ARCE Lecture: Horus, Set and Israel

Egyptian Literary Reflections in a Biblical Mirror

Gary Greenberg

Independent Scholar

Egyptian myths about the conflicts between Horus and Set have a long continuous tradition that may go back to pre-dynastic times and may have been influenced by historical events. These stories were known as late as the first century, when the elements were gathered together for the first time by the Greek historian Plutarch. Over time the image of Set changed from a defender of Re to an iconic image of Egypt’s foreign invaders.

Biblical history places the formative years of Israel (from the time of Jacob) in Egypt, depicting Moses as an adopted son of the pharaoh and showing Joseph as married to the daughter of the High Priest of Annu (Heliopolis), one of Egypt’s most important and ancient cult centers.

While differences of opinion exist on the historicity of the biblical stories about Israel in Egypt, in this lecture Greenberg will look at various Egyptian stories, including the New Kingdom tale known as “The Contendings of Horus and Set,” Manetho’s third century BCE Egyptian story connecting the Exodus to Pharoah Akhenaten, and Plutarch’s summary of the story of Osiris and Isis and the activities of their children Horus and Set. We will then compare portions of these stories with elements from the biblical accounts of Jacob and Esau, and Moses and the Exodus, showing how the Egyptian imagery of Horus and Set appears to inform both biblical narratives.

Gary Greenberg was president of the Biblical Archaeology Society for over thirteen years and the author of several books on Egyptian and biblical matters, including “The Moses Mystery” and “101 Myths of the Bible,” both of which explore Egyptian myth and history, and “Manetho: A study in Egyptian Chronology.” He has presented several papers at ARCE annual conferences and at other scholarly forums such as the International Congress of Egyptologists and the International Society of Biblical literature. He has been published in KMT, the Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, and Discussions in Egyptology.

Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.  

Reception to follow. 

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