There are always mysteries
Archaeology may solve some problems the Christian world needs answered about the Bible but due to its limited nature that field of research cannot answer them all. One of those mysteries concerns the the identity of the Hyksos.
According to most Egyptologists and other archaeologists, the Hyksos were invaders of Egypt somewhere between the 12th and the 16th Dynasties. Their appearance has been held to that time as there are few ancient manuscripts whose contents refer to that group of people . They are also scattered, lacking in detail and so on (Redmount, 2001).
This paper is not going to deal with the location of their capital or call into question the work of Dr. Manfred Bietak who has dug at the Hyksos capital of Avaris for over 40 years. Instead it is going to call into question the timeline, which Dr. David Rohl has already done with his new chronology (Wood, 2016).
The Egyptian Pharaoh Timeline
When one reads the book Egyptian Art published by Phaidon they get a very detailed analysis of Egyptian life and the artwork surrounding the different pharaohs that reigned over Egypt.
In the back of the book there is a rather detailed chronology listing all of the different pharaohs except for a couple of dynasties. There are many names missing from the 13th to 17th dynasty as those names may be lost to history.
But what is striking are the words at the top of the page. Those words read- “all dates before the seventh century BC should be regarded as approximate. The margin of error varies from some one hundred years…” (Malek, 2011)
It may not be the scholar’s fault for this discrepancy, it could be that Egyptian records do not follow legitimate chronological rules or historical requirements. This is something about the ancient Egyptians.
They were known to alter their history to make future generations more patriotic, to make those early generations look good, powerful and wise. Even the records recorded in stone cannot be trusted as there is no way to know if they were not edited after their initial inscribing (Harrison, 2005).
With the lack of documents referring to the Hyksos it is also impossible to fully verify what has been said about them and their place in Egyptian history. Since very little is known of this people it is possible that their place in the Egyptian chronology is erroneous and may be applied to a later date.
The Many King’s list
The problem isn’t just with the lack of manuscripts discussing the Hyksos, there are problems with the many different king’s lists that Egyptologists have used to determine the order of Pharaohs and when they reigned.
Probably the best King’s list is the Royal Canon of Turin. When discovered it contained almost all or part of 222different names of Pharaohs who ruled. The problem with this list is that since its discovery, over 2/3 of the document has disintegrated, no good photos were taken and no real scientific examination has been done on the papyrus (Lundstrom, 2020).
With so much information lost it is hard to construct a proper order for all of the kings who ruled Egypt. Part of the solution came from the Abydos, The Saqqara and the Karnak king’s list. There are issues with those lists as well as as the two former lists were not designed to be a chronological compilation. Like Karnak, Saqqara did not list all the kings and Karnak listed names of Pharaohs that appeared on no other list (Lundstrom, 2020).
There are other problems with these lists and those issues tend to make determining the correct order or rulers, including the Hyksos, very difficult. There is no document tying those king’s list together or showing how they are connected. They each may have a different purpose, like the Saqqra list which was supposed to be made honoring ancestors. The lack of connection makes discovering the different rules very difficult (Lundstrom, 2020).
There is always Manetho
Manetho lived during the 30tth Dynasty and wrote his history for the Greek rulers who came to power after Alexander the Great conquered the land. His three volume history of Egypt, called the Aegyptiaca, has not survived except by quotations in other ancient author’s works. It was this work that helped divide the ancient pharaohs into 30 dynasties (Kinnaer, 2018).
But as stated, there is so little known about Manetho. And what makes matters worse is that his 3 volume history does not survive except through different quotations
“we can know his writings only from fragmentary and often distorted quotations preserved chiefly by Josephus and by the Christian chronographers, Africanus and Eusebius, with isolated passages in Plutarch, Theophilus, Aelian, Porphyrius, Diogenes Laertius, Theodoretus, Lydus, Malalas, the Scholia to Plato, and the Etymologicum Magnum.” (Manetho, 1964).
The important passage about the Hyksos is found in Josephus and to quote from his work
“In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us; and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow;4 and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others.” (Manetho, 1964)
The only real time that this could have taken place was after the Pharaoh and his army were destroyed during the Exodus. While it is quite possible that the Hyksos could have come to power through non military means, like Joseph had, that does not seem probable as they would have had to have complete control over the Egyptian military and other high offices to make the coup work and it is hard to consider the Egyptian army rebelling against their own people in favor of foreigners. Among other obstacles.
Since the Hyksos presence in Northern Egypt has been referred to as an invasion, there really is not record of any invasion of Egypt during the 13th or 14th dynasties that would explain their entering the land (ABR, 2005).
Egypt was not a weak nation until the Exodus took place making it possible for an invading force to take the land without, as Manetho describes, striking a blow. Their army was gone as was their Pharaoh and reeling from all the plagues including the loss of the first born, the people of Egypt were not in the frame of mind or position to defend their land.
Ahmose I may have expelled the Hyksos as the Rhind papyrus has mentioned but it is possible that it was after his stated rule of 1550 to 1525 BC. (Dunn, 2020). Because of the sparsity of records it is hard to say and theories do abound.
One must be cautious when using Manetho because he was commissioned by Ptolemy II to write the histories and given Egyptian mentality, Manetho could have changed Egyptian history to make the country seem better than it was (Kinnaer, 2018). Without copies of his original work it can never be certain what was written in his books.
Who were the Hyksos
This is a very good question and no one really knows who exactly they were. It has been said that they were a Semitic people who had found their way to Egypt and got as far as Avaris (Mark, 2017).
