RE, RA (rā). A masculine deity in the pantheon of the gods of Egypt, identified with the sun-god. He stands within the circle of the “creation-myths.” Creation is viewed as a procreation on the part of the male and his female. The ancients, unlike the nation of Israel, drew no line of differentiation between the brute forces of nature and their deities. In fact, the elemental forces of nature were the deities, to whom were assigned personalized names. Re was thought to have engaged in a fierce battle against the dragon of chaos and darkness. The struggle was repeated yearly, sometimes even daily, in the ceremonial liturgy of Egypt. Yet life was not regarded in such tragic fashion as it was in Mesopotamia. Victory was always assured in the fullness and glory of the present order. The primeval hill on which Re held sway emerged from the floor of the ocean of chaos. Creation came from the sun. In later times, Re came to be referred to as Amen-Re, Osiris, and other such names. In the mystery religions, he was designated as Soter-Theos, a “savior-god,” a deity who rescued his people from death. The center of the worship of Re was Heliopolis, the ancient On. The ninth plague was in reality a judgment on Re, the sun god (Exod.12.21-Exod.12.23). Joseph, after being made food administrator of the land, married the daughter of the priest of On of the cult of Re (Gen.41.45).

RA (Egyp.; better, Rē', sun). The principal sun god of ancient Egypt, shown as a man with falcon’s head, wearing the sun’s disc.

In very early times, Ra was identified with the creator god Atum of Heliopolis (q.v.) and became chief deity there. He is commonly referred to as Rē-Harakhte, “Ra-Horus of the Horizon,” as the morning sun in the E.

Ra first had royal patronage in the second dynasty, and reached greatest prominence with the pyramid builders of the fourth and fifth dynasties (c. 2600-2400 b.c.), when the kings first called themselves “Son of Ra”; thereafter, the funerary god Osiris grew in prominence. The universal claims of Ra and influence of Heliopolitan theology led to combinations with other deities: Amen-Ra, Sobk-Ra, etc. In the eighteenth dynasty, Akhenaten made the sun god, manifest in the solar disc as Aten, sole god of Egypt, but thereafter (nineteenth and twentieth dynasties) Amun of Thebes, Ra, and Ptah of Memphis formed a trio and could be conceived of as three aspects of a single deity. Ra appears in the OT only in the name of Joseph’s father-in-law, Potiphera the priest of On (Heliopolis).

See also

  • Egypt