Egypt in the Early Hyksos Period

Israelites in Egypt – An Historical Review

Anyone who has been to a Seder or grown up on Bible stories has formed some mental image of ancient Egypt. As a teenager, I had the great fortune to run across the book Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. While she was a prolific writer and wrote an abundance of stories set in many different eras and locations, I think Mara was easily her most gripping book.

Set in Egypt of the New Kingdom (c. 1550-c.1077 BCE) which covered the 18 th , 19 th , and 20 th dynasties, it revolves around Hatshepsut, the famous female Pharaoh. The book claims Hatshepsut usurped the throne of Egypt and the book follows the intrigue restoring Thutmosis III to the throne. Regardless of its accuracy, it is a great read and I have enjoyed immensely passing it along.

With the approach of Pesach, I find myself focusing on the Israelite story in Egypt. Fortunately, we no longer hear too many people saying any more that “the Jews built the pyramids”. The great pyramids of Giza were built during the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BCE) encompassing the 3 rd -6 th Dynasties. The Great Pyramid itself was built by Khufu (Cheops) of the 4 th Dynasty whose reign lasted from 2589-2566 BCE.

There are additional periods into which Egyptian history is divided. After the Old Kingdom there was the First Intermediate Period (2181-2040 BCE) covering dynasties 7-10. Then arose the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) with dynasties 11 and 12.

However, just a casual glance at Egyptian history leads one to focus on the mysterious group known as the Hyksos who reigned in Egypt from 1650-1542 BCE, a unstable period lasting approximately108 years known as the Second Intermediate Period (dynasties 13-17). Seemingly, the instability was caused by repeated famines which seems familiar to us through the story of Yoseph (Joseph) in the Torah and his rise to power as an architect of food sufficiency for Egypt.

The name Hyksos has been mistranslated as “The Shepherd Kings”. Apparently it actually means “Desert Princes” or “Rulers of Foreign Lands.” The Hyksos seemed to have been Semites. This is based on the clear way that the Egyptians designated various surrounding peoples by ethnicity. Nubians, Asiatics, Libyans and Semites were represented pictorially in specific ways. Their hair, clothing and the colors used to denote skin tone made it clear who was being represented on the various monuments. Names are also indicative of cultural origin and there is much evidence of the presence of Semites from names listed on papyrus and stone. The birth name of the second king of the Hyksos 15 th Dynasty was Yakubher ( a variant of Yaakov) although he took the Egyptian name Meruserre when he ascended the throne.

Semites came to Egypt continuously for the same reason that people migrate generally. They came in search of employment, food, perhaps even grazing. However, about 150 years before the Hyksos dynasties, around 1782 BCE, there was a significant influx of peoples considered to be western Asiatics, i.e. Semites (Syro-Palestinians) into the Delta settling in the future capital of the Hyksos, Avaris. There is every evidence that they were part of the Egyptian mix of peoples in the Delta and worked as sailors, soldiers and craftsmen. There was extensive trade by sea with Lebanon and Syria as well. Egypt would then have been a natural place for Avraham (Abraham) as well as Yaakov (Jacob) to have journeyed in the face of a famine. In addition, Yoseph (Joseph), whose sudden rise to greatness is an inspirational story, might have been partially welcomed because of the cultural comfort of a Hyksos ruler.

Manfred Bietak, from the Department of Egyptology, at the University of Vienna, Austria, has been excavating Avaris over a period of decades. He tells us that Semitic peoples of the Middle Bronze Age culture constituted a large and growing number of the residents of Avaris. (Videos of his talks and some of his papers are available on the Internet). Despite earlier assumptions that the Hyksos must have wrested power from the native Egyptian dynasty through conquest, the modern consensus is that the takeover was far more benign. One interesting nugget of information is that the city of Avaris and Pi-Ramesse (the city of Raamsses later mentioned in the Torah as a city that the Jews were required to build), are cities built almost entirely of mud-brick. Considering, the amount of emphasis placed on the subject of brick-making as an onerous aspect of Israelite slavery, the fact that these two cities were constructed entirely of mud brick is a significant clue.

During the Hyksos period Egypt was divided into three larger political units. The Hyksos controlled the north, there was a native dynasty (Dynasty 17) ruling from Thebes, while Nubia which was in northern Sudan was a separate political unit. This was unacceptable state of affairs in the view of the Theban kings. The battle to reclaim northern Egypt lasted through three reigns: Seqenenre Tao (c. 1574 BCE) whose mummy shows that he died violently, one of his sons Kamose (1573-1570 BCE) and another son Ahmose I whose reign began the 18 th Dynasty (1570-1546 BCE). It was Ahmose I who finally conquered the Hyksos and expelled them. The historical evidence then indicates that some people left Egypt and moved up the coast to Canaan. (The number of exiles has been popularly stated as 250,000 but that is probably a misreading of Egyptian material). The trail ends at the town of Saruhen, also mentioned in the Bible(Joshua 19:6), located in the Negev area where Ahmose I laid siege for three years after the expulsion and finally razed the town. This story is eerily reminiscent of the Midrash relating to the book of Yehezkel (Ezekiel 37:1-14) quoted in M’Tzudos Dovid (37:1) concerning the Valley of Dried Bones. The Midrash says that the dried bones were those of a group of members of the tribe of Efraim who tried to hurry the redemption (by leaving Egypt earlier than the Divine Plan) and were killed by the people of Gat.

Given the conflict between the Theban kings and the Hyksos, the line ”v’nosaf gam hu l soneinu” (and they will join with our enemies) has enormous resonance and would make Ahmose I the Pharaoh of the enslavement. Ahmose I (18 th Dynasty) has just finished the reconquest of the Hyksos territories in the Delta and he is deeply suspicious of the remaining Semitic population. It might also explain why the Israelite population became easily enslaved. They had just experienced the expulsion of their overlords and probably felt themselves extremely vulnerable to violence expected by the vanquished. Being expected to contribute forced labor to new pharaonic projects could well have seemed very benign. It could also establish them as vassals of the crown who could expect a certain amount of protection from the new overlord who would be benefiting from their labor.

