When did the history of Passover or history of Pesach begin ?
There are two primary explanations as to when the history of Passover or history of Pesach began: (1) The timeline of Passover or timeline of Pesach began many centuries before the Exodus from Egypt, when G-d told Abraham the following: "And He said unto Abram: 'Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.'" (Bereshit or Genesis 15:13-14); (2) The timeline of Passover or timeline of Pesach began when Yosef or Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers: "And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt." (Bereshit or Genesis 37:28). Later on, after Yosef or Joseph rose to become the second-most powerful man in ancient Egypt, behind only the King or Pharaoh of Egypt, he brought his father Jacob, also named Israel, and Jacob's eleven other sons and one daughter and their descendants, totalling 70 in all, to ancient Egypt. The biblical Book of Exodus or Shemot in Hebrew begins with Jacob/Israel and his 70 descendants emigrating to ancient Egypt. This can also be another starting point as to when the history of Passover or history of Pesach began. Yosef or Joseph urged his family to emigrate to ancient Egypt because at that time there was a famine in Canaan. However, in ancient Egypt, thanks to the prophecies of Yosef or Joseph to grow and store food for the forthcoming famine which the Pharaoh at that time had heeded, there was plenty of food when the famine struck ancient Egypt which enabled the citizens of ancient Egypt to survive throughout the entire famine period.
Note: Regarding all dates on this History of Passover or History of Pesach web page, see the footnote near the bottom of this web page.
Where is the historical account of Passover or historical account of Pesach in the Hebrew Bible told ?
Depending on the aforementioned points-of-view, the historical account of Passover or historical account of Pesach began either in the biblical Book of Bereshit or Genesis, in Bereshit or Genesis 37:28 when G-d told Abraham his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years, but at the end of this period, they would be brought out of Egypt by G-d, or it began when Yosef or Joseph was sold into slavery whereupon he travelled with his owners to ancient Egypt (Bereshit or Genesis 37:28), or it began when Jacob/Israel and his descendants actually emigrated to ancient Egypt as stated at the beginning of the biblical Book of Shemot or Exodus. For all three explanations, the end of the historical account of Passover or historical account of Pesach is at the end of Chapter 15 of the biblical Book of Shemot or Exodus, when the Hebrews had begun to travel from the Yam Suf or "Sea of Reeds" or the "Reed Sea" after they were saved from the pursuing Egyptian army by G-d.
Why do we commemorate and celebrate the historical account of Passover or historical account of Pesach in the Hebrew Bible ?
We commemorate and celebrate Passover or Pesach because in the Torah, which are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible which were written by Moses, there is a commandment by G-d to the Hebrews to remember the historical events that led to the freedom of the Hebrews from their slavery in ancient Egypt. This commandment is told in the biblical Book of Shemot or Exodus, in Shemot or Exodus 12:14-17. Passover or Pesach commemorates and celebrates the Hebrew peoples' freedom from Egyptian bondage that took place approximately 3,300 years ago. Technically-speaking, why do the Jewish people of today commemorate the Hebrews' freedom from Egyptian bondage and not the Jewish people's freedom from bondage? The answer is that at the time of the Exodus in 1313 B.C.E. or 1312 B.C.E. (or in the year 2448 according to rabbinic tradition, assuming that the year 2448 corresponds to the Hebrew/Jewish calendar. The year 2448 as the date of Exodus is referenced in the Seder Olam Rabbah, a 2nd-century C.E. chronology of Hebrew/Jewish history, among other Jewish sources), the Jews were not known as Jews, but were known as either Hebrews or the Children (I.E. descendants) of Israel, also known as Jacob, the Third Hebrew Patriarch, who was the son of Isaac (the Second Hebrew Patriarch), who in turn was the son of Abraham (the First Hebrew Patriarch, previously named Avram). In transliterated Hebrew, the three Hebrew Patriarchs are named: Avraham (Abraham), his son, Yitzhak (Isaac), and his son, Yaakov (Jacob). Jacob had twelve sons (as well as one daughter, Dinah (or Dina), born after Levi), each son of whom became the father of a tribe and hence, comprised the original twelve Hebrew tribes. Jacob's twelve sons, in the order of their birth, were named Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph, and Benjamin (In transliterated Hebrew: Reuven, Shimeon, Levi, Yehudah, Issachar, Zevulun, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Yosef, and Benyamin). Later on, Jacob told Joseph that he would treat Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, as his own. At that time, those two tribes replaced Joseph and Levi among the Twelve Tribes. Based on my understanding of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, the terms "Jew" or "Jewish" are names which actually refer to members of only two of the original twelve Hebrew tribes: the Tribe of Judah and the Tribe of Benjamin, as well as some members of the Levites class (also originally known as the Tribe of Levi or descendants of Levi, who again was the third son of Jacob/Israel), which consisted of both the priests ("Kohanim" in Hebrew) and the assistants to the priests (known simply as "Levites"), who did not inherit land like the other Hebrew tribes but rather, were assigned to live in 48 cities scattered throughout Israel, including cities that were located in the Kingdom of Judah, whose political boundaries included the inherited lands and members of both the Tribe of Judah and the Tribe of Benjamin. The Kingdom of Judah, which lasted from 922 B.C.E. until either 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. (secular dates), came into existence several hundred years after the Exodus from Egypt. Thus, the Passover story of the Exodus from Egypt occurred several centuries prior to the establishment of the Kingdom of Judah and thus involved the entire Hebrew nation of twelve tribes which, as mentioned, were originally identified by the names of the twelve sons of the Third Hebrew Patriarch Jacob (as mentioned, also named Israel). The Kingdom of Israel, which was established at the same time as the Kingdom of Judah in 922 B.C.E. (secular date), consisted of the remaining 10 Hebrew Tribes (Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulon), with the inherited lands assigned to each of these 10 Tribes comprising the political boundaries of the Kingdom of Israel, which lasted until either 722 B.C.E. or 721 B.C.E. or 720 B.C.E. (secular dates). After the Kingdom of Israel's destruction and deportation of the 10 Hebrew tribes by the Assyrians in either 722 B.C.E. or 721 B.C.E. or 720 B.C.E. (whereupon these 10 Hebrew Tribes became known as the 10 "Lost" Tribes), my understanding of the Tanakh is that some members of each of the 10 Hebrew tribes, including many members of the tribe of Simeon escaped from the Assyrians and fled to the Kingdom of Judah where over time they were eventually incorporated into both the Tribe of Judah and the Tribe of Benjamin. In addition, my understanding of the Tanakh is that some members of the Levites class, which consisted of both the priests ("Kohanim" in Hebrew) and the assistants to the priests (known simply as "Levites" in English or "Leviim" or "Levi'im" in Hebrew) from the Kingdom of Israel also escaped being deported by the Assyrians and fled to the Kingdom of Judah to join their bretheren Levites in the Kingdom of Judah.
When was the Exodus from Egypt, meaning the date of the Exodus from Egypt? The traditional Jewish viewpoint for the date of the Exodus from Egypt is that the Exodus took place approximately 3,300 years ago in the year 2448 in the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology according to the oldest record of Jewish chronology, the Seder Olam Rabbah, by Rabbi Jose Ben Halafta (or Rabbi Yose Ben Halafta, a 2nd century C.E. student of Rabbi Akiva and a "Tannah" I.E. a rabbi whose views are recorded in the Mishnah of the Talmud) as well as all other Jewish sources. More specifically, the Exodus took place 2448.5 years after Creation*, on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nissan 2448. Translating the Hebrew/Jewish date of 2448 into the traditional or historic proleptic** Gregorian calendar (which, like the Julian calendar which preceded it, has no Year 0), we arrive at a date of 1311 B.C.E. as the date of the Exodus from Egypt. If, however, we use the now often preferred, international standard ISO 8601 modern proleptic Gregorian calendar which includes a Year 0, we arrive at a date of 1310 B.C.E. as the date of the Exodus from Egypt. However, the traditional Orthodox Jewish viewpoint is that while the Exodus from Egypt occurred in 2448 according to the oldest Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology, the Seder Olam Rabbah, when translating this date into both the modern and historic proleptic Gregorian calendars and the Julian calendar, the date for the Exodus from Egypt occurred in either 1313 B.C.E. or 1312 B.C.E. (1313 B.C.E. if the Julian calendar and historic Gregorian calendars are used as both have no Year 0; 1312 B.C.E. if the modern Gregorian calendar is used, which includes a Year 0). How did Orthodox Jewish scholars arrive at 1313 B.C.E. or 1312 B.C.E.? Orthodox Judaism determines the years 1313 B.C.E. and 1312 B.C.E. as follows: for example, 5766 is the Hebrew/Jewish calendar year when this web page was typed (2005-2006 in the Gregorian calendar, but for the sake of this example, we will use the years 5766 and 2006 respectively, since most of the months and days of the year for the Hebrew/Jewish calendar year of 5766 are in the Gregorian calendar year of 2006). Based on the aforementioned data, the calculations to determine the date for the Exodus from Egypt are as follows: 5766 minus 2448 = 3318. 2006 minus 3318 = -1312. Yet - since there is no Year 0 C.E. in the Julian calendar and in the historic proleptic Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew/Jewish year 3761 is 1 C.E. in the Julian calendar and in the historic proleptic Gregorian calendar, and the year before that, 3760, is 1 B.C.E. in the Julian calendar and in the historic proleptic Gregorian calendar - therefore 2448 in the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology will be 1313 B.C.E. in the Julian calendar and in the historic proleptic Gregorian calendar. Still, in the modern proleptic Gregorian calendar they do allow one to calculate backwards including the Year 0 C.E. - that's why you could legitimately use either 1313 B.C.E. or 1312 B.C.E. depending on which calendar you are using. There is also another opinion which claims 1310 B.C.E. as the date for the Exodus from Egypt. Brad Aaronson claims that the Tanakh's or Hebrew Bible's biblical chronology results in a date of 1310 B.C.E. as the date for the Exodus from Egypt. Furthermore, secular historians who rely on Greek sources agree that the "generally accepted" date for the Exodus was approximately 3,500 years ago in 1476 B.C.E. However, other secular historians state that the Exodus occurred in 1134 B.C.E. and this is the view of certain historians who used specific calendrical calculations to try to connect the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II's rule with the Exodus (although the "generally accepted" date for Ramses II's rule was circa 1300 B.C.E.). Still other historians, both religious and secular, state that the Exodus occurred in a year during either the 15th and 13th centuries B.C.E., with the years 1444 B.C.E. and 1290 B.C.E. being the most popular approximations of Exodus dates among these religious scholars and a large minority of secular scholars, respectively, or circa 2200 B.C.E. according to a papyrus dating from the end of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, written by an Egyptian named Ipuwer, who describes what appears to be an eyewitness account of the Ten Plagues, but this description has been dismissed by other historians as a figurative, not a literal description of the state of Egypt at that time. The Passover story of the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt is told in the first 15 chapters of the biblical Book of Exodus.
* Regarding when Creation occurred, the world was created on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Elul 1 BC (in this case, BC means "Before Creation", not "Before Common Era" or "Before Christian Era"). The reason for this is as follows: since the first actual molad ("birth" in Hebrew, in this context, referring to the "birth" of the new moon) happened 2 days after the creation of the sun and moon, this means that the world was created on 25 Elul in the year 1 BC (Before Creation, meaning before the Creation of Adam), or, if one prefers, the year zero. The author of Seder Olam (Jose Ben Halafta, 2nd century C.E.) used a third calendar, one which definitely has a year zero, and that is the year beginning with Adam's creation. In this system, the world was created on 25 Elul 1 BC (Before Creation), Adam was created on 1 Tishri 0 (also: 1 Tishrei 0), and a year later he celebrated his first birthday, on 1 Tishri 1 (or 1 Tishrei 1). Thus, the Exodus from Egypt occurred on 15 Nissan 2448 (or 15 Nisan 2448) and based on the aforementioned dating system, this was 2448.5 years after Creation (meaning Adam's creation) on 1 Tishri 0 (also: 1 Tishrei 0).
According to Jewish sources, Molad means "birth" or "renewal of the moon", commonly called "new moon" in modern times (mean conjunction). There is a new moon or molad for every month. The Jewish calendar uses the mean or middle conjunction to start a new month. Nathan Bushwick in his book "Understanding The Jewish Calendar", on page 71, states: "As the moon moves around the Earth, there is one moment that it is exactly between the Earth and the sun. At that moment the Earth faces the dark side of the moon. Already for about a day before this moment the moon has not been visible from any point on the Earth and it will remain invisible for about a day more. This moment is call the molad, the birth of the new moon. We use the molad as the official beginning and end point of the cycle of the moon." The Hebrew/Jewish calendar calculates all molads from Tishri (or Tishrei). By subtracting 177 days from the molad Tishri (or Tishrei) the molad Nisan (or Nissan) is established. All the months between Nissan or Nisan (Pre-Exilic name: Aviv) and Tishrei or Tishri (Pre-Exilic name: Ethanim) have prescribed lengths just like the Roman calendar. There are 30 day and 29 day months.
** "Proleptic" ("anticipating" in Greek; in this context, meaning anticipating or expecting dates and events in history to exist prior to the invention of a calendar) refers to calendar or era dates prior to the date when the calendar was first adopted; in other words using the calendar as if it existed at that earlier time. Related to "Prolepsis", anticipation (from the Greek "Prolambanein", meaning "to anticipate"). For instance, for dates in history prior to 1582 when the Gregorian calendar was invented, one can refer to pre-1582 dates in history by either the Julian calendar date or the proleptic Gregorian calendar date, even though the Gregorian calendar was not actually adopted until, as mentioned, 1582.
Another point concerning the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology of the Seder Olam Rabbah is that if one assumes that the traditional Hebrew/Jewish chronological dates apply to the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar system, then the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendrical system will show that the chronological dates of the Seder Olam Rabbah will appear two years later in the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendrical system. This is because the traditional sourcebook Seder Olam Rabbah shows the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating originally counted the first year of Adam's life as "Year Zero" AM. (AM = "Anno Mundi" or "the year of the World" in Latin = B.C. or B.C.E.), and the Hebrew/Jewish dating in the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar system counts the year of the creation of the world as "Year One" AM and afterward the first year of Adam's life as "Year Two" AM. This means that the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating for ancient events appears two years lower than the modern Hebrew/Jewish dating would or in other words, the dates in Seder Olam Rabbah appear two years later in the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar. (Edgar Frank, Talmudic and Rabbinic Chronology, 1956.). Thus, for instance, the traditional date for the Exodus from Egypt of 2448 as recorded in Seder Olam Rabbah is two years later in the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar system, meaning the Exodus from Egypt occurred in the year 2450 in the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar.
As mentioned, and based on my understanding of the Tanakh, before the Jewish people were known as Jewish or Jews - names that were derived from the Kingdom of Judah where they lived from 922 B.C.E. until either 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. - they were known as either the Children of Israel ("Bn'ei Yisrael" in Hebrew) or Hebrews ("Ivriim" in Hebrew). "Hebrews" or the "Children of Israel" were names that collectively described the descendants of the Third Hebrew Patriarch Jacob (also known as Israel). After the Exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews or Children of Israel eventually established their home in Canaan (later to be known as the region of Judea), with eleven of the twelve Hebrew tribes each being assigned land to mark their territory, except for the Levites class (also originally known as the Tribe of Levi or descendants of Levi, who again was the third son of Jacob/Israel), which consisted of both the priests ("Kohanim" in Hebrew) and the assistants to the priests (known simply as "Levites"), who were assigned to live in 48 cities scattered throughout Israel. Eventually, the united Kingdom of Israel was established around 1030 B.C.E. to 1020 B.C.E., united in the sense that it included the lands of all twelve Hebrew tribes. Later on, it split into two kingdoms after the death of King Solomon: the Kingdom of Israel in the northern part of the region of Judea, and the Kingdom of Judah in the southern part of the region of Judea. Based on my understanding of the Tanakh, the Kingdom of Judah consisted of two of the twelve Hebrew tribes whose inhabitants were called "Judahites" (short form: Jews). Furthermore, based on my understanding of the Tanakh, the Kingdom of Israel, in the northern part of Judea, consisted of the remaining 10 Hebrew tribes, and this kingdom lasted from 922 B.C.E. until either 722 B.C.E. or 721 B.C.E. or 720 B.C.E. To summarize, as mentioned, the events of Passover written about in the Book of Exodus occurred at a time before the Jewish people of today were known as Jewish or Jews, and so in the Passover story that follows, we will be discussing the entire Hebrew nation of thirteen tribes I.E. the Hebrews or the Children of Israel, of which the Jewish people of today constitute but a part. I also use the term "Israelites" to refer loosely to the Hebrews or Children of Israel, but based on my understanding of the Torah, that term is not found in the Torah.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim (or Mizrayim), and means either "constriction" or "narrow straits". This is in reference to the Hebrews being in a state of constriction while toiling as slaves in the land of Goshen, an area of ancient Egypt. As slaves, the Hebrews were building cities such as Pithom and Ra'amses [not to be confused with the Pharaoh (King) Ramses] which were used as supply centers for the Pharaohs of Egypt.
How did the Hebrews wind up in Egypt in the first place to set the stage for the Passover story? According to the Book of Exodus, there was a famine in the land of Canaan (later known as Israel) and because of this famine the Hebrew patriarch Jacob traveled with his extended family of 70 to Egypt to both live in better conditions and be with his son Joseph, whose wisdom had impressed the King (or Pharaoh) of Egypt to the point that he was appointed Viceroy of Egypt, which was second in power only to the Pharaoh. As a result, for more than half of the following 210*** years in Egypt, the Hebrews prospered and rapidly multiplied their population to about 3 million people. These numbers were so great that during this time one Pharaoh became nervous that the Israelites were becoming too many in number to control and thought they might side with Egypt's enemies in case of war. This Pharaoh decreed that the Hebrews should be enslaved to build cities and roads for him so that they would be too tired and also wouldn't have time to have children. The Israelites were then confined to the land area of Goshen (Hebrew meaning of Goshen: "approaching" or "drawing near", meaning the Hebrews were drawn closer to G-d during this period of time in Goshen, hence the essence of the Passover story occurred here), which was the fertile land that was east of the Nile delta and west of the border of Canaan. When that didn't slow down the population growth of the Israelites, this Pharaoh then decreed that all Israelite males should be killed, but the Hebrew midwives - Shifra and Puah - who were ordered by Pharaoh to be in charge of this task feared the wrath of G-d and made sure that this didn't happen. The Pharaoh then ordered his people to throw every male born to a Hebrew in the Nile River. Pharaoh was afraid that Hebrew males could grow up to become fighters against his regime. Pharaoh spared Hebrew girls because they would not become fighters against his regime, and he thought they would marry Egyptian men and adopt Egyptian values.
