In the Book of Tobit, Tobit’s nephew Ahiqar/Manasseh is said to have been the cupbearer of Esarhaddon. However, this same Ahiqar appears as something far greater in a book named after him, the Book of Ahiqar (Haiqar).
This book was written from the perspective of the Assyrian royal court, but was found on the site of a Jewish community at Elephantine Island in Nubia, and may date as early as the 5th Century B.C. (in the Standard Chronology). Ahiqar is named in it as the “Sage” and Grand Vizier of Sennacherib, predecessor of Esarhaddon! The predecessor of Sennacherib is in turn named as Sar-hadum (“Lord Hadum”), a variant of Sargon, and which apparently emphasizes his Egyptian typecasting of Atum-Re (Jacob). Sargon II, it has been shown (in Part III of the on-line book), was known as Piye in Nubia and Egypt, and sought to combine in himself the totality of the pantheon (all divine roles).
In the Book of Ahiqar, Sennacherib’s brother the pharaoh of Egypt has challenged him to a kingly contest of wits. Although Sennacherib is the superior king, he must accept the challenge or lose face. So he sends his renowned chief minister Ahiqar to the court of pharaoh on his behalf and under the alias Abiqam (“father of kim”, as in Jeohoiakim). Upon his arrival, the Pharaoh quizzes the ambassador of Assyria about the royal costumes of Egypt and their symbolism. Ahiqar/Abiqam first identifies the Pharaoh as the sun and his servants as the rays of the sun. He informs Pharaoh and his court that this is the same as the Assyrian/Babylonian god Bel (Marduk). When Pharaoh and his entourage change clothes, Ahiqar/Abiqam readily announces that Pharaoh has become the moon accompanied by the planets and stars. When asked about his own king, Ahiqar/Abiqam states that Sennacherib is the “God of Heaven, and his nobles are the lightnings and the thunder, and when he wills the winds blow and the rain falls.” (translation from “The Other Bible”, Willis Barnstone, ed., p 195)
After this, Abiqam reveals his true identity, even as the earlier Joseph did before his own humbled and tribute bearing brethren. However, there remains a last riddle, “the riddle of the Sphinx”, which Ahiqar solves through a demonstration (to Egyptians no less) of how to build a “castle between Heaven and Earth”. Consequently, Pharaoh repents of his defiance and pays Sennacherib 900 talents of gold. Ahiqar completes his triumph over Pharaoh by whipping a cat, sacred in Egypt. When the Egyptians and the Pharaoh protest, Ahiqar claims that it was on account of the cat cutting off the head of Sennacherib’s choice rooster. (In Egyptian tomb art, a cat is frequently shown holding a knife to the neck of a serpent.) Subsequently, Ahiqar not only leaves Egypt with much gold, but also leading an Exodus party of Ninevites from Egypt.
In the Biblical story of Hezekiah, Sennacherib also demands and gets tribute from Hezekiah who had rebelled and was humbled by him. Pharaoh in the Book of Ahiqar is then, by association, Pharaoh Ramses III and Biblical Hezekiah. Ahiqar (a.k.a. Manasseh in the Book of Tobit) is an adaptation of the Nubian name Taharqa. In the Bible, the idolatrous king Manasseh succeeds good Hezekiah to the throne of Judah (Upper Egypt and Nubia). Although Taharqa is considered righteous in the Book of Ahiqar, it is duly noted that he sacrificed to the gods/idols upon the urging of his advisors. His advisors also recommended that he name his sister’s son Nadan as his heir, because his sixty wives had not borne him a suitable (royal) heir.
Sennacherib, as the favored son of Sargon II (“Jacob”), was given the Patriarchal typecasting of “Judah”. This typecasting derived from the Egyptian god Horus the Elder and Mesopotamian deity Adad, the god of storms. It has been shown that Sennacherib had a number of identities in Egypt. As a Libyan prince and king he was called Nimlot (C). As High Priest of Amun in Upper Egypt he was called Menkheperre (II). As an Egyptian pharaoh in Lower Egypt he was called Smendes (I). The Nubian name of Sennacherib was Khaluit, which is the origin of his Biblical name Hilkiah. Sennacherib also had two prominent royal half-brothers. Ramses III (Hezekiah) was a brother of the same mother. Taharqa (Biblical Tirhakah/Manasseh) had the same father. In the Egyptian 18th Dynasty, Yuya (“Joseph”) was “Grand Vizier” to his half-brother Thutmose IV (“Judah”). The pattern was deliberately repeated again in the Nubian 25th dynasty.
Like the Joseph of the Book of Genesis, Ahiqar is falsely accused and imprisoned. Likewise, in the Bible (2 Chron. 33), King Manasseh is taken into custody by the Assyrians, but later calls upon the “Lord” and is released to his own kingdom.. Like the famous Imhotep, Ahiqar/Taharqa is called Sage and is attributed unique knowledge of pyramid building, at least as it was done in the Nubian dynasty From archaeology, Taharqa is considered builder of the largest pyramid in Nubia. One researcher proposes that stones and obelisks were raised in ancient times using the power of the wind harnessed by kites (rather than the wings of eagles as in the Book of Ahiqar). See:
The real-life hero of the Book of Ahiqar is therefore Taharqa (Biblical Tirhakah/Manasseh). His Egyptian given name had been Pa-Nehesy, “the Southerner”, an epithet of the Egyptian god Set (Levi). Taharqa gained the additional nickname of Manasseh, because he played the role of the disgraced but later justified son of Joseph by that name. (Recall that Manasseh was subordinated to Ephraim in the Genesis account. This mirrored the actual history of Aanen and Aye in the Egyptian 18th Dynasty.)
Taharqa’s father Piye was first typecast as a “Joseph”, as the name Piye itself indicates, and had in fact shared that distinction with his own father Hori/Kashta/Iuput II. However, upon becoming Great King, Piye added other divine aspects to his royal dozier, particularly “Isaac/Joshua/David”, and “Jacob/Adam” and in turn shared the role of Joseph with one of his own sons. As was the case for the Old Kingdom figure of Imhotep, Taharqa became both a “Joseph” and a “son of Joseph”. What’s more, Taharqa had yet another minor typecasting, that of “Moses son of Joseph”. As shown in the on-line book, this role was forced upon him as a youth after he (perhaps innocently) helped murder the first Nubian pharoah, Shabaka, an Issachar/Osiris type.
The successor of Taharqa was his “nephew” Tanutamon (Assyrian Tandamane), who corresponds to the ungrateful Nadan in the Book of Ahiqar. When Ahiqar began to show favor toward a younger brother of Nadan, named as Benu-zardan (Biblical Nabu-zaradan), Nadan conspired against his uncle and adoptive father. He forged treasonous letters in his name sent to Pharaoh and to “Achish son of wise Shah” king of Persia. Here, as in books of the Apocrypha, we have Persia as a major kingdom along with Egypt and Assyria.
Also of interest is the name Achish, which in the Bible is applied to a king of the Philistines in the time of Isaac-David. It was shown that Achish was also known as the Kassite king Kara-indash (Haran/Kish, brother of Abraham/Eliab) in proto-Persia. In the time of Taharqa and Sennacherib, the name Achish (son of Shah) probably applied to Sin-shari-ishkun (son of Assurbanipal). The “swordsman”, Abu Samik, that saved the life of Ahiqar and was honored above all Sennacherib’s favorites, probably corresponds to Esarhaddon the successor of Sennacherib. Ahiqar was eventually exonerated and was granted permission by Sennacherib to punish Nadan as he saw fit. We are told that Nadan was placed under the guard of the “sentinel” Nabu-hal, and chided by Ahiqar until he finally swelled up and burst. However, it seems that the actual Nadan did not predecease Ahiqar, but lived long enough to succeed him briefly and ignominiously as king in Nubia.
As in the Book of Genesis, we have one of the most renowned persons in the ancient world depicted as an ordinary fellow who just happens to be a prime minister with access to a pharaoh. And we also have the identical genre in the Book of Tobit. In fact it can be deduced that Tobit is a grossly understated account of Ramses III, the "Pharaoh" of the Book of Ahiqar. Ramses III was known by the Nubian name of Shebitku and was the predecessor of Taharqa in the Nubian throne. Shebitku was not the literal father of Taharqa, nor was he a true brother. In the confusing genealogy of the royal family, their relationship was perhaps best captured by the Book of Tobit as uncle to nephew. The angel that helps Tobit is named Azariah and logically corresponds to the “swordsman” Esarhaddon. Hananiah of the Book of Tobit corresponds to Tanutamon/Tandamane, and Shemaiah the elder to Sennacherib. The Books of Tobit and Ahiqar then provide an interlocking set of characters and help further unravel the interlocking histories known from the Bible, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. These books of Tobit and Ahiqar further reveal that the technique of the Genesis writer was known and in use in the Persian era or even later.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.