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 32
"The Fairest of Them All"
(Queen Nefertari and her Firstborn Amen-hir-khopshef/Osorkon III)

Mery, Mery on the Wall

Late in the reign of Takelot II (Ramses I), the God's Wife of Amun Karamat B (Amenia) appointed her daughter Kamama Merymuta by the High Priest Nimlot to be her successor in the queenly office. As God's Wife, Kamama became the nominal wife of the ruling pharaoh Takelot/Ramses, but would have been expected to form other marital bonds as part of her practical role in uniting the leading men of the royal family. Upon succeeding Horemheb (Osorkon II) as pharaoh of all Egypt, Takelot II, now Ramses I, chose to model his throne name after that of the early New Kingdom pharaoh Ahmose, who had married Ahmose-Nefertari and established her as God's Wife of Amun. Ahmose-Nefertari is considered to have been the first to bear this title, at least officially. As God's Wife in the reign of Ramses, the very young "Libyan" princess Kamama Merymut assumed the Egyptian name of Nefertari Mery-en-Mut in order to better reflect that former period.

As God's Wife, the earlier Ahmose-Nefertari also became the consort of Amenhotep I, the co-regent and short-lived successor of Ahmose. The co-regent of Ramses was Seti, but he had prior to his election already been typecast as a repetition of Tao I rather than as Amenhotep I.b (Tao I was either the father or grandfather of Ahmose-Nefertari.c) In fulfillment of this role, Seti likely patronized Nefertari even though he may not have become her consort. Seti also already had a dominant queen named Tuya, and upon the death of his father Ramses the title of God's Wife was taken by her. Tuya corresponds to the Libyan "King's Daughter" (of Takelot II) Karamat G,d and to the legendary Assyrian queen Sammu-ramat.1

Rather than becoming a minor wife of Seti, the younger Kamama/Nefertari was instead included among the wives and consorts provided to Seti's son and heir Ramses II, and while he was himself still a very young boy. She was evidently considered the most desirable of all these women,e judging from the role she would later play as God's Wife in the reign of Ramses II and from the meaning of her given Egyptian name, Nefertari Mery-en-Mut, "The Fairest of Them All, Beloved of the Goddess Mut." As with Ahmose-Nefertari, Nefertari Mery-en-Mut would go on to bear 10 royal children. She would also give one of her daughters the name of Merit-Amon and establish her as successor in the office of God's Wife of Amun just as Ahmose-Nefertari had done.2

When Seti passed away in his Year 15 or 16,f his co-regent Ramses II already had at least four royal sons to his credit by two primary wives. The first and third sons, Amen-hir-wenemef and Pre-hir-wenemef, were those of Nefertari, who was reinstated as God's Wife during the sole reign of Ramses II. The second and fourth sons, Prince Ramses/Paser and Khaemwaset, were born to another wife Iset-nofret. The parentage of Iset-nofret is unknown, however the great prominence of her sons and grandsons indicates that her pedigree was equal to or even greater ("more pure") than that of Nefertari within the House of Reuben. Nefertari would have been the granddaughter of Horemheb on her mother's side and perhaps related to Aye through her mother's mother (Mutnodjme). Her father Nimlot/Iuwelot/Maya became the legal/political son of Horemheb, but was a true son of Yuya. (See Chart 17.) The cartouche of Aye was found on an article in Nefertari's tomb.

The Eldest Sons of Ramses

In the Biblical narrative, an unspecified delay occurs between the death of Amaziah (Pedubastet) and the election by popular demand of a new king of Judah variously named as Uzziah or Azariah (Osorkon III). It has been shown that Amaziah outlived Joash (Harsiese A) by 15 years. However, Jehoash (Sheshonq III/Seti) outlived Amaziah by 15 years. During his reign as pharaoh of Egypt, Seti eliminated all Libyan rivals and established his own son Ramses II as the only Libyan pharaoh (under the name of Pimay or Pami). It was not until Year 39 of Sheshonq III, his final year, that another new Libyan pharaoh Osorkon III emerges as High Priest and king in Upper Egypt. Osorkon III was the son of Kamama Merymut, therefore he can be further identified as the firstborn son of Nefertari Mery-en-Mut known by the Egyptian name of Amen-hir-wenemef.

