The account at Karnak of these various wars, copied from the daily records of the scribe who accompanied the army on its campaigns, serves to provide from Egyptian historical sources considerable additional light on the identity of the historical David, and to show how the events of his reign were adapted by Hebrew scribes to fit the reign of a tribal chief who lived five centuries later. They include: the significance of the battleground Armageddon; how Jerusalem came to be known as the city of "royal" David; how David and "all the house of Israel brought up the Ark [boat] of the Lord [to Jerusalem] with shouting, and with the sound of trumpets" (II Samuel 6:1); and the origins of the name Zion, which has not been found in any historical source and makes its first appearance in the Bible as soon as we learn of King David's entry into Jerusalem: "David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David" (5:7). 1 shall now examine these important points in greater detail.
The Egyptian account begins with Tuthmosis Ill's departure at the head of his troops from the fortified border city of Zarw during the last days of his Year 22. Ten days later he arrived in Gaza, where he celebrated the start of his Year 23 (1468 B.C.) with festivals in honor of his "father," Amun-Ra, whose image he carried inside an Ark (a representation of a boat with a statue of Amun sitting in it) at the head of the marching army. He stayed there for the night before pushing north toward central Canaan, where he Paused in a town called Yehem to the south of a mountainous ridge he had to cross to reach Megiddo, the city where the Qadesh enemy had gathered.
At Yehem he was faced with a choice of three routes, but the shortest, called the Aruna road, was narrow and dangerous, and he therefore summoned a Council of War.
His officers were opposed to choosing the Aruna route. They said: "How can one go on this road which is so narrow? It is reported that the
enemy stand outside and are numerous. Will not horse have to go behind horse, and soldiers and people likewise? Shall our own vanguard be fighting while the rear stands here in Aruna (the starting point of the narrow road) and does not fight?" However, in the light of fresh reports brought in by messengers Tuthmosis III decided that he would make his way to Megiddo by the unappealing—but, to his enemies, unexpected—narrow road, a choice to which his officers replied: "Thy father Amun prosper thy counsel. . . The servant will follow his master." Thus was set the scene for the first battle of Armageddon.
Jerusalem, the "city of David," owes its prominence in the Bible, and as a place of devout pilgrimage today, to the role it played in the opening campaign of the long military career of Tuthmosis III—against Megiddo, which he always looked back upon as the most important battle he fought.
The Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Lands makes the point that the military importance of Megiddo and its long history as an international battleground is "aptly reflected in the Apocalypse of John (Revelation, 16:16ff) in which Armageddon (Har Megiddon, the Mount of Megiddo) is designated as the site where, at the end of days, all the kings of the world will fight the ultimate battle against the forces of God." This underlines the belief up to the Christian era that the Messiah (Christ the Redeemer) born of the House of David will one day have to re-enact the battle of his great ancestor who conquered Megiddo, where the final confrontation between Good and Evil will take place.
The combined Syrian and Canaanite forces facing Tuthmosis III outside Megiddo—modern Tell Megiddo in Palestine—had been divided into two armies. The king vanquished them in the ensuing battle, but the defeated enemy fled to the safety of the city, where, as the gates were shut, they were hauled to safety by citizens who let down "garments to hoist them up." The account of the battle complains that the enemy had "abandoned their horses and their chariots of gold and silver" and "if only His Majesty's army had not given up their hearts to capturing the possessions of the enemy, they would [have captured] Megiddo at this time." Instead, they had to lay siege to the city for seven months before it was eventually taken. However, Tuthmosis III did not remain with his troops during this time— "His Majesty himself was in a fortress east of this town"—but returned to lead the final assault. The actual name of this fortress does not appear in the Egyptian version of events, no doubt because the official scribe stayed with the besieging army rather than accompanying the king, but their respective locations, and the evidence that follows, indicate that the fortress was Jerusalem, situated to the southeast of Megiddo.
Neither does the name "Jerusalem" appear in the western Asiatic city-lists of Tuthmosis III or any of his immediate successors. This has not previously been explained. My own view is that Egyptians at the time recognized Jerusalem by another name—Qadesh,* a Semitic word meaning "holy."
Among the historical records of Tuthmosis III found at Karnak is a list that includes more than 100 names of Palestinian locations under Egyptian control after his first Asiatic campaign. Yet, at the top of this Palestinian (or Megiddo) list, we find the name Qadesh. The modern Arabic name for Jerusalem suggests that this was the city at the head of the Palestinian list: al-Quds, which becomes ha-Qudesh in Hebrew, means, in both Arabic and Hebrew, the holy (ground), and is used in the first verse of Chapter 11 of the Book of Nehemiah where it speaks of "Jerusalem the holy city" (in Hebrew, Yurushalayim ha Qudesh).
Evidence of these peaceful relations with Egypt is also provided by the Tell el-Amarna letters, the foreign archives of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Six communications, sent to the King of Egypt in the fourteenth century B.C. and written in Akkadian, the diplomatic language of the period,** have as their source not Qadesh but mat Urusalim, "the land of Jerusalem." They make it clear that Jerusalem had been under Egyptian control since the time of Tuthmosis III, with an Egyptian military garrison stationed locally.
Furthermore, the Akkadian name for Jerusalem found in the Tell el-Amarna letters can be divided into two elements, Uru and Salim. The first element, Uru, is derived from the verb yarah, meaning "to found" or "to establish." The second element, however, has caused some misunderstanding. A number of scholars have argued that here we have a reference to a Western Semitic or Amorite god, Shulmanu or Shalim. Thus Urusalim would, in their view, mean "Shalim has founded." However, no textual or archaeological evidence has ever been found to indicate, either directly or indirectly, that the Amorite god Shalim was a deity worshipped at Jerusalem, which could not have been the case if the very founding of the city was related to him.
When we abandon this unsupported explanation of the second element in the word Urusalim we find that Salim—as was correctly understood by
*Not to be confused with the northern Qadesh on the River Orontes, not conquered until seven years after the conquest of Megiddo.
**Akkadian was a Semitic language that appeared in northern Mesopotamia in the third millennium B.C. and later became the general official language for all Mesopotamia and the Levant during the second millennium, before being replaced by Aramaic from the ninth century B.C.
the early Jewish rabbis in the Haggadah, the legendary part of the Talmud, representing its nonlegal element—means "peace" (Hebrew shalom and Arabic salam). Thus the meaning of Urusalim would be "foundation of peace" or "establishing peace," an interpretation that is supported by the historical evidence: the lack of any mention of Urusalim in Egyptian sources outside the Tell el-Amarna letters; the fact that Qadesh, used in both the Bible and later Arabic texts as a synonym for Jerusalem, is mentioned in the lists of subdued Asiatic cities of most Egyptian kings of this period; and that the Qadesh in question cannot have been the city of that name on the River Orontes.
When Tuthmosis III went out to fight against the confederation of Canaanite and Syrian princes at Megiddo, Jerusalem did not take part in the rebellion. The king faced no need to take control of the fortress and, instead, was able to make his way straight from Gaza to Megiddo and, without need for military action, to seek safe sanctuary in Jerusalem during the long months that Megiddo was under siege. Thus identified, Jerusalem was the city of David.
The three principal victories in the long martial career of Tuthmosis III were the capture in his Year 23 (1469 B.C.) of Megiddo; the conquest in his Year 30 (1461 B.C.) of Qadesh on the River Orontes, the capital of his persistent enemy who had managed to escape from Megiddo; and the ultimate restoration of his empire in his Year 33 (1458 B.C.) when he crossed the River Euphrates, defeated the King of Mitanni and, in honor of his achievement, erected a stele alongside that of his grandfather, Tuthmosis I.
What did the biblical scribes make of these events? The Old Testament is notoriously suspect in matters of names and the chronological sequence of events, doubtless as a result of the many centuries when the stories it contains were passed down by word of mouth. However, although the order in which they occurred is muddled in places, the account we find in the Book of II Samuel is clearly dealing with the same events that are inscribed in the annals at Karnak.
II Samuel identifies Megiddo by the name Rabbah (meaning "goddess") (11:1). We are told that the Ammonites (Semitic, non-Jewish people in east Jordan) "hired the Syrians" (10:6), and it is quite clear that, in the subsequent battle against the army of David, the Ammonites and Syrians operated as separate units. This echoes the description of the divided forces Tuthmosis III found facing him when he arrived unexpectedly by the Aruna road before his assault upon Megiddo. The escape of the King of Qadesh and his troops to fight another day is reflected in the biblical account of the battle where it says: "And when the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fled, then fled they also . . . and entered into the city ..." (10:14). During the subsequent siege, matching the account of how Tuthmosis III left the field of battle for "a fortress to the east," we are told that "David tarried still at Jerusalem" (11:1).
Shortly after David's arrival, we have a description of how the Israelites "brought in the Ark of the Lord, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it . . ." (6:17). If David is to be identified as Tuthmosis III, the Ark—an Egyptian idea introduced later to the Israelites—must have been the Ark of Amun-Ra, not the Ark of the Covenant, in which Moses is said to have placed the Ten Commandments, because Moses, as we shall see, was not to be born until a century after these events.
Although we have no supporting evidence, it is a logical assumption that the king would have been accompanied to Jerusalem by the Ark of his god, Amun-Ra, which had been carried at the head of his army as it advanced on Megiddo. We know that there were some rituals in Egyptian religion that only the king and high priests could perform before their deity. It is also a logical assumption that the resting place for the Ark would be Mount Moriah, the high holy ground to the north of the city, which had been looked upon as a holy place since the time of Abraham and is today the setting for two of the holiest shrines of Islam, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the Jewish Wailing Wall.
We find the details of this transaction—and further confirmation of the peaceful relations that existed between Egypt and Jerusalem—later in II Samuel where Araunah, the Jebusite king (the Jebusites were the Canaanite inhabitants of Jerusalem at the time), is said to have still been in control of Mount Moriah when David bought its threshing-floor "for fifty shekels of silver" to build an altar. In the course of these negotiations Araunah said to David: "behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. All these things did Araunah, as a king [my italics], give unto the king . . ." (24:22-23). The choice of a threshing-floor on Mount Moriah may seem a curious one for the site of an altar, but such elevated and exposed pieces of ground at the approaches to cities were often the site of cultic observance.
As did Tuthmosis III, David, according to II Samuel, rejoined his troops when it was clear that Rabbah (Megiddo) was about to fall, and he led them in the final successful assault. Then he took "their king's crown from off his head . . . And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance." David also took a large number of prisoners of war to work for him, and, before finally returning to Jerusalem, subdued the rest of the Ammonite cities. Yet David was unable to control Syria until after he had defeated his implacable enemy, the King of Qadesh. This was a task he set out to complete seven years after the end of his successful campaign against Megiddo.
Although there has been some scholarly debate about the matter, the ultimately conquered city of Qadesh is conventionally identified as the biblical Zobah. The relevant references in II Samuel suggest that David smote "Hadadezer . . . king of Zobah [Qadesh], as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates" (8:3). The Book of II Samuel does not provide a date for this event, but we know from the Karnak inscriptions that another three years passed after the siege and capture of Qadesh before Tuthmosis III—as part of the continuing campaign to restore his empire— crossed the Euphrates in his Year 33 and defeated the King of Mitanni: "My Majesty crossed to the farthest limits of Asia. I caused to be built many boats of cedar on the hills of the God's Land (Phoenicia) in the neighbourhood of the-mistress-of-Byblos.* They were placed on chariots (wheeled wagons), oxen dragging them, and they journeyed in front of My Majesty in order to cross that great river which flows between this country and Nahrin (Mitanni) . . . Then My Majesty set up a stele on that mountain of Nahrin taken from the mountain on the west side of the Euphrates."
Archaeological evidence leaves no doubt that the battles over the cities of Megiddo and Qadesh were fought by Tuthmosis III in the fifteenth century B.C. rather than by the tribal David five centuries later because, by that time, both Megiddo and Qadesh had already been destroyed. It has shown that Megiddo suffered "sudden and total destruction" at the hands of the invading Philistines, the "Peoples of the Sea," in the last third of the twelfth century B.C. While there is evidence that the site was used subsequently by the Philistines, archaeologists have concluded that this, too, suffered destruction in the second half of the eleventh century B.C., and that the "city gate . . . did not apparently exist. . . Indeed, it seems that the city was entirely unfortified during this period." This was the city— unfortified, not needing a siege to subdue it—in which the tribal chief identified as David is said to have lived in the first half of the tenth century B.C.
*I believe this refers to the Phoenician goddess Ashtaroth.
Similarly, evidence of various wars, found by archaeologists excavating at Qadesh, makes it clear that the final destruction of this Syrian stronghold, like that of Megiddo, occurred in the twelfth century B.C. at the hands of the Philistines.
The name "Zion," as we saw at the start of this chapter, makes its first appearance in the Bible as soon as we learn of David's entry into Jerusalem and has not been found in any historical source. However, all the indications are that Zion (Sion in Hebrew) was used as an alternative name for the ancient holy ground of Mount Moriah, and its origins point to a link with Egypt. It is not an original Hebrew word but consists of two elements, one Hebrew and Semitic in general, from which comes "Sahara," the other Egyptian. The Hebrew first element, "Si," means "a land of drought, a barren place." It is the Egyptian element whose meaning has hitherto escaped recognition.
"On" is the biblical name, from the Greek, of the ancient Egyptian holy city Heliopolis. From the time of its decline, when Thebes in Upper Egypt became the new capital city of the Empire as well as the holy city of the state god Amun-Ra, it became the custom to refer to Thebes as "the southern On" and Heliopolis as "the northern On," with the word "On" being used in the sense of "holy city." Thus the very word "Zion"—the holy city of the desert—used from the time King David entered the city to designate the holy ground to the north of Jerusalem in itself reveals its Egyptian origin.
The correct course of events is that Mount Moriah, until then holy to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, became holy for all the Asiatic kingdoms of the Egyptian Empire after Tuthmosis III made it his base during the siege of Megiddo and worshipped his god, Amun-Ra, there. Nevertheless, his descendants, through Sarah and Isaac, never really forgot their great ancestor and, after leaving Egypt and eventually settling in Canaan a century and a half later, they made his holy ground the most venerated and holy part of their new home, calling it Mount Sion.
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