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There is no agreement as to when the Exodus of the Israelites took place. Some authorities are of opinion that
it coincided with the expulsion of the Hyksos. Such a view, however, conflicts with the Biblical reference to a
period of bondage. The Pharaoh of the Oppression was a "new king" and he "knew not Joseph". He enslaved
and oppressed the Israelites, who had been so singularly favoured by the foreign rulers. According to
tradition, he was Rameses II, during whose reign Mosesacquired "all the wisdom of the Egyptians" and
became "mighty in words and deeds". The next king was Mene-ptah, but he cannot be regarded as the
Pharaoh of the Exodus. He reigned little over ten years, and one of his inscriptions makes reference to the
Israelites as a people resident in Canaan, where they were attacked by the Egyptian army during a Syrian
campaign. It is probable that the Hebrews were the Khabri mentioned in the Tell el Amarna letters, two
centuries before Mene-ptah's time. They were then waging war against Canaanitish allies of Egypt, and the
Prince of Gezer sent an urgent but ineffectual appeal to the Pharaoh Akenaton for assistance. The Exodus
must have taken place in the early part of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and possibly during the reign of Thothmes
I-about a generation after Ahmes expelled the Asiatics from Avaris.
During the latter part of the Hyksos period the Theban princes, whom Manetho gives as the kings of the
Seventeenth Dynasty, were tributary rulers over a goodly part of Upper Egypt. Reinforced from Nubia, and
aided by the princes of certain of the nomes, they suddenly rose against their oppressors, and began to wage
the War of Independence, which lasted for about a quarter of a century.
An interesting papyrus, preserved in the British Museum, contains a fragmentary folktale, which indicates
that the immediate cause of the rising was an attempt on the part of the Hyksos overlord to compel the
Egyptians to worship the god Sutekh.
"It came to pass", we read, "that Egypt was possessed by the Impure, and there was no lord and king."
This may mean that either the Hyksos rule had limited power in Upper Egypt or was subject to a higher
authority in Asia. The folktale proceeds:"Now King Sekenenra was lord of the south. . . . Impure Asiatics
were in the cities (? as garrisons), and Apepa was lord in Avaris. They worked their will in the land, and
enjoyed all the good things of Egypt. The god Sutekh was Apepa's master, for he worshipped Sutekh alone,
and erected for him an enduring temple. . . . He sacrificed and gave offerings every day unto Sutekh. . . ."
The tale then goes on to relate that Apepa sent a messenger to Sekenenra, the lord of Thebes, "the city of the
south", with an important document which had been prepared after lengthy consultation with a number of
learned scribes.
Sekenenra appears to have received the messenger with undisguised alarm. He asked: "What order do you
bring? Why have you made this journey?"
The document was read, and, so far as can be gathered from the blurred and mutilated papyrus, it was
something to the following effect:
The King Ra Apepa sends to you to say: Let the hippopotami, be put out of the pool in the city of Thebes. I
cannot get sleep, either by day or by night, because their roaring is in my ear.
No wonder that "the lord of the south" was astounded. The sacred animals at Thebes could not possibly be
disturbing the slumbers of a monarch residing on the Delta frontier. Apepa was evidently anxious to pick a
quarrel with the Thebans, for his hypocritical complaint was, in effect, an express order to accomplish the
suppression of a popular form of worship. Well he knew that he could not adopt more direct means to stir up
a spirit of rebellion among his Egyptian subjects. Possibly the growing power of the Theban ruler may have
caused him to feel somewhat alarmed, and he desired to shatter it before it became too strong for
him.Sekenenra was unable for a time to decide what reply he should make. At length, having entertained the
CHAPTER XXI. Joseph and the Exodus 133
EGYPTIAN MYTH AND LEGEND
messenger, he bade him to convey the following brief but pointed answer to Apepa: "I intend to do as is your
wish".
Apparently he desired to gain time, for there could remain no doubt that a serious crisis was approaching. No
sooner did the messenger take his departure than the Theban ruler summoned before him all the great lords in
the district, and to them he related "what had come to pass". These men were likewise "astounded"; they
heard what Sekenenra had to tell them "with feelings of sorrow, but were silent, for none knew what to say".
The fragmentary tale then ends abruptly with the words: "The King Ra Apepa sent to -"
We can infer, however, that his second message roused a storm of opposition, and that whatever demand it
contained was met with a blank refusal. King Ra Apepa must have then sent southward a strong army to
enforce his decree and subdue the subject princes who dared to have minds of their own.
If we identify Sekenenra with the Theban king of that name, whose mummy was found at Der el Bahari, and
is now in the Cairo museum, we can conclude that the ancient folktale contained a popular account of the
brief but glorious career and tragic death of a national hero, who, like the Scottish Sir William Wallace,
inspired his countrymen with the desire for freedom and independence.
Sekenenra died on the battlefield. We can see him pressing forward at the head of the Egyptian army, fighting
with indomitable courage and accomplishing mighty deeds. Accompanied by his most valiant followers, he [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]