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Egyptian Account of the Leper's Exodus

Below an analysis of the account of Manetho by Redford, and below that is a translation of the parts of the account quoted by Joesphus.  Since the original did not survive, though Tacitus would have had access to it, the most profitable reading would be that of Tacitus rather than Josephus who was hostile to this account.  Nevertheless for the sake of completeness, I have included Josephus’ rendering.  Against Apion can be read at http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/apion-1.htm.  Unfortunately, like most of the work relating to the Bible, the production is slanted by a person of faith, William Whiston.  One of the numerous errors is the presumption, still made today, though not on the bases of usage defendable—translation of Hyksos as Israeli  I have read his work in its entirety in 1994.  Josephus was once the 4th most read book--after Bunyan’s Pilgrim's Progress, the Bible, and the Hymnal .

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Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times
Donald B. Redford

Egypt and the Hebrew Kingdoms

None of this [exodus from Egypt story] suggests a close familiarity with Egypt. . . . It takes little discernment to recognize in the first plot pattern a repeated motif in Egyptian history--Thebes in the south had thrice attempted to spearhead wars of liberation against the north--but in its present formulation the story owes more to the national fervor awakened by the disastrous invasions (or attempted invasions) of the Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian states from 671 to 525 B.C. The second story-type, on the other hand, has deeper roots, although it too was shaped and brought to relevance by the ubiquity of foreign enclaves in Egypt from Saite times on.
As we have them from the Hellenistic age--none earlier have survived--examples show that both plot patterns could be welded into a single tale, athough they also appear separately(97). Certainly the earliest to come down to us in detailHecataeuS of Abdera bears an earlier but imperfect witnessis the account in Manethos "Aegyptica" (first half of the third century B.C.)(98). The bare bones of Manethos account runs as follows:

A. 1. The King (Amenophis/Ilor) desires to see the gods.
2. Amenophis son of Paapis the seer declares he may if he cleanses the land of lepers.
3. The King sends all lepers to the quarries east of the Nile.
4. Amenophis the seer predicts an invasion of thirteen years.
5. Amenophis commits suicide.
6. The lepers ask that they be allowed to live in Avaris.
7. In Avaris the lepers choose as their leader Osarsiph, priest of Heliopolis.
8. Osarsiph makes monotheistic and racially exclusive laws.
9. Osariph invites the Shepherds back to Avaris.
B. 10. The Shepherds return.
11. The King hides the divine images and sends his five-year-old son to safety.
12. The King declines to fight the Shepherds and retreats to Ethiopia.
13. The Shepherds lay Egypt waste.
14. Reiteration of the PN Osarsiph and identification with Moses.
A + B 15. Amenophis and his son Rapsaces drive out the Shepherds.

It is clear that numbers 10-13 with the addition of 15 is but a variant of the lnvasion from-the-North theme. In fact, the details of numbers 12 and 13 point directly to the inspiration of the popular view of events in the seventh and sixth centuries. Both Taharqa and Tanwetaman, as noted, had beat a hasty retreat from Memphis to Nubia, not wishing to engage the Assyrians in battle. And in the slaughter of the sacred animals, the Shepherds emulate the reputed acts of the Persians (99).

But items 1-8 (100) and one form of 15 compose our version of the tale of the unclean ones, and here at least the underlying historical reality can be extracted easily. Amenophis the king (or Hor, a sobriquet) is Amenophis Ill, and his desire to see the gods a folk interpretation of passages from his inscriptions (101). Amenophis son of Paapis is Amenhotep son of Hapu, the historical secretary of labor who served under Amenophis III, gained a reputation for wisdom while he lived, and for over fifteen centuries was revered as a healing demigod.(102) The dispatch of the impure ones to quarries east of the Nile is an etiological explanation of the whirlwind of quarrying and construction that went on during the reigns of Amenophis III and Akhenaten, prominent textual records of which remained on view for all to see. Memorial stelae commemorating the quarry work were inscribed at Tura opposite Memphis in Middle Egypt under Amenophis III (103): and the stela of Akhenaten at Gebel Silsileh is the most prominent monument at the site (104). The text of the latter suggests a magnitude for the operation not much different from that of Amenophiss roundup of lepers: The first occasion when His Majesty issued a command. . . to pursue all work from Elephantine to Sam-behdet, and to the commanders of the army to levy a numerous corvee for quarrying sandstone in order to make the great benden of Re-harakhty . . . the princes, courtiers, supervisors and managers were in charge of its impressment for transporting the stone. The use of the Greek terms lepers and unclean suggests a pejorative in the original Egyptian (or demotic) that in Pharaonic propaganda was customarily attached to undesirable antisocial elements, whether native or foreign. In the present case it seems clear that the devotees of Akhenatens sun cult are the historical reality underlying the lepers, and this is confirmed by the iconoclastic nature of the lepers legislation and the figure of thirteen years for the occupation, which corresponds to the period
of occupation of Amarna(106). Osarsiph moreover is remembered as a priest of Heliopolis. . . .

97 Most will be found translated in M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, vol. 1 (Jerusalem, 1974); see also S. K. Eddy, "The King Is Dead" (Lincoln, 1961); D. B. Redford, Pharaonac King-lists, Annals and Day-books (Toronto, 1986), 281-96.
98 Redford, "King-lists", 282-83.
99 A. T. Olmsread, "History of the Persian Empire" (Chicago, 1948), 89-90.
100 With the exception of 45, which as it now stands anticipates 1013.
101 Redford King-lists, 248-51.
102 D. Wildung, Imhotep und Amenhoeep (Berlin, 1977).
103 Urk IV, 1677, 1681.
104 Urk IV, 1962, Redford, "King-lists", 293, n. 113.
105 I.e., from the First Cataract to the Mediterranean.
106 I.e., eleven full years under Akhenaren and two under Tutankhamun.

Donald B. Redford, "Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times", Princeton University Press, Jew Jersey, 1992.



An account of this tale is found in Jospehus' second Jewish History:  the first, on the Jewish Wars (especially the revolt against Rome), the other Antiquitates Judaicae.  Appended to Antiquitates Judaicae is a rebuttal of this tale in against Appion 

Amenophis desired to become a spectator of the gods, as had Orus, one of his predecessors in that kingdom, before him. He communicated his desire to his namesake Amenophis, who was the son of Papis, and one that seemed to partake of a divine nature, both as to wisdom and the knowledge of futurities.


Amenophis the prophet told him that he might see the gods, if he would clear the whole country of the lepers and of the other impure people. The king was pleased with this injunction, and got together all that had any defect in their bodies out of Egypt. He sent eighty thousand to those quarries which are on the east side of the Nile, that they might work in them, and might be separated from the rest of the Egyptians.


There were some of the learned priests that were polluted with the leprosy, but Amenophis, the wise man and the prophet, was afraid that the gods would be angry at him and at the king, if there should appear to have been violence offered them. Out of his sagacity about futurities he foretold that certain people would come to the assistance of these polluted wretches, and would conquer Egypt, and keep it in their possession thirteen years. However, he dared not tell the king of these things, but left a writing behind him about all those matters, and then slew himself, which made the king disconsolate.


After those that were sent to work in the quarries had continued in that miserable state for a long while, the king was desired that he would set apart the city Avaris, which was then left desolate of the Hyksos or foreign kings, for their habitation and protection; which they had requested he grant them. Now this city, according to the ancient theology, was Typho's city. But when these men were gotten into it, in crowds, and found the place fit for a revolt, they appointed themselves a ruler out of the priests of Hellopolis, whose name was Osarsiph, and they took their oaths that they would be obedient to him in all things.


He then, in the first place, made this law for them; that they should neither worship the Egyptian gods, nor should abstain from any one of those sacred animals which they have in the highest esteem, but kill and destroy them all and that they should join themselves to nobody but to those that were of this confederacy.


When he had made such laws as these, and many more such as were mainly opposite to the customs of the Egyptians, he gave order that they should use the multitude of the hands they had in building walls about their City, and make themselves ready for a war with king Amenophis, while he did himself take into his friendship the other priests, and those that were polluted with them, and sent ambassadors to those foreign kings (Hyksos) who had been driven out of the land by Tefilmosis to the city called Jerusalem; whereby he informed them of his own affairs, and of the state of those others that had been treated after such an ignominious manner, and desired that they would come with one consent to his assistance in this war against Egypt. He also promised that he would, in the first place, bring them back to their ancient city and country Avaris, and provide a plentiful maintenance for their multitude, and that he would protect them and fight for them as occasion should require, and would easily reduce the country under their dominion.


These foreign kings (Hyksos) were all very glad of this message, and came away with alacrity all together, being in number two hundred thousand men; and in a little time they came to Avaris.


Now Amenophis the king of Egypt, upon his being informed of their invasion, was in great confusion, as calling to mind what Amenophis, the son of Papis, had foretold him; and, in the first place, he assembled the multitude of the Egyptians, and took counsel with their leaders, and sent for their holy images to him, especially for those that were principally worshipped in their temples, and gave a particular charge to the priests distinctly, that they should hide the images of their gods with the utmost care.


