Chabas came from a modest background, studied at Chalon and became a wine merchant. Self-taught, he learned Latin, Greek and other languages. Interested in anthropology, he turned to study Old Egyptian languages. Chabas was a member of several academies and later president of the Conseil Departmental of Saône-et-Loire. Between 1876 and 1880, Chabas edited the journal L'Égyptologie. His works have contributed much to elucidate the history of the invasion and repulsion of the Hyksos in Egypt.