Ancient Egyptian & Jewish Education

In this post, we will look at ancient Egyptian and Jewish education. Through many stories, such as those found in the Christian Bible, Egyptian and Jewish civilizations are connected.

Egypt

The Egyptians employed a caste system. This system consisted primarily of three levels but this varies based on interpretation. These three levels are the priest, military, and unprivileged. The priests made up the highest caste. This caste did not only consist of religious functions but also included surveyors, engineers, teachers, etc. In many ways, the equivalent today would be highly skilled white-collar jobs.

It was the priestly caste that educated the others. They were generally the only ones who were literate. Also, the priests owned 1/3 of the land and were not required to pay taxes. As such, priests were generally wealthy due to these economic concessions.

The military was the second caste. These were the soldiers who defended the country and also found ways to expand it. `The pharaoh was a part of this caste be he was also often put in a caste by himself at the top of the system. It was also possible for people to move between the priestly and military classes. For example, a soldier could have a brother who was a priest and vice versa.

The lowest class was called the unprivileged. This included everyone who was not in the other two classes mentioned already. This group was further subdivided into craftsmen, farmers, merchants, and slaves.

The education of youth was practical. A boy was expected to follow the trade of his father. However, there was flexibility in this depending on the interest and skill of the child. The education was physically demanding but also include many of the subjects expected in a school (reading, writing, math, etc.)

Jews

Jewish education was highly unique when compared to other forms of education. There was no caste system among the Israelites as found in other civilizations. Also, there was no government-controlled education until the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity period. This implies that Jewish youth were primarily homeschooled, which was almost unheard of in any advanced civilization during ancient times.

Even though Jewish education was primarily controlled by the family for several thousand years there were exceptions to this. One example is the School of the Prophets during the monarchy period of the Jews. At this school, students studied philosophy, medicine, poetry, history, law, etc. These schools were erected to provide spiritual leaders for Israel.

Another school founded mostly after the captivity was the School od the Rabbis. There were several of these and they were run independently by famous rabbinical teachers. They were similar to the School of the Prophets in terms of curriculum and students studied such subjects as theology, politics, law, history, math, etc.

By the first century AD, and after the Babylonian captivity, Rabbis began to require that every community have a school and that attendance to such a school was mandatory. This eliminated to a large degree the tradition of homeschooling among Jews.

The teachers at these schools had to be married men with experience. What is implied here is that people who had reached full maturity through being married and perhaps with children were considered ready to deal with children.

Conclusion

How people choose to prepare children for the world will always be different. Egypt was focused on raising people to support a caste system. Israel was focused on the development of the individual and not only the state. The superiority of one system over the other depends on the individual. However. both of these systems have a rich history that is still impactful to this day.

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