When Egyptian Pharaohs Ruled Bronze Age Jerusalem

Peter van der Veen investigates an Egyptian presence before the time of David

Peter van der Veen augmented a study by Gabriel Barkay on the Egyptian pharaohs’ rule over Bronze Age Jerusalem, uncovering Egyptian statues, architectural elements and texts attesting to their presence in the city. This 13th-century B.C.E. red granite statue depicts an Egyptian queen. The Egyptian statue’s significance went unnoticed for quite some time; uncovered by Arab workmen during the British Mandate, it was brought to a local clergyman’s house before being kept in a scholar’s office in Germany. Credit: R. Müller, Department of Prehistory, University of Mainz.

What were Egyptian pharaohs doing in Bronze Age Jerusalem?

In a BAR feature 13 years ago,1 Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay investigated evidence of an Egyptian temple in Jerusalem, exposing the “Egyptianizing” of Bronze Age Jerusalem. In the March/April 2013 issue, Peter van der Veen presents new evidence of an Egyptian presence in Bronze Age Jerusalem before David made the city the Israelite capital. In “When Pharaohs Ruled Jerusalem,” Peter van der Veen brings together an array of evidence—including Egyptian statues, stylized architecture and material culture—that points to their presence in the city. But what did the Egyptian pharaohs want with Late Bronze Age Jerusalem? And where were they when David conquered the Jebusite city?

The initial study by Gabriel Barkay (which Peter van der Veen refers to as “reminiscent of nothing so much as Sherlock Holmes”) exposed Egyptianizing column capitals, a hieroglyphic stela and two Egyptian-style alabaster vessels that likely served as burial gifts. Peter van der Veen expanded the investigations of Gabriel Barkay to include figurines and Egyptian statues as well as a funerary stela referring to the local “ruler” of Bronze Age Jerusalem.

The Egyptian artifacts date to the 13th century B.C.E., during the 19th Egyptian Dynasty that included the reign of Ramesses II. Peter van der Veen writes “Egypt was not new to Canaan in the 19th dynasty … Canaan was in effect an Egyptian province during the 14th century B.C.E.” In the famous Amarna letters, Abdi-Heba, the puppet-king of Jerusalem, proclaims that “the king has placed his name in Jerusalem forever.” While Bronze Age Jerusalem was not situated on Canaanite trade routes, Peter van der Veen notes that it controlled north-south traffic between Hebron and Shechem, as well as east-west traffic from the Via Maris to the King’s Highway. The Egyptians established a garrison at Manahat, just two miles southwest of Bronze Age Jerusalem.
 


 
In the FREE eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.
 

 
It seems that the Egyptian pharaohs of the 19th dynasty used local vassal rulers to run daily affairs in Late Bronze Age Jerusalem, as did their predecessors in the Amarna period. But there is almost no evidence of an Egyptian presence in Jerusalem just prior to David’s conquest, around 1000 B.C.E. The Egyptian pharaohs did not lose interest in the city; the Bible tells us that Shishak sent his army north less than a century after David’s conquest of Jerusalem.2

Peter van der Veen poses the question: “Was David able to conquer Jerusalem (in about 1000 B.C.E.) because it was defended only by the Jebusites/Canaanites, without any Egyptian presence in the city?”
 

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BAS Library Members, read more in Peter van der Veen, “When Pharaohs Ruled JerusalemBiblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2013.
Not a BAS Library member yet? Sign up today!
 

 

Related Content in Bible History Daily

Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?

Epilepsy, Tutankhamun and Monotheism

Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought
 


 

Notes

1. Barkay, Gabriel. “What’s an Egyptian Temple Doing in Jerusalem?.” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/Jun 2000, 48-57, 67.
2. Levin, Yigal. “Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Jul/Aug 2012, 42-52, 66.

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5 Responses

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  1. Tim says

    The ancient Egyptian influence is very slight. It is not as strong as the Persian influence is. When you go through the Israel Museum, you can see a strong Persian influence in Judaic history, but the Egyptian influence is mostly confined to the Haggadah. That is really the only material source.

  2. Joseph says

    The surprise factor of this article is strange. After all, the Israelites were Egypt’s foremost citizens for over two centuries, they held primal positions in the royal admn, and make the first mention of Egyptian culture and its civilazation in the Hebrew bible. The israelites took control of Egypt’s vasal state. Why is it so suprising of Egyptian imprints in Israel?

  3. Lujack says

    Jair was the judge who built Israeli cities (Judges 10:3-4) The main body of Israelis seemed to be living along the Jordan river in abandoned Canaanite houses in these towns.
    Israel population was basically in Heshbon and her towns, in Aroer and her towns and in all the cities along the coasts of Arnon for 300 years. (Judges 11:26) The 300 years in which Israel had been oppressed by Cushan-Rishathaim, the Moabites, Jabin the Canaanite, the Midianites. The Egyptian troops at that time were north of Canaan fighting the Hittites until the 8th year of Ramses III when the Hittite empire fell.

    Judge Jair apparently built Israeli cities after Ramses VI pulled all Egyptian troops out of western Asia.

  4. Lujack says

    King David did encounter an Egyptian slave (1 Samuel 30:11-18) who was fleeing the Amalekites. One of David’s friends (2 Samuel 23:20-21) slew an Egyptian with the Egyptians own spear.

  5. Omar says

    Cuando van a poner en español los articulos muy necesitados de conocer informacion veraz de primera mano como lo es esta.

    Gracias, por su respuesta,


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