Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Aten – Similarities in the attributes and praises with Biblical parallels and Psalm 104

Similarities in the attributes and praises given to the Aten, in prose and written by Pharaoh Akhenaten in approx. 1300 bce. with Biblical parallels and Psalm 104

For Akhenaten, the sun and its powers represented more than simply heat and light. For example, he credits the sun with giving air to an unborn chick inside and egg, and with creating a version of the Nile river in the sky in order to provide rain.
With regard to the chick in the shell, the sun even ‘allotted to him his set time before the shell shall be broken’, so its powers even governed time.

Everything in creation was fashioned by this one creator according to Akhenaten ‘O sole God, beside whom is no other!’
Also, ‘You are the One God, shining forth from your possible incarnations as Aton, the Living Sun, You create the numberless things of this world from yourself, who are One alone.’
From this we see that Akhenaten thought ‘the god’ so powerful that it was free to choose whatever form it wished, and that the creator power was manifest in the cosmos in its chosen form as the sun.
The sun was his Father, and as with all pharaohs, Akhenaten was also ‘Divine’. Amenhotep III was merely his earthly father. Alexander adopted this fashion when he proclaimed he was the son of the Egyptian god Amun; Philip was his earthly father.

Yet despite Akhenaten’s god being his loving father, in-keeping with the later monotheist gods, “The theistic God was also presumed to be the explanation for that which was beyond rational understanding, a being capable of miraculous power who therefore needed to be supplicated, praised, obeyed and pleased.” (Author BA Robinson ‘How the concepts of God have developed over the ages’)

And for Akhenaten, as for others in later times, this god was inherent in the light.

Cosmology was a hot topic amongst early philosophers. ‘Aristotle, the major source for Thales’s philosophy and science, identified Thales as the first person to investigate the basic principles, the question of the originating substances of matter and, therefore, as the founder of the school of natural philosophy. Thales was interested in almost everything, investigating almost all areas of knowledge, philosophy, history, science, mathematics, engineering, geography, and politics. He proposed theories to explain many of the events of nature, the primary substance, the support of the earth, and the cause of change. Thales was much involved in the problems of astronomy and provided a number of explanations of cosmological events which traditionally involved supernatural entities. His questioning approach to the understanding of heavenly phenomena was the beginning of Greek astronomy. Thales’s hypotheses were new and bold, and in freeing phenomena from godly intervention, he paved the way towards scientific endeavour.’ (from the Internet encyclopaedia of philosophy)
http://www.iep.utm.edu/t/thales.htm

Yet at the same time, the early philosophers were also immensely influential in the development and advancement of spiritual theories. Early commentaries on rival religious groups would be written by the favoured philosopher, carefully chosen to write for, or against the variety of beliefs on offer and circulating amongst the growing populations in major cities.

Before the time of Akhenaten, the Ancient Egyptians (among other cultures) had believed that [the soul of] the deceased would travel to place of judgement, where it would have some form of a trial, with representatives among the entities present who would speak both for and against the deceased. We see places of torment for punishment of wrongdoing in the majority of belief systems of most cultures.
From Ancient Egypt we have forms of what is known as ‘The negative confession’ which has parallels with the Ten Commandments, and whereby the deceased proclaims a number of ‘declarations of innocence’

I have not caused pain,
I have not caused tears.
I have not killed,
I have not ordered to kill,

We see evidence of similar cosmological musings in the many texts discovered in recent history that date back to the last few centuries bce, one example being the texts known as the Pistis Sophia. At least half of the text describes the successive steps by which she ascends through all the Twelve Æons by the Saviour’s aid, and the confession she sings at each stage of her deliverance out of chaos.

Early Christian writings, canonical and non-canonical, use cosmological allegory.
We can see direct comparisons, similar to those used above by Akhenaten in the praise of his supposed creator.

We see explorations of how man and cosmos are related, in complicated Egyptian texts and in later works like the Divine Poeimandres, The Apocryphon of John, and in the more familiar canonical works which attempt to describe what has become known as ‘the fall’ of man from the heavens.

