Most scholars have concluded that, in later times at least, there was no close personal tie between the individual Egyptian and the gods, that the gods remained aloof, that their relationship to humans was indirect, communicated to him by means of the king. There was no established book or set of teachings, as the Bible or the Qur'an, and few prescribed conditions of behavior or conduct. Humans were guided essentially by human wisdom and trusted in their belief in the goodness of the gods and of their divine son, the king. An important concept in Egyptian life was the idea of maat [justice]. Although the Egyptian was entirely subservient to the state, the king had the duty of translating the will of the gods. The universe had been created by bringing order and justice to replace primeval chaos, and only through the continuance of order and justice could the universe survive. The law of nature, of society, and of the gods was an organic whole, and it was the duty of the king to administer that law, which was guided by the concept of maat. As Egypt flourished, so did the state cult. As the pharaohs grew more powerful, they poured riches into the state cult and built huge and splendid temples to their gods. The priesthoods thus grew very powerful.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.