Judgments, Part 3 of 3 & A Breakdown of Ancient Egyptian History

“* Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

It is thought that the laws of ancient Egypt were at least partially codified. In fact, we learn from one Greek writer that in the Late Period there were probably eight books that set out the legal code. But nothing remains of these documents, or for that matter, legal codes from other periods. However, we can derive some of the laws of ancient Egypt from funerary texts, as well as court and other documents.

Essentially, it is believed that Egyptian law was based on a common sense view of right and wrong, following the codes based on the concept of Ma’at. Ma’at represented truth, order, balance and justice in the universe.

This concept allowed that everyone, with the exception of slaves, should be viewed as equals under the law, regardless of wealth or social position. However, when punishment was carried out, often the entire family of the guilty suffered as well.
For example, when individuals were sentenced to exile, their children were automatically outlawed along with them. If a relative deserted from military service, or defaulted on the labor demands of the state, the entire family might be imprisoned.

* Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment.  Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.

* If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 

If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.  Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.

* Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. 

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.

* Also, thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

* And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat.  

In like manner, thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive yard.

* Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day, thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.

* And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

* Three times, thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.  Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty).

And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of thy labors, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field.

* Three times in the year all, thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

* Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.

* The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God.  Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place, which I have prepared.  Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.

But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.

For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. 

Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. 

And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the Leviticus of thy days I will fulfill. 

I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. 

A gold Ma’at pendant which is currently in the British Museum was probably more or less an official badge of legal officials. Some statues of high officials from the Late Period are shown wearing such a pendant. During the Greek period, Greek law existed alongside that of the Egyptian law, but usually these laws favored the Greeks.

And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.  I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate and the beast of the field multiply against thee. 

By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. 

And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.

Thou shalt make no covenant with them, or with their gods.

They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee” (Ex 23:1-33).

 

A Breakdown
of Ancient Egyptian History

It is helpful for understanding the history of ancient Egypt to divide this enormously protracted time span into short­er, more manageable segments.

Following the lead of a 3rd century B.C. Egyptian his­torian named Manetho; Egyptian history is typically divided into 30 dynasties.

Pre-Dynastic Egypt (prior to 3000 B.C.)

During this era regional societies and cul­tures began to emerge. Agriculture, pottery making and the construction of stone mon­uments were well established by the end of this period.

Loose confederations eventually gave way to more centralized power.

Archaic Egypt (1st-2nd Dynasties; 3000-2700 B.C.)

Map of ancient Egypt showing major cities and sites of the Predynastic and Dynastic periods (c. 3150 to 30 B.C.).

Meni (or Menes), a semi-legendary ruler from southern Egypt, established the 1st Dynasty.

Memphis became the capital city, and the pharaohs were preoccupied with holding together their extensive kingdom.

Hieroglyphics, the distinctive Egyptian style in art and writing, became well established.

Old Kingdom Period (3rd-6th Dynasties; 2700 -2160 B.C.)

The pyramids and the great sphinx were built, the study of medicine flourished and works such as the Proverbs of Ptahhotep were produced.

Pharaohs ventured outside Egypt on military campaigns to the Sinai and Libya.

First Intermediate Period (7th-10th Dynasties; 2160-2010 B.C.)

Central authority collapsed, dynasties competed and local lords held sway in vari­ous areas. This period produced significant works of pessimistic literature.

Middle Kingdom Period (11th-12th Dynasties; 2106-1786 B.C., overlapping the First Intermediate period).

The pharaohs reestablished central au­thority, and Joseph’s administration brought much Egyptian land under the pharaoh’s direct control (Gen 47:13-26).

Ivory figure of a woman with incised features from Badari, Egypt (c. 4300-4000 B.C.).

Some histori­ans, in fact, suggest that Joseph played a sig­nificant role in bringing about the end of Egyptian feudal power.

 Second Intermediate Period (13th-7th Dynasties; 1786-1550 B.C.)

Centralized authority again collapsed. Dynasties Fifteen and Sixteen were Hyksos (ruled by Semitic rulers who took control of Lower – northern – Egypt).

The relationship of the Hyksos to the exodus is much debated.

New Kingdom Period (18th-20th Dynasties; 1550-1069 B.C.)

Established by Ahmose, who drove out the last of the Hyksos, the powerful New Kingdom became an empire reaching through Canaan into Syria.

Each of the two greatest pharaohs of this time, Thutmose III (c. 1479-1425 B.C.) and Rameses II (c.1279-1212 B.C.), has been suggested as the pharaoh of The Exodus.

Although Thutmose III fits reasonably well with Biblical chronology (Jdg 11:26; 1 Kgs 6:1) Rameses appeared too late for this scheme.

Third Intermediate Period (21st-25th Dynasties; 1069-656 B.C.)

 A considerably weakened Egypt entered this era. At times there were rival pharaohs, and in other instances outsiders ruled.

Even so, vigorous rulers did come to power, includ­ing the Libyan pharaoh Sheshonk I (c. 945- 924) – the Shishakin 1 Kgs 14:25.

Remaining ancient Egyptian historical periods include the Saite-Persian period (26th-30th Dynasties; 654-332 B.C.; a”31st Dynasty” is some­times included), the Ptolemaic period (332-30 B.C.) and the Roman period (after 30 B.C.).

During the Roman period Egyptian power was briefly ascendant again under Saite rulers (who ruled from Sais, in the western delta).

Hoping to curb the rising power of the Bab­ylonians and the Medes, the Saite Neco II (c. 610-595 b.c.) drove his army north through Israel, defeating and killing King Josiah of Judah in the process (2Kgs 23:29).

Detail of a bone figure of a woman from Upper Egypt. Early Predynastic period, Naqada I (4000-3600 B.C.).

Nebuchad­nezzar of Babylon defeated Neco II at Carchemish (605 b.c.) and drove him back into Egypt.

No longer was a formidable power, Egypt annexed into the Persian Empire by Cambyses in 525 B.C.

The subsequent fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great led to the Greek takeover of Egypt in 332 B.C.

After Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., Ptolemy I (a Greek general) seized Egypt, and his dynasty ruled until the death of the last Ptolemaic ruler, the famous Oeopatra VII (c.52—30 b.c.). After that, Egypt became a Roman province.