Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
In my 2006 book Empire of Thebes: Ages in Chaos Revisited I argued that most of the synchronisms and character identifications proposed by Immanuel Velikovsky in his Ages in Chaos (1952) were actually correct, and that the errors committed by him -- which the critics made so much of -- were of a relatively minor nature. Ages in Chaos, in short, needed fine-tuning, not complete rejection. Indeed, Velikovsky missed a great deal of evidence in his favor. This was the case, for example, with the equation of Hatshepsut with the Queen of Sheba.
In Ages in Chaos Velikovsky argued that the Eighteenth Dynasty rose to power at the same time as the kingdom of Israel, and that the first pharaohs of that line, Ahmose and Amenhotep I, were contemporaries of Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. About thirty years after the war of liberation, Egypt came to be ruled by Hatshepsut, an extraordinary woman, one who, unique in the annals of Egypt’s history, claimed the honor and title of Pharaoh. In Velikovsky’s system, Hatshepsut must have been a contemporary of Solomon, the fabulously wealthy and powerful son of King David. For Velikovsky, it was but a short step from placing Hatshepsut at the same time as Solomon to making her identical to Solomon’s famous royal visitor, the Queen of Sheba.
In support of this claim, Velikovsky noted that one of the most important events of Hatshepsut’s life was an expedition to a mysterious land named Punt. The journey to Punt, which she immortalized on her funerary monument at Deir el Bahri, was obviously regarded as an event of immense importance by the Queen, for she placed it alongside the story of her divine birth on the temple walls. Punt, Velikovsky argued, must have been Israel; and the expedition recounted on the Egyptian temple a contemporary record of the Queen of Sheba’s expedition to Jerusalem.
If Velikovsky was right, then by this one discovery alone he had made a monumental contribution to biblical and Egyptological studies. In the century prior to the publication of Ages in Chaos, archaeologists had searched in vain through the land of Israel for any contemporary record of King Solomon or his father David, and increasingly they had come to the opinion that the latter two belonged in the same fairy-land as the Queen of Sheba herself. Now, however, Velikovsky was claiming that not only did Solomon and Sheba exist, but we actually possessed a detailed account of the legendary queen’s visit to the Hebrew king!
If Punt were indeed Israel, and its identity could thus be proved, Velikovsky’s argument would have been almost unassailable. The evidence for identifying Punt with Israel was fairly extensive, and Velikovsky was able to show, for example, striking correspondences between the account of the Punt expedition at Deir el Bahri, and the account of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem, as recorded in Jewish tradition. And, extensive through the evidence he produced was, he actually missed a great deal. I intend to look at some of this material here, but in the meantime, I call attention to the following in relation to the identity of Punt, which he failed to notice:
(a) Punt was a land sacred to the goddess Hathor; she was known as the “Mistress of Punt.” Yet Syria/Palestine was equally sacred to Hathor; she was known as the “Lady (or Mistress) of Byblos.”
(b) Hathor was associated with Palestine/Phoenicia because the hillsides turn red with scarlet anemones in the Spring. Hence the “Red Land.” In Hathor’s myth, Ra poured a red-colored beer on the earth, which made Hathor end the destruction of humanity. The only country associated with Hathor was thus Palestine/Phoenicia, which would suggest that Punt was another name for the same place.
(c) The term “Divine Land” (ta netjer) was equally applied to Punt and Palestine/Phoenicia. This is accepted by all. Yet ta netjer is more accurately translated as “Land of the God,” and the god in question was Osiris, who was also known, by way of a pun, as “Netjer.” Osiris however was specifically associated with Byblos, where his body was said to have drifted and been encased in a sycamore tree. Thus ta netjer is specifically the land of Osiris (Palestine/Phoenicia), and cannot be applied to any other country, as conventional Egyptologists argue.
(d) Thutmose III claimed to have conquered “all the regions of Punt” in his first year. Yet we know that the countries Thutmose III conquered in his first year were in Palestine/Phoenicia.
(e) The Egyptians claimed Punt as their ancestral homeland; yet the Phoenicians claimed the Egyptians had come from their country. Thus Sanchoniathon, the Phoenician historian, asserted that a Phoenician ruler named Misor had led a settlement of his fellow-countrymen into Egypt and founded the Egyptian kingdom. Misor was evidently one and the same as Osiris.
Notwithstanding the above, as well as the numerous and ingenious arguments presented by Velikovsky, scholars unanimously rejected the notion that Punt was Israel. Why they did so was straightforward: The illustrations at Deir el Bahri, which depict the land of Punt, clearly show African flora and fauna. Of the latter, there is depicted several panthers, a giraffe, and a rhinoceros. The African flora is represented, above all, by frankincense trees -- a shrub which nowadays grows nowhere north of the Horn of Africa and southern Arabia.
It is interesting that Velikovsky was unable to answer the above points. Somewhat lamely he suggested that the African animals could have been imported into Israel by Solomon’s navy, whilst the frankincense was, he said, probably cultivated in the Jordan Valley.
There was no need, however, to suggest the importation of anything from Africa, for in antiquity the entire Near East was home to most of the creatures now considered typical of the African savannah.
Giraffes, for example, and rhinoceroses, are of course are nowadays found only in Africa; yet even John Bimson, who wrote a stinging critique of Velikovsky’s Hatshepsut hypothesis, admitted that giraffes were found on the borders of Syria and Arabia in classical times -- a fact noted by Diodorus. (Diodorus, ii, 50-1) Furthermore, the Bible itself (Deuteronomy 14:5) speaks of giraffes (which it calls the ‘camel-leopard’) in the region of Sinai and the Negev, whilst Egyptologist Alessandra Nibbi noted the occurrence of a rock-cut drawing of a giraffe in Sinai. (Alessandra Nibbi, The Shipwrecked Sailor Again, Göttinger Miszellen 24 (1977) p. 54) The giraffe then can at best show that Punt may have been in Africa.
The rhinoceros however more probably points to Asia. Once again, as with the giraffe, people have simply thought ‘Rhinoceros -- Africa’. But the rhinoceros portrayed at Deir el Bahri appears to be of the Asian one-horned species, Rhinoceros unicornis, and cannot represent either of the two contemporary African species, both of which have two horns. The one-horned rhinoceros has never been attested in Africa. Again, this is a fact that John Bimson himself conceded. A single-horned rhinoceros is portrayed on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, along with an elephant and an oryx, all of which are described as ‘tribute’ of Musri.( A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria (New York and London, 1923) p. 142) The Obelisk’s purpose was to record the tribute of the peoples of western Asia (Jehu of Israel is shown bowing before the Assyrian king), though it seems that the source of the one-horned rhino (Musri) was Egypt. Nevertheless, all of the lands of Palestine/Syria were at that time regarded as under the suzerainty of Egypt. It should be remarked too, in this regard, that during this epoch large herds of elephants -- of the Asiatic variety -- roamed throughout northern Syria. (See eg. J. H. Breasted, A History of Egypt (London, 1951) pp. 270-1)
I repeat, in antiquity the entire Near East was home to most of the creatures associated nowadays only with Africa. It is well-known, for example, that lions occurred in great abundance throughout the region, and were extensively hunted for sport by Assyrian kings as well as Egyptian pharaohs. What is not so well known is that in ancient times basically all of the animals now associated with the African savannah roamed the Syria/Palestine region. These populations were remnants of an earlier time when the entire Sahara and Arabian deserts were well-watered grasslands. (See eg K. W. Butzer, “Physical Conditions in Eastern Europe, Western Asia and Egypt Before the Period of Agriculture and Urban Settlement”, in Cambridge Ancient History Vol. 1, part 1 (3rd ed) p. 68) Thus the Illustrated Bible Dictionary supplies the following rather surprising information about the non-human inhabitants of the area in biblical times: (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary 3 Vols. (Hodder and Stoughton, 1980))
(a) Elephants. “The Asiatic elephant was once found as far west as the upper reaches of the Euphrates [northern Syria].” Vol. 1 p. 58
(b) Lions. “At one time lions were found from Asia Minor through the Middle East and Persia to India…The last Palestinian lion was probably killed near Megiddo in the 13th century” (Ibid.).
