Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Exodus from Egypt - Part III

The Exodus from Egypt: Part III – The Identity of the Pharaoh

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“And Pharaoh proclaimed among his people, saying: "O my people! Does not the dominion of Egypt belong to me; (witness) these streams flowing underneath my (palace)? What! See ye not then?”

-         The Holy Quran, Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:51

This article is the final part of our “The Exodus from Egypt” series.  In the last article, we analyzed the historicity of the Exodus story, and showed that it is historically plausible.  Indeed, there can be little doubt that the Israelites were in Egypt at one time and eventually resettled in Canaan.  In the finale to the series, we will attempt to determine the identity of the mighty Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites, who rejected the warnings of the prophets Moses and Aaron, and who was ultimately powerless to resist the might of the One God.[1] 
Characteristics of the Pharaoh

Neither the Quran nor the Bible specifically identifies the Pharaoh of the Exodus by name.  However, there are certain clues which can help us.  Here we present the evidence from the Quran. 

Unlike the Bible, which describes two Pharaohs, the “Pharaoh of the Oppression” (who took the infant Musa into his household) and the “Pharaoh of the Exodus” (who reigned when Musa returned to Egypt as a prophet and led the Israelites to freedom), the Quran seems to be clear that there was one Pharaoh (who was both the “Pharaoh of the Oppression” and the “Pharaoh of the Exodus”),[2] since it does not mention that a Pharaoh died while Musa (peace be upon him) was in Midian.  In fact, the Quran seems to suggest that the Pharaoh who adopted Musa (peace be upon him) was the same who later refused to heed the prophet’s warnings to believe in the One True God and to free the Israelites.  This can be seen from the following verse, where the Pharaoh reminds Musa (peace be upon him) that he had taken him into his household as a child:

“(Pharaoh) said: "Did we not cherish thee as a child among us, and didst thou not stay in our midst many years of thy life?”[3]

The Tafsir Al-Jalalayn[4] and Tafsir Ibn Abbas[5] indicate that the period of time that Musa (peace be upon him) lived in the Pharaoh’s household was thirty years.  Regardless of whether this figure is correct or not, what is clear is that the noble prophet had spent a significant amount of time in the Pharaoh’s household, which explains why the Pharaoh reminded him how he had “cherished” him “as a child among us”.[6]  Therefore, up to this point, we can say that there was only one Pharaoh and that he reigned for at least 20-30 years (see note #6 for clarification). 

In addition, the Quran states that Musa’s stay in Midian lasted at least 8-10 years, for that is how long he was to be in the service of his father-in-law in Midian:

“He said: "I intend to wed one of these my daughters to thee, on condition that thou serve me for eight years; but if thou complete ten years, it will be (grace) from thee. But I intend not to place thee under a difficulty: thou wilt find me, indeed, if Allah wills, one of the righteous."  He said: "Be that (the agreement) between me and thee: whichever of the two terms I fulfil, let there be no ill-will to me. Be Allah a witness to what we say."  Now when Moses had fulfilled the term, and was travelling with his family, he perceived a fire in the direction of Mount Tur. He said to his family: "Tarry ye; I perceive a fire; I hope to bring you from there some information, or a burning firebrand, that ye may warm yourselves."”[7]

It has been suggested by most exegetes that Musa (peace be upon him) completed the full 10 years, but even if he did not, we can say that at least 8-10 years went by between his exile from Egypt and his return.  So, we can add at least another decade to the reign of the Pharaoh, since it was the same one who had adopted Musa (peace be upon him) as a child.  Hence, the reign of the Pharaoh must have been at least 30-40 years long at the very least.  It is not surprising then that we find the following description of him by the classical scholar Al-Tabari:

“Among the pharaohs there was none more insolent than he toward God, haughtier in speech, or longer-lived in his rule.”[8]

            Another clue regarding the Pharaoh’s identity has been suggested by Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, who drew upon some classical commentaries regarding the Quranic description of the Pharaoh as ذُوالْأَوْتَادِ   (dhul awtad).[9]  They make a compelling case that the Arabic word “awtad” refers to buildings, a point on which they differ from other commentators.[10]  Therefore, the Pharaoh, they argue, was a prodigious builder.  Of course, even if this argument could be refuted, the Quran does elsewhere still refer to the Pharaoh’s propensity for building.  Describing how the Israelites “inherited” the Holy Land (see Part II for our discussion on this), Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) states in the Quran: 

“And We made a people, considered weak (and of no account), inheritors of lands in both east and west, - lands whereon We sent down Our blessings. The fair promise of thy Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel, because they had patience and constancy, and We levelled to the ground the great works and fine buildings which Pharaoh and his people erected (with such pride).””[11]

While this verse seems to speak of the Pharaoh’s “great works and fine buildings” in Canaan (as we showed in Part II), it stands to reason that if he erected monuments in Canaan, he certainly would have done the same in his homeland. 

            Finally, both the Quran and the Bible describe the Pharaoh as a mighty ruler, with a strong military force ready to obey his commands.  For example, the Quran states:

“But none believed in Moses except some children of his people, because of the fear of Pharaoh and his chiefs, lest they should persecute them; and certainly Pharaoh was mighty on the earth and one who transgressed all bounds.”[12]

Furthermore, the Bible describes how the Pharaoh mobilized hundreds of chariots, indicating his fierce military strength, in order to pursue the Israelites.[13]  Since the Pharaoh was obviously not afraid of mobilizing his army to chase runaway slaves beyond the borders of Egypt, it seems pretty clear that he was confident in his military prowess.

            Based on the above analysis, we can conclude the following characteristics regarding the Pharaoh of the Exodus:

A.     He reigned at least 30-40 years and probably more.[14]
B.     He was a prodigious builder.[15]
C.     He was a powerful military ruler.[16]

The Candidates

            The 1956 Hollywood movie “The Ten Commandments” has no doubt contributed to the debate regarding the identity of the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  Indeed, it would not be surprising if most people in modern times would assume that Ramesses II, played so masterfully by Yul Brynner in the movie, was the infamous Pharaoh.  But what other candidates are there and is Ramesses II really the obvious choice?  Here we present the Pharaohs (in chronological order) that scholars (both Muslim and non-Muslim) have considered to be candidates to be the infamous tyrant of the Exodus.[17]
  • Ahmose I (reigned 1550 -1525 BCE)
In the 2006 documentary “The Exodus Decoded”, filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici suggested that Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty after driving out the Hyksos from Egypt,[18] was the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  The basis for his theory was the text of the so-called “Tempest Stela” (also known as the “Storm Stela”), which as Jacobivici asserts:

“…speaks of a tremendous storm that involved both upper and lower Egypt. It states that this storm displayed the “wrath” of a “great God”.  Notice it speaks of “God” in the singular. It also states that this God was “greater” than the “gods” of Egypt. According to the Storm Stela, the tempest plunged Egypt into total “darkness” for a period of several days.”[19]

He also points out that the Jewish historian Josephus identified the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos, which would mean that Ahmose I was the ruler at the time.[20]

            However, there are problems with Jacobivici’s theory.  First and foremost, the “great god” that the “Storm Stela” refers to seems to be the Egyptian deity Amun, who was certainly not the God of Abraham whom the Israelites worshiped.  As Professor Anthony Spalinger of the University of Auckland (New Zealand) states regarding the text of the stela:

“The manifestation of ‘the great god’, clearly Amun, is placed at the forefront of the literary account. […] The account of the ‘catastrophe’ was theologically interpreted as ‘a manifestation of Amun’s desire that Ahmose return to Thebes’.”[21]

Moreover, Spalinger notes that the stela associates the storm with “the Hyksos’ control over the land”.[22]  This would of course nullify any association between Ahmose I and the Exodus, for the storm was not seen as divine punishment for the Pharaoh’s refusal to free the Israelites from slavery, but rather for the despised foreign rule of Egypt.  

In addition, there is also one simple reason why Ahmose I could not have been the “Pharaoh” of the Exodus.  Both the Quran and the Bible specifically refer to the tyrannical ruler as “Pharaoh”, yet the title was not used to refer to the ruler of Egypt earlier than the reign of Tuthmose III![23]

Finally, as we noted in the previous section, the Quran shows that the Pharaoh ruled for at least 30-40 years.  Ahmose I ruled for 25 years, which obviously falls short of this time period.  Therefore, the theory that Ahmose I was the Pharaoh of the Exodus has no merit. 
  • Thutmose I (reigned 1504 – 1492 BCE)
The famous Islamic commentator Abdullah Yusuf Ali surmised that Thutmose I, the third Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, was the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  He based this on the assumption that the Pharaoh who adopted the infant Musa (peace be upon him) had no son, which he had interpreted from the Quran:[24]

“The wife of Pharaoh said: "(Here is) joy of the eye, for me and for thee: slay him not. It may be that he will be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son." And they perceived not (what they were doing)!”[25]

However, there is no indication in this verse that would allow us to assume that the Pharaoh was childless.  Rather, the indication is that his wife was the one who was childless.  This is what the 14th-century exegete Ibn Kathir stated in his tafsir:

“She wanted to take him and adopt him as a son, because she had no children from Fir`awn.”[26]

Hence, the assumption that the Pharaoh had no children is difficult to sustain.

