Richard Lepsius.

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

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Philistines and Arabians, from whom the Egyptian could
not distinguish them. The immense increase in their nimi-
bers, of which we read, is only to be understood in this
manner. How could there have been so distinct a division
of the one race from their Semitic companions, as is usually
understood, when their chief men themselves frequently did
not shrink from mingling with the Egyptians ?

Even Ishmael had an Egyptian mother and an Egyptian
wife^. Joseph becomes so completely Egyptian that he is
1 Gen. xvi. 3: xxL 21.


able to occupy the highest position under the king, does not
eat at the same table with his brethren, and speaks to them
through an interpreter. He also takes an Eg}'ptian woman
as his wife^, even the daughter of a Priest of Heliopolis ; and
Moses himself marries an Etliiopian-. The same inter-
mingling between the races is afterwards still more fre-
quently mentioned, without being considered as anything
remarkable or forbidden, e. g. Leviticus xxiv. 10 ; 1 Chron.
ii. 34, 35 ; and the same with respect to other foreigners, the
Tyrians, e. g. 1 Kings vii. 14. The immigrants also did not
limit themselves to the land of Goshen, which had been first
assigned to them, but ^^ filled the land^^ and appeared "^o
grow greater and migTitier than the Egyptians^ That the
simple race of Jacob is not here meant, but all who had allied
themselves to it, as to a powerful centre, is again made
evident in the Exodus, where it is said'^, ^'■And a mixed mul-
titude icent up also ivifh them.''^ There may even have been
many Egyptians among the mixed multitude ; indeed the
whole population continued to cling, even long after the
Exodus, so firmly to Egyptian customs, and even to the re-
ligious practices of the Egyptians, that they were constantly
inclined to fall back again to the old form of worship. Is it
surprising that the Egyptians should have considered those
people as Egyptians — and called them so in their traditions
— who, even at the foot of Sinai, made an image of the holy
bull, INIneuis, and solemnised it with festivities, thus proving
that the greater proportion of them had adopted the Egyp-
tian religion ?

This was naturally the reason why the Jews were so fre-
quently viewed as an Egyptian colony, e. g. by Strabo^,
Apion^, and others ; and in this at least there is no contra-
diction between the Egyptian and Hebrew accounts ; they
rather both assist in completing a more perfect picture.

* Gen. xlL 45. 2 Numb. xii. 1.
' Exodus xii. 38. Compare Numbers xi. 4.

* p. 701), 824.

5 C. Ap. ii. 3. Compare Tacit. Hist v. 2- Aethiopum prolem.


The emigrating people were described especially by Mane-
tho, and by all the other Egyptian traditions, as a race of
^^ unclean, leprous Egyptians, godless, and hated hy God'' It
is evident that the people designated here were of foreign ex-
traction, DiFFEEiXG rN" EAiTH, consequently godless settlers
in Egypt, the shepherd families, who, on account of their
occupation, in remembrance of the old hereditary enemy,
were hated by the genuine Egyptians, especially by the priests,
"ybr every shepJierd is an abomination tcnto the Egyptians'^.''''

The Mosaic account also corroborates the opinion that
the leprosy and the lohite sickness (Xcvktj, dXcpas), which re-
sembles it, were very prevalent in those times, and particu-
larly among the Jews, and that they were most dangerously
infectious. This is intimated by the strict laws of separation
issued by Moses against those attacked by the leprosy,
among whom, however, his own sister Miriam^ is found;
also by the miracle of Moses, who draws his own liand
out of his bosom white as snow with leprosy^, and afterwards
afflicts the land "^^-ith the plague and with noxious boils*,
and finally with the sudden death of all the first-born. This
perfectly explains the Egyptian account of the universal
plague of the leprosy, which had more particularly broken
out among the poorer and more uncleanly settlers, and
which threatened the whole Egyptian nation^. To this is to
be added the belief of th6 strict Egyptians that inward un-
cleanness and godlessness of the heart must necessarily be
inseparably connected with outward uncleanness and with
the leprosy, the most abhorred of the diseases sent by God.

It is said, by Manetho, that among these infected people
there were some learned priests. Possibly these were of
the Egyptian race, and yet were cast together with the
unclean strangers. But there is nothing to prevent our

• Gen. xlvi, 34. 2 ^STumbers xii. 10.
3 Exodus iv. 6. 4 Exodus ix. 3, 9.

* The Persians also knew no other way of protecting themselves
against tliis infectious disease of the Xeirp-q rj Xevxi] than by driving those
who Avere attacked by it out of the town, and if they were strangers, out
of the country. Herod. 1, 138.


assuming that these priests were also of foreign descent, and
perhaps themselves Israelites. It is not, indeed, an im-
probable assertion, that Moses himself was brought up as
a priest of Heliopolis. It is evident that Joseph could not,
as a Hebrew, have been first minister of Pharaoh, but that
he must, at the same time, have possessed both the rank,
learning, and outward consecration of the Egyptian priests,
with whom he had also united himself by marriage; and
that Moses likewise, brouglit up in the house of the king,
could only be instructed, in all the wisdom of the Egyptian
priests, through the same medium of outward fellowship.
Contrasted with the Egyptian prophets and hierogramma-
tists, who equally convert their staffs into serpents, change
water into blood, and fill the land witli frogs, he appears
before Pharaoh only as a wiser, and more highly endowed
man, than those sages. The name Osarsipli, is of little im-
portance here, for even the name of Moses is expressly de-
clared to be Egyptian, as it could not have been otherwise.
But yet on this very account it is worthy of notice, because
it is interpreted as being expressly derived from Osiris at
Heliopolis. As the principal god in that place was Ea, i. e.
■'HXtos, the service of Osiris was imdoubtedly most closely
united with the holy sun-bull of Osiris^, the white buU
represented in the paintings gold^ ^ (j "^^ Menes, or
Mneuis, the same whom the people adored in the desert,
and whose worship was even introduced into Palestine by
King Jeroboam I., when he was recalled from Egypt'^. A par-
ticular local worship in Heliopolis had been dedicated to this
bull since the time of Menes ; and this very town, in which,
according to the Egyptian tradition, Moses is said to have
been the priest of Osiris (therefore of the golden calf), is,
besides, always considered specially connected with the Jews.
Erom that town Joseph took his wife, and On— so Helio-
polis was called by the people — according to the Septua-

* Plut. de Is\ c. xxxiii.

a Champollion, Pantheon, pi. xxxviii.

3 1 Kings xii. 2, 2S, 30, 32; 2 Kings x. 29.


gint, was even built by tlie Israelites^. This cannot mean
that they first founded the town, for it had been already
mentioned as the native town of Joseph's wife, and is also
named upon the monuments even in the Old Monarchy, and
in the annals as early as the time of Menes ; but it cannot
also be explained alone by saying that Heliopolis was pro-
bably tlie principal town of the eastern province of Goshen,
it certainly can only be understood to mean that the Israel-
ites completed the elevation and damming off of the town
against the inundations, of which we shall say more here-
after. The Manethonic account is therefore important for
this reason also, that it makes Moses come from Heliopolis,
and thence indicates his connection with the golden bull.

It further follows, from the Egyptian recital, that the
sudden persecution of the unclean people had a special
cause, and this appears always to proceed from the advice
which the priests give the superstitious Idngs, as to how the
distress of the leprosy, and the degeneration and desecra-
tion of their religious services were to be remedied. But in
the desire not to expel this whole race, but to destroy them
by hard labour in the country itself, or to let them perish in
the desert, or even to drovrn them-, we at the same time
perceive another reason for the persecution, namely, the fear
lest they should rise up as open enemies of the country, and
unite themselves with the banished shepherds for a new
subjugation of the land, a fear so well founded, that what
was expected, was soon most completely fulfilled. Here
again there is the silent acknowledgment that those un-
clean Egyptians were principally of foreign extraction, and
had a natural bias to their Palestinian hereditary enemies,
whom they afterwards called to their assistance. And the
Mosaic account also exactly agrees with this^ : " Let us
deal wisely with them," says Pharaoh, " lest they multiply,
and it come to pass that when there falleth out any war

1 Exod. i. 11.

- Similar perhaps to the command of Pharaoh to drown the Hebrew

3 Exod. i. 10.


tliey join also with our enemies, andjiglit against us^ There-
fore, taskmasters were placed over the land, and the people
tormented with building and all kinds of hard service, to
which undoubtedly the working in the stone-quarries had
reference, which is made particularly prominent in the
Egyptian relation. The chief feature in both recitals is
the design of oppression and destruction, by means of ex-
orbitant taskwork.

All accounts are also agreed upon the great number of
the enemy, which had grown up in the country, and even if
only 280,000^ had departed, as the Egyptians related, while
in the Hebrew accounts 600,000 are mentioned, it was at
any rate a great event, on which the Eg}^tian annals could
not possibly preserve silence.

These are all features of the Egyptian narrative, which
place beyond doubt the identity of tliat iusiuTection of the
Lepers under Osarsiph, with the Exodus of the Israelites
under Moses, even if we set aside the far more direct, but
in the view of some perhaps, on that very account, less trust-
worthy evidence, which consists in what is added concerning
the laws of Osarsiph, that the Egyptian gods should no
longer be worshipped, and that they should never again hold
intercourse with any other race, also concerning the name of
Moses itself, which Osarsiph is said to have adopted. Eor I
certainly consider it as more than probable that the name of
jNIoses was not originally found in the Egyptian narrative ;
that the latter was only connected with a rebellious priest
Osarsiph, and that Manetho first changed the name in con-
sequence of the comparison with the Hebrew accounts,
which had been made long before his day. But this assump-
tion only upholds still more the age and the independence of
the Manethonic narrative, whose genuine and ancient Egyp-
tian character is besides apparent to the attentive reader
through all its other parts. AYith reference to this, I shall
only mention the peculiar feature of beholding the gods, and

^ This number, which differs from the one in the original, was in-
serted by the Author, April, 1853.— Tr.


its connection with an earlier king, further the name of the
town Abaris, which was entirely lost in later times, and
could not therefore have been orally preserved by the people,
but must have been taken from old writings. Also the un-
fortunate and ignominious turn of the event for the Egyp-
tians, the cowardly flight of the king to Ethiopia, and the
revolting usage to which the whole lower country, and espe-
cially the priesthood, were exposed for thirteen years, but,
above all, the complete absence of all allusions and attacks
upon the Jews as such, sufficiently proves that the whole
was a simple, faithful account from the old writings. There-
fore, when Josephus, in order to maintain his wholly unte-
nable opinion that the Hyksos were the Jews, asserts that
Manetho did not derive this narrative from genuine ancient
sources, but that he only relates incredible fables, and de-
clares besides that Manetho himself granted the uncertainty
of his account, when he says, he will now write what is men-
tioned in the tradition of the Jews — ypacjxiv to. fivSevofxeva
Koi Xeyofieva nest ratv 'lovbaitov — (to write the mythical and
legendary accounts concerning the Jews), this is only one
more of the forced and ingenious accusations of which his
controversial work is composed. The words of Manetho, as
they are extant, nowhere support this assertion of Josephus,
except the last, which are to this purport : — Xeyerat d'on rfju
TToKiTciav KDLL Tovs vofxovs avTols Kara^aXofievos lepevs, to yevos
HXiouTToXtTT^ff, opofia '0(rap(ri(P, dno tov iv 'HXtou ttoXcl 6eov 'Ocripecos,
(OS peTejBT] ds tovto to yevos, peTeredr] Tovi'op.a kol TrposrjyopevdTj

M(ov(rris—(It is said that a priest who founded their pohty and
laws, a HeliopoKtan by race, named Osarsiph, when he went
over to this nation from the service of the god Osiris in
Hehopolis, received a change of name, and was called Moses).
This contains the honest acknowledgment of Manetho that
the ancient sources whence he derived his information neither
mention the J'eics nor Moses, which is confirmed by his own
narrative. Therefore it was only a Xeyopei/ov (tradition), if it
were not indeed a pLv6ev6p.evov (mere table), as Josephus adds,
which applied that account to the Jews. Manetho evidently


did not intend to say more. The account of the banishment
of the Lepers bears exactly the same stamp as the earlier
account of the banishment of the Hjksos, and even an en-
tirely superficial critical examination would only lead us to con-
clude, from the mention in both accounts of the city of Abaris
(which at Manetho's time had long since passed out of remem-
brance), that he made use of the same ancient authorities for
tlie one as for the other. Therefore, instead of the reproaches
of Josephus, Manetho rather deserves all our gratitude for
so strictly abstaining from introducing his own views, how-
ever correct they may have been, into the long-approved
historical relations. He leaves the decision in the hands
of liis readers. And it seems to me that we can now make
ours upon good grounds, not depending upon his opinions,
but upon the documentary evidence he lays before us, to
the effect, namely, that the identity of the two occurrences,
recognised even before the time of Manetho, must actually
be accepted.

Josephus, however, is equally groundless and frivolous in
liis reproach to the Egyptian historian, when he asserts that
he has only of his own accord inserted the king here, under

W hum he places the event — ' Afxevacf^Lv da-TroLTja-as e/i/3oXi/xoi/

(iaaiXta — (Having inserted Amenophis as king), and that he
has not therefore ventured to assign a fixed number of
years to his reign. As Josephus before made a great
confusion between the kings "A/xcdo-is, and Ted^axris, and since
licre also, he has not remarked, that he has named the same
king once before in a former extract (c. 15) in his right
place, and ascribed to him the correct nineteen years and
six months as the period of his reign, the reproach is at once
removed from tho Egyptian historian, and falls back upon

Let us now see what place in the Egyptian annals is
assigned to the King of the Exodus. Here again we are
first referred to Josephus. We shall investigate in its proper
place more minutelv, how far he had the true account of



Manetho before him, or only extracts from it. But it is
easy to perceive from a cursory comparison of his extracts,
which are partly given verbatim, and partly summarily, that
in the two principal passages upon this portion of Egyptian
history, he had two different authorities before him, who, in
the writing of the names, and in certain details, somewhat
differ from one another, and thence caused no little con-
fusion to the inconsiderate critic.

If we now place these two authorities of Josephus beside
one another, and compare with them the corresponding
portion of the lists of Africanus and of the monuments, we
obtain the following general view. (See next page.)

The first thing to be remarked is that the last column,
that of the monuments, is authentically determined, because
it is entirely borrowed from several monumental catalogues,
and taking it in details, the testimony of numerous con-
temporaneous monuments puts it beyond a shadow of
doubt. The lists of the authors may therefore be judged
with the greatest safety, according as they agree with it,
but not the reverse. Hence it follows, that in the first au-
thority of Josephus, either one has been lost between the
first and second names, or the second and third names are
incorrectly anticipated, since they should have come after
the foui'th. The numbers placed beside the reigns leave no
doubt of this. The last of the two mistakes has evidently
been committed by Africanus with regard to the 'AiJLeuco(f)dd ;
therefore, in the comparative columns, the same has also
been assumed to belong to Josephus. Purthermore, we
read in the text of Josephus, chap. 15, 2e6a3aris koI 'Pafiio-a-ris
(Sethosis and Eameses), but we learn from the context,
and chap. 26, that we ought to read 6 koI (who is also).
In the second authority of Josephus, the addition 6 koI
'Fajieara-T)^ (who is also Eamcses), is entirely wanting, which
is undoubtedly correct, since neither the names of these
two, or any other kings, are seen in connection on the
monuments. The mistaken connection appears to have been









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