Dr. Alice C. Linsley
The early Hebrew served as temple priests, royal scribes, physicians, and royal craftsmen. Their service at the pillared Sun temples was conditioned by a long-standing tradition received from their ancestors and preserved through a hereditary office. The hereditary transmission of their priestly occupations is a clue that the Hebrew were a caste. Their service at royal temple complexes indicates that they were held in high regard by the early rulers and kingdom builders.
The prestigious royal temple complex of Heliopolis (biblical On) had Hebrew (Abru, Hapiru, 'Apiru) priests. The Harris papyrus speaks of the 'Apriu of Re at Heliopolis. Joseph became affiliated with this royal priest line when he married Asenath, the daughter of the priest of On. Heliopolis is mentioned multiple times in the Old Testament. Isaiah 19:18 says that Heliopolis was one of the five cities in Egypt that swore allegiance to the Lord of Hosts.
Nekhen on the Nile was one of the early Hebrew shrine cities. The temple there is dedicated to Horus. Excavations at Nekhen and Nekheb confirm that these sites had been inhabited permanently from early Predynastic times onwards. In fact, hundreds of ancient settlements existed the length of the Nile Valley. Many are visible as mounds. Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892) noted these during her travels in Egypt. From her ship these appeared as “sand hills” and she reported that there were hundreds of them, some quite large.
The larger settlements had pillared temples built at the higher elevations. The Horite and Sethite mounds are described in the Ancient Pyramid Texts. The temple priests collected tributes and taxes, managed grain distribution, and distributed to the needy. The temples also were places of healing, called “Houses of Life.”
The early Hebrew physicians were highly specialized in their medical practice. Each treated only one disease. They used many remedies: oil, herbs, spices, honey, minerals, vapors, moldy bread, clay, and saliva. The healings performed by Jesus show that he was not limited to curing only one ailment and he was not relying on training such as the Hebrew physician-priests received at the Houses of Life.
The Sun Cities
The early temples were "oriented" to the rising Sun, the emblem of the High God. The Sun represented the early Hebrew understanding of the Creator as the source and sustainer of life. The early solar symbolism of the Nilotic priests is evident in the stone relief (shown below).
Baboons were observed to chatter at the crack of dawn. The shen mark appears over the heads of the baboons. It is the symbol for eternity. The baboons flank an "Imperishable Star," a symbol of eternity and immortality. The dung beetle was observed to navigate by the light of the Milky Way which the Nilotes regarded as the path to the eternal Father Ra. At the bottom is an image of the sun rays shedding light on the Earth. The sun's radiance represents it life-giving and life-sustaining power. This was a common image on ancient monuments.
The first temples appeared between 10,000 and 3000 BC. However, in ancient times the average person rarely went to the temples. These were the precincts of rulers and priests. When a commoner went to the temple, it was to seek guidance and/or healing from the priests who served as mediators between the High God and the community. Some people would go up to the High Places to celebrate important festivals and feasts. The feasts were established and upheld by the king and his royal priests.
Solemn fasts were also declared by the king's royal priests. Fasts were declared for the death of a king, member of the king's family, or a high royal official. Fasting was also an act of contrition. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians fasted as a form of penance, and to deflect what they considered to be divine punishment. Famine, impending war, and natural disasters were regarded as signs of God's wrath.
The ancient temples were built at high elevations by kings and were under their protection. These were places of worship of the High God whose name was associated with the king's realm. Royal priests (ruler-priests) serving at the temples were organized into orders or guilds: lectors, musicians, guards, prophets/seers, sacrificing priests, physicians, purification priests, etc.
In the ancient Egyptian and Ugaritic languages, the word "piru" meant house, shrine, or temple. The O'piru were east-facing Sun temples located at the center of royal Sun Cities. The Sun was the emblem of the Creator among the servants of the Sun temples. Contrary to popular opinion, the priests did not worship the Sun.
Various castes worked at the O'piru. These included priests, metalworkers, tanners, stone masons, vintners, and guards and warriors. These occupations were in service to the deity and to the king who built the temple. The king often served as the high priest of the temple. A seated statue that shows Ramses II in the leopard skin of a priest was found at the temple that he built near Cairo. The temple was found in a suburb of Cairo called Ain Shams. Shams is the Arabic word for Sun.
There were many groups of priests in the ancient world. The deity to which the temple was dedicated was the deity the priests served. Most priests recognized a High God, though the High God was called by different names: Re (meaning "Father" in ancient Egyptian), Shamash (related to the word for Sun, the emblem of the High God), YHWH, Anu, El, etc.
The Hebrew priests were devotees of the High God and his son Horus. Their prestige derived from recognition of the caste’s great antiquity and piety. The Hebrew were known for their purity of life, sobriety, and devotion to God Father and God Son.
Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”
Devotion to Hathor
A temple dedicated to Hathor, the mother of Horus, was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mt. Timna by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University. The copper mines at Timna were found at the foothills along the western fringe of the southern Arabah Valley. The smelting works, slag, and flints at this site were found to be identical to those discovered near Beersheba where Abraham spent much of his time.
The metal workers of Timna and Beersheba were kin, and the patroness of their mining and smelting operations was Hathor, the mother of Horus. She was venerated by the Horite and Sethite Hebrew. In his book Timna, Rothenberg concluded that the peoples living in the area were "partners not only in the work but in the worship of Hathor." (Timna, p. 183)
Thousands of ancient images show Hathor "overshadowed" by the Sun, the emblem of the High God. This narrative is proto-Gospel, a foretelling of the Virgin Mary who conceived by divine overshadowing. As the Angel Gabriel explained to her: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1)
The expectation of the early Hebrew that a woman of their ruler-priest caste would bring forth the Son of God is expressed in Genesis 3:15 and fulfilled in the person of the Virgin Mary. The Hebrew chose marriage partners from their ruler-priest families (caste endogamy). It is certain that Mary was of the ruler-priest caste because even those who hated her admit this in the Talmud. “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.” (Sanhedrin 106a)