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Ancient Egyptian Ipuwer Papyrus

The Ipuwer Papyrus (officially Papyrus Leiden I 344 recto but also known as The Admonitions of Ipuwer) is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus now held in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands. It contains the Admonitions of Ipuwer, an incomplete literary work whose original composition is dated no earlier than the late Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt (c.1991–1803 BCE), likely some time around 1,250 BC.

The document describes a chaotic world where societal roles have been reversed and the people revolt against the Egyptian king. The story abruptly ends due to the missing final part of the papyrus.

Many of the calamities mentioned in the Ipuwer Papyrus are identical to those listed in Exodus as the Ten Plagues on Egypt. The date of the Ipuwer Papyrus falls in line with estimated dates of Moses and the Great Exodus.

Below is a translation of the surviving portions of the Ipuwer Papyrus. Lacunae (unfilled space or gaps) in the papyrus text are marked by […]. Translation comments are included after each chapter.

Section I

[. .] The door [keepers] say: “Let us go and plunder.”

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The confectioners [. . .].

The washerman refuses to carry his load [. . .]

The bird [catchers] have drawn up in line of battle [. . . the inhabitants] of the Delta carry shields.

The brewers [. . .] sad.

A man regards his son as his enemy. Confusion [. . .] another. Come and conquer; judge [. . .] what was ordained for you in the time of Horus, in the age [of the Ennead . . .]. The virtuous man goes in mourning because of what has happened in the land [. . .] goes [. . .] the tribes of the desert have become Egyptians everywhere.

Indeed, the face is pale; [. . .] what the ancestors foretold has arrived at [fruition . . .] the land is full of confederates, and a man goes to plough with his shield.

Indeed, the meek say: [“He who is . . . of] face is as a well-born man.”

Indeed, [the face] is pale; the bowman is ready, wrongdoing is everywhere, and there is no man of yesterday.

Indeed, the plunderer [. . .] everywhere, and the servant takes what he finds.

Indeed, the Nile overflows, yet none plough for it. Everyone says: “We do not know what will happen throughout the land.”

Indeed, the women are barren, and none conceive. Khnum fashions (men) no more because of the condition of the land.

Comments

Note: The door [keepers] say: “Let us go and plunder.”: and the servant takes what he finds: Exodus 12:36 – The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

Note: (men) no more because of the condition of the land: Exodus 10:14 – Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees.

Note: the Nile overflows, yet none plough for it: The collapse of the Old Kingdom civilization is generally attributed to a repeated failure of the Nile to inundate the flood plain. A few consecutive crop failures can result in many subsequent years of suffering, as all the grain that is grown and which is to serve as seed, will be consumed as food.

Section II

Indeed, poor men have become owners of wealth, and he who could not make sandals for himself is now a possessor of riches.

Indeed, men’s slaves, their hearts are sad, and magistrates do not fraternize with their people when they shout.

Indeed, [hearts] are violent, pestilence is throughout the land, blood is everywhere, death is not lacking, and the mummy-cloth speaks even before one comes near it.

Indeed, many dead are buried in the river; the stream is a sepulcher and the place of embalmment has become a stream.

Indeed, noblemen are in distress, while the poor man is full of joy. Every town says: “Let us suppress the powerful among us.”

Indeed, men are like ibises. Squalor is throughout the land, and there are none indeed whose clothes are white in these times.

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Indeed, the land turns around as does a potter’s wheel; the robber is a possessor of riches and [the rich man is become] a plunderer.

Indeed, trusty servants are [. . .]; the poor man [complains]: “How terrible! What am I to do?”

Indeed, the river is blood, yet men drink of it. Men shrink from human beings and thirst after water.

Indeed, gates, columns and walls are burnt up, while the hall of the palace stands firm and endures.

Indeed, the ship of [the southerners] has broken up; towns are destroyed and Upper Egypt has become an empty waste.

Indeed, crocodiles [are glutted] with the fish they have taken, for men go to them of their own accord; it is the destruction of the land. Men say: “Do not walk here; behold, it is a net.” Behold, men tread [the water] like fishes, and the frightened man cannot distinguish it because of terror.

Indeed, men are few, and he who places his brother in the ground is everywhere. When the wise man speaks, [he flees without delay].

Indeed, the well-born man [. . .] through lack of recognition, and the child of his lady has become the son of his maidservant.

Comments

Note: poor men have become owners of wealth, and he who could not make sandals for himself is now a possessor of riches: Exodus 12:35 – The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

Note: pestilence is throughout the land, blood is everywhere: Exodus 7:17 – “With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’ ”

Note: the river is blood, yet men drink of it: Exodus 7:24 – And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.

Note: sad: Lichtheim: greedy

Note: Let us suppress the powerful among us: John A.Wilson: Let us banish many from us. Lichtheim: Let us expel our rulers.

Note: Indeed, the river is blood, yet men drink of it. Men shrink from human beings and thirst after water: Why really, the River is blood. If one drinks of it, one rejects (it) as human and thirsts for water. (Wilson)

Note: gates, columns and walls are burnt up: doors, columns, and floor planks are burned up (Wilson)

Note: crocodiles [are glutted] with the fish they have taken, for men go to them of their own accord: crocodiles [sink] down because of what they have carried off, (for) men go to them of their own accord. (Wilson)

Note: When the wise man speaks, [he flees without delay]: Lichtheim: “The word of the wise has fled without delay”.

Section III

Indeed, the desert is throughout the land, the nomes are laid waste, and barbarians from abroad have come to Egypt.

Indeed, men arrive [. . .] and indeed, there are no Egyptians anywhere.

Indeed, gold and lapis lazuli, silver and turquoise, carnelian and amethyst, Ibhet-stone and [. . .] are strung on the necks of maidservants. Good things are throughout the land, (yet) housewives say: “Oh that we had something to eat!”

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Indeed, [. . .] noblewomen. Their bodies are in sad plight by reason of their rags, and their hearts sink when greeting [one another]. Indeed, chests of ebony are broken up, and precious ssnDm-wood is cleft asunder in beds [. . .].

Indeed, the builders [of pyramids have become] cultivators, and those who were in the sacred bark are now yoked [to it]. None shall indeed sail northward to Byblos today; what shall we do for cedar trees for our mummies, and with the produce of which priests are buried and with the oil of which [chiefs] are embalmed as far as Keftiu? They come no more; gold is lacking [. . .] and materials for every kind of craft have come to an end. The [. . .] of the palace is despoiled. How often do people of the oases come with their festival spices, mats, and skins, with fresh rdmt-plants, grease of birds . . . ?

Indeed, Elephantine and Thinis […] of Upper Egypt, (but) without paying taxes owing to civil strife. Lacking are grain, charcoal, irtyw-fruit, m’w-wood, nwt-wood, and brushwood. The work of craftsmen and [. . .] are the profit of the palace. To what purpose is a treasury without its revenues? Happy indeed is the heart of the king when truth comes to him! And every foreign land [comes]! That is our fate and that is our happiness! What can we do about it? All is ruin!

Indeed, laughter is perished and is [no longer] made; it is groaning that is throughout the land, mingled with complaints.

Comments

Note: gold and lapis lazuli, silver and turquoise, carnelian and amethyst, Ibhet-stone and [. . .] are strung on the necks of maidservants: Exodus 12:35 – The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

Note: barbarians : Lichtheim: Foreign bowmen. Egyptians saw themselves as the pinnacle of creation: their land was The Land, their people were The People. In this their attitude was similar to that of other ancient (and not so ancient) peoples.

Note: from abroad have come to Egypt: Times of weak central power opened opportunities for foreigners to infiltrate the country in even larger numbers than ordinarily.

Note: Egyptians: people (Wilson)

Note: lapis lazuli: Much coveted blue stone, imported from Asia.

Note: Byblos: This city on the Lebanese coast supplied cedar wood to the Egyptians since the Old Kingdom at least.

Note: Keftiu: Often identified as Crete.

Note: The work of craftsmen and [. . .] are the profit of the palace: Lichtheim: The output of craftsmen is lacking —

Note: truth: Lichtheim: gifts

Section IV

Indeed, every dead person is as a well-born man. Those who were Egyptians [have become] foreigners and are thrust aside.

