Ancient Egypt had a long and largely unbroken history. Nearly 3,000 years before the current era (BCE), the Egyptians had reached a high stage of civilization where the boys of the ruling class were taught such as:
Rulers should aim to make their people prosperous.
Those who have bread need to share it with the hungry.
Humble and lowly people must be treated with kindness.
It would profit a man to have acted justly, at least when judged at death, if not before.
Egyptian teachings are included in the Book of Proverbs of the Bible, mainly 22:17–24:22 These sayings parallell the older Amenemope text or are fragments of it. [EB, "biblical literature > proverbs"]
Also worth noting: In Wisdom of the Egyptians, Brian Brown observes that "virtues which we are apt to suppose a monopoly of Christian culture appear as the ideal of these old Egyptians." (1923:xii)
Below are Egyptian precepts and proverbs to ponder.
Beautiful discourse is rarer than emerald, yet it can be found among the servant girls at the grindstones. [Ptah-Hotep]
Declare your line of conduct without reticence. [Ptah-Hotep]
Do not weaken the attention of him who is occupied. [Ptah-Hotep]
Error carries away the unteachable. [Ptah-Hotep]
Evil words fill some with astonishment. [Ptah-Hotep]
Great God is the ruler of all the gods. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
If you are a leader of peace, listen to the discourse of the petitioner. Be not abrupt with him; that would trouble him. [Ptah-Hotep]
If you are wise, look after your house; love your wife without alloy. [Ptah-Hotep]
It is a wretched thing to injure a poor man.
The man who has plenty of means of existence, conducts himself pretty much as he himself wishes. [Ptah-Hotep, modified]
Know those who are faithful to you when you are in low estate. [Ptah-Hotep]
Learn to rise up out of the enigmatic egg in the hidden land. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
Hermopolitan creation had several variations of the Golden Egg myth. In one, the Cosmic Egg was laid by the Great Cackler, i.e., the celestial goose [also: Great Honker], while in another, the egg was laid by an ibis, the bird identified with the god Thoth. In a third variation, a lotus flower emerged from the waters and opened to reveal a child-god.
Listen with kindness for a clear explanation. [With Ptah-Hotep]
May no lies be spoken against me in the presence of God. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
My KA dwells in my body. Insult it not. [Papyrus of Ani, elaborated]
Never speak untruth and falsity knowingly. [Papyrus of Ani, elaborated]
One should do nothing with a false heart. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
Shining I Inside, let Him guide my heart. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
That which is said in your heart, let it be realised by springing up spontaneously - [Ptah-Hotep]
The great Heaven [the Ocean inside] is found inside the Eye of God - [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
The wise man is great through his own merits. [Ptah-Hotep]
Those who are in the following of the prince of everlastingness and God of Life, sing with joy. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
To seek without finding, equals waste of time. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
Wealth can come through your Creator's good-will. [With Ptah-Hotep]
When a son attends to his father, it is a twofold joy for both; when wise things are prescribed to him, the son is [to be] gentle. [Ptah-Hotep]
When He opens up His path, may He carry me along, safe and sound. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
When you speak, know that which can be brought against you. [Ptah-Hotep]
Who has not done any evil act, his or her heart may be found right. [Papyrus of Ani, modified]
Wise rising gives joy. [Papyrus of Ani, amplified]
Look to your friend and thoughts to prosper far better by
Here are elegant sayings from ancient Egypt, and a few attributed ones:
• From the Karnak Temple complex come words of wisdom.
• The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq is an Ancient Egyptian papyrus. Its style has been termed pragmatic and humorous. The papyrus was got in 1896 by the British Museum (papyrus #10508).
• Djehuti is a reconstructed Egyptian name for Thoth, also termed Hermes Trismegistus.
The star (*) "is me" - meaning: "Phrases marked with a star, are sewn together by me, TK. Sow fragments and phrases yourself according to metrics. Or maybe you will reflect on it in the light of the Djehuty-attributed "Man is a star entrapped by darkness"?
The friend of a wise person may be kind -
Do not hate a man to his face when you know nothing of him. (Ankhsheshonq)
Man must learn that what he does may have consequences. [Mod] (Karnak Temple)
May I recognize my brother and sister that I may open my heart to them. (Ankhsheshonq)
Seeds that sprouts upwards at the same time send roots into the ground. (Karnak Temple)
Angry with a land, the Light of God makes law and justice cease in it, makes value scarce in it; sets the fools over the wise, lets the ruler mistreat its people. (Ankhsheshonq)
The disciple must experience in himself each stage of developing. And he will know nothing for which he is not ripe. (Karnak Temple)
The friend of a wise person is another wise person. (Ankhsheshonq)
The nut does not reveal the tree it contains. (Karnak Temple)
A woman who remains a woman at night is praised during the day. (Ankhsheshonq)
Advice given to the stupid weighs as little as the wind. (Ankhsheshonq)
If you want something, look for the complement that will elicit it. (Karnak Temple)
You are only a spirit. [Djehuti, attr.]
May I have something and my relatives have something so that I may eat my own food without holding back. (Ankhsheshonq)
Cognition comes from inside ourselves, but the Master gives the keys. (Karnak Temple)
Material and intellectual wealth are no real securities. (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not prefer one of your children to the other, for you know not which one of them will be kind to you. (Ankhsheshonq)
Organisation cannot be good enough unless those who know laws of harmony lay the foundation. [Mod] (Karnak Temple)
Never let an ungodly or a mediocre man give orders to people. (Ankhsheshonq)
Qualities of a moral order are measured by deeds. (Karnak Temple)
Serve your mother and father that you may go forward and prosper. (Ankhsheshonq)
Our senses serve to affirm, not to know. (Karnak Temple)
The wealth of a workman could be his tools. [Mod] (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not ask God for advice and then disregard it. (Ankhsheshonq) ◊
Do not instruct a fool lest he hate you for it. (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not rely on a fool. (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not rely on the property of an idiot. (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not teach those who do not want to hear. (Ankhsheshonq)
Popular beliefs on essential matters must be examined in order to discover the original thought. (Karnak Temple)
Break through the web of Ignorance. [Djehuti, attr.]
Do not rely on the property of another - acquire your own. [Abr] (Ankhsheshonq)
If the God of Light, is angry with a country, law, justice and values break down and fools take the place of wise men. (Ankhsheshonq)
There grows no wheat where there is no grain. (Karnak Temple)
Love is one thing, knowledge is another. (Karnak Temple)
True teaching is not an accumulation of knowledge; it is an awakening of consciousness through successive stages. (Karnak Temple)
Look to your own feet and their standing, and truly prosper
Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion. (Karnak Temple)
In helplessness lies undoing. *
Blithe advice given to a fool, often leads to humiliations one way or another. Act righteously rather than humiliate. *
Recognise your brother's acre and look to your own, if you don't lack understanding. *
Man should try not to give away tools to fools with secret meanness in their hearts, by getting nearer reality.*
If fools are well praised all over the country, it is not heading for security.*
Some wander to get wiser. However, no discussion can throw light if it wanders. [Hum]*
You will free yourself when you learn to be neutral and follow the instructions of your heart without letting things perturb you. This is the way of Maat. (Karnak Temple)
Matter is fluid and flows like a stream. [Djehuti, attr.]
Truths you learn, could take the place of other thoughts you had, and break some of them. ¤
Every man is rich in excuses to safeguard his prejudices, his instincts, and his opinions. (Karnak Temple)
A pupil may show you by his own efforts how much he deserves to learn from you. (Karnak Temple) ◊
The wealth of a house is a wise woman. (Ankhsheshonq)
Each truth you learn will be new to you. (Karnak Temple)
Do not say "Here is my brother's acre"; look to your own. (Ankhsheshonq)
May I recognize my friends that I may share with them. [Mod] (Ankhsheshonq)
In helplessness lies humiliations. (Karnak Temple)
One foot isn't enough to walk with. (Karnak Temple)
No discussion can throw light if it wanders from the real point. (Karnak Temple)
There is no one who deceives who is not deceived, and no one who does wrong that goes on and truly prospers at length. (Ankhsheshonq)
The riches of the miser - cold!
