|Ipuwer Papyrus, National Archaeological Museum, Leiden, Netherlands. |
Photo © Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
The Ipuwer Papyrus (P Leiden I 344 recto)1. dating to the New Kingdom (ca. 1543–1064 BC),) contains an ancient Egyptian poem called the The Admonitions of Ipuwer 2. or The Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All. 3. The precise date for its composition is unknown (ca. 1850-1600 BC) 4. but this singular copy was made during the New Kingdom of Egypt (18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties, ca. 1543-1064 BC). It was purchased in 1928 by the Swedish consul to Egypt, Giovanni Anastasi, and is today housed in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands.
The Ipuwer Papyrus is a poetic lament over the natural disasters and calamities afflicting Egypt creating a state of utter chaos and blamed on an unidentified king (perhaps Pepy II of the Sixth Dynasty [ca. 2300–2206 BC]). It describes an inverted state of affairs where the rich become poor and the poor rich, with war, death and famine afflicting the entire nation. One of the consequences of this lawlessness is the rebellion of servants against their masters. The descriptions provides remarkable parallels with the story of the Biblical Exodus that has led to much debate. The Ipuwer Papyrus securely dates to after the Exodus events happened, either from an early date or late date.
Enmarch reports that: “The broadest modern reception of Ipuwer amongst non-Egyptological readers has probably been as a result of the use of the poem as evidence supporting the Biblical account of the Exodus.”5. He notes several striking textual parallels: “particularly the striking statement that ‘the river is blood and one drinks from it’ (Ipuwer 2.10), and the frequent references to servants abandoning their subordinate status (e.g. Ipuwer 3.14–4.1; 6.7–8; 10.2–3). On a literal reading, these are similar to aspects of the Exodus account.”6. However, he suggests that “it is more likely that Ipuwer is not a piece of historical reportage and that historicising interpretations of it fail to account for the ahistorical, schematic literary nature of some of the poem’s laments.” 7. Kenneth Kitchen also suggested that Ipuwer and the Exodus account were possibly referring to the same kind of natural phenomenon. 8.
Brad C. Sparks claims that some 90 Egyptian papyri 9. demonstrate similar parallels to the Exodus, including the Ipuwer Papyrus, Tale of Two Brothers (Tomb of Seti II, who ruled from 1200 to 1194, BC), 10. El Arish Stele (305–31 BC), 11. Speos Artemidos Inscription (Queen Hatshepsut and Seti I, 1490–1460 BC), 12. Tempest Stela (ca. 1550 BC), 13. and Demotic Chronicle (ca. 1550 BC). 14. This implies that the event of the Exodus may still have been part of the Egyptian living memory in either the 15th or 13th cent. BC.15
- 1. Roland Enmarch, Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All (Oxford, U.K.: Griffith Institute, 2005), 2–3
- 2. R. B. Parkinson, The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems. (Oxford, UK: Oxford World’s Classics, 1999).
- 3. Roland Enmarch, Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All.
- 4. John Van Seters. “A date for the ‘Admonitions’ in the second intermediate Period”. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 50 (1964):13–23.
- 5. Roland Enmarch, “The Reception of a Middle Egyptian Poem: The Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All in the Ramesside Period and beyond,” in Ramesside Studies in Honour of K. A. Kitchen, ed. Mark Collier and Steven R. Snape (Bolton, U.K.: Rutherford, 2011), 106.
- 6. Enmarch, “The Reception of a Middle Egyptian Poem.” 174.
- 7. Enmarch, “The Reception of a Middle Egyptian Poem.” 174.
- 8. Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2003), 250–52.
- 9. Brad C. Sparks, “Egyptian Text Parallels to the Exodus: The Egyptology Literature,” in Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination Conference, ed. Thomas E. Levy (presented at the Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego, 2013).
- 10. P. D’Orbiney, P. Brit. Mus. 10183. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: The New Kingdom, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Berkeley, Calf.: University of California Press, 2006), 203.
