Prepare Ye the Way
1300 - 1200 BC, the Middle East
From Egypt, a new dynasty eager to restore past grandeur marched forth under Seti, then his son Ramses the Great. At the great battle of Kadesh in 1298, Egypt was held by the Hittites but both empires were weakened by the effort. Afterward Egypt retained only tenuous control over the Canaanite sea-bordered area.
A new threat had appeared to plague the eastern Mediterranean. With the disappearance of the Minoan empire, law and order on the high seas had faded. The Achaean Greeks raided and settled over the coastal areas, including Cyprus, and destroyed the ancient city of Troy. From west of Egypt, the Libyan people began to raid Egypt itself. These People of the Sea were controlled by the Empire, but were a continuing harassment, especially at the end of the century. And while Egyptian attention was coastward, Edom and Moab established kingdoms beyond the Jordan valley and Aramaeans infiltrated the Syrian area.
Far from the clangor of the coast, Babylonia again became a great kingdom.
Assyria was a Semitic area drawing on the older Sumerian culture. But it had long ago developed an identity of its own as a commercial center located on the trade routes among Mesopotamia, Anatolia and the metal-rich Caucasus. Thus it was in a good position to learn from its enemies the Hittites the economics of iron working. Around the middle of the century under Tikulti-Ninurta, it began a rise to power. The Mitanni were squeezed into a buffer position against the Hittites. Even Babylon was briefly held by Assyria near the end of the century.
To better control his beleaguered kingdom, Ramses established his capital on the old Hyksos site of Avaris, renaming it Ramses. Labor gangs, including reluctant Hebrews, were rounded up to rebuild the city (not, however, pyramids). The alien Semites were now a suspect people and harshly treated by the nationalist state. In this atmosphere Moses was born and edcucated, fleeing for a time into the nearby land of Midian, where he learned the pastoral life of the wilderness.
The date of the Exodus from Egypt cannot be placed exactly, but was probably during the reign of Ramses (1304-1237). The attacks of the Sea People had become troublesome again and the burden of building a defense fell heavily on the Hebrews who had the misfortune to be settled in the area where the new capital and several "store cities" were being built for logistical purposes. In any event, some time around 1250, the Israelites, led by Moses, found their way out of the kingdom. They left behind the cities Pithom and Succoth (which have been found by archeologists), avoiding the easy northern route to the land of their fore-fathers (it was under sporadic attack by the Sea People and heavily defended), crossing out of Egypt through the Sea of Reeds north of the Gulf of Suez ("Red Sea" is probably a mis-translation. There were a lake and marshy area full of papyrus to the east of Ramses before the drainage pattern of the land was changed by the building of the Suez Canal.)
The newly free Hebrews fled down the coast of the Sinai Peninsula from water hole to water hole very like a group of American tenderfoot pioneers harassed by local savages, the Amelikites, for whom they developed an undying hatred. Finally, gathered at Mt. Sinai, they turned their backs on Egyptian ideas, formed a new Covenant with the God of their fathers, and set forth again for His promised land.