Discussion of Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

by Anne Habermehl

This article is based on the hard-cover book, Patterns of Evidence: Exodus, A Filmmaker's Journey, that was published in May, 2015, about three months after the movie (film), Patterns of Evidence: Exodus, was first released to theaters (cinemas) in the U.S. The book gives a detailed description of how Timothy Mahoney went about gathering the information that went into the making of the movie. Some of my friends who know that I have studied Egyptian history, and have worked on revision of the Egyptian timeline, wanted to hear what I had to say about Mahoney's work. This is an informal treatment of the subject, and is not referenced closely as in a proper scholarly article. That I may do at a later date.

I note that Answers in Genesis has decided not to sell this book because of some of the discussion in the Forward by Gerald L. Schroeder, who is an old earther. This decision is stated  in the AinG review of this book by Elizabeth Mitchell at https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/book-review-patterns-of-evidence-exodus/ .

Some of the material below is a discussion of Mahoney's work, and some is my own thinking. Readers may have questions and comments, and this article may be revised as time goes on to include more material.

General Thoughts

The overall tone that comes through is Mahoney's belief that there really was an Exodus. Although he interviews scholars on both sides of the fence (he is even handed on this), he sides with the believers on the basis of what he sees as evidences of the Exodus. He does not let the reader lose sight of the importance of the Exodus with respect to the history of the Jews, or indeed, the veracity of the Bible.

It does not take Mahoney long to see that the matter of historical timeline is crucial. Many scholars claim that biblical events like the Exodus did not really take place at all, because these people do not find evidences in what they consider is the right era. Mahoney's willingness to look into the possibility that the Exodus took place far earlier than popularly thought is one of the major themes of the book.

The Effects of the Plagues, the Spoiling of the Egyptians, and the Death of the Egyptian Army

It was an ICC paper that first opened my own eyes to the devastating effects of the plagues1. Perhaps I had never thought very hard about this because I had always known the story of the Exodus since I was a small child. It was one of those familiar Bible stories that formed the backdrop of my life. Now I realized that the devastation caused by these plagues must have totally annihilated Egypt. The Nile river turned to blood, killing the fish; disease killed all the Egyptians' cattle; hail destroyed all the field crops and trees; locusts ate everything left by the hail. The children of Israel plundered the Egyptians of their silver and gold and clothing. And then the cream of the Egyptian army was lost in the Red Sea. The loss of the pharaoh himself was important, because this left Egypt leaderless.

The result had to have been that Egypt descended into pandemonium and utter collapse within a very short time. There had to have been severe famine for some time. We would expect that law and order would have broken down totally.

These are the conditions that we must look for in Egypt's history when determining the date of the Exodus and the pharaoh of the Exodus.

Was Rameses II the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

Mahoney looks carefully at this common belief, fueled by the statement in Exodus 1:11 that the Children of Israel built the cities of Pithom and Rameses. He concludes (and I concur) that Rameses II was far too late in Egyptian history, and besides, nothing about his reign fits the biblical story. One major problem is that there was no collapse of Egypt during Rameses II's reign; he is called "Rameses the Great" because of his achievements. Another problem is that his mummy is with us today, showing that he died of old-age ailments (he died at about 90 years old, according to scholars, an extraordinary age for his time).

Nonetheless secular scholars persist in claiming that the Bible says that Rameses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus, but because they can find no evidences of an Exodus in his time, scripture must be wrong about this, and therefore there was no Exodus at all. What these people do is show us how important it is for us to get our timeline right to have an answer for them.

This means that the mention of a city of Rameses in the Bible needs to be explained. The answer that makes the most sense is that "Rameses" appears to be a later geographical updating, something that we also find elsewhere in scripture.2 At the time of the Exodus, this city was probably called Rowaty, and  later on, when it became the chief city of the Hyksos rulers, Avaris. Then it became Rameses.

