Hosea 12 – Israel’s Sin & New Kingdom: Egypt’s Imperial Heyday

I understand why these kings and queens would want to be in charge, it makes life easier.  Yet, how good can it be if you have to worry all the time if someone is going to take you out?  They can’t truly believe they will always stay on top, only You will always be above all things.

We can all look at Satan and see what happened to him:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isa 14:12-15).

Anyway, I saw quite a few interesting things in the above information so before we move on to Mediterranean Conquests I would like to look at a couple real short items, like…

Hosea 12
Israel’s Sin

Life-giving rays emanate from solar disks representing Aten at a temple erected by Akhenaten, who worshiped Aten exclusively.

1 Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.

2 The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.

“Jacob” – Israel.  The Lord indicated both kingdoms – all the descendants of Father Jacob.  In their deceitfulness, Israel and Judah were living up to the name of their forefather (Jacob means “he grasps the heel”; figuratively, “he deceives”).

3 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:

“Took his brother by the heel” – God’s covenant people here relived the experience of Father Jacob and now had to return to God, just as Jacob was called back to Beth-el (Gen 31:1-15).

4 Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us;

“”Beth-el” – in Hosea’s time, Beth-el was the most important royal sanctuary in the northern kingdom.

5 Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.

Egyptian kings and queens wore a majestic uraeus like this one, representing a rearing cobra.

6 Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

7 He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.

8 And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.

“They shall find none iniquity in me” – like a dishonest merchant, Ephraim (Israel) was confident that her deceitfulness would not come to light.

9 And I that am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.

A tomb relief portraying a solar boat, or bark, in which spirits of the dead would sail across heaven.

“Solemn feast” – probably the feast of tabernacles (Lev 23:42-44), which commemorated the wilderness journey.

10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.

“Spoken by the prophets” – there had been ample warning.

11 Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.

12 And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.

“Iniquity in Gilead” – Gilead was overrun by Assyria in 734-732 B.C.

Ancient Egypt fashion consisted of a variety of colors and was adorned with precious gems and jewels.

“Gilgal” – the Hebrew contains a wordplay between “Gilgal” and “heaps” (Hebrew gallim).  Rather than assuring safety, the altars themselves would be destroyed.

13 And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.

“Prophet” – Moses.

“Was he preserve

d” – as Jacob had cared for Laban’s flocks, so the Lord cared for Israel dring her wilderness wandering.  Earlier leadership by the prophet Moses stands in contrast with Israel’s present disregard for prophets.

14 Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.

“His blood” – this may refer either to violence against the prophets or to human sacrifice.  In legal passages (Lev 20:11-17), “their blood shall be upon them” describes guilt.  The prophet drew a contrast between past divine preservation and present divine anger that would bring punishment. 

New Kingdom:
Egypt’s Imperial Heyday

King Ahmose I inaugurated the triumphant New Kingdom around 1550 B.C. when he drove the Hyksos out and pursued them into Palestine, capturing their fortress at Sharuhen. He also reasserted Egyptian control over Nubia, which had broken free during the tumultuous Hyksos era.

The ankh-shaped mirror symbolizing the breath of life was among the treasures entombed with New Kingdom pharaohs such as Ramses II.

The conquests of Ahmose and his successors enriched pharaohs and their forces, who claimed spoils and tribute from lands they conquered and took captives as slaves.

Commanders who served the king faithfully were granted high positions as royal officials or governors, replacing troublesome nobles who had formerly served as governors and vied with pharaohs for power.

Like earlier pharaohs, rulers of the New Kingdom claimed descent from Egypt’s supreme deity—an honor now held by Amun, the patron god of Thebes, whose symbolizing the breath of life was among the treasures entombed with cult incorporated that of Re, favored during the New Kingdom.

The magnificent temple complex at Karnak, located on the outskirts of Thebes, was the center of this powerful religious sect, which owned vast tracts of land throughout Egypt, huge herds of livestock, and dozens of workshops where laborers produced bread, beer, and linen garments for the priesthood.

Pharaohs donated to this cult part of what they gained through conquest.  Priests returned the favor by making offerings at monuments that glorified Amun (sometimes referred to as Amun-Re) and the rulers devoted to him, including mortuary temples located near the entrance to royal tombs hewn out of cliffs across the Nile from Thebes.

Unlike the soaring pyramids of old, these tombs were hidden to prevent grave robbers from pilfering the treasures deposited in burial chambers to afford rulers a luxurious after life.

The campaigns that brought Egypt wealth and imperial glory were holy wars, waged by pharaohs who trusted in Amun and other honored deities to grant them victory over foes who worshiped lesser gods.

About 1457 B.C., King Thutmose III put his faith in the test by campaigning against rebels in Palestine and Syria.  His grandfather, Thutmose I, had swept through those lands with his army and forced princes there to pay Egypt tribute.

But Thutmose III faced lingering opposition in the region from powerful rivals, including the Hittites in Asia Minor and the kingdom of Mitanni in northern Mesopotamian, which sought to expand at Egypt’s expense by encouraging this rebellion.

New Kingdom Egypt

Thutmose III was urged by his officers to take a roundabout route to Megiddo, a hilltop city in Palestine where his foes were camped, overlooking the main road from Egypt to Syria.  Instead, he insisted on advancing directly through a treacherous mountain pass at Aruna to show that he had no fear of being attacked there by the rebels he despised.

According to an inscription at Karnak URL touting his feats, he declared:

I swear; as Re loves me, as my father Amun favors me…my majesty goes!  A servant follows his lord.

The pharaoh rode up front during that perilous advanced to show that he completely trusted in the gods to protect him and his troops, who indeed made it through the pass unscathed.

Then he entered battle at Megiddo “on a chariot of fine gold, decked in his shining armor,” dazzling and intimidating his opponents, who soon gave up the fight and retreated to their last bastion of safety within the city walls.

Gathering up prisoners, weapons, and chariots abandoned by their foes, his troops “jubilated and gave praise to Amun for the victory he had given to his son.”

After a lengthy siege, Megiddo fell to the Egyptians, and the rebel leaders crawled on their bellies in supplication before Thutmose, whose triumph they believed demonstrated the power of his father Amun “over all foreign lands.”

Thutmose III went on to humble the king of Mitanni by driving his forces from Syria, securing that country temporarily for the Egyptians, who still had to reckon with the formidable Hittites. The long struggle between those two powers culminated around 1275 B.C. when Egyptian troops led by King Ramses II met Hittites in battle at Kadesh, a stronghold in Syria.

Thutmose III was the 6th Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose’s reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh.

The Egyptian army consisted of four divisions, named for the gods Amun, Re, Ptah, and Seth. Ramses was up front with the Amun division when Hittite charioteers surprised the Re division to his rear and routed it.

According to a flattering account composed at his command, Ramses saved the day by turning his chariot on the Hittites and overwhelming them:

His majesty slaughtered them in their places; they sprawled before his horses; and his majesty was alone, none other with him.

Unlike the account commissioned earlier by King Thutmose III, which gave some credit for his victory at Megiddo to his “valiant army,” Ramses’ inscription portrayed him as a superhuman figure, scattering the Hittites with no help from his troops.

In truth, the battle at Kadesh was no great victory.  It was at best a draw for his hard-pressed soldiers, who withdrew from Syria afterward.  Eventually, he concluded a peace treaty with the Hittite king, sealed when that monarch promised to send his daughter to join Ramses’ harem, bringing a large dowry.

When Ramses wrote to inquire when that princess would be arriving with her gifts, she dictated her own response, chiding him for mentioning the dowry. “My brother possesses nothing?” she asked the conspicuously wealthy king.

“That you, my brother, should wish to enrich yourself from me is neither friendly nor honorable!” This alliance revealed more about Egypt’s imperial ambitions than the deceptive account of Ramses’ “victory” at Kadesh.

Although rulers of the New Kingdom boasted that all lands were subject to them, they were largely content with dominating neighboring lands such as Palestine and Nubia, which provided them with tribute and also served as buffers, shielding them from raiders or invaders.

Unlike the Persians and Romans, who rose from obscurity and set out to prove themselves in battle by subduing one distant country after another, Egyptians possessed a mighty kingdom long before they acquired an empire.

Queen Hatshepsut had herself portrayed here as a king wearing a beard that linked pharaohs to the god Osiris.

They showed little interest in conquering the wider world as long as their homeland was secure and their neighbors bowed to them. Ramses had won a concession when the Hittite king offered his daughter to him in marriage. But this was a compromise between two longtime foes, not a conquest for Egyptians.

They owed their success not just to their military prowess but also to their diplomatic skills, demonstrated by pacts that brought to the king’s household princesses from many lands. (As long as Egypt remained a great power, Egyptian princesses were not given as wives to foreign rulers.)

When pharaohs returned from campaigns to their palace, they left behind the masculine world of battle and bravado and entered a realm where women were prominent. The most important women in the imperial family were the king’s mother – who might serve as regent if he succeeded his father as a boy – and the king’s principal wife.

Males born to this principal wife were first in the line of succession, but princes born to secondary wives in the harem sometimes reached the throne.

A principal wife who produced no male heir by her husband before he died might remain a prominent figure if she served as regent to a youngster he conceived with one of his secondary wives.

