Egyptian Voodoo and Jerusalem

In Numbers 22, Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, feared the arrival of the Israelites. To counter this threat, he summoned Balaam son of Beor to curse the Israelites, “For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”

Attempts to curse another nation are seen in the archaeological record, and produced the earliest known mention of the city of Jerusalem.

In ancient Egypt, execration texts were used to curse Egypt’s enemies. A scribe would write the names of Egypt’s enemies, which would typically include the Nubians from the south, the Libyans to the west, and the city-states in the Levant to the northeast. The execration text would contain curses aimed that these groups. The final step in the ritual would be to break the object on which the curse was written.

A collection of execration texts written on bowls that were acquired in Thebes, in Upper Egypt, meaning southern Egypt, is today housed in Egyptian Museum of Berlin. Another collection of execration texts discovered at Saqqara, in northern, or Lower Egypt, is held at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. These execration texts date to the first half of the second millennium, during the Middle Bronze Age.

One of the execration texts at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin contains a list of rulers in the Levant. Included in this list is “the Ruler of Jerusalem, Yaqar-‘Ammu, and all the retainers who are with him; the Ruler of Jerusalem, Setj-Aim, and all the retainers who are with him.” To them “Every evil word, every evil speech, every evil slander, every evil thought, every evil plot, every evil fight, every evil quarrel, every evil plan, every evil thing, all evil dreams, and all evil slumber.”

Jerusalem on the execration texts is written as “URUSRMM.” Not all agree that this is in fact Jerusalem. But at this early stage, the Egyptian language did not have a distinct ‘L’ sound, and the ‘R’ sound is often found in its place. And the double MM suffix in place of one M is not entirely uncommon, and thus “URUSRMM” can be said to be Jerusalem with a degree of confidence.

Importantly for the history of the city, the execration texts demonstrate that in the Middle Bronze Age, the city of Jerusalem was significant enough to be deserving of a curse in both Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt.

An image of the execration text figurine from the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels that mentions Jerusalem can be seen via the link here: