Defending the Theistic View

Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus — Part 3

Ahmose Stela reconstructedIn my last two posts entitled Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? and in Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus — Part 2 I narrowed the list of suspects of Pharoahs of the time period that may have been the monarch that could have confronted Moses.

Now, in part 3, I am going to confirm or deny a third candidate that has been mentioned my some.

In the History Channel documentary “The Exodus Decoded” Simcha Jacobovici attempts to identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus by citing The Tempest Stela of Ahmose. He says in the documentary that he attempted to get access to the ancient stela which lies abandoned in the basement at the Cairo Museum. Since he couldn’t get access to it, he reconstructed it, apparently from descriptions of the archaeologist that had discovered it. (The reconstruction is the picture on the side.)

— He attempts to connect the disaster that the stela speaks about to the ten plagues of Egypt that Moses inflicted. These are the points that Simcha Jacabovici uses to tie the Exodus to the Ahmose Stela:

  • “The Bible says that at the time of the Exodus there was a great storm. Ahmose’ stela also speaks of a great storm . . .”
  • The Bible says that Egypt was enshrouded in darkness. Ahmose’ stela says that Egypt was covered in darkness.
  • The Stela says that even though the Egyptians worshiped many gods, that this disaster happened when “God, in the singular, manifested his power.”

Simcha Jacabovici continues, saying:

The Bible describes Pharaoh, but never names him. Because of this stela we now know his name: Ahmose.

Now that we know a major claim that is used to justify the identification of Ahmose as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, we should now see if the Stela that Jacabovici cites actually supports what he claims. — As a matter of fact, the Tempest Stela of Ahmose I does in fact not seem to parallel the Exodus plagues. My personal reading of it only describes a rain storm:

The gods (made?) the sky come with a tempest of (rain?); it caused darkness in the Western region; the sky was unleashed, without [ . . .] more than the roar of the crowd; [. . .] was powerful [. . .] on the mountains more than the turbulence of the cataract which is at Elephantine. Each house, [. . .] each shelter (or each covered place) that they reached [. . .] were floating in the water like the barks of papyrus (on the outside?) of the royal residence for [. . .] day(s), with no one able to light the torch anywhere.

His citation of the stela saying that the storm happened when “god” manifested his power seems to be the strongest evidence to back him up:

Then His Majesty said: ‘How these (events) surpass the power of the great god and the wills of the divinities!’ And His Majesty descended in his boat, his council following him. The (people were?) at the east and the west, silent, for they had no more clothes (?) on them after the power of the god was manifested.

But the problem is that this mention seems to be the only somewhat strong evidence that Jacabovici has from the stela to affirm his belief that Ahmose is the Pharaoh that confronted Moses. But when the entire stela is understood, I just don’t find that claim credible.

Christopher Heard, in his extended review of “The Exodus Decoded”, says:

It should be clear that Jacobovici’s claim that the Tempest Stela of Ahmose reports, from an Egyptian perspective, the same events as the biblical ten plagues story hangs by the slimmest of threads. The Tempest Stela’s catastrophe could, at most, be seen as vaguely parallel to the plagues of hail and darkness, but even here there are enough significant differences to cast serious doubt on the suggested parallel. To try to connect the Tempest Stela with the ten plagues story as a whole, one must suppose either that the Tempest Stela (whose inscription dates within Ahmose’s twenty-five-year reign, as does the catastrophe itself) presents an exaggerated version of only one of ten catastrophes, or perhaps a mangled conflation of two of them, or that the biblical version (whose linguistic properties are characteristic of an era hundreds of years later than any proposed time frame for the exodus) presents a vastly expanded list of plagues based on a single, albeit devastating, thunderstorm.

So, I’m not the only one that disagrees with Simcha Jacabovici. Several learned people, even many who believe that the Exodus story is true, do not think that the connection is there. The fact is that there is no thunderstorm described in the Book of Exodus for any of the ten plagues. — To be fair, Simcha doesn’t say that, but that is what would be implied if, in fact, the Tempest Stela is indeed describing the Exodus story.

But moving on, just because the Ahmose Stela isn’t connected to the Exodus, that doesn’t show that Pharaoh Ahmose isn’t the Pharaoh of the Exodus. — Another basis that Jacabovici has that he is the Exodus Pharaoh is that he was the Pharaoh that expelled a Semitic race of people called the Hyksos. He believes that the Hyksos are, in fact, the Israelites.

He complains that many historians say the two peoples cannot be equated because the Hyksos and the Hebrews left Egypt separated by hundreds of years. — Just then a skeptic of the Exodus appears on a screen and says that even though one could play with Egyptian dates by moving them by ten years but that they couldn’t be moved by 50 or 100 years. But Jacabovici responds, saying:

But maybe we have to. What if scholars are placing the exodus in the wrong time period? Imagine the confusion if in the future scholars date World War II to the 1990s. They’ll never find any evidence that it actually happened.

Mentioning that many believe that the Exodus happened in the 13thcentury B.C. in the time of Ramses II he also correctly mentions that some scholars “are now breaking with that consensus.” He mentions a calculation that places the Exodus in 1470 B.C. (Hint: that is 23 to 32 years way to early) and then mentioned that the Hyksos expulsion traditionally happened less than a century before. He then says that the events happened to closely together to be a coincidence, so he now has a new date for the Exodus: 1500 B.C.  

There several problems with accepting Jacabovici’s conclusions. The first one is the major differences of the “exodus'” of the Hebrews to that of the Hyksos. — The Exodus story clearly shows that Pharaoh lost his will to fight against Yahweh and let the Israelites go. However, in the case of the Hyksos, The Encyclopedia Britannica shows that Ahmose rebelled against the Hyksos and forced them out of Avaris by force of arms.

The second problem is chronological. According to the most reliable Biblical dating, the Exodus happened between 1446 B.C. to 1437, and the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt in 1521 B.C., 75 to 84 years before the Exodus. Jocabovici realizes this but prefers to say that these events that happened nearly a century apart really occurred at the same time and that time was 1500 B.C. He also ignores, or at least overlooks, the the fact that the Hyksos were expelled by war, unlike the Hebrews.

So basically, I cannot agree with Simcha Jacabovici that Ahmose is the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The fact is that none of the “evidence” he presents to support his suggestion really isn’t as strong as he thinks it is.

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2 responses

  1. Marshall Giller

    How can commentators who doubt that that Exodus occurred also say that Jacobovici is wrong about the connection with other events such as the volcanic eruption on Thera, because they occurred to early for this biblical non-event?
    If anything, dates and numbers in the Bible are less reliable than its accounts of events. Ancient people and people in the Middle East even in modern times had only a vague concept of chronology. the Bible, particularly, has a fondness for the number 40, (40 days for the floor 40 years of wandering, etc.)

    September 1, 2009 at 2:50 am

    • krissmith777

      I do not doubt that the exodus happened. But Simcha’s film is full of crap. Don’t trust it.

      September 24, 2009 at 5:01 pm

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