When Egyptian Pharaohs Ruled Bronze Age Jerusalem

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

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2013.—Ed.


 

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,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 “When Pharaohs Ruled Jerusalem” by Peter van der Veen in the March/April 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Sign up today!
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in February 2013.
 

 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?

Ancient Egyptian Beer Vessels Unearthed in Tel Aviv, Israel

Akhenaten and Moses

Epilepsy, Tutankhamun and Monotheism

Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought
 


 

Notes:

1. Gabriel Barkay, “What’s an Egyptian Temple Doing in Jerusalem?” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2000.
2. Yigal Levin, “Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2012.
 


 

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  • David says

    Alan wrote: “It will be interesting to find Salomon’s wife’s palace, the Pharaoh’s daughter …’.

    We have! … this is it … but no one recognises the fact because Egyptian chronology is messed up big time. These artefacts and a sarcophagus tomb in the Ecole Biblique are from Pharaoh’s Daughter’s burial in the late 19th Dynasty.

  • Alan says

    It will be interesting to find Salomon’s wife palace, the Pharo’s dauther… in this case could be a secondary princess because the first one or the throne one was always to be married to her brother or father to give validation to he new Pharo…

  • Sa-ra-broClark says

    Where are the remains or bodies of anyone in the bible, they keep finding evidence of remains and artifacts all day long of ancient Kemet, but can’t find the remains of anyone in the bible, knowing if they could they would put them on display. Well, I know why, because those stories aren’t true, they’ve been modified from earlier folklore stories to fit a people’s culture, that’s all. Allegory mixed with fairytales. Its a fun read but its mostly and I do mean mostly, a lie. Remember “man” wrote everything in that book, not a GOD.

  • ralph says

    Of course there was an Egyptian influence in Judaea. In reality King David was Egyptian himself – his primary palace was in Zoan, not Zion. There you will find a king of the 10th century BC who was famed and named for a star (Star of David) and his city (City of David).

    His name was King Pa-Duat-Khayan-Nuit (meaning, My star Rises in my City). And it is from the name Duat, that the name David was derived.

    Oh, and his daughter was called Makhare MuTahmat (Machah Tamar). See ‘Solomon, Pharaoh of Egypt’.

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