Tahpanhes

TAHPANHES, TAHAPANES (tăp'a-nēz, tă-hăp'a-nēz, Heb. tahpanhēs). A fortress city at the eastern edge of the Nile Delta, on the eastern border of Egypt, on an old caravan road to Palestine and beyond. Early it became a Greek settlement, the Greeks naming it Daphnae, perpetuated in the modern Tell Defenneh. Jeremiah saw it as powerful enough to break “the crown of Judah.” Jews fled here after the fall of Jerusalem (Jer.2.16; Jer.43.1-Jer.43.7). Here Jeremiah prophesied its destruction (Jer.43.8-Jer.43.11; Jer.44.1; Jer.46.14); Ezekiel also (Jer.30.18). During their century it was a city of trade and the manufacture of pottery and jewelry. Excavations have uncovered ruins of this period.


TAHPANHES tä’ pə nēz (תְּחַפְנְחֵס, Ezek 30:18; LXX Ταφνάς) also TAHAPANES te hăp’ e nĭz, Jer 2:16, TAPHNEZ, tăf’ nēz KJV (Judg 1:9). An Egyp. town.

Tahpanhes is named with Memphis (KJV Noph, Jer 2:16) as an opponent of Israel and, with Migdol, as a place to which Jewish exiles fled after the murder of Gedaliah following the sack of Judah by the Babylonians in 587 b.c., when Jeremiah was reluctantly compelled to join them (Jer 44:1). Tahpanhes may be the Heb. transliteration of Tḥpnḥs a place mentioned in a Phoen. papyrus letter of the 6th cent. b.c. from Egypt. This text refers to “Baal-zephon and the gods of Tahpanhes,” from which it is thought that the city must have earlier borne the name of Baalzephon, an Israelite staging post during the Exodus (Exod 14:2). The name may represent an Egyp. t’ḥ(rnt)-p’nḥsy, “palace of the Nubian,” perhaps an indication of its foundation during the reign of Tirhakah (2 Kings 19:9). The Gr. form of the name supports identification with Daphnai, on the Pelusiac branch of the Nile River, which Herodotus (ii. 30, 107) says was garrisoned by Gr. mercenaries set there by Psammetichus during the twenty-sixth dynasty (664-610 b.c.) to repel the incursions of Arabians and other Asiatics.

Tahpanhes is commonly located at Tell Defneh (Defenneh), twenty-seven m. SSW of Port Said (nine m. W of El-Qanṭara). In 1886 Flinders Petrie partially excavated Qasr bint al-Yahudi (Mansion of the Jew’s daughter), finding both Gr. pottery and a fortress of Psammetichus I, outside which lay a Ramesside period brick platform which might be the “brick pavement” of the “house of pharaoh in Tahpanhes,” where Jeremiah hid stones to mark the place where he predicted that the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar II would erect his throne (Jer 43:9). A fragmentary Neo-Babylonian text of the thirty-seventh year of Nebuchadrezzar outlines operations against Egypt and mentions the Egyp. king Amasis and a Gr. garrison (Putu-Iaman). However, the cylinders of Nebuchadrezzar said to have been found at Tell Defneh, now in the Cairo Museum, are imported copies of his standard building inscrs. from Babylon itself.

Bibliography

F. Petrie, Tanis II; Nebesheh (AM) and Defenneh (Tahpanhes) (1888), 47-96; A. Dupont-Sommer, PEQ LXXXI (1949), 52-57; W. F. Albright, “Baal-Zephon,” Festschrift Alfred Bertholet (1950), 13, 14.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


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