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This article is from
Journal of Creation 36(2):40–49, August 2022

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Strengthening the Shishak/Shoshenq synchrony

by Gavin Cox

Seven supporting evidences are presented here, strengthening the traditional synchrony that Shoshenq I, an Egyptian Pharaoh of Libyan descent, is biblical Shishak, who looted Solomon’s Temple. There was an official variant spelling of Shoshenq, without ‘n’, behind the biblical name Shishak. The Hebrew translation of Shishak’s name reveals his ‘lustful desire for tribute’. A new hieroglyphic translation of an inscription on Shoshenq’s triumphal relief at Karnak indicates tribute came from Judah. By ‘following the money’, a mysterious passing of great wealth to Shoshenq’s son, Osorkon I, is explained by the transfer of Solomon’s looted treasures. Evidence reveals Solomon’s wise administration influenced that of Shoshenq. Direct archaeological evidence demonstrates Shoshenq I campaigned in Israel.


Image: O.S.M. Amin/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0shoshenq-I
Figure 1. Birth and throne names of Shoshenq I, from his Canopic chest.

Chronology is one of the most contested and controversial areas of Christian study, and none more so than trying to synchronize biblical and Egyptian history. The Hebrew sojourn in Egypt, and subsequent Exodus, are foundational pillars for the formation of Israel and the Christian faith. As with Genesis creation, if secular dates and interpretations are adopted, they unravel the Bible’s relatively straightforward chronology. Not unexpectedly, in Egyptian records there are scant mentions of the Hebrews while in Egypt, but there are ample mentions of interactions with the post-Exodus Hebrews. The only known and rare mentions of Israel occur on the Merneptah-stele (JE 31408, Cairo Museum)1 and possibly on ÄM 21687 (dated 14th or earlier 13th century BC).2

Yet even these associations are sometimes disputed. An example is the attempt to challenge the equation of biblical Pharaoh Shishak (who engaged King Solomon’s son Rehoboam—1 Kings 11:40; 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:2–9) with Shoshenq I, a pharaoh well attested in Egyptian records.

Evidence 1. Is Shishak Shoshenq?

Shoshenq I was the first king of the 22nd dynasty of the 3rd Intermediate Period. The 3rd IP was the second time a non-Egyptian regime ruled Egypt and it began shortly after the death of Pharaoh Ramses XI (20th dynasty/New Kingdom). The kings of the 3rd IP had Libyan origins who were originally generals under former Egyptian rule. Shoshenq conducted campaigns in the ancient Near East, recording his victories on the Bubastite Portal (named after a Libyan city) at the Temple of Karnak at Luxor. He recorded around 180 cities that he conquered in the Jordan region. Forty-three of these are names of cities and kings that are recognizable in Judah and Israel during the Divided Kingdom.

Egyptian spellings

Shoshenq is a modern name invented by Egyptologists, so we would not expect to see it written in the Bible.3 The Egyptian name typically appears in hieroglyphs as ‘š-šn-q’. Egyptians did not use vowels in their hieroglyphic inscriptions, so the reader needs to supply vowels so words can be pronounced. This is why scholars have several different variations, such as Shoshenq, Sheshonq, Sheshonk, or Shoshenk (and these are just English versions). For consistency, this article will use Shoshenq. There were eight pharaohs that shared that name, but only Shoshenq I conducted military campaigns into Israel (see later) making him the ideal candidate for Shishak. 4

The hieroglyphic inscription for Shoshenq I (figure 1)5 includes his throne name in the left oval (cartouche): Hedjkheper- re Setepenre, meaning: “Bright is the manifestation of Re, chosen of Re.” The right cartouche spells out his birth name: “Shoshenq”, and epithet mery-Amun.4

No ‘n’ in Shishak?—No problem!

The names Shoshenq and Shishak (2 Chronicles 12:2–5) are similar, but there is an obvious difference in that the strong nasal ‘n’ is absent from the biblical name. However, there are Egyptian scribal examples where the ‘n’ (𓈖) in Shoshenq was dropped, i.e. ššnq = ššq (𓆷𓆷𓈎) (see figure 13).

Image: Alberto-g-rovi / Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0stela-of-shoshenq-I
Figure 2. Stela of Shoshenq I, Gebel es-Silsilah, Aswan, where his personal name is spelled ššnq and ššq.

The following are the known variations in spelling of the name: ššnq, ššnqj, ššnq(j), `nḫ-ššnqj, `nḫ-ššq, ššq-`nḫ, and ššq.6 What proves the point beyond doubt is when both variants appear together in one text, such as the Stela of Shoshenq I, Gebel es-Silsilah, Aswan. Here the scribe spelled Shoshenq I as both ššnq and ššq (figure 2).7

These monumental inscriptions (dated to year 21 of Shoshenq’s reign) demonstrate ššq was an officially accepted variation.8 That there are two official spellings may reflect the difficulty of accurately transcribing the Lybyco-Berber velar nasal phoneme /Ϧ/ [nq], which exists in neither Egyptian nor Semitic.9 Finally, from a phonetic standpoint, there are clear correspondences between Egyptian <š>, Hebrew ‎,10 Egyptian <q> and Hebrew ק‎.11

Hence, Egyptian ššq (minus the vowels) sounds exactly like Hebrew Shishak. The revisionists’ claim that Shishak could not be Shoshenq, because it lacked the nasal ‘n’, is therefore unfounded.12 Levin adds further linguistic reasons why Egyptian Shoshenq became biblical Shishak. He states:

“In Hebrew, the sounds ‘n’ and ‘m’ are what linguists call ‘weak’, and are sometimes dropped, this is especially true in proper names. For example, we know that the city of Gath was spelled Ginti or Gimti in Egyptian inscriptions. And Hebrew Makkedah was spelled Manqedah in Aramaic. So it is no surprise that the Egyptian name Sheshonq became Shishak in the Hebrew Bible. The ‘n’ has simply been dropped. As far as the shift from ‘q’ to ‘k’, that’s just a matter of transliteration. Shishak would more correctly be spelled Shishaq, but Shishak is the spelling found in most English Bibles.”13

Was Shishak a Ramesses (II/III)?

New Chronologists (notably David Rohl) argue that the Egyptian hypocoristicon (shortened non-official form) of Ramesses II (Sysw) can be understood to be the basis of the biblical Shishak. However, the hypocorism of Ramesses II is rare in the monuments and would therefore likely not be known to the biblical writer, or his readers.14

Evidence 2. Shishak’s Hebrew meaning

The shortened version of Shoshenq’s name, ššq, would be meaningless to readers of the Hebrew Bible. The biblical writer therefore devised an association with a Hebrew meaning to aid comprehension and memory of the name for the readers.

When the words used to make up Shishak in Hebrew are recognized, a perfect description of his actions and attitude is elegantly revealed. In the Hebrew Bible, Shishak appears as שִׁישַׁק (šîšaq). This could well be a combination name made up of two words: שׁי (šay), a noun: ‘gift, tribute, offered as homage’ (HALOT-9542) plus שׁוק (šûq), a verb: ‘to fill with longing, desire, craving’ (HALOT-9470).15

Here are examples of both words used in biblical context (orange text):

בּעֵת֩ הַהִ֙יא יֽוּבַל־שׁי֜ לַיהוָ֣ה צְבָא֗וֹת
At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts … ” (Isa 18:7).

אֲנִ֣י לְדוֹדִ֔י וְעָלַ֖י תְּשׁוּקָתֽוֹ
I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Sol 7:10).

Combining both words, we have: שִׁישַׁוק.

However, this is not the same as שִׁישַׁק, because it has no vav ( ו). If the name is a combination of ‘tribute’ + ‘to desire’, then there is a missing middle vav ( ו) in the verb שׁוק (shak), ‘to desire.’16

The answer may be that Hebrew verbs possessing middle vavs (termed ‘weak verbs’) are written without a vav on specific occasions—to turn simple verbs (qal), into perfect third person masculine singular verbs (qatal). Specifically, שׁוק, meaning ‘to desire’, becomes שׁק, ‘he desired’. Therefore, the name שִׁישַׁק means ‘he desired tribute’ (contra Habermehl).17 Furthermore, the verb’s subject (Shishak) is itself derived from the combination of noun + verb—a very neat literary device! The combination elegantly describes Shishak! He lustfully desired Solomon’s gold as a bribe and tribute to spare Jerusalem.

Supporting evidence comes from a phonetically near identical name found in 1 Chronicles 8:14, 25 שָׁשָׁק (šāšāq). Jones translates this as ‘vehement desire’, which he explains comes “from the root שׁוק shuq, to run after, to desire, to overflow … .”18

Pardon the pun

Image: Oncenawhile / Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0bubastite-portal-name-ring-29
Figure 3. Bubastite Portal name ring 29, drawn by Jean-François Champollion (1829).

There are hundreds of examples of punning in the Hebrew Bible.19 This literary technique, called ‘paronomasia’ (punning), has 12 varieties. Two relevant types include: ‘polysemy’, which combines two etymologies into a single word, and ‘hendiadic paronomasia’, which combines two different words to convey a single idea or action.20 Hence, pairing two words to make one meaning is a recognized biblical literary technique. Furthermore, biblical writers changed spellings of names, and places, to make them significant in Hebrew—either to mock or describe people’s actions.

For instance, the name ‘Jezebel’, the Zidonian wife of Ahab, the infamous king of Israel (1 Kings 16:31), means something like ‘Baal exults’. Scholars have pointed out her name was deliberately spelled to sound something like ‘where is the piece of dung?’21 An association mockingly utilized by Elijah in his prophecy against Jezebel (2 Kings 9:37).

The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar is spelled five different ways in the Hebrew Bible. (Derived from Akkadian Nabū-kudurru-uṣur, “Nabu has protected the son who will inherit”, HALOT-5928). The Bible puns on his name and, of interest to this study, his loot-taking from Jerusalem. Here the name’s ending is made to sound like ‘treasure’ in Hebrew (cf. II Kings 24:13).22

If Shishak is understood to mean ‘he desired tribute’ in Hebrew (contra van der Veen),23 it perfectly encapsulates his actions and attitude in desiring Jerusalem’s tribute.

Evidence 3. Judah’s tribute

Image: Olaf Tausch / Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0triumphal-relief
Figure 4. Section of triumphal relief of Shoshenq I with name ring no. 29 in white box.

One Bubastite Portal name ring has caused contention. Naturally, it sounds like it connects to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. However, some scholars suggest it spells out a mysterious name, ‘the location of [which] is unknown’.24 The particular inscription in question spells out y-w-d-h-m-r(w)-k, listed as no. 29 on Shoshenq’s wall25 (figures 3, 4).

The great pioneering French Egyptologist Champollion (1790–1832), who co-translated the Rosetta Stone, was the first to decipher Shoshenq’s reliefs at Karnak. He transliterated the hieroglyph y-w-d-h-m-r(w)-k as Ioudahamalek or yehudmalek, meaning ‘the kingdom of the Jews’ or of ‘Judah’. Thus, Champollion concluded that Shoshenq of Egypt was Shishak of the Bible, who had plundered cities in the Divided Kingdom.

It is claimed that none of the conquered cities mentioned in the Bubastite Portal specifically mention Jerusalem.26 Therefore, Shoshenq cannot be the biblical Shishak who looted Jerusalem’s treasures.

