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Egypt in the Old Testament

Summary and Keywords

The relationship between Egypt and ancient Israel and Judah was far more complex than is often recognized. Egypt figures prominently in their national myths of origin as a way station for the patriarchs and as the “house of slaves” and starting point of the Exodus. Although no Exodus event can be confirmed from extrabiblical sources, its significance in the Bible suggests an historical kernel. The diverse existing traditions about Egypt in the texts of the Pentateuch and other early biblical writings, combined and written down at a later date, seem to reflect different experiences on the part of the groups that coalesced into Israel

By the time of the monarchy, there is more direct evidence for Egyptian influence on Israelite culture, particularly in administrative affairs. It is also clear that Egyptian religion was practiced in the Levant at this time and would have been known in Israel and Judah.

By the time of the divided monarchy, the historical picture comes into better focus. Relations between Egypt, Israel, and Judah were quite variable. Although Egypt’s New Kingdom empire in the Levant had ended, the region continued to be a useful trading outlet, and the pharaohs were not above raiding to assert their power. However, there are numerous examples of fugitives from the Levant finding refuge from their enemies in Egypt. In the interest of maintaining a buffer zone against the northern empires that encroached, Egypt and Kush gave military aid to Israel and Judah at times, through both direct action and supplies.

The prophets had not forgotten Egypt’s role as an oppressor and frequently condemned it, as well as the tendency of Israelite and Judahite rulers to seek its help. But at times the prophets also envisioned peace with Egypt.

There are a number of specific Egyptian texts that supply mutually illuminating points of comparison with biblical texts, including wisdom instructions, prayers, hymns, creation accounts, and autobiographies. These are indications of the extensive, ongoing, cultural interactions between Egypt and the cultures that produced the Old Testament.

Keywords: Exodus, ethnogenesis, tradition history, comparative religions, cultural influence, Levantine history


Egypt was one of the imperial giants of the ancient Near East (ANE), a presence that still looms over the Old Testament. Its power and culture were enormously significant to Israel and Judah (and their whole region) in diverse ways throughout the entire period in which the Hebrew Bible was composed. Although Egypt’s role in the Bible has attracted ample interest, especially at a popular level, it is often portrayed in simplistic ways; casual readers may be able to summon to mind little more than a slave-driving pharaoh and a caricature of the Exodus. In reality, Egypt was a trading partner and an asylum, a friend and a foe, a close neighbor in a complex web of diplomatic and cultural contacts.

In the interest of concision, the present treatment necessarily brackets out much of Egyptian history and culture, focusing on those periods and places where it is most relevant to the Old Testament. Chronologically, the primary focus here is on the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1069), Third Intermediate Period (c. 1069–715), and Late Period (c. 715–332).

Nevertheless, Egypt was in contact with the Levant (which is roughly analogous to Canaan) throughout recorded history. Already, by the end of the 4th millennium (all dates are bce), the focus of this contact evolved from overland trading with the southern Levant to shipping commerce with northern cities. During the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650), this trade was especially strong with coastal cities such as Byblos. By the end of the Middle Kingdom, southern Canaanites had begun to settle in the eastern Delta in increasing numbers, as reflected by a hybridized material culture. This settlement eventually blossomed into the Hyksos 15th Dynasty (c. 1650–1540). (The term Hyksos is a Hellenization of the Egyptian phrase Ḥq3-ḫ3s(w)t, “rulers of foreign lands.”) The Semitic alphabet appears to have emerged out of these cultural interactions; most of the earliest alphabetic inscriptions come from Sinai and southern Canaan, and in some cases, there are very clear similarities between early letter forms and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

From at least the time of Hellenistic historians such as Manetho and Josephus (C. Ap. 1.14, 26–34, etc.), some readers have sought to align the biblical stories of Joseph and Moses with the history of the Bronze Age. Despite the ancient and consistent relationship between the two regions, nearly all of the portrayals of Egypt in the biblical literature date to the first millennium (parts of Exodus 15 might be an exception). Inevitably, then, the stories combine memories and legends in an amalgamation of accuracy and invention.

In general, the relationship varies between the biblical accounts of Egypt and the other sources of data, depending on the period. Archaeology and texts from elsewhere in the ANE often conflict with biblical stories, or at least do not corroborate them. For example, the biblical account of the Exodus in its entirety, one of the foundational events of the Hebrew Bible, finds no support in any other historical document. By the time of the Israelite and Judean monarchies, however, sources coincide to a greater extent (if not entirely).

Finally, the present discussion goes beyond the boundaries of the Egyptian heartland in the Nile Valley to touch on other regions that were often under Egyptian hegemony, especially Nubia (biblical Kush, present-day Ethiopia) to the south. Although these were in many respects distinct cultures and nationalities, the Kushite rulers dominated the whole of Egypt in a period of great significance to the biblical authors (see below), and their culture was hybridized with that of the Delta pharaohs.

Egypt in the Genesis Traditions

Northeastern Africa first appears in the Bible in Genesis 2:13, where one of the four primeval rivers that divide outside Eden is the “Gihon, which goes around the whole land of Kush.” This is a reference to the Nile (cf. Sir. 24:27; Jer. 2:18 LXX) and not to be confused with the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem. (Gihon derives from a Semitic root meaning “to gush forth.”) Egypt appears for the first time in Genesis 10:6, where it is classified, along with Kush and Canaan, as a descendant of Ham. In spite of the fact that Israel arose in Canaan, Genesis 11:10–32 indicates that it saw itself as deriving from a different lineage—from Shem, along with Aram and Aššur.

The stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs are intertwined with Egypt. Abram goes down to Egypt for relief from a famine, and gives away his wife Sarai to an unnamed pharaoh (Gen. 12:10–20; the episode is repeated with “King Abimelech of Gerar” in Gen. 20.) “The river of Egypt” is named as the southern limit of the promised land (15:18; the “wadi of Egypt” is the more common boundary in other texts such as Num. 34:5; Josh. 15:4, 47; 1 Kgs. 8:65; 2 Chr. 7:8; Isa. 27:12). Later, Hagar gets a wife for Ishmael from Egypt (21:21) after they are banished by Abraham. Since these stories seem to be set no later than the mid-second millennium, they cannot be anything like contemporaneous accounts—at most they are later literary retellings of oral traditions—but they do reflect their authors’ sense of Egypt’s significance.

The Joseph stories (Gen. 37; 39–48; 50) revolve around Egypt, and thus merit particular attention. The broad contours of the tale are familiar: Sold to Midianite traders by his brothers, Joseph is purchased by an Egyptian official named Potiphar. Joseph rises to be overseer of Potiphar’s house, but after being accused of sexual assault by Potiphar’s wife, he is imprisoned. In prison, he makes a name for himself as a dream interpreter and is summoned before pharaoh. His interpretation of pharaoh’s dreams is successful, and he ends up second in command of Egypt. He is given an Egyptian wife and the Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah (41:45), and he is told by Pharaoh, “only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you” (41:40).

Numerous features of the Joseph stories have been taken to reflect Egyptian culture, including the accounts of Isaac and Joseph’s burials by embalming/mummification (50:2–3, 26), Pharaoh’s gifts to Joseph (41:42), the title of the Egyptian magicians (ḥarṭummîm), the presence of Semitic traders in Egypt, and personal names such as Potiphar/Potiphera (Eg. pʾdy pʾrʿ, “the one whom Ra has given”), Asenath (Eg. ns-N(y)t, “belonging to [the goddess] Neith.”), and Zaphenath-paneah (perhaps Eg. ḏd-pʾ-nṯr-ʾiw.f-ʿnḫ, “the god has said: he will live!”). Jozef Vergote argued on the basis of these and many other features that the story most likely reflects a background of the Egyptian 19th Dynasty (13th century).1

While some of these examples do demonstrate an accurate knowledge of Egyptian culture, not all of Vergote’s evidence was cogent; Donald Redford and others have countered that significant aspects of the story were unlikely to have been composed prior to the Saite Period (the 7th century).2 For example, Vergote argued that pharaoh’s gifts to Joseph of a ring, a linen garment, and a gold collar were characteristic of New Kingdom investiture rituals for an individual assuming a new office, but Redford showed that gifts did not generally accompany investiture in Egypt, that the gifts that were at times bestowed by the pharaoh differed from those to Joseph, and that the particular combination of gifts was more characteristic of Akkadian, Aramaic, and Demotic texts from the mid-first millennium.

The situation is similar from the standpoint of literary comparison. The Joseph novella is sometimes compared to the Egyptian tales that flourished in the second millennium—most commonly, the story of Sinuhe, from the 12th Dynasty (19th century). The primary point of comparison involves court intrigue. In the story, Sinuhe is struck by terror that he is out of favor with the pharaonic court. After the death of a king, he hears talk of sedition against the heir and fears that he will be accused of treason. In a moment of panic, he flees. Only at the end of his life is he invited back and restored to honor. Sinuhe was once thought to be a version of an actual Egyptian autobiography; however, no such figure is known historically, and the form and content of the story diverge significantly from known inscriptions. The tale of Sinuhe also has a rather different literary shape and message. It is a paean to an Egyptian who wishes to go home to his own land. In many ways, Sinuhe’s story is the opposite of Joseph’s: Sinuhe is a native to the court in the story, whereas Joseph is a foreigner; Sinuhe begins as a nobleman, and continues to flourish in exile, although he misses his home. Although he is welcomed home by the new pharaoh, there is no rags-to-riches element as in the Joseph story.

Instead, the Joseph novella reflects the concerns of the postexilic period, when diaspora Jews found themselves having to survive in various foreign settings, sometimes in foreign courts. Within the Bible, the stories of Daniel and Esther are other examples—like Joseph, they were each foreigners to the cultures where their stories took place and were people of low standing who were raised up by royal favor.

Israelite Origins and the Exodus

The question of Israel’s origins as a political entity is intimately connected to Egypt, although perhaps not in the way traditionally thought. In assessing the data, it is best to avoid the extremes either of assuming that biblical allusions to the Exodus can be lumped together and taken as journalistic descriptions of a discrete past event, or dismissing them as whole-cloth fabrications of a much later period. Neither seems likely.

In the long history of interaction between Egypt and the Levant, the end of the Late Bronze Age (LBA) marked a high point of Egyptian power—and also a high point in the availability of textual sources. Corresponding to the late New Kingdom (late 18th through early 20th dynasties), this period saw Egypt conquer both Nubia to the distant south and much of the Levant—not only in coastal regions, but also major inland cities and trade routes in what would later become Israel. The Egyptian domination of Canaan can be demonstrated from the archaeological record, which has revealed numerous forts along the “Way of Horus,” which ran from the Delta into southern Canaan (likely referred to as the “Way of the Land of the Philistines” in Exod. 13:17). The presence of the Egyptians is amply attested by stelae, scarabs, anthropoid coffins, pottery and stone vessels, and other artifacts.

The most remarkable witness to the Egyptian presence comes from the Amarna Letters, an archive of some 350 cuneiform documents found at the capital of the pharaoh Akhenaten (r. 1352–1336). These reveal much about international politics at that time. In the Levant, apart from a limited number of Egyptian forts, the land was largely populated with semi-autonomous Canaanite cities that depended on Egyptian support. In the letters, one finds repeated requests for Egyptian military aid against the marauding tribes called ḫapiru or ʿapiru. One comes from Abdu-Heba of Jerusalem:

May the king turn his attention to the archers so that archers of the king, my lord, come forth. The king has no lands. (That) ʿApiru has plundered all the lands of the king. If there are archers this year, the lands of the king, my lord, will remain. But if there are no archers, lost are the lands of the king, my lord. (EA 286; trans. by W. Moran, The Amarna Letters, 327)

Since these were Semitic-speaking tribes, and the term ḫapiru can (with enough ingenuity) be considered cognate with the Hebrew term ʿibrî (Hebrew), many scholars concluded that these were the descendants of Abram the Hebrew (Gen. 14:13), who worshiped the “God of the Hebrews” (Exod. 3:18, etc.). Although some historical connection is possible, the accrual of more and better information has chastened the enthusiasm for this view. The term ḫapiru turns out to have been used widely in the ANE during the second millennium, from Egypt in the south all the way to the Hittite Empire in the north. The term does not seem to refer to any single tribe or collection of tribes, nor even to a specific ethnicity. Instead, in an era of large, walled city-states, the term seems to have indicated populations living at the fringes of society, who might sometimes function symbiotically with the cities, while at other times posing a threat to them. This newer view is reflected in dictionaries that define various manifestations of the term as “a social class” or a “stranger, foreigner, refugee.”

Another group designation from Egyptian texts that has been applied to the proto-Israelites is Shasu (Eg. š3sw), a less common term used in the 18th and 19th dynasties for Semitic tribal groups. (Alternative etymologies have been proposed, deriving it from terms for “plunderers,” “wanderers,” or “pastoralists.”) Most provocatively, one text from the reign of Ramesses II (r. 1279–1213) refers to the land of the Shasu as “Yahu.” Yahu is thus a toponym (a place-name), but it has been argued that the place took its name from the deity Yahweh, who was already being worshiped in Canaan. From the Egyptian side, however, what remains are suggestive pieces, rather than any cohesive narrative. All one can really say on the basis of extrabiblical data is that Egypt came into conflict with people-groups that may have later coalesced to form Israel.