Such was the case with Queen Hatshepsut, who broke with tradition by strategizing to retain her power even after the heir placed under her regency came of age.

From right: Isis, her husband Osiris, and their son Horus, the protagonists of the Osiris myth.

Hatshepsut was the daughter of King Thutmose I, who did much to expand the Egyptian empire, and she became the principal wife of King Thutmose II, her half-brother.

Incestuous marriages were not the rule among Egyptian royalty, but they had the advantage of uniting two descendants of a king who was considered to be a god and producing offspring of the highest breeding.

Royals who wed their siblings found precedents in Egyptian mythology, including the marriage of the god Osiris to his sister Isis, who, after her husband was dismembered by his scheming brother Seth, put Osiris back together and restored him to life.

For that feat and for preventing Seth from murdering her child Horus – destined to rule Egypt as a god and guide its first pharaohs – Isis served as an inspiration for Egyptian women, especially the queens.

Unlike Isis, Hatshepsut had no prince by her husband-brother, who left her with only a daughter when he died in 1479 B.C.  His designated heir – the boy who would later win glory at Megiddo as King Thutmose III – was the son of a secondary wife who lacked the exalted ancestry of his regent, Hathsepsut.

Only the king’s rightful male heir was entitled to call the god Amun his father, but by wedding Thutmose II, Hatshepsut had earned the title “god’s wife,” or wife of Amun, thus strengthening her connection to Egypt’s supreme deity.

She may have resented the fact that her husband’s successor was the child of a woman she considered far beneath her. She acted less like that boy’s temporary overseer and more like Egypt’s rightful ruler, referring to herself as “mistress of the Two Lands.”

Regencies were supposed to end when the boy-king reached maturity. As that transition loomed, however, Hatshepsut threw caution aside and declared herself pharaoh, adopting all the emblems associated with kingship except the “Mighty Bull.”

The carved figure, a shabti, was placed in a tomb t serve its master symbolically in the afterlife.

She went so far as to claim Amun as her father, authorizing an account that described how the god conceived her by impersonating King Thutmose I and impregnating her mother.  Amun meant for her to take charge of Egypt, she insisted: “I acted under his command; it was he who led me.”

A few women had ruled Egypt before Hatshepsut, but they were obscure successors to kings who evidently had no male heirs. For her to assert priority over Thutmose III was a radical move in this conservative society and could not have been achieved unless she had support from high officials at court, who risked losing power, if not their lives, if she yielded to Thutmose.

She could not match her father’s conquests by leading troops to battle, a role reserved for men, although her commanders conducted some military campaigns.  Her proudest venture, however, portrayed on the walls of her mortuary temple was a trading expedition she dispatched to the land of Punt, along the Red Sea.

It returned laden with gold, ivory, myrrh (prized as incense), and menagerie of exotic animals, including monkeys, apes, panthers, giraffes, and baboons.

Hatshepsut did not banish Thutmose III—officially, he served as her co-ruler— but she overshadowed him. He may have waited patiently for her to die, or he may have plotted against her and hastened her departure, which occurred two decades or so after she became regent.

Now about 30, Thutmose took power and followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by achieving victories in Palestine and Syria.

Queen Hatshepsut may have contributed to those imperial feats by strengthening his drive to triumph in battle, an arena where she as a woman could not venture.  Other brilliant and fearless women later figured prominently in the history of the New Kingdom, including Queen Tiy, the daughter of an army commander.

She became the principal wife of King Amenhotep III.  Tiy was portrayed by sculptors at Amenhotep’s mortuary temple seated at his side on a shared throne, suggesting that their union was a royal partnership in which both the king and the queen were worthy of reverence.

Their son, crowned Amenhotep IV, paid similar tribute to his principal wife, Nefertiti, who joined him when he left Thebes around 1350 B.C. to devote himself to Aten (a radiant deity inhabiting the solar disk), whom he worshiped to the exclusion of all other gods at a new capital, Akhetaten (“Horizon of Aten”), under a new name, Akhenaten (“He Who Serves Aten”).

He was said to be the author of the “Hymn to Aten,” which offers high praise to the god from “your son who came from your body.”  Akhenaten portrayed Aren as his father much as earlier pharaohs claimed to be the son of Amun or Re.

This cultural revolution was too much for traditi

The head of this staff bears the image of a Nubian captive.

onalists, and Akhenaten was later vilified as a heretic by rulers who restored the old forms of worship, honoring various gods.

Preoccupied with spiritual matters, Akhenaten did little to bolster the Egyptian empire.  Although he fathered numerous daughters, he failed to provide a male heir, leaving the throne to his son-in-law Smenkhare, who survived Akhenaten by only a few months.

And young Tutankhamen (known as King Tut), who would be remembered largely for the spectacular treasures later found in his tomb.  They were among the last rulers of the accomplished 18th Dynasty, which was founded by Ahmose I and endured for nearly three centuries.

No king did more to father sons and heirs and sustain his royal lineage than Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty, who lived up to the title Mighty Bull by siring more than 100 princes and princesses by the many wives in his harem before he died in 1221 B.C. after a 67-year reign.

Keeping a large harem, as Ramses did, increased the chances that a king would produce male heirs. It also had diplomatic advantages. A foreign ruler who gave his daughter to the pharaoh might prove more cooperative and less likely to turn against him.

But harems could also undermine the pharaoh and his great house by becoming centers of plots against the king and his rightful successor.

One such conspiracy was aimed at Ramses III of the 20th Dynasty, who took the throne about 1187 B.C. and succeeded in repelling invasions by Libyans from the west, as well as mysterious intruders called the Sea Peoples, who swept down from the northern Mediterranean.

In his later years, one of his secondary wives plotted with other women in the harem and officials at court to kill the king and place her son by him on the throne instead of his designated successor.

The plotters were apprehended, but Ramses III died soon afterward, either of natural causes or because the conspirators succeeded in their scheme.

Usimare Ramesses III was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt. Ramesses III was the son of Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese.

Ramses III was the last imposing ruler of imperial Egypt. The challenges he faced before he died in 1156 B.C., including threats from abroad and treachery at home, continued to plague the New Kingdom until it collapsed around 1070 B.C.

Egypt still had kings, but they were no longer Lords of the Two Lands. One dynasty governed Lower Egypt from Tanis, a city in the Nile Delta, while high priests of Amin-Re in Thebes—who were allowed to marry and have children—formed a rival dynasty and controlled Upper Egypt.

This was an age of transition and turmoil throughout the Near East. Contributing to the upheaval were advances in the technology of ironworking, which yielded stronger weapons than those made of bronze.  The main source of iron ore in the Near East was Asia Minor.

When the Hittite empire collapsed there around 1200 B.C. pressure from the Sea Peoples, those invaders and other rising military powers gained greater access to the ore and became increasingly skilled at forging it.

Although Egypt succeeded in repelling the Sea Peoples some of them occupied the Mediterranean coast above the delta. Known as Philistines, they lent their name to Palestine and bequeathed their expertise as ironworkers to the Israelites, who solidified a kingdom under David and Solomon about 1000 B.C.

Having lost control of Palestine, the Egyptians had no buffer against aggressive powers such as the Assyrians, who gained strength in Mesopotamia this tumultuous Iron Age and eventually shattered the kingdom of Israel, threatening to do the same to Egypt.

Meanwhile, Egypt was subject to takeovers that were friendly compared with the hostile advances of the Assyrians and later conquerors. Like other imperial forces, the Egyptian army had recruited many men from countries it conquered or campaigned against, including Libyans and Nubians.

Many of those recruits adopted Egyptian customs, and some settled in Egypt.  As the kingdom weakened, commanders of foreign origin gained political clout. About 950 B.C., a Libyan chieftain named Sheshonk from Bubastis, a city in the Nile Delta where Libyan recruits had settled and were now largely Egyptianized became king of Lower Egypt.

He and his successors tried to win over the rulers of Upper Egypt in Thebes through marriage alliances with high priests there. Thebans remained wary of the Libyans, however, and employed Nubian forces to fend them off.

Illustrated texts like this one in the tomb of Amenhotep II served as spiritual guides for the deceased.

Around 750 B.C., King Piye of Kush (as Nubia was now known) entered Thebes unopposed and took power, reassuring the populace by worshiping Amun-Re at Karnak. He went on to defeat the Libyans in the north and establish a Nubian dynasty whose rulers honored Egyptian traditions and differed little from earlier pharaohs except in complexion.

In 667 B.C., Assyrians invaded Egypt and ended Nubian rule. Thereafter, Egypt was prey to one great imperial power after another, a bitter fate for a kingdom whose rulers once portrayed all foreign lands as subject to them.

Periodically, Egyptians regained control of their country, only to be conquered anew—by Cambyses of Persia in 525, Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 332, and finally the Roman emperor Octavian, or Augustus Caesar, whose invasion in 30 B.C. drove Queen Cleopatra to suicide and Egypt to a Roman province.

Such was the power and persistence of Egyptian culture and beliefs that Cleopatra, last ruler of the Macedonian Dynasty founded by Alexander’s general Ptolemy, likened herself to the goddess Isis.

When she died, the kingdom of Egypt expired with her. But the legend of Cleopatra survived, as did the cultural legacy of the 30 dynasties that preceded hers over 3,000 years, leaving a monumental impression on the world.

…The Rosetta Stone.