In the Apocryphon of John, this god is the monad. “The Monad is a monarchy with nothing above it. It is he who exists as God and Father of everything, the invisible One who is above everything, who exists as incorruption, which is in the pure light into which no eye can look. http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/apocjn.html

Because we can trace these explorations in monotheism, and the progression of ideas related to man’s place in the cosmos and to the fate of his immortal soul, I suggest that there can be no claim to ownership of any unique, correct ‘system’, and that what an individual accepts as true, or as having been inspired (according to those who were entrusted with advancing a particular philosophy) by ‘The Creator’ is entirely based on the amount/limit of this information they have been exposed to, and on their own intellectual interpretation of ‘experiences’ related to this stimulus.

The Question of Psalm 104

“During Akenaten’s reign, Egypt’s power significantly declined. When Akenaten died, his temples were destroyed. Among the few remains of his cult were hymns found written in the tombs of the proselytes at Amarna. The longest of these hymns to Aten is noted to be similar to the Psalm 104, written for the Bible hundreds of years later.

There are a few possibilities for how this might have come about. It is fairly certain that, even previous to the time of Moses, fleeing slaves in groups of various sizes, had wondered into the Sinai Peninsula. As the emigrants walked, they sang to keep up their spirits. One of the songs they sang may have been Akenaten’s hymn to the Sun. Oral tradition could have perpetuated the elements of his hymn for 600 years.

For those who are unconvinced about the similarity of these two documents, Jacob’s descent into Egypt, described in the Bible, recalls the Hyksos dynasties, where the Iron age Canaanites conquered Egypt and ruled for several generations as Pharaohs. When the descendants of the original rulers regrouped and repelled the Hyksos, both the conquerors and the large Semitic population that had entered as migrant workers before and during the foreign dynasty were either driven out or placed in bondage. This was the beginning of the 400 years of slavery. Through those who were driven out, Hymns to the Sun were introduced into Canaan. Probably due to this, worship of the Sun is forbidden in the Bible.

Another possibility stems from the evidence of Persian names in residence at Amarna. These were literate people who may have transcribed Akenaten’s poems. This would have placed the essence of this poem in Babylon, a world center for literature, by 600BC when the Jews were in exile, and the early Hebrew bible was assembled.

Dr. H. Brugsch collected quite a few epithets and quotes from Egyptian scripture around fifty years ago and published them in his work, ‘Religion and Mythology’. Much of Psalm 104 is vaguely similar to Egyptian Hymns, such as the following hymn to Ra from the Papyrus of Hu-nefer: ( Copyright©Alden Bacuzmo) read more here  http://www.seanet.com/~realistic/psalm104.html

The Eight points of comparison: Psalm 104 and the Hymn to Aten

The following text in [–] is from Psalm 104 while the remainder is quoted translation by J.H.Breasted, from Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II, Chapters 5 & 6.. and “The Rock Tombs of Tell el Armarna”, Archeological Survey, Egyptian Exploration Society (6vol, 1903) N. de G. Davis.

PSALM 104
[20. Thou makest darkness, and it is night, Wherein all the beasts of the forest creep forth. 21. The young Lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God.] The tradition of Egyptian, Hindu, and Hebrew cultures starts the day at sunset. Today the day normally starts at sunrise.

AKHENATEN’S THE HYMN TO THE SUN
When thou settest in the western horizon of the sky,
[1st comparison, verse 20]
The earth is in darkness like the dead.
They sleep in their chambers
Their heads are wrapped up.
Their nostrils are stopped
And none see the other.
While all their things are stolen
Which are under their heads
And they know it not
Every Lion cometh forth from his den
[2nd comparison, verse 21]
All Serpents they sting
Darkness The world is in silence.
He that made them resteth in his horizon.

Akhenaten-sphinx-Amarna
Akhenaten depicted as a sphinx at Amarna, bathed in the rays of the aten/sun

[22. The Sun riseth, they get them away,
and lay them down in their dens. 23. Man
goeth forth unto his work And to his labor until
the evening.]

Bright is the earth when thou riseth in the horizon.
[3rd , 22]
When thou shinest as Aten by day
Thou drivest away the darkness.
When thou sendest forth thy rays
The two lands (Egypt) are in daily festivity.
Awake and standing upon their feet
When thou has raised them up.
Their limbs bathed they take their clothing
Their arms uplifted in adoration to thy dawning
Then in all the world they do their work.. [4th, 23]

All cattle rest upon their pasturage
The trees and the plants flourish

[12. By them the birds of the heavens have their
habitation. They sing among the branches.]

The birds flutter in their marshes, [5th, 12]
Their wings uplifted in adoration to thee.
All sheep dance on their feet.
All winged things fly,
They live when thou hast shone upon them.

[25. Yonder is the sea great and wide. Wherein
are things creeping innumerable. Both small and
great beasts. 26. There go the ships.]

The barges sail upstream and downstream alike.
[6th, 26]
Every highway is open because thou dawnest.
The fish in the river leap before thee.
Thy rays are in the midst of the great green sea.
Creator of the germ in woman
Maker of the seed in man
Giving life to the son in the body of his mother
Soothing him that he may not weep.
Nurse (even) in the womb.

[29. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled.
Thou takest away their breath and they die.
And return to their dust.]

Giver of breath to animals, every one that he maketh
When he cometh forth from the womb [7th, 29]
On the day of their birth
Thou openest his mouth in speech

[27. These wait all for thee. That thou may give them
food in due season.]

Akhenaten and child
Akhenaten cradling his child while the rays of Aten present Ankhs – the breath/gift/light of life

Thou suppliest his necessities.[8th, 27]

When the fledgling in the egg chirps in the shell
Thou givest him breath there-in to preserve him alive.
When thou hast brought him together
to (the point of) bursting it in the egg
To chirp with all his might,
He goeth about on his two feet
When he hath come forth therefrom.

How manifold are thy works,
They are hidden from before (us)
O Sole God, whose powers no other possesseth.
Thou didst create the earth according to thy heart
While thou wast alone
Man, all cattle, large and small
All that are upon the earth
That go about on their feet
(All) That are on high
That fly with their wings
The foreign countries, Syria and Kush,
The land of Egypt
Thou settest every man into his place
Thou suppliest their necessities
Everyone has his possessions
And his days are reckoned
The tongues are divers in speech
Their forms likewise and their skins are distinguished
(For) thou makest different the strangers.

And here is a comparison of the Hymn to the Aten with other Biblical and LDS parallels

http://james.jlcarroll.net/egypt/texts/aten_hymn.html

And the Hymn to the Aten in full:

Let your holy Light shine from the height of heaven,
O living Aton,
source of all life!
From estern horizon risen and streaming,
you have flooded the world with your beauty.
You are majestic, awesome, bedazzling, exalted,
overlord over all earth,
yet your rays, they touch lightly, compass the lands
to the limits of all your creation.
There in the Sun, you reach to the farthest of those
you would gather in for your Son,
whom you love;
Though you are far, your light is wide upon earth;
and you shine in the faces of all
who turn to follow your journeying.
When you sink to rest below western horizon
earth lies in darkness like death,
Sleepers are still in bedchambers, heads veiled,
eye cannot spy a companion;
All their goods could be stolen away,
heads heavy there, and they never knowing!
Lions come out from the deeps of their caves,
snakes bite and sting;
Darkness muffles, and earth is silent
he who created all things lies low in his tomb.
Earth-dawning mounts the horizon,
glows in the sun-disk as day:
You drive away darkness, offer your arrows of shining,
and the Two Lands are lively with morningsong.
Sun’s children awaken and stand,
for you, golden light, have upraised the sleepers;
Bathed are their bodies, who dress in clean linen,
their arms held high to praise your Return.
Across the face of the earth
they go to their crafts and profession
he herds are at peace in their pastures,
trees and the vegetation grow green;
Birds start from their nests,
wings wide spread to worship your Person;
Small beasts frisk and gambol, and all
who mount into flight or settle to rest
live, once you have shone upon them;
Ships float downstream or sail for the south,
each path lies open because of your rising;
Rish in the River leap in your sight,
and your rays strike deep in the Great Green
It is you [who] create the new creature in Woman,
shape the life-giving drops into Man,
Foster the son in the womb of his mother,
soothe him, ending his tears;
Nurse through the long generations of women
to those given Air,
you ensure that your handiwork prosper.
When the new one descends from the womb
to draw breath the day of his birth,
You open his mouth, you shape his nature,
and you supply all his necessities.
Hark to the chick in the egg,
he who speaks in the shell!
You give him air within
to save and prosper him;
And you have allotted to him his set time
before the shell shall be broken;
Then out from the egg he comes,
from the egg to peep at his natal hour!
And up on his own two feet goes he
when at last he struts forth therefrom.
How various is the world you have created,
each thing mysterious, sacred to sight,
O sole God,
beside whom is no other!
You fashioned earth to your heart’s desire,
while you were still alone,
Filled it with man and the family of creatures,
each kind on the ground, those who go upon feet,
he on high soaring on wings,
The far lands of Khor and Kush,
and the rich Black Land of Egypt.
And you place each one in his proper station,
where you minister to his needs;
Each has his portions of food,
and the years of life are reckoned him,
Tongues are divided by words,
natures made diverse as well,
Even men’s skins are different
that you might distinguish the nations.
You make Hapy, the Nile, stream through the underworld,
and bring him, with whatever fullness you will,
To preserve and nourish the People
in the same skilled way you fashion them.
You are Lord of each one,
who wearies himself in their service,
Yet Lord of all earth, who shines for them all,
Sun-disk of day, holy Light!
All of the far foreign contries–
you are the cause they live,
For you have put a Nile in the sky
that he might descend upon them in rain–
He makes waves on the very mountains
like waves on the Great Green Sea
to water their fields and their villages.
How splendidly ordered are they,
your purposes for this world,
O Lord of Eternity, Hapy in heaven!
Although you belong to the distant peoples,
to the small, shy beasts
who travel the deserts and uplands,
Yet Hapy, he comes from Below
for the dear Land of Egypt as well.
And your Sunlight nurses each field and meadow:
when you shine, they live,
they grow sturdy and prosper through you.
You set seasons to let the world flower and flourish–
winter to rest and refresh it,
the hot blast of summer to ripen;
And you have made heaven far off
in order to shine down therefrom,
in order to watch over all your creation.
You are the One God,
shining forth from your possible incarnations
as Aton, the Living Sun,
Revealed like a king in glory, risen in light,
now distant, now bending nearby.
You create the numberless things of this world
from yourself, who are One alone–
cities, towns, fields, the roadway, the River;
And each eye looks back and beholds you
to learn from the day’s light perfection.
O God, you are in the Sun disk of Day,
Over-Seer of all creation
–your legacy
passed on to all who shall every be;
For you fashioned their sight, who perceive your universe,
that they praise with one voice
all your labors.
And you are in my heart;
there is no other who truly knows you
but for your son, Akhenaten.
May you make him wise with your inmost counsels,
wise with your power,
that earth may aspire to your godhead,
its creatures fine as the day you made them.
Once you rose into shining, they lived;
when you sink to rest, they shall die.
For it is you who are Time itself,
the span of the world;
life is by means of you.

Eyes are filled with beauty
until you go to your rest;
All work is laid aside
as you sink down the western horizon.

Then, Shine reborn! Rise splendidly!
my Lord, let life thrive for the King
Who has kept peace with your every footstep
since you first measured ground for the world.
Lift up the creatures of earth for your Son
who came forth from your Body of Fire!

Pharaoh Akhenaten

1300 BCE

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5 thoughts on “Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Aten – Similarities in the attributes and praises with Biblical parallels and Psalm 104”

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  2. The mystery has actually been resolved by Dr. David Rohl. Akhenaten and King David were contemporaries; they were not hundreds of years apart. Even the pharaoh of the Exodus was actually Dedumose II of the 13th dynasty, not the traditional Rameses II. The truth of David Rohl’s discoveries will surely be accepted across Egyptology in time. Look him up.

    Like

    1. Hi Paul, I read David Rohl’s books many years ago and while it makes for a great theory, and would definitely resolve so many aspects about the Amarna period and other historical/biblical episodes, I think there is too much invested in the traditional chronology for it to be accepted any time soon. There are so many individual aspects that will be argued about for years among scholars of various disciplines – the dating of the eruption at Thera, for instance. And while I’d hope that Biblical Archaeologists are more open-minded than straightforward Biblical scholars, that’s another minefield. It’s definitely something I do keep an eye on though. 🙂

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