Our new series is called Crowns and Thrones: The Majesty of Our God. If. you haven’t read the introduction, we invite you to do that before continuing with this part. It will help you understand the focus of the series and what we want to learn about this important aspect of God’s Omnipotent Reign in the universe. You can read the first part here.
The first person in the Bible who mentioned a crown was Jacob. He referred to the crown worn by his son, Joseph.
The blessings of your father Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.Genesis 49:26
The first person in the Bible who mentioned a throne was the Egyptian pharaoh who elevated Joseph to a position of political and civil authority –
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.Genesis 41:39-41
The pharaoh was referring to the throne as the place where the ruler sat and made both judgments and decrees.
Both of these statements were made in Egypt, which is where we begin our focus on the biblical history of crowns and thrones.
Crowns and Thrones in Egyptian History
We aren’t positive about the identity of the Egyptian pharaoh who elevated Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons, from prisoner to being second-in-command (vizier). However, based on what information we have in the Bible, it would appear Joseph served one of the pharaohs during Egypt’s Middle Kingdom period (approx. 2050 – 1640 BC). That time period fits with the Hebrew patriarchs that included Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
Some researchers believe Joseph may have served one of the pharaohs of the 12th Dynasty (e.g. Senusret III, Amenemhet III). The image below is of Senusret III (carved in granite) and is a demonstration of a crown and throne from the 12th Dynasty.
Joseph arrived in Egypt during the reign of the Twelfth Dynasty, arguably the zenith of Egypt’s power. Shortly before this era, Upper and Lower Egypt had been unified under one ruler, and now Egyptian influence expanded south and east. The regular flooding of the Nile River provided a relatively stable supply of food and offered some degree of protection from the famines suffered by other lands of the ancient Near East.Archaelogy Study Bible, Crossway, 2017, p 67
The Middle Kingdom of Egypt included Dynasties 11 – 14. Egypt was split into Upper and Lower kingdoms during the First Intermediate Period (7th – 10th Dynasties .. approx. 2180-2050 BC), which followed the Old Kingdom Period (approx. 2686-2181 BC). Pharaoh Mentuhotep II defeated the last ruler of the 10th Dynasty and reunited the Upper and Lower kingdoms again (as in the Old Kingdom Period). He wore what was called the double crown of Egypt which represented the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.
We know from Genesis 46 and 47 that when Jacob and his family moved from Canaan to Egypt because of a major famine, the pharaoh gave them the “Land of Goshen” to inhabit. Goshen was located in the eastern part of the Nile Delta, north of the ancient Egyptian capital city where the pharaoh lived.
We learn in Genesis 41:42 that the pharaoh took the signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand and clothed Joseph in expensive clothing and put a gold chain around his neck. Joseph rode in a chariot near the pharaoh and people were told to bow to Joseph as he rode by them. Pharaoh told Joseph “without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:44). Pharaoh also gave Joseph the name Zaphnath-Paaneah, which some translators believe means “preserver of life,” “governor of the district of the place of life,” “He cares for those who are weak to live,” or “the Living One has spoken.” Others believe it means “a revealer of secrets” or “the man to whom secrets are revealed.” Pharaoh also gave Joseph a wife. Her name was Asenath and she was the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. They had two sons before the famine began seven years later:
- Manasseh – “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.”
- Ephraim – “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
We know from Genesis 41:57 that “all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.” That included the land of Canaan and is what led Jacob to send his sons (except for Benjamin) to Egypt to buy grain (Genesis 42). Joseph eventually revealed himself to his brothers (Genesis 45) which led Jacob to move his family to Egypt. The descendants of Jacob and his sons remained in Egypt until Moses led the children of Israel out many years later.
Who Was First?
So, who wore the first crown on earth and why? Who sat on the first throne on earth and why?
Ancient Egyptians viewed their kings/pharaohs as god-like beings. The crowns identified the leaders of Upper and Lower Egypt (or unified Upper/Lower kingdoms) in addition to their gods or goddesses of those kingdoms. Though archaeologists have not found the remains of any ancient crowns, they can be seen in drawings, carvings and statues. Experts believe Egyptian crowns were constructed from leather, fabric or woven fibers.
Even though Egypt was one of the oldest civilizations on earth, it was not the oldest. Many experts believe Sumer (modern Iraq) was the oldest, while others argue for China or India. Though Egypt, China and India have very ancient histories, I don’t believe any of them are the oldest.
