Did Pharaoh Know the Way to Palestine?

The new Netflix block buster “Testament: The Story of Moses,” is a docudrama retelling the Exodus with commentary from religious leaders across a variety of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim denominations. The limited series mixes dramatized scenes and traditional footage of experts and, historical evidence.

While the dramatizations sometimes take liberties in comparison to the actual Biblical text, it is an attempt to be both entertaining and true to the overall story. A few reviews have cited “mediocre” visual effects, biblical inaccuracies, and claims of empty attempts to anachronistically interpret Moses’s story as one of social justice.

One of the comments that jumped out at me was one of historical inaccuracy that carried with it a potentially politically charged hidden message.

Dr. Monica Hana Assoc Prof, College of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage,  states [at time stamp 27:19 in Episode 1]  “…he [Ramses II] leads several campaigns to the area of Syria Palestine. He conquers areas as far as Beirut in Lebanon.”

The not-so-subtle use of the words “Syria” and “Palestine” is misleading and historically incorrect. She seems to be implying that “Palestine,” and therefore, “Palestinians” date back to at least this ancient period. As an Egyptologist and expert in cultural heritage, she should know better.

Let’s do a quick history review.

The Pharaoh who Moses faced was Ramses II, aka Ramses the Great, who ruled from around 1279 to 1213 BCE. Yet, “Syria” refers to the region inhabited by the Assyrians, whose empire fell in 612 BCE but was at its height of power during the 9th to 7th centuries BCE, approximately 450+ years after the reign of Ramses II (13th century BCE).

Therefore, the area of the time Dr. Hana was referring to was not “Syria,” but part of the broader Near Eastern region and inhabited by various peoples, tribes, and kingdoms (Mitanni, for example).

As for Dr. Hana’s anachronistic reference of “Palestine,” it should be noted that the land between the Jordan River and the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea was called Canaan at that time and was inhabited by various Semitic-speaking peoples throughout ancient history.

This was a region of strategic importance due to its location at the crossroads of trade routes connecting Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia. This desirable area was successively ruled by numerous empires and kingdoms, including the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.

However, as the story of Moses will show, the Israelites entered Canaan, their ‘promised land,’ around the 13th century BCE. The land was then called Israel, or the Kingdom of Israel, or the Kingdom of Judah.

It wasn’t until over 1,300 years after Ramses II, under Roman Emperor Hadrian, in 135 CE he defeated the Bar Kochba revolt, and in his attempt to wipe Jewish identity from the land of Israel, that the area was renamed “Syria Palestina”.

Over the centuries and throughout history, the area called Palestine has always referred to the Holy Land and Jerusalem, which meant Israel.

This changed relatively recently with the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 which, to this day, continues to attempt to redefine and usurp the name and identity of Palestine nearly 1,830 years after Hadrian.

The question remains: Was this incorrect positioning and mention of “Palestine” in the history timeline a mistake or deliberate misinformation on the part of Dr. Hana, who according to her bio is “an Egyptologist and an international figure in the world of archaeology?” Will this be corrected by the show’s producers or Netflix?

On to Episode 2…

About the Author
David is a former NYC advertising agency, corporate-side marketing executive, and consultant. Prior to his career in advertising David spent 5 years in the financial arena. David holds a BS and MBA (both in Marketing & Finance) from New York University. He has been an officer/board member/speaker of industry, educational, and community organizations, as well as several new business startups. David is a US Patent Holder and published author (Hey Israel – You’re Perfect. Now Change (free) and How to Run the Business of YOU). See his website for more information and other writings. David is a retired instructor from Rutgers University School of Communication & Information. He lives in Ashkelon, Israel with his wife and is an active volunteer with the Ashkelon Search and Rescue.