New Chronology

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The New Chronology is a theory first proposed in 1978 at the Glasgow Conference of the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies by a group of scholars and historians, principally those involved with the study of ancient Egypt. One of them, David Rohl, went on to refine the New Chronology, publishing a re-definition of Egyptian chronology as related to the Bible in his work A Test of Time.

Contents

Pillars of Egyptian Dating

The foundations of Egyptian chronology as currently accepted by a majority of scholars is based upon the following four arguments:

  • The sacking of Thebes in 664 B.C. by Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, in response to a revolt led by Pharaoh Taharka. Written records left behind by Babylonian, Assyrian, and Egyptian sources make this date absolute.
  • The claim of the Eber Payrus of a fixed date of either 1542 B.C. or 1517 B.C. for the rising of the star Sirius in the ninth year of Amenhotep I.
  • The identification of Shoshenq I of the 22nd Dynasty as the Biblical Shishak, recorded in 1 Kings 14:25,26 and 2 Chronicles 12:2-9 as the conqueror of Jerusalem when Rehoboam was king of Judah.
  • And the identification of 19th Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses II as the either the pharaoh of the oppression, or as the pharaoh of the Exodus.

Of these, the one date beyond dispute is the 664 B.C. sacking of Thebes by Ashurbanipal. As to the remainder, the identity of Shoshenq I as Shishak was based solely on a reading of the text of the Bubasite Portal at the Temple of Karnak near Thebes by Jean-François Champollion on his only trip to Egypt in the mid-1800’s after he successfully deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphic language. On the Portal is a list of cities Shoshenq I had conquered in his campaign, and the 29th city Champollion read it as y-w-d-h-m-r-k, surmising that it meant “Judah Kingdom” (Hebrew Yhuda Malkhut: יְהוּדָה מַלְכוּת). But it is not the word “Jerusalem,” which is not only not where it should be on the portal, it in fact it is not there at all. A highly important city such as Jerusalem, the capitol of a nation, should have merited mention in Shoshenq’s campaign. Shishak, Rohl contends, should be identified with Ramesses II, making another pharaoh, Dudimose I, the pharaoh of the Exodus instead.

Rohl also contends the the Ebers Papyrus is mis-read, insisting that it be understood as evidence for a reformation of the Egyptian calendar.

Working with the 664 B.C. date the early scholars counted back regnal years to set remaining dates, sometimes stretching pharaonic rules to fill in gaps. The problem in the setting of the conventional chronology arose when researchers searched for evidence they expected to find regarding the Biblical accounts; searching in what appeared to be the logical sites in the time periods in question (Late Bronze Age to Iron Age IIC) they found little to nothing, thus relegating a large part of the Biblical story, from the Creation of Genesis to major portion of the books of Kings and Chronicles to mythology. The age of the early kings of Israel was determined to have taken place, not in splendor, but in relative poverty, with no evidence of the major building works built by Solomon. The restructuring of Egyptian chronology according to the New Chronology indicates that the early Victorian archaeologists merely made a series of wrong assumptions and mistakes in their eagerness to document Egypt.

Dating Ramesses II

Ramesses II of the 19th Dynasty was known for his extensive building projects, including the site in the southern Nile delta region called the city of Raamses (Exodus 1:8-11), as well as being called the pharaoh of the Exodus, based on the text of Exodus 1:8-11 which tells of a new pharaoh "who knew not Joseph" forcing the Hebrews to build the store cities of Pithom and Raamses. In order for this identification to stand, the time frame of the Judges must be reduced by 200 years. Overlooked by scholars are:

  • Judges 11:26, which has Jephthah stating that the timespan from the first settlement in the Levant during the conquest of the Promised Land to his own time is 300 years.
  • I Kings 6:1, which is an explicit statement that the time from the Exodus to the commencement of the building of Temple under Solomon in 966 BC is 480 years, agreeing with the date in Judges.

According to the conventional chronology Ramesses reigned in the 13th century B.C. (1279-1213 B.C.), yet the above dates indicate a date of 1447-1450 B.C. The use of "Ramesses" as a place name older than the pharaoh is further attested by Genesis 47:11, which states that Joseph and his brethren settled in the region of Ramesses.

Shoshenq I, as previously said, left an inscription of his conquests in the area of northern Israel in which it was claimed by Champollion that Jerusalem was among them. The only inscription from Egyptian sources directly identified as mentioning a conquest of Jerusalem is on the north tower of the pylon of the first court at the Ramesseum near Karnak, which was built by Ramesses II: ”The town in which the king plundered in Year 8 – Shalem”. The name “Jerusalem” was a later word made up of “yeru”, meaning “foundation” or “city” (possibly bestowed by the patriarch Abraham as “yireh” for Mt. Moriah) and “Shalem”, either an early local deity from pagan times or a byname for Melchizidek, hence “city of Shalem” (Hebrew: Yerushaláyim יְרוּשָׁלַיִם).