*** Regarding the number of years that the Hebrews were in Egypt and when they were enslaved in Egypt, rabbinical interpretations claim that the Hebrews psychologically and then physically spent 210 years living in Egypt of which the final 116 years to 86 years were spent in actual physical slavery in Egypt. The figure of 430 years is calculated from the time G-d promised Abraham (originally known as Avram) the land of Canaan and G-ds' foretelling to Abraham of his descendants' being strangers and also enslaved "in a land that is not theirs" as told in the following verse from the Hebrew Bible: "You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years" (Bereshit/Genesis 15:13). This knowledge psychologically "enslaved" the minds of Abraham and his descendants from that point in time onward, knowing that they would be living in and at some point be slaves in this land that was not theirs. The 430 years was calculated starting from the time of G-ds' promise of the land of Canaan to Abraham's son Isaac's birth (30 years) plus from the time of Isaac's birth to the exodus from Egypt (400 years) which equals 430 years. Another rabbinical interpretation claims that based on the Passover Haggadah readings that mention "400 years" of being in a "land that is not theirs", the 400 years started from the birth date of Jacob's father, Isaac - the same Isaac who was the son of Abraham. It claims that since the Torah states that Isaac was 60 years of age when Jacob was born (Bereshit/Genesis 25:27), and Jacob was 130 years of age when he went to Egypt (Bereshit/Genesis 47:9), then the period of time the Hebrews spent in Egypt was 210 years (400 years minus the total of 60 + 130 = 210 years). Regarding how long the Hebrews spent as slaves in Egypt, the Hebrews spent anywhere from the final 116 to 86 years in Egypt as slaves since Shemot/Exodus 1:6 states: "And Joseph and all his brothers died, all that generation" and shortly thereafter Shemot/Exodus 1:8 states: "There arose a new king in Egypt who knew nothing of Joseph" and since the final living brother of Joseph - Levi - died 116 years before the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt whereupon the Egyptians began to enslave the Hebrews, and that Moses and Aaron's older sister Miriam was 86 years of age at the time of the Exodus and that her name derived from the bitterness of the Hebrews' slavery, then the Hebrews' toiling as slaves in Egypt could have beeen for no less than 86 years and no more than 116 years. This calculation was based on aligning the timelines of events in the Torah so that it all made sense. Personally, I would imagine that it would be difficult to grow in population numbers from 70 upon entering Egypt to 3 million in just 210 years. To take the thought further, with regard to the Hebrew population and the final 86 to 116 years in Egypt as slaves, after a day (and possibly most of the evening) of hard labour, the last thing on one's mind would be to have the energy to do anything else but sleep! The interpretation that makes the most sense to me is that the Hebrews were psychologically and physically "in a land that was not theirs" (which included Canaan as well as Egypt) for 430 years, multiplying their population, and then were enslaved in Egypt either for the final 210 years or as mentioned, anywhere from the final 116 to 86 years before the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt. That's simply my personal view which is based on pure speculation. Anything is possible when one speculates. I would imagine the mortality rate would be quite high for the Hebrews had they spent 210 years as slaves in Egypt, leaving a small remnant of a once-large population of 3 million by the time of their Exodus from Egypt, so the 116 to 86 years as slaves seems more plausible based on that reasoning. Perhaps the Hebrews did have some energy left after a day of hard labour to reproduce and eventually rapidly expand their population. Each person who reads this web page can reach their own conclusions. In any case, the above-mentioned claims as well as the claim by the authoritative medieval scholar Rashi are historically the primary interpretations for how long the Hebrews were in Egypt and when they became enslaved in Egypt. Rashi (Rabbi Solomon bar Isaac) (1040-1105), born in Troyes, France, was a famous Jewish exegete, grammarian, and legal authority who wrote authoritative biblical and Talmudic commentaries which still remain important to this day. The following is his version of how long the Israelites were in Egypt, taking into consideration how long Kehos (son of Levi) (133 years), and Amram (son of Kehos) (137 years) lived, as well as the age of Moshe (Moses) (son of Amram) (80 years) when he left Egypt, which totaled 350 years: "The years of Kehos (son of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob or Israel), Amram, and Moshe (Moses) overlapped, thereby, significantly reducing the total of 350. It is thus, impossible to suggest that Avraham's (Abraham's or Avram's) descendants were in Egypt anywhere near 400 years. We must, therefore, conclude that the 400 years commence with the birth of Yitzchok (Isaac)." Rashi goes on to say: "[The time] from Yitzchok's birth until Israel left Egypt was four hundred years. How is this so? Yitzchok was 60 years old at Yaakov's birth and when Yaakov descended to Egypt, he said, 'The years of my temporary residence are one hundred and thirty years,' making a total of 190. They were in Egypt 210 [years] - the numerical value of the Hebrew letters resh, daled, and vav, making a total of 400 years (each letter in the Hebrew alphabet represents a number). If you might suggest that they were in Egypt 400 [years], [this could not be so] because Kehos was of those who descended to Egypt. If you calculate the [total] years of Kehos, Amram and the eighty years of Moshe when [the Israelites] left Egypt, you will find only [a total of] 350. And you must still subtract from that all the years that Kehos lived after Amram's birth and that Amram lived after Moshe's birth." (You know what? I know who knows for sure how long the Hebrews were in Egypt because that entity was there and is still here: G-d! And who's going to argue with G-d?!)
During the time when Pharaoh issued his decree to kill Hebrew males, Moses, who later was to lead the Hebrews out of their slavery in Egypt to freedom, was an infant at this time and his concerned mother, Yocheved (alternate spelling: Jochebed), placed him in a basket of reeds in the Nile River while Moses' sister Miriam watched from a distance to see who would come to find him. The basket was found by Bithiah (in Hebrew, "Bitya" or "Batya", literally meaning "daughter of G-d" in Hebrew; Bithiah, Bitya, or Batya is not mentioned by name in the text of the Hebrew Bible, only in Rabbinic Midrash, in Leviticus Rabbah 1:3), who was the Pharaoh's daughter. Bithiah decided to raise the infant as her own son and named him Moses. She unknowingly hired Yocheved as a nurse to care for him, and Yocheved secretly taught Moses his Hebrew heritage. At age 40, on a visit to see his fellow Israelites, Moses saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave and in his rage, killed the Egyptian. Fearing for his life, Moses fled Egypt. He fled across the desert, for the roads were watched by Egyptian soldiers, and took refuge in Midian, an area in present-day northwestern Saudi Arabia along the eastern shores of the Red Sea. While in Midian, Moses met a Midianite priest named Jethro and became a shephard for the next 40 years, eventually marrying one of Jethro's daughters, Zipporah. Then when Moses was about 80 years of age, G-d spoke to him from a burning bush and said that he and his brother Aaron were selected by G-d to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt to freedom. At first, Moses hesitated to take on such a huge task but eventually, Moses and his brother Aaron set about returning to Egypt, commencing what was to be the spectacular and dramatic events that are told in the story of Passover. It is said that the Hebrews entered Egypt as a group of tribes and left Egypt as one nation. It has also been estimated that the Passover exodus population comprised about 600,000 men over the age of 20, with their wives and children making up the remaining amount totalling about 3 million people, plus numerous flocks of sheep who all crossed over the border of Egypt to freedom in Canaan during the Passover Exodus from Egypt.
When exactly did the Exodus take place? According to Numbers 33:3 - "(The Israelites) left Ra'meses on the 15th of the first month. On the day after the Passover (sacrifice) the Israelites left triumphantly before the eyes of the Egyptians." The "15th of the first month" stated in this verse corresponds to 15 Nissan, 2448 in the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology from the Seder Olam Rabbah and in the historic Gregorian calendar, March 25, 1313 B.C.E.
When did the Hebrews cross the Yam Suf, or the "Sea of Reeds", or the "Red Sea"? In Exodus 14:22 - "The Israelites entered the sea bed on dry land. The water was on their right and left like (two) walls." In addition, in Numbers 33:8 - "They left Freedom Valley and crossed the Red Sea toward the desert. They then traveled for three days in the Etham Desert and camped in Marah." According to Jewish tradition, the Hebrews crossed the Yam Suf on 21 Nissan, 2448 according to the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology from the Seder Olam Rabbah. This corresponds to March 31, 1313 B.C.E. in the historic Gregorian calendar.
How many people left in the Exodus? According to Exodus 12:37, "there were about 600,000 adult males on foot, besides the children." Jewish sources further state that these adult males were from 20 to 60 years old, and various calculations that included the remainder of the population that left Egypt, including women, children, and other nationalities, put the number that left Egypt at about 3 million people.
Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? There are no direct references to the Pharaoh of the Exodus in the Torah. However, since according to traditional Jewish sources the Exodus took place in the year 2448 as stated in the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology from the Seder Olam Rabbah, which according to Orthodox Jewish opinion translates into either 1313 B.C.E. in the Julian and historic proleptic Gregorian calendars or 1312 B.C.E. in the modern proleptic Gregorian calendar, and these dates can be applied to Egyptian records, then, providing Egyptian records are correct, the Pharaoh of the Exodus would have been under the reign of Pharaoh (King) Horemheb****, the last King of Egypt's 18th Dynasty [Horemheb (Djeserkheperure), who ruled from either 1323 B.C.E. - 1295 B.C.E. or from 1321 B.C.E. to early 1292 B.C.E. depending on the Egyptian chronology used, with "B.C.E." meaning "Before Common Era", a Jewish substitute for B.C.]. Thus, providing the aforementioned timeline conditions are correct and correlations between calendars and chronologies can be made, then under Pharaoh (King) Horemheb's**** rule, the Hebrew leader Moses ("Moshe" in Hebrew) - guided by G-d - led his people out of Egypt after a series of 10 plagues that were created by G-d and initiated by Moses. Prior to most of the plagues, Moses had warned the Pharaoh about each plague and that it would devastate his people, if he refused to let them go. After the first two plagues, the Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go because his court magicians were able to re-create the same miracles, and so the Pharaoh thought: "This proves that the Hebrew G-d is not stronger than I". But when the third plague occurred, the Pharaoh's magicians were not able to duplicate this miracle, however, that still did not change the Pharaoh's mind about letting the Hebrews leave Egypt. After each subsequent plague, the Pharaoh agreed to let the Hebrews go, but the Pharaoh soon changed his mind and continued to hold the Hebrews as slaves. Finally, after the 10th plague, the Pharoah let the Hebrews go for good. However, after the Hebrews left in a hurry, in fact so quickly that they did not have time to bake any bread in their ovens for the trip to Canaan (Israel), and instead baked unleavened bread called Matzah, the Pharaoh, being very fickle, changed his mind after a short time and sent his army into the Sinai Desert after the Hebrews. Meanwhile, the Hebrews were already deep into the wilderness of the Sinai desert and peninsula and continued to wander there for days until they reached the Yam Soof (or Yam Suf), which is the Hebrew phrase for the "Sea of Reeds" [which is possibly the "Red Sea", an arm of the "Red Sea", or another body of water in the Sinai Peninsula area (Gulf of Suez, or the large delta at the mouth of the Nile River in Northern Egypt)]. The Egyptian army continued to look for them and finally spotted the Hebrews camped at the shores of the Yam Soof. When the Hebrews saw the Egyptian army moving toward them, they called out in despair to Moses. Fortunately, G-d intervened and commanded Moses to strike his staff on the waters of the Yam Soof, which "parted", or opened up, exposing underground tunnels that led into the "Sea of Reeds". The Hebrews went into these tunnels, which went partly into the "Sea of Reeds", and eventually led in a 180-degree turn back to the Sinai Desert. According to the biblical Book of Exodus, it took a few hours for the Hebrews to complete their journey through the tunnels. The Egyptian army followed the Hebrews into the tunnels, and when the last Hebrew emerged from the tunnels onto the sand of the Sinai Peninsula, G-d then commanded Moses to strike the waters of the Yam Soof with his staff again. The waters came together again, drowning the entire Egyptian army and the Hebrews were saved. After this event, the Hebrews continued to wander in the Sinai Peninsula for another 42 days until they reached Mount Sinai, where Moses received the 10 Commandments from G-d on the summit of Mount Sinai. This event is celebrated by the Jewish people as the holiday of Shavuot, meaning "weeks" in Hebrew, which refers to the timing of the festival which occurs exactly 7 weeks (50 days inclusive) after the first day of Passover (alternate spellings: "Shavuoth", and "Shavuos"). Because a week consists of 7 days, and Shavuot occurs exactly 7 weeks after the first day of Passover (50 days inclusive), Shavuot is also known as the "Week of Weeks". However, because of the sin of the spies, the Hebrews then spent the next 40 years wandering in the Sinai Desert until they finally reached the Land of Canaan. What was this sin of the spies? In the biblical book of Bamidbar I.E. Numbers (Numbers 13, 14), it states that G-d condemned and decreed that the Hebrews would wander in the desert for 40 years until the entire adult generation perished in the wilderness because of the sin of the spies, 10 of the 12 spies of whom advised Moses against entering the Land of Canaan simply because they weren't impressed with what they found and also because that they didn't have faith ("emunah" in Hebrew) that G-d would actually give them the Land of Canaan, and thus they went against G-d's word, although the two remaining spies, Caleb and Joshua, were impressed with what they saw and even stated the Land was flowing with "milk and honey, a Land of plenty" as they each carried a cluster of grapes with them. Since they gave a positive report on the Land of Canaan, G-d allowed Caleb and Joshua to survive the 40 years in the wilderness. The Hebrews were originally supposed to endure a short sojourn in the Sinai Desert, but the sin of the aforementioned spies that were sent out by Moses to report on conditions in the Land of Canaan resulted in the Hebrews being forced to wander for 40 years in the Sinai Desert before they would be permitted to enter the Land of Canaan. As said, according to Jewish tradition, the Exodus from Egypt occurred in 1313 B.C.E. Hence, following the Exodus, the Hebrews spent 7 days wandering before reaching the "Sea of Reeds" or the "Reed Sea", then spent 42 days in the wilderness before reaching Mount Sinai for a total of 49 days plus spending another 40 years of wandering in the Sinai Desert before reaching the Land of Canaan. The beginning of the subsequent 6 1/2-year conquest of Canaan by the Hebrews over the Canaanites, occurring 40 years and 49 days after the Exodus from Egypt, took place from 1273 B.C.E. to 1267 B.C.E.
