Shunning the Shishak/Shoshenq synchrony?
Gavin Cox recently published an article on Egyptian chronology in CMI’s Journal of Creation titled: Strengthening the Shishak/Shoshenq synchrony, J. Creation 36(2):40–49, 2022. We invite readers to read this special release article, first. It met with some criticism from Egyptology enthusiast Anne Habermehl (AH) who wrote a letter into the Journal with a list of objections. Due to the complexity of the subject and the large interest in Egyptian history, we have decided to publish their discussion on the web to allow for a fuller exchange. With AH’s permission, her letter is published here in full, interspersed with Gavin’s responses (with contributions by Gary Bates) as an online feedback. Readers not familiar with academic journals should understand that the type of responses given are typical of healthy academic debate.
AH: “In his Shishak/Shoshenq piece in the Journal of Creation 36(2):40–49, Cox boldly concludes that the pharaoh Shishak of the Bible (I Kings 11:40, 14:25; II Chronicles 12:2–9) had to be Shoshenq I of the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt. But his paper does not prove that Shishak was Shoshenq I—it merely shows that if we first assume this to be true because of the name similarity, we can produce what appear to be plausible arguments to support that belief. In fact, there are solid reasons why Shishak cannot be Shoshenq and we need to look hard at those.”
I thank AH for her letter, which I am happy to answer in full. AH uses the word ‘prove’, however ‘proofs’ are only found in mathematics. All researchers in historical matters should be aware of this fact, and be prepared to use a little humility when it comes to claims or counter claims of ‘proof’. Unfortunately, too many lay researchers on this topic argue dogmatically, probably because so much important biblical history is at stake. But we can only deal with patterns of evidence, weigh and assess data, and come to the best conclusions. When it comes to Scripture, we hold that first without error. Additionally, contrary to AH’s claim, it wasn’t just one line of evidence that I offered for biblical Shishak being Pharaoh Shoshenq I, (i.e. name similarity), but six corroborating evidences, which AH has failed to demonstrate are incorrect, in order to validate her point that biblical Shishak is not Shoshenq I.
AH: “There is much more than a name involved when comparing historical figures. For example, we could base the revisionist claim that Joseph was Imhotep, vizier of Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty, mainly on the name similarity between “Joseph” and “Imhotep”. Although I believe that Joseph was Imhotep,1 I do so on extensive solid arguments; the name similarity is coincidental.
I thought we were critiquing the biblical Shishak = Egyptian Shoshenq I synchrony? So, why is AH promoting her theory that Joseph and the 3rd Dynasty Egyptian official to Djoser are one and the same? Patrick Clarke already did a demolition job of this idea (originally promoted by the wife of the fraudulent ‘biblical archaeologist’ Ron Wyatt, see CMI’s expose here). On the important issue of chronology Clarke states:
“… since the biblical timeline is fixed—which includes Joseph—Wyatt [and by extension AH] (using the conventional Egyptian chronology as the guide) must move Imhotep and Zoser [Djoser] around seven centuries nearer the birth of Christ. Since Zoser did not exist in isolation, logically the great pyramid builders of the 4th Dynasty—along with their mighty pyramids—must move by a similar amount since history is not composed of events punctuated by non-event vacuums.”2
Such chronological revisions are absurd by any standards. Furthermore, AH seems to be ignoring ancient Egyptian culture, specifically that a non-Egyptian (and especially the father of the Exodus Hebrews) would never, be promoted and certainly not worshipped as a ‘living god’ by native Egyptians! This fact, also gives us some insight into the only pre-New Kingdom period when non-Egyptians ruled Egypt. This was the time when Semite immigrants called the Hyksos ruled Egypt. It was likely during this time that Joseph found favour with a non-Egyptian pharaoh who also gave Joseph’s family “the best of the land”. Imhotep was venerated for centuries, right into the latter (post Exodus) Ptolemaic times. Such a state-of-affairs would be unthinkable for a non-native Egyptian. If one understands Egyptian culture, they very rarely mentioned the names of even friendly foreign kings in their writings and monuments, let alone enemies of the country. Egyptologist Douglas Petrovich notes:
“Not until sometime during the middle of the 18th Dynasty, slightly before the reign of Thutmose III (ca. 1506–1452 BC) … the standard practice of Thutmose III’s time was to leave enemy kings unnamed on official records.”3
I find AH’s comparison between the names “Joseph” and “Imhotep” (figure 1) unconvincing for the following reasons: the consonants do not transfer across from OK Egyptian into Semitic as AH wishes. The labial nasal /m/ in Egyptian (‘owl’𓅓) always keeps its phonetic value into Hebrew as /m/ (מ, ם)—AH is proposing it was dropped, so she needs to demonstrate why. Egyptian dental ejective /t/ is known to phonetically shift to dental, voiced /d/ within Egyptian as well as into Hebrew (ד, צ), it never becomes /s/ (ס). Granted the initial Hebrew yod (י) of Joseph’s name is equivalent to the initial /i/ (‘standing reed’𓇋) in Imhotep, and the terminal /p/ (‘stool’𓂹) would transfer as Hebrew /p/ (פ) that’s the only commonality. Neither does the voiceless pharyngeal fricative /ḥ/ of Imḥotep transfer into Hebrew as /s/, but would keep its value as Hebrew /ḥ/ (ח). So to morph ‘Egyptian Imhotep’ into ‘Hebrew Joseph’ ignores every linguistic rule known to scholars. AH just waves her hand to make it so—it won’t do. I’ve read AH’s ICC paper1 regarding the supposed similarities between both names and found it singularly unconvincing in this respect. If AH is going to discuss linguistics, she needs to demonstrate how Hebrew Joseph was derived from Egyptian Imhotep, she fails to do so—dramatically. Clark in his Journal paper also deals a fatal blow to this idea that the names can somehow transform into each other in terms of their completely different meanings.
AH: “(The claim by Bates et. al. that Joseph cannot be Imhotep, based on whether or not there were chariots in Egypt in the Old Kingdom, is invalid.4,5) Name similarity must be backed up by evidences that stand up to scrutiny.”
Old Kingdom chariots? — Not so fast!
CMI’s Tour Egypt booklet carries the quote that AH is too quick to dismiss, which I will give here for clarity:
“It is generally accepted that the Hyksos brought some technologies to Egypt that were taken advantage of after they were expelled. … the Hyksos are credited with introducing the widescale use of horses and chariots. Indeed, after the 18th dynasty we start to see the use of chariots depicted widely. In Genesis 41:43, when pharaoh is about to elevate Joseph as Vizier over Egypt, it says: “And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.” Similarly, as Joseph is about to meet his father Jacob, Scripture says, “Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen” (Genesis 46:29). By Joseph’s time the chariot is clearly being widely used. Thus, Joseph was unlikely to have been in Egypt prior to the Hyksos period (14–17th dynasties). The popular idea that Joseph can be equated to the priest Imhotep of the 3rd dynasty can be discounted by this simple piece of historical fact.”4
AH questions CMI’s position regarding the timing of Joseph (and Imhotep) on the basis of one errant web article5 (see figure 2) (repeated in a handful of places). But an internet claim cannot overturn established fact. This highlights the problem with basing one’s scholarship on wrong claims to be found on websites. AH relies on an assertion made in this report in 2013 about 300 fragments of chariot leathers found in the old Cairo Museum, supposedly dating to the Old Kingdom (according to the article). If this were true, it certainly would ‘upset the applecart’ in terms of what scholars know about the development of chariots in Ancient Egypt. The scholars who were involved in the analysis of the leathers are Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Andre Veldmeijer, head of the Egyptology section at the Netherlands Flemish Institute in Cairo (pictured figure 2). They published a 2018 book (figure 3) based on their 2008 research of these 300 (plus fragments) called the Tano leathers (named after the antiquity dealer), originally found buried as grave goods. In their book they state the following:
“The Tano leather, despite now consisting of well over 300 fragments, is in fact from one single group (chariot leather and its accoutrements) and it is of unknown provenance and date, and thus wider inferences may not be possible”6 (emphasis added).
They state of the development of chariots in Ancient Egypt:
“It is generally accepted that chariots were introduced into Egypt by the Hyksos in the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1650–1549 BC), together with horses and a variety of weapons … Initially the preserve of royalty, chariots were soon adopted by the high elite …”7
Furthermore, from linguistic evidence, vocabulary for chariots and their parts turn up in the textual record at a specific period (far later than the OK):
“The majority of the chariot part names are known from literary works from the Ramesside Period [New Kingdom] written in hieratic. But the corpus also includes a few occurrences in hieroglyphic inscriptions of the 18th Dynasty in ‘Inw-tribute lists of the Karnak Annals of Thutmose III … as well as Karnak-Memphis Stelae of Amenhotep II …”8
I confirmed this also with a search using the online Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae.9 Here I found 37 entries for vocabulary connected with chariots, or their parts, none-of-which occurs before the New Kingdom. In other words, before the New Kingdom there is no vocabulary to even describe what a chariot is, anywhere, in all the texts ever discovered by scholars in Egypt!
So, when AH takes a pot-shot at “claim[s] by Bates et. al. that Joseph cannot be Imhotep, based on whether or not there were chariots in Egypt in the Old Kingdom” those stated claims are absolutely correct.10 In other words, if Joseph lived in the Old Kingdom (as per the implications of AH’s claim), then no, he could not have ridden in the second chariot to the Pharaoh (Genesis 41:43), or ride to meet his father in Goshen (Genesis 46:29). Such technology, nor even the vocabulary to describe them existed as far back as the Old Kingdom! Either the Bible is incorrect, or AH’s chronology is way-off—I settle for the latter! Only in the 18th Dynasty did such technology and vocabulary appear—a fact main-stream scholarship is well aware of. Thus, the conventional view that the Semite Hykos rulers of the Second Intermediate Period (which immediately preceded the New Kingdom’s 18th Dynasty) brought chariot technology with them, is based upon the archaeological record, and is correct.
There is a section on rationalwiki that charitably discusses the errant idea some hold that Imhotep and Joseph were one and the same person:
“The idea that the Joseph of the Old Testament was Imhotep is a mixture of the usual ‘Biblical history’ pseudo-historical distortion, with a bit of crossover appeal to the lunatic fringe ‘Alternative’ Egyptology nuts. It’s a kind of anti-intellectual, anti-historical supermarket, with something for everyone.”11
It’s a pity to agree with our critics, but I’ve had to spill much ink on this idea, I challenge AH to recant her ideas. Back to Shishak …
AH: “First, Shoshenq was the pharaoh’s birth name, and it was a popular one. We know of eight Shoshenqs (including Shoshenq the Elder). This raises the question why the Bible as we have it today would use this birth name without distinguishing which Shoshenq he was. Although this birth name would have been fine at the time, because he was the Shoshenq currently in power, there would have been need for an update later on as other Shoshenqs ruled. We know the biblical editors did updating as needed.12 We should be suspicious of “Shoshenq” being named in the Bible as “Shishak” on this basis alone, as “Shishak” should be a name that points uniquely to this certain pharaoh. All the pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom on had five names that formed their royal titulary (set of titles); choosing and proclaiming his additional four names (besides his birth name) was the first order of business when anyone became king of Egypt.13 There were other names in his titulary that would have applied solely to Shoshenq I to tell us who he was, and we might expect that the Bible would have used one of those.”14
Is AH tinkering with titular? I wonder, reading AH’s comments if she has read my article, or has just been reactionary? I clearly state:
“There were eight pharaohs that shared that name, but only Shoshenq I conducted military campaigns into Israel … making him the ideal candidate for Shishak.”15
So the answer to AH’s question is simple, the first Shoshenq is the only relevant one to the Bible as he is the only one who campaigned extensively in Israel.
AH: “’Shoshenq’ is a Libyan name, as has been pointed out by many authors and is not given a translation; this has been the case for many birth names of pharaohs. It is unlikely that the Hebrew writer would have contrived a meaning for this name. Because this name was given to Shoshenq at birth, it had nothing to do with events in his later life. I am always surprised at writers who seem to believe that secular birth names are predictive in their meaning. (There are biblical exceptions, of course.)”
Yes, as AH states, Shoshenq is a Libyan name, not Egyptian. But this is highly significant for how the name is spelled. The Lybyco-Berber velar nasal phoneme /Ϧ/ [nq] exists neither in Egyptian, nor Semitic, so it was often not included in the monumental inscriptions (the Egyptians couldn’t pronounce <nq>).
AH: “Cox says that he does not believe that the biblical writer would use a rare nickname for Rameses as Shishak (I would agree). But then he turns around and says in his article that the biblical writer would use a rare spelling version of Shoshenq without the “n”. This is not consistent, as the same argument could be used for both Rameses and Shoshenq. The “n” in “Shoshenq” appears in most places and is significant, contrary to what Cox says. If Shoshenq really was Shishak, the Bible would spell it the normal way that includes the “n”. This also should give us pause about Shishak as Shoshenq.”
When it comes to which short form of the Egyptian name Shoshenq the biblical writer employed, AH misrepresents what I stated. Shishak cannot be a rare name for Ramesses II (per David Rohl’s ideas), AH is clearly confused here. What I did state was the biblical writer would not likely be aware of Ramesses II rare ‘hypocoristicon’ (meaning a shortened non-official form/nickname) Sysw.16 More importantly, the readers of the biblical text would even less likely know who Sysw was. AH cannot state that the spelling of Shoshenq I as sh-sh-q is rare when it appears on the stela of Shoshenq I at Gebel es-Silsilah, Aswan, Egypt, where the scribe spelled his name using both variants ššnq and ššq. I also pointed out other spellings of Shoshenq I such as `nḫ-ššq, and ššq-`nḫ spelled without nasal alveolar consonant <n>. The biblical writer chose the shorter form because it could be pronounced by his readers, and became the object of clever Hebrew punning to make a point.
AH: “The Septuagint (LXX) calls Shishak “Sousakim”. There is no way that “Shoshenq” can be turned into “Sousakim”, because of the added last syllable and the dropped “n”. This only works for both “Shishak” and “Sousakim” from the Egyptian form of the Nebty name of Amenhotep II (see this JoC article for my discussion of Amenhotep II as the real Shishak).17 The LXX therefore testifies that Shoshenq was not Shishak.”
AH’s LXX argument becomes increasingly redundant because the biblical writer didn’t use ššnq, but the officially recognized short form ššq, which as AH points out is spelled “Sousakim” (Σουσακιμ) in the Greek (although how and why she fails to explain). So AH has merely demonstrated for me that the LXX must have used ššq—thanks for making my point. As for making Amenhotep II’s Nebty name into biblical Shishak, this really is extremely inventive of AH. In her Journal article she correctly states the Nebty name of Amenhotep II is “weser fau, sekha em waset” as transliterated by Egyptologist R.L. Lephron.18 AH then proceeds to make this name into ‘Shishak’ by a series of torturous steps unknown to scholarship. She states: “At first glance, this name might not look like ‘Shishak’”17—too true! AH then states: “But the Masoretic name ‘Shishak’ comes originally from Egyptian, then was translated into Hebrew, and then into English.” I totally agree—which is why Egyptian š-š-q easily became Hebrew šišaq (שִׁישַׁק), with no torturous route to explain it.
AH then takes us on her “linguistic journey”, unsupported by evidence from established linguistics—except for a reference to a Wikipedia source! AH uses Wikipedia to support her claim that: “(Pre-exilic Hebrew did not have an ‘f” sound)”—so would be dropped. However, Paleo-Hebrew possessed the phonemes /p/ (פ, ף) and /b/ (ב), so could be used instead. Egyptologist and linguist Antonio Loprieno points out that Egyptian voiceless stop /p/ could also be expressed in Egyptian as [Ph].19 Furthermore Egyptian /b/ became Coptic voiceless /p/ in monosyllabic or plurisyllabic words.20 There is no excuse for AH to willy-nilly drop letters where it suits her. Using her special ‘AH letter scythe’ she transforms “weser fau, sekha em waser” into Shishak and states: “We see that the Nebty name of Amenhotep II as shown here provides solid evidence that he was Shishak.”19 All AH has shown is she can cut letters out to suit to make any word she chooses. Furthermore, Amenhotep II had four other names, equally or more long, but I suspect AH couldn’t quite manage to make any of those spell something similar to Shishak? This isn’t scholarship, it is sheer make-believe.
AH’s claim that I translate Shoshenq to mean “he desired tribute” is her misunderstanding. I showed how Egyptian š-š-q was used by the biblical writer as the basis of a Hebrew pun on his (birth) name spelled šešaq (שִׁישַׁק) which means in Hebrew “he desired tribute.” This is the Hebrew meaning (not Egyptian), and I believe it contributes a lot to our knowledge of what Shishak did—he desired all that fabulous wealth of Solomon for payment not to destroy Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:25–26). Despite AH’s hollow dismissal—yes, I am sure all pharaohs desired tribute—but the point is only one Pharaoh took as bribe the wealth of Jerusalem (Shoshenq I) to spare the city while ransacking others in the land. And no other Egyptian pun name means “he desired tribute” in Hebrew.
AH: “Cox’s claims that Shoshenq’s exploits in Israel/Judah are the same as what the Bible says that Shishak did (I Kings 14:25–26; II Chronicles 12: 2–9) are not actually true. Figure 5 of the Cox paper shows a map and listing of cities that Shoshenq captured; clearly this included many cities in both Judah and Israel. But the II Chronicles 12 passage clearly says that Shishak captured fenced cities in Judah, and then came up against Jerusalem. There is no mention of capturing cities in Israel, the northern part of the divided kingdom.”
AH’s assertion is wrong. There are name rings on Shoshenq I Karnak Portal that correspond to cities in Judah: Socoh[t] (38), Gath (83) and Aijalon (26). Also ‘Heights of David’ (106/105), and my proposed (29) “Judah’s Offering” which refers to the city of Jerusalem and by extension all the taxable cities of Judah. However, we must be aware that Shoshenq’s Karnak Portal wall is damaged, so there could be more Judean cities that were mentioned, but have been lost over time. Furthermore, the Karnak Portal was left unfinished.22 I also make the case in my paper that many archaeologists recognize the Karnak Portal does not offer an orderly military itinerary, but is a religious and political statement about Shoshenq’s conquests over all his enemies.
AH: “Nor would we expect that Shishak would have attacked any part of Israel, which was territory that Jeroboam now ruled. Jeroboam had earlier fled to Egypt to Shishak to escape Solomon, who wanted to kill him (I Kings 11:40). We therefore can be certain that Shishak and Jeroboam were friends. After Solomon’s death Jeroboam returned and was crowned king of Israel, while Rehoboam ruled Judah in the south. It does not make sense that Shishak would have attacked any part of Jeroboam’s kingdom; Cox’s attempt to explain why Shishak would have done this is not logical. This discrepancy between what the Bible says and what Shoshenq claimed casts significant doubt on Shoshenq as Shishak.”
But the reasoning was previously dealt with on creation.com by Gary Bates in his article: Was Pharaoh Shoshenq—the plunderer of Jerusalem? and now seemingly ignored by AH. Bates wrote:
“Another objection is that Shoshenq also plundered cities in Jeroboam’s Israel. Why would he have destroyed the cities of presumably a former friend who he earlier gave sanctuary to? There are a couple of things to consider. In context Jeroboam sought sanctuary in Egypt because he was part of a revolt that helped divide Solomon’s kingdom. But he returns as king of a now divided kingdom. He may have thumbed his nose at Shoshenq now because he did not need him anymore. After all, he is now a king in his own right. But I think that it is likely that Shoshenq/Shishak used Jeroboam as a ‘useful idiot’. Shoshenq would have had his eyes on the bounty in these lands. Jeroboam was instrumental in dividing it, and so it was in pharaoh’s interests to harbour Jeroboam in order to foment and continue this division, as it would have made things much easier for his eventual invasion plans. But I think the biblical context helps us see a big picture. Rehoboam’s Judah seems to have been spared by God due to repentance, but Shishak was going to be God’s instrument of judgment on Jeroboam. Israel was ransacked but Rehoboam paid tribute and was spared. Note also that there were seven pharaohs named Shoshenq. But only one of them left any record of plundering Israel or Judah, and that was Shoshenq 1.”
Additionally, I find both AH and Mitchell’s argument that “Shishak and Jeroboam were friends” unconvincing. In a similar vein, Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen makes sense of the likely changing political situation, but never assumes Shishak and Jereboam were “friends”.
“Soon after the 24th year of Solomon (i.e. soon after 945 BC), the young corvee-chief Jeroboam son of Nebat was hailed as future king of most of Israel, and fled from Solomon’s wrath into Egypt (I Kings 11: 26–40). Shoshenq gave sanctuary to Jeroboam, and thereby harboured a potential ‘government in exile’ to await future opportunity. With Solomon’s death (c. 931/30 BC) that opportunity at last came. Jeroboam was quickly summoned back to Palestine by his partisans who were challenging Rehoboam son of Solomon, and in no time at all the former Hebrew ‘empire’ split asunder—into two rump-kingdoms mutually hostile, Judah centered on Jerusalem, and ‘Israel’ whose first capital was at Shechem (I Kings 12).”21
Kitchen then explains why Shoshenq attacked Jerusalem:
“Now at last, Shoshenq could launch the second phase of his aggressive policy of divide et impera, [divide and rule] dispatching his forces (fresh from a Nubian victory?) into Palestine. The formal casus belli [justification for war] was probably a border-incident—incursions across Egypt’s East-Delta boundaries by Semitic tribesmen whom it pleased Shoshenq to consider as Judean subjects committing hostile acts. The signal for war was apparently one such skirmish at the Bitter Lakes, directly followed by an all-out Egyptian attack. So much may be deduced from the fragments of a victory-stela from Karnak [Kitchen gives a translation of the text] … Once over the border, Shoshenq and his forces swept through and around both Judah and Israel with impunity in the spring and summer of 925 BC., so that ‘in the 5th year of king Rehoboam … Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; he took away the treasures of the House of the Lord (YHWH) and the treasures of the king’s house—he took all. He took all the golden shields that Solomon had made’ (I Kings 14: 25–26). He came (2 Chronicles 12:3–4) ‘with 1,200 chariots, with 60,000 (or, 60 ‘eleph, divisions? [see later discussion]) ‘horsemen’ (parašim), and innumerable people came with him from Egypt: Libyans, Sukki, and Nubians. He captured the fortified towns of Judah and came up to Jerusalem.’”22
There is no mystery here, Shoshenq I was a political opportunist who struck when Israel was divided and took off a huge golden prize. In fact, Scripture warns against being “friends” with Egypt (cf. Isaiah 36:6), and yet AH and Mitchel base their arguments on such treacherous relations.
AH: “I also find it strange that Shoshenq would not have specifically boasted about carrying off the treasures of Jerusalem on the Bubastite Portal in Karnak. Whatever was he thinking? Boasting is what the pharaohs did best! Many small cities are mentioned by Shoshenq, and yet the big and important one, Jerusalem, is not listed by name. Cox’s explanation of this omission falls far short of being convincing. However, if some other pharaoh was actually the biblical Shishak, we could wonder what Jerusalem’s political status was at the time of Shoshenq I, whenever he reigned (this question comes up below in discussion of whether the biblical and secular timelines coincide). Did Shoshenq I not actually go near Jerusalem on that campaign? All of the above should lead us to consider that, although “Shishak” and “Shoshenq” are similar names, they cannot denote the same person.”
“Boasting is what the pharaohs did best!” This is an oversimplification of the need for the Pharaoh to be at the center of an intertwined political and religious system that maintained balance in the natural world (maat). However, on their portals at Karnak, conquering Pharaohs essentially kept a very detailed inventory of their captured possessions. This is why Egyptologists call them the Pharaoh’s ‘booty lists’, because this is exactly what they are! AH’s statement is a poor attempt to throw the baby out with the bathwater. My explanation of Karnak Portal name ring 29 as referring to “Judah’s Offering”, representing the city of Jerusalem, is being ignored by AH. However, when it comes to what Egyptian Pharaohs may or may not boast about, we need to tread carefully. They boasted about their own victories, not their enemy’s greatness! Even to name their enemies was a no-no, as it legitimized them and gave their enemies power by engraving their names in stone, which would ‘last forever’. An Egyptologist would be aware of such cultural distinctions. But “Judah’s Offering” rightly fits with what happened in Scripture. Shishak/Shoshenq did not capture Jerusalem, but spared it in exchange for its riches handed over by Reheboam on the advice of his prophets.
The similarity in names between Shishak and Shoshenq is but one of seven evidences that I deal with in depth in my article.
AH: “Cox claims that the valuables that Shoshenq’s son, Osorkon I, donated to various temples must be largely from the treasure of Solomon that Shishak plundered; and that therefore this supports Shoshenq as Shishak. There is no evidence for this claim. Moreover, on examination, this argument is not as strong as it first looks. If we research where Egypt got its gold, the sources tell us that the Egyptians mined their gold—especially in the Eastern Desert (also called the Arabian Desert) and Nubia (the land immediately south of Egypt). Scholars wax enthusiastic about the amounts of gold that Egypt mined over the years, but make no mention of plunder as an appreciable source. Moreover, it is believed that a great deal of recycling of gold went on in Egypt; in the case of Osorkon I, it is suggested that his claimed donations to the temples (if not exaggerated) may have been largely gold looted from the Theban necropolis.”
If one does not accept Shoshenq got his gold from Judah, Jerusalem’s Temple, and the Levant, then, yes, one will have to turn to other sources to explain the huge wealth his son, Orsorkon I lavished on Egypt’s temples. The surviving evidence suggests Osorkon did not carry out military campaigns, so that either leaves his father’s acquiring of Jerusalem’s gold, and/ or other sources like mining and pilfering of Egyptian tombs. But unless AH can offer some primary Egyptian sources that actually demonstrate this, then her assertions are simply not persuasive.
AH: “Although Solomon was certainly very rich, we may be overestimating how wealthy he actually was. For instance, the Bible says that David amassed 100,000 talents of gold to pass on to Solomon for building the temple (I Chronicles 22:14). How did David do that? He was not considered wealthy like Solomon, who received 666 talents of gold annually, plus further unspecified amounts (I Kings 10:14,15). Nonetheless, even if we assume Solomon’s rate of income, David had on hand over 150 years’ worth of gold for the temple. This does not make sense.”
AH has already used the mining example, and yes, gold does originally come from mined ores. The Bible is also clear about where David got (at least some of) his gold. 1Chronicles 29:4 tells us: “Even three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir…” That’s 113 tons! Verse 7 mentions another 5,000 talents (165 tons) from unspecified sources. When we consider this was extracted during his forty-year reign as king, and over an area called Ophir, not just one mine, this figure is believable. We can compare this with modern figures, for instance:
“… [a] BBC analysis states that gold mines in Nevada produce around 116 tonnes … every year which is comfortably the highest amount globally. The Muruntau Gold Mine in Uzbekistan’s Qizilqum Desert is the world’s largest open-pit gold mine and it has the second highest level of annual production at 66 tonnes.”22
The mines of Ophir were evidently very rich, as we read of Huram going with Solomon’s servants and extracting “four hundred and twenty talents” (approx. 14 tons) 1Kings 9:28, 2Chronicles 8:18 during a single, (three-year round) trip. It’s interesting that AH seems to cast doubt on clear biblical inferences in an effort to undermine the Shishak/Shoshenq connection because this destroys her own revised chronology.
AH: “The key here is the meaning of “eleph”, the Hebrew word translated “thousand”. Many scholars believe that the original meaning of “eleph” has been lost, and that it is only in Greek times that it took on the meaning of “thousand”. One hint of the original size of eleph is in the number of the Children of Israel in the Exodus, given as 600,000 men (this number excludes women and children) (Exodus 12:37). This conservatively becomes at least 2 million or more Children of Israel that were living in Egypt at the time, and who made the trek through the wilderness to the Promised Land. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the logics problems of this many people and their animals surviving the trip. A survey of the total population of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, estimation of the population of Canaan before the arrival of the Children of Israel, and God’s statement to Moses that the peoples of Canaan were all greater than the Children of Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1), as well as other considerations, leads to estimates by some scholars of as few as 20,000 to 60,000 Children of Israel. This drastically reduces the size of eleph throughout the Old Testament, and would apply to calculating the quantity of David’s gold.
There is also the cost of maintaining Solomon’s household and military to consider. Although he certainly had treasure to be plundered, assumptions made about it must be balanced against Solomon’s heavy expenses.”
I wouldn’t disagree with most of AH here, but I think it is an unnecessary (and lengthy) diversion. The aleph may well refer to a ‘unit’ (referring to ‘measurement’/ ‘family clan’/ ‘leader’) whose’ meaning has been lost in antiquity. However, when we take the amounts given to Egypt’s temple by Osorkon I (Shoshenq I’s son) of “383 tons of gold and silver” then it does equate well with the amounts given to the Temple by David, with plenty to spare, even if certain of the Hebrew Bible’s numbers need to be more accurately translated.
AH: “But there is an important aspect to this discussion on whether Shishak and Shoshenq I were or were not the same person. This is the question of whether or not the biblical and standard Egyptian timelines coincide. Cox believes that they do, and he needs the Shishak/Shoshenq equivalence to support his chronology. A lot hangs on persuading us to believe this, because it is only if the biblical and Egyptian dates are the same that Shoshenq can be Shishak. If the two timelines are not in alignment, then Shoshenq moves in time away from where the Bible places Shishak, and they cannot be the same person.”
AH refers to the “Cox chronology.” I make no pretention of having worked out my own chronology! However, I do refer to the standard Egyptian chronology, which we at CMI consider is broadly accurate for this period of time, NK and later, but not at all for the earliest periods of Egyptian history. AH is correct on one thing, that, yes, a lot does hang on this important synchrony of Egyptian Shoshenq I being biblical Shishak.
AH: “Not everyone believes that the two timelines coincide. On the other side of this question are the revisionists—people like me who believe that the two timelines are seriously misaligned. Because we believe that the biblical timeline is the correct one, and the Egyptian timeline is greatly extended, this means that the Egyptian timeline needs revising. Hence the expression, “revisionists”. We have very good reasons for believing that greatly revising the Egyptian timeline is necessary. After all, it would be much easier to just “go with the flow” on this, and comfortably join the traditionalists like Cox in their explanations why no revision is needed to make the standard Egyptian timeline fit the biblical one.”
AH makes some incorrect sweeping statements here! I agree that Egyptian chronology needs changing, but only where the evidence can support such changes. I will quote from Gary Bates’ article again:
“… Solomon began the temple in the fourth year of his reign which we agree was 967 BC. We believe this year to be accurate as we have built our 1 Kings 6:1 Exodus date around this as 1446 BC …. This means he came to power in c. 971 BC. He reigned for 40 years. This puts the end of his reign at about 931 BC. Shishak invaded Judah in the 5th year of Rehoboam’s reign meaning around 926 BC (by conventional Egyptian chronology which I believe to be reasonably accurate to within a few tens of years in some places from the 18th dynasty forward). The conventional date for Shoshenq’s invasion is 925 BC. These dates are very close and this could be a wonderful synchrony with biblical chronology.”23
These dates, plus all the other evidences, would seem to be more than just coincidental.
With regard to the totality of Egyptian chronology, CMI’s Tour Egypt booklet clearly states the following:
“Modern scholars have struggled to figure out how to put all the Egyptian kings in order and on a proper timeline. It has not been an easy task, and the results are imperfect and hotly debated. It would be fair to say that many Egyptologists, both secular and Christian, agree that there are massive problems with the dates attributed to ancient Egypt.”24
Also, in a footnote:
“While we appreciate the work of David Rohl and that he sees the need for a revision of the Egyptian timeline, we cannot agree with his shortening of the chronology of the Egyptian kings of the 19th through 25th Dynasties. …”25
So, clearly, CMI recognizes the need to amend the standard Egyptian chronology but only where it warrants it (see figure 4). We cannot drive a coach and horses through well-established dates that are derived from synchronisms between biblical, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian data. This is the problem with most of the ‘revisionists’ and ‘new chronologists’—their supposed ‘solutions’ cause more problems than they claim to solve, especially for biblical chronology.26 AH’s is a massive case in point, where building a chronology on Joseph being Imhotep means shifting things around by a whopping 700 years, destroying many secure dates in the process.
AH is right to criticize the standard Egyptian chronology and Manetho, CMI has done the same.27 Egyptian and biblical history coincides when there is more archaeological evidence to demonstrate synchronisms. Such is not the case at the beginning of Egyptian history, where there is less evidence and far more scope to collapse time upwards away from the Flood date. AH is saying nothing new here that CMI hasn’t already stated clearly.28
By failing to accurately represent CMI’s position, it is as though she is trying to claim the ‘biblical high ground’, and CMI just ‘goes along with the standard chronology uncritically’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Was Egyptian Amenhotep II biblical Shishaq?
Finally, AH unwittingly destroys the wealth of evidence and the dates that align with Shoshenq being Shishak of the Bible because, as mentioned earlier, her favoured (and very novel) attempt at a solution is to equate Amenhotep II with Shishak through torturous linguistic means.17
Amenhotep II was the second born son of Thutmoses III of the 18th Dynasty. Thutmoses III is colloquially known as the ‘Napoleon of Egypt’. He sought a change in Egyptian foreign policy by conquering the lands in the Levant and establishing them as vassal states under Egyptian rule. Most likely this was to avoid the type of foreign invasion that occurred when the Hyksos moved in and took control of Egypt when Egypt’s monarchal rule had declined at the end of the Middle Kingdom. To this end, after the Hyksos were expelled at the beginning of the 18th Dynasty, Thutmoses III conducted an astounding 17 military campaigns into the Levant. And his booty lists at Karnak record extensive wealth brought back from vast areas. By comparison, his son Amenhotep II conducted two, but at the most just three small military campaigns. And evidence of his booty list is only meagre compared to that of his father. Another stark difference was the number of prisoners Amenhotep II captured—101,128—to be precise, compared with a total of 2,207 for all of Thutmoses III’s 17 campaigns. Amenhotep II’s focus seemed to be on capturing people, and such plunderings most certainly do not equate with the description of Shishak’s ventures in the Bible.
AH calls me a “traditionalist”. However, I am not a “traditionalist”, I am a revisionist, but not the kind of extreme revisionist that tries to make Joseph into Imhotep, or Shishak into Amenhotep II
Both Gavin Cox and Anne Habermehl equally view Scripture as God’s divinely inspired Word, and historically trustworthy in all its details. We are not debating the validity of Scripture, however, the debate surrounding chronology has an impact on people’s perception of the historical trustworthiness of the Bible. Gavin Cox (and CMI) recognize there are very good reasons AH’s chronology should be rejected, and the strong synchrony that Shishak was Shoshenq I must be defended, and not shunned.
References and notes
- Habermehl, A., Revising the Egyptian Chronology: Joseph as Imhotep, and Amenemhat IV as Pharaoh of the Exodus; in: Horstemeyer, M. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2013. Return to text.
- Clarke, P. Joseph’s Zaphenath Paaneah—a chronological key, J. Creation 27(3):58–63, 2013, creation.com/chronological-key-in-josephs-name-zaphenath-paaneah. Return to text.
- Petrovich D., Amenhotep II and the Historicity of the Exodus Pharaoh, biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/02/04/Amenhotep-II-and-the-Historicity-of-the-Exodus-Pharaoh.aspx, accessed 23 August 2022. Return to text.
- Bates, G., Carter, R., Cox, G., and Halley, K., Tour Egypt, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, p. 69, 2020. This booklet incorrectly claims that Joseph cannot be Imhotep because there were supposedly no chariots in Egypt in the vizier Imhotep’s time (3rd Dynasty of Old Kingdom). Proof that there actually were Egyptian chariots back then has been found (see ref. 3 for Egyptian leather chariot pieces). This invalidates the objection to Joseph as Imhotep. Return to text.
- El-Aref, N., Old Kingdom Leather Fragments Reveal How Ancient Egyptians Built Their Chariots, 2013, english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/69897/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Old-Kingdom-leather-fragments-reveal-how-ancient-E.aspx, accessed 6 July, 2022. Return to text.
- Veldmeijer, A.J., Ikram, S. (eds.) Chariots in Ancient Egypt, the Tano Chariot, a case study, Sidestone Press, Leiden, p. 72, see also p. 21, 2018. Return to text.
- Ref. 6, Veldmeijer, p. 13. Return to text.
- Ref. 6, Veldmeijer, p. 169. Return to text.
- aaew.bbaw.de/tla/index.html, accessed 15th July 202. Return to text.
- Bates G., et. al., Tour Egypt, Creation Book Publishers, Georgia, p. 69, 2020. Return to text.
- rationalwiki.org/wiki/Joseph_was_Imhotep (accessed 15th July 2022). Return to text.
- The numbers attached to pharaohs with the same name are given by modern scholars, and were not used in ancient Egypt. Return to text.
- Leprohon, R.J., The Great Name: Ancient Egypt Royal Titulary, Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia, pp. 5–18, 2013. Return to text.
- Leprohon, ref. 13, p 145. Return to text.
- Cox, G. Strengthening the Shishak/Shoshenq synchrony, J. Creation 36(2) p. 40, 2022. Return to text.
- Ref. 15, Cox, p. 41, new chronologist David Rohl popularises this idea. Return to text.
- Habermehl, A., Chronology and the Gezer Connection, Journal of Creation 32 (2) 2018. AH states “I have shown clearly how the Nebty name of Amenhotep II resolves to “Shishak” in this paper. It is unacceptable by scholarship standards for Cox to say in ref. 17 of his Shishak/Shoshenq paper that my derivation of “Shishak” from Amenhotep’s Nebty name “tortures all linguistic evidence”. Return to text.
- Leprohon, R.J., The Great Name: Ancient Egypt Royal Titulary, Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia, pp. 145, 2013. Return to text.
- Loprieno, A., Ancient Egyptian, a Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, p. 34, 1995. Interestingly, he points out that Egyptian /p/ is rendered Φ in Greek. Return to text.
- Ref. 19, Loprieno, p. 41. Return to text.
- Kitchen, K.A., The Third Intermediate Period, Arris & Phillips, Warminster, p. 294, 1973. Return to text.
- McCarthy, N., The World’s Biggest Gold Mines, 29 September 2020; statista.com. Return to text.
- Bates G., Was Pharaoh Shoshenq—the plunderer of Jerusalem?, creation.com/shoshenq-jerusalem, accessed 23 August 2022. Return to text.
- Ref. 10, Bates, p. 6. Return to text.
- Ref. 10, Bates, p. 86. Return to text.
- Wood, B.G., David Rohl’s revised Egyptian chronology: a view from Palestine, 23 May 2007, biblearchaeology.org. Return to text.
- For instance, see Gary Bates discussion of Manetho in: Bates, G. Egyptian chronology and the Bible—framing the issues, 2 September 2014, creation.com/egypt-chronology. Return to text.
- For instance, see Cox, G. & Bates, G., Can we understand Egyptian chronology before the Exodus? 12 September 2020, creation.com/understanding-egyptian-chronology-before-exodus. Return to text.