Damien F. Mackey
Before long [Hat]she[psut] will put aside all pretence and declare herself as the
first ruler of the land, duly (though bizarrely) adding a manly beard to her statues.
King Solomon will enter the land at her request and will greatly assist her as Senenmut (Senmut), her multi-tasking Steward, her quasi-royal consort, and her (you name it) – Senenmut being, according to some “the real power behind the throne”.
Essential here is my identification of Hatshepsut with King Solomon’s “Queen of Sheba”:
Hatshepsut’s progression from Israel, Beersheba, to woman-ruler of Egypt
The following sequence (i-v) is basically how I see the extraordinary progression of the career of Hatshepsut Maatkare, from
- a princess in King David’s realm, beginning in the king’s old age, through vicissitudes and desolation, and rebellion in the kingdom of Israel, to become
- the Queen of Beersheba, appointed there by her maternal ‘grandfather’, Tolmai of (southern) Geshur (“Gezer”), who would succeed Amenhotep I as ruler of Egypt and Ethiopia, as Thutmose I, to her
- visit and marriage to King Solomon in Jerusalem at the height of his wisdom and power, to her
- subsequent marriage in Egypt to Thutmose II, whom she would succeed as
- woman-ruler of Egypt and Ethiopia alongside her ‘nephew’ Thutmose III.
and my identification (in the same article) of Hatshepsut’s quasi-royal Steward, Senenmut, with King Solomon himself.
The following article provides us with an excellent account of the wise King Solomon and his “encyclopedic knowledge”: https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/solomon-the-scholar/
Solomon’s own intellectual investments certainly paid off. His knowledge and wisdom far surpassed the leading sages and scholars of his day. Whether it was the sons of the East who were celebrated for the sciences and sagacity, or the Egyptians who were legendary for their knowledge of medicine, geometry, mathematics, astronomy and gnomic wisdom, Solomon was smarter and wiser still. He even topped a formidable list of “Who’s Who” among the great intellectuals in the ancient world. In verse 31 we read that Solomon was wiser than all men—better than the best and brighter than the brightest. This included such notables as the learned Levitical priests Ethan and Heman, and the more enigmatic Calcol and Darda, both sons of Mahol (a family with smart genes, evidently) who were prominent for their erudite contributions. If these men were renowned, Solomon was more so. Solomon’s fame was widespread, not just at home in Jerusalem, Judah or Israel, but in the surrounding nations, or as we might say today, globally. Note that this acclaim is not attributed to a pagan thinker, or to a secularist, if you will, but rather to an Israelite, to a person of faith, to a man of God.
If we were to update the point to the present, perhaps we might say that Solomon’s intellectual reputation would exceed Ox-Bridge, the Ivies, and Canada’s most celebrated institutions (not to mention other worldwide notables). He would be considered smarter than the best in the West and wiser than the academics in Asia. Shouldn’t there be a few persons or institutions of Christian persuasion with a comparable reputation today?
The boast about Solomon’s scholarship was not an empty one. Solomon was not only a prolific writer and composer, but he also possessed encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world. Of the 3,000 proverbs he composed, 375 of them are preserved for us in the Old Testament book of Proverbs that makes the fear of God the prerequisite for wisdom and knowledge. Also, Solomon’s grand total of 1005 songs include Psalm 72, which tackles kingly politics, and Psalm 127, which addresses the subjects of providence and parenting. Solomon’s number one hit, of course, was the Song of Songs, a lovely lyrical meditation on the holy meaning of marriage and sexuality that simultaneously symbolizes the ardent nature of God’s love for His people.
Solomon was shrewd to express his ideas in the influential genres of maxims and music. After all, our lives and the world are very much governed by proverbs, since apt and timely thoughts frequently fix our notions and determine our conduct (says Matthew Henry). As we read in Proverbs 15:1, for example, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” These are good words to believe in and to live by. And as Plato noted, rhythm and melody insinuate themselves in a life-shaping way into the innermost parts of the soul. Music has this mysterious ability to inscribe itself deep in our hearts. …. How smart it is, then, to devote considerable energy to the transformative republics of letters and lyrics in which Solomon’s own contributions are nothing short of astounding.
If this was not enough, Solomon was also an accomplished natural philosopher or scientist whose knowledge of trees, plants and animals is highlighted in verse 33. If we combine Solomon’s compositional achievements with his extensive knowledge of dendrology and botany, as well as zoology, ornithology, entomology and ichthyology, then we can see why it would be appropriate to acknowledge him, anachronistically so, as a true “Renaissance man.” Indeed, Solomon was the ancient world’s polymath par excellence.
Solomon’s prodigious efforts had a goal—shalom, or peace. His labour was devoted to securing the common good of the surrounding nations, and he worked especially hard to procure the well-being of his own people. As 1 Kings 4:25 memorably recalls, “Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.” As if he were a new Adam, Solomon embodied the original cultural mandate of Genesis 1, which is constitutive of human identity as God’s image and likeness. On this foundation, Solomon’s fruitful labours illustrate for us the deep meaning and permanent nobility of the tasks of education, learning and culturemaking. If we could ask God for anything at all, shouldn’t we beseech him to restore a profound understanding of this abiding purpose in us?
Solomon’s efforts were not without recognition. As we have already seen, Solomon was internationally famous for his knowledge and wisdom. He was a veritable “tourist attraction” (as Walter Brueggemann says), for commoners and kings alike came from all over the world to obtain his insights. As the world’s centerpiece of culture and scholarship, many strangers came to Solomon where they were exposed, not only to Solomon’s knowledge and wisdom, but also to Yahweh—Solomon’s God.
His most famous guest, of course, was the Queen of Sheba. In the account of her visit in 1 Kings 10, we read that the Queen spoke with Solomon about all that was in her heart, and Solomon himself answered all her questions. As the texts states, he explained everything to her. I wish I could have overheard that conversation.
Upon hearing his wisdom and observing his prosperity, the Queen was overwhelmed. There was no more spirit left in her. Though skeptical of the things she had heard about Solomon at first, she came to believe that not even half of his magnificence had been reported to her. She proceeded to bless Solomon’s servants and subjects who attended to him and heard his teachings daily. Most importantly, she blessed God who had blessed Solomon and enabled him to become Israel’s wise, just, and righteous king. The Queen’s visit shows that the quest for truth and wisdom can ultimately lead to its divine source, demonstrating the evangelistic or missional potential of education and scholarship pursued avidly in God.
[End of quote]
So, if Solomon were Senenmut, as I am firmly maintaining, then we would hardly expect the latter to have been any sort of ‘dumbbell’. Nor was he. The word “genius” is frequently applied to Senenmut, as regards his administration, his architecture, literature, and so on.
We read about his grand status in Egypt. “Senenmut did not underestimate his own abilities”: https://www.gardenvisit.com/biography/senenmut
Senenmut (or Senmut or Sen-En-Mut) held the titles of ‘Overseer of the Gardens of Amun’, ‘Steward of Amun’, ‘Overseer of all Royal Works’ and ‘Tutor to the Royal Heiress Neferure’. His dates are uncertain but he advised Queen Hatshepsut on many topics and is generally credited with the design of her mortuary temple at Deir el Bahri (Djeser-Djeseru). …. his tomb has the earliest astronomical ceiling. …. Over 25 other statues of the man described as ‘greatest of the great’ survive. They show him holding Neferure, or kneeling for an act of worship with outstretched arms. Without evidence, it has long been suggested that he was Hatshepsut’s lover. The influence of Hatshepsut’s temple garden is undocumented but as Gothein wrote ‘Here stands out for the very first time in the history of art a most magnificent idea – that of building three terraces, one above the other, each of their bordering walls set against the mountain-side, and made beautiful with pillared corridors, the actual shrine in a cavity in the highest terrace which was blasted out of the rock’. [See Marie-Luise Gothein on Egyptian gardens] Senenmut’s dates are unknown but Hatshepsut reigned from 1479–1458 BC [sic] and Senemut is reported to have been about 50 in the 16th year of her reign … and no event in his life is recorded after this date ….
Senemut did not underestimate his own abilities:
He says: “I was the greatest of the great in the whole land;
one who heard the hearing alone in the privy council, steward of [Amon],
Senemut , triumphant.”
“I was the real favorite of the king, acting as one praised of his lord
every day, the overseer of the cattle of Amon, Senemut.”
“I was ‘… of truth, not showing partiality; with whose injunctions
the Lord of the Two Lands was satisfied; attached to Nekhen, prophet
of Mat, Senemut .”
“I was one who entered in [love], sand came forth in favor, making
glad the heart of the king every day, the companion, and master of .the
palace, Senemut .”
“I commanded … in the storehouse of divine offerings of Amon
every tenth day; the overseer of the storehouse of Amon, Senemut .”
“I conducted … of the gods every day, for the sake of the life,
prosperity, and health of the king; overseer of the … of Amon, Senemut.”
“I was a foreman of foremen, superior of the great, … [overseer] of
all [works] of the house of silver, conductor of every handicraft, chief of
the prophets of Montu in Hermonthis, Senemut .”
“I was one I… to whom the affairs of the Two Lands were [reported;
that which South and North contributed was on my seal, the labor of
all countries … was [under] my charge.”
“I was one, whose steps were known in the palace; a real confidant
of the king, his beloved: overseer of the gardens of Amon, Senemut.”
[End of quotes]
Senenmut could also boast: “… now, I have penetrated into every writing of the priests and I am not ignorant of (everything) that happened from the first occasion in order to make flourish my offerings” (Urk. IV 415.14–16; Morenz 2002, p. 134).46”
“An aspect of Senenmut’s originality was his invention of a number of composite devices, or cryptograms”. We read about this in Hatshepsut, from Queen to Pharaoh (ed. By Catharine H. Roehrig, Renée Dreyfus, Cathleen A. Keller), pp. 117-118:
An aspect of Senenmut’s originality was his invention of a number of composite devices, or cryptograms. Two of these appear on two block statues from Karnak that depict Senenmut and the King’s Daughter, Neferure … incised near the head of the princess …. The first cryptogram shows a flying vulture, with a protective wedjat eye superimposed on its body, grasping a set of ka arms in its talons. It faces a striding male figure with a composition was and ankh device instead of a head and holding a tall was sceptre and an ankh sign in the usual manner of Egyptian divinities. (The was symbolised power, the ankh eternal life). These cryptograms have been interpreted as standing for Hatshepsut’s prenomen (Maatkare) and nomen (Khenemet Amun Hatshepsut), respectively … and thus as constituting “new” ways of writing the king’s cartouches on the statue. Senenmut stresses their originality in an additional text inscribed on both statues on the left of the princess’s head: “Images which I have made from the devising of my own heart and from my own labor; they have not been found in the writing of the ancestors”.
The most common device associated with Senenmut, however, is the uraeus cryptogram, which takes the form of a cobra crowned with bovine horns and a solar disc rearing up form a pair of ka arms …. This emblem was initially interpreted as a rebus rendering of the kingly Horus name of Hatshepsut, Wosretkaw, … and subsequently as a rebus of her prenomen: Maat (the cobra) + ka + Re (the sun disk) = Maatkare.’ …. Alternatively, it has been understood … as referring to the harvest god- dess Renenutet, Mistress of Food, who takes the form of the cobra, guardian of the granary from rodent predators (ka here meaning “provisions” or “food”).” As recent scholars have noted, it quite likely referred to both the king and the goddess. ….