© Regents of the University of California/Courtesy the Digital Karnak Project

The Bubastite Portal provides entrance to a massive colonnaded forecourt built by Pharaoh Sheshonq I at the temple of Amun in Karnak to celebrate the Egyptian monarch’s military victories in the Levant. To the right of the portal, named after Sheshonq’s hometown of Bubastis in the eastern Nile Delta, is a large weathered relief in which the pharaoh lists more than 150 towns and peoples he conquered during his military campaign into Israel and Judah in c. 925 B.C.E.

Sheshonq’s campaign is also recorded in the Bible (1 Kings 14:25–28; 2 Chronicles 12:2–9), where the pharaoh, called Shishak, is said to have marched against Jerusalem during the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor. Jerusalem, however, is not named in the Karnak inscription, while the Biblical passages make no mention of the other Israelite cities Sheshonq claims to have vanquished. Using new insights gleaned from archaeology and the Bible, author Yigal Levin examines the historical veracity of both accounts.