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2.3 The Exodus explained
For reference sake I decided to retain my original web summary of the Exodus events (see book details and chapter summary here):
Based on this background and thorough analysis of the Josephus and biblical accounts, the following version of events was arrived at:
The empire of Amenhotep III, also called the Golden Pharaoh, was probably the most powerful Egypt ever had. Amenhotep was married to Tiye, the daughter of Yuya and Tjuyu, and their firstborn, Prince Tuthmosis, had already begun accompanying his father on his campaigns. On a fateful day, the Aegean volcano Thera erupted with a force estimated to be six times that of Krakatau. The volume of volcanic material blasted skywards is estimated to have been between 60 and 100 cubic kilometers, and the explosion may have been heard halfway around the world. In the apocryphal Apocalypse of Abraham we find evidence of such a volcanic eruption,
"I had not reached the gate of the courtyard, when there was a great peal of thunder and fire fell from heaven and this burnt him up, his house and everything in it for forty ells."
Although the people of that time would probably not have understood the cause of the fire from the sky, it is an accurate description of the characteristics of a volcanic eruption. The tsunami caused by the eruption of Thera sped towards Egypt and washed away the Egyptian army stationed in the Nile Delta area. The worst was however yet to come. The plague that spread across Egypt subsequent to the eruption began decimating the Egyptian population as well as their captive slaves, the Hyksos. Amenhotep erected hundreds of statues across Egypt in order to appease Sekhmet, the god of destruction, but to no avail. He was then advised by his high priest that they should expel all infected people from Egypt, Egyptians and slaves alike, to stop the disease from spreading further. The infected Egyptians were driven into the desert, but many of the slaves were simply killed. This led to a massive revolt among the slaves, who would rather fight to death than die in this manner.
At some point Amenhotep resorted to the ultimate sacrifice a person and a people could make - the sacrifice of the firstborns. This was common practice among the peoples of that time when for instance a city was under siege and its destruction was eminent. Prince Tuthmosis however got wind of what was to come and simply disappeared from the scene. The news of the sacrifice of the Egyptian firstborns must have spread across the region very rapidly and was remembered in many fables of that time, although in somewhat distorted form. The fabled Egyptian tyrant-king Busiris, who sacrificed strangers to appease the gods and who supposedly drowned in the Red Sea while pursuing the Hebrews, was none other than Amenhotep. The link between the names Busiris and Bocchoris is explained below.
At this point I have to digress momentarily. The Egyptian name of Moses was Tuthmosis (Tuth-Moses), leading one to suspect that the name Osarsiph might be a Hebrew name for Moses. Constructed as Os-ar-siph, it would mean 'assemble-yourselves-to-destroy-the-enemy', from 'ûwsh (#5789, 'hasten, assemble yourselves'), 'âr (#6145, 'foe, enemy') and sûwph (#5486, 'snatch away, terminate'). This was exactly the instruction Moses gave to the slaves who revolted against Amenhotep, and they subsequently got themselves together in Avaris. The last word however has a phonetically identical match in the word sûwph (#5488, 'a reed, papyrus'). This suggests the origin of the fable that Moses was hidden in a papyrus basket to protect him from the Pharaoh [Ex 1:22 to 2:4]:
"Then the Pharaoh gave the order to all his people: 'Every (Israelite) boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live. … [The mother of Moses] hid him for three months. … [The mother of Moses] got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile."
The Hebrew word 'ûwr (#5783) means to be bare or naked and is phonetically similar to the word 'âr (#6145). The word 'ôwr (#5785) means skin, hide or leather, and is likewise a phonetically similar equivalent. It is then easily understood how Moses' alternative name Osarsiph could over time have become misinterpreted as 'ûwsh-'ûwr-sûwph, or 'assemble-papyrus-(to-cover)-the-naked (baby)', i.e. a baby in a papyrus basket, or 'ûwsh-'ôwr-sûwph , 'assemble-papyrus-(sealed-with-a)-skin-(of-tar) ' The fable of the birth of Moses then confirms that the Pharaoh had indeed ordered the execution of the (firstborn) sons of the Egyptians (obviously the Israelites in the fable, otherwise there would have been no reason to hide Moses, thereby also hiding the true identity of Moses as being of Egyptian origin - Moses could not speak Hebrew as he had a 'stuttering' problem and Aaron had to speak on his behalf), and that Moses must have gone into hiding for about three months before being introduced to the Hebrew slaves.
The sacrifice of the firstborns naturally had no effect and Amenhotep was facing two ever increasing threats, the deadly plague and the slave revolt, and then also the invading force from Jerusalem.
Very little concrete proof of the existence of David and specifically Solomon has ever been found, leading many scholars to believe that they were purely fictional characters. According to biblical narratives Solomon a) received a bride as gift from an Egyptian king and b) was honoured by the kings of the world, accounting for his great wealth. The first issue was unheard of in Egypt - subordinates were expected to send brides to a king, never the other way around. With Manetho's account of Moses requesting assistance from the Hebrews, we have the only Egyptian account of such an event ever occurring! There can be little doubt that Moses sealed the agreement by giving one of his sisters to Solomon as a bride. He did not do so himself, he ordered his younger brother Akhenaten to do so. This would also explain the biblical account of a series of confrontations between Moses and the Pharaoh. As is discussed below, Solomon reciprocated by giving his beautiful half-sister, Helen, to the Egyptian royal house as bride. She became the wife of Akhenaten and was called Nefertiti, meaning 'the beautiful (perfect) one has come'.
