Everyone – pantheist, atheist, skeptic, and polytheist – has to answer these questions: ‘Where did I come from? What is life’s meaning? How do I define right from wrong and what happens to me when I die?’ Those are the fulcrum points of our existence.
A few months ago I was reading an article about King Tut (his full name was Tutankhamun). The ancient Egyptian pharaoh, and artifacts from his tomb, were making a tour and would be stopping in at Chicago to be displayed at one of the museums there. As I read the article I became intrigued by a couple of things.
Back in 1922, archeologist Howard Carter led a team that unearthed the tomb of King Tut. Shortly after the tomb was opened, Carter’s canary was bitten by a Cobra A year later Lord Cameron – the man who financed the expedition – died of an infection he got while shaving. Add the rumor that King Tut’s tomb held a curse for any who would open his grave… and the media had a field day.
By 1935, they claimed there were 21 victims of the Mummy’s curse.
Now, they really had to stretch to get that number (only 6 of the 22 people present when the tomb was opened actually died over the next 12 years or so… not a dramatic number), but because of the supposed Mummy’s curse and the interest it aroused in the general public, Hollywood took notice. From that day until this, there have been over 500 movies featuring dead Pharaohs, wrapped in burial cloth, wreaking their wrath on foolish mortals who dared to disturb their tombs.
APPLY: The story of the curse of King Tut is interesting to me.
And the reason its interesting is because there really was a curse associated with his family.
But the curse didn’t affect the people who opened his tomb.
And it didn’t effect King Tut.
If I’m right, it effected his father, his uncle and his grandfather.
Tut’s mother was Nefertiti (one of the famed beauties of ancient Egypt) and his father was a Pharaoh named Amenhotep IV.
Amenhotep was not quite as famous as King Tut, but he caused quite a stir in his day because he made a major change in Egypt’s worship. Amenhotep took what had been a worship many gods (called polytheism)… and forced Egypt to worship only ONE god (monotheism)
Scholars are divided as to why Tut’s father made this dramatic change but you can be assured it wasn’t real popular at the time. People didn’t like changes in their worship back then any more than they do now. In fact, Amenhotep’s decision was so unpopular that once King Tut took the throne he immediately changed Egypt back to the many gods that everybody seemed to want.
Amenhotep IV (King Tut’s father) was the heretic King of Egypt.
He wanted Egypt to worship only one god.
That alone was worth my interest.
But even more intriguing was the fact Amenhotep IV wasn’t actually supposed to be Pharaoh. That title should have gone to his older brother – Thutmose.
Thutmose was the 1st born of his family… and he died mysteriously. No one seems to know why. (Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1988)
To my way of thinking this family sounds a lot like one that might have suffered from a curse. A curse known as the 10th plague of God upon Egypt.
God told Moses say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” Exodus 4:22-23
Now, I could be wrong, but…
Since King Tut’s father (Amenhotep IV) was the 2nd born, and became Pharaoh because his elder brother, the 1st born, had died of unknown causes. And since he decided – once he became Pharaoh – to abandon the many gods of his family for ONE god…
My guess is: Amenhotep was probably the 2nd born son of the Pharaoh that defied God in Exodus.
I can visualize what transpired:
Amenhotep IV would have seen the failure of Egypt’s many gods. And he would have known 1st hand that his family’s gods couldn’t save his family. And in bitterness he would have abandoned them for a more powerful god.
If one God were good enough for Moses – then one god (albeit not the God of Scripture) would be good enough for him.
If that’s true, that would make King Tut’s grandfather – Amenhotep III – the Pharaoh of Egypt during the Exodus.
Now don’t get lost here.
Amenhotep the IV was son of Amenhotep III.
And Amenhotep III was a powerful ruler who ruled Egypt for nearly 40 years. His reign was one of the most prosperous and stable periods of Egypt’s history
But Amenhotep III suffered from the curse.
His son – his 1st born son – died mysteriously.
So let’s review:
King Tut’s grandfather (Amenhotep III) would have been the Pharaoh during the Exodus. Tut’s father (Amenhotep IV) would have become the next Pharaoh sometime after Israel went on their Exodus. And King Tut himself would have restored the ancient practice of polytheism once his father died.
Ok, but we still have one Pharaoh we haven’t identified.
Who would have been the “new king who didn’t know Joseph” in Exodus 1?
Moses returned to Egypt at the age of 80, so the Pharaoh who ruled when he was born had long since died. So, who was THIS first Pharaoh mentioned in Exodus?
If my math is right that might have been Tut’s great, great, grandfather – Thutmose III.
Thutmose III loved to build things… great monuments, temples, and cities (According to Wikipedia, he built over 50 temples, including what is now the great ruins of Karnak).
That kind of building would have required a lot of labor… slave labor… slaves like maybe Israelite slaves.
In addition – Thutmose also hated people that weren’t like his people – the Egyptians.
Years before Thutmose became king, Egypt had been taken over by foreign people called Hyksos. The Hyksos ruled for about 110 years
But the Egyptian people never warmed to these new rulers.
They didn’t fit in. They weren’t “like” the Egyptians.
They lived different, ate different, and worshipped different.
And eventually the Egyptians overthrew these foreign Kings
When Thutmose became king he decided to completely remove any remaining threat of the Hyksos and he mounted 23 campaigns to finally destroy what power they still had. He was a mighty warrior that some have called the Napoleon of Egypt.
And like I said – he hated people who weren’t like his people.
Like the Hyksos.
And (perhaps) like the Israelites – because they weren’t like the Egyptians either.
· They lived different
· Ate different
· And they worshipped different than Egyptians did.
Many conservative scholars believe Joseph came to Egypt during the reign of the Hyksos. Thus Israel would have been identified as being part of the hated rule of those foreigners and thus Thutmose III would have sought to destroy Israel because he saw them as posing the same threat the Hyksos had had over his beloved nation.
So THIS is how it would have all played out (according to my way of thinking)
Thutmosis III – was the New King who didn’t know Joseph (Exodus 1:8)
Amenhotep III – (Thutmosis’ great grandson) was the Pharaoh during the Exodus (chapters 3 – 14)
Amenhotep IV – was the 2nd born son who became Pharaoh due to his brother’s death and who forced Egypt to worship only one God.
And King Tut was the king who brought Egypt back to worshipping its many false gods
Now that’s nice but YOU MIGHT ASK “what difference does that make?”
I’m glad you asked
It makes a difference because there are many “scholars” out there who would like you to think that the Bible is unreliable.
They’d like you to think you can’t trust it
That it’s historically inaccurate
That its authors borrowed from other cultures to arrive at its theology.
For example they’d like us to think that Moses didn’t come on the scene of Egypt until nearly 200 years later… and thus learned his theology about there being only “one God” from Amenhotep IV rather than the other way around (first suggested by Sigmund Freud)
Why would these skeptics believe this?
They believe it because they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.
And since they don’t believe in Him they need to explain how the Israelites could have lived in such a polytheistic world… and still ended up worshipping only ONE God. Religion evolved (say these “scholars”) and that evolution progressed from polytheism to monotheism. Thus, to their way of thinking, since there is no REAL God – then men had to make Him up.
But there is a REAL God and His Bible makes no errors in its telling of history. Archeologists have used the Bible for more than a century as a road map to find cities and civilizations that have been long buried by the sands of time.
There is no other religious book capable of that kind of accuracy!
God didn’t give us the Bible as a history book… but it IS historically accurate.
You CAN depend on it to be correct even in the smallest details.
And I believe God didn’t do that just with the Bible.
I think He left a little “trail of crumbs” in history-crumbs of evidence pointing back to His Word… evidence like the lives of King Tut and his father Amenhotep IV
Now… I want to shift gears a little here.
The curse of the Mummy was the curse of God’s judgment upon Pharaoh’s house.
Ever since the days of Thutmose III (this new king that didn’t know Joseph) God had been at war with Egypt. The Pharaoh had arranged to kill the babies of the Israelites and so God would not only free His people from their slavery but would bring judgment upon all of Egypt…and especially on the house of Pharaoh.
