Living in Truth:
Archaeology and the Patriarchs

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by Charles N. Pope
Copyright 1999-2004, 2016 by Charles Pope
United States Library of Congress
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Chapter 33
"A Separate House"
(Competition for the Throne of Ramses-the-Great)


Do as I Say, Not as I Do

After the humbling of Akhenaten in his Year 5, a new High Priest of Amun was appointed in Thebes by the Libyan name of Iuput son of Sheshonq. Likewise, shortly after the "Coming of the Sea Peoples" in Year 5 of Menerptah, another Libyan supremacy was ushered in with the appointment of Takelot (G) son of Osorkon III as High Priest of Amun. For the final six years of Osorkon's reign, Takelot ruled in Thebes as High Priest of Amun. Before the death of his father, he had also been appointed as pharaoh Takelot III of Libyan. Takelot then installed his own son Osorkon (F) as successor in the office of High Priest. This younger Osorkon continued (perhaps with at least one interruption) as High Priest after the death of his grandfather, and eventually was named as a pharaoh of Libya himself, Osorkon IV.

Osorkon III had greater aspirations for his son Takelot III than just the Libyan throne. He would not have considered Meremptah, Ramses-Tefnakhte, or Hori-Kashta and his son Piye to represent true collateral lines, and therefore not qualified to take the throne upon the death of Ramses. However, in order for Osorkon to put forth his true son as successor to Ramses, it was necessary for him to take on the typecasting of Moses, and precisely for the same reason that Menerptah and others would seek to do it. During this period Moses-figures would abound. In the early Hyksos Period, the successor of Salitis (Joshua) was Yakhub-Hor, who could not produce a qualified heir, therefore the throne reverted to a son of the formerly disgraced Samsu-iluna, "eldest son" of Hammurabi (Moses), who was also known by the Egyptian name of Smenkhkare. In the New Kingdom, Akhenaten assumed the role of Moses and his "eldest son" was also named Smenkhkare. This set a precedent for Osorkon III to follow, which he did by placing his true son Takelot III in the role of Smenkhkare. Osorkon III also assumed the throne name of Akhenamun-Ramses (VIII) in order to better identify with Akhenaten and the "Moses" typecasting in general.

Although Uzziah (Osorkon III/Assur-Dan III)a "remained faithful [at least ostensibly] to the Lord all the days of Zechariah (Menerptah)," his son Ahaz (Takelot III) did not! It has been previously shown that the Libyan name Takelot/Takeloth was equivalent to the Assyrian name Tiglath and to the Hebrew Ahaz. There were three kings of Assyria named Takelot, three kings of Assryia named Tiglath (-pileser) and three Biblical kings named Ahaz. The first two lived during the Amarna Period in Egypt and were discussed in previous chapters. The third Tiglath-pileser was first a general in Assyria, but then usurped the throne during a period of civil war.b This effectively ended the regency of Menerptah, or that of one of his own sons, in Assyria under the name Assur-nirari V. The next move of Tiglath-pileser was to seize the land and cities of a king he calls Azriau from Iuda, that is his very father Azariah/Uzziah king of Judah. He further records that he received tribute from Azriau.c The tone of the inscription is not one of orderly succession, but apparently one of an overthrow. However, Tiglath-pileser was actually being directed by his father Assur-Dan to stage a mock rebellion against him, even as Smenkhkare son of Akhenaten was asked to do in the 18th Dynasty.

Faithful unto Death

"But when he [King Uzziah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him . neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests . and they thrust him out thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several [separate] house . and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land." d

Earlier in his kingly tenure Osorkon III had actually served as a High Priest of Amun, and his own grandson Osorkon was officiating in that capacity at the end of his long reign. Yet, Biblical Uzziah is apparently censured for trying to perform the hereditary duties of the Levitical priests, the very ones he once discharged without incident. This scene is not what it appears to be, but a recollection of grand theater within the Karnak temple. Perhaps Osorkon III had contracted leprosy, however his rejection by the priests of Amun, and by none other than his own grandson Osorkon F (Azariah) was entirely staged so that he could more fully identify with the earlier Akhenaten. The leper-king Akhenaten was cast out of Thebes by the Amunite establishment, relieved of his duties, and required to live in a "separate house" at Akhet-aten. This part of the Biblical account of Uzziah (Osorkon III) reads very much like a reformulation of the Rehoboam (Akhenaten) narrative, and was deliberately presented as such.

