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Joseph Smith translated this figure: “Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens; also a numerical figure, in Egyptian signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of the time of Oliblish, which is equal with Kolob in its revolution and in its measuring of time.

Skeptics claim Joseph Smith’s translation does not match the Egyptian meaning:

“The Hebrew word raqîya?, Roki’a, expansum, solidum, coelum, firmamentum, besides being badly described, has no relation whatsoever to this figure, which represents a mummified hawk, called in Egyptian Ah’em.”

(The Rocky Mountain Saints…, Thomas Stenhouse)

Relates To The Firmament – This skeptic is incorrect. The boat and hawk with outstretched wings indeed “answers to” the concept of a firmament exactly as Joseph Smith said. He didn’t say this figure was Raukeeyang (this word Raukeeyang is thought to be a transliteration with a Sephardic accent of the Hebrew word for firmament raqiya.) What he said was that it “answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens.” It relates to the word. Indeed, the figure very much relates to the ancient concept of a firmament in the sky. The Sokar boat travels on the firmament to deliver the deceased toward rebirth and exaltation.

Comparing Apples & Oranges – This Antimormon is playing the game Antimormons always play: he compares Joseph Smith’s Abraham context with the literal Egyptian word for the figure and ignores the actual context. Joseph Smith was not interested the Egyptians’ label. He was interested in how it related to Abraham. Yes, this is a mummified hawk, but the Antimormon avoids saying what the hawk is actually doing. With outstretched wings the hawk is emerging “from his mummy bindings in the resurrection.” This referenced the Sokar festival procession in which priests placed “Sokar-boat on a sledge and pull it around the sanctuary” to symbolize the “revolution of the sun and other celestial bodies.” (Michael D. Rhodes) The skeptic admits the symbolism has to do with life and resurrection but avoids mentioning the solar symbolism:

“It is a symbol of the divine repose of death; its extended wings have reference to the resurrection.”

(The Rocky Mountain Saints…, Thomas Stenhouse)

Divine repose of death? Looks more like the bird is surfing to me. Not very sleep-like. But it is interesting that now the skeptic avoids telling us the Egyptian name for the outstretched wing symbolism and instead gives a vague explanation: “reference to the resurrection.” No, it is much more than that, and if they would give the actual name it would be immediately clear how this figure relates to the firmament of heaven. They are playing a game of mental gymnastics to avoid admitting that Joseph Smith’s translation was correct.

Winged Disk: Symbol Of Heavens – The original near eastern disk with outstretched wings represented: “the supreme god of the sky.” It was “Horus the falcon or hawk god” in Egyptian usage, “a symbol of the sun,” and seen as a “bird on top of the tree or pillar.” The outstretched wing iconography was integrated in the Egyptian temple as a reminder to people of “their eternal nature… It used to be a solar barque that was attached to these wings… it became the symbol of heavens and a solar symbol as well.” The outstretched wings symbolized the firmament of heaven and the ability to travel through it. Outstretched bird wings were known as such “in the whole Near East including the countries of Mesopotamia, Persia and Anatolia.” ( This means people in Abraham’s country knew it as a symbol of heavens. As I explained with Figure 3, the two boats in Facsimile 2 match the two trees we see in the early Christian fresco theme of the ‘Good Shepherd.’ One bird sits atop a tree on either side of Christ in the fresco just as a boat sails on either side of Amun-Re in Facsimile 2.

Inundations In Heaven – Joseph Smith correctly identified this figure as having to do with the firmament of heaven. But he identified the firmament itself in Facsimile 1. It was Figure 12–rows of diagonal lines under the lion couch in which we see a crocodile. Joseph Smith explained this figure as: “Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament over our heads; but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to signify Shaumau, to be high, or the heavens, answering to the Hebrew word, Shaumahyeem.”

