Egyptian Hymns and Their Devotion to the Sun-Gods
by Lisa Bloomingdale
The ancient Egyptians showed an immense amount of respect toward their rulers, but it was the sun-gods whom they revered above all. Even Pharoah Akhenaten wrote hymns of praise and glory to his Creator. All aspects of the Egyptians’ lives, including work, play, love and war, were devoted to the gods. No matter how much land was won, or how many riches were acquired, it was the deities that were valued the most.
Many peoples throughout time devote prayer and sacrifices to the ones they believe created them. The Egyptians were no exception, praising their gods for the awesomeness and purity of the life they created: “How various is the world you have created, / each thing mysterious, sacred to sight, / O sole God, / beside whom there is no other!” (Akhenaten 44) Endless praise was sung to the sun-gods, for they were the creators of all life: “When in splendor you first took your throne / high in the precinct of heaven, / O living God, life truly began! / Now from eastern horizon and streaming, / you have flooded the world with your beauty” (Akhenaten 42).
The sun-gods were revered above all because they were the bringers of light and day. “How splendid you ferry the skyways, / Horus of Twin Horizons, / The needs of each new day / firm in your timeless pattern … The faces of all are upturned to you, / As mankind and gods / alike lift their morningsong: / “Lord of the daybreak, / Welcome!” (Leiden Hymns 47). The brightness of the sun shone down over workers in the field and children at play. It was the sun that shone down upon lovers, worshippers, scholars and warriors. Sunlight brought life to nature: to the trees, the flowers, and the grassy fields. Without the sun, the Egyptians would not have been able to maintain the agriculture around which their society was centered. Everything followed the sun, for when the sun retired at the end of the day; so did the rest of the world: “Sole one awake there / —sleep is for mortals, / Who go to rest grateful: / your eyes oversee. / And their by the millions you open / when your face new-rises, beautiful” (Leiden Hymns 47). Therefore, it was only appropriate to give praise to the gods of light. Without them, the Egyptian culture would not have existed.
Similar to the Roman Catholic religion existing today, the Egyptian Hymns follow the four basic categories of prayer: gather, praise, thanksgiving, and petition. Akhenaten’s hymn was written of course by Pharoah Akhenaten himself, and this in turn would bring together all people under his rule. For when the ruler makes a decree, everyone listens. The hymns were written with tremendous praise to the Creator, standing in awe of His power and glory: “You are the one God, / shining forth from your possible incarnations / as Aten, the Living Sun, / Revealed like a king in glory, risen in light, / now distant, now bending nearby, / You create numberless things of this world / from yourself, who are One alone” (Akhenaten 45-46).
The Hymns also offer up thanksgiving to the gods for creating man, the nature around him, and the beasts that live among him. In addition to this thanksgiving, the Hymns petition for prosperity in the future: “ Then, Shine reborn! Rise splendidly! / my Lord, let life thrive for the King! / For I have kept pace with your every footstep / since you first measured ground for the world / Lift up the creatures of earth for your Son / who came forth from your Body of Fire!” (Akhenaten 46).
The Egyptians wrote hymns to their gods giving thanks and praise, petitioning for good times ahead. They stood in awe of the glory and power of the sun-god, their creator. They devoted every aspect of their lives to the gods, for without the gods, they would not even exist. It is evident that this devotion to the deities was an intrinsic value in the Egyptian way of life.