pharaonic Egypt Bible bending

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Ezra and ‘Uzair

Published May 30, 2018 by amaic

Story of Prophet Uzair/Ezra a.s

Ezra ‘Father of the Jews’

dying the death of Razis


Part Three:

Appropriated as ‘Uzair of the Koran (Qur’an)




“… if the equation ‘Uzair = Ezra be valid, and there seems no reason to gainsay it, then Mohammed had either been misinformed, or had purposely invented this queer dogma”.

 J. Walker



This is the opinion of J. Walker, as expressed in his article “Who is ‘Uzair?”:

Though I have been at pains to show in articles that the Prophet Mohammed (Muhammad) was not a real flesh-and-blood historical person – but a biblical composite.

And the same is probably true of this ‘Uzair of the Koran.


Walker writes:


A Koranic passage which has bewildered many students, is that anent … the name of ‘Uzair. It is the sole reference … in the Koran to a personage whose identity is by no means certain, but is usually equated with that of the biblical Ezra. The Sura (IX) in which it is found is of the late Medina period, and the verse in question (30) reads: “The Jews say ‘Uzair (Ezra?) is God’s son: and the Christians say, the Messiah is God’s son… How are they misguided!”


The interpretation of this may be taken in the expanded form found in Damir (Hayat al-Hayawan, trans. Jayakar, Vol. I. 553), as follows:-


“When ‘Uzair claimed that God had sent him to the Jews to renew the Pentateuch they disbelieved saying, ‘God has not placed the Pentateuch in the memory of anyone after its being lost, unless he is His son,’ so they called him, ‘Uzair ibn Allah.”


The difficulty that presents itself is the fact that no historical evidence can be adduced to prove that any Jewish sect, however heterodox, ever subscribed to such a tenet. What grounds were there for the accusation? Was it a figment of Mohammed’s [sic] own imagination? Rodwell frankly believes it was. Goldziher accepts it as “a malevolent metaphor for the great respect which was paid by the Jews to the memory of Ezra as the restorer of the Law and from which Ezra legends of apocryphal literature (II. Esdra, XXXIV, 37-49) originated ….” But we are inclined to inquire, if it were “a malevolent metaphor,” on whose side was the malevolence? Whence originated such an accusation? It is not probable that the Prophet uttered an indictment of this nature in a city like Medina where Jews abounded, without some foundation.


The Jewish post-biblical writings do not seem to yield any possible solution for this erroneous statement. The quotation from the Talmud (Sanhedrim, 21, 2) given by Geiger … to the effect that Ezra would have been worthy of receiving the Law had Moses not preceded him, does not assist us in unraveling the puzzle. Lidzbarski … favors the possibility of a Jewish sect in Arabia venerating Ezra to such a degree as to deify him; thus casting shame on their orthodox brethren.


All these views are held on the supposition that the text of the Koranic passage is reliable. Emendations, of course, on the other hand, have been proposed, but it always seems a precarious operation to have resort to conjectural alteration in order to elucidate a troublesome text. There are two such textual emendations which have been proposed and which are worthy of mention because of their ingenuity. The first is by Casanova … who reads ‘Uzail instead of ‘Uzair, and equates with ‘Azael, who, according to the Jewish Hagada, is the leader of the “sons of God” of Genesis VI:2, 4. The second is by J. Finkel … who alters the diacritic points, substitutes z for r, and reads Aziz – “king” or “potentate”. This emended text he connects with the verse in the Psalms (2:7): “The Lord said unto me, thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee.”


In spite of such conjectures, however, Horovitz (op. cit. 167), considers that there is no reason to doubt the equation ‘Uzair = Ezra. He himself in this treatment of the subject (op. cit. 127-128) suggests in conclusion that, “it is very probable that Mohammed received his information from a Jewish or Judeo-Christian sect who revered Ezra in similar manner as certain sects did Melchisdek (See Epiphan. Haeres, LV, 1-9)”.


To conclude, if the equation ‘Uzair = Ezra be valid, and there seems no reason to gainsay it, then Mohammed had either been misinformed, or had purposely invented this queer dogma. Certainly among the Jews, Ezra the Scribe, the second Moses, as leader of the men of the Great Synagogue played a most important part in the editing of the Jewish Scriptures and the re-establishment of Judaism in Zion after the Captivity, but so far as is known, no Jewish sect ever held such an extreme doctrine as is herein imputed to them by Mohammed. If the idea did not germinate in Mohammed’s own mind, and since it is quite alien to Judaism, it is obviously a slanderous accusation made against the Jews by their protagonists. I would suggest therefore that perhaps the libelers were none other than their old enemies the Samaritans, who hated Ezra above all because he changed the sacred Law and its holy script. We do not readily associate the Samaritans with matters Islamic but in a very able article (in the Encyclopedia of Islam on the Samaritans) Dr. Gaster has demonstrated that Mohammed seems to have made several borrowing from Samaritan sources. May not this be another?


Let us look at the question through Samaritan eyes. Ezra had acted presumptuously. He had changed the old divine alphabetic character of the holy Books of the Law – a character still used and revered to this day by the rapidly dwindling Samaritan community – for the mercantile Aramaic script. He had acted in a dictatorial manner as if he were God Himself, or the very Son of God. The Samaritans, thoroughly shocked, accused the Jews of following Ezra … and accepting his new edition of the sacred text. They not only accused the Jews of altering the sacred scriptures. Dr. Gaster (in his Schweich Lectures on the Samaritans) indeed proposes to find in this the origin of Mohammed’s conception of the Tahrif, or the doctrine of the corruption of the Holy Bible by the People of the Book. For example, in Sura IV, 48: “Among the Jews are those who displace the words of the Scriptures.” If Dr. Gaster’s suggestion be correct, then Mohammed had found an ally against the Jews in the Samaritans. And if he found the accusations of the latter a useful weapon against the former in one instance, might he not do likewise in another instance, and that especially in the case of a personality like Ezra, whose name was the subject of controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans? Mohammed we know may have acquired his information from the Samaritans during his journeying to Syria, but on the other hand there might have been Samaritan off-shoots in Arabia, although no trace of such is discoverable in the historical records, unless a vestige be found in the feud of Sumair between the two Jewish tribes of Medina. That is highly problematical, and need not be stressed. But it is not at all unlikely that the source of Mohammed’s indictment of the Jews is to be found amongst the Samaritans or amongst Arab tribesmen of Samaritan strain. If we found in Samaritan literature the opposite belief that Ezra (or Uzair) was the son of Satan, we would be well-nigh sure of having settled the matter. Unfortunately, access to Samaritan records is not possible at the moment for the present writer, and the argument from silence is not of substantial value. ….




Roman anomalies associated with Francesco Petrarch

Published May 1, 2018 by amaic
Image result for petrarch and rome

Famous Roman Republicans

beginning to loom as spectral



Part Five:

Roman anomalies associated with Francesco Petrarch




 Damien F. Mackey


“Apollo was rumoured to have been an astrologer, the devil, and the god of the Saracens! Plato was considered to have been a doctor, Cicero a knight and a troubadour, Virgil a mage who blocked the crater of the Vesuvius, etc”.


Could some of the following, at least, be true?

(I do not necessarily accept the dates given below):


…. How Petrarch created the legend of the

glory of Italian Rome out of nothing


…. In 1974 the world celebrated 600 years since the death of Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374), the first prominent writer of the Middle Ages who, according to Leonardo Bruni, “had been the first who… could understand and bring into light the ancient elegance of the style that had been forlorn and forgotten before” ([927]).


The actual persona of Petrarch is nowadays perceived as mysterious, vague and largely unclear, and reality often becomes rather obfuscated. But we are talking about the events of the XIV century here! The true dating of the texts ascribed to Petrarch often remains thoroughly unclear.

Already an eminent poet, Petrarch entered the second period of his life – the period of wandering. In the alleged year of 1333 he travelled around France, Flanders and Germany. “During his European travels, Petrarch became directly acquainted with scientists, searching the libraries of various monasteries trying to find forgotten ancient manuscripts and studying the monuments to the past glory of Rome” ([644], page 59). Nowadays it is assumed that Petrarch became one of the first and most vehement advocates of the “ancient” authors who, as we are beginning to understand, were either his contemporaries, or preceded him by 100-200 years at the most.


Mackey’s comment: Or, some of these were – as according to this present series – fictitious, and based on real characters of the Hellenistic era.

The article continues:


In 1337 he visited the Italian Rome for the first time ([644], page 59).What did he see there? Petrarch writes (if these are indeed his real letters, and not the result of subsequent editing),“Rome seemed even greater to me than I could have imagined – especially the greatness of her ruins” ([644]).Rome in particular and XIV century Italy in general had met Petrarch with an utter chaos of legends, from which the poet had selected the ones he considered to fit his a priori opinion of “the greatness of Italian Rome.” Apparently, Petrarch had been among those who initiated the legend of “the great ancient Italian Rome” without any solid basis. A significant amount of real mediaeval evidence of the correct history of Italy in the Middle Ages was rejected as “erroneous.” It would be of the utmost interest to study these “mediaeval anachronisms” considered preposterous nowadays, if only briefly.

According to mediaeval legends, “Anthenor’s sepulchre” was located in Padua ([644]). In Milan, the statue of Hercules was worshipped. The inhabitants of Pisa claimed their town to have been founded by Pelopsus. The Venetians claimed Venice to have been built of the stones of the destroyed Troy! Achilles was supposed to have ruled in Abruzza, Diomedes in Apulia, Agamemnon in Sicily, Euandres in Piemont, Hercules in Calabria. Apollo was rumoured to have been an astrologer, the devil, and the god of the Saracens!

Plato was considered to have been a doctor, Cicero a knight and a troubadour, Virgil a mage who blocked the crater of the Vesuvius, etc.

All of this is supposed to have taken place in the XIV century or even later! This chaos of information obviously irritated Petrarch, who had come to Rome already having an a priori concept of the “antiquity” of the Italian Rome. It is noteworthy that Petrarch left

us no proof of the “antiquity of Rome” that he postulates. On the contrary, his letters – if they are indeed his real letters, and not later edited copies – paint an altogether different picture. Roughly speaking, it is as follows: Petrarch is convinced that there should be many “great buildings of ancient times” in Rome. He really finds none of those. He is confused and writes this about it:

Where are the thermae of Diocletian and Caracallus? Where is the Timbrium of Marius, the Septizonium and the thermae of Severus? Where is the forum of Augustus and the temple of Mars the Avenger?


Mackey’s comment: These various, supposedly Republican Roman, characters, Marius, Cicero, Augustus, are (tentatively) given Hellenistic real identities in this series.

The article continues:


Where are the holy places of Jupiter the Thunder-Bearer on the Capitol and Apollo on the Palatine? Where is the portico of Apollo and the basilica of Caius and Lucius, where is the portico of Libya and the theatre of Marcellus? Where are the temple of Hercules and the Muses built by Marius Philip, and the temple of Diana built by Lucius Cornifacius? Where is the temple of the Free Arts of Avinius Pollio, where is the theatre of Balbus, the Amphitheatre of Statilius Taurus? Where are the numerous constructions erected by Agrippa, of which only the Pantheon remains? Where are the splendorous palaces of the emperors? One finds everything in the books; when one tries to find them in the city, one

discovers that they either disappeared [sic!] or that only the vaguest of their traces remain”. ([644])

These countless inquiries of “where” this or the other object might be, especially the final phrase, are amazing. They indicate clearly that Petrarch came to the Italian Rome with an a priori certainty that the great Rome as described in the old books is the Italian Rome. As we are now beginning to understand, these books most probably were referring to the Rome on the Bosporus. However, in the early XIV century or even later, it was ordered to assume that the ancient manuscripts referred to the Italian Rome. Petrarch had to find “field traces” of the “great Roman past” in Italy; he searched vigorously, found nothing, and was nervous about this fact.

However, the letters attributed to Petrarch contain traces of a Roman history that differs considerably from the history we are taught nowadays. For instance, Petrarch insists that the pyramid that is now considered to be “the Pyramid of Cestius” is really the sepulchre

of Remus ….

The real parochial Italian Rome of the XIV century surprised the poet greatly, since it strangely failed to concur with his a priori impressions based on the interpretation of the ancient texts which he considered correct. This most probably means that he had rejected

other evidence contradicting this “novel” opinion. The gigantic Coliseum, for instance, proved to be the castle and the fortress of a mediaeval feudal clan, and the same fate befell such “ancient” constructions as the mausoleum of Adrian, the theatre of Marcellus, the arch of Septimius Severus, etc. Plainly speaking, all of the “ancient” buildings turned out to be mediaeval. This presents no contradiction to us; however, for Petrarch, who apparently already perceived Rome through the distorting prism of the erroneous chronology, this must have been extremely odd.

Apparently, we have thus managed to pick out the moment in the Middle Ages when the creation of the consensual erroneous version of the history of Italian Rome began. This couldn’t have preceded the first half of the XIV century – although we should add that it is possible that all of these events occurred significantly later, namely, in the XVI-XVII century.

According to Jan Parandowski, “Petrarch’s arrival marks a new era in the assessment of the state of the great city’s decline. Petrarch had been the first person of the new era whose eyes filled with tears at the very sight of the destroyed columns, and at the very memory of the forgotten names” ([644]). Having wiped off the tears, Petrarch became quite industrious in what concerned the creation of the “true history” of the Italian Rome. He searched for statues, collected Roman medals, and tried to recreate the topography of Rome. Most of Petrarch’s energy was however directed at finding and commenting on the oeuvres of the “ancient” authors. The list of books that he allegedly owned survived until our days, the list that he compiled himself in the alleged year of 1336 a.d., on the last page of the Latin codex that is now kept in the National Library of Paris. Whether or not Petrarch had been in the possession of the original works of the authors, remains unknown. The following names are mentioned in the list:

Horace, Ovid, Catullus, Propercius, Tibullus, Percius, Juvenal, Claudian, Ovid, the comedians Plautus and Terentius; the historians Titus Livy, Sallustius, Suetonius, Florus, Eutropius, Justin, Orosius, Valerius Maximus; the orators and philosophers Quintillian, Varro, Pliny, Apuleius, Aulus Gellius, Macrobius, Vitruvius, Marcian Capella, Pomponius Mela, Cassiodorus, Boetius. As well, the names of a large number of holy fathers are listed.

We ask the following questions:

Can we trust in Petrarch’s ownership of these volumes?

How was the list dated?

Did Petrarch actually hold any of the oeuvres written by the abovementioned authors in his hands, or did he just collect the names?

Do we interpret Petrarch’s statements correctly nowadays? After all, they reach us via a filter of the Scaligerian editors of the XVI-XVII century. We perceive them through the glass of a distorted chronology. Petrarch’s letters are to be studied again, if they really are his and haven’t been written or edited on his behalf a great while later. One also has to emphasize that Petrarch didn’t specifically occupy himself with the dating of the texts he found. He was looking for the “works of the ancients” – apparently without questioning whether they preceded him by a hundred years, two hundred, or a thousand. Let’s not forget that a hundred years, let alone three hundred, is a long period of time.

With the growth of his income, Petrarch founded a special workshop with scribes and secretaries, which he often mentions in his letters. Everyone knew about his infatuation with collecting old books. He mentions it in every letter he writes to his every friend. “If you really value me, do as I tell you: find educated and trustworthy people, and let them rake through the bookcases of every scientist there is, clerical as well as secular” ([644]). He pays for the findings bounteously. And they keep coming to him from all directions. He makes some important discoveries himself – thus, in the alleged year of 1333 he finds two previously unknown speeches of Cicero’s in Liège, and in 1334, Cicero’s letters to Atticus, Quintus and Brutus in Verona ([927], [644]). Let us remind the reader that according to the mediaeval legends, Cicero was a knight and a troubadour, q.v. above.

“Petrarch had reasons for considering himself to be responsible for the revival of interest in the philosophical works and essays of the great Roman orator” ([927], pages 87-88). Petrarch wrote: “as soon as I see a monastery, I head that way in hope of finding some work by Cicero.” The history of how he “discovered” the Cicero’s lost tractate titled De Gloria is very odd indeed. Its existence became known from a letter to Atticus that is attributed to Cicero. Petrarch claimed that he had allegedly discovered this priceless manuscript, but gave it to his old friend Convenevola. Who

is supposed to have lost it.

