|Shoshenq I in hieroglyphs |
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Shoshenq I [alt. Sheshonk (for discussion, see the article Shoshenq); Egyptian ššnq], was king of Egypt and founder of the Twenty-second Dynasty. The conventional dates of his reign are 945 - 924 BC (following the chronology of Kenneth Kitchen). He is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as שׁישׁק Šîšaq [regularised to Shishaq; alt. "Shishak"].
Shoshenq, prior to establishing himself as king, had been the commander-in-chief of the armies of Egypt, as well as advisor to his predecessor Psusennes II, as well as the father-in-law of Psusennes' daughter Maatkare. His ancestors were Libyans who had settled in Egypt at Bubastis. He consolidated his hold on Egypt by marriage alliances as well as making his son Iuput both high priest of Amun and commander of the armies. He persued an aggressive foreign policy in the adjacent territories of the Middle East, which is attested in part by the find of a chair for a statue which bears his name from archeological excavations in Byblos, and published in 1924.
He is best known for his campaign through Palestine, as recorded in the Bible (1 Kings 11:40; 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:2-9). Shishaq had provided refuge to Jeroboam during the later years of Solomon's reign, and upon Solomon's death, Jeroboam became king of the breakaway tribes in the north, which became the kingdom of Israel. In the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign (commonly dated between 926 and 917 BC), Shoshenq swept through the kingdom of Judah with a powerful army, in support of his ally. Shoshenq captured a number of cities of that kingdom, including Jerusalem, where he pillaged the temple and the royal palace, and carried away the shields of gold which Solomon had made. Although Judah was humbled, hostilities still continued between the two kingdoms; yet this was the only recorded intervention of a third party into the affairs of these two kingdoms during Rehoboam's reign.
A fragment of a stela bearing his cartouche has been found at Megiddo, which has been interpreted as a monument Shoshenq erected to celebrate his victory.
David Rohl, amongst others, have criticized this identification of Shishaq with Shoshenq I asserting it is based solely on a reading made by Jean-François Champollion of the hieroglyphs on the Bubastite walls of the temple of Karnak at Thebes. There, in a list of cities Shoshenq I had boasted he conquered, Champollion had read the 29th city from the list as y-w-d-h-m-l-k. He then surmised that this could mean Iouda-ha-malek - "kingdom of Judah", and concluded this list referred to the biblical Shishaq's invasion of Judah. However, Heinrich Brugsch later showed that y-w-d-h-m-l-k should be read as Yadhamelek meaning "the Monument of the King", which is a monument in northern Israel, and not a reference to the King of Judah. Brugsch also provided a number of identifications for the cities named in this inscription.
Further, much controversy has resulted because from the list of cities in this inscription it appears that the target of Shoshenq's campaign was not the heartland of the kingdom of Judah (which is what the Bible seems to imply), but the northern cities that became the kingdom of Israel. It could be Shoshenq only listed the cities he either destroyed, or whose garrisons he defeated in support of the break-away kingdom of Israel.
Rohl further argued that Shishaq does not properly equate to how the Egyptian name Sheshonq would have been spelled by the contemporary Hebrews, and put forth his own identification of Shishaq with Ramesses II, based on the hypocoristic form s-y-s-w which he claimed was used to refer to Ramses and abused by the Hebrews into s-y-s-k (a pun on shashak, the Hebrew word for "assaulter").
In response to Rohl's theory, Egyptologists such as Kenneth Kitchen, have pointed out that no other known king of Egypt fits the identification as well as Shoshenq I. Redating the flourit of Ramses II three centuries later would not only conflict with the date of the Battle of Qadesh and complicate the chronology of Hittite history, it conflicts with the very solid chronology of Assyrian history. Rohl's identification of Shishaq with Ramesses on philological grounds is weaker than with Shoshenq: for it to agree with Shoshenq, the "n" must be dropped - which automatically happens in Biblical Hebrew before a consonant - but for it to agree with s-y-s-w, a "k" must be added, which does not correspond to any Hebrew phonological rule. A few scholars, who accept Rohl's criticism of identifying Shishaq with Shoshenq I while not his other theories, have sought to identify Shishaq with one of the other Shoshenqs of this period with varying success.