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 40
"I Will Wipe Jerusalem as a Dish"a
(The Destruction of Thebes)


Deja Vous All Over Again

Nebuchadrezzar was not the first king by that name. An earlier Nebuchadrezzar (I) has been called the "most significant king after Hammurabi" b in Babylon. "When Elam sank into anarchy after the brilliant reign of Shilak-Inshushinak, the Babylonian Nebuchadrezzar Ic attacked that country. A first campaign met with failure - 'the Elamite followed and I fled before him; I sat down on the bed of weeping and sighing' - but the defection of one of the Elamite lords, Shitti-Marduk, who fought on the Babylonian side, made the second campaign a glowing success. The account of the war, written on a kudurru granting privileges to Shitti-Marduk as a reward for his assistance, is one of the most poetic military records of antiquity." d The army of Nebuchadrezzar struck Hulteludish king of Elame in the heat of mid-summer (month of Tammuz):

"It was as though the roads burnt like flames.
There was no water in the lowlands, the water supply was cut off.
Even the best of the great horses came to a standstill,
And the legs of the strong warrior began to fail.
But the king, pre-eminent, goes on, the gods supporting him;
Nebuchadnezzar leads on, he has no rival ..." f

Victorious, Nebuchadrezzar carried the statue of the sun god Marduk now appeased, back to its rightful home in the Esagila Temple of Babylon. As in the time of Hammurabi, the god Marduk was suddenly elevated from relative obscurity to state sanctioned pre-eminence. "Some argue that this was the occasion at which Marduk was finally accepted as supreme deity in the Babylonian pantheon." g Nebuchadrezzar I was the known contemporary and rival of Tiglath-pileser I (Takelot I) son of Assur-resha-ishi (Sheshonq/Aye). It is concluded then that Nebuchadrezzar I was the Babylonian alter ego of Akhenaten, who had assumed the identity of Hammurabi as Moses.

Indeed, Akhenaten was known as Nib-khu-ruri-ya to Tushratta king of the Mitanni, which is very close in form to that of Nabu-ku-durri-user (Nebuchadrezzar). After Akhenaten reemerged from his Exile to succeed Amenhotep III, his mother Queen Tiye "cautions Tushratta: 'Promote your interests (?) with Napkhururiya, watch [him], and do not cease from sending pleasant delegations,' and in Tushratta's own letters to the young king, he is constantly reminding him that Tiy was the only one who was privy to all that passed between himself and Amenhotep III." h In this case, Shilak-Inshushinak the illustrious predecessor of Nebuchadrezzar in Elam was logically Amenhotep III (Solomon)/Aye (Sheshonq I). Consistent with this, the capital city of Elam, Susa, was also called "the city of Memnon." 1

After deposing Jehoiachin, the second Nebuchadrezzar led many people out of Egypt to Babylon, and he would remain there in a self-imposed exile with them. Among his transplanted servants was the prophet Daniel, who reports that after being filled with pride the king went out of his mind for seven years.i As a Solomon-figure, Nebuchadrezzar gave himself over not only to the pursuit of wisdom, but also to know folly and madness.j As a Moses-figure, he commiserated with those who were forced to leave behind their privileged lives in Egypt for the strangeness and relative hardship of Babylon. Like Hammurabi and the later Akhenaten, who also endured a seven-year exile, he became a recluse as his contemporaries strove and were weakened by perpetual war with each other.

The inactivity of Nebuchadrezzar seems to have been fully accepted by his officials, most of which remained fanatically partisan toward him. There was some unrest in Babylon, but this was probably due more to the conflict between Assurbanipal and Shamash-shuma-ukin son of Esarhaddon. The kingship of Nebuchadrezzar seemingly went unchallenged. Nebuchadrezzar did make an occasional public appearance, and reassured Pinedjem (Jeremiah) that at the appointed time he would return and execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt. The first prophesy of Jeremiah on behalf of Nebuchadrezzar was given early in the reign of Jehoiakim. However, it is in the last prophesy of Jeremiah that the typecasting of Nebuchadrezzar as Moses comes through the strongest. "There in the temple of the sun in Egypt he will demolish the sacred pillars and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt." k

The initial typecasting of Assurbanipal was based on his Egyptian name of Smendes (II). Like his namesake Smendes (I), he was patterned after Shem/Aaron. Among the Biblical epithets of Smendes/Assurbanipal are Shimei, Shemaiah, and Shemaiah the Nehelamite. Other Biblical epithets, viz., Shaban, Shebna, Shebniah and Bani, derive from the throne name of Smendes, that being, Nes-baneb-djed. The "incarnations" of this type included Semerkhet (Shem I), Amenemhet IV (Aaron/Shem II), and Aanen (Aaron II). A contemporary of Smendes II, Masaharta/Mentuemhet, was granted a share of this role. He emulated only Aanen of the 18th Dynasty, allowing Smendes II to operate in the more favorable part of Amenemhet IV. In his early career, Smendes II held the office of Chief Scribe. After becoming "Great King" Assurbanipal, he built one of the most famous libraries of ancient times, and expressed a particular satisfaction in his scholarly achievements (as befitting his typecasting). 

The predecessor of Assurbanipal, Esarhaddon son of Tiglath-pileser III, had perhaps assumed the role of Smenkhkare/Samsu-iluna and/or Salitis. The name Esar-haddon seems to combine both Issachar (Asar/Osiris) and Judah (Adad/Haddon) elements. Assurbanipal then took the identity of the next great Hyksos king Khyan (Biblical Obed-Nahor). Normally he would also have assimilated all other incarnations of the Obed type, namely Ny-netjer (Noah), Ny-maatre Amenemhet III (Noah II), and Nebmaatre Amenhotep III (Obed-Solomon). However, he did not do so, probably because only the line of Khyan had continued on the throne. Therefore, Nebuchadrezzar was allowed, as a "sacrificial king" to claim at least one of the others, Nebmaatre Amenhotep III (Solomon) of the 18th Dynasty. 

