Thebes (Ezekiel 30)

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Illustration: The Avenue of the Sphinxes in Thebes

For much of Egyptian history, Thebes was the leading city of southern Egypt. Located on the eastern bank of the Nile some 726 km south of Cairo, Thebes was the centre of worship for the god Amon, “king of the gods”. The city reached its zenith between 1500 and 1000 B.C., when it functioned as the centre of a vast empire and rabked as one of the wealthiest and most famous cities in the ancient world. Ancient Thebes, located at modern Luxor and Karnak, comprises the larges collection of antiquities in the world, covering an area of 26 to 29 square km. The magnificent temple of Amon, located on the eastern bank of the Nile at Karnak, is the largest temple ever constructed and, until modern times, held the distinction of being the largest columned building in the world. Its magnificent columns, 10 m in circumference, soar to a height of 21 m.

Pharaohs recorded their achievements on the temple walls. One of these inscriptions, the Bubastite Portal, constitutes Pharaoh Sheshonk’s (Biblical Shishak’s) record of his campaign against Judah and Israel in 925 B.C. and can be compared with 1 Kings 14:25-26 and 2 Chronicles 12:2-9. On the western side of the Nile is the royal necropolis, including numerous mortuary temples and tombs of the kings and queens of the New Kingdom (Eighteenth – Twentieth Dynasties, ca. 1570-1070 B.C.). Here may be found, for example, the beautiful mortuary temple of queen Hatshepsut (ca. 1479-1457 B.C) and the famous tomb of Tutankhamen (ca. 1336-1327 B.C). Another important mortuary temple is that of Ramses III (ca. 1184-1153 B.C.). This pharaoh recorded on its walls his 1176 B.C. victory over the Sea Peoples, among whom were the Philistines, who settled on the Southwestern coast of the region now known as Palestine. Although the New Kingdom pharaohs were the major builders of Thebes and Karmak, other pharaohs also sought to contribute to their glory. The Twenty-sixth (Nubian) Dynasty sought to revive classical Egyptian culture and further enhanced the splendour of the temple of Amon at Karnak in the late eighth century B.C.

Nahum 3:8-10 vividly describes the Assyrian attack on Thebes that took place around 663 B.C., and the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel both wrote words of condemnation against the city, a centre of paganism. Jeremiah, in about 600 B.C., declared that God would punish Amon of Thebes, the pharaoh and the gods of Egypt: They would be given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Jeremiah 46:25-26, cf. Ezekiel 30:10-19). A fragmentary clay tablet attest to an attack upon Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar in approximately 569 B.C. The Persians also sacked the city under Cambyses (ca. 525 B.C.) and Artaxerxes III (ca. 342 B.C.) During the Ptolemaic period, Thebes was the focal point for Egyptian resistance to Ptolemaic (Greek) rule, and three separate rebellions were suppressed. By the Roman period the glory of Thebes had come to an end.


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