Living in Truth:
Archaeology and the Patriarchs

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by Charles N. Pope
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Chapter 14
"Brave Among Men"
(The Female Pharaoh Hatshepsut)


Absalom, My Daughter, My Daughter!

In the previous chapters it was proved that the story of David is a composite of Thutmose I and his son Thutmose III. In general, the early events in the Kings/Chronicles account of David apply to the elder David (Thutmose I), and later events apply to the younger David (Thutmose III). The transition between their two reigns is found in the story of David and Absalom. Seven full chapters are devoted to Absalom, the son of David (2 Samuel 13-19). This is an indication of Absalom's importance. As we shall see, Absalom, the cherished "son" of David is none other than Hatshepsut the legendary daughter of Thutmose I. Apart from his ultimate successor, Thutmose III, only three sons of Thutmose I are known from archaeology. All three are believed to have predeceased their father. They are sparsely attested, and completely pale in comparison with the daughter of Thutmose I, Queen Hatshepsut. Absalom is depicted as a beautiful prince who usurped David's throne. On the other hand, Hatshepsut daughter of Thutmose I was a handsome princess who proclaimed herself king.

The Biblical narrative of Absalom is certainly no less unique than the historical person of Hatshepsut herself.a Sometime after Hatshepsut's death, her memory as a pharaoh was attacked. It seems that the reign of a female pharaoh was later deemed unacceptable, therefore she was removed from the official 18th Dynasty king-list. Her statuary was collected and placed in a "mass burial." Her chapel at Karnak, called the Red Chapel or Chapelle Rouge, was also used as fill in other construction.b Two of her obelisks placed in the heart of the Karnak Temple were walled up, which ironically may have led to their preservation. One remains standing to this day. As discussed in Chapter 12, Hatshepsut had assumed the male personae of a pharaoh by Year 7 of Thutmose III. Hatshepsut went so far as to portray herself as a baby boy in her "Divine Birth" mural.c Conversely, many details within the Biblical account indicate that Absalom was a princess who received a masculine makeover. The main points are enumerated below:

Emphasis on the beauty of Absalom

- "But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him." 2 Samuel 14:25 (KJV)

- Absalom is said to have had long thick hair that was seldom cut. 2 Samuel 14:26

- Absalom's long hair led to his demise when it became entangled in a tree. 2 Samuel 18:9

Emphasis on the feminine traits of Absalom

- Absalom's seduction of the men of Israel 2 Samuel 15:1-6

- Absalom's inclination to listen to all counsel ("talk things over") before acting. 2 Sam 17:14

- Absalom uses indirection to get Joab's attention. 2 Sam 14:29-33

- Absalom questions Hushai's love. 2 Sam 16:17-19

- Absalom relies on "his men" in order to carry out physical acts. 2 Sam 13:28, passim

Emphasis on boyish masculinity of Absalom

- Absalom called a "young man," i.e., a boy who does not yet have a beard. 2 Sam 14:21; 18:5; 18:33: 19:4

Absalom assuming (or mocking) masculine roles

- Absalom "lay with David's concubines" in order to become "a stench in his father's nostrils." 2 Sam 16:21 (KJV) If Absalom was a man, then the usurping of the harem would have been only expected. If Absalom was a woman, this would have elicited a far more extreme reaction. Judging from the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah and contemporary Egyptian inscriptions, homosexuality was prevalent, but not always tolerated (at least publicly) by Egyptian priests and nobility.

Tenderness of David's love for Absalom

- Physical affection. 2 Samuel 14:33

- Submission. David backed down to no man, but was unwilling to fight Absalom. Instead, he chose to flee his own city. 2 Samuel 15:13-14

- Compassion. When a battle was unavoidable, David commands his officers to "deal gently" with Absalom. 2 Samuel 18:5

- Grief. David mourns for Absalom even more than for his firstborn son Amnon, who was killed by Absalom's men and at Absalom's command. 2 Samuel 18:19 passim

The narrative of 2 Samuel 13-19 is dripping with David's love for Absalom. Archaeology provides evidence of a reciprocated devotion on the part of Hatshepsut for Thutmose I. Hatshepsut erected twin obelisks within the personal court of Thutmose I at the Karnak Temple. She provided a mortuary temple for Thutmose I next to her own at Deir el-Bahri. And most significantly, she constructed a tomb (KV 20) in the Valley of the Kings where they were both to be interred. It is thought that Thutmose I was laid to rest there, but was later reburied in a private tomb built for him by Thutmose III. It is uncertain whether Hatshepsut's body was also buried in KV 20 according to her wishes. According to the Biblical account, she was captured and killed in the wilderness by order of General Joab, and her body was (at least initially) put into "a great pit in the forest."d

