Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?

The Bubastite Portal's record of the Egyptian Pharaoh's campaigns does not mention the invasion described in 1 Kings

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2012.—Ed.

“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, King Shishak of Egypt marched against Jerusalem.”
—1 Kings 14:25

Shishak, actually Pharaoh Sheshonq I, left his own account of this northern campaign carved into the walls of the Temple of Karnak in Egypt, but he does not mention Jerusalem among the places he conquered. Israeli scholar Yigal Levin’s article “Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem” in the July/August 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review examines the historical veracity of both the Egyptian Pharaoh’s account and the Bible’s.

The Bubastite Portal includes a large weathered relief in which the pharaoh lists more than 150 towns and peoples he conquered during his military campaign into Israel and Judah in c. 925 B.C.E. Photo: © Regents of the University of California/Courtesy the Digital Karnak Project.

Levin points out that if the Egyptian Pharaoh’s records on the Bubastite Portal match those from 1 Kings, “this would be the earliest event in Biblical history for which we have a contemporaneous reference in an extrabiblical source.” Moreover, Egyptian records of Sheshonq’s rule between 945 and 925 B.C.E. could be used to date the reigns of Rehoboam’s father, Solomon, and his grandfather, David.

Sheshonq was no modest conqueror (Egyptian pharaohs rarely were) and built a great colonnaded forecourt to the temple of Amun in Karnak, including the famous Bubastite Portal. On the Bubastite Portal, Sheshonq is supported by Amun and other gods as he smites his enemies in Asia, who are bound in the depiction below him. Each prisoner features a name-ring with a toponym, identifying a place that Sheshonq conquered or destroyed.

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Jerusalem is the only city that Shishak destroys in Kings, but it is not among the surviving toponyms on the Bubastite Portal, which does mention campaigns in Judah, including a mention of fighting in Megiddo. Rehoboam and Jeroboam are also conspicuously absent.

More than 150 hieroglyphic name-rings, each represented as a bound and tethered Asiatic captive, give the names of the towns conquered by Sheshonq during his northern campaign. While some of the names clearly refer to towns known from the Bible, such as Arad, Beth-Shean and Megiddo, the identification of others is uncertain, while many names are now unreadable. Noticeably absent from the relief is the name for Jerusalem. Shown here are name-rings from the sixth and seventh rows, in the lower register of the relief, names that are usually associated with toponyms in Israel’s southern Negev desert. Photo: © Erich Lessing.

Why was Jerusalem not mentioned on the Bubastite Portal, and why does the passage in Kings mention Jerusalem but not Sheshonq’s other campaigns in Judah? Some scholars believe that Jerusalem’s toponym was erased by time. Others believe that Rehoboam’s tribute to Sheshonq saved the city from destruction and therefore from the Bubastite Portal’s lists. Still others suggest that Sheshonq claimed conquest that he did not enact (Egyptian Pharaohs made false claims about their conquests frequently) and copied the list of conquered territories from an old Pharaoh’s conquest list. Finally, as Kings is a religious text, it focuses on Jerusalem without including full details on the military, history and politics of the surrounding region, though Chronicles tells a fuller account of the Egyptian invasion.

Yigal Levin and most modern scholars believe the Bubastite Portal recounts legitimate and historical campaigns conducted by the Egyptian Pharaoh Sheshonq. He says that “Sheshonq’s campaign in Israel and Judah brought an end to the many architectural, military and political achievements of the United Monarchy of David and
and ushered in a new age—that of the nation divided.”


Read the full article “Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem” by Yigal Levin in the July/August 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review to find out what Levin learns about the chronology and itinerary of Sheshonq’s campaign.

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This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in July 2012.


Related content in Bible History Daily:

When Egyptian Pharaohs Ruled Bronze Age Jerusalem

The Expulsion of the Hyksos

Largest Known Ancient Egyptian Fortress Excavated at Tell el-Habua


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  • Veli says

    I am proposing a different chronology for the kings, that before about 740 BC they were using an equinox year, 6 months long. Thus Rehoboam would be from 837 to 825 BC. That was the time of Shesonq III (837 to 773 BC), but there is no record that Shesonq III attacked Jerusalem nor the Levant.

