Was There an Exodus & Conquest?


Frank Turek stands at a small section of the northern wall of Jericho that did not collapse during the conquest. Most sections of the wall fell outward as the Bible says allowing the Israelites to walk up and into the city.

In this last of my posts on archaeology and early Israel, I will focus attention on what is perhaps one of the biggest hang-ups that critics have with the historical trustworthiness of the Old Testament – the Exodus & Conquest. In the biblical record the two events stand or fall together. If there was an exodus as the Bible states, then there was also a military conquest which followed it. Both of these events (if they happened), should be discernible from the historical and archaeological record. If we follow the Pentateuch’s exact account, then we know that there was a 40 year interval between the exodus and conquest.

Because of the nature of the subject matter, it has been very difficult to condense the massive amounts of research about this into a blog format. Even now it’s probably too long for a blog (I tried to be as brief as I could!). Many Christians and skeptics, however, consistently ask me about this, so I felt it necessary to try to summarize, as best as possible, an affirmative view of the historical events recorded in the Pentateuch and historical book of Joshua.

Of course, the origins of ancient Israel, the Exodus and Conquest, is an ongoing debate among NE archaeologists and scholars and I am sure it will be until Christ comes again! What I hope to show below are the main supporting pillars of the case that the Bible’s account of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and subsequent military excursion into Canaan happened exactly as the Bible states.

First, let’s review what we have established so far (in the previous blog articles)

Back to Chronology (What Time Frame Did it Happen?)

As we have stated before, the precise dating of the events in the Bible is the KEY to discovering them in the archaeological record! Another word for this, is chronology. To review, Eugene Merrill summarizes about the likely year in which the Exodus took place:

According to 1 Kings 6:1, the exodus occurred 480 years prior to the laying of the foundations of Solomon’s temple. This Solomon undertook in his fourth year, 966 B.C., so the exodus according to normal hermeneutics and serious appraisal of the biblical chronological data, took place in 1446 [B.C.].[1]

This dating scheme has been called the “Early-Date Exodus/Conquest Model” and if it is the correct time frame of the Exodus & Conquest, then this would place the supposed Conquest between the archaeological eras known as the Late Bronze I (1550-1400 B.C.) and the Late Bronze II (1400-1200 B.C.).[2]

The Identification of the Pharaoh – Amenhotep II

From this date (circa, 1446 B.C.), and knowledge of the 18th Dynasty in ancient Egypt (which we discussed in a previous post), it was Amenhotep II who was the Pharaoh of the Israelite exodus and not Rameses II as many people currently believe. When we explore further into the life of Amenhotep II, a picture emerges which is quite consistent with what the Bible states concerning this king and some of the momentous events which happened during his reign. From what we know of Egypt’s pharaohs, inscribed on tombs, walls, and monuments, they didn’t record military losses, only victories. So it is highly unlikely that some future archaeologist is going to find an inscription where Amenhotep II touts that a foreign “god” [i.e. Yahweh of the Jews] made a mockery of the Egyptian gods (including the Pharaoh who was himself considered a god), defeated his armies in the desert, and safely delivered an enslaved people to freedom. What we do see in Amenhotep II, however, is a radical change in his foreign policy (which was very much unlike him), a re-alignment of his Naval forces which he used to launch military forays into Asia, and a religious “crisis” which led to the defacement of many Egyptian “gods” in the 9th year of his reign.  Hmmm… I wonder what that crisis could have been?

The Abandonment of Avaris During the Reign of Amenhotep II

Archaeologist, Douglas Petrovich at the University of Toronto has written a fascinating article[3] which explores the precise timing of the abandonment of the ancient Egyptian city of Avaris during the Egyptian 18th Dynasty. In the article, Petrovich explores the various theories about the exact timing of the abandonment of the city of Avaris which seems to coincide with Amenhotep II. The significance of this and its possible relevance to the exodus, is that it is indirect evidence of a major crisis event which happened in the 9th year of Amenhotep’s rule. That event could very well be the Israelite exodus. This is not exactly what Petrovich is stating in the article, but it could be what he is implying. The timing is exactly in line with the “Early-Date Exodus/Conquest” model.

At the end of the article Petrovich makes some starling observations in his conclusions:

More inscriptional evidence may attest directly to the Year-9 crisis is Amenhotep II’s commissioning of a decree for his couriers to destroy all the images of the gods, singling out Amun-Re in particular. Given that Thutmose III and Amenhotep II expressly ascribed praise to Amun-Re for military victories on their Asiatic campaigns, and that Amenhotep II originated and/or perpetuated the desecration of Hatshepsut’s images throughout Egypt, there is plenty of reason to hypothesize that the religious crisis—and subsequent decree to destroy all the “bodies” of Egyptian deities throughout the land—may be intricately bound to the military and political turmoil of his Year-9. Moreover, a potential interruption in the high priesthood of Amun during this time may also attest to this “perfect storm” of events. Therefore, a religious crisis focused on Amun-Re at this time may have been initiated by Amenhotep II as a result of a devastating loss in battle which coincided with the abandonment of their principle naval base from which military operations into Asia were launched, and led to an unavoidable shift in foreign policy.[4]

Why would Amenhotep II order the destruction of the images of Egyptian gods? Why was there major turmoil & upheaval in Egypt’s religious practices? Why was there a complete change of foreign policy with regard Egypt’s nearest neighbors in Asia [in the Levant] in the later part of Amenhotep II’s reign? This evidence alone does not prove the exodus, but it is certainly consistent with the behavior of an autocratic & military ruler such as Amenhotep II, if such an event such as the biblical exodus took place. The exodus was an event in which Egypt’s gods were rendered impotent and pharaoh’s military forces were drastically reduced. I submit that the exodus, as it is exactly described in the Bible, is the most reasonable explanation for this turn of event’s Amenhotep II’s rule.

Jericho & the Conquest

According to the Bible, immediately following the exodus, the Jews wandered in the wilderness for four decades (40 years). Because of time & space, I’m not going to wade into the debate (in this blog) about the location/identification of the Red Sea? or Reed Sea? crossing or the identification of Mount Sinai. I’m not ignoring it, but shelving it for another post some day. That is a very interesting story in it’s own right. For now let’s look at evidence of a “Conquest” which, according to the Bible, took place approximately 40 years after the exodus. This would place the conquest at or around 1401-1406 B.C. (assuming the exodus was in 1446 B.C.).

In the 1920’s and 30’s it was assumed by most archaeologists working in Israel and the Near East that there was a mass exodus of Israelites from Egypt and a military campaign by the Israelites in the Levant [the land that comprises modern day Israel today] as the Bible states. In the 1930’s archaeologist John Garstang working at Tell es-Sultan (or the ancient city of Jericho)[5] found a destruction and wall breach at city IV. He dated the layer to approximately the Middle Bronze III period, the time frame in which the purported conquest of Israel took place. Years later in the 1950’s British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, excavating at Jericho adjusted Garstang’s dating of city IV to around 150-200 years earlier. In essence, this re-dating by Kenyon took away the conquest as described in the Bible.

Since the time of Kathleen Kenyon’s re-dating of John Garstang’s city IV at Tel-Jericho archaeologists, have placed the date of the exodus at around 1290 B.C.. This date in turn, affects the dating of the conquest and its precise location in the archaeological record. Like a row of dominoes, the re-dating of city IV at Jericho by Kenyon had a ripple effect on all subsequent discussion of an Israelite presence on Canaan. If the purported exodus took place in the 1200’s B.C. then this would in turn affect how we look at both events historically. Consequently, since that time, there have been a number of theories about Israelite origins and identity in Canaan [the Levant]. Who exactly were these people? Why did they begin to identify themselves as Israelites? Here are three of the main theories today about the origins of Israel.

The Peaceful-Infiltration Model (also called The Traditio-Historical Model)

This theory was proposed by Albrecht Alt in his article “The Settlement of the Israelites in Palestine,” which appeared in Essays on Old Testament History and Religion (Oxford: Blackwell, 1966) According to Rasmussen, “What Alt  proposed was that instead of a ‘conquest; as described in Joshua 1-11, that there was a gradual, but growing influx of nomads (or seminomads) with their flocks from the eastern deserts into the central hill country. These incursions were initially temporary, as the infiltrators searched for pasturage, but eventually settled the sparsely populated gaps between urban centers – thus the ‘Peaceful-Infiltration Model.’”[6]

The Peasant-Revolt Model

The Peasant-Revolt model was put forth by George Mendenhall in the 60’s which suggested that the origin of Israel (ca. 1250-1100 B.C.) was not the result of a military conquest but rather the idea that the self-identified “Israelites” grew out of the indigenous shepherds, peasants and farmers against their Canaanite rulers.

The Agricultural-Resettlement Model

This model arises from the results of archaeological surveys done in the central hill country of Israel and the material & architectural remains which were discovered in those surveys. The research seems to indicate that at around 1200 B.C. there was no conquest or peaceful infiltration at all. One of the main proponents of this theory today is Israeli archaeologist, Israel Finkelstein.[7] To understand this view Rasmussen provides a succinct statement by Finkelstein himself: “Finkelstein writes that ‘the emergence of early Israel was an outcome of the collapse of Canaanite culture, not its cause. And most of the Israelites did not come from outside Canaan—they emerged from within it.’”[8] Finkelstein’s conclusions are based on sweeping, unproven assumptions and a radically skeptical view of the biblical record.


All of the theories listed above assume an exodus date of around 1290 B.C. and none of them correspond to a military conquest like the one described in Joshua 1-11. Why then, do archaeologists and scholars not accept the biblical account of events and opt for more skeptical theories concerning the text? The short answer is that archaeologists are not as objective with the evidence as one might presume. The archaeological evidence must be interpreted and archaeologists have skeptical presuppositions and philosophical assumptions just like other scientists. A case in point is the dating of Jericho.

When John Garstang excavated in Jericho in the 1930’s and he dated city IV to the Late Bronze age, he was using pottery to date the site. As most people are generally aware, archaeologists have been using pottery to accurately date tells for decades. The science of dating archaeological sites by pottery is called “ceramic typology.”[9] Ceramic typology, or pottery dating, was established by such notables as William Foxwell Albright, G.E. Wright and Nelson Glueck.

In the early 90’s an archaeologist named Dr. Bryant Wood (PhD, University of Toronto), began to question Kenyon’s interpretation of the pottery and dating of Jericho.[10]

In short, Wood maintains that Garstang’s original dating of Jericho was correct and that Kenyon was wrong. Wood based his conclusions not on his opinion or his ideas about the Bible, but on the evidence of the pottery itself! If the dating of archaeological sites should be based on pottery and other historical considerations (such as the chronology of Egypt’s pharaohs), then all of the evidence from Tell Jericho argues for its destruction and burning around 1401-1406 B.C. All of the evidence from Jericho at this time (ca. 1401-6 B.C.) fits the biblical record in an amazing way, from the details about the city being burned along with everything in it [offered to God as a burnt offering] (see Joshua 6), to the walls having dwelling places [houses] where Rahab helped the Jewish spies enter the city to spy its defenses (Joshua 2).

Continuing research at Jericho and now new research at Tel-el Maqatir (biblical Ai?) is yielding results that confirm the biblical record of Joshua’s conquest in amazing ways. Most critical scholars place Ai at et-Tell but there is no archaeological evidence of a destruction there which fits the biblical description. However, just one kilometer west is another site (Tel el-Maqatir)which very well could be the biblical site of Ai. This conclusion is based, once again, not on opinion but on hard evidence.[11]

This is an exciting time to be alive if you are a person who trusts the biblical account of the past! Every day as archaeologists continue to explore and research the annals of time, the biblical account of history is confirmed again and again. With nearly every turn of the spade, critics of the Bible are proved wrong.

We have much to learn from the past, especially the Jewish roots of our Christian faith. But like the disciples we are slow to learn and slow to believe in all that has been written.

On the road to Emmaus after His resurrection Jesus rebuked his disciples for their unbelief and their skepticism towards the Torah (the Bible).

’O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all of the Scriptures [the OT] the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

After all – is not Jesus the true Yeshua (Joshua)?


**for those interested here is a link to Dr. Wood’s article on Ai

[1] Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 58. (emphasis mine)

[2] Carl G. Rasmussen, ‘Conquest, Infiltration, Revolt, or Resettlement? What Really Happened During the Exodus-Judges Period?’ in David M. Howard Jr., and Michael A. Grisanti, Editors, Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publishers, 2003), pg. 142.

[3] Douglas Petrovich, ‘Toward Pinpointing the Timing of the Abandonment of Avaris During the Middle of the 18th Dynasty,’ in Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 5:2, 2013, 9-28.

[4] Ibid., 22.

[5] Also called “The city of Palms,” the ancient ruins of Jericho are some of the oldest in the world with strata which date back to the PPN (Pre-Pottery Neolithic).

[6] Rasmussen, 146.

[7] See his article, ‘Searching for Israelite Origins,’ in Biblical Archaeology Review 14/5: 34-45, 58, 1988.

[8] Rasmussen, 150.

[9] A standard text which outlines the proper handling of ceramics (pottery) at archaeological sites is William G. Dever and H. Darrell Lance, Editors, A Manual of Field Excavation: Handbook for Field Archaeologists (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, 1978). See especially Joe D. Seger’s chapter, ‘The Pottery Recording System,’ 107-128.

[10] You can see a full summary of his main research on Jericho here http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/01/Did-the-Israelites-Conquer-Jericho-A-New-Look-at-the-Archaeological-Evidence.aspx#Article

[11] see, Bryant Wood’s, ‘The Search for Joshua’s Ai,’ in Richard S. Hess, Gerald A. Klingbeil and Paul K. Ray Jr., Editors, Critical Issues in Early Israelite History (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2008), 205-40.

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16 replies
  1. Robert says:

    The fact that the Egyptians have no record or knowledge of the Israelites ever being in Egypt is proof enough that the Exodus events never happened. Had all the firstborn children and animals in Egypt all died in one night there would be overwhelming historical and archeological evidence to support this tale. However none exists. It’s the same with the New Testament. Dead people supposedly came back to life, unburied themselves and then walked into Jerusalem and were seen by many other people. Again had this really happened there would be some evidence to support it. None exists. It’s incredible that at this late date we still have people on this planet who can be frightened into belieiving these stories. Incredible and disturbing.

      • Greg says:

        wm brown, Skeptics would be more likely to take for granted the veracity of the bible if it didn’t claim that a crucified man rose from the dead and that if I don’t believe in him he will torture me forever. Who cares if the writings of Homer are authentic or if Homer even existed? As far as I know he never made the claims that the bible makes. Don’t be offended or surprised when your sacred texts are met with a lot of skepticism. I’m sure you’ve heard, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” and so far I haven’t encountered any.

        • Theodosios says:

          Greg, Archaeology can only be supportive to faith. It is vane to seek such a proof in science, especially extraordinary proof. Some things can be proved through science, some things can be proved through witnesses. The Apostles were witnesses of resurrection of Christ. There is not any chemical reaction to repeat at home, in order to prove such a claim. The only way to believe in their claim two thousand years after, is to see Resurrected Christ yourself. Why not? Do I have any chance at all, if I declare myself an atheist or a skeptic? In fact, if I want to have an appointment with Him, I must cover half of the distance, to the place of the appointment, no matter what I declare. The other half is for Him to cover. Until the age of 23 I was an atheist. At that age I went on mount Athos for mountaineering. Because I was boring in the monasteries, I asked for a priest to confess my sins, but my real purpose was to attack to him with my rational arguments to his religious beliefs. But when I met him, I decided to respect him instead, and make an experiment. I decided to confess my sins, in order to see myself if anything will ever change in my life. But still I was certain nothing will change. So I confessed. I truly said my sins to that unknown priest-monk, and he read to me the forgiving prayer. After this I went back to my normal life, and forgot the confession and everything. Though I observed a significant change at my character (I became extremely calm and tolerant), which I could not explain, it was only six months later when I met Him face to face, WITHOUT SEEKING for Him at that time. There are no words to describe anything of that experience. I was hearing His voice saying “I am”, both words “I” and “am” with such a meaning, that no common human words have. There was not any need to say Who he was, because it was so OBVIOUS. I was crying like a child with tears of redemption in the middle of a crowded road, feeling like a blind, who show for first time. I know I cannot convince anyone. But after this experience, I became a monk on mount Athos myself. Thirty years now, He never hided His Presence from me. Remember? “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. He proved Himself to me. If you want any proof, then He is the One to give it to you, not me. My words are very poor for such a thing. Skeptics may say I am not reliable as subjective or that I was daydreaming. I can understand this. I myself was an atheist once. But I insist: if you want to go to that appointment and meet Him and see Him with your eyes, then you should cover half of the distance, which is, as I understand it, get the Orthodox Christian Baptism, and keep your heart away from sins. If you make any sins, then make the second step: confess them to clear your heart. Because your heart is the place of the appointment with Him. He has promised it in the Gospels when He said: “Blessed are those who have a clear heart, because those will see God.” If you do not see God, this is because you need to clear your heart first. And there are only two steps to get there. Step one: Orthodox baptism. (since Orthodox Church is the one that was founded by Jesus Christ that kept unchanged the ancient faith) Step two: Confession, if you have sinned after baptism. Then wait for Him and He will come to see Him.Just like Thomas. Observation and experiment….

    • Joel Cosio says:

      I’m sorry but it’s obvious you are unaware that Egyptian Historians would of never written down anything embarrassing about the Pharaoh or Egypt itself. In fact, did you know that much ancient history is lost because the new king was accustomed to destroy statues and temples dictated to the former Pharaoh. In ancient history the one with the power would write the history to benefit himself. The same thing happens to day whenever we read a newspaper or watch the news. You don’t the media is bias in what and how they present the news?

