The usual suspects took a tremendous amount of license with the story of the Hyksos, the Hebrews and the Exodus. The real story is hidden in plain sight.
There were large populations of Hebrews in Egypt during the reign of the Hyksos (1782-1570 B.C.), after the Hyksos and through to the entire Hellenic and Roman eras.
Roman historian Tacitus (56–120 A.D.) wrote of the Jews:
“[They] are said to have been refugees from the island of Crete who settled in the remotest corner of Libya. This is a deduction from the name Judaei by which they became known: the word is to be regarded as a barbarous lengthening of Idaei, the name of the people dwelling around the famous Mount Ida in Crete. There are some who say that a motley collection of landless Assyrians occupied a part of Egypt and then built cities of their own.”
Winter Watch takeaway: The Assyrian theory seems well supported. The Hyksos were a mysterious “Asiatic” Semitic tribe that invaded Egypt in 1782 B.C. and ruled until 1570 B.C. Then the Egyptians from Upper Egypt reunited the country and overthrew Hyksos rule. There is an active debate as to whether these were early Hebrew tribes. We say they were. Some would offer a red herring that these were two separate Semite tribes. But at the very minimum they were strongly associated merged cousins at the same time and place.
Modern Egyptologists no longer describe Hyksos as military conquerors but rather infiltrators.
The Hyksos were characterized as “smart, pushy and rude.” Most likely, they were traders and merchants who were at first welcomed at the northeastern Egyptian city of Avaris. Their specialty was livestock. The Hyksos prospered in the Nile Delta and sent word to their friends and family to come join them. What resulted was a large population of Hyksos/Hebrews. They were eventually able to exert political control and then military power over Lower Egypt. The nation was split in two.
The city of Avaris (a Greek name) provided access to the Mediterranean Sea and, overland routes, to the region of Syria-Levant. The Hyksos (early Hebrews) thus established a rich and brisk trade in goods and people in the larger region. Avaris become one of the most important cities of the age.
The Bible offers clues as to what really transpired there and the role played by Hebrews in positions of power.
- Are the Old Testament’s accounts of Abraham and his cohort showing up in Egypt during the rise of the Hyksos merely a coincidence?
- And the story of Joseph follows in the same place and general timeline. Genesis 41 describes how, in 1670 B.C., Joseph, a Semite Hebrew, became Vizier to the Hyksos Pharaoh, who was also a Semite.
The following biblical passages from the book of Genesis regarding Joseph are “ones for the ages.” The Hebrew Joseph was directly involved as a bankster and “economic hit man” for the Hyksos pharaoh regime’s hoarding, arbitrage, debt-enslavement and land grabs. The term “bought” is used rather than the actual operation taking place, which was a mass foreclosure. What a revealing biblical account of a nasty piece of work. Read carefully! Note that the “he” referred to in the following passages is Grand Vizier Joseph.
Read “The Parasite Guild: Part I“
So he gathered all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and placed the food in the cities; he placed in every city the food from its own surrounding fields. GEN 41:48
Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. GEN 47:13
Joseph gathered all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan for the grain which they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. GEN 47:14
When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone.” GEN 47:15
Then Joseph said, “Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone.” GEN 47:16
When that year was ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent, and the cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands. GEN 47:18
“Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we and our land will be slaves to Pharaoh. So give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” GEN 47:19
So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh’s. GEN 47:20
Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land. GEN 47:21
Genesis 46 describes how in 1660 B.C., the large Hebrew clan of Jacob (Joseph’s long-lost, estranged brother) moves into the richest part of the Nile Delta, called Goshen, at the invitation of the “Hyksos” — sheer coincidence. Avaris is in the heart of Goshen. In recent years, it has been excavated and contains remains of Semite foreigners and articles, not natives.
David Rohl lecture – Finding Israelites in Goshen Egypt at Avaris
Next, we learn that the Hebrews “were not known or welcome” after their Hyksos tribes fell from power around 1570 B.C. Ultimately, the natives booted them out of power and supposedly obliterated any memory or sign of them. The story goes that nobody had any idea where they went. Really? What a screwy and false narrative.
The Hebrews on the other hand, as the Joseph verses show, were intimately “connected” to the Hyksos pharaoh and were still in Egypt over 100 years later. Moses, who the Bible says lived 130 years (probably as folk etymology, meaning the House of Moses or some powerful proto-Hebrew family), was a political official of Pharaoh Hatshepsut (1507–1458 B.C., ruled 1478-1458 B.C.). Indeed, the Bible tells us that this female pharaoh “found baby Moses by the river” and raised him as her own. That would be roughly 1490 B.C.