Indeed, hair [has fallen out] for everybody, and the man of rank can no longer be distinguished from him who is nobody.

Indeed, [. . .] because of noise; noise is not [. . .] in years of noise, and there is no end [of] noise.

Indeed, great and small [say]: “I wish I might die.” Little children say: “He should not have caused [me] to live.”

Indeed, the children of princes are dashed against walls, and the children of the neck are laid out on the high ground.

Indeed, those who were in the place of embalmment are laid out on the high ground, and the secrets of the embalmers are thrown down because of it.

Indeed, that has perished which yesterday was seen, and the land is left over to its weakness like the cutting of flax.

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Indeed, the Delta in its entirety will not be hidden, and Lower Egypt puts trust in trodden roads. What can one do? No [. . .] exist anywhere, and men say: “Perdition to the secret place!” Behold, it is in the hands of those who do not know it like those who know it. The desert dwellers are skilled in the crafts of the Delta.

Indeed, citizens are put to the corn-rubbers, and those who used to don fine linen are beaten with . . . Those who used never to see the day have gone out unhindered; those who were on their husbands’ beds, let them lie on rafts. I say: “It is too heavy for me,” concerning rafts bearing myrrh. Load them with vessels filled with [. . . Let] them know the palanquin. As for the butler, he is ruined. There are no remedies for it; noblewomen suffer like maidservants, minstrels are at the looms within the weaving-rooms, and what they sing to the Songstress-goddess is mourning. Talkers [. . .] corn-rubbers.

Indeed, all female slaves are free with their tongues, and when their mistress speaks, it is irksome to the maidservants.

Indeed, trees are felled and branches are stripped off.

Comments

Note: trees are felled and branches are stripped off: Exodus 9:25 – Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree.

Note: Indeed, every dead person is as a well-born man. Those who were Egyptians [have become] foreigners and are thrust aside.: Lichtheim: Those who were people are strangers whom one shows the way.

Note: …the children of the neck (i.e. holding onto the neck of the carrying grown-up): The (once) prayed-for children (Wilson)

Note: on the high ground: burial ground above the flood plain.

Note: were in the place of embalmment: Lichtheim: were entombed

Note: crafts: work (Wilson)

Note: corn-rubbers: Lichtheim: grindstones

Note: rafts: Lichtheim: Boards

Note: Load them with vessels filled with [. . . Let] them know the palanquin.: Lichtheim: She is loaded down with jars filled with —. [No longer] does she know the palanquin,

Note: trees are felled and branches are stripped off: the wholesale destruction of trees causes serious fuel problems, as witnessed nowadays in the Sahel region of sub-saharan Africa

Section V

I have separated him and his household slaves, and men will say when they hear it: “Cakes are lacking for most children; there is no food [. . .]. What is the taste of it like today?”

Indeed, magnates are hungry and perishing, followers are followed [. . .] because of complaints.

Indeed, the hot-tempered man says: “If I knew where God is, then I would serve Him.”

Indeed, [Right] pervades the land in name, but what men do in trusting to it is Wrong.

Indeed, runners are fighting over the spoil [of ] the robber, and all his property is carried off.

Indeed, all animals, their hearts weep; cattle moan because of the state of the land.

Indeed, the children of princes are dashed against walls, and the children of the neck are laid out on the high ground. Khnum groans because of his weariness.

Indeed, terror kills; the frightened man opposes what is done against your enemies. Moreover, the few are pleased, while the rest are . . . Is it by following the crocodile and cleaving it asunder? Is it by slaying the lion roasted on the fire? [Is it] by sprinkling for Ptah and taking [. . .]? Why do you give to him? There is no reaching him. It is misery which you give to him.

Indeed, slaves . . . throughout the land, and the strong man sends to everyone; a man strikes his maternal brother. What is it that has been done? I speak to a ruined man.

Indeed, the ways are [. . .], the roads are watched; men sit in the bushes until the benighted traveler comes in order to plunder his burden, and what is upon him is taken away. He is belabored with blows of a stick and murdered.