**** Both religious and secular historians have different views on the exact date of the Exodus as well as having different views amongst each other. The traditional Orthodox Jewish view is that the Exodus took place in the year 2448 as stated in the traditional Hebrew/Jewish dating chronology from the Seder Olam Rabbah, a Jewish chronology compiled in the 2nd century C.E. by Rabbi Jose Ben Halafta or Yose ben Halafta, who died about 160 C.E. "Seder Olam Rabbah" or "Seder Olam Rabba" means the "Great Order of the World" in Hebrew. It is the oldest Jewish chronicle in existence in Judaism. Traditionally written by Tannaitic Rabbi Jose (or Yose) Ben Halafta, it covers topics from the Creation to the construction of the Second Temple. The Seder Olam Rabbah was later updated in Seder Olam Zutta in the 8th century C.E., perhaps by Rav (Rabbi) Pinkhas [the "Seder Olam Zuta" (the "Small Order of the World" in Hebrew; also "Seder Olam Zutta" or "Seder Olam Zuttah" or "Seder Olam Zutah") is the chronicle of the Exilarchs that is the most important and in many cases the only source of information concerning their succession (an "Exilarch" refers to the leader of the Jews of the Babylonian Exile, which occurred from 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. until 539 B.C.E. (alternate date claims: 538 B.C.E., 537 B.C.E., and 536 B.C.E.) when the Jews were taken by the Babylonians into Exile in Babylonia). The Seder Olam Zutta draws up a list of 89 generations from Abraham to the Exile, and then to the Talmudic period]. According to Orthodox Jewish opinion, the traditional Hebrew/Jewish date of 2448 translates into either 1313 B.C.E. if using the Julian calendar or historic Gregorian calendars which have no Year 0, or 1312 B.C.E. if using the modern Gregorian calendar which includes a Year 0. As mentioned, the traditional Hebrew/Jewish date of 2448 translated into 1313 B.C.E. or 1312 B.C.E. is the accepted date of the Exodus from Egypt for Orthodox Jews. In addition, providing that the traditional Hebrew/Jewish chronological date from the Seder Olam Rabbah of 2448 and the Julian calendar and historic Gregorian calendar date of 1313 B.C.E. and modern Gregorian calendar date of 1312 B.C.E. can be correlated with Egyptian chronologies, then according to Egyptian chronologies, Pharaoh (King) Horemheb ruled during the years of 1313 B.C.E. and 1312 B.C.E. (he ruled either from 1323 B.C.E. - 1295 B.C.E. or from 1321 B.C.E. to early 1292 B.C.E. depending on the Egyptian chronology used). On the other hand, 1476 B.C.E. is the generally accepted historical date of secular historians, based on Greek sources, a time when the powerful Egyptian Pharaoh (King) Thutmose III ruled (Thutmose III ruled Egypt from either 1479 B.C.E. to 1425 B.C.E. according to the Middle Chronology of Ancient Egypt, or from 1504 B.C.E. to 1450 B.C.E. according to older publications in the 1960's and 1970's). Other claims by historians are that the Exodus occurred in 1134 B.C.E. (generally accepted historical date: circa 1300 B.C.E.), near the time when Rameses (or Ramses or Ramesses) II ruled (he ruled from 1279 B.C.E. to 1213 B.C.E.), or during the time of either Pharaoh Adikam, Malul, or Pepi (Phiops) II, the latter being the 6th and last dynasty of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, circa 2200 B.C.E. Non-Jewish religious scholars favor a date around 1444 B.C.E. as the date for the Exodus (prominent Pharaohs who ruled around this time included Menkheperre Thutmose III, who ruled from either 1504 B.C.E. to 1450 B.C.E. or from 1479 B.C.E. to 1425 B.C.E., depending on the Egyptian chronology used, and Aakheperure Amenhotep II, who ruled from 1427 B.C.E. to 1401 B.C.E.), while a date around 1290 B.C.E. is the Exodus date for a large minority of secular scholars [prominent Pharaohs who ruled around this time included Ramesses II (also known as Ramesses the Great and alternatively transcribed as Ramses and Rameses), who ruled from 1279 B.C.E. to 1213 B.C.E., and Merneptah (occasionally: Merenptah), who ruled from 1213 B.C.E. to 1203 B.C.E.]. Another theory by Egyptian-born author Ahmed Osman states that Menpehtyre Ramesses I (also written Ramses and Rameses), who ruled Egypt from either 1292 B.C.E. to 1290 B.C.E. or from 1295 B.C.E. to 1294 B.C.E. depending on the Egyptian chronology used, was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, although many mainstream Egyptologists would disagree with this claim.
By the way, what does the name "Pharaoh" mean? The name Pharaoh means "Great House" in the ancient Egyptian language and originally referred to the Royal Palace in ancient Egypt, but gradually came to be a title reserved for the ruler or king of ancient Egypt who at different times in the course of history viewed himself as either a G-d in human form, the son of a G-d, or agent of a G-d; usually the G-d of the Sky, who was named Horus. However, from the 5th Dynasty onward, the Pharaoh was viewed by the ancient Egyptians as the son of Ra, the Sun G-d. Furthermore, kings of Egypt were not called Pharaohs by the ancient Egyptians. This word was used by the Greeks and Hebrews, and today is commonly used for the ancient Kings of Egypt.
Want to see a map showing the traditional route taken by the Hebrews out of Egypt? Just click on the following link to see the Passover Exodus from Egypt. A new and smaller window will open.
Footnote regarding the dates on this History of Passover web page: all dates discussed on this website are based on the modern Gregorian calendar, however, these dates are but one secular scholarly deduction; there are many other secular scholarly deductions as well as traditional Jewish chronological dates in addition to modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar dates regarding the timeline of events in Jewish history. To see a table of some important events in Jewish history discussed on this website and their various dates deduced from traditional Jewish sources, the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar, and secular historical timelines, check out our Jewish History Timeline web page.