Artistic Balance Among he Beni Hasan Asiatics -- By: William H. Shea
BSP 12:1-2 (Winter-Spring 1983) p. 1
Artistic Balance Among he Beni Hasan Asiatics
[William H. Shea is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Andrews University in Barrien Springs, Michigan, and a frequent contributor to Bible and Spade.]
When the sons of Jacob sought relief from famine in Egypt, and later when they, their families, and Jacob descended into Egypt to settle in the land of Goshen, they followed in the footsteps of generations of Canaanite and Egyptian traders. Joseph had already gone before them into Egypt as a captive of Midianite merchants returning from a foray into Canaan. These stories of the patriarchs as well as many documents attest to commercial interaction between the areas. In addition, a famous Egyptian tomb painting from the 19th century B.C. portrays a particular group of Asiatic traders journeying into Middle Egypt. Their depiction contributes not only to evidence of and knowledge about Canaanite trade with Egypt during the patriarchal period, but also to a greater familiarity with the appearance, dress, and habitual equipment of the patriarchs themselves.
The painting of Asiatic traders, first published in 1845 by Francois Champollion, a decipherer of hieroglyphic Egyptian, and many times since reproduced in works on Egyptian art and in biblical handbooks, decorates an Egyptian provincial governor’s
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tomb at Beni Hasan. Beni Hasan lies about 160 miles south of Cairo near the ancient site of Monet-Khufu, the capital of the 16th, or Antelope, nome (= province) of Egypt. This city flourished in the early 2nd millennium B.C., but today hardly anything remains of it except the tombs of some of its rulers, cut in the cliffs high above the eastern shore of the Nile. Although the city is gone, the paintings on the walls of these tombs provide an interesting glimpse into the everyday life of the people who lived here around the time of the biblical patriarchs.
The mural depicting the Asiatic traders decorates Tomb 3, which was cut and decorated for a nomarch or provincial governor named
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