Indeed, that has perished which yesterday was seen, and the land is left over to its weakness like the cutting of flax, commoners coming and going in dissolution [. . .].

Comments

Note: all animals, their hearts weep; cattle moan because of the state of the land: Exodus 9:2 –  If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, 3 the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats.

Note: the children of princes are dashed against walls, and the children of the neck are laid out on the high ground: Exodus 12:29 – At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Note: I have separated him and his household slaves: Lichtheim: And the servant abandons his household

Note: Cakes are lacking for most children: Lichtheim: Gone is the gain of abundance of children.

Note: runners are fighting over the spoil [of ] the robber: Lichtheim: one runs and fights for the goods [of a man]. He is robbed;

Note: the ways are [. . .], the roads are watched: the ways [are not] guarded roads (Wilson)

Section VI

Would that there were an end of men, without conception, without birth! Then would the land be quiet from noise and tumult be no more.

Indeed, [men eat] herbage and wash [it] down with water; neither fruit nor herbage can be found [for] the birds, and [. . .] is taken away from the mouth of the pig. No face is bright which you have [. . .] for me through hunger.

Indeed, everywhere barley has perished and men are stripped of clothes, spice, and oil; everyone says: “There is none.” The storehouse is empty and its keeper is stretched on the ground; a happy state of affairs! . . .

Would that I had raised my voice at that moment, that it might have saved me from the pain in which I am.

Indeed, the private council-chamber, its writings are taken away and the mysteries which were [in it] are laid bare.

Indeed, magic spells are divulged; smw- and shnw-spells are frustrated because they are remembered by men.

Indeed, public offices are opened and their inventories are taken away; the serf has become an owner of serfs.

Indeed, [scribes] are killed and their writings are taken away. Woe is me because of the misery of this time!

Indeed, the writings of the scribes of the cadaster are destroyed, and the corn of Egypt is common property.

Indeed, the laws of the council chamber are thrown out; indeed, men walk on them in public places, and poor men break them up in the streets.

Indeed, the poor man has attained to the state of the Nine Gods, and the erstwhile procedure of the House of the Thirty is divulged.

Indeed, the great council-chamber is a popular resort, and poor men come and go to the Great Mansions.

Indeed, the children of magnates are ejected into the streets; the wise man agrees and the fool says “no,” and it is pleasing in the sight of him who knows nothing about it.

Indeed, those who were in the place of embalmment are laid out on the high ground, and the secrets of the embalmers are thrown down because of it.

Comments

Note: spice, and oil: Lichtheim: Unanointed with oil

Note: the private council-chamber, its writings are taken away and the mysteries which were [in it] are laid bare the writings of the augurs enclosure are read. The place of secrets which was (so formerly) is (now) laid bare (Wilson)

Note: magic spells are divulged: Anybody who knew magic spells could use them, though overuse seems to have made them ineffective.

Note: smw- and shnw spells: Go-spells and Enfold-spells (Wilson)

Note: because they are remembered: Lichtheim: through being repeated

Note: the corn of Egypt is common property: Wilson: The grain-sustenance of Egypt is (now) a come-and-get-it.

Note: Corn in the ancient Egyptian context refers to wheat and/or barley. The storage of surplus grain and its redistribution was one of the corner stones of the Egyptian economy. Egypt was not a welfare state, distributing free grain.

Note: has attained to the state of: Lichtheim: comes to the place

Note: Nine Gods: The ennead, the totality of the gods of a locality, not necessarily amounting to exactly nine gods.

Note: House of Thirty: Tribunal, cf. Hail Eater of entrails who came forth from the House of Thirty, I have not committed perjury. from the Book of the Dead transl. by Allen and Faulkner

Note: the children of magnates are ejected into the streets: Lichtheim: there is much hatred in the streets

Section VII

Behold, the fire has gone up on high, and its burning goes forth against the enemies of the land.

Behold, things have been done which have not happened for a long time past; the king has been deposed by the rabble.

Behold, he who was buried as a falcon [is devoid] of biers, and what the pyramid concealed has become empty.

Behold, it has befallen that the land has been deprived of the kingship by a few lawless men.

