In Latter-day Saint theology (also known as Mormon theology), Egyptus (/ˈɪptʌs/) is the name of two women in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.[1] One is the wife of Ham, son of Noah, who bears his children. The other is their daughter, who discovered Egypt while "it was under water" (1:23). The younger Egyptus places her eldest son on the throne as Pharaoh, the first king of Egypt (1:25). Pharaoh was a descendant of the Canaanites (1:22), a race of people who had been cursed with black skin (Moses 7:8). A minority of some early Mormon leaders have taught that Egyptus passed black skin and the curse of Cain through the flood so that the devil might have representation upon the earth,[2] although this has now been repudiated by later leaders.

The word Egyptus is considered to be an anachronism in the Book of Abraham among non-Mormon Egyptologists and historians,[3] since the origin of term "Egypt" is believed to have come from another source much later in history from the time of the narrative described in the Book of Abraham. The word "pharaoh" is also considered to be an anachronism in the Book of Abraham for similar reasons.

The Curse of Cain[edit]

W. W. Phelps, a counselor in the presidency of the church, was the first in the church to teach that Ham's wife was black because she was under the curse of Cain. In 1835, he taught that Ham himself was cursed because he had married a black wife. Brigham Young also taught that Egyptus was under the curse of Cain and passed the curse through the flood. John Taylor explained that it was necessary that the curse of Cain was passed through Egyptus so that "the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God".[2]

Like many Americans,[4] some Mormons of the 19th century accepted the idea promoted in slavery states that black Africans had Cain's "mark" of black skin,[5] and Ham's curse to be servants of servants.[6] These ideas were eventually abandoned by later church leaders as unsupported by scripture.

Postulated etymology among Mormon scholars[edit]

The Babylonian name for "Egypt" was written in syllabic cuneiform as Ḫikuptaḥ, which was taken from an Egyptian name for Memphis, the old capital of Egypt, Ḥwt-kЗ-Ptḥ, "House-of-the-Spirit-of-Ptah" (i.e., the Temple of Ptah), which by extension became the name for "Egypt/ Aegyptus/ Egyptus" = Coptic ekepta, and Αἴγυπτος in Homer as both Nile River and country,[7] and in Bibliotheca (2.1.4-5), as the eponymous son of Belus & Anchinoe, who first conquers Egypt.

The etymological source of the name of Egypt is important since three 1835 prepublication manuscripts of the LDS Book of Abraham read Zeptah instead of Egyptus as the name of the elder Egyptus (1:25).[8][9][10] This variant name could very well reflect the Egyptian name SЗt-Ptḥ, "Daughter-of-Ptah" (the -t- in SЗt is silent) which is known from the Middle Kingdom into the late period.[11] Moreover, This recalls the syncretic mythology in the Late Egyptian Hieratic story of "Astarte and the Sea," wherein Semitic Astarte is also called "Daughter-of-Ptah."[12] She is, therefore, the equivalent of Hathor (E.g. Ḥt-Ḥr "House-of-Horus [Sky]"), who is also the daughter of Ptah,[13] and who is the same constellation as Virgo, and which is the first month of the Inundation season (on the Palermo Stone, each king is accompanied by his mother's name and by the measured height of the inundation in September[14]). For, after all, "when this woman discovered the land it was under water" (Abr 1:24). Moreover, Hathor is the Eye and Mother of Re, the first king of Egypt (Book of the Divine Cow).

The "Mother of the King of Upper & Lower Egypt" (mwt niswt-biti or mwt niswt), i.e., of the living king, was addressed as "God's daughter" sЗt nṯr,[15] namely the daughter of Ptah, as is the apparent case here with Zeptah/Egyptus, who is both mother of the king of Egypt and the granddaughter of Noah. This is significant since Ptah is a parallel for Noah in that, as the Blacksmith-God of Thebes (Hephaistos-Vulcan), he is the equivalent of the Phoenician Craftsman-God Khousor, which is Ugaritic Kṯr, Kothar, Kothar-wa-Khasis, "The-Very-Skillful-and-Intelligent-One," which is the same character as the Sumero-Akkadian Noahs: Utnapishtim (in the Gilgamesh Epic), Atra-Ḫasīs, and Ziusudra (Khousor = Ptah at Ugarit).[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:23-25".
  2. ^ a b Harris, Matthew L.; Bringhurst, Newell G. (2015). The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-252-08121-7.
  3. ^ Stephen E. Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham,” Dialogue, 28/1 (Spring 1995), 155-156.
  4. ^ John N. Swift and Gigen Mammoser, "'Out of the Realm of Superstition: Chesnutt's 'Dave's Neckliss' and the Curse of Ham'", American Literary Realism, vol. 42 no. 1, Fall 2009, 3
  5. ^ Brigham Young's Speech on Slavery, Blacks, and the Priesthood, Feb 5, 1852. Reprint by Utah Lighthouse Ministry
  6. ^ Smith, Joseph (1836). Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 7/Letter to Oliver Cowdery from Joseph Smith, Jr. (Apr. 1836). p. 290 – via Wikisource.
  7. ^ Lexikon der Ägyptologie, I:77, IV:25-26; Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, 1-2; cf. Budge, Book of the Dead, 490
  8. ^ Hauglid, A Textual History of the Book of Abraham; Whipple, master's thesis.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Ranke, Die ägyptischen Personennamen I.288.22); cf. Phoenician transcription as ספתח, and Neo-Babylonian transcription Isi-ip-ta-ḫu (Vittmann, Göttinger Miszellen 70, p. 65), cited in Muchiki, Egyptian Proper Names and Loanwords, 29.
  12. ^ "Astarte and Yam" in the Papyrus Amherst in Pritchard, ANET, 17-18; Gardiner, Late-Egyptian Stories, 76-81; Gardiner, "The Astarte Papyrus," in Studies Presented to F. Ll. Griffith, 74-85; Lexikon der Ägyptologie, I:500-510.
  13. ^ Lexikon der Ägyptologie, IV:32, citing Smith, A Visit to Ancient Egypt, 11 and n. 44; Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, chapter 3
  14. ^ Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, 28, 62-64.
  15. ^ Lexikon der Ägyptologie, I:930, II:799, 824-825, 1172 n. 1, 1173 n. 1; III:473, 537 n. 4; V:992.
  16. ^ Mercer, The Pyramid Texts, IV:204, citing Book of the Dead 82, and Ginsberg, Orientalia, 9:39-44.


  • Albright, William F., Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths (N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968).
  • Budge, E. A. W., The Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani (London: British Museum/Longmans & Co., 1895/ reprinted N.Y.: Dover, 1967).
  • Gardiner, Alan H., Late-Egyptian Stories (Bruxelles: Édition de la Fondation égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 1932).
  • Gardiner, Alan H., "The Astarte Papyrus," in Studies Presented to F. Ll. Griffith (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1932), 74-85.
  • Gardiner, Alan H., Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction (Clarendon Press, 1961/Oxford Univ. Press, 1964).
  • Ginsberg, H. L., "Two Religious Borrowings in Ugaritic Literature, II: The Egyptian God Ptaḥ in Ugaritic Mythology," Orientalia, 9 (1940), 39-44.
  • Hauglid, Brian M., A Textual History of the Book of Abraham: Manuscripts and Editions, Studies in the Book of Abraham 5 (Provo: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship/BYU, 2010). ISBN 9780842527743
  • Mercer, S. A. B., The Pyramid Texts in Translation and Commentary, 4 vols. (New York and London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1952).
  • Muchiki, Yoshiyuki, Egyptian Proper Names and Loanwords in North-West Semitic, SBL dissertation series 173 (Atlanta: SBL, 1999). ISBN 9780884140047
  • Ranke, H., Die ägyptischen Personennamen, 2 vols. (Glückstadt, 1935).
  • Pritchard, James, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd ed. (Princeton Univ. Press, 1969).
  • Smith, Harry Sidney, A Visit to Ancient Egypt: Life at Memphis & Saqqara, C. 500-30 BC (Warminster, 1974). ISBN 0856680249
  • Thompson, Stephen E., "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham", Dialogue, 28/1 (Spring 1995), 143-160.
  • Whipple, Walter L., "An Analysis of Textual Changes in 'The Book of Abraham' and in the 'Writings of Joseph Smith, the Prophet' in the Pearl of Great Price," unpublished M.A. thesis (Provo: Brigham Young Univ., 1959).