The Libyans in Egypt

The period of Libyan domination in Egypt, the Twenty-second Dynasty, is said by Manetho to have lasted for a hundred and twenty years:(1) “But the accepted chronology,” wrote Sir Alan Gardiner, “finds itself compelled to legislate for fully two centuries. . .” (2)

What is the basis for beginning the time of the Libyan Dynasty of Egypt, that of Shoshenks and Osorkons, as early as -945 or even earlier and for stretching the period for over two hundred years? The end of the period is well established, because ca. -712 the Libyan rule was supplanted by the Ethiopian domination,(3) and the latter stands firmly fixed in time in relation to Biblical and Assyrian sources.

The beginning of the Libyan Dynasty was dated to -945 because a synchronical link was claimed to exist between the Biblical references to Pharaoh Shishak who conquered Palestine in the fifth year after Solomon, and Shoshenk Hedjkheperre of the Libyan dynasty. The placing of Shoshenk Hedjkheperre in the second half of the tenth century did not follow from the Egyptian material, But from the supposed synchronism of Rehoboam, who followed Solomon on the throne in Jerusalem, and Shoshenk Hedjkheperre. In Ages in Chaos I have pointed out that this alleged synchronism is not supported by the available evidence, and I was able to show that the conqueror of Jerusalem and sacker of its temple was not a Libyan king but Thutmose III of the Eighteenth Dynasty. In the Chapter entitled “The Temple in Jerusalem” I compare Thutmose’s depiction of the booty taken by him with the Biblical description of the vessels and furnishings of Solomon’s Temple to arrive at a positive identification of the sacker of Jerusalem’s temple.(4)

Now to bring Shoshenk Hedjkheperre to the head of the Libyan Dynasty is unnecessary; actually he will be shown to belong to the end of the period of Libyan domination in Egypt, and to be the Pharaoh So of the Scriptures.(5)

During the greater part of the eighth century, when the Libyan Dynasty of Osorkons and Shoshenks ruled over Egypt, the kings of this country vied with the kings of Assyria for influence in Palestine and Phoenicia. Elibaal, king of the Phoenician port-city of Byblos, had an Egyptian artist carve a statue of Osorkon I and cut an inscription on its chest: “Statue of Elibaal, king of Gebal (Byblos) made . . .” (6) Since the conventional chronology made Osorkon a contemporary of Asa, who ruled over Israel in the early ninth century before the present era, Elibaal needed also to be placed in the ninth century—nearly a hundred years too early, according to the conclusions reached in this work. Abibaal, another king of Byblos, ordered a statue of Shoshenk Hedjkheperre to be carved and inscribed in his name;(7) for this reason Abibaal was placed in the tenth century as a contemporary of that king. Placing Elibaal and Abibaal in the tenth and and early ninth centuries respectively created problems for epigraphists concerned with the history of the Hebrew script. The inscriptions on the sculptures are in Hebrew characters, and were the subject of much discussion in connection with the development of the Hebrew alphabet. The epigraphists, who must take directives from the archaeologists, tried to reconcile the dates derived from these inscriptions with the characters on the stele of Mesha, the king of Moab, who in the middle of the ninth century revolted against Ahab, king of Israel, and with the ivories from Samaria belonging to the same period—and were rather puzzled. The inscriptions of Elibaal and Abibaal are written in a script that appears to bear the closest resemblance to the eighth-century ostraka from Samaria; yet the conventional historians have them precede the stele of Mesha. Evidently, the order of the Libyan kings on the throne of Egypt is not properly put together, and Elibaal and Abibaal belong to the eighth century, just as do Osorkon I and Shoshenk Hedjkheperre, their contemporaries in Egypt.



  1. W. G. Waddell, Manetho (Loeb Classical Library, 1940).

  2. Egypt of the Pharaohs, (Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 334. Actually, at least 220 years must be allotted to the Twenty-second Dynasty on the conventional time scale.

  3. A. Spalinger, “The Year 712 B.C. and its Implications for Egyptian History,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 10 (1973), pp. 95-101. [For criticism of the monumental evidence traditionally used to assign long reigns to some Libyan kings, see Helen K. Jaquet-Gordon, “The Illusory Year 36 of Osorkon I,” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 53 (1967), pp. 63-68, and R. Caminos, “An Ancient Egyptian Donation Stela,” Centaurus 14 (1969), pp. 42-46. The first author showed that because of a faulty reading by Flinders Petrie of the year formula on a stela of Osorkon I, this king had been wrongly credited with a thirty-six year reign; in fact it is unlikely that he reigned beyond the fifteen years recorded by Manetho—the highest date mentioned on his documents is twelve years.
    In a note Jaquet-Gordon contended that the reign of Osorkon I’s successor on the throne, Takelot I, needs to be similarly reduced, for a stela “on the basis of which a 23-year reign has been meted out to him does not in fact belong to him at all.” She suggested that Takelot only reigned the seven years which are attested on his genuine monuments. The attribution of the stela was definitively clarified by Caminos in an article published two years later, removing an error which “has particularly affected king-lists and discussions of the Libyan period in Egypt.” As a result of the two adjustments the Libyan period becomes shorter by a total of thirty-five years. This did not, however, produce a lowering of the absolute date for the beginnning of the Dynasty, which is still held to be firmly tied to the supposed synchronism between Shoshenk Hedjkheperre and Rehoboam. But the shortening of the individual reigns within the Dynasty is putting the entire scheme under increased strain.

  4. [Cf. E. Danelius, “Did Thutmose III Despoil the Temple in Jerusalem?” Society for Interdisciplinary Studies Review II:3 (1977/78), pp. 64-79, and Velikovsky’s response in Ibid., p. 80.]

  5. See below, section “Pharaoh So.”

  6. P. Montet, Byblos et l’Egypte (Paris, 1928-29), pl. 36-38.

  7. Ibid., p. 53, fig 17 and p. 56, fig. 18. Cf. my Ramses II and his Time (1978), Chapter III: “The Tomb of Ahiram.”