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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

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Writing and Literature                     69
Have I not written unto thee excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge;
To make thee know the certainty of the words of truth.
That thou mayest carry back words of truth to them that send thee.
A marginal note to 'excellent things' says cthe word is doubt-
ful'. In point of fact this translation rests on the slenderest of
grounds. The Hebrew text has shilshom* 'formerly', which is
unsuitable in this context, and so the original Hebrew editors
have felt, for they give in their margin shaKshim 'officers',
which, however, is even more meaningless. By a slight change
of pointing Erman read sheloshim 'thirty', which yields a striking
parallel to the opening words of the last section in Amenope:
'Consider these thirty chapters.' It is true, of course, that the
passage in Proverbs under discussion does not contain thirty
chapters, but as Gressmann has shown, it does consist of exactly
thirty different precepts. Thus, if the Hebrew writer borrowed
his 'thirty' from the Egyptian original, he did not do so mean-
inglessly or purely mechanically, but adapted its sense to his
own purpose.
It is possible, of course, that Erman's conjecture may have
been mistaken ingenuity, but even were it so, the parallels to
the entire section in Proverbs are far too numerous to be for-
tuitous. Space forbids the quotation of more of them here, but
when it is pointed out that the subject-matter shared in common
comprises advice not to oppress the poor, not to make friends
with men given to anger, not to remove ancient landmarks, and
not to strive after riches, the reader will see for himself that
the comparisons have real substance. Still more remarkable is
the fact that both compositions give counsel as to demeanour
at the table of a powerful man, and that both comment upon
the way riches have of taking flight like birds.
Now, while the relationship of Proverbs and Amenope is not
contested by any scholar of standing, one at least has suggested
that the obligation lay upon the Egyptian side, the author of