The Bible, by contrast, depicts the Exodus as a momentous historical event in which 600,000 Israelite men departed from Egypt after a period of oppression—and that enormous figure does not include their children or others who went up with them in a “mixed multitude” (Exod., 12:37). Based on average household sizes, the total figure has been estimated at three million—an impossible figure. Efforts to explain away the number by arguing that the Hebrew word for thousand should be taken as something like clan are probably overlooking the hyperbolic nature of the claim; the scene is set by the account of the Hebrews’ astounding fertility in Exodus 1:7–10. The Exodus narrative is, after all, a story of divine salvation, magical powers, and supernatural cataclysms; it is not written in the style of a historical chronicle. Indeed, the route of the Exodus cannot even be determined with any certainty.

It has often been argued that the plagues preceding the Exodus can be explained as a natural progression of events. For example, the Nile was turned red by a toxic algae (Exod. 7:20–21), which caused the frogs to flee it and die on the land (8:13–14), attracting gnats (8:16–19) and flies (8:20–32), which in turn spread diseases that killed the livestock (9:1–7). This reasoning has sometimes been used to prove the Bible’s historicity, and at other times to demonstrate a lack of divine agency. In any case, such attempts are at best partially successful, and they do not reckon with the essentially literary nature of the plague accounts. Although similar problems may have afflicted ancient Egypt in reality, the biblical account is a story crafted with an eye to entertainment and certain rhetorical purposes. Investigation of those purposes has been more fruitful. One approach sees each plague as a polemic against a particular Egyptian god: the turning of the Nile to blood against the inundation-god Hapy, the darkness against the sun god Amun-Re, etc. Some of these get a bit esoteric or strained (the plague of the gnats was a polemic against the beetle-god Khepri?), and indeed, the biblical text offers little support for it (unless the reference to judgment on the gods in Exodus 12:12 is to be taken retrospectively). Similar but more promising is the text’s presentation of the plagues as a contest between Yahweh and pharaoh (Exod. 7:1, etc.); not only did pharaohs present themselves as gods, they were also responsible for the ordering and flourishing of the land—for maintaining ma’at (Eg. m3ʿt, meaning “truth, justice, order”). Yahweh’s destruction of Egypt’s order is meant to demonstrate that he, and not pharaoh, is God (9:30; 10:3, etc.). The divine disordering of Egypt is also sometimes explained as an act of uncreation—the inverse of the creation account in Genesis 1.3

It would be a great understatement to say that the chronology of the Exodus is contested; it is a subfield unto itself that would reward sociological study. Proposed dates span 1500 years, from c. 2100 to 650, though a review of scholarship suggests a relatively broad consensus around a 13th century (19th Dynasty) date—insofar as historians are willing to speak of a historical event at all.4

The most basic biblical datum comes from 1 Kings 6:1, which says that the people came out of Egypt 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon. Similar figures are given in Genesis 15:13 (400 years) and Exodus 12:40–41 (430 years), and Judges 11:26 (300 years from the time of Jephthah) has been taken to reflect a similar chronology, though Exodus 1 gives no indication that it was so long. Solomon’s dates are not entirely secure, either, but this would render an Exodus in the mid-15th century. This early date is appealing from a fundamentalist biblicist’s perspective, partly because the narrative of Joshua’s conquest might line up better with earlier destructions of Canaanite cities. However, a 15th-century or earlier Exodus creates more problems than it solves: the 14th-century Amarna Letters contain no hint of early Israel, and the biblical book of Judges reflects the political situation of the end of the LBA and the Iron Age I (13th–11th centuries). For all these reasons, the 480 years is usually taken to be a stylized figure corresponding to twelve generations of 40 years each.

Egyptian texts offer little help with chronology; they make no reference to any such event. Still, much depends upon the interpretation of a handful of Egyptian texts. The most widely discussed of these is the Merneptah Stele (sometimes called the Israel Stele) from c. 1208. Most of the stele focuses on the pharaoh’s victory over Libya, but it goes on to list Israel among the entities that Egypt also vanquished. This is generally taken to be the earliest reference to Israel in any text. The relevant section reads:

Canaan has been plundered into every sort of woe:

Ashkelon has been overcome;

Gezer has been captured;

Yanoam is made nonexistent.

Israel is laid waste; his seed is no more.

(adapted from E. Wente’s translation in W. K. Simpson, The Literature of Ancient Egypt)

Certain details of this passage bear mentioning: First, Israel is marked as a people group, while Ashkelon, Gezer, and Yanoam are marked as city names. Second, it is striking that at this point, where Israel’s story as we know it has scarcely begun, the pharaoh claims it is over.

From the Egyptian standpoint, this text is somewhat unremarkable. It was a common boast of pharaohs that they had enlarged their empire and brought order to the lands by defeating foreign peoples. It has recently been argued, on the basis of new readings of pedestal relief inscriptions from the 19th or even 18th Dynasty (mid-second millennium), that Israel was mentioned much earlier in a similar list. However, the broken state and orthographic irregularities in those inscriptions mean that their interpretation is contested.5 If these earlier references to Israel came to be accepted, it would not be an epiphany causing one to modify “the correct date of the Exodus,” but rather another indication that the biblical traditions of the Exodus are limited reflections of the long and complex history that the two nations shared.

Coalescing Traditions

Scholars have long recognized that the biblical account of the Exodus in its present state reflects different traditions about Egypt that coalesced long after any historical events preserved in them. This supposition is foundational to the work on early Israel by major figures such as Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth, Brevard Childs, Norman Gottwald, and John Bright. This is not to minimize the biblical references to the liberation from Egypt, which are numerous and widespread. It appears that one of Israel’s earliest credos referred to “Yhwh, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves” (Exod. 20:2; cf. Deut. 5:6; Josh. 24:7, etc.). In a classic form of the theory, this became the central event in the confederation of the Israelite tribes prior to the monarchy.

It would appear that these traditions are not without some kind of historical grounding, but the nature of that history is probably complex. William H. Propp remarks in his Exodus commentary: “The Exodus story might be a conflation, the experience of none of the Israelites and of all of the Israelites. .|.|. This would explain why numerous elements of the biblical account do find resonances in the archaeological record—but not in a single time and space.”6 Some traditions seem to speak of a departure from Egypt, as the Exodus account comes to depict, while others may refer to an escape from Egyptian hegemony within Palestine, and still others could refer to a royal military “tour” by which a king (or in this case, Yhwh) established dominion over a land (Exod. 15:16). In sum, it seems clear that the earliest Israelites were a loose coalition of people groups who had had different experiences of Egypt over the previous centuries and told their stories in different ways. There are numerous versions of this cogent and increasingly dominant hypothesis.

