Pharaoh Thutmose III Attacks Jerusalem

Thutmose III


Damien F. Mackey




By re-dating the ‘First Campaign’ of pharaoh Thutmose III, the ‘Napoleon of Egypt’,

and re-assessing its geography, a case can be made for this pharaoh to have been the same as the biblical “Shishak”, as recorded in this important biblical incident (1 Kings 14:25):

“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem”.

26 “He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made”.   


However, this proposed biblico-historical scenario is by no means the one that greets us in the conventional textbooks, according to which Thutmose III, of Egypt’s 18th dynasty


  • pre-dated the above-mentioned King Rehoboam by about 500 years;
  • directed this particular campaign of his to Megiddo in the north; and so
  • had no intention of attacking a (then possibly non-existent) Jerusalem.



We may have grown up imagining that at least the key dates for ancient Egyptian history have been – like much of the impressive ancient Egyptian architecture – utterly fixed in stone. Thus Dr. E. Danelius has written (“The Identification of the Queen of Sheba”, Kronos 1, No. 3 (1975), p. 4; with reference to Breasted’s A History of Egypt, 2nd. ed. (London, 1941), p, 285, 287):

The average student of the archaeology and/or ancient history of the Middle East, when told that Thutmose III, the most famous Pharaoh of the XVIIIth Egyptian Dynasty, started his first Asiatic campaign crossing the Egyptian frontier “about the 19th of April, 1479 BC …” and “… went into camp on the plain of Megiddo on the 14th of May”, does not ask how these dates were fixed. If he did, he would be in for a surprise. These dates were fixed about 70 years ago by a kind of common consent and have won final acceptance by all only after World War I.

These wildly inaccurate dates for Thutmose III in the C15th BC are the result of Sothic theory, a system that I (amongst others) have exposed for its artificiality. See my:


The Fall of the Sothic Theory: Egyptian Chronology Revisited

According to the Sothic-based history of Egypt, the reign of Thutmose III is supposed to have pre-dated even the arrival of the Israelites in Palestine, and, a fortiori, the time when Israel was ruled by its kings (and hence when Solomon’s magnificent Temple of Yahweh, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, stood proudly in Jerusalem).

And there is another significant difficulty.

So firmly fixed in the minds of the conventional historians is the present identification of pharaoh Sosenk (or Shoshenq) I with the biblical pharaoh Shishak that Dr. J. Bimson has regarded it as constituting a “major obstacle” standing in the way of their acceptance of the revised scheme of ancient history (“Shoshenk and Shishak: A Case of Mistaken Identity”, Chronology and Catastrophism Review, VIII, 1986, pp. 36-46):

… even if a body of unequivocal evidence emerges in support of a new … chronology, one factor will probably remain a major obstacle to its adoption by conventional Egyptologists. I refer to the universally accepted identification of Shoshenq I (Hedjkheperre-Setepenre Shoshenq), founder of the Libyan 22nd Dynasty, with the biblical “Shishak king of Egypt”.


Both Drs. Danelius and Bimson had been greatly influenced by the historical revision of the polymath, Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky (Ages in Chaos series). But, whilst Bimson has tended in more recent times to reject most of Velikovsky’s major biblico-historical synchronisms, including Thutmose III as “Shishak”, Danelius has argued forcefully for the latter, though modifying what she considered to be flaws in Velikovsky’s original thesis. In her article, “Did Thutmose III Despoil the Temple in Jerusalem?” (SIS Review, Vol. 2 No. 3), Danelius attempted to amend Velikovsky’s clumsy reconstruction of the geography of the pharaoh’s First Campaign whereby the “King of Kd-šw” (Kadesh = ‘the Holy’) of the Annals was Rehoboam of Judah (son of Solomon), but he was then stationed in Mkty (Megiddo) in the north, by her cutting Megiddo right out of the picture, and having Thutmose III instead directing his campaign right unto Jerusalem (Kd-šw) itself.

Key Issues


Perhaps the main issues that one has to tackle in any attempted re-identification of pharaoh Thutmose III with “Shishak”, apart from the vital chronological (archaeological) aspect, are:

  1. The name of the monarch;
  2. The geography of the First Campaign; and
  3. Matching the Karnak treasures of Thutmose III with those in Solomon’s palace and in the Temple of Yahweh.

Whilst I have already covered these points in my:

Why Thutmose III can be ‘King Shishak of Egypt’

there, like Danelius, accepting but significantly modifying Velikovsky, in this present article I intend to focus wholly upon (ii) the geography of that First Campaign.

I shall be doing this with a very heavy reliance upon Dr. Eva Danelius’s masterful article, “Did Thutmose III Despoil the Temple in Jerusalem?”


Professor Breasted’s Geography of ‘First Campaign’

highly doubtful


The story of the First Campaign, as told by Professor Breasted, is that the ‘Napoleonic’ pharaoh, in the 22nd year of his long reign (54 years) – Sothically calculated at 1479 BC, embarked upon a military expedition into Syria, in order to fight against a collation of Syrian princes under the leadership of the “King of Kd-šw”, who had revolted against Egypt. Pharaoh Thutmose III emerged from this campaign with a great victory and immense spoils from the conquered territories.

Dr. Velikovsky’s radical revision of this scenario was in harmony with Breasted, geographically (and etymologically) at least insofar as Velikovsky would also have this pharaonic campaign directed at Megiddo (the Mkty of the pharaonic “Annals”), in the north. But that is where all similarities would end, for Velikovsky would equate this campaign with the biblical campaign leading to the sack of Jerusalem’s Temple and palace. Geographically, this now became very awkward. According to Velikovsky, the “King of Kd-šw” (= Jerusalem), Rehoboam of Judah (son of Solomon), was then stationed in Megiddo (Mkty), well distant from Jerusalem.

Admittedly, the coupling of Mkty and T3-‘3-n3-k3 in the Annals – considered to be the well-known combination of, respectively, Megiddo and Taanach – is a strong point in favour of the conventional view, at least superficially. Though Taanach is situated to the east of Megiddo, which may actually present a logistical problem for the textbook history, with the Egyptian army purportedly approaching Megiddo from the plain of Sharon to the west (see General Wavell’s information below on the two Sharon routes).

However, by far the main problem for the conventional reconstruction of this campaign is the total impossibility for historians to be able to match the fairly benign Megiddo terrain to the narrow and arduous path to Mkty as described in the Egyptian account.

Danelius’s criticism of Breasted


As Dr. Danelius has argued most compellingly in her article for the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (SIS, UK), the gentle and benign topography of the Megiddo region can by no means be equated with that of the road of travel selected by the pharaoh himself, the ‘3-rw-n3 (‘Aruna) road, which Thutmose’s own generals regarded as being ‘inaccessible’, ‘secret’ and ‘mysterious’.

Danelius, developing much of her argument (far too detailed to do justice to here) through the poignant tale of the young Harold H. Nelson, to whom Breasted had assigned for his doctoral thesis the preconceived task of interpreting the Egyptian Annals ‘in the light of the geography of the environs of Megiddo’, gave such examples of the topography of Megiddo as these:

[C. R. Conder] “From the Plain of Sharon to Jordan. This line … ascends by the broad and open valley Wâdy ‘Ârah, crossing the watershed at Ain Ibrahim, which is about 1200 feet above the sea. Thence the road descends, falling some 700 feet in 3 miles to Lejjûn [Megiddo] . . . . This line, which appears to be ancient … being one of the easiest across the country, owing to the open character of Wâdy ‘Ârah”.

Most armies coming north over Sharon … would cut across the . . . hills by the easy passes which issue on Esdraelon at Megiddo and elsewhere.

… September 1918. General Wavell evaluates the difficulties of the crossing when discussing the operational plan for the final onslaught: “There was no obstacle to rapid movement along either the Plain of Sharon or Plain of Esdraelon. … Two routes lead across it from Sharon, of which … the eastern debouches into Esdraelon at Lejjûn …. Neither road presents any physical difficulties for a mounted force. …”.

The ‘Aruna road, on the other hand, compared most favourably indeed, etymologically and topographically, Danelius claimed, with the steep and narrow pass directed towards Jerusalem:

… the road dreaded by the [Egyptian] officers was the camel-road leading from Jaffa up the so-called Beth Horon ascent to Jerusalem, approaching the city from the north. In the time of David it led to the threshing-floor of Araunah [her choice for ‘Aruna] the Jebusite; in the time of Rehoboam it led to the Temple Mount which had been built at that place.

