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Egypt-Its Religious Aspect -The Jewish Religion-Similarity of the
Egyptian and Hebrew Languages.
By M. W. ALFRED, A. M., M. D.
The mannal labor performed in Egypt, in the days of Rameses, consisted mainly in kneading clay for bricks, quarrying stones, and erecting walls, columns, obelisks, cities, and immense temples for the worship of God. This work was not performed by native Egyptians. They, with staff in hand, held strict supervision of each captive while he performed his allotted task. “ A very curious painting found at Thebes upon the walls of a burial chapel, attributed to Tothmes II, shows us prisoners of war kneading clay, moulding bricks, and building the walls oi a temple to Ammon under the surveillance of Egyptian superintendents armed with heavy staves. The inscription informs us that these prisoners at hard labor are captives by his Holiness to work upon the temple of his father Ammon.” This was centuries before the days of Moses.
The following lines are found upon the back of a Hieratic (sacred) papyrus, which was found much mutilated :-" That for twelve years these men entrusted with the making of bricks be kept, and closely watched in their workshops, so as to see that they deliver exactly the number of bricks that they are ordered to make, without rest or cessation."
So they oppressed the Sons of Jacob many years after this. " And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage in mortar, and and in brick, all manner of service in the field, and all their service wherein they made them serve was with rigor.” (Exod. 1 : 14.) The native Egyptians followed warlike pursuits, and the performance of religious ceremonies.
Religious rites, sacrifices, prayers and processions were the most dignified employments in the realm. The King held the highest religious station in the worship of God, and spake for Him. The next functionary was the High Priest. The High Priest presided over the pontiffs, who with the priestly choirs intoned the consecrated chants at his command.
From a mural inscription we have the following fragments of the religious ceremonies employed at the time of the coronation of Rameses II. "On arriving at the altar, the High Priest presiding over the pageant caused the pontiffs officiating under him to intone the chant consecrated to Divine Light. Standing erect at the altar, he there received the King, who ascended to a place beside him, and aided him in completeing the sacrifice ordained for the occasion : poured out consecrated libations before Ammon; burned the prescribed incense amid a shower of flowers, and prostrated himself while pronouncing these words,— I come to thee my father Ammon, at the end of the procession of Gods, which he forever admits to his presence.”
“The grandmother.— I come to render homage to the Sovereign of Gods, Ammon-Ra, the governing and controlling head of the land of Remi (Egypt) in order that he may grant long long years to His son,-King Rameses, who loves Him.'
“ Brother.- We approach Thee to serve Thy Majesty, O Soverign Lord, Ammon-Ra. Grant a pure and safely established life to Thy son, who loves Thee, Rameses, the lord of the Earth.'
“ The Queen.— And I the royal spouse, the all-powerful mistress of the world, bring my homage, also, to Ammon-Ra, King of gods and men. My heart rejoices in Thy loving kindness. I leap with delight under the weight of Thy favors, O Thou who dost establish the seat of Thy power in the dwelling of Thy son, the lord of the world, Rameses. Accord to him a firmly established and pure life. May his years be counted by periods of panegyrics.' To all these prayers Ammon-Ra replies by the mouth of his High Priest, — My well beloved son, Mei-Ammon, receive from me a pure life and long days to pass upon the throne of Remi. Thou shalt joyously control the world.
The south and the north, the east and the west shall be brought under thy yoke; all the good gates shall be open unto thee. I will give the evil races to thee to be trampled under thy feet. The force of thy arm shall triumph in all parts of the world and the terror of thy name shall stamp itself deeply on the heaps of the barbarians. I will give thee. O my son, the scythe of battle to restrain the foreign nations, and to sever the heads of the impure.
May this helmet remain upon thy forehead where I place it forever.” This grand official and regal pageant took place in Egypt fourieen hundred years before the Christian Era. At that time, (about the time of Moses,) Egypt had her priests, her High Priests, sacrifices, prayers, and ceremonies of Divine worship. Of the
Egyptian priesthood Herodotus says :-“Egyptian women were never priests,-priests shaved every three days,-they neither wore nor spent what belonged to them,—they wore linen garments, – they washed themselves with fresh water twice each day and twice each night,—when the High Priest died his son succeeded him,when praying they made offerings of all kinds to their gods,--they consulted the oracle of Dodona. The oracle of Thebes, and that of Dodona yield their responses nearly in the same manner. The Egyptians were the fiest of all men to establish solemn processions, holidays, and offerings, and it is from them the Greeks learned these ceremonies."
The man must be blind who sees no analogy between these regulations and ordinances, and those of Moses in Leviticus, concerning the priest. According to the arrangement of Moses, no man with any deformity could be a priest much less a woman. His Priests also wore linen. “ The priest shall put on his linen garments.” (Levt. 6: 10.) They likewise must perform divers ablutions. " Thou shalt make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal, and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, for Aaron and his sons to wash their hands and their feet thereat.
