Our last couple of posts have dealt with Pharaoh Tirhakah, the Cushite (Ethiopian) king of Egypt’s 25th dynasty, and mentioned by name in 2 Kings 19:9, in correction with Judah’s good King Hezekiah, and the Assyrian King Sennacherib. We noted, “In some translations (i.e., NKJV) Tirhakah is said to be king of Ethiopia. “Ethiopia” here refers to southern Egypt, and is rendered Cush in CSB, ESV, NASB (Hebrew is כּוּשׁ, transliterated kûš).” Cush is also called the land of Nubia, with Nubia being the more modern name.
On our recent tour of Egypt (Oct. ’22) we had the opportunity to go south of Aswan (positioned “First Cataract” here on map below), where the ancient border separated Egypt from Cush.
Earlier when our group stopped for a visit at Kitchener Island in the Nile, we saw trees and plants from many locations. It is used as a research station called the Botanical Research Institute. While there we saw a sycamore tree, which is referenced many times in the scripture. Unlike the sycamore tree of my home in Alabama, the biblical sycamore produced figs (see Amos 7:14-17). I was explaining to some of our group nearby as to the significance of the tree, when a gentleman who also was listening (apparently an employee) approached. He picked up a fig, broke it open, to let our folks better see. This was very helpful. He also very emphatically said, “I am Nubian.”
Here is the sycamore tree on site there:
Here is a sycamore tree in Israel at Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel. (Located near Modi’in, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel).
In our present post we further consider Tirhakah, the Cushite (Ethiopian) Pharaoh mentioned in 2 Kings 19:9: “Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the Cushite king of Egypt, was marching out to fight against him.
It is fascinating (and illuminating) when there are other historical records, inscriptions, and artifacts which coincide with biblical persons and events. The battle between the Assyrians and Egyptians mentioned in our text above was of no great or decisive consequence. The biblical text shows that Assyria’s King Sennacherib was primarily interested in conquering Judah, and Tirhakah lived to fight another day. As was seen in yesterday’s post, Sennacherib conquered many Judean cities, but Yahweh delivered Jerusalem from his hands (701 BC), and Sennacherib fled back to Nineveh.
But there would be further conflict and fighting between Egypt and Assyria. Sennacherib was succeeded by his son Esarhaddon (2 Kings 19:37). The Lexham Bible Dictionary has the following info which references additional contact/conflict with Assyria and Egypt’s Pharaoh Tirhakah:
In 677 BC, Esarhaddon invaded Egypt after settling a revolt in Ashkelon, but was held back and retreated. In 671 BC he invaded again, this time capturing and sacking Memphis. He also took several members of the royal family captive, including Tirhakah’s son, Ushankhuru. Tirhakah fled to the south while Esarhaddon established Necho I as king of Sais. After Esarhaddon left, Tirhakah attempted to destabilize Necho I. On his way back to deal with the trouble Tirhakah was causing, Esarhaddon died. His son Ashurbanipal defeated Tirhakah, causing him to flee to Thebes, where he died in 664 BC.
Nettelhorst, R. P. (2016). Tirhakah. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, L. Wentz, E. Ritzema, & W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Lexham Press.
The Victory stele of Esarhaddon commemorated his 671 BC victory over Pharaoh Tirhakah (Taharqa/Taharka). Esarhaddon holds a mace club in his left hand, with a rope that passes through the lips of the two conquered kings, thought to be Pharaoh Tirharkah (lower left) and King Baal of Sidon (lower right). Esarhaddon’s right hand is addressing the gods. The script on the bottom half is in Akkadian Cuneiform.
The photo above was taken at the Semitic Museum in Harvard. The original stele is in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Tirhakah (Taharqa/Taharka) is mentioned in the context of the mighty Assyrian King Sennacherib’s attempt to take Judah’s capitol city of Jerusalem, 701 BC, during good King Hezekiah’s reign. The biblical text reads, “Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, ‘Behold, he has set out to fight against you.’ So he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying,” (2 Kings 19:9; cf. the parallel in Isa. 37:9).
The background is that Sennacherib (r. 705-681 BC) had already taken “all the fortified cities of Judah” (2 Kings 18:13). In fact, Assyrian records state that he had taken 46 fortified cities, besides unwalled towns and villages. In the context of our passage above that mentions Tirhakah, the fortress city of Lachish had been taken (cf. the displays in Lachish Room in the British Museum), and Assyrian was fighting against Libnah (2 Kings 19:8). It was at that point that Sennacherib “heard concerning Tirhakah.”
In some translations (i.e., NKJV) Tirhakah is said to be king of Ethiopia. “Ethiopia” here refers to southern Egypt, and is rendered Cush in CSB, ESV, NASB (Hebrew is כּוּשׁ, transliterated kûš). At the time of the battle (701 BC), Tirhakah was the commander of the Egyptian forces. He would later become Pharaoh (25th dynasty; r. 690-664 BC). Note: “Ancient Oriental writers, as well as modern, frequently referred to persons by titles acquired later than the period being described (K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, Chicago: Inter-Varsity, 1966, pp. 82–84).” (Source: C. F. Pfeiffer, H. F. Vos, & J. Rea (Eds.), The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia. Moody Press.).
Todd Bolen states,
Tirhakah meets the Assyrians in battle at Eltekeh, possibly modern Tell esh-Shallaf, 28 miles (45 kilometers) west of Jerusalem. It is not clear if Judah had sent tribute to Egypt in order to gain assistance or if the Egyptians saw an opportunity in attacking the Assyrian army when numerous battles had weakened it and it was far from home. Isaiah had warned Judah of the futility of trusting Egypt (Isa 31:1-5). (NIV Zondervan Study Bible, p. 696).
Taharqa was the fourth king of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty and also king of his native Kush; located in Northern Sudan. The remains of this huge kiosk, built by 25th Dynasty pharaoh Taharqa (690-664 B.C.) originally consisted of ten twenty-one meter high papyrus columns linked by a low screening wall. Today there is only one great column still standing. It is believed that it was a barque chapel (or Station) although some Egyptologists think it may have been used in ritual activities to join with the sun.
Photo above was taken during our 2022 Fall tour of Egypt. You can see the column of Tirhakah as well as two statues of Rameses II.
Here is a closer look at that column:
Back to the text of 2 Kings 19:9, the Assyrians were only temporally diverted by the Egyptians, though it would be a bit later when Assyrian completed the task of conquering Egypt. The greater point by far as the text continues, is YHWH’s miraculous deliverance of the city of Jerusalem. Sennacherib returned to Assyria after his mighty army was devastated.
The text is in Akkadian Cuneiform, the international language of the time. The reference to Hezekiah reads:
As for Hezekiah, the Judean, I besieged forty-six of his fortified walled cities and surrounding smaller towns, which were without number. Using packed-down ramps and applying battering rams, infantry attacks by mines, breeches, and siege machines, I conquered (them). I took out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, cattle, and sheep, without number, and counted them as spoil. He himself, I locked up within Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage.
(Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (2000). Context of Scripture: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World (p. 303). Leiden; Boston: Brill).
More to come re: Tirhakah. Click photos for larger view.
In this post we continue to look at some of the displays of the Egyptian Museum at Cairo, Egypt.
This statue of Anubis is situated on the cover of a casket in the form of a shrine. The shrine was on a litter used to carry the image of the god in processions.
The Anubis Shrine was included in the burial equipment of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, otherwise known as King Tut. His tomb was discovered in the valley of the Kings in 1922 by Howard Carter, in the Treasure Room.
ANU′BIS (Ἄνουβις), an Egyptian divinity, worshipped in the form of a dog, or of a human being with a dog’s head. In the worship of this divinity several phases must be distinguished, as in the case of Ammon. It was in all probability originally a fetish, and the object of the worship of the dog, the representative of that useful species of animals. Subsequently it was mixed up and combined with other religious systems, and Anubis assumed a symbolical or astronomical character, at least in the minds of the learned.
( In W. Smith (Ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (Vol. 1, p. 218). Little, Brown, and Company.)
When this statue was discovered there was a scribe’s ivory tabled that had belonged to Meritaten, one of the six daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
In Egyptian mythology Anubis, represented with the head of a dog/hyena, often with the body of a man, was considered lord of the necropolis and oversaw embalming rites. He was responsible for guiding the dead in the underworld and presenting them before Osiris for the weighing of the heart.
The idolatrous veneration of the dog by the Egyptians is shown in the worship of their dog-god Anubis, to whom temples and priests were consecrated, and whose image was borne in all religious ceremonies. Cynopolis, the present Minieh, situated in the lower Thebais, was built in honour of Anubis. The priests celebrated his festivals there with great pomp.
(Watson, R. In A Biblical and Theological Dictionary (p. 314). Lane & Scott.).
The book of Exodus begins with the great affliction of Israel in Egypt as the setting. Hebrew male babies born at that time were literally under a death sentence from Pharaoh. Moses’s mother hid him three months– “But when she was no longer able to hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him and sealed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and set it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile” (Ex. 2:3, NET). In God’s good providence Pharaoh’s daughter had compassion on the Hebrew baby, and allowed him to live. She gave him the name Moses (2:10), and secured a Hebrew nurse, Moses’s mother! The New Testament records the faith of Moses’s parents as the motivation for their defiance of the king’s command (Heb. 11:23), as well as the faith that Moses made his own! (Heb. 11:24-28).
These events happened during Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty (Walter C. Kasier, Jr. dates this period, 1570-1320 BC, and dates Moses’ birth at 1526 BC, and the Exodus at 1446 BC). Using Egyptian chronology, this would place Moses’ birth during the last year of Amenhotep I (1546-1526) or the first year of Thutmose I (1526-1512). Many suggest that the princess, Pharaoh’s daughter who rescued baby Moses, was Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I. Though not dogmatic, Kasier states, “There is no doubt, however, that the chronology suggested here would fit nicely with her, and that she was a most unusual person for her times, possessing a strong personality and unusual gift of leadership, which she eventually used to claim the throne for herself” (Kaiser, W. C., Jr. A History of Israel: from the Bronze Age through the Jewish Wars, p. 88. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1998.
She reigned as Pharaoh in Egyptc. 1503-1483 BC [Note: scholarly dates on Egyptian chronology vary; this does not impact the historicity of scripture]. In his newly published Origins of the Hebrews, Douglas Petrovich concludes, “All of the evidence points to Hatshepsut as the best candidate for Moses’s stepmother” (Petrovich, Douglas. Origins of the Hebrews, p. 148. Nashville, TN: New Creation, 2021).
This head of Hatshepsut is from one of her Osirian statues from the pillared facade of the portico of the upper terrace of her temple at Deir el-Bahri.
It is possible that she was the pharaoh’s daughter who rescued the baby Moses (Ex. 2:1–10). If Moses was born ca. 1530, the pharaoh who decreed the death of all Hebrew male babies would have been Thutmose I, Hatshepsut’s father. Moses would have grown up during the reigns of Thutmose I and Thutmose II (Hatshepsut’s husband), and with Hatshepsut’s sponsorship he could have attained the prominence that later tradition attributed to him (cf. Acts 7:22; Josephus Ant. ii.10).
(Shea, W. H. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised Vol. 2, p. 233).
Hatshepsut certainly left her imprint, much of which can still be viewed today. Her mortuary temple is located in Thebes (at Deir el-Bahri) on the western bank of the Nile. “The temple at Deir el-Bahri remains Hatshepsut’s most enduring monument. Built of limestone and designed in a series of terraces set against the cliff wall in a bay formed naturally by river and wind action, the temple called ‘Holy of Holies’ (djeser djeseru) was Hatshepsut’s most complete statement in material form about her reign” (Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, p. 232. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000).
The Valley of the Kings, burial site of the Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, is located behind Hatshepsut’s temple and cliff in our photo.
The fall of Egypt’s Old Kingdom occurred towards the end of the reign of Pepi II, during a time of political disruption and famine. Scholars place Pharaoh Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II at the beginning of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom. The 11th dynasty is divided into two parts, the first concluding the Old Kingdom, and the second part ushering in the Middle Kingdom, with Mentuhotep II as its first king (r. ca. 2065-2014 BC). (To keep things interesting, Baines & Malek state that Nebhepetre Mentuhotep is “called I or II by different writers.” They date his reign at c. 2016-2010 BC. Source: Ancient Egypt, The Cultural Atlas of the World, p. 35).
