Serpent

The serpent features in Genesis 3 as the animal that first challenged God’s truth by telling the woman “thou shalt not surely die.”

The serpent symbol features prominently in Egyptian mythology. It depicts Apep, the ancient Egyptian deity who embodied evil, darkness, destruction and chaos and was thus the opponent of light and Ma’at (order/truth). It is rendered on the tombs as a giant serpent and was brought into existence as a consequence of Ra’s birth.1

Another serpent symbol was later introduced which portrayed the opposite of what Apep stood for. This serpent was the uraeus—a standing cobra representing the goddess Wadjet. Wadjet was a protective deity and daughter of the sun god, Re. Her job was essentially to help protect Egypt and the cosmos from chaos, the ultimate evil in Egyptian mythology. Her cult actually predates unified Egypt itself and so Wadjet was specifically the protective deity of Lower Egypt. When the pharaoh wore the crown of lower Egypt it was always adorned by a standing cobra. The serpent on his forehead was a fitting symbol of how pharaohs were dominated by the thinking of the flesh.

Cherubim

In the temple of Kom Ombo is a picture of Ma’at. If you look closely there are wings outstretched, there is a lion with four wings and four heads, a bullock and an eagle (Horus) but the fourth figure is missing, and I have been unable to find a similar figure to fill the missing detail. There are also eyes and ears portrayed below in the centre just below Ma’at. Also, above Ma’at is Amun Ra with wings outstretched and the sun disc.

This is a distorted picture of the cherubim as fully described in Ezekiel chapter 1 and illustrates how the mythology of Egypt adopted biblical themes and then added their own flavour to suit their idolatry.

Out of interest, directly behind this facade on the opposite wall is a scene depicting two women sitting on the birthing stools. This was a specialised chair used in Egypt upon which the expectant mother sat during parturition. Illustrations of these appear on other Egyptian monuments.

It confirms the biblical record in Exodus 1:15-16 where we read: “And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.”

In the panel to the right of the birthing stools is a series of medical instruments that were used by physicians.

Tree of Life

The biblical tree of life appears in Egyptian mythology and was most likely derived from the Babylonian tree of life concept. In Egypt it is referred to as the sacred Tree of Life. It is connected with the Egyptian creation myth and the nine gods of the Ennead of Heliopolis. It was one of the most potent symbols of ancient Egypt symbolising life and knowledge of the divine plan.2

In this picture, taken from an ancient Egyptian papyrus of the Book of the Dead, notice we have the serpent in front of the tree of life having its head being cut off by an Egyptian deity represented by a cat! Once again the biblical symbols of Genesis 3:15,22 have been brought over and twisted to conform to Egyptian myths.

Cain, Abel and Seth

The Osiris myth is the most elaborate and influential story in ancient Egyptian mythology. It concerns the murder of the god Osiris, a primeval king of Egypt, and its consequences. Osiris’ murderer, his brother Set, usurps his throne. Meanwhile, Osiris’ wife, Isis, restores her husband’s body, allowing him to posthumously conceive their son, Horus. The remainder of the story focuses on Horus, the product of the union of Isis and Osiris, who is at first a vulnerable child, protected by his mother and then becomes Set’s rival for the throne. Their often violent conflict ends with Horus’ triumph, which restores Ma’at (cosmic and social order) to Egypt after Set’s unrighteous reign and completes the process of Osiris’ resurrection.

The myth, with its complex symbolism, is integral to ancient Egyptian conceptions of kingship and succession, conflict between order and disorder, and especially death and the afterlife. It also expresses the essential character of each of the four deities at its centre, and many elements of their worship in ancient Egyptian religion were derived from the myth.3

We can see in this myth echoes of the biblical account of the murder of Abel at the hands of Cain, followed by the replacement of the seed of the woman in the lineage of Seth.

Universal flood

There are a number of Akkadian and Babylonian epics depicting a great flood across the world. The Sumerian flood story and the Epic of Gligamesh describe the anger of the gods against mankind, the destruction of their labours and the survival of a small number in a boat.

The Egyptian flood narrative is similar and is contained in a number of places, most importantly in The Book of the Dead and in the Book of the Heavenly Cow. There are various versions of the myth, but this distillation pulls the common elements from them. The basic format of the tale says that Re sent his daughter, Sekhmet, down to earth, as a manifestation of his anger, to destroy a part of mankind. Re was growing older, and humans had begun mocking him, and disobeying his laws, thinking that he was too old and feeble to enforce his rule. In short, they no longer feared his wrath. Re only wanted a portion of mankind killed, but once Sekhmet began killing, she would not stop. She killed so many people that the blood of mankind flooded the land, creating a large lake of blood which she drank from. Re reconsidered his anger and came up with a plan to halt the killing, tricking Sekhmet into drunkenness and regret.4

These gruesome myths are in sharp contrast to the simple account of the flood outlined in God’s Word.

Tower of Babel

The tower of Babel was most likely in the shape of a ziggurat because this was the dominant style of temple that was found in the area of Shinar dating back to Nimrod’s time. The most famous of these has been found and reconstructed in Ur of the Chaldees.

They were temples dedicated to the main god of the city.

Not to be outdone, the Egyptians built similar types of structures at the same time but adapted them to house the body of their pharaoh-god. They were basically tombs rather than temples.

It is interesting to note that the first pyramid took the shape of a ziggurat known as the step pyramid of Djoser. The superstructure of this step pyramid is six steps and was built in six stages, as might be expected with an experimental structure. The pyramid began as a square mastaba like structure, just like a ziggurat.

Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex included several structures pivotal to its function in both life and the afterlife. A pyramid was not simply a grave in ancient Egypt. Its purpose was to facilitate a successful afterlife for the king so that he could be eternally reborn. The symbolism of the step pyramid form, which did not survive beyond the 3rd Dynasty, is unknown, but it has been suggested that it may be a monumental symbol of the crown, especially the royal mortuary cult, since seven small step pyramids (that were not tombs) were built in the provinces. Another well accepted theory is that it facilitated the king’s ascension to join the eternal North Star.5

In subsequent designs, the steps were removed and the famous pyramid shaped tombs began to take shape. Egypt will forever be a land linked with tombs and death in contrast to the life and peace that God will establish in Zion (Isa 66:12).

Trinity

Moses declared to Israel: “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God is one Yahweh: And thou shalt love Yahweh thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut 6:4-5). One of the reasons for making this clear statement about the uniqueness of the one God is because Egypt was filled with the worship of three gods.

“The Hymn to Amun decreed that ‘No god came into being before him (Amun)’ and that ‘All gods are three: Amun, Re and Ptah, and there is no second to them. Hidden is his name as Amon, he is Re in face, and his body is Ptah.’ This is a statement of trinity, the three chief gods of Egypt subsumed into one of them, Amon. Clearly, the concept of organic unity within plurality got an extraordinary boost with this formulation. Theologically, in a crude form it came strikingly close to the later Christian form of plural Trinitarian monotheism.”6

Egyptologist Arthur Weigall, while himself a Trinitarian, summed up the influence of ancient beliefs on the adoption of the Trinity doctrine by the Catholic Church in the following excerpt from his book: “It must not be forgotten that Jesus Christ never mentioned such a phenomenon [the Trinity], and nowhere in the New Testament does the word ‘Trinity’ appear. The idea was only adopted by the Church three hundred years after the death of our Lord; and the origin of the conception is entirely pagan.”7

Some concluding thoughts and observations

From the descriptions given in this article we get a good indication where some of the false religious practices may have come from and how they mimic, yet twist, the Genesis record.

It is no wonder that Moses left all that behind when he fled (Heb 11:24-27). He left the very visual depiction of Egypt’s gods and by faith sought the invisible God.

It is also significant that God executed judgment on the main gods of Egypt (Exod 12:12) and Moses constantly denounced idolatry—the central pillar of Egyptian religion.

The religious practices of Babylon and Egypt worked their way through the ancient world and then were transferred under different guises into the Greek and Roman world and then picked up by apostate Christianity. It is interesting to note that the madness of the world in our days is likened to an Egyptian plague of frogs (Rev 16:13).

Most commentators try to put the history of Egypt into the biblical record and say that Yahweh borrowed the symbology from places such as Egypt, Babylon etc. This is the wrong way of looking at Scripture. Paul makes a point about the order of events. Man once knew the Creator and then they corrupted His ways and afterwards, God gave them over to their own desires (Rom 1:21-22, cp also Gen 6:12).

We understand that Moses, through inspiration, wrote of God’s account of the history of the world. The false stories and twisted myths had been displayed on walls of temples that the children of Abraham had just spent 215 years observing. It makes sense that Yahweh, through divine revelation, now puts the record straight and exposes the vanity of the world’s religious concoctions.

The Egyptians depicted their gods on stone walls but they could offer nothing of value. God wrote on two tables of stone ten simple steps of worship based on honouring our heavenly Father and loving our neighbours and look at the profound effect this had on the world!

Egypt only stood for affliction, bondage and death. Their idolatrous gods and myths only deepened that darkness. In contrast God offers everlasting life. He is “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Tim 6:15-16).

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apep
  2. http://www.landofpyramids.org/tree-of-life.htm
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osiris_myth
  4. Worldwide Waters: Laurasian Flood Myths and Their Connections Logan A. McDonald Georgia Southern University
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_Djoser
  6. (Simson Najovits, Egypt, Trunk of the Tree, Vol. 2, 2004, pp. 83-84)
  7. https://interestingengineering.com/which-of-the-ancient-egyptian-gods-were-the-most-important