Amenhotep II, the Egyptian pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty
In the recent Ridley Scott film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Moses confronts the Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses II, with the request that pharaoh let Moses lead the children of Israel. As the Bible tells it:
And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them.
No one knows who the pharaoh was when Moses confronted pharaoh. There is no Egyptian record, and the Biblical record does not name the pharaoh by his Egyptian name. The Ridley Scott film is fiction though. Some modern critical scholars have set a date for the Exodus that corresponds with the reign of Ramses II. However, that later date does not correspond to the traditional date of the Exodus, 1446 B.C., based on the chronology of the Bible itself. Biblical scholars who hold to the traditional date, 1446 B.C., based on the Biblical chronology, believe that Amenhotep II of the Eighteenth Dynasty is a better candidate for the pharaoh of the Exodus. According to the 1994 history “Chronicle of the Pharaohs” by Peter A. Clayton, his reign lasted from 1453 until 1419 BC. [Older histories place the reign later]
Amenhotep II is considered to be the pharaoh who reigned when Moses led Israel out of Egypt for several good reasons. His seventh year coincides with the traditional date of the Exodus, 1446 B.C. And there are two other considerations supporting this view:
(1) most of the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty made Thebes their home, far to the south of the Israelites in Goshen in the Delta, but Amenhotep II had his principal residence in Memphis, in close proximity to the Israelites, readily accessible to Moses and Aaron, and
(2) the best understanding is the Amenhotep II’s power did not pass to his eldest son but rather to Thutmose IV, a younger son.
This is at least implied in the so-called dream stela found at the base of the Great Sphinx near Memphis. This text, which records a dream in which Thutmose IV was promised that the would one day be king, suggests, as one historian says, that his reign came about “through an unforeseen turn of fate, such as the premature death of an elder brother.” It is impossible to prove, but one cannot help but speculate as to whether this premature death was not caused by the judgment of Yahweh, who in the tenth plague struck dead all the firstborn of Egypt, who were unprotected by the blood of the Passover, “from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dugeon” (Exodus 12:29).
Here is the stone sculpture head of Amenhotep II kept in the Brooklyn Museum: