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Lasting Impressions of an Exodus

October 7, 2022, 11:00 AM

This past weekend I watched a production called Patterns of Evidence: Exodus and was very impressed by every aspect of the production. I recognized the filmmaker's Christian bent on the topic, but I very much appreciated his dedication to consideration of all evidences, not just those that best fit his own worldview. He did his best to let the evidence speak for itself.

I had personally encountered the skepticism of modern scholars myself, not about just when the Exodus happened but about whether the Exodus even happened at all. Having previously been a skeptic myself, I was sensitive to this perspective. I've often wondered about the impact the Exodus would have had to those around it, particularly the Egyptian culture, but always heard that the Exodus couldn't have happened because the Egyptian records were devoid of any reference to any element of the Exodus. But I was also told about how ancient cultures would also essentially try to write their enemies into oblivion by erasing them from history and pretending that they never existed.

For a while I wondered whether leaders of Egypt subsequent to the Exodus would have taken their queues from the loss Egypt experienced during the Exodus and whether those queues could be detected by some historical forensics. It made sense to me that at least some of Egyptian culture within a hundred years or so of the Exodus would certainly have been at least influenced by such an event. The fallout would have been too great for it not to. I felt that if any pharaoh within a reasonable timeframe of the Exodus even remotely exhibited a tendency toward monotheism that there would be something there worth considering. Something would have certainly effected his decision to move in such a direction. It didn't take too long for me to find out about pharaoh Amenhotep IV.

Amenhotep IV reigned approximately 1350 BC. He was, in fact, conspicuously monotheistic in a polytheistic world, and lived only within about 100 years after the 1450 BC Exodus date corroborated for 3,000 years by both the Bible and Assyrian history and chronology (which aligns with known astronomical events such as solar eclipses).

Amenhotep IV was supremely monotheistic, so much so that he actually changed his own name to reflect his dedication to this one single God, who he believed to be the disk of the sun - the Aten. The new name he chose for himself was "Akhenaten," meaning "Effective for the Aten." But comments I'd encountered along the way were similar to those that the filmmakers experienced -- Akhenaten's monotheism had to have been just a blip on the historical radar and of no significance. "Conventional scholarship" places the Exodus at roughly 1200 BC, again, if it even happened at all to those scholarly skeptics.

But the biblical date has not changed for more than three thousand years. Known Assyrian chronology corroborates it. And "conventional scholarship" is relatively recent, not to mention constantly changing, with at least four major revisions in the 20th century alone.

I began to wonder whether the Patterns of Evidence: Exodus filmmakers had encountered any information about Akhenaten and the possible correlation between his very sudden and short-lived monotheism and the Exodus. So I reached out to them and received a very quick response. Here is what they had to say:


Hi there!

There is a strong possibility that Akhenaten chose to serve one god because, being the great grandson of Amenhotep II, who was most likely the Exodus pharaoh, he would have heard stories of the Exodus and about Israel's conquest of Canaan which was happening during his lifetime. There are cuneiform tablets that have been found that are called the Amarna letters that provide evidence for this. For example, King Rib-Hadda of Byblos (a city on the coast of Lebanon which was a vassal state of Egypt) wrote to Akhenaten and his father about how the "Habiru" or Hebrews were conquering lands in Canaan.

Akhenaten made drastic changes in Egypt. He closed temples and tried to erase all the major deities that had been worshiped over the past 1,000 years. He tried to get rid of the polytheistic worship of many gods and elevate a single god, the Aten (sun disk). Akhenaten did not depict himself in the classic way of the pharaohs before him. His statues are in a more realistic, natural form. There are engravings of him and his wife Nefertiti playing with their children in the rays of Aten. He also wrote worship songs similar to the Psalms of the Bible, worshiping this single, all-powerful deity.

What made him make all these changes? It's definitely something to keep us thinking! Sadly, the changes did not last because his son Tutankhaten, who changed his name to Tutankhamun (the famous King Tut), changed it all back.

Thanks for the great observations,

~ Lora