            Furthermore, as we stated in the previous section, the Quran seems to indicate that the Pharaoh of the Exodus reigned for a significant amount of time, spanning at least from the birth of Musa (peace be upon him) to his prophethood.  This would immediately disqualify Thutmose I, since he only ruled for a period of 12 years.  It would seem that Yusuf Ali assumed that the story of the Exodus spanned the reigns of at least two Pharaohs, but this assumption does not appear to line up with the Quranic narrative.  Therefore, we must reject Thutmose I as a candidate.  If anything, Thutmose III should be considered a far better candidate, since he reigned for a period of 54 years![27]

            Also, as we noted above regarding the theory that Ahmose I was the “Pharaoh” of the Exodus, the title would not have been used to refer to Tuthmose I as ruler of Egypt.  Therefore, as with Ahmose I, Tuthmose I could not have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus for this simple reason.
  • Tuthmose III (reigned 1479-1425 BCE)[28] – 
Due to the length of his reign, Tuthmose III seems like a good candidate as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  Indeed, he was sole ruler for almost 30 years (see note #28), which seems to line up with the chronology of the life of the Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), and he would have been the first ruler of Egypt to be specifically referred to as “Pharaoh”.  In addition, Tuthmose III was a successful military leader and builder.[29]

However, due to the different phases of his rule (first as a young child when his aunt/stepmother Hatshepsut was regent, second as co-ruler with Hatshepsut and third as co-ruler with his son Amenhotep II), it seems unlikely that he could have been the infamous Pharaoh who refused to worship the God of Abraham and to free the Israelites from slavery.  Neither the Quran nor the Bible suggests that the Pharaoh shared power with other individuals.  It could be argued that perhaps the events of the Exodus occurred in the period when Tuthmose III was sole ruler, but the fact is that if he was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, he would have been the one who pursued the Israelites and who died along with his army.  Yet, in his last two years, his son Amenhotep II was co-ruler, so it is expected that he too would have participated in the pursuit and died along with his father.  In fact, Amenhotep II would probably have led the assault anyway, instead of his ailing father.  Yet, it is known that Amenhotep II ruled for another 25 years, until 1400 BCE.[30]  Therefore, Tuthmose III could not have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  
  • Ramesses II (reigned 1279 – 1213 BCE) – 
The Pharaoh made famous by Yul Brynner’s performance in “The Ten Commandments”, Ramesses II is perhaps the Egyptian ruler that most people think of when considering who the Pharaoh of the Exodus could have been.  Even among scholars, Ramesses II is most frequently considered to be a plausible candidate.  The Biblical scholar John Bright stated regarding the Exodus:

“…a date rather well on in the thirteenth century, perhaps late in the reign of Ramesses II, seems plausible.”[31]

Also, Professor James K. Hoffmeier has observed that:

“If there is a prevailing view among historians, biblical scholars, and archaeologists, an exodus in the Ramesside era (1279 – 1213 B.C.) is still favored.”[32]

But it is not only non-Muslim scholars who give credence to the theory that Ramesses II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  Some Muslim scholars also support this theory.  For example, Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli state:

“We can, thus, conclude with certainty that the Qur’an identified the Pharaoh of the oppression and exodus as Ramesses II…”[33]

Thus, Ramesses II has been widely considered to be a plausible choice.  As we will now see, there are good reasons for this.

First and foremost, what makes Ramesses II not only the plausible but perhaps the obvious choice is the fact that he was the longest-reigning Pharaoh in the history of ancient Egypt.  Dates for the reigns of the rulers of Egypt are often a matter of debate, but there is virtually no debate as to the reign of Ramesses II.  We can confidently say that he ruled for over 65 years.  Hence, he fulfills the first characteristic mentioned in the previous section.

Second, Ramesses II is perhaps ancient Egypt’s most famous builder.  As Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli state:

“This Pharaoh was involved in building projects more than any other Pharaoh in the history of Egypt.  He erected huge statues and built temples throughout Egypt.”[34]

It is also known that Ramesses II, along with Seti I (his father) and Merneptah (his son), were all active with building projects in Canaan as well.  According to Professor Shmuel Ahituv of Ben-Gurion University:

“Egyptian military activity in Canaan during the 19th Dynasty is attested not only in inscriptions in Egypt, but also in Egyptian monuments in Canaan.  Stelae of Seti I, Ramesses II and Merenptah have all been found there.”[35]

Thus, Ramesses II fulfills the second characteristic as well, though other rulers of Egypt, such as Tuthmose III, were also prodigious builders as previously mentioned.

