Normally I make multiple photos of any scene when possible, especially if there is a good chance I will not get a second opportunity. Our photo today is literally one of a kind. It is from the tomb of Rekhmire in the Valley of the Nobles in Egypt. While my group visited the Valley of the Kings our guide arranged transportation for me to visit this unique tomb which shows the process of brick-making in ancient Egypt.
A guard at the tomb allowed me to enter and make ONE photo. I gave him a tip of $5.00. I asked to make another photo, but he showed no interest in a second payment. This is my only photo and I was pleased with it.
In preparation for my tour I had enjoyed studying the Fall 2004 issue of Bible and Spade (Vol. 17 No. 4). Gary A. Byers wrote an article titled “The Bible According to Karnak.” I had become acquainted with Gary at the annual Near East Archaeological Society meetings and appreciated his work. Notice this paragraph which includes a mention of the scene above.
Also on the Nile’s west bank were the tombs of the nobles. Not being royally. they could not be buried within the Valley of Kings, the resting place of the Pharaohs they served. Within these tombs are colorful paintings of significant events in their lives. From Mena’s tomb (ca. 1385 RC) was a grain harvest scene that helps us imagine the seven years of plenty from Joseph’s time (Gn 41:47-49). The Tomb of Userhat (ca. 1280 BC) shows barbers cutting hair, also reminiscent of the Joseph story (Gn 4 1:14). From the Tomb of the Vizier Rekhmire (ca. 1470- 1445 BC) is a brickmaking and building scene depicting Asiatics from the actual period of the Israelites bondage (Ex 1:11 – 14; 5:7- 19).
We are not saying that these are Israelites, but that they are Asiatics from the same period that, according to the Bible, made brick and did other slave labor in Egypt.
These additional photos show more examples of brick making in Egypt.
The text mentioned in Byers’ article says,
11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.
12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.
13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves
14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves. (Exodus 1:11-14 ESV)
Exodus 5:7-19 specifically says that the Israelites were using straw to make brick. Our photo below, also from the British Museum, shows a brick with straw in it.
The Bible and Spade article may be located online here. There you will find a drawing showing the brick making scene as well as other types of labor.
Bible and Spade is published four times a year by Associates for Biblical Research.