The "exile" of the leprous Osorkon III (Uzziah) and designation of Rudamon/Piye (Jotham) as his Libyan successor would have been directed by the still living Ramses-the-Great (Jeroboam II).e Osorkon III publicly honored the will of the "Lord God" Ramses in his earlier decision to appoint Meremptah crown prince of Egypt. He now acquiesced as his "eldest son" Rudamun/Piye (true son of Hori/Kashta) was made senior ("father") to Takelot in the Libyan throne. He was bound by sacred oath to obey Ramses in life, but this did not stop him from preparing the way for Takelot upon his death. Nevertheless, it had to be done very discretely, and in strict conformance with tradition. The Living Osiris Osorkon III was willing to sacrifice his good reputation, to go so far as to damn himself, in order to establish the kingship of his true son and therefore ensure the continuation of his own line upon the Great Throne. He gave his ministers instructions to crown Takelot, not only as successor to the lesser Libyan throne but also that of Egypt, either upon his death or that of Ramses II.

The Year Uzziah Died

The Book of Isaiah informs us that the prophet Isaiah ministered during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The first five chapters of Isaiah characterize the final years of Uzziah's reign as extreme in both their opulence and decadence. We are told that the Lord (that being Jeroboam/Ramses or Uzziah/Osorkon himself) is disgusted with his haughty and naughty people and determined to break them with exile. The sixth chapter of Isaiah begins, "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple . one [angel] cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." f There is a new king (also) on the throne and he is determined to execute the (other) Lord's will that "the cities be wasted, without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and [until] the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land." g

The phrase, "in the year king Uzziah died", suggests that the declaration of Ahaz as "God" occurred some weeks or months either before or after the death Uzziah. The correct interpretation depends upon whether Uzziah (Osorkon III) or Jeroboam II (Ramses II) died first. The latter seems the more likely scenario, in that Ahaz likely could not have been crowned as Great King while Ramses II still lived. The ultra-holy new king of all the earth introduced by Isaiah is expected to be Jotham, whose name conveys a sense of extreme piety. He had already been made king of Judah in the place of the leprous Uzziah. Jotham also follows Uzziah in the list of kings given by Isaiah (1:1), and in the Kings/Chronicles narrative. However, with the death of Uzziah and more importantly the death of Jeroboam, the expected order was reversed by usurpation. As a result, the Book of Isaiah does not even mention Jotham other than in the opening verse. He only appears in the narrative later (Chapter 20) under his Assyrian name of Sargon II. Conversely, Isaiah emphasizes the reign of Ahaz as king of Judah, but does not disclose his Assyrian identity.

Despite the confusion, the correct interleaving of Ahaz and Jotham as kings of Judah can still be reconstructed. The Biblical Kings narrative states that Jotham (Piankhy) made war on the Ammonites in his Year 20. A few verses later, the Bible states that Jotham reigned in Jerusalem (Thebes) for 16 years. This appears to be a discrepancy, however archaeology allows us to interpret the Biblical record. The reign of Piye/Piankhy lasted for 36 years. In his Year 20, he brought an army north through Thebes and subdued Egypt as far as the Delta. It was only during the final 16 years of his reign that he was considered to be king in Thebes (Jerusalem), just as the Bible indicates. During the preceding 16 years, Shabaka was considered king in Thebes.

