The palace of Rameses (Exodus 10)

Illustration: Palace F at Rameses

During their Egyptian sojourn the Israelites lived at Rameses, whether or not the city was called by this name at the time or only later (Genesis 47:11, Exodus 1:11, 12:37). Various Biblical references suggest that a royal residence was located nearby:

  • Pharaoh’s daughter, who regularly bathed in the Nile River, with help of her slave girl discovered the infant Moses in the water in a “basket among the reeds” (Exodus 2:5, Acts 7:20-21).
  • Moses, after having been reared in the palace as a prince, easily wandered to area where the Israelites were labouring (Exodus 2:11).
  • The Israelite foremen were able to meet face-to-face with Pharaoh (Exodus 5:14-15).
  • Moses often held audience with the pharaoh during the plagues, and there is no indication that he had to travel any great distance to do so.

Critics once believed that the royal residence was located in Memphis, the administrative capital of Egypt approximately 121 km southwest of the site of Rameses.

Excavations have revealed, however, that the region where Rameses was likely located served as an important commercial and military centre. During the 1990’s an enormous royal compound was discovered on the southern bank of the eastern branch of the Nile River. Used throughout the Eighteenth Dynasty(ca. 1550-1300 B.C.), the compound consisted of a fortress and a palace. The fortress was constructed on a 61 x 46 m platform approximately 30,5 m from the riverbank. A ramp on the east side led to a gate in a fortification wall, providing ready access to the river. The palace, south of the fortress, boasted thick walls, storage magazines (areas for storing weapons), corridors and even bathrooms. Both structures were located inside a walled compound that included a temple, workshops and a military camp. Mose probably meandered the halls of these buildings, and the pharaoh quite likely mobilized his 600 chariots to pursue the Israelites from this location (Exodus 14:7).

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