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Author Topic: Khepera in Early Israel  (Read 2416 times)

Khepera in Early Israel
« on: January 21, 2013, 12:54:11 am »
The concept of "ontology" is older than the Greek notion.  It is first attested in Egyptian thought.  The Egyptian verb is XPR, which means rendered in English, "to become."  The name of the god of "becoming" is a nominalized form of the verb for the name of the god, Khepera, or the variant spelling, Khepri.  This god was the god of all phenomenological, observed "transformations" of existence.  The god is associated with the scarab or dung beetle, whose "rolling" of dung balls was seen theologically as the act of rolling as being existential transformation.  Thus the becoming of existence is a sort of cosmic, observable "rolling."  The further observation that maggots become dung-beetles, emerging from the rolled dung is seen as how '"rolling" generates or creates life.   The Egyptians thus saw in the rolling action of the dung-beetle to reproduce itself as a phenomenological picture of self-creation. For this reason, the scarab symbol is quite ubiquitous in Egyptian jewelry and other representations.

Also, cosmically, the dawning of the sun and its movement across the sky was seen as Khepera the dung-beetle god "rolling it" as a literal dung beetle rolled a ball of dung.  So as you observe the sun moving across the sky, do not think of it as the phenomenon as explained scientifically as the earth orbiting around the sun.  Think of it as the invisible god Khepera rolling it, and that that cosmic rolling is the activity of cosmic "Becoming."  You might say that this is an Egyptian concept of a divine "Prime Mover."

The concept behind the god Khepera greatly contributed to Israelite ontological beliefs, which was brought into Hebrew religion by the Egyptian Moses.  Moses was the patriarch of the Levites or Levitical Priesthood.  The Hebrew verb, lawah, means "to join."  In biblical literature, it only occurs in the Nifal stem, which means that it is a passive or reflexive verbal voice.  Thus, the Levites were those who were  "are joined" or "join themselves."  Who joined what?  My position is that the term refers to Egyptians who were joined to the Hebrews, and most importantly to their Midianite Yahwism.  (Yahwism stems from the most of all the Midianites., and more specifically, the Kenites).  Moses was thus the first Egyptian convert to Midianite Yahwism.  He learned it from a Midianite, Yahwistic priest named Jethro, who became his father-in-law.

However, Mushite (Mosaic) Yahwism was radically reinterpreted by Moses to Egyptian Kheperaism.  Thus, the Elohist (the author of one of the four Pentateuchal sources of the Documentary Hypothesis), contains an authentic memory of this Egyptian convert to Arabic Yahwism.  At the burning bush, a deity gives his name:

'ehyeh aser 'ehyeh

Most have mistakenly thought that the verb here means, "to be" and so in the LXX translation, it is translated as "I am that I am."

However, the Hebrew verb, hwh can also mean, "to become."

As you know, the Greeks had more a static view of Being, while the Egyptian's notion was thoroughly dynamic, a cosmic rolling, and so thought of existence more as something that becomes more than something that statically "is."  Thus, my view,  the name of the god conveys the more dynamic understanding and should be translated as:

"I become what becomes."

 In other words, the deity is saying that in the continually transformations of existence one sees a constant unfolding of this deity, a continue revelation, if you will.  Thus, all movement of existence is the cosmic "rolling" of Khepera who is now demythologized to the naked, abstract concept to define Mushite, Levitical Yahwism.  This was born what is most accurately defined as "ontological Yahwism," invented by the Egyptian Moses, the patriarch of the Levitical priesthood.

I have strong evidence that of this application of abstract, demythologized Kheperasim occurred with Moses.  In an Egyptian grammar, we find this theological motto that sums up the god Khepera.  It is a play on word on the meaning of the verb, XPR, to mean "to become":

kheper-i kheper kheperu kheper

kuy m kheperu n Khepri kheper m sep tepy...
"[when] I became, the becoming became.

