The Expulsion of the Hyksos

Tel Habuwa excavations reveal the conquest of Tjaru by Ahmose I

“After the conclusion of the treaty they left with their families and chattels, not fewer than two hundred and forty thousand people, and crossed the desert into Syria. Fearing the Assyrians, who dominated over Asia at that time, they built a city in the country which we now call Judea. It was large enough to contain this great number of men and was called Jerusalem.”
Against Apion 1.73.7, quoting Manetho’s Aegyptiaca

Excavations at Tel Habuwa, thought to be ancient Tjaru, reveal evidence of the expulsion of the Hyksos by Ahmose I at the end of the Second Intermediate Period.

In the Second Intermediate Period (18th-16th centuries B.C.E.), towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age, the West Asian (Canaanite) Hyksos controlled Lower (Northern) Egypt. In the 16th century, Ahmose I overthrew the Hyksos and initiated the XVIII dynasty and the New Kingdom of Egypt.

Recent archaeological discoveries at Tel Habuwa (also known as Tell el-Habua or Tell-Huba), a site associated with ancient Tjaru (Tharo), shed new light on Ahmose’s campaign. A daybook entry in the famous Rhind Mathematical Papyrus notes that Ahmose seized control of Tjaru before laying siege the Hyksos at their capital in Avaris.

Josephus identifies the Israelite Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos “shepherd kings.” Read more about archaeological evidence for the Israelites in Egypt and new scholarship on the Exodus in our FREE eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus.

Excavations at the site, located two miles east of the Suez Canal, have uncovered evidence of battle wounds on skeletons discovered in two-story administrative structures dating to the Hyksos and New Kingdom occupations. The site showed evidence of burned buildings, as well as massive New Kingdom grain silos that would have been able to feed a large number of Egyptian troops. After Ahmose took the city and defeated the Hyksos, he expanded the town and built several nearby forts to protect Egypt’s eastern border. Tjaru was first discovered in 2003, but until now, the excavation only uncovered the New Kingdom military fort and silos. This new discovery confirms a decisive moment in the expulsion of the Hyksos previously known from textual sources.

Tomb painting from Beni Hasan, Egypt. A figure named Abisha and identified by the title Hyksos leads brightly garbed Semitic clansmen into Egypt to conduct trade. Dating to about 1890 B.C.E., the painting is preserved on the wall of a tomb carved into cliffs overlooking the Nile at Beni Hasan, about halfway between Cairo and Luxor. In the early second millennium B.C.E., numerous Asiatics infiltrated Egypt, some of whom eventually gained control over Lower Egypt for about a century and a half. The governing class of these people became known as the Hyksos, which means “Rulers of Foreign Lands.”

The Hyksos are well known from ancient texts, and their expulsion was recorded in later ancient Egyptian historical narratives. The third-century B.C.E. Egyptian historian Manetho–whose semi-accurate histories stand out as valuable resources for cataloging Egyptian kingship–wrote of the Hyksos’ violent entry into Egypt from the north, and the founding of their monumental capital at Avaris, a city associated with the famous excavations at Tell ed-Dab’a. After the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt, Manetho reports that they wandered the desert before establishing the city of Jerusalem.

While Josephus cites Manetho’s history associating the Israelites with the Hyksos, many modern scholars see problems with Manetho’s conflation of the expulsion of the Hyksos and the Biblical narrative. Manetho lived many centuries after these events took place, and he may have combined two different narratives, wittingly or unwittingly, when associating the Hyksos and Israelites. Ahmose’s defeat of the Hyksos occurred centuries before the traditional date of the Exodus. In addition, the basic premise of the Hyksos and Exodus histories differ: the Hyksos were expelled rulers of Egypt, not slaves, and they were forced out, not pursued.

The expulsion of the Hyksos may not have been a single event, and many still read Manetho’s texts on the Hyksos expulsion as a record of the Israelites’ Exodus. After the Hyksos were defeated by Ahmose, some Hyksos people likely remained in Egypt, perhaps as a subjugated class. The Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut (1489–1469 B.C.E.) recorded the banishment of a group of Asiatics from Avaris, the former Hyksos capital. While this second expulsion would still have been centuries before the traditional date of the Exodus, there may exist parallels between these events and the Exodus narrative, or the earlier Biblical accounts of Abraham, Sarah and Lot’s own expulsion from Egypt in Genesis 12:19.

Read more about the discoveries at Tel Habuwa.

Watch full-length lecture videos by top Exodus scholars, including Hyksos capital excavator Manfred Bietak, online for free.


More on the Mediterranean Bronze Age in Bible History Daily

Who Were the Minoans?

The Last Days of Hattusa

Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought


Related Content in the BAS Library

James K. Hoffmeier, “Out of Egypt,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2007.

Jack Meinhardt, “Look on My Works: The many faces of Ramesses the Great,” Archaeology Odyssey, September/October 2003.

Hershel Shanks, “An Ancient Israelite House in Egypt?Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1993.

Aharon Kempinski, “Jacob in History,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1988.

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  1. Mervyn says

    The Hyksos – a Greek word – were the people known to the Egyptians as Amu, and to the Israelites as Amalekites.
    When the Israelites were leaving Egypt under Mosesand were heading south-east., they were attacked by the Hyksos who were heading west from Arabia.
    Since the total destruction of the Pharaoh and his army at the Reed sea, the Hyksos were able to enter a chaotic Egypt and seize control of what was left after the ten previous disasters known as the 10 Plagues probably caused by the terrific eruption of the island of Thera (Santorini).
    That was about 1550 BCE.
    The much later destruction of the Hyksos by Ahmose was made possible by the alliance with King Saul of the Israelites whp provided that ” help from a foreign prince” mentioned by Ahmose. The Hebrew Bible gives a detailed account of that great battle which changed the face of the region, leaving only the Philistines left of the Hyksos-Philistine axis.
    The following 18th Dynasty of Egypt was very friendly to Israel ending with the death of the “queen of Sheba”, Hatshepsut in King Solomon’s time.

  2. ralph says

    Interesting. I note that with the Hyksos Exodus, we have a goup of people who were:

    They were called shepherds.
    They wore earrings and curly sidelocks of hair.
    They were circumcised.
    There was darkness and storms for three days (see the Tempest Stele)
    There was an ashfall, with the air thick enough to kill people (eruption of Thera)
    There was a battle (a civil war) with the Egyptians.
    Tribute of gold, cloth and oil was given to make the shepherds leave (see the Tempest Stele)
    They left from Pi Rammase (same as Avaris)
    Some 500,000 of the Hyksos shepherds went on the Exodus.
    There was a tsunami (eruption of Thera).
    They went to Jerusalem (see Manetho)

    Does that not sound familiar?


  3. D says

    Manetho’s misidentification of the Hyksos with the Israelites is one of the ancient origins of anti-semitism.

    We don’t know where the Hyksos went, and maybe they were Amalek. But they certainly didn’t go to Jerusalem.

  4. JOHN says

    Ralph sounds correct.

  5. Ric says

    The dependence on Josephus, I suspect is a big problem in solving the massaged and kernel promoted by modern Biblical Archaeology. It might have sufficed for 1st century AD scholars and perhaps those up to the 20th century, but in the 21th with so much more archaeological evidence and understanding. I can’t accept any work that is promoting history according or referencing Josephus, I am sorry.

  6. Adam says

    Josephus left us vast amounts of information and it is not reasonable to reject it altogether. However, he and Manetho seem to have been wrong in conflating the Hyksos with the Israelites. The Hebrews were apparently slaves in Egypt; the Hyksos were rulers/elites. The Hebrews seem to have left Egypt during a time of extraordinary natural disasters; the Hyksos seem to have entered Egypt during the same time of catastrophe–the blast of divine or heavenly displeasure mentioned by Manetho-Josephus. This would explain how the Hyksos took over Egypt–they took advantage of Egypt’s weakened condition. I suggest reading ‘Ages in Chaos’ by Velikovsky (a great pioneer, despite his errors) to see many reasons for identifying the Hyksos with the Amalekites. Early Islamic historians mentioned Amalekite pharaohs of Egypt.

