🔼The name Pharaoh: Summary
- Great House, Great Civilization
- Joining, Confederation
- From the Egyptian words pr, house, and o, great.
- From the Hebrew verb פרע (para'), to confederate, to bundle without restriction.
🔼The name Pharaoh in the Bible
The name Pharaoh (meaning Great House) isn't really a name but rather a title that over time became applied to the ruler of Egypt but which originally had signified the unified State (or House) of Egypt. This unified Great House came about when around 3000 BCE the king of Upper Egypt (that's the southern part) subdued the tribes and kingdoms of Lower Egypt (that's the Nile Delta) but respectfully merged the two rather than obliterate the vanquished or force them to "convert" to the ways of the victors.
The term Pharaoh, or Great House, is really rather similar to the term United States. In our modern age the name "America" has shifted from referring to the entire land mass between southern Chile and northern Canada to specifically the United Sates [of America], and in a similar way the title "Pharaoh of Egypt" shifted from meaning the United States of Egypt to the King of the Unites States of Egypt.
Of course, the government of the Great House was centralized and seated in a palace, which is how the State may have become confused with the House from which it was governed and ultimately with the person who personified this government and thus the house and thus the state. But ultimately, the name Pharaoh had little to do with any physical or personal qualities but rather with the way Egypt was run: its methods of keeping millions of people happy, healthy, proud and most crucially supportive of the State they lived in.
The Biblical history of Israel swings like a pendulum between Egypt and Babylon, and although Canaan is where the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and finally Israel desired to settle, they spent much of their time oscillating between Egypt and Babylon. We'll look at the details below but the crucial difference between Israel on one hand and Egypt and Babylon on the other is that Egypt and Babylon both emphasized accumulative progression whereas Israel emphasized qualitative progression. Egypt and Babylon were all about "more of it" whereas Israel was all about "better at it." The familiar Tower of Babylon is the quintessential manifestation of the accumulative progression that signifies any governmental system that is not strongly aimed at qualitative progression.
Babylon signifies Israel's place of origin and the departure from Babylon is not only permitted but also royally funded. Abraham and Sarah were born in Babylon and so were the wives of Isaac (Rebekah) and Jacob (Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah), and they all left for Canaan lavishly stocked. The trip back to Babylon, however, was forced and after Judah's golden age, the Babylonians famously destroyed whatever their prodigal brethren had achieved in Canaan and took them and their treasures home with them. But Babylon quickly fell to Persia and when some of the exiled Jews wished to return to Canaan, the Persian emperor applauded their efforts and ordered, designed and funded the temple of Zerubbabel (Ezra 6:3-12). Most Jews chose nevertheless to remain in Persia, which explains how Persian magi came to identify the Jewish Christ in Judea (Matthew 2:1).
Egypt by contrast was utterly foreign to proto-Israel, but proved an excellent place to hide from an even worse fate in Canaan: famine (Abraham, Jacob), getting killed by envious brothers (Joseph of Israel), fearful countrymen (Jeremiah) or suspicious kings (Joseph of Nazareth). Contrary to getting to Babylon, getting to Egypt was voluntary. But where in Babylon the usefulness of the Jews allowed them to rise through the ranks until they formed autonomous governmental and wisdom elites, in Egypt Israel sank through the ranks and became imprisoned and enslaved. Their desire to leave Egypt, consequently, was not met with understanding and generosity, and the ultimate Exodus from Egypt required a scheme of deceit, theft, torture and murder that was designed by the Creator Himself (Exodus 3:18-22, 7:3, 11:5).
Because of his resistance to Israel's Exodus, Pharaoh lost his first born son, a large chunk of wealth, his working class and his army (Exodus 14:28). Because of the plagues, his lands were ruined and his people decimated, discouraged and utterly disenfranchised.
In the Greek New Testament the word Pharaoh is spelled Φαραω and it occurs four times: see NT concordance.
🔼How to govern people
In antiquity, the great mystery that kings pondered was how to govern a very large group of people in such a way that the people wouldn't revolt and try to destroy the state, and that the state would be sustainable and wouldn't fall victim to external enemies or fall apart by lack of internal cohesion. Nowadays we understand that a perfect mix of economic enslavement, misinformation and propaganda, the threat of violent enemies and the hope of mild nationalism usually does the trick, particularly when we charge our most naturally corrupt social class with the delicate task of drafting law, which in effect forces the formation of a synthetic center of truth that works like the throat of hell. Governments the way we know them are a colossal mistake (1 Samuel 8:11-18).
All society is — as, in fact, all material and biological realms are — based on natural interaction and exchange, which means that societies are naturally governed by its class of traders, which consists of people who embody the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). A successful businessman is successful when he is able to give his customers what they want, regardless of whether the object of their desire is good for them. A businessman who tries to give society not what it asks for but what he thinks society should have will very quickly go bankrupt. That means that our much reviled billionaire class is in fact our righteous monarchy who accepts what we willingly give them and invests it for us in what we ask for. Our governments, on the other hand, consist of usurpers and thieves who take by force what we don't willingly surrender and invest it in what we didn't ask for (and before you get any ideas, see Matthew 24:43-44, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 16:15).
The success of a society goes hand in hand with its ability to accumulate and concentrate its surpluses, and its worst mistake is entrusting its central treasury to people who have not worked for it, who don't understand it and who will invest it in the only industry they understand: violent acquisition of resources that aren't earned, deserved or willingly parted with: hence tax and warfare. Governments force individuals to pay for a world they don't want to live in. Their national borders are artificial and mechanical and serve only to keep their synthetic treasuries apart, while at the same time making it hard for living and breathing human collectives (natural tribes and companies) to function.
Back in antiquity, when humanity still consisted of natural tribes and their voluntary alliances and trading networks, and was not yet diseased with the synthetic nations of the modern world (Psalm 2:1, Revelations 22:2), people still largely understood that sustainable states resulted from (1) the individual's freedom to search for identity and meaning, and (2) the individual's ability to serve his neighbor to mutual benefit and without compromising either's freedom. The history of Israel as told in the Bible has nothing to do with religion, nationalism and government in any modern sense (and insisting that it does comes from fidelity to the modern take on statehood), but rather with the search for a sustainable state in which all members are free and wholly connected to their neighbors (Galatians 5:1, Matthew 22:37-40).
The formation of a state from freely interacting people begins with the invention of international trade, which in turn begins with a gentle rejection of what one's native culture has to offer and a longing to see what's over the horizon. It's this very principle that sits at the heart of matrilocality: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24), and it's also the reason why Abraham is both the "father of many nations" (Genesis 17:5), which of course tells of international trade, and the father of all those who do the will of the Creator (which is to be free rather than enslaved; Genesis 12:1, John 8:39).
🔼Come and let us reason together
In evolutionary terms, language emerges and is perfected where people wish to trade information. That means that language is a means of exchange, which is also a quality of money and this explains why the "father of international trade" could be the ancestor of a deity named Logos or Word, who in turn said: "I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich" (Revelation 3:18).
Language is of course crucially important in the pursuit of individual and societal freedom, and the history of Israel goes hand in hand with the development of script. Particularly the development of the alphabet was of essential interest because the alphabet allowed every ordinary person to learn to read and write. Reading and writing and hence the retention of wisdom had in every society since deep antiquity been the job of the priestly elite, and the development of the alphabet allowed Israel to indeed become a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6).
The Hebrew contribution to the alphabet was vowel notation, which they achieved by means of the letters י (y), ה (he) and ו (w), hence the name יהוה or YHWH. That means that the famous temple of Solomon, or the House of YHWH, had much more to do with a modern academy than with a church. From the beginning of time until today, the service of YHWH has had to do with the global study of the natural world and nothing with religion (Genesis 4:26, 1 Kings 4:33-34, 10:23-25, Romans 1:20).
In Egypt the priestly elite had sported a system of hieroglyphs that amassed about a thousand different symbols, and defended its use and workings with such zeal that when the alphabet invaded from the north and began to corrode the monopoly the priests had over knowledge, the priestly class began to fade into obscurity along with the hieroglyphs they clung to. Until the fifth century CE, small enclaves of dapper pagan priests preserved knowledge of the hieroglyphs but when their temples were finally closed and their craft outlawed by Christian Roman emperors, the door to Egypt's past fell shut and remained locked until the 19th century. Why exactly the Egyptian priests were so phobic about altering their system isn't clear, but it's possibly because they never truly understood it. The Egyptians had not themselves had the bright idea of writing things down in standardized symbols. The rudiments of writing were given to them from Babylon (or more precise: from the people who lived in the region that would later be Babylon; we're using the name Babylon in the Biblical sense, indicative of the center(s) of culture north and north-east of Canaan in contrast to Egypt, which is everything to its south-west).
In Babylon the priestly elite had developed hieroglyphic writing in a fluidic reaction to the demands of society, and to the Babylonians writing was a means to give society what it wanted (namely administration and hence a more complex economy, more specialization and thus more individual freedom) in stead of some holy or magical art to which society should bow in homage.
Natural evolution came up with the brain to govern the digestive system, and in the same way the Babylonian priests developed their writing system: simply to govern economy and meet the demands of every growing complexity. And just like consciousness arose as a side-effect of the brain's efforts to govern the body, so arose reflective narrative as a side-effect of administration. Poetry arose as a side-effect of bookkeeping, as much as the quest for beauty arose as a side-effect of the quest for lunch.
