) as an Amarna contemporary, the Megiddo ivory warrants a new look in this context.
Figure 6.1 shows a traced outline version of the Megiddo ivory. Comments on the ivory are made through the capital letters on the image. It is argued that this scene represents Nefertiti as the Queen of Sheba (see “Queen of Sheba”) visiting Solomon, seated on the cherubim throne. The scene on the ivory carving must certainly represent a major historical event rather than an everyday court scene, namely the visit of a queen accompanied by musicians, bringing gifts (as symbolised by the lotus flowers), captive slaves and an armed escort as suggested by the soldiers and the chariot.
Figure 6.1. The Megiddo Ivory (Late Bronze Age)
- Soldiers with a beard similar to the Canaanite king and the captive kings. The Egyptians did not wear beards, but Akhenaten had an elite unit of Asiatic soldiers, so they most likely would have formed part of the military escort that accompanied Nefertiti to Jerusalem.
- The winged sun disk, an unmistakable symbol of Egypt.
- Lotus flowers, also a prominent Egyptian symbol.
- Captive kings – most likely the ‘Hyksos’ kings that were captured by Ahmose and later Tuthmosis III, and recognised as the early Israelites by Manetho and Josephus. Jewish tradition concerning the Queen of Sheba relates that she brought slaves to Solomon, albeit children and not men.
The female lyrist with tresses in her hair is of special interest. According to The History of the Queen of Sheba (see topic), Balkis, the Queen of Sheba, was accompanied by four female slaves, ‘one singing, another harping, a third dancing, and a fourth pouring out wine for the king’. It would appear that Nefertiti was fond of music and took her female musicians with her everywhere she went, as suggested by the female lyrist on the ivory. Similar images were also found on reliefs in royal (?) Amarna buildings.
…each great house, whether royal or private, seemed to possess a band of female musicians … It will be noticed that the women in the upper room of both houses have a peculiar mode of wearing the hair, by dividing it into one or more tresses curling at the ends … This lock or tress is quite un-Egyptian, but is familiar to us in men (and women) of Hittite race …
In other words, the Megiddo ivory depicts a queen accompanied by a Hittite lyrist (Figure 6.2), exactly as claimed by Arabic sources and found on reliefs in Amarna buildings.
Figure 6.2. Hittite lyrist from the Megiddo Ivory
foreign queen with an Amarna-style crown, offering the king lotus flowers
wine – a familiar gesture of devotion by Nefertiti and her attendants
(see Thera and the Exodus). It is possible
that the crown was
indeed Nefertiti’s fabled flat-topped crown, but that the
carved the ivory could not replicate it accurately or only saw it
drew it from memory. Nefertiti also seems to have had more than one
flat-topped crown, as suggested by the crown she wears on a limestone
of her and Akhenaten (Figure 6.3, left), compared to the crown she
wears on her
famous bust (Figure 6.3, right). The crown on the Megiddo Ivory
suggests that the queen in question was Nefertiti.
Figure 6.3. Crowns worn by Nefertiti
- The person on the throne is without doubt a king, which would match Solomon as the king of Israel. He has the same Asiatic beard as the captive kings and the soldiers. Their beards are also very similar to that of Yuya, the biblical Joseph (see “Joseph vs Yuya”).
The king is seated on a throne with
winged creatures as armrests
(Solomon’s throne had lions next to the armrests).
As shown in Figure
6.4, the Megiddo Ivory throne is nearly identical to the
throne of Ahiram,
Solomon’s king Hiram. Probably due to his association with
the traditional dating of the United Monarchy to ca. 1000 BCE,
sarcophagus is dated to the Early Iron Age, which followed the Bronze Age.
surprisingly, though, items associated with Ahiram’s sarcophagus date to
the Late Bronze Age, as does the Megiddo ivory.
Ahiram’s sarcophagus remains a subject of controversy.
Figure 6.4. Throne of Ahiram (left) and throne of the Megiddo Ivory king (right)
To conclude, there are just too many aspects of the Megiddo Ivory that match those of Nefertiti and the Queen of Sheba for the scene it depicts not to represent Nefertiti’s visit to Solomon.
Nefertiti (full name Neferneferuaten Nefertiti), meaning “the beautiful one has come” (see Figure 7.1), was the beautiful wife of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten (see “Akhenaten”), who abandoned the plethora of Egyptian gods in favour of a single god, the Aten. Little is known about her origins, although some have speculated that she may have been a daughter of Ay, a later pharaoh of Egypt. In Thera and the Exodus it is argued that Nefertiti was the daughter of the biblical Bathsheba (“daughter of Sheba”), by her Hittite husband Uriah. When David murdered her husband and took her as his own wife, Bathsheba had sent the infant daughter to the biblical Joseph in Egypt, to safeguard her against the murderous David.
As such, she became the Queen of Sheba (see “Queen of Sheba”, “History of the Queen of Sheba”), who was sent by the biblical Moses (see “Moses vs Tuthmosis”) to Solomon in Jerusalem (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”, “Megiddo Ivory”) to convince them to join Moses in his rebellion against Amenhotep III.
Figure 7.1. Bust of Nefertiti
The following points are of interest:
- The crucial link between Nefertiti and Bathsheba is the dating of the United Monarchy of Israel to the Amarna era. In his A Test of Time David Rohl identifies the Amarna contemporaries Labayu and Dadua as the biblical Saul and David, but mistakenly (in my opinion), moves the Amarna era later in time to ca. 1000 BCE, the commonly assumed era of Israel’s United Monarchy, instead of moving the latter earlier in time to match the well-established Amarna era. When the United Monarchy, which includes Saul, David, Bathsheba and Solomon, is moved to ca. 1350 BCE, the Megiddo Ivory can be linked to the visit of the queen of Sheba to Solomon (it would otherwise have been too early to be associated with a Solomonic era ca. 1000 BCE).
- The History of the Queen of Sheba relates how this queen, here called Balkis, was born to a Jinn (a genie) disguised as a woman and a vizier in the service of his king. The mother disappeared and it was left to the vizier to raise her. The vizier closely matches the biblical Joseph in several respects (see “Joseph vs Yuya”), and her birth to a ‘genie’ indicates that it was not known who her mother was.
- The Story of Joseph and Asenath (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”) it is claimed that Asenath, the wife of Joseph, was the fairest of all the women in Egypt and that she did not have any Egyptian features but closely resembled Jewish women. The messengers sent to Jerusalem not only confirm that Joseph and Yuya were one and the same person, but also that the Asenath in question was not Joseph’s wife, but the woman desired by the king’s eldest son (Crown Prince Tuthmosis). That woman could not have been anyone else but Nefertiti (Tuthmosis would not have desired his grandmother as his wife).
Some scholars are of the opinion that Nefertiti served as queen for some time after the death of her husband, most likely as the elusive king called Smenkhkare. It has recently been shown that Nefertiti was still alive in the 16th year of Akhenaten’s reign, which ended in his 17th . The main obstacle to the theory that Nefertiti had been the direct successor to Akhenaten appears to be depictions of Smenkhkare together with Meryetaten, one of the six daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. She is here described as his Great Royal Wife, leading scholars to theorize that a male king called Smenkhkare had succeeded Akhenaten, but was in turn succeeded by Nefertiti. However, one particular inscription on a piece of a box showed Akhenaten together with a king called Neferneferuaten and Queen Meryetaten . Figure 7.2 shows a statuette of a king from KV62, which clearly presents a woman and can therefore only be an image of Neferneferuaten .
Figure 7.2. Statuette of king Neferneferuaten
In other words, it would appear that Akhenaten had loved his wife and daughter so much that he had elevated Nefertiti to shared kingship, and Meryetaten to the position of their “queen”. In fact, Dodson touches on this possibility ,
Thus, the most credible reconstruction would seem to be that Queen Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti and King Neferneferuaten were one and the same, and followed Smenkhkare as Akhenaten’s coregent. … How is one to regard Meryetaten’s title of “Great King’s Wife” on this piece? Does the title refer to her status as the relic of Smenkhkare, or as the “wife” of her father – or perhaps even her mother as well? It is clear that the title Great Wife was not only a designation of the king’s senior sexual partner. Rather, she had key ritual roles, and it is to fulfil these fucntions that we have cases of a father ‘espousing’ his daughters (like Ramesses II) or even – in this potential case – a mother having her daughter as her “wife”.
It would seem then that once Akhenaten had passed away (having been murdered, see “Treacherous Banquet”), Nefertiti adopted the name Smenkhkare and became the sole ruler of Egypt, with Meryetaten as her “Great Royal Wife”.
That the above assumption is most likely
correct is suggested by the
so-called Zannanza affair, during which a fearful
Egyptian queen wrote to the
king of the Hittites, begging him for a son to
marry and make king of Egypt
(see “Treacherous Banquet” for details). Two
crucial questions must
- What set of circumstances would ever have allowed an Egyptian queen to offer a foreign king control of Egypt?
- Why write to the king of the Hittites at all?
The answer to the first question is relatively simple – during the Amarna era Egypt had been overrun by rebels and Asiatics from Jerusalem (Solomon’s soldiers). With Amenhotep, his court and the Egyptian army effectively trapped in Ethiopia, she probably hoped that once they have married, her new Hittite husband would send for troupes to seal her rule of Egypt. Reeves makes a strong case that the queen in question was Nefertiti and hazards a guess,
The explanation for her treason remains unclear – perhaps her ultimate, if naive, aim was to prop up Egypt’s economy with funds from abroad.
This, however, is highly improbable. A more likely reason is to be found in her rather odd request, in which she claims that she had no sons of her own to marry, and that she would never marry a servant. Nefertiti and Akhenaten had six daughters but no known sons, and if she had indeed been of Hittite descent (through her father Uriah), she most likely would have preferred to marry a Hittite prince rather than one of her Egyptian subjects. Scenes of Hittite musicians were found in several Amarna homes and The History of the Queen of Sheba states that Balqis had been accompanied by female musicians, as also depicted on the Megiddo Ivory. Furthermore, Akhenaten had a contingent of Asiatic soldiers, who more than likely guarded his beloved wife. In other words, for some reason (the reason given above), Nefertiti had surrounded herself by Hittites.
- Finally, as discussed in “The Treacherous Banquet”, it would seem that Nefertiti had avenged the murder of Akhenaten by inviting his murderers to a banquet, at which she had them killed. She naturally feared for her life afterwards, which would have made her plea for a Hittite husband all the more desperate. Her ultimate murder is discussed in “The Treacherous Banquet”.
- Van de Perre, Athena, “The Year 16 graffito of Akhenaten in Dayr Abū Ḥinnis: A contribution to the study of the later years of Nefertiti.” Journal of Egyptian History, 2014, vol. 7, pp. 67-108.
- Aidan Dodson, Amarna Sunset, The American University Press in Cairo, Cairo, New York: 2009, p. 34.
- Ibid, p. 35.
- Ibid, p. 38.
The role of the Hittites in the Exodus and therefore in There and the Exodus is relatively small, but nevertheless crucial in the identification of people and the circumstances that surrounded them. Most importantly,
- A crucial link between the Hittites under Suppiluliuma is the letter this king received from an Egyptian queen, whose husband had died and who begged Suppiluliuma for one of his sons to marry and make king of Egypt. Suppiluliuma eventually sent his son Zannanza to marry the Egyptian queen, but he was assassinated along the way. The queen in question has been identified as Nefertiti, Meryetaten or Ankhesenamun, the third of the known six daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and eventually the great royal wife of Tutankhamun. However, with Nefertiti having been identified as the daughter of the biblical Bathsheba and her Hittite husband Uriah (see “Nefertiti”), it makes sense that Nefertiti would have written to the king of the Hittites in desperation.
- The Hittite nation under Mursilis II was decimated by a plague brought to their country by Egyptian prisoners of war when his father Suppiluliuma (1344-1322 BCE) attackedEgypt in retaliation of the murder of his son Zannanza. In his so-called ‘Plague Prayers’ Mursilis humbles himself before the Hittite Storm-god in order to bring an end to the plague, stating that the plague had been in the Land of Hatti for 20 years. This proves that a deadly plague had been ravaging Egypt at that time, i.e. during the Amarna era.
- Most of the great houses in El Amarna seem to have possessed Hittite musicians with tresses in their hair (see “Megiddo Ivory”), and in The History of the Queen of Sheba we read that this queen was accompanied by four female slaves, ‘one singing, another harping, a third dancing, and a fourth pouring out wine for the king’. This suggests that the Queen of Sheba (the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia, according to Josephus), had a special affinity towards Hittites, as did Nefertiti.
Helen of Troy was reputedly one of the most beautiful women who ever lived, “the face that launched a thousand ships.” Her life story was recorded by Homer in his Iliad and Odyssey, with minor details added by later writers.
Already married to Menelaus, the king of Sparta (a powerful city state in Greece), she either eloped with or was abducted by Paris, the son of Priam, the king of Troy, located in present-day Turkey. An expedition to retrieve her from Troy was launched by Agamemnon, the brother of Menelaus. However, his fleet was scattered by a storm and it only came together nearly a decade later. More than a thousand ships had set off to besiege Troy. The siege had lasted nine years and by the tenth year the army was close to deserting. Memnon, the king of Ethiopia and either the uncle or the step-brother of Priam, had come to the aid of Troy with his army. Memnon was eventually killed and his vast army fled. The Greeks finally got the better of the Trojans by pretending to acknowledge defeat and departing, leaving behind on the beach a hollow wooden horse concealing soldiers. The horse was dragged into the city and, with the city asleep, the soldiers slipped out and opened the gates to the Greek army. Slaughter and mayhem followed and the city of Troy was sacked. Menelaus intended to kill Helen, but was overcome by her beauty and took her back to Greece.
Surprisingly, a number of legends link Helen not to Troy in Turkey, but to Egypt. In Thera and the Exodus I argue that one aspect of the Trojan War makes the entire legend unbelievable – Memnon, the king of Ethiopia, who had marched his vast army through foreign countries, over a distance of more than 2000 km. Such a trip is totally ridiculous in terms of the logistics involved, and would the king of Ethiopia ever have left his own country completely unprotected? This, together with other links to Egypt, convinced me that the Trojan War had never happened in reality, or at least not in Turkey. If so, one then must look for possible origins of the legend.
There are several links between Helen of Troy and Egypt, including Herodotus’ version of the Trojan War in which Helen just happened to be in Egypt throughout the ten-year-long siege of Troy. Tyrian priests belonging to the temple of the Stranger Aphrodite located in the precinct of Proteus, king of Egypt, related to him that while sailing off with the captured Helen, a violent wind drove Paris, called Alexander or Alexandrus by the Tyrians, to the shores of Egypt. Servants who escaped from Paris spread word of his abduction of Helen, which soon reached the ears of Proteus. Proteus ordered Paris to be brought before him and spared his life only because he, Proteus, had taken a vow never to kill strangers driven to his shores. Paris was instructed to leave without Helen and without the wealth he had taken from Menelaus. She stayed with Proteus during the 10-year siege of Troy and her true location was only discovered by the Greeks when Troy had fallen. Menelaus eventually retrieved her from Egypt, but he first had to sacrifice two Egyptian children because adverse weather had prevented him from departing.
In Thera and the Exodus I argue that the legend of the Trojan War had most likely developed from stories told by Greek visitors to Egypt, who had either been trapped in Akhetaten, the city Akenaten had built for his god the Aten, or somewhere else in Egypt, during the Amarna era. When the Greek visitors eventually departed to what was left of Greece following an eruption of Thera, they related their strange encounter in Egypt to other survivors. Over time the curious events that unfolded in Egypt became the legend of the Trojan War, and Nefertiti became Helen of Troy.
As ridiculous as this might seem at first, circumstantial evidence and several snippets of information seem to confirm my interpretation of the “Trojan War”:
- First and foremost, if the Trojan War had been an entirely Aegean affair, no legends whatsoever should have existed about Helen having been present in Egypt, and probably also not of a Memnon coming to the aid of Troy all the way from Ethiopia (see discussion of Susa in Thera and the Exodus).
- For some reason (which is explained by my interpretation), two massive stone statues of Amenhotep III were known in ancient times as the Colossi (“massive statues”) of Memnon. In Thera and the Exodus I argue that Amenhotep III had fled to Ethiopia when a large part of the Egyptian population rebelled against him. He therefore became known as the king of Egypt and Ethiopia. The names Aga-Memnon and Memnon are quite similar, and Memnon appears simply to be a corruption of the Greek word mnemeion (a memorial or a monument). The Greek word ago (to lead) and mnemeion together render ‘monument for the leader (the king)’ or ‘monument of (he who) leads’. In other words, Memnon was remembered by his statues, as was Agamemnon. Since Egypt and Ethiopia were enemies, Amenhotep III in Ethiopia would have become the enemy of Amenhotep III in Egypt, so that Memnon became the enemy of Agamemnon.
- Several other names in the Trojan War legend possibly also have Greek origins. Menelaus, ‘(in) memory of the people’ from mneme (memory) and laos (the people), Priam ‘fire as a cure’, ‘healed through fire’ or ‘a cure for fever’, from preo (to burn, to become inflamed with fever) and iama (a cure, healing). All of these can be related to the plague (fever) which decimated the Egyptian population and which Amenhotep had tried to end through the sacrifice of the firstborn in fires. Even the name Paris may have had Greek origin from para (on account of) and ios (venom, poison), meaning ‘on account of the poison (plague). That would refer to Akhenaten, who had only become king of Egypt on account of the plague, and who had ‘abducted’ Helen (Nefertiti), who would otherwise have become the wife of Crown Prince Tuthmosis, if not Amenhotep III himself (see “The History of the Queen of Sheba” and “The Treacherous Banquet”).
