the king, and his subjects
Central to Egyptian religion and thought is the concept of maat,
the embodiment of truth and the universal balance of the universe.
This sense of order, personified as a goddess named Maat, intertwined
all aspects of correct daily behavior and thought with cosmic order
and harmony. Individuals were personally responsible for the maintenance
of the universal order. If one transgressed against the forces of
order, chaos — a state antithetical to everything the Egyptians
knew and valued — would ensue and in this frightening realm
the sun would not rise, the Nile would not flood, crops would not
grow, and children would abandon their elderly parents.
One of the most fundamental duties of the king was to maintain
maat through his intercession with the gods and especially through
the cult actions performed in the temples each day in his name.
Yet each of his subjects, through their correct behavior, shared
that responsibility. What constituted proper morality is illustrated
by the negative confession that the deceased recited at his or
her judgment before the gods. This litany, Spell 125 of the "Book
of the Dead," stipulated what was considered sinful such
as: "I have not done wrong; I have not slain people; I was
not sullen; I have not caused anyone to weep; I have not had intercourse
with a married woman." Protestations such as "I have
not disputed the king" indicate how closely religion was
tied to the state, and that political obedience was an important
part of the individual's religious duty.
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