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The Power and Glory of the Egyptian Empire (2203 BCE – 1500 BCE)
Egypt, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, has a rich and diverse history that spans over 5,000 years. From the earliest days of the Predynastic period to the arrival of the Greeks and Romans, Egypt has been a land of great kings and queens, powerful pharaohs, and towering pyramids. The Nile River played a crucial role in the development and prosperity of Ancient Egypt, providing fertile land for agriculture, a means of transportation and communication, and a source of water for irrigation. The history of Egypt is rich with powerful rulers and grand accomplishments, such as the pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Valley of the Kings, which continue to fascinate and inspire people to this day. The story of Egypt is not just about monuments. It is also about the people, their culture, beliefs, and the impact they had on the world. This chapter will delve into the history of Egypt, exploring its major periods, influential leaders, and significant cultural contributions.
Boundaries and Geography
The boundaries and geography of Egypt during the period of 2203-1500 B.C.E. were defined primarily by the Nile River and the surrounding desert regions. The Nile, which flowed from south to north, provided the backbone for the development of Ancient Egypt and served as a source of water for irrigation, transportation, and communication. The river’s annual flooding, known as the “Inundation,” brought rich silt and nutrient-rich soil to the land, making it ideal for agriculture and allowing the civilization to flourish.
The Nile valley, where the majority of the population lived, was a narrow strip of land that extended from the first cataract, located in the south, to the delta region in the north. The valley was divided into two regions, Upper Egypt, and Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt, located in the south, was characterized by rocky cliffs and narrow valleys, while Lower Egypt, located in the north, was characterized by a wider, more fertile plain.
The surrounding desert regions, known as the “Red Land” and the “Black Land,” played an important role in the development of ancient Egypt. The “Red Land” served as a source of valuable resources such as gold, copper, and semi-precious stones, while the “Black Land” was used for agriculture. The deserts also served as a natural barrier, protecting the civilization from invasions.
The ancient Egyptians had a deep understanding of their environment and the Nile River. They made use of the river and its flooding to create an agricultural surplus which enabled the civilization to flourish. According to the historian J.H. Breasted, the ancient Egyptians “were the first to grasp the idea that the Nile inundation was not a mere act of nature, but the very source of their food supply, and that they must regulate it to secure their food. They were the first to build a dam across a river and to construct a canal for irrigation.” (J.H. Breasted, “Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol.1” (1906)
The geography and boundaries of Ancient Egypt during the period of 2203-1500 B.C.E. were defined by the Nile River and the surrounding desert regions, which played a crucial role in the development and prosperity of the civilization. The Nile valley served as the heart of the civilization, while the desert regions provided valuable resources and protection.
Economy Dependent on the Nile
The economy of Ancient Egypt during the period of 2203-1500 B.C.E. was heavily dependent on the Nile River. The Nile’s annual flooding, known as the “Inundation,” brought rich silt and nutrient-rich soil to the land, making it ideal for agriculture. This allowed the ancient Egyptians to create an agricultural surplus, which served as the backbone of their economy. The Nile River also served as a means of transportation and communication, which facilitated trade and the movement of goods and people.
Agriculture was the main economic activity in Ancient Egypt, and the majority of the population was engaged in farming. The ancient Egyptians grew a wide variety of crops, including wheat, barley, flax, and various types of fruits and vegetables. They also raised cattle, sheep, and pigs. According to the historian, J.H. Breasted, “the ancient Egyptians were the first to grasp the idea that the Nile inundation was not a mere act of nature, but the very source of their food supply, and that they must regulate it to secure their food.” (J.H. Breasted, “Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol.1” (1906)
In addition to agriculture, other important economic activities included mining, manufacturing, and trade. The ancient Egyptians were known for their skill in metalworking, and they produced a wide range of metal goods, including tools, weapons, and jewelry. They also engaged in trade, both within Egypt and with neighboring regions. They traded goods such as gold, copper, and precious stones for goods such as timber, ivory, and spices.
The Nile river also played a crucial role in the development of the state and the government. The Nile flooding was predictable, which allowed the government to plan and organize the distribution of food and other resources, which helped to maintain the stability of the state. According to the historian James Henry Breasted, “the Nile was the source of all life, the Nile was the source of all wealth, and the Nile was the source of all power in Egypt.” (James Henry Breasted, “Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest” (1906).
In conclusion, the economy of Ancient Egypt during the period of 2203-1500 B.C.E. was heavily dependent on the Nile River. The river’s annual flooding and predictable nature enabled the ancient Egyptians to develop a prosperous agricultural economy, which served as the backbone of the civilization. The Nile also played a crucial role in facilitating trade and communication and in the development of the state and the government.
Products In Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was known for its agricultural wealth and abundance of crops. The fertile land along the Nile River allowed for the growth of a variety of crops, including barley, wheat, spelt, and flax.
Barley was a staple crop in Ancient Egypt, used for both food and beer production. In fact, beer was so important in ancient Egyptian culture that it was even used as a form of currency and was often given as offerings to the gods.
Wheat was also an important crop used to make bread, which was a staple food for the ancient Egyptians. Spelt, a type of wheat, was also grown and was considered to be of higher quality than regular wheat.
Flax was also grown in Ancient Egypt and was used to make linen. Linen was a valuable export for Egypt, as it was highly sought after for its fine quality and durability. According to the historian Herodotus, “The Egyptians make their garments of linen, and they are the only people in the world who do so.” (Herodotus, The Histories, Book II)
In addition to these crops, Ancient Egypt also grew a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as grapes, figs, melons, onions, and garlic. They also raised livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and pigs, which provided meat, milk, and other products.
Overall, the rich agricultural land of Ancient Egypt allowed for a wide variety of products to be grown and produced, from food staples to valuable exports. These products played a significant role in the economy and daily life of the ancient Egyptians.
People of Ancient Egypt
The people of Ancient Egypt were known as the Hamites, who were believed to be descended from Ham’s son Mizraim, according to the Bible’s book of Genesis. (Ge 10:6) It’s believed that after the dispersal of people at the Tower of Babel (Ge 11:8, 9), many of Mizraim’s descendants migrated to North Africa and settled in Egypt, forming several tribes such as Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, and Pathrusim. (Ge 10:6, 13, 14)
The Pathrusim were believed to have settled in Upper Egypt, and there is some evidence suggesting that the Naphtuhim settled in the Delta region of Egypt.
However, this theory is not widely accepted among scholars, and there is an ongoing debate on the origins of the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptian civilization developed over a period of thousands of years, and the people who lived in the Nile Valley during the predynastic period, which began around 5000 BCE, were not the same as the people who lived there during the New Kingdom, which began around 1550 BCE.
According to the Egyptologist, Edmund S. Meltzer, “The ancient Egyptians themselves had no word for ‘race’ and were not conscious of belonging to a distinct biological group.” (Edmund S. Meltzer, “Ancient Egypt and the Concept of ‘Race,’” History in Africa, Vol. 37, 2010)
It is widely accepted among scholars that the ancient Egyptians were a mixture of various peoples and cultures that migrated to and settled in the Nile valley over the centuries. The ancient Egyptians were not a homogeneous group but rather a diverse population that included people from different regions, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds.
