The chronology of the Old Kingdom needs to be worked out

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Mentuhotep II of the 11th dynasty was only king of upper and lower Egypt for part of his reign – at a time when the Israelites were in Egypt.

Mentuhotep II wearing the crown of Upper Egypt.

Mentuhotep II wearing the crown of Upper Egypt.

Mentuhotep II was the 5th Pharaoh of the 11th dynasty which as based in Thebes. The son of Intef III. He reigned for 51 years. Around the 14th year of his reign, he defeated the Herakleopolitans (10th dynasty) and was able to considate his reign. Around his 39th year on the throne he reunited Egypt. He is considered by many to be the first pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom.

Manetho’s statement that the 11th Dynasty consisted of 16 kings, who reigned for 43 years is contradicted by contemporary inscriptions and the evidence of the Turin King List, whose combined testimony establishes that this kingdom consisted of seven kings who ruled for a total of 143 years.

The 11th dynasty seem to have originated with a Nomach from Thebes “Intef the Great”. His son Mentuhotep I is regarded as the first king of the dynasty.  Intef II, son of Mentuhotep I, was the first king of the dynasty to lay claim to ruling Upper and Lower Egypt but only managed to take as far North as Abydos where he came into conflict with the 10th dynasty kings of Herakleopolis. His son Intef III was the father of Mentuhotep II.

Ancient Egypt had 42 provinces or ‘Nomes’ as they were called. These were divided into those of Upper Egypt and those of Lower Egypt. Each province or ‘Nome’ had a Govenor or ‘Nomarch’.

Dynasties refer to a line of rulers who were related to one another. Dynasties often ran in parallel in different parts of the country. Potentially, there could be 42 dynasties running in parallel at one time in Egypt if each Nome had a series of leaders from the one family line.

The 11th dynasty, based in Thebes, was contemporary with dynasties in other parts of the country. In particular, the 9th and 10th dynasties, based in Herakleopolis, often referred to the as the First Intermediate Period (when Lower Egypt had no King), were contemporary with the 11th dynasty. The 9th and 10th Dynasties lasted only 20 years and followed the sixth dynasty which was also contemporary with the 11th dynasty but in a different part of the country (Memphis).

The principal dynasties that were recorded by Manetho refer to the families that ruled Upper and Lower Egypt or both (ie Kings).

Mentuhotep II defeated the Herakleopolitians in the 14th year of his reign. This ended the First Intermediate Period when Lower Egypt had no King.  Egypt was not unified, however, until the 39th year of his reign.

At what point did Mentuhotep II become the King of Upper and Lower Egypt? Was it by force when he defeated the Herakleopolitians or was it in the 39th year of his reign when Egypt became unified?

Mentuhotep II wearing the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt

Mentuhotep II wearing the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt

Assuming that there was continuity of the Kingship, the chronology of Egypt would be considerably shorter if the dynasties were aligned according to when a change of Kings occurred without shortening the dynasty as there would, no doubt, be much more overlap of dynasties.

When Pharaohs (Kings) took the reign by force, they would subjugate the other Nomarchs, killing those who would not submit and allowing those who did to continue their dynasty in parallel.

After all, there were 42 Nomes and 42 Nomarches and potentially there could have been 42 dynasties running at one time. Only the major dynasties were recorded by Manetho. These were the more important dynasties in which a Nomarch ruled Upper or Lower Egypt and sometimes both Upper and Lower Egypt. What’s more, these Nomarchs could have reigned considerably longer than the period that they wore the crown of Upper or Lower Egypt or both. Failure to understand this would grossly prolong the Egyptian Chronology.

There may have been times that Egypt had no native king to unite it’s 42 Nomes. This was most likely the case during the first intermediate period even though it was contemporary with the 11th dynasty. The second intermediate period was a time when Lower Egypt was ruled by foreign invaders from Arabia (the Hyksos).


History and the Bible reconciled

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History aligned with the Bible – view PDF

Linguistics suggest Lechabim may have been the father of the Philistines

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Gerar – meaning “lodging-place” – was a Philistine town and district in what is today south central Israel, mentioned only in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible.

Biblically, the town features in two of the three Wife-sister narratives in Genesis. These record that Abraham and Isaac each stayed at Gerar, near what became Beersheba, and that each passed his wife off as his sister, leading to complications involving Gerar’s Philistine king, Abimelech. (Genesis 20:1, and Genesis 26:1) The Haggadah identifies the two references to Abimelech as two separate people, the second being the first Abimelech’s son, and that his original name was Benmelech [“son of the King”], but he changed his name to his father’s, meaning “my father is king”.

Biblical Timeline (long sojourn) aligned with the Revised Egyptian Chronology.

Biblical Timeline (long sojourn) aligned with the Revised Egyptian Chronology of David Down.

Lech-abim was the son of Mizraim.  Could he have migrated to Gerar  and become the father of the Sea People (Philistines)?

Abimelech I and Abimelech II (Benmalech) were both Philistines.  They lived in Gerar.

As the name Abim-e-lech is  linguistically related to the name Lech-abim, it is possible that Lechabim could have been the father of the Philistines?   He lived in the right time period.

Timeline Noah to Christ – A Long Sojourn and a Revised Egyptian Chronology

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Down's revised Egyptian chronology aligned with the Biblical Chronology  (the long sojourn) as recorded in the Old Testament.

Down’s revised Egyptian chronology aligned with the Biblical Chronology (the long sojourn) as recorded in the Old Testament.

Landmarks in the Egyptian Chronology

The Biblical Chronology (long sojourn) aligned with Down’s Revised Egyptian Chronology.

While the Biblical timeline is fairly established and accepted by most theologians, there is still some debate about the length of time that the Israelites were in Egypt.  This is of critical importance as it would affect all dates prior to the Exodus.

In this alignment, a long sojourn, as recorded in the Old Testament, is assumed to be correct.

This results in very good synchronization between the Bible and History when aligned with Down’s revised Egyptian Chronology.

This is supported by considerable archaeological evidence.

David Down is a well known archaeologist who has been to Egypt numerous times on archaeological missions. He has proposed an alternative time line based upon his extensive archaeological experience excavating the Holy Lands and his knowledge of Egyptian history.

The Traditional Egyptian Chronology based upon the work of Manetho (a priest / historian during the Ptolemaic Period – 3rd centurary BC) is now known to have multiple problems.

Manetho was fortunate enough to have access to the Alexandrian library before it was burnt down and wrote extensively on Egyptian History (Aegyptiaca).

Unfortunately, his works were destroyed too when the Alexandrian Library was burnt down by the Romans.

All we have is the notes of people who read his work  ( Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius of Caesarea). They made a list of pharaohs and how long they reigned and grouped them into dynasties.

Since then, historians have come along and used these lists to construct the Egyptian Chronology. Unfortunately, the early historians assumed that only one pharaoh was ruling at a time and built a time line based on sequential reigns.

We now know that many of these dynasties ran in parallel in different parts of the country and what’s more, many pharaohs practiced co-regency at the beginning and the end of their reigns.

Other archaeologists, historians and commentators like Usher, Velikovsky, Sweeney, Fry, Reilly, Rhol, Moller and numerous others have suggested alternative Egyptian Chronologies but they do not align completely with the Bible and suggest synchronisms that are not supported by archaelogicial evidence or history.

As there are numerous alternative or Revised Egyptian Chronologies, the one that is used here in this alignment is identified by the person that came up with it, namely David Down.

David Down in his book, Unwrapping the Pharaohs, tries to synchronize it with a Biblical chronology that assumes a short sojourn.  This works well from the Exodus on wards but produces poor sychronisms for Biblical figures prior to Moses.

In this diagram, the Biblical Chronology with a long sojourn has been aligned with the Revised Egyptian Chronology of David Down without changing Down’s revised Egyptian Chronology.

The result is almost perfect synchrony between the Bible and History with considerable archaeological and historical evidence to support all of the synchronisms suggested for the pharaohs listed.

A better understanding of the Chronology of the Old Kingdom will hopefully produce more synchonisms which will need to be verified both archaeologically and historically.

Some good ideas to consider that could improve the Revised Chronology of David Down

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The Revised Chronology of David Down aligned with a long and a short sojourn ending with Amenemhet III as the Pharaoh of Moses'birth.

The Revised Egyptian Chronology of David Down aligned with a long and a short sojourn ending with Amenemhet III as the Pharaoh of Moses’ birth.

Down identified Amenemhet III as the Pharaoh of Moses’ birth but he believed in a short (215 year ) sojourn and so placed Joseph in the 12th dynasty as Mentuhotep, the vizier for Sesostris I  (for which there is little evidence).

Aligning Down’s Revised Egyptian Chronology with a long sojourn (430 years) of Israel in Egypt ending with Amenemhet III as the Pharaoh of Moses’ birth, however, places Joseph very close to the third dynasty when Imhotep was the vizier to Djoser (for which there is a good match with considerable evidence). The exact chronology of the Old Kingdom still needs to be worked out but at least this puts Joseph and Imhotep in the same time period.

Diagram  adapted from

The Problem

The interval between Joseph / Jacob entering Egypt and the Exodus of the Israelites lead by Moses was 430 years if the Long Sojourn is correct (215 years if the Short Sojourn is correct).