Babylonian hieroglyphs evolved into about six hundred strongly stylized cuneiform symbols, which were stylized further into less than four hundred Hittite cuneiform symbols, until they ultimately gave rise to the baffling mere thirty letters of the Ugaritic abjad (consonantal alphabet), which in turn were adapted by the Phoenicians into a set of twenty-two consonants. As told, the Hebrews took three of those and allowed them to also function as vowels. From that invention rose the Greek alphabet and from there evolved the Latin, which is the one we're using now.
🔼Faith like a varnished oak
Another reason why the Egyptians might have stuck to their hieroglyphic guns was their worship of the goddess Ma'at, who personified harmony and particularly (a) the harmony of the celestial bodies and (b) the harmony of men. It was Ma'at's job to preserve the obviously static order of the stars as much as it was to preserve the social order of men, who therefore needed to stay fixed in their societal functions and closely heed the code of conduct that governed everybody's doings. The male counterpart of Ma'at was Thoth, who was also paired with Seshat, the goddess of writing.
Jesus compared a functional faith to a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31, 17:20), and that is commonly explained as a tiny little bit of something that should be a whole lot more, like the first drop of water in an otherwise bone dry bucket. But a functional seed is not at all like the first drop of an ocean or the first pebble of a mountain, but like a seed because a seed has the DNA of an entire tree in it. A seed is as complete and alive as an entire orchard, and all it needs is a plot of earth, time and the occasional shower.
Similarly, the Word of YHWH sums up the entire universe and all its life and every thought of man (Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 2:3), and the whole of the Law that describes everything can be summed up by the Ten Commandments. These Ten in turn can be summed up by the Great Command and its Equal Second, namely to love YHWH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). This Great Command in turn can be summarized by "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you" (Matthew 7:12), which is the seed of both the whole of the Scriptures and of creation.
The adoption of the hieroglyphs by the Egyptians seems to have been alike accepting a huge oak from a lumber jack. Over the centuries, the oak was embellished in all imaginable ways, but it would never grow or bear fruit because it was divorced from its roots and as dead as a doornail. Israel appears to have matured in Egypt the way weeds sprout up around a dead tree. Something similar appears to have happened to the Minoans, who may have originated in Egypt under the name Caphtor, fled to Crete and may even have had something to do with the origin of the Philistines.
🔼Etymology of the name Pharaoh
As told, the name Pharaoh consists of two Egyptian words, namely o, meaning great, and pr, meaning house, the Egyptian equivalent of the Hebrew word בית (beth) and the Greek word οικος (oikos), which both also refer to temples and the economies surrounding them. Our English word economy comes from the Greek word for house.
The Hebrew transliteration of the name Pharaoh, however, appears to be designed to remind of the verb פרע (para'), to bundle without greatly restricting that which is bundled. More specifically, our name looks like a feminine version of the noun פרע (pera'), which may either designate a person who bundles, or whatever is bundled. Our name Pharaoh (פרעה) relates to the noun פרע (pera') the way the name YHWH (יהוה) relates to the three vowels (יהו):
The verb פרע (para') means to bundle without restriction. It may refer to the formation of a tribal confederacy (i.e. a freely joined alliance that benefits all participants), which might come about either spontaneous or via a human catalyst, who would then be known by the noun פרע (pera'). For lack of a better word, this noun is commonly translated with "leader" but it rather denotes someone who emphasizes voluntary participation and preserved autonomy rather than submission to some higher authority.
The noun פרע (pera') also describes a lock or bundle of otherwise freely moving hair such as a pony tail. The word for hair, namely שער (se'ar), additionally describes the cognitive quality of being familiar with or afraid of something. In that sense, loose hair signifies freely expressed feelings, bundled hair signifies free expressions concerning a particular topic, braided hair signifies synthetically crafted discourse, and bound and covered hair (by a turban or a hat) signifies restrained and unexpressed feelings.
In a negative sense, the verb פרע (para') may refer to getting out of control, or assuming a degree of freedom where a governed, disciplined or regulated state is preferred.
🔼The doom of Pharaoh
The United Sates of Egypt survived all sorts of challenges and hardships for three millennia, and its longevity was greatly admired across the world. The question how to govern a group of people that is much larger than a natural family or tribe has mesmerized thinkers since deep antiquity. Every populist dictator makes the rookie mistake of underestimating the formidable mysteries of human mental diversity, and places iron walls at roads least travelled only to see the faintest voice of protest gather into massive rebellions that ultimately bring him and his sordid state down to dust for reasons he himself couldn't begin to fathom. Leaders with more sense realize that longevity of the state only comes when its members are free to self-organize, and the quest for the perfect state became closely intertwined with the quest for individual sovereignty or full autonomy and responsibility for every member of society.
