The Ancient Egypt and the Exodus (First part)

The Hyksos

Paralleling the rise of Mesopotamian civilization, Egyptian culture reached great heights in the third millenium. In c. 3000 BC an Upper Egyptian, Narmer, conquered Low Egypt, unifying both portions of the land. With the the collapse of the Old Kingdom in c. 2200 BC Egypt suffered political anarchy and civil war which lasted over two centuries. However, with the accession of Amenehmet I of the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1990 BC), the Middle Kingdom enjoyed considerable prosperity – this period coincided with the patriarchal period in Palestine, and it appears that interrelations existed between the two regions.

In c. 1870 BC the Middle Kingdom collapsed. As a result, chaos ensued. About fifty years later the Delta was ruled over by the Hyksos of Asian descent; their rule lasted until c. 1570 BC. Around 1550 BC the Egyptian rulers of Thebes began a war of liberation against the Hyksos – this resulted in the capture of the Hyksos capital at Avaris, and the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt. To prevent the recurrence of such foreign domination, the rulers of the Eighteenth Dynasty extended their domination east and north into west Asia. Under Thutmose (c. 1490-1436 BC), the foundations of Egypt’s Asiatic empire were laid. His two successors continued his policies until the reign of Amunhotep III (c. 1405-1367 BC). During this period the national god, Amun of Thebes, was regarded as having given victory to Egypt.

Under Amunhotep’s son Akhenaton (c. 1367-1350 BC), a social revolution occurred. Akhenaton attempted to revolutionize religious life by suppressing the cult of Amun and other major gods and replacing them with worship of the sundisk Aton. Such reforms resembled monotheism, yet Akhenaton’s revolution did not survive his death. At the death of Akhenaton’s successor Tutankhamon, Egypt was defeated in Asia in a war against the Hittites and a civil war in Egypt led to the indipendence of Canaan. From c. 1304-1200 BC the Ramesside kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty re-established Egyptian control and Egyptian garrisons were placed in various Cannaanite cities. Rameses II (c. 1290-1273 BC), the most famous king of the dynasty, fought a battle with the rsurgent Hittites at Kedesh on the Orontes. This battle established the northern limits of Egyptian control and influence in southern Syria. (From Dan Cohn-Sherbok,Atlas of Jewish History, Routledge 1994, p. 8)

Simone Venturini


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