Pinpointing the exact length of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt is a task that brings with it varying views, strong disagreement among scholars and enthusiasts, and yet the great opportunity to synchronize Israelite and Egyptian history with precision. The two prevailing views are that the Israelites resided in Egypt for 430 years and for 215 years. Apart from genealogies, the term "430 years" appears three times in the Bible (Exod 12:40, Exod 12:41, and Gal 3:17). Conversely, the term "215 years" does not appear in the Bible once, which should be an ominous sign for objective truth-seekers. The proper conclusion about the length of the Israelite pre-exodus residency in Egypt is that it comprised 430 years. I went to great lengths to prove this reality with the publication of my 2019 peer-reviewed journal article entitled, "Determining the Precise Length of the Israelite Sojourn in Egypt" (Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 64 [2019]: 41-61), which is available as a free download from my webpage.

     Given that this article probably represents the most extensive study of the matter yet published, there is no reason to reproduce its contents or rehash the issues here. However, one of the topics within the article deserves a moment of attention here. Recently, several pastors--most of whom graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary--asked me about the validity of a chronological chart produced by Dr. Thom Constable regarding the term "about 450 years" found in Acts 13:17. Constable stretched these years from 1845 to 1395 BC, which makes for exactly 450 years. In the process, he suggested that the period of Israelite slavery in Egypt began in 1845 BC. Yet this valiant effort misses the mark on several matters. Below is my (corrected) version of the chart that my pastor friends received from Constable some years ago.

     The first area of difference between my position and that of Constable is when Jacob's family entered Egypt. I date that event to 1876 BC, whereas he dates it to 1875 BC. The difference is extremely minor, but the reason for preferring 1876 BC is that (1) the exodus is known to have occurred on Friday, 24 April 1446 BC (Petrovich 2021: 23), and (2) the exodus took place exactly 430 years (to the very day!) after Jacob's family entered Egypt (Exod 12:40-41).

     The second area of difference between my position and that of Constable is that whereas he takes the beginning of the "about 450 years" in Acts 13:17 as the start of the Israelite bondage in Egypt, I take it as the year of Jacob's family's entrance into Egypt, as the pre-bondage portion of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt is not to be excluded from the overall timeframe of the sojourn for Luke. Moreover, Constable arbitrarily chose 1845 BC as the year in which the bondage began. On what basis was this date chosen? Who was the king who arose in Egypt who did not know of Joseph (Exod 1:8)? This choice would place the outset of the bondage in the 12th Dynasty, the very dynasty during which Joseph was elevated. It is implausible to suggest that the king of Exod 1:8 reigned within the same dynasty as the abundance pharaoh and the famine pharaoh. This scenario of Constable simply cannot work within Egyptian history, as this alleged king of 1845 BC most certainly would have known who Joseph was.

     The third area of difference between my position and that of Constable is that whereas he took the conquest under Joshua as ending in 1395 BC, I take it as ending in 1400 BC. In my Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society article on the destructions of Hazor under (1) Joshua, then (2) Deborah and Barak (Petrovich 2008: 495, ftn. 26), I attempt to prove that the conquest began in 1406 BC and ended in 1400 BC, as the campaign required six years of work rather than 11 years (per Constable's numbering). The conquest thus ended in the very year that most archaeologists consider to be the final year of the Late Bronze Age Ib in the Levant.

     The fourth area of difference between my position and that of Constable is that while he assigned 400 years to the Israelite enslavement, I assign 114 years to it. The argumentation for this requirement involves a lot of evidence, all of which is found in my Origins of the Hebrews book, so it need not be repeated here, especially given the amount of space that would be required for a small blog entry. It can be summarized here that the bondage began in 1560 BC, the very year in which the native Egyptians of the 17th Dynasty completed the expulsion of the Hyksos and feared that the Israelites would join themselves to the surviving Hyksos who had fled from Egypt and were holed up at Sharuhen, in southern Canaan. The native Egyptian king's (Ahmose) solution to avoid this possibility was to enslave the Israelites.

     For me, there are two possibilities for how to understand the "about 450 years" of Acts 13:17. With option #1, Luke was using the 430 years of Exod 12:40 in his equation for the length of the sojourn, which would end up making the "about 450 years" of the sojourn + wandering + conquest equal to 476 actual years, which is reasonably close to 450 years. With option #2, Luke was using the 400 years of Gen 15:13, which is a rough and non-literal number, in his equation for the length of the sojourn. If this was his intention, the numbers for the sojourn + wandering + conquest would equal 446 rough years, which is extremely close to the 450 years of Acts 13:17. While either option can work for the math, and for me, probably option #1 is more plausible. Why? Luke was a trusted companion of Paul, and Paul's use of the precise number "430 years" (equal to the length of the sojourn) in Gal 3:17 probably would have been forged into Luke's mind, which he would have used for the rough count that he offered in Acts 13:17.

     Someone recently asked why I do not support the idea that the Israelite crossing of yam suf (i.e. the body of water in front of which they seemed to be stuck after the exodus) took place at the Gulf of Aqaba. He then suggested to me that the proper translation of yam suf, which I have translated as "the Sea of Reeds" in my new book, is the Gulf of Aqaba. As a longtime teacher of all levels of biblical Hebrew, I assured him that the correct translation of yam suf is "sea of reeds" (Exod 13:18), no matter what body of water to which someone chooses to connect it. In fact, the possibility certainly does exist that it is a generic term for a body of water that is known for its reeds.

     With that being true, it may be pushing it to say that the use of the biblical term must be associated with only one body of water. Having said that, I want to address the notion of connecting yam suf to the Gulf of Aqaba and connecting biblical Mt. Sinai with someplace in Saudi Arabia, mainly because these errant views are gaining more traction among the untrained and easily influenced. Sadly, the view primarily is promoted by sensationalists and non-specialists who have little to no formal training in biblical studies or in ANE historical studies (including Egyptology and historical geography, the primary fields of importance). I do not know of one credentialed Christian scholar (in the proper fields) who holds to this view.

     This dearth of support from those with formal academic training should say a lot to us. If you were diagnosed with an aggressive malignant cancer, would you choose a botanist or an engineer to treat your life-threatening condition? These sensationalists are like the Pied Piper looking for rats to mesmerize. I eventually may publish on this topic, due to so many people who have contacted me after falling under the spell of the Piper, but I cannot present a complete case here. I can make several useful notes now, though.

     (1) The idea of locating Mt. Sinai in Saudi simply does not by any stretch of the imagination (or historical geography) fit the requirements in Moses’s description of the sea-crossing events or where Mt. Sinai would have been located. One of the main hindrances is the issue of distances described in Moses’s account. The traditional southern-Sinai view also is bankrupt. The only location that fits all of the biblical requirements is along the Trans-Sinai Highway, the road that people routinely used in antiquity to travel from Egypt to Midian. Moreover, to date, Dr. Bryant Wood’s attribution of Gebel Khashm et-Tarif is the only proposed site that fits all of the biblical requirements of Mt. Sinai.

     (2) Even if one decides that “the sea of reeds” should be restricted to one body of water, the Gulf of Aqaba is part of the same body of water as the Gulf of Suez, both of which are part of the Red Sea. Even modern descriptions of the Gulf of Aqaba call it an extension of the Red Sea, so when Solomon refers to Eilat as being on the shore of the sea of reeds (1 Kgs 9:26), it is that same body of water that extends all the way around the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The ancients were not topographically challenged. In greater antiquity, the western side of that extension was connected to the Mediterranean Sea, slowly receding over time (cf. the receding of the Persian Gulf in antiquity). So, make no mistake about it: the ancients knew that the remnants of that earlier waterway extending to the Mediterranean originally were part of the Red Sea (above the Gulf of Suez), remnants such as the Bellah Lakes and the Great Bitter Lake.

     (3) Possibly the world’s #1 historical geographer related to biblical history is Dr. Barry Beitzel, and although he unfortunately is a late-exodus proponent (believing that the exodus occurred in the 13th century BC, instead of in 1446 BC, the correct time), he sufficiently refuted the Aqaba = biblical yam suf in his book, Where Was the Biblical Red Sea? Examining the Ancient Evidence (Lexham: 2020). Here is what he wrote in his conclusion (p. 123): “According to [Glen] Fritz’s hypothesis [#]one, all citations of Hebrew yam suf must solely and exclusively designate the modern Gulf of Aqaba/Elat. It has been my effort here to provide both exegetical and documentary evidence showing this hypothesis to be idiosyncratic and highly doubtful. The hypothesis also flounders in that it largely lacks a substantive, objective evidentiary foundation, and for the most part it stands in polar opposition to both historic and contemporary scholarship across a very wide biblical and theological spectrum within the discipline.”

     So, Beitzel’s extensive evidence and argumentation, as presented throughout the book, effectively refutes the view that the Gulf of Aqaba is the place where the Israelites crossed the waters to escape the Egyptian army. There is a ton more to say about this, including how bizarre it would be to suggest that the Egyptians waited so long before pursuing the Israelites, traveling all of the way across Sinai to the Gulf of Aqaba before reaching the released slaves. I honestly hope that anyone holding to this Gulf of Aqaba = yam suf (and Mt. Sinai is in Saudi Arabia) view holds to it extremely loosely, subjecting it to intense scrutiny in order to expose its flaws.

     On a related note, several years ago I was approached at an annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society by a woman who leads lucrative tours to Saudi Arabia to show enthusiastic Christians all of the alleged evidence that Moses’s followers were there. She knew of my first book, The World’s Oldest Alphabet, and its claim that Hebrew is the world’s oldest alphabetic script and dates back to the 19th century BC. So, she opened up a huge notebook to show me hundreds of pictures of ancient inscriptions from Saudi that she was convinced had to be Hebrew. Basically, she was ready to write me a blank cheque if I would participate in those tours, show people the sites with her, and claim that those inscriptions are Hebrew. I literally viewed every single photo (of the inscriptions) in her notebook, and I determined confidently that none of them is Hebrew. Needless to say, I turned down the offer to join her tours and provide legitimacy to this chaos. The Gulf of Aqaba is not the body of water that the Israelites crossed as the Sea of Reeds after the exodus, and the location of Mt. Sinai is not in Saudi Arabia. Stay tuned for a future post on this topic.

     In January of 2022, reports surfaced in the Arabic-speaking world of a large administrative building excavated along the center of Wadi Naṣb, which is located in southwestern Sinai and was under the control of the Egyptians in antiquity (see red dot below, at Bîr Naṣb). The excavators suggested that the building served as the headquarters for the leader of the Egyptian mining expeditions during the Middle Kingdom (Dynasties 11–13), from ca. 2045–1674 BC or within these parameters.

    Throughout most of their history, the Egyptians launched mining expeditions—primarily for extracting turquoise from rock formations—into southwestern Sinai. The two principal sites for these mines were Maghara and Serâbîṭ el-Khâdim. The nearby site of Bîr Naṣb served as the water source for the miners during their trips to the turquoise mines. The water at Bîr Naṣb primarily was fed by Wadi Naṣb, a seasonal river that remained dry for most of the year.
     The square-shaped administrative building (see image below) consisted of huge blocks of sandstone, while the floor was comprised of stone tiles extending over an area of approximately 225 m2 (2,422 ft2). The building consisted of two floors, and four copper ingots (each weighing up to 3 lbs.) were found to have been left on the second floor. Three copper-extraction caves were discovered in the vicinity of the building, one of whose rooms contained a workshop for processing turquoise.

     During the presence of the Hyksos in Egypt (ca. 1668–1560 BC), the building was looted, with some of its contents destroyed. The building was refurbished and reoccupied during the New Kingdom (ca. 1560–1069 BC), then exploited again during the time of a Medo-Persian king named Cyrus the Great (ca. 559–530 BC), who issued the decree for the Israelite exilics to return to Judah from Babylonia and to rebuild the Temple (Ezr 1:1-4), and whom God called "my shepherd" (Isa 44:28). The excavators found traces of copper-smelting furnaces dating to this period of use. The building also was used during the Roman era, when some internal modifications were introduced to it, including the separation of walls between the halls.
     In some rooms, turquoise-refining workshops were discovered, along with stones used to weigh the turquoise. The mining missions included up to 1,600 men, who served in numerous capacities. Some were studying the geology of the area, while others specialized in smelting minerals, and still others provided food for the expeditionary team. All of these functions are discussed in the ancient inscriptions that document the miners' activities and were discovered in the vicinity of the site.
     The reference to those who provided food for the expeditionary team fits perfectly with the contributions of my own research. Among the proto-consonantal Hebrew inscriptions that are translated in my book, The World’s Oldest Alphabet (Carta: Jerusalem, 2016), is Sinai 377, the world's oldest known alphabetic inscription, which dates to ca. 1840 BC and appears in the form of a steliform panel that was cut into the rock. Sinai 377 (see image below) was discovered by William Flinders Petrie at Wadi Naṣb (on a saddle about 800 m northeast of Bîr Naṣb) in 1905, then rediscovered and published by Georg Gerster in 1961.

     The best translation for this 4-letter steliform text is, “The baker has inscribed (this inscription).” The presence of bakers at Wadi Naṣb should be expected, as they would have needed water to bake bread for the expedition’s entire workforce. The administrative building along Wadi Naṣb thus adds credibility to my translation of Sinai 377 in The World’s Oldest Alphabet, as an inscription about a baker at Bîr Naṣb fits perfectly with an administrative building at Wadi Naṣb that was used by breadmakers to prepare bread for the miners.