- According to Diodorus a city called Troy once existed on the banks of the Nile, while Strabo relates that the village of Troy still existed between 25-20 BCE. It was located not far from the pyramids (presumably of Giza), at the foot of a rocky mountain that was called ‘Trojan’ and near the site from which the building blocks of the pyramids were quarried. That the name must have existed during the Amarna era is confirmed by an inscription from the reign of Amenhotep III, in which the quarry is named as Troja. Incidentally, a scarab of Amenhotep III was found at Panaztepe, near the modern site of Troy, showing that there was some kind of contact between Egypt and northwest Anatolia at that time . This may also explain why legends pertaining to Egypt may mistakenly have become associated with ‘Troy’ in Turkey.
- Homer’s Illiad begins with the god Apollo inflicting a deadly plague on Agamemnon’s army, which destroyed his men. This is exactly what happened to Amenhotep III when a deadly plague caused by the Thera fallout began decimating the Egyptian population.
- Priam reportedly had 50 sons and some say he had 50 daughters as well. This links Priam to Aegyptus (Amenhotep III, see Thera and the Exodus), who also had 50 sons and wanted them to marry the 50 daughters of Danaus. Danaus could not refuse permission for the marriages to proceed, but commanded each of his daughters to kill their husband on their wedding night. Only one of the 50 sons was spared (most likely referring to the one firstborn that had escaped being sacrificed, Crown Prince Tuthmosis).
The smoking gun linking the legend of Troy to the Amarna events must certainly be the sudden disappearance of the entire army of a country, along with its king. In Exodus it is claimed that the entire Egyptian army vanished when Moses’ walls of water collapsed onto it, while Josephus claims that ‘there was not one man left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians’. Manetho relates that the entire Egyptian army had fled to Egypt along with their king, Amenhotep (III). In the El Arish Shrine Text it is recorded that King Shu and his attendants had “departed to heaven”, and when Memnon was killed,
“Trojans over all the plain and Danaans marvelled, seeing that great host vanishing withtheir King. All hearts stood still in dumb amazement.”
Memnon’s army that disappeared with him matches Amenhotep III who suddenly disappeared from Egypt when he and his army (the part still under his command) and his court officials marched into Ethiopia. How often in ancient history has a vast army simply vanished from sight (see “The Army That Vanished”)? Probably only in these particular legends, which all appear to be related to one actual event. It should be noted that the same legend records that the earth was darkened and Memnon died on a woeful day when the waters of the river had turned into blood, matching the biblical plagues of water into blood and darkness (see “Plagues of Egypt”).
- The ‘scattering’ of Agamemnon’s fleet is most likely based on the destruction of Amenhotep’s fleet by the tsunami generated by the eruption of Thera. It must have taken many years to rebuild the fleet.
- When the fleet gathered a second time, a lack of wind prevented it from sailing and the oracle Calchas informed Agamemnon that wind would not return unless he sacrificed the fairest of his daughters to the goddess Artemis. Menelaus likewise had to sacrifice two Egyptian children before he was allowed to leave Egypt. Both are therefore linked to the sacrifice of children in Egypt (see “Plagues of Egypt”), and Calchas can be linked to Amenhotep’s trusted scribe who advised him to sacrifice the firstborn of Egypt (see “Moses and the Oracle”).
- In Homer’s Odyssey Proteus narrates to Menelaus how his brother Agamemnon was killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. Aegisthus had invited Agamemnon to a banquet and afterwards had him killed by twenty of his soldiers that had been lying in ambush. The legend of this treacherous banquet is similar to the legend of Sesostris, who had been invited to a banquet by his brother, but escaped being burned to death by sacrificing two of his sons in the fire (see “The Treacherous Banquet”). Amenhotep III (Agamemnon, Sesostris) would have been perceived by some to have died (he had disappeared) while others would have known that he had sacrificed children in fires. We therefore again have protagonists of the Trojan legend linked to the Amarna events.
- The earliest dating of the fall of Troy is around 1334 BCE, when the reign of Tutankhamun began. The fall of Troy is associated with the recovery of Helen, who succeeded Smenkhkare (Nefertiti). Therefore the year 1334 BCE more or less marks the fall of Akhenaten’s Amarna kingdom and the disappearance of Nefertiti (Helen), which would be the fall of ‘Troy’.
- Agamemnon commanded his army with Achilles, only 15 years old at the time, having been appointed as his admiral. If there were to be any truth in Achilles’ young age, probably the only circumstances in which a king would appoint a boy as a commander of his forces would be when that boy was his son. If Agamemnon was Amenhotep III as argued, that son would have been Crown Prince Tuthmosis. A possible link between Tutmosis and Achilles is provided in Apollonius Rhodius’ The Argonautica he relates how Peleus, the father of Achilles, saw his son gasping in the flames with which his mother Thetis had enveloped him. This matches Crown Prince Tuthmosis supposedly having died in the sacrificial fires.
- An Irob genealogy, recorded in a document which was inserted into the Kebra Nagast of Ethiopia, claims that David, son of Jesse, was the father of Solomon. Helen, Solomon’s sister, who had married the king of Rome. If this document can be authenticated, it would confirm that Solomon’s (half-)sister Nefertiti (the Queen of Sheba), was also known as Helen (of Troy).
- In some legends Helen was raped (abducted) by Paris rather than willingly accompanying him to Troy. If Nefertiti and the legendary Helen of Troy were one and the same person as argued here, the rape of Helen may be linked to the violence Armais (Ai) used against the queen (Josephus), Asiyah’s death in the desert (the Koran) and Nefertiti’s desperate plea for help to the Hittite king (see “Hittites”).
- The ten-year-long siege of Troy matches the so-perceived ‘siege’ of Akhetaten, the city of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, which lasted a ‘fatally determined’ thirteen years. In Thera and the Exodus I argue that amidst the chaos of the Amarna era, during which the rebellious Egyptians along with Solomon’s army ravaged Egypt, Moses (Crown Prince Tuthmosis) had allowed his brother Akhenaten and his beautiful wife to live an isolated but safe life in their city of the sun.
- O’Connor, David and Cline, Eric. H., eds. Amenhotep III – Perspectives on His Reign. University of Michigan Press, 2004, p. 246.
In his book A Test of Time David Rohl identifies the biblical Saul and David as Amarna contemporaries. Specifically, he identifies Saul as the Egyptian vassal king Labayu, David as Dadua, Saul’s surviving son Ishbaal as Mutbaal, Joab as Ayab, Jesse as Yishuya and Baanah as Benenima.
Rohl used his identification of Israel’s United Monarchy protagonists as Amarna contemporaries to move the Amarna period later in time, to match the generally accepted dating of the United Monarchy to ca. 1000 BCE. This is probably the most important reason why scholars have rejected Rohl’s link between the United Monarchy and the Amarna era. However, in my opinion Rohl should have done it the other way around, i.e. he should have moved the poorly attested United Monarchy earlier in time to match the well-established dating of the Amarna era. When this is done, several pieces of the Exodus puzzle fall into place (see “The Megiddo Ivory”, “The Queen of Sheba”). It is interesting to note that scholars seem to differ widely on the identification of Saul as Labayu. According to Israel Finkelstein ,
I see a great deal of similarity between Shechem under Labayu and his sons in the 14th century and the Saul territorial entity in the 10th century b.c.e.
Wood , however, does not concede an iota:
There is not one iota of similarity in the careers of these two individuals.
So, what are we to believe? The rejection of a link between Saul and Labayu appears to be based primarily on different territories they ruled in Israel, and nothing more. Could it not simply be that neither account (biblical vs Amarna) was complete or accurate in these respects? One can easily understand how such detail may have become inaccurate, but it is completely irresponsible (in my opinion) to ignore that vast number of similarities, summarised below (with David’s permission):
- The country north of Jerusalem was dominated by a king called Labayu according to the so-called Amarna Letters, an archive of correspondence on clay tablets found at Amarna, the modern name for Akhenaten’s city Akhetaten. Labayu’s name can be interpreted as ‘Great Lion of N’, where N represents a deity. The correlation between the lives of Labayu and the biblical Saul suggests that they must have been one and the same person. Furthermore, Saul appears to have been guarded by the lebö’öym which means ‘great lions’, confirming a possible link to Labayu.
- At least twelve cities and towns of the Amarna era are also mentioned in the Bible in the books of I Samuel and II Samuel, wherein the history of Saul and David is described.
- Labayu’s scribe wrote the first part of one of the letters to the pharaoh in Akkadian, but then switched over to almost pure Canaanite, a dialect of Hebrew.
- Labayu and his Habiru mercenary forces can be linked to Saul and his Hebrew mercenaries.
- Labayu had lost a city with its sacred site to his enemies, but managed to recover the city from the enemy. This matches Saul retaking Gibeah (Geba), a sacred place to the Israelites, from the Philistines.
In a letter to the Egyptian pharaoh Labayu wrote, “Moreover, the king wrote for my son. I did not know that my son was consorting with the Habiru.” This matches Saul’s tirade against his son Jonathan for having joined David’s forces ,
Son of a rebellious slut! Do I not know that you side with the son of Jesse [David] to your own shame and your mother’s dishonour?
This unique event can certainly be regarded as the smoking gun, given all the other similarities and the biblical and Amarna settings.
- Saul and his sons were killed on mountains of Gilboa; Labayu was killed in similar fashion, upon which his surviving sons, identified by Rohl as Ishbaal and David, his son-in-law, request an ally to wage war against the people of Gina for having killed their father. The town of Gina is close to the southern slopes of Gilboa, confirming the location of the death of Saul and Labayu.
- Labayu’s surviving son was called Mutbaal, which is Akkadian for ‘Man-of-Baal’. Saul’s surviving son was called Ishbaal, which is Hebrew for ‘Man-of-Baal’.
- Mutbaal was apparently accused of hiding a man called Ayab, whom Rohl identifies as Joab, commander of the Habiru forces under David.
- Following death of Labayu and his son, the “land of the king has deserted to the Habiru”, matching David who had become the new king of Israel. Shuwardata of Gath, who informed the Pharaoh of these events, and Akish, the biblical king of Gath, are argued to be the same person as both names appear to mean ‘The sun has given’.
- Addadanu, the ruler of Gezer, informed the Pharaoh that he was preparing for war and requested his assistance, “There being war against me from the mountains, I built a house (i.e. a fortress) – its name is Manhatu – to make preparations before the arrival of the archers of the king, my lord…” Rohl identifies Manhatu as the biblical Manahath in the valley of Rephaim, which the Philistines had invaded and where they had deployed their forces.
- An Amarna pharaoh, most likely Amenhotep, instructed Addadanu of Gezer to “guard the place of the king where you are”, which he evidently did as David did not take Gezer.
- Another vassal of Egypt complained that he was at war with Tianna, identified by Rohl as Zion (in Hebrew Tsiyon), which was Jerusalem, the City of David.
- In his letter to the Pharaoh, king Mutbaal (Ishbaal) protested, “I swear Ayab is not in Pella. In fact, he has [been in the] field (i.e. on campaign) for two months. Just ask Benenima. Just ask Dadua. Just ask Yishuya.” Benenima can be identified as Baanah, who would later assassinate Ishbaal in his own royal apartments, while Dadua is the biblical King David and Yishuya is Jesse (in Hebrew Yishay), David’s father.
- Rohl identifies the Amarna king Aziru as the biblical Hadadezer and the Amarna ruler Lupakku as the biblical Shopak.
It should be noted that there is ample evidence of the existence of a city called Jerusalem during the Amarna era. For instance, in letters addressed to either Amenhotep III or Akhenaten, king Abdi-Heba of Urushalim (Jerusalem) complains about the sons of Labayu having given the land to the Habiru.
Given the above points of correlation, it is difficult to understand how scholars can continue to deny a link between Saul and Labayu. The additional evidence presented here and in Thera and the Exodus makes it practically undeniable that Saul and Labayu were the same person.
- The Last Labayu: King Saul and the Expansion of the First North Israelite Territorial Entity -Israel Finkelstein
- David Rohl's Revised Egyptian Chronology: A View From Palestine, Bryant G. Wood
- 1 Samuel 20:30, Catholic Online
One of the most renowned figures in ancient Jewish history is King David, who succeeded Saul and fathered Solomon, the builder of the first Temple and famed for his wisdom, wealth and power. That David was everything but the saintly figure chosen by God as the new king of Israel quickly becomes evident when one takes a neutral look at his life. In Gary Greenberg’s treatise on David, The Sins of King David, he introduces his work as follows:
…The same studies will also show, contrary to the biblical image and popular belief, that Saul was not a manic-depressive paranoid, imagining false schemes by David to steal his throne, but a popular and well-balanced king who accurately understood what David was about and who took responsible actions to curtail David’s treasonous and disloyal behaviour to Israel. … This examination will show that David was a corrupt and ambitious mercenary who committed treason against Israel by working with its enemies to seize the throne from King Saul; an ambitious and ruthless politician who initiated, sanctioned, or condoned murder and assassination as a way to eliminate political rivals, royal or otherwise … a cruel and unjust tyrant who used foreign mercenaries to centralize power under his control and who oppressed the people of Israel with high taxes and forced labour; a military imperialist who waged wars of conquest with his neighbours and exposed the peaceful Israelites to military counter-attacks that left many dead, wounded, or widowed.
And then, of course, there is the issue of the murder of husbands to take their wives, including Bathsheba (murdered Uriah), the (beautiful) wives of Saul (Saul died because of David’s campaign against him), Saul’s daughter Michal (taken from her husband Palti) and the beautiful Abigail (David had her husband Nabal murdered, like Uriah). These are the only cases recorded in the Bible – there probably would have been many more. It would appear that David had come into contact with numerous beautiful women while still professing loyalty to Saul. They would have been the daughters and the wives of the high ranking officials in Saul’s court. Once David became king, he had the power to take possession of any woman he desired. In other words, David was not only a murderer, but a rapist as well (acceptable behaviour for a time in which women were no more than mere possessions).
As far as the Exodus is concerned, David’s role is limited to following points:
- As discussed in “Saul vs Labayu”, David can be identified as an Amarna contemporary, and, by implication, his son Solomon as well. That allows the Megiddo Ivory scene of an Egyptian queen visiting a Canaanite king to be identified as the visit by the Queen of Sheba, whom Josephus identifies as the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.
- It is very likely that Bathsheba already had children with Uriah when David seized her. The episode of God punishing David through the death of his first son by Bathsheba must be understood to mean that Bathsheba was already pregnant at the time, and that the infant was killed shortly after birth. In Thera and the Exodus it is argued that she must already have had an infant daughter by that time, which she sent to Joseph in Egypt to safeguard against David. There she would eventually become known as Nefertiti, the wife of Akhenaten (see “Nefertiti”, “Messengers to Jerusalem”, “Queen of Sheba”).
- God “punished” David by sending a plague to his country, which killed 70000 men (even more if women and children were not included in this number). This deadly plague matches the plague that ravaged Egypt during the Amarna era and subsequently the Hittite nation (see “Hittites”).
The biblical King Solomon was reportedly renowned for his wisdom, wealth and power. According to the Bible, Solomon had a fleet of ships that sailed to Ophir to collect gold, received as 666 talents of gold yearly, “not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the land”. Reports of his wisdom had spread so far that the Queen of Sheba visited him with “hard questions” and gifts.
There are at least two major problems with this portrait of Solomon. Firstly, there is absolutely no record of a Canaanite king controlling and collecting taxes from “all the Arabian kings”. Secondly, it is absurd to think that a queen of a country (Sheba, assumed to be located in Yemen) would travel 2000 km over land to visit a complete stranger, ask him a few questions, give him some presents and then travel the 2000 km back to her own country. Nevertheless, these legends exist and must have originated from somewhere. As discussed in Thera and the Exodus, there are indeed logical explanations to both questions:
- According to Manetho the biblical Moses sent messengers to the kings of Jerusalem, effectively commanding them to join him in his war with the pharaoh Amenhotep III. This they did, and they, together with the ‘polluted’ rebels in Egypt, ravaged Egypt, robbing its temples and killing its sacred animals. That such an event took place is confirmed by the El Arish Shrine Text, as well as The Story of Joseph and Asenath (see “Messengers to Jerusalem” and “Amenhotep and His Retreat into Ethiopia”). It stands to reason that the great wealth Solomon obtained from the “Arabian kings” was in fact the riches looted from Egypt. In fact, even the Bible acknowledges that the Israelites had plundered Egypt, in as many words (see “The Plunder of Egypt”). As Amenhotep III had ruled the Middle East before the Amarna revolution, and Solomon had effectively ‘conquered’ him, Solomon would in legend have become the powerful king who ruled the Middle East.
- As discussed in “The Queen of Sheba”, this queen, called the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia by Josephus and identified as Nefertiti in Thera and the Exodus, would have had ample reason to visit Solomon. Not only was she requested by Moses (Crown Prince Tuthmosis) to visit Solomon in order to convince him that it was safe to rise against his former ruler Amenhotep, but also to visit her half-brother Solomon. She may even have hoped to meet her mother, Bathsheba.
- It should be noted that it was only much later, during the reign of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon that the Egyptian king Shishaq, most likely meaning “the brother who plundered”, or Ay, attacked Jerusalem and recovered from Solomon’s temple the booty taken from Egypt. Solomon was an Amarna contemporary (see “Saul vs Labayu”).
