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Pharaohs in the Bible
Pharaohs mentioned 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.
Joseph presenting his father and brethren to Pharaoh. (1896)
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 (as a result of plagues sent by Yahweh), 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.
In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob's sons, are living in the Land of Goshen, under a new pharaoh. This pharaoh has forgotten all of Joseph's contributions and seeks to oppress the Hebrews, forcing them to work long hours without break and killing their children to reduce their numbers. Moses, a Levite, is saved by the Pharaoh's daughter, and raised in the Pharaoh's house. Throughout Moses' life, he is aware of his Israelite status, as is the Pharaoh, who still permits Moses to remain in his house.
Possible suggestions for a historical counterpart to Pharaoh include:
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. Additionally, the historical Pithom was built in the 7th century BC, during the Saite period.
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.
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
Taharqa offering to Falcon-god Hemen (close-up)
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.
^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. ISBN978-90-429-1798-9.
^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.