Nowadays Petrarch’s endeavours are usually written about with great pathos:

“It had really been the first one of those glorious expeditions rich in discoveries that shall be undertaken by the humanists of the generations to follow, who have journeyed like Columbus… in their search for parchments gobbled by numerous rats” ([644]). Cicero’s letters were allegedly discovered by Petrarch in the Chapter Library of Verona, where no-one had been aware of their existence. For some reason, the original was soon lost by Petrarch, and he demonstrated a copy instead.

  1. I. Chlodowsky wrote that:

“Petrarch proved a naturally born philologist. He had been the first to study the oeuvres of the ancient Roman poets, comparing different copies and using data provided by the neighbouring historical sciences… It had been Petrarch the philologer who had destroyed the mediaeval legend of Virgil the mage and sorcerer, and accused the author of the Aeneid of a number of anachronisms; he had deprived Seneca of several works that were ascribed to him in the Middle Ages, and proved the apocryphal character of Caesar’s and Nero’s letters, which had a great political meaning in the middle of the XIV century since it gave authority to the Empire’s claims for Austria”. ([927], pp. 88-89).

This is where the really important motives become clear to us – the ones that Petrarch may have been truly guided by in his “archaeological endeavours.” These motives were political, as we have just explained. We have ourselves been witness to countless examples in contemporary history when “science” was used as basis for one political claim or another. This makes chronology largely irrelevant. However, today when the characters of that epoch have long left the stage, we must return to the issue of just how “preposterous” the letters of Caesar and Nero were, and what was “wrong” in the mediaeval legends of Virgil.

The poet’s attitude to the ancient documents was far from critical analysis. Petrarch’s declarations of “antiquity” may have been made for meeting the conditions of some political order of the Reformation epoch in Western Europe (the XVI-XVII century). The order had been made to create a dichotomy between “barbaric contemporaneity” and “beauteous antiquity”. See Chron6 for details. At any rate, one clearly sees that either Petrarch or someone else acting on his behalf was creating the mythical world of antiquity without bothering about the exact epoch when Cicero’s speeches were written, and whether it had preceded that of Petrach by 200 years, or 1400. It is possible that all of this activity really took place in the XVI-XVII century and not the XIV, during the Reformation in the Western Europe, and had archly been shifted into the XIV century and ascribed to Petrarch so that it would gain the “authority of antiquity.” The reality of the XVI-XVII century, which Petrarch cites as the antithesis of “ancient civilization,” was later baptized “feudal barbarism.” ….


Solomon and Charlemagne. Part Four: Carolingians a “new Israel”

Published April 27, 2018 by amaic
Image result for charlemagne



Damien F. Mackey



“Therefore, once Charlemagne received the imperial title, the concept of the Franks

as the “new Israel,” already circulating at court, began to intensify”.

 Constance B. Bouchard




So much of French regal history, Merovingian and Carolingian, smacks of the Bible.

King Chlodomer, for instance, smacks of the Elamite king, Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:1):


Chedorlaomer and Chlodomer


Whilst King Chilperic I has been likened to ‘Herod’:


King Chilperic I a ‘Nero and Herod’


and, again, to the wicked Old Testament king, Ahab: “Gregory, who as bishop of Tours had confrontations with Chilperic and Fredegund, implicitly likens himself in books 5 and 6 to Elijah prophesying against Ahab and Jezebel …”. (Zachary S. Schiffman, The Birth of the Past, p. 123).


Along similar lines we find:


Queen Brunhild [as] the ‘second Jezebel’


And, in a supposedly later era, there is this classic:


Isabella of France, ‘iron virago’, ‘Jezebel’


To name just a few.


Perhaps even more apparent are the striking Davidic and Solomonic likenesses of the Carolingian kings. See e.g. my:


Solomon and Charlemagne. Part One: Life of Charlemagne


“Emperor Charlemagne’s life bears some uncanny likenesses to
that of the ancient King Solomon of Israel and his family”.




Solomon and Charlemagne. Part Two: Archaeology of Charlemagne


“For AD history to be fully convincing and to be made to rest on firm foundations, it will need to undergo a rigorous revision similar to the one that scholars have been undertaking for BC history, with the application of a revised stratigraphy. There may be some indications that the history of Charlemagne is yet far from having been established on such firm stratigraphical foundations”.


No wonder that conspiracy theorists and authors, such as Dan Brown, have had so much fun with the Merovingians and Carolingians!

To give just one intriguing example of this sort of thing, we read at:


The Carolingians were partly of Merovingian descent, but more importantly, they represented the union of the once divided lineage of the several families responsible for the formation of Mithraism, mainly, the House of Herod, of Commagene, the Julio-Claudian Emperors of Rome, and the Priest-Kings of Emesa. This lineage had survived in two branches. Julia, the heiress of the Edomite royal bloodline, was the daughter of Herod Phollio King of Chalcis, whose grandfather was Herod the Great, and whose mother was the daughter of Salome. Julia married Tigranes King of Armenia, the son of Alexander of Judea. Their son Alexander married Iotape of Commagene, the daughter of Antiochus IV, from whom was descended St. Arnulf, was a Frankish noble who had great influence in the Merovingian kingdoms as Bishop of Metz, and who was later canonized as a saint, and who lived from 582 to 640 AD.[2]


Always tracing it all back to biblical kings.

I find it most interesting that there is a connection made here between an Antiochus IV and the biblical king Herod the Great, since, recently, I have actually made so bold as to identify the latter, Herod, as Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ of the Maccabean era:


Jesus Christ born in Maccabean era


And I suspect that the “Antiochus IV” named in the above quote is simply, as I have written:


Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ Doubled



Anyway, Constance B. Bouchard has, in “Images of the Merovingians and Carolingians”, provided extra support for the Israel-like-ness of the enigmatic Carolingians and Charlemagne:


Although historians do not denigrate the quite real Carolingian achievements, they are now analyzing the many models, from the kings of ancient Israel to the Caesars, to which the emperors were compared by their publicists.


The Carolingians themselves appear to have been very sensitive to the possibility that they would be considered rulers who enjoyed divine favor only at the pleasure of the pope. Therefore, once Charlemagne received the imperial title, the concept of the Franks as the “new Israel,” already circulating at court, began to intensify. The choice of the ancient Hebrew kings provided a model which would not be based on a connection to the papacy.42 The kings of Israel had stood halfway between their people and God, without needing the mediation of priests and certainly not of popes. As the new David and the new Solomon, Charlemagne and his heir could take on a similar position: one that required great responsibility, certainly, but one in which no one stood between them and God.


Not surprisingly, too, we find books and articles with titles like “The Franks as the New Israel? Education for an Identity from Pippin to Charlemagne,” by M. Garrison (in Hen and Innes (eds.), Uses of the Past).

Artaxerxes III and Nebuchednezzar II

Published January 29, 2017 by amaic

Image result for persian rule of babylon



 Damien F. Mackey


“The very existence of a Median empire, with the emphasis on empire, is thus

questionable” (H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “Was there ever a Median Empire?”, in

  1. Kuhrt, H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, eds., Achaemenid History III. Method and

Theory, Leiden, 1988, p. 212).






Professor Gunnar Heinsohn (University of Bremen) and Emmet Sweeney, historical revisionists, have, in recent times, arrived at some startling conclusions about ancient history – some of these warranting further critical examination, whilst other of their views appear to me to be extreme and well wide of the mark. In order to account for an apparent lack of due stratigraphy for, say, the Mitannians, or the neo-Assyrians, or the Medo-Persians, this pair (not always in perfect agreement) will attempt to merge any one of these with a far earlier kingdom, for instance, the ancient Akkadians to be merged as one with the neo-Assyrians. Lester Mitcham, however, was able to expose Sweeney’s choices for comparisons using firm archaeological data in his article, “Support for Heinsohn’s Chronology is Misplaced” (SIS Chronology and Catastrophism Workshop, No 1, May 1988).

The Akkadians and the neo-Assyrians were found to be two quite distinct peoples, well-separated in time, and speaking and writing quite different languages.

Mitcham demonstrated similarly the archaeological impossibility of Heinsohn’s and Sweeney’s bold efforts to fuse the Old Babylonian Dynasty of Hammurabi with the Persians – King Hammurabi supposedly being the same as Darius the Great.

Once again, different peoples, different geographies, different times.

Heinsohn and Sweeney do, however, have some degree of support for their argument that the Persian Empire, as classically presented, is seriously lacking in due archaeological strata. Heinsohn, in his far-reaching “The Restoration of Ancient History” (, refers to the results of some conferences in the 1980’s pointing to difficulties regarding the extent of the Medo-Persian empires:


In the 1980’s, a series of eight major conferences brought together the world’s finest experts on the history of the Medish and Persian empires. They reached startling results. The empire of Ninos [pre-Alexander period (3)] was not even mentioned. Yet, its Medish successors were extensively dealt with-to no great avail. In 1988, one of the organizers of the eight conferences, stated the simple absence of an empire of the Medes [pre-Alexander period (2)]: “A Median oral tradition as a source for Herodotus III is a hypothesis that solves some problems, but has otherwise little to recommend it … This means that not even in Herodotus’ Median history a real empire is safely attested. In Assyrian and Babylonian records and in the archeological evidence no vestiges of an imperial structure can be found. The very existence of a Median empire, with the emphasis on empire, is thus questionable” (H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “Was there ever a Median Empire?”, in A. Kuhrt, H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, eds., Achaemenid History III. Method and Theory, Leiden, 1988, p. 212).


Two years later came the really bewildering revelation. Humankind’s first world empire of the Persians [Pre-Alexander Period (1)] did not fare much better than the Medes. Its imperial dimensions had dryly to be labelled “elusive” (H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “The quest for an elusive empire?”, in H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, A. Kuhrt, eds., Achaemenid History IV. Centre and Periphery, Leiden l990, p. 264).


Xerxes something of a ‘Ghost’



This series considers what has worked, and what has not, in attempts so far to revise Medo-Persian history, by shortening it, so that it may the better accord with the dearth of archaeological strata.






Professor Gunnar Heinsohn (University of Bremen) had put forward a most controversial ‘solution’ to account for the problems of Medo-Persian archaeology by attempting to identify the Persians with the Old Babylonian Dynasty of Hammurabi – Darius ‘the Great’ being Hammurabi himself.

More recently (2002) Emmet Sweeney, who has been a supporter of Heinsohn, has sought to fuse the Persians with the neo-Assyrians and neo-Babylonians, so that, for instance, Cyrus the Great is to be identified with Tiglath-pileser III; Xerxes with Sennacherib; and Artaxerxes III with Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’. In the following passage, in which he claims to be following Heinsohn, Sweeney refers again to the archaeological problem associated with the Persian Empire (“Did Artaxerxes III Despoil the Temple in Jerusalem?”, C and C Review, 2002:2, p. 15):


A fundamental principle of Gunnar Heinsohn’s work is that the so-called Neo-Assyrians must be identical to the Persians. Heinsohn was forced to that conclusion for a very simple reason: Mesopotamia could provide little or no archaeology for two centuries during which it was part of the Achaemenid Empire. Indeed the absence of Persian strata is so complete that some modern scholars, most notably Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg of the Netherlands, have come to doubt the very existence of a Persian Empire …. This Persian disappearing act constitutes more or less a ‘dark age’ in the historiography of the ancient Near East.

[End of quote]



Some of the so-called Persian Kings

were semi-legendary, and composite


The mighty king, Xerxes, favoured by various commentators to represent “Ahasuerus”, the Great King of the Book of Esther, is most likely a composite character, a mix of real Assyrian and Medo-Persian kings. Here, for instance, we consider his likenesses to Sennacherib as pointed out by Emmet Sweeney.



The name ‘Xerxes’ is thought by historians to accord extremely well linguistically with “Ahasuerus”, the name of the Great King of the Book of Esther.

There are several kings “Ahasuerus” in the (Catholic) Bible: in Tobit; in Esther; in Ezra; and in Daniel.


As Cyaxares


The one in Tobit is usually considered to refer to the Cyaxares who conquered Nineveh. See e.g. my:


“Ahasuerus” in Book of Tobit


“But before [Tobias] died, he heard of the destruction of Nineveh, which was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus; and before his death he rejoiced over Nineveh”. (Tobit 14:15)




“Ahasuerus” in Book of Tobit. Part Two: The Name “Ahasuerus”


in which I discuss the name, “Ahasuerus”.

Cyaxares, again, is probably the “Ahasuerus” mentioned as the father of Darius the Mede in Daniel 9:1: “It was the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians”.


As Cyrus


The “Ahasuerus” in Esther I have identified as Darius the Mede/Cyrus:


“King Ahasuerus” of Book of Esther


and, likewise, the “Ahasuerus” in Ezra:


The names, Xerxes, Ahasuerus, Cyaxares and Cyrus are all fairly compatible.



Comparisons with Sennacherib


Emmet Sweeney has done the work here, providing some striking parallels between the known historical Assyrian king, Sennacherib (C8th BC), and the historically far shakier, ‘Xerxes’.


… In Ramessides, Medes and Persians I outlined detailed reasons for identifying Tiglath-Pileser III with Cyrus, Shalmaneser V with Cambyses, and Sargon II with Darius I. The striking correspondences in the lives of all of these, repeated generation for generation in parallel sequence, made it increasingly unlikely that the identifications could be mistaken. Yet even one striking mismatch could potentially invalidate the whole scheme. I then came to the next “pairing” – Sennacherib with Xerxes. Would these two also show clear-cut and convincing correspondences?

A random search of the internet produces the following for Xerxes and Sennacherib: “Like the Persian Xerxes, he [Sennacherib] was weak and vainglorious, cowardly under reverse, and cruel and boastful in success.” (WebBible Encyclopedia at The writer of these words did not suspect any connection between the two kings, much less that they were the same person. Nevertheless, the similarities between them were so compelling that one apparently brought the other to mind.

The writer’s instincts, I shall argue, did not betray him. The lives and careers of Xerxes and Sennacherib were so similar that were the thesis presented in these pages not proffered, scholars must wonder at the astounding parallels between the two.

One of Xerxes’ first actions as king was an invasion of Egypt, which had thrown off the Persian yoke shortly after Darius’ defeat at the hands of the Greeks. This reconquest of Egypt was said to have taken place in Xerxes’ second year. Similarly, one of the first actions of Sennacherib was a campaign against Egypt and her Palestinian and Syrian allies. This war against Egypt took place in Sennacherib’s third year. The Assyrian inscriptions inform us how Hezekiah of Judah had rebelled and sought the assistance of the kings of Egypt (and) the bowmen, the chariot (-corps) and the cavalry of the king of Ethiopia (Meluhha), an army beyond counting — and they (actually) had come to their assistance. In the plain of Eltekeh (Al-ta-qu-u), their battle lines were drawn up against me and they sharpened their weapons.… I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them. In the melee of the battle, I personally captured alive the Egyptian charioteers with the(ir) princes and (also) the charioteers of the king of Ethiopia. (J. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950) pp. 287-8).

Hezekiah was besieged, but not captured. Nevertheless, the outcome of this campaign was a complete victory for Sennacherib. Hezekiah sent tribute to the Great King:

Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring glamour of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen (it), had deserted him, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone … all kinds of valuable treasures, his (own) daughters, concubines, male and female musicians. In order to deliver the tribute and to do obeisance as a slave he sent his (personal) messenger.

Hezekiah would scarcely have sent this tribute to Sennacherib had his Egyptian allies not been totally defeated, a circumstance which has made many scholars suspect that he actually entered Egypt after his defeat of its army on the plain of Eltekeh. (See eg. A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria (1923) pp. 308-9). This supposition is supported by the fact that Sennacherib described himself as “King of the Four Quarters,” a term which, as stated above, traditionally implied authority over Magan and Meluhha (Egypt), regarded as the western-most “quarter” or edge of the world. It is also supported by both classical and Hebrew tradition. Thus Herodotus spoke of Sennacherib advancing against Egypt with a mighty army and camping at Pelusium, near the north-eastern frontier (Herodotus, iii, 141), whilst Berossus, who wrote a history of Chaldea, said that Sennacherib had conducted an expedition against “all Asia and Egypt.” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities X, i,4). Jewish tradition goes further and tells of the conquest of Egypt by the king and of his march towards Ethiopia. “Sennacherib was forced to stop his campaign against Hezekiah for a short time, as he had to move hurriedly against Ethiopia. Having conquered this ‘pearl of all countries’ he returned to Judea.” (L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia, 1920) Vol. VI p. 365). Talmudic sources also relate that after conquering Egypt, Sennacherib carried away from there the throne of Solomon. (Ibid. Vol. IV, p. 160)

Sennacherib’s second campaign against Egypt, not recorded in the Assyrian inscriptions, had, as is well-known, a much less favorable outcome for the Great King.