There have been linguistic criticisms of the Exodus period as told in the Torah. The word “Pharaoh” is a term that was not used in Egypt before the 18 th Dynasty. The earlier Egyptian term used for the king was “nisut bity”, which is often translated as King of Upper and Lower Egypt. However, in the beginning of the Exodus story (Exodus 1:8), the term for the new ruler is “melekh chadash” literally a new king who “did not know Yoseph (Joseph). I readily acknowledge that the term Pharaoh was already being used, in Breishit (Genesis) as well as throughout the Exodus story.

To continue the linguistic mysteries, let us examine the name Moshe (Moses). This name appears first in the 18 th Dynasty list of kings, usually linked with a second name thereby creating a compound name. So Thutmose means “Thoth (an Egyptian deity) is born (mesu)”, possibly translated to “son of Thoth.” We could posit that Moshe was given a name that implies a relationship between his adoptive mother (an Egyptian princess) and himself.

Today, it is fashionable among the academic elite to disregard much of Jewish narrative as folklore and fiction. Aspects of that attitude are the result of chronologies that do not seem to link up well with archeological dating. However, if we are looking in the wrong places and have made false assumptions, chronologies will never link. Also, it is fair to recognize that academics have continuing controversies among themselves as to correct chronologies.

It is my contention that Abraham came to Egypt in the pre-Hyksos period. Yaakov’s family later came to Egypt during the Hyksos period and they remained there for an unknown period of time. When the Hyksos rulers were expelled by Ahmose I, he then enslaved the remaining Canaanite population who were the Israelites. If you accept that those Amarna letters (diplomatic communication to Pharaoh Akhenaten and found in his city of Amarna) written from Canaanite rulers to Akhenaten (1350-1334 BCE) complaining of depredations by the “Habiru”, then you can shift the chronology of the Exodus to a point much earlier than Ramesses II ( a chronology based largely on the use of the name which could have vast consequences for the presently accepted chronologies.

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Manetho states “during the reign of Tutimaos a blast of God smote us, and unexpectedly from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow and having overpowered the rulers of the land they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others… Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis. He had his seat in Memphis, levying tribute from upper Egypt.. In the Saite nome he founded a city.. and called it Auaris”.

He named these invaders the “Hyksos” which he translated as “shepherd kings” although now the term is often translated as “foreign rulers” or “desert princes”.

Contrary to the impression given by Manetho, the Hyksos (“heqa khasut” in Ancient Egyptian) were not in fact a distinct racial grouping, but rather the term used to refer to the rulers of the area around Avaris and Sharuhen during the Second Intermediate Period (Asiatics were more generally known as “Aamu”). Their subjects comprised of a number of Semitic peoples driven from Western Asia into Africa by instability and famine during the Second Intermediate Period (Dynasties Thirteen to Seventeen) and native Egyptians.

The Hyksos appear to have established themselves in Lower Egypt where they ruled from the city of Avaris for about two hundred years. Their occupation was later described as a highly traumatic event for the Egyptian people but it is not clear whether this was the view of contemporary Egyptians who lived under their control.

Thutimaos is generally thought to be the obscure Thirteenth Dynasty king Dudimose (the other kings with a similar reign are too late to be contenders) who reigned shortly before or concurrently with the Hyksos Dynasty at Avaris. The passage is ambiguous, but it may refer to two events the smiting by God (which some have chosen to see as a reference to the events surrounding the Exodus), and the invasion of the Hyksos. It was previously thought that one reason for their ease in conquering upper Egypt was that they had chariots (unlike the Egyptians) and were exceptional archers. There is some evidence that the Egyptians already had chariots, but they may well have been less experienced in their use. More speculatively, you could argue that the smiting by god left Egypt undefended, allowing the Hyksos to take control “without striking a blow”.

The Hyksos did indeed sack Memphis, but the description of their attitude to the gods could be anti-Hyksos propaganda, after all they took Seth as their main god while retaining their worship of Astarte (the Phonecian mother-goddess) and Reshep (a Phoenician storm god). Furthermore, the Hyksos adopted Egyptian customs and even preserved Egyptian culture.

Apophis, the fifth Hyksos king, instructed scribes to copy Egyptian texts so they would not be lost. Because of his foresight we have recovered priceless documents such as the “Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus” (the oldest known surgical handbook), the “Westcar Papyrus” and “the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus” (the most important document describing Egyptian mathematical theory).

Some of the Hyksos may have been Hurrian or Hittite, but no firm evidence has been discovered to confirm their origins fully. They were by no means the first Asiatics to settle in Egypt, prompting some to suggest that there was no major battle, just a steady influx of settlers who worked themselves into positions of power while retaining their own cultural differences. Evidence from the excavation at Tell el-Dab’a, confirms that the settlement was constantly evolving and changing as the new cultures adapted to the Egyptian way of life. Settlements discovered in Tell el-Ajjul (southern Palestinian), Ebla (Syrian) and Byblos (Lebanon) share many characteristics with the settlement at Tell el Dab’a.

The Hyksos brought with them knowledge of bronze weapons, chariots and composite bows. But it is not clear that they were required to use this military know-how to take control of upper Egypt. Certainly they had to fight to keep power, but Manetho may be right to infer that there was no initial battle for dominance. This supports the suggestion that immigration and the political weakness of the Egyptian kings of the time had set up the environment to allow a group to seize power relatively easily.

Given this slow advance by the Hyksos rulers into southern Egypt, it seems reasonable to infer that the superior military technology of the Hyksos was only an element of their strength. Their success may also have relied upon their exploitation of the political weakness of the late Middle Kingdom. Another intriguing possibility exists. It is possible that the whole area was blighted by plague (was this god smiting?) and that the Hyksos were badly affected by this too. Perhaps they took over during a time of crisis and were unable to push further into Egypt because they too were suffering the effects of the plague.

