Pharaoh Shishak as Pharaoh Shoshenq I

Late in the reign of Solomon ca. 943 BC, a new Pharaoh named Shoshenq I arose in Egypt, although his interactions were with Solomon’s successors rather than Solomon himself (1 Kings 11:40). Shoshenq I continued to reign after the death of Solomon and into the early period of the Divided Kingdom. This king of Egypt appears around the time of the kings Jeroboam of Israel and Rehoboam of Judah, who were the first kings after the death of Solomon and the split of the kingdom into north and south. In absolute chronology, this is sometime around roughly 930 BC. Because of chronological, historical, and linguistic connections, the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I is considered by many Egyptologists, archaeologists, and historians to be the same person as the Pharaoh Shishak mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles. Shoshenq I was founder of the 22nd Dynasty, and according to conventional Egyptian chronology he reigned ca. 943-922 BC. This period falls at the end of the reign of Solomon and at the beginning of the reigns of Jeroboam and Rehoboam.

Shishak is mentioned in 3 passages in the books of Kings and Chronicles: 1 Kings 11, 1 Kings 14, and 2 Chronicles 12. The first mentions Shishak while Solomon was still alive, but near the end of his reign. “Solomon sought to put Jeroboam to death, but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:40). This indicates that Shishak was reigning before the death of Solomon, which is in line with the conventional Egyptian chronology if Shishak is Shoshenq I. The other two passages mentioning Shishak narrate the Egyptian campaign against Judah in the 5th year of Rehoboam, ca. 925 BC, and a forced tribute at Jerusalem. “It happened in the 5th year of King Rehoboam that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. He took the treasures of the house of the Yahweh and the treasures of the king’s house. He took everything.  He also took all the shields of gold which Solomon had made” (1 Kings 14:25-26). “In the 5th year of King Rehoboam, because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem…he took the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem…So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem and took the treasures of the house of the Yahweh and the treasures of the palace of the king. He took everything. He even took the golden shields which Solomon had made” (2 Chronicles 12:1-9). Both passages describe a campaign of Pharaoh Shishak against Judah during the 5th year of Rehoboam in which Shishak and his army took the fortified cities of Judah and arrived at Jerusalem, where a tribute was paid but the city was not attacked. The passages do not comment on the status of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Jeroboam at this time, although the book of Kings does mention “the acts of Jeroboam, how he made war and how he reigned…” which could in part refer to war with Shishak (1 Kings 14:19).

On the wall of the Bubastite Portal at the Temple of Amun in Karnak, there is a list of place names is recorded in relation to Egyptian military conquest during the reign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I. These place names are locations within Israel, Judah, and the Negev desert, and thus would be an account of military action against King Jeroboam of Israel and King Rehoboam of Judah linked to what is recorded in 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings. According to the topographical lists, cities of both Israel and Judah were involved in this conquest or tribute expedition of Pharaoh Shoshenq I. Although the names Jeroboam and Rehoboam are not found in the Egyptian inscriptions, this is expected as the list contains only geographical names, not personal names. It does, however, list several known cities in both the territories of Israel and Judah. The name “Jerusalem” does not appear on the list, but a place name Yehudmelek, which could be translated “King of Judah” or “Capital of Judah,” may be referring to the royal seat of the Kingdom of Judah which was at Jerusalem.

Archaeological excavations found that several of the cities which appear on the list were destroyed in the 10th century BC, at the time of Jeroboam, Rehoboam, and Shoshenq I. In the southern part of the Kingdom of Judah there are clear signs of the 10th century BC cities of Beersheba and Arad being destroyed, probably due to the campaign of Shoshenq I. Arad is one of the cities found on the topographical campaign list of Shoshenq I. The clearest evidence of this campaign against Israel and Judah is supported both by a late 10th century BC destruction layer and fragmentary victory stele at Megiddo containing the cartouche of Shoshenq I. This evidence, combined with the appearance of Megiddo city on the campaign list at the Temple of Amun in Karnak, conclusively demonstrates that Shoshenq I campaigned against Israel and Judah at the time of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, and thus he should be the same as Pharaoh Shishak mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles.

While the chronology and the military campaign of Shoshenq I from Egyptian records appear to line up with the chronology and military campaign of Shishak from Hebrew records in the Bible, some scholars have argued that they are not the same Pharaoh. Reasons range from massively revisionist chronologies to objections about the linguistic equation of Egyptian “Shoshenq” with Hebrew “Shishak.” At this time, there is no apparent need for a massive chronological revision, and the Shoshenq I-Shishak connection helps form another important chronological anchor for the ancient world. Claims that the names are linguistically incompatible, however, must be addressed.

Although the Hebrew spelling appears to be different from the conventional Egyptian spelling (the initial vowel included in the name, unlike the Egyptian spelling which did not write the vowels, use of a “K” instead of a “Q,” and the exclusion of the “N”), Shishak in Hebrew is actually spelled with the equivalent “Q”, and “Shoshenq” is attested in some Egyptian inscriptions without the “N” included in his name (cf. Karnak Priestly Annals from Thebes). The vowel difference between Shoshenq and Shishak is also easily explained. In 1 Kings 14:25, the name is actually spelled shwshaq, or with an initial “O” vowel (in the other passages there may have been a vowel shift or a copying error). In Akkadian texts, also a Semitic language, the name is spelled shwsanq—very similar, but with the “N” included. As some Egyptian inscriptions attest the absence of “N” and Akkadian texts attest the initial vowel as a long “O,” the spelling in 1 Kings 14 may be considered perfectly correct and acceptable for the name of Pharaoh Shoshenq I, and should not be attributed to another Pharaoh. The Egyptian conquest events in Israel and Judah, the time period, and the Pharaoh name coincide with the accounts of the conquest of Shishak/Shoshenq I recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles. The data from archaeological excavations and ancient texts demonstrates correct parallel historical accounts from the late 10th century BC time of Shoshenq I, Jeroboam, and Rehoboam, albeit from the different perspectives of Egypt and Judah, and serves as both a key chronological anchor and an example of the historical accuracy of the narratives about the Divided Kingdom period in the Bible.


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