All Rights Reserved. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1924

A letter to a pharaoh. Abi-milki, king of Tyre, writes to Pharaoh Akhenaten (1353–1335 B.C.) that he is “protecting the city” during a period of rebellion. This cuneiform tablet is one of more than 350 similar examples of correspondence on clay found in an archive at Akhenaten’s capital of Tell el-Amarna. The letters were sent to Akhenaten by his vassal kings in Canaan. One letter mentions certain ‘apiru, or hÉapiru, lawless, rebellious, itinerant Semites, some of whom served as slaves in Egypt. Through contact with the ‘apiru, the early Hebrews in Egypt may have absorbed the Canaanite traditions that viewed conflicts between peoples in terms of divine conflict. To break out of their bondage, their god would have to defeat the power of Horus as manifested in Pharaoh. But what god would fight for mere slaves, and how could any god overcome Horus?