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PITHOM (; LXX. ΠειΘώ, ΠιΘώ μ):

One of the cities which, according to Ex. i. 11, was built for the Pharaoh of the oppression by the forced labor of the Israelites. The other city was Raamses; and the Septuagint adds a third, "On, which is Heliopolis." The meaning of the term , rendered in the Authorized Version "treasure cities" and in the Revised Version "store cities," is not definitely known. The Septuagint renders πόλεις ὀχυραί "strong [or "fortified"] cities." The same term is used of cities of Solomon in I Kings ix. 19 (comp. also II Chron. xvi. 4). The location of Pithom was a subject of much conjecture and debate until its site was discovered by E. Naville in the spring of 1883. Herodotus (ii. 158) says that the canal made by Necho to connect the Red Sea with the Nile "passes Patumos, a city in the Arabian nome." This district of Arabia was the twentieth nome of Lower Egypt, and its capital was Goshen (Egyptian, "Ḳosen").

The site of Pithom, as identified by Naville, is to the east of the Wady Tumilat, south-west of Ismailia. Here was formerly a group of granite statues representing Rameses II., standing between two gods; and from this it had been inferred that this was the city of Raamses mentioned in Ex. i. 11. The excavations carried on by Naville for the Egypt Exploration Fund disclosed a city wall, a ruined temple, and the remains of a series of brick buildings with very thick walls and consisting of rectangular chambers of various sizes, opening only at the top and without any communication with one another. These are supposed to have been the granaries or store-chambers, from which, possibly, the army may have been supplied when about to set out upon expeditions northward or eastward. The city stood in the eighth nome, adjoining that of Arabia; so that the statement of Herodotus is not exactly correct. It was known in the Greek period as Heroopolis or Heroonpolis. The Egyptian name, "Pithom" (Pi-Tum or Pa-Tum), means "house of Tum" [or "Atum,"], i.e., the sun-god of Heliopolis; and the Greek word "Hero" is probably a translation of "Atum."

The discovery of the ruins of Pithom confirms the Biblical statement and points to Rameses II. as the Pharaoh that oppressed Israel. The name of the city Pi-Tum is first found on Egyptian monuments of the nineteenth dynasty. Important evidence is thus afforded of the date of the Exodus, which must have taken place toward the end of the nineteenth dynasty or in the beginning of the twentieth dynasty.

In the Middle Ages Fayum was called "Pithom" by the Jews, so that the Gaon Saadia is termed "Al-Fayyumi" in Arabic (Hebr. "Ha-Pitomi"), and he himself translates "Pithom" in Ex. i. 11 by "Al Fayyum."

Bibliography:
  • Naville, The Store City of Pithom, etc., in Memoir of Egypt Exploration Fund, 1885;
  • Sayce, Higher Criticism and the Monuments, 1894, pp. 239 et seq., 250 et seq.;
  • Driver, in Hogarth's Authority and Archœology, 1899, pp. 54 et seq., 61, 68.
E. C. J. F. McL.
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