Pharaohs in the Bible
The Bible makes reference to various pharaohs (פַּרְעֹה, /paʁˈʕo/) of Egypt. These include unnamed pharaohs in the legends of the Israelite settlement in Egypt, the subsequent oppression of the Israelites, and the period of the Exodus. They also include several later rulers, some of whom can be identified with historical pharaohs.
In the Book of Genesis
The passages Genesis 12:10–20 narrate how Abraham moves to Egypt to escape a period of famine in Canaan. The unnamed pharaoh, through his princes, hears of the beauty of Abraham's wife Sarah who is summoned to meet him. Because of her, Abraham rises in the Pharaoh's favor and acquires livestock and servants. After discovering Sarah's true relationship to Abraham, the pharaoh chooses not to take her as his own wife. He releases her and Abraham and orders them to take their goods and to leave Egypt.
The last chapters of the Book of Genesis (Genesis 37–50) tell how Joseph, son of Jacob/Israel, is first sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery but is promoted by the unnamed pharaoh to vizier of Egypt and is given permission to bring his father, his brothers, and their families into Egypt to live in the Land of Goshen (eastern Nile Delta around modern Faqus).
In the Book of Exodus
In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites—the descendants of Jacob's sons—are living in the Land of Goshen under a new pharaoh who oppresses the Hebrews. He forces them to work long hours without breaks and issues a decree to kill their newborn males in order to reduce their numbers due to concerns about their growing population. Moses, a Levite, is saved by his mother who instructs his sister Miriam to watch over him after he is placed in a reed basket in the Nile River. He is discovered and adopted by the pharaoh's daughter. Miriam asks the princess if she would like an Israelite woman to help nurse the child and returns with Moses' own mother, who is then able to raise her child under royal protection. During his infant years, Moses is instructed about the customs and history of the Israelites, and is taught about Yahweh. Later, Moses is returned to the pharaoh's daughter and raised as part of the royal household.
Though scholars generally do not recognise the biblical portrayal of the Exodus as an actual historical event, various historical pharaohs have been proposed as the corresponding ruler:
- Dedumose II (died c. 1690 BC): David Rohl's 1995 A Test of Time revised Egyptian history by shortening the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt by almost 300 years. As a by-result the synchronisms with the biblical narrative have changed, making the Second Intermediate Period king Dedumose II the pharaoh of the Exodus. Rohl's theory has failed to find support among scholars in his field.
- Ahmose I (1550–1525 BC): Most ancient writers considered Ahmose I, who reconquered lower Egypt from the Hyksos, to be the pharaoh of the Exodus.
- Thutmose II (1493–1479 BC). Alfred Edersheim proposes in his Old Testament Bible History that Thutmose II is best qualified to be the pharaoh of Exodus based on the fact that he had a brief, prosperous reign and then a sudden collapse with no legitimate son to succeed him. His widow Hatshepsut then became first Regent (for Thutmose III, his son by his concubine Iset) then Pharaoh in her own right. Edersheim states that Thutmose II is the only Pharaoh's mummy to display cysts, possible evidence of plagues that spread through the Egyptian and Hittite Empires at that time.
- Akhenaten (1353–1349 BC). In his book Moses and Monotheism Sigmund Freud argued that Moses had been an Atenist priest forced to leave Egypt with his followers after Akhenaten's death.
- Ramesses II (c. 1279–1213 BC): Also known as Ramesses the Great, he is the most commonly imagined figure in popular culture (most widely via the 1956 film The Ten Commandments), being one of the most long standing rulers at the height of Egyptian power, but, as with all other Pharaohs, there is no documentary or archaeological evidence that he chased any slaves fleeing Egypt. Ramesses II's late 13th century BC stela in Beth Shan mentions two conquered peoples who came to "make obeisance to him" in his city of Raameses or Pi-Ramesses but mentions neither the building of the city nor, as some have written, the Israelites or Hapiru.
- Merneptah (c. 1213–1203 BC): Isaac Asimov in his Guide to the Bible makes a case for him to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Merneptah is also contemporaneous with the Merneptah Stele, an inscription used by some scholars to make a case for a historical Exodus.
- Setnakhte (c. 1189–1186 BC): Igor P. Lipovsky and Israel Knohl make a case for him to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
- Rameses III (c. 1186–1155 BC): According to Gary A. Rendsburg
Pharaohs in the Books of Kings
In 1 Kings 3:1, it is narrated that to seal an alliance, the pharaoh of Egypt gave a daughter in marriage to Solomon. The same ruler later captured the city of Gezer and gave it to Solomon as well (1 Kings 9:16). No name is given for the pharaoh, and some hypotheses have been proposed:
- Siamun (c. 986–967 BC): is the most commonly proposed candidate for this role.
- Psusennes II (c. 967–943 BC): the Catholic Encyclopedia sees him as the best candidate.
