(mehr' neh) Personal name meaning, “beloved of Ptah” (god honored in Memphis, Egypt). Ruler in the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt 1236-1223 B.C. or according to some recent opinions 1212-1199 B.C. and thought by many to be the pharaoh of Egypt when the Exodus occurred. A stele produced during his rule is the earliest known nonbiblical reference to the Israelites. The stele praises Merneptah's conquest of Canaan, Ashkelon, Gezer, Yanoam, and Israel, Israel being marked as a people rather than a geographical place. Merneptah claimed to have “laid waste” to Israel. The stele shows that a people Israel existed in Canaan no later than 1207 B.C. and had sufficient strength to fight Merneptah even though they lost if his account is accurate. They may have been an ally of three city-states opposing Merneptah.