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What are historic details about the founding of Egypt?
The Bible gives us only a few clues about where the rebels went after they left the Tower of Babel. One rebel leader was Ham’s son Mizraim. Since his name later became a synonym for Egypt, early Jewish and Christian writers believed he led his family to Africa, founding Egypt along the waters of the Nile.
We must go to secular sources, however, to find more details about the founding of Egypt. According to the Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 484–425 BC), Egypt was originally an uninhabitable marsh.
The Egyptian historian Manetho, writing later in the third century BC, says that a “demigod” named Menes rose to power as Egypt’s first pharaoh. Early Christian writers believed that Menes was the same person as the biblical Mizraim, whose name means “embanker of the sea.” A later chronicle by Constantine Manasses (c.1130–c.1187) implies that Egypt was founded in 2188 BC, but this date has not been confirmed.
Though the Bible associates Mizraim’s name with Egypt, archaeologists have not found any mention of his name, and there is no evidence that he built any pyramids. According to Manetho, pyramid-building began when the architect Imhotep designed the “Step Pyramid” in the third dynasty, similar to the ziggurats of Sumer. In the next dynasty, pyramids made a dramatic leap forward, perhaps a result of scientific knowledge that Abraham brought with him from Ur into Egypt (claimed by the historian Josephus).
Based on Manetho’s history, many historians have assigned long dates to the reign of Egypt’s pharaohs. Their dates would place the first dynasties before the biblical Flood, but we know that this cannot be true. We should go to God’s Word first, rather than trusting the word of a man who wrote over one thousand years after Moses.
The Egyptians easily could have exaggerated, and several pharaohs may have ruled at the same time in different regions of the land, as archaeologist David Down suggests in his revised chronology (above).
Furthermore, secular historians recognize that the Egyptian dates do not match the records of other ancient nations. For example, if the dates traditionally assigned to Egyptian history are true, the Hittite empire would have to be extinct at the same time that two Assyrian kings claimed to be fighting wars against the Hittites.
Because the Bible provides the true framework for history, we can be sure that the correct interpretation of archaeology and history, including Egypt’s pyramids, begins with the Bible.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.