David Rohl's  Pharaoh of the Exodus, the Intermediate Period, and the Hyksos

The Mahoney book gives  a lot of mention to David Rohl, who is well known in Britain as author of "A Test of Time" (1995).4 The same book was published in the U.S. as "Pharaohs and Kings."

Rohl is an interesting character, because he claims to be an agnostic, and yet he considers that the biblical Exodus must be a real event that actually occurred. He believes that the Exodus took place toward the end of the 13th Dynasty, because his chosen pharaoh of the Exodus is Tutimaios (Dudimose) (see p. 224 of Patterns of Evidence, p. 284 of A Test of Time). Rohl picks this pharaoh because the Egyptian historian, Manetho, said that "in the time of this pharaoh God smote the Egyptians." Rohl therefore believes that the 10 Exodus plagues took place during the reign of Tutimaios.

When we interpret ancient history, however, sometimes we make assumptions based on our modern thinking. I consider it most likely that the "act of God" that Manetho refers to during the reign of Tutimaios was the arrival of the Hyksos who took over Egypt. The plagues that Manetho talked about were the things that the Hyksos did to Egypt: they burned cities, destroyed temples, enslaved the locals and exacted tribute from everyone. The Egyptians really, really hated the Hyksos.

I believe that Rohl's pharaoh, Tutimaios, would have ruled during the few years immediately following the Exodus, up to the arrival of the Hyksos, when his reign ended. Tutimaios' territory would have been very small (see the next section below).

My Revision of Egyptian Post-Exodus History

As I show in my ICC2013 paper on the Egyptian timeline,3 the 6th and 12th Dynasties had to have ruled concurrently and ended at the same time: when the Exodus took place. This means that the Exodus pharaoh (in this paper I show that it was Amenemhat IV) reigned near the end of the 12th Dynasty, ruling in northern (Lower) Egypt; while at the same time Pepi II near the end of the 6th Dynasty was ruling in southern (Upper) Egypt.  We know that the Exodus pharaoh (in the north) drowned in the Red Sea. Historians do not know what happened to old Pepi II, who had been ruling for just about forever. I consider it possible that Pepi II was a firstborn, and died the night of the 10th plague, as he has no brothers or sisters listed in history. As a side issue, it is probable that Pepi II was a lesser pharaoh who ruled under the auspices of the 12th-Dynasty pharaoh in the north. Egypt has always called itself "the two Egypts," and I think that we  underestimate the importance of this concept. Egypt may have been ruled by two pharaohs for most of its history.

The reason to think that the 6th and 12th Dynasties ruled concurrently is that Egypt collapsed totally at the end of both of these dynasties, and the circumstances are identical. It is amazing that secular historians really think that the same series of events happened twice in Egyptian history! They should study the probability of this.

I am working on the idea that all the pharaohs of the 13th and 14th Dynasties were contemporary, ruling at the same time, because Egypt was fragmented into a very large number of small  pieces, each ruled by minor pharaohs reigning concurrently. This fragmentation would have happened quite suddenly because of the loss of the pharaoh. 

The 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Dynasties of the "First Intermediate Period" also would have ruled concurrently with the 13th and 14th Dynasties of the "Second Intermediate Period." (The 11th Dynasty is uncertain.)

This means that there would have been only one Intermediate Period of chaos in Egyptian history, not two. These dynasties would have all ruled at the same time as the last ruler of the 12th Dynasty, Sobekneferu, who ruled for about 4 years (and whose territory may have been a lot smaller than historians think). At the end of these four years after the Exodus, the Hyksos swept in and took control when Egypt was still powerless from the effects of the plagues and the destruction of the army in the Red Sea.

This is rather different than the standard view of Egyptian history. Even most biblical revisionists accept the common belief that there were two Intermediate Periods, and that the time between the end of the 12th Dynasty and the arrival of the Hyksos was about 125 years. There is an anomaly that they do not seem to realize: if the pandemonium caused by the Exodus is the reason that the Hyksos were able to just walk into Egypt and take over, it does not make sense that this pandemonium would last 125 years; in 125 years Egypt would have revived considerably and would not have been so easily conquered.

Amenemhat IV as the Pharaoh of the Exodus

As I show in my ICC2013 paper,3 the Exodus had to have taken place near the end of the 12th Dynasty, and the pharaoh of the Exodus was Amenemhat IV. The secular date for this is about 1800 BC. This shows a divergence of 350 years from the commonly accepted biblical date of 1450 BC for the Exodus. I will not go further into this here because my ICC paper does so  in detail.

Bietak and the Statue at Avaris

There is a tomb at Avaris in the Delta where a statue was found. Bietak claims the statue was Semitic and must surely be Joseph. Mahoney discusses this in Patterns of Evidence.

As I show in my ICC paper, referenced earlier,3 Joseph had to have been Imhotep, the famous vizier of Egyptian history, who lived much earlier, in the 3rd Dynasty. Joseph would not have lived with the Semitic people at Avaris, because he lived in a house near the grain-selling operation (we know this from the Genesis story about Joseph, when his brothers came before him to buy grain) (Gen. 44:1534). Joseph could not have been the person of the statue because Joseph looked like an Egyptian so much so that his own brothers didn't recognize him (Gen. 42:8). The statue man did not have a beard, which is how Asiatics were usually portrayed by the Egyptians, and this is a bit of a mystery. In any case, I would consider it most likely that the statue represented either a Hykso king (they ruled from Avaris), or a king of the 14th Dynasty that ruled in that area after the Exodus. Furthermore, there is no name on this statue or tomb. Bietak is hanging a lot of speculation on what is essentially a pure guess as to whom the statue represented.

It is known that there were a lot of Semitic people living in Egypt, and had been for many years. "Semitic" covers quite a number of peoples, including (possibly) the Hyksos. We make a mistake if we assume that all Semitic people in Egypt were Hebrews. It appears that Semitic people of some kind grabbed power in the Delta immediately after the Exodus, when Egypt fell to pieces, and ruled in the short time before the Hyksos arrived.

The Ipuwer Papyrus

This ancient manuscript is a long poem that describes chaotic conditions in Egypt. There is contention among scholars, who do not agree on a date for the original manuscript (the Ipuwer papyrus is a later copy); and who do not agree on whether there could be any historical support for chaotic conditions ever existing in Egypt.

In Patterns of Evidence, Mahoney interviews a man who denies that the papyrus could refer to the biblical Exodus. To his credit, Mahoney then points out the similarities between biblical statements about the plagues, and parallel statements in the Ipuwer manuscript. Some of these are the Nile river turning to blood, destruction of crops by hail, large numbers of people being buried, and great wailing in the land. Ipuwer also talks at length about society being turned upside down, with the rich being  in want, and slaves wearing jewels. It is difficult not to see that Ipuwer must surely be describing an Egypt that has fallen into total collapse, with no central authority. Probability says so, because there are too many similarities in this manuscript to be a coincidence.

Some who deny that this papyrus refers to the Exodus do so on the basis of rejecting timeline revisionin other words, they do not accept that the biblical and secular timelines diverge back before about 600 BC. Therefore they claim that this papyrus cannot have anything to do with the Exodus. The Ipuwer Papyrus and timeline revision were the subject of a paper that I presented at the CRS conference in Dallas that was held July 30Aug. 1, 2015. The abstract of this paper is here.

Dating the Fall of Jericho

Jericho enters into this movie because Mahoney feels that the entrance into Canaan and the subsequent conquest need to be evidenced. If it can be shown that the conquest took place, this supports a literal Exodus.

The question of dating the destruction of Jericho is a sticky wicket, as they say in some parts of the world (Americans, this is a cricket term). We are dealing with three differing dates of this major event of the conquest. How so, you say? Let us take a closer look at this.

