Egyptian Wisdom

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Moses, Old Testament


Wisdom of the Egyptians -- does that refer to the worshipping of gods or general education in building; farming, economics? Also why did Moses wait until he was 40 to check out the family roots? Is this symbolic of "40" -- as in the days in the wilderness?


In Acts 7:22 it states, "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." There is no reason not to take this literally. The Egyptians did not have a specific word for philosopher, unlike the later Greeks. But they did value wisdom. It was something that people strived for by obeying the laws that regulated life. Their understanding of these laws was rooted in an appreciation of truth, justice, and honesty. Such values were embodied (supposedly) by Pharaoh and found in the natural world as well as in people. The Egyptians knew a lot about the world, their place in it, and how it affected their lives.

Unfortunately, such information was lost to scholars for nearly a millennium. The Greek and Roman invasions brought with them Latin and Greek speaking peoples. Within 100 years, the Egyptian language was dead and hieroglyphics were reduced to being artsy pictures. This remained the case until the Rosetta Stone was successfully translated in the early 1800's. Since then, scholars have uncovered a wealth of information from letters, legal texts, religious hymns, battle accounts, love stories, "wisdom literature," and medical reports.

Not surprisingly, scholars have determined this was a very advanced society in every aspect. These peoples had already figured out longitude and latitude by 3000BCE. They had learned to take advantage of the annual flooding of the Nile and were advanced in irrigation techniques. The Nile was rightly called "the lifeblood" of Egypt. It was their main means of travel, the source of food, and crucial to agriculture. Manufacturing involved chariots, glass, and papyrus. And let us not forget, that these were the people who built the pyramids.

As a young Egyptian, Moses would have been exposed to the best their educational system had to offer, but nothing is known with certainty about his youth. Nor do we know why he waited until he was forty before he intervened on behalf of his people. (See Acts 17:23) If these figures are accurate, then his life was characterized by three segments of forty years each. The number forty is a symbolic and sacred number, oftentimes used to designate a long period of time in terms of existence or fortitude.

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