Under the Yoke of Egypt

In Exodus 6, God instructs Moses to tell the enslaved Israelites “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”

In the Late Bronze Age, that land to which God would take them was under Egyptian control. Egypt’s New Kingdom was initiated with the expulsion of the Asiatic Hyksos to west Asia, and gradually Egypt extended its control to the southern Levant. This served the dual purpose of giving Egypt a buffer zone to protect against invasion and to control trade in the region.

Evidence for Egyptian control appears in both Egypt and Canaan. In Egypt, on temple walls, Asiatics are depicted as vassals bringing tribute to their Egyptian overlords.

Beit She’an sits at an important juncture for trade along the Jordan Valley and Jezre’el Valley, which today is just north of the West Bank in Israel. Beit She’an is referenced on a list at the temple at Karnak of sites crossed by the Egyptian king Thutmose III. In the Amarna Letters sent from Canaan to the Egyptian king Akhenaten, the ruler of Jerusalem, Abdi-Heba, cites Beit She’an as the source of attacks against him.

Numerous findings at Beit She’an demonstrate an Egyptian presence. A statue of Ramesses III and a stele of Seti I indicate Egyptian control. The temple at Beith She’an features Egyptian design elements. Burial practices with anthropomorphic coffins mimic Egyptian practices. The Egyptian game Hare and Hounds appears on the site. Homes are built in the Egyptian style. A door lintel with an inscription in hieroglyphics was unearthed at the site.

Papyrus Anastasi I dates to the 19th or 20th Dynasty, and contains a list of sites along the coastal road that carried trade to and from Egypt. Along the route were Egyptian military garrisons, some of which have been unearthed and feature Egyptian elements, including Egyptian home styles and Egyptian pottery.

In the 12th century BCE, as Egypt’s 20th Dynasty of the New Kingdom weakened, Egyptian control over Canaan waned. A bronze base for a statue of the Egyptian king Ramesses VI, is a late sign of Egyptian control. Ramesses VI died in 1137. Egyptian pottery dating to roughly 1125 BCE, was unearthed at the garrison at Jaffa, perhaps the last gasp of Egyptian control.

The image above is the Egyptian lintel, a block that rested above the doorposts, with hieroglyphs, found at Beit She’an. 

For another example of a lintel, see the clip below: