The gods of Elephantine Island

Khnum (also Khnoum and Khnemu) was the chief Egyptian god in a region stretching from Thebes (modern Luxor) to Philae. Philae is a short distance south of Aswan and Elephantine Island.

According to Budge,

… the principal sanctuaries of the god were at the two ends of the First Cataract, i.e., on Elephantine on the north and on Philae and the adjoining islands on the south. He [Khnum] was the god par excellence of the First Cataract, throughout which, with his female counterpart Satet and the local Nubian goddess Anqet, he was worshipped from the earliest dynasties … (The Gods of the Egyptians, II:50).

Recently I learned of Ancient Egypt Online. This well-constructed site describes Khnum:

Khnum was originally a water god who was thought to rule over all water, including the rivers and lakes of the underworld. He was associated with the source of the Nile, and ensured that the inundation deposited enough precious black silt onto the river banks to make them fertile. The silt also formed the clay, the raw material required to make pottery. As a result he was closely associated with the art of pottery. According to one creation myth, Khnum moulded everything on his potters wheel, including both the people and the other gods.

Budge sums up the essence of the god when he says that Khnum “was originally a water or river-god, and that in very early times he was regarded as the god of the Nile and of the annual Nile-flood…”

A courtyard and an impressive granite doorway mark the location of the Late Khnum Temple on Elephantine Island. This gate, belonging to Dynasty XXX,  was constructed in the reign of Nectanebo II (c. 350 B.C.). The Wikipedia entry says he was the last native ruler of ancient Egypt.

Ruins of the Khnoum Temple on Elephantine Island. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Granite doorway of the Khnoum Temple on Elephantine Island. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Book of Exodus quotes the LORD saying that, in the plagues of Egypt, he would execute judgment on the gods of Egypt.

I will pass through the land of Egypt in the same night, and I will attack all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals, and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the LORD. (Exodus 12:12 NET; cf. Numbers 33:4).

Khnum was the god of the Nile. Not much left today.

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