Did Pharaoh drown with his army in the Red Sea in pursuit of the Israelites?

A conversation with a good friend of mine, one of the greatest theological minds I have come to know, evoked this curiosity in me about Pharaoh’s status during the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. The way we respond to this question could open a new vista in the way we articulate certain cherished beliefs of the church. It will also help us to have a better understanding of doctrines that have defined received orthodoxy but specifically systematic theology. I know that this may not be every body’s interest, but there are some among us with questions about doctrines such as election, predestination, and salvation.

We may also have members of our churches with questions about these doctrines, who may feel that the pastor or the preacher is not interacting with these issues. So for the sake of love for the brethren, I am compelled to at least try to start a conversation that might shed more light on these topics and hopefully cause you to rethink these doctrines. I am well aware that these doctrinal issue will not debar any of us from going to heaven, as long as we are members incorporate of the mystical body of Christ, and live a life that reflects Him at his coming again in glory. However, there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing what we believe.

There is overwhelming consensus among conservative scholars that Pharaoh of the Exodus that occurred around 1446 BC was Amenhotep II (1450-1424 BC). There is also a considerable, if not overwhelming biblical and historical evidence that he was spared while his army perished during their pursuit of Israel. The text itself did not say that he died with his army. In Exodus 14:28, we learn that the waters cover “all the army of Pharaoh,” but Pharaoh himself is not mentioned. Exodus 15: 19 also substantiates this: “For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them.” The only place outside of the Book of Exodus that suggests that Pharaoh died with his army is in Psalm 136:15. It reads “God overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.” The problem with this text is that the Hebrew word that is translated overthrow does not always mean drown. This same word is used in Nehemiah (which happens to be my second son’s middle name) 5:13; and Exodus 14:27 and in both cases it does not mean drown. So my question to you is this: Do you think that Pharaoh Amenhotep, the Pharaoh of Exodus did drown with the rest of his army in pursuit of the Israelites?

Many blessings as you read and respond.



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