From Libya, a New King in Town

Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Georges Poncet

In Exodus 1, Jacob’s remaining sons died. With their passing, the Israelites lost their connection to Egyptian royalty. “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

In the middle of the 10th century in Egypt, power changed hands to a new Egyptian dynasty, the 22nd Dynasty.

Libyan tribes from across Egypt’s western desert had long posed a threat to Egypt. In the 12th century BCE, the 20th Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses III reported defeating the invading Libyan tribes, including the Libu, Tehenu, Temehu and Meshwesh. During the 21st dynasty, the Meshwesh gradually settled in the northwestern delta region in northern Egypt, and eventually reached a critical mass to be able to challenge for hegemony.

Shoshenq I was the commander of the Egyptian army and advisor to the 21st Dynasty king Psusennes II. Shoshenq I married his son Osorkon to Psusennes II’s daughter. When Psusennes II died, Shoshenq I took the reigns of Egypt to become the founder of the 22nd Dynasty.

Shoshenq I’s Libyan roots are recorded in the Stela of Pasenhor. The Stela of Pasenhor was discovered at Saqqara, the site of the necropolis, where dead royalty was buried, for the traditional northern Egyptian capital of Memphis. The Stela of Pasenhor records the death of the Apis bull, the divine bull of Memphis during the reign of a late 22nd king. But on the stele it records the author’s origins, which he traces back through Shoshenq I, to the patriarch, the Libyan Buyuwawa.

The Libyans descended from speakers of a Berber language. Their Libyan roots are also evidenced by names such as Shoshenq and Osorkon, which are not typical Egyptian names.  

The image above is of the Stela of Pasenhor, kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

For the new king in the Bible and the new king of Egypt, Shoshenq I, a little Prince: