Book Review: Thankful for Another Comment on My First Book

Prof. Corrine Carvalho has kindly provided the third review on my first book Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations. The review is published at the Catholic Biblical Quarterly 80 (2018): 125-127. Below are the printed pages:

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I appreciate all the comments that have been made on my first book. The professional feedback has indicated some positive aspects but also further room for improvements. All these comments can stimulate my academic growth in future studies. 🙂

 

 

Book Reviews: Thankful for the Comments on My First Book

Prof. Johan Lust has kindly reviewed my first book Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations. The review is published at Ephemerides theologicae Lovanienses 93 (2017): 152-153. For your reading convenience, here are the photographed pages:

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Prof. Karin Schöpflin has also kindly written a review of my book, which is published at Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 129 (2017): 465-466. Here is the photographed review:

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My sincere thanks for their kind attention and helpful comments 🙂

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA: Contextualizing My First Book Entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations

**See endnotes for further references**

My first book entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations had passed the double-blind peer review and was licked into shape under the supervision of the superb editorial team of the SBL Ancient Near East Monographs Series (US-based). At long last it is out. “Historians,” says John Hirst, “write from the evidence but also from their understanding of how the world works and how they would like it to work” [1]. As such, it is important to contextualize one’s work in a particular historical milieu. Below is my attempt to contextualize this book, sharing with you how my doctoral work experience as one of the Sofja-Kovalevskaja research team members at the Theologische Fakultät in Göttingen between 2010 and 2014 [Note: My doctoral study belongs to the Department of the Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the Philosophische Facultät] has directly or indirectly influenced the writing of the book.

1. Dehumanizing the “Other”

Do you still remember the two German male professors, whom I told you about in a speech? At the beginning of my study, one of them posed this smug remark to me: “German is too difficult for you to understand.” At the end of my defense, his only comment to me was that my work was non-German and only suitable for the Anglo-American readership. I guess he meant that my work was of low-quality. The other professor, who referred to me as someone from the British colony, never bothered giving any academic comments on any of my works. [Germans vs. Anglo-Americans]

During my doctoral study, a self-proclaimed socialist/pro-feminist (non-German) from the theological faculty mocked me: “You are put in the Philosophische Fakultät [Faculty of Arts] because you are a girl and it’s simple.” I did not know how writing a doctoral dissertation while completing 16 courses between 2010 and 2014 had made my life simple. I certainly did not know why my gender had anything to do with my allocation in the Philosophische Fakultät. But in 2015, I bumped into the statistics gathered by the University Medical Centre Göttingen (UMG), which helped me put his mockery in a broader context. Stuck at the back of one of the university buildings, the poster outlines the distribution of male and female students and academics (Studierende, Promovierende, Promotionen, Wiss. Personal, Professuren) at various faculties of the University of Göttingen in 2013.

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In the medical faculty and the arts faculty, the numbers of female PhD candidates (Promovierende) and  holders of doctorates (Promotionen) are roughly equal to the male counterparts.

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Apparently, girls are too “simple” for the theological faculty, so that males (83%) far outnumbered the females (17%) in the category of holders of doctorates (Promotionen). At the end of the day, the males in all faculties fare much better than females in getting hold of the professorship (Professuren).  [Males vs. Females]

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Once a European (non-German) commented on my paper sarcastically: “You cannot disagree with or argue against a person’s point of view. Is it because you are Asian?” Another time, the same person also voiced his incomprehension before me about the opening of some teaching positions for the non-whites in a predominantly white community situated in a non-European country. [Europeans vs. Non-Europeans]

These and many other people I encountered during my doctoral study taught me how to “put me in my place” and etched on my mind an invisible yet clearly demarcated boundary between the “stupid” (me) and the “intelligent” (them). To save time and space, I will spare you all other details. Suffice it to say that so rampant were the overgeneralizations that categorized good and bad qualities on the basis of nationality, gender, and ethnic or cultural backgrounds that I began to get used to, or even accept, them. According to one professor of philosophy, David Livingstone Smith, “You don’t have to be a monster or a madman to dehumanise others. You just have to be an ordinary human being.“My encounters with human beings were simply unavoidable.

2. Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations

The aforementioned experiences have influenced my study of Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations in a way I did not imagine. Turning to Zimmerli’s monumental commentaries on Ezekiel, I have gradually come to admire his meticulous text-critical insights, which reveal the book of Ezekiel as a literary product of continuous Fortschreibung. This is despite the fact that he seems to be puzzled by the link between the Ezekiel’s oracles against the nations and the prophet’s own message about the house of Israel. He questions Ezekiel’s concern for the hubris of the foreign nations, when “nothing is said of the prophet’s task to be a prophet to the nations” (cf. Ezekiel 3:6) [2]. When I read his Grundriß der alttestamentlichen Theologie, I was so ready to embrace his comment that the fate of the foreign nations in Ezekiel 25-32 is incomparable to Judah’s fate announced in the rest of the book of Ezekiel. As he says, “Die Fremdvölkerworte von Ez 25-32 … zeigen im Einzelnen wenig Berührung mit der spezifischen Botschaft an Israel … Im Ganzen aber behält die Völkerverkundigung Ezechiels etwas Schematisches und läßt sich nicht mit den persönlichen Umgang Jahwes mit seinem eigenen Volk vergelichen.” [3]

Block, whose commentaries show influences of Zimmerli’s magnum opus, goes one step further. He argues that the whole of Ezekiel 25-32  represents “the judgment of the enemies of God’s people” and “the nations addressed by Ezekiel all represented the enemies of Israel.”[4] Therefore the destruction of the foreign nations in Ezekiel 25-32 functions as a “backhanded message of hope” for the house of Israel [5]. Upon reading this line, I was so ready to applaud. To my mind, this was indeed the justified end of the enemies of God’s people. As the philosopher David Livingston Smith has already observed, it is all too human to degrade others by treating them as less than humans and by subjecting them to cruelties or indignities. The book of Ezekiel is an editorial product passing through so many human hands. It is only normal that whoever composed or edited the book would reveal their human nature by reveling at the destruction of the foreign nations.

However, Schwagmeier’s and Marzouk’s observations about the corpus gave me a pause. Schwagmeier’s detailed study of various manuscripts of Ezekiel confirms the important role of the terminological connections in MT Ezekiel, more so than that in the LXX [6]. The judgment language found in Ezekiel’s oracles against the nations often echo those found in the prophecies against Judah in the rest of the book. Marzouk’s innovative research demonstrates the importance to contextualize the prophecies against Egypt within the book of Ezekiel. The monstrification of Egypt in Ezekiel 29-32 should be read in light of the adulterous intimacy between Egypt and Israel or Judah in chapters 20 and 23 [7]. That is to say, Egypt in Ezekiel is not Judah’s enemy, but in fact Judah’s alter ego. Building on their insights, I delved further into the lexical allusions (temporal aspect) and literary contexts (spatial aspect) of Ezekiel 25-32. After much rumination on the biblical texts, I have come to this argument, highlighting one aspect of the oracles against nations, which, to my mind, has not been paid sufficient attention:

Ezekiel 25-32 contains some of the most virulent speeches directed against Judah’s neighboring nations. Some scholars emphasize that the destruction of the nations in chapters 25-32 means the upcoming salvation of God’s people. Other scholars presuppose that the nations are judged by a separate moral standard and render the judgment executed upon the nations irrelevant to that upon Judah. In this study, Lydia Lee postulates a third way to perceive the rhetorical roles of the nations in Ezekiel 25-32. Unraveling the intricate connections between the oracles against the nations and those against Judah, Lee argues that Ezekiel 25-32 contains a daring message directed not only against the foreign nations, but also against Judah’s land, temple, and nation. Lee places Ezekiel 25-32 in a broader context, considering how samples of its early reception within the prophetic book affirm or transform the bleak message about the oblique judgment for the house of Judah.

This discovery of ancient challenges to identity boundaries led to the publication of my first book entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations. I am glad that it has passed the double-blind peer review of the online, open-access Ancient Near East Monographs Series. In the spirit of the book’s emphasis on commonalities, the book is available for free download at:

https://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/pubs/9780884141808_OA.pdf

That means, whether you are from Africa, Australia, China, Europe, UK, US, or anywhere else in the world, you can read it for free! 🙂

For those who prefer to hold a book in your hands, paperback and hardcover editions can be purchased online:

https://secure.aidcvt.com/sbl/ProdDetails.asp?ID=062819P&PG=1&Type=BL&PCS=SBL

I do not earn royalities from the purchases, but the money you pay can contribute to the SBL’s International Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which aims to “mak[e] scholarship available to scholars and students in underresourced countries.”

3. A Journey of Self-Discovery

Reflecting on the writing and production of this book has made me realized how I and those who mocked me were alike. I was a coward, my English was not good enough to retort their vile remarks, my position was not high enough to pose a direct confrontation with them. However, deep down in my heart, I despised them as the descendants of murderers, slave-traders, and colonists. As such, I also committed the fault of overgeneralizations.

I refused to communicate with them, except for bureaucratic or work purposes. Even then, I only dealt with them half-heartedly. Returning evil for evil did not make me a better but worse person. All I cared were my own work and benefits. I wanted to finish my work as quickly as possible so that I could get out of the depressing environment. I built a thick barrier between them and me, trying to tear down or set me opposite to whatever intellectual enterprises they took pride in. But then I discovered this: Some people may be evil but they are not all stupid. My stupidity and weaknesses provided them with more excuses to justify their insults of my nationality, gender, or ethnicity. Therefore, I had to swallow my silly pride and learned to appreciate their ingeniosity.

Unknowingly, my enemies taught me to appreciate and cherish the warmth radiated and help offered by those who have cared and supported me. I have learned never to take people’s kindness for granted. Both groups of people have strengthened my convictions of what kind of a person I want to be. I do not want to be a German, a male, or a white European. I want to be a better Malaysian-born Australian, a female, a non-white Chinese, who can produce good-quality works while being warm and kind. This book is a small step for me to achieving that goal. It is dedicated to “my foes, friends, and family, all of whom have led me on a journey of self-discovery.”

Endnotes

[1] John Hirst, Sense & Nonsense in Australian History (Black Inc. Agenda, 2005), p.1.

[2] For further information, see Lydia Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations, ANEM 15 (Atlanta: SBL Press), p. 15.

[3] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 35.

[4] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 12.

[5] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 13.

[6] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 37.

[7] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 21.

Egypt: An Adventure in the Land of the Pharaohs

If you are interested in how Egypt is imagined in the book of Ezekiel, please read Safwak Marzouk’s book entitled Egypt as a Monster in the Book of Ezekiel and my monograph entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations (pp. 123–182). Below I would like to share with you the image of Egypt from another perspective—through the ancient Egyptian edifices.

Winter. The perfect season to visit Egypt. Before my departure from Israel to Australia at the beginning of 2009, I decided to undertake a journey up the Nile. Due to the reported political instability at that time, I ended up being the only tourist in the organized tour I had signed up for. It was lonely to be the only audience of the different guides during the tour, but the magnificent monuments of ancient Egypt kept me good company.uter1467

A. Cairo

The Giza Pyramids

Ancient Egyptians placed great emphasis on death and afterlife. Dated to the Old Kingdom Period (2575–2134 BCE), the Giza Pyramids near modern day Cairo testify to this obsession. The pyramids functioned as the pharaonic tombs, where the mummified bodies of Pharaoh were preserved, awaiting to be revivified and led into the glorious afterlife. A pyramid was more than a tomb of a king. Alive, the pharaoh was the incarnation of the god Horus. After death, the pharaoh became identified with Osiris, the divine father of Horus. Somehow, the pharaoh was also related to the sun god Ra. As such, each pyramid was also a temple-complex dedicated to the Horus-Osiris-Ra divinity.

Khufu, reigning between 2551 and 2528 BCE, built the largest ever pyramid, which was called Akhet Khufu “the Horizon of Khufu.” Its base length is approximately 230m and its height about 146m. Near this magnificent monument were found 3 queens’ pyramids, boat pits, and a satellite pyramid. The boats could have been connected with Khufu’s transportation to his pyramid or his journey to the Netherworld. Standing on higher ground was the smaller Pyramid of Khafre, who was another son of Khufu (2520–2492 BCE). The smallest of the three Giza Pyramids is the Pyramid of Menkaure, who ruled between 2490 and 2472 BCE.

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The Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure (right to left)

The Spinx

In front of Khafre’s Pyramid stands the 20m tall Sphinx, which is a fusion of man and lion sculpted in about 2500 BCE. Some speculate that the Sphinx’s face was carved in Khafre’s likeness, while others perceive it as an image of the sun god. Between the forepaws of the Sphinx was a granite stela set up later in 1401 BCE to record the dream of Thutmose IV. According to the “Dream Stela,” the Sphinx or the sun god appeared in a dream of Thutmose and helped him gain the throne of the Upper and Lower Egypt. The Sphinx’s broken nose remains a mystery. According to a popular belief, Napoleon’s soldiers broke off the nose when using it as a target for rifle practice. An alternative theory is given by the Arab historian El Makrizi (d. 1436 CE):

In our time there was a man whose name was Saim-el-Dahr, one of the Sufis. This man wished to remedy religious matters, and he went to the pyramids and disfigured the face of Abul-Hol [one of the Arabic names of the Sphinx], which has remained in this state from that time to the present. From the time of disfigurement the sand has invaded the cultivated lands of Giza, and the people attribute this to the disfigurement of Abul-Hol (Fakhry, 1961: 159).

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B. Luxor

The Valley of the Kings

In the New Kingdom Period (1550–1070 BCE), the growing importance of the Theban god Amun and the robbery of the royal burials probably prompted pharaohs to build their tombs in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes (modern day Luxor). This communal graveyard is situated on the Nile’s western side, which has long been associated by the Egyptians with the sinking sun, death, and afterlife. The famous tomb of Tutankhamun with its glittering golden treasure was discovered inside this valley in 1922. To prevent further deteriorations of the painted walls, no photo is to be taken inside the royal tombs. Luckily, the colourful photos and detailed explanations in Im Tal der Könige: von Grabkunst und Totenkult der ägyptischen Herrscher edited by Kent R. Weeks and illustrated by Araldo de Luca (Augsburg: Weltbild, 2001) helpfully recreate the scenes in the valley tombs and bring them to life.rwyt5815

The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

Mortuary temples of various pharaohs also sprinkle on the west bank of the Nile. Offerings used to be brought to these temples to serve the spirit of deceased kings and to ensure their comfort and rule in the hereafter. The stunning mortuary temple of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (1473–1458 BCE) at Deir el-Bahari is characterized by ascending ramps, lengthy colonnades, with inner courts built against and into the precipitous mountain cliffs.oaed0886

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Osiride statues of Hatshepsut before each pillar line the upper colonnade. The female pharaoh was shown as a male king with a fake beard and without female breasts, wearing the double crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. She holds the crook and flail, which are the pharaoh’s emblems.veib9682

The main temple is dedicated to the god Amun and the pharaoh Hatshepsut, while a Hathor chapel is situated at the southwestern corner of the temple. Hathor is the goddess of fertility, motherhood, and sexual pleasure. She was often depicted as a cow, who gave birth to and protected the pharaohs. In the following relief, the baby Hatshepsut is suckling the milk of the cow-goddess. This scene reflects part of Hatshepsut’s scheme to legitimize her rule as a pharaoh.yhdw4452

Elaborate Hathor-headed columns stand inside the chapel. If you look closely at the heads, you will discover the cows’ ears of the goddess, which represent her docile character.rrwp6032

Throughout Hatshepsut’s reign, her successor Thutmose III was a co-regent and his figure was incorporated as part of the original decoration of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple. When Thutmose III became the sole ruler, he systematically eliminated Hatshepsut’s names and figures from the mortuary temple. This decoration constitutes an example of the removal of Hatshepsut’s names. Below the winged sun disk three lines give the Horus name, throne name, and given name of King Thutmose III on the right. They were originally balanced by the Horus name, throne name, and given name of Hatshepsut on the left, but these have been chiselled out (Robins, 1997: 129).sgns5690

The Colossi of Memnon

Little remains of the mortuary temple of Amenophis III (1391–1353 BCE) beyond the two immense “Colossi of Memnon” at the entrance. These nearly 18m high quartzite statues of Amenophis III are flanked by small figures of his mother Mutemwia (by his left legs) and his wife Tiye (by his right legs). Following an earthquake in 27 BCE, the northern figure cracked and started to emit a bell-like tone at sunrise. Greek travellers creatively related the sound with the greeting of Memnon (a mythic Ethiopic ruler, who had died in the Trojan War and was then granted immortality by Zeus) to Eos, the goddess of the dawn. Repairs to the statue in the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus (199 CE) silenced the sound forever.vzos6959

Medinet Habu

The funerary temple of Ramesses III (1194–1163 BCE) at Medinet Habu is the best preserved of all the mortuary temples of Thebes. The first pylon is richly decorated with images of the king trampling Egypt’s enemies.chmd0169

Many of the walls and monuments in the temple have left vestiges of bright colours. Here the top register shows the blue-skinned god Amun-Ra wearing the double plumed crown and the pharaoh in the blue khepresh crown (worn in battles and ceremonies); while the lower register shows the deity’s consort Mut and the pharaoh in a kind of headress.htjm2506

Due to the practice of usurpation of the predecessors’ royal monuments, sunk relief, especially royal cartouches, in Ramesses III’s mortuary temple was carved at great depth in order to prevent the recarving of the stone by future kings.wnvb4914

The Transition from the West to the East

The colourful local boats on the Nile take the tourists from the west bank of Thebes or the land of the dead, where royal tombs and mortuary temples are concentrated, to the east bank of Thebes or the land of the living, where divine cult temples such as the Karnak and Luxor temples are found.sphc3430

Karnak Temple

The temple-complex at Karnak contains not only the Great Temple of Amun but also numerous contiguous chapels or temples dedicated to other deities. Because of its religious significance as the palace of Amun, almost all pharaoh attempted to leave some of their marks inside the temple. Cryosphinxes—their rams’ heads symbolizing the god Amun and each holding a small statue of the king between its lion’s paws—line the processional way leading to the first pylon of the temple.lplh8025

In front of the temple’s second pylon, which dates to the time of Sethos I (1306—1290 BCE) stands one of the remaining colossi of Ramesses II (1290—1224 BCE). Between his feet stands the diminutive figure of the princess Bent‘anta.tjfn4418

The second pylon opens into the Great Hypostyle Hall, the most impressive part of the whole Karnak complex. The hall was filled with 134 papyrus columns, symbolizing the primeval papyrus marsh from which, according to the Egyptian mythology, creation begins. Although the hall was initiated by Amenophis III (1391–1353 BCE), the decoration was begun by Sethos I (1306—1290 BCE) and completed by Ramesses II (1290—1224 BCE).mlzt8800

The centre 12 columns are larger (some 21m tall), the remaining 122 along the sides smaller (some 15m tall). Look at the tops of the columns! The centre columns are decorated with open-flower capitals, while the side columns are with closed-bud capitals.xpxm6930

Look how wide each column can be! The diameter of the large column is over three meters.ddrj49631

Beyond the fourth pylon lie the obelisks of Thutmosis I (1504—1492 BCE) and Hatshepsut (1473—1458 BCE), the latter being the larger. Obelisks were the royal gifts to the gods and were erected to record their donors’ piety, jubilees, and other notable events.purm16441

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple lies in the south of the Theban east bank and, like Karnak, was dedicated to the god Amun, but some argue that the Luxor temple was dedicated to the living Egyptian ruler. Mainly constructed by Amenophis III, it was expanded over the centuries by Tutankhamun, Ramesses II, Nectanebo I, Alexander the Great, and the Romans. The human-headed sphinxes on the processional way linking Luxor to Karnak temples were erected by Nectanebo I (380-363 BCE), probably to replace the ruined New Kingdom examples.avtf54741

Two seated statues of Rameses II (1290—1224 BCE) flanked the two sides of the entrance at the first pylon. The pharaoh wears the double crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt as well as the nemes headress, in front of which is the rearing cobra emblem (uraeus). The walls of the first pylon are decorated with scenes of the pharaoh’s military expeditions, especially his triumphs over the Hittites at Kadesh.nfej76351

Beyond the first pylon lies the peristyle court built by Rameses II (1290—1224 BCE). Seventy four closed-bud columns, along with some remaining statues of the pharaoh, stand in this courtyard.ikfg95331

The peristyle court leads to the imposing colonnade of Amenophis III (1391-1353 BCE). Decorated with its 19m tall open-flower columns, this colonnade served as the architectural prototype for the Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak. The walls were decorated by Tutankhamun (1333-1323 BCE) and preserve scenes of the great Opet Festival, during which the sacred boats of the Theban gods were brought from Karnak to the Luxor Temple.edkl62701

Within the colonnade sit the added statues of a young Tutankhamun and his consort Ankesenamun.ovcq80921

Beyond the colonnade lies a further court built by Amenophis III featuring double rows of closed-bud papyrus columns. The southern side of the courtyard consists of a hypostyle hall that leads to the inner sanctum (cf. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/luxortemple2.html).imxo42761

Alexander the Great took control of Egypt in the 4th century BCE. He built a chapel inside the innermost sanctuary of Amenophis III. On the walls of this chapel, Alexander the Great is depicted as a pharaoh, standing in front of Amun.nkgu80291

Later still, in the 4th to 6th centuries CE, the Romans came and deployed the site as a fortified military encampment and converted the antechamber into a chapel for the Roman imperial cult. The following apse flanked by the Corinthian columns shows the images of the Roman emperors and caesars (cf. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/luxortemple6.htm).pipm36491

D. Abu Simbel

The Great Temple

The rock-cut temple of Ramesses II lies on the west bank of the Nile at Abu Simbel. The massive facade of the temple is dominated by four seated colossi of Ramesses II, which rise to a height of about 21m. Their location at the ancient border between Egypt and Nubia suggests that the colossi once served to impress the neighboring country of Egypt’s might and power.acjc67471

The pharaoh was carved wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt as well as the nemes headress. Next to the giant statues stand diminuitive figures of his wife Queen Nefertari, his mother Queen Muttuya, and several children. At the bottom of these sculptures are the carved figures of bound captives from Africa and Asia (not shown in this picture, but if you would like to have a look at them, please refer to the amazing pictures in this website: http://www.mafengwo.cn/i/6364553.html).kver35081

The entrance to the temple is crowned by two images of the king worshipping the sun god Ra holding the User (sign of power) in one hand and Maat (sign of truth) in the other. This is a clever way to spell out the king’s throne name (User-Maat-Re). See http://www.touregypt.net/asimbelram.htm.gvuv87441

The top of the facade shows a row of baboons raising their hands to worship the rising sun. htid67241

Inside the temple sit the figures of the deified Ramesses and his companion gods, including Ra-Horakhty of Heliopolis, Ptah of Memphis, and Amun-Ra of Thebes. No photo is allowed for tourists inside the temple, so I have to download this picture from the following website: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/abusimbel.htm

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Here is one interesting fact about the solar alignment of the temple:

In many ways a fusion of “divine” and mortuary temples, the Great Temple of Abu Simbel was constructed to face eastwards so that the sun’s rays illuminated the structure’s facade each sunrise. First the sunlight lit the row of baboons (symbolic greeters of the sun god) carved along the top of the cliff-face facade, then as the sun rose its rays illuminated the four colossal faces of the king and the central niche statue of Re which formed a rebus of Ramesses’ throne name. Finally, the solar rays entered the temple itself. The temple’s axis was aligned in such a way that twice each year, in February and October, the sun’s rays penetrated some 60m through its inner halls to the very depths of the rock-cut monument where they iluminated the status of the deified Ramesses and his companion gods-though the statue of the chthonic deity Ptah remains in partial shadow (Wilkinson, 2000: 227).

The Small Temple

Close to the Temple of Ramesses II is a smller temple built in honour of Ramesses’ chief consort, Nefertari, and the goddess Hathor, the deity most closely associated with queenship in ancient Egypt. The facade is decorated with six 10m tall statues, with four representing Ramesses II and two representing his queen Nefertari. Smaller figures of the royal children are by the feet of the colossi. Wikipedia says this is the only instance when the Egyptian art shows the king and his consort in equal size.

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The ancient temples in Egypt are so numerous that I have not managed to tour through all of them. These stone monuments, however ruined, have remarkably survived in enough pieces after so many centuries to bear witness to the pharaoh’s eagerness to record their glorious military triumphs, their proximity to gods, and even their own deification. I can’t help but bring the scenes preserved in these ancient monuments in comparison with the narrative scenes preserved in the Hebrew Bible. I believe that the ancient Egyptian culture could have influenced the ancient Israelite culture, whether directly or indirectly. However, the ancient Israelite kings in the Hebrew Bible are generally depicted in a rather different light than the pharaohs on the walls. The scribes or editors of the Hebrew Bible did not hesitate to picture their first king Saul as a traitor of their deity, the second king David an adulterer, the third king Solomon a womanizer, who was ultimately responsible for the violent divisions of his own kingdom. Can you think of any Egyptian tradition that is as brutally honest as those preserved in the Hebrew Bible? I would be interested to know the answer. At this stage, it is just interesting to observe two different outlooks on royalty in the preserved traditions, right? (Open for discussion) 😉

E. Bibliography

I am not an Egyptologist, but a tourist. In addition to the websites cited in the text, I have learned some of the aforementioned information from the following resources:

  1. Fakhry, Ahmed, The Pyramids (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961).
  2. Lehner, Mark, The Complete Pyramids (London: Thames & Hudson, 1997).
  3. Reeves, Nicholas; and Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Valley of the Kings: Tombs and Treasures of Egypt’s Greatest Pharaohs (London: Thames & Hudson, 1996).
  4. Robins, Gay, The Art of Ancient Egypt (London: The British Museum Press, 1997).
  5. Weeks, Kent R.; and Araldo de Luca, Im Tal der Könige: Von Grabkunst und Totenkult der ägyptischen Herrscher (Augsburg: Weltbild, 2001).
  6. Wilkinson, Richard H., The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000).

First Composed: 19th January 2017

Last Updated: 17th June 2017