The campaign of Shishak (2 Chronicles 12)

Bilderesultat for the bubastite portal

Illustration: the Bubastite Portal

Pharaoh Sheshonk I, who ruled Egypt from around 945-924 B.C. (931-910 B.C. on an alternative chrononlogy), is probably the Shishak of the Bible. 1 Kings 11:40 states that Shishak provided refuge for Jeroboam when he was fleeing from Solomon. Five years after the division of the united monarchy, Shishak invaded Judah (2 Chronicles 12:1-9).

At Karnak in Egypt, near Thebes, at the great temple of Amun, stands an entryway known as the Bubastite Portal (pictured above). This imposing entrance was probably constructed or renovated by Sheshonk I (the temple complex had existed for houndreds of years prior to Sheshonk and had been built up by numerous pharaohs). On one of the walls of the Bulbastite Portal is featured a commemorative relief of Sheshonk’s expedition into the region now known as Palestine. Although it is now badly damaged, enough remains to indicate that this pharaoh not only attacked Judah, as the Bible records, but campaigned against the northern kingdom as well. Sheshonk, depicted on the right-hand side of the scene, is about to club a group of foreigners. On the left side is pictured the Egyptian god Amun leading off captive cities with ropes. Each city is represented by an oval cartouche containing the name of the city, with a bound prisoner on the top. The list primarily contains place-names in the northern kingdom of Israel.

Megiddo is one of the towns listed in the Bulbastite Portal. Sheshonk’s claim to have sacked Megiddo seems to be confirmed by a portion of commemorative stele found there in 1926. Sheshonk’s name can be clearly read, and the steke is probably from his campaign. Many other destruction layers found at Palestinian sites from this period are also attributed to Sheshonk. When his som Osorkon I took the throne, he donated huge amounts of gold and silver to the temples in Egypt, much of it very likely plunder from Sheshonk’s raids on Israel and Judah.

The equation of Shishak with Sheshonk is not without problems. Most notable is the fact that Sheshonk’s invasion involved a direct attack on the cities of the northern kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam I, even though 1 Kings 11:40 suggests that Shishak was Jeroboam’s patron. Also, Jerusalem is missing from Sheshonk’s list of subjugated sites, although 1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12 both record Shihak’s plundering of the temple and palace. However, it is certainly possible that relations between Jeroboam I and Sheshonk/Shishak had deteriorated after Jeroboam had seized control ot northern Israel. The Bible does not provide us with a detailed political history of these times. Also, only about 15 percent of the writing on the Bubastite Portal is legable, and the absence of Jerusalem from the (readable) names does not prove that t was never there.

It is possible that the inscription also mentions the “highlands of David” in its reference to Israel. If so, it is the earliest extrabiblical reference to David in existence and as such affords powerful evidence that he was in fact the great king the Bible portrays him to be. The interpretation of the relevant line of this text, however, is disputed.


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