Shoshenq I’s 10th Century Raid

Credit:, Karnak Temple, Egypt

In Exodus 14, after the pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt, he had a change of heart. “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services! So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. The Egyptians, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops, pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.” This Egyptian attack was thwarted by God, and the Egyptians were ultimately defeated when the waters which had been split returned.

Where the pharaoh in Exodus failed, in 2 Chronicles 12, the Egyptian pharaoh launched a successful attack against King Solomon’s son Rehoboam’s Kingdom of Judah. “Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.”

Shishak’s attack of the southern Levant in the 10th century BCE is recorded in the archaeological record.

The Karnak Temple is in southern Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile River. It was the major temple site for Egypt’s southern capital at Thebes. At the Bubasite Portal in the Karnak Temple complex, Shoshenq I, as this king is known in the Egyptian language, recorded his incursions into the southern Levant. The record shows that Shoshenq did not limit his attack to the Kingdom of Judah. He also attacked cities in the northern Kingdom of Israel. One place Shoshenq I is said to have attacked is Rehov.

Tel Rehov is an archaeological site 3 miles south of Beth Shean. It has become an important site for the High Chronology vs. Low Chronology debate about the dating of pottery and the status of King David and King Solomon.

In the simplest of terms, Late Bronze Age to Iron Age I Canaanite pottery was unburnished and unslipped, meaning it was not smoothed and not covered in a paint or coloring. After the archaeological layers with Canaanite pottery, a new type of pottery appears, one that is hand burnished and red-slipped, meaning hand smoothed with a reddish coloring. This type of pottery appears in a layer that was destroyed, and then in the next layer that was destroyed, followed by new forms of pottery.

Proponents of the High Chronology argue that the hand burnished and red-slipped pottery was in use in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE, while proponents of the Low Chronology believe this type of pottery to have been confined to the 9th century BCE.

The High Chronology argues that the first layer in which the hand burnished red-slipped pottery was found was destroyed by Shoshenq I in the latter part of the 10th century, continued in use, and then the second layer was destroyed in the 9th century during an Aramean invasion. Proponents of the High Chronology maintain that there are too many archaeological layers containing the hand burnished and red-slipped pottery for it to have only been in use during the 9th century BCE.

The implications of this are as follows. For supporters of the High Chronology, the burnished and red-slipped pottery that is the indicator of the beginning of the Iron IIA period starts in the 10th century. And if the burnished and red-slipped pottery at Tel Rehov is from the 10th century BCE, then it also is from the 10th century all over the rest of the southern Levant. Thus signs of a centralized kingdom in this archaeological layer, including signs of monumental construction and literacy, are from the 10th century BCE, and can be used to argue for King David and King Solomon ruling a confederation of tribes in the 10th century, without interference from the later, powerful, Kingdom of Israel that dominated the northern hill country in the mid-9th century BCE.

The image above is of the representations of the place names of the towns defeated by Shoshenq I in his raid of the southern Levant, from the Bubasite Portal in the Karnak Temple.