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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Egyptology and the Traditions of Early Hebrew Antiquity (Patriarchs and Exodus)

2.1. Patriarchal Traditions

Abraham reputedly flirted only briefly with Egypt (Gen. 12: 10–20), but almost one-quarter of Genesis (37, 39–50) is devoted to the fortunes of his putative descendants Jacob and Joseph in Egypt. Features in this ‘Joseph narrative’ have often been compared with data from ancient Egyptian sources, but rarely at length. Vergote (1959) dealt with eight major subjects, using linguistic data and pictorial background, finding many specific examples of real knowledge of Egyptian conditions. His end result was to posit a basic narrative originating in the Ramesside period (the thirteenth century BCE), with even a Moses, becoming the supposed J source, while other elements came in later with the putative E source of biblical scholarship. Then Redford (1970) gave a wider but more sceptical view of the narrative, concentrating more on literary structure; he viewed it as a ‘novella’ first composed in the later fifth century BCE, showing more limited knowledge of Egypt than Vergote had claimed. However, despite much of great value in this work, his scepticism proved, on closer examination, to be largely misplaced on both philological and other grounds (Kitchen 1973a), leaving open the possibility of an original early family tradition reformulated in the thirteenth century and reaching its final form in the first millennium.

2.2. The Exodus Tradition

In recent decades, the date and nature of the emergence of ‘early Israel’ (or even ‘proto-Israel’) has been intensely debated. In that context, the reality or otherwise of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt has likewise been subjected to assessments varying widely from pure fiction to substantial historicity. Being fully occupied with Egypt's rich civilization through its 3,000 years, most Egyptologists are not concerned with biblical studies. But here also, reactions to the exodus narratives have varied greatly. On the pessimistic side, one may cite Redford (1987: 150; 1992: 412–13; 1997: 63), who viewed the exodus narrative as largely folklore (1997), possibly relating to a group of pastoralists who visited Egypt, then left as part of the expulsion of the Hyksos (1987; 1992—a view going back in part to Manetho and Josephus!) The present narratives would belong to the seventh to fourth centuries BCE (1987: 149; cf. 1992: 414; ‘Saito-Persian’, likewise 1997: 63), in terms of content. But mediating views need to be noticed too. Also in 1987, Bietak pointed out features concerning the exodus locations in Egypt that clearly contradicted the Redford view, in that the name Raamses does not require an initial Pi- as in Egyptian (pointed out by Gardiner and Helck long since), and that local geographical/textual data set Pithom at Tell er-Retaba, not Tell el-Maskhuta, while Ramesside remains in these locations rule out an exclusively late, Saito-Persian date for such details in the narrative (Bietak 1987: 168–70). In turn, like Bietak, Yurco (1997) was able to point out features in the exodus accounts that go in part with Ramesside origins and Saito-Persian retouches (Yurco 1997: 50). Going further, very recent advances in the archaeology of the East Delta have clarified the sequences of some of its Ramesside and Late Period sites, showing local shifts as time went on (Hoffmeier 1997: passim), while more thorough studies of textual and longer-known archaeological data clearly show a Ramesside-epoch element and further definitely ‘Nilotic’ features in the exodus narratives (Kitchen 1998b; Kitchen 2003b: 297–324, 351–5, 367–9). Thus, an actual event (but with several thousand, not two million people!) in the thirteenth century BCE from the East Delta would be feasible, followed by some record and traditions, incorporated into their present covenantal/legal context later, with some retouches in the first millennium BCE. So at least three overall viewpoints can be seen at present in Egyptology: near-total scepticism, a cautious middle-of-the-road approach citing data overlooked by the sceptics, and a more positive evaluation, based on newer evidence and fuller study of older data.