With respect to rule in Thebes, the continuous 16-year reign of Ahaz precedes the continuous 16-year reign of Jotham. However, the order of reign for Piye and Shabaka is still somewhat arbitrary. Piye was considered king in Upper Egypt (Judah) both before and after the 16-year tenure of Shabaka. In the 25th Dynasty list, Piye (Jotham) comes first and then Shabaka (Ahaz). This is also the sequence given in the Bible. However, in the 23rd Dynasty king list, Takelot III (Ahaz) comes first, then Rudamun (Jotham). Year 14 is the highest known regnal date of Shabaka from a stela at the Serappeum.h He may have reached Year 15 and thereby given credit in the Bible for a full 16 years of rule as Ahaz. Alternatively, the 16 years of Ahaz may have included only 14 years as Shabaka and two years while he was still only a Libyan pharaoh, Takelot III, and subordinate in that throne not only to his father Osorkon III, but also to Rudamon/Piye. On a royal (l'melech) seal, Ahaz is called the "son of Jotam" (Jotham), that is his subordinate as a king of Judah/Libya. After being crowned as pharaoh of a new and superior (Nubian) throne of Egypt and under the name of Shabaka, he no longer actively maintained his Libyan identity.i Moreover, as Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria, he was no longer only pharaoh of Egypt, but "king of the world."

Takelot/Shabaka had already fully embraced the role of the New Kingdom and Middle Kingdom figures named Smenkhkare. As Smenkhkare, he had been directed to take the lands of the king for himself, and did. After Smenkhkare of the Middle Kingdom, he expected his line to continue as Great Kings. As a logical extension of this typecasting, he also took the role of the Old Kingdom pharaoh Menkhaure. However, this caused a slight problem because his predecessor Ramses-the-Great was considered to be the incarnation of Narmer, and Narmer was not succeeded directly by Menkhaure, but by Snofru (Biblical Sheba). Therefore, as a reflection of his new status as Great King, Shabaka assumed two 4th Dynasty roles, Snofru and Menkhaure. It was actually Snofru (Sheba) that provided the inspiration for his Nubian name Shabaka. He chose as his new throne name (praenomen) Nefer-kare,j which melds the names of Snofru (S'nefer) and Menkhaure. This typecasting would have been perceived by his rivals as somewhat strained and open to challenge, but it was not entirely unprecedented. For example, Aye in the 18th Dynasty had played three Middle Kingdom roles. One was his namesake Ay. The others were that of Senusret I (Ephraim) and Senusret III (Shashak).

Shabaka was likewise compelled to assume a third Old Kingdom identity, that of Semerkhet (Shem son of Noah), along with the later incarnations of this Patriarch in the 12th and 18th Dynasties. This was necessary to trump Menerptah, who had selected the throne name of Baenre-Merynetjeru, an embellishment of Bau-netjer, one of the titles of the Patriarch Ham/Khem. This throne name to have been a declaration by Meremptah that he did not intend to become a tragic figure, but actively defend and even extend his sovereignty over the Egypt Empire. However, such a typecasting would have only inspired his main rivals to assume the roles of Shem and Japheth. In the Old Kingdom, Ham had usurped the place of Shem, but in the Middle Kingdom the roles were somewhat rearranged. (See Chart 8) Amenemhet III/Sumulael played the roles of both Noah and Ham. Amenemhet IV/Sabium played the role of Shem and was named as his successor, however the throne later passed to the line of Auibre-Hor, who was considered the Middle Kingdom Moses. This pattern would be the one repeated at the end of the 18th and 19th Dynasties. The debacle that was Akhenaten and the Amarna Period did not disuade a number of princes from taking up the same role at the end of the 19th Dynasty, such as Meremptah, Piye and his son Taharqa,k and others to follow.

Meremptah was assassinated in the first year of Shabaka's reign. In his second year, Shabaka traveled down the Nile on parade in order to reinforce his newly claimed sovereignty over Egypt and the Empire and demand the obedience due a Great King. When Shabaka arrived in the Delta, Bakenranef, the co-regent of Tefnakhte was declared unfaithful, in what regard we are not told, and according to Manetho, Shabaka "captured Bochkhoris and burned him alive." l This was an extreme form of capital punishment, in that the offending party was not only deprived in this life, but also according to Egyptian beliefs denied resurrection in the life to come. Loss of the physical body was called "the second death, an expression retained in later Christian thinking, but disassociated with preservation of the corpse. In ancient Egypt denial of burial was generally reserved only for those who committed repeated and nefarious acts of subversion and who had received at least one warning. It is not known from legend whether Bocchoris had been put on report. Perhaps Tefnakhte and his son Bocchoris had previously sworn allegiance to Shabaka in exchange for aid in preserving their subordinate kingships. However, the specific offence of Bocchoris may have been nothing more than presuming the characterization of a wise judge and lawgiver, that is, the intent to play the part of Moses and thereby found a new line of kings.

The recently deceased father of Shabaka had already claimed the role of Moses, and had possibly even usurped it from Meremptah, so perhaps this was reason enough to find Bocchoris guilty of treason. However, there was another motive for Shabaka's action. Smenkhkare (Mesha), archetype of Shabaka, had also sacrificed his own son by fire to Molech. Presumably, he did this in emulation of the Middle Kingdom Smenkhkare and/or Menkhaure of the Old Kingdom. Fulfillment of tradition or not, the act of Smenkhkare had an intensely repulsive effect. Its deliberate reenactment by Shabaka was no less repugnant. It was certainly used as justification for his half-brother Rudamun/Piye to form an alliance against him. Shabaka (Greek Sabacos) made a martyr out of Bocchoris, and was in turn scorched by the Biblical author. Although Shabaka is referred to as Jeho-ahaz in an Assyrian inscription, the customary prefix of Jeho- (or suffix of -iah) is denied him in the Bible. The first and foremost sin of Biblical Ahaz is that "he made his son pass through the fire." m

Bocchoris (Bakenranef) was of sufficient renown as to be given his own dynasty (the 24th) along with his father Tefnakhte/Setnakhte (Stephanites/Tnephachton) by Manetho. There are four surviving ancient stories relating to Bocchoris. Three are obvious conflations with the Manethian version of the Exodus story, which occurred in the reign of Amenophis IV/Akhenaten.n For example, "a bizarre episode in Plutarch's life of the Hellenistic king Demetrius recounts the Solomonic judgement of Bocchoris in dealing with a dispute between a young man and a courtesan." o A fourth, known as the "Oracle of the Lamb," forebodes of a time when Assyrians would take away the treasures of Egypt, but that they would ultimately be recovered. The fulfillment of this "prophesy" occurred at the end of the reign of Shabaka, and will be discussed in the following chapters.

A Dynasty (can be) no Better than David's

Amenmesses (Menahem) would have been appointed by Meremptah as king, not pharaoh, in Israel soon after the "Coming of the Sea Peoples" in his Year 5. And Amenmesses quite likely earned his appointment through the acts of suppression mentioned in the "Israel Stela" of Meremptah, which published his view of the events of Year 5. Prior to the death of Meremptah, Amenmesses became a vassal of Tiglath-pileser, as claimed in one of the Assyrian king's inscriptions. However, rather than being weakened, the Bible states that he leveraged his allegiance to Tiglath-pileser in order to actually strengthen his kingship. When Meremptah was "struck down, Amenmesses vanquished the assassin and declared himself pharaoh in Egypt. Biblical Menahem is called the son of Gadi, connoting "great, fortunate," but denoting "surrounded and cut down." It perhaps made for a highly descriptive (posthumous) epithet of Menerptah.

The Bible implies that the idolatry of Ahaz, and especially making his son "pass through the fire," was the cause of his troubles with Rezin and Pekah. By association, the killing of Bochoris by Shabaka fanned the dying embers of the 19th Dynasty line back into full flame. In the Biblical accounts of 2 Kings 16 and Isaiah 7, Rezin son of Tabeel of Damascus is named as the leader of the opposition. In the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser, he is instead called Rezon. Both names, Rezin and Rezon, are adaptations of this king's actual Syrian name, Radyan, which was in turn an adaptation of the Egyptian/Libyan name of Rud-amun (Rud-Ya). The name of Rezin's father, Tabe-el ("Goodness of God"), is a variant of Ahitub ("Brother of Goodness," a.k.a. Uriah), a priestly epithet of Hori/Kashta father of Piye.p Moreover, it is Rudamun/Piye who we would expect to have resisted the usurpation of Takelot/Shabaka.q Tefnakhte and Amenmesses evidently remained sworn vassals of Shabaka, however, Radyan found another ready ally in Israel, named in both 2 Kings 16 and Isaiah 7 as Pekah son of Remaliah.1

Amenmesses died after about four years as pharaoh. They are generally considered to be peaceful years, but this can now be seen as only a consequence of his non-confrontational stance toward Shabaka/Tiglath-pileser III. His death allowed Seti-Meremptah (Seti II) to reclaim the throne of Meremptah, after which he defaced and usurped the monuments of Amenmesses. Seti II is called Pekahiah in 2 Kings, and is given a reign of only two years. This accords well with the reign of Seti II after the death of Amenmesses. In 2 Kings, we are told that Pekahiah was attacked and killed by the men of Pekah, who succeeded him as king in Israel. He evidently also succeeded him as pharaoh in Egypt under the name of Ramses-Siptah, but then modified his name to Siptah-Meremptah. The similarity in the names Pekahiah and his successor Pekah was likely due to their choice of Meremptah as an Egyptian epithet, the Hebrew P'kah being an adaptation of (or pun on) the Egyptian P'tah.

Siptah-Meremptah is thought to have become pharaoh in his early teens, and to have reached his sixth year prior to his death. Therefore, he probably did not rule for 20 years as claimed in 2 Kings, but only lived for about 20 years. Siptah-Meremptah also had a profoundly withered Achilles tendon in one of his legs. The appointment of a prince at a young age with a severe deformity is unusual. Opinion is divided as to whether he was deformed from birth (club foot) or had contracted childhood polio. If polio, then Siptah may have been crippled after becoming a king. This would have been considered a far less objectionable in terms of his right to rule and found a dynasty. However, even if the handicap of Siptah was congenital, it was probably perceived as a sign that he was fated to assume the vengeful role of his namesake Meremptah, and that of the earlier "Lame Foot" Akhenaten, as the Moses of his generation.

2 Kings 16 implies that Ahaz successfully withstood the attack of Pekah and Rezin, although some territory was lost to them, namely Ailot in the Negev. 2 Chron. 28 paints a far dimmer picture. In that account, Ahaz is soundly defeated by Rezin and Pekah, and he loses 120,000 men in only one day of battle. 200,000 civilians of Judah are carried away as prisoners. Moreover, four of his leading ministers are also killed. The loss of territory spoken of in 2 Kings is expanded upon in 2 Chronicles. At the instigation of Rezin and Pekah, "The Philistines had raided towns in the foothills and in the Negev of Judah. They captured and occupied Beth Shemesh, Aijalon and Gederoth, as well as Soco, Timnah and Gimzo, with their surrounding villages." r In other words, to make matters worse for Shabaka, the newly immigrated Sea Peoples (Neo-Philistines) were incited to rebel during his reign.

Chapter 6 of the Book of Isaiah paints the image of Ahaz as an all-powerful and just God ready to pour out his anger on a wayward people. Chapter 7 of Isaiah then shows us the far more human side of this new god-king, who like his role model Smenkhkare (Elijah), is alternately emboldened and bewildered. After hearing the news that Rezin "son of Tabeel" in Damascus intends to displace him on the throne of Judah with the help of Pekah in Israel, Ahaz is deeply shaken. And despite the encouragement of Isaiah, the spirit of Ahaz is not made high and lifted up. In response, Isaiah then prophesies that the king of Assyria will be called upon to despoil the land and humble its spoiled people. Ahaz had already attempted to gain the upper hand over his family rivals by traditional means, but was soundly defeated by Rezin and Pekah. When attacked for a second time, he makes the fateful decision to summon the army of his alter ego Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria.


  1. It was shown that Assur-Dan was the Assyrian form of the Libyan name Osorkon. Takelot III was the son of Osorkon III, who was known in Assyria as Assur-Dan III.
  2. Donald Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p 341.
  3. Previous examples of tribute sent from a father to a son are Toi (Tao I) to David (Thutmose I) and Joash (Seti I) to Adad-Nirari III (Ramses II).
  4. 2 Chron. 26:16-21 (KJV)
  5. Menerptah was assassinated six months after the death of Ramses II. Therefore, it is quite possible that Ramses II, Menerptah, and Osorkon III all died within a single year. Ramses II was not given credit in the Bible for the final 12 years of his reign after he appointed Meremptah as his co-regent.
  6. Isaiah 6:1-3 (KJV)
  7. Isaiah 6:11-12 (KJV)
  8. Karol Mysliwiec, The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, p 90.
  9. Ramses-the-Great had also discontinued using his Libyan name Pimay after succeeding to the greater throne.
  10. A king by the name of Neferkare is known from the early Old Kingdom, however it is not clear whether this was an alternate name used by Snofru, Menkhaure, or some other king.
  11. Piye became a "Moses" by assuming the name Sargon (II), however he clearly attempted to transfer or share aspects of the Moses role to his son Taharqa/Psamtik.
  12. G. Verbrugghe & J. Wickersham, Berossos and Manetho, p 147.
  13. 2 Kings 16:3. 2 Chronicles 28:3 states he "burnt his children in the fire." This indicates that there were other less prominent victims.
  14. Gary Greenberg, The Moses Mystery, p 192.
  15. Robert Morkot, The Black Pharaohs, p 206.
  16. It is perhaps a minor or even non-essential point that Radyan was also Rudamun/Piye, however many indicators point to this conclusion. The association of Uriah and Hori is discussed further in the next chapter. The association of Ahitub and Hori is demonstrated in Chapter 37.
  17. Rudamon and Takelot III are thought to have had the same mother, Tentsai. However, if this was not actually the case, then Rudamon was probably not a Libyan name of Piye, but instead that of High Priest Amenhotep/Tanutamon, later called Urdamane in Assyrian inscriptions. Amenhotep/Tanuatamon was the "eldest son" of Shabaka/Takelot, but the true son of Hori/Kashta, as was Piye. Urd-amane and Rud-amon are close variants.
  18. 2 Chron. 28:18. Philistines and Edomites under the command of the king of Damascus also invaded on more than one occasion. (2 Chron. 28:17)

Note 1:

The name Remaliah, meaning, "bedecked of God," is synonymous with Nebat, an epithet of the 18th Dynasty Joseph son of Jacob. In the 19th Dynasty Hori/Kashta assumed the identity of "Jacob the Grabber," and his elder half-brother Ramses-Tefnakhte was typecast as "Merari" (after Meryre/Amenemhet the elder half-brother of Amenhotep II). The son of Hori/Kashta, Piye, was then placed in the role of Joseph. Piye is a variant of Ush-Piya, the Mesopotamian name of the Middle Kingdom Joseph. Therefore, Remaliah is likely a pseudonym for Rezin/Radyan. His junior partner Pekah was quite possibly one of his own natural sons. On one occasion, Pekah is referred to simply as the "son of Remaliah." This indicates that Remaliah is the more powerful figure. Pekah is noted for his fiery temperament (Isaiah 7:4 calls him a "stump of a fire brand") and for the impassioned loyalists that he represented in Israel, that is, all those who were not willing to stand still or sell out as Menahem did, and concede the greater throne to Ahaz.

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