"His Majesty, Herself - Queen Hatshepsut"
1490 - 1468 B.C.
This daughter of Pharaoh Thutmose I ruled Egypt for 21 yearsby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
What do you think of when you hear the words, Ancient Egypt. Do you think of the pyramids? Or do you think of the coolness of a pharaoh's palace, of exotic foods and paintings? Perhaps you think of famous pharaohs, like King Tutankhamun (a.k.a. King Tut), Ramses the Great, or others. But if you think of famous queens, sadly, the person most people think of is the infamous Cleopatra. This is unfortunate is because Cleopatra was not even of Egyptian blood. She was Greek, was never a real pharaoh and was the last of the rulers of Egypt as a nation. The most famous woman in Egyptian history, was undoubtedly "His Majesty, Herself - Queen Hatshepsut"1. She ruled for twenty-one years during an uneasy peace. Who was she, what did she do, was she evil? This essay will discuss three areas concerning Hatshepsut's reign: her personal life, the safety of Egypt's lands, and the economic welfare of Egypt.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of Pharaoh Thutmose I (a.k.a. Thutmosis) of XVIII th Dynasty during the New Kingdom, Egypt's Golden Age. Her reign was in ca. 1490 - 1468 B.C. Some historians believe that she was the Pharoah's daughter that drew Moses out of the Nile.2 She married her half-brother Thutmose II, a son of Thutmose I by a secondary wife. Thutmose II was sickly and only reigned 4 years. Before he died, he married his daughter by Hatshepsut to his daughter's half-brother. The half-brother was the son of one of the harem women by Thutmose II . At Thutmose II's death, Hatshepsut was appointed regent until her nine-year old nephew/stepson Thutmose III was old enough to rule, even as Ahmose's wife Nefertari had acted as regent for Amentotep I, the Pharoah before Thutmose I. 3
However, instead of slipping into the background of Egyptian politics, Hatshepsut grabbed control. Sometime during the years after Thutmose II's death, Hatshepsut crowned herself Pharaoh of Egypt, rebelling against her expected role as a royal woman. She wore the double-crown of Egypt, male clothing, and the traditional false beard worn by the pharaohs. She had her nephew banished first to becoming a priest, then when some priests inadvertently announced Thutmose as pharaoh, she decided to lock Thutmose in the palace. Technically, her nephew was not much more than a commoner; he had only one-quarter royal blood. Whereas Hatshepsut could claim a pure royal bloodline-- her grandfather Ahmose had driven the Hyksos from Egypt and founded the XVIIIth Dynasty. She believed that by divine power, and by her right of pure blood, she should and would be the pharaoh of Egypt. 4
In the twenty-one years that Hatshepsut ruled, there were no great military campaigns. Egypt's armies did not conquer new lands as it had under her father Thutmose I. He had conquered Palestine and lands as far north as the Euphrates River and south into Nubia. The lands controlled by Egypt were already very large and difficult to oversee. Previous rulers had gone to battle and returned only to find their kingdom in disarray and turmoil. Hatshepsut's reign was already unsteady because she had usurped the throne from her nephew and she didn't need anything else to threaten her shaky throne. Perhaps Hatshepsut felt no need for battle, not only because she didn't need to expand Egypt's borders, but because she was a woman. One could hardly expect a queen to lead the army into battle.5 But her armies did defend Egypt's existing borders with minor skirmishes on the frontiers in Nubia and Syria. Hatshepsut 's reign was a period of peace in between pharaohs trying to expand their borders.
Instead of expanding its borders, Egypt expanded its trade routes. Hatshepsut commissioned an expedition to renew trading with Punt, thought by some to be on the coast of Ethiopia and Djibouti, although others believe it is in Somalia. It was considered a long and difficult journey but Hatshepsut thus reestablished a profitable trade with a country which had many riches to offer Egypt. Because of this connection, Egypt had a new supply of myrrh, trees, ebony, ivory, gold, cinnamon, incense, eye paint, apes, monkeys and skins of southern panthers. Hatshepsut also initiated and encouraged freedom of trade with other countries. During the New Kingdom, even ordinary free people lived decently although simply in Egypt. The people who had money lived relatively well.
Obviously, the country had great wealth to allow the pharaoh to maintain control of her country as well as build great monuments; Hatshepsut raised many monuments to glorify herself, as all pharaohs had done before her. She built two giant obelisks, each about one hundred feet high, and erected them in Thebes. They were then sheathed in a combination of gold and silver. A huge temple, called the 'morning temple,' was built to honor Hatshepsut.
