It seems like everyone from my generation has watched The Ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMills at least several times. Charlton Heston played Moses and Yule Brenner played Ramses II. In the movie, Ramses I, the grandfather of Ramses II, gave the order to kill the Hebrew babies, while the film The Prince of Egypt made it out to be Seti I, the father of Ramses II. In The Ten Commandments, the daughter of Pharaoh who drew Moses from the water was called Bithiah, because I Chronicles 4:18 lists someone named Bithiah who married into the tribe of Judah. She was the daughter of a pharaoh, but we don’t know which one. As a matter of fact, Moses probably didn’t even live in the same century as Ramses. Although these films intended to inspire faith, their unintentional mistakes undoubtedly destroyed the faith of many.
Not much ties Ramses II to the pharaoh of the Exodus. Exodus 1:11 says that the Hebrews built the cities of Pithom and Raamses, but people only assumed that the name of the pharaoh would be the same as the name of the city. The Torah never gives the name of the pharaoh. By the way, Ramses, the shortest form, is also spelled Raamses, Ramese, and Ramesses. His full royal name was Usermaatre-setepenre Ramessu-meryamun. Confused yet?
The most obvious problem is that Ramses II was the greatest, most powerful, and most famous of all the Egyptian pharaohs, but none of the prolific writings from that 19th dynasty mention the Hebrews in Egypt or a great catastrophe. Ramses II died peacefully at the age of 90, outliving many of his wives and sons. He is known for military campaigns in Syria, Nubia, and Libya, which makes him more like the powerful pharaoh Shishak of 2 Chronicles 12:3. It’s embarrassing to think that Ramses II would have been devastated by ten plagues and lost his entire army without mentioning anything at all,… unless he wasn’t the pharaoh.
Ramses II built a huge memorial temple known as the Ramesseum, the complex of Abu Simbel, his family tomb, the capital of Pi-Ramesses, and statues of himself, one weighing 90 tons. In fact, Ramses II erected more colossal statues of himself than any other pharaoh. Since the shallow carvings of previous pharaohs had often been overwritten, he made sure that his inscriptions were deep and lasting. This was not the Dark Ages; it was the most transparent era. Even if Ramses might have failed to mention the Hebrew victory over him, because of pride, why didn’t he mention them as slaves?
Here’s another problem: Why do we have Ramses II’s mummy if he was killed in the Red Sea? While the biblical text doesn’t specifically say that Pharaoh was killed, it’s pretty obvious. Exodus 14:6 says that pharaoh made ready HIS chariot, took his army, and pursued. 600 chosen chariots are mentioned, along with ALL the other chariots. Verse 28 says they were ALL destroyed and NOT ONE of them remained. This being true, there would have been no pharaoh and no army left. How can that be overlooked in the legacy of Ramses II and those who followed him?
It is highly unlikely that Ramses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus. We need to find a better match.