I am summarizing and commenting on Igor Lipovsky’s Early Israelites.
Lipovsky gives a very detailed scenario for how Moses began his exodus. The more detailed your speculation, the more in danger it is of getting overturned. This is a case in point because a new find has undermined essential details of Lipovsky’s sequence of events.
But here is a sketch of his sequence:
Under Queen Tausret (I am using Lipovsky’s spelling) Moses thought he could get his people out of Egypt under the ruse of making a pilgrimage into the Sinai wilderness. Under the influence of Chancelor Bay (the Irsu of the Harris Papyrus) she denied this request. Some natural disasters followed and civil unrest increased. The Hebrews interpreted these events as acts of God.
But then Queen Tausret died. Bay assumed power and declared himself pharaoh. But the army refused to recognize him and backed a rival, Setnakht. Bay was desperate for allies so he partially caved to Moses’ demands and said that Hebrew men could make the pilgrimage without their families or livestock. This did not work for Moses.
Then there was a coup attempt by Bay’s enemies that involved the murder during the night of the heads of the Egyptian clans (firstborn sons) supporting Bay. This is what really happened Passover night. The enemies of Bay also regarded the Hebrews as potential allies so they left them alone. The Hebrews may have known about the coup ahead of time, so they marked their doors so that the assassins could tell them from the Egyptians.
The coup initially failed, but Bay was now suspicious that the Hebrews would support Setnakht. So he capitulated to Moses’ demands and allowed the Hebrew to leave in the direction of the desert. He may have bribed them with gold and silver to leave immediately.
But Setnakht achieved a swifter victory than Bay or Moses expected. The new pharaoh reversed the policy of Bay and sent a force to bring back his work force. In a risky maneuver, Moses led the people across the Bitter Lakes at low tide. He knew that people and livestock could pass where chariot wheels would become stuck. Thus the Hebrews escaped into the wilderness.
This account is especially interesting in the light of a stele of Setnakht found on Elephantine island. He says that he rid Egypt of those who violated her. His finest troops chased them like a hawk chases birds. They left behind silver and gold that belonged to the Egyptians.
He implies that they did not escape. But this may assume that they perished in the wilderness. Some interpret these violators of Egypt to be Asiatic invaders. If so, they got far enough to steal Egyptian treasures. It seems simpler to think that they were Asiatics leaving Egypt.
There is an artifact that shows that Chancellor Bay could not have played the role Lipovsky gives him. Bay was executed in during the reign of Siptah.
There was a community of artisans at Deir el-Medina who worked on the tombs in the Valley of Kings. We have a lot of their work orders. Most of them are boring. But one has come to light from pharaoh Siptah’s year 5 that says, “Pharaoh LPH has killed the great enemy, Bay.” The point of this was to stop work on Bay’s royal tomb.
This time is very hazy historically. We have no record of Tausret dying. Egyptologist, Aidan Dodson, gives an informed order of events in his Poisoned Legacy. Tausret was regent for the young Siptah. But he died mysteriously and she assumed full titles as pharaoh. The reality or suspicion that she had killed the legitimate pharaoh caused Setnakht to lead a rebellion. Dodson bases most of this on who usurped and mutilated whose tomb. It is fascinating.
So some scenario similar to what Lipovsky proposes could still have happened. But in the Bible, the memory that a Queen was involved has been lost. The Irsu mentioned in the Harris Papyrus could have been someone other than Bay. Tausret could have had a new Syrian consort who negotiated with Moses. The details of the period are lost in the mist.
One lesson from this is that perhaps scholars should not get too detailed or novel-like in their development of scenarios. Alternatively, perhaps they should just say, “I know something may turn up tomorrow that changes all this, but I’m going to plunge ahead anyway.”