With the fall of the Old Kingdom, there was initially a period of disunity, the First Intermediate Period, during which time two rival kingdoms co-existed in a state of mutual hostility. But in the year ca. 2025 BC, under the leadership of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, the Theban armies were victorious over Lower Egypt. Consequently he was looked upon as the great unifier of the Two Lands (Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt), the great monarch who reunified Egypt.
His statue was found in his funerary chamber under the terrace of his mortuary temple at Thebes, at Deir el-Bahri. The statue retains sculptural traditional traits characteristic of the Old Kingdom.
The statue had been wrapped in a linen cloth and seems to have been painted black just before it was buried. It represents Mentuhotep seated, wearing he red crown and enveloped in the white jubilee mantel which barely reaches to the king’s knees. His black skin and his beard curved at the end like the beards of the gods, as well as the position of his arms crossed on his chest, place him in relation to the god Osiris with whom the king was identified after death.
The Egyptian Museum Cairo, eds Prestel-Verlag and Philipp von Zabern, #67.
Ian Shaw writes:
In addition to the emphasis on his lineage, part of Mentuhotep’s strategy to enhance his reputation with his contemporaries and successors was a programme of self-deification. He is described as “the son of Hathor” on two fragments from Gebelein, while at Dendera and Aswan he usurped the headgear of Amun and Min . . . Evidence from his Deir el-Bahri temple indicates that he intended to be worshipped as a god in his House of Millions of Years, thus pre-dating by hundreds of years ideas that became a central religious preoccupation of the New Kingdom. It is evident that he was reasserting the cult of the ruler.
The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, pgs. 151-152.
We continue to explore some of the exhibits in the Egyptian Museum at Cairo. It is believed that Ka-aper served during the beginning of the 5th dynasty of the Old Kingdom, probably during the reign of Pharaoh Userkaf, (c. 2475-2467 BC). His statue was discovered in 1860 in a mastaba at Sakkara, near the pyramid of Pharaoh Userkaf. “Userkaf, whose reign lasted for only seven years, may have come to the throne as an old man” (Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, p. 109). This life size statue, made of sycamore, is said to be the most celebrated statue of the Old Kingdom.
Ka-aper’s role was that of chief lector-priest, in charge of reciting prayers for the deceased in temples and funerary chapels.
Originally the statue was covered with painted plaster, some traces of which remain. The eyes were made of alabaster, crystal, and black stone and ringed with copper. The facial features are considered to be in the veristic artistic school rather than the idealistic.
One interesting note about the name, Sheikh el Beled: Upon its discovery the workers (under the oversight of the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette) saw a remarkable resemblance to the mayor of their village, translated in Arabic as “Sheikh al-Balad,” which means “chief of the village.” The name stuck!
Thutmose III had a co-regency with Hatshepsut. When she died about 1483 BC he began his independent reign (of an additional 32 years). “At the end of some seventeen years of military campaigns, Thutmose III had successfully established Egyptian dominance over Palestine and had made strong inroads into southern Syria. His own reputation was assured, and the proceeds were extravagantly expended on behalf of the temples of Amun and other gods, as well as on those men who followed the king on his quests” (Betsy M. Bryan, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw, p. 243).
Thutmose III recorded a detailed account of his Near Eastern campaign on the inside walls of the central hallway after the hypostyle hall at the Karnak Temple. These inscriptions describe specific episodes of the warfare and booty lists.
The earliest reference to Canaanite Megiddo:
. . . comes from the annals of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III (r. 1479–1425 BC) inscribed on the walls of the Karnak temple complex in Luxor (ancient Thebes). Thutmose III campaigned into Canaan to quell a rebellion headed by an alliance of Canaanite leaders in the vicinity of Megiddo (appearing in the text as Ma-k-ta). The account indicates that Megiddo was strategically located near the opening of the Wadi Ara, referred to in the annals of Thutmose III as the Aruna pass. The pharaoh defeated the Canaanites, who then fled into the fortified city of Megiddo. Thutmose laid siege to the city and proclaimed that the taking of Megiddo is “the capture of a thousand towns”—a reference to the city’s strategic location (Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 33). Thutmose III’s campaign marked the beginning of Egyptian hegemony over Canaan, characterized by the establishment of numerous Egyptian strongholds in the southern Levant (see Rainey, The Sacred Bridge, 65–69; compare Aharoni, Avi-Yonah, Rainey, and Safrai, The Carta Bible Atlas, 31–33). Megiddo became an Egyptian administrative center and military garrison. Megiddo also appears in Thutmose III’s list of conquered cities (also at the Karnak temple complex; Rainey, The Sacred Bridge, 72–73), and in a list of Canaanite emissaries attributed to Thutmose III (found in Papyrus Leningrad 1116-A).
Kelley, J. L. (2016). Megiddo. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Lexham Press.
I’ve previously posted on Thutmose III here and here and here.
As we continue to explore some of the displays of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, we want to note the statue of Senenmut with Neferura.
Senemut is said to be the “most favoured person of the reign of Hatshepsut” and “was also the most influential” (The Egyptian Museum Cairo, eds. Prestel-Verlag & Philipp von Zabern, Cat. no. 132).
Hatshepsut was famous as the female pharaoh (c. 1490-1470 BC), ruling in Egypt’s 18th dynasty.
Senemut (also Senmut) was promoted to the highest official positions and was honored with more than eighty titles. He was overseer of the Queen’s household and chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt. He was tutor to the princess Neferura (also Neferure), Hatshepsut’s only child (who apparently died about the 11th year of Hatshepsut’s reign). She is the child depicted in our statue above.
Senemut was the chief architect in charge of the construction of Hatshepsut’s great temple at Deir el-Bahari, considered to be his masterpiece.
The temple is unique among the many temples of Egypt.
Immediately behind the temple and its mountains is the Valley of the Kings. Photo here below shows panoramic view of the Valley of the Kings.
Pharaoh Awibre’ Hor, (Auibra-Hor, Hor Auyibre) ruled during Egypt’s 13th Dynasty (c. 1760 BC). There are few remaining monuments dating from this period, but the burial site of Awibre’ Hor, the third king of this dynasty, was found at Dahshur near the pyramid of Amenemhet III. Though it is thought that his reign lasted only a matter of months, his burial site was intact and contained a wooden shrine with a life-size wooden ka-statue of Awibre’ Hor. Our photo shows the Pharaoh with the uplifted arms of the hieroglyphic sign ka in his head.
According to Egyptologist Dr. Bob Brier, in Egyptian religious thought, the ba was “part of the soul, usually represented as having he head of a man and the body of a bird.” The ka was “part of the deceased’s soul that is thought of as a double.”
The ancient Egyptians believed that each individual was composed of five elements of immaterial nature: shadow, the akh (the spiritual form assumed by the gods and the dead), the ba (bringer of power and an emblem of each individual’s personality), a name (the identifier of each person), and the ka (the vital strength in each individual.
To ensure the life of the decease would continue after death, it was necessary to supply food and drink to the ka which went on living in the mummified body and that took possession of it every now and then to assimilate the essence of the offerings lfet in the tomb.
The statues placed in the burial chamber personified the vital force of the deceased and as such constituted a physical support for the ka. This was the function of the elegant wooden statue of the pharaoh Auibra-Hor, on whose head two open arms were shown to represent the hieroglyph used to indicate the ka . . . The statue was found inside a small wooden naos near the pyramid of Amenemhat III.
The Illustrated guide to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, eds. Bongioanni and Croce, p. 125
In Egyptian mythology, the Ka “remains with the being even after his death; this is why it was important to preserve the body so that the ka could occupy it when it desired and continue its life in the next world. The Ka-statue received oblations presented on an offering table at the foot of the false door” (The Egyptian Museum Cairo, Prestel-Verlag and Philipp von Zabern, Cat. no 117).
“The inlaid eyes lend a lifelike appearance to his expressive face. The rims of the eyes are of bronze, the pupils of rock crystal and the whites of quartz” (Ibid.).