Nebuchadrezzar (Nebmaatre Ramses VI) shared a salient feature with his new namesake. He was extremely short and even called "the Dwarf" in Talmudic tradition. The mummy of Amenhotep III also shows that he stood barely 5 feet tall. As Noah/Obed/Solomon-figures, these two kings Assurbanipal and Nebuchadrezzar would have been expected to resist an Exodus (that is, play "pharaoh of the Exodus") rather than lead one. However, other Moses and Aaron types of the time, such as Taharqa, Ramses III and Mentuemhet, had left the role unfulfilled, at least in their humble opinion. Nebuchadrezzar as Moses, and Assurbanipal as Aaron, were determined not only to bind together the whole world under their dual kingship, but also orchestrate another Exodus of "Hebrews" from Egypt.

The Third Time Isn't the Charm

In Year 10 of Ramses IX (Taharqa), the same year that Ramsesnakht (Esarhaddon/Ramses V) died, a new High Priest of Amun appeared at Karnak. He was none other than the great Nubian prince Tanutamon, who had been named as Libyan co-regent (Psamtik II) only two years before, but was now being installed as High Priest under his Egyptian name of Amenhotep. Moreover, he was decorated with the "gold of honor" by Ramses IX, and depicted at Karnak in two murals as being the same size as Ramses IX.l This was the third time that Amenhotep held the office of High Priest of Amun.2 He had been suppressed twice before, first by Psamtik-Taharqa and later by Menkheperre-Smendes I.

At about this time, Ankh-nes-neferibre the daughter of Psamtik II (Amenhotep/ Tanutamon) was also appointed successor to Nitocris daughter of Psamtik I (Panehesy/ Taharqa) as God's Wife of Amun. Like Nitocris, the name Ankhnesneferibre hails back to a prominent 6th Dynasty Queen, Ankhnes-Meryra/Pepi, also apparently known by the variant Ankhesen-Pepi. An inscription from her mortuary temple "clearly states that Ankhesenpepi was the wife of Pepi I, and the wife of Merenre, and the mother of Pepi II." m In the latter part of his career, Nefertemkhure Taharqa (a.k.a. Neferkhaure Ramses IX/Nekau) patterned himself almost exclusively after the Horus Netjer-khau, Neferkare Pepi II. In the late 6th Dynasty, Pepi II had named Merenre as his co-regent, however Merenre then died prior to Pepi II. Exploiting this precedent, Taharqa as Pepi II, intended to use the power of a family elder statesman against his rivals and also retain control of the throne. Amenhotep/Tanutamon, although cognizant of the typecasting, hoped to outlive Taharqa and thereby take the throne for himself. It was a calculated risk for both kings, and one that each seemed willing to take. Amenhotep would have considered his chances of becoming Great King to be higher as an ally of Taharqa rather than as the ally of Esarhaddon, Assurbanipal or Nebuchadrezzar. For Taharqa it was perhaps his only reasonable hope of surviving the coalition formed against him.

As in the 6th Dynasty, resolution of the conflict did not first unfold in Egypt but back in Mesopotamia. The new co-regent of Psamtik/Taharqa sided with Shamash-shuma-ukin, the "evil brother" of Assurbanipal, and at first this strategy seems to have worked well. In the third year of co-regency, Psamtik II suffered a minor defeat beyond the third cataract in Nubia and was forced to fall back to Elephantine. His opponent is thought to have been one Anlamani (Kandalanu?), evidently either a local identity of Assurbanipal or that of one of his sons/allies. However, in his Year 4, Psamtik II confidently marched out to Palestine with the Egyptian army on parade, and waved the flag of independence from Assyrian oppression all the way to Tyre and Byblos in Phoenicia. There was no immediate response from either Assurbanipal or Nebuchadrezzar.n 

Year 4 of Psamtik II was also Year 4 of Amenemope (Zedekiah), who had been installed as the puppet of Nebuchadrezzar in Thebes (Jerusalem). This was the same year that Zedekiah was summoned to Babylon. Also in that same year, and probably upon Amenemope's return to Thebes, there was a confrontation between the rival High Priests Pinedjem (Jeremiah the spokesman of Nebuchadrezzar) and Amenhotep/Tanutamon (Hananiah) the Crown Prince under Psamtik/Taharqa. "And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azuro the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me [Jeremiah] in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years will I bring again in to this place all the vessels of the Lord's house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon: And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah that went into Babylon, saith the Lord: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon." p 

Jeremiah responded to Hananiah by prophesying that he was soon to be "cast off the face of the earth." An epilogue to this passage is careful to note that Hananiah "died" two months later.q It was in this fourth year of Psamtik II and Amenemope that Assurbanipal (then in his Year 3) defeated Shamash-shuma-ukin and installed a new king, Kandalanu (Assur-etil-ana?/Anlamani?) in Babylon. It was also in this year that he "seized anew his control over Egypt." r There were reports that Psamtik II had fallen ill,s and this may have encouraged Assurbanipal to mount an Egyptian offensive. Contrary to popular belief, Psamtik II/Amenhotep/ Tanutamon (Hananiah) did not literally die at this time, but he did endure a symbolic death as he was suppressed for yet a fourth time as High Priest of Amun.

Seemingly encountering little resistance, Assurbanipal swept through Memphis to Thebes and reinstated the ministers appointed five years earlier by Esarhaddon. Once again the forces of Taharqa and that of his co-regent had been caught out of position or simply overwhelmed by "the awe-inspiring glamour" t of Assurbanipal's might. It was probably at this time that Assurbanipal also exercised his prerogative, as Esarhaddon had done, of claiming regency in Egypt under the name Ramses. He would no longer be only Smendes II, but Khepermaatre-setepenre Ramses (X). Taharqa, then in his Year 13 as Ramses IX, retreated again to Nubia and sought out Tanutamon for relief.

The demotion of Tanutamon by Assurbanipal was turned into a promotion under Taharqa. As Aye had yielded to Horemheb in the 18th Dynasty, so the beleaguered Taharqa (by his Year 15 as Ramses IX) reluctantly conceded all of his titles to Tanutamon. Tanutamon was earlier made successor in the Libyan throne. He would now be named co-regent in the greater throne of Nubia. Tanutamon was also made successor in the Egyptian throne under the name It-Amon Ramses (VII). A revitalized Tanutamon first renewed hostilities with Assurbanipal in Elam/Proto-Persia and then recaptured Thebes and Memphis of Egypt.

The author(s) of the Kings/Chronicles narrative did not wish to acknowledge the conquest of the Assyrian army under Assurbanipal. Only that of the Babylonians under Nebuchadrezzar would be admitted. This was made possible with a little slight of hand in the Biblical text. Amenhotep/Tanuatamun, like the earlier Amenemnisu predecessor of Ramses-Psusennes, was evidently also known simply as "King Amon" (Egy. Nes Amon).u As a tribute to Ramses-Psusennes (Hezekiah/Josiah) the last great champion of Jerusalem/Thebes, the reign of Tanuatamon was not followed by a description of the Assyrian conquest, but by a second account of Ramses III/Psusennes/Shebitku, and then with the narrative of four minor kings of Egypt who were defeated and exiled to Babylon. These four kings ruled alongside Taharqa and Tanuatamon during the 20 years after the death of Ramses III. The exploit of Ashurbanipal is completely suppressed. Moreover, the subordinate status (or alliance) of Nebuchadnezzar to Ashurbanipal is not disclosed.

During the interludes when Taharqa and Tanutamon were in control of Thebes and Egypt, neither Amenemope (Zedekiah) nor Pinedjem II (Jeremiah) were defrocked of their titles. This did not however ease their duress. Ironically, the focus in the Biblical narratives is on the standoff between these two princes who had little power over their own destiny or that of Thebes (Jerusalem), but were caught in a seesaw battle between two sets of more dominant kings. Pinedjem remained loyal to Nebuchadrezzar, and suffered constant persecution. Amenemope vacillated and in the end fared no better. It was a no-win situation for both.

Ezekiel railed against Jerusalem and Egypt from distant Babylon after being made a "watchman" by the Lord.v His charge was to relay the words of the Lord Nebuchadrezzar to the people. (Watchman was also the title of the Egyptian minister Wenamun.w) Another prophet, Daniel, also patronized the king and walked the fine line between obedience and conscience.x Jeremiah in Jerusalem was also in considerable jeopardy. A difficult situation became nearly impossible when Nebuchadrezzar became inactive due to his preordained exile and illness. The "press releases" of Pinedjem II from the Lord were either ignored or provoked aggression. He was evidently also threatened by his own wife,y the Egyptian princess Neshkons. Against even his own better judgment Jeremiah continued. The passage of Jeremiah 20:7-18 might be entitled the "Co-Dependency Soliloquy."

No Amun, No Cry

The Kings/Chronicles narrative gives a reign of only two years for King Amon as king of Judah. Three years after "chasing" Taharqa from Memphis and Thebes to Nubia, Assurbanipal would do the same to Tanutamon in his second year as successor to Taharqa.z In one inscription, Assurbanipal implies that he swept through Egypt unimpeded. In another inscription, he mentions a large battle with Urdamane (Tanutamon),aa which is described in very similar terms to the earlier Assyrian invasion of Esarhaddon against Taharqa. Regardless, "populous Thebes," literally No Amun, east of the Nile seems to have fallen easily to him, and was thoroughly pillaged,ab although Tanutamun escaped to fight another day. Assurbanipal had the booty transported to Assyria and then withdrew from Thebes, likely in expectation of a counterstrike by Tanutamon (Teuman) in Elam or elsewhere.

The task of reducing the more exclusive royal city of Western Thebes (Jerusalem) was left to Nebuchadrezzar.ac According to tradition, the exiled Moses, King of Babylon, should return to Egypt with Aaron at his side and lead the Exodus. "Healed by Ishtar" even as Akhenaten had earlier been restored by the incarnation of that goddess, Queen Tiye, Nebuchadrezzar miraculously recovered and returned to Thebes with a vengeance. He had been summoned by "his lords" ad (particularly Assurbanipal) and returned to the battlefield with all his former vigor and genius. Apries (Biblical pharaoh-Hophra)3 sent out an army to relieve the city, and it was driven back into the Delta by the army of Babylon. However, Jerusalem would not give up so easily. After a siege of one and a half years, the city fell more as a result of famine than assault.

Amenemope (Zedekiah) tried to escape, but was captured and had his eyes put out. He likely died a short time later, and his body was returned to Egypt. Amenemope was given a proper royal burial by Nebuchadrezzar (Siamun/Ramses VI) in the same tomb complex where he had earlier interred Psusennes II.ae The "final solution," i.e., destruction of Thebes, desecration of its temples, and deportation ("Exodus") of the nobility would now be completed. According to the Biblical account, the Babylonians carried off mostly bronze,af the city having been stripped of most of its wealth in the previous attacks. Of those who survived the siege, a mere 832 people were deemed worthy of being led away to Babylon, a far cry from the one million or more refuges of the original Exodus, but perhaps equally as traumatic on an individual basis. In Year 19 of Nebuchadrezzar, the commander Nabu-zaradan returned and all the important buildings were put to the flame.ag

Jeremiah had been given his liberty, but upon the urging of Nabu-zaradan he stayed in Upper Egypt as an adjunct of the new governor Gedaliah son of Ahikam. Gedaliah was warned by Johanan that a prince named Ishmael intended to kill him, and even offered to kill Ishmael first. Gedaliah declined the offer and was assassinated by Ishmael, which led to another crisis. Fearful of Babylonian retribution, the remaining officials all turned to Jeremiah for guidance. Ten days later Jeremiah reported to them that there would be no reprisal from "the Lord" (i.e., Nebuchadrezzar and/or Assurbanipal). The people were warned upon pain of death to remain calm and not flee to the Delta for protection. Understandably fearing that they were only being tricked into staying so as to be more easily punished, Jeremiah's instruction was rejected. Johanan with the help of an ally Azariah son of Hoshaiah (Isaiah) then led the pathetic remnant away with Jeremiah also in tow.ah

The last Biblical record of Nebuchadrezzar is in his Year 23 when Nabu-zaradan is said to have taken 745 more Jews into Exile from Jerusalem.ai This was likely the final year of Nebuchadrezzar's life. He had been a king in Babylon for 42 years. Only the final 23 years were as the self-proclaimed successor of Nabopolassar, who he arranged to have murdered. There is a Babylonian inscription indicating that Nebuchadrezzar set out again with his army to Egypt in Year 37.aj This was the same year that Jerusalem fell to him, that is in the 18th year after Nabopolassar died. (There was a 19-year difference between the start of Nebuchadrezzar's kingship and the death of Nabopolassar. As noted above, Year 27 of Nebuchadrezzar occurred eight years after the death of Nabopolassar, which is again a 19-year difference.) In Year 37, the army was not sent to Thebes/Jerusalem, per se, but apparently to deal with an enemy whose name is almost completely illegible in the inscription. It has been restored as [Amas]is. If this is correct, then by association Amasis (Ahmose) would be the Egyptian name of Ishmael assassin of Gedaliah.ak

Nebuchadrezzar evidently followed through on his threat to hunt down the terrorized Jerusalem refugees in the Delta. Yet, even if Pinedjem was vindicated once more, it must have been of little satisfaction. He probably died or was killed there. If the 21-year rule attributed to Pinedjem II is accurate, this would place his death about three years after the Fall of Jerusalem. It can at least be said that his body was returned to Thebes for mummification and burial in his tomb (DB 320) at Deir el-Bahari, the same tomb where many of the pharaohs "restored" under his supervision had also been placed. Seti and Ramses-the-Great were ceremoniously moved there over a decade before, that is, in Year 10 of Siamun according to the associated dockets. This was the same year Psusennes II (Jehoiakim) was dethroned and his young successor (Jehoiachin) deported. A former salvager of royal mummies, "the Great Chief of the Army, the Leader, Pinedjem (I)" was also interred with them at that same time.al  (The continuation of burials in the Valley of the Kings during a period of intense civil war is most curious, and indicates that there was no intention of abandoning Upper Egypt by the royal family.)

Surprisingly Ramses IX (Taharqa), the archenemy of Siamun, was also among the mummies found in the Deir el-Bahri (DB 320) cache. The mummies of Ramses V (Ramses-nakht/Esarhaddon) and Ramses VI (Siamun/Nebuchadrezzar) were discovered in the other major cache of KV 35 (tomb of Amenhotep II) in the Valley of the Kings. The head and abdomen of Ramses VI had been hacked almost beyond all recognition, and was only molded into something resembling a human being with difficulty. In as little as five years after the destruction of Western Thebes (Jerusalem), Nebuchadrezzar was himself dead. Judging from his mummy, he passed away to no one's regret and to everyone's great relief. Nebuchadrezzar was not able to bring Ishmael/Amasis to justice for killing his minister Gedaliah. Around the time of Nebuchadrezzar's demise, Amasis defeated and killed Apries in battle, and then supervised his royal burial. Amasis then went on to enjoy a venerated 44-year reign as pharaoh in Egypt.

Amenhotep/Tanutamon, the Biblical Hananiah, had earlier prophesied that the yoke of Nebuchadrezzar would be broken. Later in the Book of Jeremiah, this same priest-king, then called by the variant Jo-Hanan, brought Jeremiah and other Thebans out of Jerusalem to Tanis in defiance of Nebuchadrezzar. Although Thebes fell in only the second year of Tanutamon as pharaoh of Egypt, his regnal dating remained in use in Thebes for at least six more years, apparently also in defiance of Nebuchadrezzar, and therefore at least until the time of Nebuchadrezzar's death. However, only a short time later, Tanutamon was captured by Assurbanipal in Elam. Assurbanipal destroyed Susa and brought Tanutamon (known as Teuman in Elam) back to Assyria where he was beheaded.am This was the last act of Assurbanipal before he also disappeared from the world stage.

Lost Sister Cities Reunited

Within a single generation, all four great capitals and cultural centers of the Near East were deliberately ruined in a fight for supremacy within the royal family, first Nineveh and Babylon followed by Thebes and Susa. A plethora of lesser cities were also subjected to the ravages of siege warfare and the prevailing spoiler mentality. At question is whether or not the Jerusalem of Palestine was included among these. The foundations of the Jerusalem in modern day Israel, perhaps first called Shalom or Salem, are as old as any in the ancient world. The site was important as a holy place throughout ancient times, even if it was not a political or commercial power. Certainly many historical events recorded in the Bible had occurred in Palestine/Israel and even in the Jerusalem of Judea prior to the Fall of Thebes, and this fact greatly eased the later process of toponym transfer by which most all events in Egypt and Nubia became associated with Israel and Palestine.

