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Only in Arabia!


a) Pir’u, King of Mitzraim!

One of the arguments put forward by my good friends to persuade me to drop my thesis that the Exodus took place in Arabia and not from Egypt, is their assumption that the Bible is full of Egyptian names and Pharaoh is one that is given as the triumphal example.

Like Mitzraim however Pir’u, normally translated as Pharaoh, is just an exercise in wishful thinking and tautology.

As the following examples show, Pir’u is not Egyptian but neoBabylonian/Assyrian and cannot possibly mean “Pharaoh” although all the text books translated it that way.

Let us look in our old standby, Luckenbill’s Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon.

Luckenbill Part II

#18 From Pir’u (translated In a footnote as Pharaoh) king of Egypt, Samsi, Queen of Arabia, It’amra, the Sabean, the kings of the seacoast and the desert, I received gold……. I defeated Mita, King of Muski……

#55 Hanno, King of Gaza, with Sib’e turtan of Egypt…………….
The tribute of “Pir’u (translated In a footnote as Pharaoh) king of Egypt, Samsi, Queen of Arabia, It’amra, the Sabean……

#195; To the ‘kings’ of the lands of Pileste (Philistia) Iaudi (Judea), “Edom’, Moab, who dwell by the sea…….to Pir’u, King of Egypt, a prince…….

As can be readily seen it just is not possible to translate Pir’u as Pharaoh unless one has a predilection to so do. Pir’u in these contexts is just a name like Samsi, It’amra and Mita are names. In the first example #18, the correct translation would be Pir’u, King of Musri, NOT Pharaoh, King of Egypt.

So in the Bible, we can see that the translation is somewhat laboured.

e.g.  EXODUS

1.  And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.  2  And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.  3  And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.  4  And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward. 

Here we can see that for no particular reason, there is a sudden change from calling the ruler of “Egypt” a King, to calling him a Pharaoh. It makes no sense.

Look at how the problem is solved with this translation.

“….The butler of the King of Mitzraim and his baker had offended their Lord the King of Mitzraim. And Pir’u was wroth against two of his officers.”

Nor by the way is Pir’u solely an Egyptian name. In the neo Assyrian documents there is an inscription

Pir'u son of Nabu-sumu-losir was in charge of the tithe in 552/1-550/49 BC
(see A.C.V.M. Bongenaar, The Neo-Babylonian Ebabbar temple, Sippar: Its
administration and its prosopography, Leiden 1997 [henceforth NBET], 432).

A list of other neo Babylonian examples of Pir'u

There is no reason to suppose anything other than the fact that when Mitzraim is mentioned in Exodus it is an area in Arabia and that Pir’u is the name of the ruler of that region.

b) Camels are NOT an Anachronism.


One of the most common critiques of the Torah is the archaeological fact that no camel remains are to be found in Egypt at anywhere near the time that Abraham is supposed to have received them as a gift from Pir’u, King of Mitzraim. Nor does Egyptian art of the period depict the camel as it does the other animals given to Abraham

It is so powerful an argument that fundamentalist prefer not to comment. Few today would contend that camels as a domesticated beast were used in Egypt until very much later.

However, there IS one area of the world where Camels were used at this early period.

I quote from the experts in the field.

JPS Genesis 12:16 And he dealt well with Abram for her sake; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels.

**Anchor Bible Dictionary p. 824 ff
“ By the advent of the Bronze Age, ca. 3000 B.C. , wild camels seem to have disappeared or to have been driven out of their natural habitat into the more inhospitable reaches of the Arabian peninsula and our understanding of their behavior patterns and ecological preference remains unclear (Grigson 1983: 313).
Biblical references to camels are still considered controversial, especially in the Genesis passages. Table 1 lists the occurrences in Old Testament usage:

Table 1

Text Person/Period Context Sugg. Date

Neh 7:69  

Iron III  

return from exile with camels  

c.530 B.C.

Ezra 2:67  

Iron III  

return from exile with camels  

c.530 B.C.

Isa 21:7  

Iron II/III  

camel riders from desert  

c.600 B.C.

Isa 30:6  


camels among “beasts of the Negev”

Isa 60:6  


Midianite camels

Ezek 25:5  


“People of the East” and Ammonites with camels  

c.600 B.C.

