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Sunday, May 5th 2013


Egypt: The Eighteenth Dynasty, part 4

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: Very sleepy


[Egypt Part 1]       [Egypt Part 2]       [Egypt Part 3]       [Egypt Part 4]       [Egypt Part 5]       [Egypt Part 6]

Evidencias de lo SobrenaturalWritten on Saturday: Before proceeding back (shouldn't that be "receding"?) to ancient history, here are a couple of more current items. On my way to the grocery store late this afternoon, I noticed the mailbox filled with its usual accumulation of advertisements and 16-page catalogs, but, as I searched to see if there was anything of value, I found an envelope from IVPress that looked like it held something more than just their summer listing of academic book arrivals. Sure enough, it was Part 3 of 5 out of the anthology, To Everyone an Answer: Essays in Honor of Norman L Geisler, ed. by Frank Beckwith, Bill Craig, and J.P. Moreland (IVP, 2004), which contains an essay of mine on miracles, now translated into Spanish. The publisher, Pulicaciones Andamio, the same group who published the translation of my Pocket Guide to World Religions, is releasing each of the five parts in translation as separate volumes. This one is entitled Evidencias de lo Sobrenatural, and it contains three essays: one by Ben Witherington III on Christology, one by Gary Habermas on the resurrection of Jesus, and one by your flexible bloggist on miracles. There is also an introduction by William L. Craig, but for some reason, that fact did not get mentioned on the cover. The translator, Alejandro Roop, is listed in small print on the cataloging page.

For anyone reading this post who is not familiar with the Christian tradition, the picture on the cover represents the five loaves of bread and two fish with which Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 people.

It's always fun to see one's writings in another language.

      No se espera que sucedan los milagros. Por eso se llaman milagros.
      Miracles are not supposed to happen. That's the whole point about miracles."

You see, I never stop getting excited about seeing what the Lord is doing with my writings, as I have told some of you individually when you have written to me.

To be honest, I needed that little boost today, seeing as I spent the last two nights out of three without sleeping. No, I don't know why, but I dislike it, and life has been just a little on the miserable side.

Workshop Logo

Written on Sunday: That's as far as my energy was able to take me yesterday. I could just have posted that much, but I really was too pooped to even think of that, let alone do it. After a passably decent night, let's get back and pick up some things from the workshop floor concerning ancient Egypt, and--specifically--the 18th dynasty.

Something occurred to me as I have been studying. Much of what we know about ancient Egypt, as I've mentioned, comes from inscriptions, but oftentimes the interpretation of pictures also plays an important role in trying to put together the history. The depictions of gods are fascinating, and--in case you're wondering--it really is true that nobody has a plausible conjecture as to what animal the picture of the annoying deity Set is supposed to be derived from. But with a little help you may be able to puzzle out who in a picture is supposed to be a Pharaoh.

For one thing, it's a matter of size. With a few exceptions, Pharaohs, their wives, and gods will be the largest figures in the illustration. Other important people get to be medium height, while common people and enemies are rather small.

Second, if you're looking at an inscription in hieroglyphics, the name of the Pharaoh will be surrounded in an oval, called a cartouche. This is one of the devices that helped Champollion in his work of deciphering the script. It seemed natural to him that if any words were important enough to receive that kind of decoration every time they appeared, it was definitely worthwhile to pursue the assumption that those would be the names or Pharaohs. He was right, and that hypothesis took him a long way toward his goal. So, here is what the name of our friend, Akhenaten looked like in hieroglyphics.

Akhenaten hieroglyphics

Third, all of this may be a little excessively esoteric. You probably just want the basics for everyday use. You want to know, for example, if you're walking down the street in a crowd of people, if anyone around you is a Pharaoh. As you step into the waiting room at the doctor's, you don't want to fail to acknowledge any Pharaohs sitting there. So, here's a drawing I made of your basic Pharaoh. Although I obviously used pictures of real Pharaohs as models, this is not supposed to be anyone specific, just your basic Pharaoh, as he may be sitting two rows up from you in the movie theater.

Model Pharaoh

On his uneasy head there rests a crown. He may be wearing different ones, depending on the circumstances, but the most important one is the Uraeus, the crown that combines the symbol of Lower Egypt, the cobra, with the symbol of Upper Egypt, the vulture. Each of these pieces was originally a representation of the official goddess of the two areas watching her realm. As we mentioned already, a Pharaoh was depicted with a fake beard, and even Queen Hatshepsut wore one in her depictions. At his accession, at other crucial appearances, and in his grave, the Pharaoh carries two implements, whose superficial meaning is clear, but the reason why they have become symbolic of the Pharaoh's authority not so much. He holds a flail, an object of punishment, which is fairly straight-forward, and a crook, much like a shepherd's tool. Finally, apparently wearing the plain white loin cloth is restricted to Pharaohs, though maybe sometimes it could also be worn by high nobility.

So, as we were saying, at the beginning of the eighteenth dynasty, thanks to the efforts of Thuthmosis I and III in particular, Egypt was the big boy on the block. At the time, they had conquered the entire Levant, reaching all the way to the Euphrates, turning the various states into tribute-paying vassals, who were overseen by three Egyptian representatives. There were the larger nations further out: the Hittites, the Mittanites, the Assyrians, and Babylonians, among others. Mittani is not well known today; it was one of Egypt's stronger enemies at the time, and one of the big surprises in Amenhotep II's sudden move toward peace as he stopped fighting against Mittani. Then there were all of the little small kingdoms, the city-states of Canaan, each of whom wanted protection and gold from Egypt, and most of whom wanted to be just a little bit bigger and stronger than their neighbors. The jealousies and rivalries became exacerbated with the influx of the Habiru, nomadic people who broke into the land, took over cities, and settled in as though they owned the country.

Let me be clear on this: I am in no position to dispute the apparent consensus that Habiru ('apiru) was not a proper noun, at least at first. It appears to have been a general term referring to groups of people who came into settled regions and squatted there for a time, making a nuisance of themselves by reaping where they had not sowed, letting their animals graze in pastures they did not own, and helping themselves to the property of local dwellers when they were in need of various items. Abraham would technically have been considered a Habiru, though a very well-mannered one. However, by the time of the Amarna tablets, the Habirus had become a major problem on a totally different scale; they were overrunning the country in a huge mass, actually pursuing a military campaign, and they had not come for a temporary visit. They intended to take over and stay.

There is, of course, a tradition of denial that the Habiru of the Amarna tablets were the conquering Hebrews of the books of Joshua and Judges. We shall look some more at this issue in the next entry. For now, let me raise a rhetorical question that seems to me to scream for an answer: If this large group of Habirus mentioned in the tablets are not the Hebrews, who were they? Given the scale of the conquest they were undertaking, we would be looking at two invasions of Canaan, roughly at the same time. We know of that of the Israelites. The idea that there was another large organized group that, right about then, was also conquering the Promised Land, whose identity is unknown to us, appears to me to stretch plausibility a bit.

More on the tablets next time. Well, not literally on the tablets. On the blog. About the tablets.

[Egypt Part 1]       [Egypt Part 2]       [Egypt Part 3]       [Egypt Part 4]       [Egypt Part 5]       [Egypt Part 6]

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