            Third, Ramesses II is also remembered for his military activity and power.  As we just mentioned, Egyptian artifacts in Canaan attest to his military operations there.  Indeed, one of the most famous battles of antiquity was the clash between Ramesses II and the Hittite king Muwatallis at Kadesh.[36]  Hence, there is little doubt that Ramesses II could boast about his military prowess.  In other words, he meets the third characteristic, though other Egyptians rulers, like Tuthmose III, Seti I and Merneptah were also known as conquerors.  However, unlike these other kings, Ramesses II is the only one who meets all three criteria.  Hence, he is perhaps the strongest candidate for the title “Pharaoh of the Exodus”.  
  • Merneptah (reigned 1213 – 1203 BCE) – 
Islamic scholars Dr. Maurice Bucaille[37] and Dr. Shauqi Abu Khalil[38] have independently suggested that Merneptah, the son and successor of Ramesses II, was the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  However, this theory fails because Merneptah only ruled for 10 years, and was hardly the longest reigning Pharaoh, as Tabari described the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  In addition, the so-called “Merneptah Stele”, which we discussed in Part II, indicates that Merneptah had fought against “Israel” in Canaan, which would nullify identifying him as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, since both the Bible and the Quran indicate that the Pharaoh drowned during his pursuit of the Israelites.[39]  Even if we allow for the assumption that the “Israel” of the stele was a different group than the Israelites under Musa (peace be upon him), as Bucaille suggests,[40] it is difficult to maintain the theory since Merneptah’s campaign in Canaan occurred in the fifth year of his reign.  That would mean that after successfully completing his campaign, Merneptah returned to Egypt only to find the Israelites, led by the prophet Musa (peace be upon him), clamoring for freedom.  If his father Ramesses II had been the “Pharaoh of the Oppression”, then one would assume that Merneptah would be much more concerned with keeping a close eye on the children of Israel in Egypt, rather than “Israel” in Canaan.


As we have seen, Ramesses II is the only Egyptian ruler who meets all three criteria we previously mentioned.  It seems a foregone conclusion that he was the tyrant who challenged the power of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and lost everything, including his life.  Therefore, we can now answer the question posed in Part II.  When did the Exodus actually occur?  Since it was most likely Ramesses II who adopted the infant Musa (peace be upon him), and who pursued the Israelites to his ultimate doom, we can conclude that the Exodus occurred around the year 1213 BCE, which is when Ramesses’ decades-long rule came to an abrupt and humiliating end.[41]

And Allah knows best!

[1] It should be noted that the identity of the Pharaoh cannot be determined with absolute certainty and what is presented in this article is merely an educated guess.  Using clues taken mostly from the Quran, we will merely suggest the identity of the Pharaoh.  Of course, his identity has been the subject of much debate and speculation for centuries, and many authors and scholars have suggested a variety of candidates, from Ahmose I to Merneptah. 

[2] Of course, if the Israelites had been enslaved for a significant amount of time, as we discussed in Part II, then there would have been several “Pharaohs of the Oppression”, as each successive Pharaoh would have continued the enslavement of the Israelites.  

[3] Surah As-Shuara, 26:18 (Yusuf Ali Translation).

[6] The Quran states that the episode of Musa’s accidental killing of an Egyptian occurred after he had attained “full age”:

“When he reached full age, and was firmly established (in life), We bestowed on him wisdom and knowledge: for thus do We reward those who do good” (Surah Al-Qasas, 28:14).

Scholars differ as to the exact meaning of the term “full age”.  The Tafsir Al-Jalalayn and the Tafsir Ibn Abbas both state that Musa had reached 40 years of age by this time, which actually contradicts their claim that he had stayed in the Pharaoh’s household for 30 years.  In the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, on the other hand, Musa’s exact age is not mentioned.  On the other hand, the contemporary scholars Louay Fatoohi and Shetha Al-Dargazelli suggest that he “could have been 20-22 years [old] when he left Egypt to Midian (The Mystery of Israel in Egypt: The Exodus in the Qur’an, the Old Testament, Archaeological Finds, and Historical Sources (Birmingham: Luna Plena Publishing, 2008), p. 103).  We can only speculate as to which view is correct.  Allah knows best. 

