Exodus of the Bible Unraveled
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
The biblical Exodus saga began in the copper mines at Timna and Punon where the Shasu of Yhw, the Egyptian name for the tribe of miners and smiths known as the Qynites (Kenites in the AKJ Bible), were forced to work the copper mines for the Egyptians. (Shasu is the Egyptian word for Bedouin.). This actual history is remembered in Deut 24:4 and 1 Kings 8:51:
20 But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.
51 for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace
The word iron (barzel) actually means ore. The verse was written during the iron age.
These verses refer to the days of captivity when the Shasu of Yhw (the Qynites) were enslaved to work the copper mines located in Edom, a subjugation from which they apparently escaped and formed an alliance with other Shasu, which may have included those Shasu mentioned in the Rameses III Soleb temple inscriptions: the Shasu of S’rr, the Shasu of Rbn, the Shasu of Sm’t, the Shasu of Wrbr, and the Shasu of Pysps. The Shasu of Rbn may be a reference to Rueben, a Shasu tribe which eventually formed an alliance with the Omrides, the dynastic house of Israel. Whichever Shasu tribe formed an alliance with the Shasu of Yhw, the tribes confederated to harass the Egyptians, who eventually caught a contingent of rebels from among them and depicted their fate on the Soleb temple.
The capture and enslavement of these Shasu to work the mines most likely began under Seti I and continued under Rameses II & III. This period of enslavement caused the Qynites, who resided in Edom, a lot of animosity toward the Rameside pharaohs especially since they were forced to hand over the products of their mines to the Egyptians. The Qynites and their tribal confederates rebelled and the rebellion was suppressed, according to the Soleb inscription, which cannot be totally trusted as accurate.
After the Egyptians left the copper mines, the Qynites began working the mines and intermarrying with those Shasu in the area who later became known as Edomites. These Edomites later split into clans, who formed alliances with other clans and tribes in the area. Each clan had its own eponymous ancestor, often a tribal deity, after whom they named themselves. These clans eventually became tribes who separated from their parent tribes, but still recognized a connection between themselves and the local tribes with whom they confederated, intermarried and shared a culture. In biblical texts, these clans and tribes are listed as having common patrilineal ancestors namely, Adam, Noah and Abraham. The biblical authors recognized that the tribe of Judah grew out of the Kingdom of Edom, which is why Saul ben Qysh (or Saul son of Qwsh/Qos-Qos was the god of Edom) became the first king of Judah and mythically, the first king of Israel too.
The shared culture of these confederated tribes made for an intermingling of traditions and history. The matter became very confusing when the history of their occupiers and conquerors were interwoven into these tribal traditions and lore. These acquired traditions and lore are the basis for the biblical narratives from which one must glean the core narrative. The basis for the Moses narrative seems to have originated in the copper mines in Edom. The narrative was later infused with the traditions of the local Canaanites (originally Amorites) who actually established the Egyptian 13th or 14th Dynasty in the Egyptian Delta, but were later expelled and returned to Canaan.
Other traditions were gleaned from the Arameans, a branch of the Amorites, who were also known as the Ahlamu; a Semitic people who fled before the Assyrian Empire into the Levant and Mesopotamia. These Arameans eventually crossed into Canaan and settled in various areas and gained control of important trade routes and cities as they intermarried with the Canaanites in the North and the Shasu tribes in the South. The confederation of the northern Canaanite tribes was known as Israel and the confederated Shasu-Edomite tribes became known as Judah.
Now, all of these tribal traditions written and oral, some of which were multi-tribal mingled histories, plus the interwoven history of the Babylonians, Persians and Greeks, immigrated into Egypt with the Judeans who settled and wrote under the Ptolemies, who were foreign rulers of Egypt and who became tolerant of the Jewish community in Alexandria, but were hostile to local Egyptians who wished to re-establish a native Egyptian monarchy. The Judeans in Alexandria knew about their Qynite-Edomite ancestry, they knew Rameses II had invaded Jerusalem and they knew Rameses III had enslaved their ancestors. They also were aware of the Ptolemaic arrogance toward Egyptian natives and their heroes, so they had no problem weaving a narrative from their intermingled traditions in which a Yahwist/Qynite/Hebrew hero, who was raised in the house of Pharaoh, defeated Rameses (II & III combined); the hero of all those native Egyptians who wanted to rid themselves of the Ptolemies and re-establish a native Egyptian monarchy. The core of the story, however, originated in the copper mines in Edom; the place where the Shasu of Yhw were enslaved by Rameses II & III and from whom they escaped, if only briefly.