This is a report on a book entitled The Exodus Happened 2450 B.C. by Gerald E. Aardsma. I have met Gerald, and he is in fact a connection by marriage, being Tina's first cousin once removed. As the title indicates, his book argues for the historical reality of the Biblical Exodus by re-dating it.
The most commonly accepted date for the Exodus (or for the claim of the Exodus) is 1450 BC, based on 1 Kings 6:1: "Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel,..." (NASB)
Other lines of reasoning give the year of Solomon's ascension as c. 970 BC, so that gives c. 1450 BC as the date of the Exodus. Gerald's argument hinges on the proposal that a thousand years have dropped out of the text as we have it, and that it originally was "in the 1,480th year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt..."
I confess, when I reached that point in the book on my first read-through, I dismissed the theory. "Oh, well, if you're going to let yourself change the data to fit, then of course you can get the outcome you want, but it won't be very convincing." On recent re-reading, I find that there's more to it than that.
For a start, Gerald gives some Scriptural reasons for doubting the accuracy of the number 480.
First, if you add up—
—you get something over 600 years (even allowing for the four 40s being round numbers). So taking the 480 at face value is already a problem.
Second, Gerald points out that, while the text of the Bible is enormously well-preserved in general, preserving numbers is one of its weakest points. Examples:
Having softened up the number 480, Gerald spends the rest of the book supporting his choice of 1,480 by arguing for a good fit between the Exodus and evidence dating from c. 2450 BC.
First, the account in Exodus would lead one to look for a pharaoh with a long reign, followed by a pharaoh with a short reign, followed by the collapse of Egypt (due to the ten plagues and the drowning of the pharaoh and the army). In the middle of the third millenium BC, we find the reign of Pepe II, who ruled for 80 years or at least 60, followed by Merenre Antyemsaf II, who ruled for only one year, followed by the end of the Old Kingdom and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period.
(And Pharaoh's servants said to him, "Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?" – Exodus 10:7)
If you look up these two pharaohs, you will not find their reigns to slot in exactly on 2450 BC, but Gerald points out, and Wikipedia concurs, that Egyptian chronology can have considerably ambiguity, especially so far back (even though it is some of the best ancient chronology around).
First Intermediate Period
Second, a standard difficulty with the 1450 BC date is that there is no evidence of a lot of people moving over the Sinai dating from that period, but there is evidence of travel c. 2450 BC.
Gerald cites archeological studies by Oren and Yekutieli of Ben Gurion University, in the Sinai, turning up a mixture of Egyptian pottery fragments dating to the First Intermediate Period and Israelite shards dating to Intermediate Bronze Age Israel. (E. D. Oren and Y. Yekutieli, "North Sinai During the MB I Period – Pastoral Nomadism and Sedentary Settlement," Eretz-Israel 21 (1990).)
The same source found evidence of encampments dating from the same time. These folk were not, by the way, seeking evidence of the Exodus, not expecting any such thing from that time period. In fact, they took their discoveries as evidence of pastoral tribesmen heading into Egypt, helping to bring about its collapse at the end of the Old Kingdom.
The 2450 BC date also helps with the Conquest of Canaan: There is no evidence of war and razed cities in the middle of the second millenium BC, but there is in the middle of the third, including a destruction of Jericho.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2011