Ramses II is known to have appointed a new High Priest of Amun named Nebwennef in his Year 1. The parentage of Nebwennef is not given, but this name is logically a short form of either Amen-hir-wenemef or Pre-hir-wenemef, the two oldest sons of Nefertari.  (There is some uncertainty as to whether Ramses II began his regnal dating in the last year of Seti's reign, or only after the death of his father. This has bearing on whether or not the election of Osorkon III, the Biblical Uzziah/Azariah, as king and possibly also as High Priest occurred before or after the death of Seti/Sheshonq III.) The Biblical narrative of Uzziah states that he was 16 years old when he became king of Judah, therefore he would have been born in the final year of Takelot II/Ramses I. This means that Osorkon/Amen-hir-wenemef could not have been the true son of Pimay/Ramses II by Nefertari, but was as so often the case an "eldest son" sired by another king or prince. Because Kamama was considered to be the widowed wife of Takelot II, Osorkon III is presumed to have been the son of Takelot II. However, Kamama was designated as God's Wife of Amun, an office that fully legitimized the polyandrous role of the queen.

There is a continued emphasis on the natural line of Thutmose IV (Judah) in the Kings/Chronicles narrative. Even during the reign of Ramses the Great (Jeroboam II), the bulk of the narrative detail concerns his contemporary Osorkon III (Uzziah). We would not expect this to be the case if the true descendants of Thutmose IV and Aye had all been killed or displaced by scions of the Houses of Horemheb and Ramses. Instead, the Biblical narratives would have been filled with anecdotal material relating to High Priest Amenemhet (Merari) and other individuals of his collateral line descending from Thutmose III. However, very little was preserved about these persons, and the origins of Horemheb and Ramses is reconstructed with difficulty, as in the previous chapters. During the reign of Horemheb and Ramses I, three sons of Aye son of Thutmose IV (Judah) remained prominent, and Ramses/Takelot II diligently sought to form close alliances with each of them. As noted above, the High Priest Iuwelot/Nimlot/Maya gave his daughter Kamama to Takelot II in marriage. Takelot II gave one of his own daughters in marriage to "Prince Osorkon"/Panehesy, another natural son of Aye.

As God's Wife, Kamama may have (by definition) only have been allowed to be the consort of "living gods," that is pharaohs. If so, this would eliminate all but one of the sons of Aye as candidate, that being the pharaoh Pedubastet. Although there was a lengthy gap of 15 or so years after the death of Pedubastet (Amaziah) and the election of a new king of Judah, Pedubastet is still named in the Bible as the father of Osorkon III (Azariah/Uzziah). This is another indication that Pedubastet was not merely considered to be the predecessor but also the true father of Osorkon III. It further indicates that the new king was sired by Pedubastet before the death of Takelot and while Pedubastet and Takelot were strategic partners in the war against Osorkon II. The word "Justified" is sometimes added to the name of Nefertari Mery-en-Mut, which is significant. If her eldest son was by Pedubastet, then both she and Osorkon III would have needed to be absolved of any disgrace associated with the rebellion of Pedubastet.

Osorkon III would have been only a baby at the time of Pedubastet's defeat and death in Year 1 of Seti (Year 23 as Sheshonq III). He was clearly not killed or punished for the "sins of his father." Yet, even if Seti was as enamored with Nefertari as his son Ramses later would be, he likely would have had serious objections to the naming of Osorkon III as High Priest of Amun. That was perhaps not "justifiable" in his mind. Intriguingly, the appointment of Nebwenef as High Priest of Amun in Year 1 of Ramses was done secretly at Abydos rather than in Thebes. This suggests a couple of possibilities. If Amen-hir-wenemef had been installed as High Priest and Libyan pharaoh by Seti before the succession of Ramses II, then Ramses may have considered it necessary to appoint Pre-hir-wenemef his eldest true son by Nefertari as High Priest in secret to avoid conflict. However, a more likely scenario appears to be that Seti named Ramses II as co-regent in the final year of his life, and that Seti was still living when Ramses II secretly named a new High Priest.

After the death of Prince Osorkon/Panehesy in Year 29 of Sheshonq III (Year 6 of Seti I), a new prince by the lofty name of Neb-netjer was named High Priest of Amun. Neb-netjer corresponds to the Libyan High Priest Takelot F, known to have been in office in the latter part of the reign of Sheshonq III. Takelot F is thought to have been a son of Nimlot and therefore the brother of Kamama/Nefertari. Takelot F also can further be identified (by association) as the father of Prince Ramses, a.k.a. Paser, the "eldest son" of Iset-nofret. Iset-nofret, like Nefertari, was older than Ramses II and had already given birth to a son prior to her marriage to Ramses II. During the tenure of Neb-netjer as High Priest of Amun in Thebes, this young son Paser was named as Vizier in Upper Egypt.

Upon the succession of Ramses II, Paser was given a number of other important offices, including "chief justice, treasurer, administrator and tax collector," as well as overseer of the Valley of the Kings workmen.g He also served as High Priest of Amun from Year 27 of Ramses II until Year 38 when he is presumed to have died.h Instead of turning into natural rivals, the high-ranking princes Ramses/Paser and Amen-hir-wenemef/Osorkon III were co-opted by the marriage of their mothers to Ramses II. These two "eldest sons" of Ramses II were very nearly his own age and would have been close childhood companions.i They remained his trusted vassals and were allowed to hold high office and kingship throughout their lifetimes. This must have been a significant factor in the long and peaceful reign of Ramses.

After the near disaster at Qadesh in his Year 6 Ramses II reorganized the military. The Old Guard from his father's reign had evidently disappointed him. When Ramses returned to Canaan again in his Year 7, his army was divided into two corps. Ramses personally led one, and his "Eldest Son" Amen-hir-wenemef was made commander over the other.j Moreover, Amen-hir-wenemef ("Amen-is-at-his-Right-Hand") was now referred to as Amen-hir-khopshef ("Amen-is-his-Strong-Arm").k This is the obvious source of his Biblical/Hebrew name Uzziah, "Strength of God." He is also called by the variant Azariah.l There is a close correspondence between the name and reign length of Biblical King Uzziah/Azariah and that of Osorkon III (Azar ~ Osor). The Biblical Azariah reigned for 52 years. Likewise, the influence of Osorkon III as a priest and king in Upper Egypt (Judah) extended for over 50 years. During his final 18 years, he was not only king but also a Libyan pharaoh.

"His Name Spread Abroad"

As the Issachar of his generation, Osorkon III became the "beast of burden" of the empire, a role that he eagerly pursued, and one also readily supported by his "father" Ramses II. The name Azariah has the direct meaning of "God has Helped (Him)." Uzziah/Azariah is noted for restoring Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba, and subduing the Philistines (Nubians and/or Greeks), Arabians and Mehunims with the help of God, that is Ramses-the-Great, and as explained in the detailed narrative of his reign found in 2 Chronicles:

"And he went forth and warred against the Philistines … And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians … And the Ammonites [Thebans] gave gifts [tribute] to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly … Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out … by the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah one of the king's captains … three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred that made war with mighty power … And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread abroad; for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong."m

The Biblical narrative strangely notes that Uzziah had his own army, which would seem to go without saying for any great king, however within the context of the 19th Dynasty the statement makes more sense. The rule of Ramses the Great was completely unrivaled, however he did share power with his "Eldest Son" Amen-hir-khopshef by giving him kingly status and control over half of the army. There is no evidence of Amen-hir-khopshef in Egypt proper after Year 25 of Ramses II, and he is commonly believed to have died at this time. According to 2 Kings 15:30, Uzziah did not become king until Year 27 of Jeroboam II. The apparent discrepancy may be attributable to the maintenance by Ramses II of two sets of regnal dates, one from the time of his own election as the Libyan pharaoh Pimay, and the other as pharaoh of Egypt, which were offset by about 14 years. Therefore, the election of Amen-hir-khopshef as Libyan pharaoh could have occurred as early as Year 13 of the sole reign of Ramses II, but possibly as late as Year 27. Similarly, the 52-year Biblical reign of Uzziah would have been dated to around Year 1 of Ramses as sole ruler of Egypt, at which time Amen-hir-khopshef was still only considered High Priest and/or king (not yet pharaoh) in Upper Egypt.

If Amen-hir-khopshef was not prominent in Egypt itself, it was due to his Herculean labors in the far reaches of the empire.n By Year 27 of Ramses II at the latest, Amen-hir-khopshef had become a full-fledged pharaoh of Libya under the name of Osorkon III. As noted previously, the Libyan name Osorkon equates to the Assyrian name Assur-Dan. In the Amarna Period, Assur-Dan I & II corresponded to Osorkon I & II. Therefore it can be concluded that Osorkon III became king in Assyria under the name Assur-Dan III, as well. As a pharaoh of Libya (Judah), Osorkon III was also concerned with Upper Egypt and Nubia. The Biblical account stresses the war of Uzziah with the Philistines, which during this period would have still referred primarily, if not exclusively, to an ethnic people of Nubia. In Nubia, Osorkon III/Azar-iah was known by the Cushite variant Alara and is considered the first of a new line of Nubian dynasts.3

If this were not enough, with the help of his own "eldest son" Rudamun/Piye (Jotham) and true son Takelot/Shabaka (Ahaz), Osorkon III made inroads in Asia Minor and Greece. Rudamun/Piye (Jotham) was known by the Hittite name of Piya-ma-radus and Takelot as Uhhaz-ti, a variant of Ahaz.o Before the reign of Osorkon III/Alara was finished, he would witness and even help orchestrate the mass migration of Aegean tribes distantly related to the Philistines of Upper Egypt (also descending from the Patriarch Mizraim son of Cush).p The coming of these so-called "Peoples of the Sea" would permanently redefine both the name and traditional land of the Philistines.

Ordinarily, Paser "eldest son" of Iset-nofret and Amen-hir-khopshef "eldest son" of Nefertari would not reasonably have hoped to become anything more than glorified tanists. However, Ramses II had been placed in the role of Salitis-Joshua. He was designated as such after two earlier princes, Sheshonq II and Tutankhamun, did not live up to the challenge. Although highly coveted, the typecasting of Joshua came with a well-established downside. Upon the death of Middle Kingdom Joshua (Abi-eshuuh/Salitis), the throne transferred to a collateral line. Yakhub-Hor, the son of the formerly disgraced Samsu-iluna (Smenkhkare I) became the next "Great King." Consequently in the time of Ramses-the-Great, there would have been an expectation that his throne would also pass to a collateral line. The leading collateral lines were those of his "eldest sons," Amen-hir-khopshef/Osorkon III/Alara and Ramses/Paser. Between these two, Osorkon clearly emerged as the more dominant leader, and he began to groom his son Takelot III/Shabaka to fulfill tradition and become Great King upon the death of Ramses II.

Ramses II had further taken on the identity of Narmer, the great unifier and Joshua-figure of the Old Kingdom. Narmer, also, had not been succeeded by a natural son, but by his half-brother Snofru (Biblical Seba son of Cush).q Ramses was fully aware of family history, and diligently searched for a way to place a true son on the throne and still satisfy destiny. It was easily found in the person of Thutmose III, the 18th Dynasty Joshua-figure who was succeeded by a true son, Amenhotep II. As a precedent, Thutmose III had himself looked to the great 12th Dynasty unifier Senusret III, who passed his throne onto a true son Amenemhet III. Ramses II therefore rejected the typecasting of Joshua-Salitis and Joshua-Tut for the more favorable Joshua-Thutmose and Joshua-Senusret. However, not everyone in the royal court would have accepted this reasoning as valid, as the more logical progression was for Joshua-Salitis to come before the next "visitation" of Joshua-Thutmose.

Amen-hir-wenemef was officially recognized as the "Eldest Son." However, Ramses named Khaemwaset his oldest true by Iset-nofretr as sem-priest of Ptah, thereby symbolically designating him as heir apparent. Ramses declined to formally name either Khaemwaset or Amen-hir-khopshef as his co-regent. Instead, he reinstated the double Libyan throne. Amen-hir-khopshef was given one-half of the Libyan throne under the name Osorkon III. From Year 18, Khaemwaset also ruled alongside Ramses as a pharaoh of Libya under the name of Sheshonq (V). The throne name of Sheshonq V, Aakheperre, made identification with Amenhotep II of the 18th Dynasty and Senusret II of the 12th Dynasty, and therefore a desire on the part of Ramses for his son Khaemwaset to play the role of "Jacob-the-Grabber." In Year 30 of his 37-year reign as a pharaoh of Libya, Sheshonq V celebrated a Sed-Festival at Tanis.s This Jubilee of Khaemwaset probably coincided with the seventh Jubilee of his father observed in his Year 48. Amen-hir-khopshef, like the Biblical Esau, was a man of war. Khaemwaset, as Esau's "twin" Jacob, cultivated the reputation of a peaceable man of great learning.

Brothers of the Same Mother

By Year 48 of Ramses II, Khaemwaset had become the father of two prominent sons, Ramses and Hori. Ramses was granted titles in Lower Egypt and would eventually be appointed as a pharaoh of Libya under the name of Tefnakhte. Hori, the younger, was the son of Khaemwaset by the God's Wife of Amen, Nefertari/Kamama, and therefore a legal son of Ramses II. He was made a viceroy in Kush, attested there as Hori son of Kama(ma),t and would later be declared a pharaoh of Kush under the name of Kashta, "The Cushite." Osorkon III/Alara was also the son of Nefertari/Kamama making him a much older half-brother of Hori/Kashta. The two leading sons of Osorkon/Alara were by a daughter of Khaemwaset. His "eldest son," Rudamun/Piye, was the true son of Hori/Kashta and therefore of the natural line of Ramses II. Another son, Takelot (G) /Shabaka, was his own true son.4 As Ramses-the-Great had respected the right of Amen-hir-khopshef as "Eldest Son," so Amen-hir-khopshef was obligated to honor Rudamun/Piye. In doing so, Ramses II effectively blocked the path of Takelot/Shabaka to the greater throne, or so he thought!

When Khaemwaset died in Year 55 of his father (Year 41 of Ramses' sole reign), Ramses chose not to postpone the inevitable any longer and announced his decision regarding succession. The expected choice to take the role of Yakhub-Hor (Jacob-Hor) successor of Joshua-Salitis was Hori,u or Hori's son Rudamun-Piye. The appointment of Piye by Ramses-the-Great would have satisfied his obligation to Amen-hir-khopshef and allowed the throne to pass to his own natural descendant. However, to the surprise of many, he did not elect Piye, but Meremptah, the younger (but no longer youthful) brother of Khaemwaset. This choice can now be seen as somewhat arbitrary in that any successor of Ramses II (Joshua) would have been "destined to fall." Instead of dooming the youthful descendants of Khaemwaset, he fingered the elderly Menerptah for the fatalistic role, and with the expectation that Rudamun-Piye or another one of his true descendants would prove strong enough to take the throne from him.

The wise men must have convinced Ramses that only upon the death or defeat of Meremptah, could the throne pass to the line of Hori. This very clever strategy was employed by Ramses in an attempt to ensure that his natural line would continue on the Great Throne. Piye son of Hori would later assume the throne name of Ramses II, Usermaatre, and claim as Ramses II that he had been chosen to rule from his very conception. However, the throne was not handed to him. He had to plan, work and even fight to win it. In foresight, this must have been considered a brilliant design, and one that would actually minimize conflict. However, in hindsight it was disastrous. Piye would ultimately prevail in the struggle, but only after 20 years of horrendous civil war that surpassed even that of the Amarna Period in misery.

Meremptah (also written Merenptah, Menerptah, and Merneptah), successor of Ramses II, corresponds to the Biblical Zechariah successor of Jeroboam II. According to the Biblical accounting, the reign of Azariah/Uzziah (Osorkon III/Alara) was contemporary with that of Jeroboam II and Zechariah (Meremptah). "He [Uzziah] sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success." v This verse would indicate a friendly rather than adversarial relationship between Osorkon III and Meremptah, but it also implies that Uzziah rejected the way of the Lord in the end. Osorkon III understood that it was the "vision of God" for Meremptah to be deposed. He also knew that Ramses II intended to give the throne to another one of his true male descendants. Osorkon III was prepared to accept the will of God while God yet lived, but had other plans for the future. These specifically included placing his own true son on the throne in the place of God.

Meremptah Preempted

In the early co-regency of Meremptah with Ramses II, Meremptah upheld the pact of his father with the Hittites and sent them grain expressly to "keep them alive." Refugees had been crossing the Mediterranean by ship since the end of the 18th Dynasty. The increasing severity of drought cycles, known as the Great Mycenaean Drought, and occasional interruption of grain imports from Egypt inspired successive waves of Aegean emigration during the 19th Dynasty. The need to control (and exploit) this migration motivated Ramses II to build a number of fortresses along the coast to the west of the Delta.

Despite his wisdom and humanitarian efforts Merenptah was "humbled" in his Year 5, and as a deliberate repetition of a former "fall guy" Akhenaten in his Year 5. At that time, tens of thousands of desperate settlers suddenly broke across the Libyan embankments and spilled into the Western Delta. They were accompanied by an estimated ten thousand warriors armed with long swords. Meremptah identified the leader of the Libyan land grab as "Meryre, son of Did." Meryre is a highly generic Egyptian rubric and could apply to almost any pharaoh of Egypt or Libya. The designation of Meryre as the "son of Did" is equivalent to the Biblical phrase "son of David/Dod," which is used to distinguish kings of Judah.

The primary Libyan dynasts in the reign of Ramses II were Osorkon III and Sheshonq V. Although Sheshonq V died in Year 55 of Ramses II, his son Ramses/Tefnakht inherited his title and remained dominant in the Western Delta as a Libyan pharaoh. He is therefore most likely to be associated with "Meryre son of Did." As noted above, Amenhirkhopshef/Osorkon III the "eldest son" of Ramses II was considered the Esau/Gershon of the 19th Dynasty. Upon the death of Khaemwaset son of Ramses the role of Jacob/Kohath was transferred to Hori son of Khaemwaset. Hori's older half-brother Ramses/Tefnakhte was then typecast as Merari. Later in his career, Tefnakhte established himself as pharaoh of Egypt under the name of Setnakhte Mery-Amun-Re. The epithet Mery-Amun-Re can also be seen as an expanded form of Mery-Re (Merari). The Greek name of Tefnakhte, Stephanites, was actually a composite of Tefnakhte and Setnakhte.5