A stele placed by the Seventeenth Dynasty king Kamose marks Hermopolis as the southern boundary of the Hyksos kingdom, but it is thought that at times their rule may even have extended to Thebes and Nubia.

Although they did not directly control all of Lower Egypt, the other rulers there were reduced to the status of vassals. Upper Egypt also seems to have been reduced to a vassaldom until the Thebans raised a rebellion against them. Therefore, they could be regarded as the legitimate rulers of the whole country during parts of the Second Intermediate Period.

Seqenenre Tao was the first Theban ruler to offer a serious challenge to their rule and they were finally driven from Egypt by his grandson Ahmose I, the founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

History of Ancient Egypt

In the 4th millennium BC from many small territorial formations – nomes – emerged two political associations – Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt (with capitals in Hierakonpol and Buto). The creation of the united state is attributed to the ruler of Upper Egypt, Meneses. The capital of the united state around 3000 BC was Memphis in the southern part of the Nile delta. By the end of the 4th and early 3rd millennium include the first monuments written in Egyptian hieroglyphic script.

In the 30th-28th centuries clashes began with the neighbors: Cushites (Nubians) in the south, Libyans in the west and nomads from the Sinai Peninsula in the northeast.

In the XXVIII-XXIII centuries BC the ancient Egyptian civilization was formed. The unity of Egypt was embodied in the power of the pharaohs, the unlimited masters of the whole country. The pharaoh was the head of the cults of all the gods of Egypt and was himself deified. An expression of this was the construction during this period of the pyramids – the tombs of pharaohs Djoser, Sneferu, Cheops (Khufu), Chephren (Khafra) and Menkerin (Menkaure). The Heliopolis cult of the sun god Ra, whose sons all pharaohs called themselves.

In the XXIII-XXI centuries BC. Egypt was divided into many nomes. The new unification of Egypt began with the rise of the nomarchs of Heracleopolis (in Middle Egypt), later the rulers of the southern city of Thebes were strengthened. Pharaoh Mentuhhotep I of Thebes became the ruler of united Egypt.

In the XXI-XVIII centuries BC the god Amon was declared the patron of the pharaohs. Amenemhat I moved the capital from Thebes to Ittaoui in the Fayoum oasis. The new disintegration of Egypt.
In the 18th and 16th centuries BC the Hyksos seized power in Lower Egypt and made their capital city Avaris in the eastern part of the Nile Delta. Yahmos I succeeded in destroying the rule of the Hyksos. In pursuit of them, he invaded Palestine, Syria. His successors established Egyptian rule in Palestine, Phoenicia, and Syria the country of Kush up to the 4th Nile threshold became a province of Egypt.

Under Amenhotep III Ancient Egypt reached its greatest power. From provinces in Asia and in the country of Kush ancient Egypt received tribute in wood, copper, tin, lead, silver, as well as cattle, slaves, wine, jewelry, and ivory. From the country of Punt, where Queen Hatshepsut sent an expedition, incense was brought to ancient Egypt. During this period the Egyptian army became regular. The religious reform of Amenhotep IV (Ehnaton) proclaimed the cult of the single Egyptian god Aton (the solar disk). In honor of this god a new capital, Akhetaton, is built. After the death of Ehnaton in 1335 BC, the veneration of the old gods was restored, and Thebes again became the capital of Egypt. Fascinated by religious reform, Ehnaton abandoned the administration of the state. The decline continued after his death, but around 1290 BC, Pharaoh Ramses II restored Egypt’s power. He fought hard against the Hittites and their Syrian allies. The capital of Egypt under Ramses II was Per Ramses, built on the site of Avaris.

Regarding the dating in Egyptology there are many independent and relatively equally well-founded theories. For insufficiency of a source base for today we cannot be one hundred percent sure in absolute dates of this or that event of ancient Egyptian history. Most of the facts can only be talked about relatively. So, the beginning of the ancient Egyptian civilization is the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, which occurred, as modern Egyptologists believe, in the 4th millennium BC. The end of Classical Egypt is known precisely – it is 31 BC, when the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt Caesarion finished his rule, and Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.

How Did the Hyksos Conquer the Egyptian Delta?

During ancient Egypt’s long and illustrious history, many foreign groups attempted to invade the Nile Valley, but few were successful and most of those only happened in the Late Period. An enigmatic group known as the Hyksos, though, was the first foreign group to successfully invade and conquer part of Egypt, taking the Delta region around the year 1648 BC and then ruling it for about 100 years. In later centuries, this foreign dynasty became known as the Fifteenth Dynasty.

Very little is known about the Hyksos from the historical or archaeological records. The Fifteenth Dynasty is mentioned in the ancient Egyptian king-list known as the “Turin King-List,” which is dated to the Nineteenth Dynasty of the New Kingdom. It is believed that the Turin King-List was the source of Manetho’s inclusion of the Fifteenth Dynasty in his third century BC chronology of ancient Egypt. The first century AD Roman-Jewish historian, Josephus, offered more commentary of the Hyksos in his transmission of Manetho’s work, but little else is mentioned of them in the historical record. Also, due to the fact that the Egyptian Delta is so densely populated and has a high water table, much of their archaeological have been destroyed or are underwater or fields. Because of these reasons, the process by which the Hyksos were able to conquer the Delta remains a source of debate.

Two primary theories have been advanced to explain the Hyksos conquest. The “gradual” theory posits that the Hyksos assumed control after a period of gradual but intense immigration from the Levant. Once the foreigners’ numbers were high enough, they simply proclaimed their own dynasty in the Delta. The other major theory is that the Hyksos conquered the Delta in one fell swoop. An examination of both theories reveals that there is evidence to support both and that they do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. Ultimately, though, the Hyksos conquest of the Egyptian Delta would not have been possible without the collapse of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom (c. 2055-1650 BC). Once the Middle Kingdom collapsed and central authority vanished, the door was open for any powerful group, even foreigners, to install competing dynasties.