The greatest event of Xerxes’ reign was of course his momentous defeat in Greece. The story of his invasion is recorded in detail by the Greek authors, most particularly by Herodotus, and it is clear that Xerxes’ failure to overcome the Hellenes represented the great watershed in Achaemenid history. From that point on the Persian Empire entered a period of prolonged decline.

Strange then that of all the wars waged by Sennacherib, the only opponents who are said to have come near to defeating him were the Ionian Greeks. In one well-known passage Berossus tells of a fierce battle between Sennacherib and the Ionians of Cilicia. (H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East (London, 1913) p. 487). The Greeks, he says, were routed after a hard-fought hand-to-hand struggle.

The most important event of Xerxes’ latter years was without doubt his defeat of yet another Babylonian rebellion. Although our sources are somewhat vague, it would appear that there were in fact two rebellions in Babylon during the time of Xerxes, the first of which occurred in his second year, and was led by Bel-shimanni, and the second some time later led by Shamash-eriba.

How peculiar then that Sennacherib too should face two major rebellions in Babylon, the first of which came within three years or so of his succession, and was led by Bel-ibni. (C. H. W. Johns, Ancient Babylonia (London, 1913) p. 120). Rebellion number two came some years later and was led by Mushezib-Marduk. This second rebellion, one might guess, was one of the consequences of the Persian defeat in Greece, and there seems little doubt that Mushezib-Marduk of the Assyrian records and monuments is Shamash-eriba of the Persian.

Both Xerxes and Sennacherib were relatively mild in their treatment of the Babylonians after the first rebellion. However, after the second insurrection both kings subjected the city to massive destruction. But the parallels do not end there. Xerxes’ terrible punishment of Babylon was partly in revenge for the Babylonians’ murder of his satrap. (Brian Dicks, The Ancient Persians: How they Lived and Worked (1979) p. 46).

Similarly, Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon after the second insurrection was largely in vengeance for the Babylonians’ kidnap and murder of his brother Ashur-nadin-shum, whom he had made viceroy of the city. (C. H. W. Johns, op cit. pp. 121-2). Xerxes tore down the walls of Babylon, massacred its citizens, destroyed its temples, and seized the sacred golden statue of Bel. (Brian Dicks, op cit). In the same way, Sennacherib razed the city walls and temples, massacred the people, and carried off the sacred statue of Marduk. (C. H. W. Johns, op cit. p. 122). Bel and Marduk were one and the same; and the name was often written Bel-Marduk. In memory of the awful destruction wrought by Sennacherib, the Babylonian Chronicle and the Ptolemaic Canon define the eight years that followed as “kingless.” The city, it is held, suffered no such catastrophe again until the time of Xerxes, supposedly two centuries later.

Xerxes’ despoliation of Babylon is generally believed to have been accompanied by his suppression of the Babylonian gods, and it is assumed that his famous inscription recording the outlawing of the daevas, or foreign gods, in favor of Ahura Mazda, was part of the general response to the second Babylonian uprising:

And among these countries (in rebellion) there was one where, previously, daevas had been worshipped. Afterward, through Ahura Mazda’s favor, I destroyed this sanctuary of daevas and proclaimed. “Let daevas not be worshipped!” There, where daevas had been worshipped before, I worshipped Ahura Mazda.

How peculiar then that Sennacherib too should be accused of outlawing the Babylonian gods, especially Marduk, in favor of Ashur as part of his response to a second Babylonian rebellion? “A political-theological propaganda campaign was launched to explain to the people that what had taken place [the destruction of Babylon and despoliation of Bel-Marduk’s shrine] was in accord with the wish of most of the gods. A story was written in which Marduk, because of a transgression, was captured and brought before a tribunal. Only a part of the commentary to this botched piece of literature is extant.”


Nevertheless, it is clear that Sennacherib tried to “depose” or even “outlaw” Marduk. Thus we find that, “Even the great poem of the creation of the world, the Enuma elish, was altered: the god Marduk was replaced by the god Ashur.” (Ibid.)


To summarize, then, consider the following:


Made war on Egypt in his third year, and fought a bitter war against the Greeks shortly thereafter. Made war on Egypt in his second year, and fought a bitter war against the Greeks shortly thereafter.
Suppressed two major Babylonian rebellions. The first, in his second year, was led by Bel-Shimanni. The second, years later, was led by Shamash-eriba. Suppressed two major Babylonian rebellions. The first, in his third year, was led by Bel-ibni. The second, years later, was led by Mushezib-Marduk.
The Babylonians were well-treated after the first rebellion, but savagely repressed after the second, when they captured and murdered Sennacherib’s viceroy, his own brother Ashur-nadin-shum. The Babylonians were well-treated after the first rebellion, but savagely repressed after the second, when they captured and murdered Xerxes’ satrap.
After the second rebellion, Sennacherib massacred the inhabitants, razed the city walls and temples, and carried off the golden stature of Marduk. Thereafter the Babylonian gods were suppressed in favour of Ashur, who was made the supreme deity. After the second rebellion, Xerxes massacred the inhabitants, razed the city walls and temples, and carried off the golden stature of Bel-Marduk. Thereafter the Babylonian gods were suppressed in favour of Ahura-Mazda, who was made the supreme deity.


The parallels between Xerxes and Sennacherib are thus among the closest between an Achaemenid and a Neo-Assyrian. Yet even now we are not finished. There is yet one more striking comparison between the two monarchs, a comparison so compelling and so identical in the details that this one alone, even without the others, would be enough to demand an identification.

Xerxes died after a reign of 21 years (compare with Sennacherib’s 22) in dramatic circumstances, murdered in a palace conspiracy apparently involving at least one of his sons. Popular tradition has it that the real murderer of Xerxes was Artabanus, the captain of his guard, and that this man then put the blame on Darius, eldest son of the murdered king. Whatever the truth, it is clear that Artaxerxes, the crown prince, pointed the finger at Darius, who was immediately arrested and executed. (Percy Sykes, A History of Ancient Persia Vol. 1 (London, 1930) pp. 213-4). It is said that Artabanus then plotted to murder Artaxerxes, but that the conspiracy was uncovered by Megabyzus. No sooner had Artabanus been removed than Hystaspes, another elder brother of Artaxerxes, rose in rebellion. The young king then led his forces into Bactria and defeated the rebel in two battles. (Ibid., p. 124)

Of the above information, one feature is most unusual: the eldest son, Darius, who was not the crown prince, was accused of the murder by the crown prince Artaxerxes, who then had him hunted down and killed.

The death of Sennacherib compares very well with that of Xerxes. He too was murdered in a palace conspiracy involving some of his sons. But as with the death of Xerxes, there has always been much rumor and myth, though little solid fact, in evidence. The biblical Book of Kings names Adrammelech and Sharezer, two of Sennacherib’s sons, as the killers (2 Kings 19:37). An inscription of Esarhaddon, the crown prince at the time, clearly puts the blame on his eldest brother, whom he hunted down and killed. Two other brothers are also named in complicity. (A. T. Olmstead, A History of Assyria (1923) p. 338).

In spite of Esarhaddon’s clear statement, there has always been much confusion about the details — so much so that some have even implicated Esarhaddon himself in the deed. In view of such a level of confusion, the detailed discussion of the question by Professor Simo Parpola, in 1980, was sorely needed and long overdue. Employing commendable reasoning, Parpola demonstrated how a little-understood Babylonian text revealed the identity of the culprit, Arad-Ninlil. (R. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, Vol. XI (Chicago, 1911) No. 1091). A sentence of the document reads, “Thy son Arad-Ninlil is going to kill thee.” The latter name should properly, according to Parpola, be read as Arda-Mulissi (identical to Adrammelech of 2 Kings). Motivation for the murder, said Parpola, was not difficult to find. After the capture and probable death at the hands of the Elamites of Sennacherib’s eldest son and heir-designate, Ashur-nadin-sumi, the “second-eldest son, Arda-Mulissi, now has every reason to expect to be the next crown prince; however, he is outmaneuvered from this position in favor of Esarhaddon, another son of Sennacherib. This one is younger than Arda-Mulissi but becomes the favourite son of Sennacherib thanks to his mother Naqia … Eventually, Esarhaddon is officially proclaimed crown prince.” (Prof. Simo Parpola, “Death in Mesopotamia” XXVIeme Rencontre Assyriologique International,e ed. Prof. Bendt Alster, (Akademisk Forlag, 1980)).

We need hardly go beyond that for a motive. It is not clear whether Arda-Mulissi personally delivered the death blow; it seems that one of his captains was responsible.

Of this death then we note the same unusual feature. The king was murdered by or on the orders of his eldest son, who was not however the crown prince. The eldest son was then pursued and executed by a younger son, who was the crown prince. The parallels with the death of Xerxes are precise. In both cases also a second brother is named in complicity, as well as various other conspirators. In both cases too the murder was not actually carried out by the prince but by a fellow conspirator; in the case of Xerxes by Artabanus, commander of the guard, and in the case of Sennacherib by a man named Ashur-aha-iddin — a namesake of Esarhaddon. And this calls attention to yet one more parallel. In both the murder of Xerxes and Sennacherib, the crown prince himself has repeatedly been named as a suspect. Thus the Encyclopedia Britannica has Artaxerxes I placed on the throne by Xerxes’ murderer, Artabanus, (Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol. 1 (15th ed.) p. 598) whilst Parpola refers to the common suspicion that Esarhaddon had a part in his father’s death.

Such striking similarities, when placed along with the multitude of other parallels between the two kings’ lives, leave little doubt that we are on the right track. ….

[End of quote]


This works much better than any hopeful connection with the dynasty of King Hammurabi of Babylon.

It is necessary to consider ‘Xerxes’ as a ‘ghost’, a made up king based on (at least in part) a real neo-Assyrian ruler, Sennacherib.


Artaxerxes III ‘Ochus’



“By his own efforts and with the aid of such Greek generals as Mentor and Phocio of Athens, Artaxerxes thus revived the old empire of Darius. The order of the state was restored, its apparatus reorganized, the central power strengthened. Artaxerxes was energetic and restless, crafty and strong-minded. He is called cruel and violent (Diodorus 17.5.3; Plutarch, Artoxerxes 26.1) but also a fair judge (Diodorus 16.49.6)”.




Did Artaxerxes III really ‘revive the old Persian empire’, or was ‘he’, too, like ‘Xerxes’ (Part Two), a composite ‘ghost’ figure recalling real Mesopotamian/Medo-Persian kings?


The point of this series has been to try to account for the worrying lack of archaeological strata for the Medo-Persian kingdom, especially in its relation to the city of Babylon.

Conventionally, the Medo-Persian rule is considered to have endured for some three centuries:



My opinion, though, is that it was nowhere near that lengthy, and that some (if not most) of the Medo-Persian kings are duplicates.

Babylon really comes into calculations at the time of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. However, if I am correct in – {following other scholars} – identifying Darius the Mede as Cyrus:


Darius the Mede “Received the Kingdom”


then this would immediately cut out any purely Median archaeology for Babylon.

But how to account for the lack of Persian stratigraphy?

Well, we have read in this series that Cyrus the Great was known by various names, apart form Darius, including the names “Ahasuerus” and “Artaxerxes”. The multiple kings Darius and Artaxerxes will thus need to be reconsidered, with the possibility of at least some of these being duplicates of Cyrus.

The legendary Xerxes (a name that we found to be compatible with “Ahasuerus”) is, in part, based upon the powerful neo-Assyrian king, Sennacherib, whom I have also identified as Sargon II:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib


We are now going to find that Artaxerxes III, considered to be a mighty Persian king, is heavily based upon the neo-Babylonian Great king, Nebuchednezzar II. This Artaxerxes III is thought to have reigned for about two decades during the mid-C4th BC. He is conventionally presented as follows (


ARTAXERXES III, throne name of Ochus (Gk. Ôchos, Babylonian Ú-ma-kuš, son of Artaxerxes II and Stateira), Achaemenid king (r. 359-58 to 338-37 B.C.). About 361 he took part in a campaign against Egypt, then in rebellion under her king Tachos, and obtained that king’s surrender (Georgius Syncellus 1.486.20ff. D.). The fact that the Satraps’ Revolt, which he helped put down, was not quite ended may account for the lack of uniformity regarding the date of Artaxerxes’ accession. That event is dated to year 390 of the Babylonian Nabonassar era (beginning in November, 359 B.C.), but Polyaenus (7.17) states that he concealed his father’s death for 10 months, so that his official reign may only have begun in 358-57. On becoming king, he did away with his brothers, sisters, and other possible rivals (Justin 10.3.1; cf. Curtius Rufus 10.5.23, claiming that 80 brothers were murdered in one day).


Artaxerxes III’s objective was to consolidate royal authority and to terminate the revolts which threatened to break up the empire. He seems to have first made war on the rebel Cadusii in Media Atropatene (Justin 10.3.2); in the hard and successful fighting, Codomannus, the later Darius III, distinguished himself (Diodorus 17.6.1; Justin 10.3.3-4). Then a major campaign (ca. 356-52) was directed against such western satraps as Artabazus and Orontes who had rebelled against his father; these were now commanded to dismiss their Greek mercenaries (scholium to Demosthenes 4.19). The reconquest of Egypt was also to be carried through. Details of the campaign are unclear, but some success was achieved. Orontes was subdued, while Artabazus, banished, sought refuge with Philip of Macedonia (Diodorus 16.22.1-2, 34.1-2; Demosthenes 14.31). With the Satraps’ Revolt ended, Persian rule over Asia Minor and Phoenicia was again consolidated. Artaxerxes had acted resolutely; he obtained by threat of war the compliance of Athens, whose general, Chares, had first supported Artabazus (Diodorus 16.34.1). Actual restoration of order was accomplished by the king’s generals, especially Mentor of Rhodes, while Artaxerxes was preoccupied with Egypt (Ps.-Aristoteles, Oeconomica 2.2.28; Diodorus 16.52.1-8). For the generals’ campaign against Egypt had failed; and before the king’s massive new preparations were completed, a new revolt broke out in Syria, Phoenicia, and Cyprus in 351 which was aided by the Egyptian King Nectanebus. The rebels, led by Tennes of Sidon, were fought with indifferent success (Diodorus 16.40.5-42.9) by Idrieus (satrap of Caria), Mazaeus (of Cilicia), and Belesys (of Syria). Artaxerxes then led a large force from Babylon to Syria and soon restored matters. The rich Phoenician town of Sidon, the revolt’s center, was betrayed by King Tennes, and then destroyed by a fire set by the besieged Sidonians themselves (Diodorus 16.43.1-45.6; Pompeius Trogus, Prologus 10; Orosius 3.7.8; Georgius Syncellus 1.486.16 D.). Other towns of Phoenicia and Palestine then submitted. The expeditions of the generals Bagoas and Orophernes and the deportations of Jews ordered by Artaxerxes (Syncellus 1.486.10ff. D.) may be combined with the events recorded in the Book of Judith.


About 346-45 B.C. the king marched on Egypt. The citadels of Pelusium and Bubastis in the Nile delta were taken and by 343 the reconquest had been achieved, ending 65 years of Egyptian independence. (A seal has been interpreted as depicting this event; see J. Junge, Saka-Studien, Leipzig, 1939, pp. 63-64 n. 4.) One Pherendates was appointed satrap (Diodorus 16.46.4-51.3), while Nectanebus fled south to Nubia to maintain an independent kingdom. The Persians plundered and sacked extensively (Diodorus 16.51.2; Aelian, Varia historia 4.8, 6.8), and Egyptians were reportedly carried off to Persia. Consequently the king was vehemently hated by the Egyptians; they identified him with the ass to which he had sacrificed the Apis Bull (Aclian, 4.8).


Artaxerxes’ relations with the Greeks and Macedonians varied. Although there were occasional clashes (especially during the Satraps’ Revolt), the king sought the friendship of Athens, Sparta, and Macedonia, and he was the object of both fear and esteem (for Athens, see Demosthenes 14.7, 25, 31). In about 351 B.C. the king invited Athens and Sparta to join in a campaign he planned against Egypt; both declined but assured him of their friendship (Diodorus 16.44.1); Thebes and the Argives, however, sent him auxiliary troops (ibid., 44.2, 46.4). The first contact noted between Artaxerxes and Macedonia is a treaty of friendship with Philip II (Arrian, Anabasis 2.14.2); its details are not known. The Persian king seems to have observed it, for an Athenian legation seeking help against Philip returned empty handed (Demosthenes 9.71 ). Eventually, when Philip attacked the town of Perinthus, which dominated the Sea of Marmora, Artaxerxes perceived Philip’s real intention and intervened by sending troops into Thrace (Diodorus 16.75.1; Arrian, Anabasis 2.14.5). Alexander later pointed to this as a motive for his campaign of revenge.


By his own efforts and with the aid of such Greek generals as Mentor and Phocio of Athens, Artaxerxes thus revived the old empire of Darius. The order of the state was restored, its apparatus reorganized, the central power strengthened. Artaxerxes was energetic and restless, crafty and strong-minded. He is called cruel and violent (Diodorus 17.5.3; Plutarch, Artoxerxes 26.1) but also a fair judge (Diodorus 16.49.6). A token of his revival was the renewed building activity at Persepolis. The king erected a palace on the southwest part of the terrace, as is attested by his inscription A3Pa on a stairway (Kent, Old Persian, p. 156; F. H. Weissbach, Die Keilinsehriften der Achämeniden, Leipzig, 1911, pp. 128-29). An Akkadian tablet inscription has been found at Susa (“A3Sa,” ed. V. Scheil in MMAP XXI, 1929, pp. 99-100 no. 30).


Artaxerxes was married to a daughter of his sister (her name is read conjecturally in Valerius Maximus 9.2., ext. 7; see Justi, Namenbuch, p. 341 b) and to a daughter of Oxathres, brother of the later Darius III (Curtius Rufus 3.13.13). The latter, with three of Artaxerxes’ daughters, was captured by Alexander after the battle of Issus. The youngest of these, Parysatis, was later married to Alexander (Arrian, Annbasis 7.4.4). Also captured in the course of events was a granddaughter of Artaxerxes, who had been the wife of Hystaspes (Curtius Rufus 6.2.7-8). Of the king’s sons, only two are known by name. Arses, the youngest, succeeded his father but survived only for about two years. Bisthanes came to meet Alexander in 330 (Arrian, Anabasis 3.19.4). All the others are said to have been murdered by the Egyptian-born chiliarch, Bagoas, after poisoned the king himself in his palace intrigues (Diodorus 17.5.4; cf. Aelian 6.8 and Syncellus 1.486.14f. D.). Bagoas undoubtedly sought to be a kingmaker, but the premature death of Artaxerxes was a serious misfortune for the Persian kingdom. ….


[End of quote]


Emmet Sweeney has again (as with his Sennacherib = Xerxes) discerned some striking parallels between a Mesopotamian king, in this case Nebuchednezzar II, and a supposed Persian king, Artaxerxes III.

Emmet has written (and I do not accept any other of his Mesopotamian-Persian identifications) (


Artaxerxes III and Nebuchadrezzar


In my Ramessides, Medes and Persians (Algora, 2007), I argued in detail that the rulers known to history as the Neo-Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians were in fact Great Kings of the Persians under the guise of Mesopotamians. There I demonstrated how the Neo-Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser III had to be identified with Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid line, and that the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian monarchs who followed could be identified, point by point, with the Achaemenid kings who followed Cyrus. Thus Cambyses, who reigned only six years and campaigned in the direction of Egypt, sounds like Shalmaneser V, who reigned just over seven years and similarly campaigned in the direction of Egypt. Cambyses’ successor, Darius I, was not his son; and with him a new epoch of the Persian monarchy began. In the same way, Shalmaneser V’s successor Sargon II was not his son, and with the latter there began a new age of the Assyrian monarchy. The parallels continue line by line and reign by reign, and may be schematically represented thus:

Neo-Assyrian and Achaemenid Parallels


Was the founder of a new dynasty and not the son of the previous king of Assyria. During his time Assyrian power reached the borders of Egypt. Ruled Babylon and “took the hand of Bel.”



Was the founder of a new dynasty and not the son of the previous king of Persia. During his time Persian power reached the borders of Egypt. Conquered Babylon and “took the hand of Bel.”


Reigned only six years. Campaigned in the direction of Egypt.


Reigned seven and a half years. Conquered Egypt.


Was a usurper and not the son of the preceding king. Described himself as King of the Four Quarters, implying rule from Magan (Egypt) to Dilmun (India). Defeated a major insurrection in Babylon led by Merodach-Baladan (III). Boasted of expelling the Ionians (Jaman) from their island homes.


Was a usurper and not the son of the preceding king. Described himself as King of the Four Quarters, ruling from Egypt to India. Defeated a major insurrection in Babylon led by Nebuchadrezzar (III). Cleared the Ionian islands of their inhabitants.


Reigned 22 years. Defeated two major insurrections in Babylon and destroyed the city after the second. Thereafter suppressed the Babylonian deities in favor of Ashur, who was elevated to the position of supreme god. Was murdered in a palace conspiracy involving at least one of his sons.


Reigned 21 years. Defeated two major insurrections in Babylon and destroyed the city after the second. Thereafter suppressed the Babylonian deities in favor of Ahura Mazda, who was elevated to the position of supreme god. Was murdered in a palace conspiracy involving at least one of his sons.


Was not the eldest son of Sennacherib, but was appointed crown-prince through the influence of his powerful mother Naqia, who dominated her son. Had to suppress a series of rebellions in Egypt and appointed Egyptian potentates with names like Necho and Psamtek. Began rebuilding Babylon.


Was not the eldest son of Xerxes, but was appointed crown-prince through the influence of his powerful mother Amestris, who dominated her son. Had to suppress a series of rebellion in Egypt and appointed Egyptian potentates with names like Necho and Psamtek. Began rebuilding Babylon.


Was not the original crown-prince, but was appointed to rule after the death of his brother Sin-iddin-apla. Faced rebellions in Egypt, where he honored a prince named Wenamon. During his time Assyrian control of Egypt began to weaken.


Was not the original crown-prince, but was appointed to rule after the death of his brother Xerxes II. Faced rebellions in Egypt, where he honored a prince named Wenamon. During his time Persian control of Egypt began to weaken.


Was based in Babylon and associated with that city. Appears to have been a son of Ashurbanipal, but had to fight for control of the Assyrian Empire against another son named Sin-shar-ishkun


Was based in Babylon and associated with that city. Son of a Babylonian mother and a half-Babylonian father. Upon his accession had to battle for control of the Persian Empire against a younger brother named Cyrus.


Appears to have conquered Egypt, after a second attempt, where he brought to an end the reign of Necho II. Destroyed Egypt’s ally Judah. According to the Book of Judith had a servant named Bagoas and a general named Holofernes. Was known for his savage cruelty.


Conquered Egypt after a second attempt, where he brought to an end the reign of Nectanebo II. Brought all the nations of Syria/Palestine under his control. According to Diodorus Siculus had a servant named Bagoas and a general named Holofernes. Was known for his savage cruelty.


Was not the son of Nebuchadrezzar, but from a minor branch of the royal family. Last native Babylonian king.


Was not the son of Artaxerxes III, but from a minor branch of the royal family. Last native Persian king.

In the above table we see some of the most important parallels between the penultimate Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar and the penultimate Achaemenid king Artaxerxes III. Yet the similarities between the two kings, like those of the others, are so detailed that they cannot be adequately described in a simple table. In the pages to follow I hope to fill out the picture a little with regard to these two seminally important rulers.

When Artaxerxes II died, in 359 BC, his son Ochus was proclaimed king under the name of Artaxerxes III. To ensure his succession against any attempted rebellion, he let all of his brothers and half-brothers, eighty in number, be killed.

The new Artaxerxes regarded the reconquest of Egypt as one of his chief tasks, a task which he did eventually accomplish, though not until the sixteenth year of his reign. We know that Nectanebo I died only a year before Artaxerxes II, and that he was replaced on the throne by a pharaoh known to the Greeks as Tachos. Well aware of the ruthless nature of the new occupant of the Great King’s throne, Tachos made preparations to defend Egypt — part of which involved the recruitment of the legendary Spartan King Aegesilaus to his cause. Aegesilaus, by this time a very old man, was apparently delighted at the opportunity once again to do battle with the Persians. The Spartan veteran had been promised chief command by Tachos; but when he arrived in Egypt he found that the fleet had been placed in the hands of the Athenian general Chabrias, whilst Tachos himself retained overall supreme command. At this stage the pharaoh was in Syria, part of which had been occupied by him following the death of Artaxerxes II. In the meantime, a plot to place a nephew of his on the throne was being hatched. Aegesilaus threw his weight behind the conspirators, and effectively placed the nephew, known to history as Nectanebo II, on the throne.

When news of these developments reached Tachos in Palestine he fled northwards to the Persian king to ask forgiveness. Another two pretenders arose to challenge Nectanebo II, but these were quickly overcome with the assistance of Aegesilaus’ hoplites.

Nine years later, which was also the ninth year of the reign of Artaxerxes III/Ochus (350 BC), the Egyptians met the armies of the Great King on the borders of Egypt and threw them back towards Mesopotamia. The failure of this first expedition proved to be a major setback for Artaxerxes III, and his plan to reincorporate Egypt into the Empire had to wait another seven years (343 BC) for fruition. Thus Artaxerxes III’s second, and successful expedition against Egypt occurred in his sixteenth year.

We are told that after this reconquest Ochus plundered the country mercilessly, repeating the depredations of Cambyses. There was a general massacre of the population and a violation of the temples and religious centers, even to the extent of slaying the sacred Apis bull and serving it at a feast. All of which is believable enough, considering what we know of his character from other sources. In the words of one commentator, the “chief characteristic” of Ochus was his “savage cruelty.”1 How then does the life and military career of Nebuchadrezzar compare with that of Artaxerxes III?

Early in his reign, in his eighth or possibly ninth year, Nebuchadrezzar campaigned right to the borders of Egypt; it was then that he besieged Jerusalem, removing its King Jehoiachin and replacing him with Zedekiah. It is known that this campaign against Judah was actually but a small incident in a much greater campaign against Egypt and its allies. But if such were the case, then the campaign was at best indecisive — no conquest of Egypt is recorded. Nevertheless, it could not have been a complete disaster for the Babylonians, for Nebuchadrezzar apparently retained control of Judah until Zedekiah’s eighth year — at which point the people of Judah once again threw off the Babylonian yoke.

Thus we see that Nebuchadrezzar, like Artaxerxes III, made a first and apparently largely unsuccessful attack on Egypt in his eighth, or possibly ninth, year. But the parallels do not end there.

As we have noted, the Book of Chronicles records that in the eighth year of Zedekiah, and therefore in the sixteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar, the Babylonian king again moved against Egypt and Judah. Once again, most, if not all, of what we know of this campaign comes from the Jewish records, which were of course concerned primarily with the devastation the war brought to their own homeland. These sources report that on this occasion Nebuchadrezzar utterly destroyed Jerusalem, pulling down the temple and deporting the entire population to Babylon.

This must have been part of the campaign against Egypt and its allies recorded in a much damaged tablet of Nebuchadrezzar. What is still legible has been translated thus:

The kings, the allies of his power and … his general and his hired soldiers … he spoke unto. To his soldiers … who were before … at the way of …

In the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon … the king of Egypt came up to do battle [?] and … es, the king of Egypt … and … of the city of Putu-Jaman … far away regions which are in the sea … numerous which were in Egypt … arms and horses … he called to … he trusted …2

The reference to the campaign against Egypt in Nebuchadrezzar’s 37th year is apparently puzzling, though it is possible, actually probable, that he was counting from his appointment as King of Babylon, a system he is known to have actually used. Whatever the case, it is certain that Nebuchadrezzar’s second campaign against Judah, and Egypt, occurred sometime between his sixteenth and seventeenth year.

Thus Nebuchadrezzar, like Artaxerxes III, made two assaults upon Egypt. The first, in the eighth or ninth year of both monarchs, was a failure; and the second, in the sixteenth or seventeenth year of both rulers, which was a success.

That Nebuchadrezzar actually conquered Egypt is suggested by a number of very powerful pieces of evidence. First of all, both Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesied that he would do so; and since most of these “prophecies” were written in retrospect, or at least gained popular currency only after having been proved correct, we may be fairly certain that the prophesied invasion and defeat of Egypt actually took place. The conquest is predicted thus by Ezekiel (29:19-20):

Therefore thus said the Lord God: Behold, I will set Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon in the land of Egypt: and he shall take her multitude, and take the booty thereof for a prey, and rifle the spoils thereof: and it shall be wages for his army. And for the service that he hath done me against it, I have given him the land of Egypt, because he hath labored for me, saith the Lord.

Secondly, the biblical sources say that Nebuchadrezzar was able to remove the Jewish refugees in Egypt to Babylon. He could not of course have done so unless he had entered and subjugated the country.

Thirdly, Josephus tells us that he conquered Egypt. We are informed that four years after the fall of Tyre, Nebuchadrezzar invaded the country and put its King Uaphris to death, installing a creature of his own upon the vacant throne.3 Fourthly, and most importantly, artifacts of Nebuchadrezzar have actually been discovered in Egypt. These are “three cylinders of terra-cotta bearing an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, an ordinary text referring to his constructions in Babylon … These were said to come from the Isthmus of Suez, and they apparently belong to some place where Nebuchadrezzar had ‘set up his throne’ and ‘spread his royal pavilion.’ As he only passed along the Syrian road, and Daphnae would be the only stopping place on that road in the region of the isthmus, all the inferences point to these having come from Defenneh, and being the memorials of establishment there.”4

In short, the prophecy of Jeremiah that the king of Babylon would spread his royal pavilion at the entrance of the pharaoh’s house in Tahpanheth (Daphnae) was fulfilled. There can be little doubt; Nebuchadrezzar entered and conquered Egypt.

It is of interest to note here that the cylinders were discovered at Daphnae, one of the Hellenic centers of the Delta, a garrison settlement of the pharaoh’s Ionian bodyguard. This corresponds well enough with the contents of Nebuchadrezzar’s tablet, which speaks of the city of Putu-Jaman. Jaman of course was the Babylonian for “Ionian.”

Thus in a number of details the life and career of Nebuchadrezzar provides close parallels with that of Artaxerxes III:

Both kings were rulers of Babylon, who clashed with Egypt.

Artaxerxes III’s first war against Egypt occurred in his eighth year, and ended in failure. Nebuchadrezzar’s first war against Egypt took place in his eighth or ninth year and apparently ended in failure.

The Egyptian enemy of Artaxerxes III was known as Nectanebo II. The Egyptian enemy of Nebuchadrezzar was known as Necho II.

Artaxerxes III’s second campaign against Egypt occurred in his sixteenth year and was successful. Nebuchadrezzar’s second campaign against Egypt occurred in his sixteenth or seventeenth year and resulted in the conquest of the Nile Kingdom.

Artaxerxes III’s Egyptian enemy Nectanebo II used Greek mercenaries against the Great King. Nebuchadrezzar’s Egyptian enemy Necho II used Greek mercenaries against him.

It is fairly evident then that here, once again, we find striking parallels in the lives and careers of two characters supposedly belonging to two different epochs separated by two centuries.



1 G. Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies Vol. 3 (London, 1879) p. 510.

2 S. Langdon, Building Inscriptions of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (Paris, 1905) p. 182.

3 Josephus, Jewish Antiquities x,9,7.

4 F. Petrie, Tanis Pt II. Nebesheh and Defenneh p. 51.







Potiphar and Potiphera

Published January 21, 2017 by amaic

 After being bought as a slave by Potiphar, Joseph worked hard for his master. Potiphar was an official of Pharaoh and captain of the guards. – Slide 1


 Damien F. Mackey


Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt’. Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt”.

Genesis 41:44-45



There are some suggestions out there on the Internet that the biblical “Potiphera, priest of On” (Heliopolis) (Genesis 41:45), might be the same as the Old Kingdom’s, Rahotep, about whom we read (


It is generally considered that Rahotep (“Ra is satisfied”) was the son of Sneferu, although it is also possible that he was in fact the son of Huni and therefore the brother of Sneferu. Rahotep held the titles High Priest of Ra at Iunu (Heliopolis) and Director of Expeditions and Supervisor of Works.


