PITHOM (pī'thŏm, Heb. pithōm). A city in Egypt in the valley between the Nile and Lake Timsah; perhaps Tell er-Retabah; dedicated to the sun-god Atum; with Rameses to the north, one of the store cities built by the slave labor of the Israelites (
PITHOM pĭ’ thəm (פִּתֹ֖ם; LXX Πειθω, and ̔Ηρωωνπολις). Store-city built by the Hebrews before the Exodus; mentioned only in
Although Pithom is securely attested as a proper name in Egyp. sources from the 13th cent. b.c. onward, yet its precise identification and localization present some problems, esp. in the relation between Pithom and Tjeku (Succoth).
The phonetic equation of Heb. Succoth (Skt) with Egyp. Tjeku (Ṯkw) presents no special difficulty. Hebrew sukkot, “booths,” is but a slight adaptation of the Egyp. Tjeku. Of the location of Tjeku, there can be no serious doubt. In the Wadi Tumilat in the SE Delta, the ancient site of Tell el Maskhuta has produced a long series of monuments that repeatedly mention Tjeku. Furthermore, they most frequently do so in connection with the god Atum or Tum as the god of Tjeku. Tjeku indubitably contained a temple of that deity, from which have come various monuments of Ramses II and later times. A statue of the priest ’Aak (Naville, Pithom, plate 4A) entitles him Overseer of Prophets of Atum and
The term Per-Atum is used in the passage last cited and also by an official of Osorkon II on his statue from Tell el Maskhuta (Naville, Pithom, plate 4). Insofar as Per-Atum or Pi-Tum is the Egyp. equivalent of Heb. Pithom, Tjeku-Succoth has been advocated as the site of Biblical Pithom—Tjeku would be the ordinary name of the town, fort, and immediate neighborhood, whereas Per-Atum was its religious name. A Lat. inscr. Lo(cus) Eropolis, Ero castra would suggest that classical Hero(on)polis was at Tell el Maskhuta, supporting the latter’s identity with Pithom via the LXX and Coptic equation of Pithom and Heroonpolis.
However, some doubt persists over this neat solution. Some nine m. W of Tell el Maskhuta, the site of Tell er Rotab (or Retabeh) has also yielded monuments of Ramses II and traces of a temple of Atum (see Petrie, Hyksos and Israelite Cities , plates 29-31). With Gardiner, this too could be a Per-Atum and perhaps Biblical Pithom. Late sources might favor this, and a second Lat. inscr. from Tell el Maskhuta could be taken as a milestone to be read “from Ero (on the way) to Clysma, nine miles,” i.e., that Ero (Pithom) was already nine m. W of Tell el Maskhuta, on the road to Clysma (Suez); (cf. Gardiner, JEA, V , 269). Furthermore, a more westerly location for Pithom would bring it closer to the land of Goshen where the Hebrews were principally domiciled. Thus, the Pithom of
E. Naville, The Store City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus4 (1903); A. H. Gardiner, JEA, V (1918), 261-269; Naville and Gardiner, JEA, X (1924), 32-36, 95, 96; D. B. Redford, VT, XIII (1963), 403-408; H. W. Helck, VT, XV (1965), 35-40.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(pithom; Peitho (
1. Meaning of Name:
Champollion (Gesenius, Lexicon, under the word) considered this name to mean "a narrow place" in Coptic, but it is generally explained to be the Egyptian Pa-tum, or "city of the setting sun." It was one of the cities built by the Hebrews (see Raamses), and according to Wessel was the Thoum of the Antonine Itinerary.
Brugsch (History of Egypt, 1879, II, 343) says that it was identical with "Heracleopolis Parva, the capital of the Sethroitic nome in the age of the Greeks and Romans .... half-way on the great road from Pelusium to Tanis (Zoan), and this indication given on the authority of the itineraries furnishes the sole means of fixing its position." This is, however, disputed. Tum was worshipped at Thebes, at Zoan, and probably at Bubastis, while Heliopolis (Brugsch, Geogr., I, 254) was also called Pa-tum.
There were apparently several places of the name; and Herodotus (ii.158) says that the Canal of Darius began a little above Bubastis, "near the Arabian city Patournos," and reached the Red Sea.
(1) Dr. Naville’s Theory.
In 1885 Dr. E. Naville discovered a Roman milestone of Maximian and Severus, proving that the site of Heroopolis was at Tell el MachuTah ("the walled mound") in Wady Tumeilat. The modern name he gives as Tell el Maskhutah, which was not that heard by the present writer in 1882. This identification had long been supposed probable. Excavations at the site laid bare strong walls and texts showing the worship of Tum. None was found to be older than the time of Rameses II--who, however, is well known to have defaced older inscriptions, and to have substituted his own name for that of earlier builders. A statue of later date, bearing the title "Recorder of Pithom," was also found at this same site. Dr. Naville concluded that this city must be the Succoth). Brugsch, on the other hand, says that the old name of Heropolis was Qes (see Goshen), which recalls the identification of the Septuagint (
(2) Patoumos of Herodotus.
These places seem to have been on the eastern border of Egypt, but may have been close to the Bitter Lakes or farther North (see Succoth), whereas Tell el MachuTah is about 12 miles West of Ism’ailieh, and of Lake Timsah. The definition of the Pithom thus noticed as being that of Minepthah suggests that there was more than one place so called, and the Patoumos of Herodotus seems to have been about 30 miles farther West (near Zagazig and Bubastis) than the site of Heropolis, which the Septuagint indentifies with Goshen and not with Pithom. The latter is not noticed as on the route of the Exodus, and is not identified in the Old Testament with Succoth. In the present state of our knowledge of Egyptian topography, the popular impression that the Exodus must have happened in the time of Minepthah, because Pithom was at Heropolis and was not built till the time of Rameses II, must be regarded as very hazardous. See Exodus. The Patoumos of Herodotus may well have been the site, and may still be discovered near the head of Wady Tumeildt or near Bubastis.