(c) Leopards and Cheetahs. “It is possible that Heb. namer refers to both the true leopard and the cheetah, or hunting leopard, and also to one or two other spotted wild cats of Palestine” (Ibid.).
(d) Gazelles. “Two wild species [of gazelle] are found in Palestine: the dorcas and Palestine gazelles, both standing under 70 cm” (Ibid.).
(e) Hippopotami. The hippopotamus “lived in the lower Nile until the 12th century AD and, much earlier, in the Orontes river in Syria (and perhaps elsewhere in SW Asia) until after the time of Joseph, so it is well known in Bible lands” (Ibid. p. 61).
(f) Ostriches. “The ostrich finds mention in several [Bible] passages … Jb 39: 13-18 is clearly a description of the ostrich, a bird which once lived in the Middle East.” Ibid. p. 62 (note: an Assyrian portrayal of this bird is shown on the same page).
(g) Crocodiles. “In biblical times the Nile crocodile was found from source to mouth of the Nile. While its distribution north of Egypt in that period is unknown, returning Crusaders reported crocodiles in the Zerka river, which runs into the Mediterranean near Caesarea and is still known locally as the Crocodile river” (Ibid. p. 65).
Even within the past hundred years Palestine/Lebanon was still home to the Syrian bear and the leopard, whilst the gazelle, ibex and hyena still occur, along with the wild pig, jackal and wild cat. (H. C. Luke, “Palestine” in Countries of the World Vol. 5 (Waverley Books, London) p. 3072)
So, all of Syria/Palestine, as well as Arabia, supported typically “African” wildlife in ancient times. Yet there was one region of Palestine that was peculiarly African in its flora and fauna: The Jordan Valley, also known as the Ghor region, has a unique climate, as well as flora and fauna. The Jordan, rising on Mount Hermon, descends quickly as it flows south, first to Lake Hula, then to the Galilee, and finally south to the Dead Sea. This latter is the deepest point on the surface of the earth, with the shoreline standing at an astonishing 1,292 feet below sea level. The Sea of Galilee itself is 682 feet below sea level. Owing to its low elevation, the valley of the Jordan has a subtropical climate, and, even to this day, its flora, as well as smaller fauna, peculiarly “African.”(Ibid.) We are told also that the region’s vegetation is “akin to that of the Sudan and the low-lying parts of Abyssinia. Here grew the ‘Balm of Gilead’ tree and the ‘Apples of Sodom.’” (Ibid., p. 3071)
According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “The most common trees and plants of the Jordan valley are the castor-oil plant and the oleander, flourishing especially about Jericho, several varieties of the acacia tree, the caper plant, the Dead Sea apple (Solanum Sodomaeum) the oser tree of the Arabs, tamarisks, Agnus casti (a flowering bamboo), Balanites Aegyptiaca (supposed to be the balm of Gilead), Populus Euphratica (a plant found all over Central Asia but not West of the Jordan), and many tropical plants, among which may be mentioned Zygophyllum coccineum, Boerhavia Indigofera, several Astragali, Cassias, Gymnocarpum, and Nitraria.” (George Frederick Wright, “The Jordan valley,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (1915)) Frankincense too, in ancient times, grew there, on the terraced hillsides just above the valley-floor. The latter region however, was a combination of mash, a veritable “sea of slime,”(Ibid.) and a “jungle” inhabited by animals such as lions, a region “which only the bravest dared enter.” (Ibid.)
