The Weight of a Feather
In the culture of ancient Egypt, hearts were not hard. They were heavy, and could be weighed. The opening chapters of Exodus are filled with hardened hearts. We read that the Israelites hardened their hearts. Pharaoh hardened his heart. Adonai hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Such heavy and unwieldy hearts could tip the scales.
Kashah is the Hebrew word for hard. But, the hardened hearts in Exodus were kabed. Kabed means weighty. Weighing the heart was a well-known ritual in ancient folklore. In fact, the Egyptian afterlife commenced with a set of scales. In a special ritual, the heart of the deceased person was weighed against a feather. On one side of the scales sat the person’s heart awaiting judgment. On the other side of the scales sat the almost weightless feather, which represented truth and justice.
If the heart balanced evenly against the feather, the deceased individual was reunited with his heart and welcomed into the afterlife. If the heart was heavier than the feather, the balance would sink. A heavy heart meant that the person had failed to live a just and truthful life. The heart riddled with wrongdoings was immediately devoured by a terrifying beast, and the individual vanished.
The hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt opens the door to a much better understanding of Pharaoh’s hardened heart. His heart was too heavy to enter the afterlife.
The danger of hardened hearts still exists today. The writer to the Hebrews warns, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” To resist the seduction of sin, or anything which disqualifies the people of the Kingdom, we listen for the voice of the Almighty. His voice will tell us which path is as light as a feather (Isaiah 30:21).
Published January 18, 2018