Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt
The key to deciphering the
ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs was found in the discovery of the
Rosetta Stone in 1798.
What were the
For centuries scholars have wondered about the ancient Egyptian
hieroglyphs that would hopefully reveal answers about the first major
civilization and world power on Earth. For about 3000 years the
Egyptians used these peculiar pictures inscribed on their temples,
statues, and monuments. Yet the knowledge of their meaning had died out
long before Christ.
What scholars had to do to discover their meaning was
to hunt out ancient writings of the Greeks and Romans to learn what
their theories were and if anyone actually had the key. Yet no no Greek
or Roman understood the nature of the hieroglyphs. The Greek tradition
taught that hieroglyphs were symbolic signs or allegories and not
to see some hieroglyphs
The Middle Ages had no knowledge of hieroglyphic
writing nor did they take any interest in it. But a manuscript of
Horapollon brought to Florence in 1422 stirred great interest but they
were still interpreted as hidden symbols for centuries to come.
How Scholars Decipher a
If no ancient documents were available to provide a key, typically the
thing to do was to look for a bilingual example, where the unknown
language is written alongside the exact same text that is already known
and interpreted and begin various deciphering methods. Another way to
narrow down the method was to look for the name of a person such as a
king or a certain god that was believed in during that time period. But
there were no helps for deciphering the hieroglyphs.
The Rosetta Stone
Then one day in 1798, while General Napoleon Bonaparte
was leading his French Republican army into Egypt to occupy it, on
accident a lieutenant named Bouchard was supervising fortifications at
Rashid (Rosetta), on the west bank of the Nile Delta, about 35 N.E. of
Alexandria, and noticed a black basalt stone that had been built right
into the wall. He reported the stone to the archaeologists that had
accompanied Napoleon's army and low and behold, it became one of the
greatest discoveries in the 18th century.
The stone was 3 ft 9 in. (114 cm) long and 2 ft 4 1/2
in. (72 cm) wide, and partly broken. It had three horizontal bands with
inscriptions carved in 2 languages, Egyptian and Greek, with 3 different
scripts on each band: hieroglyphics, demotic script, and koine Greek.
The Greek section, which was already known, indicated that all 3 texts
contained the same message. The inscriptions, apparently written by the
priests of Memphis, summarize benefactions given to Ptolemy V Epiphanes
(205-180 BC) and were written in the ninth year of his reign in
commemoration of his accession to the throne. When the French
surrendered to Britain in 1801 the stone was brought to Britain and it
now remains at the British Museum in London.
This was definitely a monumental discovery and
scholars in Europe were very excited. They began by working on the
demotic section and locating certain names alongside the Greek text. But
they made little headway until in 1816 when an English physicist named
Thomas Young realized that the hieroglyphs had a sound value rather than
being just symbols.
I actually have a picture of the Rosetta Stone that a friend of mine
took for me while visiting the British Museum in London. You can take a
look at it larger by clicking
If you think you might be interested check out
Name Translator. This is cool!
Soon after, a young French scholar named Jean-Francois
Champollion who, by age 16, had become proficient in six ancient
Oriental languages as well as Greek, Latin and Coptic, became the
code-breaker and demonstrated that the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone
were indeed phonetic and had a sound value representing spoken
alphabetic signs and syllables. He compared the 1,419 hieroglyphics with
the Greek text which was the same message in less than 500 words. He
also explained that out of the 1,419 hieroglyphs there were actually
only 66 originals and the rest were repeated. His work lasted a painful
14 years with many setbacks and yet he compiled an Egyptian grammar and
dictionary for ancient Middle Kingdom Egyptian hieroglyphics.
How he Did It
This is actually how he did it: On the stone were the names of Ptolemy
and Cleopatra, and both royal names were within a rectangular circle. He
then took the letters P O L in both names while also reviewing the
hieroglyphic spelling of Ramses' name, and various signs in a cartouche
of Cleopatra found on an obelisk from Philae. Champollion determined the
phonetic values of the signs.
What Does the Word Hieroglyphs
Hieroglyphs were characters used by priests and
scribes in a system of pictorial writing (phonetic) on ancient Egyptian
monuments to record the nation's historical and religious texts. There
were several hundred signs. Hieroglyphic symbols may represent objects
but they usually stand for particular sounds or groups of sounds.
Hieroglyph literally means "holy or sacred carving," and is a
Greek translation of the Egyptian phrase "the god's words,"
which was used at the time of the early Greek contacts with Egypt to
distinguish the older hieroglyphs from the handwriting of the day
The ancient Hittites, Mayans, and early Cretans used
hieroglyphs but they were entirely different than that of Egypt.
Check out this
Egyptian Hieroglyph-English Dictionary
Egypt in Smith's Bible Dictionary
(land of the Copts), a country occupying the northeast angle
of Africa. Its limits appear always to have been very nearly the
same. It is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the
east by Palestine, Arabia and the Red Sea, on the south by Nubia,
and on the west by the Great Desert. It is divided into upper Egypt
--the valley of the Nile --and lower Egypt, the plain of the Delta,
from the Greek letter; it is formed by the branching mouths of the
Nile, and the Mediterranean Sea. The portions made fertile by the
Nile comprise about 9582 square geographical miles, of which only
about 5600 is under cultivation. --Encyc. Brit. The Delta extends
about 200 miles along the Mediterranean, and Egypt is 520 miles long
from north to south from the sea to the First Cataract. NAMES. --The
common name of Egypt in the Bible is "Mizraim." It is in the dual
number, which indicates the two natural divisions of the country
into an upper and a lower region. The Arabic name of Egypt --Mizr--
signifies "red mud." Egypt is also called in the Bible "the land of
Ham," Ps 105:23,27 comp. Psal 78:51
Egyptian Writing in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
We now turn to some outline of the civilization of the Egyptians.
The language had primitive relations with the Semitic and the
Libyan. Perhaps one common stock has separated into three
languages--Semitic, Egyptian, and Libyan. But though some basal
words and grammar are in common, all the bulk of the words of daily
life were entirely different in the three, and no one could be said
to be derived from the other. Egyptian so far as we can see, is a
separate language without any connection as close as that between
the Indo-European group. From its proximity to Syria, Semitic loan
words were often introduced, and became common in the XVIIIth
Dynasty and fashionable in the XIXth. The language continually
altered, and decayed in the later periods until Coptic is as
different from it as Italian is from Latin.
The writing was at first ideographic, using a symbol for each word.
Gradually, signs were used phonetically; but the symbol, or some
emblem of the idea of the word, continued to be added to it, now
called a determinative. From syllabic signs purely alphabetic signs
were produced by clipping and decay, so that by 1000 to 500 BC the
writing was almost alphabetic. After that it became modified by the
influence of the short Greek alphabet, until by 200 AD it was
expressed in Greek letters with a few extra signs. The actual signs
used were elaborate pictures of the objects in the early times, and
even down to the later periods very detailed signs were carved for
monumental purposes. But as early as the 1st Dynasty a very much
simplified current hand had been started, and during the pyramid
period this became hardly recognizable from the original forms.
Later on this current hand, or hieratic, is a study by itself and
was written much more fully than the hieroglyphs on monuments, as
its forms were so corrupt that an ample spelling was needed to
identify the word. By about 800 BC begins a much shortened set of
signs, still more remote from their origins, known as demotic, which
continued as the popular writing till Roman times. On public decrees
the hieroglyphic and demotic are both given, showing that a
knowledge of one was useless for reading the other, and that they
were separate studies.
The literature begins during the pyramid period, before 4000 BC,
with biographies and collections of maxims for conduct; these show
well-regulated society, and would benefit any modern community in
which they were followed. In the XIIth Dynasty tales appear,
occupied with magic and foreign travel and wonders. A long poem in
praise of the king shows very regular versification and system, of
the type of Ps 136, the refrain differing in each stanza and being
probably repeated in chorus, while the independent lines were sung
by the leader. In the XVIIIth Dynasty, tales of character begin to
develop and show much skill, long annals were recorded, and in the
XIXth Dynasty there is an elaborate battle poem describing the valor
of Rameses II. At about 700 BC there is a considerable tale which
describes the quarrels of the rival chiefs, and the great fight
regulated like a tournament by which the differences were settled.
Such are the principal literary works apart from business documents.
Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics
Unlocking the Riddle
Everyone loves a good mystery. If
you want to grab someone's attention, present them with a riddle to solve and
start them off with a few clues. You'll get guesses and demands for more
information right away.
"Let me tell you a riddle," Samson said
to them. "If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast,
I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.