They shall wash with water that they die not.” (Exod. 30: 18.) The priests were washed at the time of their consecration. • And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.” (Lev. 3: 6.) When the High Priest dies his son succeeds him. (Exod. 29.) The offerings and intercessions were made by the priests. They also consulted the oracle, (1 Kings 8: 6.) and the Hebrew people had their “ holidays,” and their religious processions, their new moons, and full moons. According to the “ General History, Cyclopedia, and Dictionary of Freemasonry,” the urim and thumim, worn by the High Priest of Israel, by which they gave oracular answers to the people, were of “ Egyptian origin.” Clement of Alexandria says: " Touching mysterious things, the symbols of the Egyptians are like unto those of the Hebrews.” (Egyptian Symbols, p. 16.) No one can doubt this authority, nor suppose that Moses was ignorant of the religious forms and ceremonies of the Egyptians. Moses was as well acquainted with the language, the politics, the religion, the magic, the soothsaying, and the legerdemain performances of the Egyptian priests and prophets, as they were themselves. In his contest with these wizzards in the presence of Pharoah “ they waved the conjurer's rod," and he made use of his rod.
" And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,
and was mighty in words and deeds.” (Acts 7: 22.) If he did not frame the Jewish polity much after the style of the Egyptian Theocracy, it was not on account of his ignorance so to do, nor inability to accomplish it. The Egyptians made as high pretensions to a Theocracy as the Hebrews possibly could make. Nor is it saying too much when we affirm that Moses exercised as absolute authority over the tribes of Israel as any Pharaoh ever did over the people of Remi.
For the proof of this, we have only to call to mind the circumstances attending the worship of Aaron's golden calf, when he commanded the Levites to "put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.” (Exod. 32: 27.)
He commanded the officers of the whole army, and “was wroth with them ” for sparing the Midianites. (Numbers 31: 14.) His was an absolute power.
In the absence of all religious historical knowledge, save our Holy Scriptures, many persons erroneously conclude that the only people on the face of the earth who had priests, prayers, prophets, sacrifices, and all the ceremonies of Divine worship, were the Hebrews; when the truth is, that the Egyptians and other nations practiced them centuries before there was a Hebrew nation in existence. Some are so frightened lest the strong pillars of our religion be thrown down, that they dare not admit that the Egyptians worshiped the true God. We suggest in all candor, that it may be possible that all professing Christianity do not worship the true God. Many seem to entertain such puerile ideas of his being, that an intelligent man could not worship such a Deity without incurring the guilt of idolatry. What shameful views have children and illiterate ones of that underived, immortal, immaterial, self-existent and almighty Power we call God! With them he is a physical prodigy, perhaps a head taller than Goliath of Gath.
It is easy enough to speak the name of Deity, without any correct idea of his existence as a spiritual essence. There is but little in the name; and the Egyptian names are just as expressive of his attributes as the Hebrew names.
The Egyptians used the names Ammon (Jupiter), Phud, Baal, Month, Ammon-Ra, Phtha, Tmei, and Hur-Meni, to denote the Deity.
The Hebrews used for the same purpose the names El, Eloheim, Jah, Jehovah, Ehejeh, Adonai, Shaddai, and Jehovah-Tsabaoth. In Hebrew poetry, Jah is oftenest used, as in the word Hallelujah, praise ye Jalı. Now what is in these names? Jah, Phra and Phtha sound much alike, far more so than our word God and the Hebrew Shaddai. And how do we know that we mean what they meant?
Thousands and thousands of professed Christians fear to know the truth, lest it destroy their faith, when it is the province of truth to confirm faitl: and destroy superstition only. These persons know but little more about the BIBLE, when their locks are gray,
than they did in the cradle. All their religious aspirations seem to be to feel happy, and get to heaven. They float on the current of time, as owls fly athwart the bright expanse of heaven, drawing their eyelids close, lest the glorious light of day should paralyze their feeble optic nerves, and thus destroy their sight forever.
The similarity of the Hebrew and Egyptian languages is striking. We have before shown that the Hebrew poetry presents the features of the Egyptian, and many phrases in the prayers and thanksgivings are alike.
The long controlling influence of Egyptian literature deeply impressed itself on the style of the Hebrews. We have already adduced Clemens Alexandrinus to show that their symbols were identical. The Egyptians had their sacred dialect (hiera dialektos) and their popular or common dialect, (koinee dialektos), the same as we have at the present time. Our Bible has its “solemn” style, quite unlike our literary productions. “ It is now generally acknowledged that the Egyptian religion and system of writing were borrowed from Ethiopia.” (Champollion's Egypte Ancienne, p. 28, etc.)
Wansleben has produced five hundred roots, in the Ethiopian language, which are contained identically in the Hebrew. (Ludolf's Ethiopian Dictionary, p. 475.) Hence their sacred dialects were similar.
Man is the only being on earth endowed by the Creator with a moral or religious nature; and from the days of the great progenitor, Adam, to the present time, he has in soine way exercised himself in a religious manner, in Divine worship. His misguided zeal in this regard has often led him wrong, while it manifests the profound sincerity of his aspiration to adore the great Creator.
It was the custom of those ancient nations to incorporate into their religions the ceremonies and rites of neighboring tribes, when they considered them solemn and impressive, and even to set up in