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Is CMI confusing Egyptian chronology?

Eva L. from Germany wrote into CMI regarding Gavin Cox’s response to Anne Habermehl on the chronological implications of shunning Sishak as being Shoshenq 1. Readers would also do well to read Gavin’s original article (Strengthening the Shishak/Shoshenq synchrony). Gavin Cox replies (with contributions by Gary Bates) to Eva’s comment which is reproduced in full below, then with Gavin Cox’s replies interspersed.

commons.wikimedia.org, A.D. Riddleprocession-aamu-tomb-of-khnumhotep-ii
Procession of the Aamu, Tomb of Khnumhotep II (composite) shows Semites (wearing coats of many colours) entering Egypt.

Dear CMI, you are doing great work, may God reward you for all you do. But your articles on Egypt really left me confused. In older articles (by David Down), you placed the exodus in the 12th dynasty, now you say it was the 18th dynasty. Why? And who is the pharao of the exodus then? I have also been asked about the naqada culture which secularists date to 4500 BC.. We know this date cannot be accepted, but where would you place the naqada culture in a biblical timeline? Before the first dynasty or simultaneously (if it even existed)? From what I have understood, you hold that Joseph was appointed vizier under the Hyksos. Your argument is that an Egyptian Pharao would never allow a foreigner in this position. I disagree with you here. This is how a secularist scientist would argue, but not a christian. We know that God used pagan rulers many times in the bible to accomplish His purpose. If God wants Joseph to be a vizier under a native Egyptian Pharao, then His will be done. With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19, 26). Also, I read that the Hyksos never ruled over all of Egypt, but Joseph was set over ALL the land of Egypt (Genesis 41: 41). Since the Hyksos were foreigners, why would they make another foreigner as second in command? And even if you hold to a short sejourn (215 yrs), the datings don’t match. The exodus in 1446+215 makes 1661. But the Hyksos are said to have been in Egypt ca. 1640/1630–1530. So they came after Israel was in Egypt. I believe Joseph was vizier under an Egyptian pharao and when the Hyksos came, “a new king, who had not known Joseph, came to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1, 8). Perhaps this is a better solution. I hope you will consider my remarks.

Thanks, Eva, for your comments and criticisms, which we will endeavour to answer! Regarding Egyptian chronology on CMI’s site, yes, as you notice, we have moved away from the positions laid out in earlier articles (particularly by David Down, and some by Patrick Clark). We will be putting a notice at the top of many of them to say that CMI no longer accepts the chronological positions laid out by the authors, and why. Yes, we now place the Exodus in the mid-late 18th Dynasty, for multiple reasons. Thus, we have been prepared to move away from certain held positions in the light of new evidence, rather than hold onto ideas that are no longer tenable. We suggest you do the same and to also read a few of our later chronology articles to get up to speed and as to why there is much confusion on the subject. For instance: see Gary Bates’s Did the Exodus lead to the Hyksos Invasion? And especially: Egyptian chronology and the Bible—framing the issues. Also, one has to be careful approaching this subject from a distance. You say you disagree but on what basis? If you talk to any Egyptologist and not just a lay dabbler on the topic; when one understands ancient Egyptian culture, and how they thought about their world and their own ‘blessed’ land and the gods of nature that oversaw their land, it is actually completely unthinkable that they would give any land away to foreigners. While some lands were subjugated by foreigners, and apart from your wishful thinking on the subject, there is not a single occasion where this is recorded in any Egyptian texts.

Regarding the Naqada culture, such ancient dating will be based on carbon 14, which is more unreliable the further one goes back in history and closer to the time of the Flood. Take a look at this article by Dr Robert Carter on the subject: How carbon dating works. Regarding where we would place the Naqada culture is difficult to say, but probably around the time of Babel, some 2,100 years BC, which is probably a pre-Dynastic date, but certainly not pre-Flood as the secular date suggests.

Yes, CMI believes that Joseph (a non-Egyptian) could only have come to prominence under a non-Egyptian pharaoh. Native Egyptians would never promote a foreigner to high position. You state: “This is how a secularist scientist would argue, but not a christian [sic].” Please don’t assume to take the spiritual high ground with CMI, you need to read what we have written before taking that tone please. CMI doesn’t argue like secular/ non-Christian thinkers. We start with Scripture! The idea that Joseph spoke to a Hyksos pharaoh, not an Egyptian pharaoh, is not just our idea. It is indicated by Scripture itself, because it makes perfect sense of an otherwise seemingly contradictory conversation between Joseph, his brothers, and the pharaoh at Genesis 46:31–34; 47:1–6 (please take time to read these passages as the context will be clear). The biblical narrator is basically telling his readers that the pharaoh that Joseph was speaking to was a non-Egyptian pharaoh! Only a Hyksos (Semitic) pharaoh would give the “best of the land” to shepherds! Pharaoh didn’t ‘bat an eyelid’ when Joseph’s brothers told him they were shepherds, which were an “abomination” to the Egyptians, but not to Joseph’s pharaoh, because he wasn’t an Egyptian! Joseph specifically told them to say this so they would find favour with the pharaoh who obviously did not like Egyptians! And later, the non-Egyptian pharaoh puts Joseph’s family in charge of his flocks. But hang on, flocks and sheepherders were an abomination? This is what Scripture is clearly telling us. So, you are arguing against this clear position.

You state: “If God wants Joseph to be a vizier under a native Egyptian Pharao [sic], then His will be done.” As with the creation/evolution debate, it’s never about what God could have done or might have done, but what He said He did. Yours is an argument from silence and your reasoning is entirely circular. This is not proof that the pharoah was Egyptian, and it appears that you might be stuck on an old idea that you are simply not willing to relinquish! Anyway, wouldn’t that same logic answer your challenge that despite the Hyksos not ruling all Egypt, Joseph was given responsibility over all Egypt? Can God not do anything? However, we won’t use your line of argument! Firstly, remember the phrase “all the land of Egypt” comes from the lips of the pharaoh, thus, the Bible is simply reporting what was said. It is not making a theological statement about which parts were ruled and when. So, a Hyksos ruler would consider the territory he ruled as the “land of Egypt”. However, even if we don’t take that line of reasoning, the Bible still states: “And every nation came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth” (Genesis 41:57). This would also include native-Egyptian territory that the Hyksos didn’t rule at that time (Upper Egypt). So, we consider your line of reasoning entirely redundant.

But actually, the Hyksos did rule over most of Egypt in the sense they had economic control of it, if not geographic control. The native Egyptians were relegated to Thebes (modern day Luxor) and were paying taxes to the Hyksos pharaoh. The last (Egyptian) pharaoh of the 17th dynasty—a period when the Hyksos ruled—(Kamose) wrote:

“I should like to know what serves this strength of mine, when a chieftain in Avaris, and another in Kush, and I sit united with an Asiatic and a Nubian, each in possession of his slice of Egypt, and I cannot pass by him as far as Memphis… No man can settle down, when despoiled by the taxes of the Asiatics [Hyksos]. I will grapple with him that I may rip open his belly! My wish is to save Egypt and to smite the Asiatic!”

You ask “Since the Hyksos were foreigners, why would they make another foreigner as second in command?” But Joseph wasn’t a foreigner to the Hyksos, he was a fellow Semite, which is the entire point of the argument! And they were believers in a single deity like the Hebrews. Another clue is that the Hyksos pharaoh lauded Joseph and his God for interpreting pharaoh’s dream. This is another unthinkable thing for an Egyptian to do. They believed in the many gods of nature and pharaoh’s job was to maintain ‘balance’ or Maat between the land and the gods. By lauding a single god, pharaoh would have been undermining the whole religious, economic and political system that were completely intertwined. In other words, the very structure upon which his position was based!

You state: “And even if you hold to a short sojourn (sic) (215 yrs), the datings don’t match.” Actually, the short sojourn fits perfectly with Joseph encountering a Semite pharaoh and the Exodus taking place 215 years later in 1,446 BC. CMI holds to a short Sojourn of 215 years for good reasons. If you hold to a long Sojourn, you need to see this article A response to a long Sojourn advocate.

You also state: “The exodus in 1446+215 makes 1661.” So the 1661 BC date refers to what?

You then state: “But the Hyksos are said to have been in Egypt ca. 1640/1630–1530. So they came after Israel was in Egypt.”

We beg to differ with you here, and disagree with your dates! We will quote Gary Bates to answer your objection (see end of long Sojourn article):

“Most evangelical scholars generally believe the building of the Temple (the fourth year of Solomon’s reign) began in 966 BC. Going backwards 480 years (1 Kings 6:1) would mean the Exodus occurred in 1446 BC. Going back another 215 years, the short Sojourn would place Joseph in the midst of the 2nd Intermediate Period (2IP) of Egyptian history. This is the time when the mysterious Hyksos peoples had taken over.”

Additionally, in the article you commented on, Gavin wrote supporting Gary’s research that chariots were not found in Egypt prior to the Hyksos bringing them in. And Scripture indicates that Joseph rode in the second chariot over Egypt (Genesis 41:43). You might think this is a trite point but it is a hugely significant one as to the timing of Joseph’s elevation to vizier.

Your 1661 BC date falls neatly near the beginning of the 2IP (c.1677–1550 BC) between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom. History tells us that the 12th Dynasty Queen Sobekneferu (1806–1802 BC) died with no heirs, which was a serious thing in Egypt, leaving a political vacuum, making the 12th Dynasty come to a sudden end.

The 13th Dynasty was marked by the accession of a king with a Semitic name–King Khendjer. He was unable to rule the entire territory of Egypt, with native-Egyptian rule centralising in the south. There then followed five rulers that are commonly identified as being of Canaanite (Semitic) descent based on their names. It would have been one of those Semitic pharaohs that would have ruled at the time of Joseph. We don’t have enough historical data to pin down who the name of that pharaoh might have been, as yet.

Regarding whether the dates ‘match’ for the Hyksos, 1661 BC matches very well.

Finally, you state:

I believe Joseph was vizier under an Egyptian pharao and when the Hyksos came, “a new king, who had not known Joseph, came to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1, 8). Perhaps this is a better solution. I hope you will consider my remarks.”

But you give no evidence as to why you believe the pharaoh under Joseph was a native Egyptian? We have given biblical evidence as to why we believe this pharaoh definitely wasn’t Egyptian. Therefore, the native Egyptians who succeeded the Semitic Hyksos in the 18th Dynasty were the ones who “did not know Joseph”, because they were not Semitic, and they treated the Semites as enemies and enslaved them. So CMI’s solution is the better solution. Most of what we have written is actually covered in our Tour Egypt booklet. It is available as an eBook also. If you are genuinely interested in the topic, we recommend reading more about this as our reasonings will be more fully explained.

We hope you consider our remarks,
Gavin Cox and Gary Bates.

Published: 29 October 2022

Helpful Resources

Tour Egypt
by Gary Bates, Robert Carter, Gavin Cox, Keaton Halley
US $12.00
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