Raamses, Pithom, and the Exodus: A Critical Evaluation of Ex 1:11

In: Vetus Testamentum

Up to the present, the brief notice on the storage cities of “Pithom” and “Raamses” and the forced labour of the Israelites in Ex 1:11 has been taken as the historical nucleus of a possible exodus scenario under Ramesses ii.

This article presents a critical evaluation of the classical theory, taking into account recent insights in Archaeology, Egyptology, and Philology. Since a number of arguments call the classical theory into question, a historical background of Ex 1:11 in the late 7th century bce becomes more likely, when Judahites had to perform forced labour for the Egyptian hegemon in the Southern Levant.

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  • 1

    For an overview see Engel, p. 49 and p. 103.

  • 2

    See the overview by Moore/Kelle, pp. 88-92 and Redmount, 1998, p. 65. The most prominent Egyptological voice for such a minimalist position is Redford, 1992, pp. 408-412 (see also Redford 1987, 2009 and 2011), whereas the ‘maximalist’ approach is represented, for example, by Kitchen, 1998 and Hoffmeier, 1999.

  • 3

    See, for example, Schmidt, p. 36; Graham, pp. 28-30.

  • 7

    Albertz 1994p. 45. See also p. 44: “However, one report is credible, namely that the Egyptians set the group to build the ‘store cities Pithom and Ramses’ (Ex. 1:11).” In his commentary on the book of Exodus from 2012, Albertz is more cautious, arguing that only “Ramses” contains “schemenhaft eine alte Erinnerung” (ibid., p. 29).

  • 8

    Herrmann 1973pp. 58-59; Schmidt, pp. 36-37; Malamat, pp. 18-22 and Graham, 2004, p. 28.

  • 9

    Gardiner 1918p. 261.

  • 10

    See already Spiegelberg, p. 24.

  • 11

    Allen, pp. 16-17.

  • 12

    Gardiner 1937p. 76.

  • 13

    See, for example, Noth, pp. 113-114 and Alt, p. 184, n. 4 where he points to other notes in the Hebrew Bible, using the same argument: Gen 47:11; Ex 12:37; Num 33:3, 5.

  • 14

    Alt, p. 184. See also Hermann 1973p. 27 n. 42 (p. 75); Schmidt, p. 38; Kitchen, p. 69 and Graham, 2004, p. 28 with further references.

  • 15

    Spiegelberg, pp. 38-39.

  • 16

    For an analysis of the stela see Morenz, pp. 1-13 who, however, dates the campaign to the second or third regnal year of Merneptah (1211 or 1210 bce, ibid., p. 12).

  • 17

    See most recently Blum, p. 48 with n. 39.

  • 18

    Redford, p. 410.

  • 19

    See, for example, Graham 2004p. 28.

  • 20

    James/McGovern, p. 4; Mazar, p. 260.

  • 21

    For an overview, see Schipper 2012p. 32.

  • 22

    See Uehlinger, pp. 11-12 (fig. 1-3).

  • 23

    Uehlinger, p. 12.

  • 25

    Montet, p. 28, followed by Gardiner 1933pp. 122-123.

  • 27

    Bietak, p. 351; Pusch, p. 48.

  • 28

    Graham 2003p. 349 and for the monuments Montet, pl. iii and iv.

  • 29

    So already Redford 1963p. 409; see also Redford, 1987, p. 140.

  • 31

    Jansen-Winkeln 2007. See also Collins, p. 147 and for the results of the “Wadi Tumilat-Project” Holladay 1999.

  • 33

    Graham 200430. This is the result of the detailed evaluation of Collins, pp. 136-147.

  • 34

    Goedicke, p. 353; Redmount 1989p. 182, and for the topography Holladay, 1999, p. 879.

  • 35

    So also Redford 2011p. 305.

  • 36

    Guermeur, pp. 263-264 (dp Pi-Ramsès 6; Cairo cg 700 and 689).

  • 38

    Quack, pp. 26-27.

  • 40

    Cf. Redford 1963p. 409 with older literature, and Griffiths, p. 225.

  • 41

    Helck, pp. 45-46; Gardiner 1918p. 136 with discussion of further material.

  • 44

    See Uehlinger, pp. 11-12 (fig. 1-3).

  • 46

    So already Redford 1963p. 409 (see also Redford 2009, p. 176, and Redford, 2011, p. 304).

  • 48

    Griffiths, p. 225 with reference to previous literature.

  • 49

    Osing, p. 371 and p. 479 n. 138.

  • 50

    Görg, pp. 19-20.

