Pagan Point-of-View: The Exodus

Modern Mythology: Using the Bible as Kemetic Myth.

Erin and I watched The Prince of Egypt tonight.  Growing up, and to some extent even today, it’s one of my favorite movies.  There’s good music and good animation and good writing and it’s extremely upbeat, so what’s not to love?  The Exodus is actually my favorite story from the Bible.  It’s the first one I actually read growing up that I loved and would read over and over again.

But, honestly, I always feel a little dirty about enjoying it so much.  It slams the Egyptians for enslaving the Hebrews.  It uses Moses, a Hebrew, to show how the God of the Bible is stronger than the Gods of Egypt.  It makes the Egyptians look down right evil.  And as a Kemetic and a follower of the Egyptian Netjeru, it feels a little wrong to enjoy a movie that is so obviously blasphemous and against my faith.

And, like all good believers coming to the defense of their God(s), Erin pointed this out to me by saying, “Doesn’t this movie make the Egyptians look really bad?  I don’t like how it does that, it makes me a little upset.”

I responded with, “Well, evidence shows it never actually happened.”

So Erin replies, “You mean they made it up?  They just out and out lied?”

I said, “No.  Not really. No.”  I channeled Galaxy Quest for a moment with my next comment, “It’s just a story that was used to show the might of their God over the might of the Ancients, who were in power.  It would be like us telling the story of Gilligan’s Island and then believing it was real.”  I realize now that a better metaphor would be to say something like creating a movie about World War II that involved a story that never happened and then believing it was true… Or that Jack Dawson (Titanic) really existed.

But it still makes the Ancients look bad, real or not, right?  Yes, but that’s because the Ancients were bad in this story.  Bare with me a moment… I want to back up.

Before we look at the meaning I see in the Exodus story, we need to see what the Bible says about its people, and for that, we go all the way back to Genesis.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2: 18-23, ESV

Here we see the God of the Bible clearly making His first man and woman.  They have two children, Cain and Abel.  So now the God of the Bible has exactly four people: Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel.

Then Cain gets married: “17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.” – Genesis 4:17a.
Then Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, and he also had a son, “26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh.” – Genesis 4:26a.

Where did their wives come from?

Some might say that she was Cain’s sister, but I reject this idea.  Genesis 5:4 says, “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.”  To me, and people will disagree, this verse implies that Adam had daughters after the birth of Seth, and Cain married before Seth’s birth.

I am a firm believer in the Gods choose you, and not the other way around.  The God of the Bible “created” (aka, chose) his people, Adam and Eve, who then gave birth to the rest of God’s chosen people, the Hebrews.  The Gods of Egypt “created” (aka, chose) their people, who created the Land of Egypt and gave way to a mighty nation.  And we can say this of any of the empires of those times: their Gods chose them.

Cain’s wife, then, came from a different group of people.  She was chosen by the God of the Bible to come be part of his group of people.  There were/are different groups of chosen people.  And this isn’t some foreign concept in the Bible because Joshua 24:15 (ESV) says, “15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

If you think it evil to serve the God of the Bible, then choose who you worship and serve.  Maybe it’s the gods of your ancestors.  Maybe it’s the Gods of the people who live here.  But choose today.  There were different faiths then, and Joshua didn’t think they were all that bad.  He didn’t say, “Pick the Lord or you’ll go to Hell.”  He said, “Even if it’s not the Lord, choose Someone.”  He continues on a little later to say that the God of the Bible will do harm to you if you forsake Him; however, that’s only after He has done you good.  Which says to me that if the God of the Bible chooses you, and you turn your back at that point after you have seen Him work in your life, then you deserve all the wrath and punishment you get.

So we’ve established that there were different groups that worshiped different Gods.

So now, let’s talk slavery.

The generally consensus is that slavery did exist in Ancient Egypt, but not in the way we imagine. The basic idea is this: there were slaves, but most of them were prisoners of war, and after they’d done their time, they were released.  Slavery was a form of punishment rather than a way of life.  Their workers were often paid.

