Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

236                         Egypt and Israel
papyri, discovered in 1906, give us detailed knowledge.1 The
immense importance of these, over seventy, papyri, can hardly
be overestimated; we can, however, do no more here than
mention one or two points.
Elephantine (its Semitic name is Yeb) was situated on an
island in the Nile, on the frontier of Southern Egypt, so that,
as far as we know, it was a military colony from the beginning.
The papyri contain a record of historical events connected with
the settlers during the years 525-407 B.C. as well as many details
concerning their private affairs. As to the date of the first
founding of this settlement, we have the following indication
in one of the documents: 'Already in the days of the kings of
Egypt (i.e. before the Persian conquest) our fathers had built
that temple in the fortress of Yeb, and when Cambyses came
into Egypt he found that temple built/ .Cambyses came into
Egypt in 525 B.C., so that if the temple was already built then,
the colonists must have been settled there for some time pre-
viously; and this is borne out by what Aristeas says in his Letter,
§ 13—and he is well informed on Egyptian matters—that Jewish
mercenaries had entered Egypt and fought in the army of
Psammeticus, no doubt the second of this name is meant (593-
588), during his campaign against the Ethiopians; after this war
the Jewish soldiers were settled hi Elephantine as a protection
to the southern boundary of the kingdom. But a still earlier
date for the original settlers is suggested by the fact of the
existence of the temple, just referred to; for this implies ignor-
ance of the Deuteronomic legislation; moreover, the colonists
worshipped other gods besides Yahweh; both facts look like a
continuation of pre-exilic customs and religious beliefs. In this
case the original settlement must be dated some time during
the seventh century B.C.
1 See especially, Sachau, Aramdische Papyrus and Ostraka aus einer judischen
Militdrkolonie zu Elephantine (1911); Cowley, jezoish Documents of the time:
of Ezra (1919), and Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. (1923).