Most of us are fairly familiar with the general history of Egypt, as well as have seen Egyptian artifacts, either in museums, in books, or on television. When we think of the ancient Egyptians, we usually think of idols, pharaohs, mummies, and tombs… and the Egyptians’ obsession with death and the afterlife. The majority of the artifacts that we have available, it seems, are those associated in some way with death.
Egypt was a very civilized, intricate society, where their religion played a vital role. Almost as soon as a pharaoh took his throne he began working on his tomb. For the average Egyptian mummification could also be an option, if he or his family could save up enough money. As long as his body survived, the Egyptian believed, his spirit, in the afterlife, would survive.
“Egypt” is mentioned 614 times in the Bible; “Egyptian” 37 times; and “Egyptians” 91 times. Of the 66 books of the Bible, Egypt is mentioned in 29 of them! Egypt, obviously, plays an important role in the Bible.
In Genesis 10, Egypt is called “Mizraim”, and is listed as one of the sons of Ham.
The next mention we have of Egypt is during the time of Abraham; see Gen. 12:10-20. Notice that Abram’s coming to Egypt to escape the famine is a fore- shadowing of what happens during the time of Joseph and his brothers. Because of the Nile, Egypt’s food supply tended to be far more dependable. The Egyptians were known for valuing truthfulness, which helps explain why the Pharaoh was so angry at Abram’s lie.
We all know the story of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maid. With her, Abraham has a son, Ishmael, who later also marries an Egyptian and becomes the father of 12 rulers; see Gen. 17:20, Gen. 25:12-18. Later Esau, Isaac’s son, marries one of Ishmael’s daughters (his cousin).
We next hear of Egypt during the story of Joseph, when his brothers sell him into slavery and he ends up in Egypt. Joseph was of such high political importance in Egypt that when his father Jacob died, the Egyptians embalmed Jacob and mourned him for 70days; Gen. 50:1-11. Joseph, himself, when he died, was embalmed by the Egyptians and place in a coffin in Egypt; Gen. 50:26.
The story of the Exodus occurs 400yrs later, after the Israelites have multiplied greatly and have become slaves. The time of the Exodus is believed to have occurred during the time of Ramses2 or his son. As we can see from studying the history of Ramses, he was an extremely arrogant man; over and over we see him in his artifacts, proclaiming himself as god, building incredible colossal monuments and statues to himself. Once we understand that, it is much easier to understand why Pharaoh’s heart was so hard and why it took plague after plague to finally convince him to let the Israelites go. He would have hated showing any sign of weakness to the Israelites, and certainly to his own people, when he was trying to convince them that he was a god. Ramses lived for almost 90yrs, sired at least 90 children, and reigned as pharaoh for 60yrs. Looking at his life after the Exodus, one does not get the impression he learned anything in regards to humility or in worshiping the one true God.
As we read through the Old Testament, the Israelites are reminded over and over of how God saved them and led them out of Egypt. This was one of the greatest things that had happened to them as a people, but they continually forget it and fall away, turning instead to idols; see Judges 6:6-10; 1Kings; 2Kings; 1Sam. 10:17-19.
As we move up to the time of Solomon, he makes a political alliance with Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter; 1Kings 3:1. This Pharaoh later gives Solomon and his wife a town for a wedding gift; 1Kings 9:16!
Interestingly, later, 2 enemies of Solomon flee to Egypt and apparently are welcomed warmly by the Egyptians; 1Kings 11:14-22; 1Kings 11:40. Jeroboam, remember, was the first king of the Northern Kingdom.
King Shisak of Egypt later attacks Jerusalem and Judah, the Southern Kingdom, during the time of King Rehoboam (the first king of the Southern Kingdom); 2Chronicles 12:1-12. The Bible does not say how long Judah was under the subjugation of Egypt.
As we move through time, the last king of Israel, Hoshea, tries to make an alliance with Egypt in order to get out from under the subjugation of Assyria; 2Kings 17:1-6. The Egyptians do not come to Israel’s rescue and Israel is invaded by Assyria, her people deported. We have moved up to the time of Isaiah. This invasion is predicted in several of Isaiah’s prophecies.
During King Hezekiah of Judah’s time, Hezekiah is considering an alliance with Egypt as protection against Assyria. Sennacherib of Assyria is aware of this, and mocks Hezekiah’s hopes; Isaiah 36:4-6. Isaiah, himself, warns Judah about relying on a political alliance with Egypt, rather than on God; Isaiah 30:1-5.
During King Josiah of Judah’s time (the last good king of Judah), Josiah unwisely thrusts himself into international politics to march against King Neco of Egypt; 2 Chron. 35:20-25. Josiah dies because of his disobedience to God, ignoring the warning given not only by King Neco, but also by Jeremiah. Neco sets up a puppet king in Judah; 2Chron. 36:1-5.
Later on, the Babylonians come in and make Judah a vassal of Babylon. After several years, under the last king of Judah, King Zedekiah, the Jews rebel; King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacks and loots Jerusalem, and the Southern Kingdom is taken into exile to Babylon, just as the prophet Jeremiah predicted.
There are several other prophecies about Egypt besides the ones listed in Isaiah. Jeremiah, for example, prophesies about Egypt falling to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar; Jer. 46:20-26.
Sometimes people ran from Egypt… sometimes to Egypt.
Sometimes Egypt was a friend… sometimes an enemy.
You’ll have to decide who – or what – your particular Egypt is for you.
You can read of the Egyptians through most of the Old Testament… and some of the New Testament.