PYRAMID pĭr’ ə mĭd. Architectural form, of triangular profile upon a square or rectangular base, used for (or over) tombs in ancient Egypt, esp. of royalty.

The oldest pyramids rose in stages (e.g., that of Djoser, third dynasty); then came the true pyramid (fourth dynasty onward) so typical of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, best exemplified by those of the kings Kheops, Khephren, and Mycerinus at Giza, opposite modern Cairo. The step pyramids may have embodied the idea of a “stairway” to heaven for the king to join the circumpolar stars. The true pyramids imitated the sacred benben stone of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis (q.v.), and so are a symbol derived from the solar cult. Edwards further suggests that they were also conceptually a ramp up to heaven for the king, like the rays of the sun slanting down upon the earth (and so corresponding to the “stairway” function of step pyramids). As purely tombs, and accompanied by funerary temples, etc., the pyramids were never observatories, granaries, or the like as in medieval legend.


I. E. S. Edwards, The Pyramids of Egypt (1947, 1961); L. Cottrell, The Mountains of Pharaoh (1956).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

puramis: Pyramids are mentioned in connection with the splendid monument reared by Simon Maccabeus in memory of his parents and brethren at Modin (1 Macc 13:28; compare Ant, XIII vi, 6). Josephus describes them as "very surprising, both for their largeness and beauty." There is nothing to show how the pyramid allotted to each was distinguished, whether by difference in size or by inscriptions. It is remarkable that in Scripture there is no allusion to the giant structures in Egypt; but these may have supplied the suggestion to Simon’s mind.