MERNEPTAH (Egyptian, Mr-n-Pth; "the beloved of Ptah"), king of Egypt (reigned c. 1224–1214 b.c.e.). Most scholars believed that Merneptah was the pharaoh of the *Exodus until the discovery of the "Israel" stela at Thebes in 1896. This stela, dated to the fifth year of Merneptah's reign, states in the second line that "Israel is laid waste, his seed is not." Since in this part of the stela "Israel" is the only name containing the Egyptian determinitive sign of a people and not of a land, many scholars have presumed that at this time Israel was a nomadic people located somewhere in or near Palestine. However, others think that this may be merely due to a scribal error. Although the major historical texts of Merneptah deal with the repulsion of a Libyan invasion of the Egyptian Delta in the fifth year of his reign, the concluding lines of the "Israel" stela and his use of the epithet "reducer of Gezer" in a Nubian inscription may attest to the crushing of a revolt in Palestine early in his reign. A few other miscellaneous texts of the period (notably Papyrus Anastasi i) show that the Egyptians had a thorough geographic, topographic, and toponymic knowledge of Palestine and Syria, particularly along the main arteries of traffic.
Pritchard, Texts, 376–8, 475–9; A.H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961), 271ff.; R.O. Faulkner, in: cah2, 2 (1966), ch. 23.
[Alan Richard Schulman]