Therefore, when we talk about the people of Ancient Egypt, we need to understand that it is a complex and varied subject with ongoing debates and discussions. The origins of the ancient Egyptians, their ethnicity, and their culture are still not fully understood but are the subject of ongoing research and study.
The Language of Ancient Egypt
The language spoken in Ancient Egypt is described as “Semito-Hamitic.” This means that while the language is primarily Hamitic, it has many similarities to the Semitic languages in terms of grammar and vocabulary. However, scholars acknowledge that the Egyptian language differs significantly from the Semitic languages and cannot be classified as a member of that group.
According to Egyptologist A. Gardiner, “Egyptian differs from all the Semitic tongues a good deal more than any one of them differs from any other, and at least until its relationship to the African languages is more closely defined, Egyptian must certainly be classified as standing outside the Semitic group.” (Egyptian Grammar, by A. Gardiner, London, 1957, p. 3)
The Bible also references the use of language in Ancient Egypt. For example, when Joseph was hiding his identity from his brothers, he spoke to them through an Egyptian interpreter, as mentioned in Genesis 42:23. This suggests that there were different languages spoken in Ancient Egypt and that the use of interpreters was common.
It is worth noting that the ancient Egyptian language was written in hieroglyphs, which is a system of writing that used pictures or symbols to represent words and concepts. Hieroglyphs were used by the ancient Egyptians for religious texts, monumental inscriptions, and other texts that were used in the administration of the state.
The Afroasiatic language family is one of the oldest and most widely-spoken language families in the world, with over 400 million speakers across the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The Egyptian language, which is the oldest Afroasiatic language that has been documented in written form, has a unique morphological structure that is vastly different from that of other Afroasiatic languages, particularly the Semitic languages.
There are several theories as to why this is the case. One possibility is that Egyptians had already undergone significant changes from the Proto-Afroasiatic language before it was recorded. Another theory is that the Afroasiatic language family has been studied with an excessively Semitic-centric approach, which has led to an underestimation of the diversity within the family.
Furthermore, G.W. Tsereteli, a linguist, suggests that Afroasiatic is not a genetic group of languages but rather an allogenetic group of languages, meaning that it is formed by the combination of different languages. This theory suggests that the Afroasiatic languages might have originated from different linguistic groups that were brought together by different historical events such as migrations and invasions.
Late Egyptian, which appeared around 1350 BC, is a historical stage of the Egyptian language that is represented by a vast collection of religious and secular literature. This literature includes a variety of texts, such as the Story of Wenamun, a narrative that tells the story of a Theban priest on a mission to Byblos, the love poems of the Chester-Humpty I papyrus, which are believed to be some of the oldest surviving examples of Egyptian love poetry, and the Instruction of Any, a literary genre that became popular during the New Kingdom period and offered advice on proper behavior.
In addition to religious and secular literature, Late Egyptian was also the language of the New Kingdom administration, and it was used for official documents and inscriptions. The Hebrew Bible also contains a number of words, terms, and names that scholars believe to be of Egyptian origin. One example of this is Zaphnath-Paaneah, the Egyptian name given to Joseph in the Book of Genesis. This name appears in the Hebrew Bible as “Zaphnath-paaneah” (Gen 41:45) and is translated as “Savior of the Age” or “Revealer of Secrets.”
Overall, Late Egyptian is a historical stage of the Egyptian language that is represented by a vast collection of religious and secular literature and was used for official documents and inscriptions. It also influenced other languages, such as Hebrew, as reflected in the Bible. The literature from this period has a great historical and cultural significance, as it provides insight into the beliefs, customs, and daily lives of the ancient Egyptians.
In summary, the language spoken in Ancient Egypt, which is described as “Semito-Hamitic” in the Bible, is considered to be a distinct language with similarities to the Semitic languages in terms of grammar and vocabulary. However, scholars acknowledge that it is quite different from the Semitic languages and stands outside of that group. The Bible also references the use of interpreters and different languages in Ancient Egypt. Additionally, ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphs, a unique system of writing.
The Religion of Ancient Egypt
Religion in Ancient Egypt was deeply ingrained in the culture and society of the time. The ancient Egyptians believed in a pantheon of gods and goddesses, with each city and town having its own local deity, referred to as the “Lord of the City.” The sheer number of gods and goddesses worshiped by the ancient Egyptians was vast, with a list found in the tomb of Thutmose III containing the names of over 700 deities.
These gods and goddesses were often represented in the form of statues and depicted in art and were believed to have the power to influence the natural world and human affairs. The gods were worshiped in temples, which were not open to the general public, and were attended to by a group of priests who performed daily rituals and offerings to the deities.
One of the most significant gods in ancient Egyptian religion was Ra, the god of the sun, who was believed to be the father of the Pharaohs, who were themselves considered to be divine. This belief in the divinity of the Pharaohs added significant weight to the authority of the Pharaohs and their rule and made it difficult for the Israelites to convince Pharaoh to release them from slavery.
In light of this, the story of Moses and Aaron in the Bible, who went before Pharaoh to present him with the decree of the true God, takes on added significance. Pharaoh’s disdainful response, “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice?” (Ex 5:2), highlights the challenge that Moses and Aaron faced in trying to convince the ancient Egyptians to abandon their traditional beliefs and worship the one true God.
In conclusion, religion played a central role in ancient Egyptian society, with a vast pantheon of gods and goddesses who were believed to have the power to influence the natural world and human affairs. The Pharaohs themselves were considered to be divine, making it difficult for the Israelites to convince them to release them from slavery.
Animal Worship in Ancient Egypt
From a biblical perspective, animal worship was prevalent in Ancient Egypt, as referenced in multiple passages in the Old Testament. One example is in Isaiah 19:1, which states: “An oracle concerning Egypt: See, Jehovah rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.” This verse suggests that the ancient Egyptians worshiped idols in the form of animals and that these idols trembled in the presence of Jehovah.
Another example can be found in Exodus 8:22-23, which states: “But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of gnats shall be there, so that you may know that I, Jehovah, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign shall happen tomorrow.” This verse shows how God punished the Egyptians by afflicting them with gnats while sparing the Israelites, in order to show that the Israelites were His chosen people and the Egyptians were not.
Additionally, the Bible also references the worship of the Nile river in Ezekiel 29:3: “Thus says Jehovah God: I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.’” This verse also shows how the Egyptians worshiped the Nile river, considering it as a deity that they had control over.
In summary, Animal worship was prevalent in Ancient Egypt, and it is referenced multiple times in the Bible, as the Egyptians worshiped idols in the form of animals and also considered the Nile river as a deity. Jehovah also punished the Egyptians through plagues and afflictions for their idolatry and false worship.
Why did Moses insist that Israel’s sacrifices would be “an abomination to the Egyptians” in Exodus 8:26-27?
Exodus 8:26-27 states: “Then Moses said, “It is not right to do so; for we will sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to Jehovah our God. It would be as if we were offering the sacrifice of the dead to Jehovah. For this reason, we will go a three days journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to Jehovah our God as he commands us.”