     Without a doubt, my favorite letters in the New Testament are affectionately referred to as the prison epistles, which the apostle Paul wrote during his first imprisonment in Rome, probably in A.D. 61. This includes Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. Philippians probably was composed first among them, likely in the middle of the year. The heart and soul of the letter involves Paul's desire to see the church at Philippi resolve the problems that created a lack of unity among them. One of the clearest signs of this problem in the letter is found in 4:2-3, where Paul urges two women in the church (Euodia and Suntuche) to live in harmony in the Lord, signifying that they were not experiencing a harmonious relationship at the time. He then encouraged one believer in the church there to work with these women, who had struggled with Paul in the cause of the gospel, to resolve their conflict.

     Unity is one of those elusive goals that most of us have on our list as something we desire to achieve or maintain, in every possible context. We want there to be unity in our marriages. The relationships in our immediate families seem to be spiraling downward if there is no unity. With our jobs, we struggle to keep going in to work day after day if unity is absent. Relationships with friends or acquaintances that are devoid of unity feel empty and lifeless. Most importantly of all, if we are not experiencing unity in our relationship with God, nothing in life appears to be completely in order. Unity is indispensable, and something we long to preserve. Yet, what is the secret to restoring unity when it is absent?

     Sadly, we often search for unity in all of the wrong ways. Sometimes, we try conflict-avoidance, but this is the emptiest of one-way streets, as if the problem(s) just naturally will resolve itself or go away. Other times, we attempt to ram our perspective down the throat of the person we love or with whom we want to be at peace. This route only moves us further away from achieving unity with that person. We even try sitting down with the person and talking through the issue completely, only to experience frustration when a genuine attempt at resolution simply ends up bearing no fruit because the conflict was not resolved. So, how in the wide world are we to experience unity, when all else fails?

     The answer is found within the heart and soul of the book of Philippians, where Paul makes the singularly most important point within the letter. In fact, the central theme for the entire book answers the question squarely and uniquely, as there is no other possible way to achieve unity than this. What is the theme of Philippians and the answer to the critical need in our relationships? The answer is this: unity comes only through humility. There is no other way. None. Where is this found in the book, and how is it to be fleshed out, you ask? Aha, with that sincere question, now we truly can get somewhere!

     The first sign of the theme is in 1:27, where Paul says that whether he comes or remains absent from the Philippian believers, they must stand firm in one spirit, laboring together for the faith of the gospel, literally in one soul. But how do they stand firm in one spirit? How can they work together in one soul, especially if conflict arises? These questions are answered for the readers in 2:2, when Paul says that he wants them to fill up his "joy, in order that they might think the same thing" as one another. He repeats this statement in 2:5, where he says, "Think this thing among you . . .". So, the solution for achieving and maintaining unity is for us to think the same thing as one another. That sounds wonderful, of course, but how can two completely different people, perhaps with totally different upbringings, think the same thing as one another? Is Paul implying that we should be robots programmed to act identically?

     I lived in Russia for about 10 years, starting in 1998, which is after the era of communism officially had ended. During the time of communism, Russia's citizens were encouraged to think the same thing, and that thing centered around Marxism and communistic ideals, an ideology that failed and eventually led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Workers were encouraged not to work any harder than the person next them in the factories or offices, and disciplined if they did. Citizens were to have the same perspective on politics, religion, and culture. Dissenting from the norm often led to catastrophic consequences: possibly imprisonment, a trip to the gulags in Siberia, or even worse, all in the name of thinking the same thing and striving after national unity.

     However, this is not what Paul meant when he spoke of thinking the same thing. Instead, he was talking about something completely different, and he illustrated the concept with the examples of Jesus, himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, all as he worked his way through Philippians 2. How did Jesus model this? Although he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be held onto tightly. Instead, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and coming into this world in the likeness of mankind. Moreover, he humbled himself, becoming submissive to the point of death, and even death in a cursed way, by dying on a cross (2:5-8).

     Why did he endure all of this? Ultimately, his highest priority was to reconcile mankind to God the Father, because we were at war with God. He knew that the only way to accomplish this was to come to earth as a man and die a sacrificial death as a sinless person who never once yielded to temptation, allowing him to become a worthy sacrifice so that his father would take out his wrath on Jesus, rather than on us. In other words, Jesus had to lose his life for us to gain eternal life with God. Just as Paul said, "thinking the one thing" means "______ing nothing according to selfishness or according to conceit, but in humility of mind regarding one another as being held above yourselves" (2:2b-3).

