It is difficult to be certain when the Exodus took place, but we can be pretty sure that Egypt was still a major, if not the major power in the middle east when it happened. The pharaohs ruled over vast territories and one of them, Ramases II had an exceptionally long reign, probably sixty-seven years. Some have speculated that he was on the throne when the Israelites entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. Whether that was the case or not, he was certainly still an impressive ruler in the early years of the people of Israel. Ramases II was also known by the name of Ozymandias taking the title King of Kings and, in keeping with this claim, he had vast monuments built in his honour.

It is possible to see a fragment of one of these monuments in the British Museum. I say a fragment, it is reckoned to weigh about seven and a quarter tons, even though it is only a small piece of the original work. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote of this statue:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Though part of the statue remained, the empire had vanished back into the desert, and Ozymandias vanished into obscurity.

There have always been leaders, whether kings, emperors, tyrants or generals who have laid claim to greatness, and indeed in their lifetimes some may have had some grounds for such a claim, but their dominions have ultimately vanished, not necessarily back into desert, but at their best to be remembered as monuments and in museums.

The crucial thing that we all have to face is where Jesus fits into this scheme of things, for he too is given the name King of Kings and Lord of Lords. One major difference between Jesus and all the great leaders throughout history, is that they were great in their lifetimes and then became obscure in their deaths, whereas Jesus never held any position of power while he lived but became great in his death. The resurrection is the dividing line.

Whether we believe in Ozymandias is of little consequence. Though one of the longest lived and mightiest rulers in the world, all that remains are large pieces of carved stone shared between a museum and the desert. Jesus too has his share of statues and monuments, and if that is all, then who cares? But if he lives, if he has conquered death, then that has got to be pretty important and is surely worth thinking about.

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