In three sections, Shoshenq lists around 187 cities that he conquered in the Jordan region.27 Of these, 27 are cities recognizable from Israel28 (cf. 2 Chronicles 11:5–13). They cover south-west of Judah, north-west Israel, east and northcentral Israel, and some are lost or unclear.29 Figure 5 shows a plot of these on a map of Israel (Jerusalem in brackets).30

It should be noted that all Judean cities paid tribute to Shoshenq I (and after that also on an annual basis). The question could be asked, why then would only one city, i.e. Jerusalem, be singled out for this purpose, if all of them had to pay? The answer to that question is simply that all Judean cities would have paid taxes to Jerusalem, and therefore Jerusalem would have financially represented every city in Judah.

 Image: Olaf Tausch / Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0shoshenqs-triumph-inscriptions
Figure 5. Location map derived from Shoshenq’s triumph inscriptions (all locations are approximate; after Currid28).

Explaining name ring no. 29

The ethnicity of the bound captive (figure 3) is Semitic in appearance (which is the case with all the name rings), with a pointed beard and bobbed hairstyle. The oval containing letters represents a city wall, replete with castellation (defensive or decorative parapets with regularly spaced notches).

The letters, readily identified from Gardiner’s sign list,31 are: M17 ‘double reed’ ‘y’ (𓇌); G43 ‘quail chick’ ‘w’ (𓅱); D46 ‘hand’ ‘d’ (𓂧); O4 ‘reed shelter in field’ ‘h’ (𓉔); Aa15 ‘side/half’ ‘m’ (𓐝); D35 ‘fore arm’ ‘a’ (𓂢); E23 ‘recumbent lion’ ‘r(w)’ (𓃭); V31 ‘wickerwork basket with handle’ ‘k’ (𓎡); N25 ‘hill-country, foreign land’ (𓈊) (silent determinative). Altogether, the letters form the sound ‘y-w-d-h-m-a-r(w)-k’.

By the ‘hand’ of Judah

What is striking is that ‘y-w-d-h’ is the exact phonetic spelling of Judah. However, scholars have not accepted this.32 They have preferred yd, a Semitic word meaning ‘hand’ with the D46 ‘hand’ ‘d’ (𓂧) representing a silent ‘determinative’ (a symbol determining the word’s meaning). If it means ‘hand’, the spelling is unique. The problem, phonetically, for this solution is that the quail chick ‘w’ causes the word to be pronounced ‘ywd’, not ‘yd’. Egyptologist James Hoch says, “The Egyptian transcription with a u-vowel [𓅱] seems phonologically suspect, but it is probably justifiable.” But Hoch does not explain why and later admits the “u-type vowel would seem to be implausible”.33 Hoch then attributes poor grammar due to the “scribe’s Phoenician accent.”24 But Hoch cannot know this. Furthermore, why would the Egyptian scribe transliterate a Semitic name, then put an Egyptian determinative after it, if it was to be read as ‘hand’ by Egyptian readers? Why not use a common Egyptian word for hand? A straightforward phonetic reading of the first five hieroglyphs clearly spells ‘Judah’ and requires no special pleading to prove it.

Judah be ‘praised’!

Brown-Driver-Briggs recognizes Judah (BDB-3841 (יהְוּדָה is derived from the Hophel (passive form) of ידה (yadah), which means ‘Praised, object of praise’. The ‘parent root’ is yad (יד), which means ‘hand’ (HALOT–3547). This is demonstrated where a phonetic correspondence is made between ‘Judah’, ‘praise’, and ‘hand’ at Genesis 49:8. Judah means ‘praised’, which, in context, means ‘throwing’, ‘lifting’, or ‘pointing’ the hand towards Heaven in worship (cf. Genesis 29:35). Therefore, ‘hand’ appearing in the Shoshenq inscription is significant and could represent a clever scribal device pointing specifically to Judah’s capital—Jerusalem (assuming the Scribe had some knowledge of Jerusalem’s Hebrew meaning). Thus, the D46 hand symbol is an integral part of the word, rather than a silent determinative.

The king’s ‘tribute’—not the ‘king’

Many scholars read ‘m-a-r(w)-k’ as ‘mlk’, which is a Semitic word, meaning ‘king’ (ְְֶֶמֶלֶךְ, HALOT-5239).34 Granted, in many of the Bubastite Portal name rings35, the Semitic letter ‘l’ is transliterated by the Egyptian scribe using the recumbent lion (rw) and mouth (r), as Egyptians did not pronounce ‘l’ in their language. However, Hoch recognizes that the “identification with mlk is rather weak on semantic grounds”,36 but attempts to make y-w-d-h-m-r(w)-k represent an unknown place called “the king’s hand/monument”.24 However, if, as it is argued, this represents a reference to the monument of Shoshenq at Megiddo (figure 12), rather than an unknown location, then how could Shoshenq be conquering his own monument?

Furthermore, there are common Egyptian words the scribe could have used to portray the idea of a monument to the Egyptian king, i.e. mn.w (Wb 2, 71.9-10) ‘monument’ and nswt (Wb 2, 325.1-329.10) ‘king’. Why use a transliterated Semitic name to represent an Egyptian victory monument?

m-a-r_w_-k
Figure 6. Hieroglyphic word ‘m-a-r(w)-k’ (after Hoch25).

The Egyptian Wörterbuch lexicon reveals a phonetic near match: ‘mrk’, meaning ‘gifts’ (Wb 2, 113.3). Attested in Hoch, mrk is a Semitic loan word with twelve variant spellings, eight of which are spelled ‘brk’ and four spelled ‘mrk’, which occurs in the Berlin papyrus no. 23252 (figure 637).

Egyptologist Annie Gasse states of the form of mrk and its context, “its presence in this text gives it a legal connotation”.38

Regarding so many variant spellings of one word, Egyptologist James Allen explains:

“Even though it was often ‘written in stone’, hieroglyphic spelling was not fixed. Scribes could add or omit phonetic complements and determinatives, and some words could be written either with ideograms or phonograms. You should not expect to find the same word spelled the same way in every text, or even in the same text. No matter how they were spelled, however, the Egyptian words themselves remained the same … .”39

The version of mr(w)k shown in figure 6 occurs on papyrus and is closest to the Shoshenq inscription in terms of symbols used. From the context, scholars have determined its meaning: “gifts, tribute, bribes, plunder”.37

Scribal economy

Image: Internet Archive Image: Internet Archivefigure7
Figure 7. Osorkon I temple offerings of 383 tons of gold and silver (Naville45, pl. LI)
Key: 𓎆 = 10; 𓍢 = 100; 𓆐 = 100,000;𓁏 = 1,000,000; 𓋞 = gold; 𓋠 = silver;
(New Kingdom deben weighed approximately 91 g (3.2 oz)).

There are two more letters to account for—’m’ and ‘k’. The hieroglyphs of the y-w-d-h-m-a-r(w)-k inscription are inscribed into a compact oval-shape. The scribe was constrained to use symbols that conform to the available area. Hence, characters were selected that took up as little vertical space as possible, but rather utilized the oval’s width. The form of mr(w)k used in p.Berlin-23252 would not suffice, because the ‘m’ ‘owl’ (𓅓) is too tall for its position within the oval. This letter can be substituted for a phonetic counterpart ‘m’ ‘side’ (𓐝) (Aa15), a flat wide symbol. The raised arms glyph, pronounced ‘k’ (𓂓) (D28), is also too tall, and so was replaced with the laterally compressed phonetic counterpart ‘k’ (𓎡). Therefore, scribal efficiency and political awareness can account for the symbols used, rather than ‘foreign accents’, or ‘sloppiness’ as Hoch suggested.

If y-w-d-h-m-r(w)-k is to be understood as an Egyptian word rather than a transliteration of an unknown Semitic name, then Egyptians reading the Karnak list would understand y-w-d-h-m-r(w)-k to be referencing Shoshenq’s plundering of Judah.

However, if this inscription really does indicate Jerusalem, why does it not simply spell Jerusalem? The reason is Shoshenq did not conquer Jerusalem! He spared the city—for Judean tribute—which is exactly what the Egyptian scribe and Scripture recorded. Egyptologist J.J. Bimson recognizes this possibility and cites Egyptologists W.M. Müller and T. Nicol, stating:

“A slightly more plausible argument, offered by Müller and Nicol, is that Shoshenk’s list includes not only cities captured in battle, but also any which paid tribute or in some other way were considered subject to him. Assuming that his protégé, Jeroboam, had asked him for protection against Rehoboam, this would have been sufficient reason for Shoshenk to include Israelite cities in his list, since Jeroboam had acknowledged some degree of dependence upon Egypt. [Bimson disagrees and continues:] While this is not impossible, it merely heightens the question as to why Jerusalem is not included in the list, since it certainly submitted and paid tribute, although it was not conquered in battle … .”40

Is name ring 29 in the wrong position for Jerusalem?

Image: Internet Archive Image: Internet Archivefigure8
Figure 8. Osorkon I temple offerings of 383 tons of gold and silver (Naville45, pl. LII).

If y-w-d-h m-a-r(w)-k does refer to Jerusalem, iit is claimed that it doesn’t appear in the correct location on the Bubastite Portal between Hebel (no. 30), Adar (no. 28), and Megiddo (no. 27), which are located in the north. However, this question presupposes the Karnak name rings follow an orderly itinerary into the Levant. Atwood questions this, stating: “the wealth of conflicting opinions have proven that the inscription cannot be read straightforwardly.”41 Atwood highlights many semantic difficulties and concludes:

“I hope to have provided sufficient reason to readdress the phonological and epigraphic dimensions of Shoshenq’s triumphal relief so as to mitigate its uncritical employment in establishing geographical connections between it and the biblical and archaeological records.”42

Atwood recognizes there are both political and religious reasons (apotropaic function, i.e. protective magic) why many Egyptologists see a straightforward comparison between the Portal and the biblical record as problematic. Not all the toponyms may have been conquered ‘enemies’, so that “[t]heir inclusion would have been to enhance the king’s divine-like image as ruler over all forms of potential chaos.”42

Furthermore, a straightforward itinerary cannot be demonstrated when the locations are compared with the name ring numbers.43

My new translation of Karnak name ring 29 answers the charge of the New Chronologists, that because Jerusalem is not mentioned, Shoshenq I cannot be biblical Shishak. The most likely translation of y-w-d-h m-a-r(w)-k is ‘Judah’s tribute’. It was at Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem, that Shoshenq I desired Solomon’s gold, as bribe not to destroy the city.

Evidences 1) and 2) are summarized thus:

(Egyptian) ššnq = ššq(Hebrew) šîšaq = ‘he desired tribute’(Egyptian) y-w-d-h m-a-r(w)-k = ‘Judah’s tribute’.

Image: Aidan McRae Thomson Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0shoshenq-IIs-solid-silver-coffin
Figure 9. Shoshenq II’s solid silver coffin.

Evidence 4. ‘Follow the money’: treasure trail—or tall tale?

