A Historical Timeline of the Bible

The Hyksos

At the time of Joseph there were two ruling dynasties in Egypt. Those ruling in the land of Goshen where the Israelites were known as the HYKSOS ( Hihk' sohs ). Racial name from the Greek form of an Egyptian word meaning “rulers of foreign lands” given to kings of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties of Egypt. The word, which does not appear in the Bible, was later misinterpreted by Josephus as meaning “shepherd kings.”

With the decline of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (about 2000-1786 B.C.) large numbers of Asiatics, mostly Semites like the Hebrew patriarchs, migrated into the Nile Delta of northern Egypt from Canaan . These probably came initially for reasons of economic distress, such as famine, as did Abraham (Gen. 12:10). Unlike Abraham, many groups stayed in Egypt as permanent settlers. Under the weak Thirteenth Dynasty, some Asiatics established local independent chiefdoms in the eastern Delta region. Eventually, one of these local rulers managed to consolidate the rule of northern Egypt as pharaoh, thus beginning the Fifteenth Dynasty. The Sixteenth Dynasty, perhaps contemporary with the Fifteenth, consisted of minor Asiatic kings. As these dynasties of pharaohs were not ethnic Egyptians, they were remembered by the native population as “Hyksos.”

While the Hyksos pharaohs ruled northern Egypt from Avaris in the eastern Delta, the native Egyptian Seventeenth Dynasty ruled southern Egypt from Thebes . This period of the Thirteenth to Seventeenth dynasties is known as the Second Intermediate (c. 1782-1570 B.C.) in which the Hyksos were in power (c. 1663-1555 B.C.). The status quo was maintained until war erupted between the Hyksos and the last two pharaohs of the Seventeenth Dynasty. About 1550 B.C., Ahmose I sacked Avaris and expelled the Hyksos. As the first pharaoh of a reunited Egypt, Ahmose I established the Eighteenth Dynasty and inaugurated the Egyptian New Kingdom or Empire. Ahmose I came to power at the age of 10 about 1570 B.C. and ruled until 1546 B.C. His mother was co-regent with him until he was 16 years old.

Joseph's rise to power (Gen. 41:39-45) as pharaoh's second-in-command would have been far more likely under a Hyksos king. Joseph was related ethnically to the Semitic Hyksos rulers, while the native Egyptians regarded Semites with contempt. Ahmose I is very likely the pharaoh “who did not know Joseph” (Ex. 1:8 NRSV). If Joseph served a Hyksos pharaoh, an Egyptian king would not have “known” of him in a political or historical sense, nor would he have regarded him as significant in an ethnic sense.

My chart shows the period of slavery beginning about 1550 B.C. from the time Ahmose I expelled the Hyksos. Israel 's actual time in bondage is more likely about 100 years. Moses was born in 1526 B.C., 80 years before the exodus. The birth of Moses was well after the time after the slavery began. Amenhotep I, a son of Ahmose I, was the pharaoh of Exodus 1:15-22 who commanded the that the male children should be slain. He ruled c. 1551-1524 B.C. Subsequent pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty until the time of Amenhotep II subjected the Israelites to their slavery. Amenhotep II, c. 1453-1419 B.C., was the pharaoh of the exodus.

Here are a couple of internet references about the Hyksos. There are several more.

  1. http://www.mystae.com/restricted/streams/thera/hapiru.html Hebrew Peoples in Egypt , The Invasion of the Hyksos.
  2. http://www.returntoglory.org/Gallery/joseph.htm Joseph , Egypt & the Hyksos.

Peter Clayton's book Chronicle of the Pharaohs has a lot to say about the Hyksos, pp. 93-97.

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