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The place and time in which anti-Semitism was born and the connection to the Exodus * An interview with a researcher who published an article about it

Egyptian writers who lived in the third century BCE claimed that the Jews carried diseases and harmed Egypt and that in general they were the bad guys when they came to rewrite the story of the Exodus from Egypt, perhaps without intending to, they created anti-Semitic arguments that would be based on all disturbances against the Jews

Egyptian scholars in the Ptolemaic period who wrote the story of the Exodus so that the Egyptians would come out good and the Jews bad. The image was produced using DALEE and should not be considered a scientific image
Egyptian scholars in the Ptolemaic period who wrote the story of the Exodus so that the Egyptians would come out good and the Jews bad. The image was produced using DALEE and should not be considered a scientific image

This week we celebrate Passover and read a lot about the Exodus from the Haggadah. Two weeks later we will celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day and Heroism. It turns out that there is a close connection between the two events, an imaginary one that allegedly happened 4,000 years ago and the other during the Nazi regime - anti-Semitism was invented by Egyptian writers when they came to rewrite the story of the Exodus so that the Egyptians came out the good and the Jews the bad. The same anti-Semitic arguments have led to blood feuds over the generations, which have led to the slaughter of Jews throughout history, with the peak being in Nazi Germany, but they still continue to have an impact even today.

Researchers in Ptolemaic Egypt tried to rewrite the story of the Exodus - and created anti-Semitism. This is according to the research of Shuai Zhang (SHUAI ZHANG) from the Department of History at Capital Normal University in Beijing. He also cites many studies by Israeli researchers. In an article published in March 2024, he cites the letters of three Egyptian scholars from the Ptolemaic period - that is, both Egyptians but also Greeks) who presented the Jews in the role of scoundrels, outcasts and detestable in the eyes of Egyptian authors.

In contrast to the original story of the Exodus that refers to the acquisition of freedom and the closeness of the Israelites to God, the reference of the writers of the fourth and third centuries BC to the rewriting of the narrative represents the Jews in the Ptolemaic period as bad ideologues and fanatics. According to the authors, ideas have influenced throughout history (even the Nazis described the Jews as carriers of diseases) and up to today's anti-Semitism. The article emphasizes the importance of social and ideological confrontation with imagination and lies that disturb modern history and human culture.

In the abstract of the article, Zhang writes: "In 1879, Wilhelm Marr claimed the term 'anti-Semitism,' which ignited extensive discussions in academic circles. As the research deepened, researchers began to investigate anti-Semitism and reach as far as the ancient world. Texts with anti-Semitic thought already appeared in Ptolemaic Egypt. Basically, the main purpose of these speeches was self-justification, a response to the sinful character of the Egyptians in the Exodus story. Early Ptolemaic Egyptian writers removed the accusations against the Egyptians by rewriting the Exodus story and shifting the responsibility for the entire event to the Jews. In this process, the image of the Jewish people fell into a severe negative image. Although the writers did not express a strong anti-Semitic tendency subjectively, they definitely expressed a certain anti-Semitic thought objectively. Anti-Semitic thought was transmitted by later writers in the Roman world and had a great influence. The article focuses on the works of three Ptolemaic Egyptian writers and discusses their reasons and effects for rewriting the story of the Exodus, in combination with their historical background."

He describes in depth the writings of three of the writers who lived in the fourth and third centuries BC.

  • Manetho - Manetho was an Egyptian priest and historian who lived in the third century BC. He is best known for his writings that described the history of ancient Egypt and he is credited as the one who told about the "Hyksos", conquerors of Egypt to whom he attributes negative characteristics and presents the Egyptians in a positive light. His works served as a primary source of information for Greek and Roman historians.
  • Hecataeus of Abdera - a Greek philosopher and historian from the fourth century BC, who worked at the court of King Ptolemy I. He wrote on a variety of subjects, including descriptions of Egypt and the Jews. In particular, he claimed that the Jews were strangers in Egypt and that they left it due to diseases and rebellions. His writings contributed to negative images of the Jews among Greek historiography.
  • Lysimachus of Alexandria - also wrote during the Ptolemaic period and is known for his focus on myths and legends dealing with Egypt and the Jews. He emphasized the perception of Jews as harmful to Egyptian society and described them as responsible for social problems and diseases. His writings helped spread anti-Semitic views in the Hellenistic world.

