Note: Modern-day Armana in Egypt was the site of an ancient city called after the Pharaoh Akhenation, who brought Egypt to the realisation of monotheism
Science works on the principle that any theory has to be repeatable under the same experimental conditions and that a theory which has this characteristic will predict related findings when these are tested.
Not only are the Dead Sea Scrolls full of obvious memories of the Amarna period, as one might expect, but there are entire sections of the Bible itself that reflect life at the time of Akhenaton and the geometry of his holy city. If what I claim is correct, it would be surprising if they did not.
The Book of Ezekiel gives numerous clues that he is not talking about the land of Israel or the Temple at Jerusalem, when he talks about the Holy City and a huge temple:
“The House of Israel and their kings must not again defile my
holy name by their apostasy and by the corpses of their kings
at their death. When they placed their threshold next to my
threshold and their doorposts next to My doorpost with only a
wall between me and them they were defiling my holy name.”
The kind of practice described has nothing to with Israelite burial custom. It is clearly a warning to Israel in their new land not to follow the Egyptian pagan practice of building a mortuary temple and housing the dead king in close proximity to the gods of the temple. This was the custom in the burial of kings and officials in ancient Egypt when a mortuary temple was built in front of the person’s tomb to accommodate the funeral arrangements and mummification. None of the burials at Amarna included an associated traditional mortuary temple.
A careful examination of the geometry of the temple and city described in Ezekiel 40–48 demonstrates without any doubt that we are looking at the Great Temple of Akhetaton and the huge virgin city built for Pharaoh Akhenaton, as his holy city dedicated to Aton. I cite a few examples.
Any explanation that tries to place this description in the land of Israel and relate it to the Temple at Jerusalem is quite absurd. Claims that the description is purely imaginary also fall, because they fail to answer where the knowledge of the landscape and setting for the building described came from, or why the accounts match so closely the layout and scenery at Amarna.
According to Ezekiel 40:44: “There were chambers for singers in the inner forecourt’. There is no mention in the Bible of singers in the temples at Jerusalem, but depictions of singers can be seen in the side chamber of the Great Temple at Akhetaton.”
Various measurements are given in Ezekiel 45:1–7.The total area designated for the Lord is 12,500 x 10,000m (taking cubits as 50cm); the area designated for the Levites is 12,500 x 5,000m; and the area designated for the city is 12,500 x 2,500m. This gives a total area of approximately 12.5 x 17.5km.
Ezekiel 46 also confirms the prophet’s knowledge of Akhetaton, through the high priest of the Temple he is describing. In verse 12 we find: “The gate that faces east shall also be opened for the Prince whenever he offers a freewill offering – be it burnt offering or offering… of wellbeing.”
Detailed excavations at Amarna, under the supervision of Barry Kemp, and the work of N. de G. Davies, Geoffrey Martin and others, support both these points. They show that the area of the city of Akhetaton was defined by 15 boundary stelae and measured approximately 12.5 x 20km, very close to the city area recorded in the Book of Ezekiel. They also support the belief that the gate to the east would have been used by the high priest at Akhetaton.
Ezekiel 46:16 makes it clear that the high priest was a hereditary prince, which is inconsistent with the name of the high priests designated in the Bible. No high priest in the Bible is referred to as having previously been a prince. “Thus said the Lord God: If the Prince makes a gift to any of his sons, it shall become the latter’s inheritance, it shall pass on to his sons”. The high priest officiating at the Great Temple at Akhetaton was called Meryre, and he was a hereditary prince.
Also significant is the description in Ezekiel 47:
“He led me back to the entrance of the Temple, and I found that
water was issuing from below the platform of the Temple –
eastward, since the Temple faced east . . .
As the man went on eastward with a measuring line in his
hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and led me across the
water; the water was ankle deep. Then he measured off another
thousand and led me across the water; the water was knee deep.
He measured off a further thousand and led me across the
water; the water was up to the waist. When he measured yet
another thousand, it was a river I could not cross; for the stream
had swollen into a stream that could not be crossed except by
swimming. ‘Do you see, O mortal?’ he said to me: and led me
back to the bank of the stream. As I came back, I saw trees in
great profusion on both banks of the stream.”
Unequivocally, from this extended description, water in large quantities is flowing into the temple, which means the temple cannot be in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount. (Strangely enough Masonic rituals include tracing boards laid on the floor during ceremonies, which show a large temple, assumed to be that in Jerusalem, with water from a river running through it.)