2.3. Epochs of the ‘United Monarchy’ and its fall

Here, we reach the period of Egypt's twenty-first and twenty-second dynasties coeval with the reigns of David and Solomon as reported in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Interest here has focused on the pharaoh reputed to have given a daughter in marriage to Solomon after capturing Gezer (1 Kgs. 3: 1; 9: 16, 24), and on the hostile campaign of King Shishak of Egypt after Solomon's death (1 Kgs. 14: 25–6), besides possible cultural links (cf. sect. 2.5 below). There is good reason to believe that the division of the Hebrew kingdom occurred c.930 BCE (Galil 1996, and earlier Thiele 1986), setting Solomon at c.970–930. Likewise, there are solid reasons for calculating Egyptian dates back from 664 BCE (date of the effective change from the twenty-fifth to twenty-sixth dynasties) to close on 945 BCE for the change-over from the twenty-first to the twenty-second dynasty. The last king of the twenty-first dynasty (Tyetkheperure Psusennes II) reigned between thirteen and fifteen years, such that his predecessor Siamun (reigning nineteen years, within c.979/977–960/958) overlapped the earlier years of Solomon. Thus ‘the pharaoh that smote Gezer’ and married off a daughter to Solomon would have to have been Siamun, simply as a matter of practical chronology (for full data, see Kitchen 1973b). So far, Siamun is the only king of his line to display a formal scene of military triumph in a monumental context, which fits well his probable military role here. Also, the scepticism of some (e.g. Redford 1992: 311) about a late period pharaoh giving a daughter in marriage abroad (usually on the basis of Amenophis III's refusal to do this 400 years before!) is disproved both by his granddaughter's willingness to become a wife to foreign royalty at Tutankhamun's death, and by the known examples of such royal daughter marriages to commoners and foreigners precisely in the tenth to eighth centuries BCE (cf. Kitchen 2003a: 118–21).

The Shishak who despoiled the kingdoms of Rehoboam of Judah and of Jeroboam of Israel in the former's fifth year, c.925 BCE, is universally admitted by all competent scholars to have been the Shoshenq I (c.945–924 BCE), founder of the twenty-second dynasty, well-attested in the contemporary Egyptian monumental sources. And of all the known kings Shoshenq (I–VII), he is the only one who exhibits a whole series of monuments attesting to a campaign in Palestine, and datable by these monuments (stela, at Silsila, year 21) to c.925 BCE. Of these the most important is his famous list of Palestinian place-names, known from direct comparison with over fifty earlier lists of c.1500–1150 BCE to have been one of the most original, first-hand, and authentic such lists of the entire series, and it covers Shoshenq I's actions both in Judah and in Israel as far north as Megiddo, where part of a stela of his was found. Attempts to limit his campaign solely to Judah (e.g. Wilson 2001, based on only a few of this type of list and scene) are misplaced; cf. full studies, e.g. by Kitchen 1973b: 432–47 (plus 294–302, 575–6), and Kitchen 2001. This document is an invaluable resource, and even its prefatory rhetorical text is unique in this series (see details in Kitchen 1999: 433–40).

It is commonplace to dismiss the reports of the wealth of Solomon as mere romantic fiction. But as soon as Shoshenq I returned home from his Palestinian campaign, he launched immense and costly building projects on a scale never witnessed since the palmy imperial days of Ramesses II, and rivalling Ramesses III. These included the huge forecourt of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes (biggest of its kind) with a major gateway and the famous triumphal relief and list, a similar undertaking for the Temple of Ptah at Memphis, and an entire temple (and second relief and list) at El-Hiba well south of Memphis. Then, immediately after the death of Shoshenq I (Shishak), his successor Osorkon I went on a spending spree which remains unparalleled in its generosity (nearly 400 tons of gold and silver bullion) to the temples and cults of Egypt at this or any other period, and all within the first four years of his reign. Clearly, all this expenditure by Shoshenq and Osorkon may have stemmed from several sources: e.g. increased trade, or use of accumulated resources from the state treasury. But if so, why did Shoshenq I in particular wait twenty years before doing this? It would seem reasonable to suggest that he had indeed also stripped out whatever David and Solomon had garnered in their capital, and added this to the resources used for the new dynasty's delayed capital expenditures (cf. Kitchen 1973b: 301–4).

