EGYPTIAN PHARAOHS

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Pharaoh was the ancient Egyptian name for the office of kingship. The term began as a reference to the king's palace, but the meaning loosened over the course of Egyptian history until in the late period it was interchangeable with the Egyptian word for king. Such rulers were believed to be the incarnation of Horus.

 

Etymology

 

The term Pharaoh ultimately derives from a compound word written as pr-`3 also spelt par'o in texts, used only in larger phrases like smr pr-`3 'Courtier of the Great House', with specific reference to the buildings of the court or palace itself. From the Twelfth Dynasty onward the word appears in a wish formula 'Great Home, may it live, prosper, and be in health', but only with reference to the buildings of the court rather than the king himself.

 

However, the earliest instance where pr-`3 is used specifically to address the king is in a letter to Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1292 BC) which is addressed to 'Pharaoh, all life, prosperity, and health!'. . From the Nineteenth Dynasty onwards pr-`3 on its own was used as regularly as hm.f 'His Majesty'. The term therefore evolved from one specifically referring to a building to a respectful designation for the king or prince, particularly by the Twenty-Second Dynasty and Twenty-Third Dynasty. By this time, the Late Egyptian word is reconstructed to have been pronounced *par-ʕoʔ whence comes Ancient Greek φαραώ pharaō and then Late Latin pharaō. From the latter, English obtained the word "Pharaoh". Over time, *par-ʕoʔ evolved into Sahidic Coptic prro and then rro (by mistaking p- as the definite article prefix "the" from Ancient Egyptian p3).

 

A similar development, with a word originally denoting an attribute of the king eventually coming to refer to the king himself, can be discerned in a later period with the Arabic term Sultan.

 

 

Regalia

 

The king of Egypt wore a double crown, created from the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and the White Crown of Upper Egypt. In battle, the pharaoh wore a blue crown of a different shape. All of these crowns were typically adorned by a uraeus, which was doubled under the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty.

 

The pharaoh also wore a striped headcloth called the nemes, which may be the most familiar pharaonic headgear. The nemes was sometimes combined with the double crown, as it is on the statues of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel.

 

The pharaoh would also wear a false beard made of goat hair during rituals and ceremonies [1].

 

Egyptologist Bob Brier has noted that despite its widespread depiction in royal portraits, no actual ancient Egyptian crown has been discovered. Tutankhamun's tomb, discovered largely intact, did contain such regal items as his crook and flail, but not a crown. Crowns were assumed to have magical properties, and Brier's speculation is that there were items a dead pharaoh could not take with him which therefore had to be passed along to his living successor.

 

 

Titles

 

The official titulary of the king by the Middle Kingdom consisted of five names; for some rulers, only one or two of them may be known.

 

Of the three great non-consort Queens of Egypt (Hatshepsut, Sobeknefru, and Twosret), at least Hatshepsut took the title in the absence of an existing word for "Queen regnant". Also notable is Nefertiti who was made co-regent (the pharaoh's equal) during the reign of Akhenaten. Some scholars further suspect that her disappearance coincides with the rise of Smenkhkare to the throne after Akhenaten's death, making Nefertiti yet another female pharaoh in Egyptian history.

 

During the eighteenth dynasty (sixteenth to fourteenth centuries B. C.) the title Pharaoh was employed as a reverential designation of the king. About the late twenty-first dynasty (tenth century B. C.), however, instead of being used alone as before, it began to be added to the other titles before the king's name, and from the twenty-fifth dynasty (eighth to seventh centuries B. C.) it was, at least in ordinary usage, the only title prefixed to the royal appellative. For instance, the first dated instance of the title Pharaoh being attached to a king's name occurs in Year 17 of Siamun on a fragment from the Karnak Priestly Annals. Here, an induction of an individual to the Amun priesthood is dated specifically to the reign of Pharaoh Siamun. This new practise was continued under his successor Psusennes II and the twenty-first Dynasty kings. Meanwhile the old custom of referring to the sovereign simply as Per'o continued in traditional Egyptian narratives.

 

The Biblical use of the term reflects Egyptian usage with fair accuracy. The early kings are always mentioned under the general title Pharaoh, or Pharaoh the King of Egypt; but personal names begin to appear with the twenty-second dynasty, though the older designation is still used, especially when contemporary rulers are spoken of. The absence of proper names in the first books of the Bible is no indication of the late date of their composition and of writer's vague knowledge of Egyptian history, rather the contrary. The same is true of the use of the title Pharaoh for kings earlier than the eighteenth dynasty, which is quite in keeping with Egyptian usage at the time of the nineteenth dynasty.

 

 

 

 

Pharaohs in the Bible

 

The first king mentioned by name is Shishaq (probably Sheshonk I), the founder of the twenty-second dynasty and contemporary of Rehoboam and Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:40; 2 Chronicles 12:2 sqq.). The term Pharaoh is prefixed to his name in the Great Dakhla stela—as in Pharaoh Shoshenq—which dates to Year 5 of his reign.

 

The next king, So—an ally of Hoshea—King of Israel (2 Kings 17:4), is commonly identified with Osorkon IV, who was a minor pharaoh at Tanis who ruled over a divided Egypt. He was contemporary with Tefnakht of Sais and Nimlot of Hermopolis among many other Egyptian rulers.

 

Taharqa, who was the opponent of Sennacherib, is called King of Ethiopia (2 Kings 19:9; Isaiah 37:9), and hence is not given the title Pharaoh which he bears in Egyptian documents.

 

Necho II, who defeated Josiah (2 Kings 23:29 sqq.; 2 Chronicles 35:20 sqq.), and Ephree or Hophra, the contemporary of Sedecius (Jeremiah 44:30), are styled Pharaoh Neco and Pharaoh Ephree, according to the Egyptian usage.

 

Unnamed Pharaohs of the Bible:

 

The Pharaoh Nimrod ruled over Egypt in the day of Abraham's childhood. Books to reference are See Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 70–72; Beer, Leben Abraham's, 9–14.

 

  1. The uncertainties related to ancient chronology make it impossible to determine the identity of the Pharaoh who ruled over Egypt when the patriarch Abraham arrived in the country. The Massoretic text gives 1125 years between Abraham's migration to Canaan and the building of the temple, whereas the Septuagint allows 870. As the building is placed about 1010 B.C. by some scholars, and about 969 B.C. by others, the date of Abraham's migration would be 2135 or 2094 B.C. for the Massoretic text, and 1880 or 1839 B.C. for the Septuagint. Ancient Egyptian chronology is as uncertain as that of the Bible. If Meyer's dates, adopted in the article Egypt, are correct, Abraham's journey to Egypt would have to be referred to the reign of one of the Mentuhoteps of the eleventh dynasty, or to that of either Usertesen (Sesotris) III, or Amenemhet III of the twelfth.

  2. It is generally thought that Joseph held office under one of the shepherd - or Hyksos kings, who ruled in Egypt between 1648 BC to 1540 BC, and were finally expelled by Ahmose I shortly after 1580 BC. The length of their rule is unknown, but probably it did not last much over a hundred years. Joseph's tenure of office would accordingly be placed in the seventeenth century B.C., however, this date is very inconsistent with customs mentioned, which are mostly apparent in the New Kingdom, with the exception of the price mentioned for slave, which corresponds closely during the Middle Kingdom. The names of four Hyksos kings are known to us from Egyptian monuments, Sakir-Har, Khyan, Apophis, and Khamudi.

  3. The Pharaoh with whom Hadad of Edom sought refuge during King David's reign (1 Kings 11:17) was a king of the twenty-first dynasty of Egypt.

  4. King Solomon's father-in-law (1 Kings 3:1) was either Siamun or Psusennes II, though the Haggadah states that it is Shishak, believed to be Shoshenq I.

  5. The Pharaoh mentioned in 2 Kings 18:21 and Isaiah 36:6 is by many thought to be Taharqa; but if the expedition of Sennacherib occurred in 701 B.C., as is generally held, there can be little doubt that Shebitku, was the Pharaoh referred to here. Taharqa came to the throne only a decade later, and the title King of Ethiopia (2 Kings 19:9; Isaiah 37:9) is given to him by anticipation.

  6. The unnamed Pharaoh of Jeremiah 25:19, is probably Necho II, who is certainly meant in 46:17 and 47:1; elsewhere Ephree or Apries is intended. Apries is also the Pharaoh of Ezekiel.

 

LINKS and REFERENCES

  • The Way to Eternity: Egyptian Myth, F. Fleming & A. Lothian, 12, 59

  • Ancient Egyptian Grammar (3rd ed.), A. Gardiner (1957-) 71-76

  • Hieratic Papyrus from Kahun and Gurob, F. LL. Griffith, 38, 17. Although see also Temples of Armant, R. Mond and O. Myers (1940), pl.93, 5 for an instance possibly dating from the reign of Tuthmoses III.

 

 

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