Jer 49:29  

Iron II/III  

camels of Qedar  

c.600 B.C.

Jer 49:32  


camels of the inhabitants of Hazor

2 Kgs 8:9  

Hazael/Ben Hadad  

camel loads of goods  

c.850 B.C.

1 Kgs 10:2  


camels of Sheba bearing spices  

c. 950 B.C.

1 Chr 27:30  


camels of Obil the Ishmaelite  

c.1000 B.C.

1 Chr 12:40  


camels used as pack animals

1 Chr  


camels as booty from Hagrites   


1 Sam 30:17  


the camels of Amalekites

1 Sam 27:9  


 camels as booty from Shur

[ Job 1:3 , 1:17 ]  


 “Chaldeans” raiding Job’s camels

1 Sam 15:3  


 camels of Amalekites  

 c.1050 B.C.

Judg 6:5  


 camel attacks of Midianites  

 c.1150 B.C.

Judg 7:12  


 camel attack of Midianites

Judg 8:21 , 26  


 camels of Zebah and Zalmunna

[ Lev 11:4 = Deut 14:7 ]  

 Mosaic Law  

 prohibition against eating camel meat

Exod 9:3  


 Pharaoh’s camels are plagued along with other herds in Egypt  

 c.1250 B.C.

Gen 37:25  


 Midianites/Ismaelites going to Egypt with camel caravans  

 c.1300 B.C.

Gen 32:15 ; 31:34 ; 30:43  


 Jacob’s flocks with Laban include camels as well as herd animals for Esau in the Seir area

Gen 24:10–67 ; 12:16  


 camels used for trip to Syria, included as bride price; Abraham in Egypt owns camels as part of larger herds  

 c. ?

From this brief look, we can see that references to camels in the OT fall into three groups. The third period, the latest, corresponds to the Iron Age II–III periods. The occurrence of camels in the greater Near East during this period, 900–400 B.C., is well documented (Eph al 1981). The second period, covering the use of camels from Joseph to Solomon, should fall within the archaeological periods labeled LB III and Iron I (1300–950 B.C.). In the OT, camels are consistently associated with people called Ishmaelites, Midianites, and Amalekites, located to the S and E of Israel and Judah proper. Therefore, it may be the case that domesticated camels were in use in the northwestern portion of the Arabian peninsula sometime in the mid-2d millennium B.C. among pastoral people with whom the Israelites had some acquaintance.”

Table 2
Suggested Domestication and Developmental Model for Camel Nomads of the Arabian Peninsula
 (After Zarins 1988)



 Camel Utilization  


 Cultural Evolution


North Arabian saddle (Shadad) Thamudic  

500 B.C.  

rectangular goat hair tent; minimal use
of stone


South Arabic cushion saddle  

1000 B.C.  

rectangular, stone-outlined structures,
tapered structures


South Arabic saddle (Hawlani/Hadaja) pack animals; overland incence trade; change in camel status  

1500 B.C.  

troughs, horseshoe-shaped structures


nonriding; herds for milk; little group movement  

2200–1200 B.C.  

Umm-an-Nar, Subr, Sihi; Phase II rock art in southwest Arabia. Arad and Bir Resisim remains from the Levant?


wild camel hunted  

6000–2000 B.C.  

Phase I rock art in southwest Arabia; osteological remains; Chalcolithic sites in Levant

The evidence is clear from the Biblical account alone, Abraham could NOT have entered Egypt, the ONLY place he could have obtained his camels was Arabia. As we have continued to state, Mitzraim could not possibly have been Egypt, ALL the evidence points to it being a region in Arabia.

Michael S. Sanders
On location
Wednesday, September 01, 2004


OT Old Testament
LB Late Bronze (Age)
S South(ern)
b.c. before Christ

1 Freedman, D.N. 1966, c1992. The Anchor bible Dictionary (electronic ed.) Doubleday: New York.

** "Please note that this quote from the Anchor Bible Dictionary has conventional dates for the Bronze Age which we have criticized in other parts of this web site.  This however does not affect the argument regarding the presence of camels in Arabia at the time of Abraham and their absence in Egypt at the same time."  --Michael

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