1. The biblical date for the destruction of Jericho is 40 years later than the Exodus. (There were 40 years of wandering in the wilderness between the Exodus and the conquest.) The Exodus is generally accepted to have occurred about 1450 BC, a date arrived at by internal biblical calculations. This gives a biblical date of about 1410 BC for Jericho's destruction.
2. The famed archaeologist, Kathryn Kenyon, dated Jericho's destruction at 1550 BC. She carbon dated the ash from the burn layer to arrive at this date. There is no shortage of ash in the ruins available for this.
3. If Amenemhat IV was the pharaoh of the Exodus, then the Exodus took place around 1800 BC, according to secular historians. The conquest began immediately after the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, about 1760. This would be the secular date for the fall of Jericho.

We therefore have a biblical date of 1410 BC, a carbon dating date of 1550 BC, and a secular date of 1760 BC.

If the secular date of 1760 BC is so much earlier than the carbon date, how could this be a valid date to consider? None of the sources mention a date this early, and that includes Patterns of Evidence. However, on p. 349 there is discussion of carbon14 dating, and inadvertently the earlier date is supported by the statement that carbon 14 dates tend to come out too young. In other words, Kenyon's carbon 14 date is younger than the secular date that would be arrived at by traditional archaeological dating methods.

Update on these Jericho comments (January 2018). I plan a paper on Jericho, and will propose that the wrong set of walls is being dated and argued by these various people.

How Many Children of Israel Were in the Exodus?

This is one of the bonus topics at the end of the book. I take issue with Mahoney's team of researchers on this. They opt for "eleph" = 1,000, and therefore at least 2  million people (+ the mixed multitude) leaving Egypt.

My reasons for disagreeing:
1. Population experts' calculations of the total population of Egypt at the time of the Exodus.5
2. Population experts' calculations of the total population of the Near East.
3. God's mention to Moses of the peoples in Canaan, and that the Israelites were fewer than any of them (Deut. 7:7).
4. When God made water come out of the rock, were there 600,000 women trying to fill their water pots at the same time? How many animals did each of these families have, that also needed to be watered?
5. The logistics of this many people going through Edom (as Moses wanted to do), or even setting up camp anywhere in the desert, argue against such a huge number of people.

I side with Bryant Wood of ABR on this. He believes that an eleph had to have been a lot less than 1000. It is known that the meaning of eleph only became 1000 in classical times; how many an eleph was back at the time of the Exodus has been lost. Some calculate the total number of the Children of Israel to have been well under 100,000. This would be in keeping with the population calculations for Egypt, Canaan, and the Near East at that time.



1. Aardsma, G.E. 1994. The Exodus Happened  2450 BC. The Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the time I was taken aback by this author's thesis that our Bible's timeline is missing a thousand years. I now know that what he did was claim that the secular timeline was correct and that the Bible was wrong. However, he did show clearly why the Exodus plagues caused the collapse of Egypt.

2. Some examples are: Goshen/Rameses (Gen. 47:6, 11), Zoar/Bela (Gen. 14:2), Laish/Leshem/Dan (Josh 19:47; Judges 18:29).

3. Habermehl, A. 2013. Revising the Egyptian chronology: Joseph as Imhotep, and Amenemhat IV as pharaoh of the Exodus. In The Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This paper is online here:  http://www.creationsixdays.net/2013_ICC_Habermehl_Joseph.pdf  .

4. Rohl, D.  1995. A Test of Time, Vol. I: The Bible From Myth to History. by David Rohl, p. 284 (1995, Random House, London, England).

5. See, for instance, Butzer, K.W. (1976), Early hydraulic civilization in Egypt: A study in cultural ecology (Chicago, Illinois and London, England: University of Chicago), pp. 7698. His estimate of the total population of all of Egypt at the time of the Exodus is about two million.

Original date of this page: July 2015
Updated Dec. 2015

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