The Exodus - Finding the Pharaoh (2/3)
Updated: Dec 26, 2020
We have arrived at 1445/6 B.C as the date of the Exodus. This allows us to insert the event into Egyptian history. What we will now discover is as exciting as it is important.
Thutmosis III and his family
The date 1445 B.C takes us to the reign of Tuthmosis III - the sixth Pharaoh in Egypt's 18th dynasty. He was a legendary conqueror and arguably the greatest warrior-Pharaoh in all of Egyptian history. Under his reign, Egypt reached its greatest and most powerful extent. It was the height of the Egyptian golden age.
Thutmosis III became Pharaoh in 1479, but as he was just 3-years old at the time, he co-ruled with his stepmother, Queen Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut had been the sister and wife of the preceding Pharaoh, Thutmosis II, who died early. Since she did not provide her husband with a male heir, Thutmosis II had taken a second wife with whom he got Thutmosis III.
As Thutmosis III grew older, he assumed full control of the army and went on many campaigns while his stepmother Hatshepsut ruled as effective Pharaoh. In ca. 1460, however, Hatshepsut died, leaving power with him alone.
Thutmosis III went on to have a stunning career - but there are two bizarre occurrences that historians simply can't explain:
In the 35th year of his reign, he suddenly stopped all military affairs. He had suffered no defeats, but still ceased to fight completely, and never fought again for the rest of his reign (20 years). Why?
25 years after Hatshepsut's death, Thutmosis III went on a rampage to eradicate her name from history. He ordered her statues to be defaced, her name to be erased and her name in the King Lists was removed. Even the monuments built under her were credited someone else. It is possible he also ravaged her tomb - a sacrilege in Egyptian religion. This way, Hatshepsut would never be remembered in history. In Egyptian mythology, this was the ultimate and worst punishment. If all traces of your existence is removed, it was believed that your soul would forever perish in death. Why this sudden outburst of hate - and to this degree?
We still have no meaningful answer to the first curiosity. The second is entertained by several hypotheses. One is that Thutmosis III had a horrible relationship with his domineering stepmother and erased her history out of spite - but if they truly had a hateful relationship, why would she allow him control of the army (the true source of power) and why would he wait 25 years to express his grievances? His tomb is also located right next to Hatshepsut's - why would they do that if they despised each other? We just got no good answers.
The Prince of Egypt
Let's now couple the Exodus story with this Egyptian chronology. First, we need to introduce Moses into the family drama.
According to the Bible, Moses was 70-80 years when the Exodus occurred. If the Exodus date is 1445, then Moses was born in ca. 1525. Meanwhile, Egyptian sources are very unclear of the birth date of their royals, but scholars believe Hatshepsut was born in 1541; and Thutmosis III in 1481. We recall that Moses was left floating on the Nile in a papyrus basket when he was just three months old. Then, the Bible says:
"Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe...she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said....When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:5-10 with cut-outs).
This tells us:
"The Pharaoh's daughter" at ca. 1525 B.C was Moses' adoptive mother and the person who raised him as a Prince of Egypt. Who was the daughter?
She knew that Moses was a Hebrew, yet still decided to raise him in court - why would she do that when the Egyptians were trying to oppress the Israelites at the time?
She named him Moses. Moses is a royal name belonging to the 18th dynasty (Ahmose I, Thutmosis I, Thutmosis II, Thutmosis III...etc.), but supposedly means "out of water".
Interesting - so who was this woman? At 1525, the Pharaoh was Thutmosis I. He had two daughters, of which only one survived into adulthood - Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut was around 15 years old when Moses was floating on the Nile.
Why would she adopt him? Well, we know that Hatshepsut only borne a daughter, and then possibly went sterile (at least she did not have any more children). She therefore “failed” to provide a male heir. This got her husband, Thutmosis II, to take a second wife, Iset, with whom he finally had a son and future heir, Thutmosis III.
Therefore, Hatshepsut may have adopted the male baby as a way to safeguard and breed a male "son" for royal inheritance in case no biological son appeared ("...she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he [Moses] became her son...").
It is therefore quite likely that Hatshepsut - one of the most famous female leaders in history - was Moses' adoptive mother!
Exciting. But there’s more. Let's read on.
