The Papyrus Ipuwer
Excerpt from Ages in Chaos, by Immanuel Velikovsky:
"It is not known under what circumstances the papyrus containing the words of Ipuwer was found. According to its first possessor (Anastasi), it was found in "Memphis", by which is probably meant the neighborhood of the pyramids of Saqqara. In 1828 the papyrus was acquired by the Museum of Leiden or Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in the Netherlands and is listed in the catalogue as Leiden 344.
The papyrus is written on both sides. The face (recto) and the back (verso) are differentiated by the direction of the fiber tissues; the story of Ipuwer is written on the face, on the back is a hymn to a deity. A facsimile copy of both texts was published by the authorities of the museum together with other Egyptian documents. The text of Ipuwer is now bolded into a book of seventeen pages, most of them containing fourteen lines of hieratic signs (a flowing writing used by the scribes, quite different from pictorial hieroglyphics). Of the first page only a third -- the left or last part of eleven lines -- is preserved; pages 9 to 16 are in veery bad condition -- there are but a few lines at the top and bottom of the pages -- and of the seventeenth page only the beginning of the first two lines remains.
In 1909 the text, translated anew, was published by Alan H. Gardiner under the title, The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage from a Hieratic Papyrus in Leiden. Gardiner argued that all the internal evidence of the text points to the historical character of the situation. Egypt was in distress; the social system had become disorganized; violence filled the land. Invaders preyed upon the defenceless population; the rich were stripped of everything and slept in the open, and the poor took their possessions. "It is no merely local distrubance that is here described, but a great and overwhelming national disaster."
Gardiner... interprets the text as though the words of a sage name Ipuwer were directed to some king, blaming him for inactivity which has brought confusion, insecurity, and suffering to the people. "The Almighty", to whom Ipuwer directs his words, is a customary appellation of great gods. Because the introductory passages of the papyrus, where the author and his listeners would be likely to be mentioned, are missing, the presence of the king listening to the sage is assumed on the basis of the preferred form of certain other literary examples of the Middle Kingdom. In accordance with this interpretation, the papyrus containing the words of Ipuwer is called, in the Gardiner edition, Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage.
Egypt in Upheaval
The Papyrus Ipuwer is not a collection of proverbs... or riddles; no more is it a literary prophecy... or an admonition concerning profound social changes. It is the Egyptian version of a great catastrophe.
The papyrus is a script of lamentations, a description of ruin and horror.
PAPYRUS 2:8 Forsooth, the land turns round as does a potter's wheel.
2:11 The towns are destroyed. Upper Egypt has become dry (wastes?).
3:13 All is ruin!
7:4 The residence is overturned in a minute.
4:2 ... Years of noise. There is no end to noise.
What do "noise" and "years of noise" denote? The translator wrote: "There is clearly some play upon the word hrw (noise) here, the point of which is to us obscure." Does it mean "earthquake" and "years of earthquake"? In Hebrew the word raash signifies "noise", "commotion", as well as "earthquake". Earthquakes are often accompanied by loud sounds, subterranean rumbling and roaring, and this acoustic phenomenon gives the name to the upheaval itself.
Apparently the shaking returned again and again, and the country was reduced to ruins, the state went into sudden decline, and life became unbearable.
PAPYRUS 6:1 Oh, that the earth would cease from noise, and tumult (uproar) be no more.
The noise and the tumult were produced by the earth. The royal residence would be overthrown "in a minute" and left in ruins....
The papyrus of Ipuwer contains evidence of some natural cataclysm accompanied by earthquakes and bears witness to the appearance of things as they happened at that time.
I shall compare some passages from the Book of Exodus and from the papyrus. As, prior to the publication of Worlds in Collision and Ages in Chaos, no parallels had been drawn between the Bible and the text of the Papyrus Ipuwer, the translator of the papyrus could not have been influenced by a desire to make his translation resemble the biblical text.
PAPYRUS 2:5-6 Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.
EXODUS 7:21 ... there was blood thoughout all the land of Egypt.
This was the first plague.
PAPYRUS 2:10 The river is blood.
EXODUS 7:20 ... all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.
This water was loathsome, and the people could not drink it.
PAPYRUS 2:10 Men shrink from tasting -- human beings, and thirst after water.
EXODUS 7:24 And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
The fish in the lakes and the river died, and worms, insects, and reptiles bred prolifically.
EXODUS 7:21 ... and the river stank.
PAPYRUS 3:10-13 That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin!
The destruction in the fields is related in these words:
EXODUS 9:25 ... and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
PAPYRUS 4:14 Trees are destroyed.
6:1 No fruit nor herbs are found..
This portent was accompanied by consuming fire. Fire spread all over the land.
EXODUS 9:23-24 ... the fire ran along the ground.... there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous.
PAPYRUS 2:10 Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.
The fire which consumed the land was not spread by human hand but fell from the skies.
By this torrent of destruction, according to Exodus,
EXODUS 9:31-32 ... the flax and the barley was smitten; for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was boiled. But the wheat and the rye were not smitten: for they were not grown up.
It was after the next plague that the fields became utterly barren. Like the Book of Exodus (9:31-32 and 10:15), the papyrus relates that no duty could be rendered to the crown for wheat and barley; and as in Exodus 7:21 ("And the fish that was in the river died"), there was no fish for the royal storehouse.
PAPYRUS 10:3-6 Lower Egypt weeps... The entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong (by right) wheat and barley, geese and fish.
The fields were entirely devastated.
EXODUS 10:15 ... there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the fields, through all the land of Egypt.
PAPYRUS 6:3 Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.
5:12 Forsooth, that has perished which yesterday was seen. The land is left over to its weariness like the cutting of flax.
The statement that the crops of the fields were destroyed in a single day ("which yesterday was seen") excludes drought, the usual cause of a bad harvest; only hail, fire, or locusts could have left the fields as though after "the cutting of flax". The plague is described in Psalms 105:34-35 in these words: "... the locusts came, and caterpillars, and that without number. And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground."
PAPYRUS 6:1 No fruit nor herbs are found... hunger.
The cattle were in a pitiful condition.
EXODUS 9:3 ... the hand of the Lord is upon the cattle which is in the field... there shall be a very grievous murrain.
PAPYRUS 5:5 All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan....
Hail and fire made the frightened cattle flee.
EXODUS 9:19 .. gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field...
21 And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.
PAPYRUS 9:2-3 Behold, cattle are left to stray, and there is none to gather them together. Each man fetches for himself those that are branded with his name.
The ninth plague, according to the Book of Exodus, covered Egypt with profound darkness.
EXODUS 10:22 ... and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt.
PAPYRUS 9:11 The land is not light....
"Not light" is in Egyptian equivalent to "without light" or "dark". But there is some question as to whether the two sentences are entirely parallel. The years of wandering in the desert are described as spent in gloom under a cover of thick clouds....
The Last Night before the Exodus
According to the Book of Exodus, the last night the Israelites were in Egypt was a night in which death struck instantly and took victims from every Egyptian home. The death of so many in a single night, even at the same hour of midnight, cannot be explained by a pestilence, which would last more than a single hour. The story of the last plague does seem like a myth; it is a stranger in the sequence of the other plagues, which can be explained...
...Apparently we have before us the testimony of an Egyptian witness of the plagues.
On careful reading of the papyrus, it appeared that the slaves were still in Egypt when at least one great shock occurred, ruining houses and destroying life and fortune. It precipitated a general flight of the population from the cities, while the other plagues probably drove them from the country into the cities.
The biblical testimony was reread. It became evident that it had not neglected this most conspicuous event: it was the tenth plague.
In the papyrus it is said: "The residence is overturned in a minute." On a previous page it was stressed that only an earthquake could have overturned and ruined the royal residence in a minute. Sudden and simultaneous death could be inflicted on many....
EXODUS 12:30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt: for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
A great part of the people lost their lives in one violent shock. Houses were struck a furious blow.
EXODUS 12:27 [The Angel of the Lord] passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.
The word nogaf for "smote" is used for a violent blow, e.g. for thrusting with his horns by an ox.
The residence of the king and the palaces of the rich were tossed to the ground, and with them the houses of the common people and the dungeons of captives.
EXODUS 12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon.
PAPYRUS 4:3, and 5:6 Forsooth, the children of princes are dashed against the walls.
6:12 Forsooth, the children of princes are cast out in the streets.
PAPYRUS 6:3 The prison is ruined.
2:13 He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere.
To it correspond Exodus 12:30:
... there was not a house where there was not one dead.
In Exodus 12:30 it is written:
... there was a great cry in Egypt.
To it corresponds the papyrus 3:14:
It is groaning that is throughout the land, mingled with lamentations.
The statues of the gods fell and broke in pieces: "this night... against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment" (Exodus 12:12).
A book by Artapanus, no longer extant, which quoted some unknown ancient source and which in its turn was quoted by Eusebius, tells of "hail and earthquake by night [of the last plague], so that those who fled from the earthquake were killed by the hail, and those who sought shelter from the hail were destroyed by the earthquake. And at that time all the houses fell in, and most of the temples."
The earth was equally pitiless towards the dead in their graves: the sepulchers opened, and the buried were disentombed.
PAPYRUS 4:4, also 6:14 Forsooth, those who were in the place of embalmment are laid on the high ground.
Revolt and Flight
The description of distrubances in the Papyrus Ipurew, when compared with the scriptural narrative, gives a strong impression that both sources relate the very same events. It is therefore only natural to look for mention of revolt among the population, of a flight of wretched slaves from this country visited by disaster, and of a cataclysm in which the pharaoh perished.
Although in the mutilated papyrus there is no explicit reference to the Israelites or their leaders, three facts are clearly described as consequences of the upheaval: the population revolted; the wretched or the poor men fled; the king perished under unusual circumstances....
PAPYRUS 4:2 Forsooth, great and small say: I wish I might die.
5:14f. Would that there might be an end of men, no conception, no birth! Oh, that the earth would cease from noise, and tumult be no more!
The escaped slaves hurried across the border of the country. By day a column of smoke went before them in the sky; by night it was a pillar of fire.
EXODUS 13:21 ... by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.
PAPYRUS 7:1 Behold, the fire has mounted up on high. Its burning goes forth against the enemies of the land.
The translator added this remark: "Here the 'fire' is regarded as something disastrous."
After the first manifestations of the protracted cataclysm the Egyptians tried to bring order into the land. They traced the route of the escaped slaves. The wanderers became "entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in" (Exodus 14:3). They turned to the sea, they stood at Pi-ha-Khiroth. "The Egyptians pursued after them. The Egyptians marched after them." A hurricane blew all the night and the sea fled.
In a great avalanche of water "the sea returned to his strength", and "the Egyptians fled against it". The sea engulfed the chariots and the horsemen, the pharoah and all his host.
The Papyrus Ipuwer (7:1-2) records only that the pharaoh was lost under unusual circumstances "that have never happened before". The Egyptian wrote his lamentations, and even in the broken lines they are perceptible:
... weep... the earth is... on every side... weep...
Excerpt from Ages in Chaos, by Immanuel Velikovsky (pages 18-31)
To this day, scholarly explanations for the collapse of the great Egyptian Empire, a civilization that burst on to History's stage... arrayed in wisdom beyond our Centuries... that one day was... and then suddenly was not... most explanations remain woefully inadequate.
Do a word search and find: the Papyrus Ipurwer and where it is located. Unfortunately, links change frequently.