Do not let a fool intervene in an important matter. (Ankhsheshonq) [Abr]
The death of an evil man is a cause for celebration for those he leaves behind. (Ankhsheshonq)
Routine and prejudice distort vision. Each man thinks his own horizon is the limit of the world. (Karnak Temple)
Do not say "I am learned" but rather set yourself to become wise. (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not belittle the elderly in your heart. (Ankhsheshonq)
He cannot be heard with ears, nor seen with eyes, nor expressed in words; but only in mind and heart. [Djehuti, attr.]
He who has been chosen out of the crowd is not automatically a wise man because of that. (Ankhsheshonq)
Serve a wise person that he or she may serve you. (Ankhsheshonq)
The riches of the generous man are greater than those of the miser. (Ankhsheshonq)
Understanding develops by degrees. (Karnak Temple)
People bring about their own undoing through their tongues. (Karnak Temple)
Suffer not yourselves to be carried with the Great Stream, but stem the tide you that can lay hold of the Haven of Safety, and make your full course towards it. [Djehuti, attr.]
Images are nearer reality than cold definitions. (Karnak Temple) ◊
Lacking images, men invent idols. Found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source. Maat (Karnak Temple)
True sages are those who give what they have, without meanness and without secret. (Karnak Temple)
When the governing class is not chosen for quality it is chosen for material wealth: this always means decadence for a society to reach. (Karnak Temple)
The good fortune of a town is a leader who acts righteously. (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not let your servant force your son. [Abr] (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not take yourself a woman whose husband is alive. [Abr] (Ankhsheshonq)
It is better to have a serpent hanging around the house than a fool. (Ankhsheshonq)
Do not do to a person what you dislike [If you are sane]. (Ankhsheshonq)
If you would know yourself, take yourself as starting point and go back to the source. (Karnak Temple)
Do not long for your home to drink beer in it in midday. (Ankhsheshonq)
Don't believe something without putting its truth to the test; the faculty of discernment is indispensable to the Seeker. Sound scepticism. (Karnak Temple)
The friend of a fool is a fool. (Ankhsheshonq)
Judge by cause and also by effects [Mod] (Karnak Temple)
May the heart of a wife be the heart of her husband so that they may be free of contention. (Ankhsheshonq)
Ra is angry with a land (and) its rulers neglect the law. (Ankhsheshonq)
The plant reveals what is in the seed. (Karnak Temple)
Look above or look below and find that Oneness is at the Source of the Law. [Djehuti, attr. and abr]
In all formed matter, the heart of Light always exists. Even though bound in the darkness, inherent Light always exists. [Djehuti, attr.]
Do not do a thing that you have not first examined. (Ankhsheshonq) ◊◊
The body is the house of God. That is why it is said, "Man know yourself." (Karnak Temple)
Celebrate the glad day. [Coffin text, abr.]
May your fate not be the fate of one who begs and is given. (Ankhsheshonq)
Speak truth to everyone [some things are private, though]. (Ankhsheshonq)
Man is a star entrapped by darkness. [Djehuti, attr.]
The friend of a wise person takes an overlook at his life-length or standing to counteract getting miserly cold as clay soon.
A mean phrase slights its sayer.
An absent person should have his excuse (Don't jump to conclusions, and don't blame someone not present until you hear his or her side of the story.)
Be patient with a bad neighbour: he may move or face misfortune.
Bed is the poor man's opera.
Borrowing is bad, and paying back is a loss. (Counsel to discourage borrowing.)
Does sheep manure turn to caramel? (Don't expect a bad person to suddenly turn good.)
Dress up a stick and you get a doll. (Clothes and cosmetics can make the ugly look quite pretty. So don't be fooled by appearances.)
Education is what you know, not what's in the book. (Thinking can be more important than collecting material. So: people should try to use their minds too.)
Grapes are eaten one by one. (One step at a time.)
