Biblical Archaeology Shishak-Shoshenk

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)

Site Index North Forest Home


Early archaeologists looking for evidence to support the Bible mistakenly identified Pharaoh Shoshenk (who they identified from Egyptian artifacts) with Pharaoh Shishak (who is recorded in the Bible). They did this based on (1) the name similarity and on (2) superficial historical similarities.

This article demonstrates that Shishak and Shoshenk are not the same person after all but are really two different Pharaohs.

This is significant because the biblical dating of events is based in part on the identification of these two names. The conventional chronology of biblical events has led to the modern-day belief that the Old Testament is not historically accurate. But when Shishak and Shoshenk are properly identified the Biblical account is redeemed.

Shishak | Shoshenk | Shishak is not Shoshenk | Shishak = Ramesses II | Table of Contents


Pharaoh Shishak attacked Jerusalem from the south and west with an enormous army containing Egyptian and mercenary troops and plundered the treasures of the palace and the temple. This occurred when Jeroboam was king of the northern kingdom (Israel) and Rehoboam was king of the southern kingdom (Judah and its capital Jerusalem).

This account is from the Bible.

From the Bible Commentary
Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
Rehoboam lived in Jerusalem and built up towns for defense in Judah. (2 Chr 11:5) The 15 fortress cities listed in 2 Chr 11:6-10 are located in an arc which sweeps around Judah's western and southern flanks. (pg 123)
. . . 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. (2 Chr 12:2-4) Shishak had an enormous army of Egyptian troops and foreign mercenaries. (pg 123)
When Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem, he carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. . . . (2 Chr 12:9) Shishak attacked the cities of Judah. His price for not razing Jerusalem is to strip the palace and temple of all its treasures. (pg 32)
. . . Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak the king, and stayed there until Solomon's death. (1 Ki 11:40) Shishak was Jeroboam's ally. (pg 127) The significance of this is clear in the next sections.

[Jeroboam] even married the sister of the Egyptian queen. (pg 122)

Top of page | Table of Contents


Pharaoh Shoshenk attacked the northern kingdom of Israel but avoided Judah and Jerusalem altogether. His target was the Jezreel valley and the Jordan valley.

This account is from Egyptian sources.

From Archaeology
Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
The main campaign route did not enter the kingdom of Judah but rather skirted its northern border. (pg 126)
The real target of Shoshenk's campaign was the Jezreel valley and the Jordan valley. (pg 126)
If Shoshenk I is to be equated with the biblical Shishak, why did he attack his ally Jeroboam in Israel while meticulously avoiding an incursion into the territory of his enemy, Rehoboam king of Israel?. (pg 127)

Top of page | Table of Contents

Shishak is not Shoshenk

This chart shows the differences between the two accounts and demonstrates that Shishak and Shoshenk are different persons.

Shishak Shoshenk
Attacked Judah (the southern kingdom) and Jerusalem.

An enemy of King Rehoboam and Judah (the southern kingdom).
Did not attack Judah (the southern kingdom) but carefully avoided it.

An ally of Jeroboam, king of Israel (the northern kingdom). An enemy of Israel (the northern kingdom).

Attacked Israel (the northern kingdom.

Top of page | Table of Contents

Shishak = Ramesses II

This section demonstrates that the account of Pharaoh Shishak (as recorded in the Bible) matches in every detail the account of Pharaoh Ramesses II (as recorded in Egyptian artifacts). Ramesses II is also known as Ramesses the Great. I will refer to him simply as Ramesses.

Ramesses attacks Jerusalem

The military campaign of Ramesses. The details of this campaign and the political situation surrounding it match very well with the biblical account of Shishak.

From Archaeology
Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
Ramesses plundered Jerusalem. (pg 149)
Ramesses had the resources to muster a very large army. During his reign Egypt dominated the territories of both the Libyans and Kushites (both mentioned in 2 Chr 12:3). (pg 150)
A relief in a rock-cut temple shows the culmination of a military campaign by Ramesses into the Judaean hill country in the 8th year of Ramesses' reign. The target is a large fortified town standing upon a steep-sided hill. The citizens of the town are dressed in typical Canaanite robes and a man (perhaps the ruler of the city [Rehoboam]) has a long Canaanite beard and is offering an incense burner as a peace offering to Ramesses. (pg 153-5)
Three years earlier Ramesses began a 5 year campaign to regain his hold in the northern part of his empire (including Syria and Israel). These city-states (including those in Judah) began a movement to revolt against Ramesses. Since King Rehoboam was part of this revolt it is understandable that he would fortify 15 Judaean towns in the south and west. (pg 153-155)
These events took place when Ramesses reigned in the late 10th century BC. The sacking of Jerusalem is also dated to the late 10th century BC. (pg 155-156)

Top of page | Table of Contents

The name Ramesses and Shishak

It turns out that the names Ramesses and Shishak are very close matches - even better than Shishak and Shoshenk.

From Archaeology
Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
The name Ramesses commonly appears in shorthand form as S vowel S vowel. Thus we have 'Sisa' for 'Ramesses.' (pg 161)
It was common that the Egyptian 'S' was spelled 'Sh' in Hebrew. Thus we have 'Shisha' for 'Ramesses.' (pg 162)
The Hebrew writers often changed foreign names slightly to make it mean or suggest something in Hebrew. The Hebrew word shishak means 'the one who crushes.' By merely adding a 'K' to the end we have 'Shishak' for 'Ramesses.' (pg 162-163)
The 'N' in 'Shoshenk' was part of the pronunciation of the name even amongst the semitic language speakers of the Near East. The monuments of Shoshenk in Palestine attest to this. Therefore, the biblical name Shishak is not a straightforward equivalent of Shoshenk. (pg 128)

Top of page | Table of Contents Biblical Archaeology
 Revised: Nov 14, 2000