Thursday, February 15, 2007
A tomb has been found in Egypt of an official during the reign of Akhenaten (1379-1362)--the heretic Pharaoh. Read the brief article, here.
After doing a little reading, the worship of Aten has a bit more history, so it's more complicated (not surprising), but here are some thoughts I wrote about the subject.
If you don't know, Akhenaten is famous for trying to make Egypt worship only one god, the Sun-disk-Aten. He threw out the old religious system and tried to reinvent the faith of the Kingdom. His reforms didn't go over very well as the old-guard was pretty powerful.
What I've wondered is, why would an Egyptian leader want to suddenly embrace a monotheistic faith after centuries in the old system?
Perhaps the answer can be found in the Bible and the inability of the Egyptian deities to withstand the power of Israel's, one God, YHWH.
There is a great debate in biblical history surrounding the dating of the Exodus. When did it happen? Two dates are typically proposed, the "late" date is the one featured in the classic movies and the Prince of Egypt, with Rameses as Pharaoh, about 1290 BC. There is some sound arguments for this date which I won't go into.
The other "early" date proposes 1446 BC and comes from readings of 1 Kings 6:1 and Judges.
There are some sound arguments for this date as well.
The greater miracle is the truth that these events happened, so I'm not trying to start a which date is accurate debate.
But the presence of Akhenaten in my mind provides some support for the 1446 date. The rise of a monotheistic leader, I would think, would only come because of a powerful display like the plagues and exodus. Many Egyptians left with the Israelites, others, who stayed, would have remembered the humbling of their deities before the One God of Moses.
Akhenaten came to power a mere 67 years after this proposed date. I believe he moved this way because, either he witnessed himself the plagues (sorry, I don't know his age when he came to power) or was raised by or around those who did. Can you imagine the trauma the Egyptians must have experienced in the wake of the Exodus? All of their major deities were humiliated before Moses: the Nile, Hathor with the plague on livestock, darkness-against Re the sun God, among others. From this demonstration that their gods could not provide or protect or withstand this One God of the Israelites, I believe Akhenaten and others would have been influenced to consider and embrace a monotheistic faith. After all, Exodus records that many officials of Pharaoh "feared the word of the LORD [and] hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside."--Ex. 9:20
Now, I realize that the reverse argument could be made--that this monotheistic reform influenced Moses and the Israelites, after all, they would have been in captivity during this time with the 1290 date. However, this seems unlikely to me. First, the Israelites already came in with a monotheistic faith. Second, any influence Egypt's theology had over the 400 years of their captivity would have driven them to polytheism, not the other way around. Third, these reforms were too short lived--17 years to have a great influence. The reforms were quickly reversed.
If the "early" date is accurate, then for a time Egypt's religious world was shaken. That, to me, is consistent with the biblical teaching of the Exodus.