Jannes and Jambres

Throughout the ages, men of God have been met with opposition from both within and from without.

From within, Moses had a rebellion formed against him by his own people. Known as the rebellion of Korah. He along with Dathan, Abiram, On, and 250 Hebrew elders turned against Moses as recorded in Numbers 16.   

From without, Moses was met with resistance from a proud Pharaoh. The Bible also mentions two men who opposed Moses, their names were Jannes and Jambres, as mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:8.

There are many different theories and traditions as to who these men were.

Some believe they were two wisemen or scribes in the royal court of the Exodus pharaoh, who convinced the pharaoh not to listen to Moses.

Moses confronts pharaoh with God's sign

(Illustration: Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh)

Others believe they were sorcerers or magicians who threw down their staffs which became snakes as a counterfeit miracle, done by a slide of hand trick. See Exodus 7:11-12.

Some believe they may have been the names of men, who like Korah, opposed Moses in the camp of the Hebrews after they left Egypt.

While even others believe they were sons of Balaam, who devised a plan to entice Israel to sin against God by tempting them to commit sexual immorality with foreign wives which in turn would lead Israel into worshiping their false gods.     

A search through Ancient records results in at least one high-ranking Egyptian official who served during the period associated with the Exodus Pharaoh with a name similar in pronunciation to Jannes.

In the Greek New Testament of 1 Timothy 3:8, our English translation for Jannes, is "Iannis." And in Egyptian records, there is a very prominent court official who served under multiple pharaohs with a similar name. To modern archaeologists, he may be the man known as the Egyptian official Ineni. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, his name is "InnI" phonetically similar to the Greek name "Iannis." He served under pharaohs Amenhotep I, Thutmose I, Thutmose II, and during the joint reigns of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. 

As we have stated previously, in other chapters in the Bible Believer's Archaeology series, the most likely candidates for the Exodus pharaoh seem to be Thutmose I or Thutmose II.  And Ineni served under both at a high level. This is important because if he was the Jannes, which the Bible mentions, he would likely have been one of Pharaoh's trusted wise men to whom he would call upon to oppose Moses.

Exodus 7:10-12 states: "Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.  But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aarons rod swallowed up their rods."

During the reign of Thutmose the First, an inscription from Ineni mentions the high level of trust that this pharaoh had placed in him. It states the following:

"I was brought to be a dignitary, overseer of the granary, and the field of the divine offerings was under my authority. All the excellent works were under my administration  . . .  I oversaw the erection of two obelisks (made in honor of Thutmoses I) I oversaw the construction of a magnificent ship 120 cubits long x 40 cubits wide to ship these obelisks. They were delivered safe and sound, and arrived at Karnak . . .  I oversaw the digging of the rock tomb made for his majesty (also constructed for Thutmose I)  . . .  there was not a command given to me by an elder . . .  My praise endured in the palace, my love among the court. My majesty endowed me with peasant slaves and my income was from the granary of the king's estate each day." (Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol II, Breasted pg. 42-44)

Obelisk of Thutmose I at Karnak

(Illustration: Obelisk of Thutmose I erected by Inni)

However, his importance in Egypt appeared to be the greatest under the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose II.

An inscription of Ineni concerning his high position in the court of Thutmose II states this:

"I was a favorite of the king in his every place; greater was that he did for me than those who preceded him (previous kings). I attained the old age of the revered, I possessed the favor of his majesty every day. I was supplied from the table of the king with bread of oblations for the king, beer, as well as meat, fat meat, vegetables, various fruits, honey, cakes, wine and oil. My necessities were apportioned in health and life as his majesty himself said, for love of me." (Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. II,  Breasted pg, 47-48)

So, if either Thutmose I or Thutmose II were the Exodus pharaoh, they most likely would have called upon Ineni (Jannes?) as one of their most respected wise men for advice during his confrontations with Moses.