There is considerable evidence to suggest that Joseph was Imhotep of the third dynasty (vizier to Djoser) and that Moses was born during the co-regency of Sesostris III and Amenemhet III.  Moses may have even been Amenemhet IV  (he never got to reign alone and suddenly disappeared).  Sobeknefru seems to have been the princess who found Moses and raised him as her own. The Exodus Pharaoh is likely to be Neferhotep of the 13th dynasty.

If one adds up the lengths of the reigns of the Pharaohs from the end of Djoser’s reign, when Jacob came to Egypt,  to the end of  Neferhotep’s reign, when the Exodus took place, even taking into account co-regency and parallel dynasties, it is still considerably more than 430 years even with Down’s revised Egyptian chronology (which is a big improvement on the traditional chronology but still needs refining).

For those who believe Joseph was in 3rd dynasty and Moses was in the 18th dynasty (Wyatt and Moller), there is an even bigger problem;  the Israelite sojourn would have lasted a millennium!   Wyatt and Moller found and documented numerous artifacts in Egypt.  They seem to have found the ‘Real’ or ‘Biblical’ Mt Sinai and the site of the Red Sea crossing and they argue strongly for Joseph being Imhotep.  Unfortunately, the chariot wheels that were found strewn across the Red Sea bed were dated to the 18th dynasty causing them to look for Moses in the 18th dynasty.  Experts claimed that the chariot did not exist before the Hyksos (the Second Intermediate Period).  The Bible says that the Pharaoh pursued the Israelites with his Army and all his chariots which were said to number 600.   Maybe the reason that archaeologists have not found a 12th dynasty chariot is because they are all at the bottom of the Red Sea!  Further more, the 12th dynasty does not date back as far as was once thought (so it may well have utilized the chariot).

It is much more likely that Moses was born in the 12th dynasty when Amenemhet III was the Pharaoh and some further refinement of the Egyptian Chronology is necessary.  

The Pyramid of Amenemhet III, like other 12th dynasty pyramids, was made out of mud bricks (the core at least)  and Amenemhet III’s pyramid was the last of the great pyramids to be built.  After the Exodus of the Israelites in the 13th dynasty, there were not enough slaves to make pyramids any more!

The exact chronology of the Old Kingdom still needs to be worked out.  

The further back we go the harder it gets.  Starting with what we do know and working backwards seems to be the best approach.

The evidence points to Joseph in the third dynasty and Moses in the twelfth dynasty.  If this is true, then there must still be some errors in the chronology of  Egypt’s Old Kingdom.

Were there parallel dynasties in the Old Kingdom?

Have some Nomarchs been mistaken for Pharaohs?

A possible answer

The author in this link (above) suggests that dynasties 1, 4 and 6 were consecutive in one part of the country and contemporary with dynasties 2, 3 and 5 which were consecutive in another part of the country.

This would effectively shorten the interval from Djoser to Neferhotep making it around 430 years.  But is this right?

This would allow the Egyptian chronology to be fully reconciled with the Bible!!  (If Djoser was the Pharaoh of Joseph, Amenemhet III was the pharaoh of Moses Birth, Sobeknefru the princess that adopted Moses and Neferhotep was the Pharoah of the Exodus and the Israelites were enslaved for most of the 12th dynasty and taking the long sojourn to be true)

Another explanation may be that some of the Pharaohs were in fact Nomarchs who were like state leaders as opposed to national leaders who were contemporary with other Pharaohs and hence do not prolong the Egyptian chronology.

Maybe the Nomarchs, the leaders of the 42 Nomes, elected one Nomarch to rule the Upper Egypt and another to rule Lower Egypt.  Sometimes the honor of ruling both Upper and Lower Egypt  went to the same person.  In some cases, the Pharaohs took power by force.  This happened at the beginning of the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms and also the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period when the Hyksos invaded Lower Egypt and took charge.

Regarding the other issues raised by this author:

The turmoil at the end of the sixth dynasty was the rebellion of Amenemhet I. He was the vizier of Mentuhotep IV of the 11th dynasty whom he appears to have assassinated. He took over the whole of Egypt (Upper and Lower) giving rise to the 12th dynasty (the Middle Kingdom). It was Amenemhet I who was the pharaoh that was disinclined towards the Israelites and made them slaves.

The turmoil at the end of the 12th dynasty was brought about by Moses going into exile as there was nobody to continue the 12th dynasty after Sobeknefru.  The exodus occurred 30 years after the 12th dynasty ended when Neferhotep was the pharaoh, further destablizing Egypt and making it vulnerable invasion by foreigners called the Hyksos (the Shepherd Kings).

There was no first intermediate period (David Down).   Dynasties 7-10 were contemporary with other dynasties and do not prolong the Egyptian chronology.

