The Prophecy of Nefer-rohu
Translator: John A. Wilson
The middle kingdom delivered Egypt from the civil war and anarchy which had followed the old kingdom. These troubles and their ultimate resolution produced a sense of messianic salvation, a feeling which the early pharaohs of the middle kingdom probably fostered in their own interests. The following text was apparently composed at that time of happy deliverance, although the earliest extant copies happen to date from the eighteenth dynasty, about five centuries later. The text purports to relate how king Snefru of the fourth dynasty sought entertainment and how a prophet foretold the downfall of the old kingdom and the reestablishment of order by Amen-em-het I, the first king of the twelfth dynasty.
Now it happened that the majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Snefru, the triumphant, was the beneficent king in this entire land. On one of these days it happened that the official council of the residence city entered into the great house--life, [prosperity], health!--to offer greeting. Then they went out, that they might offer greetings (elsewhere), according to their daily procedure. Then his majesty--life, prosperity, health!--said to the seal-bearer who was at his side: "go and bring me (back) the official council of the residence city, which has gone forth hence to offer greetings on this [day]." (Thereupon they) were ushered in to him (5) immediately. Then they were on their bellies in the presence of his majesty a second time.
Then his majesty--life, prosperity, health!--said to them: "(my) people, behold, I have caused you to be called to have you seek out for me a son of yours who is wise, or a brother of yours who is competent, or a friend of yours who has performed a good deed, one who may say to me a few fine words or choice speeches, at the hearing of which my [majesty] may be entertained."
Then they put (themselves) upon their bellies in the presence of his majesty--life, prosperity, health!--once more. Then they said before his majesty--life, prosperity, health!: "a great lector-priest of Bastet,1 O Sovereign, our lord, (10) whose name is Nefer-rohu--he is a commoner valiant [with] his arm, a scribe competent with his fingers; he is a man of rank, who has more property than any peer of his. Would that he [might be permitted] to see his majesty!" then his majesty-life, prosperity, health!--said: "go and [bring] him to me!"
Then he was ushered in to him immediately. Then he was on his belly in the presence of his majesty-life, prosperity, health! Then his majesty--life, prosperity, health!--said: "come, pray, Nefer-rohu, my friend, that thou mayest say to me a few fine words or choice speeches, at the hearing of which my majesty may be entertained!" Then the lector-priest Nefer-rohu said: "of what has (already) happened or of what is going to happen, O Sovereign--life, prosperity, health! --[my] lord." (15) Then his majesty--life, prosperity, health!--said: "rather of what is going to happen. If it has taken place by today, pass it [by]."2 Then he stretched forth his hand for the box of writing equipment; then he drew forth a scroll of papyrus and a palette; thereupon he put (it) into writing.3
What the lector-[priest] Nefer-rohu said, that wise man of the east, he who belonged to Bastet at her appearances, that child of the Heliopolitan Nome,4 as he brooded over what (was to) happen in the land, as he called to mind the state of the east, when the Asiatics would move about with their strong arms, would disturb the hearts [of] those who are at the harvest, and would take away the spans of cattle at the plowing. (20) He said:
Reconstruct, O my heart, (how) thou bewailest this land in which thou didst begin! To be silent is repression. Behold, there is something about which men speak as terrifying, for, behold. the great man is a thing passed away (in the land) where thou didst begin. Be not lax; behold, it is before thy face! Mayest thou rise up against what is before thee, for, behold, although great men are concerned with the land, what has been done is as what is not done. Re must begin the foundation (of the earth over again). The land is completely perished, (so that) no remainder exists, (so that) not (even) the black of the nail survives from what was fated.5
This land is (so) damaged (that) there is no one who is concerned with it, no one who speaks, no eye that weeps. How is this land? The sun disc is covered over. (25) it will not shine (so that) people may see. No one can live when clouds cover over (the sun). Then everybody is deaf for lack of it.
I shall speak of what is before my face; I cannot foretell what has not (yet) come.
The rivers of Egypt are empty, (so that) the water is crossed on foot men seek for water for the ships to sail on it. Its course is [become] a sandbank. The sandbank is against the flood; the place of water is against the [flood]--(both) the place of water and the sandbank.6 The south wind will oppose the north wind; the skies are no (longer) in a single wind.7 A foreign bird will be born in the marshes of the Northland. It has made a nest beside (30) men. And people have let it approach through want of it.8 Damaged indeed are those good things, those fish-ponds, (where there were) those who clean fish, overflowing with fish and fowl. Everything good is disappeared, and the land is prostrate because of woes from that food,9 the Asiatics who are throughout the land.
Foes have arisen in the cast, and Asiatics have come down into Egypt....no protector will listen.... men will enter into the fortresses. Sleep will be banished from my eyes, (35) as I spend the night wakeful. The wild beasts of the desert will drink at the rivers of Egypt and be at their ease on their banks for lack of some one to scare them away.
This land is helter-skelter, and no one knows the result which will come about, which is hidden from speech, sight, or hearing. The face is deaf, for silence confronts. I show thee the land topsy-turvy. That which never happened has happened. Men will take up weapons of warfare, (so that) the land lives in (40) confusion. Men will make arrows of metal,10 beg for the bread of blood, and laugh with the laughter of sickness.11 There is no one who weeps because of death; there is no one who spends the night fasting because of death; (but) a man's heart pursues himself (alone). (Disheveled) mourning is no (longer) carried out today, (for) the heart is completely separated from it. A man sits in his corner, (turning) his back while one man kills another. I show thee the son as a foe, the brother as an enemy, and a man (45) killing his (own) father.
Every mouth is full of "Love Me!", and everything good has disappeared. The land is perished, (as though) laws were destined for it: the damaging of what had been done, the emptiness of what had been found 12 and the doing of what had not been done. Men take a man's property away from him, and it is given to him who is from outside, I show thee the possessor in need and the outsider satisfied. He who never filled for himself (now) empties.13 Men will [treat] (fellow) citizens as hateful, in order to silence the mouth that speaks. If a statement is answered, an arm goes out with a stick, and men speak with: "Kill Him!" The utterance of speech in the heart is like a fire. (50) Men cannot suffer what issues from a man's mouth.
The land is diminished, (but) its administrators are many; bare, (but) its taxes are great; little in grain, (but) the measure is large, and it is measured to overflowing.14
Re separates himself (from) mankind. If he shines forth, it is (but) an hour. No one knows when midday falls, for his shadow cannot be distinguished.15 There is no one bright of face when seeing [him]; the eyes are not moist with water, when he is in the sky like the moon. His prescribed time does not fail. His rays are indeed in (men's) faces in his former way.
I show thee the land topsy-turvy. The weak of arm is (now) the possessor of an arm. Men (55) salute (respectfully) him who (formerly) saluted. I show thee the undermost on top, turned about in proportion to the turning about of my belly. Men live in the necropolis. The poor man will make wealth. ... it is the paupers who eat the offering-bread, while the servants jubilate. The Heliopolitan Nome, the birthplace of every god, will no (longer) be on earth.
(Then) it is that a king will come belonging to the south, Ameni, the triumphant, his name. He is the son of a woman of the land of Nubia; he is one born in Upper Egypt.16 He will take the [white] crown; he will wear the red crown; (60) he will unite the Two Mighty Ones;17 he will satisfy the Two Lords18 with what they desire. The encircler-of-the-fields (will be) in his grasp, the oar...19
Rejoice, ye people of his time! The son of a man will make his name forever and ever. They who incline toward evil and who plot rebellion have subdued their speech for fear of him. The Asiatics will fall to his sword, and the Libyans will fall to his flame. The rebels belong to his wrath, and the treacherous of heart to (65) the awe of him. The uraeus-serpent which is on his brow stills for him the treacherous of heart.19a
There will be built the Wall of the Ruler--life, prosperity, health!20--and the Asiatics will not be permitted to come down into Egypt that they might beg for water in the customary manner, in order to let their beasts drink. And justice will come into its place, while wrongdoing is driven out.21 Rejoice, he who may behold (this) (70) and who may be in the service of the king!
The learned man will pour out water for me,22 when he sees what I have spoken come to pass.
It has come (to its end) in [success], by the scribe ...
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The Ancient Near East, Volume I / An Anthology of Texts and Pictures
Edited by James B. Pritchard
|TRANSLATORS AND ANNOTATORS
W. F. Albright, Johns Hopkins University
/ H. L. Ginsberg, Jewish Theological Seminary
Albrecht Goetze, Yale University / S. N. Kramer, University of Pennsylvania
Theophile J. Meek, University of Toronto / A. Leo Oppenheim, University of Chicago
Robert H. Pfeiffer, Harvard University / Franz Rosenthal, Yale University
E. A. Speiser, University of Pennsylvania / Ferris J. Stephens, Yale University
John A. Wilson, University of Chicago / Princeton University Press
FOOTNOTES: by John A. Wilson, by Siloam Ramesses
1 The lector-priest (literally, "he who carries the ritual") was initiated into the sacred writings and thus was priest, seer, and magician. Bastet was the cat-goddess of Bubastis in the eastern half of the delta. Bastet and the scribe of the Denderah zodiac are created to simulate the asterism known as Sculptor, marking the bottom of the galaxy and the end/beginning times.
2 This must be the general sense, although the wording is obscure. An Egyptian interest in the future, rather than the past, was not normal, but a prophecy which promised that the future would restore the past would be acceptable. Egyptian monuments are all future oriented, which is why most archaeologists do not understand her ritual. The gnosis of Egypt is timeless.
3 The pharaoh himself wrote down the prophecy. The Egyptian texts treat Snefru as a friendly and approachable ruler. We need to relate this statement to the "stretching of the cord" with Seshat, and the Ished Tree scene of Ramesses II. Pharaoh means "great house," and it was in the personal image of the Pharaoh that Egyptian gnosis was recorded. It is a highly organized social structure similar to that of colonial insects, such as ants, bees, and termites.
4 Although now serving in Bubastis, he was born in the Heliopolitan nome. In the Denderah zodiac, Bastet is show in her appearance at, or with, the child of the Heliopolitan nome. He is Horus sitting upon the lotus, with a finger of silence before his lips. The Heliopolitan nome is the city of the sun, and is the solar system. This is a gnostic reference to being like a cat in regard to its senses; live where the body functions best.
5 Not so much of the "black land" of Egypt survives as might be under a fingernail. May also refer to the color of a mummies finger nails, for death is fated.
6 Perhaps mistranslated, but attempting to hold the idea that neither the banks nor the bed of the stream would receive the life-giving inundation. The portion of the sky where the constellation Sculptor is located. This was the location of Geb and Ptah, under the Ished tree. It is the land under the land.
7 The pleasant north wind is the normal wind of Egypt. North and south are eternal domains of the heaven, since the stars do not set at the pole. North is the top of the Asiatic world, and south is the top of the Libyan world, thus the cosmos has lost its unity.
8 A strange passage, which either emphasizes the unnaturalness of nature in the distressed times or else is an oblique reference to Asiatics infiltrating into the delta. The bird is Aquila, the eagle. This is the icon fowl of all of the Asiatics, and the rationalists of Egypt. So it is clear that the passage indicates that rational perceptions (Asiatics) will dominate sensual perceptions (Libya). Zeus will rise to Olympus on the wings of Aquila, preceded by Etana in Mesopotamia, followed by Ganymede, amongst many others.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar: He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants. He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree. And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs. There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation. It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. (Ezek 17:1-8 KJV) The two eagles are clearly a description of the Phoenix and Aquila, for one is atop the branches and the other is under the roots in the furrow of Maat near the bottom of the Land Under the Land.