Behold, men have fallen into rebellion against the Uraeus, the [. . .] of Re, even she who makes the Two Lands content.

Behold, the secret of the land whose limits were unknown is divulged, and the Residence is thrown down in a moment.

Behold, Egypt is fallen to pouring of water, and he who poured water on the ground has carried off the strong man in misery.

Behold, the Serpent is taken from its hole, and the secrets of the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt are divulged.

Behold, the Residence is afraid because of want, and [men go about] unopposed to stir up strife.

Behold, the land has knotted itself up with confederacies, and the coward takes the brave man’s property.

Behold, the Serpent [. . .] the dead: he who could not make a sarcophagus for himself is now the possessor of a tomb.

Behold, the possessors of tombs are ejected on to the high ground, while he who could not make a coffin for himself is now [the possessor] of a treasury.

Behold, this has happened [to] men; he who could not build a room for himself is now a possessor of walls.

Behold, the magistrates of the land are driven out throughout the land: [. . .] are driven out from the palaces.

Behold, noble ladies are now on rafts, and magnates are in the labor establishment, while he who could not sleep even on walls is now the possessor of a bed.

Behold, the possessor of wealth now spends the night thirsty, while he who once begged his dregs for himself is now the possessor of overflowing bowls.

Behold, the possessors of robes are now in rags, while he who could not weave for himself is now a possessor of fine linen.

Behold, he who could not build a boat for himself is now the possessor of a fleet; their erstwhile owner looks at them, but they are not his.

Behold, he who had no shade is now the possessor of shade, while the erstwhile possessors of shade are now in the full blast of the storm.

Behold, he who was ignorant of the lyre is now the possessor of a harp, while he who never sang for himself now vaunts the Songstress-goddess.

Behold, those who possessed vessel-stands of copper [. . .] not one of the jars thereof has been adorned.

Comments

Note: deposed by the rabble: Lichtheim: robbed by beggars

Note: Falcon: the pharaoh, son of Horus

Note: pyramid: pyramids were built from the third dynasty to the Middle Kingdom.

Note: lawless men: Lichtheim: people who ignore custom. Essentially, Egyptian law was customary law.

Note: Uraeus: The snake symbol of the ruler, worn on pharaonic headdresses.

Note: the [. . .] of Re: Lichtheim: Stolen] is the crown of Re

Note: Serpent: Wilson: (guardian-)serpent

Note: he who could not build a room for himself is now a possessor of walls: Lichtheim: He who did not build a hut is an owner of coffers.

Note: Behold, noble ladies are now on rafts, and magnates are in the labor establishment, while he who could not sleep even on walls is now the possessor of a bed: Wilson: Behold, nobles’ ladies are (now) gleaners, and nobles are in the workhouse. (But) he who never (even) slept on a plank is (now) the owner of a bed.

Note: Bedsteads were expensive furniture. Most people would have slept on the floor.

Note: shade: Lichtheim: shelter

Note: Songstress-goddess: goddess of music (Wilson)

Note: vessel-stands: Most vessels had rounded bottoms and were placed on circular vessel-stands to prevent them from falling over. Lichtheim:offering-tables

Section VIII

Behold, he who slept wifeless through want [finds] riches, while he whom he never saw stands making dole.

Behold, he who had no property is now a possessor of wealth, and the magnate praises him.

Behold, the poor of the land have become rich, and the [erstwhile owner] of property is one who has nothing.

Behold, serving-men have become masters of butlers, and he who was once a messenger now sends someone else.

Behold, he who had no loaf is now the owner of a barn, and his storehouse is provided with the goods of another.

Behold, he whose hair is fallen out and who had no oil has now become the possessors of jars of sweet myrrh.

Behold, she who had no box is now the owner of a coffer, and she who had to look at her face in the water is now the owner of a mirror.

Behold, [. . .].

Behold, a man is happy eating his food. Consume your goods in gladness and unhindered, for it is good for a man to eat his food; God commands it for him whom He has favored [. . .].

[Behold, he who did not know] his god now offers to him with incense of another [who is] not known [to him].

[Behold,] great ladies, once possessors of riches, now give their children for beds.

Behold, a man [to whom is given] a noble lady as wife, her father protects him, and he who has not [. . .] killing him.

Behold, the children of magistrates are [ . . . the calves] of cattle [are given over] to the plunderers.

Behold, priests transgress with the cattle of the poor [. . .].

Behold, he who could not slaughter for himself now slaughters bulls, and he who did not know how to carve now sees [. . .].

Behold, priests transgress with geese, which are given [to] the gods instead of oxen.

Behold, maidservants [. . .] offer ducks; noblewomen [. . .].

Behold, noblewomen flee; the overseers of [. . .] and their [children] are cast down through fear of death.

[Behold,] the chiefs of the land flee; there is no purpose for them because of want. The lord of [. . .].

Comments

Note: wifeless through want: Founding a household, which seems to have been almost synonymous with getting married required a modicum of wealth.

Note: riches: Lichtheim: noblewoman

Note: the poor of the land have become rich: In reality the poor do not become rich during social upheaval.

Note: serving-men: Lichtheim: cooks

Note: priests transgress with the cattle of the poor [. . .].: Lichtheim: the serfs eat beef, The paupers ——

Note: priests transgress: Lichtheim: serfs eat

Note: geese, which are given [to] the gods instead of oxen: Shortchanging and stealing from the gods was a mortal sin. I have not purloined offerings (Negative confessions)

Section IX

[Behold,] those who once owned beds are now on the ground, while he who once slept in squalor now lays out a skin-mat for himself.

Behold, noblewomen go hungry, while the priests are sated with what has been prepared for them.

Behold, no offices are in their right place, like a herd running at random without a herdsman.

Behold, cattle stray and there is none to collect them, but everyone fetches for himself those that are branded with his name.

Behold, a man is slain beside his brother, who runs away and abandons him to save his own skin.

Behold, he who had no yoke of oxen is now the owner of a herd, and he who could find for himself no ploughman is now the owner of cattle.

Behold, he who had no grain is now the owner of granaries, and he who had to fetch loan-corn for himself is now one who issues it.

Behold, he who had no dependents is now an owner of serfs, and he who was [a magnate] now performs his own errands.

Behold, the strong men of the land, the condition of the people is not reported [to them]. All is ruin!

Behold, no craftsmen work, for the enemies of the land have impoverished its craftsmen.

[Behold, he who once recorded] the harvest now knows nothing about it, while he who never ploughed [for himself is now the owner of corn; the reaping] takes place but is not reported. The scribe [sits in his office], but his hands [are idle] in it.

Destroyed is [. . .] in that time, and a man looks [on his friend as] an adversary. The infirm man brings coolness [to what is hot . . .] fear [. . .. . .]. Poor men [. . . the land] is not bright because of it.

Comments

Note: priests: king’s men (Wilson)

Note: everyone fetches for himself those that are branded with his name: Wilson: Every man takes for himself and brands (them) with his name.

Section X

Destroyed is [. . .] their food is taken from them [. . . through] fear of his terror. The commoner begs [. . .] messenger, but not [. . .] time. He is captured laden with goods and [all his property] is taken away. [. . .] men pass by his door [. . .] the outside of the wall, a shed, and rooms containing falcons. It is the common man who will be vigilant, the day having dawned on him without his dreading it. Men run because of [. . . for] the temple of the head, strained through a woven cloth within the house. What they make are tents, just like the desert folk.

Destroyed is the doing of that for which men are sent by retainers in the service of their masters; they have no readiness.

Behold, they are five men, and they say: “Go on the road you know, for we have arrived.”

Lower Egypt weeps; the king’s storehouse is the common property of everyone, and the entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong emmer and barley, fowl and fish; to it belong white cloth and fine linen, copper and oil; to it belong carpet and mat, [. . .] flowers and wheat-sheaf and all good revenues . . . If the . . . it in the palace were delayed, men would be devoid [of . . .].

Destroy the enemies of the august Residence, splendid of magistrates [. . .] in it like [. . .]; indeed, the Governor of the City goes unescorted.

Destroy [the enemies of the august Residence,] splendid [. . .]. [Destroy the enemies of] that erstwhile august Residence, manifold of laws [. . .].

[Destroy the enemies of] that erstwhile august [Residence . . .].

Destroy the enemies of that erstwhile august Residence [. . .] none can stand [. . .].

Destroy the enemies of that erstwhile august Residence, manifold of offices; indeed [. . .].

Remember to immerse [. . .] him who is in pain when he is sick in his body; show respect [. . .] because of his god that he may guard the utterance [. . .] his children who are witnesses of the surging of the flood.

Section XI

Remember to [. . . . . .]. . . shrine, to fumigate with incense and to offer water in a jar in the early morning.

Remember [to bring] fat r-geese, trp-geese, and ducks and to offer god’s offerings to the gods.

Remember to chew natron and to prepare white bread; a man [should do it] on the day of wetting the head.

Remember to erect flagstaffs and to carve offering stones, the priest cleansing the chapels and the temple being plastered (white) like milk; to make pleasant the odor of the horizon and to provide bread-offerings.

Remember to observe regulations, to fix dates correctly, and to remove him who enters on the priestly office in impurity of body, for that is doing it wrongfully, it is destruction of the heart [. . .] the day which precedes eternity, the months [. . .] years are known.

Remember to slaughter oxen [. . .].

Remember to go forth purged [. . .] who calls to you; to put r-geese on the fire [. . .] to open the jar [. . .] the shore of the waters [. . .] of women [. . .] clothing [. . .. . .] to give praise . . . in order to appease you.
[. . .] lack of people; come [. . .] Re who commands [. . .] worshipping him [. . .] West until [. . .] are diminished [. . .].

Behold, why does he seek to fashion [men . . .]? The frightened man is not distinguished from the violent one.

Comments

Note: Remember: The things to remember are the duties of the priests, first among them the pharaoh as High Priest, to their gods. In accordance with the magical thinking of the day (and which still persists among many believers) the meticulous fulfillment of duties brings with it the favor of the gods and thus the well-being of the pious.

Note: ducks: sat-geese (Wilson)

Note: natron: used for cleaning teeth, cf. Personal hygiene and cosmetics

Note: horizon: Lichtheim: sanctuary

Note: impurity of body: Priest had to observe a number of rules, like removing hair, wearing white sandals made of reeds etc.

Note: he: the creator god

Section XII

He brings coolness upon heat; men say: “He is the herdsman of mankind, and there is no evil in his heart.” Though his herds are few, yet he spends a day to collect them, their hearts being on fire.

Would that he had perceived their nature in the first generation; then he would have imposed obstacles, he would have stretched out his arm against them, he would have destroyed their herds and their heritage. Men desire the giving of birth, but sadness supervenes, with needy people on all sides.

So it is, and it will not pass away while the gods who are in the midst of it exist. Seed goes forth into mortal women, but none are found on the road.

Combat has gone forth, and he who should be a redresser of evils is one who commits them; neither do men act as pilot in their hour of duty. Where is he today? Is he asleep? Behold, his power is not seen.

If we had been fed, I would not have found you, I would not have been summoned in vain; “Aggression against it means pain of heart” is a saying on the lips of everyone. Today he who is afraid . . . a myriad of people; [. . .] did not see [. . .] against the enemies of [. . .] at his outer chamber; who enter the temple [. . .] weeping for him [. . .] that one who confounds what he has said . . . The land has not fallen [. . .] the statues are burned and their tombs destroyed [. . .] he sees the day of [. . .]. He who could not make for himself [. . .] between sky and ground is afraid of everybody.

. . . if he does it . . . what you dislike taking.

Authority, knowledge, and truth are with you, yet confusion is what you set throughout the land, also the noise of tumult. Behold, one deals harm to another, for men conform to what you have commanded. If three men travel on the road, they are found to be only two, for the many kill the few.

Comments

Note: herdsman: The metaphor of divine herdsman or shepherd is frequently used in Egyptian literature.

Note: their nature: The evil in man was either unintentional or it came into being shortly after creation.

Note: their herds: Wilson: the seed thereof. Re would have destroyed his flawed creation had he known at the beginning.

Note: heritage: Lichtheim: heirs

Section XIII

Does a herdsman desire death? Then may you command reply to be made, because it means that one loves, another detests; it means that their existences are few everywhere; it means that you have acted so as to bring those things to pass. You have told lies, and the land is a weed which destroys men, and none can count on life. All these years are strife, and a man is murdered on his housetop even though he was vigilant in his gate lodge. Is he brave and saves himself? It means he will live.

When men send a servant for humble folk, he goes on the road until he sees the flood; the road is washed out and he stands worried. What is on him is taken away, he is belabored with blows of a stick and wrongfully slain. Oh that you could taste a little of the misery of it! Then you would say [. . .]

from someone else as a wall, over and above [. . .] hot . . . years . . . [. . .].

[It is indeed good] when ships fare upstream [. . . . . .] robbing them.

It is indeed good [. . .]. [It is indeed] good when the net is drawn in and birds are tied up [. . .].

It is [indeed] good [. . .] dignities for them, and the roads are passable.

It is indeed good when the hands of men build pyramids, when ponds are dug and plantations of the trees of the gods are made.

It is indeed good when men are drunk; they drink myt and their hearts are happy.

Comments

Note: that their existences are few: Lichtheim: reducing their numbers

Note: Is he brave and saves himself? It means he will live: Lichtheim: . If he is brave he may save himself. Such is his life!

Note: net is drawn in and birds are tied up: Bird netting was to some a leisure activity, to others a necessity.

Note: build pyramids: an activity which had completely ceased by the New Kingdom.

Section XIV

It is indeed good when shouting is in men’s mouths, when the magnates of districts stand looking on at the shouting in their houses, clad in a cloak, cleansed in front and well-provided within.

It is indeed good when beds are prepared and the headrests of magistrates are safely secured. Every man’s need is satisfied with a couch in the shade, and a door is now shut on him who once slept in the bushes.

It is indeed good when fine linen is spread out on New Year’s Day [. . .] on the bank; when fine linen is spread out and cloaks are on the ground. The overseer of [. . .] the trees, the poor [. . .. . .] in their midst like Asiatics [. . .]. Men [. . .] the state thereof; they have come to an end of themselves; none can be found to stand up and protect themselves [. . .].

Everyone fights for his sister and saves his own skin. Is it Nubians? Then will we guard ourselves; warriors are made many in order to ward off foreigners. Is it Libyans? Then we will turn away. The Medjay are pleased with Egypt.

Comments

Note: well-provided within: firm-bellied (Wilson)

Note: The Medjay are pleased with Egypt: The Madjoi fortunately are with Egypt. (Wilson); The Medjai are content with Egypt.” (Lichtheim)

SectionXV

How comes it that every man kills his brother? The troops whom we marshaled for ourselves have turned into foreigners and have taken to ravaging.

What has come to pass through it is informing the Asiatics of the state of the land; all the desert folk are possessed with the fear of it. What the plebs have tasted [. . .] without giving Egypt over [to] the sand. It is strong [. . .] speak about you after years [. . .] devastate itself, it is the threshing floor which nourishes their houses [. . .] to nourish his children [. . .] said by the troops [. . . . . .] fish [. . .] gum, lotus leaves [. . .] excess of food.

Comments

Note: foreigners and have taken to ravaging: Wilson: barbarians, beginning to destroy that from which they took their being. Foreigners were seen as agents of chaos.

Note: What the plebs have tasted [. . .] without giving Egypt over [to] the sand: Lichtheim: The experience of the people is that they say: “Egypt will not be given over <to> sand!”

Section XVI

What Ipuwer said when he addressed the Majesty of the Lord of All: [. . .] all herds. It means that ignorance of it is what is pleasing to the heart. You have done what was good in their hearts and you have nourished the people with it. They cover their faces through fear of the morrow.

That is how a man grows old before he dies, while his son is a lad of understanding; he does not open [his] mouth to speak to you, but you seize him in the doom of death [. . .] weep [. . .] go [. . .] after you, that the land may be [. . .] on every side.

Section XVII

If men call to [. . .] weep [. . .] them, who break into the tombs and burn the statues [. . .] the corpses of the nobles [. . .. . .] of directing work.

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