The "Israel" Name Ring in the Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief (1350 BC)
The "Israel" Merneptah Stele (1205 BC)
Archaeologists are digging up bible stories!!!
Archaeology is an important science that confirms the historical accuracy of the Bible. Since the Bible refers to hundreds of cities, kings, and places, we would expect to find evidence from on-site excavations. And this is exactly what we have found. The Bible is the most historically accurate book of history on earth. Read the Bible daily!
1. On this page, we feature two different examples of the word "Israel" in Egyptian texts:
a. The "Israel" name ring in the Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief (1350 BC) was purchased by Ludwig Borchardt from a merchant named M. Nachman in 1913 AD and sat undiscovered in the Berlin Museum until Manfred Gorg published a paper in 2001 AD. In 2010, Peter van der Veen, Christoffer Theis and Manfred Gorg conducted a more detailed study of the object. In 2012 Peter van der Veen conducted further studies that included 3-D scans. In the end it is clear that the correct reading is "Israel" in the right hand name ring. This fragment dates from 1350 - 1213 BC.
b. The "Israel" Merneptah Stele (1205 BC) was discovered insitu by Sir Flinders Petrie in western Thebes in 1896 AD.
2. To find the actual word for "Israel" in Egyptian literature that dates from 1200-1400 BC is stunning!
a. Many Bible scoffers do not believe Israel even existed until the 7-10th centuries BC and completely reject the exodus and conquest of Joshua as a myth.
b. This reference to Israel in 1205 BC proves them all wrong!
c. In fact, so blind and dishonest are some archeologists who refuse to believe Israel existed at this time, they actually forced to invent the idea that there was a group called "Israel" living in Canaan BEFORE Joshua and his band of wanderers moved in and ADOPTED the name for themselves: "Those who deny that there was an Exodus argue that the Israel referred to in the Merneptah Stele is different from the Israel of the Bible." (Israel in Egypt: The Egyptian Sojourn and the Exodus, Nahum M. Sarna, Biblical Archaeology Society, 2004 AD)
3. "My own perspective is that the Biblical materials are valid history. They should be treated as ancient sources, as any other ancient document, unless you have very strong evidence to the contrary. In my investigations I have found the Biblical accounts stand up very well to the evidence. … When we look at all the evidence, archeological and literary, it supports the Biblical model. The Merneptah stele is a record of the Pharaoh who was the son of Ramses II, who ruled at the end of the 13th century BC. On this stela, found in his mortuary tomb in the 1890s, there is a record of his accomplishments. At the end of the record is a short poem which deals with a campaign into Canaan. There are a number of places mentioned that Merneptah was able to conquer and it also mentions the people Israel for the first time outside the Bible. We can date this event to about 1210 BC. That means Israel was already in the land, well established, in 1210, quite a number of decades prior to the mid 12th century. This is strong evidence in support of the Biblical model." (Reexamining The Late Bronze Era, Bryant Wood, Bible and Spade, 8:2, p48, 1995 AD)
4. "‘Israel’ as described in this inscription is an entity at least on a par with the city-states Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam, but the term has the ‘people’ determinative, indicating that it is a rural or tribal entity, not a state with a city as its centre. (In Egyptian hieroglyphic script, ‘determinatives’ are signs indicating the category to which a particular entity belongs.) If Merneptah’s campaign as described in this inscription is mapped out, the most likely location for the ‘Israel’ referred to here is in the central hill country. In other words, the ‘Israel’ described in this inscription is similar in nature and extent to Israel as described at the end of Joshua or in the Song of Deborah (Judg. 5). Note the boastful rhetoric of the inscription: so far from being without ‘seed’, Israel was to continue in the land for many centuries! Neither Joshua nor Judges mentions a clash with Egyptians." (The book of Joshua: largely fiction?, Exploring the Old Testament: The Histories, Philip Satterthwaite, Gordon McConville, Vol. 2, p65, 2007 AD)
5. Merneptah was the son of Ramesses II who reigned as pharaoh 1213-1203 BC. "Israel is laid waste. His seed is no more"
a. In 1205 BC Merneptah commissioned the creation of the "Israel Stela" as it is called which contains the first reference in Egyptian records of the word "Israel".
b. While there are countless references to the Hebrews (Habiru) in the Amarna Tablets that date to 1404-1341 BC, this is the first reference to Israel.
c. It becomes clear that only a date of 1406 BC for the conquest is possible, given Israel is considered a nations in Canaan.
d. It firmly rules out the late date of 1250 BC for the conquest, given the impossibility that anyone would invading Israel during the time of Joshua.
I. The "Israel Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief"
1. Discovery of the tablet in museum storage drawers:
a. "The topographical relief that is the subject of this article is found on a grey granite slab measuring 46 cm in height and 39.5 cm in width (no. 21687). According to the Egyptian Museum’s warehouse archival notes, the fragment, most likely part of a statue pedestal, was acquired in 1913 by Ludwig Borchardt from a merchant named M. Nachman, along with several other objects. One of these is an additional pedestal relief of about the same size (50 × 38 cm) that is likewise made of grey granite (no. 21688; Figure 2). Although its presentation of prisoners and name rings is not exactly the same as on no. 21687, its overall size and layout does suggest it could have had a similar provenance. While no. 21687 in its present state of preservation contains three name rings superimposed on Western Asiatic prisoners, no. 21688 has three name rings superimposed on two Western Asiatic prisoners (outer left and right) and one Nubian prisoner in the center."(Israel in Canaan Long Before Pharaoh Merenptah?, Peter van der Veen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 2:4, p15-25, 2010 AD)
2. In 2010, Peter van der Veen determined that the correct reading of the broken side of the slab no. 21687 is "Israel"
a. "In 2001, Manfred Gorg published a new reading of a fragmentary name ring on a topographical pedestal relief in the Berlin Museum (no. 21687). Although the inscription had previously been listed in topographical studies, the reading of the fragmentary third name ring had not received adequate attention. Gorg suggested reading the broken name as an archaic form for “Israel” and argued that it could have been copied during the Nineteenth Dynasty from an earlier list. As his publication was in German, his proposal has so far been unavailable to a wider English- speaking readership. Two scholars, Bryant Wood and James Hoffmeier, have briefly discussed Gorg's proposal; while Wood welcomed it, the latter rejected it on linguistic grounds. The present authors republish the relief fragment here in English and include new evidence that appears to support Gorg's original reading." (Israel in Canaan Long Before Pharaoh Merenptah?, Peter van der Veen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 2:4, p15-25, 2010 AD)
b. "The topographical sequence of the name IA-Sr-il/YA-Sr-il on the Berlin pedestal relief occurs together with Ashkelon and Canaan and therefore closely resembles the topographical names listed in close proximity to Israel on the Israel Stele (i.e., Pa-Canaan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Yenoam, Israel). The proximity of the names in both documents seems to suggest that both texts are related in some way and that both could date to the Nineteenth Dynasty (Görg tentatively suggested the reign of Ramesses II for the Berlin relief) and that their geographical nearness suggests the identification with the same topographical entity within central Palestine. For what other name in the same general region would be so strikingly reminiscent of that of biblical Israel? As a matter of fact, no linguistically feasible name is attested in any of the extant texts, so “Israel” remains the most logical candidate." (Israel in Canaan Long Before Pharaoh Merenptah?, Peter van der Veen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 2:4, p15-25, 2010 AD)
3. Dating the Israel Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief no. 21687: 1350 - 1213 BC
a. The Berlin relief has been dated in a range as early as Amenhotep II (1400 BC) or Amenhotep III 1360 BC and as late as Ramesses II (1213 BC)
b. Since we know the exodus was in 1446 BC and the conquest started in 1406 BC, is seems unlikely that Egypt would recognize Israel any earlier than after the death of Joshua in 1358 BC.
c. We would set the oldest possible date for the Berlin "Israel" relief at 1350 BC and the youngest date to Ramesses II.
d. Scholars tend to view the Berlin relief as 14th century, which would favour a date 1350-1300 BC.
e. As stated above, we tentatively ascribe the Berlin pedestal relief to the reign of Ramesses II. Although the reference to “Israel” in association with Ashkelon and Canaan recalls the reference from the reign of Merenptah, a Ramesside date is by no means certain. Gorg originally ascribed the block to the reign of Amenhotep II due to the archaic renderings of the names “Ashkelon” and “Canaan.” Giveon preferred a date during the reign of Amenhotep III, which was tentatively accepted by Shmuel Ahituv. A date later than Ramesses II (for instance, during the reigns of Merenptah or Ramesses III) seems unlikely, however, as suggested by the short renderings (i.e., largely void of group writings) and the earlier form of the theophoric element 'El. These clearly deviate from the longer versions during the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties. (Israel in Canaan Long Before Pharaoh Merenptah?, Peter van der Veen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 2:4, p15-25, 2010 AD)
4. The "Israel" Berlin Statue Relief, like the "Israel" Merenptah stele, creates huge problems for those Bible trashing archeologists who reject the exodus and say it is a myth.