- Shoshenq I (c. 943–922 BC): Edward Lipiński dated the destruction of Gezer to the late 10th century rather than earlier, and suggested that its conqueror was Shoshenq I of the 22nd Dynasty.
Conjectural pharaohs: Shishak and So
1 Kings 11:40 and 2 Chronicles 12:2 sqq. tell of an invasion of Israel by Shishak, and a subsequent raid of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon. He is generally identified with Shoshenq I (943–922 BC).
2 Kings 17:4 says that king Hoshea sent letters to "So, King of Egypt". No pharaoh of this name is known for the time of Hoshea (about 730 BC), during which Egypt had three dynasties ruling contemporaneously: 22nd at Tanis, 23rd at Leontopolis, and 24th at Sais. Nevertheless, this ruler is commonly identified with Osorkon IV (730–715 BC) who ruled from Tanis, though it is possible that the biblical writer has mistaken the king with his city and equated So with Sais, at this time ruled by Tefnakht.
Historical pharaohs: Taharqa, Necho and Apries/Hophra
2 Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9 mention a Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia (Kush), who the Bible says waged war against Sennacherib during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah. Some scholars have identified him as the pharaoh Taharqa. The events in the biblical account are believed to have taken place in 701 BC, whereas Taharqa came to the throne some ten years later. A number of explanations have been proposed: one being that the title of king in the Biblical text refers to his future royal title, when at the time of this account he was likely only a military commander.
- Grabbe, Lester (2014). "Exodus and History". In Dozeman, Thomas; Evans, Craig A.; Lohr, Joel N. (eds.). The Book of Exodus: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation. BRILL. pp. 61–87. ISBN 9789004282667.
- Rohl 1995, pp. 341–348
- Bennett 1996
- Meyers, Stephen C. "IBSS – Biblical Archaeology – Date of the Exodus". www.bibleandscience.com. Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- Edersheim, A., Old Testament Bible History, originally published 1876-1887, ISBN 156563165X, p. 134
- Moses and Monotheism, ISBN 0-394-70014-7
- Stephen L. Caiger, "Archaeological Fact and Fancy," Biblical Archaeologist, (9, 1946).
- Isaac Asimov, Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Random House, 1981, p. 130–131, ISBN 0-517-34582-X
- Igor P. Lipovsky, Early Israelites: Two Peoples, One History: Rediscovery of the Origins of Biblical Israel ISBN 0-615-59333-X
- "Exodus: The History Behind the Story".
- Rendsburg, Gary. "The Pharaoh of the Exodus – Rameses III - TheTorah.com". www.thetorah.com.
- Brian Roberts. "ANE - Solomon taking an Egyptian wife (to David Lorton)".[dead link]
- "The Bible Chronology from Solomon to Hezekiah". nabataea.net. CanBooks. 1935. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- Kenneth Kitchen (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids and Cambridge. ISBN 0-8028-4960-1, p. 108.
- Gabriel Oussani (July 1, 1912). "Solomon". The Catholic Encyclopedia.
- Lipinski, Edward (2006). On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age(Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta). Leuven, Belgium: Peeters. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-90-429-1798-9.
- Troy Leiland Sagrillo. 2015. "Shoshenq I and biblical Šîšaq: A philological defense of their traditional equation." In Solomon and Shishak: Current perspectives from archaeology, epigraphy, history and chronology; proceedings of the third BICANE colloquium held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge 26–27 March, 2011, edited by Peter J. James, Peter G. van der Veen, and Robert M. Porter. British Archaeological Reports (International Series) 2732. Oxford: Archaeopress. 61–81.
- Patterson 2003, pp. 196–197
- Peter A Clayton: Chronicle of The Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson, (2006), pp. 182–183
- Christoffer Theis, Contributions to the Vocabulary of the Old Testament: The Connection of the Name סוֹא with Greek Σηγωρ in 2 Kings 17, 4, in: Biblica 101 (2020), pp. 107–113.
- Encyclopædia britannica. Edited by Colin MacFarquhar, George Gleig. p785
- The Holy Bible, According to the Authorized Version (A.D. 1611). Edited by Frederic Charles Cook. p131
- see Hebrew Bible / Old Testament
- Bennett, Chris (1996). "Temporal Fugues". Journal of Ancient and Medieval Studies XIII. Archived from the original on 2018-07-16. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- Patterson, Richard D. (2003). "The Divided Monarchy: Sources, Approaches, and Historicity". In Grisanti, Michael A.; Howard, David M. (eds.). Giving the sense: understanding and using Old Testament historical texts. Kregel. ISBN 978-0-8254-2892-0.
- Rohl, David (1995). A Test of Time. Arrow. ISBN 0-09-941656-5.
- Shea, W.H. (1996). "Exodus (date of the)". In Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (ed.). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:E-J. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3782-0.