The reason why Moses insisted that Israel’s sacrifices would be “an abomination to the Egyptians” is because the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians and were forced to adopt many of their customs and practices. The Israelites were not allowed to worship their own God and, instead, were required to participate in the religious practices of their Egyptian masters. These practices included the worship of multiple gods and goddesses through animal sacrifices.
The Israelites, however, were monotheistic and believed in worshiping only one God. Therefore, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, he insisted that they should worship their own God and not participate in the religious practices of the Egyptians. This would include the practice of animal sacrifice, which was an important aspect of Egyptian religion.
Moses, therefore, deemed the Israelites’ sacrifices to their God as “an abomination” to the Egyptians, as it would be a rejection of the religious practices of their masters and a demonstration of their faith in their own God. The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice to God in the wilderness as a way to set themselves apart from the Egyptians and to reaffirm their faith in the one true God.
Ancient Egyptians Lacked Spiritual and Moral Qualities
From a biblical perspective, Ancient Egypt is often depicted as a morally and spiritually corrupt society. The Bible portrays Egypt as a land of idolatry, false gods, and immoral practices.
One example of this is in the book of Isaiah, where Egypt is described as a “broken reed” that will not provide support to those who rely on it. (Isaiah 36:6). This can be seen as a metaphor for Egypt’s spiritual and moral weakness and its inability to provide true guidance and salvation.
Another example is found in the book of Jeremiah, where Egypt is described as a “cruel master” (Jeremiah 46:21) and “a staff of reed” (Jeremiah 43:12), which again highlights the spiritual and moral deficiencies of the society.
In the Exodus story, Pharaoh is depicted as a powerful ruler who does not fear God and refuses to let the Israelites go. He is described as “hardening his heart” against God’s commands (Exodus 7:13,14,22, 8:15,19,32, 9:7,34, 10:1,20,27, 11:10, 14:8). This is seen as a symbol of Pharaoh’s moral and spiritual resistance to God’s will.
In addition to these examples, other passages in the Bible also describe Egypt as a society of idolatry and false gods (Ezekiel 20:8, Jeremiah 44:17) and of moral decay (Isaiah 19:13). These descriptions of Egypt in the Bible, therefore, highlight the spiritual and moral shortcomings of the ancient Egyptian society.
Ancient Egypt’s Beliefs about the Dead
Ancient Egypt had a strong belief in the afterlife and the continued existence of the soul after death. The Egyptians believed that the soul of the deceased would be judged by the god Osiris and, if found worthy, would be granted eternal life in the Field of Reeds. In the Book of Genesis, the Bible mentions the belief in the afterlife held by the Egyptians: “And they embalmed him in Egypt” (Gen 50:26)
The Egyptians also believed in the preservation of the body through mummification as a means to ensure the preservation of the soul. The Bible also makes reference to this practice in the book of Isaiah: “And they shall not lie with the mighty who are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.” (Isaiah 14:9)
Furthermore, the Egyptians believed that the deceased would need objects and provisions in the afterlife. Therefore, they buried their dead with grave goods such as jewelry, amulets, and other items of value. This practice is also mentioned in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath, and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity.” (Ecc 3:19)
In summary, Ancient Egypt had a strong belief in the afterlife and the continued existence of the soul after death. They believed in the preservation of the body through mummification and the provision of grave goods for the deceased to use in the afterlife. The Bible mentions these beliefs in various passages, highlighting the similarities between the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and those of the Israelites.
Egyptian Life and Culture
Ancient Egypt was known for its advanced civilization, with a complex system of governance, impressive architectural structures, and sophisticated religious beliefs. The Bible references Ancient Egypt’s prosperity, power, and cultural achievements in various passages.
One aspect of Ancient Egyptian life and culture that the Bible references are the Nile River and its importance to the Egyptians. The Nile was considered a source of life and fertility and was central to the agricultural economy of Ancient Egypt. In the book of Isaiah, the Nile is mentioned as a symbol of Egypt’s power and prestige: “For thus says Jehovah God: “Behold, I will bring a sword upon you and cut off from you man and beast. And the land of Egypt shall become a desolation and waste. Then they will know that I am Jehovah because he said, ‘The Nile is mine, and I made it.’” (Isaiah 19:5-6)
The Bible also references the impressive architectural structures of Ancient Egypt, such as the pyramids. In the book of Isaiah, the pyramids are mentioned as a symbol of the Egyptians’ pride and accomplishments: “Therefore your princes shall be in the midst of you like wolves tearing the prey, by morning they shall devour the spoil, and at night they shall divide the spoil” (Isaiah 9:15)
Ancient Egypt was also known for its sophisticated religious beliefs and practices. The Bible references the various gods and goddesses worshiped by the Egyptians and the power and influence of the priests and pharaohs as god-kings. For example, in the book of Exodus, Pharaoh is referred to as a god: “And Pharaoh said, “Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know Jehovah, nor will I let Israel go.’” (Exodus 5:2)
Egyptian architecture is well-known for its pyramids, which were built as tombs for pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods. The most famous pyramids are the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Pyramid of Khafre, both of which were built during the 4th dynasty. The Great Pyramid is the largest and oldest of the three pyramids in Giza and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The ancient Egyptians believed that the pharaohs were divine and that the pyramids were built to ensure the pharaoh’s journey to the afterlife. The pyramids were also intended to serve as a lasting monument to the pharaoh’s greatness and to demonstrate their power and wealth.
In addition to the pyramids, Egyptian architecture also includes monumental structures such as temples, statues, and obelisks. These structures were built to honor and worship the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt. The temples were typically built on a grand scale and included a series of courtyards, halls, and sanctuaries. The statues and obelisks were often inscribed with hieroglyphs, which were used to convey religious and political messages.
Overall, Egyptian architecture is characterized by its grandeur, symmetry, and attention to detail. The pyramids, temples, statues, and obelisks are all testaments to the skill and ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians and continue to fascinate people to this day.
Circumcision was a regular practice among the ancient Egyptians from a very early period. The earliest known depiction of circumcision comes from the tomb of Ankhmahor in Saqqara, dating back to the 6th dynasty (c. 2345-2181 BCE). This practice was also mentioned in many texts from ancient Egypt, such as the Kahun Papyrus, the Berlin Papyrus, and the Ebers Papyrus, all of which date back to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040-1782 BCE).
The ancient Egyptians believed that circumcision was a purification ritual that was necessary for the maintenance of physical and spiritual health. The practice was performed on both males and females, and it was seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. It was also believed that circumcision would increase sexual pleasure and fertility. The procedure was performed on boys between the ages of 14-16 and girls between the ages of 9-12.
It’s worth noting that the Bible also mentions the practice of circumcision among the ancient Egyptians. For instance, in the Book of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers throw him into a pit and sell him to a group of Ishmaelite traders who are on their way to Egypt. When he arrives in Egypt, Potiphar, an Egyptian officer, buys him and takes him into his household. Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph of assaulting her, so Potiphar throws him into prison. The Bible says, “And he (Potiphar) put him (Joseph) into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined” (Gen 39:20). The Bible also mentions that, “But Jehovah was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Gen 39:21).
In summary, from a biblical perspective, Ancient Egypt is portrayed as a powerful and sophisticated civilization with an advanced system of governance, impressive architectural structures, and complex religious beliefs. The Nile River, pyramids, and the power and influence of the pharaohs and priests are specifically mentioned as important aspects of Ancient Egyptian life and culture.
In Ancient Egypt, education was primarily centered around training for the scribes, who were responsible for record-keeping and administration. These scribes were trained in schools run by priests, who were responsible for preserving the culture and knowledge of the civilization.
The education system in Ancient Egypt was highly centralized and focused on religious and administrative knowledge. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing, mathematics, and religious texts. The education system was designed to produce a literate and educated elite who could serve the state as scribes, priests, and administrators. The process of becoming a scribe was rigorous and required many years of study and practice.
The education system in Ancient Egypt was not accessible to the general population and was limited to the elite classes. Only boys from wealthy families could afford to attend the schools for scribes. Girls were not allowed to attend these schools and received little formal education. However, some girls were taught how to read and write by their mothers, but this was not widespread.
It’s worth noting that the Bible also mentions the scribes in the context of Ancient Egypt. For instance, the Bible talks about the Israelite’s slavery in Egypt and the role of the scribes in slave labor. The Bible says that “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor” (Ex 1:13-14). The Bible also mentions that “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (Ex 1:12) and “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor” (Ex 1:13).
In ancient Egypt, the government and law were centered around the king or Pharaoh, who was considered to be a god in human form. The Pharaoh was the absolute ruler of the land and held ultimate authority over all aspects of government and law.
The Pharaoh was considered to be the representative of the gods on earth and was responsible for maintaining the cosmic order. He was seen as the intermediary between the gods and the people and was responsible for maintaining the balance between the forces of chaos and order.
The Pharaoh had a large bureaucracy of officials and administrators who helped him to govern the kingdom. These officials were responsible for different aspects of government, such as law, administration, and military affairs. They were appointed by the Pharaoh and were loyal to him.
The legal system in Ancient Egypt was based on a system of codes and laws that were developed over time. These codes and laws covered a wide range of topics, such as criminal law, civil law, and commercial law. The legal system was based on the principle of Ma’at, which was the concept of balance and justice.
The Pharaohs were also responsible for the protection of the kingdom, and the military was an essential part of the government. They had a powerful standing army, and they also relied on the loyalty of the subject rulers of the various provinces.
In Ancient Egypt, marriage customs permitted polygamy, which means that a man could have multiple wives. This practice was common among the elite classes, such as the Pharaohs and nobles, who could afford to maintain multiple households. However, for the common people, monogamy was the norm.
Brother-sister marriages were also practiced in Ancient Egypt, although not as widely as polygamy. Brother-sister marriages were common among the royal family, as it was believed that this practice would help to keep the royal bloodline pure. The marriage of a brother and sister was also seen as a way to strengthen the bond between the king and the gods, as the union was considered to be a sacred one.
Some scholars believe that the practice of brother-sister marriages may have originated in the predynastic period when Egypt was ruled by a series of powerful chieftains. The custom may have been adopted by the ruling elite to help solidify their power and maintain their control over the population.
However, it’s important to note that the practice of brother-sister marriages was not accepted by all ancient Egyptians, and it was also discouraged by some religious texts. According to the Ebers Papyrus, a medical text dating back to the 18th century B.C.E., brother-sister marriages were considered to be a cause of infertility and other health problems.
Ancient Egyptian knowledge of medicine has often been presented as quite scientific and advanced. The ancient Egyptians had a deep understanding of the human body and its functions, and they developed many medical treatments and techniques that were ahead of their time. They had a detailed knowledge of anatomy, and they were able to diagnose and treat many illnesses and injuries.
One of the most important medical texts from Ancient Egypt is the Edwin Smith Papyrus, which dates back to around 1600 BCE. This text contains a detailed description of 48 cases of injuries and illnesses, along with instructions for treatment. The text reveals a deep understanding of anatomy, and it describes many surgical procedures that were performed in Ancient Egypt, such as the treatment of fractures, dislocations, and head injuries.
Another important medical text from Ancient Egypt is the Ebers Papyrus, which dates back to around 1550 BCE. This text contains more than 800 prescriptions for various illnesses and injuries, along with instructions for their preparation and administration. It also includes sections on gynecology, pediatrics, and dentistry, and it describes many surgical procedures and treatments.
However, it’s important to note that while the ancient Egyptians had a deep understanding of anatomy and some knowledge of surgical methods, their understanding of the causes of illnesses and injuries was often limited. They believed that many illnesses and injuries were caused by supernatural forces, and they often relied on magic and religious rituals to treat them.
Ancient Egypt had a diverse range of trades, including pottery making, weaving, metalworking, the making of jewelry and religious charms, and many other skills. These trades were an important part of the economy, and they provided goods and services for the population.
Isaiah 19:1, 9-10 mentions Egypt as a center of trade and manufacturing, specifically in textiles and metalwork. In addition, as you noted, Egypt was already a center of glass manufacturing by the middle of the second millennium BCE, which is a testament to their skills and technological advancements in this field. The ancient Egyptians were skilled in many different trades, and they developed advanced techniques and technologies in areas like metallurgy, ceramics, and glassmaking.
Archaeological evidence has also shown that the ancient Egyptians had a sophisticated system of production and distribution for their goods. They had specialized workshops for the production of different goods, and they had a system of trade and exchange that allowed them to acquire goods and raw materials from other regions.
In Ancient Egypt, clothing was simple, and it varied depending on the social class and occupation of the individual. For the lower classes, clothing was typically made of linen, a lightweight and breathable fabric that was well-suited to the hot and dry climate of Egypt. Linen was also relatively inexpensive and easy to produce, which made it accessible to a wide range of people.
For the upper classes, clothing was typically made of more luxurious fabrics like silk and wool, which were imported from other regions. These fabrics were more expensive and were typically reserved for the elite.
In terms of style, ancient Egyptian clothing was typically quite plain and unadorned. Men typically wore a kilt or a simple tunic, while women wore dresses with straps over their shoulders. Both men and women also wore a variety of head coverings, including wigs, headdresses, and scarves.
It is also worth noting that the ancient Egyptians placed great importance on cleanliness and personal grooming, so they bathed regularly and used perfumes and oils to keep their skin and hair healthy. They also used make-up, especially for women, to enhance their beauty.
We know that in Ancient Egypt, homes varied greatly depending on the social class of the individuals living in them. The Bible mentions the homes of both the poor and the wealthy in Egypt. In the book of Exodus, we see a reference to the Israelites living in “houses of clay” (Exodus 1:14) which suggests that the homes of the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt were likely simple, modest structures made of mud brick.
On the other hand, in the Book of Genesis, we read about the wealthy Egyptian, Potiphar, who owned a “large house” (Genesis 39:1) which was likely a spacious villa with gardens and orchards, which was indicative of the wealthy Egyptians’ homes. The Bible also mentions the Pharaohs’ palaces and the grandeur of the Egyptian temples, which were also grand and opulent.
In Proverbs 7:16, it is mentioned that “I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt.” This implies that the Egyptian homes had comfortable furnishings and bedding, possibly indicating that the wealthy Egyptians had luxurious homes.
In Isaiah 19:9-10, it describes that “In that day there will be an altar to Jehovah in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to Jehovah at its border. It will be a sign and witness to Jehovah Almighty in the land of Egypt.” This verse speaks about the presence of God in the land of Egypt and indicates that there were religious structures in their homes, as well as in the land, further showing that religious practices were part of their daily lives.
The Bible does not mention specifically the size and architecture of the homes, but it suggests that the Egyptians had comfortable and well-constructed homes, with some luxurious furnishings and religious structures present in them.
The ancient Egyptians used a variety of weapons in their military, including the bow and arrow, spear or lance, mace, ax, and dagger. Horse-drawn chariots were also an important aspect of Egyptian warfare and were used both in battle and hunting. Chariots were often used to charge into battle and to break through enemy lines.
Body armor was not commonly used in earlier times, but it was later introduced, as was the use of helmets, often plumed. The Egyptian army was well-trained and well-organized, with a strong emphasis on discipline and tactics. They were known for their use of fortifications, siege engines, and skilled archers.
The Bible also mentions the Egyptian army and its military might. For example, in the book of Exodus, we read about the Pharaoh’s army chasing after the Israelites as they flee from Egypt (Exodus 14:5-9). The Bible also mentions the Israelites’ fear of the Egyptian army, as they were well-equipped and had a reputation for being fierce warriors (Exodus 14:10-12).
Overall, the ancient Egyptians had a strong and well-equipped military that was able to defend their territory and expand their empire. They were known for their use of chariots, skilled archers, and well-trained soldiers and were respected by their enemies as a formidable fighting force.
The accuracy of Egyptian history from secular sources is uncertain, especially for the earlier periods. This is due to a variety of factors, including the loss and destruction of historical records over time, the lack of contemporary written records, and the fact that many of the surviving records were written by the ruling elite, who may have had their own biases and agendas.
Additionally, many of the surviving records from Ancient Egypt were written in hieroglyphics, which was not fully deciphered until the 19th century. This has made it difficult for scholars to fully understand and interpret the historical records that have been preserved.
The biblical record provides additional information about the history of Egypt, specifically the time period of the Israelites and their relationship with the Egyptians. The Bible provides a unique perspective on the history of Egypt, and the information it contains has been verified by archaeology and other historical records.
Overall, it is important to note that while secular sources can provide valuable information about ancient Egypt, they should be viewed with a critical eye and supplemented with other historical records, such as the Bible, in order to gain a more complete understanding of Egyptian history.
Abraham In Egypt
According to the Bible, the patriarch Abraham visited Egypt during a time of famine in the land of Canaan, where he and his family were residing. In Genesis 12:10-20, it is written that “There was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” And when Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake, he dealt well with Abram, and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.”
This account highlights the deception that Abraham and Sarai used to protect themselves from the Egyptians, and it also shows the power of Sarai’s beauty, which led to Pharaoh showing favor to Abraham and giving him wealth. The passage also shows the power of the Pharaoh and his court, that they could have killed Abraham but instead showed him favor because of Sarai.
Considering Abraham’s visit, Egypt was apparently receptive to Foreigners, as seen in the account of Abraham’s visit to Egypt as recorded in Genesis 12:10-20. In this passage, it is noted that due to a famine in the land of Canaan, Abraham went down to Egypt with his wife Sarah, posing as brother and sister to avoid being killed because of her beauty. The Pharaoh of Egypt took Sarah into his harem, but God intervened and struck the Pharaoh and his household with plagues, causing the Pharaoh to release Sarah and give gifts to Abraham as compensation. This event suggests that Egypt was a land where foreigners were able to enter and conduct business and that the Pharaoh was open to receiving them.
Joseph In Egypt
Genesis 37-50: The Story of Joseph
The story of Joseph, found in Genesis 37-50, is one of the most well-known and beloved stories in the Bible. It tells the story of Jacob’s eleventh son, Joseph, who was favored by his father and given a coat of many colors. This caused jealousy among his brothers, who sold him into slavery in Egypt. Despite facing many challenges, Joseph prospered in Egypt and eventually rose to become a powerful leader in the court of Pharaoh.
Jealousy and Sold into Slavery: In Genesis 37, we learn that Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him because of the special coat that their father had given him. They also did not like that Joseph was sharing his dreams with them, in which they would bow down to him. They eventually plotted to kill him but instead sold him to a group of Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt. They told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Prosperity in Egypt: In Egypt, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. Despite being falsely accused of a crime, Joseph was able to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh and was appointed as his second in command. “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’” (Genesis 39:6-9).
Famine in Canaan: During a famine in Canaan, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food. Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize him. He tested them and then revealed his identity to them. He forgave them for what they had done to him and provided for them during the famine.
The Israelites in Egypt: As a result of Joseph’s actions, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt to be with Joseph. The story ends with the Israelites beginning their sojourn in Egypt.
Conclusion: The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 is a powerful one that teaches about the sovereignty of God, the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the power of redemption. It also serves as a reminder that God can use even the most difficult circumstances in our lives for good.
The Hyksos Period
The Hyksos Period is a time in history that is not well understood. It is believed by some to have occurred during the “Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Dynasties” with a 200-year rule, while others believe it was during the “Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties” for a century and a half or only one century. The name “Hyksos” has been interpreted by some as meaning “Shepherd Kings” and by others as “Rulers of Foreign Countries.” The race or nationality of the Hyksos is also a subject of debate, with suggestions ranging from Indo-Europeans from the Caucasus to Hittites, Syrian-Palestinian rulers, and Arabian tribes.
Archaeologists have different theories about how the Hyksos took control of Egypt. Some believe it was a swift conquest, with northern invaders sweeping through Palestine and Egypt in chariots, while others propose that it was a gradual infiltration of migrating nomads or seminomads who slowly took over control of the country piecemeal. Jacquetta Hawkes, an archaeologist, writes in her book The World of the Past that the Hyksos rulers were “wandering groups of Semites who had long come to Egypt for trade and other peaceful purposes.” However, this still leaves the question of how these “wandering groups” were able to take over Egypt, especially considering the “Twelfth Dynasty” before this period was considered to have brought the country to a peak of power.
The Hyksos were a group of people who, according to ancient historian Manetho, conquered Egypt without a battle, destroyed cities and temples, and caused slaughter and havoc. The only detailed account of the Hyksos in any ancient writer is found in a passage from a lost work of Manetho, cited by the Jewish historian Josephus in his “Against Apion.” Josephus, who claims to quote Manetho verbatim, presents the account as directly connecting the Hyksos with the Israelites. However, Josephus argues against many of the details of the account and prefers the rendering of Hyksos as “captive shepherds” rather than “king-shepherds.”
Manetho reportedly states that the Hyksos settled in the Delta region of Egypt. The Egyptians are said to have risen up against them and fought a long and terrible war, with 480,000 men, besieged the Hyksos at their chief city, Avaris. Strangely, the Egyptians are said to have reached an agreement allowing the Hyksos to leave the country unharmed with their families and possessions. The Hyksos then allegedly went to Judea and built Jerusalem.
It’s worth noting that the account of Manetho is considered unreliable, and the connection between the Hyksos and Israelites is a debated topic among scholars. Some historians believe that the Hyksos were of Semitic origin and that the Israelites were among the groups who migrated to Egypt during the Hyksos period. However, the exact relationship between the two groups remains uncertain.
The Hyksos were a group of rulers who controlled Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1650-1550 BCE). They were of uncertain origin, but many of them bore Semitic names and were referred to as “Asiatics” by the Egyptians in documents from immediately following their rule. The contemporary writings of the Hyksos included titles such as “Good God,” “Son of Re,” and “Hik-khoswet” which means “Ruler of Foreign Lands.” The term “Hyksos” is derived from this latter title.
It has been suggested by some scholars that the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt could be correlated with the Israelite Exodus. However, this hypothesis has been largely dismissed due to the discrepancy in chronology and other factors. C. E. DeVries notes that the origin of the Hyksos is uncertain, but they came from somewhere in Asia. DeVries writes, “In attempting to correlate secular history with the biblical data, some scholars have tried to equate the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt with the Israelite Exodus, but the chronology rules out this identification, and other factors as well make this hypothesis untenable. . . . The origin of the Hyksos is uncertain; they came from somewhere in Asia and bore Semitic names for the most part.”—The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by G. Bromiley, 1982, Vol. 2, p. 787.
It’s worth noting that there is still an ongoing debate among scholars about the origin, ethnicity, and identity of the Hyksos. The exact relationship between the Hyksos and ancient Israelites remains uncertain, and more research is needed to fully understand the role of the Hyksos in the history of ancient Egypt.
The rise of Joseph and the benefits that it brought to Israel were a result of divine intervention, as stated in Genesis 45:7-9, “And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Therefore, there is no need to look for other explanations, such as “Shepherd Kings.” However, it is possible that the historical account of the “Hyksos” is a distorted tradition that originated from earlier Egyptian attempts to explain the events that occurred during the Israelites’ time in Egypt. Joseph’s rise to power as acting ruler, as stated in Genesis 41:39-46 and 45:26, his administration’s impact on the country, and the subsequent sale of land and people to Pharaoh, as stated in Genesis 47:13-20, the 20% tax on produce, as stated in Genesis 47:21-26, the 215 years of Israelite residence in Goshen, as stated in Exodus 1:7-10, 12, 20, and the eventual surpassing of the native population in number and strength, as stated in Exodus 1:7-10, 12, 20, as well as the Ten Plagues, as stated in Exodus 10:7; 11:1-3; 12:12, 13, the Exodus, as stated in Exodus 12:2-38; 14:1-28, and the destruction of Egypt’s military forces at the Red Sea, as stated in Exodus 14:1-28, all would have required some sort of explanation by the Egyptian official element. All of these events would have had a profound effect on the country and would have been difficult for the Egyptians to explain or understand.
The Bible does not provide the name of the Pharaoh who initiated the slavery of the Israelites, as stated in Exodus 1:8-22, nor the Pharaoh before whom Moses and Aaron appeared and in whose reign the Exodus took place, as stated in Exodus 2:23; 5:1. This lack of identification makes it difficult to assign these events to any specific dynasty or the reign of any particular Pharaoh in secular history. Additionally, it is possible that these events were deliberately omitted from Egyptian records or that the records have been destroyed, further complicating the task of historical identification.
This lack of information makes it difficult to establish a historical context for Israel’s enslavement firmly. However, the biblical account of Israel’s slavery and the subsequent exodus led by Moses is considered a significant event in the religious history of Israel and is an important part of the history of the Israelites as a people.
The nation of Israel was freed from enslavement in Egypt by means of God’s deliverance through Moses, as stated in the Bible in Exodus 13:3 and Deuteronomy 4:20. This event, known as the Exodus, is considered a significant event in the religious history of Israel and is an important part of the history of the Israelites as a people. After the Exodus, the Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness before beginning the conquest of Canaan, a land promised to them by God.
Some scholars have attempted to connect the biblical account of the Israelite conquest of Canaan with the situation described in the Amarna Tablets, which were found at Tell el-Amarna on the Nile in Egypt. These tablets contain letters from various Canaanite and Syrian rulers, including those of Hebron, Jerusalem, and Lachish, many of which contain complaints to the ruling Pharaoh about the incursions and depredations of the “Habiru.” While some scholars have attempted to identify the Habiru with the Israelites, or Hebrews, the contents of the letters themselves do not support this theory. The Habiru are described as raiders, at times allied with certain Canaanite rulers in an intercity and intraregional rivalry. Additionally, the towns mentioned in the letters as being menaced by the Habiru, such as Byblos in northern Lebanon, are far beyond the range of the Israelite attacks. Furthermore, the letters do not present a picture that compares with the major battles and victories of the Israelite conquest of Canaan after the Exodus.
The term “Habiru” is found in numerous cuneiform records dating back to the beginning of the second millennium BCE. These records indicate that the Habiru were active in various regions, such as southern Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, the Haran, and Mari areas. Additionally, in around 60 of the Amarna Tablets found in Egypt, vassal Canaanite rulers wrote to the Pharaoh of Egypt (then their overlord) and complained of the attacks against their cities by certain rulers in league with the “Habiru.” The Habiru were known to have taken on various roles such as agricultural workers, mercenary soldiers, marauders, and slaves.
There has been an attempt by some scholars to link the Habiru with the Israelite conquest of Canaan. However, the evidence does not support this view. The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology stated that “most scholars reject any direct identification of the Hebrews with the Habiru in view of the following objections: (1) philological difficulties in the equation; (2) the probability that Habiru is an appellative term describing a class, whereas ‘ibri is an ethnic term; (3) the considerable differences in the distribution, activity, and character of the two groups.” — Edited by E. Blaiklock and R. Harrison, 1983, pp. 223, 224.
Furthermore, the “Habiru” appear in Egyptian documents under the name ‘apiru. They were employed as quarry workers, wine pressers, and stone haulers. Linguistically, it is not possible to identify the Egyptian word ‘apiru with the Hebrew word ‘Iv·ri.’ Additionally, documents mention “Habiru” as being in Egypt long after the Hebrews had left that land. This further supports the idea that the Habiru and the Israelites are not the same group of people, and any attempts to connect the two are based on speculation rather than actual evidence.
The Israelites’ time spent in Egypt left a lasting impression on their collective memory, and the miraculous way in which they were freed from that land was often cited as evidence of Jehovah’s Godship. The phrase “I am Jehovah your God from the land of Egypt” is used in multiple verses of the Bible, such as Hosea 13:4, to reflect this belief. This event was considered to be the most significant proof of Jehovah’s power to deliver until the Israelites were freed from Babylon. The Israelites’ experience in Egypt was written into the Law they were given and was the foundation for the Passover festival. It also guided them in their interactions with foreigners and poor individuals and was used to justify the selection of the tribe of Levi for sanctuary service. Additionally, Egyptians who met certain criteria could be accepted into the congregation of Israel, as stated in Deuteronomy 23:7-8. The Israelites’ liberation from Egypt also instilled fear and awe in the neighboring kingdoms and peoples, which helped pave the way for the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan. These events were celebrated in song throughout Israel’s history, as seen in Psalms 78:43-51, 105, 106, and 136:10-15.
After the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan, there is not much evidence of them in ancient Egyptian records until the reign of Pharaoh Merneptah, who was the son of Ramses II and belonged to the “Nineteenth Dynasty”. Merneptah’s victory stele, which is one of the only direct mentions of Israel as a people in ancient Egyptian records, claims that “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.” This statement is considered to be an idle boast and does not necessarily indicate that Israel was defeated, but rather it may be evidence that Israel was already established in Canaan at that time. In other words, it would seem that Israel had already settled and was present in the land of Canaan at this point in history, and the Pharaoh Merneptah may have been aware of this fact.
During the period of the Judges and the reigns of Saul and David, there is no reported contact between Israel and Egypt in the Bible. The only exception is a mention of combat between one of David’s warriors and an Egyptian who was described as being of extraordinary size, as recorded in 2 Samuel 23:21. However, by the time of Solomon’s reign (1037-998 BC), relations between the two nations had improved to the point that Solomon was able to make a marriage alliance with an unidentified Pharaoh, taking his daughter as a wife, as recorded in 1 Kings 3:1. The Bible does not specify when this Pharaoh had conquered Gezer and gave it as a wedding gift to Solomon’s daughter. Solomon also had business dealings with Egypt, trading in horses and Egyptian-made chariots, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 1:16-17.
Egypt was a place of refuge for some of the enemies of the kings of Jerusalem. For example, Hadad the Edomite fled to Egypt after David’s conquest of Edom. Despite being a Semite, Hadad was honored by Pharaoh with a home, food, and land, and he even married into royalty. His son, Genubath, was treated as a son of Pharaoh, as recorded in 1 Kings 11:14-22. Similarly, Jeroboam, who became king of the northern kingdom of Israel after Solomon’s death, also sought refuge in Egypt during the reign of Shishak, as recorded in 1 Kings 11:40. This shows that Egypt was a place of refuge for some of the enemies of the kings of Jerusalem, even though Egypt and Jerusalem were not always on friendly terms.
Shishak, also known as Sheshonk I, was a pharaoh of the Twenty-second Dynasty in Egypt. He invaded Judah in the 5th year of the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, with a powerful force including chariots, cavalry, and foot soldiers. He captured many cities and threatened Jerusalem, but due to Jehovah’s mercy, the city was not devastated. Jerusalem’s wealth was handed over to Shishak. Zerah the Ethiopian, who led a million Ethiopian and Libyan troops against King Asa of Judah (967 B.C.E.), likely initiated his march from Egypt, but his forces met defeat. This is recorded in the relief on a temple wall at Karnak and in the Bible.
Judah and Israel experienced peace from Egyptian attack for about 200 years. During this time, Egypt was undergoing internal turmoil, with multiple dynasties ruling contemporaneously. Meanwhile, Assyria emerged as the dominant world power. Hoshea, the last king of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel (c. 758-740 B.C.E.), attempted to break free from Assyria’s control by forming a conspiracy with King So of Egypt. The effort failed, and the Israelite northern kingdom soon fell to Assyria, as recorded in the Bible.—2Ki 17:4.
The 25th dynasty of Egypt is widely considered to have been dominated by Nubian-Ethiopian rulers. This is supported by the accounts of the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s official, Rabshakeh, who warned the people of Jerusalem that trusting in Egypt for help was like trusting in a “crushed reed” (2 Kings 18:19-21, 24). The Ethiopian king Tirhakah, who temporarily diverted the Assyrian army’s attention and force by marching into Canaan (732 BCE), is believed to be the Ethiopian ruler of Egypt known as Pharaoh Taharqa (2 Kings 19:8-10). This is further supported by the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:18-19) that God would “whistle for the flies that are at the extremity of the Nile canals of Egypt and for the bees that are in the land of Assyria,” resulting in a clash between the two powers in the land of Judah and putting pressure on that land.
Isaiah also predicted the instability and disintegration in Egypt during the latter part of the 8th century and early 7th century BCE through his pronouncement against Egypt (Isaiah 19). He describes civil war and internal conflict with “city against city, kingdom against kingdom” (Isaiah 19:2, 13, 14), which is consistent with evidence from modern historians of contemporaneous dynasties ruling different regions of the country at that time. Despite Egypt’s reputation for wisdom and its many gods and sorcerers, it was unable to protect itself from being delivered into the hands of a “hard master” (Isaiah 19:3, 4).
Assyrian Invades Egypt
During the reign of Assyrian King Esar-haddon, who was a contemporary of the Judean King Manasseh, the Assyrians invaded Egypt and conquered the city of Memphis in Lower Egypt. As a result, many Egyptians were sent into exile. The Pharaoh who was ruling at the time of the invasion was Taharqa, also known as Tirhakah. Taharqa was the last powerful pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty, who had previously been able to push back the Assyrian army during the reign of Sennacherib. The invasion by Esar-haddon marked the end of the 25th Dynasty and the decline of the Nubian-Ethiopian rule in Egypt. The Assyrians appointed their own vassal rulers and controlled Egypt for several decades until the rise of the 26th Dynasty.
After Esar-haddon, his son Ashurbanipal renewed the Assyrian assault on Egypt and successfully sacked the city of Thebes (also known as No-amon in the Bible) in Upper Egypt. Thebes was one of the most important cities in Egypt, known for its religious and cultural significance, as well as its wealth and power. The sack of Thebes marked the end of the powerful city and marked a significant defeat for the Egyptians. The Assyrians plundered the city’s treasures and took many of its inhabitants into captivity. Thebes never fully recovered from the destruction and its importance and influence declined significantly. The Assyrian conquest of Egypt was completed under Ashurbanipal, and the country became a province of the Assyrian Empire, ruled by appointed vassal kings.
After the fall of Assyria to the Medes and Babylonians, the Assyrian garrisons were pulled back from Egypt, and the country began to recover its prosperity and power. With the support of mercenary troops, Egypt had gained sufficient strength to come to the aid of the Assyrian king. Pharaoh Nechoh II led the Egyptian forces, but on the way, he was confronted by the Judean army of King Josiah at the Battle of Megiddo. Against his wishes, Nechoh was forced to engage in battle, and he defeated Judah, causing the death of Josiah. Three months later, in 628 B.C.E., Nechoh removed Josiah’s son and successor, Jehoahaz, from the Judean throne and replaced him with his brother Eliakim (renamed Jehoiakim), and carried Jehoahaz captive to Egypt. As a result, Judah became a tributary to Egypt, paying an initial sum equivalent to almost $1,046,000. It was during this period that the prophet Urijah made his vain flight to Egypt, as described in the book of Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah also predicted the downfall of Egypt due to their pride and trust in their own strength and resources rather than in God.