  • Rohl also argued that a nickname found for Ramesses III, read as “se-se” from the hieroglyphic, may have been corrupted by the Hebrews with an added “K” sound at the end to signify contempt, becoming “se-sek.” In Hebrew it would have been written as שישק “sysq”, or “sha-shek”, which in Hebrew means "one who crushes".

The weakening of Israel and Judah at the time of Shishak’s invasion, assuming he was indeed Ramesses II, would fit well with the inscription on the Mereneptah Stele by that later pharaoh (and Ramesses’ successor), which stated “Israel is desolate; his seed is no more.”

Archaeological problems resulted quickly when research was done in Shoshenq's time, known as the Third Intermediate Period, or TIP. What was found strongly indicate that the entire length of the TIP was artificially lengthened by some 200 years as a result of the piecing together of the chronology in the conventional manner. When corrected according to the New Chronology, several of the pharaohs were shown to have ruled at the same time.

Joseph

In the book of Genesis, Joseph, the son of Jacob, was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. In Egypt, he was known for winning his freedom by correctly pointing out the coming of seven years of plentiful crops, seven years of famine, and what should be done about it. In the New Chronology, his life comes out of the shadows of myth into the 12th Dynasty reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III.

In the millennia before the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the annual flooding of the Nile River brought with it silt from the mountains of central Africa, to be deposited on either side of the Nile and in the Nile Delta region. This silt fertilized the area, allowing for crops to be grown. In ancient Egypt records were kept in various cities and temples recording the annual floods and the amount of crops harvested. The evidence for seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine in this pharaoh’s reign was documented by Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius of Germany, who worked on the Nile at the Second Cataract where stood the ancient fortresses of Semma and Kumma. There he found written records of the Nile floods during Amenemhat’s reign, where the average height recorded was some eleven to twelve meters above normal flood stage, which meant a good harvest.

But by the twelfth year of his rule, however, the recorded floods were at 17 meters, increasing the silt amount; this resulted in a dramatic increase in the crop yield, which continued for over seven years. This was followed by documentation recording the increase of flood waters to an average of twenty-one meters for another seven years, increasing the amount of water in the Delta, and preventing the planting of crops until the waters receeded, which by the time that happened it would have been too late in the year to do so. Since a very-low crop yield would have inevitably been followed by famine, the effects would have been devastating all over the Levant, as Nile Delta crops were exported to that location.

Prior to the famine, Amenemhat was a mediocre ruler, having to deal with a number of local chieftans who were in actual control of large parts of Egypt. Many of the tombs which date in the period prior to Amenemhat show signs of the wealth used to construct them; one, that of Khnumhotep, has a painted scene showing a caravan from Midian, similar to the traders who had bought Joseph from his brothers in Genesis 37. However, during Amenemhat’s reign, the elaborate tombs ceased to exist. Genesis 47 records the wealthy being forced to sell their possessions, their land, even their lives to Pharaoh in exchange for grain to survive the famine, which made Amenemhat one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs.

Jacob and Joseph's homes

Excavations at Tell ed-Daba revealed a small village in stratum G/4 dating to the time when Jacob settled in Goshen. Research into the archaeological and human remains indicate

  • the population of males were of Asiatic stock, from the Palestine or Syrian areas;
  • the females were ethnic Egyptian, indicating intermarriage.

Also found was a structure of Syrian design which revealed numerous artifacts, again of Syrian design. The modest proportions of the building suggest that someone of importance had once lived there.

The remains of this building were found underneath the foundations of a much larger structure which was done in the Egyptian style, built for a very important man, along with the remains of a small, pyramidal tomb which was found to be completely empty, including the body, despite evidence of a robber’s opening. The one remaining artifact found was the head and shoulders of a cult statue, apparently of the occupant of the tomb, in which the face had been hacked off and damage done to the top of the head in a fashion similar to someone trying to destroy it deliberately. With the New Chronology in mind, the only candidates for the occupants of both houses are Jacob and Joseph, who’s cult statue was destroyed and house ruined by the Egyptians to vent their anger when the Hebrews departed Egypt and a life of bondage under Moses.

