Ancient Egypt, Her Testimony to the Truth of the Bible/Introduction
|Ancient Egypt, Her Testimony to the Truth of the Bible by
OBJECT OF THE WORK.—SOURCES WHENCE THE ANCIENT
HISTORY OF EGYPT IS TO BE DERIVED. ERA OF MENES.
OF THE PYRAMIDS.—OF OSORTASEN I OF AMOSIS.
THE EIGHTEENTH DYNASTY. THE PERIOD OF DECLINE.
NAMES AND TITLES OF THE MONARCHS OF
THE EIGHTEENTH DYNASTY.
THIS work is designed to present to the Christian reader a few examples of the extent to which the Bible is susceptible of illustration from the remains of Ancient Egypt, now that the mode of interpreting the hieroglyphic writings has been discovered. It will be found to differ from other recent publications with the same professed object, in appealing, not merely to the pictures which occur on Egyptian temples and tombs, but also to the inscriptions that accompany them,—without which they were never intended to be understood, and are, therefore, necessarily unintelligible. It is for want of this reference to hieroglyphics, that little, beyond a series of pleasing and somewhat instructive embellishments, has yet been produced from a quarter whence such large accessions of facts of real value and importance in biblical criticism were reasonably to be anticipated.
Some prefatory remarks on the history of Ancient Egypt are necessary.
The materials for this history are to be derived from— I. The Bible; which is also the first beyond all comparison, both in the value and importance of the facts it has recorded.
II. The ruins of temples, tombs, etc., now in existence, on which are inscribed the hieroglyphic names of kings with the dates of their reigns, and also, several genealogical tables containing the names of the monarchs of Egypt in the order of their succession.
III. The work of Manetho, a priest of Sebennytus, on the dynasties of the kings of Egypt, written in Greek by the command of Ptolemy Philadelphus about 180 B.C. This book is lost; but long quotations from it occur in the writings of Josephus, Eusebius, and Syncellus. The latter writer quotes from two abbreviators of Manetho, one of whom was named Eratosthenes; the work of the other is called "The Old Chronicle." Manetho's book professes to be a translation from historical documents then existing in the temples of Egypt. Like the histories of India, China, Mexico and most other heathen nations, it commences with the reigns of the gods and demigods which lasted many hundred thousand years, and the first of whom was the sun or Phra, who gave his name, Pharaoh, to all his successors on the throne of Egypt. After these come thirty-one dynasties of men, who, according to Manetho, reigned in succession over Egypt for an incredibly long period. The aid, however, of the two preceding authorities enables us materially to cut down this vast antiquity. Some of these dynasties prove to be fabulous; others are the names of kings who reigned contemporaneously over different parts of Egypt.
IV. The Greek historians Herodotus and Diodorus have also recorded many anecdotes of the ancient kings of Egypt; but, as they observe no chronological order, it is only by the aid of the preceding authorities that these anecdotes can be made available as history.
From the casual notices of the history of Egypt in the Bible, we learn the following facts:—
1st. Egypt was colonised by the descendants of Mizraim, the son of Ham, who gave to the country its Oriental name, both in ancient and modern times. This event took place shortly after the dispersion of mankind from Babel (Gen. x. 13).
2nd. Egypt was a settled kingdom, ruled by a Pharaoh, at the time of Abram (Gen. xii. 10 seq.)
3rd. Egypt acquired immense wealth under the administration of Joseph (Gen. xlviii. 1).
4th. Egypt sustained terrible national calamities, which, from the tenor of the narrative, would appear to have been irretrievable ones, at the time of the Exodus (Ex. vii. to xii.)
The monumental remains of Ancient Egypt now in existence, collated with the fragments furnished by Manetho and the Greek historians, supply the following indications:—
I.—The name of the first monarch of Egypt, unei, the Menes of Manetho, who, according to Josephus, reigned many years before Abraham.
II.—THE ERA OF THE PYRAMIDS : that is, of the building of the celebrated pyramids of Ghizeh near Memphis in Lower Egypt. The names of the builders of the first, second and third pyramids—
have been discovered in the buildings themselves by Col. Howard Vyse. There are also some tombs in their vicinity which are contemporary with them. This remote period is characterised by skill in the arts of design equalling, if not surpassing, that of any succeeding period. It corresponds to the fourth dynasty of Manetho.
III.—THE ERA OF OSORTASEN I., the next succeeding monarch of whose public monuments any trace remains in Egypt. His inaugural title is No. 7 of the annexed genealogy. He is the first monarch whose name is well ascertained to have been inclosed in two rings or cartels. The inaugural titles of six of his predecessors, and of a long line of his successors, are still legible in the genealogies we have already noticed.
|Pharaoh making good (his) offerings.||Pharaoh the great lord.|
|Pharaoh, sun of the world of gold||Pharaoh the vigilant|
- The brackets indicate the contents of the second ring, which is not given here.
The frequent occurrence of the name Ammenemes in the second ring among the immediate successors of Osortasen, decides that his era corresponds with the twelfth dynasty of Manetho, in which the same name is thrice repeated.
Though seven dynasties and nearly 1500 years are interposed by this author between these two eras, we know, upon the far better authority of the styles of art that prevailed in both, that there cannot have been any very long interval between them; for in this particular they are identical. No monument, however, has yet been discovered whereon the two stand connected in the order of their succession.
Osortasen was a prosperous and successful monarch, who reigned over the whole of Egypt; but no remains of the works of his immediate successors have been discovered in Lower Egypt. They held their court at Abydos in Upper Egypt, while another race of monarchs equally civilised with themselves had possession of Memphis, and probably, therefore, of Lower Egypt. This agrees well with Manetho's account of the invasion and conquest of Egypt by a race of people from Canaan, whom he calls shepherds or Ύκσῶς which he interprets shepherd-kings. They reigned in Memphis, by his account, for 511 years. He gives us the names of six of them. The names of two of the Memphitic kings who reigned contemporaneously with the descendants of Osortasen at Abydos have been discovered in tombs in the burial place of Ancient Memphis. One of them reads— ⲡⲓⲡⲓ, in which we recognise Άφοβις or Άφοφις, one of the names of these shepherd-kings in Manetho's list; the other is ⲁⲥⲥⲁ which re-produces in a manner equally satisfactory the name of Άσσις another of them. Notwithstanding the fearful account given by Manetho of the barbarities committed by the shepherds in Egypt, they were evidently a highly refined race. The tomb of Ass is is said by its discoverer, M. l'Hôte, to be executed with surpassing skill. It is in the style called cavorelievo, like most other similar monuments; and each character in it has the delicately exquisite finish of a gem or medal. This great perfection of art at so remote a period, which in his judgment was never afterwards equalled, is a subject of great surprise to him  but will occasion none to those who rightly consider that all the arts of social life were, in the first instance, the direct gifts of God to man. The shepherds had adopted the religion, the manners and the customs of Egypt. The Pharaoh to whom Joseph was prime minister was the shepherd-king Aphophis, according to Manetho. The king of Egypt with whom Abraham had had communication 200 years before, was also a shepherd-king in all probability. The proof of this is the issue of a long chronological enquiry, upon which we cannot now enter. We only observe respecting it, that the vulgar chronology which is usually printed with the English Bible, needs critical correction quite as much as that of the kings of Egypt.
IV.—THE ERA OF AMOSIS, who expelled the shepherds and recovered the throne of all Egypt. Manetho makes him the founder of the eighteenth dynasty, and interposes between his times and the former epoch a succession of more than 109 kings, and an interval of nearly 2000 years. The entire list, however, of the monarchs of Egypt, between Osortasen I. and Amosis, is preserved on several hieroglyphic genealogies; and the comparison of the two  curiously illustrates the very little reliance that can be placed upon the particulars of dates preserved by the former. A succession of six kings only really intervened between Osortasen I. and Amosis, instead of the hundred and nine of Manetho. The dates of existing monuments  executed in the reigns of each of these monarchs, give a period of 150 years between the accession of Osortasen and that of Amosis. If we add to this 100 years for the duration of all their reigns after the periods indicated by these monuments, which most probably exceeds the truth, it gives us an interval of 250 years only between the twelfth and eighteenth dynasties of Manetho, instead of nearly 2000 years.
The era of Amosis, or the eighteenth dynasty, was the golden age of Egyptian history. Nearly all the temples and palaces, the ruins of which are still in existence, were begun by the Pharaohs of this illustrious line. Every thing that was undertaken by them indicates the possession of enormous wealth, and times of the utmost prosperity. The treasures accumulated by the shepherd-kings under the administration of Joseph seem to have produced the usual effect of enervating the possessors, and exciting the cupidity of their still formidable neighbours the hereditary Pharaohs at Abydos. They became in their turn the aggressors, attacked their ancient conquerors, dispoiled them of their wealth and expelled them once more from the limits of Egypt, of the whole of which they afterwards retained possession. This event took place during the sojourn of Israel in Goshen, after the death of Joseph and his brethren and all that generation. The prosperity of the Israelites in this dependency of Egypt, and the circumstance that they had come thither originally from Canaan the land of the shepherds, would naturally excite the jealousy of the conquerors. Goshen lay between Egypt and Canaan. In this country dwelt " a people more and mightier than they." It was, therefore, perfectly conformable to the suggestions of worldly policy that they should enslave and cruelly maltreat them, " lest when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies and fight against us " (Ex.i. 10). " The new king over Egypt which arose up and knew not Joseph " (Ex. i. 8) was either Amosis or one of his immediate successors ; so that the epochs of the eighteenth dynasty and the captivity coincide, or nearly so.
There were sixteen kings in the eighteenth dynasty who reigned for about 348 years. The earlier monarchs of this race appear to have reigned in peace, for their monuments are covered with the representations of idolatrous ceremonies, or occasionally record some triumph over negro races to the south. But those of their successors show that they had incessantly to contend for the integrity of Egypt with enemies from the north east. The Exodus took place under the last monarch of the eighteenth dynasty, and Egypt never recovered the blow which this terrible event inflicted upon her prosperity; for her next monumental epoch is—
IV.—THE ERA OF DECLINE. From the collation of Manetho's legend with the inspired narrative, we find that the Exodus was followed almost immediately by a second invasion of the shepherds, whereby the rulers of Egypt, with their infant monarch the son of Pharaoh who perished in the Red Sea, were once more expatriated and compelled to take refuge in Ethiopia. Thirteen years afterwards, the invaders were in their turn driven out by the Egyptians, and the young monarch recovered the throne of his ancestors. The monuments still in existence record his name, Remesses, which coincides with the name given by Manetho. They also inform us that after the expulsion of the shepherds he built the palace of Medinet Abou, the last expiring effort of the greatness of ancient Egypt. No trace of any large building, (scarcely that of one of any size) remains, which was begun in the 800 years of slow but sure decline, that elapsed between the expulsion of the second invasion of the shepherds, and the destruction of the monarchy by Cambyses the Persian. The Pharaohs of this period found sufficient occupation for the little energy that remained in Egypt, in the attempt to carry forward the vast piles that their greater ancestors had begun and left unfinished. The events of the Exodus are absolutely required to account for this very remarkable circumstance.
This rapid sketch of the history of Ancient Egypt will suffice to demonstrate that it belongs to the Biblical rather than to the classic era of antiquity; and therefore, that it must be from the former not from the latter that its remains are either to receive illustration, or to impart it.
We subjoin the hieroglyphic names of Amosis and his successors who formed the eighteenth dynasty of Manetho. All the Pharaohs of this epoch wrote their names in two rings or cartels, the first of which contains the inaugural and distinctive title assumed by each on his accession: the other is the proper name.
The dates of the several reigns are from the calculations of M. Champollion Figeac. They are entirely founded upon astronomical and historical data given by ancient authors, and are therefore well entitled to the reader's confidence.
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[Pharaoh, i. e. sun, avenging lord of Upper and Lower Egypt]—[Amosis, i.e. born of the moon]. The founder of Manetho's eighteenth dynasty, reigned 25 years, reign began B.C. 1847.
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- Mizraim or Mizr.
- See his work on the Pyramids.
- See Mr. Birch's valuable account of one of them, published in the Archaeologia.
- Nos. 1 to 6.
- Nos. 8 to 14; see also infra.
- The six immediate successors of Osortasen are all named either Ammenemes or Osortasen.
- This fact is recorded in a magnificent series of sculptured stelæa; or tombstones, discovered at Abydos by Athanasi, which are now in the British Museum. Mr. Birch has given a highly interesting memoir of one or two of them in "The Archæologia." Some account of others of them will also be found in "The Antiquities of Egypt," published by the Religious Tract Society.
- "Plus on remonte dans l'antiquité vers l'origiue de l'art Egyptien, plus les produits de cet art sent parfaits, comme si la génie de cet peuple, à l'inverse des autres, se fut formé tout à coup." L'Hote: letter from Egypt, in the "Journal des Savans," Jan. 1841.
- No. 14 of the Genealogy, page 5.
- On the tablet of Abydos, in the chamber at Karnak, etc.
- See aboye p. 4, Nos. 7 to 14.
- The Egyptians dated all their records from the accession of the ruling monarch, in exactly the same manner as the Jews afterwards.
- The tomb of Rekshare at Thebes, which contains the well-known picture of the captive Jews making bricks, is dated in the reign of Thothmosis III. (Moeris), the fifth monarch of this dynasty.
- Lettres à M. le Duc de Blacas D'Aulps.
- The brackets indicate the contents of the rings.