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Religious Beliefs and Politics in Ancient Egypt

The religion of ancient Egypt is widely known as a major influence behind the enormous political strides of progress exhibited by this magnificent ancient nation. Is it true that ancient Egyptian religion had this profound effect on the political system? Did mutual dependence of politics and religion have the revolutionary effect on this ancient nation? Studies documented that the meaning of religion and upholding the tradition by the citizens of Egypt played a notable part in defining political position that Egypt held in its affluent days (Frankfort, 2000). Frankfort reiterates that the priests and the pharaohs are believed to have played a further defining role in the way the ancient Egyptians carried themselves. As a result, it is vital to note that ancient Egypt utilized the cooperation between religion and politics to advance into an organized and civilized nation.

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There are numerous elements of the Egyptian religion that largely affected the way the political system of Egypt was run. Breasted (2011) recommends that it is worthy to note that the traditions of the Egyptians played a significant role in the way religion was conducted in the ancient era of this majestic civilization. Historians recorded that the ancient Egyptians sought to maintain the status that existed at the birth of their nation. A key characteristic of the Egyptians points to their tradition to take up beliefs without questioning why these concepts of truth were structured the way they were. This state of affairs was fueled by the belief of ma’at. According to Breasted (2011), this was directed at maintaining peace and orderliness in the ancient Egyptian society. This state of society led to the least desire for change in their nation. Successive generation took after their fathers and forefathers, inherited their knowledge and way of living, hence maintained a sort of status quo. Being that the religion in ancient Egypt was polytheistic, it means that the worshippers’ desire was to gain as much favor from the gods as possible. The result was investing massive effort to own property and objects that the people were going to use during the worship services. Another facet of this argument takes up the part that the priest played in society.

Priests had a single purpose according to the tradition of the Egyptians. Shafer & Baines (1991) indicate that the priests were meant to look after the gods and serve the needs of the gods. At no moment were the priests supposed to quit their tasks. In the event that the priests failed in executing their duties, the disaster was bound to befall the people of ancient Egypt. For instance, if the priest did not rise to light the morning torch for the gods who lived in the temple, the Egyptians would suffer different troubles. The people of ancient Egypt had no option other than compensate the priests exceptionally well due to this well-defined role structure of the priesthood. Shafer & Baines (1991) also note that the priests were not permanent workers in the temple because they held several other positions, especially in the civil and legal system. In accordance with this fact, it is clear that the priests formed a considerable part of the political leadership of ancient Egypt. The lay priest creates a common example of the class of priests who served in the dual system of combined political and religious principles. These lay priests would spend a month serving in the temple. After that, the priests would leave for three months to serve in the local governments. Another identifying characteristic of governmental authority of the priests is seen in the way the ecclesiastics were appointed. The appointing authority for the priests was the pharaoh. Mostly, pharaohs used tribal custom by choosing their close relatives to take up duty in the most powerful temples around the nation. This trait did take root because the Pharaoh would clarify that the priestly duty was hereditary, thus maintaining the sacerdotal service in a single line of families. Being that the Egyptians subscribed to the non-questioning tradition, the political system was beefed up by exploiting the religious beliefs that the religious system had instituted.

The position that the Pharaoh held speaks volumes concerning the part that religion played in supporting the political activity of ancient Egypt. According to Kemp (2006), the term that describes the position of the Pharaoh is divine kingship. These words signify that the Pharaoh was both a political ruler and a spiritual leader. In fact, the Egyptians believed that their king was a god. During the life of the king, Pharaoh was thought to be a son of the famous god Re – deity of the sun. At the time of the death of the king, Egyptians believed that the king had become an Osiris; hence, he would offer substantial assistance to the Egyptians after they had died from their earthly life. As a consequence, the Egyptians believed that they had to preserve the bodies of their kings so that the spirit of their afterlife would dwell in those bodies. Kemp (2006) noted that this is a direct instance where the religious beliefs immensely assisted the stability of the political setup of ancient Egypt. The treatment of the king as a god ensured that all the citizens held the king in the highest regard. The king received gifts from the subjects in order to appease him and gain his favor. Even at the death of the king, he was buried with a lot of treasure because religion had established that there was an afterlife and the king would need that property to lead a comforted existence in another world. What would suffice to explain the large stone tombs that the Egyptians built for their dead kings? The answer lies in religion. It was a belief that the establishment of the religious system largely impacted the way the Egyptians regarded the political system. Numerous cases that suggest that ancient Egyptian kings were autocratic tend towards accuracy. Sentiments were inclined toward a death penalty if a subject did not accomplish the desire of the king. It means that the ruler was exceedingly powerful than all other people. In such a manner, we establish the vital role that religion enacted in establishing the monarchial system that reined in ancient Egypt (Kemp, 2006).

