🔼The name Neco: Summary
- Striker, Smiter, Halter / Stricken, Smitten, Halted
- From the verb נכה (naka), to smite or strike.
🔼The name Neco in the Bible
The name Biblical Neco or Necho (spelled נכה in Kings and נכו in Chronicles) belongs to a Pharaoh of the seventh century BCE. The records are sketchy but it appears there were two Pharaohs named Neco: Neco I ruled from 672 to 664 BCE and his grandson Neco II from 610 to 595 BCE. In the period between the two Pharaohs Neco, Egypt was ruled by son & father Psamtik I.
During the reign of Neco I, the Assyrians under king Esarhaddon invaded Egypt and subdued it. Greek mercenaries came to the aid of Psamtik I, formed a navy and fought the Assyrians, who also began to suffer attacks by steppe peoples (Scythians and others). By the time of Neco II, Egypt experienced a brief period of resurgence and actually helped Assyria fight its many enemies in an attempt to restore the trade routes. By then, the Assyrian empire had disintegrated and their territories, along with those of Egypt, fell to Babylon, who in turn soon yielded them to Persia.
The Biblical Neco appears to mostly coincide with Neco II, as he was the one who marched his army north to engage the Assyrians. The Bible tells that Neco met king Josiah of Judah half-way at Megiddo, where Neco killed the Judaic king (2 Kings 23:29). Josiah's son Jehoahaz succeeded him but after a mere three months, Pharaoh Neco imprisoned him at Riblah in Hamath. Neco fined Judah and made Eliakim king (2 Kings 23:33-35, 2 Chronicles 36:4).
🔼The role of Pharaoh Neco in the Bible
Most of the known details of these Egyptian kings come from the records of Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Judah, but unlike ancient propagandists and modern historians, the Hebrew scribes weren't interested in politics but in the evolution of the wisdom tradition — which in turn, then as much as now, hinged mostly on the evolution of information technology. The hot new thing in those days was the alphabet, which had been developed in the Levant but hadn't been widely adopted yet; specifically not by the Egyptian wisdom elite, whose priests clung to their much less efficient hieroglyphs until well into the Christian era.
The alphabet not only allowed ordinary people to learn to read and write, it also paved the way to heaven and an everlasting life. A culture that stubbornly clung to the old ways would see its legacy forgotten and would itself perish and turn to dust, along with the human individuals who formed the culture and derived their personal identity from it. The rise of the alphabet not only threatened to erase the divide between the priestly elite and the proletariat (Matthew 27:51, Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9), it also gave evolutionary advantage to bands of uppity slaves over millennia old royal traditions. The battle that the Jews fought was not fought with swords and spears but with the alphabet and thus an information technology that would allow Israel's legacy to be preserved forever (Psalm 16:10, Acts 13:35).
Psamtik I appears to have grasped that information technology is the true battle field of history, and also that languages change over time (which is really quite an advanced insight) and ordered an experiment involving two babies to discover mankind's original language. No one was allowed to speak to these babies, tells us the 5th century BCE Greek historian Herodotus, and when one of them began to speak, it uttered the Phrygian word for bread. It appears that Herodotus was also not too occupied with literary realism, and his story is much rather in line with the one that tells of the formation of the temple of YHWH in Jerusalem.
The temple of YHWH in Jerusalem formed the focal point of the world's quest for wisdom (1 Kings 10:24-25) and was a joint venture between kings Solomon of Israel and Hiram of Phoenicia. The Phoenicians had perfected the Ugaritic abjad (a consonantal alphabet) and the Hebrew contribution was vowel notation. The three symbols that could either be a vowel or a consonant were י (y), ו (w) and ה (he). The familiar name יהוה (YHWH) means "House Of Y-W-H" or "House Of Vowel Notation" in the same way as the name Pharaoh means "House Of PR'" or "House Of Confederation".
It's against these considerations that the Chronicler records the astonishing message of Pharaoh Neco to king Josiah of Judah: "What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God [אלהים, Elohim] has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you." (2 Chronicles 35:20-22).
The Targum notes a dialogue between two rabbis, one of whom explained that Neco "wanted to sit on Solomon's throne but didn't know how it worked, and a snake bit him and a lion maimed him" (Pesiqta deRab, Kahana 27). This demonstrates that to the ancient Hebrews Jews, Pharaoh Neco was not so much some specific man who ruled a country somewhere, but rather the personification of the attempt of the ancient hieroglyph-based Egyptian wisdom tradition to overcome the novelty of the alphabet. Ultimately the alphabet won, and whatever remained of Egypt's wisdom tradition was pillaged and appropriated by Semitic and Greek scholars.
🔼Etymology of the name Neco
The name Neco appears to be Semitic. It may be a creative transliteration of some Egyptian original but it may also be a name deliberately attached to him by the peoples he sought to subdue. The name Neco comes from the verb נכה (naka), to smite or strike:
The verb נכה (naka) means to smite or strike, or more precise: to immobilize someone (or something) and dissipate whatever had given them the power to move about freely.
Adjectives נכה (nakeh) and נכה (nekeh) mean stricken or smitten (often "stricken of feet" or "lame"). The noun מכה (makka), means a striking or a smiting: a beating, a scourging, a wound, a slaughter, a plague.
On rare occasions these words are spelled to emulate a foreign spelling, as נכא (naka'). A noun נכאת (neko't) describes a kind of spice or gum.
For a meaning of the name Neco, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Lame. NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary both don't offer a translation of this name.
Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the literary character of Pharaoh Neco serves to mark the event horizon of Egyptian hieroglyphs, or more general: the limitation of any information technology that is based on accumulation rather than the pursuit of efficiency.
The primary power of the alphabet was that it allowed ordinary people to learn how to read and write, and this vastly increased the brain power that became devoted to the study of natural reality. The secondary effect, which might actually be its strongest, is that the alphabet allowed stories to be told in ways that began to be alike the ways of nature. The alphabet allowed stories to be fractals, just like natural patterns form fractals, which in turn allowed a single narrative structure to report on a broad array of real-world manifestations, which in turn allowed for vast data compression and thus a much more efficient data storage.
The alphabet pried the study of natural reality out of the hands of the centralized priestly class, with their political responsibilities and secondary motives, and became so much better at emulating created realty that it was said that the Word of God, or the rules by which creation operates, had assumed human form, namely as the output of humanity's information technology (texts) around which humanity self-organized.
The name Neco marks the limit of any information technology that is centralized and based on accumulation. Neco's ultimate nemesis is the Word that sits at the heart of a humanity that is based on the knowledge of creation and is allowed to organize spontaneously, according to its central Word and in utter freedom (Galatians 5:1).