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Article Info:
published: 3/31/13
updated: 2/27/14


Who was Pharaoh?

In the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament, Pharaoh was the official title of the Egyptian kings. The vocalization and diacritic points show the Hebrews read "Par-aoh," not Pa-raoh. It is not from Ra "the sun," for the king is called Si-ra, "son of Ra," therefore he would not also be called "The Ra," though as an honorary epithet Merneptah Hotephima is so-called, "the good sun of the land."

But the regular title Pharaoh means "the great house" or "the great double house," the title which to Egyptians and foreigners represented his person. The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is strikingly confirmed by the Egyptian words, titles, and names occurring in the Hebrew transcription.

No Palestinian Hebrew after the exodus would have known Egyptian as the writer evidently did. His giving Egyptian words without a Hebrew explanation of the meaning can only be accounted for by his knowing that his readers were as familiar with Egyptian as he was himself; this could only apply to the Israelites of the exodus.

Abraham's Pharaoh was probably of the 12th dynasty, when foreigners from western Asia were received and promoted. Joseph was under an early Pharaoh of the 13th dynasty, when as yet Pharaoh ruled over all Egypt, or probably under Amenemha III, sixth king of the 12th, who first regulated by dykes, locks, and reservoirs the Nile's inundation, and made the lake Moeris to receive the overflow.

The 12th dynasty, moreover, was especially connected with On or Heliopolis. The Hyksos or shepherd kings, who ruled only Lower Egypt while native kings ruled Upper Egypt, began with the fourth of the 13th dynasty, and ended with Apophis or Apopi, the last of the 17th. Aahmes or Amosis, the first of the 18th, expelled them.

He was the "new king who knew not Joseph." Finding Joseph's people Israel settled in fertile Goshen, commanding the entrance to Egypt from the N.E., and favored by the Hyksos, he adopted harsh repressive measures to prevent the possibility of their joining invaders like the Hyksos; he imposed bond service on Israel in building forts and stores.

Moses as adopted son of the king's sister apparently accompanied Amenhotep I in his expedition against Ethiopia, and showed himself "mighty in words and deeds" (Acts 7). Under Thothmes I, Moses was in Midian. Thothroes II was the Pharaoh of the exodus, drowned in the Red Sea.

Thothmes III broke the confederacy of the allied kings of all the regions between Euphrates and the Mediterranean, just 17 years before Israel's invasion of Canaan, thus providentially preparing the way for an easy conquest of Canaan; this accounts for the terror of Midian and Moab at Israel's approach (Num. 22:3,4), and the "sorrow and trembling which took hold on the inhabitants of Palestina and Canaan" (Exo. 15:14-16).

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IBSE, (in the public domain) with minor edits.

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