Religion took another enormous task in shaping the meaning of life in ancient Egyptian civilization (Kaplan, 2004). Apart from creating myths that directed the way the Egyptians perceived their origin, religion took a central role explaining the meaning of life to the citizens of. Numerous myths that sought to explain the origin of the Egyptians held the temple as a central item. For instance, the three myths that developed in the initial era of the Egypt cited that there was an island of creation. The desire of the generators of these myths was to revive the traditional nature of the belief system that was existent in Egypt. Kaplan (2004) notes that the founders of the myths undertook a serious target portraying the temple as the physical location, where the act of creation took place. The aim of this conviction was to strengthen the trust that the ancient Egyptians had in the religious system. With a strong trust in the religious system, the political authority would easily harvest the allegiance of the people. This basis of religion ensured that the people dedicated a lot of their resources towards the construction of the temples. The populace also used their resources to ensure that activities at the temples ran smoothly. The people of ancient Egypt believed that the universe was created to exist in a state of order. Everyone was supposed to invest all his effort and power towards ensuring that the forces of disorder did not overcome the desirable principle of justice, truth and order. Mindful that the temple was regarded as the point where all men originated; the people of ancient Egypt invested all their endeavors towards continuity and sustenance of the activities at the sanctuary. Apparently, the people thought that all efforts towards order and stability came from the regulations that religion had set up. This trend of activities indicates that the political system was the obvious recipient of all the tribute and gain that arose out of the belief system.

Another strong spiritual conviction that the religious system developed in ancient Egypt was the view of death. Breasted (2011) reports that the Egyptians believed that there is an afterlife. Initially, the belief was that the Pharaoh was the only individual who had a spirit and, therefore, had the capability of communing with the gods. In fact, the Egyptians were convinced that the king would help them because his body would regain the spirit at night. According to Breasted (2011), this belief led many of the citizens to offer their selfless service to the ruling elite because they anticipated a reward in the afterlife. As evident in the funerary texts, most of the citizens held the religious beliefs because they had the idea that all the stipulations that religion gave had a strong bearing on their afterlife. The structure of the ancient Egyptian society had commoners and nobles. The commoners were majorly the subjects who came from average families. The commoners were not assured of the afterlife because their death meant that their spirit just disappeared in the black oblivion. With this state of belief, the commoner had a single life to live. They, therefore, had to live it well. It was believed that if they did not commit many sins by contravening the ma’at, they could merit having an afterlife. This religious belief played a crucial hidden role in strengthening the power and the stability of the political rule of the Pharaoh.


An individual may argue that the ancient Egyptians stood to gain a lot of economic progress from the deceptive beliefs instituted by religion. This is not accurate because most Egyptians toiled all their life with the aim to win the favor of the king and the gods.

Someone may argue that Egypt is a standing symbol of how an organized civilization should live. This is partly wrong because of the means that the political system used to effect the beliefs. The tribal and segregate acts of the Pharaoh indicate that ancient Egypt was not a perfect civilization.

In conclusion, it is evident that religion played a crucial role in strengthening the ancient political leadership. Elements of religious belief fueling this support include the creeds about a divine nature of the pharaoh and that all efforts by the citizens would be directed to please him. The belief in ma’at also enhanced the political strength of ancient Egypt. Ma'at ensured that ancient Egyptians subscribed to a peaceful nation without questioning the ills that arose from the monarchial system of leadership. The dogma that the temple was the exact location where ancient Egyptians were created furthered the impact that the lay priest and, consequently, the king had on the people.

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