Pharaoh - Egyptian God-King

Profile of the Pharaoh Who Opposed Moses

Pharaoh and Dead Son
Pharaoh and his Dead Son by James Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

The name of the pharaoh who opposed Moses in the book of Exodus is one of the most hotly debated subjects in Bible scholarship.

Several factors make it hard to identify him with certainty.  Scholars disagree on the actual date of the Hebrews' escape from Egypt, some placing it at 1446 BC and others as late as 1275 BC.  The first date would have been during the reign of Amenhotep II, the second date during the reign of Rameses II.

Since other pharaohs and pagan kings are mentioned by name in the Bible, one has to wonder, why not in Exodus?  A good answer seems to be that Moses wrote that book to glorify God, not an egotistic king who believed himself divine.

The title pharaoh means "great house" in Egyptian.  When they ascended to the throne, each pharaoh had five "great names," but people used this title instead, much as Christians use "LORD" for God the Father and Jesus Christ

Pharaoh held absolute power in Egypt.  Besides being supreme commander of the army and navy, he was also chief justice of the royal court and high priest of the country's religion.  Pharaoh was considered a god by his people, the reincarnation of the Egyptian god Horus.  Pharaoh's likes and dislikes were sacred rulings, the same as the laws of the Egyptian gods.

Such an arrogant mindset guaranteed a clash between Pharaoh and Moses.  

Exodus says God "hardened Pharaoh's heart," but Pharaoh first hardened his own heart by refusing to let the enslaved Israelites go.

 

When Pharaoh refused to repent after the ten plagues, God set him up for judgment that would result in Israel's freedom.  Finally, after Pharaoh's army was swallowed up in the Red Sea, he realized that his own claim to being a god and the power of the Egyptian gods was simply make believe.

Pharaoh's Accomplishments:

The pharaoh who opposed Moses came from a long line of kings who turned Egypt into the most powerful nation on earth.

  The country excelled in medicine, engineering, trade, astronomy, and military force.  Using the Hebrews as slaves, this pharaoh built the store cities of Rameses and Pithom.

Pharaoh's Strengths:

Pharaohs had to be strong rulers to govern such a large empire.  Each king worked to preserve and expand Egypt's territory.

Pharaoh's Weaknesses:

Egypt's entire religion was built on false gods and superstition.  When confronted with the miracles of the God of Moses, Pharaoh closed his mind and heart, refusing to acknowledge Yahweh as the One True God.

Life Lessons:

Like many people today, Pharaoh trusted in himself rather than God, which is the most common form of idolatry.  Deliberately opposing God always ends in ruin, whether in this life or the next.     

Hometown:

Memphis, Egypt.

References to Pharaoh in the Bible:

Pharaohs are mentioned in these books of the Bible:  Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, 1 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Nehemiah, Psalms, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Acts, and Romans.

Occupation:

King and religious ruler of Egypt.

Key Verses:

Exodus 5:2
Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” (NIV)

Exodus 14:28
The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. (NIV)

(Sources: www.experience-ancient-egypt.com, www.biblearchaeology.org, www.ancientworlds.net, The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, editor; Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor.)

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.