Whilst those promoting such an identification can tend to be amateurish, making a rather poor fist of identifying the two names, Potiphera and Rahotep, the connection itself has promise, I think – given the likely location of Joseph to the Old Kingdom and the fact that Rahotep was indeed the priest of On (Egyptian Iunu):




A better effort to link the names, Potiphera and Rahotep, can be found in L’HISTOIRE DE JOSEPH, at: (using a translation of the French):



Nul récit de l’Ecriture ne trouve plus de confirmations données par l’archéologie que celui de la vie de Joseph. No account of Scripture finds any more confirmations given by archeology than that of Joseph’s life. Les arguments que la critique rationaliste faisait valoir autrefois pour attaquer l’authenticité de ces admirables pages, ont été, les uns après les autres, contredits par les découvertes. The arguments which rationalist criticism once used to attack the authenticity of these admirable pages were, one after the other, contradicted by the discoveries. Mais ce n’est pas seulement la véracité du récit dans son ensemble que l’égyptologie a mise en lumière ; But it is not only the truthfulness of the narrative as a whole that Egyptology has brought to light; c’est aussi son évidente unité et l’extraordinaire précision, l’extraordinaire exactitude de tous ses détails. It is also its evident unity and extraordinary precision, the extraordinary exactitude of all its details.

Voici ce qu’écrit à ce propos le célèbre égyptologue Edouard Naville, l’une des gloires de l’archéologie moderne, l’homme qui a peut-être le plus contribué à faire connaître l’Egypte des Pharaons : « Plus on lit l’histoire de Joseph et mieux on se rend compte qu’elle a dû être écrite par quelqu’un qui connaissait très bien l’Egypte, qui avait été témoin de ses coutumes, et qui avait eu aussi des relations avec les officiers de la cour et avec le roi lui-même. The famous Egyptologist Edward Naville, one of the glories of modern archeology, is the man who has perhaps contributed most to making Egypt known to the Pharaohs: “The more one reads History of Joseph and the better one realizes that it had to be written by someone who knew Egypt very well, who had witnessed his customs, and who had also had relations with the officers of the court And with the king himself. Peu de parties de la Genèse montrent d’une manière plus frappante l’étrangeté de la théorie critique. Few parts of Genesis show more strikingly the strangeness of critical theory. Tout le récit est d’une remarquable unité. The whole story is remarkably united. Il n’y a pas de répétitions superflues chaque partie suit la précédente, tout à fait logiquement le ton général est le même. There is no superfluous repetition each part follows the preceding one, quite logically the general tone is the same. Malgré cela, on nous dit qu’il ne faut pas attribuer toute cette histoire à un seul écrivain, mais à quatre auteurs qui vivaient en différents endroits de la Palestine et à plusieurs siècles d’intervalle ( 1 ). In spite of this, we are told that we must not attribute all this history to a single writer, but to four authors who lived in different parts of Palestine and several centuries apart . » « Si nous étudions les détails de l’histoire de Joseph, nous serons frappés par la couleur locale et convaincus qu’elle fut écrite dans le pays même où l’auteur avait sous les yeux quelques-unes des coutumes qu’il décrit, et à une époque où il entendait encore prononcer quelques-uns des noms dont il parle. “If we study the details of Joseph’s story, we shall be struck by the local color and convinced that it was written in the very country where the author had before him some of the customs he describes, And at a time when he still heard some of the names of which he speaks. » « Lorsque l’histoire de Joseph fut écrite, la tradition était très vivante parmi les Hébreux; “When the story of Joseph was written, tradition was very alive among the Hebrews; ils savaient qu’ils étaient redevables à Joseph de leur arrivée en Egypte, de leur établissement dans le pays de Gosen et de leur situation actuelle. They knew that they owed Joseph to their arrival in Egypt, their establishment in the land of Goshen, and their present situation. Son corps avait été conservé, embaumé, dans un cercueil. His body had been preserved, embalmed, in a coffin. Ainsi ils savaient certainement qui il était, et à quelle cause était due son élévation merveilleuse. Thus they certainly knew who he was, and what was the cause of his marvelous elevation. Son histoire présentait pour eux un intérêt tout spécial, je devrais même dire vital. His story presented a very special interest for them, I should even say vital. » « Les noms égyptiens mentionnés dans le récit indiquent aussi un auteur écrivant en Egypte, possédant une connaissance parfaite des Egyptiens comme des Hébreux, telle qu’on pouvait la supposer dans le cas de Moïse ( 2 ). “The Egyptian names mentioned in the narrative also indicate an author writing in Egypt, possessing a perfect knowledge of the Egyptians as of the Hebrews, as might be supposed in the case of Moses .” » ”

  1. Edouard Naville pense que Moïse a eu à sa disposition, pour rédiger la partie de la Genèse qui a trait à Joseph, une vie de Joseph qui aurait été composée du temps du fils de Jacob et sous ses ordres. M. Edouard Naville thinks that Moses had at his disposal, to write the part of the Genesis which relates to Joseph, a life of Joseph which would have been composed of the time of the son of Jacob and under his orders. Cette supposition est fort plausible. This supposition is very plausible. Citons, à ce propos, M. Emile Doumergue: « Remarquons qu’en écrivant, ou plus probablement en faisant écrire sa biographie par l’un des nombreux scribes qu’il avait à sa disposition, Joseph imitait, au moins en une certaine mesure, les usages des grands personnages égyptiens. In this connection, let us quote M. Emile Doumergue: “Let us note that in writing, or more probably in having his biography written by one of the many scribes he had at his disposal, Joseph imitated, at least to some extent , The usages of the great Egyptian characters. Ceux-ci se faisaient bâtir un tombeau, et sur les murs de ce tombeau, ils faisaient graver une inscription plus ou moins longue disant leur vie, et surtout les faveurs dont ils avaient été l’objet de la part du souverain. They had a tomb built for them, and on the walls of this tomb they engraved an inscription more or less long, saying their lives, and especially the favors with which they had been the object of the sovereign. Pas très longtemps après la mort de Joseph, Ahmès le nautonier, qui vivait sous le règne du roi de même nom, a laissé sur les murs de son tombeau des inscriptions qui sont de véritables mémoires ( 3 ). Not very long after the death of Joseph, Ahmes the nautonier, who lived under the reign of the king of the same name, left on the walls of his tomb inscriptions which are true memories . » “

Le caractère égyptien du récit de Moïse relativement à Joseph a été aussi pleinement reconnu par l’archéologue Sayce: « Il n’y a rien dans le témoignage des monuments qui puisse provoquer le moindre doute sur la crédibilité de la narration biblique. The Egyptian character of Moses’ account of Joseph was also fully acknowledged by archaeologist Sayce: “There is nothing in the testimony of monuments that can cause any doubt about the credibility of biblical narrative. Bien au contraire, le tableau que la Bible nous donne s’accorde admirablement dans ses traits généraux mais aussi dans ses détails, avec le tableau présenté par les monuments. On the contrary, the picture that the Bible gives us admirably agrees in its general features but also in its details, with the picture presented by the monuments. L’histoire de Joseph est essentiellement égyptienne de coloris et en pleine conformité avec l’archéologie égyptienne… En même temps cet élément égyptien est revêtu d’un caractère manifestement hébraïque. The history of Joseph is essentially Egyptian in color and in full conformity with Egyptian archeology … At the same time this Egyptian element is clothed with a manifestly Hebrew character. Non seulement le langage est hébraïque, mais les idées et le point de vue qui inspirent le récit sont hébraïques aussi. Not only is the language Hebrew, but the ideas and point of view that inspire the narrative are also Hebrew. La scène égyptienne qui nous est ici décrite est contemplée par des yeux d’Hébreu ( 4 ). The Egyptian scene which is described here is contemplated by the eyes of Hebrew ( 4 ). » ”

L’abbé Vigouroux a su exprimer avec force la valeur historique de notre récit – « En Egypte nous ne rencontrerons aucune preuve directe des faits racontés par Moïse dans son histoire de Joseph, mais les preuves indirectes y abondent et ont de quoi satisfaire les plus difficiles. Abbot Vigouroux has been able to express forcefully the historical value of our narrative. “In Egypt we shall not find any direct proof of the facts related by Moses in his history of Joseph, but the indirect proofs abound there and are enough to satisfy the most difficult . Il n’y a pas un détail de sa biographie qui ne soit confirmé par les monuments et les documents indigènes: tout y est exact, on peut dire, jusqu’à la minutie, et la narration ne peut avoir été racontée, par conséquent, que sur les lieux, à une époque peu éloignée des événements. There is not a detail of his biography which is not confirmed by the monuments and the indigenous documents: everything is exact, it may be said, to the minuteness, and the narration can not have been narrated, therefore, Than on the scene, at a time not far from events. Un écrivain israélite, qui aurait écrit longtemps après la sortie d’Egypte, et sans y avoir vécu, n’aurait jamais pu réussir à parler avec cette exactitude irréprochable, et n’aurait pas donné à ses tableaux une telle couleur locale, à une époque où il était impossible d’acquérir ces connaissances autrement que dans le milieu même où elles étaient, pour ainsi dire, vivantes. An Israelite writer, who would have written long after the exodus from Egypt, and without having lived there, could never have succeeded in speaking with that irreproachable exactitude, and would not have given his paintings such a local color, When it was impossible to acquire this knowledge except in the very place where they were, so to speak, alive. La couleur égyptienne de l’histoire de Joseph est, si frappante, que ceux mêmes qui nient l’authenticité du récit sont obligés de la reconnaître. The Egyptian color of Joseph’s story is so striking that even those who deny the authenticity of the narrative are obliged to recognize it. « La peinture des moeurs égyptiennes par cet écrivain est généralement très exacte, dit le critique Ewald, » Tous les exégètes et historiens libres penseurs sont contraints de faire le même aveu ( 5 ). “The painting of the Egyptian manners by this writer is generally very exact,” says the critic Ewald. “All the exegetes and free-thinking historians are obliged to make the same confession . » ”

Nous allons maintenant rapidement passer en revue les traits du récit sur lesquels l’archéologie est venue projeter une éclatante lumière. We shall now briefly review the features of the narrative on which archeology has projected a brilliant light. Il est impossible de ne pas être impressionné par leur nombre et leur précision. It is impossible not to be impressed by their number and precision. Nous suivrons l’ordre même de la narration biblique: We will follow the very order of biblical narrative:

1° « Jacob fit à Joseph une tunique de plusieurs couleurs. 1. Jacob made Joseph a tunic of many colors. » (XXXVII, 1). (XXXVII, 1). Nous savons que les Sémites avaient et ont encore une prédilection marquée pour les vêtements bigarrés. We know that the Semites had and still have a marked predilection for motley garments. Ils aimaient à les porter à l’occasion de certaines cérémonies ou comme un signe de prééminence. They liked to wear them on ceremonial occasions or as a sign of pre-eminence. « On fait encore la même chose en Orient pour les enfants préférés. “The same thing is done in the Orient for the favorite children. Des étoffes pourpres, écarlates et autres sont souvent cousues ensemble avec beaucoup. Purple, scarlet and other fabrics are often sewn together with many. de goût. disgust. Quelquefois les enfants des Musulmans ont des vestes brodées d’or et de soie de diverses couleurs ( 6 ). Sometimes the children of the Muslims wear jackets embroidered with gold and silk of various colors . » ”

Cet usage existait avant l’époque de Joseph. This practice existed before the time of Joseph. On voit sur les murs de la tombe de Hassein une peinture représentant l’arrivée en Egypte de chefs amorrites sous Aménophis II ; One can see on the walls of the tomb of Hassein a painting representing the arrival in Egypt of amortized leaders under Amenophis II; ces ambassadeurs apparaissent en habits de plusieurs couleurs, signe de puissance. These ambassadors appear in clothes of several colors, a sign of power.

Cette signification de la robe bigarrée explique l’intensité de la jalousie des frères de Joseph. This meaning of the motley dress explains the intensity of the jealousy of the brothers of Joseph. Ils voyaient en elle comme un symbole de l’autorité spéciale accordée par Jacob au fils de Rachel. They saw in her a symbol of the special authority given by Jacob to the son of Rachel.

2°« Joseph alla après ses frères, et il les trouva à Dothan… Ruben dit : Jetez-les dans cette citerne qui est au désert. “Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan.” Reuben said, “Throw them into this cistern which is in the wilderness.” » (XXXVII, 17 et 22). (XXXVII, 17 and 22). On a pu identifier Dothan, qui se trouve au-delà de Djenin, située dans le défilé par lequel passe, au sortir de la plaine d’Esdrelon, la route de Damas en Egypte. It has been possible to identify Dothan, which lies beyond Djenin, situated in the defile through which passes the road from Damascus to Egypt, on leaving the plain of Esdralon. C’était un excellent pâturage, d’une admirable fertilité. It was an excellent pasture, of admirable fertility. Les puits y étaient nombreux. The wells were numerous. Voici ce que dit de cette contrée l’explorateur Anderson : « Les nombreuses citernes taillées dans le roc, qu’on trouve partout à Dothan, devaient fournir (aux frères de Joseph) une fosse commode, pour l’y descendre, et comme ces citernes ont la forme d’une bouteille, avec un orifice étroit, il était impossible, à celui qui y était emprisonné, d’en sortir à moins qu’on ne lui portât secours ( 7 ). This explains the explorer Anderson: “The numerous cisterns carved in the rock, which are found everywhere in Dothan, were to furnish (to the brothers of Joseph) a convenient pit, to lower it, and as these Cisterns have the shape of a bottle, with a narrow orifice, it was impossible for the one who was imprisoned to leave it unless they were given help . » L’une des citernes actuelles est encore appelée par les indigènes : « Khan Jubb Yûsuf » ou « Khan de la fosse de Joseph ». One of the current cisterns is still called by the natives: “Khan Jubb Yûsuf” or “Khan of Joseph’s grave”. En été, un grand nombre de puits de la Palestine sont à sec. In summer, a large number of Palestine wells are dry.

3° « Ayant levé les yeux, ils virent une caravane d’Ismaélites venant de Galaad ; 3. “Having looked up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead; leurs chameaux étaient chargés d’aromates, de baume et de myrrhe, qu’ils transportaient en Egypte. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh, which they carried into Egypt. » (XXXVII, 25). (XXXVII, 25). Ces Ismaélites sont appelés aussi au chapitre XXVII (25, 28, 36) des « marchands madianites ». These Ishmaelites are also called in chapter XXVII (25, 28, 36) of the “Madianite merchants”. Il n’y a là aucune contradiction: Les Madianites habitaient le territoire occupé par les descendants d’Ismaël. There is no contradiction here: The Midianites inhabited the territory occupied by the descendants of Ishmael. Tous les détails qui se rapportent à ces marchands et à leur caravane sont rigoureusement exacts. All the details which relate to these merchants and their caravan are rigorously exact. Ce tableau si pittoresque, si vivant est en pleine harmonie avec tout ce que nous savons de ces caravanes de commerçants qui allaient sans cesse de Palestine, et spécialement de Galaad, en Egypte. This picture, so picturesque, so alive, is in full harmony with all that we know of those caravans of merchants who constantly traveled from Palestine, and especially from Gilead to Egypt. Ces voyageurs portaient, en effet, diverses marchandises fort appréciées en Egypte, notamment des aromates. These travelers carried, in fact, various merchandise much appreciated in Egypt, especially aromatics. On retrouve dans les inscriptions égyptiennes des allusions au « nek’ot », au « sôri » et au « lot » mentionnés dans notre verset. We find in the Egyptian inscriptions allusions to the “nek’ot”, the “sôri” and the “lot” mentioned in our verse. Le « nek’ot » désignait la résine qui découle du tragacanthe, arbre qui croît sur le Liban, en Perse et en Arménie. The “nek’ot” designates the resin that flows from the tragacanth, a tree that grows on Lebanon, Persia and Armenia. Le « sôri » est le baume, résine d’un arbre qui était alors très répandu en Palestine. “Sôri” is the balm, resin of a tree that was then very widespread in Palestine. Le « lot » (en arabe « ladan ») est la gomme qui découle des branches du ladanum, d’où vient le nom de « laudanum ». The “lot” (in Arabic “ladan”) is the gum that flows from the branches of the ladanum, whence comes the name “laudanum”. Les trois espèces de parfums que les Madianites transportaient en Egypte sont encore un objet de commerce entre l’Orient et l’Egypte. The three kinds of perfumes which the Midianites carried to Egypt are still an object of commerce between the East and Egypt.

« Il est certain, écrit l’égyptologue Ebers, que la civilisation égyptienne, telle qu’elle nous est connue par les monuments pharaoniques, ne pouvait se passer d’une multitude d’objets qu’il ne lui était possible de tirer que de l’Orient. “It is certain,” writes the Egyptologist Ebers, “that the Egyptian civilization, as it is known to us by the pharaonic monuments, could not do without a multitude of objects which it was only possible to draw from it The East. De ce nombre sont les substances résineuses et les aromates qui étaient indispensables pour la momification des cadavres ; Among these are the resinous substances and aromatics which were indispensable for the mummification of corpses; le bois de cèdre, que nous voyons sous le nom de « as », employé à toutes sortes d’usages et spécialement à la construction des barques ; The wood of cedar, which we see under the name of “as”, used for all sorts of purposes, and especially for the construction of boats; le bitume, et enfin l’encens et les parfums, nécessaires dès les temps les plus reculés, non seulement pour le culte mais aussi dans la vie privée, où l’on s’en servait avec raison dans les maladies contagieuses, en brûlant, pour purifier l’air, des bois odorants apportés de la Palestine orientale et de l’Arabie. The bitumen, and finally incense and perfumes, necessary from the earliest times, not only for worship but also in private life, where they were used with reason in contagious diseases, burning, To purify the air, fragrant woods brought from eastern Palestine and Arabia. C’est ce qu’attestent des milliers de passages des inscriptions. This is evidenced by thousands of passages of inscriptions. > >

Les marchands qui faisaient le trafic de Palestine en Egypte n’hésitaient pas, quand ils le pouvaient, à acheter des esclaves qu’ils revendaient ensuite à un bon prix en Egypte, où les esclaves sémites étaient fort appréciés. The merchants who traded from Palestine to Egypt did not hesitate, if they could, to buy slaves whom they then resold at a good price in Egypt, where the Semitic slaves were much appreciated.

4° « Potiphar, officier de Pharaon, chef des gardes, Egyptien, l’acheta des Ismaélites qui l’y avaient fait descendre. 4. Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, chief of the guards, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had sent him down there. » (XXXIX, 1). (XXXIX, 1). Le nom de Potiphar était commun en Egypte. The name of Potiphar was common in Egypt. Il s’écrit en égyptien « P.hotep.Har », c’est-à-dire le don ou l’offrande d’Horus. It is written in Egyptian “P.hotep.Har”, that is to say the gift or the offering of Horus. Il ne faut pas le confondre avec le nom de « Poti-phera », nom du prêtre d’On (ou Héliopolis) qui donna sa fille Asnath à Joseph. It should not be confused with the name of “Poti-phera,” the name of the priest of On (or Heliopolis) who gave his daughter Asnath to Joseph. Potiphera s’écrit en égyptien « P.hotep.Ra », le don ou l’offrande de Ra (XLI, 50). Potiphera is written in Egyptian “P.hotep.Ra”, the gift or offering of Ra (XLI, 50). ….

This I find most interesting.

Let us read it again:


…. Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, chief of the guards, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had sent him down there. » (XXXIX, 1). (XXXIX, 1). Le nom de Potiphar était commun en Egypte. The name of Potiphar was common in Egypt. Il s’écrit en égyptien « P.hotep.Har », c’est-à-dire le don ou l’offrande d’Horus. It is written in Egyptian “P.hotep.Har”, that is to say the gift or the offering of Horus. Il ne faut pas le confondre avec le nom de « Poti-phera », nom du prêtre d’On (ou Héliopolis) qui donna sa fille Asnath à Joseph. It should not be confused with the name of “Poti-phera,” the name of the priest of On (or Heliopolis) who gave his daughter Asnath to Joseph. Potiphera s’écrit en égyptien « P.hotep.Ra », le don ou l’offrande de Ra (XLI, 50). Potiphera is written in Egyptian “P.hotep.Ra”, the gift or offering of Ra (XLI, 50).


According to what we read here, Hotep Ra, or Ra Hotep – the Egyptians commonly reversed names – is of the very essence of the Hebrew transliteration of the Egyptian name into “Potiphera”: פּוֹטִי פֶרַע

So, could we have in this most famous statue of Rahotep (and his wife, Nofret) an actual depiction of the biblical Potiphera?


It would remain to be determined if the era of the impressive pharaoh Sneferu (Snofru) can plausibly be accommodated to the revised estimation for the time of Joseph.

Part Two: Potiphar and his wife





“When Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Potiphar was captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt”.


Genesis 39:1





The difference between the biblical names, “Potiphar” and “Potiphera”, is simply – as we read in the previous article – one pertaining to a variation of theophoric ending, Horus and Ra (Re):


…. Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, chief of the guards, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had sent him down there. » (XXXIX, 1). (XXXIX, 1). Le nom de Potiphar était commun en Egypte. The name of Potiphar was common in Egypt. Il s’écrit en égyptien « P.hotep.Har », c’est-à-dire le don ou l’offrande d’Horus. It is written in Egyptian “P.hotep.Har”, that is to say the gift or the offering of Horus. Il ne faut pas le confondre avec le nom de « Poti-phera », nom du prêtre d’On (ou Héliopolis) qui donna sa fille Asnath à Joseph. It should not be confused with the name of “Poti-phera,” the name of the priest of On (or Heliopolis) who gave his daughter Asnath to Joseph. Potiphera s’écrit en égyptien « P.hotep.Ra », le don ou l’offrande de Ra (XLI, 50). Potiphera is written in Egyptian “P.hotep.Ra”, the gift or offering of Ra (XLI, 50).

[End of quote]


The slight variation of the names may not be enough to prompt one to dispute those Jewish traditions according to which Potiphar and Potiphera were the same person. Robin Cohn has written on this (


Potiphar = Poti-phera?


In the early traditions about Aseneth in the Book of Jubilees, the Testament of Joseph, the Aramaic targumim of Onqelos and Neofiti 1, and many Jewish legends, Joseph’s owner Potiphar is identified with his father-in-law, Potiphera. In Greek, the names are identical. According to Genesis 37:36 the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar, a seris of Pharaoh and his chief steward. In older translations seris was translated as eunuch. As a result Potiphar’s characterization as a eunuch brought up the question of how he could have fathered a daughter. Rabbinic traditions not subscribing to the suggestion that Asenath was Dinah’s daughter, proposed that Potiphar conceived Aseneth prior to being made a eunuch or she was the daughter of his wife through other means. Based on modern scholarship, seris more appropriate means “officer” therefore we need not trouble ourselves with how a eunuch could be Aseneth’s father, even if Potiphar is to be equated with Potiphera.

[End of quote]


Following on from these traditions, it is not too far-fetched to suggest that this high Egyptian official could have borne names merely differing as to their theophorics – or, perhaps, that he slightly altered his name to include Ra when he became the priest of Heliopolis, the chief cult centre of Ra.

The following translation shows Rahotep to have been, like Potiphar, a guard and military commander


Inscription for Rahotep
Transliteration Translation
wr-m3.w jwnw w .t.y

wr zH mDH.w 3ms

w .t.y wr  js w .t.y wrS pj, nty

z3-n.y-sw.t n.y X.t=f r -Htp.j

wr n.y pj{.t}

jm.y-r3 s-k3j.t Tt

jm.y-r3 mS  xrp tm3

z3-n.y-sw.t n.y X.t=f r -Htp.j

Unique Chief of Seers of Heliopolis

Chief of the Shrine, Keeper of the Scepter

He being unique who guards Pe,

Bodily Royal Son, Rahotep

Chief of Pe

Overseer of construction and Vizier

Overseer of the Army, Controller of Squadrons

Bodily Royal Son, Rahotep


All this now makes quite possible, too, that Potiphar’s wife was Nofret herself (Genesis 39:6-20).


Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he refused. ‘With me in charge’, he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. ‘Look’, she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house’.

She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house’. When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me’, he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.



Part Three: An Egyptian variant tale



“Similarities between the classical Egyptian Tale of the Two Brothers and the Biblical story of Joseph in Egypt and Potiphar have long been noted by biblical authors (J.R. Porter, Illustrated Guide to the Bible, Oxford University Press US, 1998, 50)”.




The story of Moses’ flight from Egypt into Midian was vaguely recalled, later, in the popular Egyptian The Tale of Sinuhe [TTS], but with enough of a resemblance to the original for professor E. Anati to write that TTS had “a common matrix” with the Exodus account of Moses (Mountain of God, p. 158).


And I think that the same may be said of the New Kingdom “Tale of the Two Brothers”, that it has some vague likenesses (as commonly noted) with the biblical sage of Joseph, Potiphar and his wife. And so we read at:


Similarities between the classical Egyptian Tale of the Two Brothers and the Biblical story of Joseph in Egypt and Potiphar have long been noted by biblical authors (J.R. Porter, Illustrated Guide to the Bible, Oxford University Press US, 1998, 50). I will here develop that idea further with a comparison of the two so that readers can draw their own conclusions.

The analysis of the Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers suffers from several main obstacles:


  • 1. As with any myth or legend, the Tale of Two Brothers exists in various versions with some differences. Perhaps the best known comes from the Papyrus D’Orbiney, as popularized by Charles Moldenke. The hieratic text with hieroglyphic transcription and Moldenke’s translation is available here.
  • 2. Some of the texts are incompletely preserved and are missing significant portions which may contain relevant details. The missing portions of the text make translation more difficult because of missing context. To be sure, this does not by any means invalidate the existing translations, although it may make translations less precise than would be desired.
  • 3. The story itself appears to be very ancient, although the accounts we have are later ones. The Biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar is estimated to have occurred cerca 1650 BC, at least if Biblical timelines are believed, although revisionist chronologists have posited the Joseph story as late as 1250 BC. The Papyrus D’Orbiney is associated with the end of the 19th Dynasty cerca 1185 BC. However, in either case we see that the Joseph story is attributed to a period pre-dating the Papyrus D’Orbiney, suggesting that Joseph was the origin of the Egyptian Tale and not the reverse.
  • 4. This length of five centuries between the events and the first Egyptian record of them (or less, if one accepts revisionist dating regarding Joseph) raises concern about the likelihood, even inevitability, of various alterations which have occurred over time as history has been transformed into folk tale. In looking at the core essence of the story, we must not be distracted by fabulous elements or later interpolations which we see time and again in Egyptian history, religion, and legend. The fact that flood stories from around the world diverge on some details does not detract from the existence of substantial commonalities, nor does the later deification of early pharaohs detract from their historical personage. Few stories have not undergone significant alteration in their telling over the generations as history becomes legend and legend becomes myth.
  • 5. Authors writing from different perspectives or for different purposes often tell the same story in very different ways. The Genesis account contains sparse detail, but the account which it provides appears to be reliable. The Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers provides considerable detail. Some of these details may fill in true elements which are missing from the Genesis story, whereas others may represent later embellishments. As we sift the fabulous from the accounts, we arrive at a core story which shares compelling commonalities. Below I have listed Budge’s version of the Tale, adjacent to relevant elements from the Genesis account. Several types of marking are used in analyzing the similarities and differences. Blue text marks significant similarities between the passages. Black text marks details present in one version but not another which neither strengthen nor detract from the similiarities. Red text marks mutually incompatible contradictions between the two stories. Green text annotates elements of the Tale which are obviously mythic or fantastic. “You are the beloved of [the goddess] Inanna, you alone are exalted…From the lower (lands) to the upper (lands) you are their lord, I am second to you, From (the moment of conception), I was not your equal, you are the ‘big brother,’ I cannot compare with you ever.” (Kramer, History Begins at Sumer, 230. The context of the Tale of Two Brothers supports the belief that the two men were master and servant rather than literal brothers; beyond the first line the passages suggest a close mentorship or adoptive type of relationship rather than direct family relationship. At the very beginning the tale notes that the younger brother was “like a son” to the “older brother,” and the “younger brother tells the older brother’s wife: “I have looked upon thee in the light of a mother, and thy husband in the light of a father to me.” Why would the younger brother have to explain that his older brother was “like a father” to him if he was already a direct family member?Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, Dwellers on the Nile, 115-120
  • In the passages below of Budge’s translation, I have therefore inserted in brackets MASTER for elder [brother] and SERVANT for younger [brother].
  • Turkish” agabey” (lit. “elder brother”) also means “master.” Thus what a literal interpretation would render “elder brother” and “younger brother” often means “master” and “servant” in context.
  • It has been pointed out (D. Stewart, Sr.) that the title “elder brother” and “younger brother” in ancient languages were used as honorifics for master and servant respectively; this is preserved to the present day in Chinese. I also note that the use of “elder brother” as an honorific for a master dates from the earliest times; we see in the records of Sumerian, the first written language, that a master or professor was referred to by his pupils as “big brother” (Kramer, Samuel Noah. History Begins at Sumer. University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, Third Edition, 1981, 7, 15). We read in the Sumerian composition Enmerkar and Ensukushsiranna, a dispute between two rival rulers, that the capitulation of Ensukushsiranna Lord of Aratta to Enmerkar is accompanied with nomenclature referring Enmerkar as the “big brother,” that is, master:
Tale of Two Brother Genesis 39 Comments
There were two brothers, children of one mother and of one father.
Anpu was the name of the elder brother [MASTER], Bata that of the younger brother [SERVANT]. 1. And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.
Anpu had a house and a wife, and his younger brother [SERVANT] was like a son to him. He followed after the cattle, he did the ploughing and all the labours of the fields. Now while the younger brother [SERVANT] was with the cattle every day in the fields, taking them home each evening, and while he was in the stables, the elder brother sat with his wife and ate and drank. And when the day dawned, and before his brother rose from his bed, he [SERVANT] took bread to the fields and called the labourers to eat in the field. Behold his younger brother was so good a labourer that there was not his equal in the whole land. 2 And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. 5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. 6 And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
The cattle told him where the best grasses were, and he understood their language. This has no counterpart in Genesis 39, but the parallel of the “younger brother” being able to understand the language of the cattle has obvious parallels to Balaam’s speaking donkey (Numbers 22). The concept of speaking animals does not seem to be an indigenous Egyptian concept, and to my knowledge does not appear to be evidenced in other ostensibly “historical” Egyptian narratives.
And when it was the season for ploughing, the elder brother said, ‘Come, let us take our teams for ploughing, for the land has made its appearance; go and fetch seed for us from the village.’
And the younger brother found the elder brother’s wife sitting at her toilet. And he said, ‘Arise, and give me seed that I may go back to the field, because my elder brother wishes me to return without delay.’ Then she, said, ‘Go open the bin, and take thyself whatever thou wilt, my hair would fall by the way.’ So the youth entered his stable; he took a large vessel, for he wished to take a great deal of seed, and he loaded himself with grain and went out with it.
And she spoke to him saying, ‘What strength is there in thee, indeed. I observe thy vigour every day.’ She seized upon him and said to him, ‘Come let us lie down for an instant’ 7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
The youth became like a panther with fury on account of the shameful discourse which she had addressed to him. He spoke to her, saying, ‘Verily I have looked upon thee in the light of a mother, and thy husband in the light of a father to me. What a great abomination is this which thou hast mentioned to me. Do not repeat it again to me, and I will not speak of it to any one; verily I ‘will not let any thing of it come forth from my mouth to any man.’ 8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. 11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. 12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. Although the Tale treats her approach as a one-time event, internal evidence of the Tale supports the validity of the Genesis account that the master’s wife tried to seduce Joseph on multiple occasions until the final event. Specifically, the “younger brother” said: “Do not repeat it again to me, and I will not speak of it to any one; verily I ‘will not let any thing of it come forth from my mouth to any man.'” The elder brother’s wife would have had little reason to attempt to have the younger brother killed after he had already sworn silence; the Genesis account makes more sense that Joseph fled and left his garment when she became aggressive after her previous advances were declined, creating a situation which was not easily diffused or ignored.
Behold, the wife of his elder brother [MASTER] was alarmed at the discourse which she had held. She made herself like one who had suffered violence, for she wished to say to her husband, ‘It is thy younger brother [SERVANT] who has done me violence.’ Her husband returned’ at evening, and found his wife lying as if murdered by a ruffian. And she said, ‘No one has conversed with me except thy younger brother; when he came to fetch seed for thee, he found me sitting alone, and said insulting words to me. But I did not listen to him. Behold am I not thy mother, and thy elder brother is he not like a father to thee? This is what I said to him, and he got alarmed, and did me violence that I might not make a report to thee; but if thou lettest him live I shall kill myself.’ And the elder [MASTER] became like a panther; he made his dagger sharp, and took it in his hand, and placed himself behind the door of the stable to kill his younger brother [SERVANT] on his return at evening to bring his cattle to the stable. 13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, 14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: 15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. 16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home. 17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: 18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. 19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.
When the sun was set, the younger brother [SERVANT] loaded himself with the herbs of the field and came home. And when the first cow entered the stable she said to him, ‘Verily thy elder brother is standing before thee with his dagger to slay thee. Betake thyself from before him.’ The second beast spake “after” the same manner, and when he looked he saw the two feet of his elder brother who was standing behind the door, and placing his burden upon the ground he fled. In his flight the young man prayed to the Sun-god, who straightway caused the two brothers to be divided by a river full of crocodiles, and each brother stood upon an opposite bank. At daybreak the younger brother declared his innocence, and told his brother the true story. 20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. That Joseph was imprisoned instead of being killed in the Biblical account when accused of attempted adultery contrasts with the death penalty for such accusations in societies of the time. The more lenient punishment of Joseph has suggested to other scholars that Potiphar may have had reason to doubt his wife’s story. Rutgers University professort Gary Rendsburg observes: “The fact that [Potiphar] places [Joseph] only in prison suggests that he did not fully believe his wife” (Gary Rendsburg, “The Book of Genesis,” The Teaching Company, Lecture 39, 18:35).