    • Christine Erikson says:

      you really need to know more about ancient Egypt. they were spin meisters. one inscription celebrates a headstrong pharaoh’s near disaster when he charged too far forward into the ranks of the enemy, was surrounded and barely escaped this idiocy was celebrated as a brilliant action by the Pharoah which in fact accomplished nothing, the victory later was, well, later.

      they would deface statues and ERASE NAMES of pharaohs and people they didn’t want to remember. This was also a magical attack against them. Hatshepsut was almost rendered nonrecoverable to history except for some things that were missed in the attack on her memory. Do you think with this attitude they’d be saying one damn thing about the Israelites? especially since all inclined to believe in as in obey and serve YHWH left with them and were no longer present to be an influence or writer of secret records to be found later in Egypt? Exodus says a “mixed multitude” left Egypt with the Israelites.

        • Brad Nitzsche says:

          In David Rohls New Chronology, Dudimose was the pharoah of the exodus…and Egypt was so weakend by the plagues and the loss of a substantial part of their chariot force in lower egypt that the Hyksos were able to conquer that part of the kingdom with ease.These were the “people of obscure race” written I believe by Manetho, Also they tried to obliterate Akhenaten, Hatshepsut, and RamessesII chiseled off some of the inscriptions showing his fathers exploits Seti1 and having his name replacing them…just sayin…

  2. Greg says:

    “The short answer is that archaeologists are not as objective with the evidence as one might presume. The archaeological evidence must be interpreted and archaeologists have skeptical presuppositions and philosophical assumptions just like other scientists.”

    Do you deny that you have the same presuppositions Mr. Wright? Don’t you have Christian presuppositions and philosophical assumptions that negatively impact your ability to be objective? I would say your presuppositions make it nearly impossible for you to be objective.

    One example from your article that stands out to me is your acceptance of the expertise of William Dever when referencing his 1978 field manual and your subsequent failure to inform your readers that Dever’s more contemporary conclusions militate against your belief that the bible is an accurate depiction of how the Israelites came to be situated in the Land of Canaan. Dever calls the archaeology in which you are engaged “prove the bible archaeology”. Is this not true? Why not suggest to your readers some scholarship from your perspective and something like Dever’s, “Who Were The Ancient Israelites and Where Did They Come From?” and let your readers decide what is the most honest treatment of the evidence?

    • Christine Erikson says:

      What matter if Dever had an opinion contrary to the indications of some of his data? that in itself is nothing unusual in various sciences. Dever’s book (and everyone’s works) are NEVER to be taken as all or nothing. I recall one article someone wrote to prove A which contained a fact in the article that totally ruined it, proving B and the writer was stupid enough to not notice this. The proper reaction to noticing it would have been to either try to explain it away, or tear up the article and never publish it. Neither were done. When I showed this a reader of mine accused me of twisting his words.

      Facts are facts. Dever tries to prove something and includes something that is of more use to the contrary view than to his view. Why not use that fact, and scholarly standards require you cite your source, which in this case is Dever.

  3. Christine Erikson says:

    Checking Exodus both in Masoretic based KJV and in Septuagint I notice this: Although Pharoah is said to have gone with his army, only his army is described as destroyed in the water so that not one survived. In Miriam’s song, Pharoah is not mentioned among the destroyed. Why? Possibly pharaoh held back a bit, and did not enter the dry land surrounded by high water, and he therefore survived, only those who pursued were overthrown by the water, all of them. Before noticing this detail, I assumed one should look for a pharaoh who had no recovered body or who might have died in some water related military venture the details of which were not, of course, given. But this detail would indicate he didn’t die at the Red Sea having never entered it, and survived to show the behavior this article details. Perhaps God filled him with fear and enough softening of the heart to save his life, so that he would do things that would leave hints to later generations, seeking to validate the Exodus account, with indications something happened back then.

    alternative chronologies might make for a different pharaoh than Amenhotep II but it would be in this time frame. One theory is that the pharaoh of Exodus was Hatshepsut’s father, and she the pharaoh’s daughter who rescued Moses as an infant, and God rewarded her with the Egyptian throne later. Amenhotep II in this scenario would be looking to erase all references to such embarrassing events in his grandfather’s time, along with the embarrassment and irritation of Hatshepsut’s reign.

    • Brad Nitzsche says:

      David Rohl thinks Dudimose is a good candidate for the Exodus pharoah. In an inscription of his son, Prince Khonsuemwaset with his wife, there is a pair of gloves under his chair. Gloves are usuallly attributed to charioteers. The prince could have been the general of the chariot force in the lower kingdom, and since so many times, father and son were co-regents the death of the prince would in effect have been a pharoah,

  4. playlistsound.com says:

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a friend who had been conducting a little research on this.
    And he actually ordered me lunch because I stumbled upon it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this matter
    here on your blog.


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