According to biblical tradition Joseph was the eleventh of patriarch Jacob’s twelve sons. His father, who had been renamed Israel by God, loved him more than any of his other children, and gave him a coat of many colours. His envious brothers decided to murder him, but eventually sold him as a slave to Egyptian traders. Joseph was then sold to Potiphar, the captain of the pharaoh’s guard, where he not only became Potiphar’s personal guard, but also the superintendent of his household. When Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph, he refused and was accused by her of attempted rape. Joseph was thrown in prison, from where he was later able to interpret the pharaoh’s dream. He was released and eventually became vizier of Egypt, the most powerful man in Egypt next to the pharaoh himself.
Stranger in the Valley of the Kings Ahmed Osman puts forward the hypothesis that the biblical Joseph and the highly honoured Egyptian court official Yuya must have been one and the same person. Although other aspects of his book may be questionable, he appears to be correct in identifying Joseph with Yuya. In this article I will present Osman’s hypothesis (with his kind permission), the major objections to it and then crucial anecdotal evidence that ties Joseph to Yuya and appears to have been overlooked by both Osman and scholars alike.
Osman’s arguments for linking Joseph to Yuya:
- Yuya was an official who was put in charge of all of Egypt, as was Joseph.
- Judging from his mummy Yuya appears to be of Semitic descent, and his name, of which many variants exist, likewise appears to be of foreign origin.
- Yuya was mummified and buried in the Valley of Kings even though he was not of royal descent. Osman points out that although Moses supposedly took the ‘bones’ of Joseph with him and his departing Israelites, the scribe who edited the Exodus narrative had no idea what a mummy looked like. This suggests that the removal of the bones of Joseph was a later insertion by a scribe.
- The biblical Joseph is linked to the interpretation of a dream of his pharaoh. Tuthmosis IV is renowned for his Dream Stele, which narrates a dream Tuthmosis had while resting between the paws of the Sphinx. In this dream the Sphinx promised him the Egyptian throne should Tuthmosis clear away the sand from his body. Tuthmosis did so and subsequently became king of Egypt. Tuthmosis’ dream is therefore most probably the origin of the legend of Joseph interpreting the dream of a pharaoh, a highly unlikely actual event.
- Yuya was the only high ranking Egyptian official who was demonstrably honoured by the title ‘Father to the Pharaoh’, a title also held by Joseph.
- One of Yuya’s numerous titles was Bearer of the Ring of the King of Lower Egypt. Joseph received the ring of the Pharaoh.
- Yuya had a gold necklace that had fallen inside his coffin and came to rest under his head when the thread was cut by robbers. Joseph received a chain of gold from his king.
- Yuya also bore the titles Master of the Horse and Deputy Charioteer of His Majesty, while Joseph drove the second chariot of the Pharaoh.
- Two other titles of Yuya, Overseer of the Cattle of Amun, and Overseer of the Cattle of Min, match the instruction given by Joseph’s Pharaoh that he should find able men to look after his cattle.
- Yuya most likely served two pharaohs, Tuthmosis IV and his son Amenhotep III. In the Talmud it is recorded that before that Pharaoh, who was the friend of Joseph, died, he commanded his son, who was to succeed him, to obey Joseph in all things and left instructions to that effect in writing. Yuya is known to have been alive at least until the eleventh year of Amenhotep’s reign.
- Yuya is described as the person ‘whom the king has made his double’, echoing the words of the king to Joseph, ‘only in the throne will I be greater than thou.’
- Yuya’s beard is similar to those of ancient Hebrews, while according to Herodotus, the Egyptians shaved off their beards and were only allowed to let it grow during times of mourning.
Main points of criticism of Osman’s hypothesis by Sweeney (Jewish Quarterly Review):
- “Osman has further complicated this methodological problem by working with two much later corpuses of sacred texts, the Qur'an and the body of midrashic literature, far removed in time from the events they describe. Their retelling of the Joseph story, far from being a reliable historical source, reflects the concerns of the believers of their time with the Joseph story’s message about man’s relationship with God.”
- If Yuya and Joseph were indeed one and the same person, Hebrew scribes must surely have recorded that Joseph’s daughter became queen of Egypt. Tiye, Yuya’s daughter, married Amenhotep III and became queen of Egypt. Although Hebrew sources name Joseph’s sons, no reference is made to a daughter
- Osman “jettisons the biblical life spans of these generations” (of the 400-year Israelite sojourn in Egypt) to fit them into the 50 years between Tuthmosis IV and Rameses I, Osman’s proposed pharaoh of the Exodus.
- Joseph’s title ‘Father to Pharaoh’ does not necessarily identify him with Yuya, who bore the title ‘God’s Father’, since other high officials of the Eighteenth Dynasty also held that title.
- Hebrew sources record that the remains (bones) of Joseph were moved to Canaan. Yuya’s remains (mummy) were found in the Valley of the Kings.
- Joseph came into Egypt as a slave, while Yuya appears to have originated from a place in Egypt called Akhim.
- According to Egyptian foreign policy for that period it was not appropriate for a foreigner to be appointed to such a high ranking office.
- Joseph served the God of Israel, while Yuya was devoted to the gods of Egypt.
- “Many of Osman's attempts to establish the Eighteenth Dynasty as a terminus post quem (the earliest date) for the Joseph story are not accurate.”
Main points of criticism of Osman’s hypothesis by Redford (Biblical Archaeology Review):
The Egyptologist Donald Redford offered a highly antagonistic and insulting review of Osman’s book (it can be viewed here). His main objections seem to be:
- Rightfully, like Sweeney, Osman’s revised chronology of the Exodus events.
- Rightfully, claims such as that Thutmose III had sired Isaac by Sara, and that monotheism had its origins in Yuya.
- “To bolster this pastiche of remarkable brainwaves, our author has recourse, from time to time, to passages not only from the Bible, but also from the Talmud and the Koran. His solemn trotting out of what can only be called a ‘Child’s Guide to the Documentary Hypothesis’ does not save his theory from complete disaster. Mr. Osman certainly fails to make the case that Yuya and Joseph are identical. The author treats the evidence as cavalierly as he pleases. He presents himself as a sober historian, yet when it suits him, the Biblical evidence is accepted at face value and literally.”
Evidence supporting Osman’s Joseph-Yuya hypothesis
Before presenting my ‘evidence’, I have to explain the methodology I used to arrive at my hypotheses. As criticised by Sweeney, I also make use of sacred and other texts that were created long after the actual events. However, in many of these cases the information presented by these sources are so unique and applicable to specific circumstances, that they cannot be interpreted as mere inventions. In fact, in most cases I present bits of circumstantial evidence that all point to the same conclusion and, from a logical point of view, will be difficult to explain away.
Possibly the strongest evidence in support of the hypothesis that Yuya and Joseph were the same person is to be found in the identification of Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis, the firstborn son of Amenhotep III (see “Moses vs Tuthmosis”). According to Manetho Moses was a priest during the reign of Amenhotep III, and he (Moses) had sent messengers to the kings of Jerusalem, summoning them to join him in his war against Amenhotep. This crucial event is also recorded on the El Arish Shrine Text, but the person who sent the messengers is identified as the king’s son. In The Story of Joseph and Asenath the story is told from the Israelite side, and here it is the king’s eldest (firstborn) son who sent the messengers, to ask their help in killing his father as well as Joseph. This not only links Moses to Crown Prince Tuthmosis, but also makes Joseph a contemporary of Moses.
The most important link between Moses and Crown Prince Tuthmosis is Artapanus’ record that Moses was involved with the burial of the first Apis bull, as was Crown Prince Tuthmosis. Furthermore, although the Bible states that four generations had passed between Joseph and Moses, Justin claims that Moses was the son of Joseph, and Cheremon makes them contemporaries who joined the fight against Amenhotep III. It would seem that the biblical scribe must therefore be incorrect in his chronology of Joseph and Moses. Crown Prince Tuthmosis was the grandson, and not the son, of Yuya, but the confusion is easily understood.
How these two had become involved in the rebellion against Amenhotep is discussed under “Messengers to Jerusalem”. The key point here is that unless such an event had actually happened, there should have been no record whatsoever of an Egyptian king having sent messengers to the Israelites, asking them for assistance in his war against his father. The logical conclusion is that this information must have been preserved in The Story of Joseph and Asenath.
- In The Story of Joseph and Asenath it is related that Joseph, and by implication his wife Asenath, ruled Egypt for 48 years. Although this is absurd (there are no records of a Jew being king of Egypt for any length of time), the origin of this legend appears to be based on the fact that Yuya had served his king or kings for several decades, and that Tiye, his daughter and royal wife of Amenhotep III, had been queen of Egypt for a similar period. Amenhotep is believed to have ruled for 38 years, but as postulated in Thera and the Exodus, he retreated into Ethiopia with his court and officials and probably stayed there until his death. When he left, Joseph as Yuya may have ‘ruled’ Egypt in the sense of being an advisor to Akhenaten and Nefertiti. A closer examination of The Story of Joseph and Asenath reveals that the beautiful queen in question, desired by the firstborn son of the king, could only have been Nefertiti (Crown Prince Tuthmosis would not have desired to wed his grandmother). Either way, this legend also confirms that a female member of Joseph’s family became queen of Egypt.
- Whereas it is true that other officials may also have borne the title Father of the God, Yuya appears to have been the only person who actually was a father of a pharaoh, albeit the father-in-law. The title may therefore very well identify Yuya with Joseph – it most certainly does not eliminate this possibility.
- If the Israelites were indeed the captured Hyksos rulers of Egypt as argued in Thera and the Exodus (see also “The Hyksos and the Israelites”), the idea of the Hebrew nation being fathered by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob becomes untenable. It is highly likely that Joseph was born into slavery as a member of the enslaved Hyksos people and originally worked as a slave in a high ranking Egyptian household, possibly from Akhim. The story of Joseph being sold off into slavery by his brothers and their eventual entry into Egypt in search of food can be explained simply by recognising that his ‘brothers’ would have belonged to the Hyksos who managed to escape from Ahmose about 200 years earlier.
- As far as his religion is concerned, Joseph as Yuya would have been intelligent enough to realise that if he wanted to excel in Egypt, he would have to embrace the religion of the Egyptians. Whether he actually believed in any god no one will ever know.
- That Yuya’s beard does resemble the beards of the captive Hyksos is suggested by the so-called Megiddo Ivory (see “Megiddo Ivory”).
- While some of Osman’s points of correlation between Joseph and Yuya may be questioned, his critics are silent about the very unique honours bestowed upon both persons by the king, namely being the bearer of the ring of the king, the golden chain received by both, both having been given power over all of Egypt and both acting as stand-in for the king (being his ‘double’). How would they explain these away? If they cannot do so, Joseph and Yuya must have been one and the same person.
To conclude, there is ample anecdotal evidence that suggest that Joseph and Yuya must have been the same person, specifically against the Exodus backdrop as presented in Thera and the Exodus. To my knowledge the complete DNA profile of Yuya’s mummy has never been released by the Egyptian authorities – for good reason?
Amenhotep III was one of the most famous pharaohs Egypt has ever known. His reign was a period of relative peace and unprecedented prosperity and he has consequently been dubbed Egypt’s Golden Pharaoh.
Amenhotep’s connection to the Exodus is relatively simple. He is the only pharaoh unequivocally named as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, as originally recorded by Manetho and repeated in Josephus’ Against Apion. According to Manetho, Moses (Osarsiph) was a priest from Heliopolis, during the reign of Amenophis (Amenhotep) who had a sacred scribe called Amenophis, son of Papis. From this perspective alone, there is only one pharaoh who would match this description, namely Amenhotep III who had a famous royal scribe known as Amenhotep called Huy, the son of Hapu. So, if Moses was indeed a son (adopted, as rationalised by Jewish scribes) of the Pharaoh of either the Oppression or of the Exodus, then that son must have been either Crown Prince Tuthmosis, who had vanished mysteriously, or Akhenaten, who built and settled in the city of Akhetaten with his wife Nefertiti and their daughters. Nothing about Akhenaten accords with the biblical narratives about Moses, who had supposedly fled from Egypt but later returned to confront the ruling pharaoh. That leaves only Crown Prince Tuthmosis as a potential candidate for the biblical Moses (see “Moses vs Tuthmosis”).
Just who would qualify as the Pharaoh of the Oppression and the Pharaoh of the Exodus, respectively, is rather vague when it comes to Amenhotep. According to biblical tradition the Pharaoh of the Oppression “did not know Joseph” and came to power only after his death. Yuya, the biblical Joseph, was not only familiar with Amenhotep III, but was also his second-in-command in Egypt (see “Joseph vs Yuya”). Amenhotep III did not enslave the Israelites – that honour would befall either Ahmose I, who overpowered the Hyksos, or the powerful Tuthmosid family who came after him. However, although the plagues of Egypt occurred during the reign of Amenhotep III, Moses, or Crown Prince Tuthmosis, would have left Egypt during the reign of Akhenaten. For that reason Amenhotep III is defined as the Pharaoh of the Oppression in Thera and the Exodus, and Akhenaten as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
Manetho not only names Amenhotep III as the pharaoh of the Exodus, but also relates how Amenhotep was advised by his oracle that he would only be able to rid the country of lepers and impure people by expelling them from Egypt (confirmed by Cheremon). However, the “lepers and polluted people” did not take kindly to being expelled from their motherland and a rebellion ensued. Osarsiph (Moses), a priest from Heliopolis, became the leader of the rebellion and sent ambassadors (messengers) to Jerusalem, explaining the state of affairs in Egypt and requesting them to join him in his war against Egypt, which they did, with 200000 men. Amenhotep initially planned to oppose them, but decided against it and retreated into Ethiopia (ancient Nubia, Figure 14.1) with his whole army and “a multitude of Egyptians”. There he remained for thirteen years, before returning to Egypt and driving out the invaders (the Jews, according to Cheremon). Amenhotep was probably wise to avoid the conflict and retreat to Nubia for two reasons, namely that he risked losing the battle against his own son and the army from Jerusaelm, but more importantly, a kiss on the cheek by a “polluted” soldier on the other side would probably have been as deadly as a spear through the heart. Amenhotep would have retreated into Nubia first and foremost to protect his people from the plague.
Figure 14.1. Egypt and Nubia (“Ethiopia”) in the New Kingdom era
Although no evidence of such events appears to be available at first glance, there are two important texts that confirm Manetho’s account in which messengers were sent to Jerusalem, requesting the Israelites to join “Moses” in battle against Egypt (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”). The first is the El Arish Shrine Text, which relates that it was the king’s son Seb who had sent the messengers, that Egypt was invaded by foreigners and that king Shu, who can be identified as Amenhotep III, had “departed to heaven” with his attendants, i.e. vanished from Egypt. In The Story of Joseph and Asenath it is related that it was the king’s eldest son who had sent the messengers to them, requesting their assistance in his campaign against his father (and Joseph), and that the Israelites had obliged.
So, Manetho’s “messengers to Jerusalem” affair is confirmed by two completely independent sources, and from different but complementary perspectives. If this part of Manetho’s narrative is true, then one should look for evidence that Amenhotep III had been present in Ethiopia for a prolonged period of time (thirteen years).
Amenhotep’s prolonged stay in Ethiopia is attested to by scarabs of him found in that country, rock carvings at Soleb depicting him as weak and sickly (effectively proving that he was in Ethiopia at the time) and numerous of his monuments being scattered all over the country (other Egyptian kings have also erected temples in Nubia, but evidently not nearly on the same scale). The rock carvings at Soleb also show Akhenaten, then still named Amenhotep IV, making an offering to his still-living father, Nebmaatre (a throne name of Amenhotep III), Lord of Nubia. This would imply that Amenhotep III had indeed moved to Ethiopia, leaving his son in charge of Egypt.
Amenhotep and his wife Tiye were also worshipped as gods in Nubia , but it is doubtful whether Tiye would have moved to Nubia with her husband. She appears to have remained behind in Akhetaten, alongside her daughter-in-law Nefertiti and her grandchildren.
One must understand that Horemheb and all subsequent pharaohs would have done their utmost to destroy all records of this most shameful event in the history of Egypt, so it is no wonder that even Manetho did not have all the information at hand (he did not realise or know that it was the king’s own son who had instigated the rebellion against him).
Other bits of information also link Amenhotep III to the Exodus:
- > Amenhotep III can be linked to Sesostris (see “Sesostris”), who had left his brother Armais (most likely Ay) in charge of Egypt while he was in Nubia. Herodotus records that Sesostris was the only king who ruled both Egypt and Ethiopia, which is strange as many Egyptian rulers had held sway over Ethiopia. This suggests that Sesostris had, by contrast, actually lived in Ethiopia for some time, as claimed by Manetho.
- (see “The Queen of Sheba”, “The History of the Queen of Sheba”) relates how this beautiful queen, called Balkis, became the object of desire of a lustful tyrant, who demanded the most beautiful women as his concubines and became the fear of every husband and father. Amenhotep III was infamous for his demands for beautiful women from his vassal states, and he appears to have been known for his sexual appetite. Part of the tyrant’s army and his subjects rebelled against him, matching Manetho’s uprising against Amenhotep. The document also informs us that the vizier who had raised Balkis had at first been alienated from his king, but was reunited with him and became grand vizier, matching Joseph’s imprisonment and subsequent rise to being the second most powerful man in Egypt (see “Joseph vs Yuya”).
