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 35
"One Conquers a Thousand"
(Piye/Sargon Becomes 'King of Every Land')


Possessing Peace

Sargon followed the same course of action in Palestine as did his predecessor Tiglath-pileser. Sargon claims to have conquered Samaria and to have deported over 27 thousand of its people. He later reports that he brought Arabs and other subdued peoples to Samaria for resettlement, evidently to replace the former inhabitants. In another inscription assigned to his first year, he claims to have conquered all Israel, but does not mention any deportation. Conversely, Tiglath-pileser III boasts that he deported all of Israel to Assyria, but does not specifically mention deportation (or military conquest) of Samaria. There is the same ambiguity in the Biblical narratives regarding the deportation of Samaria and Israel by the kings of Assyria.a The most reasonable explanation is that there was a slight overlap in the reigns of Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II, and that for a short time they were acting in unison. It must be remembered that Tiglath-pileser and Sargon were "brothers of the same mother," a mother who likely tried very hard to establish peace between her sons. In fact her Hebrew name Jerusha ("possessed") was a variant of Jerusalem, meaning, "to establish peace."

In his second year, the initiative of Sargon to put down a rebellion in Samaria seems to have brought him back into conflict with his brother. Their dispute was likely not so much over policy, but which one of them would lead the royal family in implementing it. Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II were both usurpers by design. The rationale for Tiglath-pileser's coup was discussed above. For Sargon, his very name was an admission of his intent to kill, steal, and destroy. The solution of Ramses the Great to his succession problem was first to appoint his oldest surviving son, Menerptah, as co-regent, and then to appoint a boy-king as Meremptah's replacement as a neo-Solomon. There was a precedent for placing a child on the throne in each of the preceding major dynasties. During the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep III was made king at a very tender age. During the Egyptian 12th Dynasty, this role was played by Amenemhet III. Competition for the throne was perhaps even more intense at the end of the 19th Dynasty and demanded a similar approach to difuse the situation. The name given to this new Solomon-figure was Pinedjem, "House of Peace/Security." Although Pinedjem is attributed a reign of nearly 40 years, his kingship was disrespected almost from the start (rather than only at the very end). As Sargon the Great disregarded the Solomon-figure Lugalzagesi,b so Piye (after becoming Sargon II) refused to acknowledge the authority of Pinedjem. Piye/Sargon II, in emulation of Sargon the Great, also disrespected his own father Kashta (who was in the role of Ur-Zababa). Tiglath-pileser III was following a similar script, which likewise included the disrespect of his own father (as Samsu-iluna had done to Hammurabi). While Piye/Sargon II and his father Kashta were following the Old Kingdom precedent, Takelot III/Tiglath-pileser III and his father Osorkon III were following that of the Middle Kingdom. Something had to give!

We do not know the side of Shabaka in this story. According to the inscriptions of Sargon, it was the idea of Tiglath-pileser III, whom he calls Sib'e (a variant of Shaba-ka), to meet for a "decisive battle," c that is, a final duel to the death, even as Pedubastet (Amaziah) had once summoned Seti (Jehoash). Although claiming that he was not the aggressor, Sargon II states that Shabaka was caught off guard by his advancingd army and then lost his nerve. Rather than risk being captured, Sib'e "fled alone and disappeared like a shepherd whose flock had been stolen." e His army was left to be routed and his ally Hanno taken instead. Sargon recorded that Sib'e "was not seen again," at least not by him. After defeating the army of Sib'e/Shaba-ka, Piye did not lead the chase of his vanquished brother but instead moved to secure his kingdom in Mesopotamia. This brought him into conflict with Marduk-Baladin of Babylon and Humbaniggash of Elam, whom he also claims to have subdued.

Biblical Ahaz is said to have "rested with his fathers," which generally signifies a death by natural causes. However, in a commentary by St. Jerome on the history of Manetho, he mentioned that Shabaka was killed by Taharqa. This statement is generally dismissed as an unreliable gloss, however other evidence will verify the claim. (See Chapters 36 & 37 for a more detailed discussion.) Piye would have been pleased that Shabaka was dead, however he may have been disappointed and even furious that he had not been the one who captured him. As the "true" Marduk-figure, Sargon II would have insisted on capturing and executing the Kingu-figure himself (as Hammurabi had put Samsu-iluna to death for his "sin of unauthorized fire"),f but he was denied that glory.

The name Piye itself was modeled after Ush-Piya, the Mesopotamian identity of the 12th Dynasty Joseph.g The Egyptian name of Ush-Piya had been Inyotef IV “son” of Senusret II (the 12th Dynasty Jacob-figure). Piye was typecast as Joseph, because his father Hori/Kashta was the established Jacob-figure. (Pharaoh Seti had shared the Joshua role with his young son Ramses II. Ramses II graduated to the Jacob role and shared it with his son Hori. Hori then shared the next role in the series, that of Joseph, with his son Piye. Piye then split the Moses role with his son Taharqa! This domino effect of "vertical role sharing" seems to have been an innovation brought about by the failure of Tutankhamun and other young princes of the late 18th Dynasty to fulfill the Joshua role. By the time Seti was finally recognized as the "true Joshua" of his generation, he was already too old for the part.) The primary typecasting of Piye was then as a Joseph and Moses figure. However, by assuming the identity of Sargon (II), he declared his intent to combine all of the divine types as a new Adam/Atum. He became Joshua (Horus the Younger), Jacob-Israel (Re), Joseph (Ptah) and Moses (Marduk),h which effectively made him a one-man-dynasty. For good measure he added other roles, including Judah (Horus the Younger) and Issachar (Osiris). For example, the throne name of Piye, Menkheperre, had been that of Thutmose III and Thutmose IV, the New Kingdom “Joshua” and “Judah,” respectively.

Conversely, Shabaka combined the roles of Snofru and Menkhaure of the Old Kingdom, which were both of the same basic (Issachar/Osiris) type. His Libyan name Takelot (III) was of the Judah type, but this primarily emphasized his natural inheritance from the 18th Dynasty Judah, Thutmose IV, which continued through Aye, then Nakhtmin/Pedubastet and finally his father Osorkon III/Amenhirkhepshef. Piye trumped Shabaka's limited typecasting by playing the "Sargon card." If Piye had also been the one to kill Shabaka, literally or figuratively (as Moses killed his "son and brother"),i then he could have added that exploit to his rapidly growing portfolio. Although Piye/Sargon "disgraced" Shabaka in battle (or so he said), the prize of "striking him down" was taken by his son Taharqa. Piye was obliged (perhaps reluctantly) to then share the distinction of being "Moses son of Joseph" in that generation.

Mutual Exclusion

While Piye was preoccupied in Mesopotamia, his uncle Tefnakhte claimed the succession in Egypt based on his own personal typecasting. The Libyan throne name of Tefnakhte was Shepsesre, and a variant of Shepseskaf the successor to Menkhaure in the Old Kingdom. (Menkhaure was the archetype of Shabaka) As pharaoh of all Egypt, Shepsesre Tefnakhte adopted a new name, that of Userkhaure Setnakhte. However, many months transpired before he could secure the allegiance of key family members, including four other Libyan pharaohs,j and lead an army into Upper Egypt to establish order and his sovereignty there. In the mean time incalculable damage and looting occurred, especially in Thebes. Setnakhte marched at least as far as Elephantine Island (Aswan) in Nubia where he left a permanent record of his achievement and the conditions that motivated his action. According to the stela,1 dated to his Year 2, an enemy in league with Asiatics "violated" Egypt and had to be driven out. Enormous amounts of gold, silver, and copper were recovered, much of it left behind by the occupying army in their panicked retreat. A later document known as the Papyrus Harris also described in similar terms the Asiatic oppression and anarchy preceding the arrival of Setnakhte in Upper Egypt.

The second regnal year of Setnakhte would be his last, at least as pharaoh of all Egypt. It had been Piye and not Tefnakhte who earlier organized the resistance against Shabaka/Tiglath-pileser (Ahaz). As his role model Sargon-the-Great, Piye was now determined to take by fight what he believed should have been his all along by right. After staking his claims in Assyria and Babylon, Piye then turned his attention to the other two corners of his world, Magan and Meluhha, that is, Lower and Upper Egypt. The conquest of the "Two Lands" by Piye is one of the best-documented events of antiquity. It provides a rare glimpse into the kingly culture and attitudes of the period apart from the Bible, and not surprisingly for those who have followed the discourse thus far, it is also fully consistent with the culture and attitudes expressed in the Bible.

The campaign of Piye can be dated to his Year 20. Year 20 of Jotham, the primary Biblical representation of Piye, was a pivotal year. It is explicitly identified as the year that Pekah (Siptah) was assassinated by Hoshea (Twosret).k This was in turn followed immediately by the death of Tiglath-pileser III and succession of Sargon II in Assyria. It was at this moment, to use the words of the Biblical account, that "Jotham made war on the king of the Ammonites (Thebans) and conquered them." l Jotham then became overlord in Jerusalem (Thebes) for the next 16 years. The full account of this war was found by Mariette in the temple of Amun at Napata (below Gebel Barkal mountain) of Nubia and dubbed the "Victory Stela." m

The Victory Stela of Piye, dated to his Year 21, describes in unsurpassed detail the events of the preceding year. It opens with a statement of how the conflict began. Piye receives news that Tefnakhte "has seized the whole west, coming southward with a numerous army, while the Two Lands are united behind him, and the princes of walled towns are as dogs at his heels. Herakleopolis is besieged; and Namlot, prince of Hermopolis, has submitted himself to Tefnakhte as his lord, forswearing his allegiance to Piankhi." n Rather than being shaken in the manner of Ahaz, the stela informs that Piye "was in great heart, laughed and his heart was glad!" o

