Monday, September 27, 2010

Psalm 104 and Akhenaten's Hymn to the Sun

Presenter: John Day (University of Oxford)
From the abstract: the dependence of Psalm 104:20-30 on the heretic pharaoh (14th c BCE)

A small segment of the text of this hymn is online here. I see from the wiki article that C.S.Lewis compared this hymn to the Psalms some time ago. A more complete text is here. I note that the comparison we were given is in English. The source of the Hymn is hieroglyphics and the text of Psalm 104 is Hebrew - so grammatical similarity is not something I can comment on.

There is less agreement with the glosses I have chosen than with the traditional glosses for English translation. There is a series of parallels in the ideas in the hymn and the psalm. But on close inspection of two English translations of the Hymn to the sun, the sequence of ideas is not as many as 6 but closer to 4.

One wonders therefore if there is a good case for some dependency of the later on the earlier. No doubt the Hebrew is the later by some 500 years - at least. (Personally, I doubt there is any dependency given the human tendency to reflect on primal actions of sleep and waking, on sea and land, mediated by the diurnal cycle of darkness and light. My theory would be proven if one could find in some unrelated culture another example of these ideas in one poem and in the night-day-birth-food-land-sea concept. The mention of lion and ship is not convincing to me - they are common observable things in the period and culture.)

The ideas are expressed in sequence as follows.  The middle column has the key words of the ideas with the line number from the Hymn to the Sun

Psalm 104 HebrewverseHymn to the sun line / keyword 
(red = out of sequence)
Psalm 104 English
תָּשֶׁת חֹשֶׁךְ וִיהִי לָיְלָה
בּוֹ תִרְמֹשׂ כָּל חַיְתוֹ יָעַר
25 The earth is in darkness like the dead
31 All Serpents [creeping things] they sting
you make darkness and it becomes night
in it creep all the lives of the forest
הַכְּפִירִים שֹׁאֲגִים לַטָּרֶף
וּלְבַקֵּשׁ מֵאֵל אָכְלָם
2130 Every Lion comes forth from his den, the young lions roar at their prey
and seek from God their meat
תִּזְרַח הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ
יֵאָסֵפוּן וְאֶל
מְעוֹנֹתָם יִרְבָּצוּן
2234 Bright is the earth when you rise in the horizon.the sun appears
they pride themselves
and in their dens they make their home
יֵצֵא אָדָם לְפָעֳלוֹ
וְלַעֲבֹדָתוֹ עֲדֵי עָרֶב
2341 Then in all the world they do their work.the human goes forth to his work
and to his services till evening
מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ יְהוָה
כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ
מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ
2468 How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
74 whatever is on earth 
how many your works יְהוָה
all of them in wisdom you have made
the whole earth is your possession
זֶה הַיָּם גָּדוֹל וּרְחַב יָדָיִם
שָׁם רֶמֶשׂ
וְאֵין מִסְפָּר חַיּוֹת
קְטַנּוֹת עִם גְּדֹלוֹת
2553 Your rays are in the midst of the great green sea.There is the great sea and wide of hand
there organisms
and there is no number of those living
small with great
שָׁם אֳנִיּוֹת יְהַלֵּכוּן
לִוְיָתָן זֶה יָצַרְתָּ לְשַׂחֶק בּוֹ
2649 The barges [ships] sail
upstream and downstream alike.
52 The fish in the river leap before you.
there go the ships
Leviathan that you formed to play there
כֻּלָּם אֵלֶיךָ יְשַׂבֵּרוּן
לָתֵת אָכְלָם בְּעִתּוֹ
27[indeterminate line number]
When the fledgling in the egg
chirps in the shell
You give him breath to preserve him alive.
77 You supply its necessities
all of them look to you
to give their food in its time
תִּתֵּן לָהֶם
תִּפְתַּח יָדְךָ
יִשְׂבְּעוּן טוֹב
28... To chirp with all his give to them
they glean
You open your hand
they are satisfied with good
תַּסְתִּיר פָּנֶיךָ
תֹּסֵף רוּחָם
יִגְוָעוּן וְאֶל עֲפָרָם יְשׁוּבוּן
29the translation on the web does not
allow any further gloss highlights.
you hide your face
they are disturbed
you will gather their spirit
they expire and to the dust they return
תְּשַׁלַּח רוּחֲךָ
וּתְחַדֵּשׁ פְּנֵי אֲדָמָה send out your spirit
they are created
and you renew the face of the earth


  1. Interesting. Did you know that there is a statue of Isis with a child, that has close resemblances with the symbol of mother Mary and Jesus Christ. there are more connections between christianity and ancient Egypt.

  2. All that shows is that Christians used the same style of art that they were familiar with--not that Christian theology comes from Egyptian myth.