  7. Yoram says

    There is obviously a deep confusion that stems from the analysis of a text that is mythical, homiletical, political and historical simultaneously. (ie – the Bible!!!)

    Having said that, I would offer the following:

    The expulsion of the Hyksos is a MAJOR event in Egyptian history. Whether it coincides precisely with the Thera eruption or not, it nevertheless presents a milestone event in the history of that people.

    There is simply no other event on record that could be identified as the actual Exodus of the Bible without resorting to all sorts of apologetics. The Exodus described in the Bible is not some minor slave revolt or rebellion. It is not an event that could be categorically ignored by later Egyptian historians and chroniclers. To be the Exodus of the bible it has to be a major, epoch shifting event for the Egyptian State.

    Having said that – the real question is in understanding the relationship of the Israelites to the Hyksos.

    The term Hyksos has been loaded with derogatory connotations since it was first mentioned in the classical literature. There is obviously a reluctance to associate the cursed Hyksos with the pure lamb of Israel. But we need to see beyond that.

    I propose the following hypothesis:

    As the Egyptian State reorganized itself into the command structure of the 12th Dynasty, famine swept through the near east causing the mass migration of pastoralist peoples into the Nile Delta region. (that’s nothing new)

    Eventually these pastoralists outnumbered the local Egyptian population, a struggle ensued and these pastoralists became the new masters of Lower Egypt.

    These pastoralists, however, did not remain pastoralists, but rather, they became thoroughly Egyptianized. The Hyksos (ie shepherd-king/foreign-king) state was built on the exact same principles as the 12th Dynasty state – one based on the mass enslavement of the population to a supreme central authority.

    The slaves of the Hyksos regime were obviously, from amongst the descendants of the original migrants – the same origin as the ruling class.

    ie – the “Israelites” were both the evil Hyksos rulers and their poor oppressed slaves.

    Because more than a history – the Bible is politics – and revolutionary politics at that. It is at its core an argument for a different mode of social organization – and Egypt sits as the paradigm of the most despotic system imaginable.

    The slavery that the Bible describes in the Egyptian system is not really some special situation in Egyptian history – rather – it is the default position of Egyptian history. the slide of the Israelites into slavery, while depicted as a vicious and calculated plot of an evil mastermind, was actually the inevitable result of remaining within the Egyptian society.

    With each passing generation the community becomes more assimilated and beyond the loss of so called cultural values – language, dress, etc, comes the streamlining into the bureaucratic state machine. Which means a few individuals will become the ruling landed class, and the rest will be sold off their land into permanent destitution.

    That is Egypt.
    That is civilization.
    That is the slavery that the Bible describes.
    That is the mode of social organization that the Bible’s legal structure years to overturn.

  8. Venice says

    I think Yoram makes a good point. What I would like to know is, which God did the Hyksos worship? I also read somewhere that the great pyramid in Egypt was built by the Hyksos as an alter to YHWH. I have been reading lately about biblical characters originally being Egyptian, if there is any truth in this, then this is where it may have originated from. After all Moses did rule in Egypt and so did Joseph, it’s a very interesting discussion.

  9. Venice says

    I just thought you might find this interesting.

    “The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt” by Shaw and Nicholson, British Museum Press, 1995


    CA 1860-1430 BCE

    First wave of Hyksos (Israelites) enter country
    Joseph is made Grand Vizier
    Second wave of Hyksos (Israelites)
    Title to all land acquired by Pharaoh
    People become slaves
    20% tax on all produce imposed
    Best land allotted to Hyksos (Israelites)
    Hyksos (Babylonians) invasion
    Set up headquarters at Avaris
    Retain Hyksos (Israelites) administration
    Egyptians revolt
    Hyksos (Babylonian) army driven out
    Hyksos (Israelites) made slaves
    Hyksos (Israelites) flee the country

  10. archeological says

    Why would a ruling or elite nation falsify a history with themselves de-glorified as slaves?
    And why would The Egyptians record a slave nation as rulers/elites?