- According to Artapanus, a jealous Chenephres, the pharaoh of the Oppression, had sent Moses to occupy Ethiopia, who had invaded Egypt. Moses encamped at Hermopolis with 100000 men and sent generals into Ethiopia. The war in Ethiopia reputedly lasted ten years. What Artapanus is inadvertently telling us is that it was known among the public that some Egyptian generals (those who went with Amenhotep) had gone into Ethiopia, while Moses remained in Egypt with 100000 men loyal to him. The ten years of war in Ethiopia simply acknowledges that Amenhotep and his army were present in Ethiopia for at least ten years (see also “Helen of Troy”), while Moses ruled Egypt.
- 1. Aidan Dodson, Amarna Sunset, The American University Press in Cairo, Cairo, New York: 2009, p. 2.
A key event that lends credibility to the Exodus narrative is the disappearance of the entire Egyptian army and the Pharaoh of Egypt, during the so-called parting-of-the-sea event. According to the Book of Exodus the Egyptian army had cornered the fleeing Israelites at the Red Sea, when Moses waved his staff and the sea parted, allowing the Israelites to escape through on dry land. When the Egyptian army and the pharaoh pursued, the waters returned and the army along with the pharaoh was drowned.
Given that there never was an actual path between two walls of water through the sea, what could the origin of the fable of the entire Egyptian army disappearing be? There are other ancient narratives that give essentially the same account of events:
- According to Manetho, Amenhotep III was facing rebel army led by his own son, which totalled around 380000 men. Rather than fighting them, Amenhotep, along with his army and court officials, retreated into Ethiopia, leaving Egypt to the mercy of the rebels (see “Amenhotep III and his Retreat into Ethiopia”). This accords with both the entire army and the pharaoh disappearing (not drowning) in the Exodus narratives.
- In the EL Arish Shrine Text (see “El Arish Shrine Text”), which can be linked to Moses revolution, king Shu (Amenhotep III) and his attendants simply “depart to heaven”, implying that he had vanished from the Egyptian scene.
- Amenhotep III can be linked to the legendary king Memnon of Ethiopia, who died during the Siege of Troy and whose army then magically disappeared from sight, to the astonishment of all (see “Helen of Troy”). It is no surprise that Smymaeus records that the earth was darkened and Memnon died on a woeful day when the waters of the river had turned into blood, matching the biblical plagues of water into blood and darkness (see “Plagues of Egypt”).
That this event would have remained engraved in ancient memory can be understood against the backdrop of a modern hypothetical equivalent. Let’s assume a massive outbreak of Ebola spreads throughout the United States of America, resulting in widespread violence as citizens fight for their own survival. In order to preserve itself and its defence force, the US government decides, upon invitation from Canada, to move all its people and military equipment across the northern border to its Ebola-free neighbour, and remain there until the situation in the USA itself has returned to normal. Those who remain behind discover all military bases and ports to have been abandoned and all military staff and equipment to have vanished, along with the president, his government and the upper class of society. Not soon afterwards the country is invaded from the south by vengeful Mexican and other South American armies, resulting in total mayhem and destruction.
While such a catastrophe would never be forgotten in modern history, in stands to reason that Egyptian scribes would over time have attempted to eliminate all references to probably the most infamous event ever in Egyptian history. That would be even truer given that all of it was caused by Amenhotep’s idiotic (from a modern perspective) instruction to have the firstborn in Egypt sacrificed in fires (see also “Akhenaten” for the subsequent revolution in and destruction of Egypt).
Sesostris was, according to tradition, the most powerful king ever of Egypt, having conquered countries as far as classical Asia and Europe. The conquered nations included Ethiopia, Canaan, Scythia, Thrace and Colchia (areas in Eurasia surrounding the Black Sea), as well as eastern parts of Greece and even parts of India. Sesostris was called Sesoösis by Diodorus and Sesonchosis by the Greek philosopher Dicaearchus (ca. 350-285 BCE) in his Life of Greece.
Manetho places Sesostris in the same position as the known pharaoh Senusret III of the Twelfth Dynasty, and his name appears to be universally accepted to be a corruption of Senwosret (Sunesret). However, the exploits of Senusret were rather insignificant compared to those of Egypt’s greatest conqueror ever, Tuthmosis III. Sunesret’s campaigns were furthermore limited to Nubia (Ethiopia), and to a lesser extent Canaan. One of Senusret's soldiers recorded a campaign into Palestine, perhaps against Shechem, the only reference to a military campaign against a location in Palestine from the entirety of Middle Kingdom literature. Why then would he be honoured in tradition, but Tuthmosis not? It simply does not make sense.
A clue to the true identity of Sesostris is the realization that the name Sesostris appears to be nothing but a concatenation of the Greek words sē (thee, thou,you), sōs (thine, yours) and trös (three times), which can be interpreted as ‘You and (what’s) yours the third’. This implies that the Tuthmosid family (I, II and III) of conquerors was nicknamed ‘You and what’s yours’ among the Greeks, and that Sesostris was the third member of this family.
The other forms of this name also seem to have their origins in the Greek language. The name Sesoösis suggests that the name was originally pronounced Se-so-osis, in which case the name was most likely derived from sē (thee, thou, you), sōu (of thee, thine, yours) and hōsōs (as many as, whatsoever), rendering ‘You and as much as is yours’, or ‘You and everything that is yours’. The other form, Sesonchosis, has essentially the same meaning if considered to be a concatenation of the words sē (thee, thou, you), sun (with, together), chōōs (a heap, rubbish) and sōs (thine, yours). This can be interpreted as ‘You with the heap of what’s yours’.
What would the origin of these appellations be? The Gebel Barkal Stela (Appendix A in Thera and the Exodus), was written by one of Tuthmosis’ commander-scribes and provides a number of links between Tuthmosis III and Sesostris. For instance, the scribe boasts that he captured the inhabitants of enemy states, their children and their property as well. He also described the enemy as ‘falling in heaps’. These remarks confirm that Tuthmosis had a policy of removing captives with everything they owned, including their children, to Egypt, in order to establish a massive workforce of slaves. His military campaigns likewise seem to have been characterised by stacking those killed in heaps, hence the nickname. When Tuthmosis had dealt with you, you and what was yours were either found as slaves in Egypt or left on heaps of the dead in your own country.
Apart from the nicknames, there are several other links between Sesostris and Tuthmosis III:
- According to Herodotus and Diodorus, Sesostris / Sesoösis subjugated Nubia, Asia as far as India and parts of Europe, whatever the ancient definitions of these territories might have been, and he was urged by his daughter to ‘acquire empire over whole world’. Tuthmosis III was not only the greatest Egyptian conqueror of all time, but both he and his people seemed to have made those very claims. From the Gebel Barkal Stela (GBS) we learn that Tuthmosis’ ‘southern borders reach to the crest of the world, to the ends of this world, and the northern to the ends of Asia, to the supports of heaven’, he travelled to and was feared ‘to the ends of Asia’ and his fame had ‘pervaded the crest of the world’.
- Sesostris brought captives to Egypt for forced labour. Tuthmosis likewise brought captive people with their belongings to Egypt (GBS).
- Sesoösis was a vigorous builder of monuments, as was Tuthmosis III, who had construction sites all along the Nile, in Nubia, Thebes, Middle Egypt, Heliopolis, Memphis and the Nile Delta.
- Sesostris erected (boundary) stelae in the conquered territories, as did Tuthmosis III (GBS).
- Strabo records that Sesostris traversed the whole of Aethiopia (Nubia). Tuthmosis III likewise had penetrated Nubia beyond the Third Cataract (a shallow stretch of water) of the Nile. His grandfather, Tuthmosis I, however, had proceeded even further, to between the Fourth and Fifth Cataracts.
- Early in his reign Sesoösis subdued the larger part of Libya. Tuthmosis ‘crushed Tjehenu (Libya)’ as recorded in the Poetical Stela of Tuthmosis III, but the initial subjugation of Libya was most likely done by his predecessors. Hatshepsut, his co-regent during his early years, received tribute from Libya. This was most likely the reason why Diodorus places this conquest during his early years, writing that ‘though in years (he was) still no more than a youth’.
- According to Herodotus and Diodorus, Sesostris used slave labour for the digging of canals in Egypt. Strabo records that it was Sesostris who cut the canal which flowed through the Bitter Lakes of Egypt and ended in the Red Sea. Tuthmosis III undertook the clearing of the canal in the fiftieth year of his reign and is therefore linked to the canal.
- As a young man Sesoösis was laboriously trained in the hunting of wild animals, while Tuthmosis III was an accomplished hunter, killing 120 elephants (GBS).
- Sesoösis first confirmed the support (goodwill) of his people before implementing his plans, while Tutmosis III seems to have been renowned for his ‘excellent plans’ (GBS). He evidently made a point of discussing his plans in detail with his generals and possibly other high ranking Egyptian citizens before the plans were executed.
- Sesoösis ‘bestowed allotments of the best land in Egypt’ on his commanders and they lacked nothing. This was also true of Tuthmosis III, as boasted by one of his commanders about the honours bestowed upon him by his king (GBS). General Djehuty received similar rewards following his victory over Joppa, as did Amenemheb, a royal register in the army, for deeds of valour performed during military campaigns and for diverting an attack of an elephant on the king during an elephant hunt.
Herodotus claims that Sesostris ‘set out with a fleet of long ships from the Arabian Gulf and subjugated all those living by the Red Sea, until he came to a sea which was too shallow for his vessels. After returning from there back to Egypt, he gathered a great army … and marched over the mainland, subjugating every nation to which he came’. According to Diodorus, after having conquered Ethiopia, Sesoösis ‘sent out a fleet of four hundred ships into the Red Sea, being the first Egyptian to build warships, and not only took possession of the islands in those waters, but also subdued the mainland as far as India, while he himself made his way by land with his army and subdued all Asia’.
This incident is similar to an event that occurred during one of Tuthmosis’ campaigns. In Year 33 of his reign the Egyptian army sailed to the friendly Lebanese port of Byblos, where its carpenters built a series of flat-pack boats. These were loaded in pieces onto carts and lumbered along behind the army over mountains on the way to the Euphrates, where the boats were assembled. Tuthmosis’ army could then cross the river and defeat the Mitannians.
The islands of the Aegean would have been as important as any other neighbour of Egypt. Tuthmosis’ general ‘tied up … the islands in the middle of the ocean, the inhabitants of the Aegean Sea and the rebellious lands’ (GBS). This is also attested to in the following inscription from the Poetical Stela:
My serpent-diadem on your head consumes them ... it devours the Aegean islanders with its flame, it severs the heads of the Asiatics ... I came to let you crush the western land, Keftiu (Crete) and Isy (Cyprus) being in awe of you ... I came to let you crush the Aegean islanders, the lands of Metjen (Mitanni) trembling for fear of you.
It therefore seems that Herodotus mistook Tuthmosis’ naval campaign up the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea for a naval campaign up the Gulf of Arabia (boats carried across land / sea too shallow for boats). There is no archaeological or other evidence to suggest that Tuthmosis’ empire ever stretched as far as ‘India’.
- Sesostris set up two stone obelisks at the Temple of the Sun, while Tuthmosis III had two obelisks at erected at the Temple of the Sun at Karnak.
- Herodotus informs us that Sesostris erected two stone statues, each fifty feet high, of himself and his wife at the temple of Hephaestus (Ptah) in Memphis. Diodorus records the height of the statues as 45 feet high. There is indeed a Temple of Ptah at Memphis, located opposite the Temple of Amun. Memphis was the capital of Egypt before the Middle Kingdom pharaohs gradually moved it to Thebes. At Thebes, now called Luxor, we find the cult Temple of Ptah started by Tuthmosis III, nearby which are the remains of two colossal statues of Tuthmosis III. These probably are the remains of Sesostris’ two stone statues as recorded by Herodotus. It is therefore very likely that Herodotus and Diodorus meant ‘capital of Egypt’ when they (mistakenly) named Memphis as the location of the statues.
- One of the main objectives of military campaigns was to collect tribute from the conquered nations. Sesoösis was renowned for the tribute he collected, as was Tuthmosis III (GBS).
- Although it sounds like nothing more than common sense, Sesoösis appears to have made it public knowledge that only the strongest men would serve in his army. Tuthmosis seems to have done the same, judging from the boast of his general, ‘because I am very skilled in strength and victory’ (GBS).
Sesoösis built a wall on Egypt’s eastern border, from Pelusium to Heliopolis, to protect it against attacks from Syria and Arabia. This wall was referred to as the ‘Walls of the Ruler’ by Neferti, a sage in the court of King Snofru (Sneferu), who prophesied that a king called Ameny would rise and expel the Asiatics (a general name by which the Egyptians referred to the peoples of Canaan and further north) who were occupying Egypt at that time, and that this wall would be built to protect Egypt from them in the future:
There will be built the Wall of the Ruler … and the Asiatics will not be permitted to come down into Egypt that they might beg for water in the customary manner, in order to let their beasts drink. And justice will come into its place, while wrongdoing is driven out.
The Prophecy of Neferti appears to have been written to justify Amenemhat I’s ascension to the throne, as Ameny is generally assumed to have been a shortened form of this pharaoh’s name. The wall is referred to as the ‘Wall of the Prince’ in the Tale of Sinuhe, probably written shortly after the end of the reign of Senesret I, the son of Amenemhat I. The Wall of the Prince was most likely constructed by the latter, but if Amenemhat had not been able to complete the construction of the wall, his son would certainly have done so. It would appear that even the early historians such as Diodorus equated Sesostris with Senesret I purely on the basis of the phonetic similarity of the names, hence the association of Sesoösis with the ‘Wall of the Ruler’. However, Sesostris as Tuthmosis III more than likely only reinforced the walls created by his predecessors, if he had worked on the walls at all. Returning to the Second Intermediate Period, it is possible that the Hyksos, the Asiatics who had invaded Egypt, could have demolished this wall during their occupation of Egypt. If so, the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty would no doubt have rebuilt the wall, in which case Tuthmosis III may very well have been involved. On the other hand, it is possible if not likely that the construction of this wall was mistakenly attributed to the legendary Sesostris, simply because he was the most famous of all Egyptian kings.
- Sesoösis ruled for 33 years. The reign of Tuthmosis III can be divided into two parts, first as co-regent with Hatshepsut, followed by the period in which he ruled as sole sovereign of Egypt. His reign is usually given as 1479-1425 BCE, a period of approximately 54 years, but this includes the years of co-regency. Hatshepsut ruled for about 22 years and 6 months. Tuthmosis III therefore ruled as sole monarch of Egypt for approximately 32 years, which matches Sesostris’ 33 years. Sethos (Sethosis, Sesostris) ruled for 59 years according to Manetho, which more or less matches Tuthmosis’ total reign of 54 years.
Why is it important to deal with Sesostris, who seemingly has no direct link to the Exodus? It will next be shown that some of the legends about Sesostris are to be linked with the almost equally famous ruler of Egypt, Amenhotep III. In contrast to the reign of Tuthmosis III, which was characterised by military conquest, Amenhotep III enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and relative peace during his reign. Historians have dubbed him ‘Amenhotep the Magnificent’, the king who referred to himself as ‘The Dazzling Sun Disk’ and during whose reign Egypt was wealthier and more powerful than ever before. For this reason it is certainly possible that he could have been mistaken for the legendary Sesostris, as is evident from further analyses of ancient descriptions of Sesostris:
Both Herodotus and Diodorus mention a
curious episode in which Sesostris,
during his absence from Egypt, leaves his
brother in charge of the country.
Upon his return this brother invites him to a
banquet and attempts to burn
Sesostris and his family to death (see “Treacherous
king escapes, although two of his sons die in the fire, and he
on his brother. Manetho likewise mentions Sesostris (Sethosis)
who had a
brother (Armias, Hermeus) whom he had left in charge of Egypt during
absence. Armais usurped the throne, but Sethosis returned to recover his
kingdom and cast Armais out of Egypt.
There are no records whatsoever of Tuthmosis III ever having left a brother in charge of Egypt, who furthermore attempted to usurp his throne during his absence and then tried to kill him at a banquet, and was subsequently expelled from Egypt. The circumstances, however, perfectly match those of Amenhotep III, who must have left his “brother” Ay (Armais) in charge of Egypt during the Amarna interlude. It is presently believed that Yuya mave have been the father of Ay, and as father-in-law of Amenhotep III, he and Ay would in a sense have been “brothers”. As argued throughout this treatise, Amenhotep III had to retreat into Nubia when faced by an army commanded by his own son, along with an army from Jerusalem (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”). Ay had served every pharaoh from Amenhotep III to Tutankhamun, upon whose death he usurped the throne (Tutankhamun had apparently selected his general Horemheb to succeed him). Ay’s mummy has never been found, which accords with him having been expelled from Egypt.
The deaths of the two sons can be linked to the tenth plague of Egypt, the death of the firstborn. Two of Amenhotep’s firstborn sons, presumably a child by Tiye and a child by a secondary wife, would have been targeted for sacrifice through fire. Of these two (if ‘two’ does not merely imply ‘many’) Prince Tuthmosis narrowly escaped death, initially unbeknown to the general population (see “Plagues of Egypt”).
- In ancient times some have associated the statues erected by Sesostris with those erected by Memnon. Probably the most famous of all the statues erected by Amenhotep III are his so-called Colossi of Memnon, two massive stone statues erected at Thebes (see “Helen of Troy” for the reason why the Greeks referred to these statues by a name associated with the Trojan War). In Thera and the Exodus it is argued that the Greeks knew Amenhotep III by the name of Memnon, and the statues of Sesostris are therefore directly linked to the statues of Amenhotep III.