"That a Libyan king could communicate with much of the Mediterranean is no longer surprising, since recent excavations on Bate's Island, near Marsa Matruh, have produced Mycenaean and Levantine pottery and suggest that the island was something of an exchange center for the eastern Libyans. According to the Great Karnak Inscription, Meryre sought out runners from all the northern lands, men who could fight as skirmishers in hand-to-hand combat. Evidently his appeal for mercenaries fell on fertile ground in Sardinia, Sicily, southern or western Italy, Lycia, and especially northern Greece." w

Considering this new and more accurate historical context for the reign of Merneptah, it must be concluded that the Libyan pharaohs took an active, even primary role in the invasions of Sea Peoples, and as a logical part of their rivalry with the main line of Ramesside dynasts. For maximum effect, the assault on the Delta spearheaded by Tefnakhte was timed to coincide with another massive land rush along the entire Mediterranean Coast to the north. The "Coming of the Sea Peoples" in Year 5 of Menerptah's co-regency was a concerted effort by Ramses/Tefnakhte and his son Bakenranef, Hori/Kashta and his son Rudamun/Piye, and Osorkon III/Alara and his son Takelot III/Shabaka.x The rivals of Menerptah had a common cause, that is, to accomplish his downfall. They would not turn on each other until that first objective was met. The intent was not necessarily to kill Menerptah, at least while Ramses II was still living, but certainly to reduce him to the status of a minor king.

A month passed before Menerptah could organize a military response. Despite his lethargic reaction, he not only claimed to have suppressed the interlopers of the Western Delta, but also those of the northern states. An excerpt from his "Victory Stele" reads:

"The princes are prostrate and cry "Mercy!" Not one lifts his head among the Nine Bows [traditional enemies of Egypt]. Tjehnu-land [Libya] is destroyed, Khatti [Land of the Hittites] at peace, Canaan plundered with every ill, Ashkelon is taken and Gezer seized, Yeno'am made as though it never had been. Israely is desolated and has no seed, Khor [Palestine and Syria] is become a widow for [because of] To-meri [Egypt]." z

In truth Merneptah did little more than survive as a king, and that only for the sake of the still living Ramses II. Menerptah was able to construct a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. He also built a mortuary complex in Western Thebes for himself, primarily through pirating what still remained of Amenhotep III's mortuary temple. Even the stone used for his famous Victory Stele was not freshly cut but carved on the backside of a stele of Amenhotep III.aa The most significant event of his reign was the first invasion of the "Peoples of the Sea," which he dated to his Year 5. There is no archaeological record of any other activity in the final seven years of his rule. An inscription attributed to Year 8 is not conclusively his.ab Meremptah must have finished the last seven years of his co-regency as did Akhenaten in veritable exile.

After a nominal 12-year co-regency, Meremptah succeeded Ramses II, and again just as Akhenaten had succeeded Amenhotep III. Although it is not certainly known from archaeology, Meremptah likely named Seti-Meremptah as his own co-regent upon the death of Ramses II. Iset-nofret, the name of Seti-Meremptah's mother, was the same as Meremptah. This suggests that Meremptah may have produced his heir, as did Akhenaten, through his own mother. If Meremptah also expected a five-year reign ala Akhenaten, he would be disappointed. The Biblical Kings narrative states that Zechariah ruled for only six That is, only six months after the passing of his father Ramses II, Merenptah was brutally assassinated. His House valiantly fought on, but eventually succumbed to the combined forces of those determined to satisfy their own typecasting and take the throne for themselves.

The Bible states that Zechariah (Menerptah) was "struck down" by a man named Shallum, who became king in his place. Examination of Menerptah's mummy revealed multiple traumas to the head, one to the clavicle on the right side, a four-inch hole in the abdomen, and a shattered right Yet, whether all of the injuries to Merenptah were the result of his assassination, or were inflicted upon his mummy in part after death is difficult to assess, as can be said for nearly all mummies of the period. Only one mummy, that of Amenhotep II, seems to have suffered no damage either during the king's lifetime or in Besides being the thirteenth son of Ramses II, Menerptah had thirteen dorsal vertebrae (instead of twelve) and thirteen ribs (instead of twelve).

