Mitri, the Egyptian Scribe

September 30, 2010

From ancient times the role of the scribe has been an important one.  The Bible has many references to Jewish scribes.  In the Old Testament, Ezra was described as “a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6).  He was a man whom God used for good in the biblical period of the post-captivity return and rebuilding.

Many of the New Testament references to scribes are not flattering. In fact, the scribes received some of Jesus’ sternest rebukes (see Matthew 23).

Ferrell Jenkins shares info and a photo of a modern scribe at Masada in his post at

http://ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/the-scribe/

Our photo today features a statue of an Egyptian scribe by name of Mitri, of Egypt’s 6th’s dynasty of the Old Kingdom (2345-2181 B.C.). Such men had to be very efficient at writing hieroglyphs quickly, and also be well-educated in mathematics.

Mitra the Scribe. Egyptian Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I especially value such photos as this one because photography is no longer permitted in the Egyptian Museum.

The website Egyptopia has the following interesting information on Mitri the Scribe:

Mitri was one of the prominent figures in the 6th Dynasty who acquired numerous positions as depicted on the base of this statue including: Administrator of the Nome and Great One of the ten of Upper Egypt and Priest of Maat.

This statue of Mitri as a scribe was found in his tomb in Saqqara among other statues for him and his wife in various positions. This wood with painted stucco is used to indicate the intellectual abilities of the deceased although he did not occupy that post.

Mitri is depicted in the customary posture of the scribe in ancient Egypt with crossed legs and a papyrus role on his lap. The eyes are set in limestone and transparent stone and ringed with copper attract the attention of the observer to Mitri’s calm gaze and become the focal point of the whole sculpture. The body is colored with dark ocher color and the monotony of the color is broken by the colorful necklace around his neck.

Such scribes would have written on papyrus, “paper” made from the papyrus reed, shown in photo below.

Papyrus Reed, from which papyrus was made. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on images for higher resolution.

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Memphis of Egypt, cont’d.

September 28, 2010

We continue today with yesterday’s topic of Memphis of Egypt, a city which is specifically mentioned in biblical prophecy in such texts as Ezekiel 30:13. We saw that passage contextually foretold of the destruction of the images of the gods there.  Note that some translations will render the city’s name Noph.

Another biblical reference to Memphis is that of Jeremiah 44:1ff.  Jeremiah had been taken by force to Egypt after the 586 B.C. Babylonian deportation by rebellious Jews.  The Lord used Jeremiah as His faithful spokesman to “the Jews living in the land of Egypt, those who were living in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Memphis, and the land of Pathros…”

Alabaster Sphinx in Memphis. Reign of Ramesses II. Leon and daughter Alysha. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In yesterday’s post we showed the solid alabaster sphinx in Memphis.  Today’s photo gives some sense of scale.  This small area of Memphis is all that can be seen of antiquity of what was once one of the most important cities in the world.

There was Egyptian police presence in Memphis.  We found them to be quite friendly.

Egyptian Police at Memphis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

One important monument in Memphis is the fallen colossus of Ramesses II.  Ramesses II had a lengthy reign (1279-1213 B.C.), and he left his monuments and inscriptions all over the land.  No one has accused him of humility or undue modesty!

Fallen colossus of Ramesses II. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

At Memphis you can see date palm trees such as the one in our photo.  You could say this tree had lots of dates!

Date palm tree at Memphis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

As we say frequently, the Bible is true; it is genuine history; it is not fiction. When it mentions places, such as Memphis/Noph, they are real places where real people lived, for better or worse!

Click on photos for higher resolution.


Memphis of Egypt

September 27, 2010

Today’s post will deal with Memphis of Egypt.  To give some context, let me lead into this with the following:

The message of the biblical prophets may be broadly summarized into three subject areas:

1. God’s message to His people of the prophet’s time.

2. God is the God of all the earth; His message to the nations.

3. Most importantly, the Messianic prophecies; Christ, His redemptive work, His kingdom.

Today’s post will deal with the second category; God is the God of the nations.  This is why you will find in some instances in the prophets back-to-back chapters dealing with the nations of men.  Ezekiel was one of the captivity prophets (taken to Babylon with the second deportation, 597 B.C.).  Though he had much to say to his contemporary captives (Jews), and had many Messianic prophecies, Ezekiel proclaimed the word of the LORD to the nations.

Ezekiel 30 addresses Egypt and includes specifically Memphis. “Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also destroy the idols And make the images cease from Memphis. And there will no longer be a prince in the land of Egypt; And I will put fear in the land of Egypt” (v.13).

For so many centuries Egypt had been a world power.  Memphis had been one of the most important administrative centers.  Only Thebes in the south was comparable in economic, political and religious importance.

But God said He would “execute judgments on Egypt” (v.19). The prophecy was fulfilled.  Egypt fell, and the city of Memphis, royal residence and capital of Egypt, one of the renowned places of the whole ancient world, has disappeared almost completely.  The most significant ruins can be seen near the modern village of Mit Rahina.

Sign indicating site of biblical Memphis, Egypt. Near modern Mit Rahina. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Within the enclosure of the temple of Ptah one can see a large alabaster sphinx. This dates to the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 B.C.).

Alabaster Sphinx in Memphis, Egypt. Dates to reign of Ramesses II. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Ezekiel’s prophecy was that God would “cause the images to cease from Memphis.”  Our photo below illustrates what the prophet had in mind.  This is an image of the Egyptian goddess Hathor.

Image of Egyptian goddess Hathor. Memphis, Egypt. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

More to come on Memphis, Egypt.  Remember to click on image for higher resolution. Photos may freely be used in teaching.


The Fullness of the Time

September 24, 2010

Galatians 4:4 states, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law…”

The appropriate time determined by God that Jesus would become flesh is called the fullness of the time. A careful reading of the Old Testament Scriptures necessitates the conclusion that all was anticipatory of the coming of Christ.  To read the Old Testament with understanding, is to witness the unfolding of God’s plan to bring Christ into the world.  The only hope of all humanity is the redemption that is in Jesus.

There are many passages that demonstrate this; some are more plain and direct than others. Texts such as Isa. 53 clearly speak of Christ and His suffering, death, and resurrection. But even in places such as Gen. 5, and Gen. 11, when you come to those long lists of names, they are there for a purpose.  No effort is made to list everybody, but the generations are traced from Adam through Seth down to Noah (Gen. 5).  Then we continue from Noah through Shem down to Terah the father of Abram (Abraham (Gen. 11).  We want to bear in mind when we read such passages that we are working toward the fullness of the time.

Our God is sovereign.  He rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17). Following the purging of idolatry from His people through the Babylonian captivity, there was the emergence of the synagogue. During the Medo-Perisan period, it was only a remnant of the Jews who returned to the land of Israel.  The rest remained in the areas where they had been dispersed.

Medo-Persian Empire. Geographical setting as OT revelation concluded. Map ©Scott Richardson.

Where was the first place the Apostle Paul would preach as he entered a city?  The synagogue!  For centuries at such locations scattered throughout the world there had been the reading and teaching of the Law.  Paul’s job was to tell them the good news, that their Scriptures had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ!  But God had been preparing them (the Jews) for that point in time throughout their history.  The fullness of the time had come!

With the fall of Persia and the rise of Greece the hand of God continued to be seen.  With the advance of Grecian culture by Alexander the Great, the Greek language became universal.  Though the Hebrew language was becoming largely unspoken (a dead language), during the Grecian period the Scriptures were translated into Greek (this translation was called the Septuagint). So anyone who could read Greek could read the OT Scriptures!  Most all of the quotations by Jesus and the NT writers were from this Greek translation.  Then when it was time to preach the good news of salvation in the name of Jesus, beginning in Acts 2, there was a universal language by which the Gospel would be proclaimed–Greek.  When the NT Scriptures were written, they were written in Koine (common) Greek!  The fullness of the time had come!

Grecian Empire. Greek became the universal language. Map ©Scott Richardson.

Next in history there was the rise of the Roman Empire.  Rome put an end to piracy at sea, and built roads and bridges such as the world had never seen.  Never before was it possible to safely and efficiently travel such great distances by land and sea, as was the case by the 1st century, just in time for the Gospel to be preached “to every creature” (Mk. 16:16; Col. 1:23).

Roman Empire. Setting for the Gospel preaching in 1st century AD. Map ©Scott Richardson.

So you see, even working through the kingdoms of men (without their knowledge), God was making all things ready for the coming of His Son.  Our God is an awesome God.

A resource I would recommend for your further study is The Theme of the Bible, by Ferrell Jenkins. It is available at the Florida College Bookstore at

http://bookstore.floridacollege.edu/store/

Maps in today’s post are by my friend Scott Richardson. You may view & order his biblical study supplies at http://SpiritualServiceSupply.com


Along the Nile

September 21, 2010

One of the enjoyable elements of travel to the Bible lands can be the folks you share the experience with. I have been privileged on two trips to have my daughter Alysha with me, both in Israel and in Egypt.

It’s a treat when you’re in Egypt to sail on the Nile in a Felucca. We took a short excursion one afternoon, August, 2003.

Alysha in Felucca on Nile River. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

There were other feluccas along the bank, ready for use.

Feluccas along the Nile. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

When I saw the reeds along the Nile River I thought of Moses’ experience as a baby.  Hebrew male babies born at that time were literally under a death sentence from Pharaoh.  Moses’ mother hid him three months– “But when she was no longer able to hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him and sealed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and set it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile” (Ex. 2:3, NET).  See how this text is illustrated by our photo:

Reeds along the Nile. Baby Moses was placed in a basket in a setting like this. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In God’s good providence Pharaoh’s daughter had compassion on the Hebrew baby, and allowed him to live. She gave him the name Moses, and secured a Hebrew nurse, Moses’ mother!

Click on images for higher resolution.


Camels in the Times of the Patriarchs, Pt. 2

September 20, 2010

Unbelievers tirelessly charge that the Bible is inaccurate in its references to the camel in the days of the patriarchs (see our previous post).  Accordingly, the twenty-three occurrences of the word camel in Genesis are dismissed as anachronisms. While this is not surprising on the part of skeptics/atheists, it is disturbing when otherwise good reference books, such as Reader’s Digest’s The Bible Through The Ages takes the same position. Likewise the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, copyright 1986 by G.G. The Jerusalem Publishing House LTD.

Consider this response from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, edited by Merrill Unger:

This idea seems to be presumptuous in the light of such evidence as camel statuettes, bones, and other references that appear in archaeological materials beginning about 3,000 B.C. (cf. J.P.Free, “Abraham’s Camels,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies [July 1944]:: 187-93). Free’s research concerned the use of camels in Egypt. In recent years numerous indications of the domestication and use of camels in Mesopotamia and Syria during the patriarchal period have come to light.

Since wild camels were known from earliest times, there is no credible reason why such an indispensable animal in desert and semi-arid lands should not have been sporadically domesticated in patriarchal times and even earlier.  Large scale domestication after the twelfth century B.C., however, greatly expanded desert trade as a result of the advantages of camel nomadism over donkey nomadism, enabling camel traders to travel much greater distances on this animal specially adapted to desert conditions (p.67).

Nomad girl with camel, near Lystra in Turkey. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Further, consider this response to the skeptics by Staff and Lyons, of Apologetics Press:

What makes their claims even more disturbing is that several pieces of evidence do exist (and have existed for some time) that prove camels were domesticated during (and even before) the time of Abraham (roughly 2,000 B.C.). In an article that appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies a half-century ago, professor Joseph Free listed several instances of Egyptian archaeological finds supporting the domestication of camels [NOTE: The dates given for the Egyptian dynasties are from Clayton, 2001, pp.14-68]. The earliest evidence comes from a pottery camel’s head and a terra cotta tablet with men riding on and leading camels. According to Free, these are both from predynastic Egypt (1944, pp. 189-190), which according to Clayton is roughly before 3150 B.C. Free also listed three clay camel heads and a limestone vessel in the form of camel lying down—all dated at the First Dynasty of Egypt (3050-2890 B.C.). He then mentioned several models of camels from the Fourth Dynasty (2613-2498 B.C.), and a petroglyph depicting a camel and a man dated at the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2184 B.C.). Such evidence has led one respected Egyptologist to conclude that “the extant evidence clearly indicates that the domestic camel was known [in Egypt—EL] by 3,000 B.C.”—long before Abraham’s time (Kitchen, 1980, 1:228).

Perhaps the most convincing find in support of the early domestication of camels in Egypt is a rope made of camel’s hair found in the Fayum (an oasis area southwest of modern-day Cairo). The two-strand twist of hair, measuring a little over three feet long, was found in the late 1920s, and was sent to the Natural History Museum where it was analyzed and compared to the hair of several different animals. After considerable testing, it was determined to be camel hair, dated (by analyzing the layer in which it was found) to the Third or Fourth Egyptian Dynasty (2686-2498 B.C.). In his article, Free also listed several other discoveries from around 2,000 B.C. and later, which showed camels as domestic animals (pp. 189-190). [Quote from Kitchen is from The Illustrated Bible Dictionary.]

So the archaeological evidence is there, for those willing to see it.  The Bible does not affirm that camels were widely used in the time of the Patriarchs; it affirms that Abraham (and others) had camels and used them.

But the greatest source of proof that the Genesis record is true is not archaeological data. The single greatest proof is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, believed, endorsed and taught it. Jesus affirmed the inspiration of Scripture. He affirmed the historicity of the patriarchs, for example in such texts as Matt. 22:31-32, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”  Jesus believed that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were real persons, and what was recorded about them is real and historical. In short, if we accept the evidence that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God, we must believe what He believed, and teach what He taught!

Camel on Mt. of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In the earlier photo, the young lady with the camel was tending to seven camels.  She appeared to be about 15 years old.  She was part of a nomadic group.  The camel in the above photo at the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem was there for tourists to ride (for a fee).  I would recommend that you ride a camel in some place other than the Mt. of Olives 🙂

Click on photos for higher resolution.


Camels in the Times of the Patriarchs

September 17, 2010

Genesis 12:14-17 speaks of camels in Egypt; contextually, camels were among the gifts the Pharaoh gave to Abraham (Abram). Later, when it was time to procure a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s servant took 10 camels for that journey to Mesopotamia (Gen. 24:10; cf. vv. 11-63).  As Jacob labored for his father-in-law Laban, he acquired camels as part of his wages (Gen. 30:43). The caravan of Ishmaelite/Midianite traders passing through Canaan en route to Egypt had camels (Gen. 37:25).  Joseph‘s brothers sold him to these merchants, who then sold him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh (Gen. 37:36).

Camels in Sinai Desert. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I photographed the above camels in the Sinai.  They were pretty scrawny looking, and weren’t showing their best side.  But it brings to mind these numerous biblical references to camels, from the times of the patriarchs onward. The (healthier) camel below was in Turkey.

Camel in Turkey near biblical Lystra. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Skeptics/atheists say that all of the above Genesis references are anachronisms.  Typical is this statement from Paul Tobin, “Thus there could have been no domesticated camel during Abraham’s lifetime. It must be, then, that the above stories are later additions to the legend of Abraham.” Or this assertion from LIVIUS Articles on Ancient History: “The use of dromedaries (one-humped Arabian camel, LM) in the second millennium BCE by nomadic tribes, as implied in the Biblical book Genesis, is almost certainly unhistorical and shows that Genesis was composed at a later age.”

This is not only the position of skeptics, but also that of some so-called friends of the Bible, those who would profess to be believers.  For example, The Reader’s Digest publication, The Bible Through the Ages, in the chapter, “The World of the Patriarchs,” says, “Clans traveled on foot and by donkey (camels were not domesticated until about 1200 B.C.), and the need to stay close to water restricted the distances they were able to travel at any given time” (p.20).  So, in one sweep, this “biblical” reference book, written on the popular level, dismisses all of the Genesis references to the camel as being unhistorical!

Is there an answer? K.A. Kitchen, Professor Emeritus of the University of Liverpool’s School of Archaeology, Classics, and Egyptology states that the claim that references to camels “in the patriarchal narratives are anachronistic is flatly contradicted by the available evidence to the contrary.” Unfortunately such “available evidence” is conveniently ignored.

In my upcoming post I wanted to consider some of that evidence, as well as some other related considerations.