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TIRHAKAH (Heb. תִּרְהָקָה), the "king of *Cush" who, according to the Bible (11 Kings 19:9), took part in *Hezekiah's revolt against Sennacherib. These references to Tirhakah (690/89–664 b.c.e.), the fourth pharaoh of the Twenty-Fifth (Ethiopian) Dynasty, appear to be an anachronism. According to a careful interpretation of the problematical biblical passages and Assyrian inscriptions, Hezekiah's uprising started in 703 b.c.e. Sennacherib undertook a successful punitive expedition against Judah's Philistine (ii Kings 18:13ff.) and Egyptian allies in 701, and then besieged all the fortified cities of Judah, ultimately forcing Hezekiah to pay a heavy indemnity. The appearance of "Tirhakah" at the head of another Egyptian contingent only served to cause Jerusalem to be immediately besieged a second time. Although the siege was interrupted because of a plague in the Assyrian camp, Sennacherib, nevertheless, again made Hezekiah and Judah his vassals. In the light of the above-mentioned dates the pharaoh who thus unsuccessfully assisted Hezekiah can only have been Tirhakah's brother and predecessor Shebitku, the Sithos of Herodotus' account of Sennacherib's expedition (2:141). The Bible's references "Tirhakah, king of Cush" however, are not inappropriate, since the citations symbolize the historical role of the entire Ethiopian Dynasty. It was the fate of these kings to make a prolonged but unsuccessful stand against Assyria's advance toward the Mediterranean, and it was Tirhakah who suffered the final defeat 30 years later. Egypt was invaded by Esarhaddon in 671 and by Ashurbanipal in 667; Tirhakah had to withdraw into exile in Nubia, and Thebes was destroyed in 664. Typically, Egyptian historical consciousness refused to recognize the Assyrian invasion; Tirhakah was still considered king of Lower Egypt in 666, and later was listed, like Sesostris, among Strabo's heroes of antiquity (1:3, 21; 2:1, 6). While recognizing the weakness of Egypt vis-à-vis Assyria (cf. the warnings of Isa. 30:1–5; 31:1–3), the Bible also reflects Egypt's gallantry when it telescopes Tirhakah, mythical defender of Egypt, and Shebitku, King Hezekiah's ally.


G. Goossens, in: Chronique d'Egypte, 43–44 (1947), 239–44; M.F.L. Macadam, The Temples of Kawa, 1 (1949); H.H. Rowley, in: bjrl, 44 (1962), 395–431.

[Irene Grumach]

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