9 The Asiatics are a bitter diet for the Egyptians? Like in Easter Island, when the birds copulate with the fishes, the substance of life is strangely altered. The bird constellations are the Phoenix, Stork, Peacock, Tucan(?), Eagle, Hummingbird, Swan, and the Dove. Only the Crow flies above the celestial waters, where Pisces, Cetus, Pisces Astrinis, Dorado, Volans, and Hydrus reside. But, the Crow was swallowed by the water serpent, Hydra. That may be why the Raven never returned to Noah's arc.
10 Note that metal arrow-points were first used in Egypt in the 11th dynasty (about 2100 B.C.). Wilson does not mention that the "bread of blood" is sacrificial manna. This "bread of blood" sacrifice was central to the Mesoamerican rituals, and the Christian ritual.
11 Hysteria. In regard to the "bread of blood" comment, the "laughter of sickness" could be the sadistic expression of one who takes pleasure in another's suffering.
12 A pious obligation resting upon the Egyptians was to restore the inscriptions of the ancestors which were "found empty," i.e, damaged or containing lacunae. Under the present unsettled conditions what was found empty was left empty. Self love had degraded the whole sense of cultural reality (the land) in the people.
13 Perhaps: he who never had to insist on full measure for himself now scrapes the bottom. More importantly, arrogant youth which knows nothing speaks as if filled with wisdom.
14 A land smaller and poorer has more bureaucrats and higher and more exacting taxes. This never changes. Our bureaucratic system always grow.
15 The sun's shadow on the shadow-clock determined the hour of noon. Happiness for the coming of day no longer please people, they are bored and despondent.
16 Ameni was an abbreviated name for Amen-em-het (I). Yes, and Virgo is having a child in Asia who will "raven like the wolf."
17 The two tutelary goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt, who united as the double crown. The white "bowling pin" crown is a symbol of innocence and virtue. The red "ladle" crown is a symbol of experience. They are understood best as the cataracts and the delta of the great river. Nut and Geb as the two mighty ones of Upper and Lower Egypt, may come together as a merger of the ideal and mundane, as in the Amarna period. The objective of the rational archetype, Shu, was to keep Nut and Geb apart, less the great ideals become mundane goals.
18 Horus and Seth. Nut and Geb fit the text a little better.
19 As one act of the coronation ceremonies, the pharaoh, grasping an oar and some other object, dedicated a field by running around it four times. The cosmic axis passes through the Ished tree from the scepter of flint in Sculptor to the sprig of wheat in the hand of Virgo. The galaxy encircles this axis, and thus the Elysian Fields of Upper Egypt. The modern scriptures speak of this ritual in the words, "take up thy bed and walk." Since the great ship Argo, Ra's barque, is in the stars of the Milky Way, an oar is needed to row around the fields; a clear representation of a celestial perspective.
19a No comment. The fact that John A. Wilson made no comment regarding Nefer-rohu's words "son of man" is most interesting. Is the silence of the learned scholars, the repression of which Nefer-rohu speaks? Or is the profound nature of Nefer-rohu's words such a profound paradigm shift, that they cannot be uttered for fear of the "bread of blood"? In the interest of Nefer-rohu, the source of his vision is shown below in a more complete form, together with echoes of the same vision, life, prosperity, health!
