Friday, 30 January 2015

Did the Jews really build the Egyptian pyramids?                          

The stories we heard in Sunday school and the movies we watched that depicted the life of Moses seem to form the basis for the popular belief that thousands of Hebrew slaves were forced to build the pyramids in Egypt and who were later saved by Moses when they left Egypt in a mass Exodus. 

Questioning the Bible historically is nothing new to Biblical studies. Christian culture has a way of blurring history and as a result, a great many people ended up believing what they were taught and what they watched in movies and they presumed that was what really happened so many centuries ago.

Many Christians say the Bible is a literal historical document, thus they really believe that Jewish slaves built the pyramids.  (actually the Bible doesn't mention pyramids at all.)

In Genesis, Chapter 46 and specifically verses 5, 6 and 7, is the first time in the Old Testament that there is an entry that Hebrews moved to Egypt from their homes in what was then called Canaan and which is now called Israel. The Bible says in verses 5, 6 and 7;

There is a gap of nearly 430 years between the migrations of Jacob and his family to Egypt until the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt.

Many past historians have estimated that the number of Hebrews that participated in the Exodus from Egypt was between 2 to 3 million, which could have been as many as one half of the population of Egypt at that time. Does this really seem realistic? The Scriptures repeatedly emphasizes that Israel was smaller than the territory in the nations they were to later occupy. But, these nations almost certainly couldn’t have had two or three million people in each of them. For example, two to three million times 7 for the nations listed is so numerous, this would mean that there would have to be more than 14 to 21 million people even possibly as much as half of the estimated world population of 40 million at that time. Are we to believe that all those people lived in an area which even today has only about 15 million people in Israel and Jordan combined? A more reasonable assumption is that the Hebrews fleeing Egypt during the Exodus was only around 20,000 to 40,000 which is more believable instead of two million. 

But now the question that is pertinent in this article. “Did thousands of Hebrews build the Egyptian pyramids as shown in the movie, The Ten Commandments?”

There are 138  pyramids  that have been discovered in Egypt as of 2008. Most were built as tombs for the country's Pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.

In 1977, Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin visited Egypt's National Museum in Cairo and stated to the curator,  "We built the pyramids." It wasn’t a surprise to a lot of people that this statement sparked outrage among the Egyptian people since they claim that it was their own people who had built the pyramids.

The belief that Jews built the pyramids may be prominent throughout Christian and Jewish populations, but it's certainly not the way most of the people in Egypt see it. At the time of the writing of my article on this subject, the movie, Exodus, Gods and Kings has been banned in Egypt. Egypt’s cultural minister has recently said and I quote; “The movie, Exodus, Gods and Kings is offensive because it is a false portrayal of Moses and the Jews as the builders of Egypt’s pyramids.” I am inclined to believe him. This goes for all the other movies about Moses and the Jews building the pyramids.

I am going to refer to some of the writings of a very good review I read of what occurred back them with respect to the building of the pyramids. One of my sources of information comes from Skeptoid as written by Brian Dunning that gives a very believable critical analysis of popular phenomena. However, I will also make some revisions of my own.

Terms like Jew and Hebrew are thrown around a lot in the histories of the people in the Middle East and they're not the same thing. For example, a Jew is someone who practices the Jewish religion. A Hebrew is someone who speaks the Hebrew language. An Israelite is a citizen of Israel. A Semite is a member of an ethnic group characterized by any of the Semitic languages including Arabic, Hebrew, Assyrian, and many smaller groups throughout Africa and the Middle East. You can be some or all of these things. An Israelite need not be a Jew, and a Jew need not be a Hebrew. Confusion over the use of these terms complicates any historical research. 

The Jews in Israel never refer to themselves as Hebrews; it's either Israeli or Jewish. The words, Jewish or Israeli are not found in the scriptures. These terms are not used because they were not the original Israelites. That's why they never say that they live in the land of Israel. Instead they use the term, the ‘State of Israel’. The word ‘Jew’ itself was a nickname for one of the black tribes of Judah (Genesis 29:31-35); and other people (Gentiles), who were not Hebrews, but managed to adopt the way of life of the black tribe of Judah.

Here is a fascinating review by well known Israeli writer Tom Segev of a book titled; When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? (published by Resling in Hebrew). It is authored by Israeli historian Shlomo Zand. Prof. Zand taught at Tel Aviv University. Segev writes “There never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened hence there was no return. (Exodus) Zand rejects most of the stories of national-identity formation in the Bible, including the Exodus from Egypt and, most satisfactorily, the horrors of the conquest under Joshua. It's all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel, he asserts.”

I am not an authority on the history of Israel or its origins so I can’t say for sure that Segev is right.  But if he is right, then many of the entries in the Old Testament are wrong when it refers to the Exodus. I should add that this information and arguments have been around for a long time

Was Moses really the pharaoh, Anknaten? Consider this possibility. Anknaten was forced to abdicate the palace and then he left Egypt with his followers to the Sinai Peninsula where he built a temple to honour his new god Aten. The ruins of this temple have been found and the floor plan is said be the same as the floor plan of the famous temple of King Solomon. The tomb of Aknaten has never been found and neither has the tomb of Moses ever been found.

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