At least one researcher believed that this Ineni may have had a brother named Hery, or possibly named Imn-hrey, similar but not identical to the name Jambres (Iambres). His burial inscription reads: Belonging to the high priest in honor of Jmnheri (Imnheri) (Note some translations read: Belonging to the high priest of Amun, Hery." See illustration below:)He held an important position in Egypt as being a high priest. This is interesting because some Jewish traditions hold that Jannes and Jambres were brothers.

The funerary cone of Hery

Illustration: Imnheri or Hery Funerary cone #145 C235. Griffith Institute, University of Oxford.

Getting back to Ineni, we also know from his funerary cones, which record his past achievements, that he was a chief Wiseman (or educated one) for he attained some of the highest clerical positions in Egypt. Such as Overseer of the city, Overseer of the double granary of Amun, Overseer of every seal in the House of Amun, as well as being an educated scribe.  

His funerary cone inscription reads: "Mayor, overseer of the double granary of Amun, overseer of every seal in the house of Amun, scribe, Ineni justified." #480 Daressy #: 170  (Found at tomb of Ineni TT81, dated to his death during the reign of Hatshepsut. (Illustration below © Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)

The Funerary cone of Ineni

Illustration: Funerary Cone of Ineni as Mayor and Scribe

Even though this evidence sounds compelling, there is no last letter s or z in the hieroglyphic name of Ineni to be spot on with what one would assume would be in the Egyptian hieroglyphic name of Jannes.

But, there was an even higher-level Egyptian leader who did. His name was Yanazz. He is believed to be the eldest son of the pharaoh Khyan, and some historians believe he ruled for a short period of time after his father.

He resided in northern Egypt in the palace at Avaris, known as the Hyksos capital. Hyksos meaning the Kings who ruled over the shepherds. The shepherds likely referring to the Hebrews, the descendants of Jacob, who by trade were shepherds and when first entering Egypt were instructed by pharaoh, in the presence of Joseph, to live in Goshen and to tend Pharaohs cattle.

Stele of Hyskos Prince Jannes

Stela of Jannes (YNZZ):"King's son, Prince Jannes"

Now lets look at a timeline analysis to see when Jannes ruled. His father is believed to have reigned 50 years from 1621- 1581 B.C., therefore Jannes would have begun his rule around 1580 B.C. This date would correspond with the birth of Moses and corresponds with the date of the pharaoh who gave the order to kill all the male children as recorded in Exodus 1:15-22.

This date is figured as follows: Starting with famine in Egypt during Seostris 1, during the time of Joseph, we have two famine accounts dated to the 25th year of Seostris 1 who reigned 1920-1875B.C. This would mean the famine occurred circa 1895 B.C. Shortly afterward Jacob (Israel) and his sons entered the land of Egypt and settled in Goshen.                           

If Israel was in Egypt for 400 years until the Exodus = (400 *360/365 Biblical year) = 395 years. The date of the Exodus using this method would be (1895 B.C. famine year - 395 years = circa 1500 B.C.) Most believe Thutmose the First was reigning around this time.

Moses was born 80 years earlier which would be 1580 B.C. when Jannes is believed to be in power.

If he is the Jannes of the Bible, this would dispel the notion that Jannes and Jambres were the names of two magicians or wisemen who withstood Moses as traditionally taught by Jewish rabbis.

The Bible does not specifically say they were magicians or wise men. It just mentions they resisted or opposed Moses in 2 Timothy 3. In classical Greek the word opposed used in 2 Tim3:8 is (anthístemi) which was a military term meaning "to strongly resist an enemy, or to take firm action against an opponent.

Well if Jannes was the one who ordered the brutal act of having all Hebrew boys killed at the time of Moses birth, that would meet that definition, as well as the characteristics of these men listed by the Apostle Paul in 2 Tim 3:2-3 as being, (unholy, unloving . . . slanderers, without self-control, brutal, and despisers of good.) 

So, maybe the Apostle Paul was not referring to magicians who opposed Moses, but to two different pharaohs who took actions against Moses. The second one possibly being the Exodus Pharaoh.

As to Jambres, during my research, there are two pharaohs that I could find with a similar name. The first is Ned-Jemibre. His name is solely found on the Turin Kings List, a list of the early kings of Egypt. Although most modern historians date Nedjembre to the mid-1700 B.C. era, way before the time of Moses. Little is known about him and he is believed to have had a very short reign.

The second more likely candidate is based on a name from the Babylonian Talmud which uses the name Mamre instead of Jambres to describe one of two magicians who confronted Moses. While the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible calls Jambre by the name Mambre.

This is interesting given the fact that there was a pharaoh, according to multiple ancient historians, who reigned after Amenhotep 1 with a name similar to Mambres.

The first-century Jewish historian Josephus, who was alive at the time Paul wrote 2 Tim 3:8, called Thutmose 1 by the name of Mephres. Jerome called him by the name Memphres, while Eusebius called him Miphres.

 So, if Jannes was the Pharaoh who plotted to have all Hebrew baby boys killed around the time of Moses birth. And he began his reign around 1580 B.C. and possibly ruled for 10 years until 1570 B.C. If Moses was 80 years old at the time of the Exodus, that would give us circa 1500 -1490 B.C. for the Exodus date which would put us in the reign of Thutmose I. Fascinating!

No matter which view you hold as to the identity of these men, whether they be Egyptian wisemen, magicians, scribes, or pharaohs, this is not what our main focus should be. Our focus should be on giving heed to the apostle Paul's warning to be on our guard against those who oppose the Lord and the Lord's true servants who are speaking the truth. Whether they come from inside the camp of God or are from outside the camp of God. The days in which we live today are very similar to that which the apostle Paul warns of in 2 Timothy 3: 

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystrawhat persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.  But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

This article on Jannes and Jambres is taken from our book series "Bible Believer's Archaeology" which can be downloaded for your ebook reader by visiting our resource download page by Clicking Here


 Sources used in compiling data and illustrations for this article:

The Holy Bible, Author: The Lord God. Scripture is taken from the New King James Version unless noted.

Woodcut engraving - Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh and his royal court - Aaron throwing down his staff and it became a snake. Woodcut made from a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794 - 1872), published in 1877

Drawing - North West End of the Temple of Karnak. Taken from the Center of the Ruins. drawn on stone by W. Walton from a sketch by Capt Head. Source: Eastern and Egyptian Scenery. 1833.

Illustration: The Ineni Funery Cone - Davies & Macadam #480, Daressy #170 from the book: "Complete Funery Cones" by Kento Zenihiro ©2009 pg. 191 Translation: "Mayor, overseer of the double granary of Amun, overseer of every seal in the house of Amun, scribe, Ineni justified."

Drawing - Stela of Yanassi by Khruner 2017 (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.) - Drawing of an ancient Egyptian stela of Prince Yanassi, son of pharaoh Khyan of the 15th Dynasty. Based on a drawing by Manfred Bietak ("Eine Stele des ältesten Königssohnes des Hyksos Chajan", MDAIK 37 (1981), pp. 6373, fig. 1). From Avaris, now in Cairo Museum (TD-8422 [176]).


Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol II, Breasted pg. 42-44) - Record of service under Thutmose I All the excellent works were  under my   administration  . . .  I oversaw the erection of two obelisks. (made in honor of Thutmoses I)

Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol II, Breasted pg. 47-48) - Record of service under Thutmose II I was a favorite of the king in his every place; greater was that he did for me than those who preceded him (previous kings). I attained the old age of the revered, I possessed the favor of his majesty every day.

The world of funerary cones and stamped bricks website - Kento Zenihiro:  Hery or JmnHry - Funerary Cone 145

Above translation: "Revered one before Osiris, steward of the first prophet of Amun, Hery justified." Footnote: Eichler suggested that the owner may have been a brother of TT 81 Ineni (Eichler 2000: 307).  Die Verwaltung des 'Hauses des Amun' in der 18. Dynastie by Selke Susan Eichler

Davies Red Notebook 05-110: Side note above translation of name on Funerary cone 145 states Can it be Imn-hery?

John Argubrights translation below of Funerary Cone 145.

n Hm-nTr tpj n jmn Hry mAa-xrw. Belonging to the high priest in honor of Imnheri.

n = Belonging to [AEHG pg.339]

hem neter tepi = high priest [AEHG pg.483]

n = in respect of [AEHG pg.339]

jmnHry = name of the person on the inscription

or alternate translation where jmn and Hry are separate words

jmn = The Egyptian false god Amun = [AEHG pg.51]

Hry = the name of the person on the inscription

The above translation is based upon the Hieroglyph symbols in An Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary' [AEHG] by Sir E.A. Wallis Budge (Keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum) published by John Murray, Albemarle Street, London. 192

The world of funerary cones and stamped bricks website - Kento Zenihiro:  Ineni - Funerary Cone 480, Daressy #170 found at tomb TT81. Translation on cone:Mayor, overseer of the double granary of Amun, overseer of every seal in the house of Amun, scribe, Ineni justified.

Nedjemibre Turin Kings List - The canon gives his name on the 7th column, line 14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nedjemibre

The Babylonian Talmud (Menachot.85a) names "Johana and Mamre" as two of Pharaoh's sorcerers. Identifies Jambre as Mamre: "In Moses and Aarons first meeting with Pharaoh, Aaron cast his staff to the ground, whereupon it turned into a serpent. Pharaohs necromancers then duplicated the feat using their incantations, only to then be confounded when Aarons staff swallowed up all of theirs (see Exodus 7:1012). The Gemara relates the conversation that took place: Pharaohs two leading necromancers, Yohana and Mamre, said to Moses: Are you bringing straw to Afarayim? Performing necromancy in Egypt, the world leader in sorcery, is like bringing straw to Afarayim, which is rich in the finest grains. Moses said to them: It is as people say: To a city rich in herbs, take herbs. If you want to guarantee that people will appreciate your merchandise, bring it to a place where they are familiar with it."

There was a pharaoh who ruled for 12-13 years according to ancient historians such as Josephus. Eusibeus called him Mephres, and Jerome called him Memphres, believed to be Thutmose I. Although many  historians believe Thutmose II ruled for this length of time as well, same ancient historians above referred to him as Chebron in their kings list including the ancient historian Manetho.

Jannes Stela: Kings son, Jannes (Ynzz) found at Tell el-Dab'a (Avaris), the Hyksos capital. Title: si -nsw smsw, Name:  jjnss (Possibly the royal name of Kyan ?) A stele of the eldest king's son of Hyksos Kyan, Stela Limestone - Size 300mm x 300mm. Bietak, MDAIK 37, 63-73. https://pnm.uni-mainz.de/3/inscription/12985.

Manethos Hyksos Kings list order cited by Josephus in Against Apion: Salitis, Bnon, Apachnan, Apopis, Iannas, and Assis. See below for Josephus quote.

Josephus Against Apion Book 1. Section 14: Thither Salatis came in the summer time, partly to gather his corn, and pay his soldiers their wages, and partly to exercise his armed men, and thereby to terrify foreigners. When this man had reigned thirteen years, after him reigned another, whose name was Beon, for forty-four years; after him reigned another, called Apachnas, thirty-six years and seven months; after him Apophis reigned sixty-one years, and then Jannis fifty years and one month; after all these reigned Assis forty-nine years and two months. And these six were the first rulers among them, who were all along making war with the Egyptians.

Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews - William Whiston, A.M., Ed. J. AJ Book 2 Section 205: While the affairs of the Hebrews were in this condition, there was this occasion offered itself to the Egyptians, which made them more solicitous for the extinction of our nation. One of those sacred scribes,  who are very sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king, that about this time there would a child be born to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through all ages. Which thing was so feared by the king, that, according to this man's opinion, he commanded that they should cast every male child, which was born to the Israelites, into the river, and destroy it; that besides this, the Egyptian midwives 2 should watch the labors of the Hebrew women, and observe what is born, for those were the women who were enjoined to do the office of midwives to them; and by reason of their relation to the king, would not transgress his commands. He enjoined also, that if any parents should disobey him, and venture to save their male children alive, 3 they and their families should be destroyed. This was a severe affliction indeed to those that suffered it, not only as they were deprived of their sons, and while they were the parents themselves, they were obliged to be subservient to the destruction of their own children, but as it was to be supposed to tend to the extirpation of their nation, while upon the destruction of their children, and their own gradual dissolution, the calamity would become very hard and inconsolable to them. And this was the ill state they were in. But no one can be too hard for the purpose of God, though he contrive ten thousand subtle devices for that end; for this child, whom the sacred scribe foretold, was brought up and concealed from the observers appointed by the king; and he that foretold him did not mistake in the consequences of his preservation, which were brought to pass after the manner following:"

Targum of Jonathan circa 2 A.D. - Targum Jonathan on Exodus 1 - John Wesley Etheridge, London, 1862: And Pharaoh told that he, being asleep, had seen in his dream, and, behold, all the land of Mizraim (Egypt) was placed in one scale of a balance, and a lamb, the young of a sheep, was ill the other scale; and the scale with the lamb in it overweighed. Forthwith he sent and called all the magicians of Egypt, and imparted to them his dream. Immediately Jannis and Jambres, the chief of the magicians, opened their mouths and answered Pharaoh, A certain child is about to be born in the congregation of Israel, by whose hand will be destruction to all the land of Egypt. Therefore did Pharaoh, king of Egypt, give counsel to the Jehudith midwives, the name of one of whom was Shifra, who is Jokeved, and the name of the other Puvah, who is Miriam her daughter. And he said: When you attend Jehudith women, and see them bear, if it be a male child, you shall kill him; but if a daughter, you may let her live.

But the midwives feared before the Lord, and would not do according to what the king of Egypt had said to them, but they saved the children.

Targum of Jonathan - Chapter 7. . . And Mosheh and Aharon went in unto Pharaoh and did as the Lord had commanded. And Aharon threw down the rod before the sight of Pharaoh, and before the sight of his servants, and it became a basilisk. But Pharaoh called the hachems and magicians; and they also, Janis and Jamberes, magicians of Egypt, did the same by their burnings of divination.

Eusebius of Caesarea circa 260265 A.D.: Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel, Book 9, Chapters 7-8). Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, quotes from a 2nd century A.D. philosopher named Numenius as follows: "From the Pythagorean philosopher himself, I mean Numenius, I will quote as follows . . . in his third book the same author makes mention of Moses, speaking as follows: "And next in order came Jannes and Jambres, Egyptian sacred scribes, men judged to have no superiors in the practice of magic, at the time when the Jews were being driven out of Egypt."  

Vulgate (Latin): 2 Timothy Chapter 3:8: Jannes et Mambres restiterunt Moysi: Mentions Mambres not Jambres.

Historians referring to the pharaoh with a similar name to Mambres reigning after Amenhotep I.  Josephus and Jerome mention a pharaoh Mephres reigning 12y to 12y-9m.  Eusebius calls him Miphres, Africanus calls him Misaphris, while Armenian translations call him Memphres. All likely referring to pharaoh Thutmose 1.

Berossos and Manetho,Introduced and Translated - Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt - Gerald P. Verbrugghe. John M. Wickersham - Ann Arbor - THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN PRESS

Memphres (33) pg140. XVIII.4. (Armenian translation - Memphres. He ruled 12 years.). XVIII.3. (Jeromes Latin edition - Memphres. He ruled 12 years. XVIII.4. (Syncellus edition - Miphres. He ruled 12 years.

Apocrypha - Book of Jasher, Chapter 79:27: And when they had gone, Pharaoh sent for Balaam the magician and to Jannes and Jambres his sons, and to all the magicians and conjurors and counselors which belonged to the king, and they all came and sat before the king.

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