Discovery of the Lost Temple

Thutmoses III and the Biblical Exodus

 A friend of mine who studies Ancient Near Eastern languages at Yale University (Matthew Glassman), alerted me to an interesting article about an amazing discovery recently made in Cairo, under someone’s house no-less!

According to the article, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister, Mamdouh al-Damaty stated that, “a group of men discovered a 3,400 year old pharaonic temple from the reign of the warrior king Thutmoses III.”[1]

Around the Mediterranean (especially in Middle Eastern countries), antiquities looting has become a big problem in some areas. Apparently the men were digging for items to sell illegally on the antiquities market. The seven men who were digging hit “historic” pay-dirt – they discovered an entire pharonic temple!

The site is located in Al-Badrashin which is located approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the capital of Cairo. The men were briefly detained, then released because they were not digging at an “official” Egyptian heritage site. The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry has now taken over, and will be beginning an excavation at the site in the days ahead, according to gulfnews.net.

What has been discovered so far, are seven tablets, several column bases made of pink granite as well as a pink granite statue in the temple. This is certainly a remarkable discovery, and one that I am keenly interested in following in the days ahead.

How Does Thutmose III Fit Into the Exodus Story? A Little Background

Thutmose III was the sixth pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. His name means “Thoth is born.”

From chronological considerations found in the Bible,[2] and an understanding of the cultural, historical and archaeological background of the 18th Dynasty, it is very likely that Amenhotep I, was the pharaoh who issued the decree in Exodus 1:15-16 to kill all male Hebrews.[3]

As we look closer into this time of Egyptian history, we also discover that Thutmose I (1528-1508 B.C.), the son of Amenhotep I, had a daughter named Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut is well known from historical and archaeological sources, and she has a very interesting story herself! She’s even found a place in the Bible (although not by name, but as pharaoh’s daughter)!

In order to secure royal inheritance rights, Hatshepsut married her half-brother Thutmose II. When Thutmose II died prematurely, Hatshepsut then assumed the role of pharaoh along with and her younger (male) nephew, (& stepson) Thutmose III.

As William Murnane observes, “Although Hatshepsut did not dethrone her nephew, she asserted a claim to royal power equal to his and, as senior coregent, took precedence over him in contemporary monuments.”[4] During her co-regency with the younger Thutmose III, Egypt enjoyed a time of prosperity and great building. This recent temple discovered in Egypt was very possibly built during that time.

One of the most well known structures from that period, which still survives today is the Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple (also called Deir el-Bahari) located in the Valley of the Kings. It is a remarkable building even to this day!

Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple (Deir el-Bahari) in the Valley of the Kings

Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple (Deir el-Bahari) in the Valley of the Kings

It was Hatshepsut who very likely drew baby Moses from the Nile (Ex. 2:5)! Her father, Amenhotep I, after all, was the pharaoh who issued the decree to kill all of the Hebrew first-born male slaves.

According to the chronological considerations, and for other reasons that would be difficult to summarize briefly here, Thutmose III then, was the younger “brother” that Moses would have possibly grown up with pharaoh’s household in Egypt. Thutmose III would have also been the same pharaoh who would have sought to kill Moses when he discovered that Moses had killed an Egyptian.

According to OT scholar Dr. Eugene H. Merrill:

…it is important to note that the biblical narrative requires a rule of almost forty years for the pharaoh who sought Moses’ life, since the king who died at the end of Moses sojourn in Midian was clearly the same one who had threatened him nearly forty years earlier. Of all the rulers of Dynasty 18 only Thutmose III reigned long enough to qualify. In fact, he was the only pharaoh at any period during which the exodus could have occurred who reigned that long except Ramses II (1304-1236).[5]

The Three Functions of Archaeology: Affirm, Clarify & Illuminate

Since I have been teaching the Old Testament for over ten years, as well as classes on archaeology, I have taught that archaeology can function in at least three ways:

(1) Archaeology can affirm the historical basis of the text. Did this person exist? Did this place exist? Etc…

(2) Archaeology can clarify certain passages in the text and,

(3) Archaeology can illuminate the various cultures in which the text was written.

This latest “accidental” discovery in Egypt of a temple from the time of Thutmose III, certainly affirms this pharaoh’s existence, power and influence – the pharaoh who very likely sought Moses’ life.[6]

Future research will surely also clarify and illuminate this fascinating person and period in biblical history!

 

[1] http://gulfnews.com/news/region/egypt/king-thutmosis-iii-s-temple-found-by-accident-1.1405869 (cited, Nov. 5, 2014).

[2] Such as the reference in 1 Kings 6:1 and Ex. 7:7 which states that Moses was 80 years old when he led the people from Egypt (assuming an approximate exodus date of 1446 B.C.)

[3] See also Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), pp. 58-64.

[4] William J. Murnane, “New Kingdom (Dynasties 18-20)” in David Noel Freedman, Editor in Chief, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 2 D-G (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 348-53.

[5] Merrill, pg. 62-3.

[6] Not that this is the only evidence for Thutmose III. It is just another piece which affirms his reign and influence. We actually have his mummified remains!

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