TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE BOOK OF THE DEAD
seems to be a similarity between the moral codes of the ancient
Egyptians and the early Israelites. The Ten Commandments given by
God to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai are clearly set in an Egyptian
tradition and would seem to have common roots with the Egyptian
Book of the Dead. Except for the first two commandments, we find
the same moral rules in the Hebrew Bible that are also found in
the Egyptian hieroglyphic writings. Egyptian religion was a polytheistic
belief, and hundreds of gods and goddesses were worshiped in the
Nile valley. These deities were believed to manifest themselves
in certain images and the artists of that time captured these images
in pictures and statues. This was completely forbidden by the Monotheistic
God of Moses in the first two of his commandments given in Chapter
20 of the Book of Exodus: "Thou shalt have no other gods before
me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness
of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth."
unlike the Israelites, Egyptians believed in a second life after
death. They believed that every person has, other than his physical
body, a dual spiritual nature, which they called the KA and the
BA. They also regarded the name and shadow of a person as living
entities, part of the spiritual existence, not just linguistic and
natural phenomena. Thus Egyptians regarded death as simply a temporary
interruption rather than a complete cessation of life, and believed
that after their death, they faced a trial in the underworld before
the god Osiris and his forty-two judges in the Hall of Judgment.
In the Egyptian culture, eternal life had to be ensured by various
means, including the preservation of the physical body through mummification,
the provision of funerary equipment, and the presence of magical
spells in the tomb to protect the dead person in his journey in
composition of the texts relating to death and afterlife went back
to the Pyramid Texts, the first examples of which were inscribed
in the 5th dynasty pyramid of Unas (2375 - 2345 BC) at Saqqara.
By the time of the 18th dynasty, about 1500 BC, these spells were
copied on rolls of papyrus and placed within the coffins. These
rolls have come to be known now as copies of the Book of the Dead.
This is, nevertheless, a modern term, as the Egyptians themselves
called it "Going Forth by Day."
Ten Commandments represent God's orders to humans given in the imperative
form; the Egyptian texts use this form:
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shat not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
125 of the Book of the Dead, contrary to the Book of Exodus, contains
a moral code represented in a form of Negative Confession that the
dead person has to recite when he descends to the hall of the Two
Truths. He shall say:
to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee,
my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee,
I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee
in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto
thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee.
I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people.
I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .
have not reviled the God.
I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
I have not done what the God abominates . . .
I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
I have not caused anyone's suffering . . . I have not copulated
(illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished
the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with
the plumb bob of the balance.
I have not taken milk from a child's mouth; I have not driven
small cattle from their herbage . . .
I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have
not built a dam against flowing water.
I have not quenched a fire in its time . . .
I have not kept cattle away from the God's property. I have not
blocked the God at his processions.
lecturer, researcher and author, Ahmed Osman is a British Egyptologist
born in Cairo
four in-depth books clarifying the history of the Bible and Egypt
Stranger in the Valley of the Kings (1987) - Moses: Pharaoh of
Egypt (1990) - The
House of the Messiah (1992) - Out of Egypt (1998)
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