As might be expected, the area’s unique animal-life was a favourite subject of ancient artists. We have already noted how Diodorus of Sicily refers to the giraffe living on the “borders” of Syria and Arabia (evidently the Ghor region); and depictions of such creatures are not uncommon among the ruins of ancient synagogues and other important buildings in the area. Yadin Roman, editor of Israeli natural history journal Eretz, is of the opinion that there were indeed “giraffes and lions and other large wild animals in the Jordan (Ghor) Valley” into Roman times and even later. (Personal communication, October 2, 2009) Fascinatingly, the animal-life is a mixture of African and Indian. We are told that “Of the mammalian characteristic of this general region, 34 are Ethiopian and 16 Indian, though there is now no possible connection with Ethiopia or India.” (George Frederick Wright, loc cit.) We recall at this point the large herds of Asiatic elephants that anciently inhabited northern Syria, and the single-horned (Asiatic) rhinoceros portrayed at Deir el Bahri and on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III.
So, far from proving Punt in Africa, the evidence of the flora and fauna points once again to western Asia; and more specifically and crucially, to the Jordan Valley. The importance of this cannot be emphasized too strongly; for it was here too that we found the cultivation in ancient times of frankincense and spices -- on terraces which are still plainly visible to this day. Velikovsky of course was criticized for suggesting that frankincense had grown in ancient Israel. Had his critics done any research at all on the subject they would however have found that the Jordan Valley, specifically around Jericho, Ein Gad, and Phasaelis, was a major incense-producing region in ancient times; and indeed the incense and spices grown there were a major source of the wealth of the Hebrew monarchs. As Yadin Roman pointed out to me, the wealth of the region attracted the covetous attention of none other than Cleopatra, who sought to gain possession of it for herself.
There can be little doubt that Cleopatra was not the first Egyptian monarch to covet the region, and the “myrrh terraces” praised by Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri were located in the Jordan Valley.
It must have been the unique biology of the Jordan Valley which gave the region its “Holy Land” designation. Above all, the occurrence there of frankincense, the indispensible accoutrement of temple ritual, would have conferred upon the territory a special significance. The only other source of frankincense known to the ancient civilizations of the Near East was southern Arabia, but the remoteness of this territory would have rendered its exploitation -- in early times at least -- somewhat impracticable. Thus it was the Jordan region, from Early Dynastic times at least, that was the Holy Land or Divine Land of the peoples of Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia. It was from a myrrh tree of the Jordan Valley that Adonis/Tammuz was born (as in the Greek myth); and it seems likely that Osiris’ birth, or rebirth, from a tree in the area, must have originally been placed in the Jordan. In later times, it is true, he was pictured as emerging from a sycamore tree at Byblos; yet the association with Byblos is probably explained by the fact that the Egyptians obtained most of their Jordan Valley incense from the hands of Phoenician traders operating from Byblos and Tyre.
The Jordan Valley, then, with its unique animal and plant-life, was the “Divine Land” of the Egyptians. Yet, as we saw, it was the appearance of those same unique animals and plants on the Deir el Bahri reliefs that was most decisive in convincing scholars they should relocate Punt from Asia (where they had hitherto placed it) to Africa.
It is evident that, irrespective of what route Hatshepsut took to Israel, and the purpose of her journey there -- both of which shall be discussed presently -- her travels took her, at some stage, through the Jordan Valley. The exotic creatures displayed at Deir el Bahri were still found in these hot and well-watered regions, having been previously hunted to extinction in other areas of Syria and Palestine. They were spotted by the royal expedition its journey to the myrrh terraces and to Jerusalem, and portrayed on the walls of the Deir el Bahri temple because of their scarcity.
The above evidence, crucial though it is, by no means exhausts the sum of material missed by Velikovsky. He missed too the significance of the two names under which the Queen of Sheba appears in biblical sources. In the Old Testament she is named simply “Queen of Sheba,” but in the Gospel of Matthew she is called “Queen of the South”). Both these titles point directly to Egypt.
