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It is both important and useful to date biblical scriptures, because
this means that we can determine when particular events happened. For
example, what time period a particular king ruled, where he ruled and
who he ruled over.
Archaeology is probably the best method of dating scriptures, as it is
accurate and scientific. However, it can cause problems. It can
cause disagreements between Rabbis and archaeologists, and even
between Rabbis themselves, who have different opinions and ideas about
what actually happened, furthermore if the biblical information
contradicts the archaeological information, or vice versa.
For example, if one archaeologist finds evidence from a period of time
and another archaeologist finds evidence of the same event but claims
that it dates to a different time period.
Instances in which such disputes have occurred are; who was the
Pharaoh of the Exodus? And were the Israelites ever in Egypt?
There are several candidates for the notoriety of having been the
Pharaoh of the oppression, under whom the “bondage of the Israelites
ended in a systematic attempt at their extermination.” Most scholars
identify him as being the “splendour loving and tyrannical Rameses
II”. The exodus itself is thought to have occurred under the rule of
Merneptah an “obstinate and vain despot” (the son of Rameses II).
However, some scholars date the Oppression and the Exodus in the
century prior to Rameses II and connect it with “the religious
revolution of Ikhnaton”. This Pharaoh abolished the belief in
countless gods of the Egyptian Pantheon; he then committed himself
entirely to the worship of the sun. His new monotheistic belief was
totally opposite to his previous belief of multitudinous deities.
Scholars believe that there is “some relation between the faith of the
Israelites and the solar monotheism of Ikhnaton”; Israelite influence
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the gross idolatry of Egypt”. This is evidence that the Israelites
were in Egypt.
Other Egyptologists disagree with this theory and believe that Thotmes
III (a century before Rameses II) was the Pharaoh of the Oppression.
One of the most important reasons which encourage both sets of
scholars to disagree with the general theory that Rameses II was the
Pharaoh of the Oppression is that a scripture of Merneptah was
discovered in 1896 and it is alleged that the name ‘Israel’ occurs on
it. The inscription is a “song of triumph” of Merneptah describing in
pretentious language his victories in Canaan. He boasts that “Canaan
is seized with every evil… Ysiraal is desolated, its seed is not”.
The expression ‘Ysiraal is desolated’ leads the scholars to state that
the Israelites “in those days must have been in possession of Canaan”
and thus the Exodus must have taken place “long before the time of
However, it is not definite that the words ‘Ysiraal is desolated’
refer to Israel at all…
Professor Kennet takes the phrase as being similar to that relating to
Ashkelon and Gezer and as a result simply “stating that Merneptah had
devastated the district of ‘Jezreel’”.
And if ‘Ysiraal’ does mean Israel, then it refers to the settlements
in Palestine by Israelites from Egypt before the Exodus. And it is
“These settlements which Merneptah boasts of having devastated during
his Canaanite campaign”. There is thus no logical reason for
disagreeing with the current theory that the Pharaoh of the Oppression
was Rameses II, with his son Merneptah as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.