Pharoah Shishak’s Invasion in Archeology


The Bubastite Portal wall relief in Karnak, Egypt. (Inset. The Shishak fragment from Megiddo at the Rockerfeller Museum in Jerusalem.)

As recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 12 (and 1 Kings 14:25), early in the reign of King Rehoboam, the newly separate Kingdom of Judah is invaded by Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt. Is there any evidence for this invasion in the archeological record? Yes there is! On the wall of the temple of Amon-Ra in Karnak Egypt, there is a memorial to an ancient military campaign. The wall surrounds a gate called the “Bubastite Portal”. It lists a series of cities in both Judah and Israel that were conquered by the Pharoah “Shoshenq”. This Pharoah is recognized by most historians as the Biblical Shishak.

The “Bubastite Portal”

Hebrew Prisoner from the Bubastite Portal

Each Judean or Israelite city is represented as a Hebrew prisoner with his arms bound behind him.

Every conquered city is represented as a word group surrounded by an oval (called a cartouche) and a representation of an enslaved Hebrew man with his arms tied behind his back. Unfortunately, the portion of the wall where Judean cities would have been listed is mostly unreadable due to the ravages of time and none of the surviving word groups specifically say Jerusalem (though they may have at one time).  However, one of the world’s leading Egyptologists Kenneth Kitchen, translates one word group as “Highlands of David”. According to Kitchen, this would refer not specifically to Jerusalem but rather to the general area of Judea. The city of Jerusalem may have been recorded in one of the other parts of the wall which are now illegible. If Kitchen is correct about the “Highlands of David” cartouche, than it would be the earliest reference to David outside of the Bible (occurring only 50 years after David’s death). There are two other references to David on ancient non-Israelite monuments. One is on the Mesha Stele (also called the Moabite Stone) and the other is Tel Dan Stele discovered in 1993.

According to the Bible account, the Egyptian pharaoh did not need to take Jerusalem by force. King Rehoboam as well as the princes of the land, “humbled themselves and said: “Jehovah is righteous.” (2 Chronicles 12: 6) Consequently a prophet of God named Shemaiah informed Rehoboam that God would not allow the city to be destroyed and that he would rescue them but he added, “they will become his servants, so that they will know the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.” (2 Chronicles 12: 8) When Pharaoh Shishak came to Jerusalem he stripped the city and the beautiful temple built by King Solomon of its wealth and precious metals and brought them back to Egypt. The city was spared but what a high price they paid!

The Megiddo Stele

One of the word groups on the Bubastite Portal that can be read specifies that the ancient Israelite city of Megiddo was conquered by Shoshenq (Shishak). At the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem there is a fragment (see the inset photo above) of a victory monument dedicated to Shoshenq and discovered by archeologists in Megiddo. This monument would have served to commemorate Shishak’s victorious campaign. The Shishak fragment helps to confirm the accuracy of the Shishak list in Karnak. There can be no doubt of the accuracy of the Bible account!

Photo Credits:

Bubastite Portal. Source: UCLA Digital Karnak project, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5).

Egyptian Cartouche from the Bubastite Portal. {PD} Source: Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Pharoah Shishak’s Invasion in Archeology

  1. Here’s an idea… What about a “site map” at the bottom of the page with every passing listed, so we could easily go to a page we read before…?

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