Who Were the Hyksos?

The question who the Hyksos were, ethnically, and where they came from has plagued Egyptologists since the nineteenth century. Like many of the modern terms used to describe pharaonic culture, the term “Hyksos” is actually an ancient Greek approximation of an ancient Egyptian term. The word Hyksos was actually based on two Egyptian words: Heqa for “ruler” and Khasut for “foreign lands,” to mean “ruler of foreign land.” [1] The name indicates that the Hyksos were foreign, but it does little to illuminate their geographic or ethnic origins.

A formerly popular theory in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was that the Hyksos were either Indo-European or Hurrian in ethnicity. Egyptologists reasoned that since the Hittites and the Hurrians were among the first people in the Near East to utilize war chariots, then the Hyksos must have been related to one of those two groups. [2] In the decades just before and after World War II, though, thanks to archaeological advances in the Levant, consensus among Egyptologists and Biblical scholars shifted to the Hyksos having Canaanite-Semitic origins.

The Canaanite ethnic origins of the Hyksos are at least partially supported by the transmissions of the third century BC Hellenized Egyptian priest Manetho. Although recorded much later than the Hyksos invasions, the transmissions of Manetho mention the Hyksos in some detail in more than one passage. In a passage from Syncellus according to Africanus, the Hyksos were described as shepherds from the Levant.

“The Fifteenth Dynasty consisted of Shepherd Kings. There were six foreign kings from Phoenicia, who seized Memphis: in the Sethroite nome they founded a town, from which as a base they subdued Egypt. The first of these kings, Saites, reigned for 19 years: the Saite nome is called after him. . . Total, 284 years.” [3]

In more recent years, archaeologists have compared Hyksos material remains from Egypt with those from the Levant, determining that they were descended from a Middle Bronze Age (c. 2,100-1600 BC) Canaanite group. [4] The names of the known Fifteenth Dynasty kings also point to a Semitic origin, which would further indicate a Levantine source for the enigmatic people. So then the questions are, how, why, and when did the Hyksos migrate to Egypt?

Migrations of large numbers of human populations have been common throughout human history. The Germanic invasions that precipitated the fall of the Roman Empire in the fourth through sixth centuries and the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century are two of the better known examples, but there are several more from all periods of history and on nearly every continent. There was a major wave of migrations throughout the Near East in the eighteenth century BC that eventually brought the Kassites into Babylonia and the Hurrians into northern Mesoptomia/Assyria. [5] As these groups were migrating through the Near East, the big and more powerful groups displaced others, creating a domino effect of displaced peoples. Groups such as the Hurrians had the early advantage of the chariot, which the Hyksos possibly learned in their defeat and brought with them to Egypt. Once in Egypt, the Hyksos were able to use their new military technology to take advantage of the political situation.

The Invasion Scenarios

Both of the Hyksos invasion scenarios are logical, supported by some evidence, and are advocated by respected scholars. Those that support the gradual theory argue that the Hyksos came to power after a wave of unprecedent immigration during the Middle Kingdom. Many people from the Levant, or “Asiatics” as the Egyptians called them, were brought to Egypt as slaves, while others came freely for trade or other opportunities. Eventually, their numbers reached such a high level in the Delta where they were able to assert themselves politically by establishing their own dynasty. [6]

The gradual migration theory is not supported by any one text or piece of material culture, but more so by anecdotal evidence. There definitely was a tremendous increase in the number of inhabitants of Canaanite origin in the Delta during the late Middle Kingdom and there is little doubt that they would have wielded some influence. Based on their names, some of the kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty may have been of Asiatic origin, which indicates that the Canaanite influence had permeated the nobility by that point. [7]

Modern excavations in and around the ancient Hyksos capital of Avaris provide much of the evidence in favor of the gradual invasion theory. According to work done at the site, the Delta had experienced a steady stream of Asiatic migrants beginning in the Thirteenth Dynasty. The evidence also appears to suggest that the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty was culturally similar to the Fourteenth Dynasty, which points toward a more gradual conquest of the Delta. [8]

Equally as logical, yet more dramatic is the theory that the Hyksos conquered the Delta in one fell swoop. Säve-Söderbergh and Redford are among the better known scholars who have advocated this theory, which dovetails off the idea of the general migrations that were taking place in the Middle Bronze Age Near East. Redford believes that the Hyksos were a branch of a larger, more well-known tribe, such as the Amorites, who simply wandered into the Delta in one large mass. [9] The only evidence to support this theory is one of Josephus’ transmissions of Manetho. It states:

“Tutimaeus. In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others. Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis. . . In the Saite [Sethroïte] nome he found a city very favourably situated on the east of the Bubastite branch of the Nile, and called Auaris after an ancient religious tradition. This place he rebuilt and fortified with massive walls, planting there a garrison of as many as 240,000 heavy-armed men to guard his frontier. . . Their race as a whole was called Hyksos, that is ‘king-shepherds’.” [10]

Although both scenarios are logical, it is also possible that the Hyksos came to power through a combination of the two. Excessive Asiatic migration to the Delta may have precipitated and possibly facilitated to some degree a large invasion that placed the Hyksos in power in the region. But even if the Hyksos had the numerical advantage over the Egyptians in the Delta, which there is no evidence they did, they still needed some other factors in their favor to be successful.

The Keys to Hyksos Success

Although the method by which the Hyksos came to power in the Delta remains somewhat of a mystery, the tools that helped them, along with the fortuitous course of historical events that allowed it, are well-known. As mentioned earlier, the Hyksos introduced the horse and the chariot to Egypt, which gave them an advantage over the Egyptians’ infantry. [11] The Hyksos may also have introduced the composite bow to Egypt, [12] , which would have given them another advantage over the Egyptians, at least initially. The reality is that the greatest aid the Hyksos received, though, was the Egyptians’ own weakness.

No matter what type of technological advantage the Hyksos may have had, it would not have mattered if they attempted their invasion of Egypt during the height of the Middle Kingdom. Once the Middle Kingdom began to decline rapidly during the Thirteenth Dynasty, all central authority evaporated and along with it any will, or power, to stop a strong invader. Manetho lists sixty kings ruling from Thebes in the Thirteenth Dynasty. Modern scholars have estimated that the Thirteenth Dynasty lasted about 150 years for an average rule of only three years, which indicates extreme instability in the royal house that ultimately led to the collapse of the dynasty and the Middle Kingdom. [13] With native Egyptian power in decline and foreign elements already becoming dominant in the Delta, it was a small step for the Hyksos to assert hegemony over the Delta, establishing their own dynasty in the process.


The Hyksos were the first foreign invaders to rule at least part of Egypt, but details of their origins and how they were able to accomplish the feat remain somewhat enigmatic. Archaeological and textual evidence indicates that they were able to take power when the central authority of the Middle Kingdom collapsed and then large numbers of Asiatic immigrants already living in the Delta aligned with an invasion force to take control. Although new warfare technologies may have played a role in the Hyksos success, their victory can ultimately be ascribed to historical chance – they invaded Egypt at the right time.

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How The Hyksos Invasion Of Ancient Egypt Changed History

The Hyksos were a people of diverse origins, possibly from Western Asia,
who settled in the eastern Nile Delta some time before 1650 BC.

The arrival of the Hyksos led to the end of the Thirteenth Dynasty and initiated the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt. In the context of Ancient Egypt, the term "Asiatic" may refer to people native to areas east of Egypt.

Immigration by Canaanite populations preceded the Hyksos. Canaanites first appeared in Egypt at the end of the 12th Dynasty c.1800 BC or 1720 BC and established an independent realm in the eastern Nile Delta. The Canaanite rulers of the Delta regrouped and founded the Fourteenth Dynasty, which coexisted with the Egyptian Thirteenth Dynasty. The power of the 13th and 14th Dynasties progressively waned, perhaps due to famine and plague.

The 15th Dynasty of Egypt was the first Hyksos dynasty. It ruled from Avaris but did not control the entire land. The Hyksos preferred to stay in northern Egypt since they infiltrated from the northeast. The names and order of their kings is uncertain. The Turin King list indicates that there were six Hyksos kings, with an obscure Khamudi listed as the final king of the 15th Dynasty.

The Hyksos occupation was later described as a highly traumatic event for the Egyptian people, but it is not clear whether this was actually the view of contemporary Egyptians who lived under their control. From Avaris the Hyksos 15th dynasty ruled most of Lower Egypt and the Nile valley as far south as Cusae. The 16th-dynasty rulers who were minor Hyksos kings ruled in Upper Egypt simultaneously with those of the 15th dynasty. Much of ancient Egypt was under the control of the Hyksos at this time.

Pharaoh Kamose&rsquos father started the initiatives to remove the Hyksos from power and it quite possible that he lost his life in battle with the Hyksos. Kamose sought to extend his rule northward over all of Lower Egypt, but he was met with much opposition. He was killed in a battle and his mother Ahhotep I and brother Ahmose I continued the campaign against the Hyksos.

Pharaoh Ahmose I completed the conquest and expulsion of the Hyksos from the delta region, restored Theban rule over the whole of Egypt and successfully reasserted Egyptian power in its formerly subject territories of Nubia and Canaan. He also founded the 18th Dynasty, New Kingdom and this was the beginning of ancient Egypt&rsquos Golden Age. Pharaoh Ahmose I laid the foundations under which Egyptian power reached its peak. His reign is usually dated to the mid-16th century BC.

However, the Hyksos invasion changed the history of ancient Egypt in many ways. The experience of the long foreign occupation resulted in that Pharaoh Ahmose I established buffer zones between Egypt and its Asian foes.

The period when the 500-meter long &lsquogiant fence&rsquo was built near the ancient city of Avaris in Egypt coincided with the invasion of Egypt of the Hyksos. The emerging Egyptian empire stretched from Sudan to the south, across Syria in the north, Iraq to the east. Ancient Egyptians were now able to bring home war trophies and slaves from neighbouring countries that were also forced to pay taxes to the New Kingdom.

Ancient Egypt experienced a new wave of technological, cultural and religious developments, highly influenced by the Mitanni Kingdom, the Hittite Empire, and Mesopotamia. Foreign diplomats, merchants, and craftsmen moved to ancient Egypt.

The war with the Hyksos led to that the Egyptians established their first standing army.

The Full Bible Timeline displays at a glance, the earliest cultures, and kingdoms that exerted their influence over the world. Discover the timeline for the ancient Egyptian Dynasties, the rise of Assyrian, Persia, Greece, and Rome empires, all the way to the present day.
A detailed historical record of these ancient kingdoms is displayed across the top length of the chart and parallels the lower display of the biblical genealogies. You can easily review the top timeline and match it to biblical events that are illustrated in the lower chart section. Match up the moment of the flood to the Egyptian flood story as mentioned in their own writings. Review the lifespan of Joseph and discover his birth year and the years of his life in Egypt. You can also see clearly the connection between his death and the rise of a Pharaoh who 'knew not Joseph'. Who was he and where did he come from? Well, Egyptian history clearly tells us about the war and the 'new' Pharaoh who came to power after the death of Joseph.

This Full Bible Timeline follows these ancient kingdoms along the entire top length of the chart through these great empires and continues after the fall of the Jewish Temple in 70AD. This brought about the great dispersion as Jews fled to the corners of the world to escape the persecution that Rome was bringing to Israel. The chart highlights the following centuries of Jewish expulsion from one nation after another as the Jewish people continued to be chased out of countries and persecuted time after time.