Centuries of effort could not decipher the
ancient and mysterious Egyptian Hieroglyphics. The strange characters on pyramid
walls captured the imagination and left the seekers filled with intrigue and
frustration until the key was found in the Rosetta Stone. Hieroglyphs and
known languages reporting the same events made the deciphering possible.
God weaves a good mystery and bids the adventurous to come and solve.
He doesn't just lay out all of His cards, but rather reveals clues to those who
consider Him worthy of pursuit. Are you solving a mystery in your life?
Did you know God has secrets that He is willing to reveal to you?
"When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him
in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant
Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to
face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.
Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
...for the LORD detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his
confidence. Proverbs 3:32
There is a trail of clues for each willing soul that God has laid out to
reveal Himself and His purpose. What is your quest? Is everything
simple and figured out, or are there equations to solve? Is everything
exactly as you expected or is there a need in your lap that demands an answer?
The need will lead you to your destination in Him. Joseph was given dreams
and visions early in life that brought about circumstances unexpected and
painful. But what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good for the saving
of many lives. Gen. 50:20 David had many years of solving for
Saul before the solution to his equation was finally revealed.
The amazing discovery of the Rosetta Stone unlocked centuries of Egyptian
history and meaning. One discovery can make all the difference. God
has that discovery for you. Keep seeking Him for your Rosetta Stone and He
will suddenly explain your past and unlock your future for the benefit of the
many He's called you to touch.
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom
and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a
disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for
giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young- let the
wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance- for
understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The Bible Mentions a lot Concerning
Exodus 34:18 - The
feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat
unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib:
for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.
46:7 - His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters,
and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into
2:18 - And now what hast thou to do in the way of
Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do
in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?
44:14 - So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone
into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape
or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the
which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall
return but such as shall escape.
19:22 - And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he
shall smite and heal [it]: and they shall return [even] to the LORD,
and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
17:4 - And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea:
for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and
brought no present to the king of Assyria, as [he had done] year by
year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in
23:15 - Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou
shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the
time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from
Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)
10:13 - And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of
Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land
all that day, and all [that] night; [and] when it was morning, the
east wind brought the locusts.
- And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt
all that [was] in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote
every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
44:30 - Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give
Pharaohhophra king of Egypt into the hand of his
enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave
Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of
Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.
20:5 - And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the
day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of
the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of
Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I
[am] the LORD your God;
11:18 - And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves
against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the
ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for [it
was] well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will
give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
8:16 - Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel
out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of
Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose
David to be over my people Israel.
- For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness,
till all the people [that were] men of war, which came out of
Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of
the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the
land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us,
a land that floweth with milk and honey.
43:11 - And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of
Egypt, [and deliver] such [as are] for death to death;
and such [as are] for captivity to captivity; and such [as are] for
the sword to the sword.
47:6 - The land of Egypt [is] before thee; in
the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the
land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest [any] men of
activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.
29:12 - And I will make the land of Egypt
desolate in the midst of the countries [that are] desolate, and her
cities among the cities [that are] laid waste shall be desolate
forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among
the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.
12:42 - It [is] a night to be much observed unto the LORD
for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this
[is] that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of
Israel in their generations.
Deuteronomy 16:1 - Observe the month of Abib, and keep the
passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD
thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
Deuteronomy 17:16 - But he shall not multiply horses to
himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to
the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath
said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
- And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount
Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into
- That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which
said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up
from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of
41:36 - And that food shall be for store to the land against
the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt;
that the land perish not through the famine.
Deuteronomy 13:5 - And that prophet, or that dreamer of
dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn [you]
away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of
Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to
thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to
walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
24:32 - And the bones of Joseph, which the children of
Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem,
in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the
father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the
inheritance of the children of Joseph.
- Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the
people [that were] born in the wilderness by the way as they came
forth out of Egypt, [them] they had not circumcised.
45:23 - And to his father he sent after this [manner]; ten
asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she
asses laden with corn and bread and meat for his father by the way.
- And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod,
and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in
beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land
30:6 - Thus saith the LORD; They also that uphold
Egypt shall fall; and the pride of her power shall come
down: from the tower of Syene shall they fall in it by the sword,
saith the Lord GOD.
Chronicles 6:5 - Since the day that I brought forth my
people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among
all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be
there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel: