The Rosetta Stone

September 15, 2022

Yesterday (September 14, 2022) marked the 200th anniversary of the date that Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) cracked the code of the Egyptian hieroglyphic script. The granodiorite stela, which dates to 196 BC, is written in Egyptian hieroglyphic, demotic (cursive Egyptian) and Greek, and is displayed in the British Museum. Previously I posted an article here.

Rosetta Stone, British Museum, London. Photo ©Leon Mauldin

The Biblical Archaeology Society made an informative post yesterday — click here.

Fant and Reddish have the following information:

The Rosetta Stone is the most visited object in the enormous British Museum, viewed by millions of visitors since it was first displayed to the public in 1802. It has been called “the most famous piece of rock in the world.” Unlike many famous ancient artifacts, such as the King Tut treasures, the fame of the Rosetta Stone does not derive from its intrinsic value or beauty, nor from the message of its inscription, as is the case, for example, with the Code of Hammurabi. Yet this inscription has yielded incalculable value for an understanding of ancient history, as it provided the key to unlocking the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics. As a result, scholars have been able to decipher the meaning of countless historical writings previously lost to civilization. The inscription itself is unremarkable, a flattering decree issued by the priests of Memphis that granted a royal cult to the young King Ptolemy V, only thirteen years old at the time, in exchange for certain favors. It was written in three languages, representing the languages used by the powerful and literate groups of Egypt at that time: hieroglyphics, understood stood and used only by the priestly class; demotic, the cursive script used by the literate population at that time; and Greek, the language of the ruling government. Since ancient Greek was a language understood by modern scholars, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone enabled them to compare the Greek letters against the hieroglyphic signs and therefore solve the mystery of hieroglyphics.

(Clyde E. Fant; Mitchell G. Reddish. Lost Treasures of the Bible: Understanding the Bible through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Kindle Locations 587-592).

The Lexham Bible Dictionary makes the following observations:

In addition to renewing interest toward Egypt, Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt resulted in the recovery of the Rosetta Stone, which would prove to be of immense importance to the future of Egyptology (Pope, Decipherment, 60). The Rosetta Stone was commissioned by Ptolemy V in 196 BC, and featured a message written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic (a cursive form of Egyptian), and Greek (Pope, Story, 62). The triscript monument would provide the key to deciphering the previously unintelligible Egyptian language.


Prior to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, linguists had hypothesized that Coptic (which could be read) was a late form of Egyptian, some hieroglyphs were consonantal, and cartouches demarcated royal names. Several scholars used this information and the Rosetta Stone to decipher Egyptian language. English linguist T. Young made great strides toward deciphering Egyptian, but he was impeded by his belief that hieroglyphs were mostly symbolic rather than phonetic (Bard, Introduction, 33). French philologist J. Champollion proved most successful. His identification of the name Ptolemy in the hieroglyphic portion of the inscription enabled him to begin compiling a list of consonantal hieroglyphic signs. Soon he successfully detected the name Cleopatra on an obelisk from Philae as well as the name Xerxes on a Persian vase inscribed with both hieroglyphs and Persian cuneiform (Pope, Decipherment, 70–75). He published his findings in Precis du systeme hieroglyphique in 1824 (Pope, Story, 76). Subsequent linguists expanded on Champollion’s work, and by the end of the 19th century, scholars were producing translations of entire Egyptian texts.


The decipherment of hieroglyphs was a vital element in the progress of Egyptian archaeology. Egyptian tombs, temples, and public monuments were usually inscribed with a record of who built them and why (see Chavalas and Hostetter, “Epigraphic Light,” 53–58). Funerary texts were written both on the walls of tombs and on scrolls placed within them. Excavators were no longer dealing with just stones, statues, and pots, but with intelligible texts.

Harmon, J. A. (2016). Egypt, Archaeology of. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, L. Wentz, E. Ritzema, & W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Lexham Press.

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Pharaoh Chephren/Khafra/Khafre

June 11, 2022

Chephren was pharaoh during Egypt’s 4th dynasty, reigning ca. 2520-2494 BC. He was the son of Cheops (builder of the Great Pyramid), and builder of the second pyramid at Giza. He is also the creator of the Great Sphinx.

This life-sized statue is housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, having been discovered by Auguste Mariette in 1860, in Chephren’s valley temple at Giza. It is made of diorite, a high quality stone. On the stature throne are carved symbols of royalty, the lion paws on the front, and on the sides are displayed the symbol of the sema-tauy, representing the uniting of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Statue of Pharaoh Chephren, Egyptian Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Chephren’s feet are bordered by his cartouche. On the back of the royal headdress is the falcon god Horus, god of dynastic divinity in Egyptian mythology. It was believed that Pharaoh was the representative of Horus on earth, while the god manifested himself in the person of the Pharaoh, the living Horus.

Chephren, sideview, shows Egyptian god Horus on his shoulder. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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Pharaoh Amenemhat III, cont’d.

May 20, 2022

In our previous post we featured the Sphinx of Amenemhat III (ca. 1859-1813), who ruled during the time of the biblical patriarchs. This unique colossal bust of Amenemhat III was found on the site of the ancient capital of The Fayum, Shedet (the Crocodilopolis of the Greeks). The Pharaoh is dressed in a panther skin, with its head and paws lying on the king’s shoulders. A double band across his chest passes under the menat collar worn about his neck. The upper portion of two scepters terminating in falcon heads are visible on each side of his head.

Amenemhat III in priestly attire. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

The Egyptian Museum also displays a double statue of Amenemhat III as a Nile god, “The offering bearers of Tanis.”

Double Statue of Amenemhat III bearing lotus flowers, fish and geese. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In this double statue, Amenemhat III is represented as the Nile god bearing all the nourishment indispensable to life. One explanation of the doubling of the king is that the two figures represent him as ruler of both Upper and Lower Egypt. Others suggest that one image depicts the reigning king and the other his deified counterpart.

During his long reign, Amenemhet III had almost continual turquoise mining expeditions in the Sinai. More than fifty rock inscriptions have been found there referencing this. He was the last great ruler of the Middle Kingdom.


Sphinx of King Amenemhet III

May 14, 2022

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo displays the sphinx of King Amenemhet III, who ruled in the Middle Kingdom, 12th dynasty. This is one of seven sphinxes of Amenemhat III that were found in Tanis in the eastern Delta.

Sphinx of King Amenemhet III. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.
Sphinx of King Amenemhet III. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The sphinx has the head of the king and the body of a lion, symbolizing the vitality and power of the pharaoh.

Amenemhet III reigned for 45 years (ca. 1859-1813 BC), which included a long coregency with his father Sesostris III. Dr. Douglas Petrovich states:

The major project of his reign was the reclamation of more arable land in the Fayyum by manipulating the water level of Lake Moeris, which led to his veneration in the Fayyum. His long and peaceful reign is viewed as the time when the MK [Middle Kingdom] reached its cultural peak. He also strengthened the border at Semna and enlarged some of the fortresses, in addition to constructing a large temple to Sobek at the site of Crocodilopolis, in the Fayyum.

(Origins of the Hebrews, p. 13).

Petrovich identifies Sesostris III (ca. 1878-1840 BC) as the pharaoh of the famine at the time Joseph (Ibid., 29). The patriarch Jacob’s death is dated as 1859 BC (Ibid., cf. Andrew E. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, p. 74). “Amenemhet III ascended the throne as coregent with his father in ca. 1860/59 BC, which took place either just before so soon after Jacob’s death” (Petrovich, 29).

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Rahotep and Nofret

September 18, 2020

This statue of Rahotep and Nofret was found in a mastaba (early Egyptian tomb, rectangular in shape) near the pyramid of Meidum, Egypt (south of Cairo), and is dated to Egypt’s early 4th Dynasty (ca. 2680-2544 BC). Cemeteries consisting of large brick-built mastabas (about a dozen) are located to the north and east of the pyramid. The pyramid was probably begun by Huni, the last ruler of the 3rd Dynasty, but it believed to have been completed by Snofru (Sneferu).

Rahotep and Nofret. Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The Sept/Oct 1989 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (15:5) has this information:

Eerily lifelike, the superbly preserved, painted limestone statues of Rahotep and Nofret (see photograph) illustrate a pitfall in the use of artworks to assess racial characteristics. Rahotep’s reddish brown skin and Nofret’s yellowish white color, rather than being realistic portrayals, reflect artistic conventions of the Old Kingdom period (c. 2755–2230 B.C.E.). At that time, these were the usual colors used respectively for representations of men and women. Despite their skin colors, Rahotep and Nofret’s features are typically Egyptian.

Found in a private tomb near the pyramid of Pharaoh Sneferu (c. 2680–2640 B.C.E.), the sculptures depict a couple of the king’s courtiers. Prince Rahotep, probably a son of Sneferu, wears a wig and sports a thin moustache; his name and titles—High Priest of Re at Heliopolis, Director of Expeditions and Chief of Construction—appear in the painted hieroglyphs. Rahotep’s wife, Nofret, also wears a wig, and the hieroglyphs on her statue call her “one known to the king.”

I have several posts on Egypt. Go to search box on upper right and enter “Egypt.”

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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!

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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.

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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


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