THE IPUWER PAPYRUS

As a mater of interesting archeology, the Ipuwer papyrus, also known as the ‘Admonitions of Ipuwer’, is an Egyptian text written on papyrus from around 2000 to 1600 BC, which would put it right at the period of time coinciding with the Exodus. This makes the document a very controversial one, for several reasons.

As a mater of interesting archeology, the Ipuwer papyrus, also known as the ‘Admonitions of Ipuwer’, is an Egyptian text written on papyrus from around 2000 to 1600 BC, which would put it right at the period of time coinciding with the Exodus. This makes the document a very controversial one, for several reasons.

Firstly it is incomplete, very damaged, and is missing the beginning, and the ending. Secondly, it makes reference to circumstances happening in the surrounding culture that parallel very closely with events of the Exodus. Since the Bible’s critics maintain that the exodus was fictional, and Christians maintain that the old testament records accurate historical narratives, the assertion of bible critics would be to maintain that the two references have no correlation.

Let’s be clear about a couple things. Christians do not need to find corroborating archeology to believe, or bolster faith. Critics mistakenly insist that evidence must be found outside the Bible, which is an unfair bias, as the Bible itself is a library of many books of antiquity, not only remarkably preserved, but uniquely self-corroborating, despite authors being separated by time and distance. In fact, the Bible’s preservation is so well respected by historians, that if one were to dismiss it outright, they would be forced to dismiss all books of antiquity, all of them having far less evidence of reliability. Critics who demand evidence “other than the Bible,” mistakenly assume it is an invalid source of information.

Also, Egyptian history is notorious for deleting negative or embarrassing details. Unlike the embarrassing testimony of sin, confusion, and lost battles, recorded truthfully by the Hebrews, it was not uncommon for Egyptian or other cultures to erase kings they didn’t like, destroy records of wars they lost, or keep details of enemies from notoriety. The result being a highly edited, and favorable account of an empire’s history, coupled with an untenable timeline of kings and events.

That being said, it is always fun when archeology and other sciences do indeed support the authority of scripture, which happens often. As an example, in 2 Kings 18, it says:

13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.

Critics often maintained such a king never existed, the Bible was wrong, and secular lists of ancient kings should be held in higher esteem than made up, untrustworthy scripture… that is until 1849, when Henry Layard uncovered the city of Nineveh, and found Sennacherib’s name at the gates.

Arguing that because we haven’t found proof yet, means the scripture isn’t accurate is an argument from silence, and joyfully, often backfires when more evidences are found. But, let is digress back to the Papyrus in question.

Here we have a rare look into some of Egypt’s difficulties, sufferings, and defeats, at a time where most historical records preserve only a sterling façade of power and glory. I highly recommend the documentary Patterns of Evidence regarding the Exodus, if you haven’t seen it, but let’s explore some of what is illustrated by the poetry on this Ipuwer papyrus.

“The door [keepers] say: “Let us go and plunder.”… and the servant takes what he finds” (Exodus 12:36, The Jews plunder the Egyptians upon leaving)

“poor men have become owners of wealth, and he who could not make sandals for himself is now a possessor of riches” (took silver and gold)

“Indeed, the women are barren, and none conceive. Khnum fashions (men) no more because of the condition of the land.” (everything destroyed)

“pestilence is throughout the land, blood is everywhere” (plagues)

“the river is blood, yet men drink of it” (Exodus 7:24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile)

“Indeed, gates, columns and walls are burnt up, while the hall of the palace stands firm and endures… towns are destroyed and Upper Egypt has become an empty waste.”

“I have separated him and his household slaves”

“Indeed, runners are fighting over the spoil [of ] the robber, and all his property is carried off.” – (This is an interesting one, because it is possible citizens are fighting over what has been left in the abandoned homes of the “robbers,” those who plundered the great city. They would be fighting over spoils out of great need.)

Indeed, all animals, their hearts weep; cattle moan because of the state of the land.

“Indeed, the children of princes are dashed against walls, and the children of the neck are laid out on the high ground.” – (tenth plague, death of Egyptian firstborn – At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.)

“Behold, the fire has gone up on high, and its burning goes forth against the enemies of the land.” – Pillar of fire)

“Behold, things have been done which have not happened for a long time past; the king has been deposed by the rabble.” – (slaves victorious over a king)

“Behold, he who had no property is now a possessor of wealth, and the magnate praises him.”

“Behold, the poor of the land have become rich, and the [erstwhile owner] of property is one who has nothing.”

What an amazing document! So many parallels it is hard to ignore. This is by no means exhaustive, and many additional details can be determined by reading all of it, including consequences of the event. Details about barbarians looting afterwards, lead us to believe there was much devastation, and loss of power, opening the city up to looters. Remember, much of the army would have been destroyed in the Red sea.

Of course, we have the perfect authority of scripture, and Jesus stamp of approval for the Old Testament, which He quoted often, in His fulfilling of the law. There are a great many other evidences as well that support the always trustworthy Scriptures. Kahun as an example could have been a slave village, was poor, and nearby. It had buried infants under the floors, possibly from the Egyptian slaughter of Hebrew babies, as well as evidence that the people left suddenly and definitively.

The Amarna letters, ancient writing between Egyptian and Middle Eastern rulers, accuse tumult on a group labeled as Habiru, a probable term for Hebrews. Also at this same time we have evidence of cities like Jericho falling, an amazing discovery in its own right, since the walls somehow fell outward, unlike the collapse of normal walls in war.

The bible, in proper exegesis, interprets itself, and is God breathed and certainly trustworthy. But, wow, is it fun to see amazing historical evidences that paint a clear picture, and support the truth that was known all along.

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Author: J.R. Cooper

Author, Christian Fiction, Apologetics, Creationism vs Evolution, Published with Touch Publishing

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