Egypt, EgyptianAid to Bible Understanding
to a subsequent military action cannot be said. Josephus, Jewish historian of the first century C.E. places the conquest of Egypt sometime after Nebuchadnezzar’s twenty-third year (602/601 B.C.E.). (Antiquities of the Jews, Book X, chap. IX, par. 7) Whether Pharaoh Hophra, mentioned at Jeremiah 44:30, was on the Egyptian throne at the time of the conquest or whether he had earlier been slain by enemies within the country, as Herodotus claims (Book II, sec. 161), is not certain. At any rate, Nebuchadnezzar received Egypt’s wealth as his pay for military service rendered in Jehovah’s execution of judgment against Tyre, the opposer of God’s people.—Ezek. 29:18-20; 30:10-12.
At Ezekiel 29:1-16 a desolation of Egypt is foretold, due to last forty years. This may have come after Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Egypt. While some commentaries refer to the reign of Amasis (Ahmose) II, the successor of Hophra, as exceedingly prosperous during more than forty years, they do so primarily on the testimony of Herodotus, who visited Egypt over a hundred years later. But as the Encyclopœdia Britannica (1959, Vol. 8, p. 62) comments on Herodotus’ history of this period (the “Saitic Period”): “. . . his statements prove not entirely reliable when they can be checked by the scanty native evidence.” The Bible commentary of F. C. Cook, after noting that Herodotus even fails to mention Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Egypt, says: “It is notorious that Herodotus, while he faithfully recorded all that he heard and saw in Egypt, was indebted for his information on past history to the Egyptian priests, whose tales he adopted with blind credulity. . . . The whole story [by Herodotus] of Apries [Hophra] and Amasis is mixed with so much that is inconsistent and legendary that we may very well hesitate to adopt it as authentic history. It is by no means strange that the priests should endeavour to disguise the national dishonour of having been subjected to a foreign yoke.” Hence, while secular history provides no clear evidence of the prophecy’s fulfillment, we may be confident of the accuracy of the Bible record.
Under Persian domination
Egypt later supported Babylon against the rising power of Medo-Persia. But by 525 B.C.E., the land was subjugated by Cambyses, son of Cyrus the Great, thereby coming under Persian imperial rule. (Isa. 43:3) While many Jews doubtless left Egypt to return to their homeland (Isa. 11:11-16; Hos. 11:11; Zech. 10:10, 11), others remained in Egypt. Thus, there was a Jewish colony in Elephantine (Egyptian Yeb), an island in the Nile near Aswan, some 430 miles (c. 692 kilometers) due S of Cairo. A valuable find of papyri reveals conditions prevailing there during the fifth century B.C.E., about the time when Ezra and Nehemiah were active in Jerusalem. These documents, in Aramaic, contain the name of Sanballat of Samaria (Neh. 4:1, 2) and of priest Johanan. (Neh. 12:22) Of interest is an official order issued during the reign of Darius II (c. 423-404 B.C.E.) that the “festival of unfermented cakes” (Ex. 12:17; 13:3, 6, 7) be celebrated by the colony. Also notable is the frequent use of the name Yahu, a form of the name Jehovah (or Yahweh; compare Isaiah 19:18), although there is considerable evidence, too, of definite infiltration of pagan worship.
Under Greek and Roman rule
Egypt continued under Persian rule until Alexander the Great’s conquest in 332 B.C.E., supposedly ‘liberating’ Egypt from the Persian yoke but ending for all time the rule by native pharaohs. Mighty Egypt had indeed become a “lowly kingdom.”—Ezek. 29:14, 15.
During Alexander’s reign the city of Alexandria was founded and after his death the country was ruled by the Ptolemies. In 312 B.C.E., Ptolemy I captured Jerusalem, and Judah became a province of Ptolemaic Egypt until 198 B.C.E. Then, in the long struggle with the Seleucid Empire in Syria, Egypt finally lost control of Palestine when Syrian King Antiochus III defeated the army of Ptolemy V. Thereafter Egypt gradually came more and more under the influence of Rome. In 31 B.C.E., in the decisive battle of Actium, Cleopatra deserted the fleet of her Roman lover Antony, who was defeated by Octavius, grandnephew of Julius Caesar. Octavius proceeded to the conquest of Egypt in 30 B.C.E., and Egypt became a Roman province. It was to this Roman province that Joseph and Mary fled with the young child Jesus to escape Herod’s murderous decree, returning after the death of Herod, so that the words of Hosea, “out of Egypt I called my son,” were fulfilled.—Matt. 2:13-15; Hos. 11:1; compare Exodus 4:22, 23.
The “Egyptian” seditionist with whom the military commander at Jerusalem confused Paul is possibly the same one mentioned by Josephus. (Wars of the Jews, Book II, chap. XIII, pars. 3-5) His insurrection is stated to have taken place during the reign of Nero and the procuratorship of Felix in Judea, circumstances fitting the account at Acts 21:37-39; 23:23, 24.
The second destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, in 70 C.E., resulted in a further fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:68, as many surviving Jews were sent to Egypt as slaves.—Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Book VI, chap. IX, par. 2.
OTHER PROPHETIC AND SYMBOLIC REFERENCES
A large number of the references to Egypt are in pronouncements of judgment, couched in symbolic language. (Ezek. 29:1-7; 32:1-32) To the Israelites, Egypt represented military strength and power through political alliance, so that dependence on Egypt became symbolic of dependence on human power instead of on Jehovah. (Isa. 31:1-3) But, at Isaiah 30:1-7, Jehovah showed that Egypt’s might was more in appearance than in fact, calling her “Rahab [storm or arrogance]—they are for sitting still [‘Rahab-do-nothing,’ JB].” (Compare Psalm 87:4; Isaiah 51:9, 10.) Along with the many condemnations, however, there were promises that many out of “Egypt” would come to know Jehovah, to the extent that it would be said: “Blessed be my people, Egypt.”—Isa. 19:21-25; 45:14.
Egypt is mentioned as part of the realm of the symbolic “king of the south.” (Dan. 11:5, 8, 42, 43) At Revelation 11:8 symbolic “Egypt” stands for the wicked world in which God’s Son was impaled. This usage of Egypt to represent the world of mankind alienated from God is doubtless the key to the prophecy at Isaiah 19:19, 20 concerning the ‘altar to Jehovah in the midst of Egypt’ and the ‘pillar beside its boundary.’—Compare Hebrews 13:10; John 17:15, 16.
VALUABLE PAPYRUS FINDS
The unusually dry soil of Egypt has made possible the survival of papyrus manuscripts, which, in more moist conditions, would have been destroyed. Since the latter part of the nineteenth century, many papyri have been discovered there, including a considerable number of Biblical papyri, such as the Chester Beatty collection. These provide especially important links between the original writings of the Holy Scriptures and the later vellum manuscript copies.
Egypt, Torrent Valley ofAid to Bible Understanding
EGYPT, TORRENT VALLEY OF
A long wadi (or ravine) marking the God-ordained southwestern boundary of the Promised Land, that is, the “land of Canaan.” (Num. 34:2, 5; 1 Ki. 8:65; Isa. 27:12) While this torrent valley was not actually in Egypt, that nation’s domain apparently extended, at least in certain periods, up to that point. (2 Ki. 24:7) The abbreviated expression “the torrent valley,” used in defining the borders of the land of Israel in Ezekiel’s