According to Joyce Tyldesley, Hatshepsut emphasizes her relationship to Thutmose I throughout her reign in inscriptions, and "in every possible way."e Tyldesley assumes that Thutmose I was deceased during Hatshepsut's reign, as was her former husband Tuthmosis II. However, it was demonstrated in Chapter 12 that Thutmose I was still living very late into her 22-year tenure. The need for Hatshepsut to connect herself to Thutmose I was even more important considering that he was still living and wielding a larger than life influence over Egypt and Canaan during much of her reign. The Sed-festival that Hatshepsut celebrated in her Year 15 very likely was associated with the Year 30 Jubilee of Thutmose I. The Bible tells us that David reigned for 40 years. The first 7 years were based in Hebron, and the final 33 years in Jerusalem.f If the Jubilee was celebrated with respect to his kingship in Hebron, then Thutmose I survived Hatshepsut by about three years.g If the Jubilee was celebrated with respect to his kingship in Jerusalem, then Thutmose I died in Year 18 of Hatshepsut. This is the more likely scenario. If so, Thutmose I predeceased Hatshepsut by as many as four years, and the David associated with Absalom's death in the Bible would then be Thutmose III.

Placing the death of the elder David (Thutmose I) a short time before the death of Absalom (Hatshepsut) resolves the contradictions in the David narrative. Thutmose I was torn between his love for Hatshepsut (Absalom) and Thutmose III (David, Jr.). Upon his death, Hatshepsut moved to eliminate Thutmose III and end the sharing of power. Thutmose III retreated from Thebes (Jerusalem), not so much out of love for Hatshepsut, but because he did not have full support from the nobility in his own claim for kingship.

After the death of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut claimed that Thutmose I had designated her as his heir and co-regent. This is a strong indication that Thutmose I retracted or at least qualified his previous election of Thutmose III as heir and successor. Hatshepsut's co-reign in Thebes was by necessity conceded by Thutmose III and his legal father Djehuty, because it was evidently more than merely condoned by Thutmose I.

One might speculate that Hatshepsut was a hermaphrodite. However, Hatshepsut did have a daughter, and must be considered to have been a true woman. The dilemma for Hatshepsut was not having a son. We are told in 2 Samuel 18:18 that Absalom erected a pillar in the "Valley of the King" because he had "no son to carry on his name." In 2 Samuel 14:27, we are told that Absalom did have the one daughter, but also three sons. These "sons" must have been of the political variety. Hatshepsut had a single royal daughter, Nefrure. Although she tried for many years to produce a son through Senenmut and probably other male relatives including her own father, it was to no avail.

The Bible literally states that Absalom erected a pillar, that is, an obelisk in the "Valley of the King." Today, the term "Valley of the Kings" applies to the burial ground of the 18th and 19th Dynasty pharaohs. This name was coined by Champollion, and was not the original name of the royal burial ground.h The original name was Ta-sekhet-aat, meaning "The Great Field," the very field that the "great one" Abraham (Djehuty) purchased from Ephron (Thutmose II). In ancient times, the Valley of the Kings must have designated the nearby Nile River Valley where the city of Thebes (Waset) and the Temple of Karnak stood. Hatshepsut actually erected four obelisks (two pairs) in two locations at Karnak. Interestingly, only one obelisk survived in tact, and was possibly the only one known to the Biblical author. The top portion of a second obelisk was unearthed in modern times and placed on its side only a few feet from its broken base.

In 2 Samuel 13:1, we are told that Absalom had a sister named Tamar.1 2 Samuel 14: 27 then states the daughter of Absalom was called Tamar. The name Tamar was actually an epithet or title, which applied to a virgin princess or heiress.i It is the daughter of Hatshepsut and not her sister that is of primary importance here. Hatshepsut had only one daughter, Nefrure/Sityah. As the virgin heiress, Nefrure ("Tamar") would have been desired by all of the royal princes. The problem for David (Thutmose I) was that Absalom (Hatshepsut) would not consent to the marriage of Nefrure with any of his sons. Nefrure was instead being reserved for a son planned by Hatshepsut through Senenmut. The years rolled by, and the expected heir did not come. For this reason, Thutmose I (David I) gave his eldest son, the Biblical Amnon, at least tacit approval to "rape" Nefrure.

While shocking, the Biblical story of Tamar is far tamer than Greek memories of heiress abductions. A son by Nefrure would have guaranteed the succession of Amnon. The Biblical account implies that Amnon did have the approval of David (Thutmose I). And David certainly did nothing to punish Amnon afterward. Although Amnon was eager to become king, Tamar (Nefrure) would have been no less anxious. Her own hopes of becoming queen were diminishing with each passing year. It mattered little which brother gave her a son, only that she have one. She would have been equally frustrated with her mother's decision to deny her all royal suitors. Tamar brought a love dish to the pining prince Amnon. The "dumplings" she offered were not solely for renewed strength, but for passion.j The symbolism of the narrative indicates that Nefrure also was a willing participant. The pressure felt by royal princesses has been unappreciated.

A number of ruses are introduced in the Bible to disguise the desperation of the royal heiress to produce the next generation of royal children. It was not only the princes who struggled to the death. The princesses were also engaged in a winner-take-all competition. The lust of these young women was not so much for pleasure, but for the prize of being queen, and the pride of surpassing their sisters. The cries of protest by Tamar were feigned and only served to provide an excuse for the liaison should it not produce a child, which turned out to be the case. Despite the best efforts of Amnon and David (Thutmose I), Tamar (Nefrure) did not become pregnant. The Bible states that after raping Tamar, Amnon hated her more than he had formerly loved (coveted) her. Amnon's hopes for kingship were all but ended. He was powerless to do anything but blame Tamar. Moreover, the "rape" of Tamar (Nefrure) gave Absalom (Hatshepsut) justification to kill Amnon, thus eliminating one rival to a potential son by Senenmut.2

For more than 20 years, Thutmose III (Isaac/David the younger) was also denied marriage to Nefrure. To make matters worse, his childhood bride Baketre (Rebecca) was unable to conceive for a long time.k It was during this period of frustration that the younger David espied Bathsheba. He coveted Bathsheba not so much for her beauty, but her pure royalty. Bathsheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel (Senenmut).3 An heir by the granddaughter of Senenmut would have increased the status of Thutmose III relative to his "brothers." It would also have helped him to reclaim his lost inheritance from Hatshepsut. Unfortunately for David Jr., Bathsheba had already been betrothed to Uriah the Hittite. The epithet of Hittite literally means "son of Heth," which identifies Uriah as a high-ranking member of the royal family. The sons of Heth (literally, "sons of Terror") were the terrifying Hyksos rulers descending from Sargon. Yet, Uriah had not been cruel to Bathsheba, but tenderly raised her to maturity in his own home as though she was his very own daughter. She was Uriah's "lamb." David (Thutmose III) like a wolf stole her while the shepherd was away. David later had Uriah killed.l The elder David had committed many atrocities and was not particularly devoted to Jehovah-Amen. However, the "Bathsheba Affair" was the only sin that the Kings/Chronicles author would lay against the younger David.

The story of David and Bathsheba primarily serves to explain the falling out between the younger David (Thutmose III) and Ahithophel (Senenmut).4 Senenmut was not only the sole confidant of Hatshepsut, but also trusted advisor to the elder David I (Thutmose I). According to the Bible, Bathsheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel. The exercise of kingly prerogative by the younger David to acquire the married Bathsheba was not at all appreciated by her grandfather Ahithophel, a man of consummate integrity. In the Genesis narrative, the elder David is named as Abimelech and the younger David is of course Isaac. Ahithophel is named in that history as Ahuzzath, the "personal advisor" of Abimelech.m Abimelech (Thutmose I) arranged for a covenant between Ahuzzath (Senenmut) and Isaac (Thutmose III). However, from the Kings narrative, we can deduce that after the death of Thutmose I, Senenmut did not honor his "treaty" with Thutmose III, but instead remained loyal only to Hatshepsut.

The rejection of Thutmose III by Senenmut is of course related to the Biblical account of David and Bathsheba. The granddaughter of Senenmut had been abducted by Thutmose III and her husband had been murdered by him. Senenmut had been coerced into an alliance with Thutmose III while Thutmose I was still alive. After his treaty with Ahuzzath (Senenmut), Isaac (Thutmose III) names a newfound well Sheba.n This may indicate that the treaty absolved him of guilt over the affair with Bath-Sheba. Upon the death of Thutmose I, Senenmut became free not only to continue his support of Hatshepsut, but also to take his revenge upon Thutmose III. However, Hatshepsut subsequently rejected his counsel on how to best defeat Thutmose III. The proud Senenmut left Thebes in disgrace. Rather than once again sue for peace with Thutmose III, Senenmut "set his house in order" and took his own life.o

This was the original basis of the David and Absalom narrative. Centuries later, there was confusion between the tryst of the younger David (Thutmose III) with Bathsheba (granddaughter of Senenmut), and the earlier dynastic liaison of the elder David (Thutmose I) with Sarah. In Genesis, Sarah is also associated with the covenant of Beersheba. Moreover, as a daughter of Terah/Shua, Sarah as well as her two sisters (Ahhotep and Ahmose-Nefertari) would have also been called "Bath-shua."p One Hebrew text names Bathshua as the mother of Solomon in 1 Chronicles 3:5. Other texts of this same verse name Bathsheba as the mother of Solomon.

The confusion between Bathshua (Sarah) and Bathsheba (granddaughter of Ahithophel), and the two affairs of David is understandable. It is even confirmed by variants of the Bible itself. The younger David (Thutmose III) was born to the elder David (Thutmose I) and Bathshua/Sarah (Isis). According to the Bible, the union of the younger David (Thutmose III) and Bathsheba (granddaughter of Senenmut) also produced children, however there is no record from archaeology. Certainly a son born from this latter relationship would have been a high-ranking royal prince. Four sons of Bathsheba are listed in 1 Chronicles 3:5. Possibly, one of these princes was the early favorite of Thutmose III and become a king of some kind within the greater empire. The actual succession of Thutmose III will be explored in the next chapter.


  1. Based on the accounts of ancient writers, Samuel Sharpe sketched the following profile of Hatshepsut: "She was handsome among women, and brave among men." See commentary in Joyce Tyldesley, Hatchepsut, p 233.
  2. This small temple has recently been restored. See KMT Journal, Spring 2000 Issue
  3. Joyce Tyldesley, Hatchepsut, p 105.
  4. 2 Samuel 18:17. But, possibly this refers to a royal tomb.
  5. Joyce Tyldesley, Hatchepsut, p 117. See also commentary on page 118 of Hatchepsut.
  6. Both Hebron and Jerusalem would have been part of the Theban complex (Thebaid) in Upper Egypt. According to archaeology, the Hebron of Palestine did not yet exist as a city at this time.
  7. This assumes that Hatshepsut died in her Year 22, which is the last known record of her.
  8. Alberto Siliotti, Guide to the Valley of the Kings, pp 8,12.
  9. Compare the Hebrew words tam (8535) "undefiled", and tamam (8552) "complete, upright."
  10. Jonathan Kirsch, The Harlot by the Side of the Road, pp 287-289.
  11. Gen. 25:21. Rebecca was considered to be “barren.”
  12. 2 Samuel 11:14-17
  13. Genesis 26:22-31
  14. Genesis 26:32
  15. 2 Samuel 17:23
  16. Bath is the Hebrew word for "daughter."

Note 1

The sister of Hatshepsut

Evidently, Hatshepsut did have a sister. A brief, retrospective reference in 1 Kings 11:15-22 states that the sister of Queen Tahpenes was given in marriage to prince Hadad of the royal line of Edom. Tahpenes is a Hebrew transliteration of the Egyptian name Ta-Per-Re, literally "belonging to/wife of Per-Re." The praenomen of Thutmose II was A-kheper-(en)-re. The praenomen of Thutmose I was A-kheper-ka-re. Hatshepsut (Tahpenes/Absalom) was the Chief Royal Wife of Thutmose II and the beloved daughter of Thutmose I.

Note 2

Genealogy of Absalom

Absalom is the only "son" of David and "Maaca daughter of Talmai king of Geshur" (a region northwest of the Sea of Galilee, which became important again in the period of the Maccabees). 1 Chron. 3:2 After Absalom orders her men to kill David's eldest son Amnon, Absalom flees to Geshur.

Absalom means "father of peace." However, "Ab" is also common in female names.

Cf Abijah, Abigail, Abihail.

In Egyptian, "Ab" means "heart." Margaret Bunson, A Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, p 105.

Note 3

Genealogy of Bathsheba

Ahithophel was the father of Ammiel/Eliam, who was the father of Bathsheba. Both names are given as the son of Ahithophel and father of Bathsheba.

(2 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 23:34; 1 Chronicles 3:5)

Ammiel = "People of God"

Eliam = "God of the People"

Senenmut is also the Biblical Zerah. Five sons of Zerah listed in 1 Chron 2:6. Ammiel/Eliam should correspond to one of these five sons. Bathsheba, means "daughter of Oath." The name of Zerah's son Heman means "trust, faithfulness." Bathsheba was perhaps the daughter of Heman.

Note 4

Emphasis on Absalom's alliance with Ahithophel

(corresponding to the league of Hatshepsut and Senenmut)

- Ahithophel means "brother of folly." This appears to be a pun on the name Senenmut, which means "brother of mother." 2 Samuel 15:31 states, "David said, ‘O Lord, I pray thee, turn the [wise] counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.' "

- Ahithophel and Absalom have a very close relationship. Ahithophel is also named as an esteemed advisor to David prior to the rebellion of Absalom. 2 Samuel 15:12; 15:13; 16:15; 17:23

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