According to the Biblical account, the Israelites would enter around the reign of Senusret III. There are some correlations between the Bible and this Pharaoh.
His reign is one of the greatest of the Pharaohs.
“His reign is often considered the height of the Middle Kingdom which was the Golden Age in Egypt’s history in so far as art, literature, architecture, science, and other cultural aspects reached an unprecedented level of refinement, the economy flourished, and military and trade expeditions filled the nation’s treasury.”
“Pharaohs of the New Kingdom of Egypt would emulate his reign, and centuries after his death he was still prayed to and worshiped as a divine representative of the best gifts the gods gave to the Egyptian people.”
“Senusret III was among the few Egyptian kings who were deified and honored with a cult during their own lifetime.”
How was he able to gain so much power? According to the Bible, Pharaoh was able gain control of the entire region in exchange for food.
Gen 47:18-20 (ESV)
18 And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land.
19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”
20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s.
The fact that the Pharaoh was able to gain absolute control while the local leaders willingly ceded authority is confirmed by secular historians.
He divided the country into three large districts – Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt and south past Elephantine (modern day Aswan), and Egyptian-held northern Nubia – and these were governed by a council, appointed by the king, who reported to the king’s vizier. This policy disenfranchised most of the nomarchs but, interestingly, there is no evidence of resistance to it, nor is there any indication that the king was resented for a move which should have significantly affected the standard of living of a number of formerly powerful families. Inscriptions on the tombs of these nomarchs at Beni Hassan repeatedly give evidence that these people continued to be employed by the state and took pride in their positions and their king. This policy resulted in a much stronger and more secure central government. The militias of the different nomes were disbanded and absorbed into the standing army of the king and the removal of the nomarchs facilitated greater wealth for the crown. Senusret III’s redistricting also had the unforeseen effect of creating a segment of the population which had not existed previously: the middle class.
Even though he was one of the greatest and most powerful Pharaohs, as far as I can tell, he is the only Pharaoh to have been depicted with a somber expression.
“Senusret III is well known for his distinctive statues, which are almost immediately recognizable as his. On them, the king is depicted at different ages and, in particular, on the aged ones he sports a strikingly somber expression: the eyes are protruding from hollow eye sockets with pouches and lines under them, the mouth and lips have a grimace of bitterness, and the ears are enormous and protruding forward.”
Why in the world would he have a somber expression? Could it be related to experiencing a massive famine during his reign?
Gen 41:1-8 (ESV)
1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,
2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass.
3 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile.
4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke.
5 And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk.
6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind.
7 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.
8 So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.