Israelites and the Egyptian Pyramids

Egyptian Pyramids
Tobias Helbig / Getty Images

Did the Israelites build the great Egyptian pyramids while they were slaves under the rule of different Pharaohs in Egypt? It's certainly an interesting idea, but the short answer is no.

When Were the Pyramids Built?

Most of the Egyptian pyramids were built during the time period historians refer to as the ​Old Kingdom, which lasted from 2686 - 2160 B.C. This includes most of the 80 or so pyramids still standing in Egypt today, including the Great Pyramid at Giza.​

Fun fact: the Great Pyramid was the tallest building in the world for more than 4,000 years.

Back to the Israelites. We know from historical records that Abraham -- the father of the Jewish nation -- was born around 2166 B.C. His descendant Joseph was responsible for bringing the Jewish people into Egypt as honored guests (see Genesis 45); however, that did not occur until approximately 1900 B.C. After Joseph died, the Israelites were eventually pushed into slavery by the Egyptian rulers. This unfortunate situation continued for 400 years until the coming of Moses.

All in all, the dates don't match up to connect the Israelites with the pyramids. The Israelites were not in Egypt during the construction of the pyramids. In fact, the Jewish people did not even exist as a nation until most of the pyramids had been completed.

Why Do People Think the Israelites Built the Pyramids?

In case you're wondering, the reason people often connect the Israelites with the pyramids comes from this Scripture passage:

A new king, who had not known Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we are. 10 Let us deal shrewdly with them; otherwise they will multiply further, and if war breaks out, they may join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.” 11 So the Egyptians assigned taskmasters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor. They built Pithom and Rameses as supply cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13 They worked the Israelites ruthlessly 14 and made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them.
Exodus 1:8-14

It's certainly true that the Israelite people spent centuries doing construction work for the ancient Egyptians. However, they did not build the pyramids. Instead, they were likely involved in building new cities and other projects within Egypt's vast empire.

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O'Neal, Sam. "Israelites and the Egyptian Pyramids." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, O'Neal, Sam. (2023, April 5). Israelites and the Egyptian Pyramids. Retrieved from O'Neal, Sam. "Israelites and the Egyptian Pyramids." Learn Religions. (accessed June 2, 2023).