Moral Precepts



The oldest Egyptian book of Moral Precepts, or Maxims, or Admonitions, works which were composed as far back as B.C. 3000, is that of Ptah-hetep, governor of the town of Memphis, and high confidential adviser of the king; he flourished in the reign of Assa, a king of the fifth dynasty, about 3500 B.C. His work is found, more or less complete, in several papyri, which are preserved in the British Museum and in the National Library in Paris, and extracts from it, which were used by Egyptian pupils in the schools attached to the temples, and which are written upon slices of limestone, are to be seen in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and elsewhere.

These "precepts" are intended to form a work of direction and guidance for a young man in the performance of his duty towards the society in which he lived and towards his God a work intended to demonstrate the "whole duty of man" to the youth of the time when the Great Pyramid was still a new building, these "precepts"are very remarkable. The idea of God held by Ptah-hetep is illustrated by the following passages:--

"If, having been of no account, thou hast become great; and if, having been poor, thou hast become rich; and if thou hast become governor of the city, be not hard-hearted on account of thy advancement, because thou hast become merely the guardian of the things which God hath provided."


Maxims of Khensu-Hetep


1. "God magnifieth his name."

2. "What the house of God hateth is much speaking. Pray thou with a

loving heart all the petitions which are in secret. He will perform

thy business, he will hear that which thou sayest and will accept

thine offerings."

3. "God decreeth the right."

4. "When thou makest an offering unto thy God, guard thou against the

things which are an abomination unto him. Behold thou his plans with

thine eye, and devote thyself to the adoration of his name. He giveth

souls unto millions of forms, and him that magnifieth him doth he


5. "If thy mother raises her hands to God he will hear her prayers [and

rebuke thee]."

1. "Give thyself to God, and keep thou thyself daily for God."


Quotations are taken from Christian Jacq, The Living Wisdom of Ancient Egypt.[8]

  • "Great is the Law (Maat)." (p. 24)
  • "All conduct should be so straight that you can measure it with a plumb-line." (p. 27)
  • "Injustice exists in abundance, but evil can never succeed in the long run." (p. 32)
  • "Punish with principle, teach meaningfully. The act of stopping evil leads to the lasting establishment of virtue." (p. 32)
  • "The human race never accomplishes anything. It's what God commands that gets done." (p. 41)
  • "Those whom God guides do not go wrong. Those whose boat He takes away cannot cross." (p. 43)
  • "Follow your heart all your life, do not commit excess with respect to what has been ordained." (p. 66)
  • "If you work hard, and if growth takes place as it should in the fields, it is because God has placed abundance in your hands." (p. 74)
  • "Do not gossip in your neighborhood, because people respect the silent." (p. 74)
  • "Listening benefits the listener." (p. 74)
    "If he who listens listens fully, then he who listens becomes he who understands." (p. 76)
  • "He who listens becomes the master of what is profitable." (p. 76)
    "To listen is better than anything, thus is born perfect love." (p. 76)
  • "God loves him who listens. He hates those who do not listen." (p. 76)
  • "As for the ignorant man who does not listen, he accomplishes nothing. He equates knowledge with ignorance, the useless with the harmful. He does everything which is detestable, so people get angry with him each day." (p. 77)
  • "A perfect word is hidden more deeply than precious stones. It is to be found near the servants working at the mill-stone." (p. 78)
  • "Only speak when you have something worth saying." (p. 79)
  • "As for you, teach your disciple the words of tradition. May he act as a model for the children of the great, that they may find in him the understanding and justice of every heart that speaks to him, since man is not born wise." (p. 85)
  • "A woman with happy heart brings equilibrium." (p. 107)
  • "Love your wife with passion." (p. 107)
    "As for those who end up continually lusting after women, none of their plans will succeed." (p. 108)
  • "How wonderful is a son who obeys his father!" (p. 112)
  • "How happy he is of whom it is said: 'A son is kind-natured when he knows how to listen.'" (p. 112)
  • "Do not blame those who are childless, do not criticise them for not having any, and do not boast about having them yourself." (p. 113)
  • "May your heart never be vain because of what you know. Take counsel from the ignorant as well as the wise..." (p. 119)
  • "So do not place any confidence in your heart in the accumulation of riches, since everything that you have is a gift from God." (p. 126)
  • "Think of living in peace with what you possess, and whatever the Gods choose to give will come of its own accord." (p. 127)
  • "Do not repeat a slanderous rumour, do not listen to it." (p. 139)
    "He who has a great heart has a gift from God. He who obeys his stomach obeys the enemy." (p. 140)
  • "Those who[m] the Gods guide cannot get lost. Those they forbid passage will not be able to cross the river of life." (p. 143)

Even the boy scouts are taught virtues and morality in their code of laws;

The Boy Scout Law

1. A scout is Trustworthy

2. A scout is Loyal

3. A scout is Helpful

4. A scout is Friendly

5. A scout is Courteous

6. A scout is Kind

7. A scout is Obedient

8. A scout is Cheerful

9. A scout is Thrifty

10. A scout is Brave

11. A scout is Clean

12. A scout is Reverent