- Herodotus makes the curious remark that Sesostris was the only Egyptian king who also ruled Ethiopia. This is odd since several Egyptian kings had control of Ethiopia during their reigns. The most likely reason for this remark is to be found in Manetho’s claim that Amenhotep had fled to Ethiopia with his army and a large section of the Egyptian population. Amenhotep would therefore have been the only Egyptian king who actually lived in Ethiopia for many years, hence Herodotus’ seemingly out-of-context remark.
- Sesoösis “built a ship of cedar wood, which was two hundred and eighty cubits long and plated on the exterior with gold and on the interior with silver. This ship he presented as a votive offering to the god who is held in special reverence in Thebes”. Amenhotep III had a sacred lake constructed at Thebes, as well as an accompanying royal bark for him and his wife Tiye to sail in. The bark was named ‘The Aton Gleams’ in honour of the sun god Aten, and one can imagine that boat to have been plated with gold and silver to create the illusion of a glittering sun. It is easily understood how the construction of Amenhotep’s fabled boat would in legend have become associated with Sesostris.
- The two most outstanding pharaohs of ancient Egypt were Tuthmosis III, the conqueror, and Amenhotep III, the pharaoh who ruled when Egypt’s dominion over her neighbours was at its peak. Both were the third king who had the same name in their respective families (Tuthmosis I, II and III, Amenhotep I, II and III). This may also have contributed to both kings being associated with the legendary king Sesos‘tris’.
- Sesostris, who according to legend took his own life because he had become blind, matches the Amenhotep III’s aliases Pheros (see Thera and the Exodus) and Shu (see “The El Arish Shrine Text”), who both became blind (“confusion seized Shu’s eyes”), most likely a cautious expression used by the populace describing Amenhotep’s moment of madness, when he followed the advice of his scribe and ordered the sacrifice of the firstborn in Egypt (see “Plagues of Egypt”). Diodorus’ statement that he took his own life is most likely based on the fact that Amenhotep III had ‘vanished’ from Egypt, having retreated with his army into Ethiopia. Alternatively, it may simply reflect the fact that he had ruined his own career as king of Egypt by ordering the sacrifice of the firstborn.
- Sesoösis was encouraged by his daughter Athyrtis to conquer the whole world. As is the case with Sesostris, his daughter’s name seems to be of Greek origin, a (without) – thēr (a wild animal, as game, hunting) – tös (some, certain), rendering ‘Without certain wild animals’. This name is similar in meaning to Thermuthis (‘Wild animal fable’), the name of the daughter of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. In Thera and the Exodus it is argued that Thermuthis was a nickname given to the young wife of Amenhotep III, who jubilantly reported that her brave husband had just slain a herd of wild bulls in the desert. In reality he had slaughtered, in a fit of rage, a herd of domesticated cattle that regularly used to drift onto his property. Athyrtis was thus a mocking nickname the young Tiye, daughter-in-law of Tuthmosis IV (not Tuthmosis III, who was Sesostris), had earned herself among the Greeks when the truth finally surfaced.
To conclude, it was essential to show that the name Sesostris should be associated with Tuthmosis III, Egypt’s greatest conqueror ever, and not with the earlier, insignificant ruler Senusret. This identification opens up the likelihood that certain exploits of Amenhotep III, the other renowned ruler of Egypt, have mistakenly also been attributed to Sesostris, most importantly the banquet at which two of the king’s sons were burned to death.
According to biblical tradition, Joseph, one of the sons of the patriarch Jacob, was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and ended up in an Egyptian prison, but was released and promoted to the position of vizier, the most powerful individual in Egypt next to the pharaoh himself (see “Joseph vs Yuya”). During a famine Joseph invited his brothers to Egypt, where the Israelites flourished and became numerous. After his death, a pharaoh “who did not know Joseph” then arose and because of his concerns about their rising numbers (“they grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them” ), he enslaved the Israelites, a state they would remain in until the arrival of Moses. The estimated time span form the death of Joseph to the birth of Moses is 64 years , but in Thera and the Exodus it is shown that they were actually contemporaries, as grandfather and grandson (see “Joseph vs Yuya”).
The Book of Exodus states that the entire length of the sojourn in Egypt was 430 years . Josephus, however, claims that the sojourn in Egypt was only 215 years , similar to the 210 years claimed by rabbinic sources . Manetho, on the other hand, states that the Israelites, whom he identifies as the Hyksos and with which Josephus concurs, had “kept possession of Egypt” for 511 years . From the above accounts it is evident that the Israelites had held some power over Egypt for at least some time (probably around 200 years or more), before they were enslaved. Their enslavement must have lasted for another 200 years or more.
There is only one group of rulers of Egypt that matches the above description, and that is indeed the Hyksos. The Hyksos was a group of mostly Semitic people who formally ruled Egypt during the so-called Second Intermediate Period (1650-1550 BCE), and one of their kings was in fact called Jacob-Her, reminiscent of the biblical Jacob.Some scholars date the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period back in time to about 1720 BCE or even further. A text dating to Sobekhotep III (around 1745 BCE) contains a list of Hyksos servants in the king’s household, indicating their presence in Egypt, and there is in fact evidence of Canaanite settlements at Avaris from as early as 1800 BCE. It is possible that the entry of Hyksos into Egypt was at first slow and limited to workers seeking employment there or traders selling goods. For instance, a wall painting found in the tomb of the vizier Khnumhotep under Senusret II (ca. 1880-1874 BCE) in Beni Hasan shows Asiatic traders entering Egypt to sell eye paint (see Figure 17.1, note the multi-coloured robes, similar to Joseph’s).
Figure 17.1. Asiatics entering Egypt to sell eye paint
The Hyksos were overthrown by Ahmose (conventional reign 1550-1525 BCE, latest radiocarbon dating 1570-1544 BCE) and it is assumed that he had conquered the Hyksos (defined by the fall of Avaris, their capital) by the 18th or 19th year of his reign at the latest (ca. 1552 BCE, using the radiocarbon dated reign). If the Hyksos era is calculated from their initial arrival in Egypt (anywhere between 1880 BCE and 1720 BCE) to the fall of Avaris, the time span of their rule would be between 328 and 168 years. Ahmose most certainly enslaved those Hyksos he could lay his hands on, and Tuthmose III would later also capture and move Semitic peoples from their lands to establish a slave work force in Egypt.
it is argued that the Exodus must have occurred ca. 1340 BCE, which would give a period of enslavement of 1552-1340 BCE = 212 years, which is almost identical to the 215 years of Josephus and the 210 years of the rabbinic sources. Following this approach, the duration of the total Hebrew sojourn in Egypt would be between 1880-1340 BCE = 540 years (even greater than Manetho’s 511 year presence in Egypt) and 1720-1340 BCE = 380 years (a bit smaller that the biblical 430 years). In other words, the duration of the Hyksos rule and enslavement closely matches that of the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt, both in terms of the period of expansion and enslavement.
It should be noted that the Exodus reportedly occurred 480 years before the construction of Solomon’s temple . In Thera and the Exodus I argue that there were in fact two Exodus events that had become merged into a single event (see “Eruptions of THera”), namely the expulsion of the Hyksos ca. 1552 BCE, and the Exodus event that unfolded during the Amarna era ca. 1340 BCE, with Solomon being an Amarna contemporary (see “Saul vs Labayu”). The time lapse between the two events is just over 200 years, which indicates that the author of Kings most likely had the Hyksos expulsion in mind, but did not have his facts quite right. The Hyksos had arrived in Egypt between 540 and 380 years (average coincidentally 460 years) before Solomon’s construction of the temple during the Amarna era.
The majority of Egyptologists and academics have so far rejected any link between the Hyksos and the Israelites, claiming for instance  that biblical narratives of the Exodus can be understood
“most readily as a majestic confluence of historical memories of the sojourning of ancient Semitic peoples in the land of Egypt. There may be evidence of a long oral history combined with the use of the rich literary tableau of the ancient Near East in the telling of some of the stories of Exodus”
“The most logical possibility is that the Exodus tale is actually an ancient memory of the Egyptians overthrowing and expelling the ancient Semitic rulers of the Nile Delta – known as the Hyksos”.
Why would the Hebrews have remembered themselves being some other people? Were all the details in the biblical narratives pure inventions? Israel Finkelstein states
“It is important to understand that the written text we know is later in date; it was compiled in the 7th to 6th or 5th centuries BCE. In short, we are dealing with an old tradition with several layers representing centuries of transmission and writing”
but does that necessarily mean that no truth remained in these transmitted stories? In Thera and the Exodus and The Moses Puzzle I show that many of the ancient traditions and legends do indeed contain information that can be corroborated by other texts of known, accepted events in Egyptian history. One must keep in mind that the printed press did not exist in ancient times and the peoples of those times would certainly have valued the accuracy of their hand-written and orally transmitted histories highly. The fact that some copies of these documents only emerged much later does not mean that older, accurate documents had not existed before. That many of the legends have been embellished along the way cannot be denied, but as shown in both Thera and the Exodus and The Moses Puzzle, many key truths have remained unchanged.
One of the reasons why scholars appear to reject a link between the Hyksos and the Israelites is that if the Exodus were to be equated with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt, it would be far too early in terms of the accepted chronology of the Israelites. However, as pointed out above, the time gap is resolved when the the United Monarchy of Israel is moved from the conventional date of 1000 BCE to ca. 1350 BCE.
Regarding Manetho’s identification of the Hyksos as the Hebrews, backed by Josephus, it can certainly not be dismissed so easily. Both, but specifically Manetho, would have had access to numerous ancient documents now lost, relaying that information to them.
If Hyksos were indeed the proto-Israelites, whence then the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? In the last chapter of Thera and the Exodus I show that Abraham most likely is a mythological figure dating back to the era of the Egyptian gods Ra, Osiris and Isis, when the Hebrews “were very numerous in Egypt under the reign of Isis”, but were later expelled by the Egyptians into neighbouring countries [9,10].
- Exodus 1:7.
- See here for calculations.
- Exodus 12:40-41.
- Josephus, Antiquities 2.15.2 (318).
- , Chapter 5, references 7-10.
- Josephus, Against Apion 1.14 (84).
- Julia Fridman, “The Exodus: Jewish history, or ancient Semitic memory?”, Haaretz, April 10, 2014.
- 1 Kings 6:1.
- Tacitus, The Histories, 5.2-5.
- Whiston, William, The New Complete Works of Josephus, Dissertation 3, p. 1006.
In the Book of Exodus it is related that the Pharaoh had issued a decree that all newborn Jewish boys should be cast into the Nile to drown, in order to stop the Hebrews from multiplying. Moses’ mother hid her newborn son for three months,, but when she could no longer do so, she placed him in a papyrus basket coated with tar and pitch, and hid it among the reeds of the bank of the Nile. There it was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter, who decided to spare the baby’s life and requested his mother to be located in order to raise the child. Once grown, she adopted Moses as her own child.
Given Moses’ true identity as Crown Prince Tuthmosis, there can be no doubt that the basket-in-the-Nile story was an adaptation of the the legendary birth of the Babylonian king Sargon (2270-2215 BCE), whose mother had set him adrift in a sealed basket of rushes, sealed with bitumen, and who was found and raised by Akki the irrigator.The Jewish boys who were to be killed by royal decree and included Moses, could only have been the firstborn, of Egyptians and slaves alike, who were designated to be burned as a sacrifice to the gods under the instruction of Amenhotep III, on the advice of his trusted oracle and high priest of Amun, Amenhotep, the son of Hapu (see “Plagues of Egypt”).
Common to virtually all Exodus narratives excluding that of the Book of Exodus is the role played by the scribe or oracle of the pharaoh:
- Manetho names the sacred scribe as Amenhotep the son of Papis (Hapu), the clearest and unequivocal identification of the sacred scribe of Amenhotep III.
- Cheremon calls the sacred scribe Phritiphantes. Although the name has a Hebrew sound to it, it rather seems to be of Greek origin, as a combination of the words prēthō (to blow a flame, to fire or burn) and pantē (wholly) or pantōs (entirely, at all events), rendering ‘Burn all’. This may suggest that this scribe advised Amenhotep to burn all of those who had become infected by the plague, or to burn as sacrifice all the firstborn sons, daughters and animals of the Egyptians. An entirely different explanation is, however, to be found in Greek mythology, which recorded that one of the sons of Aegyptus was called Phantes. Aegyptus was synonymous with Sesostris, who in some respects can be equated with Amenhotep III (see “Sesostris”). Phantes would then become the son of Amenhotep III and the name Phritiphantes would mean ‘Burn Phantes’. This would have been his instruction to Amenhotep, to burn his firstborn son Prince Tuthmosis.
- Lysimachus names the pharaoh of the Exodus as Bocchoris, and both Lysimachus and Tacitus name Hammon as Bocchoris’ oracle. This name is possibly a corruption of the name of the Egyptian god Amon or Amun, of whom Amenhotep the son of Hapu was the high priest. It is, however, also possible that the name could be related to the Hebrew word ’öman (pronounced [h]aw-man, to trust or believe), a fitting description of an oracle who was ‘trusted’ by Amenhotep when he issued his infamous decree of the sacrifice of the firstborn.
- The Koran names the adversaries of Moses as Pharaoh and Haman, without offering any additional information. Haman must certainly be related to the Hammon of Bocchoris.
- Justin does not mention a name and only states that Moses was expelled from Egypt ‘by some oracular prediction’.
- Josephus claims that the sacred scribe had made a violent attempt to kill the infant Moses, matching the priest’s advice to Amenhotep that he should kill his son.The scribe had warned the Pharaoh Moses was the child who would ‘trample on your government and tread on your diadem’, which was exactly what Moses had done be leading a successful rebellion against Amenhotep III.
- Artapanus does not mention an oracle, but rather the name of the person who was supposed to kill Moses, Chanethothes. This name can potentially be translated from Hebrew as ‘(He who had to) pitch a tent after the miracle of the fire’, from chönöh (to pitch a tent), ‘öth (after, now), ’öwth (a sign, miracle) and ’ösh (fire). This name suggests that he had been expelled when the sacrifice of the firstborn failed to cure Egypt of the plague that was devastating its population. As can be expected, the sacrifice of the firstborn failed to appease the gods and the Egyptians continued to die in large numbers. The high priest evidently did not escape the wrath of the Egyptians, but exactly how he met his end is not clear. In year four of his reign Akhenaten sent the high priest of Amun on a quarrying mission (literally ‘to fetch basalt for the image of the Lord’), while Josephus records that the beloved scribe of Amenophis had killed himself in despair. Phrasius, who suggested the sacrifice of strangers to Busiris, reportedly was the first to be sacrificed (Busiris can be linked to Amenhotep III, see Thera and the Exodus). In order to survive, the high priest would have had to pitch a tent in the wilderness, where he may simply have died or even killed himself.
- When Egypt had been suffering a severe drought, famine or scarcity for nine years, Busiris was advised by Phrasius, a learned seer from Cyprus, to sacrifice a stranger to Zeus each year and so avert this punishment by the gods. Busiris is the Latin spelling of the Greek Bousiris, so the name of his oracle is also likely to be of Latin origin. This appears to be the case. Phrasis means ‘diction’ or ‘edict’ in Latin and the most notorious edict in the history of Egypt would have been the instruction by the king to have all firstborn sacrificed in the fire. Alternatively his name may have been derived from the Greek words phrassō (to block up, silence, to fence in) or phraussō (to snort, make a tumult, rage). The latter would make better sense, as the failed sacrifice of the firstborn children of Egypt was one of the causes of the rebellion.
The biblical exodus of the Israelites from ancient Egypt must certainly be one of the greatest enigmas of all time. It was this exodus, simply referred to as the Exodus, which resulted in the formation of the people known as the Jews or the Israelites. In the biblical narrative the Israelites had entered Egypt during the rule of a pharaoh who had promoted Joseph as his second-in-command. The Israelites grew in number and sometime after the death of Joseph another pharaoh enslaved them. They were eventually freed when God gave Moses power to perform miracles, bringing ten plagues upon Egypt in an attempt to force him to let the Israelites go free. The pharaoh ultimately capitulated and Moses led them out of Egypt.
Modern scholars cannot seem to agree on just about any aspect of the Exodus. Many believe that it never happened, and those who do cannot identify beyond reasonable doubt when it happened, and who Moses and the pharaohs in question were. The so-called plagues of Egypt (see “Plagues of Egypt”) are also in dispute, with numerous wildly diverging causes being offered.
A link between the plagues and the eruption of Thera has long been proposed, but is rejected by scholars because of the dating of this eruption. According to modern science Thera erupted between 1623 BCE and 1490 BCE, which long predates the Exodus dates proposed by scholars who accept that it had happened. In Thera and the Exodus it is argued that two eruptions of Thera must have occurred, one in the time frame mentioned above, and the other during the reign of Amenhotep III, although other scenarios are also possible (see “Eruptions of Thera”). These two eruptions, if two had indeed occurred, were combined by Jewish scribes into a single event.
Thera and the Exodus to a large extent summarises what legends and myths tell us about the Exodus, and it is pointed out that many myths of different origin relate the same information. One must ask how these myths, if all mere invention, could accurately describe particular events from completely different perspectives. Statistically that would be near impossible, and the fact that these legends exist and complete the others, albeit in embellished form, suggest that the Exodus was, in fact, a true event.
The Ten Plagues of Egypt were supposedly inflicted by God upon the Egyptians to persuade the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. However, it has been recognised by some scholars that these ‘plagues’ were most likely the after-effects of a volcanic eruption, with the Aegean volcano on Thera (modern Santorini) being the most likely candidate by far.The ten plagues are treated below from this perspective (see also “Eruptions of Thera”).However, in terms of a volcanic eruption, the first ‘plague’ that would have descended upon Egypt would have been the thunderstorm of hail and fire (a shower of volcanic rocks), followed by the ash cloud (darkness), and then a host of related ‘plagues’ (water into blood, boils on people, diseased livestock, flies, gnats, locusts). The only plague that cannot be linked to natural causes is the tenth, but is discussed below, as extracted from Thera and the Exodus. This summary highlights new evidence that has previously not been mentioned in the context of the plagues of Egypt.
Water into blood
In this plague, the water in all the streams, canals, ponds and all the reservoirs was turned into ‘blood’, causing the fish to die and stink. The water also became poisonous to drink, caused stomach pains and “bitter torment”.This plague is readily explained in terms of a volcanic eruption (and nothing else), as the ash that descended upon Egypt contained iron oxide, which would have given all exposed sources of water a reddish colour.
Frogs, which can live outside the contaminated water, had no more natural enemies and multiplied once the hazardous chemicals had been washed away by the river, but the fish took a long time to return. Following the Mount St Helens eruption, there was a plague of frogs throughout much of Washington State.
The rotting dead fish, amphibians and land animals and probably even the corpses of people would have caused a proliferation of flies and other insects.
Same as for gnats
The cause of this plague could not be more clear – in the Book of Exodus God instructs Moses and Aaron,
Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it in the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on the men and animals throughout the land,
and in The Legends of the Jews
Each took a handful of ashes of the furnace, then Moses held the contents of the two heaps in the hollow of one of his hands, and sprinkled the ashes tip toward the heaven, and it flew so high that it reached the Divine throne. Returning earthward, it scattered over the whole land of Egypt, a space equal to four hundred square parasangs. The small dusts of the ashes produced leprosy upon the skin of the Egyptians, and blains of a peculiar kind, soft within and dry on top.
In other words, it was volcanic ash that had descended upon Egypt. This ash and the subsequent carnage it caused among the livestock must have resulted in a highly infectious plague that manifested itself as blisters on its victims. The presence of such a plague during the reign of Amenhotep III is well attested, as some members of his household seem to have succumbed to the plague and in a clever ploy by the Egyptians, they sent infected soldiers to fight against the Hittites at the city of Amqa. Some of these soldiers were taken to the land of the Hittites, where they infected its inhabitants and practically destroyed the Hittite nation.
It was not only Egypt that was directly affected by the plague. With Saul identified as the Amarna subject Labayu (see “Saul vs Labayu”), David would have been an Amarna contemporary as well. The Old Testament reports that 70000 men (adults, presumably) died of a plague during the reign of David , and that number would probably have been at least four to five times higher if women and children had been included. In a letter from the king of Alashia (Cyprus) to Akhenaten, the king complains about the fact that all his copper workers had been killed off by a plague . It would seem that a wide area had simultaneously been exposed to a deadly plague (Cyprus in the north to Egypt in the south). The most likely mechanism through which such a sudden outbreak could have happened is volcanic ash fallout.
Thunderstorm of hail and fire
Various Jewish legends relate incidences of fire and stones falling from the sky and some relate that the stones which fell on Egypt were hot. In The Legends of the Jews we find a detailed description,
A fire rested in the hailstones as the burning wick swims in the oil of a lamp; the surrounding fluid cannot extinguish the flame. The Egyptians were smitten either by the hail or by the fire.
These fiery hailstones could only have been small pellets of volcanic lava that had been shot up high into the air and eventually came down again over Egypt (how else could this specific legend have come into existence?). Although volcanologists will argue that it is highly improbable that such pellets could have reached Egypt, it is more likely that they have so far vastly underestimated the magnitude of Thera’s eruption, and also the mechanics of the eruption.
To further illustrate this point, consider the biblical story of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, and the divine destruction of the cities Sodom and Gomorrah. Although I believe Abraham to be a mythical figure to be related to the ancient gods of Egypt, in Jewish tradition he lived a couple of generations before Jacob, who supposedly was the father of Joseph (see “Joseph vs Yuya”). There is evidence that a volcanic eruption had occurred during the life of Abraham, i.e. a couple of generations before or in the time of Joseph. Most readers will be familiar with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by ‘brimstone and fire from heaven’. According to Josephus these cities were burned by lightning, but that would not account for the ‘brimstone’ (sulphur). The most abundant gas typically released into the atmosphere from volcanic systems is water vapour (H2O), followed by carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) . Sulphur can form around volcanic vents to such an extent that it can be mined , as shown in Figure 20.1. It is then not hard to imagine that a volcanic eruption of sufficient magnitude could have propelled chunks of glowing lava (causing fire where it lands) and sulphur into the atmosphere around it. Josephus also mentions that the fruits of Sodom and Gomorrah were covered by (volcanic) ash.
Figure 20.1. Mining of sulphur in a volcano crater
Eusebius records that during the reign of Deucalion, when his fabled flood occurred, Ethiopia was destroyed by fire. This legend accords with the 7th plague and also the final destruction, by fire, of the palace of Knossos on Crete, where a scarab belonging to Amenhotep III was found. In Amarna letter EA 151 king Abi-Milku reports to Akhenaten (or possibly Amenhotep III) that “Fire destroyed the palace at Ugarit; (rather) it destroyed half of it and so hal(f) of it has disappeared”. Although scholars do not quite know why it was worded so peculiarly, Graham Phillips interprets this report as meaning that half of the palace (city) was destroyed by fire while the other half had been washed into the sea. If correct, it would confirm that the city was destroyed by Thera’s tsunami as well as molten lava pellets falling from the sky.
The Apocalypse of Abraham we read that “there was a great peal of thunder and fire fell from heaven and this burnt him (Abraham’s father) up, his house and everything in it”. The “great peal of thunder” must certainly refer to the sonic boom of a volcanic eruption. The people of those times did simply not understand these terrible natural phenomena and attributed it to the wrath of God.
The most probable cause of this plague is that following the decimation of livestock and vegetation caused by the volcanic ash, whatever plants remained were targeted by locusts, creating the impression that Egypt had been struck by a plague of locusts.
This is the most telling of all the plagues, as it unequivocally links the plagues to a volcanic eruption. It has been suggested that the plague of darkness was caused by a particularly severe sand storm, but the description of the plague of boils leaves no doubt that this darkness was caused by volcanic ash. In the Book of Exodus it is stated that no one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days, Josephus describes it as
a thick darkness, without the least light, spread itself over the Egyptians, whereby their sight being obscured, and their breathing hindered by the thickness of the air, they died miserably, and under a terror lest they should be swallowed up by the dark cloud. Besides this, when the darkness, after three days and as many nights, was dissipated
and in The Legends of the Jews we read
The last plague but one, like those which had preceded it, endured seven days. All the time the land was enveloped in darkness, only it was not always of the same degree of density. During the first three days, it was not so thick but that the Egyptians could change their posture when they desired to do so. If they were sitting down, they could rise up, and if they were standing, they could sit down. On the fourth, fifth, and sixth days, the darkness was so dense that they could not stir from their place. They either sat the whole time, or stood; as they were at the beginning, so they remained until the end. The last day of darkness overtook the Egyptians, not in their own land, but at the Red Sea, on their pursuit of Israel. The darkness was not of the ordinary, earthly kind; it came from hell, and it could be felt. It was as thick as a dinar …”
According to the El Arish Shrine text (see topic), this darkness lasted for nine days, was accompanied by “violence and tempest” (the storm of hail and fire), and was so dense that “no man could see the face of another”, matching the Hebrew descriptions. Presumably the Egyptians and Israelites of that time would have been well familiar with sand storms and would have described it as such had this been the cause of the plague of darkness.A darkness that was “thick” and “could be felt” implies a dense downpour of ash over a large part of Egypt - there is no other natural explanation for this ‘miracle’.
Figure 20.2 gives an impression of the terrifying approach of a volcanic ash cloud. The eruption of Mount St Helens in the state of Washington in the United States of America in 1980 was classified as VEI 5 with an estimated ejecta volume of about 3 cubic kilometres. Its ash cloud rose 24 km into the sky and eventually reached Edmonton in Canada, approximately 1,100 km away. In the USA the ash cloud spread over a sector of radius approximately 1,800 km, with some ash deposits having fallen as far as Oklahoma, 2,400 km from Mount St Helens.
An even more powerful volcanic eruption occurred in 1991 when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted, covering an area of 125,000 square kilometres over distances as far as 2,360 km from the eruption. This eruption was rated VEI 6 and released between 6 and 16 cubic kilometres of ash into the atmosphere.
By comparison, the estimated volume of ejecta for the Thera eruption, VEI 6 or 7, is between about 30 cubic kilometres and 100 cubic kilometres, with an estimated column height of 36 km (this seems to be a gross underestimation, given the different classifications of the eruptions). There can, therefore, be no doubt that given the right wind direction, the ash cloud of Thera could have reached Egypt.
At some point volcanic ash must fall to the surface again and one can imagine how “thick’ the air would become when the ash in the sky starts descending to earth.
Figure 20.2. The Mount St Helens ash cloud over the airfield of Ephrata, 238 km NE of the volcano
Death of the firstborn and Moses' Burning Bush
In the Book of Exodus we read
Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.
and The Legends of the Jews paints a very realistic story:
When Moses announced the slaying of the firstborn, the designated victims all repaired to their fathers, and said: ‘Whatever Moses hath foretold has been fulfilled. Let the Hebrews go, else we shall all die.’ But the fathers replied, ‘It is better for one of every ten of us to die, than the Hebrews should execute their purpose.’ Then the firstborn repaired to Pharaoh, to induce him to dismiss the children of Israel. So far from granting their wish, he ordered his servants to fall upon the firstborn and beat them, to punish them for their presumptuous demand. Seeing that they could not accomplish their end by gentle means, they attempted to bring it about by force. … At the exact instant marking the middle of the night, so precise that only God Himself could determine and discern it. … Those among the Egyptians who gave credence to Moses’ words, and tried to shield their firstborn children from death. … Among the slain there were, beside the Egyptian firstborn, also the firstborn of other nationalities residing in Egypt, as well as the Egyptian firstborn dwelling outside of their own land.
These texts make it clear that the order for the execution of the firstborn had come directly from the Pharaoh himself, and no one was spared. Why would he have issued such a decree? In Thera and the Exodus I quote several examples of the ancient practice of sacrificing firstborn children in fires in times of despair (the fires of Moloch), and Egypt was indeed in a state of despair – the plague was devastating the Egyptian population, and, of course, the Israelites themselves. This is attested to by the hundreds of statues Amenhotep III had erected in honour of Sekhmet, the goddess of destruction, an event recognised scholars evidently have not been able to explain. It is true that Egypt was not known for sacrificing its firstborn, but it would seem that in this instance the Egyptian priesthood had in desperation turned to this same form of sacrifice to pacify the perceived anger of the gods. The very first person to be sacrificed in the fire would have been the firstborn son of Amenhotep III himself, Crown Prince Tuthmosis.
The narrative in The Legends of the Jews eliminates all other ‘natural’ causes of the death of the firstborn. The victims knew exactly what was awaiting them, and they all died exactly at midnight on a specific day. The sacrifice of the firstborn is also the ONLY explanation why the firstborn of the animals would have died at exactly the same time as the humans.
That a decree to this effect had been issued by the Pharaoh is suggested in the Book of Exodus, where it is recorded that the Pharaoh had ordered all Jewish boys to be killed, which would have included the baby Moses. The story of Moses in the basket is of course utter nonsense and was no doubt borrowed from the legendary birth of the Babylonian king Sargon, whose mother had set him adrift in a sealed basket of rushes and who was found and raised by Akki the irrigator. The boys who were to be killed were the firstborns of all families, Egyptians and slaves alike.
Several legends that involve the burning of a victim and are most likely based on this shameful moment in Egyptian history are discussed in Thera and the Exodus.
As we know today, no sacrifice could ever have influenced the plague and when the sacrifice of the firstborn across Egypt did not bring an end to the plague as promised by the priesthood of Amun, the Egyptian population turned its anger against Amun. No other event could have caused a nation to so suddenly and so viciously turn against its national deity. This and this alone was the reason why Akhenaten turned to the Aten as his sole god.
That Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis was perceived to have died is evidenced by a schist recumbent mummiform bier that has Thutmose prone with the Ba, Soul Bird upon his lower breast (Figure 20.3). This is, however, not proof that he had died, only proof that he was believed to have died, or that preparations were being made for his impending death. As quoted elsewhere (see “Messengers Sent to Jerusalem” and “Joseph vs Yuya”), even the king believed that his son had died. However, the El Arish text’s suggestion that Seb (Tuthmosis) had survived being burned to death and Cheremon’s account that Moses and Joseph had both rebelled against Amenhotep, make it clear that Joseph had rescued his beloved grandson from what he believed would be nothing but a futile act of sacrifice. Various legends about Moses, quoted in Thera and the Exodus, leave no doubt that Moses was the firstborn son of the Pharaoh, and according to Artapanus, Moses was involved in the burial of the first Apis bull, an event known to have been performed by Amenhotep III and his son Crown Prince Tuthmosis. Manetho records that Moses had sent messengers to the kings of Jerusalem, summoning them to him in order to fight against Amenhotep, while the El Arsih Shrine Text identifies the person who sent the messengers as the king’s son, and The Story of Joseph and Asenath identifies the sender as the king’s eldest son. In other words, Crown Prince Tuthmosis had survived and became known as the biblical Moses.
That Moses had faced a fiery death, but escaped is confirmed by the so-called “burning bush” episode in which God supposedly revealed himself to Moses. The only logical explanation for this otherwise absurd legend is that when Moses learned about his fate, or more likely when he was actually about to be cast into the fire, he made a pledge to the God of the Hebrews that should he be saved, he would in future dedicate his life to this god. He was saved in the nick of time by Joseph (Yuya) and became the voice of the Hebrew god, who existed only in his head.
Finally, in Thera and the Exodus it is shown that some traditions about the legendary king Sesostris pertain to Amenhotep III, who had left his ‘brother’ Ay in charge of Egypt during his stay in Ethiopia (see “Sesostris”). In this legend it is related how Sesostris was saved by the burning of two of his sons at a treacherous banquet (an entirely different event, see “The Treacherous Banquet”), no doubt a tradition based on the widespread burning of the firstborn in Egypt.
Figure 20.3. Prince Thutmose's schist recumbent bier
The Plagues in the Koran
The Koran describes the plagues sent to Egypt as a flood (‘tufan’, the same word used to describe Noah’s deluge in Sura 29.14), showers of stone, locusts, vermin and frogs (Sura 7.133), a violent tornado, a mighty blast, some being swallowed up by the earth and others drowned (Sura 29:40), and the great works and fine buildings of Pharaoh and his people being levelled to the ground (Sura 7.137).
All of the above agree with a volcanic eruption, the blast being its sonic boom, while the earth swallowing up some suggesting the collapse of buildings and landscapes due to earthquake triggered by the eruption. Most importantly, though, is that the Arab scribes remembered one of the plagues as being a flood, confirming that Egypt was struck by a tsunami (see “The Parting of the Sea”).
That an earthquake had indeed occurred during the New Kingdom era has recently been confirmed by the discovery of two new tombs , which clearly suffered earthquake damage to the ceilings and walls of the tombs (Figure 20.4).
Figure 20.4. Earthquake damage to walls and ceilings of two newly discovered (March 2015) 18th Dynasty tombs
Volcanic ash can asphyxiate animals and destroy vegetation, leading to the death of animals in affected areas, but a more probable cause would have been the poisoned water and food of the animals. Many animals died following the eruptions of Tambora, Krakatoa, Mount Peleö and Mount St Helens.
- II Samuel 24:15
- Aidan Dodson, Amarna Sunset, The American University Press in Cairo, Cairo, New York: 2009, p. 17.
- MailOnline, PUBLISHED: 05:51 GMT, 13 March 2015,
The most dramatic miracle Moses supposedly performed was the so-called parting of the sea. The Israelites, who had been given permission by Pharaoh to leave Egypt, were being pursued by the Egyptian army and were trapped at the Red Sea. Moses held out his staff and the waters parted, allowing 600000 men, along with women, children, the elderly and a mixed multitude of non-Israelites, probably totalling around 2 million people, to cross on dry land with a wall of water on either side. When the Egyptian army followed, the waters returned and the pharaoh with his entire army was destroyed.
From point of view that no miracles had ever been performed by anyone, some rather improbable “natural” explanations have been offered, such as a strong wind exposing a shallow reef over which the Israelites crossed the sea. No wind could ever produce “walls of water”, and how would 2 million people have been able to cross muddy waters in such a brief period of time? It would also have required immensely precise timing for this unusually strong wind to appear just when the Israelites were cornered by the Egyptian army. We also know the nature of wind - it tends to come in gusts, rather than being continuous, unchanging in strength and in one direction only, for hours at a time. One lapse or moderate change in direction would have caused all the Israelites on the reef to drown instantaneously.
Before addressing the only plausible explanation for this miracle, it is necessary to summarise the chain of events as proposed in Thera and the Exodus (see also “Eruptions of Thera”).
The first exodus occurred when the tsunami from the first eruption weakened the Hyksos defences in Upper Egypt and allowed Ahmose to overthrow them. According to Josephus, Ahmose besieged their capital Avaris and eventually allowed 240000 of them to leave peacefully to Judea, where they founded Jerusalem. It is extremely unlikely that Ahmose would have come to such an agreement with his sworn enemy. It is much more likely that when the Hyksos realized that they would not be able to withstand an Egyptian onslaught, they left behind contingents of soldiers to defend their cities, while the bulk of the population escaped along the route shown in Figure 21.1. Several researchers have suggested that the path through the sea could have been the narrow ridges of sand that separate the water of Lakes Manzala and Sarbonis (Bardawil) from the Mediterranean Sea. These ridges would on average have been about 250 m wide during the Hyksos era. Ahmose would have attempted to cut off any direct escape route to the north, which they would have been well aware of. The escaping Hyksos would have been undetectable and untouchable for long parts of their journey across the sand ridges on the edges of these lakes.
Figure 21.1. The exodus escape route via the Lake Manzala ridge after Phillips, and possibly along the Lake Sarbonis ridge
Although Phillips places the Exodus during the reign of Amenhotep III, he makes the keen observation that the escape route of the Israelites was initially directed towards the pillar of cloud and fire (no other explanation feasible but Thera’s ash cloud), which at one point moved from in front of them to behind them, corresponding with a south-eastern turn as indicated in Figure 1. The first exodus would have comprised Hyksos only.
The second exodus, which was led by Moses, had an entirely different nature. As described in Thera and the Exodus, a second eruption of Thera caused massive destruction in Egypt during the reign of Amenhotep III. Its defences (the chariots of the pharaoh) in Lower Egypt were washed away by the tsunami and the plague caused by the ash fall-out began decimating the Egyptian population. In an attempt to appease what he believed to be the wrath of the gods against Egypt, Amenhotep ordered the burning of all the firstborns in Egypt. Crown Prince Tuthmosis (Moses), was rescued from the fire in the nick of time (his so-called “burning bush” episode). When the ultimate sacrifice did not have the desired effect, a wide scale revolt against Amenhotep and the priesthood of Amun broke out across Egypt. Moses led this rebellion and also sent messengers to the previously expelled Hyksos in Jerusalem, asking their assistance in his war against Egypt and promising them their land of antiquity in return. They complied and Moses confronted his father with an army of about 380000 men, comprising parts of the Egyptian army still loyal to Moses, the Hyksos from Jerusalem and probably anyone who was prepared to fight against Amenhotep. Faced with such a huge army, led by his son, and also the deadly plague that could be used as a weapon, Amenhotep, his court and the bulk of the Egyptian army retreated into Ethiopia. They remained there for about ten to thirteen years, during which time Moses effectively ruled Egypt, while his brother Akhenaten was formally in charge of Egypt from Akhetaten. Moses could never be appointed as the proper king of Egypt, as the Egyptians may have blamed the failure of the sacrifice of the firstborn on the fact that the most important firstborn child in Egypt had cheated death. When the Egyptian army eventually returned to Egypt, Moses with his mixed multitude had already departed to Canaan. There was no “parting of the sea” this time, as the volcanic eruption had happened more than a decade before.
One can easily imagine how the two exoduses of the Hyksos from Egypt could have become one as a result of the long history of oral transmission of the Exodus events:
- The two tsunamis that struck Egypt and the existence of the land ridge along the northern shores of Egypt combined to become the parting of the sea by Moses.
- In both instances the Hyksos were directly involved in an exodus from Egypt. In the first exodus the Hyksos escaped capture and annihilation by Ahmose, and in the second the Hyksos enslaved by Tuthmosis and others, as well as the Hyksos army that joined Moses in his battle with Amenhotep III, eventually departed from Egypt.
- The drowning of the Egyptians in the Nile Delta by the tsunami resulting from the second eruption of Thera became the drowning of the Egyptian army in the sea (see “The Army that vanished”).
- The after-effects of the second eruption of Thera became the plagues of Egypt (see “The Plagues of Egypt”).
- It should be noted that apart from Moses fabled plagues, there are two other miracles that in the context of the Exodus can have only a volcanic eruption as its source. The first is the mention of the walls of water witnessed by the Israelites. This could not have been anything else but a tsunami, caused by either a volcanic eruption or some other seismic event. The second ‘miracle’, this one by God, is the column of cloud that appeared by day and the column of fire that appeared by night. This has no other possible origin other than the ash cloud of a volcano that is visible by day on the far-off horizon, and the faint glow of the lava that would be observable at night. Water vapour is released by a volcanic eruption, and in Thera’s case the ocean would have been boiling in the underwater crater left by the eruption. Refraction of the light emitted by the red hot glow of the lava would most likely have ensured that the glow of the volcano could be seen beyond the horizon. The columns of fire and cloud would have applied only to the escape of the Hyksos during the first eruption of Thera. Various photographs in Thera and the Exodus show that it would have been perfectly possible for Thera’s ash cloud to be visible from Egypt.
Although of seemingly little significance at first glance, the manner in which the Israelites reportedly left Egypt is of crucial importance. The Bible attempts to create the impression that the Israelites were a pious, oppressed people who got along with their Egyptian neighbours so well that the Egyptians in the end showered them with gifts before they departed from Israel :
The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (NIV)
Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. (NASB)
They also honored the Hebrews with gifts; some, in order to get them to depart quickly, and others on account of their neighborhood, and the friendship they had with them .
Josephus paints a similar picture of the docile Israelites :
Shall I say nothing, or shall I mention the removal of our fathers into Egypt, who, when they were used tyrannically, and were fallen under the power of foreign kings for four hundred years together, and might have defended themselves by war and by fighting, did yet did nothing but commit themselves to God!
One should immediately be suspicious about the Lord changing the attitude of the Egyptians towards the Israelites just before they left. Not only would it have been extremely unlikely, but it of course never happened (there was no divine intervention at any time during the Exodus events). Furthermore, the words “(and) so they plundered the Egyptians” suggest that the supposed change in attitude was nothing more than a rationalization by the scribe who wrote the Book of Exodus, who either deliberately wanted to refute accusations that the Israelites had literally plundered (robbed) Egypt, or refused to accept that they could have done so.
The scribe’s inadvertent acknowledgement that the Israelites had plundered Egypt accords perfectly with the version of the Exodus events presented in Thera and the Exodus.
According to Manetho, Moses (Crown Prince Tuthmosis) sent messengers to the rulers of Jerusalem, requesting them to join him in his battle against Egypt. This they did with a vengeance:
But for the people of Jerusalem, when they came down together with the polluted Egyptians, they treated the men in such a barbarous manner, that those who saw how they subdued the forementioned country, and the horrid wickedness they were guilty of, thought it a most dreadful thing; for they did not only set the cities and villages on fire but were not satisfied till they had been guilty of sacrilege, and destroyed the images of the gods, and used them in roasting those sacred animals that used to be worshipped, and forced the priests and prophets to be the executioners and murderers of those animals, and then ejected them naked out of the country.
Several accounts of the Exodus confirm that the Israelites had been armed when the left Egypt:
- The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle .
- It was this Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said, “Bring the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions (regiments)” .
- At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt .
- On the next day Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of the winds resisting it; and he conjectured that this also happened by Divine Providence, that so they might not be destitute of weapons. So when he had ordered the Hebrews to arm themselves with them . Comment – an absurd rationalization as to why the Israelites left Egypt fully armed. Metal does not drift in water.
- Of the multitude that departed from Egypt, 600000 were fit for war  and able to serve in Israel’s army .
Other accounts also relate or suggest that Moses had been involved in a rebellion against Egypt:
- The leprous people who survived came together and were addressed by Moses, upon whose advice they plundered and burned the temples of other men (the Egyptians). They reached Judea, where they built a city called Hierosyla, meaning ‘“Robbers of temples” .
- During the Exodus the Israelites thought only of taking the gold and silver of the Egyptians .
- Moses was very wealthy, having obtained his riches from the Ethiopians and the booty taken from the Egyptians .
- Moses became the leader of those affected by the disease and “carried off by stealth the sacred utensils of the Egyptians, who, endeavouring to recover them by force of arms, were obliged by tempests to return home” .
- The Ipuwer Papyrus describes an Egypt invaded by foreigners and widespread mayhem across the country. Although some scholars have identified the foreigners as the original Hyksos who invaded Egypt, there are other aspects of the document that link it to the invasion of the Hyksos from Jerusalem as requested by Moses. It is for instance recorded that the Nile had turned into blood and that Egyptian crops had been destroyed, matching two of the plagues of Egypt. It furthermore relates that the military classes had become barbarians themselves who began to destroy Egypt and ‘showed the Asiatics the state of the land’. This description is a perfect match for Manetho’s account in which those Egyptians who had been infected by the plague along with the Hyksos slaves, joined the rebellion and summoned the Asiatics from Jerusalem to join them in their fight against Amenhotep III.
That Egypt was left in a state of destruction and abandon is confirmed by Tutankhamun’s so-called Restoration Stele,
the temples and the cities of the gods and goddesses, starting from Elephantine as far as the Delta marshes … were fallen into decay and their shrines were fallen into ruin, having become mere mounds overgrown with grass. Their sanctuaries were like something which had not yet come into being and their buildings were a footpath – for the land was in rack and ruin,
as well as the Koran ,
and We destroyed (all) that Pharaoh and his folk were producing and what they had been building.
To conclude, various legends and inadvertent remarks confirm Manetho’s version of Moses’ role in Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt – it was an outright rebellion and Amenhotep III had been driven from Egypt into Ethiopia, where he, if still alive by then, and his army remained for thirteen years.
- Exodus 12:35-36.
- Josephus, Antiquities 2.14.6 (314).
- Josephus, Wars 5.9.4 (17).
- Exodus 13:18.
- Ibid., 6:26.
- Ibid., 12:41.
- Josephus, Antiquities 2.16.6 (349).
- Ibid., 2.15.1 (317).
- Numbers 1:44-46.
- Josephus, Against Apion I.34 (308-311, 318).
- Jacobs, Joseph, et al. ‘Moses.’ Jewish Encyclopedia. 23 September 2011.
- Marcus Junianus Justinus – Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus (Watson), 36.2.
- Surah VII.137.
As indicated by the title of my book Thera and the Exodus, I have no doubt that there is a link between the eruptions of the volcano on Santorini, called Thera in ancient times, and the plagues of the Exodus. Although Thera’s eruption has been cited as the cause of the biblical plagues by several researchers over the years, it is now unanimously rejected by scholars because of the dating of the Thera eruption., the eruption had been dated by means of the remains of an olive tree buried in Thera’s volcanic ash, to ca. 1613 BCE, with 95% accuracy, a date which long predates any Exodus time frame. Hence, no link between Thera’s eruption and the biblical plagues can exist. Since then, however, even this date has been challenged, based on assumptions made during the 1613 BCE dating, and a revised time frame of 1525 to 1490 BCE has been proposed . However, because of the accurate description of the plagues in terms of phenomena that can only be associated with a volcanic eruption (see “The Plagues of Egypt”), and the identification of Moses as Crown Prince Tuthmosis, the firstborn son of Amenhotep III, all indications are that a second eruption of Thera, or at least another volcano, must have occurred at that time, ca. 1360 BCE. In this section of The Moses Puzzle and as discussed in greater detail in Thera and the Exodus, I will show that two major eruptions of Thera must have occurred:
Tsunami deposits on Crete contain discrete intraclasts (solidified 'rocks') of Santorini ash, as discovered by Bruins and his colleagues. Their argument is that the ash from the first phase of the Thera eruption was wind-carried to Crete before the next phases of the eruption. The newly deposited ash on Crete was supposedly reworked and re-deposited by the tsunami formed during the second or third phases of the eruption. However, photographs of these deposits (Figure 23.1) show that these rock-like deposits must already have solidified before being shattered by the tsunami. How long does it take for a layer of volcanic ash to solidify? Certainly not a couple of hours or days - more likely at least several years or decades. If the ash had belonged to the same eruption that caused the tsunami, it would have been evenly dispersed within or mixed with the mud formed by the tsunami. How Bruins and his colleagues could have come to their illogical conclusion quite frankly is astonishing. Did the idea of an earlier eruption never occur to them?
Radiocarbon dating of bones of domesticated animals found in the tsunami deposits by Bruins et al have been dated to ca. 3350 BP (1630 BCE), which is similar to the olive tree date
Figure 23.1. Discrete intraclasts of solidified Santorini ash among tsunami debris
- Descriptions of the plague of darkness in Exodus (the 9th plague, which is actually the same as the 6th, in which ash from a furnace descended all over Egypt and caused boils and blisters on people and animals alike), as a darkness so intense that it could be felt, hindered breathing, blocked everything from sight, prevented people from moving around and lasted for several days (see “The Plagues of Egypt”), could not have been anything else but volcanic ash. With Moses having been identified as Crown Prince Tuthmosis, it means that a volcanic eruption of catastrophic magnitude must have occurred during the reign of the Amarna period.
- , the Greeks distinctly remembered two major floods, the floods of Ogygus and of Deucalion, which occurred around 250 years apart. Eusebius incidentally also records that Ethiopia was destroyed by fire during the reign of Deaucalion, which accords with the 7th plague (see “The Plagues of Egypt”) and also the final destruction, by fire, of the palace of Knossos on Crete, where a scarab belonging to Amenhotep III was found. Both floods are associated with Moses and the Exodus, while the flood of Ogygus is stated to have occurred during the reign of Ahmose I (1550-1525 BCE). The flood of Deucalion is said to have occurred 200-250 years later, which would place it around 1350-1275 BCE, i.e. from the reign of Akhenaten to the reign of Ramesses II. In Thera and the Exodus it is argued that the flood must have occurred around 1360 BCE, which, given the uncertainties of Orthodox Egyptian Chronology, accords with the dates of the legendary flood of Deucalion. A flood during the reign of Ahmose also matches the flooding of Egypt described in the so-called Tempest Stele of Ahmose, and notes on the reverse side of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, which relate that the “voice of Seth” was heard and the sky had rained . Professor Hans Goedicke controversially linked the “voice of Seth” to an eruption of Thera, followed by an ash fall over Avaris. A more likely explanation is that the eruption had wreaked havoc on the weather and caused storms and rain over Egypt.
Two directions of ash fallout have been identified, as shown in Figure 23.2 . This suggests that two separate eruptions must have occurred under different wind directions.
Figure 23.2. Two directions of Thera ash fall-out suggesting two separate eruptions
It is now opportune to consider the mathematics behind the radiocarbon dating process. It is essentially based on the measurement of the ratio of the unstable carbon-14 to the stable carbon-12 isotopes in organic matter, which can nowadays be measured within an accuracy of 0.2%. The uncalibrated date of the eruption of Thera is coincidentally very close to 1360 BCE, but scientists have long noted discrepancies between radiocarbon dating and other dating methods and have subsequently introduced calibration curves for correcting the raw radiocarbon dates. They have conducted numerous checks on the validity of these assumptions and appear to be 100% confident that they can indeed achieve accuracies in the range of a fraction of a percent. With that, radiocarbon scientists and Egyptologists alike seem to simply dismiss any link between the eruption of Thera and the plagues of Egypt as pure fantasy.
It is, however, worthwhile taking a look at the basic principles of radiocarbon dating . During its life, a plant or animal is exchanging carbon with its surroundings, so the carbon it contains will have the same proportion of 14C as the biosphere and the carbon exchange reservoir. Once it dies, it ceases to acquire 14C, but the 14C within its biological material at that time will continue to decay, and so the ratio of 14C to 12C in its remains will gradually reduce. Because 14C decays at a known rate, the proportion of radiocarbon can be used to determine how long it has been since a given sample stopped exchanging carbon – the older the sample, the less 14C will be left.
The equation governing the decay of a radioactive isotope is given by
where No is the number of atoms of the isotope in the original sample (at time t = 0, when the organism from which the sample was taken died), and N is the number of atoms left after time t (in years, Before Present) and λ = 1/ 8267. The sample is assumed to have originally had the same 14C/12C ratio as the ratio in the biosphere, and since the size of the sample is known, the total number of atoms in the sample can be calculated, yielding No, the number of 14C atoms in the original sample. Measurement of N, the number of 14C atoms currently in the sample, allows the calculation of t, the age of the sample, using the equation above.
From (1) we can calculate t as
To calculate t from (2), an assumption must be made for the value of No, in the year when the 14C was absorbed, i.e. when the animal or plant died. However, several factors could have affected No as discussed in various papers on the topic. One of those factors is gases released into the atmosphere by active volcanoes. Volcanic eruptions eject large amounts of carbon into the air. The carbon is of geological origin and has no detectable 14C, so the 14C/12C ratio in the vicinity of the volcano is depressed relative to surrounding areas, and radiocarbon dated objects appear to be older than what they really are.
We now return to the final two eruptions of Thera. If the first, lesser eruption had occurred during the reign of Ahmose, and continued to release tons of toxic gas into the air until its final eruption in 1360 BCE, the assumed value for No certainly cannot be correct. For the final (olive tree dated) eruption to have occurred in 1613 BCE, t=1613+1950 = 3563 BP, and N/No =0.6499 from (1). If the eruption had in fact occurred in 1360 BCE, t=1360+1950 = 3310 BP and N/No = 0.6700. In other words, a 253 year difference in years resulted because the ratio N/No changed by a mere 3%! Alternatively, assuming that N can be measured with 0% error, it would mean that a 3% error in the assumed value of No would result in a 253 year difference. So, if Thera had continued to release large amounts of gas after its first eruption, it would have affected the carbon reservoir in its immediate vicinity but very likely also downwind areas such as Crete. Given only a 3% deviation, it is then possible that the olive-tree eruption occurred 250 years later than originally thought, in 1360 BCE
- It is important to note that the events associated with two separate eruptions of Thera apparently became woven into the single Exodus narrative described in the Bible (see “The Parting of the Sea”). It is possible, though unlikely, that the second eruption was not that of Thera but some other volcano in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Van de Perre, Athena, “The Year 16 graffito of Akhenaten in Dayr Abū Ḥinnis: A contribution to the study of the later years of Nefertiti.” Journal of Egyptian History, 2014, vol. 7, pp. 67-108.
