When did the Exodus happen?

One of the debates among Old Testament scholars centres around when the Exodus happened. There are two main dates debated – in the 1400s BC and in the 1200s BC.

To date the Exodus we need to go to King Solomon, due to some statements we find concerning his reign. Solomon’s reign is dated as 976-931 BC (there was some overlap with David’s reign). This is based on checking dates in what is known as “the Davidic Dynasty” with datable Babylonian and Assyrian records at a few points of intersection. This has allowed archaeologists to place the dates of David and Solomon into a reliable framework. The most widely used chronology is based on the work of Edwin R. Thiele (more information on this can be found in Wikipedia under the article on Solomon, for those who might be interested).

Solomon is said to have reigned over all Israel from Jerusalem for 40 years in 1 Kings 11:42. If Thiele’s chronology is correct, it would seem that he was also co-regent with David for five years – this would seem to tie in with the events of 1 Kings 1 and 2. With Solomon’s death taking place in 931 BC, his sole reign at David’s death would have begun in 971 BC.

The key verse that ties all of this together is 1 Kings 6:1 – “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites left Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, during the month Ziv (the second month), he began building the LORD’s temple.” As the first year of Solomon’s reign was the time from him beginning to reign until 365 days had passed, the fourth year of his reign were those events which began at the third anniversary of his ascending the throne. He began to build God’s temple in the 2nd month, so it was just over three years after his reign began.

So, if we take away 3 years from 971 BC, we have Solomon beginning the temple in the year 968 BC. As Israel left Egypt 480 years before this, we find the Exodus took place in 1448 BC.

This, then, helps to date the subsequent events following the Exodus and through the time of Joshua. As the judges were only called up by God as the nation needed them, there isn’t a back-to-back chronology that we can use to help us get through that period. Using the date of Solomon’s death we can extrapolate backwards to date the reigns of David and Saul and place approximate dates on Samuel’s work.

Although we wish this would help identify the Pharaoh of the time of the Exodus, the Egyptian records seem to be overlapping reigns rather than back-to-back, so identification is at best difficult. Many have written in this area and given their opinions, which can easily be found on the Internet.

One thing we can learn from exercises such as this one, is that the Bible is accurate and those events and people which it records were also real and historical. These aren’t “once upon a time stories” where everyone lived “happily ever after” but events that really happened within an historical time frame.

Readings for next week:
30 November – Exodus 18
1 December – Exodus 19
2 December – Exodus 20
3 December – Exodus 21
4 December – Exodus 22

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