- 11. Barbara J. Sivertsen, The Parting of the Sea: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plagues Shaped the Story of Exodus (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011), 125–29.
- 12. Hans Goedicke, “Hatshepsut’s Temple Inscription at Speo Artemidos,” Biblical Archaeology Review 7, no. 5 (1981): 42; Hershel Shanks, “The Exodus and the Crossing of the Red Sea, According to Hans Goedicke,” Biblical Archaeology Review7, no. 5 (1981): 42–50; Alan H. Gardiner, “Davies’s Copy of the Great Speos Artemidos Inscription,” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 32 (1946): 43–56; Barbara J. Sivertsen, The Parting of the Sea: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plagues Shaped the Story of Exodus (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011), 8–9.
- 13. Ellen N. Davis, “A Storm in Egypt during the Reign of Ahmose,” in Thera and the Aegean World III, ed. David A. Hardy and A. C. Renfrew, vol. 3, Proceedings of the Third International Congress, Santorini, Greece, 3–9 September 1989 (London, U.K.: The Thera Foundation, 1990), 3:232–35; Donald B. Redford, “Textual Sources for the Hyksos Period,” in The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, ed. Eliezer D. Oren (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1997), 16; Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, 150–51; Kenneth A. Kitchen, “Ancient Egyptian Chronology for Aegeanists,” Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 2, no. 2 (2002): 11; Nadine Moeller and Robert K. Ritner, “The Ahmose ‘Tempest Stela’, Thera and Comparative Chronology,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 73, no. 1 (April 1, 2014): 2.
- 14. Papyrus CPJ 520. Jan Assmann, The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 406. The dates of these documents would indicate an early date (1445 BC) for the Exodus, although some texts are even earlier than this.
- 15. Brad C. Sparks, “Egyptian Texts Relating to the Exodus: Discussions of Exodus Parallels in the Egyptology Literature.” In Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture and Geoscience, edited by Thomas Evan Levy, Thomas Schneider, and William H. C. Propp, (Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences. New York, N.Y.: Springer, 2015), 259–84.
- Bietak, Manfred. “On the Historicity of the Exodus: What Egyptology Today Can Contribute to Assessing the Biblical Account of the Sojourn in Egypt.” In Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture and Geoscience, edited by Thomas Evan Levy, Thomas Schneider, and William H. C. Propp, 17–38. Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences. New York, N.Y.: Springer, 2015. Summary of the article
- Enmarch, Roland. Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All. Oxford, U.K.: Griffith Institute, 2005.
- Enmarch, Roland. “The Reception of a Middle Egyptian Poem: The Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All in the Ramesside Period and beyond,” in Ramesside Studies in Honour of K. A. Kitchen, ed. Mark Collier and Steven R. Snape (Bolton, U.K.: Rutherford, 2011), 173–75.
- Gardiner, A. H. The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage from a Hieratic Papyrus in Leiden. J. C. Hinrich's che Buchhandlung, 1909; reprinted by George Olms Verlag, 1969; reprinted by General Books LLC, January 12, 2010.
- Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature: The Old and Middle Kingdoms, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Berkeley, Calf.: University of California Press, 2006).
- Parkinson, R. B. The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems. Oxford, UK: Oxford World’s Classics, 1999.
- Quirke, Stephen. Egyptian Literature 1800 BC: Questions and Readings. Revised. GHP Egyptology 2. Golden House, 2004.
- Seters. John Van. “A date for the ‘Admonitions’ in the second intermediate Period”. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1964; 50:13–23.
- Stiebing, William H. Out of the Desert?: Archaeology and the Exodus/Conquest Narratives (Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus, 1989).
- Velikovsky, Immanuel. Ages in Chaos: From the Exodus to King Akhnaton (New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1952)
- Zecher, Henry. “The Papyrus Ipuwer, Egyptian Verion of the Plagues - A New Perspective.” The Velikovskian, January 1997.