[7] Surah Al-Qasas, 28:27-29.

[8] The History of Al-Tabari, Volume 3: The Children of Israel, trans. William M. Brinner (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), p. 32.

Interestingly, Al-Tabari even mentioned the Pharaoh’s name, albeit in Arabic!  According to Tabari, his name was Al-Walid b. Mus’ab.  Unfortunately, it does not help us in determining the actual identity of this Pharaoh.

[9] Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., pp. 107-111.

[10] Many exegetes have translated the word as “stakes” or “pegs”, which Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli disagree with.

Regarding the interpretation of “awtad” as “stakes”, some Islamic scholars believe that this refers to the act of impalement (a form of crucifixion).  Indeed, impalement was a common form of execution used by the Egyptians and has been documented in the reigns of such rulers as Amenophis IV (Akhenaten), Seti I, and Merneptah.  See the following for more on the use of impalement in ancient Egypt:

[11] Surah Al-Araf, 7:137.

[12] Surah Yunus, 10:83.

[13] Exodus 14:7.

[14] It is a near certainty that the Pharaoh of the Exodus reigned for several decades, and as we will see, it is the single-most important characteristic that will help us to determine the identity of the Pharaoh and eliminate some of the other candidates.

[15] As we will see, however, this characteristic can be applied to multiple Egyptian rulers, so it will not be helpful by itself in determining the identity of the Pharaoh of the Exodus.  Only when taken together with the other two characteristics will it aid in our endeavor.

[16] See note 15.

[17] Dates for the reigns of each Pharaoh are taken from:

[18] John Bright, A History of Israel, Third Edition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), p. 61.

[20] Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, 1:14.

[21] Anthony Spalinger, “The Army,” in The Egyptian World, ed. Toby Wilkinson (New York: Routledge, 2013), p. 121.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 41.

Ali stated in his commentary to 28:9:

“…Pharaoh had apparently no son, but only a daughter, who afterwards shared his throne.  This is on the supposition that the Pharaoh was Thothmes I…”

[25] Surah Al-Qasas 28:9.

[27] His reign lasted from 1479-1425 BCE.  See note 28 for more. 

[28] The reign of Tuthmose III includes the periods when his aunt and stepmother, Hatshepsut, was regent (from 1479-1473) and co-ruler (from 1473-1458) and when his son, Amenhotep II, was co-ruler in the last two years of his father’s reign (from 1427-1425).  Hence, Tuthmose III actually only ruled by himself for a period of around 30 years.

Describing Tuthmose III’s achievements, the above source states:

“The great wealth from his campaigns enabled him to build more than fifty temples in Egypt, Nubia, and Palestine, but he lavished special attention on Karnak, which he completely rebuilt and expanded, including adding a sacred lake.”

[31] Bright, op. cit., p. 124.

[32] James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 126.

[33] Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 106.

[34] Ibid., p. 110.

[35] Shmuel Ahituv, “Canaanites” in Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, ed. Kathryn A. Bard (New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 189.

Though the battle was a stalemate, Ramesses II, being the proud and boastful ruler that he was, actually claimed victory.  As John Bright noted:

“With no excess of modesty Ramesses tells us how his own personal valor saved the day and turned defeat into smashing victory.  It was nothing of the kind!” (Bright, op. cit., p. 113)

[37] Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Qur’an and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge (New York: Tharike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 2003), pp. 248-251.

In fact, Bucaille claims that Ramesses II was the “Pharaoh of the Oppression” while Merneptah was the “Pharaoh of the Exodus”, an assumption that is clearly influenced by the Bible.  However, as we have seen, there is no reason to make this assumption, since the Holy Quran does not support it.

[38] Shauqi Abu Khalil, Atlas of the Qur’an: Places.  Nations.  Landmarks, First Edition (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2003), p. 105.

On a side note, Dr. Abu Khalil puts Merneptah’s reign from 1230 to 1215 BCE, whereas most other sources place his reign from the years 1213-1203.  It is unclear what Dr. Abu Khalil based his chronology on.

[39] Some Christians insist that the Bible does not explicitly state that the Pharaoh drowned with his army.  See for example:

However, others are adamant that he did indeed drown with his army.  See for example:

It seems that the former opinion is weak.  Perhaps it is more the result of the influence of popular media, such as the movie “The Ten Commandments” (in which Ramesses II survived the destruction of his army), rather than an honest reading of the Bible (though one could argue that it is precisely the Bible’s confusing and inconsistent narrative which is part of the problem).  Of course, in either case, the Biblical version is certainly not the final authority on this matter, given its obvious status as a man-made book and not the “inspired” word of God, as we have shown in other articles on this blog, including Part I of this series.