In the Egyptian Tale, we have another parallel to the Balaam story of Numbers 22 with livestock not only speaking but warning the principal character to save him from death.

The story of the Tale and of scripture here, although different, are not mutually exclusive. In view of Potiphar’s power, the crime of which Joseph was accused, the lack of meaningful rights of slaves and servants, and the jurisprudence of the time which often sentenced men to death for far lesser crimes, the Genesis account fails to explain why Joseph was not killed on the spot. It is likely that both histories are correct: Potiphar may have first tried to kill Joseph, and failing that because of miraculous deliverance, had Joseph arrested and cast into prison.


At this point the narrative takes numerous fabulous turns which break with the generally plausible elements up until this point, suggesting later embellishment of an original true history. Previously there have been no fabulous elements except for the animals warning the “younger brother” just as the donkey warned Balaam. At this point the Tale diverges substantially from the story of Joseph which the narrative to this point has closely matched, further corroborating the belief that this was added later.



Part Four:

Asenath an adopted daughter?



“Pharaoh gave Joseph … Asenath … to be his wife”.


Genesis 41:45




In search of the biblical Asenath, we may peruse those named as children (“Issue”) of Rahotep (our Potiphera) in the table below (

Unfortunately, none of these Egyptian names: Djedi, Itu, Neferkau, Mereret, Nedjemib, Sethtet, would seem to me to bear any resemblance whatsoever to the name Asenath.


Prince of Egypt
Statue of Rahotep
Burial mastaba, Meidum
Spouse Nofret
Issue Djedi, Itu, Neferkau, Mereret, Nedjemib, Sethtet
Father Sneferu or Huni
Mother Sneferu’s first wife or Huni’s wife
Religion Ancient Egyptian religion
Occupation Priest of Ra


Asenath is thought to have been an Egyptian name, with some liking to connect it to the goddess Neith (e.g., “she who belongs to the goddess Neith”). “The problem is”, according to B. Scolnic, “that this name does not exist anywhere in ancient Egypt” (If the Egyptians Drowned in the Red Sea where are Pharaoh’s Chariots …, p. 52).

On the same page we learn that Kenneth Kitchen has claimed that Asenath actually means “she who belongs to you”, it being similar to a name formula from Egypt’s Middle Kingdom inscriptions such as “she who belongs to her father/mother”.

If Asenath were an adopted daughter of Rahotep, and, say, a non-Egyptian woman, then this might serve to solve a problem that, according to the following, has been “a big problem with Asenath” for the rabbis (


In parshat Mikeitz, we continue with the narrative of Joseph.  Joseph is in the dungeons, having been framed by Potiphar’s wife for her own crime of infidelity.  After proving his value to the Pharoah as an interpreter of dreams, Joseph rises to be ruler of all Egypt, second in command only to the Pharoah, himself.  In that time, Pharoah also gives Joseph a wife, Asenath, daughter of Potiphera … with whom he has two sons, Ephraim and Menashe.


The Rabbis have a big problem with Asenath.  She is an Egyptian, daughter of a pagan, and the Torah does not mention any kind of conversion.  Despite this, her two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, also, supposedly without direct mention of conversion or circumcision, Jacob claims as direct inheritors, to become tribes of Israel, each in their own right.  To make things more difficult, Jewish fathers today, continue to invoke the names of Ephraim and Menashe when blessing their sons on Friday nights.  To help settle the problem, the rabbis refer to Targum Pseudo-Yonatan which argues that in fact, Asenath was adopted by Potiphera, but was secretly the product of Shechem forcing himself on Dina, Jacob’s daughter.

[End of quote]


The extraordinary situation is nicely accounted for by J. Pratt, in “Jacob’s Seventieth Descendant”



3. The Hebrew Tradition


But could Asenath really have been Dinah’s daughter? To the best of my knowledge, this solution to the puzzle has never been published until now. No one has noticed that these verses in an obscure list of genealogy imply that Joseph’s wife, the mother of the tribe who inherited the blessing of the firstborn of Israel, is also of the house of Israel. Could that really be true?


It turns out that it has long been a Jewish tradition that Asenath was the daughter of Leah’s daughter Dinah by Shechem, a prince in the land of Canaan (Gen. 34:2). It has been thought by scholars that this tradition was no more than a fabrication. It was supposedly invented to explain the otherwise embarrassing fact that Joseph married an Egyptian woman, when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all given strict commands to marry in their own family lineage. It has always seemed strange to me, however, that a legend was invented to legitimize Joseph’s wife’s lineage by making her the illegitimate daughter of Dinah and someone from Canaan. Here is one of the many variations of this tradition:


Dinah was already pregnant by Shechem, and bore him a posthumous daughter. Her brothers wished to kill the child, as custom demanded, lest any Canaanite might say ‘The maidens of Israel are without shame!’ Jacob, however, restrained them, hung about his grand-daughter’s neck a silver disk on which were engraved the words ‘Holy to God!’, and laid her underneath a thorn bush — hence she was called ‘Asenath’. That same day Michael, in the shape of an eagle, flew off with Asenath to On in Egypt, and there laid her beside God’s altar. The priest, by name Potipherah, seeing his wife was barren, brought up Asenath as his own child.


Many years later, when Joseph had saved Egypt from famine and made a progress through the land, women threw him thank-offerings. Among them was Asenath who, having no other gift, tossed Joseph her silver disk, which he caught as it flew by. He recognized the inscription and, knowing the she must be his own niece, married her.[5]


In a less miraculous version of this tradition, Jacob himself placed the infant Asenath


near the wall of Egypt. On the same day Potiphar was taking a walk, accompanied by his retinue, and approached the wall. He heard the child weeping and commanded his followers to bring it to him. When he noticed the tablet and read the inscription he said to his followers, “This child is the daughter of eminent people. Carry it into my house and procure a nurse for it.[6]


It is clear from how different these two traditions are that much of these stories are the interpolations of men. All of these legends agree, however, on the core idea that Asenath was the daughter of Dinah and Shechem. The uncertainty seems to be on just how she came to arrive in Egypt and to be adopted by Potipherah.


Another clue is that Joseph is tied to Shechem is that Joseph was buried at Shechem (Joshua 24:32). Why was he buried there, when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried together in Hebron? Shechem later became part of the inheritance of the tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s son. Now let us turn to early Christian traditions about Joseph and Asenath.


4. The Christian Tradition


A rather different story is told in the apocryphal book Joseph and Asenath, which was a highly respected book of early Christianity.[7] A principal theme is Asenath’s total conversion to Joseph’s religion, facilitated by the appearance of an angel who looked like Joseph (J&A 14:9).

While this book says nothing about Asenath not being the literal daughter of Potipherah, it has many clues that the author knew her true lineage, but also wanted to keep it a secret. Remember, that during past ages, it was a huge disgrace to have been an illegitimate child, so the motive for keeping her lineage secret is obvious. Here are some clues that the author of Joseph and Asenath knew who Asenath really was.


  1. The point is made that Asenath does not look anything like other Egyptian women, but that she was “slender like unto Sarah, beautiful like Rebekah, and radiant in appearance like Rachel.”[8] Stating that she looked exactly like the three wives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all of whom were from Abraham’s family, has a pretty clear implications about her true lineage, without giving details.


  1. The author gives the ages of both Asenath and Joseph’s brother Benjamin correctly, as being 18 years old at the time when Joseph was 30 (J&A 1:4, 27:2). That matches the Hebrew tradition perfectly,[9] although that information is not in the Old Testament.


  1. Asenath goes into a soliloquy where she states that she is “an orphan, and desolate and abandoned and hated” (J&A 11:3). Such a surprising declaration is justified by explaining that she means only that she expects to be rejected by her Egyptian parents when she denounces their gods. The evidence that she really was a rejected orphan makes it much more understandable that such an unusual statement would be included.


  1. The story speaks of Asenath’s “foster father.” He does not appear to be Potipherah, but rather a steward (J&A 18:2), but it is interesting that the story includes her foster father.


Thus, there are many clues that the author of the Joseph and Asenath knew who she really was. Much of the rest of the book appears to be interpolation and fabrication, or what we might call today a “historical novel.” The great success of recent historical novels seems to be that they are set in a true historical setting. Similarly, it appears that the author of Joseph and Asenath wrote the account to be consistent with all of the historical setting of which he was aware.


5. Conclusion


If it is acknowledged that there really is a true logic puzzle purposely included in Genesis 46, then it is an important discovery because it elevates the tradition of Asenath’s true lineage from being a mere fabrication to being indicated by scripture. But one cannot prove that the logic puzzle was in the mind of the author of Genesis. It could be argued that the puzzle is not there at all, that it is rather just a coincidence that two errors just happen to indicate that Asenath is of the House of Israel. Anyone taking that position, however, should explain why Asenath’s name is in the genealogy list at all, especially in light of the explicit statement that none of the wives is included in the count. This point and all of the other unusual wording can best be explained by recognizing that Genesis does indeed contain all the information necessary to deduce that Asenath, the mother of the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, was the daughter of Dinah of the house of Israel.


Bezalel and Kothar-wa-Ḫasis

Published January 17, 2017 by amaic

 Kothar-wa-Khasis, Kothar, Kathar-Wa-Hasis, Kothar-u-Khasis, Kathar-Wa-Hassis, Kusorhasisu | They were here and might return |


Damien F. Mackey  



“Reading Exodus’ description of Bezalel from a somewhat more historical-critical orientation than that of his predecessors, the early Jewish 20th century scholar Umberto (Rabbi Moshe David) Cassuto, in his commentary to the Book of Exodus, emphasized the similarities between Bezalel’s attributes and descriptions of the Ugaritic, artisan deity Kothar-wa-Ḫasis”.





The Ras Shamra (Ugarit) series of tablets has been wrongly dated by historians and chronologists to c. 1550-1200 BC, which is some 500-600 years earlier than the series ought to have been dated. This is a situation common also to the El Amarna [EA] archive, dated to the 1400’s BC instead of to the 800’s BC, approximately. Dr. I. Velikovsky had discussed the chronological anomalies in both cases, in his Ages in Chaos, 1952 and Oedipus and Akhnaton, 1960.

In relation to the Old Testament, we have EA’s pharaoh, Akhnaton, thought to have pre-dated King David by some centuries, and hence the conclusion must be that his Sun Hymn, so like Psalm 104 in many places, must have been the inspiration for the biblical text.

And so we read, for instance (


Today’s topic comes from Douglas A. Knight and Amy Jill Levine’s excellent book, The Meaning of the Bible.

On the wall of a 14th century BCE tomb in Egypt archaeologists found a beautiful hymn to the god Aten. The Aten’s claim to fame is that he is sole God of a monotheistic [sic] belief espoused by Pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1336) in an era when most Egyptians believed in many gods.

What’s curious about the Great Hymn to the Aten is that it closely mirrors Psalm 104 in our Bible as a song of praise to the creator, though written hundreds of years before any of the Bible [sic]. Psalm 104, of course, is addressed not to the Aten but to YHWH, the god of the Hebrews. Here are some parallels highlighted by Knight and Levine’s book:


O Sole God beside whom there is none! – to Aten

O YHWH my God you are very great. – to YHWH


How many are your deeds … You made the earth as you wished, you alone, All peoples, herds, and flocks. – to Aten

O YHWH, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. to YHWH


When you set in western lightland, Earth is in darkness as if in death – to Aten

You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. – to YHWH


Every lion comes from its den – to Aten

The young lions roar for their prey .. when the sun rises, they withdraw, and lie down in their dens. – to YHWH


When you have dawned they live, When you set they die; – to Aten

When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die – to YHWH


You set every man in his place, You supply their needs; Everyone has his food. – to Aten

These all look to you to give them their food in due season. – to YHWH


The entire land sets out to work – to Aten People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening – to YHWH


The fish in the river dart before you, Your rays are in the midst of the sea. – to Aten

Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there – to YHWH


Birds fly from their nests, Their wings greeting your ka – to Aten

By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches – to YHWH


He makes waves on the mountain like the sea, To drench their fields and their towns. – to Aten

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills … The trees of YHWH are watered abundantly – to YHWH

[End of quote]


This is quite the common view.

Revisionists, however, view it entirely the other way around – that King David had, in fact, pre-dated Akhnaton and EA by more than a century, and so could not have been influenced in his religious ideas by the curious pharaoh. Rather, it was Israel that was culturally influencing the nations of that time.


Ugarit (Ras Shamra)



The same sort of artificial “Dark Age” archaeological gap that the likes of Peter James et al. had discerned in the conventional Hittite history (Centuries of Darkness, 1990), Dr. Velikovsky had already – four decades earlier – shown to have been the case with the Ugarit-Cyprus connection. And so we read (


In the published volume of Ages in Chaos, Velikovsky made a strong case for challenging Ugarit’s conventional dates.1 He pointed out many 500-year problems in the literary texts uncovered at the site, and shows the difficulty relating to vaulted Cypriote tombs constructed in the style of those from Ugarit but set 500 years later. For those who have not read or were not already convinced by the material presented by Velikovsky for Ras Shamra-Ugarit, perhaps a couple of additional problems will suffice.

Let us again look at the vaulted tombs of Cyprus. Velikovsky has already mentioned some of these, especially the 7th-century example from Trachonas. The island of Cyprus has an “astonishing” number of these tombs2 which divide neatly into two series: those assigned to 1550-1200 B.C., and those beginning in 950 B.C. And continuing for some time.3 The first group of vaulted tombs (at Enkomi) corresponds closely in date and style to the Ugaritic tombs, and the type is thought to have come from Syria to Cyprus.4 The second group of Cypriote tombs corresponds to both the Ugaritic and earlier Cypriote examples, but a 250-year gap separates the inception of the second group from the end of the Bronze Age tombs. More important than the 250-year period when no tombs were built in Syria or Cyprus to connect the later tombs to the earlier ones, is the fact that the earliest tombs of each group (i.e., those of 1550 and 950 B.C.), separated by 600 years, are most similar.5

The Cypriote vaulted tombs from 950-600 B.C. seem to undergo the same development as the Enkomi and Ugaritic tombs with 600 years separating the corresponding phases. It has been postulated that the later tombs somehow copied the earlier Cypriote or Syrian ones, but the tombs presumably copied must have been buried and invisible for some 600 years.6

Similar tombs are found in Jerusalem, Asia Minor, and Urartu of the 9th-7th centuries, and again it is thought that they originated in 9th-7th-century Syro-Phoenicia.7 But the only tombs of this type in that region, notably the ones from Ugarit, are placed centuries earlier.

Leaving behind the regions bordering Syro-Phoenicia, we shall travel briefly to an actual Punic colony. In the 9th or 8th century B.C.,8 a group of Phoenicians sailed to North Africa and founded Carthage. One of the oldest archaeological discoveries from the site is a late 8th-century B.C. built tomb “closely related” to the Ugaritic tombs in architectural plan. 9 It is a “faithful miniature rendering” of the Syrian tombs both in design and, apparently, in arrangements for religious rites.10 It would hardly be surprising for 8th-century Phoenician colonists to bring over a current tomb type and burial customs from their motherland. The only similar tomb type and burial customs that their motherland can produce, however, are put 500 years earlier. By the accepted scheme, the colonists’ ancestors would have been very familiar with these matters, but by the 8th century B.C., the Ugaritic tombs must have been buried over, invisible, and forgotten. 11

How did these tombs of Ugarit serve as models for Cypriots, Israelites, Urartians, Anatolian peoples, and Phoenician colonists, if contemporaneity is denied, and they went out of use and were thus forgotten 500-600 years earlier?

