Review of “The Woman Who Would Be King” in
National Geographic (April, 2009), pp. 88–111
The National Geographic, April, 2009, issue has a report about the Egyptian 18th Dynasty queen, Hatshepsut, by writer Chip Brown.[i] I also wrote an article about Hatshepsut in Bible and Spade, Winter 2003 [ii], that was republished in ABR’s electronic newsletter and on their website.[iii] In that article I argued Hatshepsut was the “Pharaoh’s daughter” mentioned in the second chapter of Exodus. [iv]
Quoting Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and head of a team of scientists who investigated the mummy, Mr. Brown points out that Hatshepsut’s recently identified remains, and other evidence, reveal she was a powerful woman who ruled for 21 years. The article outlines her royal birth and dynastic heritage including the fact she was mentioned as “the king’s firstborn daughter” who, as I explained in my article, could well have been the “Pharaoh’s daughter” of Exodus. The term was used in the first part of the 18th Dynasty in which she lived and reserved for women who had a biological link to divine royalty, as did Hatshepsut.
The National Geographic article discusses research, subsequent to my article being published, shedding new light on Hatshepsut. One finding resulted from an intriguing story of how archaeologists discovered a heretofore-unidentified female mummy and established it to be that of Hatshepsut. Using a broken tooth found when scanning of a wooden box labeled with Hatshepsut’s cartouche, A CT scan of the female mummy determined the broken tooth fit neatly into a cavity in the mummy’s mouth and strongly suggests the mummy is, in fact, Hatshepsut’s remains. Hawass and his team have also determined this ancient woman may have died of bone cancer and possibly an abscessed tooth. This conclusion might militate against the commonly accepted theory offered in my article that Thutmosis III had Hatshepsut murdered. However, there is nothing to say that if Hatshepsut was in poor health Thutmosis III could not have “hastened” her death in order to move more quickly and assume the throne he rightfully believed was his.
The National Geographic article further mentions a theory that Thutmosis III defaced images of Queen Hatshepsut all across the country to support the legitimacy of his son, Amenhotep II, as heir to the throne. I find this assumption awkward since Egyptian records do not report that Hatshepsut gave birth to sons who would have been in contention for the throne. In fact, the Bible states that Moses “became her son” (Ex 2:10) which squarely put Moses next in line for the throne when she died. But, when she died, Moses was out of the country tending his Midianite father-in-law’s flock (Ex 3:1)! A fortuitous development since Moses might have been another victim of Thutmosis’ wrath. A second point against the argument Thutmosis was trying to establish Amenhotep’s credentials is that Amenhotep II had no trouble padding his own resume as Egyptian reliefs all over the country reveal. Amenhotep II needed little help in that regard from Dad. I find the traditional view more believable; Thutmosis III had Hatshepsut killed (or killed her himself) in revenge for her usurpation of the throne he rightfully considered his.
Readers of the National Geographic article may also note that author Brown uses a “low chronology” for the 18th Dynasty. Considering his source for most of the material in the article, Brown undoubtedly used dates from the Egyptian Museum (Cairo), an institution that subscribes to the “low chronology” dating system. Those dates differ from the “high chronology” I used. However, the precise dates of individuals including Hatshepsut in the New Kingdom (18th through the 20th Dynasties) are subject to extensive scholarly debate. In my article I refer readers to P. J. Ray’s excellent discussion that analyzes the various dating options. [v] Consequently, there are several chronologies for this period, each dependent upon the publication, authors and politics. Generally, it can be said conservative authors and editors, especially those who subscribe to an “early Exodus” (ca. 1446-5 BC) as do I, use the same dates for the 18th and 19th Dynasties that I employed in my article. [vi] Such dates clearly place the life of Hatshepsut at the same time as a young Moses and fully compliment the biblical date of an “early” exodus.
The National Geographic article is an interesting read and, as would be expected from an article in National Geographic, the photographs by Kenneth Garrett are dazzling.
Recommended Resources for Further Study
[i] Brown, Chip. “The Woman Who Would Be King” in National Geographic (April 2009) pp. 88–111. The article and photographs can also be seen at http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/04/hatshepsut/brown-text
[v] Ray, P. J. “Problems of Middle and Late Bronze Age Chronology: Toward a Solution in Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 42: 1–13.
[vi] A few of the authors and editors who use the same chronology as I include: George Steindorff and Keith C. Seele in When Egypt Ruled the East (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984, pp. 274-5); Charles F. Aling in Egypt and Bible History: From Earliest Times to 1000 B.C. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981); Peter A Clayton in Chronicles of the Pharaohs: The Reign by Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt (Thames & Hudson, 1994); John J. Davis in Moses and the God of Egypt: Studies in Exodus, 2d ed. (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Boos, 1986), see p. 14; Ephraim Stern (ed.) in the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), Vol. 4, p. 1530; William J. Murnane, “New Kingdom (Dyn. 18–20)” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, David Noel Freedman (ed.), (New York: Doubleday, 1992) Vol. 2, pp. 348–353.