     We are not acting selfishly, thinking selfishly, talking selfishly, or anything else. So, if we want to reacquire unity in a relationship with someone else with whom there is a lack of harmony, the only way to achieve it is to humble ourselves before this person, which demonstrates that we value that person more than we value ourselves. While I was living in Russia, I observed a perfect way in which people on two different sides of an issue can accomplish unity by an act of humility. I invite you to listen to this example, which is recorded on a sermon I preached at a church near Dallas in November of 2021. Here is the link that will take you to that sermon:

     Unity in earthly relationships occurs only when both people go on humbling themselves before the other person, which in itself demonstrates how they are thinking the same thing (2:2). Is there one or more relationships of yours that lack peace or are surviving without unity? Does this lack of unity eat you up inside like an invisible cancer? Are you desperately willing to do anything to bring about unity between you? If so, perhaps the step that needs to be taken is in your hands, not the other person's hands. If you want that person to think the same thing as you, namely that you value him/her as being more important than yourself, you almost certainly need to find a way to humble yourself before that person, doing anything possible to show that person how greatly you value him/her. Just give it a try.

    For the first post on this blog, I am uploading a link (below) to the 2013 peer-reviewed journal article I published on Nimrod of Genesis 10. This article is the most viewed document I have uploaded to my webpage, bar none. As of November of 2021, the article has received over 14,500 hits. The popularity of this article stuns me to this day. Many people obviously find Nimrod to be a fascinating character. Typical published translations of the passage in which the story of Nimrod is found (Gen 10:7-12) contain numerous imprecise renditions of how the Hebrew text reads.

    For example, most published English versions state in Gen 10:8 that "Cush became the father of Nimrod." However, Gen 10:7 lists the 5 sons of Cush, and Nimrod is not included among them. In my article, I demonstrate that the Hebrew verb (yalad), which describes the Cush-Nimrod relationship in Gen 10:8, sometimes is used in the Hebrew Bible not of a father-son relationship, but of an ancestor-descendant relationship. The context demands that Gen 10:8 is one of those times. Therefore, a better translation of the Hebrew wording here is that "Cush sired Nimrod" (i.e. was his distant progenitor).

    For another example, most published English versions suggest in Gen 10:9 that Nimrod "was a mighty hunter before the Lord." On a minor note, the word "Lord" (Hebrew adonai) is not the word used in the original text. Rather, the covenant-name of God is used, which is translated best as "He-who-is," or "The-one-who-goes-on-existing," as the masculine, singular participle derives from the "to be" verb. The emphasis of the substantival participle here is on the ongoing eternal existence of God, which is one of the most pertinent incommunicable (i.e. non-transferable [to mankind]) attributes that God possesses.

    Of more vital note to the article, the Hebrew word translated by many as "hunter" is a terrible choice in Gen 10:9. In the article, I explain that the word actually means "foodstuff." Of course, Nimrod could not have become a powerful foodstuff. Instead, a Semitic (actually Ugaritic) cognate for the Hebrew word means "slaughter, sacrifice." A Punic construct of this term is "sacrifice of slaughtering," meaning that the focus not only could be on the sacrifice, but the slaughtering of the sacrificial life-form. This implies that the ANE (ancient Near Eastern) word can refer to the person performing the slaughtering. For this reason, a far more preferable translation of Gen 10:9 is that Nimrod "became a powerful slaughterer in the sight of He-who is." It is almost comical that the tantalizing and thrilling word "hunter" typically appears here in translation, as the implication is that Nimrod was a resourceful expeditioner who tracked and hunted down exotic animals in his leisure time. Instead, the context reflects how Nimrod was an empire-builder, one who violently exploited his tyrannical power by slaughtering innocent residents of the many cities that he conquered along his way to renown.

    The article then goes on to critique three false views of Nimrod's historical identity: Ninurta (the Sumerian god of war), Amenhotep III (an Egyptian king of Dynasty 18, whose rule began two years before the Israelites first entered Canaan under Joshua), and Gilgamesh (a supposed King of Uruk). After this, the article argues for the proper identity of Nimrod as Sargon of Akkad, the first king of the Akkadian Empire, who also represents the world's first empire-builder. Archaeological and epigraphical (i.e. written) evidence is utilized to draw amazing parallels between biblical Nimrod and historical Sargon. The hope is that the blog viewer will consider reading the entire case for identifying the biblical figure of Sargon with Sargon of Akkad, which lends credence to the reliability of the biblical text by connecting a previously unrelatable character of early biblical history with a known person. Enjoy!

Identifying Nimrod of Genesis 10 with Sargon of Akkad by Exegetical and Archaeological Means