According to the Biblical account, Shallum was in turn vanquished by Menahem only one month later. Menahem corresponds to the pharaoh Amenmesses, who is next in the Egyptian king-list after Menerptah. Instead of upholding the right of Seti II to the throne, Amenmesses claimed it for himself. For this, he was later called "the usurper" by Setnakhte. The Kings narrative of the Bible is careful to interject that the assassination of Zechariah was actually a fulfillment of prophesy! af Jehuag had been promised a dynasty like David's, that is, extending for four generations and no more. The direct descendants of Thutmose I ruled Egypt for four generations before the "Exodus" of Akhenaten. Likewise, the successors of Jehu (Ipy) on the throne of Israel ruled for four generations (Ramses I, Seti I, Ramses II and Menerptah), but were to be allowed no more. In that twisted sense, the calamity visited upon Menerptah and the exodus associated with his reign was perceived as justified, as well as his very murder. Both the 18th Dynasty and 19th Dynasty lines recovered long enough to include a fifth generation. However, the issue taken by the Biblical author is that the Ramessid dynasty was not to be considered greater than that of the earlier Thutmossid!

The new king Menahem dealt savagely with those who dared to oppose his rule. "Menahem … attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women." ah The name Menahem ironically means "comforter" in Hebrew, but might also be interpreted as "a brother endures," i.e., a brother of Menerptah. The Kings narrative has provided the most literal example imaginable of what Meremptah was alluding to in his own Victory Stele by the statements: "Israel … has no seed," and "Canaan is plundered with every evil." The more graphic description of the Bible reflects the desperate measures taken to gain and maintain dominance over the royal family and the empire. The collective peace and prosperity of Ramses the Great was deemed expendable in the pursuit of individual prerogative. The restraint of Ramses II (Jeroboam II) had saved Israel. Menerptah (Zechariah), Amenmesses (Menahem) and their rivals consumed them in the "total war" of unbounded egomaniacal fury. Terror arrested Law. The people were made to suffer and to blame for not serving the right god.

  1. Karamat D
  2. As noted previously, Horemheb modeled his throne name after Amenhotep I.
  3. Ahmose-Nefertari is generally considered to be the daughter Sequenenre Tao II.
  4. A daughter of Takelot II is known to have held the title of God's Wife. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Ian Shaw, ed., p 361.
  5. A statuette of Kamama, acquired by Champollion and now in the Louvre, is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of all Egyptian history. Photos of this work are found at: ( It also bears a striking resemblance in style to a statue of the young Ramses II found at Tanis. See photo in Joyce Tyldesley, Ramesses, Fig. 19.
  6. (Year 39 or 40 as Sheshonq III pharaoh of Libya)
  7. Joyce Tyldesley, Ramesses, p 168.
  8. Ibid.
  9. The Libyan name of Ramses-Paser was perhaps Bakenptah, who was a brother and partner of Osorkon III. (See, Aidon Dodson, Monarchs of the Nile, p 172)
  10. Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, p 256.
  11. Joyce Tyldesley, Ramesses, p 148.
  12. 2 Kings 15:1-7
  13. 2 Chron. 26:8-15 (KJV)
  14. Certainly he was renowned in Egypt, but that fame did not necessarily result in a strong archaeological record of him there in terms of monuments and inscriptions.
  15. Piya-radus and Uhhaz-ti are called king of Ahi-Ya or Ahi-Yawa, Yawa being pronounced as in Yaweh, and connoting "Land of Yaweh."
  16. Genesis 10:13
  17. Genesis 10:7
  18. Pre-hir-wenemef was the only older true son.
  19. Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, p 330.
  20. Ibid, p 271.
  21. The very name of Hori suggests that he intended to play the part of the earlier Yakhub-Hor.
  22. 2 Chronicles 26:5 (NIV). The NIV notes that in some manuscripts have "vision" instead of "fear" in this verse.
  23. Robert Drews, End of the Bronze Age, p 216.
  24. Rudamun/Piye was appointed as a Libyan pharaoh close to the time of the invasion of Menerptah's Year 5. Takelot III son of Osorkon III did not became a Libyan pharaoh until several years later.
  25. One of the territories reportedly brought back into submission by Menerptah was Israel. For this reason, Menerptah's "Victory Stele" is also called the "Israel Stele."
  26. Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p 273, parentheticals [ ] mine.
  27. Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, p 158.
  28. Donald Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p 228.
  29. 2 Kings15:8
  30. Maurice Bucaille, Mummies of the Pharaohs: Modern Medical Investigations, pp 90-91.
  31. This point is well made by Bob Brier in his book Egyptian Mummies.
  32. 2 Kings 15:16
  33. 2 Kings 10:30
  34. 2 Kings 15:16 (NIV)

Note 1:

Tuya passed away around Year 22 of her son Ramses II, but was replaced as God's Wife by Nefertari upon the death of Seti I. Tuya was best remembered outside Egypt as the legendary queen Sammu-ramat/Semi-ramis, who acted as regent for her young son in Assyria. (However, contrary to the legend, she may have been more active before the death of her husband Shamshi-Adad V (Seti I) than after.) The name Sammu-ramat is an obvious variant of the Libyan Ka-ramat. However, there were a number of God's Wives who went by this same name/title. The legend of Sammu-ramat (a.k.a. Semi-ramis) is probably a composite of the exploits of more than one of these women, with an emphasis on Karamat A (Queen Tiye), Karamat G (Tuya wife of Seti) and possibly also Karamat D (Nefertari).