The departure from Egypt is commemorated in the Passover (Pesach) festival (Exod. 12–13; Deut. 16:1–8, etc.). It is widely agreed that it was combined with the originally distinct agricultural festival of Unleavened Bread at an early period; the Passover festival itself is sometimes thought to have its roots in some other indigenous tradition, but this is uncertain. In the Pentateuchal instructions for the Passover, the practices of the festival are already explained by reference to the Exodus narrative. For example, the consumption of unleavened “bread of affliction” is connected to the haste and exigency of the departure (Deut. 16:3; Exod. 13:3), and the bitter herbs (Exod. 12:8) evoke the Hebrews’ bitter service (Exod. 1:14, though this is only made explicit in the postbiblical Passover Haggadah).

The early traditions about Israel’s time in Egypt were not recounted only with bitterness, however. For one thing, they served as a foundation for the ethical treatment of foreigners in their own lands: “You shall not oppress a sojourner; you know the life of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exod. 23:9), an exhortation echoed many times (Exod. 22:21 [ET]; Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19; 15:15; 24:18–22). Furthermore, the repeated stories about the Israelites longing to return to Egypt surely express more than just the fickleness of the people. They begin almost immediately after the people leave the land (Exod. 16:3) and continue throughout the stories of wilderness wandering (Exod. 17:3; Num. 11:18–20; 14:2–4; 20:5; 21:5). Some of the images of Egypt in these passages are quite idyllic, e.g., Number 11:5: “We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic .|.|.” It was a place of “pots of meat” (Exod. 16:3) and of grain, figs, grapes, and pomegranates (Num. 20:5). These comments reflect the allure of the great southern empire.

There was also a tradition that an Egyptian was not the worst kind of foreigner to have around. In Deut. 23’s laws concerning the exclusion of foreigners from the congregation of the Lord, Ammonites and Moabites are excluded even beyond the tenth generation, but Edomites and Egyptians may be admitted in the third generation. “You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were sojourner in his land,” reads Deut. 23:7. Among other things, this text presumably recalls the tradition that the people originally went to Egypt to escape famine (Gen. 47:4)—in a sense, Israel owed Egypt its life. Furthermore, Genesis 41:50 reports that Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh were born from Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, a Heliopolitan priest. The law of exclusion is probably not directly related to the Joseph story, but it is another example of Israel’s cultural self-perception that it had roots in Egypt.

Egyptian Culture and Religion

Naturally, the longstanding diplomatic and trading contacts between Egypt and Israel/Judah brought substantial cultural contact with them. Cultural similarities may have been to some degree primordial—or better to say, their roots are lost to historians. For example, the rite of circumcision had ancient roots in various cultures and was widespread (note the list of nations in Jer. 9:25–26). Other cases are contested, such as Judean scribes’ use of hieratic numbers in Hebrew texts. Hieratic was a writing system used by Egyptian scribes for purposes that did not require the formality of hieroglyphics, and their use in Hebrew texts might be compared to the use of Arabic numbers in many languages today. This is only attested starting in the 10th or 9th century, so some scholars have argued that it reflects Egyptian influence on the nascent Israelite kingdom; however, differences between the systems more likely reflect a history of semi-independent development dating to at least the LBA.

Some biblical measurements also appear to have been influenced by Egyptian norms; this is particularly likely in the case of certain weights bearing numerical values that seem to correspond to their weights in Egyptian qedet (a subunit of the deben) rather than shekels.

It may be warranted to mark a new era of Egyptian influence on Judah with the monarchic period. Some of the national administrative structures that the Bible describes Solomon having instituted were likely influenced by Egyptian models. This is true of Solomon’s system of tax districts in general (1 Kgs. 4:7–28), and also of specific government offices such as the secretary, the recorder (4:3, etc.), and the house-minister (4:6, etc.). The biblical depiction of Solomon’s ivory-and-gold throne is also reminiscent of Egyptian models, despite the text’s protest that “nothing like it was ever made in any kingdom (10:20). Even Solomon’s temple seems to have employed certain motifs, such as the lotus (7:19, 22, 26), that were common in Egyptian art. The biblical text, with its identification of Hiram of Tyre as the temple’s builder, suggests that the Egyptian influence was mediated by the Phoenicians.

The biblical descriptions of these phenomena do not, unfortunately, establish the date of influence beyond a reasonable doubt. Since elite Israelites and Judeans seem to have been in contact with Egyptian artistic and architectural styles throughout history, they would have had the knowledge to write such accounts in various periods, and could have retrojected them onto earlier times. The relative consistency of Egyptian influence can be perceived in the reception of Egyptian motifs in Levantine material culture. This is best appreciated in small, glyptic art, on Hebrew seals bearing Egyptian motifs, and amulets representing Egyptian deities, which have been found widely throughout the Iron Age Levant.

Some of the most fascinating cultural contacts were in the area of religion; these are sometimes underestimated, but were deep and pervasive. One should take the relatively well-understood LBA period for context: It is clear that at that time, the various courts were well acquainted with the gods of other nations. By the New Kingdom, Baal and other Levantine deities had begun to be worshiped in Egypt. To take just one example, the so-called 400-Year Stele, created in Tanis in the 13th century, portrays Seth, who was associated with the Levantine storm god (Baal/Hadad). The stele portrays Seth with Levantine characteristics and seems to commemorate four centuries of veneration of the god in that part of the Eastern Delta. Furthermore, in one of the Amarna Letters (EA 23), Tushratta of Mitanni actually announces that he is sending a statue of “Shaushka of Nineveh” on loan to the pharaoh Amenhotep III, asking only that the Egyptian king “let her leave when she wants.” Not only that, “Shaushka of Nineveh” was a term for the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, who had been adopted into the Mitannian pantheon. Itamar Singer has written that a “basic knowledge of foreign pantheons was not just an intellectual asset of Hittite theologians, but rather an essential requirement for the Hittite ‘Foreign Office,’|” and the same probably went for all the major courts of the time.7

Accidents of preservation mean that the data for the Iron Age is far less colorful, but it would be willful ignorance to suppose that the upheavals at the end of the LBA brought on such a dark age that the knowledge of the gods of neighboring nations was lost. The ample presence of amulets depicting Egyptian deities may be the best evidence, but there are also theophoric names based on Egyptian deities from throughout the Levant. Although Israelite and Judean names in both the Bible and inscriptions were predominantly Yahwistic, there is a significant set that reflects Egyptian gods, including Isis, Bes, Horus, Mut, Min, and Neith. Amun is mentioned in Jeremiah 46:25, and the “covenant with death” that Isaiah condemns in 28:15, 18 reflects a play on Mut’s name and the Hebrew word for death (both spelled mwt).

