A breakdown of ancient Egyptian history (Exodus 11)

Illustration: Pharaoh Tutankhamun ruled in the 18th dynasty

It is helpful for understanding the history of ancient Egypt to divide this enormously protracted timespan into shorter, more manageable segments. Following the lead of a third-century B.C. Egyptian historian named Manetho, Egyptian history is typically divided into 30 dynasties.

Pre-Dynastic Egypt (prior to 3000 B.C.)

During this era regional societies and cultures began to emerge. Agriculture, pottery making and the construction of stone monuments were well established by the end of this period. Loose confederations eventually gave way to more centralized power.

Archaic Egypt (First and Second Dynasties 3000-2700 B.C.)

Meni (or Menes), a semi-legendary ruler from southern Egypt, established the First Dynasty. Memphis became the capital city, and the pharaohs were preoccupied with holding together their extensive kingdom. Hieroglyphics, the distinctive Egyptian style in art and writing, became well established.

Old Kingdom Period (Third through Sixth Dynasties 2700-2160 B.C.)

The pyramids and the great sphinx were built, the study of medicine flourished and works such as the Proverbs of Ptahhotep were produced. Pharaohs ventured outside Egypt on military campaigns to the Sinai and Libya.

First Intermediate Period (Seventh through Tenth Dynasties 2160-2010 B.C.)

Central authority collapsed, dynasties competed and local lords held sway in various areas. This period produced significant works of pessimistic literature.

Middle Kingdom Period (Eleventh through Twelfth Dynasties 2106-1786 B.C.)

The pharaohs reestablished central authority, and Joseph’s administration brought much Egyptian land under the pharaoh’s direct control (Genesis 47:13-26). Some historians, in fact, suggest that Joseph played a significant role in bringimg about the end of Egyptian feudal power.

Second Intermediate Period (Thirteenth through Seventeenth Dynasties 1786-1550 B.C.)

Centralized authority again collapsed. Dynasties Fifteen and Sixteen were Hyksos (ruled by Semitic rulers who took control of Lower – northern – Egypt). The relationship of the Hyksos to the exodus is much debated.

New Kingdom Period (Eighteenth through Twentieth Dynasties 1550-1069 B.C.)

Established by Ahmose, who drove out the last of the Hyksos, the powerful New Kingdom became an empire reaching through Canaan into Syria. Each of the two greatest pharaohs of this time, Thutmose III (ca. 1479-1425 B.C.) and Rameses II (ca. 1279-1212 B.C.), has been suggested as the pharaoh of the exodus. Although Thutmose III fits reasonably well with Biblical chronology (Judges 11:26, 1 Kings 6:1), Rameses appeared too late for this scheme.

Third Intermediate Period (Twenty-first through Twenty-fifth Dynasties 1069-656 B.C.)

A considerable weakened Egypt entered this era. At times there were rival pharaohs, and in other instances outsiders ruled. Even so, vigorous rulers did come to power, including the Libyan pharaoh Sheshonk I (ca. 945-924 B.C.) – the Shishak in 1 Kings 14:25.

Remaining ancient Egyptian historical periods onclude the Saite-Persian period (Twent-sixth through Thirtieth Dynasties 654-332 B.C., a “Thirty-first Dynasty” is sometimes included), the Ptolematic Period (332-30 B.C.) and the Roman Period (after 30 B.C.).

During the Roman Period Egyptian power was briefly ascendant again under Saite rulers (who ruled from Sais, in the western delta). Hoping to curb the raising power of the Babylonians and the Medes, the Saite Neco II (ca. 610-595 B.C.) drove his army north through Israel, defeating and killing King Josiah of Judah in the process (2 Kings 23:29). Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Neco II at Carchemish (605 B.C.) and drove him back into Egypt. Mo longer a formidable power, Egypt was annexed into the Persian Empire by Cambyses in 525 B.C. The subsequent fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great led to the Greek takeover of Egypt in 332 B.C. After Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. , Ptolemy I (a Greek general) seized Egypt, and his dynasty ruled until the death of the last Ptolemaic ruler, the famous Cleopatra VII (ca. 52-30 B.C.) After that, Egypt became a Roman province.

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