According to two inscriptions of Adad-nirari III son of Shashi-adad V and Queen Semiramis, he besieged Damascus and received tribute from its king Mari. (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, J. Pritchard, ed., pp 281-282) A third Assyrian inscription of Adad-Nirari III at tell Er Rimah mentions "the tribute of Iu'asu (Jehoash) the Samaritan." - The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p 227. (

This latter inscription provides another example of a father Shamshi-adad V (Joash/Jehoash) sending tribute to a favored son and successor, Adad-nirari III (Jeroboam II). Shamshi-adad V/Seti I was himself the true son of Tiglath-pileser II//Ramses I, and only son of Shalmaneser III in a political sense. The combined efforts of Tiglath-pileser II and Osorkon II (Horemheb) brought down the House of Shalmaneser III in Assyria.

Other Links on Adad-nirari III:

Note 2:

Nefertari Links

Note 3:

Alara is the first king of the proto-25th (Nubian) Dynasty that is attested by archaeology. However, he claimed to have been the 7th king of his line. Unfortunately, he does not name his predecessors, so it is not clear how Osorkon would have computed the succession order. The six kingly forefathers of Alara from a biological perspective were as follows: Pedubastet/Nakhtmin - Sheshonq/Aye - Nimlot/Thutmose IV - Sheshonq A/Amenhotep II - Thutmose III - Thutmose I. Prior to Osorkon III, there had been ten kings of Libya/Judah who held pharaonic status, viz., Sheshonq I, II & III, Osorkon I & II, Takelot I & II, Harsiese, Pedubastet and Pimay. If he only considered there to have been one senior Libyan pharaoh at any given time, then his six predecessors on the Libyan throne would have been Pimay, Sheshonq III, Takelot II, Osorkon II, Osorkon I and Sheshonq I.

Note 4:

There is also an etymology link between Tentsai (mother of Takelot III and Rudamun) and Jerusha (the mother of Jotham/Piye and Ahaz/Shabaka). Jerusha means, "possessed." It is the feminine past participle of the verb "to have, occupy, possess." The name Jerusalem means, "to establish (possess) peace." The root ten or tent also means, "to have." Cf Latin tenere, "to hold" and the English words tenement and tenet. Cf Latin detentus, attentio, retentio and English detention, attention, retention. Therefore, Jerusha is an adaptation of the name Tentsai, or vice versa.

Cf Mandarin sai/tsai, "to plant" as in bonsai, "(to) plant in a (shallow) pot." Ten-tsai = have planted/established, therefore, possessed. Cf Japanese cities Saipan, Saishu/Che-ju.

Note 5:

Stephanites is formed by adding an "s" in front of Tefnakhte and transposing the "n" and "a." "Ste" is also "Set" with the "t" and "e" transposed. The hybridized Setnakhte/Tefnakhte (Stephanites) was also written by the historian Diodorus as Tnephachton, with the "n" of "nakhte" transposed to the beginning of the name.

The elder son of Khaemwaset was named Ramses, but assumed the Libyan name of Shepsesre Tefnakhte. The Libyan throne name Shepsesre made identification with the Old Kingdom pharaoh Shepseskaf and/or Shepseskare of the Old Kingdom, successor of Menkhaure (See Chart 14a). This choice indicates that this prince was not content with the Libyan throne, but aspired to the greater throne of Egypt. Tefnakhte and the variant Setnakhte also associate him with the late Hyksos Period king Se-nakht-enre Tao I (Apophis I). Consistent with this typecasting, Ramses/Tefnakhte was the heir apparent to Ramses II, but lost the succession due to the premature death of his father Khaemwaset. And like Tao/Apophis, he was indefatigable in the quest to recover that inheritance. Soon after declaring himself pharaoh of Egypt, Tefnakhte/Setnakhte would suffer a second crushing defeat at the hands of Piye. True to his role model Apophis, he survived that one as well and made yet another comeback. These events will be discussed in full in the following chapters.

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