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Religion in Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Sun


‘Hymn to the Sun’ is not only an outstanding poetic creation but also a glimpse at the history and times of ancient civilizations. It shows how people viewed their lives and God, honoring it and explaining a representation of all that lives. The cultism of the Sun was a contradiction to the wickedness that existed in the Ancients. It illustrated life on Earth and was considered the author of all living things and life force channels. The personalities of Egypt prayed to the Sun, recognizing it as part of the sky. Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Sun describes God, who is a crucial figure for the Egyptian peoples. The work is indisputable evidence of how valuable were the Sun and the faith in a higher power. The fact that there is an undeniable connection between the spirits and religion produces it clear that there are forces that cannot be achieved by ordinary people.

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The Essence of the Aten and Its Significance for the World

To begin with, it is essential to describe Aten, his functions, and his place in the system of the universe. The essence of the deity is a ‘living sun disk,’ which possesses rays that visibly express omnipotence: they can reach the most inaccessible parts of the material world. This ability is the prerequisite for the growth of all things, through which Aton can bring his life-giving light. The hymn states that everything he performed is accessible to the deity; that means that this world is a local and independent result of Aten’s work (Simpson et al. 450). The symbolic re-enactment of the creation is the daily awakening, when every life arises as part of Aten’s energy, whether it is a nestling or a human child.

The absence of a specific image of Aton is also asserted, and the ‘solar disk’ appears to be simply the most accurate form of expression of the holy essence. Is this concept symbolic, and if so, to what extent? Most possible, it combines metaphor with a direct representation of the sun. However, the causal relationship is unique: it was not the sun that began to perform specific actions and became a deity, but, on the contrary, the god began creating and shaping itself in the material form.

In the hymn’s praise, the author refers to Aten, calling him Ra-Gorathi. The name ‘Ra’ means the divine, disembodied solar origin, and Aten is the essence that has acquired form (Simpson et al. 450). For the ancient Egyptians, the blurred, transient nature of the images of the gods was a common phenomenon. Thus, it is about one deity that has a spiritual essence and a physical shell. Aten’s power over the entire created world is unquestionable. Thanking him and rejoicing are the only obligatory deeds of the living associated with the cult’s worship.

Religion in the Hymn of Aten

The Pharaoh of Egypt and his family take adoration of the Sun as a God, becoming an example to all people. Introduction to the poem is a vital part of understanding the type of religion – atomism. He talks about the beauty of the sun that appears on the horizon and its effect when it shines, bringing harmony to the world. The tradition of praising the deity through his creations, nature, existed before the Amarna era for more than a thousand years. At first glimpse, the Hymn may have a monotheistic character and even resembles biblical psalms. However, if not for the mythical allusions and names of Egyptian Gods, this Hymn would be difficult to distinguish from the works of biblical poetry. The text of the Hymn emphasizes the uniqueness of Amun-Ra, but the Ennead of the Gods and the God Atum is also mentioned (Cain and Lenski 68). Thus, this Hymn still remains within the boundaries of polytheistic ideas.

Egyptian monotheism was rather local in nature, and Akhenaten did not go beyond polytheism. This becomes apparent after considering the character of the Aten. He was dependent on Ra, being the visible body of Ra, the image of Ra, and also the perfection of Ra. In the middle of the theological discussions of the New Kingdom era was the problem of the relationship between deity and the individual (Kilchör 223). The tradition of direct appeal of a person to God without the mediation of the pharaoh was formed. In the days of the Old Kingdom, such a direct treatment of a personality with a deity was an unacceptable phenomenon. Only the pharaoh – the younger God, could have direct contact with the Gods. The Anthem became an attempt to restore the order of the 5th dynasty.


The primary purpose of this hymn was to restore the ancient divine status of Egyptian kings and counteract the powerful priests of the supreme God Amon, who competed with the king for influence. The basis is the idea of identifying the king with a deity, in this case with the solar disk, named Aten. He is regarded as the eternal, all-powerful creator of heaven, earth, and all that is in them and ‘the only God.’ His warmth and light are the origins of life, and for these alone, as well as for the material benefits they provide for all living beings, Aton is praised in the anthem.

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Works Cited

Cain, Andrew, and Noel Lenski. The Power of Religion in Late Antiquity. Routledge, 2016.

Kilchör, Benjamin. ‘Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism.’ Old Testament Essays, vol. 29, no. 1, 2016, pp. 228–230.

Simpson, William, et al. The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, and Poetry. Yale UP, 2003.

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