The 12th dynasty arose out of the 11th dynasty which was contemporary with the 6th dynasty.

How does this fit?

If the ‘long sojourn’ is correct then the Biblical dates prior to the Exodus will be approximately 200 years earlier than traditionally thought with the ‘short sojourn.’

The Revised Egyptian Chronology of David Down would then allow Joseph to be aligned with the 3rd dynasty where there is a good match for him; Imhotep, vizier to Djoser.

If Joseph was Imhotep of the 3rd dynasty and Moses was to be Amenemhet IV of the 12th dynasty, where do Mizraim, Abraham and  Isaac fit in?

Menes could be a candidate for Mizraim.

Candidates for Abraham’s Abimelech could include Narmer but this is unlikely as he was not a  Philistine.    Lechabim (Son of Mizraim) may have been the father of the Philistines.  Abimilech would then have been a descendent of Lehabim.

Isaac also had an encounter with Abimelech about 90 years later in Philistine territory. 

Was this the same Abimelech that Abraham dealt with or was it his son (Benmalech / Abimelech II)?

Joseph was Imhotep, the vizier of Pharaoh Djoser of the 3rd dynasty

Amenemhet I, the first pharaoh of the 12th dynasty, had a different attitude towards the Israelites.  The Israelites were forced to make the mud bricks for the 12th dynasty pyramids.

Moses was born during the co-regency of  Sesostris III and Amenemhet III in the 12th dynasty [1]

Sobeknefru adopted Moses and raised him as her own. [1]

Moses would have become the next Pharaoh of the 12th dynasty (Amenemhet IV) but had to flee to Midian [1]

Neferhotep of the 13th dynasty was the Exodus Pharaoh [1]

The Second Intermediate Period, when Egypt was ruled by foreign invaders called the Hyksos (the Amelekites of  the Bible), was contemporary with the Time of the Judges of Israel [1]

Apopi II was the last king of the Hyksos.  Apopi II (Agag of the Bible) was captured by King Saul of Israel after he was driven out of Egypt by Kahmose (last pharaoh of the 17th dynasty) and taken to the prophet Samuel who put him to death.

Ahmose I of the 18th dynasty was a contemporary of King Saul and David.  [1]

Amenhotep I,  Thutmosis I and Thutmosis II in Egypt were contemporary with King David and King Solomon in Israel.  [1]

Hatshepsut was the ‘Queen of Sheba’ who visited Solomon.  [1]

Thutmosis III (Shishak) was a contemporary of Jeroboam and Rehoboam and invaded Israel. [1]

Akhenaten was a contemporary of King Jehoash of Israel [1]

King Jehu of Israel was a contemporary of Shalmaneser III to whom he paid tribute [1]

Tutankhamen was a contemporary of King Jehoahaz of Israel [1]

Rameses I was contemporary with King Azariah [1]

Rameses II was contemporary  with King Jeroboam II, King Azariah and King Zachariah [1]

King Jotham of Israel was a contemporary with Tiglath Pilesser [1]

Shalmaneser V was contemporary with Hoshea [1]

Samaria was conquered by Saron II of Assyria in 722BC [1]

Sennacherib and Merneptah were contemporary with Hezekiah [1]

Necho II killed Josiah [1]

Nebuchadnezzar conquers Jerusalem in 605BC [1]

Jerusalem was destroyed in 586BC [1]

Babylon conquered 539BC by Cyrus [1]

Xerxes came to rule in 486BC [1]

Alexander the Great came to power in 332BC [1]

Primary Reference

[1] Unwrapping the Pharaohs John Ashton and David Down  2007  Master Books ISBN 13-978-0-89051-468-9  ISBN 10-0-89051-468-2  (see the timeline at the back of the book)

Egyptian Chronology Revised

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A more likely arrangement of the Egyptian Dynasties Historically and Geographically

Contemporaries in Egypt and Israel and estimated dates

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Date       Egypt                                      Israel

2320BC               Menes (Mizraim) (1st Dynasty)
2080BC               Abimelech (First Dynasty)                                           Abraham
1900BC               Djoser (Third Dynasty)                                                  Joseph ( Imhotep)
1531BC                Amenemhet III (12th Dyn)                                           Moses – Israel slaves
1445BC               Neferhotep I (13th Dynasty)                                        Moses (The Exodus)
1405BC               Hyksos (15th & 16th Dynasty)                                     Joshua to Saul
1018BC               Amenhotep I & Thutmosis I (18th Dyn)                        King David
950BC                Hatshepsut [Queen of Sheba]   (18th Dyn)                    Solomon
929BC                Thutmosis III (18th Dynasty)                                        Jereboam