He also sent his son Sethos, who was also named Ramesses, from his father Rhampses, being but five years old, to a friend of his. He then passed on with the rest of the Egyptians, being three hundred thousand of the most warlike of them, against the enemy, who met them at Pelusium. Yet did he not join battle with them; but thinking that would be to fight against the gods, he returned back and came to Memphis, where he took Apis and the other holy images which he had sent for to him, and presently marched into Ethiopia, together with his whole army and multitude of Egyptians; for the king of Ethiopia was under an obligation to him, on which account he received him, and took care of all the multitude that was with him, while the country supplied all that was necessary for the food of the men. He also allotted cities and villages for this exile, that was to be from its beginning during those fatally determined thirteen years. Moreover, he pitched a camp for his Ethiopian army, as a guard to king Amenophis, upon the borders of Egypt. And this was the state of things in Ethiopia.



But for the people of Jerusalem, they got the granaries of Egypt into their possession, and perpetrated many of the most horrid actions there. When they came down together with the polluted Egyptians, they treated the men in such a barbarous manner, that those who saw how they subdued the aforementioned country, and the horrid wickedness they were guilty of, thought it a most dreadful thing; for they did not only set the cities and villages on fire, but were not satisfied till they had been guilty of sacrilege, and destroyed the images of the gods, and used them in roasting those sacred animals that used to be worshipped, and forced the priests and prophets to be the executioners and murderers of those animals, and then ejected them naked out of the country.


The Egyptians themselves were the most guilty, because it was their priests that contrived these things, and made the multitude take their oaths for doing so.


It was reported that the priest, who ordained their polity and their laws, was by birth of Hellopolls, and his name Osarsiph, from Osyris, who was the god of Hellopolls; but that when he was gone over to these people, his name was changed, and he was called Moses.


After this on the thirteenth year, Amenophis returned back from Ethiopia with a great army, as did his son Ahampses with another army also, and both of them joined battle with the foreign kings (Hyksos) and the polluted people, and beat them, and slew a great many of them, and pursued them to the bounds of Syria.


The goddess Isis appeared to Amenophis in his sleep, and blamed him that her temple had been demolished in the war. But Phritiphantes, the sacred scribe, said to him, that if he would purge Egypt of the men that had pollutions upon them, he should be no longer troubled with such frightful apparitions. Amenophis accordingly chose out two hundred and fifty thousand of those that were thus diseased, and cast them out of the country.


Two scribes Tisithen and Peteseph, Peteseph being a sacred scribe, came to Pelusium, and lighted upon three hundred and eighty thousand that had been left there by Amenophis, he not being willing to carry them into Egypt. These scribes made a league of friendship with them, and made with them an expedition against Egypt. The scribes names were Egyptian originally but were changed, Tisithen to Moses and Peteseph to Joseph.


Amenophis could not sustain their attacks, and fled into Ethiopia, but left his wife with child behind him, who lay concealed in certain caverns. There she brought forth a son, whose name was Messene, and when he was grown up to man's estate he pursued the Jews into Syria, being about two hundred thousand, and then received his father Amenophis out of Ethiopia.

The people of the Jews being leprous and scabby, and subject to certain other kinds of distempers, in the days of Bocchoris, king of Egypt, fled to the temples, and got their food there by begging. As the numbers were very great that were fallen under these diseases, there arose a scarcity in Egypt.


Hereupon Bocehoris, the king of Egypt, sent some to consult the oracle of [Jupiter] Hammon about his scarcity. The god's answer was this, that he must purge his temples of impure and impious men, by expelling them out of those temples into desert places; but as to the scabby and leprous people, he must drown them, and purge his temples, the sun having an indignation at these men being suffered to live; and by this means the land will bring forth its fruits.


Upon Bocchoris's having received these oracles, he called for their priests, and the attendants upon their altars, and ordered them to make a collection of the impure people, and to deliver them to the soldiers, to carry them away into the desert; but to take the leprous people, and wrap them in sheets of lead, and let them down into the sea. Hereupon the scabby and leprous people were drowned, and the rest were gotten together, and sent into desert places, in order to be exposed to destruction.


In this case they assembled themselves together, and took counsel what they should do, and determined that, as the night was coming on, they should kindle fires and lamps, and keep watch and that they also should fast the next night, and propitiate the gods, in order to obtain deliverance from them.


On the next day there was one Moses, who advised them that they should venture upon a journey, and go along one road till they should come to places fit for habitation. He charged them to have no kind regards for any man, nor give good counsel to any, but always to advise them for the worst; and to overturn all those temples and altars of the gods they should meet with. The rest commended what he had said with one consent, and did what they had resolved on, and so travelled over the desert.


The difficulties of the journey being over, they came to a country inhabited, and that there they abused the men, and plundered and burnt their temples; and then came into that land which is called Judea, and there they built a city, and dwelt therein, and that their city was named Hierosyla, from this their robbing of the temples. Still, upon the success they had afterwards, they in time changed its denomination, that it might not be a reproach to them, and called the city Hierosolyma, and themselves Hierosolymites.

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