Great Hymn to the Aten

Ancient Near East

You appear beautifully on the horizon, the living Aten, the beginning of life. When you rise in the east, you fill every land with your beauty. You are gracious, great, shining, and high above all lands. Your rays reach the ends of the earth, and you subdue them for your beloved son. Though far away, your rays touch the earth, and though in their faces, no one knows your path. When you set in the west, the land becomes dark like death. People sleep with their heads covered, unable to see one another. Their possessions could be stolen without them knowing. The lions leave their dens, and creeping creatures sting. Darkness covers the earth, and it is still, for the creator rests on the horizon. At dawn, when you rise on the horizon and shine as the Aten, you drive away darkness and give your rays. The Two Lands celebrate each day, waking and standing, for you have lifted them. They wash and dress, raising their arms in praise when you appear. Everyone works, and all animals are content with their food. Trees and plants flourish, birds take flight in praise, and all animals rise on their feet. Everything that flies and lands lives when you rise for them. Ships sail north and south, for all paths are open when you appear. Fish in the river swim before you, and your rays are in the heart of the sea. You create life within women, make fluid into men, and nurture the child in the womb. You soothe and provide breath to sustain all you have made. When the child is born, you open their mouth and provide for their needs. When a bird speaks within the egg, you give it breath and let it grow until it hatches, walking on its own legs. Your creations are many and hidden from human sight. There is no god like you, who created the world alone, according to your desire. Humans, cattle, wild animals, and all creatures on earth and in the sky, are your creation. The lands of Syria, Nubia, and Egypt are shaped by your will, and you provide for their needs. You make each tongue unique in speech, and each nature distinct. You distinguish their skin like the foreign lands.

Psalm 104:20

Hebrew Bible

20 You make it dark and night comes, during which all the beasts of the forest prowl around. 21 The lions roar for prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they withdraw and sleep in their dens. 23 People then go out to do their work, and they labor until evening. 24 How many living things you have made, O Lord! You have exhibited great skill in making all of them; the earth is full of the living things you have made. 25 Over here is the deep, wide sea, which teems with innumerable swimming creatures, living things both small and large. 26 The ships travel there, and over here swims Leviathan35 you made to play in it. 27 All your creatures wait for you to provide them with food on a regular basis. 28 You give food to them and they receive it; you open your hand and they are filled with food. 29 When you ignore them, they panic. When you take away their life’s breath, they die and return to dust. 30 When you send your life-giving breath, they are created, and you replenish the surface of the ground.

 Notes and References

"... The 'Great Hymn to Aten' was found in the tomb of Ay, an Egyptian official from the 14th century BC, in Amarna. This literary monument was created during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, known primarily for his religious reform. The "Great Hymn" is one of the most striking examples of a work whose motifs are traced in the Psalms. The original text used in this article is given according to the edition of N. Davies [Davies, 1908, XXV], and the translation - according to M.A. Korostovtsev [Vigasin, 1997, 51-55]. Parallels with Psalm 104 are observed in verses 20-30 of this psalm. Intersecting fragments are found from the first lines of the hymn to Aten: "You are Ra, you reach the limits created by you... You set in the western slope of the sky - and the earth is in darkness, like being caught by death. People sleep in their houses, and their heads are covered, and one eye does not see the other, and their possessions are stolen, hidden under their pillows, but they do not know. The lion comes out of its den. Snakes sting people in the dark when night comes and the earth plunges into silence, for the Creator of everything has descended beyond the edge of heaven". These lines conceptually resemble verses 19-21: "He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. You stretch out the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about; the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God". Fragments 4-5 have similarities with verses 22-23, in excerpts 7-8 the same praise of the numerous creations can be seen as in verse 24, and fragments 5-7 can be compared with verses 25-30 ..."

Shperl, Ksenia A. Parallels between Ancient Egyptian Religious Literature and the Old Testament Psalms: The Great Hymn to the Aten (pp. 1-7) St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University, 2018

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