- Rohl, David. The Lords of Avaris. London: Arrow Books, 2008, pp. 250-251.
- Sivertsen, Barbara J. The Parting of the Sea. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 29.
The El Arish stone was discovered in 1887, being used as a water trough for cattle. Although it is generally believed to have been cut during Ptolemaic era, others have argued that it dates from a much earlier era. The El Arish Shrine text (EAST) involves a story about the exploits of the Egyptian gods Shu, Geb and Tefnut that some have linked to the biblical Exodus, mainly because of the reference to a terrible storm that had descended upon Egypt, but also of a pharaoh that supposedly drowned. In Thera and the Exodus I point out several events recorded in the EAST that closely match my interpretation of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
Even though the author of the text refers to them by the names of Egyptian gods, the protagonists can be identified as Amenhotep III (King Shu), Prince Tuthmosis (Seb or Geb) and Nefertiti (Tefnut).Additional information is presented to confirm these identities.
The key arguments can be summarized in bulleted format as follows.
- Those who believe that the EAST is nothing more than a fairy tale base their conviction on the fact that all the protagonists have the names of gods. In ancient Egyptian mythology the gods Shu and Tefnut were born to the sun god Re and they in turn had twins called Geb and Nut. The 18th Dynasty rulers without exception termed themselves offspring of the gods. Re was the principle god during the reign of Amenhotep III, who, as son of Re, would have been known as Shu. Amenhotep’s son, Crown Prince Tuthmosis, would have been known as Seb, the son of Shu. When Akhenaten later became king of Egypt, he likewise adopted the name Shu and Nefertiti the name Tefnut, as evidenced by a whipstock knob of blue faience, inscribed with the names of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and decorated with representations of the royal couple as Shu and Tefnut.
- The text begins with King Shu and his court relocating from Memphis to a place called At Nebes (Yat Nebes).To identify which city At Nebes could have been, one must find an Egyptian king who moved his court from Memphis to another place. Amenhotep III is known have broken from tradition in moving his court from Memphis to Thebes, which would equate At Nebes with Thebes. At (Yat) Nebes can be translated at nbs (Place of the Sycamore) or Hwt nbs (House of the Sycamore) , which I have not recognised in Thera and the Exodus.
- The modern archaeological site of Saft el-Hinna  in the Nile Delta was identified as an ancient provincial capital named Per-Sopdu (The House of Sopdu), and this town was also known as Lat Nebes and Hut Nebes (hwt nbs) .Sopdu is sometimes referred to as Sopedu, Soped, or Sopedu-Horus, and in the EAST it is recorded that a new House of Sepd was built for Shu in his name of Sepd lord of the East. This certainly creates the impression that Shu had moved his court to this location, but it is inconceivable that the royal court of Egypt would have been moved from Memphis to this nondescript location. The fact that a new House of Sepd was built for Shu implies that it must have been built someplace else, which could have been Thebes. Although there are no extant monuments of Sepd in Thebes, it is well known that kings throughout Egyptian history appropriated the monuments of their predecessors for their own use, so that particular monument may exist today under another name.
- In ancient Egypt the sycamore tree represented the Tree of Life, and temple gardens at Karnak in Thebes often had rows of sycamore trees . During the time of Amenhotep III some temples were devoted to a goddess in the form of a tree, with a trunk for a body and branches for arms. This goddess was believed to carry water to the dead, the quench their thirst. It is therefore quite possible that Thebes had become known as the Place of the Sycamore(s) during the reign of Amenhotep III.
In the EAST much emphasis is placed on the building projects of king Shu. Specifically, Shu is recorded as having built a wall of thickness 7.9 m (15 cubits) and height 10.5 m (20 cubits) around a “”sacred place”. It is well known that Amenhotep III was a prolific builder and that most Theban monuments underwent major expansion under Amenhotep III . Figure 24.1  portrays the walls of the Karnak temple complex, which clearly must have been several meters wide and with an even greater height. The author of the EAST appears to have attributed the construction of these walls to Amenhotep III as King Shu. If At Nebes is to be identified with a place other than Thebes, there should be evidence of a temple complex with massive surrounding walls as described in the EAST.
Figure 24.1. Artist’s impression of the Karnak Temple Complex
- The palace of Shu faced east, implying that it was built on the west bank of the ‘canal’, i.e. the Nile. The palace of Amenhotep III was constructed on the site known as Malkata on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. In other words, Yat Nebes was simply another name for Thebes.
- King Shu dug a sacred lake at At Nebes, measuring 190 x 110 cubits (100 x 58 m). Amenhotep dug an artificial lake at Thebes measuring 370 m by 1940 m for his wife Tiy, where they sailed on their imperial barge named The Aton Gleams. The sacred lake dug by Tuthmosis III at the Karnak Temple Complex measures 120 x 77 m, which is only marginally larger than Shu’s lake. It is possible that the author of the EAST had attributed this lake to Shu. Amenhotep III may also have dug the sacred lake next to the Montu Precinct of the Karnak Temple Complex in Thebes. Either way, Amenhotep III is known to have dug a lake in Thebes.
- Egypt was invaded by the ‘children of Apep’, and evil-doers from the red country. King Shu fortified Yat Nebes and the surrounding areas, but the next time we hear of him, he and his attendants had ‘departed to heaven’ following an evil that fell on his land and aThis account must be read in conjunction with his son Seb having sent messengers to summon to him the foreigners and Asiatics from their land (see “Messengers to Jerusalem”). As related by Manetho, Moses (Osarsiph) sent messengers to the ‘shepherds’ in Jerusalem to join him in a struggle against Amenhotep, confirming that Moses was in fact the king’s son. The mention of two distinct groups correlates with Manetho’s two groups, the Hyksos slaves and the people from Jerusalem. The children of Apep must refer to the Hyksos, who had a king called Apepi. Manetho records that a large number of the Hyksos were trapped by Ahmose and were allowed to escape to Palestine where they founded Jerusalem. They would, therefore, have been ‘children of Apep’. The red land refers to the deserts of Egypt and appears to be the place where the plague infected Hyksos slaves who were driven to by Amenophis (according to Manetho), but were called into rebellion by Osarsiph.Amenhotep intended to confront the combined forces of Osarsiph and the people from Jerusalem, but decided against it and retreated into Nubia with his (own) army. To the Egyptians remaining in Egypt this king and his court would have vanished overnight (gone to heaven), matching the biblical account that the Pharaoh and his entire army was killed (supposedly by the walls of water of the parted sea collapsing onto them, see “The Army That Vanished”).
- Before he ‘departed to heaven’, Shu had become sick and ‘confusion seized his eyes’. This is reminiscent of Herodotus’ account of Pheros, the son of Sesostris (see “Sesostris”), in which Pheros is described as a king who had fought no wars and who became blind after having hurled his spear into the raging Nile. In both accounts, Shu and Pheros having become blind should probably be interpreted figuratively rather than literally. Perhaps ‘lost his mind’ would be a better translation. The incident must certainly refer to the unsuccessful sacrifice of the firstborn offspring of Egypt, which catapulted Egypt into even greater chaos than that inflicted by the plague (see “The Plagues of Egypt”).
- The nine days of violence and tempest in which no man could see the face of another corresponds to the three days of darkness (the ninth plague) in Egypt. No natural cataclysm other than a volcanic eruption can block out the sun to the extent described in the Book of Exodus and the EAST. This nine-day darkness is described in the Legends of the Jews as a seven-day darkness that was tangible and so thick that it hindered breathing. In the Book of Exodus it is actually recorded that Moses took ash from a fireplace and caused it to descend upon Egypt (see “The Plagues of Egypt”).
- Seb, who effectively took charge of Egypt following his father Shu’s disappearance ‘went not to Heliopolis’. According to Manetho, Moses (Osarsiph) was a priest from Heliopolis who conducted a successful campaign against Amenhotep (III), the latter who fled to Nubia (disappeared from Egypt). The statement ‘went not to Heliopolis’ should probably have been translated ‘did not return to Heliopolis’.
- Tefnut, who was enthroned in Memphis, must be Nefertiti, who ruled as Smenkhare following the death of Akhenaten. Seb met her in a place called Pekharti, which Velikovski argued to be the biblical Pihahiroth, the place where the Egyptian chariot division was encamped before its destruction by the collapsing walls of water. If true, this prominent place provides another link between the EAST and the Exodus. According to Manetho it was not Seb but Armais (Ay) who ‘used violence to the queen’. The El Arish story unfolds in Thebes and Nefertiti seems to have first appeared on the public scene at Thebes. The Koran relates that Asiyah, the exceptionally beautiful wife of Moses’ pharaoh, was killed by him for believing in Moses (see “Nefertiti”).
- Seb was briefed about the ancient history of Egypt (the time of the god Ra, to the conflicts of king Tum or Toum). The latter name most likely corresponds to Manetho’s Timaus, also named Tutimaeus and Timaios, during whose reign the Hyksos invaded Egypt.This pharaoh must have been one of the minor kings of the 14th dynasty. The EAST is hereby linked to the era of the Hyksos in Egypt.
- Seb desired to put the uraeus on his head, “stretched forth his hand … and the snake came forth”.One of the miracles Moses performed before the Pharaoh was to cast his staff onto the ground, upon which it turned into a snake. He then ‘put forth his hand’ and took hold of the snake by its tail, whereupon it returned to its former shape. Whatever the background of these tales, something must have happened to cause the public to remember an incident involving Seb/Moses reaching for a serpent. The latter must be interpreted as Seb reaching for the throne (the uraeus) of his father, which is a symbol of divine authority in Egypt.
- When Seb reached for the snake, it breathed its vapour upon him, causing him to burn (with venom) while all of those around him died. This passage can be linked to the sacrifice of the firstborn, by fire, as discussed in Thera and the Exodus. It is actually stating that when Seb was about to ascend to the throne, the throne (his father) attempted to burn him (the biblical Pharaoh who wanted to kill Moses). All other firstborn died in the fire, but he managed to escape.
- The EAST mentions a mysterious box of hard stone or metal which healed Seb. This can be linked to the equally mysterious Ark of the Covenant, which was covered by gold and supposedly had supernatural powers. Years passed before this box was taken back to At Nebes and thrown in the great lake of the Per Aart (House of the Serpent). This matches the years that passed between Moses’ escape from Egypt and his eventual return to supposedly confront the Pharaoh.
Seb fought with evil-doers in a pool (the great lake) called the Place of the Whirlpool. These evil-doers could not defeat Seb, but he nevertheless had to jump into this pool (to gain divine powers) before he could defeat.
If At Nebes was indeed Thebes, one should look for a pool that may have been known as by that name in ancient times. The Mut temple complex is surrounded by sacred lake called Isheru, a name which is mentioned in the EAST as Usheru. In the EAST it appears to be associated with Apep, the evil Serpent. This lake may very well have been known as the Serpent Lake in ancient times (the lake of Per Aart).
According to Manetho, Osarsiph led a combined force of ‘polluted’ Hyksos slaves, Egyptians and the Shepherds from Jerusalem against Amenhotep, while Africanus furthermore unequivocally states that a portion of the Egyptian army was expelled from Egypt and settled in Palestine.Manetho refers to the son of Amenhotep remaining in Egypt with his own army:
“Amenophis returned with his army, as did his son Rhampses with another army also, and they joined battle with the shepherds, pursued them to the bounds of Syria. Amenophis’ son had three hundred thousand men with him, and met them [the shepherds from Jerusalem) at Pelusium.”
while Cheremon adds that this son welcomed Amenhotep back into Egypt form Ethiopia:
that Amenophis could not sustain their attacks, but fled into Ethiopia, and left his wife with child behind him, who lay concealed in certain caverns, and there brought forth a son, whose name was Messene, and who, when he was grown up to man's estate, pursued the Jews into Syria, being about two hundred thousand, and then received his father Amenophis out of Ethiopia.”
When the Egyptian army eventually returned from Ethiopia, the Hyksos and that part of the Egyptian army under the control of Prince Tuthmosis left the country. This action was interpreted by later Egyptian historians as the Egyptian army pursuing the Jews into Syria. The must have rejected the notion that a part of their famous army could have turned against their own king, joining an enemy of Egypt.The son called Messene was evidently shrouded in mystery – no son of a king would be born in a cave. It may however be that the birth in a cave is based on Hebrew legends that Moses was found in a basket on the Nile. The son who welcomed back his father could not have been Akhenaten, as he had already been killed by that time.
- The EAST specifically mentions the Asiatics carrying the sceptre of Seb, called the Degai. This matches Moses’ fabled rod or staff, which features as an instrument of magic throughout the Exodus narrative.
In the Exodus narrative Moses ascends Mount Sinai, remains there for forty days and eventually returns with two tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Curiously, legend records that his face was horned when he returned. The Horns of Moses has remained a topic of speculation ever since scholars began to question the Bible and modern translations prefer to use the word shine instead of horned, from the Hebrew word qöran, which in the figurative sense means to shoot out rays, i.e. to shine. In reality neither interpretation would be physically possible. The most probable origin of this obscure text is to be found in the EAST, in which it is stated that Seb’s head became that of a hawk with bull’s horns upon it.The Egyptian god Horus was usually shown with a hawk’s head and the cow goddess Hathor wearing a headdress of two horns embracing the sun (Figure 24.2).
Figure 24.2. Hawk-headed Horus and Hathor with horned headdress.
It is therefore clear that the EAST should not be interpreted literally, but that it rather meant that Seb had attained divine blessing or powers.Why Hathor (the horns) in particular?
Although the location of Mount Sinai is generally accepted to be near Saint Katherine City in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, other locations have also been suggested.The most likely of all locations is the archaeological site of Serabitl el-Khadim, famous for its turquoise mines, but more significantly, for the Hathor Temple Complex on top of the mountain. According to the biblical narrative Moses went up Mount Sinai and remained there for 40 days and nights, evidently without food and water. No human being can stay alive in the desert that long without any sustenance, and if there is any truth in this legend, Moses must have received sustenance elsewhere (i.e. from the temple).
Returning to the link between Moses and the horns of a bull, it would appear that Moses did not meet with God atop Mount Sinai, but with priests who were loyal to him. When he eventually returned from the mountain, he would have been wearing a Hathor crown on his head, which in legend became the ‘horns’ on his head.
In conclusion, the EAST can not only be linked to the real life figures of Amenhotep III and his son Crown Prince Tuthmosis, but also to several Exodus related events, including the Asiatic invasion of Egypt, a nine-day darkness, a metal box similar to the Ark of the Covenant and Moses’ staff. It also confirms Amenhotep’s flight from Egypt as claimed by Manetho and Cheremon (see “The Army That Vanished”).
- kmt_sesh, Moderator at Unexplained Mysteries, Ancient Mysteries and Alternative History Forum, http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardens_of_ancient_Egypt; link: Michel Baridon, Les Jardins – Paysagistes- Jardiniers – Poetes. Editions Robert Lafont, 1998, p. 102.
- O’Connor, David and Cline, Eric. H., eds. Amenhotep III – Perspectives on His Reign. University of Michigan Press, 2004, p.143.
Akhenaten is the Egyptian pharaoh credited by many scholars for introducing the first monotheistic religion to mankind, even predating Judaism. During the Amarna era he abandoned the polytheistic Egyptian religion altogether and worshipped only the sun disc, which was called the Aten. He was married to Nefertiti, whose legendary beauty is attested to by a bust of her found in Akhetaten, the city Akhenaten built for his god.
Scholars seem to believe that Akhenaten had in one way or another succeeded in convincing the Egyptian population to turn its back on Amun, in favour of the Aten. In Thera and the Exodus it is shown that this was anything but the case. The reason why Egypt rejected Amun was that the high priest of Amun, Amenhotep the son of Hapu, had advised Amenhotep III to order the sacrifice of all the firstborn in Egypt, in an attempt to bring an end to the deadly plague that was ravaging Egypt at the time (see “The Plagues of Egypt” and “Moses and the Oracle”). Every single family was affected, and in the end it had no effect on the plague whatsoever. Many Egyptians must have rebelled against Amenhotep III for this reason only, joining those affected by the plague who Amenhotep had attempted to expel from Egypt. The rebellion was led by Crown Prince Tuthmosis (see “Moses vs Crown Prince Tuthmosis”), who managed to drive his father and the Egyptian army into Ethiopia (see “Amenhotep III and his Retreat into Ethiopia”). Tuthmosis must for some reason have allowed his younger brother Akhenaten to remain behind in the safe haven of Akhetaten with his beloved wife and six daughters, and other members of the royal family. That Akhenaten was no longer in control of Egypt is suggested by the fact that he no longer responded to the requests for assistance from his former allies in neighbouring countries.
There are no records of Akhenaten’s death, but the letters written by an Egyptian queen to the king of the Hittites, begging him for a son to marry (see “Nefertiti, Zannanza Affair” and “The Treacherous Banquet”), suggest that he was murdered.
The Amarna era, and along with it Atenism, came to an end during the relatively brief reign of Tutankhamun, who had accordingly changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun. He restored the god Amun to supremacy and moved the capital back to Thebes, abandoning Akhetaten altogether.
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