The prophets of Israel greatly admired the society of the Phoenicians, and emphasized their great role in bringing about the Temple of YHWH in Jerusalem around 1000 BCE (1 Kings 5:8). By the time of Isaiah (700 BCE), however, the Phoenician culture was visually destabilizing (Isaiah 23:1) and a hundred years after that Ezekiel arose in a lament over the once so perfect Tyre that was now clearly doomed to implode (Ezekiel 27:36).
Also around the time of Isaiah a new form of government was emerging, namely one that removed power from a central ruler and distributed it over a non-centralized senate, which endearingly was referred to as a girl (that is a female who is young rather than specifically sexually inactive). In Greek this was described by the word παλλας (pallas), hence the name Pallas Athena, and the emphasis on femininity was simply because in Hebrew and other old-world languages, masculinity governed individuality and femininity governed collectivity. An individual ruler was a masculine king and his queen literally represented his people. A people (feminine) that was governed by a collective (feminine) that was not in turn governed by a single husband was thus an unwedded girl.
Should the reign of this girl be of such great quality that her people were able to freely self-organize, then society could freely stratify and produce specialized demographic groups. Should one of those naturally emerging groups be endowed with the natural talent to govern (that is to secure freedom for everybody), and this naturally gifted governing group could find its way to the actual throne, the whole personal sovereignty thing could form a naturally self-sustaining feedback loop, that would give rise to a whole spectrum of naturally arising specialized classes, quite alike the many differently specialized organs that make up an entire organism. When Isaiah jubilantly exclaimed that the "virgin would be with child" (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23) he didn't envision some new religion but rather a whole new national life-form, with a complexity that was hitherto not seen, but which would procure freedom to minorities that were hitherto not recognized or given the right to breathe or attain a social identity.
🔼Follow that dream
The people who wrote the Torah in its final form most probably worked off much older sources, and those older sources clearly contemplated the great initial benevolence of Pharaoh relative to his ultimate failure. The people who wrote the Torah lived and worked in Babylon (by that time the Persian Empire) and added to the ancient reflection on Pharaoh their new reflections on their own freedom and success in Persia.
Pharaoh, or the United States of Egypt, had come about from a union of northern and southern states, and this not by oppression but rather by removing obstructions to a free flow of goods, services, ideas and most significantly: dreams. How the Egyptians saw dreams isn't wholly clear but the narrators who compiled the Torah understood that the combined acts of many people aren't random but follow patterns. Folks who understand these patterns can predict the likelihood of future events, which is of course rather crucial to a ruler (Daniel 2:29-30).
The signature difference between Egypt and Babylon showed in their attitude toward dream interpreters. In Babylon, the people who produced the class that understood how to catch and read dreams was highly honored and given a seat in the highest government of the realm, and most crucially, were given the freedom and funding to do whatever they wanted and go wherever they pleased. In Egypt this was initially so as well, but when Joseph the Dreamer imported his family to Egypt, they were quickly assigned a reservation, were they were subsequently enslaved and made to serve a building program that was considered of greater benefit than the free proliferation of the people's dreams.
The greatest error of the United States of Egypt was that it didn't follow her dreamers but in stead valued the concerns of her lesser visionaries, who insisted that national security comes from centralized treasuries (Exodus 1:11). People who understand money know that wealth comes from money's velocity. People who don't understand money believe that wealth comes from hoarding money in vaults. Bad mistake.
The result of this grave error was Egypt's inability to change along with the collective mind of its people and this caused social instability. It forced the dreamers out and ultimately resulted in the wholesale collapse of the greatest House of the ancient world. Note that the name of Joseph the Dreamer was also applied to the legal father of Jesus Christ, whose early survival depended on the proper interpretation of no fewer than five dream sequences: Matthew 1:20, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19, 2:22.
A political government is like a parent and the people it governs is like its child. A righteous government aims for the survival of its child. It will work to remove obstructions to free trade, and allows the free exchange of goods, services and ideas to self-organize to the point where it naturally and organically begins to desire self-discipline and produces its own regulations so that it no longer requires the guidance of its parent.
An unrighteous government aims for its own survival and works to restrict free trade and does not allow the people to develop the maturity to self-govern. Such a government enslaves its people and harvests it for its labor. Such a government will try to convince its people that it loves them and fears with the fear of death anyone who points out that this is obviously not so. When the ravished child finally musters the courage to leave its abusive parent, the parent will collapse behind it and the people that formed it will fall apart like dust, only to be conquered and enslaved themselves by more efficient peoples (those are peoples who value and follow their dreamers).