Except for trading expeditions, the queen felt that Egypt should withdraw from the outside world, as in the days of its past, to be concerned only with what was happening in the Nile Valley. Hatshepsut did not wish to become involved with the political turmoil that was in the Middle East; small warring nations like the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hittites who grew and shrank in size with different leaders. She believed Egypt should not meddle with the strange foreigners, but let Egypt mind its own business and let the foreigners mind theirs. Hatshepsut was not alone in her thinking; many of the high priests of Amon distrusted involvement with the outside world. 6 For these reasons, hers was a peaceful and prosperous reign.
But Hatshepsut's reign came to a quick and mysterious end. Some believe that she died of natural causes. Others believe that Thutmose III escaped his palace prison and murdered her. Either way, she died. Thutmose III, thirty years old now, was so angry with the woman who had kept him from the throne of Egypt for years that he tried to destroy her most famous accomplishments. He had her beautiful temple at Deir el Bahri smashed and destroyed. The tomb of Hatshepsut's favorite architect was ravished and placed in a total wreck.7
But as hard as Thutmose III tried, he could not erase her memory from Egypt. Hatshepsut had ruled as a powerful pharaoh for twenty-one years, had added much wealth to the treasuries of Egypt, and had not allowed it to disintegrate under her rule. Personally, she fought for ultimate control of Egypt, yet she honestly believed she was the rightful divine ruler. During her reign Egypt prospered, economic problems were few, and trade flourished. Egypt did not expand its borders during Hatshepsut's reign, but it did not diminish. Hatshepsut had a glorious and illustrious reign, proving herself worthy to be pharaoh. Certainly, she deserves a special place in the hall of the great pharaohs of Egypt.
5 It was not considered honorable for a woman to lead into battle in other Middle Eastern countries. For example, Judges 4:6-10 records Deborah:
Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, "Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded, 'Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun. And I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon; and I will give him into your hand." Then Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go." And she said, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman." Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him. [General Sisera was killed by a Jael who was handy with a hammer and tent peg.] return
7 The fact that Thutmose III tried to destroy everything of Hatshepsut's lead to some fascinating thoughts:
If it was true that Hatshepsut drew Moses out of the Nile, it would mean that Moses, "known as the son of Pharoah's daughter" (Hebrews 11:24) would have grown up in the luxury of Egypt's royal palace "enjoying the pleasures of sin (and) ....treasures of Egypt.." (Hebrews 11:25-26) while Thutmose III was banished to the temple as a lowly scribe.
Many scholars believe the greatest oppression of the Hebrews took place during Thutmose III's reign (Berry 116). Hebrews were Semites, of similar race to the Hyksos, foreigners who had ruled Egypt before the New Kingdom. For this reason many Egyptians despised Semitic peoples. Maybe Thutmose's severe oppression of the Hebrews was just because he feared they would "join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country" (Exodus 1:10) or because he hated any race related to their previous oppressors . So he caused the Hebrews to be slaves for his great empire. Or maybe, in addition to fearing the Hebrews as a people, he hated everything that had to do with Hatshepsut - including Moses who would have been raised as her son.
Then Amenhotep II (the son and successor of Thutmose III) may have been the pharaoh during the Hebrew Exodus. It is interesting to note that the successor to Amenhotep II was not his son, but was instead the grandson of Thutmose III. Perhaps Amenhotep II's son died from the plague of the first born?
Although the Egyptian Empire was at its greatest under Thutmose III, in the "fullness of time" God delivered His people from the hands of the most powerful nation of that time. God used the great nation of Egypt to show Himself mighty on the Hebrews' behalf and to accomplish His purposes. return
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Berry, Roger L. God's World - His Story. Harrisburg: Christian Light Publications Inc., 1976
Harvey, Gill, and Struan Reid. The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. London: Usborne Publishing Ltd. 2001
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, The. New York: Kingfisher Publications, 1999
McGraw, Eloise Jarvis. Mara, Daughter of the Nile. New York: Penguin Group, 1981
Payne, Elizabeth. The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. New York: Random House, Inc., 1992
Thompson, George and Jerry Combee. World History and Cultures, In Christian Perspective. U.S.A.: Penascola Christian College, 2001