Brother AACOOLDRE : Scribes in the Ancient Egyptian Schools: links with Psalms & Proverbs

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    Jul 26, 2001
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    SCRIBES IN EGYPTIAN SCHOOLS: Links with Psalms & Proverbs

    By Andre Austin

    In Egypt Pharaoh was the king who distributed job assignments based on a feudal system. Members of the royal family became officials by blood/hereditary avenues. This bureaucracy was administered by officials in business, finance, legal, war department, Tax collectors and Census takers. School systems had to be set up to teach scribes to document the activities of these College of Officials. A teacher/teaching in Egyptian means a form of composition in which a wiseman addresses a discourse to a subordinate. In an ancient poem this is outlined:

    POEM 1

    “When you walk behind officials,

    Follow at a proper distance…

    And hear the magistrates speak

    You should acquire the manner of the wellborn (A Son of Man)

    As you follow in their steps

    The scribe is regarded as one who hears (understand)

    For the hearer becomes a doer”. (Ancient Egyptian Lit by M. Lichtheim Vol 1 p.190-191)

    The teacher of the scribes carried titles linked with Thoth who invented letters, alphabet. The teacher gave model letters to the scribes to copy on papyrus paper. Papyrus was carried from Egypt to Byblos, so when the Greeks first saw papyrus scrolls they called them Biblia, Byblos things’, giving us the word Bible. The Phoenicians gave the Greeks a version of the Egyptian alphabet and they didn’t start writing until Homer’s time of 800BC. So when the Jews wrote from the beginning of Time it started from the Egyptian creation stories and their first King that united their country. Therefore, in Egyptian Literature we frequently find parallelisms of the phrases like those of Hebrew poetry, and repetitions are in common. The most famous is the Hymn to Akhnaten with Psalms 104 and Psalms 19

    Scribes were given Epistolary compositions, taught how to write contract, write down dictates from judges, How to employ correct expressions of ideas, formulas and phrases. From the instruction of wisdom from people like Ptahotep “37 Maxims” & Ameneope “30 sayings”. Hebrew scribe, in part modeled these two in others in their Psalms and Proverbs. Proverbs was expanded into 31 Chapters/30 Sayings.

    Proverbs is dotted with individual parallels with Egyptian wisdom and several occur in the Palms. “Of the later, one of the more charming is the likening of the ideal man (the godly) and the “Heated Man” (the ungodly) in Psalms 1 to different trees: the origin of the motif is clearly Chapter 4 of Amenemope. Psalm 34:11-14 which begins “Come O sons! Listen to me and I will teach you the fear of Yahweh”. (Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in ancient times By Donald Redford p.392. By accident I was reading Ancient Egyptian poetry and prose by Adolf Erman on p.197;

    POEM 2: Become an Official (Poem 2 for Scribes)

    Let not thine heart go a fluttering like leaves before the wind----Set not thine heart on pleasures. Alas, they profit not, they render a man no service. When he worked not, and it is his lot to the thirty (the college of high officials), he worked and extended not his strengths, for evil toil lieth (yet) in front of him. No servant bringeth him water, and no women will bake bread for him whereas his companions (school fellow scribes) live according to their desire…Therefore give heed and hear to what is spoken…it is one that directed all the Councils of Thirty”.

    PSALMS 1 (compare the first poem above with scribes being told to walk with officials/Teachers then the heart blowing in wind like leaves from a Tree with Poem 2 )

    Blessed is the man

    Who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

    Or stand in the way of sinners

    Or sit in the seat of mockers

    But his delight is in the law of the lord.

    And on his law he meditates day and night

    He is like a tree planted by streams of water

    Which yields its fruit in season

    Whose leaf does not wither?

    Whatever he does prosper

    Not so the wicked

    They are like chaff ( fluttering debris separated from seeds by threshing)

    That the wind blows away

    Therefore the wicked will not

    Stand in the judgment.

    Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous

    For the lord watches over the way of the righteous

    But the way of the wicked will perish.

    I said all of this to lay out the foundation for Proverbs 22: 17-24

    Pay attention to the sayings of the wise (this would be Ameneope & Ptahotep)

    Apply your heart to what I teach…

    Have I not written thirty sayings for you (Solomon plagiarizes from Ameneope 30 sayings)

    Sayings of counsels and knowledge…

    Do not make friends with the Hot-tempered”.


    Proverbs 25:20-22 associates “Heavy-heart” with a cold day and it recommends you give your enemy food to heap burning coals on his head/heart. Paul picks up on this theme in Roman 12:9-21 in conjunction with his concept of “love” and he says he didn’t inwardly burn towards evil people in (2 Cor 11:25-29). A heavy heart concept is based on Egyptian themes of weighing the heart to balance with a feather of truth. Heavy hearts were unbalanced and were burnt up.

    The Egyptian Book of the dead we learn. “The eye of Ra, the flame it is following Osiris to burn up the souls of his enemies”p.40. Old street slang from gangsters in America often says “He tried to see me meaning a person wants to kill you. This same Ra can give commands from his mouth and life to like deities like Hathor was birth from Ra’s eyes. Compared with “the commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Psalm 19:8) but see the entire chapter.

    The Egyptian book of the dead goes on to report:

    “ I have come at the wish of my heart from the pool of double fire, I have quenched it” p.25 another type of flame touches the “Shining Ones” who have passed through Maat and the pool of fire and are now warm hearts from this flame. Tefnut which is linked with Maat has several names like “Heat of Heaven”. Souls now feast on Maat/Tefnut to stay alive in heaven. Some of the burial places in Egypt were titled “The Cool”. It wasn’t cool to be cool if you wanted to shine up in heaven or to be Hot-hearted. The objective was to be warmed up by the flames not burnt up. So when judgement day comes God turns it up and ask are you Hot or Cold or “Lukewarm”. If you are smart then you would know the right answer. I’ll leave the pop Quiz question with a hint and a clue. “Socrates was the chief Saint of the Stoics founded by Zeno a Phoenician who looked like a Ethiopian/Egyptian in his swarthy complexion. His calmness in the face of death fitted in perfectly with Stoic teaching”. So did his indifference to heat and cold” (A history of Western Philosophy By Bertrand Russell p.253). Stoicism stayed alive until they were closed down by Christendom in 529AD, leaving its marks in the Bible.

    Notes: All quotes from the book of the dead come from E.A. Wallis Budge.

    Proverbs allusion to the thirty sayings of Ameneope could also the Assembly of the righteous being equated with the Councils of Thirty because their all dealing with wisdom from teachers to scribes in context.

    Many scholars confirm a resemblance between the wisdom in proverbs and a hypostasis (attribute a real Id to a concept), of the Egyptian Maat.