…. The expression “horse following horse”, considered by Nelson to have been an Egyptian idiom, seems to have been a known characteristic for that part of the road where “it falls into narrowness”: when talking about that part of the way where it climbs from the Lower Beth Horon to the Upper Beth Horon, the Talmud says that if two camels meet each other on the steps of Beth Horon, only “if they go one after the other, both can go up safely”. ….

… Finally, the eastern opening of the road lies in a district called “Jebel el Kuds” in Turkish times, “Har Kodsho” by the Hebrews, both names meaning the same: “The Mount of the Holy One”, “’The Holy Mount”. In other words Kd-šw was not the name of a city, but of a land. ….

Despite the fortuitous combination of ‘Megiddo’ and ‘Taanach’, the key pass of ‘Aruna is not well represented etymologically by Wadi ¢Ara, as Danelius tells:

Nelson travelled the Wadi ¢Ara pass in 1909, and again in 1912. He described it in detail: “… the road enters the Wadi ¢Ara which is there … flat and open . . . the valley is wide and level … the ascent is so gradual as to be scarcely perceptible …”.

…. Nelson warns not to be deceived by the Arabic name (wadi) ¢Ara: ‘Etymologically, it seems hardly possible to equate (Egyptian) ¢Aruna with (Arab) ¢Ar¢Arah’ ….

Nelson got time during the Great War to reassess it all:

…. This … provided him with the opportunity of discussing his thesis with some British officers who had participated in the conquest of Palestine, 1917/1918. …. “Had the University of Chicago regulations governing the publication of theses permitted, I would gladly have re-written the whole manuscript in the light of the recent campaign of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under Lord Allenby in the same region in which Thutmose III … also defeated an enemy advancing from the north towards Egypt” ….

Problematically, too, Breasted had actually doctored up the Egyptian account, to enable it to accord with his geographical and chronological purposes:

The story, as told by Breasted, starts in the 22nd year of Pharaoh’s reign, “fourth month of the second season”, when he crossed the boundary of Egypt (Records, § 415). There had been a rebellion against the Pharaoh in the city of Sharuhen … inside the territory of Judah (Josh. 19:6). Nine days later was … the beginning of a new year, year 23. He spent it at the city “which the ruler seized”, G3-d3-tw, understood to be Gaza (§ 417) …. He left Gaza the very next day

16 in power, in triumph, to overthrow that wretched foe, to extend 17″the boundaries of Egypt, according †to the command of his father the valiant†18 that he seize. Year 23, first month of the third season, on the sixteenth day, at the city of Yehem (Y-hm), he ordered [GAP – one word]19 consultation with his valiant troops … (§§ 418-420)

… The attentive reader will have observed that there is no gap in the middle of line 18. Nevertheless, Breasted inserted before the words “at the city of Y-hm” in brackets: “(he arrived)” (§ 419). In his History of Egypt he goes much more into detail: “Marching along the Shephela … he crossed the plain of Sharon, turning inland as he did so, and camped on the evening of May 10th at Yehem, a town of uncertain location, some eighty or ninety miles from Gaza, on the southern slopes of the Carmel range.” ….

Not a word of all this appears in the Egyptian text. All that the text says is that the Pharaoh spent one night at a city which has been identified with Gaza, and that nine days later he held a consultation with his officers at another place of which we know absolutely nothing. All else is guesswork. Its only justification … lies in the fact that it brings the army to the place where it should be if the location of the city to be conquered, My-k-ty [Mkty], was in the Valley of Esdraelon.

Danelius is highly critical here also of the rate of progress attributed by Breasted to the Egyptian army, ‘80-90 miles in 10-11 days’, by comparison with that of the ‘Allied left wing [that] covered only 40 miles in 15 days along the plain’, despite the latter’s likely more favourable seasonal conditions (November as opposed to May). ‘It seems that neither Breasted nor any of his followers has given any thought to this vital question’, she wrote, ‘not to mention other problems of logistics’.

Etymologically speaking, only, Danelius’s choice for Y-hm (Yehem) of ‘Yamnia (Yabne in Hebrew) – a port about 40 km north of Gaza’ – is hardly more promising than was Petrie’s choice for it of Yemma, south-west of the Carmel ridge, an identification that is ‘little more than guesswork’ according to Nelson. In view of this stalemate, perhaps, I should like to suggest, newly (but according to a Danelius-based context), and tentatively, that Yehem was Beth-lehem, which heads Rehoboam’s list of fortified cities (II Chronicles 11:6). The pharaoh – whose multi-pronged forces of his ‘countless army’ had set about dismantling Judah’s forts (12:3, 4) – had, I suggest, marched to Bethlehem, where he held his war council for an eventual assault on Jerusalem from the north.

Velikovsky had put this challenge to conventional scholars regarding the forts of Judah:

The walled cities fortified by Rehoboam (II Chronicles 11:5ff.) may be found in the Egyptian list. It appears that Etam is Itmm; Beth-zur – Bt Sir; Socoh – Sk. Here is a new field for scholarly inquiry: the examination of the list of the Palestinian cities of Thutmose III, comparing their names with the names of the cities in the kingdom of Judah. The work will be fruitful.

This was coupled with his pointed remark that, among the 119 cities listed by Thutmose III, there were many cities ‘which the scholars did not dare to recognize: they were built when Israel was already settled in Canaan’.

The two roads favoured by the pharaoh’s generals, ‘Zefti’, transcribed Df-ty by Breasted (but unknown in the Megiddo context), and T3-‘3-n3-k3, Danelius now identified with, respectively, Zephathah (II Chron. 14:10), and Tahunah, ‘through which the railway runs today …. Its eastern end leads on to the valley of Rephaim …’; both roads leading to the Temple Mount. ‘Taanach’ here, though, might have some association with Rephaim itself, through Anak (Heb. ‘Anaq), since ‘the Anakim … are usually reckoned as Rephaim’ (Deuteronomy 2:11).

As to Mkty, the capture of which was compared by Thutmose to ‘the capture of a thousand cities’, this, Danelius claimed, was Jerusalem itself, for: ‘Among the names enumerated as designating Jerusalem is Bait-al-Makdis … corresponding to Beith-ha-Miqdash in modern Hebrew pronunciation’.

As Astour has shown, it was typical ancient practice to designate the country, the capital, and even the tribal or dynastic name, e.g. Gurgum, its capital Marqas, and its dynastic name, Bit-Pa’alla. Here, Thutmose III supposedly (in Danelius’s context) names the country, Kd-šw, and the capital, Mkty, whilst the El-Amarna letters supply us with the dynastic name of Bît Šulman (i.e., ‘The House of Solomon’).

Whilst a ‘Kadesh’ (Kd-šw) is geographically quite awkward in a conventional Megiddo context, Danelius, on the other hand, was able to provide a most logical account of the Egyptian tactics, identifying the city of which ‘only the last letter – n – has been preserved, together with the ideogram designating “a channel filled with water”,’ as Gibeon (‘The “many waters” of Gibeon are mentioned in the Scriptures’), and the related brook of Kina (K-y-n3), unknown in the environs of Megiddo, as “the waters of lamentation” at Gibeon – an explanation for the name being found in II Samuel 2.

But she will also, somewhat cumbersomely, I think, have to identify Mkty in one case with the fort of Magedo (or Migron) just north of Jerusalem (cf. I Samuel 14:2; Isaiah 10:28), since, at this stage, as she writes, ‘the Pharaoh camped “to the south of My-k-ty on the bank of the brook of Kina …”.’ Perhaps Danelius’s thesis could be streamlined here to having Kd-šw being Jerusalem itself, and Mkty simply being the fort of Magedo (var. Makkedo), worth so much to the pharaoh ‘because every chief of every country that has revolted is within it’.

I would share Velikovsky’s view that T3-‘3-n3-k3 is the most problematical name for Danelius. Velikovsky, who it must be said did not accept Danelius’s reconstruction of his thesis here – though he applauded her for being ‘a very gifted researcher and innovator’ – submitted, ‘in the spirit of constructive co-operation’, that:

Now as to the approach to Megiddo being a narrow pass – by what it is now, it cannot be judged what it was almost three thousand years ago. There could have been artificial mound fortifications the length of the pass. Think, for instance, of Tyre …. Today its topography is completely changed. …. Taanach is also next to Megiddo in the Bible (I Kings 4:12). Your equation of Taanach with the Tahhunah ridge does not strengthen your thesis.

This last was probably Velikovsky’s strongest point. However, his acceptance of the conventional interpretation of T3-‘3-n3-k3 meant his inheriting the same formidable topographical problem with which Nelson had had to grapple. Danelius’s general location (at least) of ‘Taanach’ is, I think, far preferable.


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