How Egyptian were the Jews?


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Something that came across when I was reading Herodotus some time ago were a few simply parallels between Judaism and the reported Egyptian practices.

I'm wondering whether any of these practices arose generally in the Middle-East - ie, not a uniquely Egyptian or Egyptian influenced set of customs. Or else, that Herodotus mixed up his Egyptian ethnicity - perhaps from tales and stories of Jewish work camps near the Nile Delta (cf, Joseph and co).

For example:


Bk 2 sections 36 and 37 - mention of the Egyptians practising circumcision.

They are the only people in the world- they at least, and such as have learnt the practice from them - who use circumcision.

They practise circumcision for the sake of cleanliness, considering it better to be cleanly than comely.

Bk 2 - 104 - Comments on Ancient Egyptians and circumcision (the Colchians are held to be the progenitors of the Medes)

There can be no doubt that the Colchians are an Egyptian race. Before I heard any mention of the fact from others, I had remarked it myself. After the thought had struck me, I made inquiries on the subject both in Colchis and in Egypt, and I found that the Colchians had a more distinct recollection of the Egyptians, than the Egyptians had of them. Still the Egyptians said that they believed the Colchians to be descended from the army of Sesostris. My own conjectures were founded, first, on the fact that they are black-skinned and have woolly hair, which certainly amounts to but little, since several other nations are so too; but further and more especially, on the circumstance that the Colchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians, are the only nations who have practised circumcision from the earliest times. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine themselves confess that they learnt the custom of the Egyptians; and the Syrians who dwell about the rivers Thermodon and Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macronians, say that they have recently adopted it from the Colchians. Now these are the only nations who use circumcision, and it is plain that they all imitate herein the Egyptians. With respect to the Ethiopians, indeed, I cannot decide whether they learnt the practice of the Egyptians, or the Egyptians of them - it is undoubtedly of very ancient date in Ethiopia - but that the others derived their knowledge of it from Egypt is clear to me from the fact that the Phoenicians, when they come to have commerce with the Greeks, cease to follow the Egyptians in this custom, and allow their children to remain uncircumcised.

Pigs are unclean:

Bk 2 - 47 - Pigs as unclean. But! They have a special veneration in the Isis Osiris cult (reason not given). Dionysios as Osiris and originally from Egypt - pig and phallus association (fertility)

The pig is regarded among them as an unclean animal, so much so that if a man in passing accidentally touch a pig, he instantly hurries to the river, and plunges in with all his clothes on. Hence, too, the swineherds, notwithstanding that they are of pure Egyptian blood, are forbidden to enter into any of the temples, which are open to all other Egyptians; and further, no one will give his daughter in marriage to a swineherd, or take a wife from among them, so that the swineherds are forced to intermarry among themselves. They do not offer swine in sacrifice to any of their gods, excepting Bacchus and the Moon, whom they honour in this way at the same time, sacrificing pigs to both of them at the same full moon, and afterwards eating of the flesh. There is a reason alleged by them for their detestation of swine at all other seasons, and their use of them at this festival, with which I am well acquainted, but which I do not think it proper to mention. The following is the mode in which they sacrifice the swine to the Moon:- As soon as the victim is slain, the tip of the tail, the spleen, and the caul are put together, and having been covered with all the fat that has been found in the animal's belly, are straightway burnt. The remainder of the flesh is eaten on the same day that the sacrifice is offered, which is the day of the full moon: at any other time they would not so much as taste it. The poorer sort, who cannot afford live pigs, form pigs of dough, which they bake and offer in sacrifice.

Abstain from unclean utensils:

Bk 2 - 41 - They also abstain from beef and utensils having touched

The male kine, therefore, if clean, and the male calves, are used for sacrifice by the Egyptians universally; but the females they are not allowed to sacrifice, since they are sacred to Isis. The statue of this goddess has the form of a woman but with horns like a cow, resembling thus the Greek representations of Io; and the Egyptians, one and all, venerate cows much more highly than any other animal. This is the reason why no native of Egypt, whether man or woman, will give a Greek a kiss, or use the knife of a Greek, or his spit, or his cauldron, or taste the flesh of an ox, known to be pure, if it has been cut with a Greek knife. When kine die, the following is the manner of their sepulture:- The females are thrown into the river; the males are buried in the suburbs of the towns, with one or both of their horns appearing above the surface of the ground to mark the place. When the bodies are decayed, a boat comes, at an appointed time, from the island called Prosopitis, - which is a portion of the Delta, nine schoenes in circumference, - and calls at the several cities in turn to collect the bones of the oxen. Prosopitis is a district containing several cities; the name of that from which the boats come is Atarbechis. Venus has a temple there of much sanctity. Great numbers of men go forth from this city and proceed to the other towns, where they dig up the bones, which they take away with them and bury together in one place. The same practice prevails with respect to the interment of all other cattle - the law so determining; they do not slaughter any of them.

from HERODOTUS - The Histories :
I admit that I am not an expert. I would however postulate that there were many general cultural similarities across the Middle East and that smaller groups would either share cultural ideals as a matter of sharing a similar landscape, or else because larger neighbours explicitly exerted a certain cultural pressure. So common habits would be expected as the norm not the exception to me.
Brian, if you want a chicken or an egg argument, the Egyptians did it first. Also the Jewish holidays or festivals were all copied from similar Canaanite festivals.
It would be nice to try and keep to the thread. :)

As for the dynamic flow of information - that I can certainly accept. I'm curious as to direction where information has flowed between cultures, especially in this instance.

I wouldn't at all class it as a chicken and egg argument, though, as the entire "fertile crecent" region has a nasty habit of being extremely literate. So I would imagine that the flow of information should have a form of visible pattern - at least, to some degree.

Certainly many are not hesitant to suggest that Judaism was at least in part influenced by Mesopotamia. After all, even Abraham himself moved out from Ur.

What I'm unterested in is noting how cultural practices may be traced with regards to Egypt and Judaism.

Of course, there's every possibility that the information in Herodotus could be errant. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.
bananabrain said:
yep, nothing original about judaism at all, is there? even our texts are about astrology.

just what is your problem with judaism that you feel the need to debunk it?



Circumcision can be traced back 6000 years. Egyptian hierogyphs depict the act- Long Long before Abraham

"The date of this seemingly unique request of God’s is placed by Bible scholars circa 1897 B.C.E. However, Egyptian reliefs dating to 2800 B.C.E. depict the act of circumcision. Was God copying the Egyptians? Circumcision was practiced by the Ammonites, Moabites, Ishmaelites, the Kaffirs of Africa, the Fijians and Samoans of Polynesia, some races in Australia, the ancient Mexicans, and even some Amazon tribes. Most of the people circumcised in ancient times where not Hebrew. Anthro­polo­gist Ashley Montagu claims the rite can be traced back at least 6000 years to the West Coast of Africa."

The Canannite festivals as a forerunner to Jewish festivals were documented in the book "Old Testament Religion" by Elmer A. Leslie Ph.D. professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Literature, Boston University School of Theology.

Several festivals associated with the Exodus were actually Canaanite festivals which predate Moses. The Feast of Un­leavened Bread is described in Exodus 34:18. “The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I command thee, in the time of the month of Abib: for in the month of Abib thou camest out of Egypt.” Coincidentally the Canaanites celebrated their Feast of Unleavened Bread on the same day, before Moses appeared. It was celebrated at the beginning of grain harvest (Deuteronomy 16:9) at the vernal equinox. It appears to have been an ancient sun-god rite. The Canaanites’ feast lasted seven days, during which no bread made with leaven could be eaten.

Likewise the Canaanites would wave the first fruits at Baal (Leviticus 23:10f.) as did the children of Israel. The feast originates in an ancient myth. Our hero, Al Eyin, is killed in battle against his evil twin brother Mot. Anath (Al’s sister, bride­groom, and virgin mother—you figure) goes out to find her brother-husband-son. She espies at her feet the last sheaf of grain (barley or corn). As it turns out, Mot (god of the ripe harvest) is hiding there.

Anath performs seven acts (the seven days?):
1. Anath seizes the sheaf (Mot)
2. She cuts the ears.
3. She threshes the grain.
4. She roasts the grain.
5. She grinds the grain by hand in a mill.
6. She scatters the ground grain over the field.
7. Then she eats the leaven bread, for the taboo on the harvest has been lifted. The destruction of Mot made way for the resur­rection of Al Eyin, the god of the spring rains.

Al Eyin exclaimed, “I am Al Eyin, son of Baal. Make ready, then, the sacrifice. I am the lamb which is made ready with pure wheat to be sacrificed in expiation” (Jesus = lamb = communion wafer). Anath informed Mot that he was forsaken by his heavenly father El. Mark 15:34 uses these Passover ritual words, “My El, my El, why hast thou forsaken me?” Anath breaks Mot’s reed scepter, signifying his castration and a break with the old. This symbolism is repeated in Mark 15:38 when the veil in the Temple is rent.

A similar tradition existed regarding the Tammuz Festival at Harran (Assyrian empire). The women would lament Tammuz, who was cruelly put to death. His bones were ground in a mill and strewn into the wind. During the festival the women would eat nothing that was ground in a mill. (Tammuz = Mot/Al Eyin = Adonis = Osiris = Jesus.)

The Canaanite Feast of Weeks or Feast of Harvest is men­tioned in Exodus 23:16, 34:22, and Leviticus 23:16-17. This festival is called Passover or Pentecost (the Greek word for Passover). This rite came seven weeks later after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The first fruits of the harvest were offered in the form of a meal by baking two loaves of bread with fine flour and leaven. This would help Baal renew vege­tation. The practice dates back to ancient Egypt, where two cakes were baked to represent the eyes of Horus, con­taining the essence of life.

The Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 34:22) marked the end of the olive and vintage harvest (Deuteronomy 16:13). Judges 9:27 de­scribes this tribute to Baal: “And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink….” It was a fun celebration, like New Year’s Eve. There was dancing (Judges 21:19-23, Exodus 32:19).

The feast lasted for seven days. The Canaanites would dwell in huts made out of olive and myrtle branches (a tree sacred to Astarte), or palm branches and branches from thick trees. The Hebrews copied the pagans (Leviticus 23:39-43, Nehemiah 8:14-17). This vegetation temple was called a “booth” or “tabernacle.” The Feast of Ingathering was also called the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:13).
According to Gerald Massey (1907) the Jews or Iu's were Egyptian

There is no doubt whatsoever about Solomon being Amenhotep III - the name is the same - Salim-Amen (Salim=Hotep=Peace). The evidence is overwhelming.
His father was Tuthmosis IV Tut in Hebrew = DWD = David.
Jacob was a 16th Dynasty Pharaoh, and Ralph Ellis has identified an earlier Pharaoh as Ma'abra or Abram.
Solomon's City of Waset or Thebes was also known as the City founded on Peace - Uru-Salim or Jerusalem.
He had a daughter called Beketaten - prior to Aten cult, this would have been Rebeke or Rebecca. Similarly grand-daughter Meritaten was MeriAmen - Miriam.
Many many more clues when you look for them.
Malcolm, welcom to the site. In Hebrew, Solomon is Shlomo. Go figure. I don't see the similarity. In hebrew Tut would still sound pretty much the same. there are two letters that make a "t" sound, the tet and the tav. No need for the word to change. Do you have a source for Jacob as a 16th Dynasty pharoah? I'm also not sure I see the similarity between Ma'abra and Abram. We could also conjecture brahma and abram but with Egyptian and Hebrew we're dealing with two somewhat related languages anyway so there's bound to be similarity in words.

Not sure about the rest of it. But I'm a skeptic. Welcome to the site again.

Stating that Amenhotep III was Solomon is pushing the boat out to an extraordinary degree - and how would that fit in with his being the father of Amenhotep IV, otherwise known as Akhenaten? You are confusing the two Pharaohs, yes? Meritaten was one of Akhenaten's named daughters.
I've heard the suggestion of Solomon possibly being potentially contemporary with Akhenaten, but in their own repsective geographies. I don't believe I've seen the suggestion that Akhenaten were Solomon.
This info on Soloman/Amenhotep etc. is all new to me.

I read a book by someone who's name escapes me (I'll get the reference soon) that promotes the theory that Joseph was Yuya, supposedly one of the only nobles buried in the Valley of the Kings, and the father of Queen Tiy (akhenaton's wife).

I am skeptical of this, as he did include a bibliography but did not reference his archeological/historical "facts".


On a different note; It is not surprising that the Jews and Egyptians have a lot in common. Even the Torah/Bible indicates that they have had an intimate relationship in their early history.

Abram visited egypt, Joseph too, the egyptian captivity, calls to aid during the assyrian/mesopotamian wars, etc.

I wouldn't be shocked if one didn't borrow a custom from the other, and vice versa.

Without historical documentation, I'd be hesitent to say that the Jews were an offshoot of Egyptian culture. More likely something like what the bible says:

1. Somehow Jews, proto-jews, semites ended up in egypt and were eventually enslaved (That Egypt was Xenophobic, I will posit, is generally accepted).

2. These Semites migrated east at some point, taking with them several customs that had evolved during several generations of sojurning. (I grew up in Wisconsin, and I eat brats. I also celebrate those Holidays generally promoted in the United States. I can assume the ancient Jews did as well).

3. Over the years, the jewish culture evolved (that is to say, changed according to the pressures put upon it by other cultures).

This is a generalized hypothesis, but it makes sense. I will posit that this theme of cultural blending and cultural change over time are generally accepted theories of both Archeology, history (the documentation of such change) and Anthropology.
I said:
I've heard the suggestion of Solomon possibly being potentially contemporary with Akhenaten, but in their own repsective geographies. I don't believe I've seen the suggestion that Akhenaten were Solomon.

Yes, what would such a suggestion even mean? Their 'biographies' are quite different.
Peter Kirby said:
Yes, what would such a suggestion even mean? Their 'biographies' are quite different.

But Hammurabi had the same resume' as Solomon.

Both occupied the same land, known for wisdom, wrote proverbs, built great city-states and temples. Why they even had the same adversaries.

None of these things can be found in the Iron Age period supposedly when Solomon live. Go figure.
Peter Kirby said:
Yes, what would such a suggestion even mean? Their 'biographies' are quite different.

There would be massive problems trying to reconcile Akhenatan and Solomon as the same figure, but I believe we've seen it suggested...

It can be really interesting in trying to consider them as contemporary, but even then, even our Jewish moderator has long warned of taking Biblical history as religious history too literally.

And welcome to CR, Peter Kirby. :)
I think...the jews were the Hyxos who worshipped and bringed in the nomadic desert god Seth to egypt.
They wfere send to the valley of death were egypt sent its unwanteds included deseased.
Moses was a surving priest of the egyptian monothism around Amon-Ra cult.

He recruited the Hyxos and exhiled egypt to start a new kingdom for his new religion
mixing his egyptian monotheism with well eqyptian gods such as Seth.
It later add to the Kain and Abel story.

Seth was actually not so "Bad".
We was a desert god, granted rain and after life but only through hardship.
Seth was also a militant figure and did storm and quake stuff.

He wanted to rule egypt and according to egyptian sourses the Jews/the hyxos tried to rule egypt.

And the whole name of god thing has rooths in egyptian religion.

The Jews have sacred names and nummerlogy
the egypians had that too.
The Ark of the Covenant is also influenced by Egypt: the temples in Luxor and Karnak (=Pythom and Raamses?) had an Ark in the small, sacred room in the back. It represented the boat on which the god floats through the Eternal Waters.
There are also Mesopotamian influences in Genesis and Persian influences in concepts like the Holy Ghost, Satan and the Paradise.
Does anyone have a view of why Egypt is specifically mentioned in this passage? And did Israel ever get sent back to Egypt as in Deut 28 and become Egyptians, or is that also symbolic of something else :confused: Thanks.

Zech 14:18
If the family/clan of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they [shall have] no [rain;] they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

Deut 28:68 "And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, 'You shall never see it again.' And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy [you."] [size=+2] [/size]