In the ancient world, the definition of a hero was subjective among the Egyptian and Israeli cultures. The Egyptians believed heroes were those of higher status, whether they were gods or had a personal relationship with the gods, and their duty was to be a representative of the people. The Israelites’ heroes were those that selflessly worshipped God and for that, God chose them to lead others by example as part of their duty. Ancient Egypt and Israel are similar in their definition and portrayal of a hero and his duty to society. However, the contemporary American world view of a hero is quite different from that of the ancient world.
In Ancient Egypt, heroism depended on one’s status in society. Re, the sun god, was the chief among the Egyptian gods and all other gods descended from him, like part of a family. Therefore, as the highest deity, Re was the ultimate hero in Egyptian culture. The king, being of higher class, was considered the son of Re. He “ruled as a living representative of the sun god” (Sayre 67) and also “the representative of the people to the gods” (Sayre 68). The king’s duty as a hero was to represent the people to the gods, whom he communicated with through statues of divine beings in the temples. The people went to the king with their problems and concerns and in return, they expected the king to relay their messages to the gods as part of his duty to them.
In Ancient Israel, the primary hero was the highest Deity and other heroes were chosen by that Deity to be His prophets. Similar to Re, the ultimate hero in Ancient Israel was God, also known as “YHWH, a name so sacred that it could neither be spoken nor written” (Sayre 50) because He was above all else. God made a covenant, “an agreement, or contract, that included and defined the duties and responsibilities each party is expected to perform” (ucg.org), with his people. God’s duty to the Israelites was to care for them and not abandon them, through good or bad times. The prophets, or God’s chosen people, were also considered heroes in Ancient Israel. Their duty was to lead others by example, following, obeying, and living a life devoted to worshipping God. The prophets were of equal class with the commoners, but God chose them to hold to a higher standard for others to look up to. For example, God told Noah, one of His prophets, that he was going to destroy the earth by flood because it was filled with violence. He instructed Noah to build an ark to save his family and one pair of every living thing. Noah obeyed God and did exactly as he was told and when the flood finally came, only those on the ark survived. Noah and his family were blessed with survival for honoring God’s command. Noah was just one of many prophets, or heroes, in Ancient Israel.
The heroes Re, from Ancient Egypt, and God, from Ancient Israel, closely compare in the way that they are both the highest divine beings from their culture. They share similar duties, such as being a representative to the...