Waters Above & Below – Awfully strange don’t you think? To have a bunch of lines with diagonal hatching below a couch mean “over our heads.” Why would the firmament of heaven be underneath the couch and priest? Antimormons claim Joseph Smith got this wrong and that it actually symbolized water that the crocodile was swimming in in front of the lion couch. But that’s ignoring the fact that Egyptians considered the heavens in the sky an inundated river of water. They called the Milky Way in the sky “the heavenly Nile.” The crocodile symbolized the officiating god helping the king regain his body and sail along his path in the skies toward rebirth. The sacred waters at the Egyptian temple symbolized the waters of the firmament above, and the water in this vignette likewise symbolized the heavenly waters of the afterlife.

It is therefore quite a coincidence that Joseph Smith identified those hatch marks in Facsimile 1 as a firmament and then here in Facsimile 2 connected the solar boat the sails in these heavenly waters with those hatch marks in Facsimile 1. The Sokar boat indeed sailed along in the heavenly waters of the firmament. Egyptians often created artificial lakes at holy sites and referred to them as “divine pools.” They served to contain sacred boats of the gods and house crocodiles for rituals. At Karnak, the rectangular pool contained the “sacred barque of Amun to sail on during his festivals.” The water hatching in Facsimile 1 is rectangular too, and the lion couch rests on top of it, almost as if the lion couch and its ritual scene acts like a holy boat itself. The solar boat references the sun’s journey across the sky, and the king is reborn as the sun rises in the morning. The sun was a boat and the sky was the waters. This water therefore suggests that this entire ritual is like the passage of the sun in the sky, and Joseph Smith correctly identified it in both cases even though they look nothing alike. Who would look at Figure 4 and think it is a boat sailing in the sky? Who would get water or “firmament” of the heavens from this, and how did Joseph Smith make the correct connection to the rows of diagonal lines in Facsimile 1? Today, this would be the hatch pattern for glulam wood. Why would Joseph Smith think it refers to the sky? Unlike any other lion couch scene archaeologists have found, Facsimile 1 includes this symbolism of heavenly waters because is represents the soul’s journey to rebirth like the sun in the morning–in exactly the same way as the boat in Facsimile 2 does. The deceased rides in the solar boat of Re, the sun god, through the womb of Nut, who represents the sky above, to become like Osiris and be reborn. This was the regenerative context of the waters in the funeral Egyptian context and in Facsimile 1’s original Sed Festival context. “The ritual course of the king occurred in Egypt in contexts of the renewal of royal power, especially as part of the sed festival. While it is improbable that the scenes at Naqa, which are unique in the Kushite material, would have been specially modeled on the rite connected to the Egyptian sed festival, they may well have been conceived to amalgamate the concept of regeneration traditionally expressed by the running pose with concepts connected to the hst vase, i.e. with purification (of the ruler, the temple building, the statue etc.), the water libation as an offering, water in general and Nile water as the source of life and guarantor of fertility in particular.” (The Image of the Ordered World in Ancient Nubian Art…, László Török)

In the firmament waters of Facsimile 1 we see Sobek the crocodile. Sobek the crocodile’s protective god was Neith, who was “the flood” god who provided the great primeval waters of creation’s birth. As such, she was considered the mother of Sobek. How was Neith typically portrayed? With outstretched wings of the solar disk. In funerary literature, the dead Pharaoh identified himself as Sobek and associated himself with Neith. The “dead king identifies himself with ‘Sobk son of Neith'” for two reasons: because the waters acted as “the ultimate source of all life” necessary for the king’s rebirth, and because the flooding allowed “the king to cross to the horizon,” providing a watery path for him to traverse. In Facsimile 1, the king identified as crocodile to be enabled to cross these waters, and to gain authority on behalf of everyone else in his kingdom to do the same.

Neith’s symbol was a click beetle, which made reference to the beetle’s ability to “save itself from the rising flood waters of the Nile” by jumping high distances. This sounds awfully similar to Book of Abraham 1:23 which talks about a woman first discovering the land of Egypt as it was underwater and settling her sons there, from which “sprang” the race of Egyptians. This woman was the mother of all of Egypt. Neith was a protectionary creation god who assumed this characteristic of gathering life and preserving it above the waters of chaos, and as “father” of Egypt, the king Pharaoh assumed this identity.

Firmament Of Stars – This Hennu boat sailed toward the dusk, representing the transformative step to recreation. Egyptian literature indicate Joseph Smith correctly associated the Sokar boat in this figure with the boat in the expanse or firmament of heaven: “‘But you shall bathe in the starry firmament, you shall descend upon the iron bands on the arms of Horus in his name of Him who is in the Hnw [Hennu]-barque[boat]… Horus has lifted you up in his name of Hnw-barque; he bears you up in your name of Sokar…’ The entire necropolis of the Old Kingdom, of which the design was largely based on the star constellation Orion, comprised ten main temples.”(Willem Zitman)

Why ten temples?

Measurement Of Time–One Thousand

Here, the Sokar boat crossed ten stars in the constellation Orion. This number ten is not just random. In the bible, the number ten denotes completeness or fullness of something, like the ten pillars of the temple and the ten commandments of Moses. The stars of heaven, remember, have already been compared to the “the elect souls” in Facsimile 2, and Sokar is the “route of the sun” that Re figure 3 takes. These supportive stars are like the “morning stars” who “sang together” in Job 38:7. “At Denderah is a picture of a sacred boat, in which stands a lotus flower, from which a snake is rising into the air, with the legend: ‘The snake ascends from the lotus of the ship.’ On the sarcophagus of Besmut, at Luxor, is read, ‘He ascends like the ten stars.’ Another inscription reads: ‘The stars ascend in heaven.’.. an inscription to King Seti I, of the nineteenth dynasty (before the date of the Exodus), addresses him thus: ‘Thou goest up above the earth like the bark of Orion in its season; thou arisest like the star of Osthis.'” “(Daniel G. Brinton in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 29-30)

In Revelation 13:1, this is the “great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns” with ten crowns upon the ten horns rising out of the sea–imagery that did “not derive from Babylon” but from Egypt. Scholars speculate that the ten crowns are mentioned first in this verse because they were the first to rise out of the water in John’s vision, but consider the Egyptian meaning: the ten crowns are stars rising from the firmament of heaven toward exaltation, or in John’s case they profess to do so but they are actually horns of a monster with “names of blasphemy” written upon them.

The Book of Abraham explains that these stars are “noble and great ones” fought the primordial war in heaven to gain their first estate. In Babylonian mythology, “the choral band who sang the hymn of praise, one thousand in number, are the sixth thousand of the six thousand” stars. They supported the Babylonian sun-god Ashur, “In their room, he, the god of the bright crown (ie. the solar diety), created mankind.” The Book of Enoch likewise refers to them as stars. Ashur the sun god resulted from the revolt in heaven: “The god of holy songs, lord of religion and worship, had seated a thousand singers and musicians, and established a choral band who to this hymn were to respond in multitude.” In the LDS context, this chorus of a thousand singers would refer to the Millenium, or “dispensation of time.” Exactly like Joseph Smith said: “signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of the time.” Joseph Smith was therefore correct to associate this boat with the measurement 1,000.

As Latter-day Saint scholars often point out, the Coffin Texts say 1,000 is the size of the Sokar boat: “He takes the ship of 1,000 cubits from end to end, and he sails in it to the stairway of fire.” This certainly referred to the Horus Sokar boat, considering “Horus was able to manifest himself as a sky falcon 1,000 cubits long.”

The princess Anchenneferibre tomb makes reference to “Osiris in his ship of a thousand.” A thousand what? Well, the Egyptian’s “general term for ‘starry sky,’ normally considered to mean ‘a thousand are her Ba’s [souls]’, might rather mean ‘a thousand are her twinklers.’… this term ‘implies that the stars are the souls of the dead’.” (William A. Ward)

Later with the Greeks, the thousand year solar cycle and bird Sokar in a boat became the thousand year cycle of the Phoenix roosting upon the palm tree.

Categories: Apologetics