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This Sunday, the Discovery Channel will show Rameses: Wrath of God or Man?, in which a team of archeologists led by professor Kent Weeks will investigate the tomb of the princes of Rameses II, who is believed to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus. One of the findings to be shown on the program is the skull of Amun-her-khepeshef, whom Weeks identifies as the firstborn son of Rameses II. If the identification is correct, could archeology show that the tenth plague killed the Pharaoh's firstborn son?

The tomb in which it was found, KV 5, has already yielded the remains of six sons of Rameses II, and there may be more. In 1995, it was widely heralded as a major discovery when Weeks learned the tomb held much more than was originally thought. Since major archeological discoveries can be tricky, we talked to noted Egyptologist James Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament and ancient near eastern history and archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Hoffmeier is author of Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition.

Is Rameses II generally considered the Pharaoh of Exodus? How would we know?

It depends. Within evangelical scholarship there is a divide over a 15th century date for the Exodus. If it occurred around 1450 BC, that's the 18th dynasty, not the 19th dynasty of Rameses. But there are other groups of evangelical scholars who would take the reference in Exodus 1:11 literally. That says [the Israelites] "built the city of Rameses," which indicates the building of the capital city of Rameses II.

So if you're in this camp within the evangelical scholarly community, then Rameses II is a very good candidate for the pharaoh of the Exodus.

But there's disagreement?

There are those who want to take I ...

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November 2004

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