The 42 Commandments of Ancient Egypt That Preceded Our 10 Commandments

First… the fact that the 10 Commandments may have been outlined in an earlier religion previous to Moses’ time (a religion based in Ancient Egypt, where Moses was from)… should not make the 10 Commandments in the Old Testament any less valid in their influence of our everyday lives.  Just sayin’… they’re good rules to live by.

That said… if you thought the Ten Commandments that were passed onto Moses directly from God on two stone tablets which served as the first laws ever provided to man by God was the whole story (which is what I was taught when I was President of my United Methodist church youth group)… well, um, ahem… that’s not quite the entire story:

Long ago, well before the time of Moses, way back to almost 3000BC (2870BC), there existed a Classical African Civilization in the northeast corner of the continent (roughly where Egypt is today) called Kemet.  The people of Kemet had a moral code under which they preferred to live their lives, so as to remain at peace with themselves and with others.  They deified this belief system within a goddess, and called both the goddess and the moral code “Ma’at” (pronounced muh – aht).

From Wikipedia.org:

“MaatMa’atMa?t or Mayet, thought to have been pronounced *[mu?.?at],[1] was the Ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, lawmorality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.”

Within Ma’at, or under Ma’at, depending on your point of view, there were 42 Principles which were intended to be a guide on what people should do and not to do during the course of their everyday lives in both mundane and formal activities.  Today those are being touted as the “42 Commandments of Ancient Egypt”, but in reality, they are actually a cousin to what is called the “Forty-Two Declarations of Purity” or “The 42 Negative Confessions” which people back then were supposed to have made under Ma’at, and which were referenced on numerous tombs during that time.

Here are the 42 Ancient Egyptian “Commandments” (note you might recognize the ones in red):


I. Thou shalt not kill, nor bid anyone kill.

II. Thou shalt not commit adultery or rape.

III. Thou shalt not avenge thyself nor burn with rage.

IV. Thou shalt not cause terror.

V. Thou shalt not assault anyone nor cause anyone pain.

VI. Thou shalt not cause misery.

VII. Thou shalt not do any harm to man or to animals.

VIII. Thou shalt not cause the shedding of tears.

IX. Thou shalt not wrong the people nor bear them any evil intent.

X. Thou shalt not steal nor take that which does not belong to you.

XI. Thou shalt not take more than thy fair share of food.

XII. Thou shalt not damage the crops, the fields, or the trees.

XIII. Thou shalt not deprive anyone of what is rightfully theirs.

XIV. Thou shalt not bear false witness, nor support false allegations.

XV. Thou shalt not lie, nor speak falsely to the hurt of another.

XVI. Thou shalt not use fiery words nor stir up any strife.

XVII. Thou shalt not speak or act deceitfully to the hurt of another.

XVIII. Thou shalt not speak scornfully against others.

XIX. Thou shalt not eavesdrop.

XX. Thou shalt not ignore the truth or words of righteousness.

XXI. Thou shalt not judge anyone hastily or harshly.

XXII. Thou shalt not disrespect sacred places.

XXIII. Thou shalt cause no wrong to be done to any workers or prisoners.

XXIV. Thou shalt not be angry without good reason.

XXV. Thou shalt not hinder the flow of running water.

XXVI. Thou shalt not waste the running water.

XXVII. Thou shalt not pollute the water or the land.

XXVIII. Thou shalt not take God’s name in vain.

XXIX. Thou shalt not despise nor anger God.

XXX. Thou shalt not steal from God.

XXXI. Thou shalt not give excessive offerings nor less than what is due.

XXXII. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

XXXIII. Thou shalt not steal from nor disrespect the dead.

XXXIV. Thou shalt remember and observe the appointed holy days.

XXXV. Thou shalt not hold back the offerings due God.

XXXVI. Thou shalt not interfere with sacred rites.

XXXVII. Thou shalt not slaughter with evil intent any sacred animals.

XXXVIII. Thou shalt not act with guile or insolence.

XXXIX. Thou shalt not be unduly proud nor act with arrogance.

XL.Thou shalt not magnify your condition beyond what is appropriate.

XLI. Thou shalt do no less than your daily obligations require.

XLII. Thou shalt obey the law and commit no treason

Also please note other than seeing some familiar commandments in red, that only eight of the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament are found on this list.  The two that do not appear are;

1) I am the Lord, your God, and thou shalt have no other gods before Me, nor shalt thou make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Sometimes split into 2 entries, dependent on the flavor of Christianity you follow.)

