Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Thutmose III, Shishak, and Menelik
The Ethiopians assert that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba became lovers, from which union was born Menelik, the ancestor of all Ethiopia’s monarchs. Crucially, we are further informed, after reaching manhood Menelik returned to Israel to rob the Temple, and, upon stealing the holy Ark of the Covenant by a ruse, fled to Ethiopia, pursued by his father Solomon as far as the borders of Egypt. To this day, the Ethiopians claim that the lost Ark remains in their possession.
by Emmet Sweeney
Velikovsky’s identification of the Queen of Sheba with Hatshepsut of Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty meant that Hatshepsut’s successor on the Egyptian throne, Thutmose III, had to be identified with Shishak, the ruler of Egypt who, according to the Book of Kings, plundered the Temple of Jerusalem shortly after Solomon’s death. Shishak also seemed to be identifiable with Sesostris (or Sesoosis), the great warrior-pharaoh who, according to Greek writers such as Herodotus and Diodorus, conquered much of Asia.
In Ages in Chaos Velikovsky devoted an entire chapter to the identification of Thutmose III with Shishak/Sesostris, and the arguments he presented were both extensive and ingenious. He found, for example, that the land conquered by Thutmose III in his first year, namely Retjenu, was precisely the region conquered by Shishak. The King of Kadesh, Velikovsky argued, must have been the King of Jerusalem, and he noted that throughout the Old Testament Jerusalem is repeatedly described as “Kadesh” (the Holy). Even today, it bears the same name in Arabic, Al Kuds.
Velikovsky also indicated that the identification of Hatshepsut with the Queen of Sheba, as well as Thutmose III with Shishak, was strongly supported by the traditions of Ethiopia. He noted, for example, that the Ethiopians gave the name Makeda to the Queen of Sheba, a word strikingly close to Hatshepsut’s throne-name Makera, and he remarked on the fact that, according to the same tradition, the Queen of Sheba’s son by Solomon, Menelik, had returned to Jerusalem many years later and stolen the Ark of the Covenant from the Temple.
Notwithstanding the similarity between the names Makera and Makeda, I was for a long time rather unimpressed by this part of Velikovsky’s argument. The land we now call Ethiopia was not, of course, the same country as that which anciently bore the name. In biblical times “Ethiopia” was the name given to Nubia, the region corresponding to the far south of modern Egypt and the northern half of modern Sudan. Modern Ethiopia, on the other hand, centred on the highlands of Abyssinia, is a region which owes much of its cultural heritage to southern Arabia. Furthermore, the names Makeda and Makera, though similar, could well have been only coincidentally so. They are not so close as to force an identification. How, I thought, could the “r” in one name have been replaced by a “d” in another?
That was before. I now realize however that the traditions of Ethiopia are crucial to the whole Queen of Sheba mystery.
The more I have explored the origins of modern Ethiopia, the more I have come to realize that the country does indeed owe much of its cultural inheritance to ancient Nubia and, by implication, to ancient Egypt. The later Nubian kingdom, from the fifth century BC onwards, had its capital at Meroe, near the Fourth Cataract. This is just over 570 miles, as the crow flies, from Lake Tana, in the Abyssinian Highlands; and the southern borders of this later Nubian realm were substantially closer. It is known that even before the beginning of the Christian age many Egyptian cultural and religious ideas had reached the country. This movement was only strengthened with the advent of Christianity, and from the second century AD, Abyssinia became a Christian land with strong links to the Coptic Church of Egypt.
Bearing the latter point in mind, it is surely significant that the Queen of Sheba occupies a central position in the traditions of the Abyssinians. Indeed, in a very real sense the Queen of the South is regarded as the founding matriarch of the nation; the ancestress of all the nation’s royal dynasties. In the words of Budge, the Abyssinians “never doubted that Solomon was the father of the son of the Queen of Sheba. It followed as a matter of course that the male descendants of this son were the lawful kings of Abyssinia, and as Solomon was an ancestor of Christ they were kinsmen of our Lord, and they claimed to reign by divine right.” (Kebra Nagast, Budge’s trans. p. X)
But whilst the Abyssinians identified and celebrated the Queen of Sheba as ruler of Ethiopia, they were equally unequivocal in identifying her as a queen of Egypt; and the traditions which do so are of a type that could not, as we shall see, have been copied from biblical or other sources.
The great repository of Abyssinian legend and lore is a volume named the Kebra Nagast, the Book of the Glory of Kings. The existing version is said to be a translation from an Arabic text, which in turn was translated from a Coptic (late Egyptian) one. It contains quotation from the Gospels, and therefore cannot predate the rise of Christianity. According to Budge, it is “a great storehouse of legends and traditions, some historical and some of a purely folklore character, derived from the Old Testament and later Rabbinic writings, and from Egyptian (both pagan and Christian), Arabic and Ethiopian sources. Of the early history of the compilation and its maker, and of its subsequent editors we know nothing, but the principal groundwork of its earliest form was the traditions that were current in Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt during the first four centuries of the Christian era.” (Ibid. pp. XV-XVI)
The Kebra Nagast asserts that whilst in Jerusalem the Queen of Sheba became Solomon’s lover, and returned to her own country pregnant. From this liaison was born Menelik, reputedly the ancestor of all the kings of Ethiopia. We are also told that when she returned to her country, “her officials who had remained there brought gifts to their mistress, and made obeisance to her, and did homage to her, and all the borders of the country rejoiced in her coming..., And she ordered her kingdom aright, and none disobeyed her command; for she loved wisdom and God strengthened her kingdom.” Velikovsky noted that this passage “resembles the story of the festival for the officials and for the whole rejoicing land, arranged by Queen Hatshepsut after her return from her journey; so do the words ‘she ordered her kingdom aright’ and that she ‘loved wisdom.’” (Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos (1952) p. 136) Yet for all that, “there is nothing so extraordinary in these things as to compel the conclusion that Ethiopian tradition about the Queen of the South knows more than the Scripture narrative.” Should the Ethiopian tradition however disclose some fact or facts not contained in the Scriptures, but which agreed with what we know of Hatshepsut, then its claim to originality would be greatly strengthened.
Such a fact exists. In the Abyssinian tradition, the Queen of Sheba is called Makeda, whilst the royal name of Hatshepsut, mentioned throughout the Punt reliefs, is Makera. The similarity between these two words is indeed close, though, for a long time I was inclined to go along with Velikovsky’s critics, who asserted that it was not sufficiently close to force an identification. How could the “r”, I thought, have been changed into a “d”? I now know that the mutation is easily explained if we remember that the Kebra Nagast is the translation of a translation; passages in Egyptian (Coptic) and Hebrew being translated first into Arabic and then -- after being added to and rewritten many times -- into Abyssinian. A single scribal error (and there must have been many) would have been sufficient to corrupt the original form of Makera’s name.
Velikovsky surmised that if the name was not handed down by an uninterrupted tradition then it might have been disclosed by an Egyptian of early Christian times who, having seen the Punt texts at Deir el Bahri, and being able to read them, identified Hatshepsut with the Queen of Sheba. There may in any case have been a tradition current in Egypt that the Punt reliefs represented a voyage to Jerusalem.
The Kebra Nagast’s value to our investigation is not exhausted with this disclosure, spectacular though it might be. We find there another tradition of equal or perhaps even greater significance. As we saw, the Ethiopians assert that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba became lovers, from which union was born Menelik, the ancestor of all Ethiopia’s monarchs. Crucially, we are further informed, after reaching manhood Menelik returned to Israel to rob the Temple, and, upon stealing the holy Ark of the Covenant by a ruse, fled to Ethiopia, pursued by his father Solomon as far as the borders of Egypt. To this day, the Ethiopians claim that the lost Ark remains in their possession.
Now we know that, after the death of Solomon, the Temple in Jerusalem was indeed plundered, and that all of its treasures, including presumably the Ark of the Covenant, were carried off to Egypt. Biblical tradition is very specific that the culprit was a ruler of Egypt, a pharaoh, to whom the name Shishak is given. That Ethiopian tradition should also assert that the king who stole the Ark was a son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba makes it very clear that the Queen was regarded by the Ethiopians as an Egyptian monarch.
The real Shishak, the plunderer of Solomon’s Temple, was Thutmose III, not the son of Hatshepsut, but the stepson and nephew. He did not rule Abyssinia, but he did rule ancient Ethiopia, which was Nubia as far south as the Third Cataract. Clearly then Menelik must, in some way or other, represent the historical Thutmose III; and there is some evidence at least to suggest that the name Menelik can be traced to the pharaoh. Given the notorious interchangeability of the letters “l” and “r”, Menelik may originally have been Menerik, and this sounds like a contracted and slightly corrupted version of Thutmose III’s throne-name, Menkheperre; the name by which he is most frequently known on inscriptions and correspondences. It is perhaps worth pointing out too that by early Christian times Egyptian pronunciations had changed dramatically from pharaohnic usage. Thus Amenhotep was, even by the third century BC, pronounced something like “Amenophe,” with the “p” softened and the syllable “hot” unpronounced. It is not impossible therefore that by Christian times, when the Coptic traditions which found their way into the Kebra Nagast were being compiled, the name Menkheperre could have been pronounced something like Menkere. There is no great distance between Menelik/Menerik and Menkere.
We know, of course, that Thutmose III/Menkheperre attacked Palestine in his first year of rule and that he plundered the fabulously wealthy temple he found in the region’s capital.
Emmet Sweeney’s book Empire of Thebes: Ages in Chaos Revisited (2006), is published by Algora.
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