Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Noah in Many Languages

Noah and Human Etymology

by Bengt Sage

As traditions of the universal flood spread around the world with the post-Ararat migrations, the venerable name of Noah traveled with them.1 This seems especially evident by way of the ancient Sanskrit language and the name Manu. The Sanskrit term may in turn have come from an equivalent word in the so-called "Proto-Indo-European" language.

Manu was the name of the flood hero in the traditions of India. He, like Noah, is said to have built an ark in which eight people were saved. It is highly probable that Noah and Manu were thus the same individual. "Ma" is an ancient word for "water," so that Manu could mean "Noah of the waters." In the Hebrew Old Testament, the words "water" and "waters" are both translations of mayim, with the syllable yim being the standard Hebrew plural ending.

The "ma" prefix could well be the original form of mar and mer (Spanish and French for, "sea," both from the Latin mare) and thus of such English words as "marine."

In Sanskrit, the name Manu appropriately came to mean "man" or "mankind" (since Manu, or Noah, was the father of all post-flood mankind). The word is related to the Germanic Mannus,2 the founder of the West Germanic peoples. Mannus was mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Germania.3 Mannus is also the name of the Lithuanian Noah.4 Another Sanskrit form, manusa is closely related to the Swedish manniska,5 both words meaning "human being."

The same name may even be reflected in the Egyptian Menes (founder of the first dynasty of Egypt) and Minos (founder and first king of Crete). Minos was also said in Greek mythology to be the son of Zeus and ruler of the sea.6

The English word "man" is thus also related to the Sanskrit manu, as well as its equivalents in other Germanic languages. Gothic, the oldest known Germanic language, used the form Manna, and also gaman ("fellow man").

The name Anu appears in Sumerian as the god of the firmament, and the rainbow was called "the great bow of Anu,"7 which seems a clear reference to Noah (note Genesis 9:13). In Egyptian mythology Nu was the god of waters who sent an inundation to destroy mankind.8 Nu and his consort Nut were deities of the firmament and the rain. Nu was identified with the primeval watery mass of heaven, his name also meaning "sky."9

In Africa, the king of the Congo (the Congo Empire once included the entire Congo basin, now incorporating the territories of Angola, Zaire, Cabinda and the Congo Republic) was called Mani Congo. "Mani" was a noble rank given to great chiefs, ministers, governors, priests and the king himself. This empire, in fact, was once called the Manikongo Empire.10

In Europe, the prefix "ma" seems often to have taken the form da, which is an old word for "water" or "river." This led to the name "Don" in England and Russia and "Danube" in the Balkans. The first Greeks living in the coastal regions were called Danaoi, or "water people."11 Variants of the name Danube have included Donau, Dunaj, Duna, Dunau, and Dunay. The root of all of these names is danu, which means "river" or "flowing."12 The Latvian river Dvina was formerly called Duna, so it also is from the same Indo-European root word danu. The similarity of danu to manu is evident.13

From India, the Sanskrit "manu" also traveled east. In Japan, "manu" became "maru," a word which is included in the name of most Japanese ships. In ancient Chinese mythology, the god Hakudo Maru came down from heaven to teach people how to make ships. This name could well relate to Noah, the first shipbuilder.

The custom of including "maru" in the names of Japanese ships seems to have started between the 12th and 14th centuries. In the late 16th century, the warlord Hideyoshi built Japan's first really large ship, calling it "Nippon Maru." In Japanese "maru" also seems to mean a round enclosure, or circle of refuge, so that the circle is considered to be a sign of good fortune. Noah's ark, of course, had been the first great enclosure of refuge.

The aboriginals of Japan are called Ainu, a word which means "man."14 The word mai denotes "aboriginal man" in some of the Australian aboriginal languages. In Hawaii, mano is the word for "shark," as well as the name for the shark god. A hill on the island of Molokai is named Puu Mano ("hill of the shark god").15 The word for "mountain" is mauna, and it may also be that Hawaii's great volcanic mountains (Mauna Loa, for example, is the largest and most active volcano in the world) reminded its first settlers of Mount Ararat, also a great volcanic mountain, so that they named such mountains after the name of their ancestor Manu or Noah. Ararat, by the way, is the same as Armenia in the Bible. The prefix "Ar" means "Mountain," so that "Armenia" probably means "the mountain of Meni."

On the American continent, "manu" seems to have been modified into several forms. In the Sioux language, it took the form minne, meaning "water." Thus, Minneapolis means "city of water," Minnesota means "sky blue water," etc. In the Assiniboine language, "minnetoba" meant "water prairie." This name is preserved in the Canadian province of Manitoba. However, this word may also have been derived from the Cree and Ojibiva-Saulteaux languages, in which "manitoba" meant "the place of the Great Spirit." Manitou ("the Great Spirit") was the chief god among Algonquins.16

Even in South America can be found traces of the ancient name Manu. The name of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, comes from the Nahuatl managuac, which means "surrounded by ponds."

Francisco Lopez de Gomara, secretary to the Conqueror Cortez, has given an account of the fabled city of Manoa, supposed to be the capital of El Dorado, the city of gold. Manoa (meaning "Noah's water") was said to be a dead city high in the Sierra Parina between Brazil and Venezuela.17 The Brazilian city Manaus on the Amazon River was named after the aboriginal Indian tribe Manau which once dominated the region. In Bolivia there is a town of Manoa and a river called Manu in Peru. In fact, several rivers include "manu" in their names—Muymanu, Tahuamanu, Pariamanu, Tacuatimanu, etc. In the Department of Madre de Dios, where all these rivers are located, "manu" is understood to mean "river" or "water." One of the provinces of this department is, in fact, named Manu and another Tahuamanu.

The Egyptian hieroglyph for "water" was written as a wavy line. When the alphabet was invented, this symbol became the letter "m," representing mayim, the Semitic word for "water." In the Phoenician of 1300-1000 B.C. it was called Mem, which was later called Mu in Greek and finally Em among the Romans."18,19

Another reflection of the name Noah may have been the Assyrian word for "rain," zunnu.20 Janus, the two-headed god (from which the name of our month of January is derived) was regarded by the earliest inhabitants of Italy as both the father of the world and the inventor of ships, later as the god of portals. All of these concepts would be appropriate for Noah. It is not impossible that the name Janus could originally have been a combination of "Jah" and "Noah," thus meaning "Noah's Lord."

In Norse mythology, Njord was the god of ships, living at Noatun, the harbor of ships. In this language, the syllable "noa" is related to the Icelandic nor, meaning "ship."21

Similarly the original Sanskrit word for "ship" is nau. This root has developed even in English into such words as "navy," "nautical," "nausea," etc.22 This word could very well be still another variant of "Noah," the first master shipbuilder. Further, there is Ino, a sea-goddess in Greek mythology, and the Greek word naiade, meaning "river nymph."23 Many other examples might be cited.

Thus, Noah and the waters of the great Flood are not only recalled in the ancient traditions of all nations, but their names have also become incorporated in many and varied ways into the very languages of his descendants. The trails are tenuous and often almost obliterated, so that some of the inferred connections are speculative and possibly mistaken, but the correlations are too numerous to be only coincidental, thus adding yet one more evidence for the historicity of the worldwide Flood.


1 This study is necessarily exploratory and somewhat speculative. Nevertheless, it is fascinating, and the etymological correlations seem too numerous and detailed to be coincidental.

2 See the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

3 Tacitus, The Agricula and the Germania, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1970, p. 102.

4 Kolosimo, Peter, Not of This World, London, England: Sphere Books, Ltd., 1975, p. 171.

5 See the Syensk Etymologisk Ordbok.

6 Ceram, C. W., Gods, Graves and Scholars, Middlesex, England: Penguin Pelican Books, 1974, pp. 79-83.

7 Sandars, N. K, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Middlesex, England: Penguin Classics, 1960.

8 Tomas, Andrew, Atlantis from Legend to Discovery, London: Sphere Books, Ltd., 1972, p. 25.

9 Spence, Lewis, Myths and Legends of Egypt, London: George C. Haffap & Co., Ltd., 1915.

10 Hall, Richard, Discovery of Africa, Melbourne, Australia: Sun Books, Ltd., 1970, p. 67.

11 See article on El Correo, published by Unesco, April 1960, p. 27.

12 See National Geographic Magazine, October 1977, p. 458.

13 There is no actual documentation of a phonetic change from "ma" to "da," although such would have been quite possible, especially in view of the similar meanings of derivatives.

14 Furneaux, Rupert, Ancient Mysteries, London: Futura Publications, Ltd., 1976.

15 Pukui, Mary Kawens, and Elbert, Samuel H., Place Names of Hawaii, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1966.

16 See brochure published by Manitoba Historical Society in Winnipeg, Canada.

17 Kolosimo, Peter, Timeless Earth, London: Sphere Books, Ltd., 1974, pp. 136, 215.

18 Laird, Charlton, The Miracle of Language, New York: Fawcett World Library, 1967, p. 177.

19 Pei, Mario, Language for Everybody, New York: Pocket Books, Inc., 1958, p. 182.

20 Cleator, P.E., Lost Languages, New York: New American Library of World Literature, 1962, p. 105.

21 Filby, Frederick A., The Flood Reconsidered, London: Pickering and Inglis, 1970, pp. 55-57.

22 Hellquist, Elof, Svensk Etymologisk Ordbok, Lund, Sweden: C.W.K. Gleerups Forlag, 1966, p.701.

23 Cuerber, H. A., The Myths of Greece and Rome, London: George G. Harrap and Co., Ltd., 1948, p.235.

* The Author: Bengt Sage is an Australian businessman whose avocation is the study of languages and etymology. He was born in Sweden and, in his younger days, traveled to every continent in the merchant navy. He received a diploma in Bible through correspondence studies in the Spanish language, and became committed to creationism as a result of reading The Bible and Modern Science in its Spanish translation.

Vortigern: Legendary Tyrant King of Early Britain


A British legend, first committed to writing by Nennius (9th century), tells how a tyrant king named Vortigern was responsible for the ruination of Britain after he invited a force of Saxon and Jute mercenaries into the country. The same Vortigern is said to have built a tower which was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes. Inquiring as to the reason, he was informed by a druid that he should bury a spotless child under the foundations of the tower. The child Merlin was selected as victim, though in the event he was never sacrificed.

There is virtually nothing in this story that can be regarded as historical, though it is instructive in many ways.

To begin with, we note that the motif of a tyrant king who tries to build a tower reaching heaven is one that is common to almost all cultures and traditions, and occurs in both the Old World and the New. The British legend, for example, has an almost precise counterpart in the traditions of the Jews, where we hear that Nimrod, the tyrant who built the Tower of Babel, also made an attempt to sacrifice the child Abraham. He was however deceived by Abraham’s nursemaid, and another child was sacrificed in the patriarch’s stead. (Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews)

The motif of a sacrificed child buried in the foundations of a sacred structure originates in the earlier part of the Bronze Age, when child victims were in fact used in this way. This part of the legend therefore seems to be very ancient. Can we say the same about the other parts?

A few years ago I was reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In Chapter 26 of this wonderful opus I came across the story of how the Goths were invited into the Empire by the Emperor Valens, and how, a short time later, the barbarians revolted and destroyed the Imperial forces at the Battle of Adrianople. The leader of the Goths in this engagement was Fritigern, and I was immediately struck by the similarity of his name to that of Vortigern. The two are indeed identical; the only difference being that in one the vowel sound comes before the “r” and in another after. How could it be, I thought, that a British king bore a Gothic name? Aside from the name, however, there was little to connect the two characters. Both, it is true, were placed in the declining years of the Roman Empire, and both were involved in barbarian invasions of the Roman provinces. Yet in the case of Vortigern, it was he who invited in the barbarians, whereas the historical Fritigern was the barbarian chief invited in by Valens.

There was thus a vague parallel between the two; but beyond that, there seemed little to connect them. It took a tradition from the Americas, of all places, to make me understand the truth.

In Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, his wonderful compendium of lore and speculation, Ignatius Donnelly comments on a legend of the Apaches, which spoke of the world’s creation. “The first days of the world,” we are told, “were happy and peaceful days.” Then came a great flood, “from which Montezuma and the coyote alone escaped. Montezuma became then very wicked, and attempted to build a house that would reach to heaven, but the Great Spirit destroyed it with thunderbolts.” (Donnelly, Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, pp. 117-118. From Bancroft, Native Races, Vol. 3, p. 76)

The “house” which Montezuma attempts to build “that would reach to heaven” is elsewhere encountered in Native American tradition where it is specifically identified as a tower, and it is clear that in this story the Apaches have pieced together elements of recent history – including recent history not directly theirs – and combined these with an extremely ancient tradition, one dating from shortly after the Deluge. In biblical tradition, the Tower of Babel (the account of which directly precedes the Abraham narrative) is built in the years after the Deluge.

It would appear that the Britons did the same thing. In the years following the catastrophic loss of their land to the invading Germanic Barbarians, the Britons took elements of the real history of the fourth and fifth centuries, including the name of an invading barbarian chief – Fritigern/Vortigern – and combined these with a primeval tradition about a tyrant king which, just after the Deluge, introduced the custom of human sacrifice and attempted to build a great tower to the heavens.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Noah in Greek and Roman Mythos

Roman mythology is based on the Greek, the Greek came from the Babylonian. But was the Babylonian based on? Many have said that these myths are a religious belief system. Or that they are stories about the original creation of earth.

I am here to tell you that these are the history of Noah and his family, on their time between the flood and the tower, in particular.

At the tower of Babel, humanity was divided. The people in the new languages and newly forming cultures went their separate ways. However, they still told their children about their history. They told their children about their patriarchs. Just as the Catholics used the song of the "12 Days of Christmas" to share their beliefs (see article) at a time when they couldn't write them, I believe these mythos (and those of other cultures) were historical in nature, not philosophical nor religious.

Let's look at these mythologies as the 'local telling' of the 'creation' of the world in which these people found themselves. Can I prove it? No. But I can sure list a lot of similarities that exist that support this theory!

Remember, the "creation" we speak of here, is the survival of Noah and his family, and the "creation" of the post-flood (anti-diluvian) world.

First, we need to re-construct the timeline of Noah and his family. (For full view of Biblical events in a time-line, see the article on this website.)

Noah is 600 years old at the time of the flood, which lasts a whole year. (40 days of rain, several months of floating around, and about one year later, they come out of the Ark onto the dry land around them.)

The civilization started by the four couples that come out of the Ark grows for 100 years, when they decide to build a tower. The tower is referred to as the "Tower of Babyl" and is the split up of the cultures of the world. At the tower, we went from one family/culture/language to multiple cultures and languages.

Each of these newly created cultures had the same history, pointing back to Noah and his 3 sons.

If what I have just written is true, then many myths should point back at Noah's family. Well, let's look to see how Greek mythology parallels Noah's family.

1."Titans" or "Giants" existing before the main characters exist.

In both the story of Genesis, and in Greek mythology, giants exist before the family does.

2.In Greek mythology, Zeus and his two brothers are the 3 main gods, and their father is Cronus, which is the Greek word for "time". In other words, he is "Father Time". What would you call an ancestor that was 700 years old at the time of the tower, and his three sons were at least 200? Especially if everyone else was less than 100? It would be easy to think of these very long living people as Gods, not just normal humans, don't you think?

3.One of those three sons has a descendant known as a great hunter. In the book of Genesis, he is named, "Nimrod" and is called "a mighty hunter before the Lord". The parallel in Greek mythology is Hercules.

4.The Greek Gods lived on the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Olympus. Well, Noah and his family stayed in the Ark at the top of the tallest mountain in the area for several months while the waters drained. The mountain on which they were "stranded" certainly was the highest mountain around. It is easy to see how their descendants would have referred to that mountain as the "home of the Gods".

5.Greek Mythology has yet another connection to Noah, yet this one is indirect. Many details of the Greek mythos came to them from the Babylonian. In the Babylonian mythos or history, their tenth king survived a flood. Count the generations from Adam to Noah and you get, yes, ten.

So, is Greek Mythology a figment of people's imagination? Is it an ancient religion? No. It is a telling of history by people that could not use the original language anymore, and as a result of that and other factors, has deviated a little bit from the facts. Yet, many of the core factors have not been lost.

I believe that it is reasonable to believe that Greek Mythology is nothing more than another viewpoint of the history of Noah and his family.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Egyptian Ma'at Akin to Hebrew Hokmah (Wisdom)

[The AMAIC would suggest more specifically, however, that the Egyptian concept of Ma'at, personified as a goddess, was akin to the Hebrew concept of Wisdom, Hokmah, feminised]


In ancient Israel, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, few virtues were more respected and revered than wisdom. While its exact definition varied from culture to culture, it was nevertheless an ideal in which to aspire to, and those possessing it exhibited either artistic skill, administrative talent, craftiness, powers of divination or sorcery, intelligence, or obedience to God. Unsurprisingly, there are often parallels between the wisdom literature of the Near East and that of the biblical books traditionally considered the wisdom books: Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. In this hub I will explore both these parallels and contrasts, as well as discuss the various meanings of wisdom throughout the Near East and Israel.

The concept of wisdom varied throughout the ancient Near East and Israel. Not only can one find varying ideas of what, exactly, wisdom was between Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Jewish texts, but within the texts themselves there exists varying ideas of its definition. For the Israelites, wisdom was often defined by the skill possessed by a craftsman, tailor, shipbuilder etc. As theologian Roy Zuck points out, ““skilled” in Exodus 28:3 and “skill” in 35:33 translate the Hebrew hokmat-teb, wise of heart or skillful of heart.””[1] Within much of the Old Testament we see allusions to this sort of wisdom. Throughout Chronicles the craftsmen and artists responsible for the Temple were considered skillful and full of wisdom, and those responsible for the Tabernacle and for Aaron’s priestly garments were described in similar fashion.

However, the concept of wisdom in the Old Testament went far beyond just skill and artistry. Another instance of what it meant to be wise could be found in the ability of a man to lead or administer, as Joseph, Daniel, Joshua and Solomon all held positions of great power and responsibility and were all described as men of wisdom.[2] Beyond artistic skill and administrative talent, wisdom was attached to a number of things, such as the ability to be cunning (as in the case of Jonadab in 2 Samuel 13:3) and in professional mourning (Jeremiah 9:17).

[1] Roy B. Zuck, “Biblical Theology of the Old Testament,” p. 210

[2] Ibid. p. 210.

See all 6 photosEgyptian Scribe

Egypt and Mesopotamia, though finding points of agreement, had some differing concepts on the nature of wisdom. Judging from the biblical account, the men of wisdom within the Near East were usually sorcerers, diviners, priests or advisers who held audience with the king or pharaoh, or who resided within the royal court. As relating to Egypt and Babylon, Roy Zuck writes: “These men in the king’s court were associated with sorcerers and diviners, men who had learned the skills of interpreting dreams and using occultic powers.”[1] There also existed within Egypt and Mesopotamia so-called “schools of wisdom” in which young male pupils were trained in administrative and scribal areas[2] (It remains unknown if similar schools existed within Israel around the same time).

The Egyptian concept of ma’at could be considered an embodiment of wisdom. Named after the goddess Ma’at, this principle was founded upon the idea that there was order to the universe, and that truth and justice were parts of this established order. A passage in The Instruction of Ptahhotep presents Ma'at as follows:

Ma'at is good and its worth is lasting. It has not been disturbed

since the day of its creator, whereas he who transgresses its ordi-

nances is punished. It lies as a path in front even of him who knows

nothing. Wrongdoing has never yet brought its venture to port.

It is true that evil may gain wealth but the strength of truth is that

it lasts; a man can say: "It was the property of my father."[3]

While one can pick out similarities between this description of ma’at and the idea of wisdom as presented in Proverbs (those who stray from it will experience misfortune) there are nevertheless differences. While ma’at was to the Egyptians an impersonal but beneficial force within the universe that guided the righteous, the Hebrew concept of wisdom seems to be more of a virtue possessed by God and given to us which we are free to use or to dispose of. While utterly important and worthwhile, wisdom is not a “force” per se, rather an action, a thought, or a feeling.

[1] Ibid. p. 210

[2] Ernest C. Lucas, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Psalms & Wisdom Literature, p. 82.

[3] Henri Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion, p. 62

An Introduction to the Old Testament: Second Edition

Amazon Price: $18.73

List Price: $34.99

Exploring the Old Testament, Volume 3: A Guide to the Psalms & Wisdom Literature (Exploring the Bible: Old Testament)

Amazon Price: $17.14

List Price: $30.00

The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary

Amazon Price: $19.92

List Price: $35.00

According to the wisdom books of the Bible, wisdom is not defined by certain skill sets or talents; rather it is a way of thinking in which one can improve the quality of one’s life. So while in the rest of the Old Testament wisdom is thought of as an action resulting in a product or a specific outcome (administration, mourning), in the wisdom books it is seen as a thought process or worldview which generally results in a good life, a happy family, and the approval of God. Hard questions are asked within the wisdom books, addressing issues such as the prospering of the wicked, the suffering of the righteous, and the meaning of life. In this way, the wisdom books stand apart from the rest of the Old Testament in their assessment of the meaning of wisdom. No longer does one see the idea of wisdom being tied to skillfulness or administrative prowess, rather wisdom is defined as common sense, obedience to God, humility and understanding. Authors Duvall and Hays summarize the wisdom books well:

The overarching purpose of these books [is] to develop character in the reader. The wisdom books are not a collection of universal promises. Rather, they are a collection of valuable insights into godly living, which, if taken to heart (and head), will develop godly character, a character that will make wise choices in the rough-and-tumble marketplace of life.[1]

There do exist however, seeming contradictions within the wisdom books. While Proverbs seems to teach the concept of a reward system (do good and life will go well. Do bad and it will not), the other books both seem to challenge this notion with unflinching realism. In the Book of Job we see the very model of wise and righteous living in Job, and yet, due to no mistake or sin on his part, Job suffers incredibly through the loss of his family, his material possessions, and his health. Ecclesiastes continues on this theme, going even one step further in its estimation of the meaning of life. While Job eventually sees a reward for his perseverance, no such promise exists in Ecclesiastes. The wicked may prosper, and there exists much in life that may seem worthwhile, and yet in the end is ultimately meaningless.

[1] Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays, “Grasping God’s Word.” Pg. 390.

See all 6 photosAn example of cuneiform, a style of writing utilized in Mesopotamia.

But do the wisdom books contradict each other? Or is harmonization not only possible, but reasonable? Duvall and Hays take the approach that Proverbs should be seen as the general rule, with Job and Ecclesiastes following as exceptions to that rule. So while the overall message in Proverbs is that one should work hard and embrace wisdom (and in doing so will most likely reap the benefits of such living), Job and Ecclesiastes seem to say that, “yes, hard work and wisdom are beneficial, but there are no guarantees that hardship will not visit you.”[1] Both end on a positive note though, with Job receiving reward, and the teacher of Ecclesiastes concluding that life’s meaning is found ultimately in relationship with God.

Concepts of “wise-living”, the seeming futility of life, and the quandary of the suffering of the righteous were not subjects addressed solely by the biblical wisdom books. Similarities within texts from both Egypt and Babylon can be found. Like the Bible, these texts are also designated as “wisdom literature,” “a literary genre common in the ancient Near East in which instructions for successful living are given or the perplexities of human existence are contemplated,” [2] In Egypt this genre goes back to about 2700 B.C.

[1] Ibid. p. 390

[2] David A. Hubbard, The New Bible Dictionary, p. 1651.

See all 6 photosJust making sure you're paying attention

One of the most similar texts to the book of Proverbs is the Egyptian work The Instruction of Amenemope written circa 1200 B.C. While the purpose of this work was to train young men in royal civil service,[1] it nevertheless may have had some influence on the author of Proverbs, Solomon, as Proverbs 22:17-24:34 bears resemblance to the style employed by Amenemope as well as sharing similar concepts of wisdom. Compare, for example, the first chapter The Instruction of Amenemope with Proverbs 22: 17-21.

Give your ears, hear the sayings, It profits to put them in your heart,

Woe to him who neglects them! Let them rest in the casket of your belly

May they be bolted in your heart; When there rises a whirlwind of words, They'll be a mooring post for your tongue.

If you make your life with these in your heart,You will find it a success;

You will find my words a storehouse for life, Your being will prosper upon earth.

Proverbs 22:17-21:

17Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,

And apply your mind to my knowledge;

18For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,

That they may be ready on your lips.

19So that your trust may be in the LORD,

I have taught you today, even you.

20Have I not written to you excellent things

Of counsels and knowledge,

21To make you know the certainty of the words of truth

That you may correctly answer him who sent you?

While similarities are easy to detect between these two passages, the parallels are not so alike as to imply borrowing. The principles of hearing and applying wisdom are universal ones that need not find a counterpart for legitimacy. These are common ideals that have been ruminated over by numerous writers from numerous cultures.

In Babylon, we see similar expressions of the seeming injustice of a righteous man suffering in the works I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom and Lamentation of a Man to His God, which share the theme of the Book of Job. In fact the work, I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom “has sometimes been called “The Babylonian Job”, because it describes the case of a man whose fortunes were very similar to Job’s.”[2] The Babylonian work The Dialogue of Pessimism echoes elements of Ecclesiastes, in which a master and slave discuss the meaning of life, yet conclude that it is meaningless.[3]

[1] Ernest C. Lucas, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Psalms & Wisdom Literature, p. 88.

[2] F.F. Bruce, “Wisdom Literature of the Bible,” p. 7.

[3] Ibid. p. 7.

See all 6 photosWhile further similarities can be noted, F.F. Bruce makes a point worth mentioning here:

In spite of all the similarities, the Hebrew Wisdom literature bears unmistakable features which distinguish it from the Wisdom literature of other nations. These distinctive features belong to the unique revelatory character of Hebrew religion, with its emphasis on the one living and true God. Wisdom in the Bible is Divine Wisdom. Not only do these inspired men grapple with the problems of life; as they do so, God makes Himself and His ways known to them and through them.[1]

While parallels exist between the wisdom literature of Babylon and the wisdom books of the Bible, there was an evolution in Babylonian wisdom literature in which wisdom was eventually seen as something secretive and hidden. The idea of wisdom within some Sumerian literature, notably the Gilgamesh Epic, had attached to it the idea that much of true wisdom was lost in the antediluvian era. It was hidden, mysterious, and esoteric, but not entirely unattainable. This was in stark contrast to the wisdom of the Bible, as it was never considered a secret to which only few could aspire, rather a virtue that nearly anyone could attain with both desire and request to God. We see then, that for the Hebrew Bible, “The principal difference with Mesopotamia is the emphasis that this new wisdom is, precisely, no secret. Having come down from above, it is accessible to all.”[2]

The greatest distinction then between the wisdom literature of the Near East and of Israel is that Yahweh is inextricably intertwined within all aspects of the Bible’s wisdom books. There does exist a spiritual element within Egyptian and Babylonian wisdom texts, but rarely do we see the very personal, very involved hand of divinity present throughout these texts. While there may lie within Near East wisdom literature principles that can benefit today’s reader, their authority lies ultimately within the secular realm, and is hence untrustworthy. The most important, and notable difference between the Bible’s wisdom literature and all other is the ultimate authority which lies behind it.

[1] Ibid. P. 8.

[2] Richard J. Clifford, Wisdom Literature in Mesopotamia and Israel, p. p. 28.

Surely the Wise Ptah-hotep was the Great Joseph of Egypt

The Wisdom of Ptah-hotep by Christian Jacq, ISBN 9780786718290

> Reference Books > History & Archaeology Books > Egyptology Books


Taken from:

ISBN 13: 9780786718290

Binding: Hardcover

Language: English

Pages: 180

Dimensions: 127 x 197 mm

About the Author: Christian Jacq

Christian Jacq (born 1947) is a French author and Egyptologist. He has written several novels about ancient Egypt, notably a five book suite about pharaoh Ramses II, a character whom Jacq admires greatly.
Christian Jacq

Born in Paris, Jacq's interest in Egyptology began when he was thirteen, and read History of Ancient Egyptian Civilization by Jacques Pirenne. This inspired him to write his first novel. By the time he was eighteen, he had written eight books. His first commercially successful book was Champollion the Egyptian, published in 1987. As of 2004, he has written over fifty books, including several non-fiction books on the subject of Egyptology.

Jacq has a doctorate in Egyptian Studies from the Sorbonne. He and his wife later founded the Ramses Institute, which is dedicated to creating a photographic description of Egypt for the preservation of endangered archaeological sites.

In 1995, he published his best selling five book suite Rams s, which is today published in over twenty-five countries. Each volume encompasses one aspect of Ramesses' known historical life, woven into a fictional tapestry of the ancient world for an epic tale of love, life and deceit.

Jacq's series offers a simplified vision of the life of the pharaoh: he has two vile power-hungry siblings, Shanaar, his decadent older brother, and Dolora, his corrupted older sister who married his teacher. In his marital life, he first has Isetnofret (Iset) as a mistress (second Great Wife), meets his true love Nefertari (first Great Wife) and after their death, gets married to Maetnefrure in his old age. Jacq gives Ramesses only three biological children: Kha'emweset, Meritamen (she being the only child of Nefertari, the two others being from Iset) and Merneptah. The other "children" are only young officials trained for government and who are nicknamed "sons of the pharaoh".


And from:


The mighty pyramids of stone

That wedge-like cleave the desert airs

When nearer seen, and better known,

Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

The Ladder of St Augustine

(c) Ptah-hotep as Joseph

Imhotep/Joseph in his old age would almost certainly now be the wise sage in Egypt's early history, Ptah-hotep, who not only lived to be 110 years of age, exactly the age of Joseph at death (Genesis 50:26), but whose wisdom writings resemble the Hebrew Proverbs [950].

Now Ptah-hotep was a real, attested historical person of Egypt's Old Kingdom, who, unlike Thales, has left us his writings; but from whom the name Thales must have arisen.

Regarding Egyptian theophorics/divinities, we need to keep in mind what Mallon wrote almost fifty years ago about "the multiplicity being superficial", that [1000]: "The supreme Creator god was called Atûm at Heliopolis; at Memphis, Ptah; … Amon at Thebes …". It was thus a multiplicity of names, not beings. I include this comment to account for my proposal that Joseph could be named both Im-hotep and Ptah-hotep [1050]. The exact theophoric in the name would depend on from which location in Egypt he was being referred to at the time.


And, from:

Doctrine ArticleExpanded Internet Edition - May 1, 2004

The Writings of Joseph in Egypt

by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1983

Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, May 2004

Read the accompanying Newsletter for May 2004

When people look at the biblical records that have come down to us, they are often amazed that we only have the writings of about 30 different persons spanning a period of 1,600 years. Some of the divine authors have only given us one book (often quite small). This has caused people to ask what happened to all the other writings of the patriarchs, prophets, priests, apostles, and evangelists? It could hardly be imagined that the apostle Paul only wrote (in his entire Christian experience) 14 letters — those, which are found in the New Testament. This also applies to Old Testament personalities. The prophet Isaiah was a noted historian of his era, but we only have the book of his prophecies and the Book of Kings (found in the Bible) which Isaiah wrote up to his time. 1

But surely the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul wrote many other compositions than the ones which are presently found in the biblical canon. We know from biblical evidence that some of the writers of the Bible authored many other compositions that have not come down to us within the divine canon. The biblical Book of Proverbs only has a little under a thousand verses within it, but we are told that Solomon composed three thousand proverbs (parables), and we know that some of them were very lengthy (not just simple “one-liners”). 2 See Proverbs 1:7 to the end of chapter 9. This represents a single proverb (parable) which Solomon, or perhaps Joseph, wrote.

The truth is, the introduction to the Book of Proverbs is a superscription of six verses which shows that many of the proverbs in the biblical book did not originate with King Solomon at all. That introduction states that the proverbs selected to be included in the biblical canon were chosen to show wisdom, instruc­tion, understanding, justice, judgment, subtlety to the simple, knowledge, discretion, learning, counsel, and,

“... to understand a proverb [parable], and the interpretation; the words of the wise ones [“wise” in Hebrew is plural: “wise ones”], and THEIR dark sayings.”

Proverbs 1:6

This means that the Book of Proverbs not only contains proverbs from King Solomon, but it represents a compilation of wise and dark sayings associated with “wise men” before Solomon. Who were these “wise men” who lived prior to Solomon? Of those mentioned in the Bible, there were the sons of Zerah [the son of Judah, the brother of Joseph]. They were named Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda (1 Kings 4:31). These four “wise men” (or ancient philosophers) lived in Egypt when Joseph was in power (Genesis chapter 41). 3

Proverbs of the Wise

Let us not forget the patriarch Joseph (the subject of this Article). Recall when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream that a famine of seven years was to grip the Middle Eastern world, Pharaoh admitted that “there is none so discreet and wise as you [Joseph] are” (Genesis 41:39).

There were other “wise men” who lived prior to the time of Joseph. Notable among them were those “of the east country” (1 Kings 4:30), the people in the land of Edom who were “the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?” (Obadiah 8), where the “wise man” Job had his residence (Job 1:1). The land of Uz was located east of the Jordan River. This patriarch named Job composed one of the greatest stories of ethical and moral value known to man, the Book of Job!

There was, as the Bible indicates, considerable literary activity in Egypt during the time the Israelites sojourned there. And some of the compositions done in Egypt (either at that time or later) have found their way into the biblical canon. Read Proverbs 22:17–21 and you will find it to be an introduction to a separate division of the Book of Proverbs. It should be understood that the five verses making up the introduction are not individual proverbs in themselves. They represent a caption to a separate section (a new division) of the Book of Proverbs. Let us notice that introduction.

“Bow down your ear, and hear the words of the wise [plural: “wise ones”], and apply your heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them [the following proverbs] within you; they [these proverbs] shall withal be fitted in your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to you this day, even to you. Have not I written to you excellent things [the Revised Standard Version has: “thirty sayings”] in counsels and knowledge, that I might make you know the certainty of the words of truth; that you might answer the words of truth to them that send unto you?”

Proverbs 22:17–21

After this long introduction, we then find the first proverb of this new section.

“Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoil them.”

Proverbs 22:22–23

There are actually thirty sections to this third division in the Book of Proverbs (from Proverbs 22:22 to 24:22). The Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and most modern translations realize that this reference to “thirty” is the proper translation of Proverbs 22:20. True enough, the Hebrew could be stretched to mean “thirty” from the use of the word “excellent,” but now scholars are assured that “thirty” is correct. Why are they certain? Because this section of Proverbs has been found in a manuscript from ancient Egypt. Indeed, the similarity of language in the Book of Proverbs and what was discovered in Egypt has caused scholars to identify the two as coming from a single composition, no doubt originally done in Egypt.

This Egyptian document is now in the British Museum (and a part of the text is also found on a writing tablet in Turin, Italy). Those original “thirty sayings” were probably written by Egyptian priests and called “The Instruction of Amen-em-opet” (or, Amenophis). 4 The date when the original Egyptian work was written has been disputed. Some say it was composed before the time of Solomon, while others say afterwards. The Egyptian version differs in some respects from that in the Book of Proverbs, but there can be no question that the two documents represent the same composition. 5

If the Egyptian text is earlier than that of Solomon, it could be that the book was a product of Joseph’s time (perhaps by the sons of Zerah. After all, the early Israelite patriarchs were once in Egypt and could have written many of their works in Egyptian as well as Hebrew. It is reasonable that many of those early works came from Israelites (even from one who was a prime minister of the nation directly under Pharaoh). There is reason to believe that Joseph could have left some documents of wisdom in the Egyptian language which later Egyptians copied for their instruction. And we now know that some of these early Egyptian works have found their way into the pages of the Bible itself.

“The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep”

This brings us to consider the author of an early Egyptian work called “The Instruction of the Vizier [the Prime Minister] Ptah-Hotep.” The man who wrote this document of proverbial teaching was so close to the Pharaoh that he was considered Pharaoh’s son — from his own body. This does not necessarily mean that the author was the actual son of the Pharaoh. It is a designation which means that both the author (the Prime Minister) and the Pharaoh were one in attitude, authority, and family. 6

Could this document be a composition of the patriarch Joseph? There are many parallels between what the document says and historical events in Joseph’s life. Indeed, the similarities are so remarkable, that I have the strong feeling that modern man has found an early Egyptian writing from the hand of Joseph himself. Though it is evident that the copies that have come into our possession are copies of a copy (and not the original), it still reflects what the autograph said; in almost every section it smacks of the attitude and temperament of Joseph as revealed to us in the Bible. Let us now look at some of the remarkable parallels.

This Egyptian document is often called “The Oldest Book in the World” and was originally written by the vizier in the Fifth (or Third) Dynasty. The Egyptian name of this vizier (i.e., the next in command to Pharaoh) was Ptah-Hotep. This man was, according to Breasted the “Chief of all Works of the King.” He was the busiest man in the kingdom, all-powerful (only the Pharaoh was over him). He was the chief judge and the most popular man in Pharaoh’s government. 7

The name Ptah-Hotep was a title rather than a proper name, and it was carried by successive viziers of the Memphite and Elephantine governments. The contents of this “Oldest Book” may direct us to Joseph and to the later teachings of Israel.

Notice what this Ptah-Hotep (the second in command in Egypt) had to say of his life on earth. How long did he live? The answer is given in the concluding statement in the document:

“The keeping of these laws have gained for me upon earth 110 years of life, with the gift of the favor of the King, among the first of those whose works have made them noble, doing the pleasure of the King in an honored position.”

“The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep,” Precept XLIV

This man, with the title Ptah-Hotep, was one who did great construction works. Joseph was supposed to have done mighty works — traditionally, even the Great Pyramid was built through the dole of grain during the seven years of low Niles. And remember, Joseph also lived 110 years (Genesis 50:26) just as did this Ptah-Hotep. He resembled Joseph in another way.

“If you would be held in esteem in the house wherein you enterest, whether it be that of a ruler, or of a brother, or of a friend, whatever you do enter, beware of approaching the wife, for it is not in any way a good thing to do. It is senseless. Thousands of men have destroyed themselves and gone to their deaths for the sake of the enjoyment of a pleasure which is as fleeting as the twinkling of an eye.”

Precept XVIII

Here again we have Joseph! Even though adultery was the common thing in Egypt (thousands of men were doing it), only one uncommon example shines out in its history — that of Joseph. This virtue of Joseph was so strong, that its inclusion into these “Precepts” again may indicate that Joseph had a hand in writing them.

Now look at the beginning of Precept XLIV. Ptah-Hotep says that if the laws of the master were kept, a person’s father will give him a “double good,” i.e., a double portion. Joseph did in fact receive the birthright and with it the “double good” (double blessing, Deuteronomy 21:15–17). This birthright blessing is repeated in Precept XXXIX.

“To hearken [to your father] is worth more than all else, for it produces love, the possession doubly blessed.”

Precept XXXIX

Ptah-Hotep Was a Great Man

There is much more that is like Joseph in the document of Ptah-Hotep. Notice Precept XXX:

“If you have become a great man having once been of no account, and if you have become rich having once been poor, and having become the Governor of the City [this exactly fits Joseph’s experience], take heed that you do not act haughtily because you have attained unto a high rank. Harden not your heart because you have become exalted, for you are only the guardian of the goods which God has given to you. Set not in the background your neighbor who is as you were, but make yourself as if he were your equal.”

Precept XXX

The instruction above almost sounds as if it came from the Bible itself! The parallel to such high ethical teaching could be an indication that Joseph wrote it. There is also, in these Precepts, an emphasis on obedience, especially to one’s father(s).

“Let no man make changes in the laws of his father; let the same laws be his own lessons to his children. Surely his children will say to him ‘doing your word works wonders.’”

Precept XLII

“Surely a good son is one of the gifts of God, a son doing better than he has been told”

Precept XLIV

“When a son hearkens to his father, it is a double joy to both, for when these things are told to him, the son is gentle toward his father. Hearkening to him who has hearkened while this was told him, he engraves on his heart what is approved by his father, and thus the memory of it is preserved in the mouth of the living, who are upon earth.”

Precept XXXIX

“When a son receives the word of his father, there is no error in all his plans. So instruct your son that he shall be a teachable man whose wisdom will be pleasant to the great men. Let him direct his mouth according to that which has been told him [by his father]; in the teachableness of a son is seen his wisdom. His conduct is perfect, while error carries away him who will not be taught; in the future, knowledge will uphold him, while the ignorant will be crushed.”

Precept XL

The emphasis of Ptah-Hotep is that his own greatness depended upon his attendance to the laws of his fathers. He encouraged all others to do the same. This gave him the reason for recording for posterity these basic laws, and he says that these words of his fathers “shall he born without alteration, eternally upon the earth” (Precept XXXVIII).

“To put an obstacle in the way of the laws, is to open the way before violence”

Precept V

“The limits of justice are unchangeable; this is a law which everyman receives from his father.

Precept V

Some of those teachings are so biblical and right! It could well be a fact that these principles and good teachings came from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and are here recorded by Joseph, the one respecting the teachings of his fathers. Notice this Precept:

“The son who receives the word of his father shall live long on account of it.’

Precept XXXIX

Compare this with the Fifth Commandment:

“Honor thy father and mother: that the days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you.”

Exodus 20:12

Could it be that many of the laws that became a part of the Old Covenant which God made with Israel at the Exodus were known long before — in the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? We are told that the early patriarchs knew some of God’s laws (Genesis 26:5).

The biblical agreements, however, do not stop with this reference. They are throughout the work.

“When you are sitting at meat at the house of a person greater than you, ... look at what is before you.”

Precept VII

And now, notice Proverbs 23:1. The agreement with the above of Ptah-Hotep is exact.

“When you sit to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before you.

Proverbs 23:1

Professor Howard Osgood, who translated into English these “Precepts of Ptah-Hotep,” has a note to the one precept mentioned above.

“This passage is found in the Proverbs of Solomon, chapter 23. The Hebrews knew then, if not the whole of the maxims of Ptah-Hotep, at least several of them which have passed into proverbs.”

Howard Osgood, Records of the Past 8

Why of course. Many of Solomon’s proverbs were those of ancient men. Solomon nowhere claimed to have originated all his proverbs. On the contrary, he clearly states that many of them were “words of the wise men, and their dark sayings” (Proverbs 1:6). Look at another precept of Ptah-Hotep:

“If you are a wise man, train a son who will be well pleasing to God.”

Precept XII

Compare this with Proverbs 22:6:

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

Solomon merely recorded many of the proverbs and laws, which were handed down in Israel generation after generation. He, of course, augmented the proverbs but he did not originate them all. In fact, it seems certain that many of them were from Joseph who further recorded for us the teachings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But let us go on with the Precepts of this second in command to Pharaoh.

“In doing homage before a greater man than yourself you are doing what is most pleasing unto God.”

Precept X

“Labor diligently while you have life, and do even more than you have been commanded to do.”

Precept XI

“Neglect not to add to your possessions daily, for diligence increases wealth, but without diligence riches disappear.”

Precept XI

“None should intimidate men, for this is the will of God.”

Precept VI

“Terrify not men, or God will terrify you.”

Precept VI

“If you would be wise, rule your house, and love thy wife wholly and constantly. Fill her stomach and clothe her body [i.e., support her], for these are her necessities; love her tenderly and fulfill all her desire for she is one who confers great reward upon her lord. Be not harsh to her, for she will be more easily moved by persuasion than by force.”

Precept XXI

This type of teaching for the husband to his wife seems almost like that of the New Testament. It is very different from the normal beliefs of ancient times.

“Take care of those who are faithful to you, when your affairs are of low estate. Your merit then is worth more than those who have done you honor.”

Precept XXXV

“The man who hurries all the day long has not one good moment; but he who amuses himself all day long does not retain his house.”

Precept XXV

In other words, work hard but learn to relax as well, do not amuse yourself all the time.

“Treat well your people as it behooves you; this is the duty of those God has favored.”

Precept XXII

Continuing, he says that if you have been given a job to do, “never go away, even when thy weariness makes itself felt” (Precept XIII).

“If you are accustomed to an excess of flattery and it becomes an obstacle to your desires, then your feeling is to obey your passions.”

Precept XIV

“A man is naturally annoyed by having authority above himself, and he passes his life in being weary of it ... but a man must reflect, when he is fettered by it, that the annoyance of authority is also felt by his neighbor.”

Precept XXXI

Or, since authority is necessary, learn to put up with it.

“If you desire that your conduct be good and kept from all evil, beware of all fits of bad temper. This is a sad malady which leads to discord, and there is no more life at all for the one who falls into it. For it brings quarrels between fathers and mothers, as between brothers and sisters; it makes the husband and wife to abhor each other, it contains all wickedness, it encloses all injuries. When a man takes justice for his rule, walks in her ways, and dwells with her, there is no room left for bad temper.”

Precept XIX

Ptah-Hotep Was a Great Ruler

There are a great many laws found in this “Oldest Book” which echo over and over the rule of Joseph in Egypt. This man was the chief judge except for Pharaoh throughout the land. Notice Precept XVII:

“If you have the position of a Judge listen to the discourse of the petitioner. Do not ill-treat him; that would discourage him. The way to obtain a true explanation is to listen with kindness.”

Precept XVII

“If you have the position of leader prosecuting plans according to your will, do the best things which posterity will remember; so that the word which multiplies flatteries, excites pride and produces vanity shall not succeed with you.”

Precept XVI

The next Precept could certainly come from the experiences of Joseph. Notice it:

“Be not puffed up because of the knowledge which you have acquired, and hold converse with unlettered men as with the scholar; for the barriers of art are never closed, no artist has ever possessed the full limit of the knowledge of his art.”

Precept II

In other words, no one knows it all, even of his own profession. Even the unlettered may instruct at times.

“If you are in the position of leader, to decide the condition of a large number of men, seek the best way, that your own position may be without reproach.”

Precept V

“Do not speak to the great man more than he asks, for one does not know what might displease him. Speak when he invites you to do so, and your word will please.”

Precept VII

And finally:

“As to the great man [i.e., the ruler, master or Pharaoh] who has behind him the means of existence, his line of conduct is as he wishes. But as this means of existence is under the will of God, nothing [not even the great man] can revolt against that.”

Precept VII


The foregoing has been a selection of the remarkable precepts of this vizier. And, amazingly, throughout this document there is complete agreement to Bible principles. No paganism is found within it. The name Osiris is found once when Ptah-Hotep said that no laws had been changed since the time of Osiris. See Precept V. 9 There is hardly anything wrong with that passage.

The only possible objection is found in Precept XLII where we find: “A son who hearkens, is like a follower of Horus; he is happy because he has hearkened.” The fact is, the name Horus became a general title for all kings of Egypt. The Horus-name was applied to Pharaohs. Even Joseph possessed it! The name Horus in this passage is not necessarily a reference to the personal Horus of the First Dynasty. The monotheistic contents of these Precepts of Ptah-Hotep predominate. The Horus name is merely a title and does not reflect paganistic tendencies. Even names like “Ptah-Hotep” or like “Im-Hotep” were normally titles that could refer to people like Joseph. Note (in the comparison below) the remarkable literary agreements. 10

All indications are that the narrative about Ptah-Hotep appears to be referring to the biblical character we know as Joseph. Understand that non-biblical works may have had mistaken or untrue elements added to the narrative. Thus, they may not 100% correspond to the biblical narrative. However, that does not seem to be the case with Ptah-Hotep. Below are some side-by-side comparisons between Ptah-Hotep and Joseph.

Ptah-Hotep Precepts

: Joseph’s History

(1) He lived to be 110 years old (XLIV). (1) He lived to be 110 years old (Genesis 50:26).

(2) He lived in the Third Dynasty. 11 (2) The Third Dynasty saw seven years of low Niles.

(3) The name Ptah-Hotep was a title of all Memphite viziers, those second in command to Pharaoh himself. 12 (3) Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh. He was the vizier, as all scholars admit (Genesis 41).

(4) Ptah-Hotep was the chief judge in ancient Egypt but had been raised to the highest office (XXX). (4) Pharaoh required all Egyptians to submit to the judgeship of Joseph (Genesis 41:41–44).

(5) Ptah-Hotep was once of no account in Egypt but had been elevated to the Prime Ministership (XXX). (5) Joseph was raised from the dungeon to sit on the very throne of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:14, 41–44).

(6) Out of thousands who went into their neighbor’s wives, Ptah-Hotep did not, and taught people not to do so (XVIII). (6) Joseph refused to submit to the advances of his master’s wife (Genesis 39).

(7) Ptah-Hotep received from his father divine laws; even one of the Ten Commandments was quoted (XXXIX). (7) Joseph was taught the divine laws from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:5).

(8) Ptah-Hotep was a monotheist. No idolatry is mentioned. (8) Joseph believed only in the God of Israel, not idols.

(9) Many of Ptah-Hotep’s teachings went directly into the Bible especially Proverbs. 13 (9) Solomon quoted from the ancient wise men of Israel and copied their teachings and proverbs (Proverbs 1:6).

(10) Ptah-Hotep received a double possession from his father because of his obedience (XXXIX and XLIV). (10) Joseph likewise received the birthright the double possession (1 Chronicles 5:2).

(11) Ptah-Hotep warns those of advanced knowledge, such as he had, to shun being puffed up (II). (11) There was none considered wiser in all the land of Egypt than Joseph (Genesis 41:39), but he was also humble (Genesis 45:15).

(12) Ptah-Hotep was the first in Egypt whose great public works made him famous. (XLIV) (12) Joseph, traditionally, built the Great Pyramid, the Labyrinth, the canal system of Egypt, and many other great public works.

Addendum One: The Works of Joseph in Egypt

The history of Egypt is a long and complicated one. Historians are still trying to figure out when the events described in the literary and archaeological accounts took place, and who the actors were that carried them out. It is not an easy task — especially for the periods before the 6th century B.C.E. The truth is, we simply do not have enough chronological data to be certain, and this would be admitted by any reasonable scholar. 14

The case is not completely hopeless, however. It is our belief that the Bible ought to be consulted in a more serious way by scholars. We feel that it can provide some solid chronological and historical bits of information which can clear the way to a better comprehension of an overview of Egyptian history. After all, the Bible not only has some definite information as to what was happening in Egypt in some crucial times of glory and decline, but it records (in almost an unbroken historical account) the major events occurring in Palestine, a geographical area adjacent to that of Egypt. What was taking place in Palestine, in a cultural way, must have been reflected in the Egyptian environment as well. This is why we think that the biblical record can properly serve as a guide to understanding the historical periods in neighboring Egypt.

The major problem in straightening out Egyptian history has been chronological, that is, discovering when the recorded events in the literary and archaeological evidences actually took place in world history.

For example, the main classical account of early Egyptian history (before the time of Alexander the Great) is that of an Egyptian priest called Manetho — who lived in the 3rd century B.C.E. He said there had been thirty-one separate dynasties of kings from the earliest times to that of Alexander the Great. When one reads Manetho, the impression is that all the dynasties were successive to one another. But historians have disputed this, saying that some parts or even whole dynasties ruled at the same time with each other, though in different geographical areas of Egypt. The Bible supports this belief. In Isaiah we have an 8th century B.C.E. description of Egypt as being made up of more than one kingdom.

“And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.”

Isaiah 19:2

Jeremiah also said there were kings (plural) over various regions of Egypt.

“The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, says; ‘Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings [plural]; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him.’”

Jeremiah 46:25

And even at the time of the Exodus, Psalm 105:30 says that there were several kings in Egypt.

“Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings [plural].”

Psalm 105:30

In this brief survey we cannot give proofs for the contemporaneity of some of the dynasties (we hope to do that in a book on the subject), 15 but it can be shown that this was the case. It appears certain that parts of the third, fourth, and fifth dynasties (for example) were in existence at the same time — only in different regions of Egypt. The third dynasty saw the first construction of pyramids by a king named Djoser who had a famous architect and writer called Imhotep. This later person was so famous for his wisdom and buildings that the later Greeks thought him to have had divine knowledge. From this period an inscription has been found which says that there were seven years of famine in the land but the wise counselor to the king was able to find out how the Nile River inundations were under divine control. After seven years the Nile returned to normal flow.

In the Bible there is only one major time in Egyptian history in which there was an exact period of seven years famine. That was in the time of Joseph (Genesis 41:25–57). Early Christian scholars (some of them were natives of Egypt) said that the chief pyramids were constructed in the time of Joseph. They derived the meaning of “pyramid” from pyros (wheat). Joseph supposedly paid the people in grain (which was stored up during the seven years’ plenty) to build some of the pyramids and other buildings

The Roman historian, Pliny, said the pyramids were constructed partly out of ostentation and partly out of state policy to divert the people from mutinies by putting them to work (XXXVI.12). This would seem to have been a wise policy to keep the people occupied with work during the seven years famine when no ordinary farming was possible. Thus, there was a good reason for pyramid construction.

The greatest pyramid was built in the fourth dynasty by a man that the Egyptians called Philition the shepherd (Herodotus 11.128). This man was not an Egyptian, and his name implies he was from Palestine (where the raising of herds was a primary occupation). Could this have been Joseph?

There was also an artificial lake called Moeris which was fed by an extensive canal system which is named the Bahr Joseph. This was supposed to have been constructed by Joseph. It was a huge reservoir which was once 72 feet above sea level, but has now dried up (through deterioration) to a water level 144 feet below sea level. Herodotus in the 5th century B.C.E. called the whole hydro-complex an outstanding engineering feat (Herodotus 11.149).

Really, if one could have seen Egypt during the time of Joseph (and especially the flourishing condition in which he left it), it would be an astonishment to modern man. Yet even the small remnants of what was once a glorious civilization cause us moderns to marvel. But when all the buildings, canal systems, and other artistic creations were in their prime, Egypt must have been the most wondrous nation in existence and one that has not been surpassed even in modern times!

When one uses the Bible as a chronological and historical guide to events in the Middle East, it is possible to arrive at a sensible account of what was generally happening in nations surrounding Palestine. It has to be admitted, however, that many questions remain for historians to sort out, because many of the sources of evidence are not always consistent or complete. But we have enough to show that Joseph’s time was one of profound human accomplishment.

Addendum Two: “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep”

In Appendix Two of Restoring the Original Bible (see note 3 above) Dr. Martin discusses the relation­ship between several of the sayings in Proverbs chapters 22 and 23 and a work called “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep. There are 30 sayings in the Division of Proverbs, and there are 30 sections in “the Instruction of Amen-em-otep” but scholars are unable to determine at this time how the 30 Hebrew sayings fit with the 30 Egyptian sections. 16 Part of the problem is Egyptian translation, and part is because the Hebrew sayings were likely edited and updated to suit audiences who would have had the material read to them by scribes in Solomon’s (or Hezekiah’s) time. Whoever performed the final compiling and editing (likely done by Ezra the priest), had full authority to do so. 17

There is practically unanimous agreement among scholars that these two works are related. 18 Let us review some of the corresponding passages from Proverbs and the “Instruction” 19:

“Bow down your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you [Heb. in your belly]; they shall withal be fitted in your lips. ... That I might make you know the certainty of the words of truth; that you might answer the words of truth to them that send unto you?”

Proverbs 22:17–21

“Give your ears, hear the sayings,

Give your heart to understand them;

It profits to put them in your heart,

Woe to him who neglects them!

Let them rest in the casket of your belly,

May they be bolted in your heart;

When there rises a whirlwind of words,

They’ll be a mooring post for your tongue.”

Instruction, 3:9–16

Note how the texts obviously relate to each other, yet do not appear to be direct quotations. This is the way the entire comparison reads.

“Rob not the poor, because he is poor:

neither oppress the afflicted in the gate.”

Proverbs 22:22

“Beware of robbing a wretch,

of attacking a cripple.”

Instruction, 4:4–5

Rich and poor, and how to properly relate to them, is a major theme in both works.

“Labor not to be rich:

Cease from your own wisdom.

By humility and the fear of the Lord

are riches, and honor, and life.”

Proverbs 23:4–5

“Do not set your heart on wealth,

There is no ignoring Fate and Destiny;

Do not let your heart go straying,

Every man comes to his hour,

Do not strain to seek increase.”

Instruction, 11:12–13

Part of the problem is that many of the Egyptian words in the “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep” are unique and the meanings are up for interpretation, less so than with this section of Proverbs, although here too there are problems of understanding word meanings. 20

“Make no friendship with an angry man 21; and with a furious man you shall not go: Lest you learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”

Proverbs 22:24–25

“Do not befriend the heated man,

Nor approach him for conversation, ...

He is the ferry-man of snaring words.”

Instruction, 27:16–17

Landmarks and boundary markers for fields were important to the agricultural society of Egypt, where on a yearly basis the Nile River inundated the fields and left a deposit of rich mud which became fertile soil when the floods receded and the new earth dried. Who owned what piece of land was a matter of life and death to the lower classes, and advantage was frequently taken by the rich and powerful.

“Remove not the ancient landmark,

which thy fathers have set.”

Proverbs 22:28

“Do not move the markers on the borders of the fields ...

Nor encroach on the boundaries of a widow ...

Beware of destroying the borders of fields.”

Instruction, 7:11, 15

An “evil eye” meant someone who is stingy and greedy.

“Eat you not the bread of him that has an evil eye, neither desire you his dainty meats: ... The morsel which you have eaten shall you vomit up, and lose your sweet words.”

Proverbs 23:6–8

“The big mouthful of bread —

you swallow, you vomit it,

And you are emptied of your gain.”

Instruction, 14:16–18

Dealing with rulers or superiors is a large part of the discussion in both Proverbs chapters 22 and 23, and the “The Instruc­tion of Amen-em-otep”

“When you sit to eat with a ruler,

consider diligently what is before thee.”

Proverbs 23:1

“Do not eat in the presence of an official,

And then set your mouth before [him]."

Instruction, 23:13–14

Hard work is praised. Sloth is demeaned. A courtier is a court official or a friend of the ruler, most always a nobleman by birth.

“See you a man diligent in his business?

he shall stand before kings;

he shall not stand before mean men.”

Proverbs 22:29

“The scribe who is skilled in his office,

He is found worthy to be a courtier.”

Instruction, 27:16–17

As mentioned before the Proverbs and “Instructions” are not exact parallels, although they are close enough that scholars recognize their relationship. The Proverbs of this section were collected to be advice to those acquainted with rulers (Proverbs 23:1–3), those with access to the king (Proverbs 22:11), and those with opportunities and expectations for wealth (hence the warning against striving after riches, Proverbs 24:4–5), all of which shows that the intended audience was composed of nobility. So too, the “Instructions” were not written to peasants but to those who could expect make good use of the advice, again, the nobility.


As both the Proverbs and “Instructions” indicate, people are free to pursue their various courses in life, but there are certain courses of action, borne out by experience that tend toward success. This is not information that has anything to do with your spiritual salvation, but it may help you live life a little better than you otherwise would, until the day when God takes control of this earth and directly shows us how to maximize our lives to our benefit and to the glory of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you ignore the advice that is available in the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, you may be missing out on tangible benefits to your present life here and now. God has made wonderful resources of the world’s wisdom available to you. Read them, use them, and learn from them.

You have nothing to lose except ignorance.

Ernest L. Martin, 1983

Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, April 2004

[ NOTE: I am reprinting a short commentary that deals with Joseph and Egypt. DWS ]

God Enslaves the Egyptians — Commentary for June 10, 2003

In today's world “freedom” is very important. Freedom of nations, peoples, families, and in the western world, the freedom of individuals to live their lives as they see fit is one of our cherished ideals. Freedom is such a central principal that it is surprising to learn that God has created circum­stances whereby men and women were made less free, and became servants or slaves of other men.

Dr. Martin explained the story of Genesis 47 (I do not remember the occasion), and he pointed out that the Egyptians were free before the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine. During the long famine Joseph kept the Egyptians alive by providing them grain he ordered stored during the 7 years of plenty. However, Joseph did not give them grain, he sold it to them in stages. First he sold them grain in exchange for their goods, then in exchange for their lands and in exchange of their freedom,

“And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the store­houses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.”

• Genesis 47:56–57

Before 7 years of famine Egyptian farmers were free men. They were not “subject” to Pharaoh. After the famine Pharaoh was the majority landholder and most all Egyptians were servants of Pharaoh.

In the first year the people of Egypt spent all their money on food (Genesis 47:13–15). Then Joseph exchanged grain for all the cattle of the Egyptians (Genesis 47:16–17). The second year Joseph gave the Egyptians grain in exchange for ownership of their land so that Pharaoh owned all the land except that of the priest (Genesis 47:18–22). Joseph sold them the seed to grow food on land that Pharaoh now owned (Genesis 47:23–24). The payment price was their freedom. The Egyptians made a covenant with Pharaoh through Joseph. They said, “We will be Pharaoh's servants” (Genesis 47:25).