Let’s look first at “Queen of Sheba.”
In the Book of Daniel the Ptolemaic pharaoh is named “King of the South” on several occasion. It may be that this was not the most common biblical designation for the Egyptian ruler, but its occurrence in Daniel, without any explanatory comments, proves beyond question that it was a commonly-used expression.
And the king of the south shall be strong … and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north … and shall also carry captives into Egypt … So the king of the south shall come into his own kingdom and return to his own land (Daniel 11, v. 5-9).
It should be noted that the Book of Daniel is generally dated to the first century BC, whilst the Gospel of Matthew seems to have been written in the third quarter of the first century AD. Evidently, during this century or two, “monarch of the south” was an accepted term for the Egyptian ruler.
So, whether or not Hatshepsut was the Queen of the South mentioned in the Solomon story, she was very definitely a Queen of the South. She was also, as we shall now see, a Queen of Sheba.
The capital of Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty was the mighty city of Thebes. Modern Egyptologists still use this name, which is derived from the Greeks. Where the Greeks got it has always been a mystery, since the native name of the metropolis, in the hieroglyphs, is read as Wa-se or Wa-she (actually, the glyphs used are that of the scepter -- written as Uas-t by Budge -- and that of a plant and an arm -- written as Shema or Sh-a by Budge: thus Uas-sha or Was-sha). Some time ago Lisa Liel of Israel, an authority on both hieroglyphic and cuneiform scripts, pointed out to me that in her opinion the word should be read as Se-wa or She-wa, since the spellings of hieroglyphic names vary and in addition are often written not precisely as they should be pronounced. In fact, spellings often had more to do with aesthetics or religious sentiment than with strict phonetics. Thus the name Tutankhamen is actually written as Amen-tutankh (since the god’s name had to come first) and the names of the Senwosret pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty appear in the hieroglyphs as Wsr-t-sn. One might also note that various pharaohs whose names are made up of the elements Ka-nefer-re are alternately named Nefer-ka-ra (in actual fact the name appears in the hieroglyphs normally as Ra-nefer-ka). Now, if Thebes’ Egyptian name is really Shewa (Sheba) then a whole host of hitherto mysterious facts become comprehensible. First and foremost, we now know where the Greeks got the word Thebes (Theba). A normal linguistic mutation (lisping) turns “s” or “sh” into “th.” Thus for example the Persians called Assyria, Athuria. Secondly, we know why Josephus called the capital of Ethiopia (i.e. Upper Egypt/Nubia) by the name Saba or Shaba. Finally, we understand the significance of the name of another cult shrine of the god Amon -- the oasis of Siwa.
Thus the two titles by which the Queen of Sheba is known in the biblical story clearly identify her as a queen of Egypt. Yet the connection between Egypt and the terms Queen of Sheba and Queen of the South still however leaves us with the question: Why did the biblical authors prefer these terms to “Egypt”? One possible answer, which may or may not be of value, is that the Jewish chroniclers were keenly aware of the Nubian (ie “Ethiopian”) origin of the Eighteenth Dynasty. To call the Queen of Sheba an Egyptian would thus, perhaps, have been (in their minds at least) a slight inaccuracy. We recall here that a generation or so after the time of Solomon, Israel was attacked by an “Ethiopian” ruler named Zerah. Everyone, even mainstream scholars, agree that this “Ethiopian” king was an Egyptian pharaoh (he is said to have brought an army of Libyans and Ethiopians against Israel), and the present writer agrees with Velikovsky in identifying this man with Amenhotep II -- a man whose Nubian ethnic identity is very clear in the portrayals of him that have survived.
The identification of Hatshepsut with the Queen of Sheba, and of Punt with the land of Israel is, I believe, proven beyond reasonable doubt.
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