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14 KJV) --- So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. (Dan 8:17 KJV)
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt 16:28 KJV)
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (John 3:13-14 KJV)
And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. (Rev 14:14 KJV)
The words of the modern prophesies are in essence that great prophecy which Nefer-rohu had told to Snefru in the form of "entertainment." It would appear that Snefru was one of some six billion people who have heard this prophecy in one form or another for at least five thousand years. If we are to take the Egyptians at there own word, the actual date of the first telling of this prophecy has to be over 30,000 years ago. What we know from astronomical evidence is that the image of the "son of man" on the wings of the eagle came down to the celestial equator around 1 B.C. before it began its long journey back up to the Land Above the Land. In nearly all the legends, the "son of man" gives the life giving waters to the souls buried under the tree, or vine, of life. In Greece, Ganymede was brought to Mount Olympus, in the Land Above, on the wings of Aquila. Then Ganymede became the "cup bearer" for the lords of Mount Olympus. This clearly indicates that the conjecture made by John A. Wilson, regarding a "sense of messianic salvation" is grossly misunderstood. Egypt experienced the loss of a World Class Empire between the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom, between the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom, during the Amarna period, after the Persian conquest, and after the Roman annexation. Just like they had done at the original founding in 3100 B.C. Egypt lost her strength every time the Lords of the Two Lands, Nut and Geb, were joined together in a mixture of roles for which everything became "topsy-turvy, as the ideal and the mundane could not be distinguished." Egypt regained her strength when she set about to reunite the Two Lands. Behind that objective was a complete image of the heavens above, the heavens below, and the heaven in between. It should be abundantly clear that Ramesses II had an enormous task to fulfill, knowing from the history of Egypt, that the rationalists would merge the identities of Nut and Geb, which Shu had separated at the foundation of the cosmos. It should also be abundantly clear, that rationality is by definition, and definition alone, the discrimination of the experiences of life. When the rational mind stops discriminating, it is dead!
20 A series of fortresses along the eastern frontier, as in Si-nuhe. The wall begins at the west line in the constellation of Pisces, and is constructed using the Great Square in Andromeda and Pegasus. This is also the wall Joshua (Perseus) trumpets to the ground. On top of the wall sit the queen Cassiopeia and the king Cepheus. In the modern scriptures, Moses goes to a well in Midian where he meets the seven sisters (Pleiades), and during the Exodus, Moses smotes the rock of Horeb in the Wilderness of Sin (Andromeda).
21 The coronation of each pharaoh reinstituted the old order of Ma'at "justice," and expelled "deceit." Like in the Polynesian legend, those who are not patient and willing to let the cosmic plan go forward will be overturned. Egypt, like Rome, treated all the "outsiders" as Barbarians, who had no culture. The contrast between the high culture of Egypt and the rest of the world, was almost equivalent to the situation in Australia with the colonists and the Aborigines. This textual image of the heavens evolves into the apocalypse of John in the Book of Revelations.
22 As a libation at the tomb. The learned man is clearly a reference to Aquarius. On the Denderah zodiac, and in the heavens below, Aquarius pours water on a fish, Pisces Astrinis. The messianic story of Aquarius is ubiquitous. In the Popol Vuh, the Maya show the hero twin Hanahpu pouring water from a vessel as lost souls emerge from a turtle's shell. Wilson is correct in the words being a libation at the tomb. However, the one in the tomb is the bird-man-fish under Aquarius. It is a metaphor for returning from fantasy to the senses. In Easter Island, it was the Bird-Man, Phoenix-Sculptor, that took over the land where the king had gone into the water and the birds copulated with fishes. The Moai statues on Easter Island are a celestial reminder that the island is at the bottom of the world, when the sun begins to rise. These are the life giving waters which the rational mind (bird-man) cannot comprehend, but which cause the spirits in the body (fish-man) to come up from the Land Under the Land to soar like the eagle.
Egypt was an extremely well developed culture. They acknowledged the transcendental process of life that occurs when the rational mind finally yields to the senses. They presented the transcendent process beginning when the "Great Man" (User-Maat-Ra, Neb-Maat-Ra, Ozymandias to Greeks, Moai to Easter Islanders) stretches the cord with Seshat. It is a clear statement that even the most accomplished individual can learn from fantasies which have a sensual genesis. The rational mind cannot learn. If it thought it could learn, then what it knew would have to be what it did not know. That irrationality is the Wall of the Ruler which keeps the Asiatics in the Land Above from passing through the Land Under the Land, where Libyans see birds copulating with fishes. In most cases, the problems of life are solved when we take a moment to be compassionate to the state of our physical existence. In that respect, a learned man should propose a toast to messianic message of the great scribe from the Heliopolitan nome, Nefer-rohu, as a libation at his tomb, life, prosperity, health!
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Original: May 8, 1999