5) Thou shalt honor thy Father and thy Mother.

Here are notes from www.aerobiologicalengineering.com regarding the 42 “Commandments”, noting Moses and the Israelites were Egyptian:

The 42 Principles of Ma’at, the Goddess who personified the ideals of Truth and Righteousness, were known to all the ancient Egyptians. They have been rephrased here in Biblical Commandment form to make them more intelligible and familiar to moderns. In the original form they were preceded with “I have not” as in “I have not stolen.” The Egyptians believed that when they died, their souls would be judged by these principles. Moses and the Israelites, who were originally Egyptians, would have been familiar with these principles, but after wandering for forty years they seem to have only remembered 8 of them (those highlighted in orange). Moses added three new non-secular commandments; the one about not honoring the other gods, the honoring of their parents, and the one that included their neighbor’s wives and slaves as coveted chattel. The remarkable thing about the principles of Ma’at is not only how much more advanced they are in comparison with the Hebrew Commandments, but how most of them are strikingly relevant to this day.

Personally, I kinda like the list of 42.  It is more comprehensive than just 10.  And realistically, they aren’t that unreasonable. “Thou shalt not cause the shedding of tears.” Cool.

For reference, if you’re a Ten Commandments fan, you should also probably pick up a copy of the Qu’ran to read the Moses story… if I remember right… it gives a much more detailed account about how Moses received the Commandments from God than the Bible does, and it mentions how God wanted to start with 20 or 30 Commandments, but was talked down into something more reasonable by Moses.  Interesting stuff.

So what do you think?  Do you think the 42 Ancient Egyptian Commandments should be adopted as a secular option to Christianity, or accepted as an optional list to go “over the top” on living a good life?  Do you think they influenced what God gave to Moses (internally or externally)?  Do you think God gave the original list to the Ancient Egyptians?

Thoughts?

 

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  1. I think most who have been raised in a Christian environment will resist this notion.
    Now, my first thoughts were that wisdom is wisdom, no matter what name one tries to classify it under.
    What I’ve always had a challenge with in “religion” have been the rites & rituals that PEOPLE seem to place such a high priority on – often placing a higher importance on them than what the basis of said religion would have been founded on. Now, I can barely keep track of 10 things, which I see as more of a Cliff’s notes version of the original 42. In my mind, many of those 42 could be boiled down to a few. Perhaps Moses was more trying to capture the “laws” of God in as few Commandments as possible. Sure, 30-40 or so laws, but really; these 10 hold the meat of the matter. And as far as not worshipping other Gods- again, way too complicated to keep track of. A god of this, a god of that; one god requires a certain type of sacrifice, another needs worshipped only on days ending in “Y”.
    Like 42 commandments – WAY too hard to keep track of. And the fear of death if you get in wrong could’ve been most… stressing. So, one God = simplicity.
    And honour thy father & mother = Good idea if you ask me.
    They brought you into this world (with a little help from aforementioned God :)
    Now, it could be said that a man wondering in the dessert for 40 years has got to come to the point where he needs SOMETHING to try & shift his Life 7 the people he leads, and whether God zapped the stone tablets Himself or used Moses’s knowledge of these existing 42 great suggestions to inspire him to cut it down to 10: Who will know? I don’t think that is the important part. Religion might disagree.
    What I do know is that most people can’t seem to follow nor embrace & practice the intent of even 10, let alone 42. (I love that it’s 42, you know – Do you think Douglas Adams was onto something there?)
    Sounds to me like God was trying to give us a break narrowing them down to 10.
    And we STILL gripe about those :)P
    INCREDIBLE research & points… Good stuff !!!

    ~Rob

    Reply
  2. I think most who have been raised in a Christian environment will resist this notion.
    Now, my first thoughts were that wisdom is wisdom, no matter what name one tries to classify it under.
    What I’ve always had a challenge with in “religion” have been the rites & rituals that PEOPLE seem to place such a high priority on – often placing a higher importance on them than what the basis of said religion would have been founded on. Now, I can barely keep track of 10 things, which I see as more of a Cliff’s notes version of the original 42. In my mind, many of those 42 could be boiled down to a few. Perhaps Moses was more trying to capture the “laws” of God in as few Commandments as possible. Sure, 30-40 or so laws, but really; these 10 hold the meat of the matter. And as far as not worshipping other Gods- again, way too complicated to keep track of. A god of this, a god of that; one god requires a certain type of sacrifice, another needs worshipped only on days ending in “Y”.
    Like 42 commandments – WAY too hard to keep track of. And the fear of death if you get in wrong could’ve been most… stressing. So, one God = simplicity.
    And honour thy father & mother = Good idea if you ask me.
    They brought you into this world (with a little help from aforementioned God :)
    Now, it could be said that a man wondering in the dessert for 40 years has got to come to the point where he needs SOMETHING to try & shift his Life 7 the people he leads, and whether God zapped the stone tablets Himself or used Moses’s knowledge of these existing 42 great suggestions to inspire him to cut it down to 10: Who will know? I don’t think that is the important part. Religion might disagree.
    What I do know is that most people can’t seem to follow nor embrace & practice the intent of even 10, let alone 42. (I love that it’s 42, you know – Do you think Douglas Adams was onto something there?)
    Sounds to me like God was trying to give us a break narrowing them down to 10.
    And we STILL gripe about those :)P
    INCREDIBLE research & points… Good stuff !!!

    ~Rob

    Reply
    • Holy crap, Rob! I totally missed the Douglas Adams 42 connection! Great catch. And awesome points in your comment.

      I agree with what you said about how some people get caught up in the religion part of the equation over the underlying religious intent. If people spent less time worrying about what name to call God, Jehova, Yahweh, Allah, Atman, etc., and remembered that every religion espouses to love thy neighbor (regardless of whether they live across some subjective line on some impermanent map), the world would be a much better place.

      Reply
  3. I can make it all even more simple than the 10 Commandments: It’s all about love. Not selfish or Hallmark holiday love, but love everyone and everything in this realm where we exist during our human lives. If you have such love, or focus on having such love, all of the 10 or 42 other things happen naturally- respect, appreciation, preservation, etc.

    Reply
    • Excellent observation.

      Reply
    • Learn to Forgive and love everyone unconditionally, especially yourself! Do unto others as you would have done unto You! We, Man kind, are the children of the Creator, as such, creators ourselves, what we choose to think, feel and believe creates/becomes the reality, We need to be mindful of what we choose to think, feel and believe, for that is what we will create!

      Reply
  4. thanks for including the bit about the language change… i was doubtful that ancient egyptians “thou shalt’d” a whole lot…

    and i couldn’t agree more about getting caught up in the name, instead of the principles… golden rule and all that – every “religion” has a tenet that is ultimately the same – don’t do to others what you would not appreciate having done to you… it’s pretty simple.

    will be following your blog… lots of great food for thought!
    thanks!

    Reply
    • Yeah… it’s been modernized. Great comment on the commonality beneath all religions.

      Welcome, Kera. We’re just getting started.

      Reply
  5. I am at a loss for words!  I seek truth–whereever it can be found.  I believe truth is directly from God.  The 42 commandments are not dissimaliar from the 10 commandments anyway.  Perhaps, God just decided to condense the 42 concepts into 10!  It seems that the 10 commandments include all of the basic truths listed in the 42 anyway.

    Reply
  6. 34But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35Then one of them,which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
    MATTHEW CHAPTER 22

    ” and Ye shall know THE TRUTH” and the truth shall set you free.”
    “I am the Way, The Truth, AND the Life, NO MAN comes to the Father but by ME!”

    Don’t let the devil twist your mind into following the misguided ways of ancient people. It’s bad for your spiritual health.

    Reply
    • Their is no devil miss leading people from the truth. He  (God) has given the truth to all people he created all of us and showed us the right way. The American Indians were given the light of God in their own way! When Jesus walk and worked on earth he said their were others who do the Fathers work.

      Reply
    • Their is no devil miss leading people from the truth. He  (God) has given the truth to all people he created all of us and showed us the right way. The American Indians were given the light of God in their own way! When Jesus walk and worked on earth he said their were others who do the Fathers work.

      Reply
    • Their is no devil miss leading people from the truth. He  (God) has given the truth to all people he created all of us and showed us the right way. The American Indians were given the light of God in their own way! When Jesus walk and worked on earth he said their were others who do the Fathers work.

      Reply
  7. ‘For reference, if you’re a Ten Commandments fan, you should also probably pick up a copy of the Qu’ran to read the Moses story… if I remember right… it gives a much more detailed account about how Moses received the Commandments from God than the Bible does, and it mentions how God wanted to start with 20 or 30 Commandments, but was talked down into something more reasonable by Moses. Interesting stuff’.

    Hmm, Ican’t find this excerpt. Could you point out where is it located or quote it?

    Reply

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