The Ancient Egyptians believed in the concept of ma’at, of truth and justice and balance.  Their lives revolved around upholding ma’at and shunning isfet (the opposite of ma’at).  They had 42 purifcations/negative confessions that they had to pass in order to be granted access to the Aaru, paradise.  Number 23 states, “I do not terrorize people.”  The Ancients knew that causing fear or terror in others wasn’t okay, and it wasn’t upholding of ma’at.  People were treated with dignity.  Number 27 says, “I do not cause suffering.”  Again, this isn’t something you would see in a world that involved the intense slavery of the Bible.

Slavery is a form of oppression that uses fear and causes suffering.  Slavery would be in direct defiance of ma’at.

So now, let’s look at the Exodus from a Kemetic’s point of view.  When I see the Exodus, I don’t see a group of people who have and worship a God greater than mine, who were freed from slavery because the might of the God of these people was so overpowering that the Ancients had no choice but to surrender.  I don’t see a story that points to faith as an escape from oppression.

I see a story of a people who were in defiance of their Gods by causing suffering and fear, who were punished for their actions by another God, who was protecting His people.

So here’s the story, retold:

Once upon a time, the Egyptians, a strong and powerful race of people, decided it was time to expand their realm and push out their boarders.  They had, living within their boundaries, a group of people.  These people trusted the Egyptians with their safety and their livelihood.  They came to live with the Egyptians many years before when one of their own, Joseph, had helped the Pharaoh save his people.  As a thank you, the Egyptians allowed Joseph and his family to live in the lands of Egypt as honored guests.

But many years had passed since Joseph and his family first lived in Egypt.  A new Pharaoh came to rule, and this Pharaoh wanted more.  He wanted power.  He wanted absolute rule, so he moved against these people, the Hebrews, and forced them into slavery.  He starved and worked these people until they collapsed.  He used them to build his temples and his home, pushing the boarders out and expanding his lands as much as possible.

And the Hebrews suffered.  They called out to their God, who differed from the Egyptians’ Gods, begging for a savior to deliver them from the torment that the Pharaoh had laid upon them.  Their God heard their cries and sent his people a man by the name of Moses.

When Moses arrived in Egypt and demanded that the Pharaoh release the Hebrews from slavery, the Pharaoh laughed and said no.  Moses showed the Pharaoh the power of his God, so Pharaoh turned to his Gods to return the show of power.  But the Gods of Egypt were angry with Pharaoh because he was in defiance of ma’at, the principle of truth and balance.  By enslaving others, Pharaoh caused terror, fear, and suffering.  They saw Pharaoh making rather than shunning isfet, and the Gods of Egypt saw the plight of the Hebrews and took pity of them for humanity’s sake.  They showed their power to the Hebrew’s God, but only to let Him know They were there.

The God of the Hebrews was brutal.  He brought plague, destruction and death to land of Egypt as punishment for their oppression, and when Pharaoh had finally had enough, he let the Hebrews leave with their savior and their God.  But just as they reached the edge of Egyptian lands, Pharaoh changed his mind, and he went after the Hebrews, but he was punished once again as the Hebrews escaped across the sea.

When the waters hit him, Pharaoh awoke to see the death and destruction his actions had caused.  He saw how the Gods treated oppression and enslavement.  He saw how life would end if continued making isfet, and he knew immediately that to save his people and the land of Egypt, he must immediately change his ways.  Pharaoh returned to him home, vowed to uphold ma’at in all his actions, and never again did he cause fear and suffering in his people.

So here the Gods allowed for Pharaoh’s punishment as a lesson that oppression and slavery, fear-mongering and terrorizing, are bad and a way of making isfet instead of ma’at.  Here, the Gods and the Egyptians aren’t thwarted by the God of the Bible and the Hebrews, but they work together to teach Pharaoh a lesson is humanity and justice.

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Posted on April 12, 2014, in Belief, Faith, Kemeticism, Modern Mythology, Pagan Point-Of-View, Paganism, Religion, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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