Shishak (Hebrew: shī´shak שׁישׁק; Greek: Sousakeím, Σουσακείμ), an Egyptian pharoah mentioned in the Biblical books of 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles and a contemporary of the Israelite kings Solomon and Rehoboam. Majority consensus of historical scholars and archaeologists identify Shishak with Pharoah Shoshenq I, although more recently historian David Rohl has claimed Rameses II as Shishak, based on a variety of circumstantial evidence.
Shishak first appears in the Biblical narrative as a patron of Jeroboam, one of Solomon's sons who fled from the presence of his father:
- And Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam. And Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon. (1st Kings, 11:40)
His second appearance would be in a raid against King Rehoboam of the southern kingom of Judah:
- And it happened in the fifth year of King Rehoboam Shishak king of Egypt, he came up against Jerusalem.
- And he took away the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and the treasures of the king's house. He took all away. And he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. (1st Kings, 14:25-26)
- And it happened in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had sinned against Jehovah
- with twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen. And the people who came with him out of Egypt were without number: Lubim, the Sukkiim, and the Ethiopians.
- And he took the fortified cities in Judah, and came to Jerusalem.
- And Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam, and to the rulers of Judah who were gathered to Jerusalem because of Shishak. And he said to them, So says Jehovah, You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak.
- And the rulers of Israel and the king humbled themselves. And they said, Jehovah is righteous.
- And when Jehovah saw that they humbled themselves, the Word of Jehovah came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will give them some deliverance. And My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.
- But they shall be his servants, so that they may know My service, and the service of the kings of the countries.
- And Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and the treasures of the king's house. He took all. And he carried away the shields of gold which Solomon had made. (2nd Chronicles, 12:2-9)
Identity as Shoshenq I
Shoshenq I (952-930 BC), the founder of the 22nd Dynasty, was in all probability of Libyan origin. It is possible that his claim to the throne was that of the sword, but it is more likely that he acquired it by marriage with a princess of the preceeding dynasty. On the death of Pasebkhanu II, the last of the kings of the 21st Dynasty, 952 BC, Shoshenq ascended the throne, in command of an efficient, well-equipped army and a filled treasury. His goal was Asiatic domination.
Shoshenq's Record at Karnak
A contemporary record of Shoshenq's campaign into Israel was engraved on the south wall of the Temple of Amon at Karnak by Shoshenq himself. Not only is the expedition recorded, but there is a list of districts and towns which were also mentioned in the Book of Joshua; among the names of the list are Rabbath, Taanach, Gibeon, Mahanaim, Beth-horon and other towns both of Israel and Judah. That names of places in the Northem Kingdom are mentioned in the list does not imply that Shoshenq had directed his armies against Jeroboam and plundered his territories. It was the custom in antiquity for a victorious monarch to include among conquered cities any place that paid tribute or was under subjection, whether captured in war or not; and it was sufficient reason for Shoshenq to include these Israelite places that Jeroboam, as seems probable, had invited him to come to his aid. Among the names in the list was Jud-hamalek - Yudhmalk on the monuments - which was at first believed to represent the king of Judah, with a figure which passed for Rehoboam. Being, however, a place-name, it is now recognized to be the town Yehudah, belonging to the king. On the death of Shoshenq his successor assumed a nominal suzerainty over the land of Canaan.
Identity as Rameses II
Egyptologist and historian David Rohl created a stir when he published a revision of the traditional Egyptian and Near Eastern chronologies, and claimed the great 19th Dynasty pharaoh Rameses II as Shishak. He based his theory on several key elements:
- The identity of Shoshenq I as Shishak was based solely on a reading of the text of the Bubasite Portal at the Temple of Karnak near Thebes by Jean-François Champollion on his only trip to Egypt in the mid-1800’s after he successfully deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphic language. On the Portal is a list of cities Shoshenq I had conquered in his campaign, and the 29th city Champollion read it as y-w-d-h-m-r-k, surmising that it meant “Judah Kingdom” (Hebrew Yhuda Malkhut: יְהוּדָה מַלְכוּת). But it is not the word “Jerusalem,” which is not only not where it should be on the portal, it in fact it is not there at all. A highly important city such as Jerusalem, the capitol of a nation, should have merited mention in Shoshenq’s campaign; indeed, the Biblical reference in 2 Chronicles 12:9 states that Shishak "...came up against Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and the treasures of the king's house. He took all. And he carried away the shields of gold which Solomon had made.".
- The only inscription from Egyptian sources directly identified as mentioning a conquest of Jerusalem is on the north tower of the pylon of the first court at the Ramesseum near Karnak, which was built by Ramses II: "The town in which the king plundered in Year 8 – Shalem". The name Jerusalem was a later word made up of yeru, meaning "foundation" or "city" (possibly bestowed by the patriarch Abraham as "yireh" for Mt. Moriah) and Shalem, either an early local deity from pagan times or a byname for Melchizidek, hence “city of Shalem” (Hebrew: Yerushaláyim יְרוּשָׁלַיִם).
- Rohl also argued that a nickname found for Ramses III, read as “se-se” from the hieroglyphic, may have been corrupted by the Hebrews with an added “K” sound at the end to signify contempt, becoming “se-sek.” In Hebrew it would have been written as שישק “sysq”, or “sha-shek”.
The weakening of Israel at the time of Shishak’s invasion, assuming he was indeed Ramses II, would fit well with the inscription on the Mereneptah Stele by that later pharaoh (Rameses’ son and successor), which stated “Israel is desolate; his seed is no more.”
- Rohl, David M. Pharaohs and Kings, Crown Publishers, New York, NY (1995), originally published in Great Britain as A Test of Time, Century LTD, London.
- Albright, William F. The Old Testament and Modern Study, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England (1951).