Sunday, 9 March 2014

Terry Hampton on Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt

In 1994, Terry Hampton penned a series of articles for "The Pilot" called "It's in the Bible but." dealing with names that were somewhat obscure mentioned in the Bible, of whom the average reader would know little. Terry, with his interest in archaeology, decided to write articles to tell the readership more about them. They are wonderful lively little pieces and really capture Terry's distinctive voice.
Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt by Terry Hampton
Now, there's a puzzle. Who was Shishak, where does he appear in the Bible and what was he up to?
This Pharaoh is mentioned in 1 Kings Ch 11. He gives refuge to a young man called Jeroboam, who had been one of King Solomon's building overseers. In v 28 of Ch 11 we read that Jeroboam was a man of "great energy" (NEB tr.) so he was promoted. and put in charge of all the labour force of one district, (In case you didn't remember, Solomon did a great deal of building in his reign, not only the first Temple, but  also building chariot centres at Megiddo and Hazor.)
But a meeting with the prophet Ahijah completely changed Jeroboam's life and future. Ahijah had on a new cloak - he tore it into twelve pieces and gave ten of them to the no doubt quite mystified Jeroboam. Then came the explanation. "This is God's word to you. He will give you .the ten northern tribes to be King over." (v 31). The energetic young man is told that he must keep God's commandments and statutes, and then God will deal with him as He has done with the family and house of King David.
So far so good, but then King Solomon heard about the cloak tearing business, and took a very dim view of someone else removing the tribes from his control and leaving only two for his son Rehoboam (an arrogant youth) to rule over from Jerusalem. It does seem as though' the energetic Jeroboam had still a lot to learn about tact and diplomacy! The anger of powerful kings was not to be ignored, and so the future king of the north fled at speed to Egypt and the shelter offered by Pharaoh Sheshong (in Egyptian), Shishak in Hebrew. Whether Jeroboam took the ten pieces of the prophet's cloak with him we're not told.
Now let's find out a bit more about this Pharaoh. Pharaoh Shishak was a Libyan prince who founded the 22nd Dynasty and ruled from c 945-924 BC. In 926 BC he invaded Israel and plundered it from end to end. He also took away from the Temple the beautiful gold shields that Solomon had made. All the treasures of the house of the Lord were removed and the king's palace was stripped too. The new king, Rehoboam, had to replace the gold shields with bronze ones, what a come-down. Poor young Rehoboam, (We do have carvings of Assyrian soldiers carting off gold shields from captured temples in the British Museum.)
Sheshonq's army also. raged through the country and there is part of a stele with his cartouche on at Megiddo. No doubt he had heard about the treasures of Solomon from the fugitive Jeroboam, and once Solomon had died, and a young, inexperienced king on the throne, than was the time for the wily Pharaoh to strike. (There are two bracelets in the British Museum which Sheshonq gave to one of his sons.)
Have you more accounts of these events?
Yes. In the temple of Amon at Thebes is a series of carvings which show Pharaoh Shishak celebrating the conquest of Israel and Judah plus the names of the various towns he had captured. I saw them last November when in Luxor.
And what happened to all the gold that was pinched from Solomon's temple -- any news of that?
Again, yes. In a recent article in the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR for short) Professor Ken Kitchen of Liverpool University gave details of a- fascinating inscription found at Bubastis. This recorded the "breathtakingly munificent gifts to the gods and goddesses of Egypt." It came to just over 380 tons of silver and gold. Now the Pharaoh who made these was the son of our Biblical Sheshonq, who had the name of Osorkon I. This Pharaoh had only ruled for three years and Prof Kitchen asks how he could possibly have amassed such wealth so soon in his .reign. As he dryly remarks, father Sheshonq had ransacked Jerusalem's palace and temple. only five years before, and wealthy cities of Israel, so it seems very likely that much of this treasure was used by the new Pharaoh to honour the gods of Egypt.
Two other points worth a mention.
(i) When one of Osorkon's sons died, he was buried in a solid silver coffin which was found in 1939.
(ii) When Alexander the Great captured the Persian town of Susa, he removed some 1180 tons of gold from the vaults. Staggering isn't it! Perhaps we can find out more about gold and treasures at another time, and the Queen of Sheba should get a mention as she gave Solomon a very handsome amount of gold.
But what. has Pharaoh Shishak to say to us today?
(i) If you meet a way-out character who tears up his cloak and gives you some of the pieces, watch out - there could be dangerous times ahead!
(ii) Solomon amassed great wealth, but this aroused the envy of his neighbours, and it was at great cost to his people.
(iii) God doesn't seem to have been angry at the wealth, but He was angry at the worship of foreign gods (to please Solomon's pagan wives) and the kings ceasing the live by the Commandments.
As St Paul later said, "money is the root of all kinds of evil." Still true, it's a dangerous two-edged weapon.


James said...

I'm not sure if this is Terry Hampton or you, Tony, but I am not letting this one go:

As St Paul later said, "money is the root of all kinds of evil.".

He did not.

What the biblical passage (1 Timothy 6, verse 10) says is this: "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

There are other roots too - the craving for power is one, the craving for love as a commodity is another.

But the common factor is the fact that the craving takes the person over, because the person has chosen to allow it to do so.

TonyTheProf said...

Terry was very loosely paraphrasing Paul, and of course not as accurately as the text.

I think from the context it is clear that Terry didn't think it the only root - "Still true, it's a dangerous two-edged weapon."

The exact wording "the love of money" has nevertheless been used to bad effect as an excuse to detach "money" from "the love of money" and excuse great riches without the same level of giving. In other words, "I have a lot of money, but I don't love it, so it is alright". Various parables, I think, put the lie to that kind of notion.