2.4. Egypt, Israel, and Judah, c.900–586 BCE

Little more than a century after the death of Shoshenq I, under far less able kings, the political unity of Egypt began to break up. From c.818 BCE, in the early years of Shoshenq III, Pedubast I set up a rival and parallel dynasty (the twenty-third on later reckoning), splitting Egypt's kingship. Then, during the eighth century BCE, other local kinglets arose in northern and central Upper Egypt at Heracleopolis and Hermopolis, while local princedoms of Libyan chiefs usurped authority all over the Delta, retaining their powers down to the early seventh century BCE, even under the twenty-fifth dynasty from Kush (Nubia); see the maps in Kitchen 1973b: 346, 401, figs. 4 and 7 respectively. Thus, by the later eighth century, the ongoing kings of the parallel twenty-second and twenty-third dynasties reigned in all the splendour of their forebears, especially the twenty-second at Tanis, but as mere shadow rulers in terms of political power.

This was the situation in 725 BCE, when Hoshea of Israel rebelled against paying tribute to Assyria, and unwisely sought help by sending to ‘So, King of Egypt’ (2 Kgs. 17: 4). At that time, the nearest Egyptian ruler was indeed the reigning king of the twenty-second dynasty, who was then Osorkon IV, attested during the invasion of Piye (‘Piankhy’) from Kush in 728 BCE, and still there down to 716 BCE, as the [U]shilkanni of Sargon II. His bases in Tanis and Bubastis were impressive, but he had not inherited the vaster power of those who had built them up a century before, and so could afford Hoshea no help. From time to time, attempts have been made to amend the Hebrew reference as if intending to be read as ‘to Sais, [to] the king of Egypt’ (thus, by Goedicke 1963, copied by others since). This is without merit. It is needless in terms of the presence of Osorkon IV as closest neighbour to Palestine, and because the town of Sais was a mere backwater in 725 BCE, far distant from Canaan's shores, ruled only by local Libyan chiefs, Osorkon and Tefnakht I, who had no known relations abroad; and the Hebrew ‘So’ and the Egyptian for Sais do not properly correspond, unless arbitrarily emended. Again, the abbreviation of late period Egyptian kings' names does occur periodically, despite occasional statements to the contrary. So we are better off staying with the attested king Osorkon IV here, for many good reasons (given by Kitchen 1973b: 372–5, 551–2, and pp. xxxiv–xxxix; and Kitchen 2003b: 15–16 and 67 n. 24).

