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HYKSOS, the founders of the Egyptian 15th dynasty; Asiatics who exercised political control over Egypt between approximately 1655 and 1570 B.C.E. The Hyksos established their capital at Avaris in the Eastern Delta, controlled the Nile Valley as far south as Hermopolis, and claimed overlordship over the rest of Upper Egypt. Avaris (Egyptian ḥwt- wʿrt) has been identified as Tell el-Dabʿa in the Northeast Delta. Most of the Hyksos personal names are west-Semitic, in the same language group as Amorite and the Canaanite and Aramaic dialects. There seem to be no Hurrian names as was once thought. "Hyksos" reflects hekau khoswe, "the rulers of foreign lands," the name given them by their Egyptian contemporaries. They were also referred to as ʿmw, "Asiatics," the standard name for the inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean littoral, Canaan and Syria. After having infiltrated into the Nile Valley over a period of several centuries, they managed to seize the kingship during the chaotic period which ended the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. At the beginning of the 18th Dynasty (c. 1580 B.C.E.) Pharaoh Ahmes expelled the Hyksos from Egypt and pursued them to southern Palestine. After besieging Sharuhen (Tell el-Farʿah) in the south, for three years, he defeated them. His successors, Amenophis I, Tuthmosis I, and Tuthmosis III, completed their expulsion from Egypt. Most of the archaeological data on the Hyksos come from sites in the Eastern Delta. Among these are Tell el-Dabaʿ, the largest, Tell el-Maskhuta, and Tell el-Yahudiyah. Other information comes from scarabs and monuments from various sites in Nubia and Palestine as well as Egypt. The material available at present shows Hyksos culture to be that of Middle Bronze Age Palestine and Phoenicia (Redford 1992, 100). In the course of time Hyksos material culture shows increasing Egyptianizing features. Scholars debate the extent of evidence of Hyksos fortifications, with some comparing embankments found at Tell el-Yahudiyeh at Heliopolis with similar structures in Western Asia, and others dissenting. The horse and chariot made their appearance in Egypt during the rule of the Hyksos, but there is no evidence that they were introduced specifically by the Hyksos. Distinctively Hyksos is a new type of ceramic, called "Tell al-Yahudiyeh ceramics," named after a center of Hyksos population, now called Tell al-Yahudiyyeh, where this type was first discovered. The vessels which characterize this group of ceramics are small juglets and bowls, brown-gray in color, decorated with geometric designs, and made of punctures filled with white chalk. As might be expected, the Hyksos initially retained their Levantine religious traditions including the royal ancestor cult. Gradually, Egyptian elements were borrowed and synthesized, so that Baal types were identified with the Egyptian god Seth, brother and enemy of Horus, but in addition to him they also worshiped Canaanite gods, such as Resheph, Ashtoreth, and Anath. In Contra Apionem, Josephus, attempting to establish the great antiquity of the Jews, quotes the history of the Ptolemaic Egyptian writer Manetho, who describes a brutal, savage invasion of Egypt by a people from the east, their period of domination in Egypt, and their subsequent expulsion by the rulers of the 18th dynasty. Manetho called these Asiatic invaders "Hyksos" and interpreted their name as meaning "king-shepherds" (1:82), although Josephus claims Manetho also had an alternative interpretation, "captive shepherds" (1:83, 91). Josephus identified the Hyksos as the patriarchal Jews, equating their appearance in Egypt with the *Joseph story in Genesis and their subsequent expulsion with the biblical tale of *Exodus. He made this identification partially following Manetho who made the expelled Hyksos, together with a host of lepers, the founders of Jerusalem, and partially because the Hyksos were "shepherds" and "captives" and, indeed, "sheep-breeding was a hereditary custom of our remotest ancestors" (1:91) and "Joseph told the king of Egypt that he was a captive" (1:92). Following assumptions of Manetho and Josephus some scholars have attempted to set the Exodus within the chronological framework of the 18th Dynasty, but with little success. There is no warrant either in the Bible or outside it for simply equating the Hyksos with the later Hebrews, although it is not impossible that some of the latter may have been ultimately decended from some of the Hyksos. Of special significance is the fact that some of the Hyksos rulers bore names echoed in the Bible, e.g., Yaʿqb-hr; and that one of the kings of the period is named Shesha which is similar to the name Sheshai, one of the ruling families in Kiriath-Arba (Judg. 1:10).

In Biblical Palestine

The Hyksos are not mentioned explicitly in the Bible, but some reminiscences of them can be detected. The connection made by Josephus and Manetho with the exodus is correct to the extent that the traditions of descent into Egypt and exodus therefrom were at least in part inspired by distant memories of the Hyksos movements (Redford). There are two instances where the history of the Hyksos is connected with Palestine. The first is during the beginning of their penetration into Egypt, since their domination over Lower Egypt must have been preceded by control over Palestine. The second is during the decline of the Hyksos, when they were expelled from Egypt by the rulers of the 18th Dynasty northward toward southern Palestine.

It is not surprising, therefore, to find signs which distinguish the culture characteristic of the rule of the Hyksos in Egypt and in Palestine.


T. Saeve-Soederbergh, in: Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 37 (1951), 53–71; A.H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961), 155–73; S.R.K. Glanville (ed.), The Legacy of Egypt (1963), 219–21, M.A. Murray, The Splendour that was Egypt (1964), 26–32. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (1992); D. Redford and J. Weinstein, in: ABD, 3:341–48 (extensive bibliography); A. Rainey, in: BASOR, 295 (1994), 81–5; C. Redmount, in: BA, 58 (1995), 182–90; E. Oren (ed.), The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives (1997); COS II, 5–7.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.