Zhang in an interview with the site of the scientist: There is no equal to anti-Semitism against other groups

According to Zhang, anti-Semitic thought was unconsciously woven into the defense mechanisms of the early Ptolemaic Egyptian writers. He adds that these writers did not intend to convey strong anti-Semitic thoughts subjectively, but their works objectively presented anti-Semitic tendencies.

Why exactly did those writers focus on the Jews?

"First, these three writers wrote about Egyptian history or more general history, and not just about Jewish history. Most of their works have been lost, and many of the passages we can find are from Josephus ben Matthew, so we can see many records of these writers about the Jews. But we can imagine that they do not represent the bulk of their writing."

"Secondly, we have reason to believe that the Jews interacted with Egypt at an early stage and established some famous communities, such as the Elephantine Island and Alexandria. In the Ptolemaic period, the Jews had some influence in Egypt, so it is likely that they will be mentioned by the three writers. In my opinion, from the 4th century BC to the 3rd century BC, as more Jews entered Egypt, stories about the Exodus spread widely in Egypt as well. We all know that in the Book of Names the image of the Egyptians is very bad. That's why the three writers responded to names and that's why their descriptions of the Jewish people focus mainly on the narrative of the exodus from Egypt."

How did this writing affect anti-Semitism throughout history?

"Due to my research focus on ancient history, my understanding of medieval and modern history is limited. Therefore, I can only speak about my ideas, and these points of view have not been considered in depth. I believe that if in the ancient world misunderstandings arose because of people's lack of understanding of the Jews and their customs, in the Middle Ages and modern times there were intentional "misunderstandings". Many slanders are simply intended to instill fear and disgust in the public towards a certain group, in order to achieve religious or political goals. In other words, the spreader of the rumor knows its falsity, while the public may believe its truth. The blood plots can also be looked at in a broader historical context. It is worth mentioning that in the early days of Christianity, Christians also suffered from similar slander.

Is there another nation in the world that has suffered similar troubles to anti-Semitism?

“Based on my limited knowledge, there is none. Since the experience of the Jews has no parallel in human history, anti-Semitism also has its own uniqueness, a long duration and a deeper influence."

Source: Author(s). (Year). "Anti-Semitic thought and defense: Ptolemaic Egyptian writers' rewriting of Exodus narrative.” *African Online Scientific Information Systems (Pty) Ltd t/a AOSIS*.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

4 תגובות

  1. Teva -> Teva (meaning putting a mark on a surface),

    Its source is probably Josephus's 'against characterization', which is the first (and perhaps the only) essay from that period that defines the hatred of the Jews, even before Christianity.

    This hatred began with the appearance of the Jewish monotheistic religion at that time (with the captivity of Zion and the beginning of the Second Temple), and its expansion into Egypt (where the translation of the Bible into Greek, known as the 'Seventy Translation', also began). At the time it was purely ritualistic and was not attributed to a specific race, but its main points were used by the Christian Church later on.

  2. Yoyo, you are confusing two eras. The period in which the story of the exodus from Egypt allegedly took place, when indeed it was the Israelites and not "Jews", and Egypt in the Ptolemaic period (Pharaonic dynasty of Greek origin), which refers to a story that was already common and appeared in the book of Exodus as fact but gives it the opposite interpretation.
    During the Greek rule in Egypt and also in the Land of Israel, the Jews were already a distinct people, in contrast to the Jews of the days of the First Temple.
    The story of Solomon took place, if it existed, in the days of the First Temple, that is, long before that episode in Ptolemaic Egypt.
    Regarding the extensive Jewish activity in Egypt at that time, the researcher commented and said that the Egyptians wanted to treat the Jews because they knew them from Mev and Alexandria. This does not contradict the fact that both Jewish life existed and we were not loved. This was also the case in Europe for all generations - until the Nazis came and brought the hatred to crazy extremes and stopped Jewish life.
    You are also welcome to read the original, peer-reviewed article linked to this article.

  3. It's really sad to read such a non-serious article on the "Hidan" website.
    Some simple questions about Egypt-Israel from the Exodus to the Hellenistic-Roman period.
    1. Who does he refer to as "Jews"? Is it for the expatriates of Samaria or only the exiles of Jerusalem?
    2. If there was such great historical hatred, why did Pharaoh give his house to King Solomon's wife?
    3. How is it that this sick collection is allowed to serve as a bivouac soldier to protect the southern border of the Kingdom of Egypt?
    4. How is it possible in such an "anti-Semitic" environment to build the "Little Temple" in Hebrew or to translate the Bible into Greek, including the existence of such a powerful community, including huge rebellions of Jews against the Romans.

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