The final items we will examine from Ugarit are a gold bowl and a gold plate, both beautifully decorated. Stratigraphically, they belong shortly before the destruction of the city during the Amarna period, and are thus assigned a date somewhere between 1450-1365 B.C.12 Stylistically, as well, they belong to the Mitannian-Amarna period and show scenes reminiscent of late 18th Dynasty Egypt, notably the time of King Tutankhamen. 13 Both stratigraphically and stylistically, then, a late 18th Dynasty date is necessitated. Since Velikovsky lowers that date by over 500 years, how are the gold bowls affected?

These two pieces are called “remarkable antecedents of the use of the frieze of animals on metal bowls” of Phoenician workmanship, firmly dated to the 9th-7th centuries B.C.14 What is more “remarkable” than the Ugaritic examples’ manufacture and burial over 500 years before the “later” series began, is the subject matter of the two items. Extraordinary conservatism was attributed to the Phoenicians, since the later group faithfully reproduced similar scenes and arrangement of the decoration,15 after a lapse of 500 years.

The chariot scene on the 14th-century gold plate is compared to similar scenes of the 9th-century Neo-Hittites and of the Assyrian King Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.).16 The elongated gallop of the horse is seen to be quite similar to depictions on Assyrian reliefs, but Assyrian influence “is chronologically impossible, all the Assyrian monuments presently known where horses are depicted at gallop being about half a millennium later than our plate” (174). The gold bowl (Fig. 7) with its combination of Aegean, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Levantine motifs is “an excellent example of Phoenician syncretism, half a millennium before Phoenicians in the proper sense are known”.17

Surely, it was thought, these golden objects, remarkably foreshadowing by 500 years similar metal bowls and similar scenes, “may be claimed as ancestors of the series of ‘Phoenician’ bowls of the ninth-seventh centuries B.C.”18 How can they be ancestors if they were buried and unseen for 500 years before the later series began, and the art was lost over those 500 years?

If metal bowls reproduced similar scenes in similar arrangements for 500 years, that would indeed be “extraordinary conservatism.” That 9th-7th-century Phoenicians should imitate so closely 14th-century bowls they never saw, after a 500-year gap, is merely “extraordinary.”

When their date is reduced by half a millennium, these bowls fit beautifully into the later series. If one keeps high dates for the Mitannians and the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, then this is yet another mystery to add to our list.



  1. Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos, pp. 179-222.
  2. Westholm, “Built Tombs in Cyprus,” Opuscula Archaeologica II (1941), p. 30.
  3. , pp. 32-51.
  4. , p. 57.
  5. , pp. 52-53. See also A. Westholm, “Amathus,” in E. Gjerstad, et al.. The Swedish Cyprus Expedition (henceforth SCE) II (Stockholm: 1935), p. 140, and E. Sjöqvist, “Enkomi” SCE I (Stockholm: 1934), pp. 570-73.
  6. Gjerstad, SCE IV.2 (Stockholm: 1948), p. 239; V. Karageorghis, Excavations in the Necropolis of Salamis I (Salamis, vol. 3) [Nicosia: 1967], p. 123.
  7. Ussishkin, “The Necropolis from the Time of the Kingdom of Judah at Silwan, Jerusalem,” The Biblical Archaeologist 33 (1970): 45-46.
  8. The foundation date was disputed in antiquity. Most ancient estimates fell within the range of 846-7 51 B.C. Of particular interest for our purposes is the fact that a number of ancient authors stated that Carthage was founded before the Trojan War.
  9. C. and C. Picard, The Life and Death of Carthage, trans. from the French by D. Collon (London: 1968), p. 47.
  10. , p. 52, and see C. Picard, “Installations Cultuelles Retrouveés au Tophet de Salammbo,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 42 (1967): 189-99.
  11. Picard, “Installations,” sees close relations between the Ras Shamra and Carthage tombs but recognizes the chronological difficulty. His suggestion, pp. 197-98, that this tomb type came from Cyprus does not help matters. The Carthaginian settlers were primarily Syro-Phoenicians, not Cypriots. Besides, he seems not to realize that the type did not survive in Cyprus from Bronze Age times (contra, p. 197). Like the Carthaginian example, it “came back” after a mysterious chronological gap. Even if we make the Carthage example depend on Cyprus, not Syria, we are still left with the puzzle of how and why the Cypriots copied, yet did not copy, the 600-year extinct tombs of Ras Shamra or Enkomi.
  12. F. A. Schaeffer, Ugaritica II (Paris: 1949), pp. 5, 47. See H. Frankfort, The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient (Baltimore: 1963), p. 150 for their assignment to the Mitannian period, p. 140 for his dates for that period; D. E. Strong, Greek and Roman Gold and Silver Plate (Glasgow: 1966), p. 53.
  13. Frankfort, Art and Architecture, 150.
  14. Dikaios, “Fifteen Iron Age Vases,” Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, 1937-1939 (Nicosia: 1951): 137. 1 72. Schaeffer, Ugaritica II, p. 47.
  15. Vieyra, Hittite Art, pp. 45-46.
  16. Schaeffer, Ugaritica II, 22-23: “Une influence de ce coté est chronologique-ment impossible, tous les monuments assyriens actuellement connus où figurent des chevaux au galop étant postérieurs de près d’un demi-millénaire à notre patère.”
  17. Frankfort, Art and Architecture, 150.
  18. Strong, Gold and Silver Plate, 53.

[End of quote]



The conventional upside-down chronology for Ugarit has, as with EA, led to the inevitable – but wrong – conclusion that the pagan culture had influenced the supposedly later biblical writings.

The following is a typical example of this mind-set (


Ras Shamra texts and the Bible


Many texts discovered at Ugarit, including the “Legend of Keret,” the “Aqhat Epic” (or “Legend of Danel”), the “Myth of Baal-Aliyan,” and the “Death of Baal,” reveal an Old Canaanite mythology. A tablet names the Ugaritic pantheon with Babylonian equivalents; El, Asherah of the Sea, and Baal were the main deities. These texts not only constitute a literature of high standing and great originality but also have an important bearing on biblical studies. It is now evident that the patriarchal stories in the Hebrew Bible were not merely transmitted orally but were based on written documents of Canaanite origin, the discovery of which at Ugarit has led to a new appraisal of the Hebrew Bible.


[End of quote]


For a complete reversal of this view, though, see my:


Identity of the ‘Daniel’ in Ezekiel 14 and 28


With this new, revised, approach in mind, there may well be need further to re-assess Cassuto’s interpretation – following upon his most helpful comparisons between Bezalel and Ugaritic Kothar-wa-Ḫasis – of “the biblical material as a critique of Canaanite legends and polytheism.[15]”. Rather, I suggest, the Canaanite legends ought to be viewed as later, corrupt, polytheistic versions of the sublime Hebrew originals.

Baal Bronze figurine, 14th-12th centuries, Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit)


Rabbi Jeremy S. Morrison discusses Cassuto’s paralleling of Bezalel and Kothar-wa-Ḫasis in the following terrific article:


Bezalel Ben Uri and the Impotence of Foreign Deities


Introduction – Bezalel’s Special Attributes


In this week’s parasha, Vayakhel, we encounter one of the Torah’s most enigmatic characters: Bezalel, the artisan and architect who oversees the building of the Tabernacle.  Our portion describes Bezalel as filled with divine spirit (ruach elohim), and endowed with wisdom (chochmah), discernment or technical know-how (tevunah) and with knowledge of every kind of work (u’v’da’at u’vchol melachah).[1]  The product that Bezalel makes further highlights his special characteristics.  As the constructor of the Tabernacle, a dwelling place for Yhwh, Bezalel builds a house that is unique from all other human-built houses.   Scholars stress the superlative nature of the Book of Exodus’s description of him: Bezalel has “the gift of originality” and he possesses “all the requisite qualities [of wisdom, discernment and knowledge] in supernatural measure.”[2]

There is indeed something “supernatural” about Bezalel, and the unique and surpassing description of this character provokes compelling questions: Who is Bezalel? Why does Exodus describe him in this manner?  And what is his relationship with God?


Human Creativity in the Bible

Biblical Creative Tensions

Within the Bible, creativity is frequently a realm in which God is in conflict with humans. In biblical texts, humans are denied originality [sic]. Knowledge that is generated independently by the human mind, and not installed there by God, “must be at best wrong, at worst possibly antagonistic to God.”[3] The Bible also expresses suspicion regarding human artisanship, particularly metalworking, which often leads to the construction of idols. [4] Bezalel, designated as both a metal worker (Exod. 36:32) and as a thinker “of thoughts or plans” (Exod. 36:35) would seem to embody the “creative tensions” that concern the writers of the Bible.  And yet, the description of Bezalel in Vayakhel is not infused with tension; rather, he is presented as an elevated, masterful artisan, skilled in a variety of creative processes, and capable of instructing others.[5]


Yhwh’s Relationship with Bezalel


The absence of tension between God and this particular artisan highlights the special character of their relationship, which is further indicated by the opening verse of the description.  As Moses states (35:30) to the Israelites: “See, Yhwh has called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri.”

The description of Bezalel in this week’s portion is a repetition of a previous depiction of Bezalel given by God to Moses. There (Exodus 31: 1- 5), the first person account lends a greater sense of intimacy to the relationship between Yhwh and Bezalel.  God declares to Moses (Exod. 31:2), “I have called, by name, Bezalel.” God “calls” someone “by name” in only two other verses in the Bible: when God proclaims God’s own name (in Exod. 33:19) and also when God “calls” Israel “by name” (Isa. 43:1). In each of these contexts, the phrase indicates a distinctive relationship with the individual (Bezalel) or the people (Israel) that God is calling.

The meaning of Bezalel ben Uri’s name –“In the shadow of El, the son of my light”–lends credence to the notion of a special relationship between God and Bezalel. Furthermore, Moses’/God’s declaration (Exod. 35:30/Exod. 31:2) that God has “filled” Bezalel with the “breath/wind/spirit of God” (ruach elohim) places this artisan in a select category of biblical personages upon whom the “spirit/breath/wind of God” comes, including, Joseph, Saul, Ezekiel and Daniel.[6]

The description in Vayakhel, when taken together with the meaning of the name Bezalel, suggests, as Mark S. Smith has written, “an unusual intimacy between God and this otherwise shadowy figure.”[7]


Explaining Bezalel’s Unique Abilities


Since the early centuries of the Common Era, commentators have noted Bezalel’s unique qualities and have raised questions as to his identity.  This is clearly reflected, for example, in the later exegetical collection of midrashic collection on the book of Exodus, Shemot Rabbah (40:2), describes Bezalel as having been chosen by God at the beginning of time.[8]


Removing the Supernatural Description


Perhaps out of concern that the superlative nature of the description in Exodus was motivating comparisons between Bezalel and Greco-Roman gods, Josephus, in his Antiquities (1st Century, CE), took pains to recast Bezalel’s commissioning by God and removes God’s calling (kara) of Bezalel:

“[Moses] appointed construction supervisors for the works…their names…were these: Basaelos, son of Ouri of the tribe of Ioudas, grandson of Mariamme the sister of the general and Elibazos, son of Isamachos, of the tribe of Dan (Antiquities 3.104-5).”[9]

Whereas in the Bible, God chooses the architects for the building, in the Antiquities (3.104) Moses selects the architects “in accordance with the instruction of God,” thereby transforming Bezalel from a uniquely gifted craftsman to a humanly chosen member of a team of architects.[10] Perhaps he did so out of concern that the superlative nature of the description in Exodus motivated comparisons between Bezalel and Greco-Roman gods.[11]


Bezalel the Master Sage


The medieval commentator, Abraham ibn Ezra (1089–1164) (Exod. 31:3), notes that Bezalel, had great skill, knew all sorts of hidden mysteries…and understood mathematics, biology, physics, and metaphysics far beyond anyone else of his generation.[12]

According to ibn Ezra, Bezalal was simply a master scholar.


Bezalel the Ancestor of Artisans


The Protestant 20th Century German scholar Martin Noth, in A History of Pentateuchal Traditions, explains the illustrious description of Bezalel by positing that Bezalel was an ancestor of a distinguished family living during the Second Temple Period.[13] Similarly, Ronald E. Clements suggests that Bezalel and Oholiab are ancestors of artisan guilds.[14]


The Israelite Kothar


Reading Exodus’ description of Bezalel from a somewhat more historical-critical orientation than that of his predecessors, the early Jewish 20th century scholar Umberto (Rabbi Moshe David) Cassuto, in his commentary to the Book of Exodus, emphasized the similarities between Bezalel’s attributes and descriptions of the Ugaritic, artisan deity Kothar-wa-Ḫasis. In the Ba(al and Anat cycle, Yamm (the god of the sea) commissions Kothar-wa-Ḫasis to build him a palace. When Ba(al and Anat defeat Yamm, however, Kothar-wa-Ḫasis ends up building the palace for Ba(al. Cassuto sees Bezalal as an alternative to Kothar-wa-Ḫasis, and he interprets the biblical material as a critique of Canaanite legends and polytheism.[15]

The parallels between Bezalel and Kothar wa-Ḫasis should not be taken lightly.  Scholars have observed striking similarities between the portrayal of Bezalel and the descriptions of this Ugaritic deity, which are found in the Ugaritic creation myth, the Ba(al and Anat Cycle.[16]  Like Bezalel, Kothar–wa-Ḫasis’s skill set encompasses all crafts and he, like, Bezalel, builds a house for a deity, the Canaanite god of creation, Ba(al – Hadad.

Additionally, epithets for Kothar-wa-Ḫasis are analogous to elements of the description of Bezalel.[17] The Ugaritic deity is known as the “Wise One” (ss) (corresponding to chochmah); Kothar wa-Hasis is called “the deft one” (Ugaritic: rš yd) a name that corresponds to Bezalel’s being able to carve or craft (cheresh) stone, wood, or metal.


[1] For the complete description of Bezalel in this week’s portion see Ex. 35:30 – 35.

[2] See Benno Jacob, The Second Book of the Bible: Exodus (trans. W.Jacob; Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1997), 842; and W. Propp, Exodus 19-40: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible; New York, Doubleday, 2006), 488.

[3] See Michael Carasik, Theologies of the Mind in Biblical Israel (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), p. 221.

[4] This orientation towards human thinking and creativity is summarized in the Priestly statement: “The Lord saw… how every plan devised by [man’s] mind nothing but evil all the time (Gen. 6:5).” For other examples of the Bible’s pejorative orientation towards human creativity, see Isa. 65:2; Jer. 4:14; Jer. 18:12; Psa. 94:11; and Prov. 19:21.

[5] See Exod. 35:34.

[6] firstshould be rewritten to match the text}}Other biblical characters who experience God’s ruach include: Joseph (Gen. 41:38), Balaam (Num. 24:2), Saul (1 Sam. 10:10; 11:6; 16:5), Ezekiel (Ezek. 11:24), Daniel (5:11,14) and Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20).

[7] See M. Smith, Kothar wa-asis, the Ugaritic Craftsman God (Dissertation; Yale University, 1985), 100.

[8]  ומה עשה הקדוש ברוך הוא הביא לו ספרו של אדם הראשון והראה לו כל הדורות שהן עתידין לעמוד מבראשית עד תחיית המתים, דור ודור ומלכיו, דור ודור ומנהיגיו, דור ודור ונביאיו, אמר לו כל אחד ואחד התקנתיו מאותה שעה, וכן בצלאל מאותה שעה התקנתיו, הוי ראה קראתי בשם בצלאל.

[9] See Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary: Judean Antiquities 1–4, tr. L. Feldman, ed. S. Mason (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999), 257–8.

[10] See Steven Fine, “‘See, I Have Called by the Renowned Name of Bezalel, Son of Uri…’: Josephus’ Portrayal of the Biblical ‘Architect’ ,”  In The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah: in honor of Professor Louis H. Feldman, edited by Steven (Leiden: Brill, 2011), p. 29 – 30.

[11] See Fine, p. 30.

[12]  והנה בצלאל היה מלא כל חכמה בחשבון, ומדות, וערכים, ומלאכת שמים וחכמת התולדת, וסוד הנשמה. והיה לו יתרון על כל אנשי דורו,

[13] See Martin Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions (trans. Bernhard W. Anderson; Englewood Cliffs: New Jersey, 1972), 188.,

[14] See Ronald E. Clements, Exodus: The Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1972), 199.

[15] See Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (trans. I Abrahams; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1974), 402.

[16] See KTU 1.1 III; KTU 1.2 IV; KTU 1.4 V-VIII.

[17] See Smith, Kothar wa-asis, 51-100.