The description is consistent with Ezekiel being led around to the outer gate of the Temple facing east and then made to walk eastward, as his guide starts to measure, using a typical Egyptian measuring device. They walk away from the Temple towards a very wide river. Taking a cubit as 50cm, the distance from the Temple to the edge of the river is 500m as specified by Ezekiel.
This is almost exactly the distance from the edge of the Great Temple at Amarna to ankle depth in the River Nile. A suggestion that the Nile may have altered its course over the years and the distances mentioned might not be applicable today is contradicted by geo-archaeological studies. Fieldwork funded by the Amarna Research Foundation, looking at the course of the river concluded: “the river was, in Akhenaten’s day, more or less where it is today”.
Go to Amarna and see for yourself. To this day the site of the Great Temple can be seen to have been 500m from the Nile and there are many trees on both sides of the river. The entire land is a flowering garden irrigated by a spring which has its source in the temple. The imagery is clear. There is no other source of water in candidate countries that would meet this description, except the Nile, and the temple has to be near that source.
A defining characteristic of the Nile is that, apart from a limited amount of rain, it is the only source of water for the whole of Egypt, and its annual flooding is essential for the irrigation of the land from the furthest south to the extreme north. In the New Jerusalem Scroll version of Ezekiel 47:8–12, we have one of the clearest confirmations that the river in question near the temple being described is the Nile. Water is said to emerge from under the threshold of the temple on the eastern side and descend from south of the altar to the outer court to irrigate the entire country!
“This water,” he told me, “runs out to the eastern region, and
flows into the Arabah; and when it comes into the sea, the sea
of foul waters, the waters will become wholesome. Every living
creature that swarms will be able to live wherever this stream
goes; the fish will be very abundant once these waters have
reached there . . . Fishermen will stand beside it all the way
from En-Gedi to En-Eglaim . . . All kinds of trees for food will
grow up upon both banks of the stream . . . because the water
for them flows from the Temple.”
The last verses here are of especial interest. The comparison above clearly shows that Ezekiel is talking about the temple at Akhetaton, but now he transplants the beneficial waters of the Nile that have flowed from the temple to the Arabah region of Canaan. The ‘foul sea’ must be the Dead Sea, and we are very near to Qumran with the mention of En-Gedi which is only a few kilometres away.
No one has yet put forward a reasonable explanation as to why the sectarians were led to Qumran by their Teacher of Righteousness. This passage in Ezekiel not only confirms a link from Akhetaton, it explains why the Essenes settled at Qumran to await the golden age associated with the true temple of God.
Strangely enough, one of the arch advocates of minimalist Bible reality, Niels Peter Lemche gets something right when he says Ezekiel’s description (Chapters 40–8) of what people assume is a future temple “in all probability really describes the original temple”.
Knowing the thread of Ezekiel’s connection to the Qumran-Essenes, as enunciated by Professor Wacholder, and their connection to Amarna, there can be little doubt that his descriptions reflect a transmitted memory of the Great Temple at Akhetaton.
So when was Ezekiel writing about what I claim is the temple of Akhetaton? Ezekiel tells us himself. At the very beginning of his work (1:1), he says that: ‘In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, when I came to the community of exiles by the Chebar canal . . . it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin’. This information puts the date at the fifth day of the month of Tamuz in the year 593 BC – seven years before the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem!
It is generally accepted that the Book of Ezekiel was edited later than this period, but then one has to ask the question: why is Ezekiel continually talking about oracles concerning Egypt (Chapters 29–30) and especially about a heavenly throne chariot? So concerned were the rabbis of the Tannaitic period and later, over the sensitivity of this material, that the Mishnah requires that it must only be expounded by a ‘sage that understands his own knowledge’ (Hagigah 2:1). M. Megillah 4.10 states categorically that Ezekiel’s writings on chariots should not be read at all!
One has to conclude, in the light of no other convincing explanations, that the original reason for these stringent stipulations was a knowledge that studying chariot, or “Merkabah” stories, as they are referred to in Kabbalah, inevitably led back to Egypt and possible pagan indoctrination – or true knowledge of the origins of monotheism.
After dealing with his vision of the destruction of a temple, Ezekiel turns to descriptions of its rebuilding and the plan on which it should be based. Any doubt that this description is that of a memory of the Great Temple at Akhetaton has to be dispelled by the numerous identifying details which cannot possibly relate to Jerusalem.