When he was approached by Moses and informed of the dire situation in Egypt, Solomon did not hestitate and signed the pact. Like his father David, however, he was a descendant of the very people who had been enslaved by the Egyptians and realized that this was an opportunity for freeing them. By that time Prince Tuthmosis had already begun planning to lead the evicted people from Egypt and form a new nation. He had been raised to become a king, but had no option ever to return to Egypt. The fact that he somehow managed to escape being executed as a firstborn would have roused the wrath of the Egyptians - this would have been the reason why the sacrifice of their firstborns did not appease the gods. Tuthmosis, or Moses, had one of two choices - vanish into obscurity or become the leader of the slaves and evicted Egyptians. He did actually have the blood of both groups flowing through his veins, possibly making this choice somewhat easier. Moses did not expect to be welcomed with open arms by the enslaved Hebrews and initially seem to have lacked the courage to go through with the plan, having previously been second-in-command of their enslavers. This is suggested by the episode [Ex 4:14-26] during which God became so angry with Moses that he would have 'killed' him, had it not been for the intervention (actually reassurance and support) of his Hebrew wife Zipporah. Her name means '(She who) allayed the fear', from zîya' (#2127, 'agitation') and pâra' (#6544, 'paw-rah', meaning to dismiss, absolve, or set at nought).
At some stage Solomon and his army invaded Egypt to assist Moses and his outcasts, forcing Amenhotep to retreat into Nubia with his army and the remainder of the Egyptian people. Amenhotep had no choice but to do so as a kiss on the cheek by a plague infected slave was probably as good as an arrow through the heart. Amenhotep could simply not risk exposing what was left of his army to the 'leprous people'. He had also no doubt found out that the son he had ordered to be sacrificed was still alive, realizing what implications it would have should the Egyptian population find out. He would also not have wanted to fight his own son, even more so because of the fact that Moses knew the Egyptian army inside out. Before retreating, he set up a well-defended fortress in Tel el-Amarna (Akhetaten). This may have been intended to create a safe haven against the plague whilst still maintaining a royal presence in Egypt. All earlier correspondence was moved there as well as the hastily anointed new king of Egypt, Akhenaten (he actually had to stay in a tent for a while) and other members of the royal family.
According to the Bible the Egyptians were so relieved to see the Hebrews leave Egypt, that they showered them with 'gifts'. [Ex 12:33-36], "The Israelites asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favourably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians." This is nothing but a poorly disguised rationalization and attempted refutation of the well-known fact at the time when the Book of Exodus was being written, namely that the Hebrews had plundered Egypt of its riches, exactly as described by the historians quoted by Josephus. The city of Tel el-Amarna may have been spared by the slaves and Solomon's army not only because of its good defences, but also because of the presence there of Nefetiti. The Hebrew occupation of Egypt may have lasted up to ten years, during which much of the wealth of Egypt was transferred to the house of Solomon. In a manner of speaking Solomon was therefore honoured by all the kings of the world, but only indirectly. It was Amenhotep III who had been honoured by the kings of the world, but his wealth now belonged to Solomon.
Solomon's period of wealth was however rather short-lived. When the Egyptian army eventually returned from Ethiopia, the Hebrews had already resettled in Palestine as attested to by archaeological evidence. They were spread out and well armed, so their was no chance of them being recaptured as slaves. Horemheb, who was named Shishak by the Hebrews, must initially have rushed through Egypt all the way to its northern borders, only to find that the Hebrews had already departed. He later launched a strike against Jerusalem and managed to recapture much of the Egyptian wealth stored in the Temple. The name Shishak was most likely derived from the Hebrew words shôw' (#7722, pronounced sho, 'devastation, destruction') and shûwach (#7743, pronounced soo'-akh, ''to bow down, humble'), meaning (He-who)-devastated-and-humbled (the Temple and the Hebrews).
The exploits of an Egyptian king by the name of Sesostris (also called Sethosis and Aegyptus) are remarkably close to those of Amenhotep III. Sesostris left his brother Armais (also known as Danaus, Ramesses and Hermeus) in charge of Egypt while he went on a military campaign outside Egypt, but specifically forbade him to act as king himself. Herodotus recorded that Sesostris was the only Egyptian ruler to be known as the king of Egypt and Ethiopia, which would perfectly match Amenhotep III being king of Egypt but also of Ethiopia for more than a decade. Amenhotep left his brother Ay in charge of affairs, acting behind the scenes during the reigns of Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Tutankhamen. One of Ay's titles was 'Overseer of All the Horses of His Majesty', which was the highest rank in the elite chariot division, second only to the rank of General. The Greek word for 'chariot' is harma ('arma'), and the Greek word eus simply means good. Harmaeus (Hermeus / Armais) therefore means something like "The Great Chariot(eer)", an apt description of Ay.