One cannot know for sure who wore such amulets or bore such names, but they were certainly present within ancient Israelite and Judean culture. Thus it is not surprising that one can also see Egyptian influence on the biblical texts. In the later stages of the editing of the Hebrew Bible, Egyptian religion has been somewhat obscured by scribes who had no reason to want to present it in detail, but there is every reason to think that it was close at hand, culturally speaking.

Egypt and the Kingdoms

Egypt as a Raider

Egypt continued to make its presence felt in the Levant even after its imperial reach receded during the Third Intermediate Period. Control over Levantine trade routes remained lucrative, and Egyptian rulers often asserted their power by raiding to the north.

First Kings 14:25–27 reports that, “in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, King Shishak of Egypt came up against Jerusalem” and plundered all the wealth of the palace and temple. (In 2 Chr. 12:2–10, the campaign is explained theologically, as an act of divine judgment against Rehoboam.) Shishak is a modified version of the name of Sheshonq I, who founded the 22nd Dynasty in Tanis and seems to have aspired to restore Egypt’s imperial reach. Two Egyptian inscriptions indicate Egyptian involvement in the affairs of Israel and Judah at this time, although they do not confirm the specifics of the biblical account. The first is a fragment of a stele found at Megiddo bearing Sheshonq’s name (nearly all the rest of the text is broken away). The second is Sheshonq’s triumphal relief at the Karnak temple complex, which is usually taken to record a campaign against southern Judah. It does not list Jerusalem or other sites in the Judean hills, but is broken and incomplete.

Just before this campaign, Sheshonq had harbored Jeroboam of Israel (1 Kgs. 11:26–40; see “Egypt as a Safe Haven”), who led the secession of the northern tribes from Rehoboam and Judah. Thus, a plausible narrative emerges: Egypt had a stake in preventing the development of large, powerful polities in the Levant; it deemed a collection of smaller states to be safer as neighbors. It is easy to imagine that Egypt might have allied itself with the new northern kingdom to encourage the division and thereby weaken both kingdoms.

Centuries later, 2 Kings 23:29–30 briefly reported on the 609 campaign of Nekau II (biblical Neco) of the 26th (Saite) Dynasty, “up to the king of Assyria, to the river Euphrates.” Josiah of Judah sought to interfere with Nekau’s campaign, but was killed in the effort. This episode has confused some readers, but it reflects the complex diplomatic situation of the times. By 609, the Assyrians had been routed and nearly wiped out by Babylon and its allies, but Egypt was playing its familiar game of encouraging conflict elsewhere and was supporting Assyria. (In 610, Aššur-uballit, the last Assyrian ruler, summoned Egyptian help to Harran, a western city where he had fled from the Babylonians.) Meanwhile, Josiah seems to have had made an alliance with Babylonia like the one attributed to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 24:12–15 and Isaiah 39. So Judah and Egypt had cast their lots with opposite sides of the Mesopotamian conflict.

Whether through a pact with Assyria or simply by stepping into the power vacuum that its crumbling empire created, the Egyptians briefly resumed their hegemony over the Levant in the late 7th century, and this is again reflected in the material culture. The Bible recounts that, after Josiah’s death, the Judeans tried to appoint a new king, but Nekau returned, deposed him, and placed Jehoiakim on the throne, imposing a heavy tribute on the nation (2 Kgs. 23:30–35). Then in 605, the Egyptians suffered a major defeat by the Babylonians in Carchemish, and were driven out of the Levant.

Egypt as a Safe Haven

Egypt’s role as a place of refuge throughout the history of Israel and Judah has already been touched upon briefly, and it only intensified when they came under pressure from the great Mesopotamian powers.

Egypt was a safe haven for many political elites in the Iron Age.8 For example, in 1 Kings 11:14–22, Hadad the Edomite, an enemy of David, is said to have fled to Egypt, which gave him an estate and rations to support it. The pharaoh is also said to have thwarted Hadad’s initiative to return to Edom after David’s death—another example of Egypt’s interference with the development of powerful states, to maintain a buffer against Assyria and Babylonia.

Later in the same chapter (1 Kgs. 11:40–12:4), Solomon faces a challenge to his rule from Jeroboam and seeks to kill him; Jeroboam therefore also flees to Egypt (11:26–40). Unlike Hadad, he returns to the land upon Solomon’s death and challenges Rehoboam’s rule, leading, in the biblical account, to the division of the northern kingdom from the southern kingdom (12:1–16).

Another instance of flight to Egypt involved Yamani, an 8th-century ruler of Philistine Ashdod. Yamani had come to the throne through a coup that overthrew an Assyrian puppet ruler installed by Sargon II. Like many events of the period, extrabiblical records allow for comparison and more detailed reconstruction of events. Around 716, Yamani seems to have formed a loose coalition against the Assyrians with other small Syro-Palestinian city-states. From 713 to 711, the Assyrians campaigned in the west to put down the rebellion (see ANET 284–287). Yamani fled to Egypt, expecting to find allies there. However, the Kushite ruler Shebitku extradited Yamani back to Sargon and the Assyrians, apparently to avoid the wrath of the Assyrians. This so-called Ashdod Affair is also referred to in Isaiah 20:1.

Similarly, in Jeremiah 26:20–23, a prophet named Uriah prophesies against Jehoiakim and Judah, and then flees to Egypt. Jehoiakim is said to have brought Uriah back and executed him. In another episode, recounted in Jeremiah 41 and 2 Kings 25, the Babylonian-installed governor of Judah, Gedaliah, is assassinated by a group led by Ishmael ben Nethaniah. The group subsequently flees to Egypt for fear of Babylonian vengeance. Jeremiah counsels the remaining Judean troops and their leadership to remain in the land (Jer. 42), but they reject his counsel and flee to Egypt as well (Jer. 43). This provokes a series of oracles from Jeremiah against both Egypt and those who fled there (see “Egypt as an Ally”).

This selective survey demonstrates that the Bible and other ANE texts indicate that Egypt was willing to harbor fugitives .|.|. when it was politically expedient to do so.

Egypt as an Ally

Egypt also came to the aid of Levantine states through formal military actions. According to the Bible, Solomon married a daughter of pharaoh (1 Kgs. 3:1), which in turn earned him the city of Gezer as a dowry from the Egyptian king after he burned it down (1 Kgs. 9:16 MT). Solomon’s alliance with Egypt seems to have allowed him access to arms deals with pharaoh for horses and chariots, which he is supposed to have brokered also to northern Levantine nations (1 Kgs. 10:28–29). This sort of pragmatic alliance is remembered in 2 Kings 7:6, in which the Aramean army hears the sound of chariots and horses and exclaims, “The king of Israel has hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us!”

There is ample biblical support for the claim that the kings of Israel and Judah sought horses from Egypt (Deut. 17:1; Isa. 31:1; Ezek. 17:15), but the question of whether Solomon really married an Egyptian princess has been more hotly debated. The biblical text repeats the claim a number of times (see 1 Kgs. 7:8; 9:24; and 11:1, in addition to the texts already cited), but Egyptian rulers were famously reluctant to allow intermarriage with their families; there is no documented case before the Hellenistic Period in which an Egyptian royal woman married a foreigner, and in one of the Amarna letters, a pharaoh (probably Amenhotep III) tells a Hittite king: “From time immemorial, no daughter of the king of Egy[pt] is given to anyone” (EA 4). On the other hand, a few decades later, Tutankhamun’s widow Ankhesenamun asked Šuppiluliuma, the Hittite king, to send a son for her to marry. (He did, but the son died on the journey, so the marriage never happened.) Furthermore, Egypt in the time of Solomon was at a low ebb in its power, so standards might have been more lax. The question cannot be adjudicated without more data coming to light.

By the period of Mesopotamian domination, Egypt was less able and willing to confront threats in the Levant directly. In 725, Hoshea of Israel, who had been installed by Assyria as a puppet ruler, stopped paying the imperial tribute tax, which precipitated the end of the northern kingdom. One reads in 2 Kings 17:4: “The king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to King So of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year.” There is no indication in any source that the Egyptians were any help when Sargon II led the Assyrians to besiege and destroy the Israelite capital, Samaria. (Shortly thereafter, in 720, the Egyptians campaigned northward to try to stop the Assyrians from conquering Gaza, but were defeated by Sargon II.)

There were, however, two notable occasions on which Egyptian powers seem to have played a role in breaking sieges of Jerusalem. The first was Sennacherib’s siege in 701, during which the Bible reports the Assyrian king heard that King Tirhakah of Kush, “He has set out to fight against you” (2 Kgs. 19:9/Isa. 37:9). (In this period, Nubian kings from the far south had risen to conquer all of Egypt, including the traditional Delta territory of the pharaohs.) Isaiah had prophesied two verses earlier that this rumor would cause the king to abandon the siege, and although it does not unfold that way in the biblical account, some historians do think it played a role. Sennacherib himself recounted in an inscription that the Kushites had interfered during the campaign, although his scribes related it to their conquest of the nearby Philistine city of Ekron: “The kings of Egypt, (and) the bowmen, chariot corps and cavalry of the kings of Kush assembled a countless force and came to their (i.e., the Ekronites) aid. In the plain of Eltekeh, they drew up their ranks against me and sharpened their weapons” (Mordechai Cogan, COS 2.119B: 303). Sennacherib concludes that he “fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them,” but Assyrian kings never admitted to losing a battle in their inscriptions, so this may indeed have been a setback that contributed to the survival of Jerusalem.

A second broken siege took place in 587. Ezekiel recounts that Zedekiah of Judah “rebelled against [the king of Babylon] by sending ambassadors to Egypt, in order that they might give him horses and a large army. .|.|. Can one escape who does such things?” (Ezek. 17:15; cf. 2 Kgs. 24:17). Zedekiah could not, as the Babylonians quickly came to besiege the city. Jeremiah notes that “the army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they withdrew from Jerusalem” (Jer. 37:5). However (as the passage goes on to note), the Egyptians soon withdrew and the Babylonians returned to finish the job.

In sum, Egypt and Kush may at times have served as an effective ally against smaller Levantine states, and it ran some interference for Israel and Judah against the Mesopotamian empires. Nevertheless, they were ultimately unable to resist the advance of the eastern empires, and were themselves conquered.

Egypt in Hebrew Prophetic Oracles

In light of all the historical contact between Egypt and Israel/Judah, it is to be expected that Egypt was a prominent topic for the Hebrew prophets. As in other biblical writings, the Exodus was viewed as a foundational act of God on behalf of the people. It was regularly alluded to in prophetic speeches as a warrant for God’s claims on the people and a model of God’s activity on their behalf. For example, in Amos 2:10, God says, “I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.” (See also Isa. 10:26; 52:4; Jer. 2:6; 7:22, 25; 11:3–8, etc.; Dan. 9:15; Hos. 2:15; 11:1; 12:9–13; 13:4; Amos 3:1; Mic. 6:4; Hag. 2:5; the theme is also pervasive in Moses’ speeches in Deuteronomy.)

Another large set of texts relates to Israel and Judah’s later political interactions with Egypt, sometimes condemning alliances, as in Isaiah 30:1–2: “Oh, rebellious children, says the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will, adding sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt.” This opposition to alliances is sometimes combined with oracles against Egypt itself, or the latter may appear without explicit provocation, especially in collections of oracles against the nations.

One particular type of oracle against Egypt, the Nile curse, has particular affinities with Egyptian texts. These curse texts, which include Ezek. 29:1–12; 32:1–15; Zech. 10:11; and Joel 3:19, focus on the drying up of the Nile, which was the basis of the Egyptian economy, and especially on the failure of the yearly inundation that made agriculture possible along the river’s banks. The same theme looms as a fear in native Egyptian texts; prominent examples include the 12th Dynasty Prophecy of Neferti and the Ptolemaic Famine Stela. The Nile Curse passage in Isaiah 19:5–10 is a particularly interesting point of comparison, since it shows an awareness of the various trades that the river affected, and includes an unusual concentration of apparent loanwords from Egyptian. Its Hebrew author seems to have been well acquainted with Egypt.

Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel include anti-Egyptian oracles that extend over multiple chapters (Jer. 43–44; 46; Ezek. 29–32). Jeremiah launches a diatribe against the Judeans who fled to Egypt after killing a governor (see “Egypt as a Safe Haven”), while Ezekiel compares Egypt to the Assyrian empire, imagined as a mighty tree that has been cut down (chap. 31), and then portrays Egypt among the nations that suffer an ignominious burial in the underworld (chap. 32). (See also Isa. 11:15–16; 19:1–15; 20; 30:1–5; 31:1–3; 45:14; Jer. 2:36; 9:26; Ezek. 20:5–10; 23:3–27; Hos. 7:11–16; Joel. 3:19; Zech. 10:11; 14:18–19.) During the period in which Nubia/Kush was dominant, it came in for similar prophetic condemnations (e.g., Isa. 18; 20).

Less commonly, Egypt could be described as an agent of divine judgment (a role more prominently assigned to Assyria and Babylonia). One example is Isaiah 7:18, which has caused interpreters some consternation about what historical situation it might refer to: “On that day, Yahweh will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.” (See also Hos. 9:6; 11:5.)

Other exceptional oracles mention Egypt in images of international peace. Isaiah 19:16–25 envisions Egypt living out a story with God that is very much like Israel’s own: Yahweh will “strike Egypt, striking and healing,” after which the Egyptians “will return to Yahweh, and he will listen to their supplications and heal them.” It goes on to imagine Israel connecting Assyria and Egypt with a highway and functioning as a third major power (or trading partner?) in the ANE. This remarkable passage reaches it crescendo as Yahweh speaks his benediction over the arrangement: “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.” Many scholars have found this passage to be incomprehensibly universalistic for an 8th-century prophet, and so have assigned it to the Hellenistic period, assuming that Assyria and Egypt are code names for the Seleucid and Ptolemaic powers, respectively. However, Judah did find itself caught between precisely these powers in the late 8th century, and it is not clear that Hellenistic biblical authors had a more ecumenical vision of international flourishing than did the 8th-century prophets.

A similarly broad-minded vision is found in Amos 9:7, which strikingly suggests that the Israelite Exodus from Egypt was not God’s only liberating act in world history, but that God had also delivered other peoples: “Are you not like the Kushites to me, O people of Israel? says Yahweh. Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Arameans from Kir?” The opening reference to the Kushites without further explanation suggests that this oracle would have been composed when the Kushite overthrow of the traditional Delta powers was fresh in the minds of hearers, in the late 8th century.

The prophets’ images of the ingathering of peoples from Egypt are often postexilic, such as Zech. 10:10’s divine promise, “I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria; I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, until there is no room for them.” By analogy, some of the references to the return from Egypt elsewhere in the prophets are generally acknowledged to be late additions. A good example is Isa. 11:11–12, where the reference to “the dispersed of Judah” makes a postexilic date likely. In other instances, Israel is mentioned (e.g., Isa. 27:12–13), perhaps referring to the dispersal of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 722. In other cases, no group is specified (e.g., Zeph. 3:10–13). Given the long history of flight to Egypt by Levantine peoples (see above), any approach that takes all such references as deriving from the same period would be overly simplistic.

Literary Comparisons

Narrowing the scope from the general relationship between Egypt and Israel/Judah to the specific question of the literary relationships between various texts brings up a couple of well-known case studies.

The most striking example may be the comparison between the Instruction of Amenemope and Proverbs 22:17–23:11. The two texts, both framed as the teaching of a father for a son, exhibit parallels in more than a dozen places. Because of the biblical tradition of Solomon’s exceptional wisdom (e.g., 1 Kgs. 4:30), some early critical scholars concluded that Amenemope was dependent on Proverbs, but copies of the Egyptian text have now been found dating to the 21st dynasty (11th cent.), prior to Solomon. The Egyptian text is divided into 30 chapters, and it has been suggested that the biblical text can be divided in the same way. (This is not reflected in the chapter divisions in modern bibles, which were a medieval addition). Furthermore, there are instances of irregular Hebrew phraseology in the Proverbs passage that are best explained as calques of Egyptian originals. Despite the similarities, it is not clear whether the author of Proverbs 22:17–23:11 had direct knowledge of Amenemope, since less than half the chapters have a parallel, and the parallels occur in a different sequence. It is possible that the similarities could be accounted for by a set of wisdom traditions inherited by both cultures.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were similarities between the prayers of ancient Egypt and those of Israel and Judah. A stela from the workers’ village at Deir el-Medina contains a prayer to the mountain-goddess Mertseger that reads, in part: “(I was) an ignorant man and foolish, who did not know good from evil; I transgressed against the Peak, and she taught me a lesson.” This confession is akin to penitential psalms (e.g., Ps. 51), and like most of those, it looks to the mercy and forgiveness of the deity. The most common surviving Egyptian prayers, however, tend to emphasize the innocence of the speaker, which was very important in the judgment of the dead. The famous “Negative Confession” included in Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead comprises more than two dozen denials of guilt: “I have not caused pain, I have not made hungry, I have not made to weep, I have not killed,” etc. While assertions of innocence are less prominent in the psalms, there are examples, such as Psalms 26:1–7.

Another set of poetic texts that has generated comparisons is the Great Hymn to Aten and Psalms 104. Both of these are hymns of praise with an emphasis on solar imagery. Amenhotep IV (1372–1355) caused a great religious upheaval by mandating that Egypt should worship the Aten, the deified sun-disk, as the one true god. He founded a new capital city dedicated to Aten and even renamed himself Akhenaten. He deemphasized other gods and even closed down their temples. It is sometimes thought that this reform verged on monotheism and might even have inspired a nascent Israelite religion; for example, one might compare ll. 65–66 (“O Sole God beside whom there is none! You made the earth as you wished, you alone .|.|.”) with Isaiah 44:24 and 45:5–6. However, such theories remain speculative. In any case, the Aten hymn and Psalms 104 each begin with exclamatory praise for the deity, portrayed as a rising sun. Each text also goes on to describe how life on earth depends on the deity, contrasting the flourishing of the earth and its creatures with the negative effects of darkness. There are few close parallels in phraseology between the two texts, however, so direct influence from one text to the other is unlikely; rather, some shared tradition of solar theology probably existed. Although the Hebrew Bible as it exists today includes far less divine-solar imagery than texts from Egypt (where worship of sun-gods was ancient and widespread), it is present elsewhere in the psalms (e.g., Ps. 84:11 [ET]; Ps. 19:4–6). In other cases, there are condemnations of certain forms of solar religion (Ezek. 8:16; 2 Kgs. 23:11). There seems to have been a tension within Israelite religion about the degree to which one should associate Yahweh with the sun.

Another comparison between Egyptian religious texts and the Bible involves creation accounts. A text called the Memphite Theology (because it derives from the city of Memphis), describes the creation of the world by the god Ptah, a craftsman god. Ptah is described as the ruler and source of all the gods, as well as of all living things. Furthermore, Ptah is said to create by means of the spoken word, like the God of Israel in Genesis 1. And just as God sees his creation and judges it good in Genesis 2:2–3, etc., Ptah looks on his creation and is satisfied. Since Ptah was widely known in the area of Israel of Judah, especially in the LBA, some form of cultural contact may have made its mark on the biblical authors. The Memphite Theology’s emphasis of Ptah’s word has even inspired comparisons with the “Logos theology” of John 1:1–14.

The first-person portions of the biblical book of Nehemiah are thought to be drawn from a memoir that can be compared to autobiographical Egyptian mortuary inscriptions. Both share a fundamental concern for the positive memory of the author; the Egyptian texts make the case that the decedent was faithful servant of the king and the gods, and care in the afterlife was a primary concern for Egyptians. Meanwhile, Nehemiah portrays himself as a good governor who was also concerned with righteousness before God, and the book has repeated refrains such as, “Remember me, O my God, for good” (Neh. 13:31). One particular Egyptian inscription, by the official Udjahorresne, has even more striking parallels to Nehemiah in that both figures were “indigenous collaborators” with the Persian Empire in the 6th–5th centuries. Each text reflects, in subtle ways, the political and cultural tensions of the times. Both Udjahorresne and Nehemiah worked to purify temples and worship, even to the point of “ethnic cleansing” (Neh. 13). Udjahorresne predated Nehemiah by almost a century, but seems to have had no direct literary influence on it. However, the form of the Egyptian autobiography may well have been familiar in postexilic Judah.

Review of the Literature

Scholarship on Egypt and the Old Testament has evolved significantly in recent decades. The historical optimism of previous generations of scholars about the ability to reconstruct events from before the first millennium bce that lay behind biblical narratives has largely evaporated. Whereas some remain sanguine about the authenticity of the witnesses to essentially prehistoric events such as the Exodus, in general the conversation has shifted to analyzing the biblical traditions as products of a somewhat later period.9 This is not, in many cases, a denial of some historical kernels, since it is clear that Israel’s complex prehistory include ample contact with Egypt.10

More recent scholarship from the Hebrew Bible side of the conversation has been led by the incisive historical work of Bernd Schipper, and the iconographic studies by Joel LeMon and others. There is a need for more comparative-religions work as modeled by Manfred Görg in an earlier generation, but in general the religious and cultural contacts between Egypt and the Old Testament remain understudied. The main reason for this is relatively simple: Unlike other relevant languages for comparative study such as Ugaritic or Akkadian, Egyptian takes the student entirely out of the Semitic language family, and so requires more breadth than is reasonable to take on in an ordinary doctorate.

Although interesting finds from the Bronze Age continue to emerge (see “Israelite Origins and the Exodus”), the primary historical work now lies in the reconstruction of contacts between Egypt and Israel/Judah in the monarchic and later periods. In addition to Schipper, studies such as Garrett Galvin’s, on Egypt as a place of refuge, demonstrate the potential for biblical studies to call attention to the rich complexity of the historical interrelations. A particular problem remains in the late 7th century and the recrudescence of Egyptian power in the Levant after Assyria receded and before Babylon rose. A better understanding of the specific circumstances of Josiah’s death in 609 at the hands of Necho II remains a desideratum.

Too few leading Egyptologists have written extensively about Egypt and the Old Testament, though Donald Redford and Thomas Schneider stand out. General reviews of Egypt’s history and its religions have, by contrast, been produced in great numbers.11 These should be supplemented by collections of the primary texts.12

Further Reading

Assmann, Jan. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

    Assmann, Jan. Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt. Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

      Currid, John. Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1997.Find this resource:

        Dunand, Françoise, and Christiane Zivie-Coche. Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

          Galvin, Garrett. Egypt as a Place of Refuge. FAT/2 51. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.Find this resource:

            Görg, Manfred. Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Alten Israel und Ägypten: Von den Anfängen bis zum Exil. Erträge der Forschung 290. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1997.Find this resource:

              Hoffmeier, James K. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

                Hornung, Erik. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many. Translated by J. Baines. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982.Find this resource:

                  Hornung, Erik. The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife. Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

                    Killebrew, Ann E. Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel (ca. 1300–1100 B.C.E.). Archaeology and Biblical Studies 9. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005.Find this resource:

                      Kitchen, Kenneth A. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt, 1100–650 B.C. 3d ed. Warminster, U.K.: Aris & Phillips, 1996.Find this resource:

                        LeMon, Joel M. “Egypt and the Egyptians.” In The World Around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East, edited by Bill T. Arnold and Brent A. Strawn, 169–196. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.Find this resource:

                          Levy, Thomas E., Thomas Schneider, and William H. Propp, eds. Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2015.Find this resource:

                            Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings. 3 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973–1980.Find this resource:

                              Redford, Donald B. A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph (Genesis 37–50). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1970.Find this resource:

                                Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

                                  Russell, Stephen C. Images of Egypt in Early Biblical Literature: Cisjordan-Israelite, Transjordan-Israelite, and Judahite Portrayals. BZAW 403; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2009.Find this resource:

                                    Schipper, Bernd U. Israel und Ägypten in der Königszeit: Die Kulturellen Kontakte von Salomo bis zum Fall Jerusalems. OBO 170. Freiburg, Germany: Universitätsverlag, 1999.Find this resource:

                                      Shaw, Ian, ed. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (New ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                                        Simpson, William Kelly, ed. The Literature of Ancient Egypt. 3d ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.Find this resource:


                                          (1.) Jozef Vergote, Joseph en Égypte (Louvain, France: Publications Univrsitaires, 1959), 207–213; Vergote, “‘Joseph En Egypte’: 25 Ans Après,” in Pharaonic Egypt: The Bible and Christianity, ed. Sarah Israellit-Groll (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1985), 289–306.

                                          (2.) Donald B. Redford, A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1970).

                                          (3.) For further discussion, see Ziony Zevit, “Three Ways to Look at the Ten Plagues,” Bible Review 6 (1990):16–23, 42; and John Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker: 1997), 104–120.

                                          (4.) Lawrence T. Geraty, “Exodus Dates and Theories,” in Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience, ed. Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Schneider, and William H. Propp (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2015), 55–64.

                                          (5.) Manfred Görg, “Israel in Hieroglyphen,” Biblische Notizen 106 (2001): 21–27; and Peter van der Veen, Christoffer Theis, and Manfred Görg, “Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merenptah? A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687,” Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2 (2010): 15–25.

                                          (6.) William Henry Propp, Exodus 19–40 (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 741 (emphasis in original). Cited in Stephen C. Russell, Images of Egypt in Early Biblical Literature: Cisjordan-Israelite, Transjordan-Israelite, and Judahite Portrayals (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2009), 10.

                                          (7.) Itamar Singer, “‘The Thousand Gods of Hatti’: The Limits of an Expanding Pantheon” in Concepts of the Other in Near Eastern Religions, ed. I. Alon, I. Gruenwald, and I. Singer (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1994), 93.

                                          (8.) Mordechai Cogan, “The Other Egypt: A Welcome Asylum” in Texts, Temples, and Traditions, ed. M. V. Fox et al. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996), 65–70; Garrett Galvin, Egypt as a Place of Refuge (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011).

                                          (9.) On the earlier period, see James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Kenneth A. Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt, 1100–650 B.C. (Warminster, U.K.: Aris & Phillips, 1996); and Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament. On the later period, see Russell, Images of Egypt, and various contributions to Levy et al., Israel’s Exodus.

                                          (10.) Ann E. Killebrew, Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005); and Levy et al., Israel’s Exodus.

                                          (11.) On Egypt’s history, see Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); on its religions, see Jan Assmann, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); Erik Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); and Françoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche, Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004).

                                          (12.) See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973–1980); and William Kelly Simpson, ed. The Literature of Ancient Egypt (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003).