The Step Pyramid, Saqqara, Egypt

October 24, 2019

The emphasis of the book of Exodus is that of God’s covenant faithfulness. ‘El Shaddai, God Almighty, who promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He would make of them a great nation, and give unto them the land of Canaan, now more fully reveals Himself as YHWH, Yahweh, Jehovah. He would redeem His covenant people. This He did “with outstretched hand,” demonstrating to all the Egyptians, as well as to Israel that He was indeed the LORD.

Israel was a numerous people when the book of Exodus opens, and through His great power God brought them to Mt. Sinai, where they would be for about eleven months. During that time God gave the 10 Commandments as well as the accompanying laws and ordinances, the tabernacle was built, and the Aaronic priesthood was consecrated.

The events of Scripture do not happen in a vacuum; we always do well to consider the historical and geographical setting.  The setting for Exodus 1-13 is Egypt.

When you think of Egypt, you likely think of the pyramids. Sometimes people erroneously believe that the Israelites were used as forced labor to construct the pyramids. Actually the pyramids were built before Abraham! The Israelites built storage cities (Ex. 1:11, NASB).

The Step Pyramid, Egypt. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo shows the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, built during the 3rd Dynasty by Pharaoh Djoser. This pyramid is actually a mastaba (Arabic for “bench”), meaning a structure in the “form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with outward sloping sides.” The Step Pyramid consists of six distinct steps. This is the oldest of the pyramids.

The burial chambers were underground. Excavation was done by Jean-Phillipe Lauer. (Note: most of the above appeared in my post of May 13, 2011).

This photo with my daughter at the base of the pyramid helps give some perspective to the size of the pyramid. She and I spent eight days touring Egypt in 2003.

Author’s daughter, Alysha Mauldin Montgomery, at base of Step Pyramid. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I was noticing this morning some of the ancient history material some of my grandchildren are studying (homeschoolers). The information included on the Step Pyramid read, “It was copied after the Ziggurat of Sumer. The small temple rooms around it have become buried in the desert sand” (Streams of Civilization, p. 46). It occurred to me that I don’t think I knew that at their age!

Click images for larger view.


Jesus, the Good Shepherd

May 24, 2019

The Gospel of John records several of the “I Am” statements of Jesus. In John 10 we have Jesus’ reference to Himself as the Good Shepherd:

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep (John 10:11-15).

The metaphors of the shepherd and the sheep are a common biblical motif. The shepherd of Luke 15 leaves the 99 safe sheep and goes after the sheep which is lost, “and when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (vv.4-5). Our photo helps us visualize the biblical text.

“Jesus the Good Shepherd,” Alexandria, Egypt. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I took the above photo in 2003, in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum. The statue is identified as “Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Date: Graeco-Roman Period, Roman Period (31 BCE-395 CE)
Provenance: Lower Egypt, Mersa Matruh
Material(s): Rock, marble
Height: 125 cm
Hall: Byzantine Antiquities

Sheep need a shepherd! “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Truly Jesus is the Shepherd who cares for the sheep, who laid down His life for the sheep, that we might have life. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).


Heket, the Goddess of Childbirth

February 8, 2018

Among the fascinating artifacts displayed in the British Museum is this andesite porphyry statue devoted to the frog goddess Heket. In Egyptian mythology, the “frog goddess Heket, at one time regarded as the consort of the creator god Khnum, acted as the divine midwife and was said to attend royal births” (Oakes & Gahlin, Ancient Egypt, p.347).

The frog goddess Heket. British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The accompanying museum placard states, “The frog goddess Heket watched over childbirth, a connection forged by the myriad tadpoles visible on the Nile banks . . . [this is] one of the few sizable animal sculptures surviving from the Early Dynastic period.” That would be c. 3100 BC.

When I photographed this display last month I was reminded of the ten plagues which brought Egypt to its knees (Exodus 7-12). Though some try to explain these events as the result of natural phenomena, the Bible is clear as to the Lord’s involvement and intention. These were divine acts of judgment not only designed to humble the mighty Pharaoh, but also to demonstrate that YHWH was the true God; these were judgments against the gods of Egypt. Note the following biblical texts:

Exodus 6:6- “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.

Exodus 12:12- “against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.”

Numbers 33:4- ” Also on their [the Egyptians] gods the LORD had executed judgments.”

Psalm 78:45- “He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them, And frogs, which destroyed them.”

Gods and goddesses such as Heket had no power at all. The true God brought the hoards of frogs, and when He was ready He destroyed them (Ex. 8:2ff).

Initially when Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh with the request, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness,'” Pharaoh arrogantly responded, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go. (Ex. 5:1-2). The ten plagues were his Ten Lesson Course. Pharaoh, and all of Egypt, would come to know that the LORD is God, the God of all the earth.


Mt. Sinai Region, a Panaroma

January 28, 2018

I took this shot of the Sinai region while walking up toward Mt. Sinai, looking at the area below, to give a feel for the geography of this part of the biblical world.

Rugged Region of Mt. Sinai. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Sinai Peninsula today is within Egyptian territory. You can see traditional Mt. Sinai itself in this photo, in upper right.

Mt. Sinai, upper right. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click images for larger view.

 

 


The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, London

January 8, 2018

Rosetta Stone. Photo by Leon Mauldin. British Museum.

Today I had opportunity in the British Museum to photograph numerous biblical and historical artifacts, including the Rosetta Stone. The inscriptions on this stone turned out to be the key to deciphering Egyptian Hieroglyphics as well as the ancient Egyptians Demotic language.

The Rosetta Stone was discovered by a French officer in 1799 in the western delta of Egypt. It was surrendered to the British during the Napoleonic war and was brought to the British Museum in  1802. The stone is carved on black basalt and is valuable because it contains the same message in two forms of ancient Egyptian writing and one in Greek. The Egyptian writing at the top of the stone is hieroglyphic writing whilst the second section is demotic Egyptian; the third section is in Greek capital letters (know as “uncial). The Greek was translated relatively easily  proved to be part of a citation by Egyptian priests in Memphis to celebrate the first anniversary of the coronation of Ptolemy V in 196 BC The two Egyptian scripts were found to be the equivalent text and, once deciphered,, this helped scholars to understand ancient Egyptian writing (Edwards and Anderson, Through The British Museum–with the Bible, p. 78


The Suez Canal

November 10, 2017

On most Friday afternoons I teach some homeschoolers (brilliant students) two subjects, Bible and History. Currently their world history is dealing with the 19th century. One of the topics in that time-frame is the construction of the Suez Canal. Said Pasha  gave a concession to Ferdinand de Lesseps who created a French company, The Suez Canal Company, to join the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. The canal opened under French control on November 17, 1869. (Said was Wāli of Egypt and Sudan from 1854 until 1863, officially owing allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan but in practice exercising virtual independence. 4th son of Muhammad Ali Pasha).

The Suez Canal. The Sinai Peninsula is at our back, looking across to Egypt. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our text says:

Naturally, the countries of Europe were very interested in this canal–the Suez Canal. The canal could change the way that European countries traded with China, Japan, and the other countries of the Far East. Instead of travelling all the way down the coast of Africa, around the tip of that enormous continent, and then heading east, European ships could sail from the Mediterranean Sea straight down into the Red Sea and then turn east. When the canal was finished,it would be a hundred miles long, about twenty-six feet deep, and it would make the trip from Europe to the  East six thousand miles shorter! (The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Vol.4, p. 109).

This area is of tremendous biblical importance as it pertains to Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea en route to the promised land of Canaan. I have previously written here and here on the Suez.

Another view of the Suez. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The canal separates the African continent from Asia, and it provides the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. It is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes. The Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways in the world.

The canal is extensively used by modern ships , as it is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean . Tolls paid by the vessels represent an important source of income for the Egyptian government.

Railway and a sweet water canal are run on the west bank parallel to the Suez Canal. The Canal runs between Port Said harbor and the Gulf of Suez, through soils which vary according to the region. At Port Said and the surrounding area, the soil is composed over thousands of years of silt and clay sedimentations deposited by the Nile waters drifted by Damietta branch. This formation extends to Kantara, 40 km to the south of Port Said , where silt mixes with sand. The central region of the Canal between Kantara and Kabret consists of fine and coarse sands, while the southern region contains dispersed layers of rocks, varying in texture from soft sand to some calcium rocks, The side gradient of the water cross-section differs according to the nature of the soil, which is 4:1 in the north and 3:1 in the south.

The Suez Canal is a sea level Canal and the height of water level differs slightly and the extreme tidal range is 65 cm in the north and 1.9 m in the south. The banks of the Canal are protected against the wash and waves, generated by the transit of ships, by revetments of hard stones and steel sheet piles corresponding to the nature of soil in every area. On both sides of the Canal, there are mooring bollards every 125 m for the mooring of vessel in case of emergency, and kilometric sign posts helping locate the position of ships in the waterway. The navigable channel is bordered by light and reflecting buoys as navigational aids to night traffic. (http://www.suezcanal.gov.eg).

Some current stats of the use of the Suez.

Click photos for larger view. Oh BTW did I mention that the home-school students I teach on Fridays are my grandchildren?


The Nile River in Egypt

April 5, 2017

The Nile River is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. It was truly the “lifeblood” of Egypt.

Nile River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

These folks in the two boats in the photo had either been fishing or were about to go, as they had fishing nets with them.

From Harper’s Bible Dictionary we have this info on the Nile:

the great river of Egypt flowing north from its sources in Lake Victoria in Uganda and in the highlands of Ethiopia, a distance of 4,037 miles, the entire length of the Sudan and Egypt, to the Mediterranean. The two major branches, the White Nile (from Lake Victoria) and the Blue Nile (from Ethiopia), merge at Khartoum, with one modest tributary somewhat farther to the north and none at all in Egypt itself. Beyond Khartoum the Nile flows through several cataracts, inhibiting navigation but not preventing it. The last cataract is at Aswan, the beginning of the Nile Valley proper. (Because the Nile flows from south to north, the southern Nile valley is referred to as Upper Egypt.) From here on the Nile flows north in a well-developed valley with cliffs on either side almost as far as Cairo, and the river becomes important for its overflow and the hydraulic irrigation of the adjoining floodplain. Within the Nile Valley the river is fairly constant at about six-tenths of a mile in width, whereas the valley varies from six to nine miles across (p.705).

The land of Egypt has great significance for the biblical narrative. God told Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, that He would make of him a great nation in Egypt (Gen. 46:3). As the book of Exodus opens, Israel is already a numerous people, and the new pharaoh of Egypt felt he had to take oppressive measures against them (Ex. 1).

While a young child, Jesus, along with Joseph and Mary, were told to leave Bethlehem (where Herod would seek to kill them), and flee to Egypt. “Now when they [the wise men from the East] had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him” (Matt. 2:13)

The Nile River makes life in Egypt possible, both in ancient as well as modern times.

I’ve previously written on the Nile here and here.