Comparison between Hymn to Aten and Psalm 104
Hymn to the Aten and Psalm 104 are religious text that are in praise of God, the creator of all. The two though are written in different styles and directed to different deities. Hymn to the Aten is directed to an inanimate object the sun (David 34), while in psalm 104, the praise is directed to a living being God (Alexander 24).
Hymn to Aten is basically about how the sun plays a big role in sustaining the human life. “All beasts spring upon (their) feet… whatever flies and alights, they live when thou hasn’t risen (for) them (David 12).” The Hymn to the Aten, written by Pharaoh Akhenaten, who believed that the source and sustainer of life was the sun god Aten, is full of praise and adoration to the this particular god. Psalms 104 just like the Hymn to the Aten is also about the creation and sustenance of life. The Psalm, written by King David is in the praise and adoration of the almighty God. The Psalm claims that God is the creator and sustainer of all that is in existence in this world, including the sun. “You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows it is time for setting, you make darkness, and its night when all the animals of the forest come creeping out (Alexander 22).” This phrase also brings out the different themes brought out in these two poems. While Hymn to the Aten warns of the dangers that culminate when the sun sets, the psalm just acknowledges the magnificence of night and day and how different life forms change roles in them.
The Hymn to the Aten has its origins to the ancient religions of Egypt. The hymn originates from the tombs in the ancient city of Akhetaten, built by pharaoh Akhenaten (David 34). The city is now called Tell el – Armarna. Psalm 104 despite it having so many similarities with the Hymn to the Aten, is a Jewish poem written in the Bible in the Old Testament by King David (Alexander 44).
Ancient Egypt practiced what is known as henotheism, which is the belief of a single god while acknowledging the existence of other gods (Muller 56). This is different from what the Jews believed in. They only acknowledged one God.
The Hymn to the Aten gives the sun god credit in creating Egypt as well as the rest of the world. “… all distant foreign countries thou makest their life (also) (David 14). This is in harmony with the psalms which also gives the same credit to God instead. “You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken (Alexander 13).” A good point to note here is that both texts acknowledge the earth having being created by a supreme deity. The difference comes as to who this deity is. To the Hymn to the Aten, it is the sun god who raises and sets in the horizon every day. To the psalm 104, it is God who has made all possible including creating the sun also. This difference could have arisen from the fact that the two cultures interacted for over 400 years.
The Hymn to the Aten is longer in length than the Psalm 104. The Hymn to the Aten though seems to have been derived from the Psalm considering its contents and major theme. In essence the two poems are both written to praise based on the earth’s magnificence but the praise is attributed to different deities.
Alexander, Joyce. Psalm 104. U.S: Turtles Quill Scriptorium, 1978. Print.
David, Rosalie. Religion and magic in ancient Egypt. New York: Penguin, 2002, Print.
Muller, Max. Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion: As Illustrated by the Religions of India. London: Longmans, 1878. Print