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"Shasu of Yahweh" inscription from the Temple of Amun, Soleb, Sudan

Shasu is an Egyptian term for nomads who appeared in the Levant from the fifteenth century BCE all the way to the Third Intermediate Period. The name evolved from a transliteration of the Egyptian word š3sw, meaning "moving on foot", into the term for Bedouin-type wanderers. The term first originated in a fifteenth century list of peoples in the Transjordanmarker, with one of the Shasu territories described as "Yhw in the land of the Shasu". From this evidence, some scholars, including Donald B. Redford and William G. Dever, conclude that the people who would eventually be the "Israel" recorded on the Merneptah Stele (widely known as the Israel Stele) and later form the Kingdom of Israel were originally a Shasu tribe. Rainey supports this view with texts from the Amarna letters.

However, the proposed link between the Israelites and the Shasu may be undermined by the fact that in the Merneptah reliefs, the group later known as the Israelites are not described or depicted as Shasu, according to a dissenting view of this information. Some scholars like Frank J. Yurco and Michael G. Hasel identify the Shasu in Merneptah's Karnak reliefs as a separate entity from Israel since they wear different clothing, hairstyles, and are determined differently by Egyptian scribes. Moreover, Israel is determined as a people, or socioethnic group. The most frequent designation for the "foes of Shasu" is the hill-country determinative. Thus they are differentiated from the Canaanites, who are defending the fortified cities of Ashkelonmarker, Gezermarker, and Yenoam.

Shasu in ancient texts

The Egyptian list above mentions six groups of Shashu, "the Shasu of Seir, the Shasu of Rbn, the Shasu of Sam'ath (probably a clan of Kenites), the Shasu of Wrbr (probably near the Wadi el-Hesa and the Shasu of Ywh".



  • Dever, William G. (1997). "Archaeology and the Emergence of Early Israel" . In John R. Bartlett (Ed.), Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation, pp. 20–50. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-14113-3
  • Hasel, Michael G. (1994). “Israel in the Merneptah Stela,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 296, pp. 45-61.
  • Hasel, Michael G. (1998). Domination and Resistance: Egyptian Military Activity in the Southern Levant, 1300–1185 BC. Probleme der Ägyptologie 11. Leiden: Brill, pp. 217-239. ISBN 90-04-10984-6
  • Hasel, Michael G. (2003). "Merenptah's Inscription and Reliefs and the Origin of Israel" in Beth Alpert Nakhai ed. The Near East in the Southwest: Essays in Honor of William G. Dever, pp. 19–44. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 58. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research. ISBN 0-89757-065-0
  • Hoffmeier, James K. (2005). Ancient Israel in Sinai, New York: Oxford University Press, 240-45.
  • Horn, Siegfried H. (1953). "Jericho in a Topographical List of Ramesses II," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 12: 201-203.
  • MacDonald, Burton (1994). "Early Edom: The Relation between the Literary and Archaeological Evidence". In Michael D. Coogan, J. Cheryl Exum, Lawrence E. Stager (Eds.), Scripture and Other Artifacts: Essays on the Bible and Archaeology in Honor of Philip J. King, pp. 230–246. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 0-664-22364-8
  • Stager, Lawrence E. (2001). "Forging an Identity: The Emergence of Ancient Israel". In Michael Coogan (Ed.), The Oxford History of the Biblical World, pp. 90–129. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508707-0
  • Yurco, Frank J. (1986). "Merenptah's Canaanite Campaign." Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 23:189-215.

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