[40] Bucaille, op. cit., pp. 251-252.  See note 41 for more.

[41] However, there is still the matter of the “Merneptah Stele”, which describes how the successor of Ramesses II made war against “Israel” in Canaan.  This campaign occurred during the middle of Merneptah’s reign, around 1207 BCE, a mere 5-6 years after the death of Ramesses II.  Yet it is expected that the Israelites under the Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) would still have been wandering in the wilderness, so how could they have been fighting the Egyptians?  This conundrum can be solved in one of two ways.  First, it could be that the “Israel” that Merneptah fought against was a separate group from the Israelites who escaped slavery led by Musa (peace be upon him).  This has been suggested by some western scholars, such as John Bright and Roland De Vaux.  The latter stated the following:

“In the South, the time when communities related to the Israelites settled in the Kadesh region is unclear and dates from before the Exodus” (As quoted in Bucaille, op. cit., p. 251).

Hence, according to this view, Merneptah had fought against an Israelite group which was separate from the Israelites under Musa, and thus, the “Merneptah Stele” actually creates no issues with the theory that the Israelites escaped Egypt in 1213 BCE and continued to wander for the next 40 years.

The second possible solution is that Merneptah had actually fought against the Israelites under Musa (peace be upon him).  The Quran provides a possible context for this battle.  As Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli explain:

“As Merneptah’s campaign occurred no later than 5 years after the exodus, any encounter that his army had with the Israelites must have been outside the holy land, which is part of Canaan.  If those portrayed in the Karnak battle reliefs as a people with no fortified city were indeed the Israelites, then Merneptah’s Canaanite campaign would have occurred prior to Israel’s entry into the town mentioned in [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:61]” (Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 164).

The verse (2:61) which Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli refer to states the following:

“And remember ye said: "O Moses! We cannot endure one kind of food (always); so beseech thy Lord for us to produce for us of what the earth groweth; its pot-herbs, and cucumbers, its garlic, lentils, and onions." He said: "Will ye exchange the better for the worse? Go ye down to any town, and ye shall find what ye want!" They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah. This is because they went on rejecting the Signs of Allah and slaying His Messengers without just cause. This is because they rebelled and went on transgressing.”

Hence, according to this view, the rebellious Israelites were punished for their insolence, and this punishment took the form of the Egyptian army under the new Pharaoh, Merneptah.  Allah knows best.


  1. Yet another well written and researched article, Faiz. Congratulations on your widespread use and analysis of resources at your disposal.

    Unfortunately, you haven't managed to save the Quran's account from error.

    Here are my reasons:

    1) There is no evidence you have presented that suggests the Ancient Egyptians enslaved the Israelites who were living in their country, allegedly since the time of Joseph.
    You presented evidence that Semites were brought to into Egypt as captives by Amenhopis 2. These Semites were the 'Apiru.

    According to Bright:

    “…numerous texts from the fifteenth century onward give evidence of the presence of ῾Apiru in Egypt. ῾Apiru had been brought there as captives as early as Amenophis II (ca. 1438-1412), if not before, while in documents of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties they appear repeatedly as state slaves. We can scarcely doubt that among them were components of the later Israel.”[9]

    However, the Israelites according to both the Quran and Bible, were already in Egypt. They migrated there during the time of Joseph. They were not brought in from the outside as captives.

    Hence, the Israelites as described in the Quran and Bible, could not have been the 'Apiru.

    - Peter C

  2. 2) There is no historical record of Ancient Egyptians turning on and enslaving people who were living among them and happened to be foreigners. Ancient Egypt's foreign slaves came from people living outside their borders, whom they conquered.

    I have provided a historical source in my comments to your previous post, "The Exodus from Egypt, Part II", that demonstrates that Ancient Egyptians did not persecute foreigners living among them prior to the first milennium BC.

    3) If the Israelites were already living as slaves before Ramses II assumed power, then he did not make his people into sects. They existed that way already.

    Even if the Israelites were not living as slaves in Egypt prior to Ramses II ascending the throne, his people were living as sects already, given the class system that existed.

    28:4 and the tafsirs of this verse that I cited state that the Pharaoh described in the Quran. who you claim was Ramses II, made the people of Egypt into different groups.

    We know this is false.

    - Peter C