  • 52

    See on the one hand, Helck, pp. 43-47 and on the other Redford, 1963, pp. 411-412; Redford 2009, and Redford 2011, p. 304 with n. 79-80.

  • 53

    See already Griffiths 1953p. 231.

  • 54

    See for further references on this Knauf, p. 105; Quack, p. 27, n. 28; Jansen-Winkeln, 2002, p. 114, n. 2 and Vergote, p. 92. If one wants to follow James Hoch, the use of samech (s3) for Egyptian ś can be dated more precisely to the period after the 8th century bce (25th Dynasty in Egypt), see Hoch, p. 368, no. 548; Redford, 2009, p. 175 with further references in n. 9, and Redford, 2011, p. 304.

  • 55

    See, for example, Hoch, p. 368, no. 548.

  • 56

    See Gesenius (18th ed.), p. 1049; halot, p. 925.

  • 57

    Redford 1963p. 412.

  • 58

    Schipper 1999p. 282, n. 560.

  • 59

    Gesenius (18th ed.), p. 877; halot, p. 746. The toponym Sin (סִין) in Ez 30:15 can probably also be related to the Egyptian word śwn, see Gesenius (18th ed.), p. 833.

  • 60

    See Gesenius (18th ed.), p. 1094; halot, p. 991.

  • 61

    Loprieno, pp. 211-212 and 216-217.

  • 62

    Schipper 2013p. 498 with further references.

  • 63

    Gesenius (18th ed.), p. 1349.

  • 64

    Renz, pp. 162-163.

  • 65

    Aḥituv, pp. 96-97.

  • 66

    Osing, pp. 856-857 and Gesenius (18th ed.), p. 535.

  • 69

    See, for example, Schmidt, pp. 18-21.

  • 71

    Carr, p. 172-175.

  • 72

    Kratz, p. 280. J. Baden, though, recently renewed the old argument that Ex 1:8-12 should be seen as a unit which belongs to the J story (Baden, p. 136). In contrast, C. Berner argues that Ex 1:11-12 forms a unit with vv. 9-10 (Berner, p. 10 with n. 1), but takes v. 11b as a post-priestly addition (ibid., p. 434).

  • 73

    So already Nöldeke, p. 35 and Schmidt, pp. 15-16.

  • 74

    See Baden, p. 137 with an overview on the scholarly discussion on this in n. 11.

  • 75

    Gertz, p. 381 (Ex 1:11-12, 15-20a, 21-22; 2:1-22). In contrast, Konrad Schmid, for example, has argued that Exodus 1 “contains no textual material that can be dated earlier than P” (p. 216).

  • 76

    Gertz, p. 371; Schmid, p. 217 and Kratz, p. 280.

  • 77

    Schmid, pp. 217-218.

  • 78

    Gertz et al., p. 356 argue for a kernel which goes back to the 8th century (after 722), but the similarities between the Moses narrative (Ex 2*) and the Sargon legend (if one wants to see them) could be also explained in light of the situation in the 7th century bce (see Otto, pp. 60-72 with a different conclusion).

  • 79

    Lemche, pp. 55-56; Finkelstein, p. 66 and Oswald, p. 83.

  • 80

    Collins, pp. 143-144.

  • 81

    Redmount 1995pp. 133-134.

  • 82

    Lloyd, pp. 150-155 and Redmount 1995p. 135, n. 36.

  • 83

    See Redmount 1995p. 134 who pointed to Muhammad Ali who “used a corvée of 80,000 fellahin to excavate his Wadi Canal.”

  • 84

    Schmidt, p. 34; halot, p. 603 and Gesenius (18th ed.), p. 700.

  • 87

    Schipper 2010p. 207.

  • 88

    Gitin, p. 173.

  • 89

    See for this Schipper 2010pp. 211-212 with reference to Wimmer, Fantalkin and others.

  • 92

    Schipper 2010p. 213.

  • 94

    Renz, pp. 295-296 and pp. 341-343. See also Wimmer, pp. 103-113.

  • 95

    Schipper 2010p. 211.

  • 96

    Röllig, p. 422.

  • 97

    Wimmer, pp. 68-69 and Schipper 2010p. 217.

  • 98

    Schipper 2010pp. 209-211 with further references.

  • 101

    Weippert, pp. 449-466.

  • 102

    See Cross, p. 44. For the verb כול see Gesenus (18th ed.), p. 531.

  • 103

    Cross, p. 45. Talmon, p. 82 assumed an “annual corvée”.

  • 105

    Wimmer 2008p. 86.

  • 106

    Avigad/Sass, pp. 56-57 (no. 20).

  • 107

    Avigad/Sass, p. 57.

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