A review of Pharaohs and Kings by David M. Rohl

Reviewed by Maurice A. Williams

Pharaohs and Kings
by David M. Rohl
Crown Publishing Group (A division of Random House)
1996, ISBN: 978-0-517-70315-1, 425 pages

Ancient Egyptian names, like Ramesses, Tutankhamun, and Nefertiti are familiar to everyone.  The country Egypt is mentioned often in Scripture along with Joseph and Moses.  Champollion’s deciphering of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics from the Rosetta stone was the key that opened a storehouse of Egyptian history as the Egyptians themselves experienced it.

Scholars were surprised to see so little confirmation of Biblical accounts in the original Egyptian texts.  The city and place names, persons and their titles are so different in ancient Egyptian and Hebrew that scholars, with great difficulty, could match only four events to known dates.  Based on these four dates, historians tried to intermesh all the other events mentioned in Egyptian history.  They then tried to match the dates with events in Biblical history.  However, so little affirmation with Biblical events caused many historians to view the Biblical accounts as myths rather than history.  Debates arose challenging the intermeshing of dates.  In 1952, Immanuel Velikovsky in his Ages in Chaos proposed that Egyptian history is mismatched with biblical history by almost six centuries.  He tried to show that some Egyptian history is repeated: that the same pharaohs appear with different names twice in Egyptian history.

Forty-three years later, David Rohl published Pharaohs and Kings.  Rohl, an eminent Egyptologist, spent twenty years examining the basis for the four pillars (or known dates) in Egyptian history.  Benefitted by recent archaeological research, particularly by a catch of mummified Apis bulls (considered the sacred dwelling place of gods by the ancient Egyptians and carefully mummified when they died) Rohl and others constructed an unbroken line of dates intermeshing when the bulls were alive with the pharaohs who reigned when the bulls lived.

Rohl also found misdating in Egyptian history, some dynasties being parallel rather than sequential, some being repeated.  Of the four “known” pillars, only one is correct.  The misdating amounted to several centuries.  The reason Biblical events do not match Egyptian events is because of the misdating.  Examining a step rocky cliff alongside the Nile where the yearly crests of the river were inscribed and dated with the reign of certain pharaohs, Rohl saw that there were indeed seven years of plenty (because the Nile crested high) and seven years of famine (because the Nile crested low) bringing too little water-rich loam into the Nile valley where crops were grown.  This happened in 1682-1668 B.C.  Rohl was, therefore, able to date when Joseph arrived in Egypt to around 1662 B.C. when Amenenhat III was pharaoh.   Amenenhat III empowered Joseph to be magistrate or vizier administering the storage and distribution of grain.

Amenenhat III had a palace built for Joseph at Tel-el-Daba, Area F.  Rohl found the tomb of Joseph from which the Israelites took Joseph’s bones when they fled Egypt.  Rohl also found a statue of Joseph at the tomb, but the statue was defaced by angry Egyptians during the Exodus.  Finding a solid date for Joseph, Rohl concluded that the Exodus occurred around 1417 or 1450 B.C. when Dudimose was pharaoh.

This intriguing book by David Rohl has many illustrations, photos, and charts that take the reader on a very interesting step-by-step journey through the evidence as Rohl, himself, sorted out the evidence.  Though written by a highly qualified scientist, the book is very easy to understand and fascinating from cover to cover.  This is a “must read” for anyone interested in ancient Egypt and the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt.

About the reviewer:  Maurice A. Williams is an author of inspirational articles and poems and has published a book: Revelation, Fall of Judea, Rise of the Church.  Prior to his retirement, he was Director of Research and Development for a firm that did business all over the world.  He has traveled to many countries himself.  He is also author of technical articles in scientific journals and chapters in technical books.  He has four children and six grandchildren, and lives at home with his wife.  You can visit his Web Site http://www.mauriceawilliams.com