Construction of the "Millo" dates to the 18th Dynasty based on pottery finds in the fill.an Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty evidently also kept large numbers of horses and chariots in the city.ao All of Philistia, Israel, and Judea was a traditional extension of Egypt, and in the dynastic period these regions always remained an integral part of the Egyptian Empire. In the late 18th Dynasty and 19th Dynasty, kings of the Egyptian Delta established an increasingly greater presence in Israel for strategic purposes, and particularly in the city of Samaria. Already by the Amarna Period, Samaria had been transformed into an opulent provincial capital for pharaohs of Lower Egypt who masqueraded as "Kings of Israel." For the same reasons it made sense geographically for the rulers of Thebes in Upper Egypt to build at the Jerusalem (Salem) of Judea. Even the very topography of Palestine was visualized as a reflection of Egypt proper. This also helped to later naturalize Egyptian history, as many place names were the same in Palestine and in a similar spatial orientation with respect to each another as in Egypt. 

A case study will help illustrate the above points. In his campaign against "Hezekiah the Jew," Sennacherib split his forces. One army marched down the Philistine coast. The important city of Lachish was captured and destroyed in two months time. The other division headed for Judah. Hezekiah hurriedly raised a coalition army to engage the main force of the Assyrian army at Elteka in Palestine, and hastily fortified Jerusalem in preparation for a siege by the second force of Assyrian troops. The Prism text of Sennacherib boasts that Hezekiah's allies were soundly defeated on the plain of Elteka, and that Egyptian princes had actually been captured in the battle. The Egyptians were silent about the conflict, which would generally indicate defeat. Sennacherib claims that he received thirty talents of gold and eight hundred talents of silver from Hezekiah. The Bible records, "The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold." ap

Jerusalem, a town of about 25,000 people whose economy was based on olive oil production, could not have produced these quantities of precious metals. Moreover, "some of the items in Hezekiah's tribute to Sennacherib suggest an African provenience." aq In addition to silver and gold, Hezekiah sent "precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches (inlaid) with ivory, nimedu-chairs (inlaid with ivory), elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood (and) all kinds of valuable treasures, his (own) daughters, concubines, male and female musicians." ar "Yet the cities of Philistia and Judah were poor in natural resources which could hardly have justified the expense and effort expended on campaigns from the distance of the Assyrian capitals." as The historiography of this Jerusalem indicates that it was not of economic or tactical importance during this time period. Its capture would not have been a priority of Sennacherib in his first Palestine campaign. Gaining the submission and tribute of Hezekiah, who also ruled in the Jerusalem of Egypt as pharaoh, was the primary objective.

There are elements of two different sieges in the Biblical text. Jerusalem was unprepared for the first siege and hurried defenses were put in place. In anticipation of a second siege Hezekiah had time to build a tunnel to divert the water supply inside the city walls. In the first siege, the Assyrians "exact" tribute from Hezekiah. The Sennacherib inscription reveals that he had only lightly besieged Jerusalem,at and did not receive Hezekiah's tribute until after he had returned to Assyria. The Biblical narrative states that he left after receiving troubling news from home. The miracle of the first siege was that Hezekiah did not die either from the direct military attack or from an attempt on his life from intrigue. Instead, he recovered from a fatal "illness" and was granted another 15 years of kingship.au He was also treated to an astronomical sign.

The Biblical narrative admits that Hezekiah openly rebelled against Sennacherib prior to the first siege of Jerusalem, and therefore it was somewhat justified. However, the second siege was considered unprovoked and prefaced by the statement, "After all he had so faithfully done Sennacherib came against Jerusalem." av In the second and far heavier siege, Sennacherib stationed 185,000 soldiers outside Jerusalem. He then received a troubling report, not from home, but concerning the advance of Taharqa's army. This siege is associated with the miracle of Assyrian troops being killed in their camp by "the angel of the Lord." The Kings/Chronicles narrative chooses not to acknowledge the role of Taharqa (Tirhaka/Manasseh) in this victory, but instead gives credit generically to "the Angel of the Lord," a title of the crown prince.aw

Sennacherib did not did not collect any tribute and understandably did not make any record of the disaster. The Biblical narrative states that he returned to Assyria in disgrace and was murdered a short time later. In summary, there were two provocations, two defense preparations, two troubling reports, two miracles, two outcomes, and therefore two different sieges that became as one in the Biblical text.ax It is also likely that two different cities were involved. In the first siege, Hezekiah may very well have been pinned down in the Jerusalem of Palestine. In the second, Jerusalem in Egypt is the more probable locale. The fortifications of Western Thebes had been extremely effective. They would later hold out against Nebuchadrezzar for 18 months. It is not surprising that similar features would be employed in the sister city of Jerusalem in Palestine, e.g., the double wall, tunnels, a protected water supply, citadels, etc.

"Wisdom is Justified by Her Children" ay

In the time of Hezekiah (Shebitku), Jerusalem (Thebes) was threatened, but did not fall. It bent, but was not broken. During the watch of Taharqa, "Jerusalem" was not spared. Kings were judged to a great extent by economic prosperity, even as leaders are today. Good fortune was confirmation of an upright life and just rule. Disaster was proof of sin, wickedness, pride, and unfaithfulness to "orthodox" worship; and therefore also of guilt and culpability. Taharqa lost his lifelong fight for an independent Egypt (under his own rule of course), which ironically led to its devastation by those who favored relocation of the capital to Mesopotamia. The 55-year reign of Psamtik-Taharqa ended as it had begun with looting and carnage in Thebes by Assyrian troops. This, along with his "evil" stereotyping, made him a convenient scapegoat. The Biblical Kings narrative states, "Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon." az 

