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Shishak or Susac (Hebrew: שישק, Tiberian: [ʃiʃaq]) or Shishaq is the biblical Hebrew form of the first ancient Egyptian name of a pharaoh mentioned in the Bible. He is usually identified with the historical pharaoh Shoshenq I.

Biblical narrative[edit]

The Bubastite Portal at Karnak, depicting a list of city states conquered by Shoshenq I in his Near Eastern military campaigns. Jerusalem does not occur in the list.[1]:174–175

Shishak is best known for a campaign against the Kingdom of Judah, recorded in the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 14:25, 2 Chronicles 12:1-12) and his supposed sacking of Jerusalem.

According to these books of the Hebrew Bible, Shishak had provided refuge to Jeroboam during the later years of Solomon's reign, and upon Solomon's death, Jeroboam became king of the tribes in the north, which became the Kingdom of Israel. In the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign (commonly dated ca. 926 BCE[1]), Shishak swept through the kingdom of Judah with a powerful army of 60,000 horsemen and 1,200 chariots, in support of his ally. According to 2 Chronicles 12:3, he was supported by the Lubim (Libyans), the Sukkiim, and the Kushites" ("Ethiopians" in the Septuagint). Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews adds to this a contingent of 400,000 infantrymen. That number that can be "safely ignored as impossible" on Egyptological grounds; similarly, the numbers of chariots reported in 2 Chronicles is likely exaggerated by a factor ten, leading 60,000 horses through the Sinai and Negev would have been logistically impossible, and no evidence of Egyptian cavalry exists from before the 27th Dynasty.[2]

According to the biblical story, Shishak carried off all of the treasures of the temple and the royal palace in Jerusalem: "When Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem, he carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields Solomon had made." (2 Chronicles 12:9) The story is not specific about the means by which he acquired these treasures. They have traditionally been interpreted as a ransom from Rehoboam to secure peace. However, if Shishak is to be equated with the historical Shoshenq I, then this ransom is highly unlikely. Firstly, no United Monarchy of Israel and Judah occurs in Shoshenq's list of conquered enemies; second, the material culture of 10th century Jerusalem and surroundings was too primitive to allow for any treasure that an Egyptian pharaoh would have been interested in. Israel Finkelstein concludes that the looting narrative "should probably be seen as a theological construct rather than as historical references".[1]:175

Shishak's name[edit]

Texts written in various ancient languages seem to indicate that the first vowel was both long and round, and the final vowel was short. For example, the name is written in the Hebrew Bible as שישק [ʃiːʃaq]. The variant readings in Hebrew, which are due to confusion between the letters < י > Yod and < ו > Vav that are particularly common in the Masoretic Text, indicate that the first vowel was long in pronunciation. The Septuagint uses Σουσακιμ [susakim], derived from the marginal reading שושק [ʃuːʃaq] of Hebrew. This indicates during the 2nd century BC Hebrew-speakers or Alexandrian Greek-speakers pronounced the name with an initial long close back rounded vowel [u].

Shishak identified as Pharaoh Shoshenq I[edit]

The Bubastite Portal at Karnak, showing the cartouches of Shoshenq I.

In the very early years after the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, on chronological, historical, and linguistic grounds, nearly all Egyptologists identified Shishak with Shoshenq I. This position was maintained by most scholars ever since, and is still the majority position. The fact that Shoshenq I left behind "explicit records of a campaign into Canaan (scenes; a long list of Canaanite place-names from the Negev to Galilee; stelae), including a stela [found] at Megiddo" supports the traditional interpretation.[3]

Other identifications have been put forward which have been considered fringe theories. In his book Ages in Chaos, Immanuel Velikovsky identified him with Thutmose III. More recently, David Rohl's New Chronology identified him with Ramesses II, and Peter James has identified him with Ramesses III.


  1. ^ a b c Finkelstein, Israel (2006). "The Last Labayu: King Saul and the Expansion of the First North Israelite Territorial Entity". In Amit, Yairah; Ben Zvi, Ehud; Finkelstein, Israel; et al. Essays on Ancient Israel in Its Near Eastern Context: A Tribute to Nadav Naʼaman. Eisenbrauns. pp. 171 ff. ISBN 9781575061283. 
  2. ^ Sagrillo, Troy Leiland (2012). Šîšaq’s army: 2 Chronicles 12:2–3 from an Egyptological perspective. The ancient Near East in the 12th–10th Centuries BCE: Culture and history; Proc. of the international conference held at the University of Haifa, 2–5 May 2010. Alter Orient und Altes Testament: Veröffentlichungen zur Kultur und Geschichte des Alten Orients und des Alten Testaments 392. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag. pp. 425–450. 
  3. ^ K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, William Eerdmans & Co, 2003. pp.10, 32-34 & p.607. Page 607 of Kitchen's book depicts the surviving fragment of Shoshenq I's Megiddo stela which bears this king's cartouche

Further reading[edit]

  • Rohl, David M. (1995). Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest. New York: Crown Publishers, inc. 
  • Muchiki Yoshiyuki (1999). Egyptian Proper Names and Loanwords in North-West Semitic. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.