Pha’raoh, the common title of the native kings of Egypt in the Bible, corresponding to P-ra or Ph-ra, “the sun,” of the hieroglyphics. Brugsch, Ebers, and other modern Egyptologists define it to mean “the great house,” which would correspond to our “the Sublime Porte.” As several kings are mentioned only by the title “Pharaoh” in the Bible, it is important to endeavor to discriminate them:
1. The Pharaoh of Abraham. Gen. 12:15.—At the time at which the patriarch went into Egypt, it is generally held that the country, or at least lower Egypt, was ruled by the Shepherd kings, of whom the first and most powerful line was the fifteenth dynasty, the undoubted territories of which would be first entered by one coming from the east. The date at which Abraham visited Egypt was about b.c. 2081, which would accord with the time of Salatis, the head of the fifteenth dynasty, according to our reckoning.
2. The Pharaoh of Joseph. Gen. 41.—One of the Shepherd kings, perhaps Apophis, who belonged to the fifteenth dynasty. He appears to have reigned from Joseph’s appointment (or perhaps somewhat earlier) until Jacob’s death, a period of at least twenty-six years, from about b.c. 1876 to 1850, and to have been the fifth or sixth king of the fifteenth dynasty.
3. The Pharaoh of the oppression. Ex. 1:8.—The first persecutor of the Israelites may be distinguished as the Pharaoh of the oppression, from the second, the Pharaoh of the exodus, especially as he commenced and probably long carried on the persecution. The general view is that he was an Egyptian. One class of Egyptologists think that Amosis (Ahmes), the first sovereign of the eighteenth dynasty, is the Pharaoh of the oppression; but Brugsch and others identify him with Rameses II (the Sesostris of the Greeks), of the nineteenth dynasty. (b.c. 1380–1340.)
4. The Pharaoh of the exodus. Ex. 5:1.—Either Thothmes III, as Wilkinson, or Menephthah son of Rameses II, whom Brugsch thinks was probably the Pharaoh of the exodus, who with his army pursued the Israelites and was overwhelmed in the Red Sea. “The events which form the lamentable close of his rule over Egypt are passed over by the monuments (very naturally) with perfect silence. The dumb tumulus covers the misfortune which was suffered, for the record of these events was inseparably connected with the humiliating confession of a divine visitation, to which a patriotic writer at the court of Pharaoh would hardly have brought his mind.”
Portrait of Menephthah I, the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
5. Pharaoh, father-in-law of Mered.—In the genealogies of the tribe of Judah, mention is made of the daughter of a Pharaoh married to an Israelite—“Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, which Mered took.” 1 Chron. 4:18.
6. Pharaoh, brother-in-law of Hadad the Edomite.—This king gave Hadad, as his wife, the sister of his own wife, Tahpenes. 1 Kings 11:18-20.
7. Pharaoh, father-in-law of Solomon.—The mention that the queen was brought into the city of David while Solomon’s house and the temple and the city wall were building shows that the marriage took place not later than the eleventh year of the king, when the temple was finished, having been commenced in the fourth year. 1 Kings 6:1, 37, 38. This Pharaoh led an expedition into Palestine. 1 Kings 9:16.
8. Pharaoh, the opponent of Sennacherib.—This Pharaoh, Isa. 36:6, can only be the Sethos whom Herodotus mentions as the opponent of Sennacherib, and who may reasonably be supposed to be the Zet of Manetho.
9. Pharaoh-necho.—The first mention in the Bible of a proper name with the title Pharaoh is the case of Pharaoh-necho, who is also called Necho simply. This king was of the Saïte twenty-sixth dynasty, of which Manetho makes him either the fifth or the sixth ruler. Herodotus calls him Nekos, and assigns to him a reign of sixteen years, which is confirmed by the monuments. He seems to have been an enterprising king, ,as he is related to have attempted to complete the canal connecting the Red Sea with the Nile, and to have sent an expedition of Phœnicians to circumnavigate Africa, which was successfully accomplished. At the commencement of his reign, b.c. 610, he made war against the king of Assyria, and, being encountered on his way by Josiah, defeated and slew the king of Judah at Megiddo. 2 Kings 23:29, 30; 2 Chron. 35:20-24. Necho seems to have soon returned to Egypt. Perhaps he was on his way thither when he deposed Jehoahaz. The army was probably posted at Carchemish, and was there defeated by Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth year of Necho, b.c. 607, that king not being, as it seems, then at its head. Jer. 46:1, 2, 6, 10. This battle led to the loss of all the Asiatic dominions of Egypt. 2 Kings 24:7.
10. Pharaoh-hophra.—The next king of Egypt mentioned in the Bible is Pharaoh-hophra, the second successor of Necho, from whom he was separated by the six-years reign of Psammetichus II. He came to the throne about b.c. 589, and ruled nineteen years. Herodotus, who calls him Apries, makes him son of Psammetichus II, whom he calls Psammis, and great-grandson of Psammetichus I. In the Bible it is related that Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, was aided by a Pharaoh against Nebuchadnezzar, in fulfillment of a treaty, and that an army came out of Egypt, so that the Chaldeans were obliged to raise the siege of Jerusalem. The city was first besieged in the ninth year of Zedekiah, b.c. 590, and was captured in his eleventh year, b.c. 588. It was evidently continuously invested for a length of time before it was taken, so that it is most probable that Pharaoh’s expedition took place during 590 or 589. The Egyptian army returned without effecting its purpose. Jer. 27:5-8; Ezek. 17:11-18; comp. 2 Kings 25:1-4. No subsequent Pharaoh is mentioned in Scripture, but there are predictions doubtless referring to the misfortunes of later princes until the second Persian conquest, when the prophecy, “There shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt,” Ezek. 30:13, was fulfilled. (In the summer of 1881 a large number of the mummies of the Pharaohs were found in a tomb near Thebes—among them Raskenen, of the seventeenth dynasty, Ahmes I, founder of the eighteenth dynasty, Thothmes I, II, and III, and Rameses I. It was first thought that Rameses II, of the nineteenth dynasty, was there, but this was found to be a mistake. A group of coffins belonging to the twenty-first dynasty has been found, and it is probable that we will learn not a little about the early Pharaohs, especially from the inscriptions on their shrouds.—Ed.)