Exodus: Modern Scholarship-Part I

Exodus: Modern Scholarship-Part I

How important is the Exodus to a modern Christian or Jew?  If the Israelites were not slaves in Egypt, then did the Passover not occur?   If Moses did not lead the Israelites out of Egypt, what is the validity of the Ten Commandments?    These questions, I think, are central to the beliefs of both, Christian and Jew.

Christianity evolved from Judaism; both are religions which see the hand of God working in history.  It is a cornerstone of the beliefs of both religions that God is revealed in history.  If God did not save the Israelites from Pharaoh, then does God not exist?  Is the entire story of the Israelites in Egypt a massive literary fabrication?  Did God not visit the plagues upon Egypt?  Did God not part the Red Sea?  Did manna not flow from the heavens?  Did God not give Moses the Ten Commandments? Are the sacred texts of both religions perpetuating one great lie?

The text in question is the Book of Exodus.   What evidence is there that the events set forth in the Book of Exodus happened?

To answer these questions, we must go back to that era-the reign of Ramesses II.

The defining moment of his reign was the Battle of Kadesh. How did this battle come about?  Why is it so important?  How does it relate to the Exodus?

This first part of our Exodus story will explore the background of the Battle of Kadesh and will discuss the battle.  In part two, we will review how it relates to the Book of Exodus.

  1. The Background to The Battle of Kadesh

Although Kadesh was fought in 1274 BC, the seeds of this conflict planted years before. The grandfather of Ramesses II, Ramesses I and his father, Seti I, both ascended the throne of Pharaoh while Egypt was in decline. Each, tried to restore the glory of Egypt through military conquest.  Seti I, in particular, made several campaigns into Canaan and Syria, re-occupying lost Egyptian fortresses and military outposts as well as by garrisoning cities in the region. Seti I not only occupied the Mediterranean coast in this area, but drove north towards the Hittite Empire and actually fought a battle in the area of Kadesh where he commemorated his victory with a stela. Ramesses II accompanied his father on these campaigns in Syria and Canaan.

When Ramesses II became Pharaoh, he continued his father’s policy and continued to campaign in both Canaan and Syria. In the fourth year of his reign, he made it his goal to recapture Amurru, which he accomplished. The capture of Amurru invoked the displeasure of the Hittite king, Muwatalli.  Muwatalli decided to confront the Egyptians and to prevent their further incursions north into his Empire.

During the non-campaigning season, Ramesses II stockpiled a tremendous amount of weapons and armaments in order to continue his campaign north during his fifth year as King. Muwatalli was not idle during this time. He not only mustered his Army, but also invoked the treaties requiring military service by his allies.  According to the Egyptian military records of the era, these allies amounted to some 19 nations.

Ramesses II set out in May 2012 74 BC to begin his campaign. In slightly over a month, he reached the area of Kadesh from the south. His army was in the four divisions, named Amun, Re, Seth, and Ptah.  He may have had with him Canaanite mercenaries, although these may have been left in Amurru. The Ptah division was apparently a new, green division that may not have received full training.

The Hittite king, although he was very close to the Egyptian army, his presence in the presence of the Hittite army was unknown to the Egyptians. Apparently, the Hittites had employed two spies who told her Ramesses II that the Hittites were still in Aleppo far to the north.

In the next part, we will discuss the Battle of Kadesh.


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