Egypt: Khephir, God of the Sun, Creation, Life and Resurrection

Khephir, God of the Sun, Creation, Life and Resurrection

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Khephir (also Kheper or Khepera or Khepri) was the Egyptian patron god of the sun, creation, life and resurrection. This god appeared as a scarab-headed man, a scarab or a man wearing a scarab as a crown. In some funerary papyri, he is shown as a scarab in a boat held aloft by Nun. In Petosiris Tom at Tuna el-Gebel, the god is shown wearing an atef crown of the god Osiris.

We known of Khephir from at least the 5th Dynasty (2494-2345 BC) from a pyramid text that invokes the sun to appear in the name of Khephir. However, he may have been one of the very earliest gods of Egypt, yet there is no record of him having an actual cult. Crude objects resembling scarabs have been discovered dating from as early as the Neolithic period (7000-5000 BC)

The word kheper (or hprr) means scarab, and as the animal was associated with life and rebirth. Literally the word means "he who is coming into being". Like Atum, Khephir was a self-created god. The scarab lays its eggs in a ball of dung and rolls it to hide in a safe place. From this unlikely substance the Egyptians observed new life emerging, seemingly from the the earth. Hence he was a god of creation. In Chapter LXXXV of the Papyrus of Ani, the
Creator states:

"I came into being of myself in the midst of the Primeval Waters (Nu) in this my name of Khopri"

Early in Egyptian history the beetle also came to represent the soul rising from deathresurrected, transcendent, fully formed and ready to make its journey and face its judgment in order to live in the Afterlife. By the New Kingdom (1539-1070 BC), the funerary texts from the papyri portray a scaraboid form as the most powerful symbol of life's victory over death.

Similarly, they believed that Khephri, in the form of a gigantic scarab, rolled the sun like a huge ball through the sky, then rolled it through the underworld to the eastern horizon. Each morning Khephri would renew the sun so that it could give life to all the world. As a deity closely associated with resurrection, Khephir was believed to be swallowed by his mother, Nut each evening and passed through her body to be reborn each morning. Therefore he is also closely associated with Ra and Atum. Later funerary texts combine Khephra (scarab) with Atum (ram) into a ram-headed beetle, a portrayal of the supreme god overseeing the cycle of life and death (and Afterlife).

Egyptologists believe that there was probably a colossal stone scarab on a plinth at most if not all Egyptian temples. In this configuration Phephir represented the temple as the Primeval Mound from which the sun-god emerged to begin the process of cosmogony. The word Khepri was also often used in the titulary of the king. As an amulet, the scarab representation of Khephir was by far the most important. It might be viewed as being similar to a cross for a Christian. There were ornamental scarabs, heart scarabs, winged scarabs, marriage scarabs, lion hunt scarabs and many other such amulets.