Sure, some lowly Hebrews were undoubtedly put to hard work for a period after the Hyksos were driven from power. This was also a fast-growing population. Plus, there were other “Asiatics” coming in. Yes, they were looked down upon by the Egyptian/Hyksos autocrats. But at the aristocrat level, Egyptians wouldn’t just throw away Hyksos/Hebrew institutional knowledge on trade, contacts/networks and skills in the livestock business. They would merge it. The Hyksos, for all practical purposes, were the Hebrews.
The other aspect of the Exodus that doesn’t combine was the notion of “fleeing the Egyptians” — or the persecution narrative. The Exodus is dated to around 1446 B.C., give or take a few years. The problem with the Exodus victimhood narrative is that the entire Levant and Judea had been already been conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III. The Battle of Megiddo, a victory by Egyptian forces over Canaanites, was placed on April 16, 1457 B.C., according to the Middle Chronology.
Besides the plethora of impossible, miraculous Exodus details — like the parting of a sea — is that when the Hebrews arrived in the Promised Land, they would have encountered an Egyptian occupation army and presence. Egypt ruled and militarily occupied the Levant (as shown on the map at left) until 1100 B.C.
Egypt at that time suffered from a series of famines and pestilence that are mentioned in the Book of Exodus. But the reasons were overpopulation and lack of resources, not divine intervention and retribution only on Egyptians. All people were impacted, thus the need for conquering and resettling the Levant.
So, in actuality, the Exodus was an organized colonization Lebenstrom operation in conjunction with the Egyptians. A real or figurative Moses and Pharaoh Thutmose III cut a win-win deal. This large-scale resettlement would have taken place in stages over several decades. Nor would the Judaic religion simply evolve in one day on a mountain top. It would have taken a few centuries after the Levant resettlement process.
The Book of Exodus — even as fabricated and mean-spirited as it is — in passage 12:37-39 makes it quite clear that the Hebrew settlers were far from being “slaves,” they were well-provisioned, and they included mixed ancestry of “other peoples.” The Exodus passage couldn’t be more clear that this was an Egyptian settlement of the Egyptian-occupied Levant:
The Israelites set out from Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting the children. A crowd of mixed ancestry also went up with them, with livestock in great abundance, both flocks and herds. The dough they had brought out of Egypt they baked into unleavened loaves.
When the Hebrew Jews (formerly Hyksos) arrived in the Levant after the “exodus,” there were no Canaanites left to defeat – only subjugate and exterminate. The area was already a client state of Egypt.
Josephus identifies the Israelite exodus with the first exodus mentioned by the Greco-Egyptian priest Manetho, when some 480,000 Hyksos “shepherd kings” left Egypt for Jerusalem. This was 125 years after the Hyksos fell from rule. But did the Hyksos (Hebrews) just immediately pack up and completely leave Egypt, or did some — or even most — just meld into society and stay? Three centuries after the arrival of biblical “Abraham,” they had already melded in or were Egyptianized.
And what of a second Exodus identified by Apion, when a renegade Egyptian priest called Osarseph led 80,000 “lepers” to rebel against Egypt? The Greco-Egyptian source Manetho alleges that this heretic priest changed his name to Moses. Most scholars do not interpret lepers and leprous priests as literally referring to a disease but rather to a strange and unwelcome new belief system. This second exodus date was set at around 1260 B.C.
Manetho specifically identified the Hebrews with the Hyksos and Moses as those “who had been harming the population of Egypt.”
According to Lysimachus of Alexandria, “The Jewish nation stems from the impure and undesirable elements who had been expelled from Egyptian society. Their leader, Moses, taught them to hate all mankind, and their opposition to the temples of other nations typifies their entire approach.”
Indeed, even after two exoduses, classic historian Theodor Mommsen states that “in the first century A.D. there were no fewer than 1,000,000 Jews still in Egypt out of a total of 8,000,000 Egyptian inhabitants. 200,000 Jews lived in Alexandria, whose total population was 500,000.”
Where did this large toehold come from?
The answer: Many never left Egypt, and there was continual two-way traffic from the Levant.
The Hebrew Bible records that a large number of Judeans took refuge in Egypt after the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah in 597 B.C. (2 Kings 25:22-24, Jeremiah 40:6-8). In Josephus‘ history, it’s claimed that, after the first Ptolemy took Judea, he led some 120,000 Jewish captives to Egypt. Josephus also claims that, soon after, these 120,000 captives were freed of their bondage by Philadelphus.
The Jews in Hellenic Alexandria enjoyed a great degree of political independence up until Trajan and The Revolts. In reality, the Jews in Egypt fared well and certainly enjoyed a degree of influence.
Adolf Harnack (Ausbreitung des Christentums, Leipzig, 1902) estimates that there were a million Jews in Syria (which included Lebanon) and the areas east of the Euphrates at the time of Nero in 60 AD. He puts the 700,000 in Judea as a small minority of the total.
Tacitus wrote that Jerusalem at its fall contained 600,000 persons. This was during Passover, so likely it included pilgrims from the entire region.
The Census of David puts the number of exiles who returned from Babylon at only 42,360. The real story was Egypt.
In general, the Jewish population of the era was actually quite large, making up a substantial percentage of the Middle Eastern world going into the common era, and they spread out as well. The scattered tribes of Israel narrative makes a lot of sense. As a people, they promoted large families and ample offspring.
Tacitus may have had the Crete connection nailed as well. Jews have lived on Greek islands long before the Second Temple era and the time of Alexander the Great.
Tacitus picked up on a similar misanthropic narrative on the outcast segment of the Jews as Manetho, Lysimachus and others:
“Most authorities, however, agree on the following account. The whole of Egypt was once plagued by a wasting disease which caused bodily disfigurement. So pharaoh Bocchoris (Greek for Bakenranef, ruled 718 to 712 B.C.) went to the oracle of Hammon to ask for a cure, and was told to purify his kingdom by expelling the victims to other lands, as they lay under a divine curse. Thus a multitude of sufferers was rounded up, herded together, and abandoned in the wilderness.”
So here around 715 BC we have yet another “exodus.”
Note: The emphasis was on a multitude of “disease sufferers” (aka malcontents), many of whom were not even Judaic. So a group, including non-Jews, was expelled but clearly not all. Ancient Egypt had a long-standing and regular practice for a millennium of expulsion of all manner of troublemakers into “the wilderness,” meaning outside the cities.
“Here the exiles tearfully resigned themselves to their fate. But one of them, who was called Moses, urged his companions not to wait passively for help from god or man, for both had deserted them: they should trust to their own initiative and to whatever guidance first helped them to extricate themselves from their present plight. They agreed, and started off at random into the unknown.
“But exhaustion set in, chiefly through lack of water, and the level plain was already strewn with the bodies of those who had collapsed and were at their last gasp when a herd of wild asses left their pasture and made for the spade of a wooded crag. Moses followed them and was able to bring to light a number of abundant channels of water whose presence he had deduced from a grassy patch of ground. This relieved their thirst. They traveled on for six days without a break, and on the seventh they expelled the previous inhabitants of Canaan, took over their lands and in them built a holy city and temple.”
Note: The Greek Strabo (64 – 24 A.D.) also described Moses as an Egyptian priest. The Greco-Egyptians and Romans in general had a positive take on Moses. After all, he was partnered and aligned with two pharaohs: Thutmose III and Hatshepsut. However, most accounts state the tribe degenerated afterward.
“Strabo expresses his complete approval of this polity and adds that for some time Moses’ successors continued to live according to his constitution and were truly just and God-fearing. However, in the course of time the priesthood – which among the Jews encompassed the political power as well – fell into the hands of superstitious men, and after them in the hands of those who had despotic leanings. The superstitions which were introduced gave rise to the Jewish laws concerning forbidden foods, circumcision, and the like. The tyranny engendered robbery and violence, and large portions of Syria and Phoenicia were subjugated by the Jews.”
Like the earlier Greco-Egyptian sources, Tactitus picks up on inversion of morals and in-group preferential treatments and, in general, finds them distasteful.
“Moses prescribed for them a novel religion quite different from those of the rest of mankind. Among the Jews all things are profane that we hold sacred; on the other hand they regard as permissible what seems to us immoral. The Jewish belief is paradoxical and degraded.
“The other practices of the Jews are sinister and revolting, and have entrenched themselves by their very wickedness. Wretches of the most abandoned kind who had no use for the religion of their fathers took to contributing dues and free-will offerings to swell the Jewish exchequer; and other reasons for their increasing wealth may be found in their stubborn loyalty and ready benevolence toward brother Jews.
“But the rest of the world they confront with the hatred reserved for enemies. They will not feed or intermarry with gentiles. Though a most lascivious people, the Jews avoid sexual intercourse with women of alien race. Among themselves nothing is barred. They have introduced the practice of circumcision to show that they are different from others. Proselytes to Jewry adopt the same practices, and the very first lesson they learn is to despise the gods, shed all feelings of patriotism, and consider parents, children and brothers as readily expendable. However, the Jews see to it that their numbers increase.”