The chart continues right into present day and presents the two main theories of eschatology that is preeminent today, along with the Jewish understanding of end times and what they have taught for thousands of years.

I am sure you will find this chart both easy to read and follow as you see how detailed and accurate the Bible is and has been. It is so important today to have a clear picture of the passage of time so that we can properly understand the present.

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Egypt was invaded by a group of foreigners who according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus called themselves Hyksos. The Hyksos people were a mixed, West Asian people. The Hyksos established a powerful empire in large parts of ancient Egypt that lasted over 100 years before the pharaoh Kamose, the last king of the Theban Seventeenth Dynasty started a war of liberation from his seat of power in southern Egypt.

Josephus mistranslated Hyksos as "Shepherd Kings", but Hyksos was most likely an Egyptian term for &ldquorulers of foreign lands&rdquo (heqa-khase), and it almost certainly designated the foreign dynasts rather than an ethnic group. Modern scholarship has identified most of the Hyksos kings&rsquo names as Semitic.

A History of Ancient Egypt

The newly revised Second Edition of A History of Ancient Egypt delivers an up-to-date survey of ancient Egypt's history from its origins to the Roman Empire's banning of hieroglyphics in the fourth century A.D. The book covers developments in all aspects of Egypt's history and their historical sources, considering the social and economic life and the rich culture of ancient Egypt.

Freshly updated to take into account recent discoveries, the book makes the latest scholarship accessible to a wide audience, including introductory undergraduate students. A History of Ancient Egypt outlines major political and cultural events and places Egypt's history within its regional context and detailing interactions with western Asia and Africa. Each period of history receives equal attention and a discussion of the problems scholars face in its study. The book offers a foundation for all students interested in Egyptian culture by providing coverage of topics like:

  • A thorough introduction to the formation of the Egyptian state between the years of 3400 B.C. and 2686 B.C.
  • An exploration of the end of the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate period, from 2345 B.C. to 2055 B.C.
  • An analysis of the Second Intermediate Period and the Hyksos between 1700 B.C. and 1550 B.C.
  • A discussion of Greek and Roman Egypt between 332 B.C. and A.D. 395.

Perfect for students of introductory courses in ancient Egyptian history and as background material for students of courses in Egyptian art, archaeology, and culture, A History of Ancient Egypt will also earn a place in the libraries of students taking surveys of the ancient world and those seeking a companion volume to A History of the Ancient Near East.


The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of the Israelites. [7] There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, and the Sinai Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium BCE (even Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites are said to have spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy). [8] In contrast to the absence of evidence for the Egyptian captivity and wilderness wanderings, there are ample signs of Israel's evolution within Canaan from native Canaanite roots. [9] While a few scholars discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the exodus story, the majority of archaeologists have abandoned it, in the phrase used by archaeologist William Dever, as "a fruitless pursuit". [10] [11]

The biblical narrative contains some details which are authentically Egyptian, but such details are scant, and the story frequently does not reflect Egypt of the Late Bronze Age or even Egypt at all (it is unlikely, for example, that a mother would place a baby in the reeds of the Nile, where it would be in danger from crocodiles). [12] Such elements of the narrative as can be fitted into the 2nd millennium could equally belong to the 1st, consistent with a 1st millennium BCE writer trying to set an old story in Egypt. [13]

As a result, while a few scholars continue to discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of an exodus as described in the Bible, most histories of Israel do not include the Egyptian captivity, the Exodus, or the wilderness wanderings in their discussion of Israel's origins. [14]

A century of research by archaeologists and Egyptologists has found no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus captivity and the escape and travels through the wilderness. [15] Archaeologists generally agree that the Israelites had Canaanite origins: [16] the culture of the earliest Israelite settlements is Canaanite, their cult-objects are those of the Canaanite god El, the pottery remains are in the Canaanite tradition, and the alphabet used is early Canaanite. [17] Almost the sole marker distinguishing the "Israelite" villages from Canaanite sites is an absence of pig bones, although whether even this is an ethnic marker or is due to other factors remains a matter of dispute. [17]

According to Exodus 12:37–38, the Israelites numbered "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children", plus the Erev Rav ("mixed multitude") and their livestock. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550 men aged 20 and up. It is difficult to reconcile the idea of 600,000 Israelite fighting men with the information that the Israelites were afraid of the Philistines and Egyptians. [18] The 600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the "mixed multitude" of non-Israelites would have numbered some 2 to 2.5 million. [19] Marching ten abreast, and without accounting for livestock, they would have formed a column 240 km (144 miles) long. [20] At the traditional time-setting for this putative event, Egypt's population has been estimated to be in the range of 3 to 4.5 million. [19] and no evidence has been found that Egypt ever suffered the demographic and economic catastrophe such a loss of population would represent, nor that the Sinai desert ever hosted (or could have hosted) these millions of people and their herds. [21] Some have rationalised the numbers into smaller figures, for example reading the Hebrew as "600 families" rather than 600,000 men, but all such solutions have their own set of problems. [22]

Details point to a 1st millennium date for the composition of the narrative: Ezion-Geber (one of the Stations of the Exodus), for example, dates to a period between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE with possible further occupation into the 4th century BCE, [23] and those place-names on the Exodus route which have been identified – Goshen, Pithom, Succoth, Ramesses and Kadesh Barnea – as existing in the 2nd millennium BCE can also be placed in the 1st millennium BCE. [24] Similarly, Pharaoh's fear that the Israelites might ally themselves with foreign invaders seems unlikely in the context of the late 2nd millennium, when Canaan was part of an Egyptian empire and Egypt faced no enemies in that direction, but does make sense in a 1st millennium context, when Egypt was considerably weaker and faced invasion first from the Achaemenid Empire and later from the Seleucid Empire. [25] The mention of the dromedary in Exodus 9:3 also suggests a later date – the widespread domestication of the camel as a herd animal is thought not to have taken place before the late 2nd millennium, after the Israelites had already emerged in Canaan, [26] and they did not become widespread in Egypt until c. 200–100 BCE. [27]

The chronology of the Exodus narrative is symbolic: for example, its culminating event, the erection of the Tabernacle as Yahweh's dwelling-place among his people, occurs in the year 2666 Anno Mundi (Year of the World, meaning 2666 years after God creates the world), and two-thirds of the way through a four thousand year era which culminates in or around the re-dedication of the Second Temple in 164 BCE. [28] [29] As a result, attempts to date the event to a specific century in known history have been inconclusive. [30] 1 Kings 6:1 places it 480 years before the construction of Solomon's Temple, implying an Exodus at c. 1450 BCE, but the number is rhetorical rather than historical, representing a symbolic twelve generations of forty years each. [31] [32] In any case, Canaan at this time was part of the Egyptian empire, so that the Israelites would in effect be escaping from Egypt to Egypt, [33] and its cities do not show destruction layers consistent with the Book of Joshua's account of the occupation of the land (Jericho was "small and poor, almost insignificant, and unfortified (and) [t]here was also no sign of a destruction" (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2002). [34] William F. Albright, the leading biblical archaeologist of the mid-20th century, proposed a date of around 1250–1200 BCE, but his so-called "Israelite" markers (four-roomed houses, collar-rimmed jars, etc,) are continuations of Canaanite culture. [35] The lack of evidence has led scholars to conclude that the Exodus story does not represent a specific historical moment. [36]

The Torah lists the places where the Israelites rested. A few of the names at the start of the itinerary, including Ra'amses, Pithom and Succoth, are reasonably well identified with archaeological sites on the eastern edge of the Nile Delta, [24] as is Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites spend 38 years after turning back from Canaan other than these, very little is certain. The crossing of the Red Sea has been variously placed at the Pelusic branch of the Nile, anywhere along the network of Bitter Lakes and smaller canals that formed a barrier toward eastward escape, the Gulf of Suez (south-southeast of Succoth), and the Gulf of Aqaba (south of Ezion-Geber), or even on a lagoon on the Mediterranean coast. The biblical Mount Sinai is identified in Christian tradition with Jebel Musa in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, but this association dates only from the 3rd century CE, and no evidence of the Exodus has been found there. [37]

The Hyksos were a Semitic people whose arrival and departure from Ancient Egypt has sometimes been seen as broadly parallel to the biblical tale of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. [38] Canaanite populations first appeared in Egypt towards the end of the 12th Dynasty c. 1800 BCE, and either around that time, or c. 1720 BCE, established an independent realm in the eastern Nile Delta. In about 1650 BCE, this realm was assumed by the rulers known as the Hyksos, who formed the 15th Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs. [39] [40]

It has been claimed that new revolutionary methods of warfare ensured for the Hyksos their ascendancy, in their influx into the new emporia being established in Egypt's delta and at Thebes in support of the Red Sea trade. [41] [42] However, in recent years the idea of a simple Hyksos migration, with little or no war, has gained support. [43] [44]

In any case, the 16th Dynasty and the 17th Dynasty continued to rule in Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) in co-existence with the Hyksos kings, perhaps as their vassals. Eventually, Seqenenre Tao, Kamose and Ahmose I waged war against the Hyksos and expelled Khamudi, their last king, from Egypt c. 1550 BCE. [39]

The saga of the Hyksos was recorded by the Egyptian historian Manetho (3rd century BCE), chief priest at the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis, and is preserved in three quotations by the 1st century CE Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus. [45] In Manetho's History of Egypt, as retold by Josephus, Manetho describes the Hyksos, their lowly origins in Asia, their invasion and dominion over Egypt, their eventual expulsion, and their subsequent exile to Judea, and their establishing the city of Jerusalem and its temple. Manetho defined the Hyksos as being the Hyksos or "Shepherd Kings" or "Captive Shepherds" who invaded Egypt, destroying its cities and temples and making war with the Egyptian people to "gradually destroy them to the very roots". Following a war with the Egyptians a treaty was negotiated stipulating that these Hyksos Shepherds were to exit Egypt. [46]

Josephus said that Manetho's Hyksos narrative was a reliable Egyptian account about the Israelite Exodus, and that the Hyksos were 'our people'. [47] [48] [49] Donald Redford said that the Exodus narrative is a Canaanite memory of the Hyksos' descent and occupation of Egypt. [38] Jan Assmann said the biblical narrative is more like a counterhistory: "It turns kings into slaves an expulsion into a ban on emigration a descent from the Egyptian throne to insignificance into an ascent from oppression to freedom as god's chosen people." [50]

There is a current scholarly consensus that if the Israelites did emerge from Egypt, it must have occurred sometime during the 13th century, because there is no archaeological evidence of any distinctive Israelite material culture before that time. [51] Nevertheless, many recent scholars have posited that the Exodus narrative may have developed from collective memories of Hyksos expulsions from Egypt, and possibly elaborated on to encourage resistance to the 7th century domination of Judah by Egypt. [52] [53] [54] [51] [55]

In her book The Parting of the Sea: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plagues Shaped the Story of the Exodus, geologist Barbara J. Sivertsen explores links between the biblical Exodus narrative, the Hyksos expulsion, and the Minoan (Thera) volcanic eruption. [56] Apocalyptic rainstorms, which devastated much of Egypt, and were described on the Tempest Stele of Ahmose I, pharaoh of the Hyksos expulsion, have been attributed to short-term climatic changes caused by the Theran eruption. [57] [58] [59] While it has been argued that the damage attributed to this storm may have been caused by an earthquake following the Thera Eruption, it has also been suggested that it was caused during a war with the Hyksos, and the storm reference is merely a metaphor for chaos upon which the Pharaoh was attempting to impose order. [60] Documents such as Hatshepsut's Speos Artemidos depict storms, but are clearly figurative not literal. Research indicates that the Speos Artemidos stele is a reference to her overcoming the powers of chaos and darkness. [60]

Akhenaten, also known as Amenhotep IV, was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. This Pharaoh presided over radical changes in Egyptian religious practices. He established a form of solar monotheism or monolatry based on the cult of Aten, and disbanded the priesthoods of all other gods. His new capital, Akhetaten or 'Horizon of Aten', was built at the site known today as Amarna. [61] [62] The city was built hastily, mostly using mud bricks. After Akhenaten's death, it was abandoned. The temples, shrines, and royal statues were razed later, during the reign of Horemheb. [63]

The idea of Akhenaten as the pioneer of a monotheistic religion that later became Judaism has been considered by various scholars. [64] [65] One of the first to mention this was Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, in his book Moses and Monotheism. [64] Basing his arguments on a belief that the Exodus story was historical, Freud argued that Moses had been an Atenist priest forced to leave Egypt with his followers after Akhenaten's death. Freud argued that Akhenaten was striving to promote monotheism, something that the biblical Moses was able to achieve. [64]

In 1973, William F. Albright noted that Moses and many of his family members had Egyptian names, and said that there is no good reason to deny that Moses was influenced by the monotheism of Akhenaten. [66] However, Donald Redford said that there is little evidence that Akhenaten was a progenitor of Biblical monotheism. To the contrary, he said, the religion of the Hebrew Bible had its own separate development beginning 500 years later. [67]

Several ancient non-biblical sources seem to parallel the biblical Exodus narrative or the events which occurred at the end of the eighteenth dynasty when the new religion of Akhenaten was denounced and his capital city of Amarna was abandoned. These tales often combine elements of the Hyksos expulsion. [68] For example, Hecataeus of Abdera (c. 320 BCE) tells how the Egyptians blamed a plague on foreigners and expelled them from the country, whereupon Moses, their leader, took them to Canaan. [69] There are more than a dozen versions of this story, all of them adding more detail, most of them profoundly anti-Jewish. [69] Manetho tells how 80,000 lepers and other "impure people", led by a priest named Osarseph, join forces with the former Hyksos, now living in Jerusalem, to take over Egypt. They wreak havoc until eventually the pharaoh and his son chase them out to the borders of Syria, where Osarseph gives the lepers a law-code and changes his name to Moses, although the identification of Osarseph with Moses in the second account may be a later addition. [70] [71] Josephus vehemently disagreed with the claim that the Israelites were connected with Manetho's story about Osarseph and the lepers. [72] The stories told by Hecataeus and Manetho seems to be related in some way to that of the Exodus, although it is impossible to tell whether they both bear witness to historical events, or Manetho is a polemical response to the Exodus story, or the Exodus story a response to the Egyptian stories. [73]

Three interpretations have been proposed for Manetho's story of Osarseph and the lepers: the first, as a memory of the Amarna period the second, as a memory of the Hyksos and the third, as an anti-Jewish propaganda. Each explanation has evidence to support it: the name of the pharaoh, Amenophis, and the religious character of the conflict fit the Amarna reform of Egyptian religion the name of Avaris and possibly the name Osarseph fit the Hyksos period and the overall plot is an apparent inversion of the Jewish story of the Exodus casting the Jews in a bad light. No one theory, however, can explain all the elements. A proposal by Egyptologist Jan Assmann [74] suggests that the story has no single origin but rather combines numerous historical experiences, notably the Amarna and Hyksos periods, into a folk memory. [75]

How did the Hyksos infiltrate into Egypt?

CAIRO &ndash 27 January 2021: The era of the second transition or the period of the reign of the Hyksos (15-17th Dynasties, from 1650-1550 BC) was an era of historical tribulations for ancient Egypt.

Opinions differed about the original home of these occupiers, as well as the way in which they infirtlated Egypt until they reached power, especially in Lower Egypt. they took their own capital, Avaris, which scholars also disagreed about its current location.

So, where did the Hyksos come from?

Professor in the Department of History and Egyptian and Islamic Archeology at the Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University, Essam Mohamed el-Saeed,said in his book "The War of Liberation Against the Hyksos - A Bright Page of the Ancient Egyptian Army", that the Hyksos infirtlated from the Levant to Egypt in the 12-13th Dynasties.

Their great colony was in Avaris in the east of the delta, controlling the Egyptian mining and trade missions with the Levant, Cyprus and the Aegean Sea, and the Egyptian officials who supervised these activities were from the people of the Western Semitic languages.

The end of the rule of the Hyksos came at the hands of the heroes of liberation coming from the city of Thebes -the present-day Luxor. King Ahmose I expelled them from Egypt and liberated the country.

The book also discusses the war of liberation against the Hyksos, which is an important period in the history of ancient Egypt, which established a great empire in the ancient Near East, from the Euphrates in the north through Cyrenaica in the west to the depths of Africa in the south.

This Pharaonic era spanned nearly five centuries (1575-1087 BC), and it is evident that all this was a product of the liberation war against the Hyksos. The Hyksos only controlled the north from Egypt to Al-Qusiyyah in the south, while Upper Egypt remained ruled by patriotic Egyptians.

Egypt offered its martyrs, headed by King Seqenenre Tao, followed by his son King Kamose, who was succeeded by his brother, King Ahmose, who concluded the epic of heroism and cleansed the country from the rule of the dreaded Hyksos.

The Egyptians soon realized that their natural borders began outside their traditional borders, so the Egyptian Empire was established in the Modern Kingdom in order to protect the land and borders of Egypt.

Watch the video: Η Energean προχωρεί στην ανάπτυξη των θαλάσσιων κοιτασμάτων ΝΕΑΝΙ στην Αίγυπτο (January 2022).