Egyptian History


The first major world power was Egypt.  In order to understand much of what was written at that time, we had to decipher hieroglyphics.  This was impossible, until soldiers in Napoleon's army (while in Egypt) discovered a stone in 1799 (produced during the reign of Ptolemy V, c. 200 BCE).   On this stone is an inscription written in three languages:  Hieroglyphic, Demotic, and Greek.  The information written on the Rosetta Stone eventually unlocked the mysterious Egyptian language, thanks to the efforts of French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion.


The Rosetta Stone, The British Museum, London



                                    Papyrus growing outside the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt                     Making sheets from papyrus,

                                                                                                                                                             Cairo, Egypt


Amenhotep III (1415 BCE,18th dynasty) was one of the most prodigious builders in Egyptian History, many of his statues and temples surviving even today.  He had a long and successful reign.  He inherited a stable and prosperous empire effectively founded by his great-grandfather Tuthmose III (1504-1450 BCE; mummy is in Cairo; incidentally, Egyptian records, describing Thutmose III at Megiddo in 1479 BCE as his Egyptian army defeated a Syrian force, reads "like Horus armed with talons," possibly the first reference to a military chaplain).   The tomb of Amenhotep III in the valley of the kings was discovered by a French expedition in 1799 and is still one of the most impressive today.



                                       Amenhotep III, The British            The Bitter Lake, Sinai (where many scholars believe God                        

                                           Museum, London                                    parted the water through Moses)


A Faluka ride on the Nile


Many scholars believe the exodus occurred during the reign of his grandfather, Amenhotep II (1450-1420 BCE), which would make Tuthmose III the great oppressor of Israel.  However, (reference Ex 12:40) if the 430 years covers the total time of the Egyptian sojourn, then the descent into Egypt would have coincided with the Hyksos invasion and the Exodus occurred during the reign of Rameses II, about 1290 BCE.  Joseph probably entered Egypt during the 12th dynasty, just before the foreign rule of the Asiatic Hyksos (1785-1560 BCE, 13th-17th dynasties).  Hatshepsut (1503-1482 BCE) the most famous of the women Pharaohs, preceded Tuthmose III (actually, made him wait to rule) and was probably the one who found Moses in the Nile and brought him up (assuming an early date for the exodus).  The Great Pyramids were constructed during the 4th dynasty, 2500 BCE.  They were there 1,000 years before Moses was born in Egypt.  You might think the 5x8x12 ft. blocks used to build the pyramid were huge.  But Herod's Temple was built using blocks 37x18x12 ft.  Now that's huge!



                                       The River Nile and the Red Sea                                 Marah, Sinai, where the water was bitter



                                    The Great Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt (the last of the                    The Great Pyramids, taken from

                                             Seven Wonders still intact)                                             Space Station Alpha



                                     Mummy of Rameses II, at the Egyptian Museum,                        Inside the smallest of the          

                                   Cairo, Egypt (Moses may have looked into this face)                      Great Pyramids, Mycerinus                


The Sphinx, carved from a single stone in the quarry Chephren used when building his tomb

(Chephren was the son of Cheops).  Really, no one knows who built the Sphinx or why it was built.


Ancient Rameses is located at Tell el-Dab‘a in the eastern Delta, approximately 100 km northeast of Cairo. In antiquity, the Pelusiac branch of the Nile flowed past the site, giving access to the Mediterranean.  The reason why it took so long to find the city?  It is hard work looking for mud bricks in mud.  Rameses II (19th dynasty, 1304-1235 BCE) ruled for 65 years, and was one of the greatest of the pharaohs.  He was a great builder, but somewhat of a plagiarist also.  He occasionally claimed credit for the accomplishments of his predecessors.  His mummy is in Cairo.  His son Merneptah (1235-1220 BCE, mummy also in Cairo) is thought by some to be the pharaoh during the exodus (which would mean Rameses II was the great oppressor of Israel).  In 1906, Sir Flinders Petrie found a slab of black syenite containing a record of Merneptah's victories, made in the 5th year of his reign.  The word "Israel" occurs in the middle of the second line from the bottom.  It says:  "Plundered is Canaan.  Israel is desolated; his seed is not.  Palestine is become a widow for Egypt."  Scholars who hold to the earlier exodus date consider this a reference to a raid of Mernepta's into Palestine some 200 years after Israel had settled in the land.  The decline of Egypt began shortly after the 19th Dynasty, perhaps as a result of the plagues.  Rameses III began the 20th dynasty. 



                              Merneptah's Stele, Egyptian Museum                        Smoking a water pipe in a bedouin tent, Sinai


Looking west from the top of Mount Sinai (or, Mt. Horeb, the traditional place where Moses received the

Ten Commandments).  In 1 K 19:8, Elijah journeyed there when he was running from Jezebel.



Note:  While I make every effort to produce an error-free document, errors occasionally creep in. I would appreciate you bringing any to my attention so that I may make the necessary corrections.


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