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MERNEPTAḤ (Greek, Μενεφθυς):

Egyptian king, the fourth of the 19th dynasty; a prominent figure in the discussions concerning the historicalness and chronology of Israel's exodus from Egypt. He was the son and successor of the famous Rameses II. (Sesostris), who is known to have built the cities enumerated in Ex. i. 11. Consequently, no conclusion seemed more certain than this: Rameses II. was the Pharaoh of the oppression; Merneptaḥ, that of the Exodus, which thus would date from the middle or end of the thirteenth century B.C. The discovery of the famous Israel inscription by Petrie ("Six Temples," plates 13-14) has now made this conclusion very doubtful. Line 27 in this inscription, a song of triumph over all foreign enemies of Egypt (Libyans, Hittites, Canaan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Yenu'ama), closes with the words: "Israel ["Y-s-ir(a)-'a-ra"] is annihilated (pulled out], without any [further] growth; Palestine has become like a widow [i.e., helpless] for Egypt." These words, dating from the fifth year of Merneptaḥ, seem to point most naturally to Israel as settled in Palestine; though they have been construed as an allusion to the twelve tribes still wandering in the desert or still being held under bondage in Goshen.

Merneptaḥ reigned for at least twenty-five years, the first five of which were filled with desperate attacks on Egypt by Libyan tribes and by pirates from Europe and Asia Minor. Palestine and central Syria remained tributary, however. The buildings of the king (at Karnak, etc.) are not considerable. His mummy has recently been found at Thebes, and is now in the Museum at Cairo.

E. G. H. W. M. M.
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