THE 18TH DYNASTY

by Mary Nell Wyatt

First published in newsletter # 3 in 1993)

The data gained from the chariot wheels placed the Exodus at the time of the 18th Dynasty. Amazingly, this is the most well documented group of kings in all of ancient Egypt. A "dynasty", to give a definition, is basically a continuous family line of rulers. 

"A more or less arbitrary and artificial but convenient subdivision of these epochs, beginning with the historic age, is furnished by the so-called dynasties of Manetho. This native historian of Egypt, a priest of Sebennytos, who flourished under Ptolemy I (305-285 B.C.), wrote a history of his country in the Greek language. The work has perished, and we only know it in an epitome by Julius Africanus and Eusebius, and extracts by Josephus. The value of the work was slight, as it was built up on folk tales and popular traditions of the early kings. Manetho divided the long succession of Pharaohs as known to him, into thirty royal houses or dynasties, and although we know that many of his divisions are arbitrary, and that there was many a dynastic change where he indicates none, yet his dynasties divide the kings into convenient groups, which have so long been employed in modern study of Egyptian history, that it is now impossible to dispense with them."  

This quote from "A History of Egypt" by James Henry Breasted (1905) p. 13-14, tells us from the pen of one of the leading authorities on ancient Egypt, that the basis on which the information of ancient Egyptian dynasties rests, is unreliable, yet it continues in use.

The "Hyksos"

This so-called 18th Dynasty consisted of a family who ruled in Thebes. At the time this family came to the throne, it was apparent that other dynastic families were ruling as pharaohs in other areas of Egypt. In the north, or the delta region, there lived at this time a people whom the Egyptians thought of as "foreign"- these included the descendants of Jacob, or the Israelites. It appears that other Asiatic peoples had moved into the region along with them- people who were ambitious and wanted to rule themselves as the Egyptians did. And they did not conform to the Egyptian religion.

We know that the Israelites, by decree of the pharaoh of Joseph's time, were allowed to live as "independents" and that their leaders were considered "royal"- when Jacob died, the description of his funeral was exactly the same as that of the pharaohs: 

GEN 50:2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days. 7 And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.

So, for many, many years the Israelites live peacefully among themselves, setting up their own rulers. And doesn't it seem reasonable to assume that relatives and friends of the Israelites would want to move down to the Delta region with them when they saw what a "garden of Eden" it was there? Well, whether it was friends and relatives, or not, someone moved in and lived along side of them. And these foreigners soon became a "thorn in the side" of the native Egyptians.

At the end of the 17th Dynasty, ancient records tell of the Egyptians in Thebes claiming to expel the "Hyksos" from the delta. Inscriptions document the presence of these "Shepherd Kings" in the delta region beginning with the 6th dynasty and terminating with the 17th.

When the native Egyptian Theban rulers "expelled" the Hyksos, what occurred was that they ran these other peoples who had settled along with the Israelites out of Egypt. And although no mention is made of the Israelites by name, we know that it was at this time, at the beginning of the 18th dynasty, that they were enslaved. With the trouble-making outsiders gone, the peaceful Israelites were at the mercy of the Theban rulers.

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