a. It is to be expected that many scholars will find it hard to accept that the name IA-Sr-il/YA-Sr-il on the Berlin pedestal relief could refer to biblical Israel in Canaan prior to the reign of Merenptah. The question indeed needs to be asked whether it is at all possible that biblical Israel arrived in Canaan during either the mid–Eighteenth Dynasty or the even earlier Second Intermediate Period. Most scholars today - regardless of whether they accept the biblical Exodus and Conquest traditions as historical - suggest that the ethnogenesis of the tribes of Israel occurred no earlier than the end of the Late Bronze Age or the beginning of the Iron Age. A number of scholars, however, have questioned this view by arguing that “Israel” could have been in Canaan well before 1200 bce. (Israel in Canaan Long Before Pharaoh Merenptah?, Peter van der Veen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 2:4, p15-25, 2010 AD)
5. In 2012, Peter van der Veen conducted additional 3D laser scans that confirmed the correct reading of the name ring was "Israel"
a. "3-D laser scanning was undertaken in July 2011 by TrigonArt/Bauer-Praus GmbH, Berlin, which produced important additional information on the third name ring, as well as on the very damaged left name ring of AM 21688. It proved positively that the "beak-like" feature in the top row of AM 21687 was indeed engraved and hence was part of an original hieroglyph, either (most preferably so) of the 3-vulture (G I), or alternatively of an M 23 sw-plant, or a U 33 t-pestle. This was also confirmed by plasticine impressions taken in November 2011. Moreover, depth and height images of the stone, as well as casts produced after scanning, suggested that the fracture line at the top right follows the outer contours of a neck and belly, most likely those of the G I vulture. Similar breakages can also be seen in the band of hieroglyphs above the three prisoners. The "claw"-like feature vaguely visible to the lower right of the flowering reed (M 17), could now also be recognized more easily. Its shallowness may be due to the fact that the surface is very worn in this area." (Berlin Statue Pedistal Reliefs 21687 & 21688: ongoing research, Peter van der Veen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 4:4, p41-42, 2012 AD)
6. Reconstructing the third, right hand ring off slab no. 21687:
a. Peter van der Veen used the clearly visible vulture at the bottom of the middle ring of slab no. 21688 and copied it.
b. He then took and used it as a template for his new drawing in no. 21687.
c. We created our own drawings, following Peter van der Veen's example as seen below.
d. There is an indentation where the beak and foot talon would go in slab no 21687 and the bird matches exactly!!!
e. Here is Berlin Relief slab no. 21688 from which the vulture was copied:
a. "Despite any remaining questions, the reading i-s3-ir (=I/e-sa-EL or I/c-sar-EL = Yasar-EL/Israel) still seems to be the most conclusive reconstruction by far of what can be seen on the relief." (Berlin Statue Pedistal Reliefs 21687 & 21688: ongoing research, Peter van der Veen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 4:4, p41-42, 2012 AD)
II. Discovery of the "Israel" Merneptah Stele by Sir Flinders Petrie in 1897 AD
1. "Discovered in 1896 by Sir Flinders Petrie in western Thebes, the Merneptah Stela instantly became one of the most important documents from the ancient Near East, thanks to the appearance on it of the name “Israel” (Petrie 1897, pl. 13–14). Now over a century later, this reference remains the earliest occurrence of Israel outside of the Bible." (Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, Context of Scripture, James K. Hoffmeier, volume II, 2.6, 2000 AD)
2. "Petrie’s work in Egypt included the excavation of several major sites, such as Abydos, Amarna, Naqadah, Sinai, and a number of Theban temples. Among his finds, the best known by far is the Merneptah stele. This stele, which contains the oldest known reference to Israel, was found in 1896 in pharaoh Merneptah’s mortuary temple at Thebes. The day it was discovered Petrie commented, “This stele will be better known in the world than anything else I have found” (1931: 160)." (Portrait of Sir Flinders Petrie, Valerie M. Fargo, Biblical Archaeologist, 47, 1984 AD)
III. Details about the "Israel" Merneptah Stele (1205 BC)
1. "The stela had belonged to Amenhotep III, who had inscribed its recto with an account of his building activities (see p. 43). It was appropriated by Merneptah, who placed it in his mortuary temple and had the verso inscribed with a poetic account of his victory over the Libyans who had invaded Egypt in the fifth year of his reign. A duplicate copy of this text was written on a stela erected in the temple of Karnak. Furthermore, a long prose account of the Libyan war (not translated here) was inscribed on the inside of the eastern wall that connects the central part of the Karnak temple with Pylon No. VII." (The Poetical Stela of Merneptah, Ancient Egyptian literature, Miriam Lichtheim, volume II, p73, 1973 AD)
2. "The Merneptah Stele: A 2.1 m (7 ft) slab engraved with hieroglyphics, also called the “Israel Stele,” boasts of the Egyptian pharaoh’s conquest of Libyans and peoples in Palestine, including the Israelites: “Israel—his seed is not.” This is the earliest reference to Israel in non-Biblical sources, and demonstrates that, as of ca. 1230 BC, the Hebrews were already living in the Promised Land." (Archaeology-Biblical Ally or Adversary?, Paul L. Maier, Bible and Spade, 17:3, p89, 2004 AD)
IV. The Merneptah Stela proves the early date for the conquest of 1406 BC:
1. The Merneptah Stele dates to 1205 BC making the late conquest date is 1220-1210 BC impossible for two reasons: 1. Israel is an established nation in Canaan. 2. It would be absurd for Egypt to attach during the life of Joshua.
