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Biblical Archaeology Review 48:2, Summer 2022

Epistles: What’s in a Name?: Merneptah

Biblical Archaeology Review


Mr = “beloved” | n = “of” | Ptḥ = “god Ptah”

Merneptah ruled Egypt as the fourth king of the 19th Dynasty, from 1213 to 1203 B.C.E. His theophoric name contains the verb mrj (to love) in the form of the passive participle—mr (beloved)—and the name of the Egyptian creator god Ptah. These two words are joined by the preposition n (of), which functions to express a relationship between both elements. The result is the phrase “Beloved of Ptah.”

BAR readers know Merneptah thanks to the so-called Merneptah Stele, which celebrates the pharaoh’s military victories, including in Canaan (see Pharaoh’s Fury). The monumental stele’s penultimate line refers to a people called Israel, and, therefore, the stone is sometimes referred to as the “Israel Stele.”

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