A question needs asking—what happened to Solomon’s treasure? A detective’s golden rule recognizes corruption is revealed by examining financial transfers between parties: “Always follow the money—inevitably it will lead to an oak-paneled door and behind it will be ‘Mr Big’.”44 Shoshenq did not live long to enjoy his newly acquired wealth. Merely one year after his military campaign, Shoshenq mysteriously died. Keeping the priesthood onside, Osorkon I then gave extravagant gifts to Egypt’s temples. This was recorded just three years later on a granite stele at Bubastis, in the eastern Nile Delta. The inscriptions describe Osorkon I lavishing at least 383 tons of gold and silver on Egypt’s temples! (This is calculated from the surviving inscriptions, meaning there were probably more). Egyptologist Édouard Naville deciphered the weights in gold, silver, and precious stones (figures 7, 8).45

Egyptologist Robert Ritner has translated Osorkon I’s inventory, which describes, in clerical detail, his extravagant gifts to Egypt’s temples.46

“His majesty gave to the estate of his father Re-Horachty: of beaten fine gold: a noble shrine of Atum-Khepri, chief of Heliopolis of hammered fine gold: 1 statue of the prostrate king of genuine lapis lazuli: 10 royal sphinxes with offering trays amounting to: 15,345 deben of fine gold; 14,150 deben of silver […] of genuine lapis lazuli [total: X+]4,000 [deben]. Vessels amounting to 100,000 deben, placed before Re-Horachty-Atum, … donation amounting to: 5,010 deben of fine gold 30,720 deben of silver 1,600 deben of genuine lapis lazuli … .” 47

Ritner comments on the staggering transfer of wealth to Osorkon I:

“The preserved sums are extraordinary and likely derive in part from the spoils of his father’s victorious Palestinian campaign.”48

Furthermore, Osorkon I’s son Shoshenq II, was buried in a pure silver coffin (figure 9), a facemask of pure gold (figure 10), and fabulous jewellery!

Image: Hans Ollermann / Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0soshenq-IIs-gold-face-mask
Figure 10. Shoshenq II’s gold face mask.

Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen, who also accepts Shoshenq I as biblical Shishak, closes the deal:

“The vast amounts of Solomon’s golden wealth may have ended up, at least in part, as Osorkon’s gift to the gods and goddesses of Egypt.”49

According to Kitchen, Shoshenq I was succeeded by his son Osorkon I in 924 BC. The account in 1 Kings 14:25–26 describes Shishak carrying off the treasures of Solomon’s temple, including the gold shields—that was a lot of gold! We know how much from 1 Chronicles 22:14, describing King David amassing a staggering 100,000 talents of gold (3,750 tons!), and an unimaginable 1 million talents of silver (40,000 tons)! David described his amassing of wealth “with great pains”! Furthermore, 1 Kings 9:14; 10:10, 14, 21 describes Solomon’s immense fortune, including his annual income of 666 talents (25 tons) of gold!50 No wonder Shishak lusted after all that treasure!

Liberal scholars dismiss such biblical figures as ‘tall tales’. But, when compared to other historical accounts of national income, for instance Egypt, Babylon, and Mesopotamia, these astounding figures become the norm.51

There is also no evidence to suggest Osorkon I or Shoshenq II waged any campaigns into the Levant to acquire such wealth.

The order of events is summarized thus (dates are supplied by Kitchen and are provisional):

1) Shoshenq I takes Solomon’s gold as tribute from Jerusalem (925 BC). 2) Shoshenq I dies (924 BC). 3) Shoshenq I’s son, Osorkon I, records 383 tons of gold and silver (at least) for Egypt’s temples during the first four years of his reign (c. 924–889 BC).52

It cannot be ‘proved’ that Shoshenq I’s gold came from Jerusalem; but from where else, when his known itinerary took him into Judah?

Evidence 5. ‘Follow the money’: Jeroboam flees to Shishak

“… Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon” (I Kings 11:40).

Likely in the latter half of Solomon’s reign, his officer, Jeroboam, rebelled. Scripture specifically states he fled to Shishak (not merely Egypt). Assuming Jeroboam stayed at Shishak’s court, both political leaders likely conversed widely. Details of Solomon’s wealth and financial administration would naturally have arisen, details of which are given in 1 Kings 4:7–9.

This would have impressed Shishak, inspiring him to emulate Solomon’s wisdom. Archaeological evidence demonstrates Shoshenq I was the first pharaoh to organize regional, monthly gatherings of tax from elected officials (just like Solomon). No evidence discovered demonstrates this practice occurred before Shoshenq I’s reign.53

The Shoshenq I stela (Cairo-JE39410), discovered in 1910, housed in the Cairo Museum, reveals Shoshenq I’s administrative affairs (figure 11).54

Image: Raphaële Meffre, BIFAO 110 (2010) Academia.educairo-je39410
Figure 11. Cairo-JE39410 Shoshenq I administrative stela.

Egyptologist Donald Redford’s English translation, with commentary, states:

“… the text is arranged in twelve monthly sections … under each are listed the officials and towns responsible for supplying the temple during that month, together with the amount of their levy.”55

“The parallel between Sheshonq’s and Solomon’s provisioning systems is striking.”56

Such evidence powerfully corroborates the identity of Shoshenq I with biblical Shishak.

However, why would Shoshenq I conquer Israel if it was governed by his ally Jeroboam? Although Scripture does not resolve this political question, the biblical writer makes clear, in 2 Chronicles. 12:2, that Shishak was allowed to invade because of Judah’s “transgression against the Lord”. In 1 Kings 14:24 the narrator defines the transgression as ‘sodomites’ who dwelt in the land. Politically, it seems that once Jeroboam succeeded to the throne, this is when Shishak broke his alliance and attacked (cf. Isaiah 36:6; II Kings 18:21).

Evidence 6. Israelite evidence of Shoshenq I

An excavation during the 1920s at Megiddo unearthed part of a victory stele raised by and commemorating Shoshenq’s conquest of Megiddo, thereby independently confirming his military incursions into Israel.57 His hieroglyphic inscription is evident from this fragment58 (figure 12).

Image: Raphaële Meffre, BIFAO 110 (2010) Academia.edumegiddo-victory
Figure 12. Megiddo victory stela fragment with Shoshenq I cartouche (Fisher58).

The inscription reads nfr ntr hdhprr “good god … white is the existence of Re” tpnr ššnk “chosen of Re, Shoshenq (I)”.59 However, the stratigraphical position of the fragment is uncertain, because the fragment was used as a building block, which has raised further chronological questions.60

Evidence 7. Libyan evidence

II Chronicles 12:3–4 records that Shishak came against Jerusalem with the aid of a huge army of Libyans, Sukkites, and Ethiopians. If Shishak had close political alignments with these countries, it would not be unreasonable to expect this. Shoshenq I was not an Egyptian pharaoh, but a Libyan, whose official title was ‘Great Chief of the Meshwesh’, referring to his Libyan tribe. However, if, as New Chronologists suggest, Shishak was Ramesses II (or III), in what way could a Ramesses muster a huge Libyan army? Shoshenq is not an Egyptian name, but a Libyan one, whereas Ramesses is a thoroughly Egyptian name. Furthermore, as Kitchen showed,61 Shoshenq I’s (spelled ‘Shashak’) titulary is recorded in the Karnak Priestly Annals, as “the Libyan Chief Ma”, with the ‘throw stick’ (T14) ‘foreigner’ symbol (figure 13). It would be unthinkable for Ramesses (II/III) to be recorded as a foreigner, or Libyan—they waged wars against Libya!62 This then is the most persuasive argument against the New Chronologists that Shishenq I was biblical Shishak and not a Ramesside king.

 karnak-priestly-annals-text
Figure 13. Karnak Priestly Annals text, Shoshenq I (spelled ‘Shashaq’), with accompanying Libyan titular and throw-stick ‘foreigner’ hieroglyph (after Kitchen51).

Conclusion

It is clear that Shoshenq I of Egypt is the Shishak of Scripture. The secular dates ascribed to this period are also reasonably in synchrony with the Bible, which strengthens its chronology.

1) Evidence for an officially recognized variant spelling of Shoshenq—ššq—phonetically matches the biblical name Shishak. 2) A Hebrew interpretation for Shishak is presented, meaning ‘He desired tribute’, perfectly describing his lust for Solomon’s gold. 3) A new translation of Karnak inscription no. 29 is offered, meaning ‘Judah’s tribute’. 4) The huge wealth seemingly gained overnight by Shoshenq I’s son Osorkon I, is explained by his inheriting Solomon’s Temple treasure shortly after his father died. 5) Shoshenq was the first to implement monthly taxation from regional governors, likely emulating Solomon’s administration. 6) Evidence independent of Shoshenq I’s Karnak list, which demonstrates his military presence in Israel, comes from his cartouche, discovered on a stela fragment in Megiddo, northern Israel. 7) Sheshonq I was a foreign Libyan pharaoh, which is consistent with Shishak calling upon a vast Libyan army to attack Judah. The evidence, when combined, strengthens what Kenneth Kitchen termed ‘the essential synchronism’.63 Specifically:

“… in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: And he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 14:25–26).

That biblical Shishak was Shoshenq I of Egypt is clear, and much depends upon this chronological synchrony, as Gary Bates states:

“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.”64

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Gary Bates for the inspiration for, and his contribution to, this article and to the anonymous reviewers for their critical remarks.

Addendum

Since publication in August 2022 I have found further corroborating evidence (1–2) to strengthen the case that biblical Shishak was Egyptian Shoshenq 1.

Evidence 1. Shoshenq spelled without ‘n’

Firstly, the name Shoshenq was a Libyan name and was spelled without the ‘n’ at his Stela at Gebel es-Silsilah, Aswan. We passed this monument on our recent tour of Egypt with CMI (September 2022). The diagram below (figure 1) is taken from Caminos1 and I have placed the corresponding hieroglyphic spellings of Shoshenq in their correct locations on the monument. It clearly shows both official variants of the name sh-sh-n-q and sh-sh-q.

stela-of-shoshenq
Figure 1. Stela of Shoshenq I with personal name spelled ššnq (A) and ššq (B) (extracted from Caminos)

I have found another example, not mentioned in my Journal article, of the name Shoshenq being spelled Sh-sh-q (the exact phonetic equivalent spelling to the biblical Shishak). This comes in the form of a gold signet ring (figure 2) that belonged to another Shoshenq, of the 26th Dynasty, who bore the official title of “Chief Steward of the divine adoratrice” and is dated to around 575 BC. The ring is kept at the British Museum as item EA68868. The curator’s note states the following:

“The name Sheshonq is of Libyan origin, belonging to several kings of the Libyan Period, but it became popular among Egyptians from that time onwards. Two men named Sheshonq are known as stewards of these women [the divine adoratrice], and the limited information on this ring makes it difficult to know to which to ascribe it. The better-known Sheshonq, perhaps the more plausible candidate for the owner, who had an impressive tomb in the Assasif at Thebes, worked under the divine adoratrice Ankhnesneferibre, daughter of Psamtek II, in the first half of the 6th century BC. The other Sheshonq lived somewhat later, perhaps also in the lifetime of Ankhnesneferibre, but in the second half of the same century.”2

JI FilpoC/British Museumsignet-ring
Figure 2. Signet ring of ‘Sheshonq’ spelled sh-sh-k, dated 6th c. BC

Evidence 2. m-r-k = “offerings, gifts, tribute”

My translation of Sheshonq’s Karnak Bubastite Portal name ring 29 as “Judah’s offering” relies on the phonetic spelling of m-r-k from y-w-d-h m-r-k to mean “gifts” as listed by the Egyptian Wörterbuch lexicon (Wb 1, 466.10). Since publication, I have found several other occurrences of this word, all dating from between 20–22 dynasties. The following examples of m-r-k are given with their text reference and date, in comparison with Bubastite Portal name ring 29 shown at the top (table 1):

Table 1. Comparison of Bubastite Portal, ring 29 “m-r-k” with other known inscriptions of “m-r-k”.

Bubastite-portal

The combined evidence shows ‘m-r-k’ (and its variants) was a word meaning “gifts” was in use in the New Kingdom, and so readily understood by Egyptians reading Shoshenq’s Bubastite Portal ‘booty list’ name ring 29.

Conclusion

Both evidences 1, 2 strengthen the biblical/ Egyptian synchrony that biblical Shishak was one and the same as Egyptian Shoshenq 1, the 22nd Dynasty Libyan pharaoh who plundered Jerusalem’s temples in payment not to destroy the city in the 5th year of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:24–26).

References and notes

  1. Caminos, R.A., Gebel Es-Silsilah no. 100, J. Egyptian Archaeology 38:46–61, pls. X–XIII, 1952..
  2. The British Museum, Object Type: signet-ring, Museum number: EA68868; britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA68868 (accessed 11 October 2022).
Posted on homepage: 14 October 2022

References and notes

  1. Clarke, P., The Stele of Merneptah—assessment of the final ‘Israel’ strophe and its implications for chronology, J. Creation 27(1):57–64, 2013. I disagree with Clarke’s chronology, or that Ramesses II was Shishak. Return to text.
  2. Zwickel, W. and Veen, P., v.d., The earliest reference to Israel and its possible archaeological and historical background, Vetus Testamentum 67:129–140, 2017. Return to text.
  3. Thutmose III as candidate for Shishak is discussed and dispensed with; see: Clarke, P., Was Thutmose III the biblical Shishak?—claims for the ‘Jerusalem’ bas-relief at Karnak investigated, J. Creation 25(1):48–56, 2011. Clarke cites Velikovsky, I., Ages in Chaos, in which this synchrony was first promoted. Return to text.
  4. Kitchen, K.A., The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC), Aris & Phillips Ltd, Warminster, Wiltshire, UK, p. 85, 1973. Return to text.
  5. The Bubastite Portal, Reliefs and Inscriptions at Karnak, vol. III, the Epigraphic Survey, the University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, plate 10, 1954. Return to text.
  6. See discussion in Sagrillo, T., Shoshenq I and biblical Šîšaq: A philological defence of their traditional equation; in: James, P.J. and van der Veen, P.G. (Eds.), Solomon and Shishak: Current perspectives from archaeology, epigraphy, history and chronology, Oxford, Archaeopress, pp. 68–70, 2015; Listed in their entirety in: Jordan, B., Demotisches Namenbuch: Suchliste, Bad Vilbel, p. 185, 2017. Return to text.
  7. Caminos, R.A., Gebel Es-Silsilah no. 100, J. Egyptian Archaeology 38:46–61, pls. X–XIII, 1952. Return to text.
  8. Both official spellings of Shoshenq’s name (sh-sh-nq, sh-sh-q) appear together on the monument. Return to text.
  9. As discussed in Sagrillo, ref. 6, p. 69. Return to text.
  10. See excellent linguistic analysis in Sagrillo, ref. 6, pp. 63–68, contra Rohl, who wants Shishak to be Ramesses II. Sagrillo also replies to the CoD revision, which equates Shishak with Ramesses III. Return to text.
  11. Loprieno, A., Ancient Egyptian, a Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, pp. 28, 34, 245, 1995. Return to text.
  12. See Veen, P., v.d., The name Shishaq: Šošenq or Šyšu/q? Responding to the critics and assessing the evidence, pp. 82–97, presented at the Third BICANE Colloquium held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 2011. Attempts at making Shishak = Ramesses (Sesu) are highly contrived, which also implies the biblical writers/copyists made spelling ‘mistakes’ in which the original waw was written like the later qoph in paleo-Hebrew. Return to text.
  13. Levin, Y., Did Pharaoh Sheshonq attack Jerusalem? Biblical Archaeology Review, pp. 43–67, July/Aug 2012. Return to text.
  14. Howard, D.M. Jr. and Grisanti, M.A., Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, Kregel, MI, p. 193, 2003. Return to text.
  15. van der Veen argues the rare hypocoristicon of Ramesses II ‘Ssi’ became Shishak in the Hebrew Bible which is to be understood as a Hebrew pun; specifically, a verb meaning “to rush at/upon”, thereby equating Ramesses II as Shishak. This argument is linguistically unconvincing. Veen, P., v.d., The Name Shishak—Peter van der Veen replies to Carl Jansen-Winkeln, JACF 8:22–25, 2005. Return to text.
  16. Greenberg recognizes the root ‘ŠQQ’ is at the basis of both emotion (yearning) and vocal terms (crying, groaning). Greenberg, M., Noisy and yearning: the semantics of ŠQQ and its congeners; in: Texts, Temples, and Traditions, pp. 339–344, Eisenbrauns, IN, 1996. Return to text.
  17. Making Shishak = Amenhotep II tortures all linguistic evidence. Habermehl, A., Chronology and the Gezer connection—Solomon, Thutmose III, Shishak and Hatshepsut, J. Creation 32(2):83–90, 2018. Return to text.
  18. Jones, A.G., The Proper Names of the Old Testament Scriptures Expounded and Illustrated, Samuel Bagster and Sons, London, p. 325, 1856. Return to text.
  19. Garciel, M. and Hacket, P. (trans.), Biblical Names: A literary study of midrashic derivations and puns, Graphset, Jerusalem, 1991. Return to text.
  20. Khan, G. (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, vol. 3, P–Z, Brill, Leiden, pp. 24, 26–27, 2013. Return to text.
  21. Garciel, ref. 19, p. 44. Return to text.
  22. Garciel, ref. 19, p. 48, and listed in van der Veen, in JACF 8 and 10. Return to text.
  23. van der Veen, ref. 12, attempts an unconvincing pun on ששק meaning ‘to rush upon’, p. 92. Return to text.
  24. Hoch, J.E., Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, Princeton University Press, NJ, p. 57, 1994. Return to text.
  25. Olaf Tausch, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Karnak_Tempel_19.jpg. Return to text.
  26. See discussion in: James, P., Thorpe, I.J., Kokkinos, N., Morkot, R., and Frankish, J., Centuries of darkness: a reply to critics, Cambridge Archaeological J. 2(1):127–144, 1992. Also New Chronology popularist Rohl, D.M., Pharaohs and Kings: A biblical quest, Crown Publishers, CA, 1995. Return to text.
  27. Currid, J.D., Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 184, 1997. Return to text.
  28. Currid, ref. 27, p. 186. Currid covers the Shoshenq list and history extremely thoroughly in pp. 172–202. Return to text.
  29. Shoshenq’s itinerary, discussed in Kitchen, K.A., The Shoshenqs of Egypt and Palestine, JSOT 93:3–12, 2001. Return to text.
  30. Currid, ref. 27, p. 185. Return to text.
  31. Gardiner, A., Egyptian grammar, Griffith Institute, Oxford, 1957. Return to text.
  32. Currid, ref. 27, states, without analysis, “The inscription literally means ‘hand of the king’; yd may also mean ‘Monument’”, p. 193. Return to text.
  33. Hoch, ref. 24, p. 144. Return to text.
  34. Olaussen, V.K., How convincing are the arguments for a new Egyptian chronology? J. Creation 23(1):58, 2009, prefers ‘Yadha(m)melek’ as an unknown locality. Return to text.
  35. E.g. no. 34 Gati Padalla, no. 26 Aijalon, no. 53 Penuel. Return to text.
  36. Hoch, ref. 24, p. 105. Return to text.
  37. Hoch, ref. 24, p. 104. Return to text.
  38. Gasse, A., Données nouvelles administratives et sacerdotales sur l’organisation du domaine d’Amon, XXe-XXIe dynasties: Traductions, commentaires, transcriptions, vol. 1; vol. 104, part 1, IFAO, Cairo, pp. 47, 108, 2002. Return to text.
  39. Allen, J.P., Middle Egyptian: An introduction to the language and culture of hieroglyphs, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 36, 2014. Return to text.
  40. Bimson, J.J., Shoshenk and Shishak: A case of mistaken identity? JACF 6:19–32, 1992/93. Return to text.
  41. Atwood, P.L., ḤQ/GR-based toponyms on the Shoshenq-inscription of Karnak’s Bubastite Portal: some phonological, semantic, and anthropological reflections, JEOL 47:3–18, 2018–2019. Return to text.
  42. Atwood, ref. 41, p. 15. Return to text.
  43. For example, Steven Rudd has placed all the name rings on a map of Israel, which demonstrates there is no particular order that can be linked to an itinerary; see: www.bible.ca/maps/maps-bible-archeology-sheshonq-I-shoshenq-shishak-shishaq-bubastite-karnak-conquest-campaign-canaan-battle-relief-topographical-list-187-cities-conquered-name-rings-926 BC.jpg. Return to text.
  44. Borrell, C. and Cashinella, B., Crime in Britain today, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, pp. 98–99, 1975. Return to text.
  45. Naville, E., Bubastis (1887–1889), The Egypt Exploration Fund, London, 1891. Return to text.
  46. Ritner, R.K., The Libyan Anarchy: Inscriptions from Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period, Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, GA, pp. 252–255, 2009. Return to text.
  47. Ritner, ref. 46, p. 252. Return to text.
  48. Ritner, ref. 46, p. 249. Return to text.
  49. Kitchen, K.A., Where did Solomon’s gold go? Bible and Spade 7(4):108, 1994. Return to text.
  50. Walton, J.H., Matthews, V.H., and Chavalas, M.W., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, IVP Academic, IL, p. 417, 2000. Return to text.
  51. Kitchen, K.A., On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Erdmans, Cambridge, pp. 133–134, 2003. Return to text.
  52. Kitchen, ref. 4, pp. 75–76, 303. Return to text.
  53. As discussed in Green, A.R., Israelite Influence at Shishak’s Court? Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 233, pp. 59–62, 1979. Return to text.
  54. Meffre, R., Un nouveau nom d’Horus d’or de Sheshonq Ier sur le bloc Caire JE 39410, BIFAO 110:222–233, (231–232), 2010. Return to text.
  55. Wevers, J.W., Redford, D.B., (Eds.), Studies on the Ancient Palestinian World, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, p. 154, 1972. Return to text.
  56. Wevers, ref. 55, p. 154. Return to text.
  57. Hansen, D.G., Megiddo, the place of battles, Associates for Biblical Research, 2014. Return to text.
  58. Fisher, C.S., The Excavation of Armageddon, The University of Chicago Press, IL, pp. 12–13, 1929. Return to text.
  59. Currid, ref. 27, p. 186. Return to text.
  60. Chapman, R., Putting Sheshonq I in his place, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 141(1):4–17, 2009. Return to text.
  61. Kitchen, ref. 51, pp. 10, 32, 34, 111, 617. Return to text.
  62. Spalinger, A.J., War in Ancient Egypt, the New Kingdom, Blackwell, Malden, pp. 238, 257, 2005. Return to text.
  63. Kitchen, ref. 4, p. 72. Return to text.
  64. Bates, G., Was Pharaoh Shoshenq the plunderer of Jerusalem? creation.com/shoshenq-jerusalem, 28 April 2020. Return to text.

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