The Bible According To Karnar -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 17:4 (Fall 2004)
Article: The Bible According To Karnar
Author: Gary A. Byers

The Bible According To Karnar

Gary A. Byers

The Bible indicates that many important Biblical characters spent time in Egypt: Abraham (Gn 12:10–13:1, Jacob (Gn 46–50), Joseph (Gn 39–50), Moses (Ex 2–12), Joshua, (Nm 14:26–30), Jeremiah (Jer 43:6–8) and even baby Jesus (Mt 2:14–21). Trade routes led from Canaan directly to the Nile delta region, where Goshen was located. Called Lower Egypt because the Nile flows from the mountains in the south (Upper Egypt) to the Mediterranean Sea in the north, this is the part of Egypt where most Biblical characters lived and Biblical events took place.

Yet many of the Egyptian leaders involved with these Biblical characters and events are best known from their temples and tombs in Upper (southern) Egypt. Statues and reliefs at the Karnak Temple and in the tombs and mortuary temples along both banks of the Nile tell the stories of these Egyptians. This article discusses the Bible as it is reflected at Karnak and other sites in Upper Egypt.


Waset was a small village on the Nile’s east bank, where the alluvial plain broadened out to about 9 mi. After the collapse of Egypt’s Old Kingdom (ca. 2687–2190 BC), it grew in size and influence until becoming the capital of reunited Egypt at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2060–1700 BC). It is better known in history by its ancient Greek name, Thebes. Long after the city declined, during the early Islamic period, the visible ruins of the Luxor Temple became known in Arabic as Al Uqsur (“The Palaces”). That name has come to us in its shortened version and is applied to the entire city—Luxor. The Karnak Temple complex, Egypt’s most famous temple, is within the city limits of modern Luxor.

Entrance to the Karnak Temple. The temple was actually a complex, with multiple temples to a variety of Theban gods. The center of the complex was the Amun (and later Amun-re) Temple. It was the largest temple precinct and possibly the most important in ancient Egypt. While originally begun during the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2060–1700 BC), it became a national building project during the New Kingdom (ca. 1570–1070 BC) and stayed under continual construction for some 1500 years, with subsequent Pharaohs adding on with pylons, shrines, obelisks and statues. Yet, none of these architectural features or decorations were designed for the masses ...

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