Then Joseph did something even more interesting, “Joseph made it a law ... that Pharaoh should have” one-fifth of the produce of the land, in perpetuity. This law existed even to the time of Moses “unto this day” (Genesis 47:26). It was during this period of time that the Israelites prospered (Genesis 47:27), probably because they were free and unencumbered by the one-fifth tax on their agricultural produce. In addition, the Israelites probably owned their land in Goshen, unlike the Egyptians.

God, through Joseph, transformed the Egyptians from being free men into being servants of Pharaoh in less than three years. It is therefore not surprising that the Egyptians were so willing to oppress the Israelites when God brought up “a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1). The Jewish historian Josephus stated in Antiquities of the Jews Book 2, chapter 9, that the new king was from a new family that arose in Egypt. We now would say that a new “dynasty” had taken rulership over Egypt. The Thackeray translation of Josephus in fact uses the term “dynasty.”

Through the famine God made the Egyptians servants to Pharaoh. The Egyptians in turn oppressed the Israelites (with Pharaoh's approval), then God later freed the Israelites through His mighty acts at the Exodus. God is sovereign. If God so chooses He will make those who are free to be slaves, and those who are slaves to be free.

Remember the main message of Paul’s letter to Philemon in the New Testament. We should always attempt to improve our situation in life. That is good and proper. However, keep in mind that prayer has great effect at times, we should also be willing to accept from God both good and bad, not cheerfully necessarily, but with the understanding that He is sovereign and He will do what He will do, sometimes regardless of our wishes or current understanding.

David Sielaff, 2003, 2004


1 Note that 2 Chronicles 32:32 where the word “and” is in italics in the King James Version. If that word is removed, as it should be, it shows that Isaiah wrote the biblical Book of Kings up to his time. ELM

2 1 Kings 4:32 tells us about Solomon that, “He spoke three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.” We have only 1 of the 1,005 songs in the biblical canon. It is the best song. In Hebrew it is “the Song of Songs” which the King James titles as the Song of Solomon. DWS

3 See Appendix Two, “The Book of Proverbs: The Book of Proverbs: Its Structure, Design and Teaching” in Dr. Martin’s Restoring the Original Bible (Portland: ASK, 1994), pp. 483–492 on this subject. As Dr. Martin understood their structure, the Divisions of the book of Proverbs are:

Introduction Proverbs 1:1 to 1:6

Division 1 Proverbs 1:7 to 9:18

Division 2 Proverbs 10:1 to 22:16

“The Proverbs of Solomon”

Division 3 Proverbs 22:22 to 24:22

“The Words of the wise [ones]”

Division 4 Proverbs 24:23 to 24:34

“These also belong to the wise [ones]”

Division 5 Proverbs 25:1 to 29:27

“These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied”

Division 6 Proverbs 30

“The words of Agar the son of Jakeh”

Division 7 Proverbs 31 (whole chapter)

“The words of king Lemuel”

For more information see R.N. Whybray’s The Composition of the Book of Proverbs (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 168; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1964). It gives a summary of the history of composition and organizational studies of the book of Proverbs. Some consider that there are only 6 Divisions. They combine together into one all of the sayings from Divisions 3 and 4. DWS

4 There is an excellent discussion in “Excursus on the Book of Proverbs and Amenemope” by Murphy, Roland E. in Vol. 22, Word Biblical Commentary: Proverbs (Dallas: Word Biblical Commentary, 1998). “The Instruction of Amen-em-opet” was not written by Joseph. Joseph was not Amen-em-opet. Its importance is that it is used as a source for a section of Proverbs. See below, “Addendum Two: The Instruction of Amen-em-opet.” DWS

5 See James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 421–424, for more information and the complete Egyptian text. According to Miriam Lichtheim:

“It can hardly be doubted that the author of Proverbs was acquainted with the Egyptian work and borrowed from it, for in addition to similarities in thought and expression — especially close and striking in Proverbs 22 and 23 — the line of [Proverbs] 22:20: ‘Have I not written for you thirty sayings of admonition and knowledge’ derives its meaning from the author’s acquaintance with the ‘thirty’ chapters of Amenemope.”

Lichtheim, Introduction to “Instruction of Amenemope” (1.47)

Lichtheim’s quote is in The Context of Scripture, Volume 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, William W. Hallo, General Ed., (Boston: Brill, 2003), p. 115. This selection in Context of Scripture was taken from Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 3 volumes (University of California Press, 1973–1980). DWS

6 Recall that the husband of Mary (the New Testament Joseph) was only the legal father of Christ, though the Gospel of Luke records his name as though he were the real father Luke 3:23. ELM

7 See James Henry Breasted, A History of Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, 2nd ed. (New York: Scrivner, 1937), p.83. DWS

8 Howard Osgood, Records of the Past: Being English Translations of the Ancient Monuments of Egypt and Western Asia, Vol. I, A. H. Sayce, ed. (Concord, NH; Washington, D.C.: Archaeological Institute of America, c1914–1934), p. 313. DWS

9 Osiris was a human, later attributed divine status by the Egyptians. See the articles by Dr. Martin, “The Secret of Ancient Religion Revealed! – Part 1” at and “The Secret of Ancient Religion Revealed! – Part 2” Note what Roman historian Diodorus Siculus wrote in The Library of History, Book 1, 13 ( in the 1st century B.C.E.:

“And besides these there are other gods, they say, who were terrestrial, having once been mortals, but who, by reason of their sagacity and the good services which they rendered to all men, attained immortality, some of them having even been kings in Egypt. Their names, when translated, are in some cases the same as those of the celestial gods, while others have a distinct appellation, such as Helius, Cronus, and Rhea, and also the Zeus who is called Ammon by some, and besides these Hera and Hephaestus, also Hestia, and, finally, Hermes. ... Then Cronus became the ruler, and upon marrying his sister Rhea he begat Osiris and Isis, according to some writers of mythology, but, according to the majority, Zeus and Hera, whose high achievements gave them dominion over the entire universe. From these last were sprung five gods, one born on each of the five days which the Egyptians intercalates: the names of these children were Osiris and Isis, and also Typhon, Apollo, and Aphrodite; and Osiris when translated is Dionysus, and Isis is more similar to Demeter than to any other goddess.” DWS

10 There are several complete translations of the two Egyptian documents mentioned in this Article. One modern translation is found in Ancient Near Eastern Texts edited by J.B. Pritchard (see Note 4 above). This work can be found in most major libraries. We cannot furnish photocopies of these translations because of copyright laws, but because they are easily obtained in public libraries, we thought to make mention of them at the conclusion of this Article. Modern discoveries are revealing more information about the Bible and its contents. Several complete English translations of “The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep” are on the internet at: This version has excellent notes, but it does not show all of the Precept numbers. Other English translations are at:, and ELM/DWS

11 Breasted, History of Egypt, p. 83. ELM

12 Breasted, History of Egypt, p. 126. ELM

13 Osgood, Records of the Past, p. 313. DWS

14 For more information see the articles: “The Importance of Egyptian History” at and the accompanying “Newsletter for July 2003” at See also “Free Men into Slaves” at DWS

15 Unfortunately, this book was never written, nor did Dr. Martin compile writings that could be published before he died in January 2002. As I mentioned before, in my opinion one book has gone far to accomplish what I understand Dr. Martin wanted to do with regard to understanding the Egyptian dynastic chronology. The book is called Synchronized Chronology: Rethinking Middle East Antiquity by Roger Henry (New York: Algora Publishing, 2003; It seeks to correct Egyptian chronology for the middle and later dynasties and resolves major historical problems in biblical and Greek archaeology. Mr. Henry takes the literary history seriously. DWS

16 It is possible that the biblical reference to 30 sayings may in fact be indicating the source of the sayings that are in this section of Proverbs, a source that the original audience may have known was “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep,” hence no further explanation was necessary beyond “thirty sayings.”

17 See Martin, Restoring, chapter 10, pp. 128–135. DWS

18 Murphy, “Excursus on the Book of Proverbs and Amenemope” in Proverbs. DWS

19 The translations are Lichtheim’s (contained in Context of Scripture) and are somewhat different from the ANET translation Dr. Martin used in his Appendix Two of Restoring. DWS

20 Lichtheim, “Instruction,” p. 116 states, “Amenemope is a difficult text. It abounds in rare words, elliptic phrases and allusions whose meaning escapes us. Further, the copying scribes introduced numerous errors.” DWS

21 See Proverbs 15:18, 17:27, and 29:22 which also discuss angry men. DWS

Go to ASK Home Page • Print Page

© 1976-2012 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge - ASK is supported by freewill contributions