Set (or Sutekh), an ass-headed deity, the national god of the Shemitic Hyksos, who, on their invasion of Egypt in the interval between the thirteenth and eighteenth dynasties, forced his sole worship upon the Egyptians. Set was already one of the cosmical deities of the country, but after the expulsion of the Hyksos his worship was annulled, his statues defaced, and his name everywhere erased. He was represented as an ass-headed man, holding the usual crux ansata, or staff of life, and the cucufa, staff of divine power. The Egyptians were accustomed to regard Set as a personification of the evil principle. "The worship of this god passed through two historical phases. At one time he was held in honor, and accounted as one of the greater gods of Abydos. He appears to have had a position analogous to that of the Theban deity Mentu, in which he was the adversary of the serpent Apophis, the symbol of wickedness and darkness. Some time later on, in consequence of political changes, the worship of Set was abolished, and his statues were destroyed. It is difficult to state at what period Set was introduced into the Osirian myths as a personification of evil, and thus became identified with Typhon as the murderer of the great Egyptian god Osiris. The treatise (by Plutarch), De Iside et Osiride, makes Nephthys the companion of Set, and she is represented united with him in a group in the Museum of the Louvre, in the Hall of the Gods. The animal symbolical of Set was a carnivorous quadruped, at one time confounded with the ass-god of Josephus and Apion, having a long, curved snout and upright, square- topped ears, which characters are often exaggerated to distinguish him from the jackal of Anubis" (Pierret). After the second restoration of the old mythology, in the period of the nineteenth dynasty, Set was identified with the Hyksos Sutekh, who was properly an Asiatic deity, and whose worship was maintained even by Seti I and Rameses II. Both gods, however, were treated as impious, and their worship as heretical, and it is at the present time impossible to distinguish exactly between them, owing to the complete destruction by the Egyptians of all those parts of the monuments whereon their names occur.

Definition of set

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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