Biblical Egypt by R. David Pogge

Chapter 10

The United Kingdom and the 3rd Intermediate Period

Saul, David, Solomon and Some Shadowy Pharaohs

Section 10.1 - Israelites in the United Kingdom

The terms Semite, Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew are often used interchangeably, and usually it doesn’t make any difference. This is one of those times when it does, so we need to be clear. In this chapter, about the united kingdom, the term “Israelite” refers to a different group of people than it will in subsequent chapters.

The complete Biblical genealogy 1 goes into more detail than we need. The important points are in Genesis. Noah had three sons, one of whom was Shem. 2 All of Shem’s descendents are the Semites. One of those Semites was Abram,3 who was later renamed Abraham by God. 4 Abraham had a child by Hagar named Ishmael,5 and a child by Sarah named Isaac.6 Later, after Abraham had sent Hagar away and Sarah had died, Abraham married Keturah and had six more sons (whose descendents were the Midianites, Ashurites, Leummites, Letushites, and some other tribes) and other sons by some unnamed concubines. 7 (A lot of Christians don’t know that.)

Abraham’s son Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau (who was also known as Edom and became the ancestor of the Edomites). 8 Jacob was later renamed Israel by God. 9 Jacob had 12 sons who became the patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. 10 Three of those sons (Judah, Levi and Joseph) are of particular interest.

Joseph, went down to Egypt and became very successful as we saw in Chapter 4. While there, Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh who became “half-tribes” which took Joseph’s place. 11 When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, there were 11 tribes, and two half-tribes.

Because they exhibited extraordinary devotion to God, the descendents of Levi (the Levites) were made priests and were not given any land,12 but were given cities 13 in the land which was divided among the other 10 tribes and 2 half-tribes, which once again were known as “the Twelve Tribes of Israel.”

The descendents of Judah became known as “the Jews,” so the term “Jew” is more specific than “Israelite.” The most notable descendant of Judah was Jesus of Nazareth.

In this chapter, dealing with the united kingdom, the term “Israelites” refers to all the descendents of Israel. In the next chapter, dealing with the divided kingdom (that is, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) the term “Israelites” will refer specifically to the 10 northern tribes; but “Jews” refers to the southern two tribes, of which the tribe of Judah was more predominant. During the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, all twelve tribes were still united, hence the term, “united kingdom.”

Section 10.2 - Chronological Uncertainty

The Bible is very clear about how many kings ruled the united kingdom. The Bible is also very specific about how long each one reigned. Saul reigned 40 years. David reigned 40 years. Solomon reigned 40 years.

Egyptian chronology is not nearly so well defined for this period. Egyptologists disagree about the dates of the pharaohs of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties. All the different authors have good reasons for the discrepant dates they have published in their Egyptian chronologies. I am not going to argue about the validity of those reasons, or pick a winner. The differences simply point out the uncertainty of absolute dates in this time period, which also affects the dates of earlier dynasties.

Section 10.3 - The Third Intermediate Period

Like the previous two Intermediate Periods, data on the Third Intermediate Period is sketchy because the transitional periods were times of instability, not times of national pride which Egyptians wanted to remember. Clayton says,

The little light that is thrown on the 21st Dynasty comes largely from the Biblical record, since the period coincides with the struggles of David in Israel to unite the tribes and destroy the Philistines … 14

I believe David was contemporary with the beginning of the 22nd Dynasty rather than the end of the 21st Dynasty. In the last chapter, we saw that Clayton appeared to support the outdated notion that Ramesses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus; but the math implies that he really accepted the more modern notion that Amenhotep II was the Exodus pharaoh, which would explain why he thinks David ruled slightly earlier than I do (because I think it was Amenhotep III who would not let the people go).

Regardless of whether David ruled at the end of the 21st Dynasty or beginning of the 22nd Dynasty, we both agree that David ruled during the Third Intermediate Period, about which little Egyptian history is known.

What we do know for sure about the Third Intermediate Period is that Egypt was in decline, and Israel was on the rise. Young women sang about Saul killing his thousands, and David his ten thousands. 15 Study Bibles generally include a map showing Saul’s kingdom, how David enlarged the kingdom to the east, west, and south, and Solomon extended it to the north into modern Syria; but Saul, David, and Solomon never even tried to conquer Egypt.

Egypt has always had one special asset—the Nile River. Even during times of famine, the Nile could be counted upon to flood and irrigate the land sufficiently to grow crops. When everyone else was starving, Egypt generally had enough food left over to sell to foreigners.

In Biblical times, when one country conquered another, the victor carried the spoils back home. They took the gold and silver from the temple and/or palace, and brought back herds of animals—but they could not put the Nile River in a bottle and carry it back home. The Nile River was a treasure nobody could steal. As long as the Egyptians were willing to sell food at a reasonable price, there was no point in conquering Egypt. To conquer Egypt, you would have to kill large numbers of Egyptian men, leaving fewer Egyptians to farm the land. If you conquer Egypt, you have to farm the land yourself. Who wants to do that if the Egyptians are willing to sell you the grain?

At this time Egypt was too weak to invade other countries and take their stuff, so it made sense for the Egyptians to prosper through commerce by encouraging good diplomatic relations. Clayton says,

Where, hitherto, there had been a stream of foreign princesses coming to the Egyptian court, the process was slightly reversed, with Egyptian princesses ‘marrying out’. One princess married Hadad, the crown prince of the kingdom of Edom, when he took refuge in Egypt after succumbing to David’s attacks. 16

An Egyptian campaign in which Gezer was seized from the weakened Philistines is recorded in the Old Testament. Solomon had succeeded his father David and an Egyptian alliance was sealed by Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian princess. 17

The Bible says,

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem. 18

Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. 19

Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.

But Hadad, still only a boy, fled to Egypt with some Edomite officials who had served his father. They set out from Midian and went to Paran. Then taking people from Paran with them, they went to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave Hadad a house and land and provided him with food.

Pharaoh was so pleased with Hadad that he gave him a sister of his own wife, Queen Tahpenes, in marriage. The sister of Tahpenes bore him a son named Genubath, whom Tahpenes brought up in the royal palace. There Genubath lived with Pharaoh’s own children.

While he was in Egypt, Hadad heard that David rested with his ancestors and that Joab the commander of the army was also dead. Then Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me go, that I may return to my own country.” 20

Which pharaoh was Queen Tahpenes married to? That leads us to an interesting discussion.

Section 10.4 - Tahpenes and Egyptian Names

Names can undergo strange transformations when being translated from one language to another. Since you are reading this in English, you probably say the son of Joseph and Mary is “Jesus.” If you were a Spanish-speaker, you would call Him “Jesus” – pronounced, “HAY sues.” His contemporaries, however, would have called Him a name that would have sounded more like Joshua or Yeshua. Many people call Him “Christ,” which is the English version of the Greek translation of the Jewish title, Messiah.

The names of the pharaohs were written in hieroglyphics, which few people can read these days. So, they were rendered phonetically into English; or, in some cases, phonetically into Greek, and the Greek was then written phonetically in English; or in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), the Egyptian hieroglyphs were written phonetically in Hebrew, which was written phonetically in Greek. Phonetic spelling can be rather subjective. Not everyone chooses the same way to phonetically describe a sound. Hence, the different spellings.

This is why the Great Pyramid at Giza is also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops.

Khufu (/ˈkuːfuː/ koo-foo), originally Khnum-Khufu (/ˈknuːmˈkuːfuː/knoom-koo-foo), is the birth name of a Fourth Dynasty ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who ruled in the first half of the Old Kingdom period (26th century BC). … Khufu is well known under his Hellenized name Khêops or Cheops(/ˈkiːɒps/, kee-ops; Greek: Χέοψ, by Diodorus and Herodotus) and less well known under another Hellenized name, Súphis (/ˈsuːfɨs/ soo-fis;Greek: Σοφις, by Manetho). A rare version of the name of Khufu, used by Josephus, is Sofe (/ˈsɒfiː/ so-fe; Greek: Σοφε). Arab historians, who wrote mystic stories about Khufu and the Giza pyramids, called him Saurid or Salhuk. 21

The first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty was Ahmes, or Ahmose, or Amosis I, depending upon which book you read.