    Maybe the second question could be answered, but the first seems more difficult. Maybe recording slaves as powerful would lessen the embarrassment of a defeat or loss of a slave population.

    Maybe even the first question could be made to agree with the Bible if it was referring to the beginning of Israelite settlement, as the first Pharoah is described as honoring them.

  11. Mervyn says

    When Moses and the Israelites left Egypt (The Exodus) they were travelling roughly eastwards. The were attacked by the Amalekites (Arab tribal group) travelling westwards towards Egypt. They were Arabs from Arabia and were the the Amalekites called Amu by the Egyptians but later called Hyksos by the Greeks. They were able to enter mighty Egypt and take over simply because Egypt had just been laid waste by the Ten Plagues – the same disasters which allowed the Israelites to flee Egypt. Dr Velikovsky has explained all this 50 years ago in his book “Ages in Chaos” . Ahmose was “the Egyptian Prince” who was an ally of King Saul when he besieged Avaris (el-Arish). As a result, Egypt and Israel were allies for a very long period. The Philistines were foreign to the area and were allied to the Amalekites and lasted longer before being finally defeated by King David and being absorbed into the Israelite people. The Hebrew period of “Judges” was the same period that the Hyksos ruled Egypt.. Queen (Sheba) Hatshepsut was a contemporary of King Solomon who visited the “Wise King of Punt” (Holy Land) and became his lover and whose son became Regent of the Egyptian province of Ethiopia and that dynasty lasted until well into our own lifetime. That dynasty bore the title of Lion of Judah even though they became Christians. If you get the dates all correct then you will have various histories co-ordinated and synchronised with the Hebrew Bible.

    Mervyn Kersh

  12. Stephen Ray says

    IF the Hyksos were “Shepherd Kings” and the Egyptian memory of them being traumatic, perhaps this is the source of the mistrust that the Egyptians had for the Hebrews under Jacob that Joseph seemed to mention when the Egyptians ate seperately from the Hebrews.

  13. Richard says

    I think things are very clear Abraham left Babylonia because of his discrepancies regarding idol worship with King Nimrod because he was a Noahide that followed the seven laws given by God to Noah after the deluge. He left with Eliezer the Babylonian King son with could be interpreted as a support of the King to Abraham because nothing happened in Babylonia unless approved by the King that was very powerful, Then he goes to Canaan current Palestine and descends to Egypt for food telling the Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister after discovering the truth he asks Abraham to leave the country and gives him Aghar his daughter as his maid servant, having a son with her Ishmael. So the two most powerful Kings of the world gave him his son and daughter respectfully that could mean that they supported him in his mission of spreading the seven laws of Noah in all the region. The Amalekites descended directly from Amalek the son of Timna that was rejected by Jacob and that had to marry her father where the hate against the tribes of Jacob began and then when they left Egypt under the leadership of Moses that was a Pharaoh probably Aknaton that changed the Egyptian religion from polytheism to monotheism was ambushed by them.

  14. Bruce says

    I am happy to see others citing Velkovsky, as his research of other civilizations from around the world, proves that a major cosmic disaster happened circa 1495 BCE. This is the date of the Exodus, when the Israelites left Egypt, as can be calculated by working back from 587/6 BCE – the known date of the Babylonian conquest of Judah.
    As previous posters have said, this disaster allowed the Hyskos [Amalekites] to take over Egypt.
    It was King Saul who defeated the Amalekites, much later. 1 Samuel 14:48

  15. Eve says

    I place Joseph becoming vizir under Ahmose I after he ousted the Hyksos (which means “foreign rulers”). I think the Hyksos were miners originally from Byblos, who desired home cooking and so they became shepherds. Since the southern Egyptians were oppressed by these shepherd kings, they hated shepherds. Joseph made a point of this to his brothers when they arrived.

