God Equips Moses & Egyptian Wisdom & Literature

You see everything, hear everything, and You even talked to Moses through a burning bush, and You’re even talking to me.  How can people not think You exist?

I’d like to see how Moses is going to rescue the Hebrews from Pharaoh.

“And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. 

And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand?  And he said, A rod. 

And he said, Cast it on the ground.  And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. 

And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail.  And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand” (Ex 4:1-4).

“And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom.  And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. 

And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again.  And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. 

And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. 

The Rod of Aaron Devours the Other Rods, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)

And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 

And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind?  Have not I the LORD?  Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. 

And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. 

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well.  And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. 

And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. 

And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. 

And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs” (Ex 4:6-17).

God told Moses that the people in Egypt that were going to kill him were dead, so Moses gathered up his wife, his sons, and his belongings and returned to Egypt.

“And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. 

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn” (Ex 4:21-23).

Aaron met Moses as God told him he would and he explained all that God had told him and they went to Egypt.

1 There is nothing that God cannot do – Mk 10:27, Lk 18:27, Act 2:24.

Egyptian Wisdom and Literature

Carved Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics are the word pictures that represent the images and sounds of the Ancient Egyptian language.

There are two basic types of hieroglyphs: Ideograms and Phonograms. Often the same image can be both an ideogram and a phonogram.

Ideograms are images that depict the object they represent. For example the image of a mouth can represent the word ‘mouth’.

Phonograms are images that represent the sounds of the Ancient Egyptian language, just like our alphabet represents the sound of our language. For example, the image of a mouth can also represent the sound ‘R’.

No sooner was a child weaned than it was sent to school, and instructed by regularly appointed scribes.  As writing was not by letters, but by hieroglyphics, which might be either pictorial representations, or symbols (a scepter for a king, etc.).  

Or a kind of phonetic sings, and as there seem to have been hieroglyphics for single letter, for syllables, and for words, that art alone must, from its complication, have taken almost a lifetime to master it perfectly. 

But beyond this, education was carried to a very great length, and in the case of those destined for the higher professions, embraced not only the various sciences, as mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, etc., but theology, philosophy, and a knowledge of the laws.

There can be no doubt that, as the adopted son of the princess, Moses would receive the highest training.

Scripture tells us that, in consequence, he was “mighty in his words and deeds,” and we may take the statement in its simplicity, without entering upon the many Jewish and Egyptian legends, which extol his wisdom, and his military and other achievements.

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (RMP; also designated as papyrus British Museum 10057 and pBM 10058) is one of the best known examples of Ancient Egyptian mathematics.

That education certainly included medical knowledge, though of course Moses did not train to be a doctor.  How advanced Egypt was in this field is reflected in the Ebers, Smith, and Hearst papyri. 

The Ebers Papyrus, dating to the reign of Amenhotep I (1525-1504), the very years when Moses came to maturity, is 65 feet long and summarizes much of the medical knowledge then known in Egypt.

It contains more than 700 diagnoses and prescriptions concerning digestive diseases, worm infestations, eye ailments, skin problems, burns, fractures, rheumatism, and discussions of the treatment of tumors and abscesses.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus text dates to about 1700 B.C. but is a copy of a work that originated in the Old Kingdom, before 2600 B.C.  It contains 48 sections that discuss symptoms of diseases, diagnostic traditions, and treatment.

Ancient Egypt Mathematics and Science
At the very outset of recorded Egyptian history we find mathematics highly developed; the design and construction of the Pyramids involved a precision of measurement impossible without considerable mathematical lore.

The dependence of Egyptian life upon the fluctuations of the Nile led to careful records and calculations of the rise and recession of the river; surveyors and scribes were continually remeasuring the land whose boundaries had been obliterated by the inundation, and this measuring of the land was evidently the origin of geometry.

Nearly all the ancients agreed in ascribing the invention of this science to the Egyptians.

Josephus, however, thought that Abraham had brought arithmetic from Chaldea (i.e., Mesopo¬tamia) to Egypt;105 and it is not impossible that this and other arts came to Egypt from “Ur of the Chaldees,” or some other center of western Asia.
The figures used were cumbersome
• one stroke for 1,
• two strokes for 2, . . ,
• nine strokes for 9,
• a new sign for 10.
• Two 10 signs stood for 20,
• three 10 signs for 30,…
• nine for 90,
• with a new sign for 100.
• Two 100 signs stood for 200,
three 100 signs for 300, . . .
• nine for 900,
• with a new sign for 1000.

The sign for 1,000,000 was a picture of a man striking his hands above his head, as if to express amazement that such a number should exist.

The Egyptians fell just short of the decimal system; they had no zero, and never reached the idea of expressing all numbers with ten digits: e.g., they used twenty-seven signs to write 999-187 They had fractions, but always with the numerator i; to express % they wrote l/2 -+- y.

Multiplication and division tables are as old as the Pyramids.
The oldest mathematical treatise known is the Ahmes Papyrus, dating back to 2000-1700 B.C.; but this in turn refers to mathematical writings five hundred years more ancient than itself.

It illustrates by examples the computation of the capacity of a barn or the area of a field, and passes to algebraic equations of the first degree.

Egyptian geometry measured not only the area of squares, circles and cubes, but also the cubic content of cylinders and spheres; and it arrived at 3.16 as the value of ir.

We enjoy the honor of having advanced from 3.16 to 3.1416 in four thousand years.

A third medical text, the Hearst Papyrus, dates to about 1600 B.C. and parallels much of what appears in the Ebers Papyrus but adds other diseases and medical conditions.

In all of these, the Egyptians mixed a certain amount of magic or superstition with solid medical information.  They describe diagnosis and treatment, the setting of bones and even brain surgery.

The Rhind Papyrus, dating to the late Hyksos period (c. 1600 B.C.) reveals the mathematical knowledge  of the era.  It discusses fractions, calculus, and other aspects of mathematics.

In the field of religion, Moses would have become familiar with the various myths concerning the origins and working of the universe and the origin of human beings, and especially the Book of the Dead

This instructed the deceased on how to overcome the dangers of the afterlife and consisted of spells and passwords put in the tombs.

Egyptian Wisdom and Literature

Egyptians had developed a whole body of wisdom literature as well.  They had compiled the wise sayings or instructions that would help to make an official of the state successful; they usually were addressed to the official’s son.  

In some respects, this material parallels the Old Testament book of Proverbs.  The oldest of these instructions is “The instruction of the Vizier Ptah-Hotep,” dating on the reign of Izezi (throne name Djedkare, 2414-2375 B.C.). 

Then about 2100 B.C. a pharaoh left for his son “The instruction for King Merikare.”  Amenemher I (1991-1962 B.C.) penned an “Instruction for his son Sesostris I.” 

All of these would have been known to Moses, and the practice of producing such literature continued, as is evident from the “Instruction of Ani” (dating to the end of the Empire Period) and the “Instruction of Amenemopet” (composed sometime between the tenth and sixth centuries B.C.).

Typical of this literature are the following sayings of Ptah-Hotep: “Let not thy heart be puffed-up because of thy knowledge; be not confident because thou art a wise man. 

Take counsel with the ignorant as well as the wise.”  “If thou art a man of standing, thou shouldest found thy household and love thy wife at home as is fitting.”

 If thou art one to who petition is made, be calm as thou listenest to the petitioner’s speech.  Do not rebuff him before he has…said that for which he came.  A petitioner likes attention to his words better than the fulfilling of that for which he came.

Thus the first 40 years of Moses’s life passed.  Undoubtedly, had he been so minded, a career higher even than that of Joseph might have been open to him.  But, before entering it, he had to decide that one great preliminary question, with whom he would cast in his lot – with Egypt or with Israel, with the world or the promises.

Ptahhotep, (flourished 2400 bce), vizier of ancient Egypt who attained high repute in wisdom literature. His treatise “The Maxims of Ptahhotep,” probably the earliest large piece of Egyptian wisdom literature available to modern scholars, was written primarily for young men of influential families who would soon assume one of the higher civil offices. Ptahhotep’s proverbial sayings upheld obedience to a father and a superior as the highest virtue, but they also emphasized humility, faithfulness in performing one’s own duties, and the ability to keep silence when necessary.

But “faith,” which is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1), enabled Moses not only to “refuse” what Egypt held out, but to “choose rather the affliction,” and, more than that, to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” because “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Heb 11:24-26).