Glossary of Terms



Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Pharaoh. A title given to the rulers of Egypt. The Pharaoh was considered a god and owned all the land in Egypt. Three Pharaohs are mentioned by name in the Bible; Neco, 2Kings 23:29-35; Shishak, 2 Chron. 12:2-9 (called king of Egypt); and Hophra, Jer. 44:30. The Pharaohs in the times of Joseph and Moses cannot be identified with certainty. Gen. 41:42; Ex. 2:5; Psa. 135:9; Isa. 30:2; Acts 7:13.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

pharaoh, the Hebrew word for the title held by the king of Egypt. This word was used in the Bible either by itself or attached to the king’s name (e.g., ‘Pharaoh Hophra,’ Jer. 44:30). It comes from two Egyptian words, per and aa. This Egyptian combination originally meant ‘great house,’ which was the name given to the royal palace in the third and the first half of the second millennia b.c. Starting in the reign of Thutmose III (1504-1450 b.c.) in the eighteenth dynasty, per-aa came to refer to the king himself, and from the reign of the twenty-second-dynasty ruler Shoshenq I (945-924 b.c.) on, the term can be found, just as in the Bible, prefixed to the king’s name, e.g., ‘Pharaoh Shoshenq.’

The king of Egypt was considered a god by his subjects. He was the embodiment of the royal falcon god Horus, and from at least the fifth dynasty (ca. 2494-2345 b.c.) on, he was looked upon as the son of the great sun god, Re. When he died, he became the god Osiris and joined the other divinities in the afterworld. Theoretically, all of the land of Egypt and its products belonged to the pharaoh (see Gen. 47:20), and his word was the law of the land. Throughout most of the third millennium b.c., the king ran the government with the aid of members of the royal family. Toward the end of the third millennium and into the early second millennium, more and more governmental authority became distributed among the nobles, and with the rise of the Egyptian empire in the eighteenth dynasty an enormous bureaucracy had to be established to handle the affairs of government. The chief officer in this bureaucracy was the vizier (Egyptian tjaty). The description given in Genesis 41-47 of Joseph’s responsibilities under Pharaoh reflects the duties of a vizier.

Egyptian kings had five names, two of which were written within the elongated oval loops called cartouches by modern scholars. The second of these two names, e.g., Thutmose or Ramesses, is approximately equivalent to our modern family names. The first one was given to him at his enthronement; the throne name for Thutmose III, for example, was Menkheperre, ‘Established is the form of Re [the sun god].’

The king wore one of several crowns. The ‘White Crown’ symbolized his dominance of Upper (southern) Egypt, while the ‘Red Crown’ symbolized his rulership of Lower (northern) Egypt, and the ‘Double Crown’ reflected his control over both Upper and Lower Egypt. The ‘Blue Crown,’ or war crown, was worn by the king when he went into battle. The king is often depicted holding a shepherd’s crook and a flail across his chest as symbols of authority, while in battle scenes he usually holds a mace or a short, curved sword (the scimitar).

At least four, possibly five, pharaohs are mentioned by name in the ot. There are also many other references to unnamed Egyptian kings, a few of whom can be identified with more or less probability. The pharaohs mentioned by name are:

Other, unnamed Egyptian kings who are prominently mentioned in the Bible include:


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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