Judgments, Part 2 of 3 and The Soleb Hieroglyph

“* If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

* If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.

If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 

Ancient Egyptian laws were written by the Pharaoh and enforced by him (her) and the officials. Breaking these laws almost never ended well for the criminal, because of the harsh punishments.
The decisions to administer these punishments were in the hands of a vizer or an oracle, but the most significant cases were referred to the Pharaoh. Below you can find a list of the most common fatal and non-fatal punishments of Ancient Egypt.

Fatal punishments were rare, but merciless. They were imposed for the worst crimes, such as treason and plotting against the Pharaoh. One of the most notable examples is Ramses III executing a team that plotted against him by impalement – very slow and painful death.

Tomb raiding was another crime for which capital punishment was administered. Usually it was decapitation or drowning. These two punishments were also executed in severe cases of corruption – the decision in these cases was Pharaohs.

Burning alive was another method used in Ancient Egypt and was administered in cases of vandalism of temples and other places of worship. It wasn’t carried out very frequently because the Egyptians believed that burning alive would rob the deceased of his body and prevent him from achieving eternal life.

Perhaps surprisingly, death sentences were rarely administered for murder and manslaughter (no distinction in Ancient Egypt) – well, rarer than in other ancient civilisations.

However, there are quite a few known instances of forced suicide in Ancient Egypt, instead of administered death sentence. In those cases, the convicted criminals were also punished posthumously by not being given a proper burial.

If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.

* If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man’s field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.

* If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

 * If a man shall deliver, unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbor’s goods.

* For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbor.

* If a man deliver unto his neighbor an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it: Then shall an oath of the LORD be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good. 

And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.  If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.

* And if a man borrow ought of his neighbor, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.  But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be a hired thing, it came for his hire.

* And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.

If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

 * Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

 * Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.

* He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

* Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

* Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. 

If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

 * If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as a usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.

* If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? 

And it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.

* Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.

 * Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. 

Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day, thou shalt give it me.

* And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs” (Ex 22:1-31).

The Soleb Hieroglyph

In Ex 5:2 the pharaoh scoffed, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go?”

A replica of an Ancient Egyptian relief from the reign of Amenhotep III (14th Century BC) describing a Semetic captive called by its’ Cartouche: “Shasu (Egyptian word for ‘nomads’) of (the Land of) Yhw” or “Shasu of Yhw”. This relief had been found in Soleb of Nubia (modern day Sudan).
The “Shasu of YWH” are also mentioned on reliefs from Amarah West dating to the reign of Ramses II (13th Century BC).
The term “Shasu” mainly focused on the nomads who lived by the area of Ancient Canaan, and spread in groups over this region, as there is a mention of 6 groups of Shasu in the Soleb relief.
The name of the land “Yhw” today belived by some to be located in Southern Canaan.
Some schoalrs tried to connect between the name of the land this group of Shasu had lived in with the Hebrew Bible God YHWH, which is stated in servel chapters as originating from the South. If that’s the case maybe these “Shasu of YHW” were part of the ancient proto-Israelites to form the well-known nation of “Israel” mentioned later on the Merenptah Stele (1208 BC).

It is not clear whether this pharaoh had never heard of Yahweh or whether he was simply dismissing him as the insignificant god of an enslaved people.

Amazingly, though, one of the first refer­ences to Yahweh besides those in the Bible has been discovered in an Egyptian temple.

The Eighteenth-Dynasty pharaoh Amen- hotep III (c. 1390-1352 B.C.) built this temple at Soleb, in upper Nubia along the western bank of the Nile.

This temple was dedicated to Amenhotep III, who was viewed as a divine king associated with the god Amon.

Its hieroglyphics memorialize Amen­hotep Ill’s domination of foreign peoples; subjugated peoples are depicted with their arms bound behind their backs.

The histori­cal accuracy of his claims is doubtful, given that Egyptian pharaohs routinely made such boasts, whether or not they were true.

Although long-lived and otherwise success­ful, Amenhotep III was not a notable warrior.

Even so, one remarkable inscription at the Soleb temple speaks of “the land of the Shasu, (those of) Yhw.”

The term Shasu re­fers to Bedouin peoples of the Levant (the region encompassing Syria and the raj now known as Palestine).

Scholars almost universally acknowledge that Yhw refers to Yahweh, the God of Israel. But what might be the significance of this inscription for Old Testament studies?

Evidently Amenhotep III was aware of a land in the Levant peopled by “Shasu” who worshiped tohweh.

This is not to imply that all Shasu were Israelites; the pharaoh may have been using a generic or shorthand term.

If the Shasu of the inscription were indeed the Israelites, the implication is that the exodus from Egypt to the Levant (Sy­ria/Palestine) occurred prior to the time Amenhotep III.

The traditional date for the ex­odus is understood to be approximately 1445 B.C., or a little more than half a century prior to the reign of Amenhotep III.

As with other such discoveries, however, we do well to treat this “evidence” cautiously.

The Soleb inscription does not unambiguously refer to Israelites, and some have argued that the Shasu who worshiped YHWH were simply a small Bedouin group.