  • Lia says

    Shoshenq’s military campaign to Israel did not impact David and Solomon’s “united monarchy” directly, to create a divided kingdom; this occurred when Solomon’s son Rehoboam was crowned in Shechem and Jeroboam (Solomon’s servant) returned to Canaan.
    Jeroboam was an ally of Egypt, where he self-exiled with the Egyptian king until Solomon’s death. (Recall, Solomon’s first wife was daughter of Pharaoh; and after one campaign along the coast, gifted his daughter with Gezer. Solomon fortified that city, yet Solomon’s kingdom is described as greater than Pharaoh’s.) Jeroboam instigated the split and ruled “Israel” to the north.
    Rehoboam continued to rule “Judah” and the rest of the south from Jerusalem–even after Pharaoh attacked Jerusalem, five years later (12:13). This attack subjected Rehoboam’s people to vassal-hood, which is far different that totally destroying a city, such as Jericho. (perhaps the reason it is not on the Karnak list?)
    2 Chronicles says Pharaoh took the treasures, and the people became his subjects; and despite being under Egypt’s control, Rehoboam “continued as king of Judah”. This wise political practice of retaining vassal states after a show of force occurred under several Pharaohs of previous Egyptian dynasties; and subsequent kings of Judah continued as kings following Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion.
    Another interesting observation (I believe) are the areas of servant hood listed at Karnak, following his invasion. Taanakh, Beth She’an, and Megiddo for instance are within the Northern Territory (of “Israel”, under Jeroboam)–so, it seems that Shishak wasn’t partial towards his old ally Jeroboam & the areas he attacked.
    An addendum: From the partial list on http://m.touregypt.net/featurestories/sheshonq1.htm I find, Yadth-mlk most interesting–not that it implies Jerusalem–but it seems to suggest the place of a king. Melchi/Melech are Hebrew forms of “king; ruler”. Hmm…M.L.K. Did the parents of Martin Luther King know this?!

  • Larry says

    There was a 6-year co-rulership between Solomon and Rehoboam. Thus both Rehoboam and Jeroboam count their rulerships from the time of their divine appointments. Thus Shishak’s invasion in the 5th of Rehoboam occurred in the 39th year of Solomon while Jeroboam was in exile and while Rehoboam was still king over the 12 tribes. This explains the campaign in the northern kingdom cities.

    Among those destroyed was Megiddo where a stele was found with Shishak’s inscription. But radiocarbon-14 dating from Rehov, which was also destroyed by Sheshonq at the time Megiddo was destroyed would date that invasion c. 871 BCE. When 871 BCE is applied to year 39 of Solomon, then the Exodus occurs in 1386 BCE and thus the attack on Jericho specifically in 1346 BCE. This, in turn is in harmony with Kathleen Kenyon’s dating for the fall of Jericho by the Israeltes between 1350-1325 BCE, a perfect match…

    Kathleen Kenyon: Digging Up Jericho, Jericho and the Coming of the
    Israelites, page 262:

    “”As concerns the date of the destruction of Jericho by the Israelites, all
    that can be said is that the latest Bronze Age occupation should, in my
    view, be dated to the third quarter of the fourteenth century B.C. This is a
    date which suits neither the school of scholars which would date the entry
    of the Israelites into Palestine to c. 1400 B.C. nor the school which
    prefers a date of c. 1260 B.C.”

    So the date of 925 BCE for Shishak’s invasion is incorrect. This reflects the uncorrected revisions made by the Persians during the reign of Artaxerxes II along with Greek timeline revisions. The Persians expanded their timeline by some 82 years and reduced the Neo-Babylonian Period by some 26 years, resulting in a net distortion in the timeline going back to Shishak, David and Solomon of 54 years precisely. This is easily corrected through by an astronomical event found in the Assyrian eponym. 925 BCE contradicts an eclipse used to date the eponym in 763 BCE. But an eclipse exactly 54 years later is a better match in 709 BCE. When the 709 BCE eclipse is used to date the eponym then Shishak’s invasion drops down from 925 BCE to 871 BCE, which matches the radiocarbon-14 dating found at Rehov and also aligns with the dating for the fall of Jericho in 1346 BCE (between 1350-1325 BCE)

    So really, there is little excuse at this time for all these archaeologists to maintain this phony timeline any more, clearly contradicted by archaeology. Per the Bible, the Exodus occurred in 1386 BCE, which means Solomon’s rule would have been from 910-870 BCE, meaning Shishak’s invasion in 871 BCE fell in his 39th year, year 5 of his co-rulership with his son, Rehoboam. At this time, the princes of both Israel and Judah were still under Solomon. Only after Solomon’s death in year 6 of Rehoboam did Jeroboam return to claim his kingship. Thus, again, the attack on so many of the nothern kingdom cities like Megiddo was a direct result of the actions by Rehoboam, who introduced idolatry throughout the entire kingdom. The Bible clearly says that Rehoboam misled all of Israel in his idolatry:

    2 Chronicles 12:1 “And it came about that, as soon as the kingship of Rehoboam was firmly established and as soon as he was strong, he left the law of Jehovah, and also ALL ISRAEL with him.” His co-rulership with his father Solomon had become strong by his 4th and 5th years and that’s when he led all of Israel into idolatry, likely putting up pagan idols at all these cities that were subsequently destroyed by Sheshonq. After this we note that Rehoboam was meeting with both the kings of Israel and Judah over this fiasco, proving he was still over the northern 10 tribes at the time. There is no mention of Jeroboam, of course, since he was still in exile in Egypt and would not return until after Solomon’s death to become king over the 10 tribes. 12:6 continues… “At that the princes of ISRAEL and the king humbled themselves.” The “princes of JUDAH” are specifically mentioned in the previous verse 5. For some reason, Bible scholars don’t realize there was a 6-year co-rulership between Rehoboam and his father, Solomon.

    Shishak’s invasion occurred in 871 BCE, year 39 of Solomon per the Bible, now supported by radiocarbon-14 dating as well as absolute astronomical dating from Assyria and from archaeological dating connected with Jericho.
    Larry Wilson
    Biblical research analyst

  • Moshe Natan says

    Hello Edmund (Number 15). I enjoyed your coments above. About the lack of the Hebrew letter for “N” its simple. N “Nun” נ was always used and still today but you are referring to the “Final N” Final Nun “ן” In the Torah words often end with a “Final M” מ(Mem) ם . In the times 1000 years after the giving of Torah on Mount Sinai the common language of the whole Middle East, Persia < often used by Greece and Rome to deal diplomatically was Aramaic which the people of Israel spoke as a language in everyday life. This was fine since Hebrew is a Holy Language. Aramic used the final Nun rather than a final Mem and until today we see that in our study of Talmud which is mostly Aramaic, it explains the Misha which is only in hebrew, on the same page. (or maybe I misunderstood you?) If so I am sorry for the 'run around". Moshe

  • Moshe Natan says

    I see that the Hebrew book “Seder Olam” is in English now.Seder Olam (Order of the World) is a Hebrew book many Torah students have and use which starts with the Creation of Adam 5777 years ago , until around 300 AD during the time of the Bar revolt against Rome. We know from here the birth dates and death dates of all the people born who are listed in the Bible, and exact dates as to when each event, war, and celebration happened.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seder_Olam_Rabbah Being that we Torah Jews know the Torah revealled on Mount Sinai on 6th of Sivan (today is 3rd of Sivan), that all this is the Holy WORD of G-D and Seder Olam was passed on to Moses and the people simply by His revealling the exact day and date of Adam’s Creation. From there on the Bible itself gives exact dates as to the birth of cain and Abel, etc.

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