Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Prestige of Biblical On

Alice C. Linsley

Joseph's elevation to a high position in Egypt and his marriage to Asenath of Heliopolis, a Hebrew shrine city, suggest that he was a rightful heir to something back in Egypt. (See "The Enigma of Joseph".)

Joseph married Asenath, a daughter of the High Priest of On, the capital of the 15th nome of Lower Egypt. On was known to the Greek as Heliopolis, meaning "Sun City" because it was dedicated to the High God whose emblem was the sun. Heliopolis was one of the great Sun Cities of the ancient world that were served by the early Hebrew royal priests.

In ancient Egyptian On was called Iunu (Iwnw) meaning “place of pillars”. In Heliopolitan cosmology the watery realms above and below (the "firmaments") were connected by the massive pillars of the temple of Heliopolis.

Great Hypostyle Hall within the Karnak temple complex.

The complex of the early Sun Temple had many pillars bearing inscriptions to the high king, prayers to the High God and to his son HR. Some pillars depicted great victories in war, the details of treaties, and dedications. Isaiah 19:19 refers to a pillar erected in Egypt as a sign that the Lord will send the Egyptians a savior.

It was common for pillars to be inscribed in memory of holy ancestors, as stained-glass windows in churches are dedicated to "pillars" of the congregation. The entrance pillars of Solomon's temple were named for Boaz, Solomon's holy ancestor on his father's side, and Joktan, a holy ancestor on his mother's side.

The Priests of On

The Harris papyrus speaks of the 'Apriu of Re at Heliopolis. Re in ancient Egyptian means “father”. Re’s son was HR (Horus in Greek). HR in ancient Egyptian means “Most High One”. The ‘Apiru (Abrutu/Hapiru/Habiru/Hebrew) of Heliopolis worshipped God Father and God Son. 

The priests of On were known for their wisdom, purity and sobriety. In his Timoeus, Plato writes: "Tell me of the God of On, which is and never knew beginning." Plato studied under a Nilotic priest at Memphis for thirteen years.

Heliopolis is mentioned in Isaiah 19:18 as one of five Egyptian cities that swore allegiance to the Lord of Hosts.

Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

The prestige of Heliopolis is evident in the way royal sites were aligned to that complex. The Sun City of Baalbek in Lebanon, with its massive stones, aligned to On (see map above). The pyramids at Giza, Saqqara, and Abusir were aligned to the obelisk at On.

It appears that On eclipsed the prominence of the earlier Horite Hebrew shrine city, Nekhen on the Nile. Nekhen predates the building of the Great Pyramids at Giza and the step pyramid of King Djoser who ruled for 75 years. Djoser inaugurated an era of monumental building in stone which inspired the Great Pyramids. The oldest known tomb, with painted mural on its plaster walls, is located in Nekhen and dates to c. 3500–3200 B.C.

Discoveries at Nekhen (Greek Hierakonpolis) continue to push back the dating of early civilizations. Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim announced the discovery of a pre-Dynastic tomb that dates to about 500 years before King Narmer of the First Dynasty. 

Archaeologists working at Nekhen discovered a temple with huge cedar pillars. They describe the offerings at the Nekhen as “ten times larger” than the typical mace heads and bowls offered elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine city.

Nekhen had a twin city on the opposite side of the Nile. That sister city was Nekheb (Elkab). The royal tomb of Horemkhawef in Nekhen and the tomb of Sobeknakht in Nekheb were painted by the same artist. Hormose, the chief priest of Nekhen, requested material goods from the temple at Elkab for use at the temple at Nekhen.

One of the more intriguing discoveries at Nekhen was the recovery of an almost complete beard in association with the redheaded man in Burial no. 79. The presence of long wavy natural red hair and a full beard illustrates the genetic diversity that existed in Africa thousands of years ago. The Nekhen News (p. 7) reports, "The vast majority of hair samples discovered at Nekhen were cynotrichous (Caucasian) in type as opposed to heliotrichous (Negroid)."

At Nekhen, archaeologists found hippos buried in the elite cemeteries (Nekhen News, Vol. 25, 2013, p. 20). They also found numerous carved and sculpted figurines of hippos, some with red coloration. They concluded that hippo imagery is "linked to local elites" (Nekhen News Vol. 27, 2015, pp. 8-9).

Cain's brother Seth/Seti is often shown in ancient images as a red hippo. The hippo figurines likely indicate that there were Sethite Hebrew at Nekhen as well as Horite Hebrew.

That Sethites were living among the Horites of Nekhen is not surprising given that these two groups represent a moiety structure of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste. The term "moiety" refers to one people organized into two ritual groups. Analysis of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the lines of Cain and Seth indicate that their descendants intermarried (endogamy). 

The diagram above shows the pattern of cousin marriage in which the cousin bride names her first-born son after her father. It is likely that Asenath and Joseph were cousins.

No comments: