Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Egyptian Shrines on the Horus Way

Alice C. Linsley

The Horus Way was the southern section of the Way of the Sea (derek hayyam) mentioned in Isaiah 9:1. It was a military road that ran through Tharu (Tjaru/Sile) in the Sinai and Rafah in Gaza, joining the Nile Valley to the Levant. There were numerous Egyptian fortifications along the Horus Way. The Egyptians exercised control over much of the land of Canaan for a long time.

Exodus 14:2 says the Israelites crossed near Migdol. Migdol is an archaic word for a fortification. This is likely the Migdol of Men-maat-re (Seti I), the third named fort along the ancient Horus Way. The Horite Hebrew would have known of this route. The place of crossing is a shallow marshy lake which recedes when the wind blows at 40-50 mph for more than 5 hours. As with all the miraculous signs described in Exodus, the miracle is in the timing.

The Egyptians had fortified settlements at many locations. During the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2200–1500 BC) as much as 70% of the populations of Canaan lived in these fortified towns. Tell el-‘Ajjul is one example. Another is the fortified city of Gezer with its gate, tower, and protected water system. These would have been built under the direction of the ruler of the area, probably a vassal of the Pharaoh. The Judean high places were under the control of Egypt from about 2000 to 1178 BC. The tenth century BC Gezer Calendar appears to reflect Nilotic farming practices. The Gezer Calendar is a small limestone tablet listing seasonal agricultural activities in seven lines of uneven letters. Christopher Rollston contends “there is no lexeme or linguistic feature in the Gezer Calendar that can be considered distinctively Hebrew” and Joseph Naveh says that “No specifically Hebrew characters can be distinguished.” (From here.)

The Egyptians built shrines and temples wherever they went. The first New Kingdom temple ever found in northern Sinai has been located at Tharu. There was a shrine dedicated to Horus with the image of a lion.

On Seti I's relief at the Karnak complex, a map of the Horus Way shows 11 forts and a north-south reed lined waterway called “ta denit” (the dividing waters). Likely, there were Horus shrines at all of these forts, and these would have been attended by Horus priests called Horites. The Horites were a moiety of the Hebrew priest caste, sometimes called Habiru, Hapiru, Abrutu, Abhira, ‘Apiru, and Abiru (from the ancient Akkadian Abru, meaning "priest".) Genesis 4-11 chronicles the dispersion of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste out of Africa in the service of kingdom builders and high kings. This Wikipedia article is about the Abiru caste of "royal ritualists" found in Rwanda.

A part of Seti I's relief shows him herding captives before his chariot. He approaches a north-south canal or waterway with reeds and crocodiles and Egyptian buildings. Some believe that Tharu was on the east side of this waterway. Max Muller said that "no town of the eastern delta frontier has a greater importance than Tharu [i.e. Tjaru], which was not only its largest town, but also the principal point for the defense of the entrance to Egypt, therefore also for the military and mercantile roads to the East." (James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, 1997: 184.)

The Egyptians also built Horus temples in their administrative centers such as Beit She’an on the Jordan.  A large Canaanite temple excavated by the University of Pennsylvania Museum may date from about the period as Thutmose III’s conquest, but excavations done by The Hebrew University indicate that this temple was built upon an older one. The excavation included three monumental basalt stelae with inscriptions from the reign of Seti I and Ramsess II, a life-size statue of Ramsess III, and numerous other Egyptian stelae and inscriptions, which constitute the most significant assemblage of Egyptian monuments ever  found in Israel. Of special interest is the discovery near the temple of a basalt relief depicting two combat scenes between a lion and a dog.

Beit She'an was called Scythopolis by the Greeks. Beit She'an was also called Beth-abarah (House of the Ford) because it was opposite the ford in the Jordan. The Arabic word for ford is abarah. Sir George Grove in Dictionary of the Bible identifies Bethabarah as Beth Nimrah, a few miles above Jericho. Jesus was probably baptized here by John.

If this is the water shrine where Jesus was baptized, we have another connection to the Horite expectation of the Son/Seed of God. Could it be that He is the Lion of the shrine in Tharu on the Horus Way and the Lion on the stela found near the most ancient temple in Beit She'an? Horus, called the son of Ra, was often shown as a man with the head of a lion or a falcon. Sometimes he is shown as a solar disk between two guardian lions, one looking east and the other looking west.

Among the Nubians the sun was a central symbol of life and was often shown as a red orb. This lent the additional association with the red eye of Horus. In this ancient Nubian relief we see baboons facing the sun. Baboons chatter at the rising sun. In other versions two lions or two leopards face away from the sun. They are sentinels or guards. The ankh or cross symbol is found over the heads of the baboons.

Between the baboons is the dung beetle or scarab. Among Abraham's Horite caste the heart was the single organ that was not extracted from the mummified body. All the other organs were removed and stored in canopic jars. The heart was the essential organ when it came to resurrection of the body, as it would be weighed in the afterlife. The body of the pure-heart would rise from the dead, as the sun rises in the morning. This is the significance of the dung beetle scarab placed over the mummy's heart.

Some claim that this image represents Duat which they interpret as the cycle of reincarnation or the transmigration of souls. However, the Duat of ancient Egypt is not the same as Samsara. It is about the mirror image of the cosmos patterned on the Sun's rising and setting. The long expected ruler rises from death with the sun on the third day.

Oh Horus, this hour of the morning, of this third day is come, when thou surely passeth on to heaven, together with the stars, the imperishable stars. (Pyramid Texts Utterance 667.1941b)

The body of the dead ruler was carried in procession to the tomb or pyramid, his retinue following behind. The procession to the tomb was the earthly journey that would be continued beyond the grave at the deified ruler's resurrection. This stands behind Paul’s description of Jesus Christ leading captives from the grave to the throne of heaven. This is why it says: When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. (Eph. 4:8)

In the image above, the eyes of Horus are seen to the right and left of the rising sun. This establishes the theological context as Horite. Abraham's ancestors were devotees of Horus, the seed or son of Ra. He was born of Hathor, who conceived by the overshadowing of the sun. Her totem was a cow and she is shown at Nile shrines holding her infant in a manger. Here we have elements of the Proto-Gospel and evidence that Messianic expectation is based on the Edenic Promise (Gen. 3:15) made to Abraham's Proto-Saharan and Nilotic ancestors.

One of the shrines on the Horus Way was at Timnah. The copper mines here are at least 6,000 years old and there are newer ones as well, totaling about 10,000 shafts. The oldest mines were worked almost continuously until the Roman Period. There are ancient rock carvings showing Kushite warriors in chariots, holding axes and shields. A temple dedicated to Hathor, the mother of Horus, was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mt. Timnah by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University.

Related reading:  Of Dung Beetles and Red Herrings; Solar Imagery of the Proto-Gospel; Abraham's ComplaintThe Ra-Horus-Hathor Narrative; Science and Miracles

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