Some Egyptian Background To The Old Testament -- By: Kenneth A. Kitchen

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 06:1 (Apr 1960)
Article: Some Egyptian Background To The Old Testament
Author: Kenneth A. Kitchen

Some Egyptian Background To The Old Testament*

K. A. Kitchen

University of Liverpool

* This article is based on a paper read at the Old Testament Study Group

July 1959.

THE PURPOSE of this paper is simply to give formal demonstration of the antiquity of certain concepts, and of the antiquity and objective reality of certain usages: concepts and usages which were part of the common intellectual, religious and technical heritage of the Old Testament and Ancient Orient alike. Most of the comparative material is drawn from Egypt insofar as Egypt is the best such source for, e.g., Israel’s contacts with Egypt. However, on wider issues, material has sometimes been taken from other Bible lands too: this paper is in no way an exercise in ‘pan-Egyptianism’.

I. Certain Concepts


Among the most notable passages in Proverbs are chapters 8—9 where Wisdom is personified. All too often this concept is labelled ‘advanced’ and cited as a reason for regarding that part of Proverbs as the latest in date, well after the Exile1Personification here has even been linked with Greek influence2.

It is here suggested that late dating of the concept of personification as being ‘advanced’ is wholly mistaken, and appeal to Greek affinities entirely pointless, if decisive Ancient Near Eastern evidence be given its proper due. Personification of qualities, attributes and objects formed part of the common intellectual heritage of the Ancient Orient, of the Bible lands themselves, from as early as the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Thus, on the single criterion of personification3, there is no

compulsion or need to date Prov. 1-9 any later than Solomon’s time in the early 1st millennium BC.

Egypt furnishes a number of personifications of concepts and qualities such as Wisdom. Already in the 3rd millennium BC, Hikē, ‘Magic’, is personified as a deity in human form in the funerary temple of Sahurē; in the Pyramid Texts (§1324); and even in a priestly title4. In the 2nd millennium BC, examples multiply. Best-known are Hu and Sia, ‘Authoritative Utterance’ and ‘Understanding’ respectively, in the 3rd and throughout the 2nd millennium BC5. In a very battered ma...

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