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The Seed of Israel

by Kyle Pope

“Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength.  To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him. In the LORD all the seed (KJV) of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.’” (Isaiah 45:22-25, NKJV). 

The Bible tells us about a man of faith named Abraham whose grandson Jacob was named “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). The descendants of the twelve sons of Israel became the ancient nation of Israel. While the text above promises salvation, strength and glory to the “seed of Israel,” the New Testament tells us that such promises do not refer simply to the physical “seed of Israel.” Galatians 3:7 tells us “it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (NASB). Paul contrasts what he calls “Israel after the flesh” (1 Corinthians 10:18, NKJV) with “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Romans 9:6 shows clearly “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” because “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, … but he is a Jew who is one inwardly” (Romans 2:28,29). As a result, the Bible promises that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) because “God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus” (Acts 13:23).

The Victory Hymn of Merneptah II

            In 1896 working in Thebes, Sir W. F. Petrie discovered a black granite stele in the funerary temple of the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah II. The 7 ½ ft. monument was inscribed with a hymn memorializing Merneptah’s campaign into Canaan.1 Merneptah was the fourteenth son, and successor of Rameses (II) known as “the Great,” the Pharaoh believed to have ruled when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.2 His campaign was made to suppress a rebellion which broke out after the death of his father.

            Just as we see in other examples of literature praising the military greatness of an ancient leader, the claims are exaggerated to propagate fear and submission. The text reads:

Great rejoicing has arisen in Egypt, jubilation has issued from the towns of To-Meri [another name for Egypt]; they recount the victories which Merneptah wrought in Tehenu [i.e. Lybia] How beloved he is, the victorious ruler! How exalted is the king among the gods!3 … The princes lie prostrate, saying “Mercy!” No one raises his head among the Nine Bows [an Egyptian idiom for all subjugated peoples]. Desolation is for Tehenu [Lybia]. Hatti [i.e. the Hittites] is pacified. Plundered is the Canaan with every evil; carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer. Yanoam [an unknown town] is made as that which does not exist … All lands together, they are pacified; everyone who was restless, he has been bound by the king…4

The text claims Canaan was made a “widow” for Egypt, making a word play between kh’rw the Egyptian name for part of Canaan and kh’rt the Egyptian word for widow.

            The most significant feature of this inscription is not the arrogant boasts of a pagan king, but a small line in the middle of his list of Canaanite victories. The line reads “Israel lies desolate, its seed is no more” (Thomas). This constitutes the first historical reference to Israel outside of the Bible. Most of the victories listed have the hieroglyphic sign of a throwing stick and three mountains indicating a foreign established nation. The hieroglyphic used with Israel, a throwing stick and a seated man and woman, indicates a foreign ethnic group.5  This matches the Biblical account which puts Israel near Canaan, but not yet an established nation. Obviously, Merneptah’s claim was false. Israel would go on to become an established nation, controlling much of Canaan themselves. Little could he have known that long after the Egyptian kings were swallowed up by the sands “the seed of Israel” would continue in the spiritual Israel of our Lord Jesus Christ.



1 E. A. Wallis Budge. The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archaeology. New York: Dover Publications Inc. reprint of 1925 ed. p. 66.

2 Heinrich Brugsch-Bey. Egypt Under the Pharaohs. London: Bracken Books, reprint of 1902 ed. pp. 301,309.

3 D. Winton Thomas. Documents from Old Testament Times. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. 1958. pp. 137-141.

4 James B. Pritchard. The Ancient Near East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1958. Vol. 1, p. 231.

5 James P. Allen. Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2000. pp. 423, 425, 436, 443.

Pope, Kyle. "The Seed of ISrael" Biblical Insights 1.7 (July 2001): 23.  

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