Redating the exodus and conquest
We need not debate which of the two should be identified with Pithom. But it is also plausible to suggest that there were other Semites among the new settlers, as well as the ancestors of the later Hyksos.
The important point is this- The same Syro-Palestinian (Middle Bronze II) culture which marks the early period at the site of Raamses has now been found at both these candidates for Pithom as well.15 At Tell el-Maskhuta (the site favored for Pithom by the majority of scholars), the early remains include probable grain-storage facilities, perhaps explaining the term “store-cities.” Archaeologists and Egyptologists have traditionally held a different view of this Syro-Palestinian culture in the Eastern Delta. There is indeed evidence from Tell el-Maskhuta that some Semitic settlers were treated with brutality by the Hyksos.
C.), and not to the time of the Exodus.b Another traditional reason for dating the Exodus to the 13th century B. involves archaeological evidence from Transjordan that more recent scholarship has undermined.
Surface surveys of Transjordan, carried out by Nelson Glueck chiefly in the 1930s, led Glueck to conclude that much of the region was without a settled population during the Middle Bronze II and Late Bronze periods, that is, between the 19th and 13th centuries B. The traditions preserved in the Bible (Numbers 20–22) require the existence of strong kingdoms in Edom and Moab (as well as farther north; see Numbers 21-21–35) at the time when Israel was moving northward through this region on her final march to Canaan.
We suggest this reflects the migration of Canaanite groups (including the Israelites) into Egypt—groups that were subsequently pressed into slavery to work on the sites of “Pithom and Raamses.” In other words, we associate the building of these two cities with the beginning of Israel’s enslavement, not with the eve of the Exodus several centuries later. There are two possible sites for Biblical Pithom- Tell el-Maskhuta and Tell er-Retabah.
These two sites lie about eight miles apart in the Wadi Tumilat, west of Lake Timsah.
Since no scholar dates the original Hebrew settlement in Egypt as late as the 13th century B.
C., it is acknowledged that here a name in common use for the area at a later time is being used retrospectively (just as a modern historian might write of Julius Caesar crossing “the English Channel”).
The first is simple- Move the date of the conquest back about 200 years, to shortly before 1400 B. Although this conflicts with the GAD for Israel’s emergence in Canaan, it is in fact the date implied by the Bible itself. This is almost 200 years earlier than the GAD of 1230–1220 B. Another Biblical text—Judges 11-26—indicates that the Israelites had been settled in Transjordan for 300 years by the time of Jephthah, one of the Judges.
They associate it with the forerunners of the Hyksos, a Semitic people from somewhere in the Syria-Palestine region who took over the throne of Egypt around 1650 B. The MB II finds at Tell el-Maskhuta include the tomb of a woman and her dog, both killed by blows from a type of battle-axe used by the Hyksos.
We suggest that these other Semitic settlers were (or at least included) the Israelites, whom the Hyksos treated as slaves—perhaps following an example already set by the Egyptians.16 In short, the reference to “Pithom and Raamses” in Exodus 1-11 cannot be used to date the Exodus to the 13th century B. Rather, the archaeological evidence makes best sense if Exodus 1-11 refers to the beginning of the Israelites’ enslavement (in about the 18th century B.
C., so the fourth year of his reign would be 967 B. According to the Biblical chronology, this would place the Exodus 480 years earlier—about 1447 B. Yet, we doubt whether these figures should be dismissed as meaningless, as they have been by most critical scholars.
As we will show below, the reasons why scholars originally preferred the GAD to the Biblical chronology have all been undermined in recent years.