The most commonly imagined figure in popular culture is Ramesses the Great, although there is no documentary or archaeological evidence that he had to deal with the Plagues of Egypt or anything similar or that he chased Hebrew slaves fleeing Egypt.
In the 1960s and 1970s, several scholars such as George Mendenhall associated the Israelites' arrival in Canaan (many scholars now view the Israelites as native to Canaan) more closely with the Hapiru mentioned in the Amarna letters which date to the reign of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten and in the Hittite treaties with Ramesses II. Most scholars today, however, view the Hapiru or Apiru instead as bandits who attacked the trade and royal caravans that travelled along the coastal roads of Canaan. Ramesses II's late 13th century BC stela in Beth Shan mentions two conquered peoples who came to "make obeisance to him" in his city of Raameses or Pi-Ramesses but mentions neither the building of the city nor, as some have written, the Israelites or Hapiru".
The Bible states that the Israelites toiled in slavery and built "for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Ra'amses" in the Egyptian Delta. The latter is possibly a reference to the city of Pi-Ramesse Aa-nakhtu or the "House of Ramesses, Great-of-Victories"--i.e. ancient Pi-Ramesses (modern day Qantir) --which had been Seti I's summer retreat. Ramesses II greatly enlarged this city both as his principal northern capital and as an important forward base for his military campaigns into the Levant and his control over Canaan. According to Kenneth Kitchen, Pi-Ramesses was largely abandoned from c.1130 BC onwards; as was often the practice, later rulers removed much of the stone from the city to build the temples of their new capital: Tanis. Therefore, if the identification of the city is correct, it strengthens the cases for identifying Horemheb, Ramesses I, or Ramesses II as the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt during Moses' lifetime as construction occurred in Pi-Ramesses during each of their reigns.
His son and successor, Merneptah, mentions in the so-called Merneptah Stele that the ancient Israelites already lived in Canaan during his reign. Merneptah's reference to their destruction, according to Michael G. Hasel, probably refers to the Egyptian military strategy of routing an ethnic group and destroying its grain, instead of the destruction of their offspring or progeny. Merneptah's inscription uses a parallel structure which contrasts the city-states with the Israelites within the territory of Canaan/Kharu. This prompts one to remember that the books of Joshua and Judges both paint pictures of the Israelites as tribes acting independently or in small coalitions against their enemies and wonder how fast they could have coalesced to the point where an ancient and mighty nation such as Egypt would consider them worth mentioning.
A 2006 Canadian documentary Exodus Decoded argues that Ahmose I is the Exodus Pharaoh, given that the title Pharaoh was applied only to Pharaohs after Thutmose III and was used only in place of the throne name of the Pharaoh from the Late Period (for example the Assyrians referred to Per'o).
According to the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an (Koran), an exodus did take place as Moses took his people out of Egypt. The Qur'an also does not name the Pharaoh, but it gives new and interesting information and a slightly different version of events compared to the Bible. The Quran says that the Pharaoh died while he was pursuing Moses, he died by being drowned, and that his body was preserved. It also says that the Pharaoh's wife believed in the one true God of Moses.
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