To make matters worse, most pharaohs had five names: the Horus name, the Two Ladies name, the Golden Falcon name, the prenomen, and the nomen (birth name). 22 The names of pharaohs in the same dynasty were often similar to their father’s name or grandfather’s name, so modern archeologists have added Roman numerals or letters to their names to keep them separate.

The notion of a birth name and a throne name is not as unusual as it might seem. The man born Karol Józef Wojtyła, is known as Jan Paweł II in Poland or Giovanni Paolo II in Italy. Officially he is Ioannes Paulus II; but you probably know him as Pope John Paul II.

Now, about the Biblical reference to Queen Tahpenes. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt lists the names of every known royal person, no matter how obscure, none of which sounds like Tahpenes. Many scholars accept the suggestion that “Tahpenes” is not a name, but is actually the phonetic Greek rendering of the Egyptian title, t’a-ḥm(t)-ns(w), which means, “the wife of the king.” 23 That makes sense to me.

Although we don’t know exactly which pharaoh’s sister-in-law Hadad married, the important thing is that it confirms the fact that Egyptian pharaohs of the Third Intermediate Period did use royal marriages to foster good diplomatic relationships with Israelites and also with Edomites.

My best guess is that Solomon took the throne about the same time as Osorkon II; but Chapter 4 of The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt is filled with so many phrases like, “not known with certainty,” “not wholly certain,” and “nothing is known,” that it is a veritable thesaurus of ignorance. There isn’t any point in speculating about whose daughter Solomon married.

Section 10.5 - The Division

When King Solomon died, God divided the Hebrews. During the 22nd Dynasty, God “tore away” the ten northern tribes and gave them to Jeroboam 1. The two southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin) were left to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. From this time on, the northern kingdom was called “Israel.” (Later, this area was called, "Samaria;" but let's not get ahead of ourselves.) The southern kingdom was called, “Judah.”

The northern kingdom (Israel) had 20 kings during the 150 years of its existence. All of the kings were bad (that is, they “did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord”) which is why they usually didn’t reign very long. The southern kingdom (Judah) had 20 kings during the 345 years of its existence. Ten of these kings were bad, six were good, two were good but turned bad, one was bad but turned good, and Amaziah got mixed reviews. Perhaps that is why God was somewhat more longsuffering with Judah than with Israel.

The battles between Israel and Judah and their neighbors are recorded in chapters 13 through 15 of 2 Kings. Egypt largely stayed out of this 150 year period of sibling rivalry.

As we will soon see, God used the Assyrians and Babylonians, and some lesser powers, to punish His wayward people.

Back to Chapter 9 Table of Contents On to Chapter 11


1 1 Chronicles chapters 1 - 9
2 Genesis 5:32
3 Genesis 11:10-26
4 Genesis 17:5
5 Genesis 16:15
6 Genesis 21:3
7 Genesis 25:1-6
8 Genesis 25:19-34
9 Genesis 32:28
10 Genesis 35:23-26
11 Genesis 48:5-6
12 Exodus 32:28-29
13 Joshua 14:1-5
14 Peter A. Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, 2006, page 181
15 1 Samuel 18:7
16 Peter A. Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, 2006, page 181
17 ibid.
18 1 Kings 3:1
19 1 Kings 9:16
20 1 Kings 11:14, 17-21
22 Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton, 2004, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, page 11
and Nigel C. Strudwick, 2005, Texts from the Pyramid Age, page 14
23 Several sources, including, cite B. Grdseloff, Annales du Service des Antiquités d’Égypte, XLVII (1947), 211-216.