I have become the becoming [the form] of Khepri who came into being on the First Time...

...when I became, the transformations became, all the metamorphoses coming to pass after I had become."

It is immediately obvious that the above redundant play on the meaning of XPR, "to become," has informed the name given to Moses.  In this summary, the word related to the verb, XPR, occurs no less that 7 times.  In the Mushite formulation, it only occurs twice and is most related to the first three instances of the verb in the above text:

[When] I became becoming becomes.

It is obvious that the form and content of this motto is reflect in the Hebrew:

'ehyeh asher 'ehyeh

I become [in] what becomes.

The verbal aspect of the imperfect form denotes incomplete action.  Also, like the Egyptia formulation, a redundant play of the verb, hw(y)h is made, and so the form is similar.  Also, the semantic cognate is used, hwh to mean "to become," matches the play on XPR..  Thus, the Hebrew formulation looks very much like a very near translation of the first line of the Egyptian text.  Indeed, the second line of the Egyptian text looks like an expansion upon the first.

Now it is distinctive Hebrew Yahwism that this deity was seen in Israelite "history" and not typically as seen in cyclical, mythical processes as the Egyptians and the Canaanites did.  Thus, one of the leading biblical scholars, the late Frank Moore Cross, entitled one of his books appropriately, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic.  Hebrew narratives in J, E and P tell of the epic story  extending from Abraham to the Davidic monarchy and then to the Exile, later extended by J and P to go back to creation.  The genre of epic is well known in Greek tradition from Homer and written in poetic form.  In the Hebrew literature of the Hebrew Bible, we have a narrative epic of Israel's "history."  But embedded within it are various poetic texts, which seem to be remnants of an Israelite, poetic epic that was written in the pre-monarchic period in the 11th century.  The song of Deborah in Judges 5 is thought by me to be an extract from this old poetic epic.  In fact, there seems to have been a few epic stories of premonarchic Israel since we have reference to certain lost books, like the "Scroll of the Upright" and the "Scroll of the Wars of Yahweh."  The song of Deborah would have been taken from the latter.  An extract from the former is found in the so-called, "Oracles of Balaam" found in Numbers 22-24.  In it, it told of the dramatic story of Israel's origins and earliest phase of political existence.  It reflects that early stage whe Israel solely venerated their version of the Canaanite god EL. Yahwism was only incoporated into it at a subsequent stages, due to Shasu Yahwist joining Israel in the Central Highlands and the arrival of a Mushite Yahwism from the Egyptian exodus.

 But recall that the exodus group was a mixture of Shasu Yahwists and Egyptian Levites, where the latter formed the leadership of the group.  Actually, original Israel was indeed a "mixed multitude," where various groups decided to join the Israelite movement, gathering in the Central Highlands in the last quarter of the 13th century.  Various groups joined, among them were disaffected Canaanite peasants, the socially marginal group of the Apiru, Shasu Bedouin who migrated from the deserts, and the Mushite, Levitites plus former Shasu slave from Egypt.  What forged these groups together was a common negative view of the Egyptians and their control over the major Canaanite city states.  We learn something of that control from the Amarna letters which shows that Egyptian control over the Palestinian city states was breaking down and threatened by various outside groups.  All of this was happening within the larger breakdown of the Late Bronze Collapse.  And like something akin to the hippie movement of the late 60s, many various, unsettled groups joined the Israelite movement in the Central Highlands to become the tribes of Israel.

