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!
The study of the biblical books of 1-2 Kings is a study of inspired theological history. That is to say, it is history but with an emphasis always on the divine perspective. The concern of the narrative is consistently whether the king under consideration, whether in the northern kingdom of Israel, or in Judah’s kingdom to the south, did that which was “right in the sight of the LORD.”
The Lord had promised Israel’s King Jehu (r. 841-814 BC) that his sons would reign to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30). Meanwhile Syria was ravaging Israel, gobbling up the territory on the eastern side of Jordan. Israel was drastically reduced in size (2 Kings 10:32). Following Jehu’s death, his son Jehoahaz reigned (814-798), and the Aramaic oppression continued (2 Kings 13:3) with its terrible devastation. The fascinating thing about this northern king is that though he was “evil” (2 Kings 13:2), “Jehoahaz pleaded with the LORD” (v. 4). What is further amazing is the mercy of God: though God permitted the Arameans to punish Israel because of national covenant unfaithfulness, “the LORD listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them (Ibid.).
The next verse tells us, “Then the LORD gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before” (2 Kings 13:5, NKJV). The ESV reads, “Therefore the LORD gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly.” (Note: the KJV, NRSV also render מושיע as “savior”. Most translations have “deliverer.” The hiphil participle means to deliver, to save).
This is reminiscent of the language of the Judges, where in times of punishment for sin, Israel would cry out to the LORD for deliverance, and He would send the Judge would deliver/save Israel from its oppressor. The biblical text does not name who the deliverer/savior was at the time referenced in 2 Kings 13:5.
Many scholars believe that it is the Assyrian King Adad-Nirari III who is referenced here as Israel’s מושיע.
For example, “Adad-nirari III may have been the ‘savior’ bringing them freedom from Aramean oppression” (Gilboy, The Lexham Bible Dictionary). “Adad-nirari III may have been the ‘deliverer’ of Israel mentioned in 2 Kgs. 13:5” (Chavalas, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 18). “By intervening in the affairs of the Syrian kingdoms, Adad-nerari III put pressure on Damascus, thus relieving Israel from the heavy hand of the Arameans (Mordechai Cogan, The Raging Torrent, p. 41).
David T. Lamb, in a chapter entitled, “An Evil King Praying, Jehoahaz of Israel,” states, “Within the context of this narrative, the most reasonable deliverer for Jehoash is therefore Adad-nirari III of Assyria since, toward the end of Jehoahaz’s reign, he attacked Aram. Adad-nirari’s campaign would have diverted Aram’s attention away from Israel and toward the north. From the perspective of the text, Adad-nirari would play a similar role to Cyrus (Isa 45:1), as a foreign ruler who accomplishes a divinely appointed task” (Lamb, D. T., 1-2 Kings, T. Longman III & S. McKnight, Eds.; p. 399).
D. J. Wiseman supplies the following information regarding Adad-nirari:
Adadnirari III (810–783 B.C.) took five years to quell the widespread revolt led by nobles, high officials, and some provincial governors who, like Dayan-Aššur, the army commander of Shalmaneser, had accumulated much local power. He had to reassert Assyrian authority also over tribes to the north and east who had meanwhile withheld their taxes. This was the beginning of the internal resistance to the central authority of the king which was to recur and ultimately lead to Assyrian weakness in the following century.
When Šamši-Adad died, his queen Sammu-ramat (in part the legendary Semiramis) took over command as co-regent for five years during the minority of her son Adadnirari. In 806 B.C. the young king undertook an expedition to north Syria, reaching the Mediterranean (Arpad), and another the following year, when he took Hazazu and broke up the powerful coalition developing between Damascus and states as far afield as Malatya. In 804 he struck further southwest to Tyre and Sidon. Joash of Israel, anxious to annul the burdensome treaty imposed on him by Hazael, seems to have taken this opportunity, as had Jehu before him, to obtain Assyrian help. The evidence for this is a royal stele (from Tell ar Rimah, Iraq) in which Adadnirari lists tribute from “Joash of Samaria” (Yu’ asu mātSamerinā) before that of Tyre and Sidon. When the Assyrian entered Damascus and took spoil from Ben-hadad it is likely that Israel was allowed to strengthen trade relations with that city and recover some lost territory (2 K. 13:25).
Wiseman, D. J. (1979–1988). Assyria. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 1, pp. 334–335). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
Similarly, the ESV Study Bible in its comments on our text says, “It seems likely that the ‘savior’ in question here is Assyria, whose interest in Syria-Palestine was rekindled in the closing years of the ninth century B.C., resulting in a measure of relief for Israel as the attention of Damascus necessarily turned tot he north.”
On the other hand, Keil & Delitzsch state, “but the Lord gave them the saviour in the two successors of Jehoahaz, in the kings Jehoash and Jeroboam, the former of whom wrested from the Syrians all the cities that had been conquered by them under his father (v. 25), while the latter restored the ancient boundaries of Israel (2 Kings 14:25).” (Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 3, p. 267).
Others have suggested Elisha, who foretold the three-fold victory over Aram, as the “deliverer” under consideration (2 Kings 13:14-19). Could the solution be that Elisha foretold the victory and enlargement of Israel (cf. the later reference to Jonah & Jeroboam II, 2 Kgs. 14:23-25), which was fulfilled in the days of Jehoash and Jeroboam, but was made possible by the role of Adad-nirari? Remember that God rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17), and His providential use of the nations could well be under consideration here.
The city of Beth-shemesh was given to the Levites when they were given their possession by lot in the days of Joshua, following the Conquest of Canaan (Josh. 21:16). Years later, during the days of the Judges, the Philistines captured the ark in battle with Israel (1 Sam. 4), but when they were divinely punished they allowed the ark to return. The two cows pulling the cart from Philistian Ekron “headed straight for the road to Beth-shemesh” (1 Sam. 6:12).
Later, in the days of the Divided Kingdom, King Amaziah (Judah) challenged King Jehoash (Israel) to battle. This may have been in retaliation for the destruction and looting carried out by the Israelite mercenaries Amaziah had hired, but then sent back home (2 Chron. 25:6-13). Beth-shemesh was the meeting point of the two armies, which resulted in Amaziah being soundly defeated. The theological reason is given by the inspired historian: “But Amaziah would not listen, for it was from God, that He might deliver them into the hand of Joash because they had sought the gods of Edom.” It was because of Amaziah’s idolatry that God orchestrated events to punish Amaziah. Ironically, it was after God had given Amaziah victory in battle against Edom that Amaziah then decided to worship the gods of Edom!
Ferrell Jenkins and I had the opportunity to briefly see Beth-shemesh this past March.
I’ve previously posted on Beth-shemesh 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.