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10. Egypt, 1600-1000 B.C.

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The New Kingdom, Dynasties XVIII-XX, 1600-1000 B.C.


The wars of liberation were successful in driving out the dreaded Hyksos under the XVIIth dynasty (see Unit 6). The XVIIIth dynasty proceeded with a vengeance (1) to exterminate every vestige of Hyksos influence and (2) to reestablish Egyptian control of Palestine.

The Empire

The XVIIIth dynasty acquired an empire in Syro-Palestine and became the most powerful state in the Middle East.

Amenhotep I (1545-1525) He reached the Euphrates.

Thutmose III (1490-1436)

He conquered Syria in twenty years of fighting. He crossed the Euphrates and defeated the Mesopotamian states. He was the most powerful of all Pharaohs. His son, Thutmose IV, married a Mitannian princess.1

Amenhotep IV (1364-1347)

He brought the kingdom into decline. He broke with the Amon priesthood at Thebes, established a new capital (Akhetaten--Tell-el-Amarna), a new religion (worship of Aten, the sun disc), changed his name (Akhenaton--pleasing to Aten) and introduced a naturalistic art style.2 The religion was, at best, henotheism not monotheism. Because of this new direction of energy, the kingdom began to decline.

The Amarna Letters

A cache of cuneiform correspondence in Akkadian was discovered at Akhenaton’s capital. These letters contain pleas to the Pharaoh as their suzerain for help against the invading Habiru.3

After Akhenaton, names from a new dynasty feature gods from the north, Re, Seth, Ptah (Ramases, Setis, Mer-ne-Ptahs). They also moved the capital to Tanis/Zoan on the delta while maintaining Thebes as a regional and seasonal capital.4

Ramases II (1290-1224)

He was the greatest Pharaoh of the XIXth dynasty. He tended to take past glories to himself and to erect colossal statues of himself. The Ramaside dynasty began in obscurity. Ramases II fought the Hittites at Kadesh in 1286 with a resultant peace treaty.5

The Israelite Exodus

This problem will be taken up in more detail in the next unit. Scholars (if they even hold to an Exodus) who hold the late date will see Ramases II as the Pharaoh of the Exodus because of the name of the city in Exod. 1:11 as well as the location of the biblical events in northern Egypt. Unger argues that Ramases II merely took credit for the city and the biblical reference was modernized.6 Wood,7 following Albright’s identification of the Ramasides with the Hyksos, believes that it was the Hyksos who oppressed Israel and that the city had been called Ramases in their time.8

The Sea People (c. 1200)

The eruption of Anatolians which terminated the Hittite Empire also had a devastating effect on Egypt. The Egyptians were barely able to beat them off and were never again able to regain their influence in Palestine-Syria (see the unit on Philistia).9

The Twentieth Dynasty c. 1200-1069

This dynasty began with Setnakht whose relationship with his predecessors (if any) is unknown. His son Ramases III strengthened Egypt militarily and was able to repel three invaders--Libyans, Sea Peoples (including the Philistines) and later the Libyans again. Both he and his predecessors forcibly settled captured Libyans in the south-east Delta. This allowed the Libyan groups who became so important later to develop. Ramases IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X,XI: most of these were short, insignificant reigns (1166-1069). There was a decline in royal power and control until Ramases XI who ruled for 29 years. In the nineteenth year of Ramases XI there was a “renaissance” and the dates are from that era. There were two strong men ruling under the weak king. “So from the 19th year of Ramesses XI (c. 1080 B.C.), all of Egypt and Nubia were divided into two great provinces, each under a chief whose common link and sole superior was the pharaoh. The boundary point was El Hibeh which became the northern base of the Theban ruler. Thus, under the last Ramesses a basic political pattern was established that was to last for over three centuries, through the 21st Dynasty and down to Prince Osorkon and the final collapse of the fractured unity of the post-imperial Egypt.”10 The story of Wenamun takes place in the fifth year of this era (1076 B.C.).11

Dates come from Campbell in BANE; cf. also Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs. These dates are tentative, and, therefore, any efforts to fit the biblical data into Egyptian events must remain tentative. The dates that follow are principally from K. A. Kitchen. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100-650 B.C.). See also H. R. Hall, in CAH, “The Eclipse of Egypt,” 3:251-269 (1929).12


The Eighteenth Dynasty 1570-1304





Thutmose I

Moses Born 1520


Thutmose II

Hatshepsut was Thutmose I’s only child by his official wife. Thutmose II, of a lesser wife, was married to her. Their only child was a girl. Thutmose III was from a minor wife of Thutmose II.



Could she be the princess who reared Moses?


Thutmose III

He chafed as co-regent with his stepmother until her death. Moses became 40 in 1480. The Exodus would be 1441.


Amenhotep II

His mummy has been found. Some argue that he was the Pharaoh of the Exodus (The Bible does not say he drowned. He led the battle to the water’s edge. The Psalm description is a general figurative statement).


Thutmose IV

His dream inscription may indicate that he was not originally intended to be Pharaoh. (Therefore, his brother would have died in the plagues).13


Amenhotep III

Conquest 1400-1393 (?).


Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton)

Amarna letters 1347-1346


Son-in-law of Amenhotep IV



Son-in-law of Amenhotep IV. But he may have been a son of Amenhotep III or a son of Amenhotep IV. He died young.14





The Nineteenth Dynasty c. 1304-1200


Ramases I


Seti I


Ramases II

The greatest name in the nineteenth dynasty was Ramases II who reigned 67 years (half of which was probably coregency). He took much glory to himself. He confronted the Hittites and concluded a treaty with them.



His first successor was Merenptah who accomplished significant things, but he was older and therefore his reign was relatively short. His “stela” listing the kings of the Levant whom he allegedly defeated includes the only reference to “Israel” in all known Egyptian writing.15 The successors of Merenptah were weak and inefficient. The power of the throne swiftly declined under princes who followed.

1CAH, 2,2:83. The god Aten, the religion that absorbed Amenhotep IV, began to come into prominence probably as early as Thutmose III (CAH 2,1:343). Mitanni was an Indo-European power from c. 1500-1350 B.C.

2Note samples in ANEP #’s 402ff. ANET, 108, 109, 110.

3C. Pfeiffer, The Tell El Amarna Tablets, p. 52 and ANET, pp. 483-90.

4Wilson, The Burden of Egypt, p. 239.

5See Moscati, The Face of the Ancient Orient, p. 114.

6Archaeology and the Old Testament, p. 149.

7Leon Wood, Survey of Israels History, p. 93.

8See SATC, p. 223. CAH 2,1:312, A fragment of an alabaster vessel found in the tomb of doubtful ownership, bears the name of Auserre Apophis and of a princess named Herit. Its discovery has prompted the suggestion that the royal house of the 18th dynasty was linked by marriage to the Hyksos house.

9For a discussion in a Greek context, see CAH 3:633ff. And see the delightful piece about Wenamon in ANE, pp. 16-24.

10Kitchen, Third Intermediate Period, 250-51.

11ANET, 25-29.

12For a good summary of Egyptology and the Old Testament, see DeVries in New Perspectives on the Old Testament.

13Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament, 142-143; ANET, 449. CAH 2,1:321, This fanciful tale …suggests that Thutmose IV was not his fathers heir apparent, but had obtained the throne through an unforeseen turn of fate, such as the premature death of an elder brother.

14Cf. Montet, Egypt and the Bible, 148.

15ANEP, #343.

Related Topics: Archaeology, History

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