There is uncertainty by translators as to whether the name of the king should be read as Pi, Piye or Piankhi/Piankhy. Piankhy is a conventional Egyptian rendering, and connotes "(He of) the House of Life." The Pi-Ankh or Per-Ankh was an important scribal institution in the intellectual tradition of Ptah and Thoth. Branches were located in many cities, and were especially prominent in Memphis and Akhmin, dedicated to Ptah and Thoth/Minh, respectively. The form Pi-ye, ostensibly Nubian, is a more Semitic sounding name also connoting "House of Ye," that is, House of Ea/Ptah, and alludes specifically to the king's first personal archetype. As noted above, Ush-Piye was the Middle Kingdom Patriarch Joseph, who was known as Ush-Piya in Mesopotamia and as the deified vizier Inyotef IV in Egypt. The name In-Yo-Tef is apparently also translated with difficulty, but connotes "Born of Yo/Ya" and is roughly equivalent to Ptah-mose in Egyptian.

During the 19th Dynasty there was a renewed emphasis on the cult of Ptah beginning with Seti I, who bore the epithet of Meremptah, "Beloved of Ptah." Khaemwaset, grandson of Seti I, was the foremost scholar of the Era. He was also the sem-Priest of Ptah in Memphis and founder of the Serappeum, a burial place for the Apis bulls that were associated with the cult of Ptah. In turn, his son Ramses-Tefnakhte was called sem-priest of Ptah.p His other leading son, Hori, was for a time High Priest of Ptah in Memphis.q Likewise, Takelot-Shabaka sought greater legitimacy in his claim to the throne by restoring the "Memphite Theology" of Ptah. The given name of Piye/Pi-ankhy made direct identification from birth with Ptah, and represented the continuation of his grandfather Khaemwaset's legacy.

No Less Than Best, No Room for Doubt

Only upon the urging of his worried officers did Piye send instructions to his commanders Lemersekny and Purem in Lower Egypt to begin attacking the traitor Nimlot. Piye also prepared to send a larger contingent from Nubia to engage the forces of Tefnakhte, and relieve the city of Herakleopolis. Peftjawybastet, the leader of Herakleopolis, was the lone Libyan pharaoh who had not submitted to Tefnakhte, and was under siege as a result. However, the main army was directed not to rush down the Nile to reinforce the advance troops. They were to notify Tefnakhte and his Delta allies of their coming, their purpose, and their commission from the god Amun himself. This was perhaps done as much to instill confidence in his own soldiers rather than frighten the enemy.

Piye was making it clear that he was the present incarnation of David and of Amun, and he alone. He expected his men to fight and die for him, and with the same loyalty as those who had served David. The enemy was to be given the opportunity to recruit additional chiefs and soldiers and even choose the time of battle.r In contrast, the forces of Piye were not to make frantic preparations. They were ordered to pause in Thebes to purify and humble themselves at the temple of Amun, i.e., "to be still and know that he is God." s To complete their training they were to set aside their armor and weapons, bathe in the river, put on the finest linen, and then refrain from boasting before Amun at the Karnak temple. It was not enough for his men to be strong. They needed above all the favor and intervention of God. In this vein, the king reminded them in quintessential Biblical fashion:

"... without him no brave has strength; he maketh strong the weak, so that many flee before the few, and one man overcometh a thousand." t

According to the Victory Stela, Piye's army praised their God and king in Thebes and then advanced northward with resolve. They were met with sporadic, uncoordinated resistance along the course of the Nile, and which did not substantially hinder their progress. Ships and soldiers were captured and sent back to Piye as spoil. Upon reaching Herakleopolis (Hnes), they engaged and routed the main army of Tefnakhte in a pitched battle. The defeated army was chased across the Nile, and the following day was decimated once again. Hermopolis (Khmenu/el-Ashmunein) was then besieged and Nimlot was pinned down in the nearby city of Un. Nevertheless, Piye was displeased with the report of the army's qualified success, that is, their failure to utterly annihilate the armies of Lower Egypt. In Thebes, Piye is beside himself in anger upon hearing that his men had allowed survivors to escape and take news to their masters. The tactic of David was to "leave none to tell." In Davidic style, he was also not concerned that he might offend his troops by depreciating their sacrificial efforts. He rejected all forms of compromise. He accepted nothing but unconditional obedience from his people and unconditional surrender from those who opposed him.

Even with victory at hand, Piye delayed further still in joining the battle. It was first necessary for him to mind the duties of a shepherd-king,u that is, those assigned to him by his "father Amun." This included presiding over the New Year's festival in Napata and the Opet festival in Thebes! Only then would he make the north "taste the fingers" of the latest incarnation of David and of Sargon, those bitter but beloved "sons of the south." The stela interjects at this point in the narrative to say, "the terror of his majesty reached to the end of the Asiatics, every heart was heavy with the fear of him." v Like the "fear of Isaac," w that of Piye was felt from Aram Naharaim of Assyria to Greece to Armenia to Elam, that is, to the furthest extents of Asia, at least by their definition. Many, if not all, of the kings who had resisted his rule in Asia were now doing the same in Egypt. With the change in seasons had only come a change in venue.

Piye arrived at Un of Greater Hermopolisx only to find that the city had not yet been taken. Cavorting madly, he shouted at his officers and men, "It is the year for making an end, for putting fear of me in Lower Egypt, and inflicting on them a great and severe beating." y By his order, "a ramp was made to cover the wall and a machine to raise on high archers shooting and slingers slinging stones." z Within days Un surrendered and Piye honored its patron deity Thoth as well as the Ogdoad ("Eight Gods") of Thoth. The palace was searched personally by the king room by room. When the women of Nimlot's harem were brought out for his review, Piye refused to even look at them. No doubt mindful of the "sin of David," he instead hurriedly departed the palace for the stable grounds in order to express regret over the neglect of Nimlot's horses during the siege.aa

After the fall of Hermopolis, Peftjawybastet came in gratitude to Piye for saving his beleaguered city of Herakleopolis. The following words were offered in tribute to Piye's piece de resistance.

"Thou likeness of Harakhte, chief of the imperishable stars.

As he was, so art thou king; as he perishes not so thou shalt not perish,

O King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Piankhi, living forever." ab

Choose You This Day

Moving north from Hermopolis, Piye came to Per-Sekhemkheperre (el-Lahun), which harbored an unnamed son of Tefnakhte. Piye was denied entrance, but before attacking pleaded with them to "not choose death in preference to life." However, if the city refused to bow, all in it would be bent over a chopping block. The gates were opened, the son of Tefnakhte came out to surrender, and all were spared. Continuing north, Piye encountered two more cities, Mer-Atum (Medium) and Itj-tawy (Lisht), filled with soldiers and determined to hold out. They were presented with the same ultimatum, and likewise chose to yield themselves and their possessions to Piye.

En route to Memphis, Piye sent ahead to pronounce the same threats and promises, but the city remained defiant. Memphis was reminded that he had shown mercy toward all who had fully cooperated, but none for those who "blasphemed against God," ac that is, by resisting his divine right to rule. Although it was within his power to punish with death, it was more consistent with his typecasting to be merciful. Nevertheless, Memphis did not submit. They were strengthened in their resolve by a night visit from Tefnakhte, who promised to return in a few days, presumably to aid in their defense. However, Piye came to Memphis on the very same morning. Resorting again to innovative siege tacticsad and esprit de corps, the city fell to him in a single day.

The next day, officials were sent into Memphis to restore order. Piye was then honored as king and in turn sacrificed in abundance to "his father Ptah South-of-his-Wall." At this time, the Libyan pharaoh Iuput surrendered and came with his entourage to Memphis. Unlike the previous cities entered by Piye, the treasuries and granaries of the cults of Ptah and the Ennead ("Nine Gods") of Memphis were not completely emptied. Piye then moved on to nearby On (Heliopolis). He performed the traditional rites of that city, inspected the barques of Re and Atum in their housing, and then closed it off with his own seal. He also visited the separate temple of Atum to worship "the image of his father Atum-Khepre," ae after which the pharaoh Osorkon IV came to submit himself. Appropriation by Piye of the wealth and food reserves of Heliopolis is not mentioned.

After this, Piye traveled to the 10th Nome and was invited by the young Prince Pediese son of the slain Bakennefi to visit his palace and the temple of the god Horus Khentikhety at Athribis.af Piye accepted and was presented with a largess of silver and gold, precious stones, clothing, linen, furniture, spices, and yes, magnificent horses. A bright-eyed Pediese then ordered all the lords of the Delta to offer Piye the same or suffer the fate of his fallen father. Piye was more than humored by the boldness of the youth and personally awaited delivery of goods from each of the 15 named chiefs, including the pharaohs Osorkon and Iuput. No sooner had it been done than news came that a town named Mesed to the north of Athribis was under attack. Piye declared himself to be the defender of Pediese of Athribis, and sent troops to investigate. This time the officer in charge was careful to report that all of the rebels (they found) had been killed. News of the defeat reached Tefnakhte nonetheless and he decided at that point to abandon his hopes for supremacy.

From the relative security of distant Sais, Tefnakhte (Stephanites)ag was able to avoid the greater humiliation of appearing in person before his nephew Piye. His eloquently crafted letter of surrender was included (perhaps verbatim) in the Victory Stela. It oozes with calculated contrition, and the offer of "gold and all precious stones, the best of the horses, and payment of every kind." Tefnakhte begged Piye to send someone at once to accept his submission and remove his guilt and anguish. Piye obliged by sending two officers, and Tefnakhte made this oath of allegiance to them: "I will not transgress the command of the king, I will not overstep that which the king saith. I will not do a hostile act against a prince without thy knowledge. I will do according to that which the king says, and I will not transgress that which he has commanded. Then his majesty was satisfied therewith." ah

With the cry of "uncle" from Tefnakhte all remaining opposition crumbled. Tribute poured in from near and far, or so Piye tells us, in every nome of Egypt, north and south, every land and island, east and west. In the final act of the Victory Stela, the four Libyan pharaohs, two nominally of Upper Egypt and two of Lower Egypt, again publicly prostrate themselves before Piye. Only the redeemed vassal Nimlot is allowed a private audience with Piye. The reason given is that the other dynasts "were uncircumcised and were eaters of fish, which is an abomination to the palace." ai Having received the unconditional surrender of the Delta rulers and solemn oaths of their allegiance along with "everything of Lower Egypt" and "every product of Syria," aj Piye departs. By all appearances the vanquished rulers were released to their own recognizance. On the voyage back up the Nile, officers conduct the people lining the banks in a song of loving praise to Piye even as they had done for David. It was good to be the king.

That Old-Time Religion

Piye (Jotham) was careful to offer appropriate sacrifices to all the Egyptian gods, and according to the practices of each locality. Piye/Sargon was not necessarily more faithful to his designated archetypes than Shabaka/Tiglath-pileser III (Ahaz), and possibly less so. However, the old school, retro-worship of each constituent in the Amun godhead by Piye was not taken as idolatry as in the case of his predecessor. The typecasting of Shabaka/Tiglath-pileser III was by definition wicked. He could therefore be nothing other than wicked. Conversely, the role models of Piye were Sargon-the-Great (Tudiya) and Thutmose III (David/Dod), who were called "Beloved." In the pursuit of these ideals Piye/Sargon II could therefore be nothing other than righteous.

Piye's particular emphasis on spiritual integrity, and his capacity for extremes in cruelty and generosity are strongly reminiscent of David (Thutmose I & Thutmose III). His descriptions were also outrageously vain. One almost gets the impression that he was not acting, but fully given over to Davidic delusions. One also finds a subtle discrimination between the "pure" worship of Amun in Napata and that of Amun in Thebes. Egypt in 19th Dynasty became ever more sophisticated, liberal and corrupt with its increasing power and wealth, as did the 18th Dynasty after the unification of Thutmose III/David. Piye and other Kushite kings claimed that their Libyan counterparts in the Delta "had loose morals, showed no reverence for ancient dietary laws, and always acted perfidiously." ak Perhaps a Davidic and even Sargonic Era devotion to Amun persisted in the remoteness of Nubia. The language of the Victory Stela deliberately makes use of archaic expressions dating to as far back as the Middle Kingdom. However, even if it had not, the duty of Piye would have been to revive it. On a second stela of Piye at the Napata temple of Amun, he wrote: "... Amun of Thebes has appointed me ruler of Egypt. Amun of Napata has appointed me ruler of all lands. The gods can make a king; even men can make a king; but I am made a king by Amun." al Piye was now as Thutmose III and Sargon-the-Great had been, a "world conqueror."

Piye conjured a powerful sense of positive destiny. He stated matter of fact in the Victory Stela that "the shadow of the gods" was over him, not in an ominous way, but to his exclusive favor. The typecasting of Piye in the roles of Isaac-David-Joshua, Jacob-Israel, and Joseph, simultaneously, was extremely dominant, perhaps uniquely so. Yet, despite his form of godliness, the man himself failed to inspire the Biblical author to express anything of genuine human interest, and certainly there was no enduring love for him as for the Patriarchs he emulated. The Kings/Chronicles narrative is strangely reserved in its descriptions of this wholly "good" king of Judah, and one who filled the temple of Amun with the tribute of the Delta. This may be at least partly due to the fact that he did not spend much time in Thebes after establishing his dominance there. The Victory Stela of Piye excelled even the annals of Thutmose III in length and literary quality. Yet, more is said about Ahaz in the Bible than Jotham, and so much so that it must be suspected that Ahaz was the more original albeit tortured human being. Certainly Ahaz (Sabacos) was more greatly admired by the later Greek historians.am

As a repetition of Sargon, Piye would have also placed a renewed emphasis on emperor worship. The obsequious "Horus Chorus" raised to him reflected the image of divine kingship, but may have inspired only scorn and resentment. Piye may have been too full of himself even for the priests to accept. Moreover, his reverence of the individual members of the Amen godhead would have been thoroughly denigrated if it were not for the fact that his accepted characterization required it, and if he had not been so supremely successful in fulfilling his largess of roles. The Biblical authors simply bit their lips and withheld disapproval, saving it all up for the account of Shabaka (Ahaz)

Better than Ezra

As identification with the Joshua-figure Usermaatre Ramses II, Piye continued to use his Libyan throne name Usermaatre, although perhaps no longer referring to himself by the Libyan given name Rudamun. The Egyptian throne name of Piye was Menkheperre, which had been that of Thutmose III as noted above. Thutmose III (Patriarch Isaac) was the leading Joshua-figure of the 18th Dynasty. It is understandable that Piye would actively revive that dominant persona in a time of family feuding and division. However, after the conquest of Egypt and his return to Nubia, Piye assumed a third throne name, perhaps to better complement his Nubian kingship. This final throne name was Sneferre, which was modeled after Snofru successor of the Old Kingdom Joshua-figure Narmer (Nimrod).an In the preamble of the Victory Stela, which was placed in the heart of Nubia, Piye boasts of "exceeding the ancestors," not only in works, but also as "the image of god, the living likeness of Atum," ao whose name signifies totality. To use a New Testament phrase, Piye was in so many words asserting that: "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." ap The typecasting of Piye embodied a full dynastic cycle of Isaac/Joshua-Jacob-Joseph-Joshua, and began a new one. He had become the incarnation and fulfillment of nearly every god and ancestor. In this sense, the typecasting of Piye foreshadowed that of Jesus, the Christian Messiah.

In Nubia, Piye built a true pyramid at Kurru, evidently as part of his mortuary cult center there, if not for his actual burial.aq Likewise, the Red Pyramid refurbished by 4th Dynasty Snofru for his mortuary cult was considered to be the first true pyramid of Egypt. Shabaka, also in emulation of Snofru, had built a pyramid at Kurru, but it is no longer standing.ar Therefore, it is perhaps incorrect to say that Piye built the first true pyramid in Nubia. Assumption of the throne name Sneferre by Piye may have served to discredit the reign of Shabaka (Neferkare Takelot III), although not to the extent that the 19th Dynasty pharaohs discredited the Amarna kings of Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun and Aye.

Piye allowed the "cleansing" of the Ramses-the-Great's throne by Tefnakhte/ Setnakhte to stand, but Setnakhte was not allowed to sit on that throne. Piye thereby also annulled the role of Shepsesre Tefnakhte as a repetition of the Old Kingdom pharaoh Shepseskaf successor of Menkhaure. However, as a consolation he did appoint Ramses III son of Setnakhte as pharaoh of Egypt. Instead of being the actual successor of Setnakhte as pharaoh of Egypt, he was given the throne name of Usermaatre (after Ramses II) and considered to be the successor of his murdered maternal grandfather Meremptah in the throne of Ramses II. The greater thrones were now those of Nubia and Assyria, both of which belonged to Piye/Sargon.

Ramses III would eventually succeed to the throne of Piye in Nubia under the name of Shebitku, a.k.a. Shabataka. However, the greater throne in Assyria was taken by another prince, Sennacherib, likely a true son of Sargon. The Egyptian name of Sennacherib and his rivalry with Ramses III/Shebitku will be discussed further in the following chapters. Haremakhet/Osorkon a true son of Shabaka/Takelot III would later also be "justified," that is restored to royal favor. In fulfillment of "prophesy" he assumed the identity of the Old Kingdom pharaoh Den/Khafra and ultimately succeeded Sennacherib as Great King of the Empire under the Assyrian name of Assur-Dan IV/Esar-haddon. There will be more discussion on this king in the following chapter as well.

Although the Kawa Stele of Taharqa indicates that Ramses III was known in Nubia as Shebitku from an early age, he only began counting regnal years as a pharaoh of Nubia after the death of Piye/Sargon. At that time Shebitku chose the throne name Djedkare, which makes identification with the god Osiris (whose symbol was the Djed pillar). The variant Shabataka is also nearly identical to the Biblical name of Sabtecah son of Cush.as However, it is not clear whether Sheba II and Sabtecah of the clan of Ham and Cush were considered to be one and the same person by the royal family in the late New Kingdom, or whether Ramses III was simply following the lead of Shabaka/Takelot III in combining the identities of two Old Kingdom pharaohs. (See Chart 12.)

Shabaka and Shebitku/Shabataka were both prominent pharaohs in Egypt, however they have not been found under this name in contemporary inscriptions outside of Egypt. Moreover, neither left any other substantial works in Nubia. "The absence of the names of Shabako and Shebitku from the Assyrian and Hebrew records is ... remarkable ... It is all the more interesting to find Sabacos [Shabaka] commented upon by Herodotus (ii. 137)." at This remarkable absence of Shabaka and Shebitku is now easily explainable. The Assyrian name of Shabaka was Tiglath-pileser, and was derived from his Libyan name Takeloth. He was however called by his half-brother and rival Sargon, and rather condescendingly, as Sib'e the sipa.au Tiglath-pileser in self-aggrandizement also referred to tribute he received from himself, that is, from his alter ego Jeho-Ahaz. This is the same name used for him in the Bible, except in disapproval he is therein denied the customary prefix (Jeho). On the other hand, Shebitku did not become Great King in Assyria. His own half-brother and rival Sennacherib condescendingly called him "Hezekiah the Jew." Hezekiah and Ahaz were not the petty kings of Judea that we have imagined them to be. Their influence, if not always held iniquitous was ever ubiquitous, and is even revealed by the remarkable presence of Egyptian motifs on their royal seals.2

In the Kings/Chronicles narrative of the Bible, Hezekiah follows Ahaz as king of Judah.3 However, the first years of Hezekiah's 29-year reign would have also coincided with the final years of Jotham. Consistent with this, there is almost no record of Piye in Thebes after the "stellar" victory of his Year 20. It has been concluded that he cared little about his conquest and simply sailed off into a Nubian sunset. It can now be understood that Piye left the rule of Thebes to his father Hori. Before Tefnakhte/Setnakhte was ousted in Upper Egypt, Hori (Kashta) son of Kama(-ma) is known to have held the office of Viceroy of Kush, and he likely supported the campaign of Setnakhte against Panehesy. In the new administration of his son Piye, Hori/Kashta was made a pharaoh in Nubia and Upper Egypt, and also erected a stela of his own at Elephantine. The Delta was ruled by two of Piye's sons, also made pharaohs (and identified in the next chapter), who along with Hori/Kashta kept a watchful eye over Tefnakhte and his young son Ramses III.

Piye tripled the size of the Amun temple at Napata in Nubia. However, as explicitly stated by Piye in that same temple, the final sixteen years of his 36-year reign were spent, not as pharaoh of Egypt or Nubia only, but as "king of all lands." He was preoccupied with repeating, and even excelling, the accomplishments of Sargon-the-Great and other archetypes. In Mesopotamia, Piye as Sargon ordered the construction of a grand fortress-city, which he called Dur-Sharrukin after himself.av It was apparently not built over a site of more ancient significance, but in emulation of Agade, the new city built by Sargon-the-Great, placed on land not previously devoted to any other purpose or god. Like Agade the prominent features were a ziggurat (with seven tiers) and a temple to Nabu the god of wisdom. It required ten years of intensive labor to build, during which time Sargon II faced one rebellion after another. As the incarnation of Sargon-the-Great, this would also have been his destiny, and one that his family rivals were prepared and even expected to indulge. Theirs was a culture of self-fulfilling prophesy.

A map drawn on clay in the time of Sargon II illustrated the extent of Sargon-the-Great's dominion with the city of Babylon being the center. Accompanying text claims that Sargon-the-Great "conquered everything under the sky, and includes in the empire the whole territory from the Mediterranean to the Zagros and from central Anatolia to beyond the end of the Persian Gulf, as well as Anaku ('Tin-land', unidentified) and Kaptara (perhaps Crete) beyond the Mediterranean coast. However, this document was compiled only in the first millennium, and must be used with caution. There may be material in it which goes back to the third millennium, but its primary object was probably to flatter Sargon II of Assyria through the supposed exploits of his earlier namesake." aw


  1. The account of the deportation of Israel in 2 Kings 17 refers generically to "the king of Assyria."
  2. See Chapter 5.
  3. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p 285.
  4. The text seems to imply that the army of Sargon was moving rapidly and noisily toward Sib'e.
  5. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p 285.
  6. See Chapter 5. Another role model of his, David the Younger (Menkheperre Thutmose III) wept over the death of his former regent Absalom (Hatshepsut). He had directed his men to spare her life, but they did not. David the Elder (Thutmose I) had refused to kill his predecessor Saul even when it was clearly within his power to do so. He even killed the messenger who brought him the news of Saul's death.
  7. See Chart 1.
  8. The first Sargon said he had been placed in a reed basket and rescued from the river as an infant. Although this became part of the Moses story it was originally associated with the persecution of the "rightful heir" Horus in Egypt.
  9. See Chapter 25. Piye was the half-brother of Shabaka and had earlier been his "father" in the Libyan throne.
  10. Osorkon IV (Tanis), Nimlot/Nimrat (Hermopolis), Iuput II (Leontopolis), and Peftjawybastet (Herakleopolis). At least three of these pharaohs would have been young sons of the fallen Takelot III/Shabaka. See the next chapter for further discussion.
  11. 2 Kings 15:30
  12. 2 Chron. 27:5
  13. The complete translation by James Henry Breasted is posted at:
    http://touregypt.net/stelaofpiye.htm
  14. Barbara Mertz, Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs, p 303.
  15. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p 336.
  16. Tefnakhte is called the sem-priest of Ptah on the Victory Stela of Piye. For this title of Hori, see Robert Morkot, The Black Pharaohs, p 182.
  17. Aidon Dodson, Monarchs of the Nile, p 131.
  18. This challenge is echoed precisely by Isaiah 8:9-10
  19. Psalm 46:10
  20. Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p 337. Compare Deuteronomy 32:30; Joshua 23:10; and Judges 15:15-16.
  21. Possibly this "fulfilled" the delay imposed on David in honor of his father (1 Sam 17)
  22. James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, (Chicago: 1906), Part IV.
  23. Genesis 31:42, 53
  24. Hermopolis Magna
  25. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. III, p 72. Thutmose III had become undisputed ruler of Egypt by his Year 21.
  26. Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p 338. Compare the siege machinery created by Azariah/Uzziah in 2 Chron. 26:15.
  27. This fetish of Piye finds more humorous expression in the admiration of Sargon for the horses of his alter ego Piye. Sargon also raved over the gift of horses from Osorkon IV (Shilkanni). In one of his formal inscriptions Sargon wrote: "Shilkanni (or: Shilheni), king of Musri, who ... the terror-inspiring glamour of Ashur, my lord, overwhelmed him and he brought as tumartu -present 12 fine (lit: big) horses from Musri which have not their equals in this country." Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p. 286.
  28. James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, (Chicago: 1906), Part IV.
  29. Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p 339.
  30. The water of the annual inundation (in the third month?) was high. This allowed Piye to make a siege ramp out of floating boats, which were lined up against the city wall.
  31. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. III, p 77.
  32. Piye's Biblical name, Jotham, connotes extreme piety.
  33. Stephen of the New Testament used his gift of eloquence to provoke his persecutor rather than appease him and was martyred. Acts 6:5-9; 7:59; 8:2; 11:19; 22:20
  34. James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, (Chicago: 1906), Part IV.
  35. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, p 80.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Donald Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p 344
  38. Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, p 340.
  39. Karol Mysliwiec, The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, p 90.
  40. The "Libyan name Rud-amun was also patterned after Nimrod/Nim-rud. See also the description of David as "ruddy." 1 Samuel 16:12
  41. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. III, p 68.
  42. Colossians 2:9 (KJV). See also Colossians 1:19 and Ephesians 1:23; 3; 19; 4:13
  43. Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p 340.
  44. Karol Mysliwiec, The Twilight of Ancient Egypt, p 90.
  45. Genesis 10:7-8
  46. Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p 344.
  47. Sipa has been translated as "shepherd." Sargon compared Sib'e to a shepherd who could not defend his flock. (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p 285.
  48. Dur-Sharrukin means, "Fortress of Sargon"
  49. H. Saggs, Peoples of the Past: Babylonians, p 70.

Note 1:

"The stela of Setnakht, founder of Dynasty XX, was discovered broken and reused in the pavement of a room belonging to a house of Roman date. It was originally erected in the Khnum Temple during the king's second regnal year ... The text, which probably numbered 20 lines originally, describes Setnakht's accession to the throne of Egypt and the defeat of his opponents. Like most official inscriptions from ancient Egypt, it is less concerned with giving a factual account of political events ... than with conforming to an ideological model. ... In the text, divine will appears to be the determining force of history, making itself felt through direct intervention."

 - Elephantine Museum, Official Guidebook of the German Institute of Archaeology Cairo, pp 61-62.

For additional commentary on the Setnakhte campaign, see also:

http://www.specialtyinterests.net/dyn21b.html
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AncientBibleHistory/message/5758

http://touregypt.net/featurestories/setnakhte.htm
http://www.leidenuniv.nl/nino/aeb98/aeb98_3.html

Note 2:

Judging from royal seals that have been discovered, Ahaz and Hezekiah were especially fond of sun discs, winged scarab beetles and other Egyptian iconography, such as the ankh symbol. Scholars speculate that this was due to Egyptian "influence," or simply that Hezekiah was employing traditional symbols of kingship in the region. On these seals, the name of Jotham is also found in the Egyptianized form of Jotam.

Robert Deutsch, "Lasting Impressions", Biblical Archaeology Review, Volume 28, Number 4, July/August 2002, pp 42-51, 60. Posted on-line at:

www.archaeological-center.com/articles/13.shtml#bulla1

See also, Robert Deutsch, "King Hezekiah's Seal Bears Phoenician Imagery," BAR Mar/Apr 99, p 42-45.

Note 3:

Ramses III was not the true son of Takelot III/Shabaka, but of Tefnakhte/Setnakhte, and his mother was Queen Tey-merenese. Biblical Hezekiah is said to be the son of Abijah daughter of Zechariah. Through the synthesis of Biblical records, it can be determined that Tey-merenese was the daughter of Meremptah, and this was a key factor in the prominence of Ramses III.

The true father of Shebitku is not known from archaeology. It is generally assumed to be Shabaka, but was not.

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