Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pepinakht-Heqaib: Upholding the Rights of Two Sons

Alice C. Linsley

"Never did I judge two brothers in such a way that a son was deprived of his paternal possession."

This statement is found on the Inscription of Pepinakht-Heqaib who lived during the reign of pharaoh Pepi II, about 2800 BC. Pepinakht was ennobled (saH) and sanctified a living god (nTr anx) 300 years after his death. As a deified human he was regarded as a mediator between people and the gods. Source:

The Pepinakht-Heqaib inscription appears on the 2 jambs of the facade of his tomb on Elephantine Island near Aswan (ancient Swenet/Syene). From the inscription we may surmise that this man had to judge cases between 2 brothers and refused to deprive a rightful male heir of his paternal possession. (See The Biblical Theme of Two Sons, here.)

Pepinakht-Heqaib was revered as a wise judge and administrator who cared for the poor. His sanctuary on Elephantine Island was at the border of Egypt and Nubia. He commanded an expedition to Nubia to crush a revolt which hindered Egyptian commerce along the caravan route. He then acted to pacify tribes in Lower Nubia. In his later years he commanded an expedition to the Red Sea coast to investigate the murder of a sea captain and his contingent of tribal supporters. For more on his life, go here.

The extent of Pepinakht's rule is unclear. He was a local ruler on Elephantine Island, but held authority as pharoah's agent in a vaster broader area. He lived before the time of the biblical Joseph, but during his life there was already social and political interaction among Africans and Asians ("Afro-Asiatics").

The Brooklyn Papyrus 35.1446 of the 13th dynasty (1783-1643 BC) identifies a domestic staff in Thebes of 79 persons, of which 49 are "Asiatic."

Older 19th century BC inscriptions inside the carving of a ship's sail refer to an Asiatic commander named Bebi as a "General of Asiatics." Likely he commanded Semitic mercenaries and conscripts who provided border protection and maintained water depots. The same inscriptions mention a "Scribe of the Asiatics."

In the Pre-dynastic period (5000-3300 BC) Asiatic Semites lived throughout the Delta and the Egyptians were confined to the Upper Nile (ancient Cush). Pepinakht-Heqaib lived toward the beginning of the First Intermediate Period. During the Second Intermediate Period (17th-15th c. BC), coinciding with the time of the Biblical Joseph, there was an influx of Semitic peoples from Canaan, called "Aamu" by the Egyptians. Some believe that the Aamu may be the Amalekites of Scripture, or possibly the Amorites who were called Amurru. These peoples established settlements in Tanis, Avaris and el Yehudiya. The Egyptians called the chiefs of these settlements "Hyk Khase", the origin of the term "Hyksos."

One measure of Pepinakht-Heqaib's righteousness is his claim that when judging between two brothers (presumably first born sons) he did not deprive a rightful heir of his paternal possession. Since he lived well before the time of Joseph, we may speculate that he was honoring a custom that was well known among his people. This suggests that the practice of chiefs having two wives and the rights of the two first born sons pre-dates the Asiatic Hyksos' domination of Egypt.

Related reading:  E.A. Speiser on Deuteronomy 21:16; Kushite Diversity and Unity



The Very Rev'd G. Richard Lobs III said...

It is late so I will not be able to give this article the thought it deserves. I look forward to reading it in the morning. I marvel at how you keep coming up with such posts. GRL3+

Alice Linsley said...

Pepinakht-Heqaib was an example of a righteous ruler who was imbued with wisdom. Though he lived well before the time of Amenemope, the administrator of the royal estates, who served the Pharaoh about 1000 BC, he may have been one who passed along the ancient wisdom tradition upon which the papyri document entitled the "Teaching of Amenemope" and the Proverbs were based.