I believe what you say, I'm only surprised at what you do. (Your words contradict your actions. Used when someone's actions contradict his speech etc.)
If you "marry" a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains. (Don't get attracted by money. It is said to a girl who wants to marry for riches.)
If you have to drag a dog to the hunt, neither he nor his hunting is any good. (Someone who does unwillingly what he is supposed to do quite naturally, may not work all right. Used for commenting on someone who does not perform up to standards he or she is supposed to do.)
If you live in a glass house, don't throw stones (What you do to others may come round - and aren't you vulnerable?)
If your friend is like honey, don't lick all of it! (Do not take advantage of the sweetness of a dear friend! Used to take to task someone who abuses the generosity of a friend.)
Learn politeness from the impolite.
Making money on manure is better than losing money on musk.
Money goes to peacocks (Vainglorious people get wealth also.)
Protect the flame of your candle and it will light more. (Don't brag about your blessings or you could lose them. Use: As in "A cake watched never rises".)
Stretch your legs as far as your quilt (blanket) goes. (Do not do what you cannot afford.)
The costly news of today will be free tomorrow. (What becomes common, its value may drop.)
The miserable got together with the hopeless. (Little good may come out of such a union. Used to comment on two disadvantaged people who want to join efforts.)
The son of the swan is a good swimmer (Like father like son. Used when a son is able, just like his father, etc.)
They couldn't beat the donkey so they beat the saddle! (Suggested: Address the source of the problem, rather.)
We let him in, he brought his donkey along. (Be careful with some people, they try to take advantage of others. This proverb is used when somebody doesn't stop at the limits set for him or her.)
What comes this way, goes this way. (Also: Easy come, easy go.)
Ashby, Muata, coll. Ancient Egyptian Proverbs. 4th ed. Miami, FLA: Sema Institute, 2005.
Brown, Brian, ed. The Wisdom of the Egyptians: The Story of the Egyptians, the Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, the Ptah-Hotep and the Ke'gemini, the "Book of the Dead," the Wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus, Egyptian Magic, the Book of Thoth. New York: Brentano's, 1923.
Bryce, Glendon E. A Legacy of Wisdom: The Egyptian Contribution to the Wisdom of Israel. Lewisburg PA: Bucknell University Press, 1979.
Budge, Ernest Alfred Wallis, tr. The Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani. London: The Trustees, 1895.
Budge, Ernest Alfred Wallis, tr. The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1914.
Burckhardt, John Lewis, oms. Arabic Proverbs; or the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Illustrated from Their Proverbial Sayings Current at Cairo. 2nd ed. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1875.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica (Online)
Horne, Charles Francis, ed. The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East; with an Historical Survey and Descriptions. Vol. 2, Egypt. New York: Parke, Austin and Lipscomb, 1917.
Initiates, Three. The Kybalion: A Study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece. Chicago ILL: The Yogi Publication Society Masonic Temple, 1912.
Massey, Gerald. Ancient Egypt: The Light of The World. 2 Vols. Leeds: Celphais Press, 2008.
Massey, Gerard. Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Mysteries of Amenta. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907.
Oesterley, William Oscar Emil. The Wisdom of Egypt and the Old Testament in the Light of the Newly Discovered Teachings of Amen-em-ope. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1927.
Petrie, William Matthew Flinders. The Religion of Ancient Egypt. London: Archibald Constable and Co., 1906.
Tohami, Mohamed. The Pharaoh's Code: Creating a Joyful Life and a Lasting Legacy. Charleston, SC: BookSurge/CreateSpace Publishing, 2008.
West, John Anthony. Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt. 1st Quest ed. Wheaton Ill: Quest Books, 1993.
Wiedemann, Alfred. Popular Literature in Ancient Egypt. Tr. J Hutchison. London: David Nutt, 1902.
Wilson, Epiphanus, ed. Egyptian Literature Comprising Egyptian Tales, Hymns, Litanies, Invocations, The Book of the Dead, and Cuneiform Writings. London: The Colonial Press, 1901.
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