Ptolemy Pharaohs in the Bible

Ptolemy Pharaohs in the Bible

H. Abdul Al-Dahir

Anak is a much explored biblical character who seems to have originated in Egypt. He is supposedly the father of a race of biblical giants according to Numbers 13:33:

33 We (Moses’ scouting party) saw the Nephilim (a biblical race of giants) there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

These “giants or Anakim” seem to be of Egyptian origin. According to Numbers 13:21,22:

21 So they (Moses’ scouting party) went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)

Anak, Ahiman, Shesai and Talmai are all associated with Zoan in Egypt. Zoan is the biblical name for Tanis, the seat of the pharaohs of the 21st and 22nd Dynasty. According to Wikipedia: “Psalm 78:12,43 identifies the “field of Zoan” as where Moses performed miracles before Pharaoh to persuade him to release Israel from his service. The city is also mentioned in Isaiah 19:11, 13, Isaiah 30:4 and Ezekiel 30:14…The Biblical story of Moses being found in the marshes of the Nile River (Exodus 2:3-5) is often set at Zoan, which is commonly identified with Tanis. However, no supporting archaeological evidence has been unearthed, and the demise of the city may well have been caused by the relocation of Nile tributaries rather than a non-historical occupation by the Israelites.”

What is really interesting is the name Anak (Anakim is the Hebrew plural) which means ‘neck’ in Hebrew and ‘to grab by the neck’, to embrace, hug’ in Arabic. The name is Egyptian and derives from the goddess Anaka. According to Wikipedia:

“In Ancient Egyptian, she was known as Anuket, Anaka, or Anqet. Her name meant the “Clasper” or “Embracer”. In Greek, this became Anoukis, sometimes also spelled Anukis. In the interpretatio graeca, she was considered equivalent to Hestia or Vesta…During the New Kingdom, Anuket’s cult at Elephantine included a river procession of the goddess during the first month of Shemu. Inscriptions mention the processional festival of Khnum and Anuket during this period.”

Anaka was associated with Khnum who was the ram-headed god that was the source of the Nile. He was a member of a triad was known as the Elephantine triad which included Khnum, Anaka and Satis. Khnum was the source of the Nile, Anaka was a personification of the Nile as “Nourisher of the Fields” while Satis came to personify the former annual flooding of the Nile and to serve as a goddess of war, hunting, and fertility. Khnum and Anaka were written into Numbers 13:22 as Anak and Akhiman whose name seems to have been an hebraized form of Khnum who is listed as Anak’s son. The second son is Sheshai or the Egyptian goddess Seshat. Seshat was a patron goddess of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which is why she is paired with Ptolemy (Talmai & Sheshai) in Numbers 13:22. Sheshat is depicted facing the pharaoh Ptolemy IV in an inscription on the Edfu Temple in Egypt. According to Wikipedia:

“Seshat, under various spellings, was the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing. She was seen as a scribe and record keeper, and her name means she who scrivens (i.e. she who is the scribe), and is credited with inventing writing. She also became identified as the goddess of accounting, architecture, astronomy, astrology, building, mathematics, and surveying.

In art, she was depicted as a woman with a seven-pointed emblem above her head. It is unclear what this emblem represents.This emblem is the origin of an alternate name for Seshat, Sefkhet-Abwy, which means “seven-horned”.

Mistress of the House of Books is another title for Seshat, being the deity whose priests oversaw the library in which scrolls of the most important knowledge were assembled and spells were preserved. One prince of the fourth dynasty, Wep-em-nefret, is noted as the Overseer of the Royal Scribes, Priest of Seshat on a slab stela. Heliopolis was the location of her principal sanctuary.”

The third son’s name is Talmai which is a reference to the Ptolemaic Dynasty. According to the Wikipedia article, Ptolemy (name):

“The name Ptolemaios varied over the years from its roots in ancient Greece, appearing in different languages in various forms and spellings. The original form, and some of the variants, are listed here in the languages relevant to the history of the name.

Ancient Greek: Ptolemaîos

Latin: Ptolemaeus

German: Ptolemäus, Ptolemaios

Italian: Tolomeo

English: Ptolemy

Ancient Egyptian: ptw?lmys

Hebrew and Aramaic Talmai

Persian: Ba?lam??s/ Ptolemaios

Arabic: ?Ba?ul?m?s”

So, it appears the Anakim are actually Egyptian gods which included the pharaohs of the Macedonian Ptolemaic Dynasty. What is most interesting is the connection of the author of the biblical Book of Numbers to the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This book was either largely written or severely interpolated by the Alexandrian authors of the Septuagint (aka LXX or 70) who resided and wrote under the Macedonian-Egyptian Ptolemaic Dynasty.

So, the biblical characters mentioned in Numbers 13:22, Anak, Akhimn, Sheshai and Talmai, are Egyptian deities, ie, Anaka, Khnum and Seshat, and one is a pharaoh of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Anaka and Khnum are an Egyptian couple as both are associated with the Nile cult at Elephantine. The association of Seshat, the goddess of wisdom, knowledge and writing, is with the Ptolemaic pharaoh, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 283-246 BCE). According to Wikipedia: “During Ptolemy II’s reign, the material and literary splendor of the Alexandrian court was at its height. He promoted the Museum and Library of Alexandria. He erected a commemorative stele, the Great Mendes Stela…Callimachus, keeper of the library, Theocritus, and a host of lesser poets, glorified the Ptolemaic family. Ptolemy himself was eager to increase the library and to patronize scientific research. He is thought to be the patron that commissioned Manetho to compose his Aegyptiaca.

The tradition preserved in the pseudepigraphical Letter of Aristeas which connects the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek with his patronage is probably overdrawn. However, Walter Kaiser says, “There can be little doubt that the Law was translated in Philadelphus’s time since Greek quotations from Genesis and Exodus appear in Greek literature before 200 BCE. The language of the Septuagint is more like Egyptian Greek than it is like Jerusalemite Greek, according to some.”

It is obvious that the Ptolemies, who succeeded Ptolemy II, had elected a patron Egyptian deity as their ancestor’s muse and inspiration. That Egyptian deity was Seshat, the Egyptian goddess (who) “was seen as a scribe and record keeper, and her name means she who scrivens (i.e. she who is the scribe), and is credited with inventing writing. She also became identified as the goddess of accounting, architecture, astronomy, astrology, building, mathematics, and surveying.” In other words all of the wisdom of Egypt was embodied in this goddess. This was the wisdom which Ptolemy II attempted to collect and store in the great Library at Alexandria, a crown jewel in his fabulous court.

The earliest authors of the Septuagint (LXX) obviously extolled their patron, Ptolemy II. However,  according to Numbers 13, the Ptolemaic Dynasty is portrayed as evil giants who inhabited Canaan:

26 They (the scouting party) came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”…31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

So, the original view of Ptolemy II, who is credited with inviting the Septuagint (LXX) authors to Alexandria, so that their literature could be included into the archives of his library, was one of wonder and praise for his wisdom and generosity. However, when Ptolemy IV succeeded to the throne, the attitude of the Judean authors in Alexandria took an abrupt about-face:

Talmai or Ptolemy mentioned in Numbers 13:22 is Ptolemy IV who is depicted on the Edfu Temple with the goddess Seshat.

An image of Ptolemy IV facing the goddess of Seshat.
Ptolemy IV facing Seshat and Horus. Edfu Temple Egypt
Ptolemy IV facing Seshat and Horus. Edfu Temple Egypt

Ptolemy IV and Seshat are mentioned as enemies of the Jews along with Anaka and Khnum, the Elephantine deities who rivaled the Jewish deities, Yahu and Anath. Ptolemy IV was excoriated in a fictional tale from the Third Book of Maccabees. According to Livia Capponi, “‘Martyrs and Apostates: 3 Maccabees and the Temple of Leontopolis’”, in Hellenistic Judaism: Historical Aspects, Henoch 29.2 (2007), 288-306:

Third Maccabees 3-6-the Incident with the Elephants

“Third Maccabees is perhaps best remembered for God’s dramatic actions rescuing the Jews from Ptolemy IV Philopater (221-205 B.C.). Josephus narrates a similar story, but dates it to the reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon (169-116 B.C., Contra Apion, 2.52-55). The story narrated by 3 Maccabees is fanciful, but as Livia Capponi comments, the intention of the author was “to offer a testimony to the courage and firmness of the Egyptian Jews even in the face of death” (293).

Although he Jews maintain a respectful attitude toward the king, Philopater (Ptolemy IV) is enraged when the Jews refuse to obey his demands (3 Macc 3:1-10). Philopater (Ptolemy IV) commands that Jews be rounded up and arrested. The Jews are not honest, Philopater (Ptolemy IV) argues, because “they accepted our presence by word, but insincerely by deed, because when we proposed to enter their inner temple and honor it with magnificent and most beautiful offerings, they were carried away by their traditional arrogance, and excluded us from entering; but they were spared the exercise of our power because of the benevolence that we have toward all” (3:17-18, NRSV).

The decree was read “to the heathens” at public feasts, but the Jews reacted with great mourning. Jews are “dragged away” in iron bonds to Alexandria. The chapter is filled with tragic descriptions of old men led off in chains and virgin brides are taken away from their bridal chambers. They are taken to Alexandria and brought to the hippodrome to be made a public example for those who might defy the king.

The king intends to kill the Jews he has taken captive by charging five hundred elephants (5:1-51). He ordered the elephants to be driven into a frenzy with a mixture of wine and frankincense, but when the appointed hour came, God caused the king to fall asleep so that he never gave the order to kill the Jews. Philopater (Ptolemy IV) is enraged and intends to kill the Jews the next day. Again, the whole town turns out for the spectacle, but when the time comes for the king to give the order, the Lord made his mind go blank and he threatens to toss his friends to the elephants instead. Finally the king himself drives the crazed elephants toward the Jews, who are praying, weeping and embracing one another in full expectation of their deaths.

At this moment, a priest named Eleazar prays to God, asking God’s will to be done (6:1-15). If that means dying, then let it be, but God ought to act for his own glory and “let the Gentiles cower today in fear of your invincible might, O honored One, who have power to save the nation of Jacob” (verse 13, NRSV). As Eleazar finished his prayer the heavens open and two angels descend, visible to all but the Jews (6:16-29). So awesome was their appearance the king began to shudder and he repented of his plans to destroy the Jews. He commands the guards to “release the children of the almighty and living God of heaven, who from the time of our ancestors until now has granted an unimpeded and notable stability to our government.”
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So, Ptolemy IV and his patroness deity, Seshat, were listed as enemies of Moses who were eventually defeated in the conquest and division of Canaan by Joshua’s lieutenant, Caleb. In addition, according to Joshua 21:11, Arba (the number 4) was the father of Anak and the grandfather of the Anakim or giants, Talmai, Sheshai, and Akhiman. This number four is a direct reference to Ptolemy IV.

The Book of 3 Maccabees also offers insight into the date of composition of the Book of Numbers. Since, 3 Maccabees names Ptolemy IV as the perpetrator of the Jewish massacre, then the Book of Numbers cannot be dated to prior to the reign of this pharaoh or not prior to 205 BCE. However, according to the Wiki article entitled 3 Maccabees:

“Critics agree that the author of this book was an Alexandrian Jew who wrote in Greek. In style, the author is prone to rhetorical constructs and a somewhat bombastic style, and the themes of the book are very similar to those of the Epistle of Aristeas. The work begins somewhat abruptly, leading many[who?] to think that it is actually a fragment of a (now-lost) longer work.

Although some parts of the story, such as the names of the Jews taking up all the paper in Egypt, are clearly fictional, parts of the story cannot be definitively proven or disproven and many scholars are only willing to accept the first section (which tells of the actions of Ptolemy Philopator) as possibly having an historical basis. Josephus notes that many (but certainly not all) Jews were put to death in Alexandria under the reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon (146–117 BC) due to their support for Cleopatra II, and this execution was indeed carried out by intoxicated elephants. This may be the historical center of the relation in 3 Maccabees and the author has transferred it to an earlier time period and added an ahistorical connection to Jerusalem if this theory is correct.”

If the murderous culprit was Ptolemy Physcon, then the Book of Numbers can be no earlier that 117 BCE which leads one to wonder, except for the Book of Deuteronomy, if the first 4 books of the Torah were all authored under the Ptolemies. However, the reference to Arba or the number 4 as the patriarch of the Anakim giants confirms that the reference in 3 Maccabees is to Ptolemy IV.

Now, we must address the biblical appearance of Khnum and Anaka in Numbers 13. The goddess, Anaka, and her partner, Khnum, were associated with the Nile and the triad of deities located at Elephantine.

Here is an image of Khnum, Anuket and Satis:

Elephantine was the location of the Judean community in Egypt; a community which existed from the Babylonian conquest of Judah to 399 BCE, and was brought under the hegemony of Persia. Though Persia allowed the Jews to return to Palestine, many Jews remained in the diaspora. Among them were the Jews at Elephantine who combined elements of idolatry with the worship of Yhwh. Evidence of idolatrous influence at Elephantine is found in the names of gods referred to in the Elephantine Papyri texts. These Jews combined the name of Yahu with the names of other deities as Anath-yahu, a combination of the name of the Canaanite deity, Anath, and the name of Yahu. It appears that the Elephantine Jews coupled Anath with Yahweh as conjugal partners. Anath was akin to the Queen of Heaven referred to in Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17.

The exiled Jews built a temple to their god Yahu at Elephantine which was also the site an Egyptian temple dedicated to the god Khnum. A rivalry developed between the Jewish community and the Egyptian worshipers of Khnum, so that in 410 BC, the priests of Khnum orchestrated a riot which destroyed the Jewish temple. Though the Persians eventually punished the Egyptians responsible, the Jews were unable to come up with the funds needed to rebuild the temple. The Elephantine community appealed to the Persians and then to the temple authority in Jerusalem for help to rebuild. The temple authority, which viewed any temple dedicated to Yhwh other than the one located in Jerusalem as a threat to the authority of Jerusalem, rebuffed the idea even though the Elephantine community appealed: “Now our forefathers built this temple in the fortress of Elephantine back in the days of the Kingdom of Egypt, and who Cambyses came to Egypt he found it built. They (the Persians) knocked down all the temples of the gods of Egypt, but no one did damage to this temple.” The appeal to the Persians succeeded, however, and the temple was rebuilt in 402 BCE. However, the Persians were defeated in Egypt by the Pharaoh Nephrites I and the Jewish community at Elephantine was forced to flee to various parts of the Persian Empire.

In any case, the Septuagint (LXX) authors were aware of the rivalry between Yahu and his consort, Anath, and the Egyptian couple Anaka and Khnum, so they included the Egyptian gods as Nephilim, or deceased ones, who were giants. The association with the Egyptian gods and giants is obvious to anyone who has viewed the colossi which abound in Egypt. So, the divine pair, Anaka and Khnum, became biblical giants in the Book of Numbers as did Ptolemy IV and his patron deity, Seshat. So, it is clear that the biblical Anakim, i.e., patriarch Arba, Anak and his three children, Akhimn, Sheshai and Talmai, are the Egyptian deities Anaka, Khnum, Seshat and the pharaoh, Ptolemy IV. The Septuagint authors morphed these gods and the pharaoh Ptolemy IV into a group of giants who inhabited a land of milk and honey. The implication of this research is that much of the Torah was written in Alexandria Egypt and dates only to the Polemaic Dynasty. And, it was not only the Torah that was re-written and interpolated by the Jewish authors of the Septuagint in Alexandria, Egypt. They also interpolated other biblical texts as the second book of Samuel which contains the tales of the establishment of the House of David and the founding of the historically fictionalized ‘United Kingdom of Israel’.

The most famous, but not historical, king of Israel was Solomon Jedidiah. His name, Solomon Jedidiah, is a combination name. The first name is derived from the name of the god Shulmanu, who, according to Wikipedia: “… is a god of the underworld, fertility, and war in the Mesopotamian religion of the East Semitic Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians, and later also the western Semitic peoples such as Arameans, Canaanites and Phoenicians. Shulmanu-Shulman appears as a part of the name of various kings of Assyria from the 14th century BC, such as Shalmaneser III (Šulm?nu-ašar?du, “the god Shulmanu is pre-eminent”).”

The name Jedidiah or Ydydyh, meaning beloved of Yah, is an Egyptian formula used by the Pharaohs especially the Ptolemies whose birth names, with a few exceptions, invariably ended in ptwlmis ?n?-?t mri-pt? or Ptolemy, who lives eternally, beloved of Ptah (mri-pth).

Ptah, like Yah, who began as a god of copper smiths, was the god of crafts. Under the Ptolemies, who were Macedonian Greeks, he was equated with the Greek god of the forge and smiths, Hephaestus. The Hebrew name Jedidiah is unique in that it follows the name Solomon aka Shlomo (the name used by the Masoretes) aka Shulman, which seems to have originally been a throne name (used by the Assyians) that became a birth name for Solomon Jedidiah. This birth name resembles those birth names used by the Ptolemaic Dynasty in that the dynastic name, Ptolemy, is followed by the phrase ‘beloved of Ptah’. Under the Ptolemies, Ptah, the patron of craftsmen as smiths, was equated to Hephaestus, the Greek god of the forge. Yh/Yhh (alternate names for Yhwh) was the god of the Qynites, which means ‘smiths, (Kenites in AKJ) or mining clan of the Midianites, which suggests that he was also a god of the forge.

The Books of Samuel have been given a date between the beginning of composition during the reign of Hezekiah I and ending during the Babylonian exile (circa 550 BCE). However, from the above naming of Solomon in 2 Samuel 12, it appears that the Septuagint authors, who wrote, interpolated and translated the LXX under auspices of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, interpolated the text to concoct a name for their most celebrated (but not historical) king that followed the formula used by the naming practices of the Ptolemies. It also indicates that they were aware of Yh/Yhh’s origin as a god of metallurgy, especially copper. The Ptolemies used Ptah as a part of their birth names, and it appears that the Septuagint authors decided to glorify their mythological king, Solomon Jedidiah, with the same formula which included their god of the forge, Yh/Yhh/Yhwh.

Other examples of biblical interpolations by the Septuagint authors abound as the Egyptian creation myth that has all creation, including the gods, appearing from a primordial watery abyss (Nun). In Genesis, the same creation from a watery abyss closely parallels the myth of the Egyptians. In Genesis, El/Yhwh and the watery abyss are co-extant while in the Egyptian myth, all creation, including the gods arose from the same abyss. Egyptian mythology is not the only mythology to appear in the the Book of Genesis which mentions ‘the sons of god’ copulating with ‘the daughters of Adam’ to produce a race of giants who were ‘men of renown’. This sexual interaction between Greek male deities and human females is a common theme in Greek mythology. The Greek gods sired upon human females hybrid offspring as Heracles, Asclepius, and Perseus who ended up as ‘giant’ constellations in the night sky. The LXX authors seem to have adopted this theme and wrote these ‘giants’ or Nephilim into the Book of Genesis.

Other evidence of interpolations by the Septuagint authors are Noah’s boat which was modeled on the Greek ship, Syracusia, the stories of Abram, Sarai, Hagar and Pharaoh, the story of Jacob and Esau, and the story of Joseph’s attempted seduction by Potiphera’s wife, which was based on the Egyptian tale of the Two Brothers. Also, included in these interpolations are Joseph’s relation to Pharaoh, his priest and the priest’s daughter, as well as the entire tale of Solomon, including Solomon’s temple, which was modeled on the Luxor Temple built by RamesesII. The characters, Jeroboam and Rehoboam,who initiated the ‘division’ of the kingdom of Israel from the kingdom of Judah are also literary inventions of the Septuagint authors. Another outstanding example of these biblical stories being churned out of Alexandria Egypt is the story of David and Goliath in which Goliath is dressed like a Greek hoplite.

According to Wikipedia’s article entitled ‘Goliath’:

“The armor described in 1 Samuel 17 appears typical of Greek armor of the sixth century BCE rather than of Philistines armor of the tenth century. Narrative formulae such as the settlement of battle by single combat between champions has been thought characteristic of the Homeric epics (the Iliad) rather than of the ancient Near East. The designation of Goliath as a “man of the in-between” (a longstanding difficulty in translating 1 Samuel 17) appears to be a borrowing from Greek “man of the metaikhmion”, i.e. the space between two opposite army camps where champion combat would take place.[13]

A story very similar to that of David and Goliath appears in the Iliad, written circa 760–710 BCE, where the young Nestor fights and conquers the giant Ereuthalion. Each giant wields a distinctive weapon—an iron club in Ereuthalion’s case, a massive bronze spear in Goliath’s; each giant, clad in armor, comes out of the enemy’s massed array to challenge all the warriors in the opposing army; in each case the seasoned warriors are afraid, and the challenge is taken up by a stripling, the youngest in his family (Nestor is the twelfth son of Neleus, David the seventh or eighth son of Jesse). In each case an older and more experienced father figure (Nestor’s own father, David’s patron Saul) tells the boy that he is too young and inexperienced, but in each case the young hero receives divine aid and the giant is left sprawling on the ground. Nestor, fighting on foot, then takes the chariot of his enemy, while David, on foot, takes the sword of Goliath. The enemy army then flees, the victors pursue and slaughter them and return with their bodies, and the boy-hero is acclaimed by the people.”

Also, the founding of the kingdoms of Israel (a Canaanite kingdom dedicated to El, his consorts and sons) and the kingdom of Judah appear to have been concocted by the Septuagint authors who attributed these feats of conquest to a single individual, Joshua. Judah actually originated as a Shasu (Bedouin) tribe (the Shasu of Yhw according to the Soleb Temple inscription) that was allied with the Edomites (the kingdom of Edom), Ammonites and Moabites. The occupying Egyptians forced these Shasu tribes to labor in the copper mines at Timna and Faynan in the Moab, Edom and the Negev. These Shasu tribes instigated many revolts against the occupying Egyptians which caused pharaohs as Rameses II and Shoshenq I (biblical Shishak) to invade the area and forcibly restore order. These revolts, from which the Shasu were forced to flee into areas north of Edom and the Negev, became the basis for the stories regarding Moses and the exodus. Eventually, the Egyptians abandoned the area at which time the Shasu formed alliances (tribal confederations) and conquered the Jebusite area of Canaan which became known as Judah.

Judah remained rural and sparsely populated until the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel and the Israelites fled into Judah, at which time Judah became urbanized enough to establish a viable kingdom. It was the Judeans, anxious to promote their superiority over the Israelites and their ‘parity’ with the surrounding regional powers, who authored the original biblical texts. It was the Judean authors who inhabited Alexandria Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty who further expanded on these tales which were taken as history until the translation of the various cuneiform texts which included the literature Semitic kingdoms of Ebla, Mari, Sumer, Akkadia, Assyria, Babylonia etc. as well as the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt that the true history of the Ancient Middle East was established and the propaganda of the biblical texts was exposed.

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