Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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noctial hours of the complete day, vvxBr}l^€pov.

From days they formed the decades, or Egyptian weeks,
and from these the thirty-day month; they also knew
the lunar months, and solemnised the new and full moon.
Their season consisted of four months. They recognised
as forms of years, and carried out in the calendar, both
the oldest lunar year, as well as the solar year of 365 days,
and the Sirius year, which is a quarter of a day longer. The
civil solar year, after twenty-five years, namely at the Apis
period, agreed again with the lunar year ; in the same way,
calculating by the day, it agreed with the Sirius year, at the
lustrum of four years ; and in the space of 1461 years, it
agreed completely with the Soihis period. The Phoenix
period, of 1500 years, was employed to make the civil year
agree with the tropical year, which was afterwards divided
according to the three seasons into three parts— 500 years
each. Finally, the Sidereal year, or the slow receding of the
echptic to the west, became known, and it was expressed,
although with an imperfect comprehension of the direction


and Telocity of the movement, by its greatest astronomical
period of 36,525 years.

"We have gained the principal purpose we had in view if
we have succeeded in pointing out that, in Egypt, from the
time of Menes, to whose reign the historical accounts go
back, there existed to an extraordinary degree all the con-
ditions necessary for the growth and the perfect development
of the self-conscious and historical life of a nation, and for a
chronologically-arranged historical literature, formed by the
monuments and contemporaneous records. These circum-
stances have placed it in our power to investigate and restore,
from such early times, the experienced and recorded history
of the Egyptians. As far as our present knowledge extends,
the conditions that we have named only appear complete
among the most ancient Asiatic and European nations at a
much later period, namely, during the last millennium before
Christ, therefore an historical investigation, which refers
back as far as that of Egypt, has hitherto been impossible
with respect to those nations, except so far as in the Egyptian
history itself new points of information may be found respect-
ing the oldest history of nations, not Egyptian.

But it may very possibly be imagined that we have been
compelled to stop at the indication of this jpossibility^ being
deficient in the means to raise this historical treasure from
the depths in which we behold it. "We can only restore
true history with the assistance of an historical literature,
and this must either be contemporaneous, and so far possess
in itself a monumental value, or if it is a later literature,
referring to what has long gone by, it must be accompanied
by contemporaneous and intelligible monuments to enable
us to prove and correct it by them. Hitherto we have
certainly possessed one of the necessary means for the
restoration of the Pharaonic history, namely, the Greek
accounts, and extracts from an ancient Egyptian historical
literature. But they remained useless and confused, because
the monuments and the literary remains of the country
were still mute and unintelligible. However, since Cham-


pollion's praisewortliy deciphering of the hierogljphical
writing has rendered it possible to make an historical use of
the monuments of the country, the second means for his-
torical investigation has been placed in our hands. It was
now for the first time possible to gain some advantage from
the literary authorities, and to make a critical examination
of them, which would necessarily demonstrate the general
connection that subsists between the monuments. Only a
correct all-sided combination of the means offered on both
sides can here lead to the aim we have in view.


AVe can best exhibit the relation that subsists between
tlie Hebrew and Egyptian records, by endeavouring to deter-
mine chronologically, and by such means as are extant, the
most important point of contact in the two histories —
namely, the Mosaic period — and thus to prove the value of
tlie several numbers stated. We shall thereby perceive that
the Hebrew accounts, in so far as they are connected with
Egypt, may be held to be of more historical value than
several modem inquirers are inclined to accord to them, and
tliat they are by no means wanting in a fixed chronological
principle, without which history cannot subsist; but that
a more exact chronology, which might serve as a point of
support to the Egyptian, is not to be sought in them, and
it is rather this last which supplies the most certain chro-
nological explanation of those times to the history of
the Israelites. The genuine chronological character of the
Jewish history is pretty well acknowledged by every one
as far back as the division of the kingdom, or the building
of the temple, whereby, indeed, the individual chronological
difficulties, which frequently occur during this epoch, are not
considered, but only the chronological value of those num-
bers generally wliich form the basis of these separate inves-
tigations ; but the strictly chronological character of the
Hebrew determinations of time before this epoch is dis-
puted, and, indeed, in those very numbers which contain in
themselves alone the threads of an exact chronology. A cri-
tical examination of the value of these numbers generally is
thus necessary, and therefore this discussion becomes ap-
propriate here. It is, in fact, of the greatest importance to



"US, because it determines whether it be possible to solve
some marked contradictions which have at all times keenly
engaged the attention of historians and theologians, and still
continue to do so ; it will, besides, enable many people to
decide upon the value of the Manethonic, consequently of
the Egyptian chronology generally, so far as it is made to
depend on its agreement with the accounts obtained from
the oldest source, the only one indeed not Egyptian, which
here, at all events, admits of a comparison.

There are, especially, two numhers which have liitherto
formed the turning points of the chronology of the Old
Testament for the Mosaic period, because, passing over the
uncertain individual statements, they fixed the limits to
great spaces in time, and appeared to lay down a rule for
more special investigations. I mean the 480 years^ which
are calculated to. be the period between the Exodus and the
building of the temple, and the 430 years- for the sojourn of
the Israelites in Egypt. Both numbers very early created
difficulty, and are partly modified, and partly refuted by
other statements of time in the Old Testament. The 4S0
years ought to correspond with the sum of the individual
numbers in the Book of Judges, which last is, however, con-
siderably greater. The genealogies of that same period
would, on the other hand, lead to the conclusion that the
number of years was much fewer. The Seventy themselves
differ in their statement of tlie number, since they write 440
in place of 480 years ; and in the Acts of the Apostles
(xiii. 20), 450 years are calculated for the Judges only to
the time of Samuel; and this again differs from all other
statements. Lastly, we find that Josephus also, even if he
knew the number 480, still did not consider it as binding,
since he never mentions it, but accepts different numbers,
and far higher ones^, which, nevertheless, do not agree with
the Book of Judges. It thereby at least follows, that the
number 480 by itself cannot claim any decided authority.

^ 1 Kings vi. 1. - Exodus xii. 40.

2 Ant. viii. 3, 1: 592 j c. Ap. ii. 2: 612 years.


But there is a still greater difference in the acceptation of
the 430 years which the Israelites are said to have passed
in Eg}'pt. For, setting aside that in an earlier prophecy^
the round numher 400 alone is given, the Seventy under-
stand the whole statement to mean, not from the entrance
of Jacob into Egypt, but from the entrance of Abraham
INTO Canaak, and they therefore translate the words in
Exodus xii. 40, " Now the sojourning of the children of
Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty

years ; by t] de KaroiKTjais T&v vlav ^la-parjX, rjv KarcoKrjo-av iv
Tjj yj) AiyvTTTa Koi (u yrj Xapaav, errj TCTpaKocria TpiaKovra (!N^OW

the dwelling of the children of Israel, which they dwelt in
the land of Eg}-pt and in the land of Canaan, was four hun-
dred and thirty years). The Apostle Paul- also reckons the
430 years from the promise of Abraham, and Josephus-^
does the same, so that for the sojourn in Egypt, which is
understood in the Hebrew text, only 215 years are reckoned,
the remaining 215 being assigned to the time from Abraham
to Jacob. Lastly, if we compare the number of generations
in this period, we shall only find four generations for the four
centuries, so that for this, even half of the time stated would
still be fir too great.

• Finally, if we consider along with these contradictory
statements the intrinsic character of the numbers given in
the original text, namely, the arithmetical relation of the
215 years from Abraham to Jacob, to the 430 or 215 years
from Jacob to Closes, the frequent return also of the inde-
terminate number 40, both in the first'* and still more in the
second period, and lastly the nature of the numbers 480 or
440 as a multiple of 12 or 11 generations of 40 years each,
it appears to me very natural that either a higher providen-

1 Gen. XV. 13; compare Ap. Hist. 7, 6. * Gal. iii. 17.

3 Ant. ii. 15, 2; viii. 3, 1, Compare c. Ap. i. 33, where he calculates
170 years from Joseph to ]Moses.

* Isaac was 40 years old wheu he married Eebecca; Moses is 40 years
old when he goes' to Midian ; at 80 years of age he leads the people out
of Egypt, and dies at the age of 120.


tial meaning, and in spite of all other opposing considera-
tions, the only correct chronological expression would be
seen in this play of numbers, or that this external garb of
numbers would be regarded as unessential for the religious —
indeed, in part, also, for the historical import of those narra-
tions, but that in the latter case all more exact chronological
investigation of this period must be relinquished.

The latter view must gradually prevail in stricter science.
A criterion was wanting in the investigation of the Old
Testament, which might decide upon a definite choice among
its self-contradictory statements. Each claimed for itself a
like authority. If we believe that we may now attempt a
new solution of the difficulty, we rely upon the fresh point
of view which we can occupy for that purpose, since we
now possess a positive scale that may be relied on (indepen-
dent of the investigations of the Old Testament), by which
we can estimate the Hebrew statements, namely, the authen-
tic history and chronology of the Egyptians, which more than
equals the Hebrew in point of age.

Now if it should appear that they can in no way be harmo-
nised, science would then, indeed, remain in its former un-
certainty concerning the times before Solomon, and we should
lose one of the most important and most acceptable corrobo-
rations of Egyptian chronology. But the result of our in-
vestigations is more favourable, since the Egyptian order of
time, resting upon perfectly independent foundations, most
decidedly determines that there is a chronological principle
throughout the historical relation of the Old Testament, and
not an arbitrary selection of Hebrew numbers. By this
means a firm foundation is given to the critical examination
of the latter, and both histories reciprocally afford each other
a support that cannot be shaken.

"We must first of all show that the Egyptian account of the
expulsion of the Lepees, given by Manetho, refers really to
the same event as that narrated in the Old Testament, as the
Exodus of the Iseaelites. "We shall afterwards determine
the epoch which is recognised in the Egyptian tradition, and,


lastly, attempt to show how ever}' other time is in like man-
ner eicludt'd by the historical purport of the Hebrew narra-
tive; that there exists, also, a chronological thread which
leads us to the same result, and, indeed, that the authentic
tradition concerning the year of the Exodus has never been
entirely lost among the Jews. From this fixed point we
shall tlien look back still farther into the times of Joseph,
and the accounts of the Greeks appertaining to that period,
to which will be added our views regarding the visit of Abra-
ham to Eg}-pt.

The following is the account of the Mosaic events which
Josephus gives us from Manetho, and partly in the words
of Manetho himself i. After describing the expulsion of the
Hyksos, whom Josephus considered to be the ancestors of
the Jews, and gi^ing an account of the kings who succeeded
that event, as far as Eampses, the son of Sethos, he continues :
" After he (Manetho) had therefore related, in conformity
with his earlier narrative, that our ancestors^ (the Hyksos)
had departed from Egypt so many years earlier, he then
sa}'s that King Amenophis, whom he here inserts, desired
to become a beholder of the gods, like Horus, one of his pre-
decessors. He communicated this desire to one Amenophis,
son of Paapis, who, on account of his wisdom and pene-
tration into futurity, was believed to partake of the divine
nature. Xow this namesake of Amenophis told him that if
he cleansed the whole country of the Lepees and other
unclean people, he would then be able to behold the gods.
The king thereby rejoiced, collected together all who were
smitten with this bodily disease, throughout the whole of Egypt
80,000 in number, and cast them iuto the stone-quarries,
which are situated east of the Nile, in order that they should
there work, apart from the other Egyptians. Among them
were some learned priests, who had been attacked by the
leprosy. But that wise and prophesying Amenophis began

* Contra. Ap. i. 26.

2 Manetho had only related that the Hyksos were expelled in the
rei^ of Tuthmosis. It is the opinion of Joseuhus alone that they
were the Jews.


to fear the auger of tlie gods, for himself as well as for the
king, if they, the priests, were seen at sucli compulsory
labour ; and he foretold, moreover, that others would hasten
to the assistance of the unclean, and would govern Egypt for
thirteen years. He did not, however, venture to express this
to the king, but, leaving behind liim a written record, he
killed himself. Upon that the king became very much
dejected. Then he (Manetho) continues verbatim, thus:
* Kow, when these people had suffered sufficiently by the
hard work in the stone-quarries, the king yielded to their
entreaty, and gave up to them, for their deliverance and pro-
tection, the town of Abaris, which had at that time been for-
saken by the shepherds (Ilyksos). But this town, according
to traditions of the gods, had always been a Typhonic town.
Now, when these people had entered into this town, and
found the place favourable for revolt, they appointed as their
leader a priest of Heliopolis, by name Osarsiph, and swore to
obey him in all things. He established as their first law
that they should worrship no gods, and that they should not
abstain from those animals which, according to the law, are
considered most holy in Egypt, but that they might sacrifice
and consume them all ; also, that they should associate only
with their fellow-conspirators. After he had established
these and many other laws, which were entirely opposed
to the Egyptian customs, he commanded them all to set
to work to build up the town walls, and to prepare them-
selves for war against King Menophis. But, whilst he con-
sulted some of the other priests and infected persons, he
sent messengers to the shepherds who had been expelled by
Tethmosis to the town of Jerusalem, and, after he had let
them know what had happened to himself and to the others
who had been injured along with him, he invited them to
make war against Egypt in unison with his followers. He
would first of all conduct them to Abaris, the town of their
forefathers, and amply provide the troops with vrhat they
required ; but, if it were necessary, he would protect them,
and easily subject the country to them. Greatly rejoiced,


they readily brought together as many as 200,000 men, and
soon arrived at Abaris. But when Amenophis, the Egyptian
king, heard of the invasion of these people, he was not a little
disturbed, for he remembered -what Amenophis, the son of
Paapis, had prophesied. He first collected the Egyptian
troops, conferred with his commanders, desired those sacred
animals which are the most honoured in the sanctuaries to be
brought to him, and commanded the individual priests, more
especially to conceal the images of the gods most securely.
But he sent his son, Sethos, who was five years old, and was
also called Eamesses, from Eampses, the father of Amenophis,
to his friend (the King of Ethiopia). He himself, indeed,
went forward with the remaining Egyptians, who amounted
to 300,000 fighting men ; however, when the enemy advanced
to meet him he did not engage in battle, but returned hastily
to Memphis, because he believed he was fighting against
the gods. There he carried ofl" the Apis and the other
sacred animals which had been brought thither, and repaired
innnediatcly with the whole army and the remaining bag-
gage of the Egyptians to Ethiopia. The King of Ethiopia
was, in fact, beholden to him ; he, therefore, received him,
supplied his troops with all the necessaries of life which
the country aff'orded, assigned to them as many towns and
villages as would sufiice for the predetermined thirteen
years, in which they would be compelled to be deprived of
his government, and even placed an Ethiopian army on the
borders of Egypt as a protection to the people of King
Amenophis. Thus it stood in Ethiopia. But the Solymites
who had come into the country, and the unclean among the
Egyptians, treated the people so shamefully, that the period
ot^their government appeared to all who then beheld these
impieties the worst of times ; for they not only burnt towns
and villages, and were not satisfied with plundering the
sanctuaries, and abusing the images of the gods, but they
continually made use of those venerated and sacred animals
which were fit to be eaten, compelled the priests and prophets
to become their butchers and destroyers, and then sent them


away destitute. It is said, however, that the priest who gave
them a constitution and laws, who was a native of Heliopolis,
and called Osarsiph (from the god Osiris in Heliopolis),
went over to these people, changed his name, and was called
Moses.' This and much more, which for the sake of brevity
I must omit, is what the Egyptians relate concerning the
Jews. But Manetho says further, that Amenophis after-
wards returned out of Ethiopia with a great force, that he
and his son Eampses, who had also an army, gave battle to
the shepherds and the unclean, conquered them, killed many,
and pursued the remainder to the borders of Syria. Manetho
wrote this and similar things."

Next to this Manethonic account, we shall place the Greek
conception of the matter as we find it in Digdoeus, xl. 3,
taken from Hecataeus of Abdera (and also in an earlier pas-
sage, xxxiv. 1, without his authority being given).

" When," says Hecataeus, " a plague once broke out in
Egypt, most people believed that it was a punishment sent
by the gods. For since many strangers of divers races dwelt
among them, who practised very anomalous customs, with
respect to the sacred things and to the sacrifice, it came to
pass that hence their own ancient worship of the gods
declined. Therefore the natives feared there would be no
end to the evil, if they did not remove those who were of
foreign extraction. The foreigners were therefore quickly
expelled. The best and the most powerful of them united
together, and, as some people say, were driven away to
G-reece and other places, under distinguished leaders, of
whom Danaus and Cadmus were the most famous. But the
great mass withdrew to the country which is now called
Judea, situated not far from Egypt, which was at that time
barren and uninhabited. The leader of this colony was
Moses, who was distinguished by the power of his mind,
and by his courage. He captured the country, and besides
other towns, built HiEESOLTiiA, which has now become so
famous. He also founded the temple, which was so pecu-
liarly holy in their eyes, taught them the worship and the


service of the Deity, gave them la^s, and regulated their
constitution. He divided the people into twelve tribes,
because this is the most complete number, and agrees with
the number of months in the year. But he set up no image
of the gods, for he did not believe God had a human form,
but that he is one God, who embraces heaven and earth, and
is Lord of all things. He regulated the sacrifices and the
usages of life very differently from those of other nations ;
since, in consequence of the banishment which they had
themselves experienced, he introduced a misanthropical mode
of life, hostile to strangers."

The statement in the earlier passage of Diodoetjs, xxxiv. 1,
sounds far more bitter, where he says " that they (the Jews)
alone among all nations scorn any intercourse with others^,
and look upon every one as their enemy. Their forefathers,
also, were driven out of Egypt as disgraced and hated by the
gods ; and in order to cleanse the country, those attacked
with the white sickness and leprosy had been collected
together and cast beyond the frontiers as an accursed race.
But tlie expelled people had conquered the country round
Jerusalem, had formed the nation of the Jews, and trans-
mitted to their descendants their hatred of mankind. On
that account also they had adopted perfectly anomalous laws,
neither to eat with any other people, nor to show them any
kindness." " Antioclius Epiphanes, after he had conquered
the Jews, entered into their holy of holies, into which only
the priests were admitted ; ho there found a stone image of
a bearded man, who sat upon an ass, and held a book in his
hand. He took this for Moses, who had founded Jerusalem,
organised the people, given them laws, and introduced the
disgraceful and misanthropical customs."

Now if we compare these relations, which evidently refer
to Egyptian and not to Jewish statements, with the repre-
sentation we meet with in the Hebrew conception of the
matter, we cannot mistake the general agreement of the
most essential features.

1 Compare Exodus xxxiv. 12, 13.


Differing entirely from the former Exodus of tlie Hyskos,
the description of which is likewise preserved to us by Mane-
tho, here, it is not an open enemy who is to be subdued,
but people of foreign descent, peaceabl}' dwelling in the land,
increasing, however, to a dangerous extent, and who inspired
the Egyptians with fear and hatred. It is true that neither
Manetho, nor any one of the authors we have named, ex-
pressly say that the expelled people were of a different race
from the Egyptians ; but the cause of this may have been
that the entrance of the family of Jacob into the country
which was so important to the Jews, probably passed un-
noticed by them. The influx of emigrants from the eastern
and north-eastern Semitic countries was apparently much
greater in those flourishing times of tlie Egyptian kingdom
than it was thought necessary to recount in the detached
history of the house of Israel. The influence of those
people from Palestine who had been driven back under Tuth-
mosis, must only have increased the former importunity of
that people to enter the blessed land of Egypt. But so
long as they came singly and peacefully, and did not shrink
from entering into all kinds of intercourse and alliance with
the Egyptians, they must have been considered by the
natives as belonging to the country — as Egyptians. It is cer-
tainly a mistake to suppose the Israelites were the only
strangers in Egypt. They dwelt in the land of G-oshen,
situated on the eastern border of the Delta, but of course
only a very small body in the midst of Egyptians, and many

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 35 of 54)