Moses

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses... (Exodus 2:10)
Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said. (Exodus 2:5, 6)

According to advocates of the late-date theory of the Exodus, Moses left Egypt with the Hebrews about 1291 B.C. while Ramesses II sat on the throne; early-date theorists state 1441 B.C. under Amenhotep II. Despite their sojourn in Egypt for several centuries and a minimum population of 600,000, little to no evidence has been found in the archaeological or written records during the dates in question. The New Chronology attempts to correct this discrepancy.

Eusebius, an early Christian historian, quoted a book titled Peri Ioudaion by the 3rd century B.C. Jewish historian Artapanus, who had access to the written records in the Egyptian temples and the Library of Alexandria. Artapanus wrote that a pharaoh named Palmanothes had persecuted the Hebrews; during this time his daughter Merris adopted a Hebrew child which she named Mousos, who grew up to be an administrator and military leader during the rule of her husband, Khenephres. Mousos' popularity had grown with the conquest of Ethiopia, causing Mousos to flee from Khenephres' jealous wrath, eventually settling in Arabia. In the corrected dating of the New Chronology, the pharoah in question was the powerful Sobekhotep IV, who took the coronation name of Khaneferre when he inherited the throne. Both the Greek word Khenephres and the Egyptian Khaneferre mean "beautiful appearing of Re", and Sobekhotep IV was the only known pharaoh to bear this name.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing in his Antiquities of the Jews, also mentioned the Ethiopian (Kush) campaign under Moses, who invaded that country by way of the Nile Valley, going south well past the Third Cataract. A stela in the British Museum dedicated to Sobekhotep IV confirms this invasion; indeed, it is the only record of a 13th Dynasty pharaoh undertaking such an operation. A statue of Sobekhotep IV was also found at Kerma deep inside Kush near the ruins of an ancient Egyptian building which may have been built to secure Egyptian interests after the conquest.

Evidence at Avaris

The region in the southeastern Nile Delta region was known as Goshen in Biblical times, and excavations have been ongoing at the site of Tell ed-Daba, a middle-Bronze Age settlement which was called the biblical city of Raamses or Pi-Ramesse, the city of the 19th Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses II (Exodus 1:11). Although Pi-Ramesse was built by Ramesses himself, archaeologists have confirmed the existence of an older city below which was called Avaris. The finds included:

  • Confirmation that the people who lived there were Semitic in origin.
  • The majority of pottery finds were Levantine (Land of Canaan) in source.
  • The remains of a large number of sheep were found, suggesting shepherding.
  • Despite a normal death rate of 20-30% during this time period for children 18 months or younger, some 65% of total burials were of these children. Exodus 1:22 records the killing of all male children by the Egyptians.
  • A higher-than-normal number of women were also buried, suggesting that they were killed when protecting their children.

A papyrus scroll (Brooklyn 35:1446) acquired by Charles Wilbur in the 19th Century and now in the Brooklyn Museum dates to the 13th Dynasty under Pharaoh Sobekhotep III, who ruled before Moses. Essentially it is a decree from the pharaoh authorizing the transfer of slaves; of the 95 slaves mentioned by name, approximately 46 of them have their original Semitic names in addition to their Egyptian names each were assigned, something the Bible records as a common practice (Genesis 41:45).

Excavations at Avaris also revealed in stratum G/1 the shallow burial pits of people placed there in a haphazard manner, i.e. thrown in, and coinciding with the simultaneous abandonment of the city by the people en-masse. This fits extremely well with the events of the Tenth Plague, in which a large number of Egyptian males were killed (Exodus 12:29-30), and the subsequent departure from Goshen of the Hebrew slaves. Avaris was then completely resettled, the archaeological record reveals, by a people Asiatic in origin, who plundered Egyptian tombs for relics in their own, and who practiced human sacrifice as shown by the large number of female ritual burials. To ensure this scenario, we have to expect that:

  • Egypt would be severely weakened economically by a large-scale departure of its work force, i.e. the slaves;
  • Egypt had suffered psychologically from the loss of its first-born male children;
  • Egypt would be severely, perhaps gravely, weakened by the loss of a significant number of men in its standing army, which the Bible describes as having taken place at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:28).

Josephus, quoting Manetho, described what happened:

Tutimaos: 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 (Egypt). By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow 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 our natives with cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others.

According to the New Chronology, the Exodus took place 1447 B.C. under Pharaoh Dudimose I, who was the ‘’Tutimaos’’ of Manetho. The 13th Dynasty ended with him, as he was unable to stop the onslaught of the Hyksos invaders, an Asiatic-Semitic people who took advantage of a weakened Egypt.