Others have said that the Hyksos were a near eastern people or from Asia but the existing documentation does not really go into detail as to their exact origin (Youngblood, 1995).
There is even trouble trying to find the meaning behind the name Hyksos. Some people call it an incorrect translation as they disagree with the shepherd kings definition and prefer the one that accompanies the words hikau khausut which means rulers of foreign lands (Dunn, 2020).
There may some confusion at work as Manetho was writing centuries after the fact> he may have got his data mixed up either by accident or on purpose. This confusion has had scholars attaching the name Hyksos to the Hebrews who were in the land with the ones who were said to have ruled the land between the 13th and 17th dynasties. The key to remember is that Hyksos came to Egypt from mysterious origins and left the country to a mysterious fate.
Which leaves the opening that the Hyksos could have been the Amalekites who were a people who were described as one of the first nations rendering their origin unknown and who died out from history a few centuries later without any records about their civilization left extant.
This destruction of any knowledge falls in line with what God said he would do to the Amalekites after their attack on Israel in Exodus 17. In verse 14 God told Moses- “14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (NASB).
If this is the case, the Amalekites could easily gone to Egypt after their battle with the Hebrews and took over the land as far as Avaris without striking a blow. There was no one left to stop them from doing that.
The Pharaoh who did not know Joseph
Since the Bible does not mention the name of the Pharaoh who took over after Joseph died many theories abound. One respected archaeologist has said that the only time the Hebrews could have been in Egypt and built Pithom was during the claimed Hyksos time (Wood, 2008).
The reasoning behind that identification was that the new Hyksos king would have no real knowledge of Egyptian history and would not have been told about Joseph and his achievements (Wood, 2008).
That is hard to ascertain as it does not fit in with what the Pharaoh had said when he declared that the Hebrews were to be made slave. Another theory also pins the enslavement on the Hyksos as the person creating this theory stated that this was something the Egyptians would not say and it was something that the Hyksos would say (EU, 2020).
That explanation makes no sense as the Hyksos were trying to rule a large group of people already. Most likely the Egyptians outnumbered the Hyksos and with the latter not conquering the whole land, there were far too many free Egyptians to worry about than the Hebrews.
The Egyptians on the other hand had something to fear from the growing number of Hebrews as they had, like every other ancient civilizations, reason to believe that the Hebrews would join forces with their enemies and conquer the land.
If the Hebrews were under Hyksos control, then they could have easily escaped to the free part of Egypt and joined forces with the Egyptians and drive out the invaders. With the Egyptians as the ones who enslaved the Hebrews, that hope and possibility disappears as the Hebrews had no place to escape to.
To find the Pharaoh of the Exodus, it it may be left to a search of one who was not a first born child unless the Pharaoh was spared from being killed in the last plague. The Pharaoh who took over for the one killed at the Red Sea could not be a first born child.
As the Bible tells us- “4 Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” (Exodus 11 NASB).
It is also possible that the Pharaoh who enslaved the Hebrews was not the same as the pharaoh of the Exodus for this reason- “ 19 Now the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” (Exodus 4 NASB).
It is hard to say but that seems to be the indication. In finding the identity we have the clues just as we have the clues as to when the Hyksos ruled in Egypt and who the Hyksos were.
The Egyptian timeline cannot be left up to unbelieving Egyptologists to figure out. They are not in search of the truth and may still be carrying out the ancient Egyptian tradition of creating a history that makes their people look better than they were. They also do not have God helping them.
ABR, (2005). Bible and Spade, 18(1), 9.
Dunn, J., (2020), “ Who were the Hyksos”, Tour Egypt, http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hyksos.htm
EU, (2020), “Date of the Exodus”, Evidence Unseen, http://www.evidenceunseen.com/date-of-the-exodus/
Harrison, R.K., (2005), “Old Testament Times”, Baker Books
Kinnaer, J., (2018), “ Manetho”, The Egyptian Site, http://ancient-egypt.org/who-is-who/m/manetho.html
Lundstrom, P., (2020), “the Royal Code of Turin”, Pharaoh.se, https://pharaoh.se/royal-canon-of-turin
Malik, J., (2011), “Egyptian Art”, Phaidon, Pg. 430
Manetho. (1964). History of Egypt and Other Works. (T. E. Page, E. Capps, L. A. Post, W. H. D. Rouse, & E. H. Warmington, Eds., W. G. Waddell, Trans.) (p. vii). Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann Ltd.
Mark, J., (2017), “Hyksos”, Ancient History Encyclopedia, https://www.ancient.eu/Hyksos/
Redmount, C. A. (2001). Ethnicity, Pottery, and the Hyksos at Tell El-Maskhuta in the Egyptian Delta. Biblical Archaeologist: Volume 58 1-4, (electronic ed.), 183.
Wood, B., (2016), ‘DAVID ROHL’S REVISED EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGY: A VIEW FROM PALESTINE”, Biblia.work, https://www.biblia.work/sermons/davidrohls-revised-egyptian-chronology-a-view-from-palestine/
________, (2008), “From Ramesses to Shiloh: Archaeological Discoveries Bearing on the Exodus-Judges Period”, Associates for Biblical Research, https://biblearchaeology.org/research/conquest-of-canaan/2403-from-ramesses-to-shiloh-archaeological-discoveries-bearing-on-the-exodusjudges-period?highlight=WyJoeWtzb3MiLCInaHlrc29zJyIsIidoeWtzb3MnLXRoZSJd
Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.