Ancient Egypt in Israel

At Beth Shean is a partial 12th century BCE Egyptian governor's house. Inscriptions from the reigns of Seti I (c. 1290-1279 BCE) and Ramesses II (c. 12791213 BCE) were found at Beth Shean near the southern edge of Galilee. A statue of Ramesses III (c. 1186-1155 BCE) was also uncovered at Beth Shean. Egypt departed from the site during the century of Ramesses III.

Near the highest point of Joppa/Yafo are the remains of a fort constructed during the reign of Ramesses II (c. 12791213 BCE).

It is 150 miles from Egypt west of the Suez across the Sinai to Gaza. Egypt ruled Canaan during various intervals between 1500-1100 BCE. The first written record of Israel was from a stele recorded during the reign of Merneptah (c. 1213-1204 BCE) stating Merneptah had conquered Ashkelon, Gezer, Yanoam and Israel. 

The Bible does not mention Israel encountering Merneptah, nor that Egypt once ruled in Canaan. The area was not heavily populated during Egyptian rule. There were Egyptian accounts of numerous military campaigns resulting in the gain of many slaves and much wealth being taken back to Egypt. The ancient Egyptians circumcised their boys during adolescence. It is likely the early Hebrews were also influenced by other aspects of Egyptian life. 

The Egyptians left epitah inscriptions in their tombs noting their accomplishments and funerary offering instructions. The priests of Egypt embalmed the dead wrapping them in linen strips and mummified them. The mortuary priests presented offerings of bread, beer and other essentials for the dead. The wealthy rulers had their pyramids packed full of essential items for the afterlife as was discovered at King Tut's tomb. The priests taught them offerings were necessary for them to reach existence after death. There was much deception and mythology in this system. Great quantities of wealth were transferred to the priests who claimed to have the power to intercede for a person after death. Ramesses III transferred huge sums of commodities, lands, precious metals and manufactured items to the priestly establishment as recorded in the Harris papyrus. 

From early times a few had a greater sense of moral obligation. Some people had parts of their good deeds recorded in their tombs. It seemed more important to them than mentioning their offerings to the priests. 

Harkuf's tomb epitaph (before 2000 BCE):
'I came from my city. I descended from my nome. I built a house. I set up the doors. I dug a lake and I planted trees. The king praised me. My father made a will for me. I was excellent (beloved by) his father, praised by his mother, whom all his brothers loved. I gave bread to the hungry and clothing to the naked. I ferried him who had no boat.' 
(Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. I, Breasted, 1906)

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Written by David Q. Hall






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