A title meaning, “great house” for the ancient kings of Egypt. Every ancient pharaoh had five “great names” which he assumed on the day of his accession. Since it was not deemed proper to use such powerful names in direct fashion, a polite circumlocution developed; he came to be called Pharaoh.
Egyptians applied “pharaoh” to the royal palace and grounds in the fourth dynasty (about 2500 B.C.). The title Pharaoh came to be applied to the king from about 1500 B.C. until the Persian domination, about 550 B.C.
An ancient pharaoh was an absolute monarch, supreme commander of the armies, chief justice of the royal court, and high priest of all religion. His absolute power may be seen in that justice was defined as “what Pharaoh loves”; wrongdoing as “what Pharaoh hates.” An example of his divine power was that he daily conducted “the Rite of the House of the Morning,” an early morning ritual in which he broke the seal to the statue of the sun god, waking him up with a prayer. This act brought the sun up and started every day for the people.
References to ten pharaohs can be clearly distinguished in the Old Testament: the Pharaoh of Abraham,
Genesis 12:10-20; of Joseph,
Genesis 39-50; of the Oppression,
Exodus 1:1; of the Exodus,
Exodus 2:23-15:19; of
1 Chronicles 4:18; of Solomon,
1 Kings 3-11; of Rehoboam, called Shishak, king of Egypt,
1 Kings 14:25; of Hezekiah and Isaiah,
2 Kings 18:21;
Isaiah 36:1; of Josiah,
2 Kings 23:29; of
Jeremiah 44:30 and
Ezekiel 29:1-16. See Egypt; Exodus.