It was under one of the immediate successors of Ramses II. that the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt must have taken place. Egyptian tradition pointed to Meneptah; modern scholars incline rather to his successors Seti II. and Si-Ptah. With this event the patriarchal history of Canaan ought properly to come to an end. But the Egyptian monuments still cast light upon it, and enable us to carry it on almost to the moment when Joshua and his followers entered the Promised Land.
Palestine still formed part of the kingdom of Meneptah, at all events in the earlier years of his reign. A scribe has left us a record of the officials who passed to and from Canaan through the frontier fortress of Zaru during the middle of the month Pakhons in the third year of the king. One of these was Baal- ... the son of Zippor of Gaza, who carried a letter for the Egyptian overseer of the Syrian peasantry (or Perizzites), as well as another for Baal-[sa]lil-ga[b]u, the vassal-prince of Tyre. Another messenger was Sutekh-mes, the son of ’Aper-dagar, who also carried a despatch to the overseer of the peasantry, while a third envoy came in the reverse direction, from the city of Meneptah, “in the land of the Amorites.”
In the troubles which preceded the accession of the twentieth dynasty the Asiatic possessions of Egypt were naturally lost, and were never again recovered. Ramses III., however, the last of the conquering Pharaohs, made at least one campaign in Palestine and Syria. Like Meneptah, he had to bear the brunt of an attack upon Egypt by the confederated hordes of the north which threatened to extinguish its civilization altogether. The nations of Asia Minor and the AEgean Sea had poured into Syria as the northern barbarians in later days poured into the provinces of the Roman Empire. Partly by land, partly by sea, they made their way through Phoenicia and the land of the Hittites, destroying everything as they went, and carrying in their train the subjugated princes of Naharaim and Kadesh. For a time they encamped in the “land of the Amorites,” and then pursued their southward march. Ramses III. met them on the north-eastern frontier of his kingdom, and in a fiercely-contested battle utterly overthrew them. The ships of the invaders were captured or sunk, and their forces on land were decimated. Immense quantities of booty and prisoners were taken, and the shattered forces of the enemy retreated into Syria. There the Philistines and Zakkal possessed themselves of the sea-coast, and garrisoned the cities of the extreme south. Gaza ceased to be an Egyptian fortress, and became instead an effectual barrier to the Egyptian occupation of Canaan.