The Bible presents a unique view of history that many people miss or overlook. The oldest civilization was pre-Flood and located near four rivers:
Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.Genesis 2:10-14
Eden was the oldest civilization on earth. It is where God lived on earth and where He created the first human being –
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.Genesis 2:7-8
Eden was the beginning of human civilization. A river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. Though experts aren’t positive about the location of the Pishon River, many believe the Hiddekel is another name for the Tigris River. Some believe Pishon may have been a river that connected the Tigris and Euphrates or a larger body of water around the area. The Gihon River is thought by some to be the Nile River since Genesis mentions “it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush.” Others think it may be a river that flowed through Ethiopia or even the Aras River that flows from Turkey eastward to Iran.
The names of the rivers give us guidance on where the first human civilization was located before the Flood. Now let’s move to the names of the lands mentioned in Genesis 2 –
Havilah is mentioned in several places in the Old Testament –
- Genesis 2:11
- Genesis 10:7
- Genesis 10:29
- Genesis 25:18
- 1 Samuel 15:7
- 1 Chronicles 1:9
- 1 Chronicles 1:23
These were the sons of Ishmael and these were their names, by their towns and their settlements, twelve princes according to their nations. These were the years of the life of Ishmael: one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. (They dwelt from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt as you go toward Assyria.) He died in the presence of all his brethren.Genesis 25:18
And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt.1 Samuel 15:7
The name Havilah means “sandy stretch” and may refer to desert areas “east of Egypt.” The location of the ancient Amalekites Saul attacked and where the sons of Ishmael lived give us a good idea of where Havilah is located. Many experts believe the “land of Havilah” is part of Arabia.
We know of two people in the Bible with the name Havilah –
- Genesis 10:7 introduces us to Havilah the son of Cush, which would make him a grandson of Ham and great-grandson of Noah.
- Genesis 10:29 introduces us to Havilah the son of Joktan, which would make him a member of the lineage of Shem. The family of Joktan located “from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east.” (Genesis 10:30)
The location of “Mesha as you go toward Sephar” is also believed to have been in Arabia, so the land of Havilah could be based on either or both of the men named Havilah in Genesis 10.
The “land of Cush” is believed to be south of the land of Havilah in what is modern-day Ethiopia. It was also located south of Egypt.
The name Cush is mentioned many times in the Old Testament including –
- Genesis 2:13
- Genesis 10:6-8
- Isaiah 11:11
- Isaiah 45:14
The land of Assyria is believed to be located northeast of Cush and Havilah. It is mentioned many times in the Old Testament including –
- Genesis 2:14
- Genesis 10:11
- Genesis 25:18
- 2 Kings 15:19-10, 29
- 2 Kings 16:7-10, 18
- 2 Kings 17:4-6, 23-27
Adam to Noah
Adam was the first human being. His sons Cain and Seth were the heads of two distinct families in the oldest civilization on earth. You can read the names of the family heads from Adam to Noah in Genesis 4 – 5. Though these men were leaders of their families, none are mentioned as kings. There is also no mention of crowns or thrones during that first civilization.
The first civilization became so wicked that God decided to destroy it.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.Genesis 6:5-8
Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives were the only people to survive from the oldest civilization. The Flood destroyed every other person on the earth.
And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.Genesis 7:21-23
What happened after the Flood was over? God began a new civilization with Noah and his sons as family leaders.
God outlined a strong law for the new civilization that Noah and his sons would rule over –
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.”Genesis 9:1-5
Violence had become a mainstay of the first civilization (Genesis 6:11), so God set up a legal standard for violence in the second – the death penalty for murder.
Noah became a farmer after the Flood. No mention of his becoming a king, wearing a crown or sitting on a throne. So, did the second civilization have kings, crowns and thrones? What about Noah’s sons?
Shem, Ham and Japeth were born before the Flood, but their children were born after the Flood. Since Shem, Ham and Japeth started their families in the mountainous area of Ararat (Modern Turkey .. Genesis 8), how did they end up living hundreds of miles south in the desert area of Arabia? The answer is that the nations (גּוֹי – people) were divided (פָרַד – dispersed) after the Flood –
These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.Genesis 10:32
When were the people dispersed? Look at the verses that immediately follow Genesis 10:32 –
Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.Genesis 11:1-2
The family of Noah moved from the mountains of Ararat to the plain in the land of Shinar. That would be similar to a large group of people today moving from the mountains of Turkey to the flat land of Iraq. It’s a trip of several hundred miles.
Noah’s family settled in an area south of what we know as Baghdad, Iraq. It was known in ancient times as Babylon. The name came from the Hebrew word בָּבֶל (Babel) and was used because of what happened to the people there.
Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.Genesis 11:1-9
God scattered the people over the face of all the earth and the people (nations) were divided. The families that had spoken the same language could no longer understand each other and they scattered. You can read Genesis 10 to see where the families relocated after the confusion of language.
In the next part of our study about Crowns and Thrones: The Majesty of Our God, we’ll look at the beginning of kings and kingdoms that led to crowns and thrones.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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