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Tahpanhes

TAHPANHES

ta'-pan-hez, ta-pan'-hez (usually in the Old Testament tachpanchec; Septuagint Taphnas; Coptic, Taphnes):

The various spellings of the Hebrew text are fairly well indicated in the King James Version by Tahapanes (Jeremiah 2:16); Tahpanhes (Jeremiah 43:7-9; 44:1; 46:14); Tehaphnehes (Ezekiel 30:18), while an Egyptian queen (XXIst Dynasty) is named Tahpenes (1 Kings 11:19,20). Tahpanhes was a city on the eastern frontier of Lower Egypt, represented today by Tell Defenneh, a desert mound lying some 20 miles Southwest from Pelusium (Biblical "Sin") and a little North of the modern Al-Kantarah ("the bridge"), marking the old caravan route from Egypt to Palestine, Mesopotamia and Assyria. Its Egyptian name is unknown, but it was called Daphnai, by the Greeks, and by the modern Arabs Def'neh. The site is now desolate, but it was a fertile district when watered by the Pelusiac branch of the Nile (compare Isaiah 19:6,7). Tahpanhes was so powerful that Jeremiah can say that it, with Memphis, has "broken the crown" of Israel's head (2:16), and Ezekiel can speak of its "daughters" (colonies or suburban towns), and names it with Heliopolis and Bubastis when the "yokes Septuagint "sceptres") of Egypt" shall be broken by Yahweh (30:18). In a later passage Jeremiah describes the flight of the Jews from their ruined capital to Tahpanhes after the death of Gedaliah (43:1-7) and prophesies that Nebuchadnezzar shall invade Egypt and punish it, establishing his throne upon the brick pavement (the King James Version "kiln") which is at the entry of Pharaoh's royal palace at Tahpanhes (Jeremiah 43:8-11). He calls Tahpanhes as a witness to the desolation of the cities of Judah (Jeremiah 44:1), but prophesies an equal destruction of Tahpanhes and other Egyptian cities (probably occupied by fugitive Jews) when Nebuchadnezzar shall smite them (Jeremiah 46:14).

This invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar was for a long time strenuously denied (e.g. as late as 1889 by Kuenen, Historisch-critisch Onderzoek, 265-318); but since the discovery and publication (1878) of fragments of Nebuchadnezzar's annals in which he affirms his invasion of Egypt in his 37th year (568-567 BC), most scholars have agreed that the predictions of Jeremiah (43:9-13; 44:30) uttered shortly after 586 BC and of Ezekiel (29:19) uttered in 570 BC were fulfilled, "at least in their general sense" (Driver, Authority and Archaeology, 116). Three cuneiform inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar were found by Arabs probably on or near this site. The excavation of Tahpanhes in 1886 by W. M. Flinders Petrie made it "highly probable that the large oblong platform of brickwork close to the palace fort built at this spot by Psammetichus I, circa 664 BC, and now called Kasr Bint el-Yehudi, `the castle of the Jew's daughter,' is identical with the quadrangle `which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes' in which Jeremiah was commanded to bury the stones as a token that Nebuchadnezzar would spread his pavilion over them when he led his army into Egypt" (ibid., 117). Josephus explicitly mentions that Nebuchadnezzar, when he captured Tahpanhes, carried off a Jewish contingent from that city (Ant., IX, vii). Dr. Petrie found that while a small fort had existed here since the Rameside era (compare Herodotus ii.17), yet the town was practically founded by Psammetichus I, continued prosperous for a century or more, but dwindled to a small village in Ptolemaic times. Many sealings of wine jars stamped with the cartouches of Psammetichus I and Amosis were found in situ. Tahpanhes being the nearest Egyptian town to Palestine, Jeremiah and the other Jewish refugees would naturally flee there (43:7). It is not at all unlikely that Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Egypt was partly due to Egypt's favorable reception of these refugees.

The pottery found at Tahpanhes "shows on the whole more evidence of Greeks than Egyptians in the place. .... Especially between 607-587 BC a constant intercourse with the Greek settlers must have been going on and a wider intercourse than even a Greek colony in Palestine would have produced. .... The whole circumstances were such as to give the best possible opportunity for the permeation of Greek words and Greek ideas among the upper classes of the Jewish exiles" (Petrie, Nebesheh and Defenneh, 1888, 50). This was, however, only one of many places where the Greeks and Hebrews met freely in this century (see e.g. Duruy, History of Greece, II, 126-80; Cobern, Daniel, 301-307). A large foreign traffic is shown at Tahpanhes in which no doubt the Jews took part. Discoveries from the 6th century BC included some very finely painted pottery, "full of archaic spirit and beauty," many amulets and much rich jewelry and bronze and iron weapons, a piece of scale armor, thousands of arrow heads, and three seals of a Syrian type. One of the few inscriptions prays the blessing of Neit upon "all beautiful souls." There was also dug up a vast number of minute weights evidently used for weighing precious metals, showing that the manufacture of jewelry was carried on here on a large scale. One of the most pathetic and suggestive "finds" from this century, which witnessed the Babylonian captivity, consisted of certain curious figures of captives, carved in limestone, with their legs bent backward from their knees and their ankles and elbows bound together (Petrie, op. cit., chapters ix-xii).

Camden M. Cobern


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'TAHPANHES'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.