Second Intermediate Period
Thirteenth Dynasty 1802-1649 B.C. (conventional chronology) or 1632-1446 B.C. (New chronology)
Pharaoh Details Conventional Chronology dates New Chronology dates New Chronology details
Sekhemre Khutawy Sobekhotep (or Wegaf) Founder of the 13th Dynasty. 1803–1799 1632 -
Amenemhat Senebef (Sekhemkare) Reigned 3 years 1798—1795 1630 -
Amenemhat V 1795–1792 1619 No king from 1625-1619
Sehetepre  ? –1790 1616 -
Iufni  ? 1611 -
Seankhibre  ? 1606 -
Semenkare  ? 1601 -
Sehetepre  ? 1596 -
Sewadjkare  ? 1591 -
Nedjemibre Reigned 7 months  ? 1586 -
Sobekhotep I  ? 1581 -
Renseneb 4 months c. 1775 1579 -
Awybre Hor I c. 1775(?) 1578 -
Sedjefakare Became well-known through the writings on many documents and stele. c. 5 to 7 yrs. 1573 -
Sekhemre Khutawy Sobekhotep II c. 1767 1568 -
Khendjer Reigned 4 yrs, 3 months, possibly longer. c. 1765 1563 -
Imyremeshaw (Mermesha)  ? 1558 -
Antef V (Inyotef)  ? 1553 -
(...)set fragmented name  ? 1548 -
Sobekhotep III Reigned 4 years, 2 months c. 1755 1543 -
Khasekhemre Neferhotep I Reigned 11 years 1751–1740 1540-1530 Pharoah of the oppression
Sihathor  ? 1530-1529 Reigned three months
Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV Reigned 10-11 years; Called Khenephres by Artapanus, and Nepherkheres by Manetho 1740–1730 1529-1510 (?) MOSES born in his third regnal year
Khahotepre Sobekhotep V c. 1730 1510-1506 -
Wahibre Ibiau (Iayib) Reigned 10 years, 8 months c. 1725–1714 1506-1496 -
Merneferre Ai (Ay) Reigned 23 years, 8 months c. 1714–1691 1496-1473 -
Senkhre-ensewadjtu  ? 1473 -
Mersekhemre Ined  ? 1467 -
Sewadjkare Hori  ? 1464 -
Dudimose I Position uncertain in conventional chronology; called Tutimaios by Manetho c. 1654 1448 EXODUS in 1447; Egypt falls to the HYKSOS 1446

Joshua

After Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt they had wandered the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years until the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua took place. The conventional chronology had this event taking place during the Early Iron Age IA in the 12th century B.C. Under the New Chronology this takes place in the Middle Bronze Age IIB, where an abundance of supportive evidence is found.

Dame Kathleen Kenyon of the London Institute of Archaeology excavated the city of Jericho, the first major conquest by Joshua, in the 1950’s, finding a Middle Bronze Age ingeniously defended by means of a wall 12 feet thick on a slope which was plastered smooth, preventing the enemy from gaining a foothold should they get past a deep ditch which was just outside the walls. The ditch itself was filled with bricks from the city walls, indicating the walls were pulled down. However, she could not connect this evidence with Joshua, as she was using the conventional chronology.

Placing it within the time frame of the New Chronology confirms Joshua’s actions. The remains of the city wall’s bricks within the ditch would have allowed an army to penetrate rapidly into the city (Joshua 6). Further evidence found were many large jars filled with carbonized grain as well as other supplies and good, indicating the city had fallen quickly. These supplies were also burned; the evidence of fire destroying every part of Jericho is overwhelming, as is recorded in Joshua 6:24; in places the layer of ash was more than three feet thick. The city was not resettled for well over 500 years, when in 850 B.C. King Ahab ordered a rebuilding to take place, which was confirmed in the archaeological record as taking place during the Late Bronze Age.

Other findings confirming Joshua’s actions included:

  • The cities of Bethel, Lachish, Hazor, Debir, Arad, and Hebron, written in the Biblical record as having been conquered by Joshua and put to the torch, were found with evidence of severe fire damage.
  • Joshua 15:14 and Judges 1:10 record mention of King Sheshai of Hebron, who was defeated by Joshua. Numerous scarabs found in various sites in Palestine record this man.
  • The name of Jabin, king of Hazor, was found on a tablet in the ruins of that city in 1992, the same Jabin who was defeated according to Joshua 11:1, 10.

The Amarna Tablets

In 1887, clay tablets were discovered by a fellaheen peasant woman at a site known as Tell el-Amarna in central Egypt. The 380 tablets were letters written to Amenhotep IV from the foreign rulers of city-states, as well as correspondence from the more powerful kingdoms to the north and east, such as Assyria and Babylon. The tablets were written in the cuneiform script of the Akkadian language.

The first name of interest to Biblical scholars in the Amarna Tablets is “Labayu”, the “Lion Man”, who held sway over central Palestine and was active in fighting against the Philistines. A hypocoristic, and not a proper name, “Labayu” has been translated as “the Great Lion of N”, the “N” suggesting a god’s name. Here in the Amarna Tablets, transposing them from the 13th century B.C. of the conventional chronology to the 10th century B.C. the career of Labayu is a match for the Biblical record of the first king of the Israelites, Saul.

Labayu also warned Pharaoh to keep out of his internal affairs. In letter EA 252 Labayu writes:

“I was denigrated' in front of the king, my lord. Further, an ant, when it is squashed, doesn't revolt perhaps and bite the hand of the man who squashes it?” [1]

In Amarna letter EA 244 Labayu assaults Meggido:

”May the king know that since the archers have gone back, Labayu carries out acts of hostility against me, and that we cannot shear the wool, and that we cannot pass through the gate in the presence of Labayu, since he knows that you have not given (me) archers; and now he intends to take Meggido, but the king will protect his city so that Labayu does not seize her. In truth, the city is destroyed by death as a result of pestilence and disease. Grant the king one hundred garrison troops to guard the city, lest Labayu take it. Certainly, Labayu has no another intentions. He tries to destroy Meggido.” [2]

Saul and his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malkishua were killed in battle with the Philistines near Mt. Gilboa in the Jezreel Valley, not too far from Meggido. The event is recorded in 1 Samuel 31. In EA 245, a ruler of a city-state, Addu-qarrad of Gitti-padalla, wrote to pharaoh "Why did you give into the hand of the king your lord Gitti-padalla, a city that Lab'aya our father had taken?" Thus the two sons of Lab'aya said to me: "Make war against the men of Qina, because they killed our father!” In the Bible, Qina was called En-Ganim.

EA 252, the letter from Labayu warning pharaoh, was studied extensively in the early 1940's by William Albright, the American archaeologist. He determined that the writer of the tablet knew little of the Akkadian language, which was the common correspondence between countries in that time period; intead the language was first written in Hebrew, then translated idiomatically into Akkadian. Essentially, the letter was from an untutored or uneducated man from humble beginnings who grew into a powerful ruler, which was exactly Saul.

In Psalm 57 Saul's bodyguards are called lebaim, a Hebrew word meaning lions. David, as he is hiding from Saul's men in the cave of En-Gedi (I Samuel 24), he is writing:

"I am in the midst of lions (Hebrew 'lebaim'); I lie among ravenous beasts - men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords." (Psalm 57:4)

EA 289 records the disruption of the area under Saul, but mentioning the Habiru:

"Are we to act like Labayu when he was giving the land of Shechem to the Habiru?"

The Habiru, thought by scholars to be stateless wanderers, and later by Biblical scholars as the Hebrews themselves, now become David's Hebrews who carried out mercenary assaults upon the Philistines.

  • In 1 Samuel 13:3-5, Jonathan smashed the Philistine pillar at Gibeah. This event was also mentioned by Labayu in EA 252.
  • In 1 Samuel 20:30-31, Saul reprimands his son Jonathan for consorting with David; in EA 254, Labayu does the same.

Amenhotep IV's inaction in the matter of Labayu is easily explained. He became a pacifist, a monotheistic revolutionary who turned Egypt's religious structure upside-down with his insistance that they worship one god, the sun (Aten); he changed his name to Akhetaten as a result. By the time the powerful military commander Horemheb took control as pharaoh, the conquest of the Promised Land under David was complete. When Solomon sat on the throne, he was powerful enough to have an Egyptian princess as his wife and marriage alliance.

References

  • Rohl, David M. Pharaohs and Kings, Crown Publishers, New York, NY (1995), originally published in Great Britain as A Test of Time, Century LTD, London.
  • Albright, William F. The Old Testament and Modern Study, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England (1951).
  • Breasted, James Henry. Ancient Records of Egypt (1906), 5 volumes; republished by Histories and Mysteries of Man LTD., London (1988)
  • Petrie, W. M. Flinders, and Duncan, Garrow J. Hyksos and Israelite Cities (1906), reprinted by Histories and Mysteries of Man LTD, London (1989)
  • Petrie, W. M. Flinders. A History of Egypt; Vol. I (1894), Vol. II (1896), Vol. III (1905), republished by Histories and Mysteries of Man LTD., London, 1991


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