Before The 10 Commandments, There Was Ma’at


(Originally posted 8/3/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

The 10 Commandments, which are the foundation principles of Judaism and Christianity, may actually be an economy version of the 42 Principles of Ma’at that were crafted 2,000 earlier than Moses’ fateful appointment with god on Mt. Sinai. So why has the gringa not heard about the Ma’at? Cultural, religious and political jealousies are most likely to blame. 


Despite all the insults the ancient Hebrews leveled toward ancient Egyptians in the sacred texts of Jews and Christians, the reality is that a bit of copycat was at play. Egyptian citizens modeled their daily lives according to Ma’at, which may have been the same guidelines adopted by the ancient Hebrews despite their impassioned protests of all things Egyptian. Despite Israel’s insistence that they delivered a genuine religion directly from god to define the Hebrew people from everyone else, they may have just been a cheap imitation of a much more refined original.


Let’s see if Jewish and Christian pride has, for centuries, blinded the faithful to the truth that their respective religions were not at all original but, simply, appropriation. Here is the most simplistic English translation of the 42 Principles of Ma’at or, as some have translated it, the 42 Negative Confessions:

  1. I have not committed a sin.
  2. I have not committed a violent robbery.
  3. I have not stolen anything.
  4. I have not killed anyone.
  5. I have not stolen food.
  6. I have not ripped off religious offerings.
  7. I have not stolen from a god or goddess.
  8. I have not lied.
  9. I have not carried away food.
  10. I have not cursed.
  11. I have not refused to listen to truth.
  12. I have not committed adultery.
  13. I have not made anyone cry.
  14. I have not felt sorrow without a reason.
  15. I have not assaulted anyone.
  16. I am not a deceitful person.
  17. I have not stolen the land of another.
  18. I have not been an eavesdropper.
  19. I have not falsely accused another person.
  20. I have not been angry without reason.
  21. I have not seduced another person’s wife.
  22. I have not polluted myself.
  23. I have not terrorized others.
  24. I have not disobeyed the law.
  25. I have not been exclusively angry.
  26. I have not cursed a god or goddess.
  27. I have not behaved violently.
  28. I have not disrupted the peace.
  29. I have not acted without thinking first.
  30. I have not overstepped my boundaries and butted into another’s business.
  31. I have not exaggerated when speaking.
  32. I have not pursued evil.
  33. I have not thought, spoken or pursued evil.
  34. I have not polluted the water.
  35. I have not spoken in anger or in arrogance.
  36. I have not cursed others in deed, thought or word.
  37. I have not placed myself on a pedestal as better than others.
  38. I have not stolen that which belongs to a god or goddess.
  39. I have not stolen from, or disrespected, the rest of the dead.
  40. I have not taken food from a child.
  41. I have not acted insolently.
  42. I have not destroyed property belonging to a god or goddess.

Now, the gringa sees the thoroughness of the Ma’at and wonders why anyone would think that a dumbed down version of the 10 Commandments would be thought to be an improvement? What are the significant differences between the 10 Commandments and the Ma’at? How would the differences most likely manifest in society? Would the changes make for a better or worse society?

What the 10 Commandments contain that the Ma’at lacks:

  • Declaration of a single god
  • Abolishment of statues that declare a certain image to be that of god
  • Establishment of a day of rest, the Sabbath
  • Creation of Patriarchal/Matriarchal society
  • Wanting what others have forbidden

What the Ma’at establishes that the 10 Commandments lack:

  • Special protected status of food
  • Kindness as sacred
  • Happiness and contentment a duty
  • Special protected status of land belonging to another
  • Duty to live a healthy lifestyle
  • Meanness and cruelty outlawed
  • Intellect is sacred
  • Preserve environmental integrity
  • Mind one’s own business, leave other people alone to live a life different from your own
  • Obligation to protect a child’s right to nutrition
  • Snobbery is a sin

By omitting dozens of very important negative confessions, the ancient Hebrews made it easier to live a selfish life yet declare that selfish life to be a holy one. Instead of a society where every person was, in essence, a civil servant accountable to all the gods and goddesses that governed the many different aspects of humanity, the Hebrew religion streamlined authority, coalescing it into a single god that answered to no one. Next in line to govern was the patriarchy that was served by the matriarchy and everyone else.

 

How would this affect life for the average person? Would a person have been better off in an ancient Egyptian city or a Hebrew city?

Well, a child would have enjoyed more protection in Egypt, with assurances of being fed. A woman would have enjoyed equal status in a society that had female gods who co-governed with male gods. If a god seemed to be arbitrarily cruel, an Egyptian could appeal to the compassion of another god.

A Hebrew, on the other hand, just got whatever god wanted to give. And that didn’t always work out too well. Just look at poor, pious Job who supposedly did everything right only to be tormented and lose it all.

Anyone in Egypt who was vested in property could expect to enjoy their land without an invasion of squatters. For the Hebrew people, they conveniently left this special protection out of their society’s guidelines. Perhaps that was because they were nomadic herdsman who wanted to exploit the best grasslands. Respecting land ownership would mean they would have to restrict their movements. This would require, consequently, the cultivation of land to prevent over-grazing.

Perhaps the ancient Hebrew were not that industrious. It was easier to simply drive their herds hither and yon, wherever the best grass grew and ignore any right another might have to land they may have been preserving and cultivating for a particular purpose. But, after appropriating an entire religion, appropriating the land of others seems small potatoes.

 

It also seems that it was perfectly okay for an ancient Hebrew to be a snob and just plain mean. In Egypt, kindness and even-temperateness were the ideal. An open-minded Egyptian who pursued truth, not matter how inconvenient that truth may be, was also the kind of person the gods were grooming. Such open-mindedness is left out of ancient Hebrew righteousness according to the 10 Commandments.

So what really happened when Moses stomped up Mt. Sinai? I mean, think about it. He was not just raised in Egyptian society, he was raised an adopted son into the royal family that was ruling at the time. He was highly educated and attained a position of leadership that was practically next in succession to Pharaoh himself. He also married the daughter of one of Egypt’s high priests. That would indicate that, according to Egyptian religious standards, Moses would have been a pious, righteous Egyptian, faithfully adhering to the 42 Principles of Ma’at.

Did Moses simply get mad because, as a biological Hebrew, he would never be allowed to become Pharaoh? Was spite the inspiration for a revolution? Did he turn to his ancestral peers and convince them he could lead them to a better life than the one they had in Egypt? Would he have made promises that it would be an easier, less complicated life with more freedom?

Would this have been reason to pare down and amend the 42 Principles of Ma’at to a religious code that would give him more power as an individual, male ruler and muster the masses with more promises of indulgence for their selfish tendencies the 42 Ma’at laws forced them to keep in check? Was the ultimate goal of Moses simply unfettered, unopposed power supported by people willing to compromise the finest principles for selfish reasons?

Did he alter the Ma’at to suit his selfish purposes then convince a nation of immigrants living within a host nation that there was a particular god who wanted them to revolt? Did he explain that this one particular god, out of all the other gods they were familiar with and worshipping as Hebrews culturally integrated into Egyptian society, that this one particular god wanted the Hebrew people all to himself, considering them very special? Did he play upon base human emotions of jealousy, envy and pride to incite a rebellion? Did his amended version of the Ma’at make it convenient for these rebels to then invade the land of other people and slaughter every man, woman and child without conscience with a “god made me do it” justification?

When one sees what practical application of the Ma’at results in, it is easy to see that the Ma’at defines a superior society than what we live in today that is defined as a 10 commandment based Judeo-Christian US culture. The gringa thinks a religious revolution is in order:

How different history always looks when one steps outside their comfort zone and long held cultural beliefs to view things from a different perspective. The gringa thinks that the only thing the Ma’at is lacking is establishing curiosity as sacred.

Although curiosity often lands the gringa in all sorts of trouble, in the end, such trouble is always worth it just to know the truth of a matter. Or, at least another version of the truth. Different opinions and different ways of life, that’s the SPICE of life. And one thing’s for sure, the gringa hates a boring life. I say keep it spicy!

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gringaofthebarrio

A barrio gringa with a dream of cosmic proportions: writing to satiate my insatiable curiosity, worldwide literacy beginning with our youth, and to be the first barrio gringa to explore outer space!

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