TIRHAKAH (tûr'ha-ka, Heb. tirhāqâh). An Egyptian king, the third and last king of the Twenty-fifth, or Ethiopian, Dynasty. He was the son of Piankhi, whose capital was at Napata, just below the Fourth Cataract. This Nubian kingdom was quite Egyptian in character, and late in the eighth century Piankhi conquered all of Egypt. There was much confusion in the Egyptian political situation (Isa.19.1-Isa.19.25), and Isaiah warned about relying on Egypt. Tirhakah was commander of the army of Shabaka, his uncle and first king of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and he led the Egyptian armies in their initial conflict with Assyria. Isa.37.9 and 2Kgs.19.9 state that Sennacherib, while besieging Judean cities, heard that Tirhakah was coming against him. Sennacherib was successful against Tirhakah, but the loss of his troops forced him back to Assyria (2Kgs.19.35-2Kgs.19.36; Isa.37.36-Isa.37.37). Tirhakah became king about 689 b.c. and for a number of years was not threatened by the Assyrians, but later he was defeated by Esarhaddon and by Ashurbanipal. Being driven south, he did retain rule of Upper Egypt.——CEDV

In comparison of the three sets of documents, the annals of Sennacherib and Tirhakah along with the Biblical record, several involved chronological problems appear. These difficulties have been the subject of considerable discussion and most critical scholars have been quite satisfied to assume that the Biblical account was in error. The solution to the problem has long been thought to be a second campaign of Sennacherib into the western areas of Asia Minor. Another solution would be found if Tirhakah were, in fact, acting under his brother’s name and reign in his encounter with Sennacherib at Eltekeh where a goodly portion of the combined Egyp. and Ethiopian force was annihilated. It is more likely that Sennacherib was victorious at Eltekeh in 700 b.c., and that he moved on Hezekiah in Jerusalem and Tirhakah sometime about 689/688 b.c. The interesting account given by Sennacherib appears in ANET 287ff. The Biblical account is the familiar passage of 2 Kings 19 and 20, while Herodotus spins a fantastic tale about the incidents in Histories II, 141. Sennacherib’s successor and son, Esarhaddon (680-669 b.c.) again conquered Syria and campaigned against Tirhakah. His stela found at Senjirli states, “I fought daily very bloody battles against Tarqu, king of Egypt and Ethiopia, the one cursed by all the great gods” (after A. L. Oppenheim tr. in ANET, 293). After the death of Esarhaddon in Harran, Tirhakah returned to occupy most of his former domain. Ashurbanipal, the son and heir of Esarhaddon, had been previously designated the new king. In his first campaign begun in 667 b.c. he again invaded Egypt and recorded the conditions on the cylinder discovered by Rassam at Kuyunjik. After this pursuit Tirhakah does not seem to have recovered his sovereign position and he fled to his native southland, to his city of Napata where he died and was buried at Nûri. His name appears in the OT only in Isaiah 37:9 and 2 Kings 19:9.


M. F. L. Macadam, The Temples of Kawa, I (1949); J. Vandier, Manuel d’Archéologie Égyptienne, Vol. II (1955) 970, 971; H. von Zeissl, Äthiopen und Assyrer in Ägypten (1955); A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961), 335-351.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ter-ha’-ka, tir-ha’-ka (tirhaqah; Codex Vaticanus in 2 Kings Thara; elsewhere and in Codex Alexandrinus Tharaka; Josephus Tharsikes):

1. Name and Prenomen:

The king of Cush or Ethiopia (basileus Aithiopon), who opposed Sennacherib in Palestine (2Ki 19:9; Isa 37:9). The name of this ruler of Egypt and his native realm appears in hieroglyphics as Taharqa, his prenomen being Nefer-atmu-Ra-chu, "Nefer-atmu-Ra protects." The Assyrian form of Tirhakah is Tarqu or Tarqu’u (inscriptions of Assur-bani-pal).

2. Origin and Length of Reign:

Tirhakah was one of the sons, and apparently the favorite, of Piankhy II. He left his mother, and the city Napata, at the age of 20; and when she followed him northward, she found him crowned as king of Egypt. As he died, after a reign of at least 26 years, in 667 BC, he must have mounted the throne about 693 BC.

3. A Chronological Difficulty

The engagement between Tirhakah’s army and the Assyrians is regarded as having taken place in 701 BC. Petrie explains this date by supposing he acted at first for the reigning Pharaoh, his cousin Shabatoka, Tirhakah not having officially become Pharaoh until the former’s death in 693 BC. There is a general opinion, however, that the Assyrian historians, like those of 2 King and Isaiah, have mingled two campaigns made by Sennacherib, one of them being after the accession of Tirhakah.

4. First Conflict with the Assyrians:

According to the Old Testament account, Sennacherib was besieging Libnah when Tirhakah’s army appeared in Palestine. In Sennacherib’s inscriptions, however, the battle with "the king(s) of Mucuru (Egypt) and the bowmen, chariots, and cavalry of Meruhha" (Meroe or Ethiopia), who had come to Hezekiah’s help, took place in the neighborhood of Eltekeh. He claims to have captured the sons of the king (variant, "kings") of Egypt and the charioteers of the king of Meruhha, and then, having taken Eltekeh, Timna, and Ekron, he brought out Padi from Jerusalem, and resented him on the throne of Ekron. The name of Tirhakah does not occur in his account.

5. Struggles with Esar-haddon and Assur-bani-pal. His Death:

It would seem to have been Egypt’s interference in Palestinian affairs which caused the Assyrian kings to desire the conquest of that distant country. According to the Babylonian Chronicle, the Assyrian army fought in Egypt in the 7th year of Esar-haddon (675 BC), and the country was then apparently quiet until 672 BC, when Esar-haddon marched thither, and after fighting three battles, entered Memphis. "The king" (Tirhakah) fled, but his sons and nephews were made prisoners. In the latter campaign (670 BC) Esar-haddon fell ill and died on the way out, so that the operations were, apparently, completed by his son, Assur-bani-pal (Osnap-par); On hearing of the Assyrian success at Kar-Baniti, Tirhakah, who was at Memphis, fled to Thebes. The 20 petty kings installed in Egypt by Esar-haddon were restored by Assur-bani-pal, but they feared the vengeance of Tirhakah after the Assyrian army had retired, and therefore made an agreement with him. On this news reaching the Assyrian king, he sent his army back to Egypt, and the petty rulers having been abolished, Necho king of Memphis and Sais was set on the throne, with his son, Nabu-sizbanni, as ruler in Athribes. On hearing of the success of the Assyrian armies, Tirhakah fled, and died in Cush (Ethiopia). He was suceeded by TanTamane (Identified with Tanut-Amon), son of Sabaco, whom the Assyrians defeated in the last expedition which they ever made to Egypt (see W. F. Petrie, History of Egypt, III, 294 ff).