    “31And Joseph said to his brothers, and to his father’s house, I will go up, and show Pharaoh, and say to him, My brothers, and my father’s house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come to me; 32And the men are shepherds, for their trade has been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have. 33And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? 34That you shall say, Your servants’ trade has been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” (Genesis 46:31-34)

    Also, Tell el-Daba (Avaris) has dozens of large temporary silos after the conquest of Ahmose I.
    I place Rameses I as the pharaoh of the exodus.

  16. Kurt says

    As The Encyclopedia Americana (1956, Vol. 14, p. 595) says: “The only detailed account of them [the Hyksos] in any ancient writer is an unreliable passage of a lost work of Manetho, cited by Josephus in his rejoinder to Apion.” Statements attributed by Josephus to Manetho are the source of the name Hyksos. Interestingly, Josephus, claiming to quote Manetho verbatim, presents Manetho’s account as directly connecting the Hyksos with the Israelites. Josephus, it seems, accepts this connection but argues vehemently against many of the details of the account. He seems to prefer the rendering of Hyksos as “captive shepherds” rather than “king-shepherds.” Manetho, according to Josephus, presents the Hyksos as conquering Egypt without a battle, destroying cities and “the temples of the gods,” and causing slaughter and havoc. They are represented as settling in the Delta region. Finally the Egyptians are said to have risen up, fought a long and terrible war, with 480,000 men, besieged the Hyksos at their chief city, Avaris, and then, strangely, reached an agreement allowing them to leave the country unharmed with their families and possessions, whereupon they went to Judea and built Jerusalem.—Against Apion, I, 73-105 (14-16); 223-232 (25, 26).

  17. Adam says

    Two key pieces of information in the Bible serve as clues pointing to the identity of the Hyksos with the Amalekites. One is the finding of an Egyptian, servant to an Amalekite, in 1 Samuel 15. What is an Egyptian, son of the powerful nation of Egypt, doing as a servant to an Amalekite, of a relatively weak nation? But this would make sense if the Amalekites were the Hyksos who ruled Egypt, for then it would have been normal for Amalekites to have Egyptian servants. Velikovsky discussed this in his 1952 ‘Ages in Chaos’. Second is David’s conversation with a young man who identifies himself as the son of a stranger [foreigner or alien], an Amalekite (2 Samuel 1:14). This young man does not need to call himself a foreigner; it is obvious that he is a foreigner if he is an Amalekite. However, the Hyksos were known as Foreign Rulers or Rulers of Foreign Lands. His identifying himself as a foreigner may have been a way of saying that he is one of the Hyksos. These two clues point to the need for a revised chronology in which Hyksos rule in Egypt is down-dated to roughly the late second millenium BC.

  18. Del says

    Jerusalem was a city with a thousand year history when the Jews conquered it. It is stupid to of them to be cited as ‘founding’ Jerusalem.

  19. GradStu says

    Uh…after reading the article, this has all the hallmarks of ‘scientistic’ archaeology. In Maksoud’s publications he briefly mentions that there is some occupation of the site during the 2nd Int. Period but he did not note that there was intense burning at the site. All the structures referred to date to the reign of Thutmose III and the 19th Dynasty. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus only that a ruler had taken Tjaru (‘that king from the North entered it’) which has led many to date this to the reign of Apophis in the Delta – it is possible that the Thebans did attack the site but the archaeological evidence for this is not clear in publications of Tell Heboua so far…

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Severed Hands: Trophies of War in New Kingdom Egypt - Creation RevolutionCreation Revolution linked to this post on February 28, 2014

    [...] conducted in a Hyksos palace at Tell el-Daba (ancient Avaris) in Egypt have for the first time provided archaeological [...]

  2. Severed Hands: Trophies of War in New Kingdom Egypt | linked to this post on March 1, 2014

    [...] conducted in a Hyksos palace during Tell el-Daba (ancient Avaris) in Egypt have for a initial time supposing [...]

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