Hophra, king of Egypt (Jeremiah 44)

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Illustration: Pharaoh Hophra

Hophra (known to Egyptologists by the Greek form of his name, Apries), the fourth king of the Twenty-sixth (Saite) Dynasty, ruled Egypt from 589 to 570 B.C. His palace has been excavated at Memphis. When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in 588 B.C., Zedekiah requested help from Egypt (Ezekiel 17:15), and Hophra responded by sending troops. This resulted in Nebuchadnezzar lifting the siege of Jerusalem to deal with the Egyptian treat (Jeremiah 37:5, 11). The relief was short-lived, however, because Nebuchadnezzar quickly drove off the Egyptians and returned to capture Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1-21, Jeremiah 37:6-10, 39:1-10, 52:1-29).

After Gedaliah, the new governor of Judah, was assassinated in 586 B.C., the remaining Judean leadership fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them (41:16-43:7). While in Egypt the prophet declared that God would hand over Hophra to his enemies (44:30). Indeed, Jeremiah’s words reflect a disdain for Hophra. In 46:17 he declared “There they will exclaim, ‘Pharaoh king of Eguypt is only a loud noise; he has missed his opportunity’.” (This could also be translated “There they will call pharaoh, king of Egypt, ‘Noisy has missed his opportunity’.”) The Hebrew for “he has missed” in this verse sounds like the name Hophra.

Hophra’s downfall does suggest a degree of ineptitude. In 570 B.C. he sent a force of Egyptians against a Greek colony in Cyrene in eastern Libya. The Egyptian army was badly defeated, leading to a soldiers’ revolt against Hophra’s leadership. Hophra sent his general, Amasis, to quell the rebellion, but Amasis joined it instead. Forced by Amasis into exile, Hophra made his way to the Babylonian cout of Nebuchadnezzar II. He returned three years later with the Babylonian amy in an attempt to regain the thronr but was defeated and lost his life in the process. Nevertheless, Amasis buried him with full honours in the royal cemetery at Sais in Egypt’s western delta.


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