"One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand... " (Exodus 2:11-12)
So Moses was aware he was Hebrew and pitied his suppressed kinfolk. He killed an Egyptian - but kept it secret. Why secret? Any Egyptian from the royalty could execute whomever they liked unopposed, but Moses was different. Despite a Prince of Egypt, he was Hebrew (an "outsider").
"[After realising someone had seen him murdering the Egyptian] ...Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known". When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well." (Exodus 2:14-15).
Moses did one mistake leading to the Pharaoh wanting to kill him, causing Moses to finally flee the country. Clearly there’s a lot of family tensions here just waiting to be unleashed. Lucky for us, the Bible yet again provides a clue:
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin." (Hebrews 11:24-25)
According to this Scripture, Moses kept identifying with the oppressed Israelites to such an extent that he even rejected his adoptive mother (Hatshepsut). This must have offended her deeply. Perhaps he was quite vocal about his Hebraic origins, and that this was a recurring problem within the family?
Besides, when Thutmosis III was born - the true, ethnic Egyptian heir - Thutmosis II probably sought an opportunity to get rid of Moses. I would suggest that also Hatshepsut, upset about her rebellious adoptive son, concurred.
Therefore, Moses knew that the royals sought any opportunity to squeeze him out of the game. When he killed an ethnic Egyptian, as a Hebrew, he knew the line was crossed. Thutmosis II and Hatshepsut turned on him and tried to have him killed, but Moses escaped.
Confronting the Pharaoh
"During that long period [when Moses lived in exile], the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob." (Exodus 2:23-24)
"Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” (Exodus 4:19)
As Moses has his encounter with the Great I AM (God) and prepares to return to Egypt and demand the emancipation of the Israelites, we learn that those who wanted Moses dead, are dead.
Of course, this must be Tuthmosis II and/or Queen Hatshepsut, who also took the title Pharaoh. Moses initially reacts with fear and uncertainty, for he knows how mighty the Egyptians are (remember, by the 1440's they were at their zenith). But still, he goes.
Upon his return, he sees Thutmosis III in all his earthly glory - the "little" boy Moses must have remembered, but never known (according to our timeline, Moses fled when Thutmosis was just an infant or a few years old). Moses was therefore confronting Egypt's mightiest Pharaoh - the one historians often dub "Egypt's Napoleon".
It is therefore no wonder why Thutmosis III reacted with pride and contempt. Recall the words Moses heard from YHWH: "But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a Mighty Hand compels him. So I will stretch out My Hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go." (Exodus 3:19-20).
As Thutmosis III rebuffed Moses, we arrive to the Ten Plagues. Most catastrophic of all was the 10th Plague: the death of the Egyptian first-borns. Here we are told that even the Pharaoh's eldest son died.
"Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well..." (Exodus 11:5).
If we review Egyptian hieroglyphs, we discover that Thutmosis III's eldest son and heir, Amenenhat, died very young. Though we don't know the exact dating of his death, this fits perfectly with the Biblical narrative. After this, the Pharaoh is so devastated that he agrees to release the Israelites from slavery:
"During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” (Exodus 12:31)
But, the lust for vengeance lures in. Thutmosis III - the great warrior-king - mobilises his invincible military machine to pursue the Israelites and kill them:
"When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them." (Exodus 14:5-7)
As we know, by the Red Sea the Israelites escape - but Thutmosis III's undefeated army is drowned in the waves and perishes completely.
"The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived." (Exodus 14:28)
Thutmosis III - the greatest warrior Pharaoh in Egyptian history - is completely humiliated. Now we have a lot of context for Thutmosis' bizarre moments:
He stopped all his military campaigns in his 35th year because the brunt of his army was lost in the Red Sea, thereby sapping him for military strength and momentum. Besides, Egypt is wrecked, leaving him meager resources to raise a new army.
Thutmosis III returns to curse the very day Hatshepsut picked up baby Moses on the Nile and introduced him to the royal family. He returns to Egypt to erase her from memory completely, thereby inflicting upon her soul an eternal death - the worst form of punishment in Egyptian mythology. Needless to say, all records, praises, tombs, cartouches, praises or recollections of Moses are completely eradicated, as well.
