Praise of the “Bull” in the Cairo Hymn of Amon-Ra (Psalm 106)

Bilderesultat for the Cairo Hymn of Amon-Re

Illustration: The sarcophagus of a priestess of Amon-Ra

When the Israelites were encamped at Mount Horeb they worshiped the image of a calf cast in gold (Exodus 32, Psalm 106:19-20), a practice they had no doubt learned in Egypt. The Cairo Hymn of prais to Amon-Ra describes the chief Egyptian god variously as the Godly Bull, the bull of Heliopolis and the bull of his mother. The bull’s two eyes were the sun and the moon; both bovine and solar images were incorporated into the cult of Amon-Ra. He was worshiped as the creator god who generated heaven, earth, humankind and animal life and was believed to have been the father of all other gods and the sustainer of the Egyptian kings. Although Amon-Ra rescued the poor and downtrodden, he nevertheless kept his name a secret from his children (Amon means “hidden”).

When the Israelites formed the golden calf, they insulted God by depicting Him using the same image employed to portray Egyptian and Canaanite gods, possibly even attributing His saving acts to one of these false gods. Unlike the “hidden” god Amon-Ra, however, the noe true God revealed Himself to His people both in His name (Exodus 3:13-14) and His miraculous deeds. It is important to recognize that the worship of the bull god was in keeping with everything the Israelites had learned in Egypt and that it was, in their view, entirely appropriate. Although their sin was an obvious violation of God’s commands, the culture of their day no doubt convinced them that what they were doing was proper and acceptable.


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