Although the Biblical logic is convoluted, we can now begin to understand the sources of its bias and rationalization, and the true dynamics of cause and effect at work. Taharqa was even blamed by those "lords" who were most directly responsible for the destruction. Esar-haddon referred to Taharqa ("Tarqu") as "the one accursed by all the great gods." ba  The conquest and plundering of "Jerusalem" by Assyrians is nowhere acknowledged in the Bible, not in the reign of Shabaka (Ahaz) or later in the reigns of Taharqa (Manasseh) and Tanutamon (Amon). Neither was there any record made in "Jerusalem" or elsewhere within the traditional Egyptian sphere of influence that is known to us now from archaeology. Public recording of these events would have only served to immortalize them. Instead, they were referred to obliquely as "that evil time," "raging of the foreign lands," and "the year of the hyenas." The Assyrians were simply named as "foreigners," "barbarians" and "the enemy." bb Yet, with the true identities of Biblical characters now revealed, it can be discerned that "Jerusalem" was not overthrown by Assyrians or even Babylonians from without, but betrayed by her own native sons from within.


  1. 2 Kings 12:13
  2. Wolfram von Soden, The Ancient Orient, p 53.
  3. Nabu-kudurri-user: 'O Nabu, protect my offspring' (Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, p 277.
  4. Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, p 277. For the quoted lamentation of Nebuchadrezzar, Roux sites H. Tadmor, "Historical Implications of the Correct Rendering of Akkadian daku," Journal of Near Eastern Studies (Chicago), XVII (1958), pp. 138-139.
  5. A fuller form of the name is Hutelutush-Inshushinak. See, Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, p 282. Compare Inshushinak and the contemporary king name Sheshonk/Sheshonq/Shoshank.
  6. L. W. King, Babylonian Boundary-stones (London 1912), p. 32, col. I, lines 18-23.
    See larger quote and commentary in H.W.F. Saggs, Peoples of the Past: Babylonians, pp. 125-126.
  7. H.W.F. Saggs, Peoples of the Past: Babylonians, p. 126.
  8. Donald Redford, Akhenaten: The Heretic King, p 166. The letter quoted is El-Amarna (EA) 26, line 20. For the variant spelling Nibhururiya, see Cyril Aldred, Akhenaten, p 228.
  9. Daniel 4
  10. Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:12; 7:25
  11. Jeremiah 43:13 (NIV). This prophesy was made from Tahpanhes (Tanis) in the Delta after the second and final fall of Jerusalem in Year 18 of Nebuchadrezzar.
  12. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Ian Shaw, ed., p 308; Aidon Dodson, Monarchs of the Nile, p 150.
  13. A.R. Williams, "Death on the Nile," National Geographic, Oct. 2002, p. 19. The author quotes Audran Labrousse, director of the French Archaeological Mission.
  14. Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, p 362.
  15. Azur/Azzur (5809) "helpful," a variant of Ezer (5828/5829) "aid, help." Amenhotep/ Tanutamon was a former "eldest son" of Shabaka (a.k.a. Arsa/Tiglath-pileser III).
  16. Jeremiah 28:1-4.
  17. Jeremiah 28:17
  18. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p 294.
  19. Donald Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p 464.
  20. A favorite expression of Assyrian kings.
  21. It is at least possible that Tanutamon/Amenhotep rather than Amenemnisu was considered to be one and the same "Amon" who preceded the reign of Ramses-Psusennes/Ramses III (Hezekiah in the Biblical sequence). As the former "eldest son" of Shabaka, he certainly would have been considered a king in Upper Egypt and other places. Tanutamon/Amenhotep was suppressed rather than killed shortly after the murder of Shabaka. The fact that he became king again later in life was apparently useful to the Biblical author in constructing the spiral narrative.
  22. Ezekiel 3:17; 33:7 
  23. John Romer, Ancient Lives, p 173.
  24. Daniel defied an order to worship an idol made by Nebuchadrezzar and risked death by fire. (Daniel 3)
  25. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/women2.htm
  26. In Year 16 of Ramses IX (Taharqa) an investigation of tomb robberies that had occurred during the anarchy of the past eight years concluded with the capital punishment of 17 individuals (N. Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, p 290). Not surprisingly, the tomb of Ramses IX, who had been twice deposed by "foreign invasions" during this period, was among those damaged. However, this year would see a far, far greater destruction.
  27. Tanutamon is referred in the Assyrian annals as Urdamane, a variant of Rudamun, the Libyan name first used by Piye. Perhaps Tanutamon used Rudamon as his own Libyan name. Tanutamon was also known as Ardys, successor of Astyges (Taharqa) in Lydia.
  28. Nahum 3:8-10
  29. The portion of the Babylonian Chronicle relating the second attack on Thebes (Jerusalem) is not preserved. The history must be reconstructed primarily from Biblical and Egyptian accounts. Possibly the true identity of Jerusalem as Thebes in Upper Egypt would have been revealed by the damaged Babylonian Chronicle. One can only marvel at the countless ways in which the genuine historical context of the Bible has managed to remain hidden.
  30. Daniel 4:36
  31. Unfortunately, Amenemope as with Psusennes II was badly decomposed, and it is not possible to verify any trauma to his eyes. Humidity levels in Tanis were too high for preservation of mummies.
  32. 2 Kings 25:13-17
  33. Jeremiah 39:8; 52:12-14
  34. Jeremiah 40-43
  35. Jeremiah 52:30
  36. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p. 308. Jehoiachin was likely released from prison in the 37th year of Nebuchadrezzar, and not after 37 years of exile. (Jeremiah 52:31) By association, Amel-Marduk (Biblical Evil-Merodach, connoting "foolish/perverse rebel") was also probably appointed co-regent of Nebuchadrezzar in that same year.
  37. The Egyptian name of Ishmael son of Abraham was Senemioh, "Man of the Moon," which is roughly synonymous with Amasis/Ahmose, "Born of the Moon." See Chapter 13 of this book for discussion.
  38. Not Pinedjem II as has been previously concluded in error. This mummy, rather than that of Pinedjem I would then be the one that has gone missing. For a separate analysis, see David Rohl, Pharaohs and Kings, pp 78-79.
  39. The mummy of Ramses VII (Tanutamon) has not been found.
  40. Ahmed Osman, House of the Messiah, pp. 200-1, 213; David Rohl, Pharaohs and Kings, p. 181
  41. Ahmed Osman, House of the Messiah, p. 218
  42. 2 Kings 18:14 (NIV)
  43. Donald Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p 356. Cf Isaiah 45:14 
  44. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p. 286
  45. The Harper Collins Concise Atlas of the Bible, James Pritchard, ed.. (1991), p 80.
  46. Sennacherib was only able to "molest those who were leaving his city's gate," implying that he was not able to prevent them entirely. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p 288.
  47. Ramses III died in his Year 33, that is, about 19 more years after the attack dated to his Year 14.
  48. 2 Chron. 32:1
  49. See especially the discussion on Djehuty-Abraham in Chapters 9-13.
  50. The first siege occurred in Year 14 of Hezekiah as Ramses III pharaoh of Egypt (and Year 17 as Psusennes I pharaoh of Libya). The second occurred 15 or more years later, and perhaps in his Year 14 as Shebitku pharaoh of Nubia.
  51. Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35
  52. 2 Kings 24:3-4 (KJV)
  53. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., p 293.
  54. Donald Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p 361, citing J. Leclant, Montouemhat, quatrieme prophete d'Amon et prince de la ville (Cairo, 1961), 83, line 6; P. Rylands IX, vi. 16-18.

Note 1:

From critical and condescending letters sent to Akhenaten, it can be deduced that Amenhotep III was also known by the Kassite (Indo-European) name of Burnaburiash II. In addition to more expected regions such as Kush/Nubia and Phoenicia, inscriptions at Karnak in Thebes and Malqata (Kom el-Hetan) of Western Thebes declare that Amenhotep III was lord over many regions beyond the Euphrates, including Sangar (Babylonia), Hatti (Land of the Hittites), Assur (Assyria) and Mitanni (Aram Naharain). At Malqata, Amenhotep III claimed to have subdued many cities/regions of the Mediterranean, including Alisiya (Cyprus), Knossos and Keftui (Crete), Tanaja (Danaia?), Mycenae, Boeotian Thebes, Ilios (Troy), and a number of other locations that are known with some certainly. Egyptian artifacts of this period have been found in many of these locations. (See: Amenhotep III, eds. O'Connor & Cline, pp 236-250)

In the reign of Ramses-the-Great, Hittite kings began to mention a new world power called Ahhi-yawa or Akki-yawa. The final "a" is a long vowel, therefore the second part of the name would have been pronounced something like Yahweh. In Hebrew, Ahhi or Akki means brother, but can also connote "friend, possessor, worshipper." The land of Ahhi-yawa implies "land of Yahweh [Amen] worship." Archaeologists generally identify Ahhi-yawa as a place either in Northwest Turkey or Greece (Achaea). Despite the obvious similarity of Yawa and Yahweh, a possibly link between this name and Biblical Judah has apparently not been suspected. Nevertheless, in the model proposed here, the association is more than reasonable.

Note 2:

According to the Papyrus Mayer (A & B), in a time of crisis Panehesy the Viceroy of Kush "suppressed" Amenhotep the High Priest of Amun, who served Neferkare-Setepenre (the throne name of Ramses IX). With some difficulty Panehesy restored discipline to freebooting soldiers (called "foreigners" and "barbarians") who were taking over temples and terrorizing the populace, and put some of the worst offenders to death. Although a new study of the Papyrus Mayer needs to be undertaken, it now seems to have been a retrospective look at the career of Amenhotep. Amenhotep was in fact appointed as High Priest in Year 10 of Ramses IX (Taharqa). However, he was also High Priest in Year 9 of Ramses XI (Pinedjem), at which time he was "suppressed" for nine months. 

The Valley of the Kings despoiling in Year 9 of Ramses XI was probably the work of Assyrian junior officers who did not comprehend the Egyptian heritage of Tiglath-Pileser III. They were taking initiative, and no doubt thought that the desecration of Egyptian royal tombs would even be well appreciated by their master. The royal family of course fully understood that Tiglath-pileser was one and the same as Takeloth III and Shabaka. The leading generals of the Assyrian army, who were also closely related to him, also understood. However, officers with considerable authority but of lesser rank were not privileged to know. Not only were items of value removed, but the mummies of the pharaohs themselves were also stripped and left exposed on the ground. 

For a culture so fully steeped in ancestor worship, this event must have been (until it happened) not even remotely conceivable. Although it was one of the most profound events of ancient times, it also became one of the most repressed. It was far more than a family or national embarrassment or national tragedy, but the very antithesis of the society's core values and beliefs concerning the power of the gods and their kingly successors over the land of the living. Most certainly it was not possible to keep such a thing secret. The ears of all who heard of it surely would have "tingled" in utter shock. Assyrians as a whole, and King Manasseh in particular, were blamed for this outrage and would not be forgiven.

It seems that a ruling king was free to open the tombs of his ancestors and appropriate items as he saw fit. However, the uncontrolled looting of the Valley of the Kings was not accomplished over many years by the pharaohs themselves. It was also not systematically rifled by corrupt officials or by the tomb workers, but nearly all at once during very short, tumultuous periods of anarchy in the city. The first of these catastrophes occurred in Year 9 of the weak pharaoh Ramses XI when Shabaka directed Assyrian troops into Thebes and even the countryside seems to have been scoured for plunder (Isaiah 7:10-25). A second round of destruction took place in Year 18 of Ramses XI when Shabaka was assassinated and Thebes fell prey to once again to Assyrian troops, who this time may have been taking revenge for the murder of their king Tiglath-pileser III.

