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RAAMSES, RAMESES (city) Ră’ ăm sez, Răm’ ə sez (רַעְמְסֵ֑ס; LXX ̔Ραμεσσης, Rhamessēs; from Egyp. [Pr-] R’mss, i.e. estate of King Ramses). Residence city of the nineteenth and twentieth Egyp. dynasties in the NE Delta, where the Hebrews labored and from where they set forth on the Exodus.

The site of Egyp. Pi-Ramessē (original of Heb. Raamses) has been much debated in Egyptology: at Tanis (Heb. Zoan, q.v.) S of Lake Menzaleh, or near Qantir c. seventeen m. further to SSW. Tanis was advocated by its excavator Montet and by Gardiner, mainly on the sheer quantity of monuments of Ramses II found there (blocks, columns, statues, stelae, obelisks, from temples)—if this was not Pi-Ramessē, what was it called in that period? The case for Qantir was proposed by Hamza on the basis of vineyard ostraca found there and naming Pi-Ramessē. Subsequently, Habachi assembled from the Qantir district a whole series of doorways from houses of officials of Ramses II and III, and showed that the “Horbeit stelae” actually originated from Qantir, there witnessing to a garrison and cult of Ramses II. Then S. Adam excavated the remains of a colossus of Ramses II, appropriate to a major temple there. Thus, like Tanis, Qantir has Ramesside remains of considerable importance, but (unlike Tanis) has never been fully excavated.

Several factors clearly favor Qantir as the probable site of Raamses. First, nothing of Ramesside (or earlier) date at Tanis was found in situ—all was reused by later kings (Habachi, orally; van Seters, Hyksos, 129-131). Neither palaces nor tombs were found; contrast Qantir, whence came a tiled palace-doorway of Sethos I (now in the Louvre), and similar tiles of Ramses II. Second, Pi-Ramessē was situated on the Waters of Ra, i.e., the Bubastite-Pelusiac (old eastern) arm of the Nile, navigable from the sea—true of Qantir in antiquity, but not of Tanis. Third, the fertility of the Raamses region indicated in contemporary papyri (e.g., ANET, 471) agrees well with Qantir but not with the salt flats of Tanis. Fourth, Pi-Ramessē (410) and Tanis (417) occur as separate entities in the Onomasticon list (Gardiner, Ancient Egyptian Onomastica, II [1947], 171*ff., 199*ff.), which does not favor identifying them. Fifth, Raamses was at the head of the main route to Pal. via Sile (near modern Qantara), fitting Qantir but not Tanis. Sixth, Qantir as Raamses agrees better with other requirements of the route of the Exodus, e.g. for Succoth (see Exodus).


Qantir finds, M. Hamza, Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte, XXX (1930), 31-68; L. Habachi, ibid., LII (1954), 443-447, 500, 510-514, 545-559; S. Adam, ibid., LV (1958), 318-324; J. van Seters, The Hyksos (1966), 127-151, best recent discussion; references also; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (1966), 58, 59, nn. 5, 7-9.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ra-am’-sez, ram’-e-sez (Ex 1:11), (Ge 47:11; Ex 12:37; Nu 33:3,5) (ra`mecec, ra`amcec; Rhamesse; Egyptian Ra-messu, "Ra created him" (or "it")):

1. The Meaning of "Store-Cities":

One of the two "settlements" (mickenoth) built, or "built up," by the Hebrews for the Pharaoh, the other being Pithom, to which the Septuagint adds a third, namely, "On which is Heliopolis," a town near Cairo (Ex 1:11). The Hebrew term mickenoth comes from a root meaning "to settle down" (Arabic sakan, "settlement," Assyrian sakanu or shakanu, "to set"), but it is rendered "strong cities" in Septuagint, "treasure cities" in the King James Version, and (incorrectly) "store-cities" in the Revised Version: The "land of Rameses," where Jacob and his sons settled, was apparently the "field of Zoan" (see Zoan), thus lying in the Delta East of the Bubastic branch of the Nile.

2. The Meaning of the Name:

It is often assumed that no city called Rameses would have existed before the time of Rameses II, or the 14th century BC, though even before Rameses I the name occurs as that of a brother of Horemhib under the XVIIIth Dynasty. The usual translation "Child of Ra" is grammatically incorrect in Egyptian and as Ra was an ancient name for the "sun" it seems possible that a town may have borne the title "Ra created it" very early. The mention of Rameses in Ge (47:11) is often regarded as an anachronism, since no scholar has supposed that Jacob lived as late as the time of Rameses II. This would equally apply to the other notices, and at most would serve to mark the age of the passages in the Pentateuch where Rameses is mentioned, but even this cannot be thought to be proved (see Exodus). According to De Rouge (see Pierret, Vocab. Hieroglyph., 1875, 143) there were at least three towns in Lower Egypt that bore the name Pa Rames-ses ("city of Rameses"); but Brugsch supposes that the place mentioned in the Old Testament was Zoan, to which Rameses II gave this name when making it his capital in the Delta. Dr. Budge takes the same view, while Dr. Naville and others suppose that the site of Raamses has still to be found.

3. Situation:

There appears to have been no certain tradition preserving the site, for though Silvia (about 385 AD) was told that it lay 4 miles from the town of Arabia (see Goshen), she found no traces of such a place. Brugsch ("A New City of Rameses, 1876," Aegyptische Zeitschrift, 69) places one such city in the southern part of Memphis itself. Goodwin (Rec. of Past, Old Series, VI, 11) gives an Egyptian letter describing the "city of Rameses-Miamun," which appears to be Zoan, since it was on the seacoast. It was a very prosperous city when this letter was written, and a pa-khennu or "palace city." It had canals full of fish, lakes swarming with birds, fields of lentils, melons, wheat, onions and sesame, gardens of vines, almonds and figs. Ships entered its harbor; the lotus and papyrus grew in its waters. The inhabitants greeted Rameses II with garlands of flowers. Besides wine and mead, of the "conqueror’s city," beer was brought to the harbor from the Kati (in Cilicia), and oil from the "Lake Sagabi." There is no reason to suppose that Zoan was less prosperous in the early Hyksos age, when the Hebrews dwelt in its plain, whatever be the conclusion as to the date when the city Rameses received that name. The description above given agrees with the Old Testament account of the possession given by Joseph to his family "in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses" (Ge 47:11).

See also

  • Rameses