Biblical Egypt by R. David Pogge

Chapter 2

Pre-Abrahamic Egypt

The First Intermediate Period, and Middle Kingdom

Section 2.1 - Semites and Egyptians

Japheth’s descendents, living in Europe are out of the picture, as far as we are concerned. Our attention is on Ham’s descendents in northern Africa (modern Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Ethiopia) and Shem’s descendents in the Middle-East, also called “the Levant” (modern Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq).

Shem’s descendents are the Semites. Semites, Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews are often confused, so let’s clear up the terminology before we go any further. Semites include not only Hebrews but all those other descendents of Shem, such as Ammonites, Hittites, Amorites, Philistines, and so on. “Semitic” is a very general term which includes all the descendents of Shem. Of particular interest to us are the Israelites, who are descendents of a particular Hebrew named Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by God. One of Israel’s twelve sons, Judah, became the ancestor of all Jews. “Jew” is a much more specific term than “Semite.”

After the Tower of Babel debacle, the various tribes of Semites in the Levant were divided among themselves because they spoke different languages, and were even more separated from Ham’s descendents in northern Africa who were similarly divided. Consequently, there wasn’t much interaction between them for some time.

The Egyptian Old Kingdom fell apart shortly after the tower of Babel fell. There was a period of roughly 140 years called The First Intermediate Period before the Middle Kingdom arose. There is evidence of contact between Semites and Egyptians during the Middle Kingdom period.

There is ample evidence of the exchange of diplomatic gifts between Egypt and the Levant during this period. Jewellery bearing the king’s cartouche has been found in the royal tombs at Byblos in Lebanon (especially in that of the local prince, Ipshemuabi, together with local copies of typical 12th Dynasty jewellery. In Egypt, a great treasure was discovered in the foundations of the temple of Montu at Tod, just south of Luxor (Thebes), consisting of four bronze boxes inscribed on the lid in hieroglyphics with the name of Amenemhet II. The boxes contained a large number of silver cups of Levantine and Aegean origin, as well as Babylonian cylinder seals and lapis lazuli amulets from Mesopotamia. The whole hoard was probably either a diplomatic gift or tribute, the silver cups represented an extremely high intrinsic value at the time, since silver was far more precious than gold in Egypt.

There is also an apparent increase at this time in the number of Levantine names recorded in Egypt, presumably belonging to those brought in as domestic servants. 1

So, there is archaeological evidence that contact between Egyptians and Semites had resumed during the Middle Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom lasted less than 300 years before it fell apart, resulting in the Second Intermediate Period, when Abraham entered Egypt.

Back to Chapter 1 Table of Contents On to Chapter 3


1 Peter A. Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, 2006, page 82