The Instructions of Hardjedef is said to be the oldest Egyptian philosophy and ethics in writing, the first set of teachings that others copied and preserved. Hardjedef was supposed to live at the same time as Khufu, the pharaoh who built the pyramid at Giza about four and a half thousand years ago. Only a few fragments from the beginning of the text survive, just like the work of many philosophers of Greece and other ancient cultures. Hardjedef had a reputation for great wisdom, his name appears in other texts and he is compared to Imhotep, the architect so magnificent he was made into a god like a pharaoh. Hardjedef and other sages became models for later Egyptians who looked back to past prosperous dynasties for wisdom and insight in troubled times. Hardjedef’s teachings are a public offering to his new baby son Auibre, who is still nursing and may not be able to appreciate the advice quite yet.
Clean yourself in your own eyes before someone can clean you.
When you grow, build a house.
Take a wife who has mastered her heart and multiply.
You build for your children when you house yourself.
Build a strong house in the grave and a noble place where the sun sets.
Death lowers us, life lifts us.
The house of death is for life.