When the confrontation in Exodus 5 takes place Moses came into Amenhotep III’s throne room and asked permission to take Israel away. And Pharaoh declared: “Who is the LORD that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2
Well… over the next weeks God showed this Pharaoh just WHO He was and why he should let Israel go. He brought 10 terrible plagues upon Egypt… and the last of those plagues was the death of the firstborn (except in the homes of those who had applied the blood of innocent lamb on their doorposts).
Now, what I found interesting in this part of the story was Pharaoh’s comment:
“Who is the LORD that I should obey Him?”
As I pondered on that phrase, it occurred to me that this was exactly the same attitude Satan had toward God.
Satan had declared in his heart – “Who is the LORD that I should obey Him.”
In Isaiah 14:13 we’re told that Satan had said in his heart
“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.”
WHO IS this supposed God that I should bow down to Him (Satan was saying) I’ll take Him down from His throne… and then I’ll be God!
Then it occurred to me that Pharaoh was a “Type” of Satan.
Pharaoh was to Israel what Satan is to us.
· held God’s people in slavery
· he was known for his cruelty
· pain, punishment and death were in his hands
· And he owned Israel (Moses had to ask his permission)
In the same way – before we became Christians – Satan
· held us in slavery
· he was known for his cruelty
· pain, punishment and death were in his hands
· And because of our sins – he OWNED us
· BUT Jesus bought us back.
Now, follow me here:
Colossians 1:18 tells us that in His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus was “… the firstborn from the dead” (repeat this for emphasis)
By His resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of hell and freed us from death’s power.
Thus… just as the death of the firstborn heralded the freedom of Israel
So also, the death of only begotten Son of God – His “firstborn” – heralded our freedom
In His death and resurrection He bought us our freedom
Every time we see someone accept Jesus by being buried in the waters of baptism and risen up to live a new life we should be reminded of this great truth. In their baptism they are re-enacting the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and declaring that it was by His action that they were freed from sin.
One last thought.
There has always been one troubling aspect of Israel’s relationship with Pharaoh that has always puzzled me. Once they crossed the Red Sea – and for the next 40 years – whenever Israel ran into difficulties and hardships… guess where they wanted to go back to?
That’s right. They’d always talk about going back to Egypt.
In Numbers 11 we’re told that Israel began to be bored with their diet. They wanted more variety, more meat. And so they said: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost— also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” Numbers 11:5
they’d forgotten the bitterness of their slavery when life didn’t go their way and they were tempted to return to their old way of life.
That happens to some new Christians as well.
They become bored with Christianity.
Or they face troubles that shake their faith
And they long for how life had been before they were saved.
And some even return to Egypt.
And because they turn back… they embrace the curse.
CLOSE: Michael P Green (Illustrations For Biblical Preaching – with a few changes)
When Howard Carter and his associates found the tomb of King Tutankhamen they opened up his casket and guess what they found? They found another within it covered with gold leaf.
Then they opened this 2nd casket and guess what they found? They found a third.
Inside the third casket – guess what – there was a fourth made of pure gold.
And the pharaoh’s body was in the fourth, wrapped in gold cloth with a gold face mask.
But when the body was unwrapped, it was leathery and shriveled.
No matter how elaborate the caskets.
No matter how beautiful the wrappings
What lay within was death
And no matter how they tried to preserve their bodies the Pharaohs couldn’t escape that final curse.
The curse of death.
But through Jesus we have escaped
Hebrews 2 tells us “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15
Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead to free us from the curse.
And that’s why we offer an invitation at the end of every service for all who would be willing to die to their sins, be buried in the waters of Christian baptism and rise up to a new life.
* Ramses (or Ramesses) II is considered by many to be Pharaoh of Exodus. However, the more conservative timetable for the Exodus (around the 1400’s) predates Ramses by over a hundred years.
* An intriguing website to check out: http://www.heptune.com/akhen.html