Rather more controversy has long attended the presence of ‘Tirhakah king of Kush’ in Palestine as ally of Hezekiah of Judah against Sennacherib of Assyria in 701 BCE. It is known that his twenty-six-year reign in Egypt began in 690 BCE, as it immediately preceded the accessions of Tanutamun (twenty-fifth dynasty) in the south and of Psamtek I (twenty-sixth dynasty) in the north in 664 BCE. Therefore, his appearance leading an Egypto-Nubian force in Palestine in 701 BCE was long condemned as erroneous. However, two factors speak against too facile an assumption along these lines. First, the narratives in 2 Kings and Isaiah as we have them did not reach their present form before 681 BCE, for both of them record the death of Sennacherib (2 Kgs. 19: 37; Isa. 37: 38), which happened in that year. By that time, Tirhaqah (better, Taharqa) had indeed been ruler of Egypt as well as Kush for almost a decade, of course (from 690). Thus, the narrator was (in 681) calling him ‘king’ as his then-current title. Support for this usage comes from Taharqa's own texts. When summoned north by Shabako, then reigning as king in Egypt, Taharqa on a stela of his own reign calls himself ‘His Majesty’ also, of a period when he was not yet king of Egypt. Such usage is universal, down to our own times—e.g. we would readily say, ‘Queen Elizabeth II was born in 1926’, as we live during her reign—but she was, of course only a princess at that time (see Kitchen 1973b: 157–61, 383–6, 552–4, and pp. xxxix–xlii). Secondly, the discovery of an Assyrian text at Tang-i Var in Iran mentions Shapataka, King/Ruler of Nubia/Kush (‘Meluhha’) in 706 BCE at latest. This item points to a probability, barely considered hitherto: namely, that the kings of Kush found it impossible to rule over the entire 2,000-mile length of both Egypt and Nubia from Memphis in northern Egypt. Therefore, they split this immense north–south domain into two: a senior king ruling at Memphis in Egypt, and his adjutant (and future successor) ruling Kush from Napata there. This was precisely what the New Kingdom pharaohs had done, centuries before, for the same reason of administrative necessity. Thus, it would appear that when Shabako took over Egypt in 715 BCE, he appointed Shebitku (Assyrian ‘Shapataka’) as his co-ruler in Kush, whether entitled ‘King’ or not. Then, when in 702 BCE Shebitku succeeded Shabako as king in Egypt, he appointed Taharqa in 702 as ruler of Kush in turn—which is what we have (for 701) in Kings and Isaiah. Thereafter, when Taharqa succeeded Shebitku as king in Egypt in 690, he would have appointed Tanutamun as ruler in Kush. Doubtless, Tanutamun would have followed this practice also—but the Assyrians expelled him promptly in 663 from Egypt back into Nubia, hence he was restricted permanently to the rule of Kush (Nubia) itself, and the dual arrangement lapsed. Some such dual arrangement was foreseen by Redford (1999: 60), and this writer (Kitchen 2003b: 16, 67 n. 25). Thus the biblical phrase is in fact more closely accurate than anyone had suspected—in 701, Taharqa was indeed ruler of Kush, but not yet of Egypt. The mentions of Necho II and of Hophra (abbreviation for [Wa]hibre) are long recognized, and therefore call for no special comment; they are well tied into the overall historical picture as derived from Assyrian, neo-Babylonian, Egyptian, and later Greek sources.

2.5. Egypt and Hebrew Poetry and Wisdom Literature

The forms and content of Hebrew poetry have long been studied and compared with those of the lush poetry of Syrian Ugarit and with that of Akkadian in Mesopotamia. Egypt too offers three millennia of comparable poetry; all these regions shared many formal features but kept their own emphases in wording and content. Egyptian and Hebrew hymns and psalms were compared and contrasted at length by Barucq (1962); a clear, brief exposition of poetical norms found in Egyptian (as elsewhere) and representative poetry of all kinds are given in Kitchen 1999. The Song of Songs has often been compared to Egyptian lyric poetry, latterly by Fox (1985) (fuller translations in Kitchen 1999).

Instructional and other wisdom literature was shared all across the biblical world. The instruction by Amenemope (c.1200 BCE) was claimed to be the original of parts of Proverbs; but in many cases, the concepts thus compared prove to have been drawn from older common stock, so a direct relationship is open to some question (see Ruffle 1977). Thus, riches fly away like geese in Amenemope X: 4–5 (Lichtheim in Hallo and Younger 1997: 18), while in Proverbs 23: 5 they fly off like an eagle. But already, 700 years before either, riches are like the sparrows that cannot settle (Sumerian Proverb Collection I: 18; Gordon 1959: 50)! Thus, both Amenemope and Proverbs drew upon a long-current common concept, not here upon each other. All such instructional writers were compilers rather than inventors; Solomon equates ‘words of the wise’ with ‘what I teach’ (Prov. 22: 17), and again (24: 23) ‘further words of the wise’. Thus Amenemope and other such earlier ‘sayings of the wise’ could have been utilized, one way or another, in Proverbs. In format, of forty known instructional texts (half of these being Egyptian), roughly half each in all the cultures involved follow either the simple framework of title plus main text, consisting of a series of observations or injunctions, or else the fuller one of title, a prologue (always either exhortation or biographical), and then the main text. This formal history through three millennia (including Proverbs) was established by Kitchen (1979), doubted by Weeks (1994), and then shown to be strictly factual by Kitchen 1998a. Attempts have been made to link Ecclesiastes with the cynical component in Egyptian harpers' songs, but the affinity here is weaker, and other Near-Eastern sources afford equally good parallels. Biblical Job and the secular Egyptian ‘Eloquent Peasant’ both protest over misfortune.

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