At first, northerners and southerners in the Central Highlands were distinct.  The group in the north were largely Aramean migrants.  Their patriarchal identity was the tribes of "Jacob."  I do not think that there was an individual names Jacob.  It was from the first a tribal designation.  The group at first settled the territory later known as the tribe of Joseph-El, which means "El increases" or "El prospers [his people]."  They did indeed prosper in northern Palestine and became the 10 tribes of Israel known in the Song of Deborah.  The tribes of Judah, Simeon, the "secular" tribe of Levi is unknown to Deborah's song.  The most important cities of earliest Israel were Shechem, the political center, Bethel, the religious center, and Penuel, a sacred place , and another sacred site somewhere near Shechem where there was an altar named, "El is the [only] god of Israel."  this was not monothesim but rather heonotheism.  So we have Jacob traditions where Jacob had his dream at Bethel, his wrestling match with El at Penuel, and the altar building at Shechem.  These tribes became political organized under Jeroboam I as the Kingdom of Israel.  "Israel" means "El is strong(est).  Israelite El was associated with the virility of a Bull, a notion taken from traditional Canaanite religion, but cleaned up and demythologized.  This was their religious marker of their new identity.

Concurrently, groups had joined together in the south Central Highlands, with Hebron as its chief city.  The majority of the population were Shasu, Yahwisitic immigrants from the surrounding desert regions.  Thus Yahwism is strongly associated with Seir/Edom/Teman, Paran and Sinai.  My view is that the word "'brit" meaning  "Hebrew," is the Hebrew equivalent to the Egyptian word, "Shasu."  Both refer to people who moved about, or desert Bedouins.  They did not restrict their movement to the deserts but also moved about and within Palestine.  Abram, or Abraham, was remembered as a Shasu pioneer who made a permanent transition the land, moved about as a pastoral nomad, but then finally settled down in Hebron.  Hebron was also the seat of the Davidic throne over Judah for 7 years.  This was the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah.  For political reasons, David moved his throne to Jerusalem, conquering the Jebustites.  

Jerusalem itself was known as the home of one Melkizedek, apparently a priest-king ruling from (Jeru)salem.  Like the Israelites, he venerated El (Elyon.), and was a native Canaanite.  The story of Abram's encounter with him reflects a certain relationship with the Hebrew Yahwist and the priest Melchizedek.  According to Genesis 14, the Hebrews were to tithe to the priests of the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110) in return for the priest's blessing by El Elyon.  In this regard it reflects the forging of some political association between the Hebrews of Judah and the Israelites of Israel and probably goes to the formation of the United Monarch under David.  We have another tradition that shows the same political intent where Abram sojourns and builds altars near Shechem and Bethel, which as I have mentioned, were two of the most important cities of Israel.

Finally, the distinctive thing about Arabic, Bedouin Yahwism was it monotheism.  It was distinguished from Egyptian poly-pantheism in that there was just one God, Yahweh.  From rock inscriptions in the Negev and at Har Kardom and in the proto-Sinaitic rock inscriptions, we learn that 'l yh, or Yahweh is God."  It makes no sense to interpret this as" Yahweh is El," so it is best understood as saying that Yahweh is not "my god," or "our god" or "divine."  No, it is proclaiming that Yahweh is the one God.  Understood in this way, it is more understandable that a sophisticated Egyptian like Moses would align himself with the deity of the Shasu.  Indeed, it seems that it was this monotheistic concept that drew his interest and which informed his demytologized, Kheper-ism.  

But the Egyptians would not have liked this theology at all, because it was similar to Ahkenaton's monotheistic Atonism, which fundamentally denied the very traditional poly-pantheism of traditional Egyptian religion.  This I see as the true motive behind "Let my people go." As the Shasu and the Egyptians were enemies, Moses basically went over to the other side, notwithstanding his demythologized Khepera-ism to invent Levitical Yahwism, which was actually a synthesis of Shasu Yahwism and Egyptian Khepera-ism.  Rather nicely, we have a version of the Israelite epic in three forms.  J represents the southern, Shasu Yahwism; E represents northern Elism, and P is a Levitical version.  This is why P's creation story in Genesis 1 shows strong Egyptian rather than Semitic influence, creation by divine Fiat rather than divine Theomachy.  So Genesis 1, as an expression of Levitical thinking, is our most direct information about Moses, who was the patriarch of Levitical Yahwism.


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