Pharaoh — the official title borne by the Egyptian kings down to the time when that country was conquered by the Greeks. (See EGYPT.) The name is a compound, as some think, of the words Ra, the “sun” or “sun-god,” and the article phe, “the,” prefixed; hence phera, “the sun,” or “the sun-god.” But others, perhaps more correctly, think the name derived from Perao, “the great house” = his majesty = in Turkish, “the Sublime Porte.”
(1.) The Pharaoh who was on the throne when Abram went down into Egypt (Gen. 12:10–20) was probably one of the Hyksos, or “shepherd kings.” The Egyptians called the nomad tribes of Syria Shasu, “plunderers,” their king or chief Hyk, and hence the name of those invaders who conquered the native kings and established a strong government, with Zoan or Tanis as their capital. They were of Semitic origin, and of kindred blood accordingly with Abram. They were probably driven forward by the pressure of the Hittites. The name they bear on the monuments is “Mentiu.”
(2.) The Pharaoh of Joseph’s days (Gen. 41) was probably Apopi, or Apopis, the last of the Hyksos kings. To the old native Egyptians, who were an African race, shepherds were “an abomination;” but to the Hyksos kings these Asiatic shepherds who now appeared with Jacob at their head were congenial, and being akin to their own race, had a warm welcome (Gen. 47:5, 6). Some argue that Joseph came to Egypt in the reign of Thothmes III., long after the expulsion of the Hyksos, and that his influence is to be seen in the rise and progress of the religious revolution in the direction of monotheism which characterized the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The wife of Amenophis III., of that dynasty, was a Semite. Is this singular fact to be explained from the presence of some of Joseph’s kindred at the Egyptian court? Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell” (Gen. 47:5, 6).
(3.) The “new king who knew not Joseph” (Ex. 1:8–22) has been generally supposed to have been Aahmes I., or Amosis, as he is called by Josephus. Recent discoveries, however, have led to the conclusion that Seti was the “new king.”
For about seventy years the Hebrews in Egypt were under the powerful protection of Joseph. After his death their condition was probably very slowly and gradually changed. The invaders, the Hyksos, who for some five centuries had been masters of Egypt, were driven out, and the old dynasty restored. The Israelites now began to be looked down upon. They began to be afflicted and tyrannized over. In process of time a change appears to have taken place in the government of Egypt. A new dynasty, the Nineteenth, as it is called, came into power under Seti I., who was its founder. He associated with him in his government his son, Rameses II., when he was yet young, probably ten or twelve years of age.
Note, Professor Maspero, keeper of the museum of Bulak, near Cairo, had his attention in 1870 directed to the fact that scarabs, i.e., stone and metal imitations of the beetle (symbols of immortality), originally worn as amulets by royal personages, which were evidently genuine relics of the time of the ancient Pharaohs, were being sold at Thebes and different places along the Nile. This led him to suspect that some hitherto undiscovered burial-place of the Pharaohs had been opened, and that these and other relics, now secretly sold, were a part of the treasure found there. For a long time he failed, with all his ingenuity, to find the source of these rare treasures. At length one of those in the secret volunteered to give information regarding this burial-place. The result was that a party was conducted in 1881 to Dier el-Bahari, near Thebes, when the wonderful discovery was made of thirty-six mummies of kings, queens, princes, and high priests hidden away in a cavern prepared for them, where they had lain undisturbed for thirty centuries. “The temple of Deir el-Bahari stands in the middle of a natural amphitheatre of cliffs, which is only one of a number of smaller amphitheatres into which the limestone mountains of the tombs are broken up. In the wall of rock separating this basin from the one next to it some ancient Egyptian engineers had constructed the hiding-place, whose secret had been kept for nearly three thousand years.” The exploring party being guided to the place, found behind a great rock a shaft 6 feet square and about 40 feet deep, sunk into the limestone. At the bottom of this a passage led westward for 25 feet, and then turned sharply northward into the very heart of the mountain, where in a chamber 23 feet by 13, and 6 feet in height, they came upon the wonderful treasures of antiquity. The mummies were all carefully secured and brought down to Bulak, where they were deposited in the royal museum, which has now been removed to Ghizeh.
Among the most notable of the ancient kings of Egypt thus discovered were Thothmes III., Seti I., and Rameses II. Thothmes III. was the most distinguished monarch of the brilliant Eighteenth Dynasty. When this mummy was unwound “once more, after an interval of thirty-six centuries, human eyes gazed on the features of the man who had conquered Syria and Cyprus and Ethiopia, and had raised Egypt to the highest pinnacle of her power. The spectacle, however, was of brief duration. The remains proved to be in so fragile a state that there was only time to take a hasty photograph, and then the features crumbled to pieces and vanished like an apparition, and so passed away from human view for ever.” “It seems strange that though the body of this man,” who overran Palestine with his armies two hundred years before the birth of Moses, “mouldered to dust, the flowers with which it had been wreathed were so wonderfully preserved that even their colour could be distinguished” (Manning’s Land of the Pharaohs).
Seti I. (his throne name Merenptah), the father of Rameses II., was a great and successful warrior, also a great builder. The mummy of this Pharaoh, when unrolled, brought to view “the most beautiful mummy head ever seen within the walls of the museum. The sculptors of Thebes and Abydos did not flatter this Pharaoh when they gave him that delicate, sweet, and smiling profile which is the admiration of travellers. After a lapse of thirty-two centuries, the mummy retains the same expression which characterized the features of the living man. Most remarkable of all, when compared with the mummy of Rameses II., is the striking resemblance between the father and the son. Seti I. is, as it were, the idealized type of Rameses II. He must have died at an advanced age. The head is shaven, the eyebrows are white, the condition of the body points to considerably more than threescore years of life, thus confirming the opinions of the learned, who have attributed a long reign to this king.”
(4.) Rameses II., the son of Seti I., is probably the Pharaoh of the Oppression. During his forty years’ residence at the court of Egypt, Moses must have known this ruler well. During his sojourn in Midian, however, Rameses died, after a reign of sixty-seven years, and his body embalmed and laid in the royal sepulchre in the Valley of the Tombs of Kings beside that of his father. Like the other mummies found hidden in the cave of Deir el-Bahari, it had been for some reason removed from its original tomb, and probably carried from place to place till finally deposited in the cave where it was so recently discovered.
In 1886, the mummy of this king, the “great Rameses,” the “Sesostris” of the Greeks, was unwound, and showed the body of what must have been a robust old man. The features revealed to view are thus described by Maspero: “The head is long and small in proportion to the body. The top of the skull is quite bare. On the temple there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about two inches in length. White at the time of death, they have been dyed a light yellow by the spices used in embalmment. The forehead is low and narrow; the brow-ridge prominent; the eye-brows are thick and white; the eyes are small and close together; the nose is long, thin, arched like the noses of the Bourbons; the temples are sunk; the cheek-bones very prominent; the ears round, standing far out from the head, and pierced, like those of a woman, for the wearing of earrings; the jaw-bone is massive and strong; the chin very prominent; the mouth small, but thick-lipped; the teeth worn and very brittle, but white and well preserved. The moustache and beard are thin. They seem to have been kept shaven during life, but were probably allowed to grow during the king’s last illness, or they may have grown after death. The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows, but are harsh and bristly, and a tenth of an inch in length. The skin is of an earthy-brown, streaked with black. Finally, it may be said, the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king. The expression is unintellectual, perhaps slightly animal; but even under the somewhat grotesque disguise of mummification there is plainly to be seen an air of sovereign majesty, of resolve, and of pride.”
Both on his father’s and his mother’s side it has been pretty clearly shown that Rameses had Chaldean or Mesopotamian blood in his veins to such a degree that he might be called an Assyrian. This fact is thought to throw light on Isa. 52:4.
(5.) The Pharaoh of the Exodus was probably Menephtah I., the fourteenth and eldest surviving son of Rameses II. He resided at Zoan, where he had the various interviews with Moses and Aaron recorded in the book of Exodus. His mummy was not among those found at Deir el-Bahari. It is still a question, however, whether Seti II. or his father Menephtah was the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Some think the balance of evidence to be in favour of the former, whose reign it is known began peacefully, but came to a sudden and disastrous end. The “Harris papyrus,” found at Medinet-Abou in Upper Egypt in 1856, a state document written by Rameses III., the second king of the Twentieth Dynasty, gives at length an account of a great exodus from Egypt, followed by wide-spread confusion and anarchy. This, there is great reason to believe, was the Hebrew exodus, with which the Nineteenth Dynasty of the Pharaohs came to an end. This period of anarchy was brought to a close by Setnekht, the founder of the Twentieth Dynasty.
“In the spring of 1896, Professor Flinders Petrie discovered, among the ruins of the temple of Menephtah at Thebes, a large granite stela, on which is engraved a hymn of victory commemorating the defeat of Libyan invaders who had overrun the Delta. At the end other victories of Menephtah are glanced at, and it is said that ‘the Israelites (I-s-y-r-a-e-l-u) are minished (?) so that they have no seed.’ Menephtah was son and successor of Rameses II., the builder of Pithom, and Egyptian scholars have long seen in him the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The Exodus is also placed in his reign by the Egyptian legend of the event preserved by the historian Manetho. In the inscription the name of the Israelites has no determinative of ‘country’ or ‘district’ attached to it, as is the case with all the other names (Canaan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Khar or Southern Palestine, etc.) mentioned along with it, and it would therefore appear that at the time the hymn was composed, the Israelites had already been lost to the sight of the Egyptians in the desert. At all events they must have had as yet no fixed home or district of their own. We may therefore see in the reference to them the Pharaoh’s version of the Exodus, the disasters which befell the Egyptians being naturally passed over in silence, and only the destruction of the ‘men children’ of the Israelites being recorded. The statement of the Egyptian poet is a remarkable parallel to Ex. 1:10–22.”
(6.) The Pharaoh of 1 Kings 11:18–22.
(7.) So, king of Egypt (2 Kings 17:4).
(8.) The Pharaoh of 1 Chr. 4:18.
(10.) Pharaoh, in whom Hezekiah put his trust in his war against Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:21).