In Year 9 of Ramses XI, "the Year of the Hyena," Amenhotep was High Priest of Amun in Thebes, but was "suppressed." This is learned from a Theban citizen who testified: "The foreigners came and seized the fortress-temple of Ramesses III while I was in charge of some donkeys that belonged to my father, and Peheti, a foreigner, seized me and took [i.e., enslaved] me - [this] when Amenhotep, who was High Priest of Amun, had been suppressed for six months." (John Romer, Ancient Lives, p 169) Eventually the Viceroy of Nubia, Panehesy, was able to reinstate Egyptian authority. When the Assyrians departed, Nesamun, also called a "foreigner," was possibly in possession of the Temple of Amun. (Romer, p 180) 

[Note: The fortress-temple of Ramses III (Usermaatre) was actually that of Ramses II (Usermaatre). It only later became associated with Ramses III, who greatly expanded it.]

The damage in Year 9 and/or Year 18 of Ramses XI was not confined to the Valley of the Kings. 80 pounds of gold and silver and 540 pounds of copper had been removed from nearby temples. Precious little was recovered. A house-to-house search of the entire Thebaid was performed. Hundreds of citizens from all walks of Theban life were interrogated, some "with the birch, the stick and the screw." Only "twenty people handed over tiny hoards of cloth and metals." (Romer, p 170-1) Citizens confessed to assisting "foreigners" merely to receive food and clothing. "There were even moments of humour in the Vizier's hall," and "records of sentencing are rare." (Romer, p 180-1) The Assyrian soldiers and those who fled the scene of the crime with them apparently could not be prosecuted, at least not in Thebes. Only local opportunists could be brought to justice, and in light of the abuse and deprivations that the people had endured, there seemed to be no heart to pursue even that.

Scribe Djutmose of the Deir el-Medina village was appointed to serve one of the investigative commissions. A few members of the Deir el-Medina villager were implicated, however they were the exception in their community and not the rule, and there is no indication that any of them were found guilty. Hearings held in the reign of Herihor-Siamun, appointed High Priest in Year 19 of Ramses XI, would have dealt with crimes committed in the previous year. However, Pinedjem I/Ramses XI is currently thought to have rewrapped royal mummies between Years 5-14 either of his own reign or that of Smendes. It should now be clear that Pinedjem I would not have used the regnal dates of Smendes prior to his own Year 19. He might however have used his own regnal dating or that of Shabaka.) 60 years later (see Chronology Chart), in Year 16 of Ramses IX, eight workmen of the Deir el-Medina village of tomb builders were tried, convicted and punished for robbing the tomb of Isis (a queen in the reign of Ramses II), which was located in the Valley of the Queens. "The metals fine clothes and furnishings of Queen Isis had all been retrieved." (Romer, p 160) The proceedings of this commission in the reign of Ramses IX were filed away with those from the reign of Ramses XI. (Romer, p 181-2) A modern jury of archaeologists have therefore mistakenly pronounced the tomb workers of Deir el-Medina guilty of the earlier, more extensive looting by association.

The Egyptian Lament of Ourmai, likely describes one of the several Assyrian anarchies.

This lament was composed by an Egyptian nobleman, Ourmai son of Khevi, who claims the title "Father-of-the-God" (designating a King's Father or Father-in-Law). Note the similarity between the name Khevi and Harkhebi. He was forced to beg for bread from foreign troops and bemoans that the dead were literally thrown out of their tombs. Desecration of the dead was probably not an intention of Tiglath-Pileser III in the first Assyrian looting. However, Shabaka (Ahaz) could reasonably have been blamed for a lack of oversight or loss in discipline among his Assyrian troops, and for the indiscriminate pillaging of the dead along with the living. (Isaiah 7:10-25)

Note 3:

The name Apries could have been an epithet of almost every pharaoh of the 26th Dynasty. It very likely was applied to Wahibre Psamtik I, founder of the dynasty. According to the Biblical narrative, pharaoh Hophrah (a Hebraized version of the Egyptian Wahibre and Greek Apries), tried to relieve Jerusalem after it was put under siege by Nebuchadrezzar. The Apries in question, which is written as Haa-ib-re, could have been Wahibre Psamtik I (Taharqa), Wahibre Psamtik II (Tanutamon), or even Wah-em-ibre Necho II. The first two pharaohs were still very much living at the time. The third might have been.

In the model proposed here, Necho II (rather than Necho I) was captured and defected to the side of Esar-haddon and Assurbanipal, after which he was made an Assyrian governor in Egypt. (See D. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p 364. Psamtik I then named a new co-regent, Psamtik II (Tanutamon/Tanuatamun). After Tanutamon succeeded Taharqa and re-conquered the Delta, Necho (II) was not heard from again and presumed dead. However, there does not seem to be any direct evidence of his death. If he had not been killed, then he perhaps either became the vassal of Tanutamon or resurfaced when Tanutamon was defeated by Assurbanipal. The twice "resurrected" Necho II may have modified his name from Wah-em-ibre to Haa-ibre. The reign of 25 years attributed to Apries could then apply to Necho II/Haa-ibre, however it is just as appropriate for either Taharqa/Necho I or Tanutamon/Psamtik II. Apries was reportedly killed in battle with Amasis, and buried by him. If so, this would rule out Tanutamon as a candidate.

The association of the throne name Menkheperre with Necho I is also very curious.  Was Pediese/Panehesy/Taharqa allowed to use the name Menkheperre as a symbol of his inheritance from Piye?  If so, did Taharqa actually use the name of Menkheperre before Smendes I/Nimlot?

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