2. It becomes clear that only a date of 1406 BC for the conquest is possible, since Pharaoh Merneptah viewed Israel as an established nation in Canaan.
3. It firmly rules out the late date of 1220-1210 BC for the conquest, given the impossibility that anyone would invading Israel during the time of Joshua.
a. For the sake of argument, lets assume Ramesses II was the pharaoh of the exodus according to the date of 1250 BC: If the Pharaoh of the Exodus is Ramesses II, then the Pharaoh who fled from Moses was Sety I (Menmaatra) 1294-1279 BC. If Moses fled to Midian in the first year of Sety I's reign, that means 14 years later he died and Ramesses II became Pharaoh and reigned for a total of 66 years. Since we know that Moses spent 40 years in Midian, This means that Ramesses II had been reigning for 26 years when Moses said to Ramesses II, "Let my people go". Since Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness before they crossed the Jordan, that means Ramesses II had been reigning for total of 66 years and died the year Israel crossed the Jordan. This means that Merneptah (Baenra), who made the very "Merneptah Stele" we are discussing, became Pharaoh the year Israel crossed the Jordan. Merneptah reigned 1213-1203 BC, for a total of 10 years. Since it is generally accepted that Israel took about 10 years to fully occupy the promised land, this means that the Victory Stele of Merneptah was written within the first 10 years after Israel crossed the Jordan.
b. So for the sake of argument, if Ramesses II was the pharaoh of the exodus, then the Merneptah Stele was written within the first 10 years after Israel first entered the promised land. Israel was simply not settled enough to be seen as a major world force as the Merneptah Stele clearly indicates they were. This strongly argues that Ramesses II was not the pharaoh of the Exodus and therefore the actual date of the exodus was 1446 BC.
c. One of the most powerful arguments against an exodus of 1250 BC is the fact that it is ridiculous to even suggest that God would allow the Pharaoh of Egypt to actually conquer Israel within the first 10 years of bringing Israel into the promised land. Israel escapes Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, spend 40 years in the wilderness only to have Egypt attack and conquer them within 10 years of crossing the Jordan. But the Bible trashers who believe in at 1250 BC exodus are not the least bit concerned by any of this because they believe the entire exodus story is myth.
4. There are countless references to the Hebrews (Habiru) in the Amarna Tablets that date to 1404-1341 BC, which predate the Merneptah Stela by 150-200 years. Akhenaten wisely never sent any armies during the Amarna period, as is recorded in the Amarna Letters.
V. Date and timing of the Israel Merneptah Stele:
1. Pharaoh Merneptah: 1212-1202 BC (Low chronology): The stele was created during his 10 year reign in 1205 BC.
a. "MERENPTAH (PERSON). Twelfth son and successor of Rameses II. His name in Egyptian was “B-n-rʿ, beloved of Amun, Mr-n-pth, pleased with Truth.” Born to the queen Isit-nofret no later than his father’s 20th year on the throne, and perhaps as early as his 5th (Harris and Wente 1980: 260–62), Merenptah (or Merneptah as he is commonly known) is earliest known as a king’s scribe. Late in the second decade of his father’s reign he may have participated in the attack on a N Syrian city, and later still in the war against Irem in Nubia. On the demise of his older brother Khamwese (whose daughter Isit-nofret he may have married), Merenptah became heir apparent and commander in chief of the army. Upon the death of his father in his 67th year of rule (June of either 1237 or 1223 b.c., high chronology), Merenptah succeeded to the throne as the fourth king of the 19th Dyn." (Merenptah, ABD, 1992 AD)
b. "The Merneptah Stele: The Merneptah Stele, or Israel Stele as it is sometimes called, is a hieroglyphic account of Pharaoh Merneptah’s military campaigns, including one in Canaan. Merneptah (1212–1202 B.C.E. low chronology) boasts that he has destroyed several named cities as well as “Israel”: “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not.” An Egyptian sign called a determinative is attached to the name Israel. It tells the reader that Israel is a people. Different signs are used to indicate a city or a state. The campaign described in the stele can be confidently dated to 1205 B.C.E., give or take a year or two. About all this there is universal agreement." (Israel in Egypt: The Egyptian Sojourn and the Exodus, Nahum M. Sarna, Biblical Archaeology Society, 2004 AD)
c. "The date of this commemorative hymn (or series of hymns) relates it to Mer-ne-Ptah’s victory over the Libyans in the spring of his fifth year (about 1230 b.c. using high chronology). However, the text is not historical in the same sense as two other records of that victory, but is rather a poetic eulogy of a universally victorious pharaoh. Thus it was not out of place to introduce his real or figurative triumph over Asiatic peoples in the last poem of the hymn. In that context we meet the only instance of the name “Israel” in ancient Egyptian writing." (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, James B. Pritchard, ANET, p376, 1969 AD)
2. The key is dating the "Israel" Merneptah Stele to realize that it must be inserted into an oppression cycle during the period of the Judges.
a. Joshua was a "youth" (20-22 years old) at Sinai, so he died at age 120 in 1356 BC.
b. See Chronology of the Judges.
c. This begins the clock ticking for the period of the Judges after the elders who survived Joshua died in about 1350 BC.
d. We know that there is a solid block in the first three judges, Othneil, Ehud and Deborah that spanned 1350 - 1144 BC.
3. The only possible oppression cycle is the 20 years after the death of Ehud which dates to 1224 - 1204 BC
a. “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. The sons of Israel cried to the Lord; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years.” (Judges 4:1–3)
b. Deborah started to liberate Israel in 1204 BC and she a "co-judge" with Gideon and Shamgar at the same time in different regions of Canaan. All three started liberating Israel shortly after 1205 BC.
c. So the only oppression cycle where Pharaoh Merneptah attacks Israel, is the 20 years after Ehud died up to the time Deborah began to Judge.
4. Pharaoh Merneptah's attack in Canaan is not mentioned in the Bible.
a. There are several other foreign invaders into Israel that are recorded in archeology but not mentioned in the Bible.
b. An example would be Ahab's battle at Qarqar recorded in the Shalmaneser III Stele (Kurkh monolith) that says Ahab supplied 2000 chariots and 10,000 men to defeat Shalmaneser III in 853 BC.
5. Following the low Egyptian chronology dates Merneptah's reign to 1213-1203 BC, as does the Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD) which then dates the stele at 1205 BC.
a. The high Egyptian chronology Merneptah's reign at 1223-1213 BC, but this also shifts the oppression cycle after Ehud in the same direction.
b. Regardless of low or high Egyptian chronology, it is the post-Ehud oppression cycle of 20 years where Merneptah attacked Israel.
6. So Merneptah attached Israel in 1205 BC, which was one year before Deborah liberated Israel in the north, Gideon Transjordan and Shamgar in the south where the Philistines were strong.
a. "There is, however, no longer any difficulty in understanding Shamgar, Jael, Deborah, and Barak as contemporaries in one period of success and achievement." (ABD, Shamgar)
b. So Merneptah's attack was the last wave of oppression that brough Israel to full repentance so God sent Judges!
7. It is not surprising that Merneptah made a direct reference to Israel in Canaan in his stele, since Israel had been established there for 200 years.
VI. Full text of the Israel Merneptah Stele:
1. "The text begins with the royal titulary and a formal encomium, strictly composed in eight symmetrical distichs. Then comes the narrative poem whose freer form makes for liveliness and variety. It begins with a graphic description of the Libyan defeat: the rout of the troops, the flight of the chief, and the desolation at home. Next is a court session of the gods at Heliopolis in which Merneptah is declared victor and presented with the sword of victory. Then follows a vivid and joyful description of the return of peace. The final portion of the text is a twelve-line poem of praise which complements the initial encomium. Where in the beginning the king had been lauded as the victor who freed Egypt from the Libyan menace, the concluding poem extols him as victor over all of Egypt’s neighbors, especially the peoples of Palestine and Syria. At the present time, scholars are wary of seeking historically accurate information in such triumphal poetry; hence one would hesitate to treat the poem as firm evidence for an Asiatic campaign of Merneptah. But the poem has a special significance owing to its mentioning Israel among the conquered peoples and places; for this is the only occurrence of the name of Israel in Egyptian texts." (The Poetical Stela of Merneptah, Ancient Egyptian literature, Miriam Lichtheim, volume II, p73, 1973 AD)
2. Below we have supplied two translations of the stele:
Full text translation: The Poetical Stela of Merneptah, Ancient Egyptian literature, Miriam Lichtheim, volume II, p73, 1973 AD
Full text translation: Ancient Near Eastern Texts, James B. Pritchard, ANET, p376, 1969 AD
Year 5, 3d month of summer, day 3, under the Majesty of Horus: Mighty Bull, Rejoicing in Maat; the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Banere-meramun; the Son of Re: Merneptah, Content with Maat, magnified by the power, exalted by the strength of Horus; strong bull who smites the Nine Bows, whose name is given to eternity forever.
Recital of his victories in all lands, to let all lands together know, to let the glory of his deeds be seen: the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Banere-meramun; the Son of Re: Merneptah, Content with Maat; the Bull, lord of strength who slays his foes, splendid on the field of valor when his attack is made:
Year 5, 3rd month of the third season, day 3, under the majesty of the Horus: Mighty Bull, Rejoicing in Truth; the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re: Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat. The magnification of the strength and the exaltation of the strong arm of the Horus: Mighty Bull, who smites the Nine Bows, whose name is given to eternity forever.
The relation of his victories in all lands, to cause that every land together know and to let the virtue in his deeds of valor be seen: the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re: Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat; the Bull, lord of strength, slaying his foes, gracious on the field of valor when his conquest has been effected;
Shu who dispelled the cloud that was over Egypt,
letting Egypt see the rays of the sun disk.
Who removed the mountain of copper from the people’s neck, that he might give breath to the imprisoned folk.
Who let Hut-ka-Ptah exult over its foes,
letting Tjenen triumph over his opponents.
Opener of Memphis’ gates that were barred,
who allowed the temples to receive their foods.
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Banere-meramun,
the Son of Re, Merneptah, Content with Maat.
The Sole One who steadied the hearts of hundred thousands,
breath entered their nostrils at the sight of him.
Who destroyed the land of the Tjemeh in his lifetime,
cast abiding terror (5) in the heart of the Meshwesh.
He turned back the Libyans who trod Egypt,
great is dread of Egypt in their hearts.
The sun, uncovering the cloud which had been over Egypt
And letting Egypt see the rays of the sun disc;
Removing the mountain of metal from the neck of the people,
So that he might give breath to the folk who had been shut in;
Appeasing the heart of Memphis over their enemies,
And making Ta-tenen rejoice over those rebellious to him;
Opening the doors of Memphis which had been barred
And letting its temples receive their food (again); the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re: Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat;
The sole one, restoring the courage of hundred-thousands,
For breath enters into their nostrils at the sight of him;
Penetrating the land of Temeh in his lifetime,
And setting the terror of eternity in the hearts of the Meshwesh. (5)
He causes to turn back the Rebu, who had trodden Egypt,
Great dread being in their hearts because of Egypt.
Their leading troops were left behind,
Their legs made no stand except to flee,
Their archers abandoned their bows,
The hearts of their runners grew weak as they sped,
They loosened their waterskins, cast them down,
Their packs were untied, thrown away.
The vile chief, the Libyan foe,
Fled in the deep of night alone,
No plume on his head, his feet unshod,
His wives were carried off from his presence,
His food supplies were snatched away,
He had no drinking water to sustain him.
The gaze of his brothers was fierce to slay him,
His officers fought among each other,
Their tents were fired, burnt to ashes,
All his goods were food for the troops.
When he reached his country he was in mourning,
Those left in his land were loath to receive him,
“A chief, ill-fated, evil-plumed,”
All said of him, those of his town.
“He is in the power of the gods, the lords of Memphis,
The Lord of Egypt has made his name accursed;
Merey is the abomination of Memphis,
So is son after son of his kin forever.
Banere-meramun will be after his children,
Merneptah, Content with Maat is given him as fate.
He has become a ⌈ proverbial (10) saying ⌉ for Libya,
Generation says to generation of his victories:
It was never done to us since the time of Re;”
So says every old man speaking to his son.
Their advanced guard abandoned their rear. Their legs did not stop, except to run. Their archers abandoned their bows. The heart of their runners was weak from traveling. They untied their waterskins, thrown on the ground; their packs were loosed and cast aside.
The wretched enemy prince of Rebu was fled in the depth of the night, by himself. No feather was on his head; his feet were unshod. His women were taken before his face. The loaves for his provision were seized; he had no water of the waterskin to keep him alive. The face of his brethren was fierce, to slay him; among his commanders one fought his companion. Their tents were burned up, made ashes. All his goods were food for the troops.6
He reached his (own) country, and he was in mourning. Every survivor in his land was (too) aggrieved (to) receive him. “The prince (whose) plume evil fortune opposed!” they all say to him, those belonging to his town.
“He is in the power of the gods, the lords of Memphis;
The Lord of Egypt makes a curse of his name:—
‘Merey is the abominated one of Memphis,
One and the son of one of his family to eternity.
Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon shall be in pursuit of his children;
Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat is given him as a fate!’ ”
He is become a proverbial saying for Rebu; (10)
Generation says to generation of his victories:—
“It was not done to us another time since (the days of) Re!”
So he says, every old man, speaking to his son.
Woe to Libyans, they have ceased to live
In the good manner of roaming the field;
In a single day their stride was halted,
In a single year were the Tjehenu burned!
Seth turned his back upon their chief,
By his word their villages were ruined;
There’s no work of carrying ⌈ loads ⌉ these days,
Hiding is useful, it’s safe in the cave.
The great Lord of Egypt, might and strength are his,
Who will combat, knowing how he strides?
A witless fool is he who takes him on,
He knows no tomorrow who attacks his border!
As for Egypt, “Since the gods,” they say,
“She is the only daughter of Pre;
His son is he who’s on the throne of Shu,
None who attacks her people will succeed.
The eye of every god is after her despoiler,
It will make an end of all its foes,”
So say they who gaze toward their stars,
And know all their spells by looking to the winds.
Woe to Rebu! They have ceased to live(in) the pleasant fashion of one who goes about in the field. Their going is checked in a single day. The Tehenu are consumed in a single year, for Seth has turned his back upon their chief; their settlements are abandoned on his account. There is no work of carrying baskets in these days. It is advantageous to hide, for one is safe in the cave. The great Lord of Egypt is powerful; victory belongs to him. Who can fight, knowing his unhindered stride? Foolish and witless is he who takes him on! He who transgresses his frontier knows not for himself the morrow.
“As for Egypt,” they say, “since (the time of) the gods, (she has been) the sole daughter of Re, and his son is he who is on the throne of Shu. No heart has made a reputation for attacking her people, for the eye of every god is in pursuit of him who covets her, and she it is who will carry off the end of her enemies.” So they say, those who watch the stars and who know all their magic spells by looking at the winds.
A great wonder has occurred for Egypt,
Her attacker was placed captive 〈 in 〉 her hand,
Through the counsels of the godly king,
Who prevailed against his foes before Pre.
Merey who stealthily did evil
To all the gods who are in Memphis,
He was contended (15) with in On,
The Ennead found him guilty of his crimes.
Said the Lord-of-all: “Give the sword to my son,
The right-hearted, kind, gracious Banere-meramun,
Who cared for Memphis, who avenged On,
Who opened the quarters that were barred.
He has freed the many shut up in all districts,
He has given the offerings to the temples,
He has let incense be brought to the gods,
He has let the nobles retain their possessions,
He has let the humble frequent their towns.”
Then spoke the lords of On in behalf of their son,
Merneptah, Content with Maat:
“Grant him a lifetime like that of Re,
To avenge those injured by any land;
Egypt has been assigned him as portion,
He owns it forever to protect its people.”
Lo, when one dwells in the time of the mighty,
The breath of life comes readily.
The brave bestows wealth on the just,
The cheat cannot retain his plunder;
⌈ What a man has of ill-gotten wealth
Falls to others, not 〈 his 〉 children. ⌉
“A great wonder has fallen to Egypt! He who attacked her has been given (into) her hand as a living captive, through the counsels of the divine king, righteous against his enemies in the presence of Re.”
Merey is he who did evil and subversive things against every god who is in Memphis. He is the one (15) with whom there was litigation in Heliopolis, and the Ennead made him guilty because of his crimes. The All-Lord has said: “Give the strong arm12 to my son, the exact of heart, the merciful and kindly, Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon, the one who is solicitous for Memphis, who answers (on behalf of) Heliopolis, opening the towns which had been shut up, that he might set free many who had been imprisoned in every district, that he might give offerings to the temples, that he might cause incense to be brought in before the god, that he might cause the great to possess their property (again), that he might cause the poor to turn (again to) their cities.”
Thus speak the lords of Heliopolis about their son, Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat: “Give him a lifetime like Re, that he may answer (on behalf of) him who is suffering because of any country. Egypt has been assigned to him to be the portion of him who represents her, for himself forever, so that he might protect his people. Behold, as one dwells in the time of the mighty one, the breath of life comes immediately. The valiant one, who causes goods to flow to the righteous man—there is no cheat who retains his plunder. He who gathers the fat of wickedness and the strength of others (shall have) no children.” So they speak.
This (too) shall be said:
Merey the vile foe, the Libyan foe
Had come to attack the walls of Ta-tenen,
Whose lord had made his son arise in his place,
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Banere-meramun,
Son of Re, Merneptah, Content with Maat.
Then said Ptah concerning the vile Libyan foe:
“His crimes (20) are all gathered upon his head.
Give him into the hand of Merneptah, Content with Maat,
He shall make him spew what he gorged like a crocodile.
Lo, the swift will catch the swift,
The lord who knows his strength will snare him;
It is Amun who curbs him with his hand,
He will deliver him to his ka in Southern On,
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Banere-meramun,
Son of Re, Merneptah, Content with Maat.
Merey, the wretched, ignorant enemy of Rebu, was come to attack the “Walls of the Sovereign,” the son of whose lord has arisen in his place, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re: Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat. Ptah said about the enemy of Rebu:14 “Gather together all his crimes, (20) returned upon his (own) head. Give him into the hand of Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat, that he may make him disgorge what he has swallowed, like a crocodile. Now behold, the swift carries off the swift; the Lord, conscious of his strength, will ensnare him. It is Amon who binds him with his hand, so that he may be delivered to his ka in Hermonthis; the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re: Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat.”
Great joy has arisen in Egypt,
Shouts go up from Egypt’s towns;
They relate the Libyan victories
Of Merneptah, Content with Maat:
“How beloved is he, the victorious ruler!
How exalted is he, the King among the gods!
How splendid is he, the lord of command!
O how sweet it is to sit and babble!”
One walks free-striding on the road,
For there’s no fear in people’s hearts;
Fortresses are left to themselves,
Wells are open for the messengers’ use.
Bastioned ramparts are becalmed,
Sunlight only wakes the watchmen;
Medjai are stretched out asleep,
Nau and Tekten are in the fields they love.
The cattle of the field are left to roam,
No herdsmen cross the river’s flood;
There’s no calling out at night:
“Wait, I come,” in a stranger’s voice.
Going and coming are with song,
People don’t ⌈ lament ⌉ and mourn;
Towns are settled once again,
He who tends his crop will eat it.
Re has turned around to Egypt,
The Son is ordained as her protector,
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Banere-meramun,
Son of Re, Merneptah, Content with Maat.
Great joy has arisen in Egypt;
Jubilation has gone forth in the towns of Egypt.
They talk about the victories
Which Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat made in Tehenu:
“How amiable is he, the victorious ruler!
How exalted is the king among the gods!
How fortunate is he, the lord of command!
Ah, how pleasant it is to sit when there is gossip!”
One walks with unhindered stride on the way, for there is no fear at all in the heart of the people. The forts are left to themselves, the wells (lie) open, accessible to the messengers. The battlements of the wall are calm in the sun until their watchers may awake. The Madjoi are stretched out as they sleep; the Nau and Tekten are in the meadows as they wish. The cattle of the field are left as free to roam without herdsman, (even) crossing the flood of the stream. There is no breaking out of a cry in the night: “Halt! Behold, a comer comes with the speech of strangers!,” (but) one goes and comes (25) with singing. There is no cry of people as when there is mourning. Towns are settled anew again. He who plows his harvest will eat it. Re has turned himself around (again) to Egypt. He was born as the one destined to be her protector, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re: Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat.
The princes are prostrate saying: “Shalom!”
Not one of the Nine Bows lifts his head:
Tjehenu is vanquished, Khatti at peace,
Canaan is captive with all woe.
Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized,
Yanoam made nonexistent;
Israel is wasted, bare of seed,
Khor is become a widow for Egypt.
All who roamed have been subdued
By the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Banere-meramun,
Son of Re, Merneptah, Content with Maat,
Given life like Re every day.
The princes are prostrate, saying: “Mercy!”
Not one raises his head among the Nine Bows.
Desolation is for Tehenu; Hatti is pacified;
Plundered is the Canaan with every evil;
Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;
Yanoam is made as that which does not exist;
Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;
Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!
All lands together, they are pacified;
Everyone who was restless, he has been bound by the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-en-Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re: Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat, given life like Re every day.
Above Full text translation: The Poetical Stela of Merneptah, Ancient Egyptian literature, Miriam Lichtheim, volume II, p73, 1973 AD
Above Full text translation: Ancient Near Eastern Texts, James B. Pritchard, ANET, p376, 1969 AD
1. These two stunning witnesses of Israel's presence in Canaan as an established nation between 1350 - 1213 BC proves the lat exodus date of 1250 BC (Ramesses II) impossible.
a. The name ring that says "Israel" on the Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief dates as early as 1350 BC.
b. The "Israel" Merneptah stele dates to 1205 BC.
2. The similarities in the sequence of the cities and places mentioned in the 3 extant name rings of the Berlin Relief and the text of the Merneptah Stele, confirm the correct "restored" reading of the third (right hand) name ring of slab no. 21687 of the Berlin Relief is "Israel".
Berlin Relief No. 21687
"Canaan is captive with all woe" (Line 26)
"Canaan" (name ring 2)
"Ashkelon is conquered" (Line 26)
"Ashkelon" (name ring 1)
"Gezer seized" (Line 26)
"Yanoam made nonexistent" (Line 26)
"Israel is wasted, bare of seed" (Line 26)
"Israel" (name ring 3)
3. The events that are recorded in the Israel portion of the Merneptah stele occurred in 1205 BC (using low Egyptian chronology) at the end of the post-Ehud 20 year oppression cycle. 1205 BC was year 19 of this 20 year oppression cycle.
a. Merneptah's attack of Israel in 1205 BC brought Israel to repentance and one year later in 1204 BC, Deborah liberated Israel in the north, Gideon Transjordan and Shamgar in the south where the Philistines were strong.
b. The mention of Israel in the stele proves Israel was an established nation in 1205 BC and makes the late date of the conquest (1210 BC) impossible. It would also make mush of the period of the judges being squashed into 150 years.
4. With the correct date of 1406 BC for the conquest, the record of Israel proper in the Merneptah stele in 1205 BC makes perfect sense and validated the chronology of the Judges and the rise of Deborah in 1204 BC. The discovery of the "Israel" Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief from Museum storage proves the point beyond question.
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.