THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE BOOK OF THE DEAD
There seems to be a similarity between the moral codes of the ancient Egyptians and the early Israelites. The Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai are clearly set in an Egyptian tradition and would seem to have common roots with the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Except for the first two commandments, we find the same moral rules in the Hebrew Bible that are also found in the Egyptian hieroglyphic writings. Egyptian religion was a polytheistic belief, and hundreds of gods and goddesses were worshiped in the Nile valley. These deities were believed to manifest themselves in certain images and the artists of that time captured these images in pictures and statues. This was completely forbidden by the Monotheistic God of Moses in the first two of his commandments given in Chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
Also, unlike the Israelites, Egyptians believed in a second life after death. They believed that every person has, other than his physical body, a dual spiritual nature, which they called the KA and the BA. They also regarded the name and shadow of a person as living entities, part of the spiritual existence, not just linguistic and natural phenomena. Thus Egyptians regarded death as simply a temporary interruption rather than a complete cessation of life, and believed that after their death, they faced a trial in the underworld before the god Osiris and his forty-two judges in the Hall of Judgment. In the Egyptian culture, eternal life had to be ensured by various means, including the preservation of the physical body through mummification, the provision of funerary equipment, and the presence of magical spells in the tomb to protect the dead person in his journey in the underworld.
Their composition of the texts relating to death and afterlife went back to the Pyramid Texts, the first examples of which were inscribed in the 5th dynasty pyramid of Unas (2375 – 2345 BC) at Saqqara. By the time of the 18th dynasty, about 1500 BC, these spells were copied on rolls of papyrus and placed within the coffins. These rolls have come to be known now as copies of the Book of the Dead. This is, nevertheless, a modern term, as the Egyptians themselves called it “Going Forth by Day.”
The Ten Commandments represent God’s orders to humans given in the imperative form; the Egyptian texts use this form:
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shat not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Spell 125 of the Book of the Dead, contrary to the Book of Exodus, contains a moral code represented in a form of Negative Confession that the dead person has to recite when he descends to the hall of the Two Truths. He shall say:
Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .
I have not reviled the God.
I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
I have not done what the God abominates . . .
I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
I have not caused anyone’s suffering . . . I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance.
I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage . . .
I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water.
I have not quenched a fire in its time . . . I
have not kept cattle away from the God’s property. I have not blocked the God at his processions.
Historian, lecturer, researcher and author, Ahmed Osman is a British Egyptologist born in Cairo
According to Wikipedia:
“Some historians….have argued that the Ten Commandments originated from ancient Egyptian religion, and postulate that the Biblical Jews borrowed the concept after their Exodus from Egypt. Chapter 125 of the [Egyptian] Book of the Dead (a.k.a. the Papyrus of Ani) includes a list of things to which a man must swear in order to enter the afterlife. These sworn statements bear a remarkable resemblance to the Ten Commandments in their nature and their phrasing…..The Book of the Dead has additional requirements, and, of course, doesn’t require worship of Yahweh.” 1
The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture’s Ten Commandments were based on this earlier document, rather than vice-versa.
Q. The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments refers to the words (Exodus 20) that God wrote on the two stone tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai (Exodus 31:18) and then smashed upon seeing the idolatry of the golden calf (Exodus 32:19). In the Hebrew Bible these words are called Aseret ha-D’vareem (the Ten Things), and in rabbinical texts they are called Aseret ha-Dibrot (the Ten Sayings or Utterances). Jewish tradition holds that the Ten Commandments are the ideological basis for the 613 commandments (mitzvot) in the Bible.
When the Israelites accepted the Ten Commandments from God at Mount Sinai, they committed themselves to following a moral code of behavior.
The Ten Commandments
1. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.
2. You shall have no other gods but me.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
4. You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
5. Honour your father and mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
The rabbis teach that the first five sayings, on the left side of the tablet, concern man’s relationship with God (belief in God, prohibition of improper worship, prohibition of oath, shabbat, respect for parents). The second five sayings, on the right side of the tablet, concern man’s relationship with other people (prohibitions of murder, adultery, theft, false witness, coveting). Judaism teaches that our relationship to our parents is akin to our relationship to God because our parents created us. Disrespect of parents is considered an insult to God. Thus, respect for parents is included on the right side of the tablets with the other sayings that concern our relationship with God.
Judaism also teaches that the two tablets are parallel. In other words, our duties to God and our duties to people are equally important. If, however, one must choose between performing a duty to God or performing a duty to a person, one should first perform good deeds for another a person.
The fact that so few people appreciate that the Egyptian Book of the Dead was, in every probability, the precursor for the 10 Commandments is astounding. This is why it is important that a copy of it is published here for easy access and to be able to compare it at leisure.