He Forsook the Treasures of Egypt
The name of Moses adorns many pages of the sacred Scriptures. The great prophet of God is mentioned more than 750 times in the Old Testament, and approximately eighty times in the New Testament; he is the predominate figure in the history of the nation of Israel.
As both Testaments indicate, Moses grew up in the courts of Egyptian royalty (cf. Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:22). There is, however, this intriguing statement in the book of Hebrews:
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt: for he looked unto the recompense of reward (Hebrews 11:24-26).
There are several important truths in this context.
First, Moses was a great man of faith. The term “faith,” as reflected in this thrilling chapter, suggests an abiding confidence in the reality of the Creator of the universe. Moreover, there is also ample evidence that “faith” is an action word. Note the number of times the term is associated with a verbal form—by faith Abel offered; by faith Noah prepared; by faith Abraham obeyed, etc.
Second, the narrative illustrates the fact that true faith discerns the quality of relative values. Moses weighed the difference between the temporal and the eternal, between the material and the spiritual. In each case, he chose the latter. He valued the reward of heaven more than the treasures of Egypt.
Does the modern student really appreciate the sacrifice that Moses made when he cast his lot with the people of Jehovah? There is a modern illustration which may help us grasp more fully this vital concept.
Howard Carter, a British archaeologist, had been doing excavations in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor (Thebes), Egypt for several years. However, his labor had been fruitless, and he was on the verge of abandoning the project. Then, in November of 1922, Carter came upon one of the most remarkable finds in the history of archaeological exploration. He discovered the tomb of the Pharaoh, Tut-ankh-amen.
King Tut, as he has come to be known, reigned only briefly—seven to nine years—in the mid-14th century B.C. (according to the generally accepted chronology—see Note below). The young Pharaoh was only about eighteen years old when he died.
A couple of considerations should be mentioned in preparation for what we are about to say. First, Tut-ankh-amen was a thoroughly obscure and very unimportant ruler. Also, his abbreviated reign was in the declining days of Egypt’s glory. In spite of these circumstances, the treasures of Tut’s tomb were fabulous beyond description.
In a three-volume set, co-authored with professor A.C. Mace (1923-33), Carter described his initial view into the ante-chamber (just outside the burial room) which housed many of Tut’s treasures:
[A]s my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the glint of gold (Rapport and Wright 1964, 195).
A magnificent array of some five thousand artifacts was subsequently discovered. There were golden beds, gold-covered chariots, carved walking sticks and bows with inlaid gold, and a throne, encrusted with gold, silver and jewels.
When the king’s burial chamber was finally entered, a stone sarcophagus was discovered. It contained three successive coffins of amazing workmanship fashioned in the ruler’s likeness. The innermost was solid gold (over six feet long). Also, in a nearby room four small gold coffins containing Tut’s visceral organs were found in a chest of alabaster stone. One of these (fiften and one-half inches long) was estimated to be valued at $250,000.
Another object within the tomb was a portrait mask of solid beaten gold (weighing twenty-three pounds) inlaid with semiprecious stones; it covered the head and shoulders of the mummy. It was fashioned by goldsmiths just after the young monarch’s death, and presents an exact likeness of how he appeared when he died. These discoveries certainly illustrate the ancient saying that in Egypt “gold is as common as dust.”
But what was the significance of this find for Bible students? Prof. E. M. Blaiklock notes:
To the biblical student the interest lies in the picture which was presented of the wealth and glory of Egypt—the land and culture which Moses abandoned for God and for his people’s destiny. If the tomb of a boy king could produce the beauty, wealth, and art which has so astounded the world, what must the palace of really great pharaohs such as Ramses II have been like? (1983, 459).
Surely, in light of this information, we can appreciate the sacrifices of Moses more than we ever have before, and thus be impressed ourselves with heaven’s treasures.
[NOTE: Some scholars contend that the commonly accepted Egyptian chronology is in error by several hundred years, and that Tut thus reigned ca. 817-808 B.C. A reed mat and palm kernals found in his tomb have dated 846 B.C. and 899 B.C. respectively by the radiocarbon technique (Saarnivaara , 292).]
- Blaiklock, E. M. 1983. Tutankhamen. The New Internationaly Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Glubok, Shirley. 1968. Discovering Tut-Anhk-Amen’s Tomb. New York, NY: Macmillan.
- Rapport, Samuel and Wright, Helen. 1964. Archaeology. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
- Saarnivaara, Uuras. 1983. Can the Bible Be Trusted? Minneapolis, MN: Osterhus Publishing House.