Moses Withstood by Jannes and Mambres



 Damien F. Mackey


Two pharaohs in particular opposed Moses.

The one who wanted to kill him (Exodus 2:15).

And the one who refused to let the people of Israel go free, and who then pursued them to the sea (Exodus 14:5-9).

It is to these two pharaohs, I believe – rather than to court magicians – that Saint Paul was referring in 2 Timothy 3:8, when he told of “Jannes and Mambres [who] opposed Moses”.


Vulgate: … Jannes et Mambres resisterunt Moysi …

 The Greco-Roman names, “Jannes” and “Mambres” (or “Jambres”), do not easily lend themselves to transliteration into Egyptian.



So far, I have painstakingly attempted to reconstruct the life and times of the first of these two pharaohs who resisterunt (‘resisted, opposed, withstood’) Moses, by re-aligning and re-shaping the kingdoms and dynasties relevant to him.

He, “Jannes”, can only be, I would suggest, the “Chenephres” of Artapanus, who had married “Merris”, the daughter of Pharaoh who retrieved the baby Moses from the river and named him (Exodus 2:5-10).

Saint Paul’s “Jannes”, a name which has its variations



Jannes (Iannis), with slight variations, is the most common form in which the name appears in Greek sources, as well as in the Palestinian Targum and in the main midrashic references. The Babylonian Talmud, however, gives the name as Yoḥana (cf. Yal., Ex. 235 – Yoḥane). There appears therefore to be justification for retaining the reading Johannes as it appears in the best-preserved manuscript of Apuleius [,]


is probably a condensed version of the traditional “Chenephres”.

Hence “Chennes” = Jannes.


In 4th dynasty terms, this pharaoh is the like named “Chephren” (Greek), Khafra (Egyptian), who married a Meres-ankh (= “Merris”).

In 6th dynasty terms, he is Pepi (I and) II Neferkare (= “Chenephres”), who married Ankhesenmerire (= Meresankh = “Merris”).

In 12th dynasty terms, he is Sesostris I (II and III). The Egyptian Moses, Sinuhe, fled from Sesostris I.


  Mambres, the Resister Pharaoh par excellence

 From Jannes to Mambres

The long reign (about 45 years) of the pharaoh (Saint Paul’s “Jannes”) who had sought the life of Moses – which reign must have spanned most of Moses’ career as a high official in Egypt, even continuing into the phase of Moses’ exile in Midian – had eventually come to an end (Exodus 2:23).

And, afterwards (4:19), those associated with this pharaoh had also passed away.

This verse would suggest to me the end of a dynasty, meaning that the similarly long reigning Amenemhet III, “forty-five years” according to N. Grimal (A History of Ancient Egypt, p. 170), whose early reign must have overlapped with the late reign of “Chenephres” (= “Jannes”), was in fact a new dynastic founder.

Traditions have more than one pharaoh ruling at a time during the life of Moses. And the wise King Solomon tells of Moses, upon his return, as having faced “kings” (Wisdom 10:16): “[Wisdom] entered the soul of one of God’s servants [Moses] and stood up to dreaded kings by performing miracles”. εισηλθεν εις ψυχην θεραποντος κυριου και αντεστη βασιλευσιν φοβεροις εν τερασι και σημειοις

The reign of Amenemhet III would have continued on for the entire Midian phase of Moses, for the latter’s return to Egypt, and on to the Plagues and Exodus.

It was now quite a different Egypt to which the aged Moses returned.

As the long reign of pharaoh Sesostris (= “Jannes”) wore on – and the 12th dynasty with it – a resurgent king of new energy, Amenemhet III, now also ruling a part of Egypt, began to inject new life into the country. This was, I believe, the very same situation about which we read at the time of the long reigning Pepi (Pepy) II (= Sesostris), as Grimal explains (op. cit., p. 88): “The growing power of local officials was a major factor in the decline of the Egyptian state; as Pepy II’s reign dragged on, these officials were gradually becoming local rulers in their own right”.

I suggest that Amenemhet III was probably one of these powerful officials.

And, just as the 12th dynasty had begun with a “new king” (Exodus 1:8), called “Amenemhet”, who was likely not of royal blood, so may there have been something of a parallel case now with Amenemhet III, who possibly became the founder of a new dynasty.

It is he, Amenemhet III, now near the end of his reign, who was, I believe, the stern king whom Moses had returned from Midian to encounter, and to ask to set Israel free.

It is Amenemhet III, then, who must be St. Paul’s “Mambres”, or “Jambres”.

And it is in this case – far more satisfactorily than with the name, “Jannes” – that we get a close hit. For Amenemhet III was known in Greco-Roman tradition, and worshipped, under the name of “Lamares” (Grimal, p. 170).

This name has many variations, such as Lachares, Lamares, Lamaris, Lampares

and also Lambares which we can read as “Lambres”, almost exactly Saint Paul’s “Mambres” or “Jambres”.



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