Do we have any reason to actually believe this narrative? Well, I will leave you with these notes:
Thutmosis III began his reign ca. 1479 (albeit, as a child). His 35th reigning year - the year when he suddenly stopped all military activities - is 1479-35= ca. 1444 - the year of the Exodus. A perfect fit.
Archeologists estimate that he began the defamation of Hatshepsut and her associates 25 years after her death. Hatshepsut died around 1458. 1458-25 = ca. 1433 (estimating when a defamation begins is more inaccurate, so I would suggest late 1440s/early 1430s.) Another good fit.
This makes perfect sense. Around 1444-1440 B.C, in the aftermath of the disastrous Exodus, Thutmosis III's military career is destroyed, and he erases Hatshepsut and especially Moses, from history.
There were two principal targets in Thutmosis III defamation attempt: Hatshepsut and Senemut. Senemut may have been someone associated with the Exodus - but what if he was Moses? Well, let's review Senemut's bio:
Senemut was originally of low, commoner birth. Somehow, he had gotten into the royal circle and was extremely close to Hatshepsut. He was an architect and designed Hatshepsut's most famous monument (one of the very few we know was built on Hatshepsut's orders).
However, suddenly, Senemut vanished from Egypt without a trace and his tomb was left unfinished. He later became a prime target of Thutmosis III defamation. This sounds awfully like Moses, of course.
The only mystery is that this architect was called Senemut, not Moses. Perhaps Senemut is an alternative name Moses used? It is also believed Senemut stayed with Hatshepsut long into her career, while Moses left just a few years in. For all we know, Senemut may be a servant who advised Hatshepsut and is associated with the adoption of Moses. It's just too hard to tell.
Nevertheless, if this is true then you are staring right at the very face of Moses in the picture below (!).
There are other possible aliases as Moses (e.g, Ahmose-ankh), but we know too little of them to make any meaningful conclusions. Perhaps this is because Thutmosis III ensured that the memory of Moses - in particular - should be eradicated. Hatshepsut was probably the second priority.
The Legacy of the One God
This entire affair must have had an enormous impact on Egyptians. The Bible says many Egyptians joined the Israelite Exodus, as they were overwhelmed by the force of the "Hebrew God". These Israelite slaves were protected by a singular God that smite all of Egypt and her gods when the civilisation was at its peak (!!).
It may therefore not be a coincidence why Akhenaten (1380-1336), the great-grandson of Thutmosis III, converted to monotheism. He and his wife Nefertiti abandoned the old gods and introduced the worship of one god that they called Aten. This was extremely unpopular, and after their deaths, much of their monuments were dismantled. Akhenaten also joined Hatshepsut in being the only two Pharaoh's deleted from the "Kings List" (the sacred record of Egypt's rulers, compiled by ancient Egyptians themselves).
"And when the Israelites saw the Mighty Hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in Him and in Moses, His servant." (Exodus 14:31)
Conclusion to Part 2: Finding the Pharaoh
Moses confronted Egypts most powerful Pharaoh, Thutmosis III
The Exodus happened when Egypt was at its peak. The Exodus, however, broke Egypt.
Moses’ adoptive mother was the famous and iconic Hatshepsut.
Moses identified with the oppressed Israelites. This alienated him from court, and forced him to eventually flee.
The Pharaoh who tried to kill Moses (causing him to flee) was Thutmosis II. Hatshepsut, his adoptive mother, probably also tried to have him dead.
The Exodus led to the death of Thutmosis IIIs eldest son and heir, Amenenhat. It destroyed Thutmosis IIIs undefeated army, ending his military career.
His contempt for Hatshepsut (25 years after her death) was driven by hate for Moses - anger at her “mistake” of adopting the baby that once came floating in a basket on the Nile.
Senemut may have been Moses! Therefore, the face we see in the statue of Senemut may be the very face of Moses.
Many Egyptians gained respect and admiration for the Hebrew God that had humiliated theirs. Akhenaton and Nefertiti became monotheists from the legend of this event.
COMING SOON: THE EXODUS - FINDING MT. SINAI (3/3)
This article is dedicated to the late Professor Svein Ivar Kr. Herland - a phycisist, mathematician, airpilot, adventurer, philantropist and lover of life. I had the honour of formulating this theory with him.