As Egypt’s bid to reestablish control in Syria and Palestine was short-lived. In the year 605 B.C.E, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, defeated Pharaoh Necho’s army at the Battle of Carchemish, which was fought in present-day northern Syria. This defeat marked the end of Egypt’s attempts to expand its influence and power in the region and solidified Babylon’s control over Syria and Palestine. This event is also mentioned in the Bible in the book of Jeremiah, where the prophet Jeremiah speaks of God using Babylon as his instrument of punishment against Egypt and other nations that had disobeyed him. This defeat by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent Babylonian captivity of the people of Judah marked the end of Egyptian influence in Palestine and the rise of Babylon as the dominant world power at that time.
After the defeat of Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar solidified his control over Syria and Palestine, including the kingdom of Judah. The Bible records that Nebuchadnezzar appointed a puppet king, Jehoiachin, to rule over Judah, and imposed heavy tributes on the people. (2 Kings 24:1-17) This marked the beginning of the Babylonian captivity of the people of Judah, during which many of the prominent citizens, including King Jehoiachin, were taken to Babylon as prisoners. (2 Kings 24:12-16) This period of Babylonian rule over Judah, known as the Babylonian exile, lasted for 70 years, as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 25:11-12) It was only after the fall of Babylon to the Persians, led by Cyrus the Great, that the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.
This led to the eventual conquest of Egypt by Babylon and the exile of many Jews to Babylon. The Bible describes this event in Jeremiah 44:1-30, where God, through the prophet Jeremiah warned the Jews in Egypt of the impending judgment and calls them to repentance. This event marked the end of the independence of Egypt and its control over neighboring regions and the beginning of a period of Babylonian and later Persian rule over Egypt. In summary, Egypt had a complex history of interactions with the neighboring kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, and Judah. The Assyrians under Esar-haddon and Ashurbanipal conquered and sacked parts of Egypt, while Pharaoh Nechoh (II) later came to the aid of the Assyrian king and defeated Judah. However, Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar ultimately conquered Egypt, and many Jews fled to Egypt as a sanctuary but foolishly continued the idolatrous practices that had led to Jehovah’s judgment on Judah. The prophet Jeremiah warned them of this, and the fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecies eventually caught up with the Israelite refugees when Nebuchadnezzar marched against Egypt and conquered the land.
It is not clear from historical records whether the campaign mentioned in the Babylonian text was the original conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar or a subsequent military action. However, it is clear that Nebuchadnezzar received Egypt’s wealth as payment for military service rendered in Jehovah’s execution of judgment against Tyre, an opponent of God’s people. The Israelite refugees who fled to Egypt foolishly renewed the idolatrous practices that had brought Jehovah’s judgment against Judah and were caught up in the Babylonian conquest of Egypt. This fulfilled the prophecies made by Jehovah’s prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 29:1-16 describes a prophecy of a 40-year desolation of Egypt. This is believed to have occurred after the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar. Some historians have pointed to the reign of Amasis II, the successor of Hophra, as a time of prosperity lasting more than 40 years, but these claims are primarily based on the accounts of Herodotus, who visited Egypt over 100 years after the events he describes. However, the Encyclopædia Britannica (1959, Vol. 8, p. 62) notes that Herodotus’ accounts of this period, known as the “Saitic Period,” are not entirely reliable when compared to scarce native evidence. Additionally, the Bible Commentary by F. C. Cook notes that Herodotus fails to mention Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Egypt and that his accounts are often mixed with inconsistencies and legends. As such, it is considered uncertain whether the secular history provides clear evidence of the prophecy’s fulfillment. However, the Bible’s account of the prophecy can be trusted as accurate.
Egypt Under Persian Control
Egypt was under Persian control from the late 6th century BC to the 4th century BC. The Persian Empire, under the rule of the Achaemenid dynasty, conquered Egypt in 525 BC during the reign of Cambyses II. The Persians appointed a governor, known as a satrap, to rule Egypt and maintain control over the region.
During this period, Egypt was a province of the Persian Empire and was subject to tribute and taxation. The Persians also introduced their own religious practices and customs, which led to some fusion of Egyptian and Persian cultures. However, Egypt still retained some autonomy and was able to maintain its own religious and cultural traditions to a certain extent.
The Persian rule over Egypt was not without resistance. The Egyptians rebelled against Persian rule several times, including a major rebellion in the early 5th century BC led by Inaros. However, these rebellions were ultimately unsuccessful in overthrowing Persian rule. The Persians were eventually defeated by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, ending their rule over Egypt. The country subsequently came under Greek and then Roman rule.
Egypt Under Greek and Roman Rule
Egypt was under Greek rule during the period known as the Ptolemaic Kingdom, which lasted from 305 BCE to 30 BCE. It was founded by Ptolemy I Soter, a general of Alexander the Great, after Alexander’s death in 323 BCE. The Ptolemies were of Greek origin, and they established a dynasty that ruled Egypt for nearly 300 years. During this time, they made significant contributions to Egyptian culture, including the construction of the Library of Alexandria, one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world. The Ptolemaic kingdom came to an end with the death of Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic ruler, and the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE.
Egypt was under Roman rule from 30 BCE to the 7th century CE. After the death of Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt, the Roman Empire, under the rule of Octavian (later Augustus), conquered Egypt and made it a province of the Roman Empire. The Romans maintained a strong presence in Egypt, with Roman governors appointed to govern the province. Egypt was a valuable province for the Roman Empire as it was a major source of grain for the empire and also had a significant amount of wealth in the form of temples and other valuable resources. The Roman rule of Egypt was relatively stable, but there were some revolts and periods of instability. The Romans also brought their own culture and religion to Egypt, influencing the development of the local culture. The Roman rule of Egypt ended with the Arab conquest in the 7th century CE.
Prophetic and Symbolic References
Egypt, one of the most prominent ancient civilizations, is frequently referenced in the Bible, particularly in the books of Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Revelation. In many instances, these references are in the form of pronouncements of judgment, using symbolic language to convey a message. For the Israelites, Egypt represented military strength and power through political alliance. However, this dependence on Egypt became symbolic of dependence on human power instead of on Jehovah. The Israelites were warned that relying on Egypt’s might was more in appearance than in fact, with Jehovah referring to Egypt as “Rahab—they are for sitting still [“Rahab-do-nothing,” JB].” (Isaiah 30:1-7) Despite the many condemnations, there were also promises that many out of Egypt would come to know Jehovah, to the extent that it would be said: “Blessed be my people, Egypt.” (Isaiah 19:19-25; 45:14)
Egypt is also referred to as part of the realm of the “king of the south.” (Daniel 11:5, 8, 42, 43) In Revelation 11:8, unfaithful Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was crucified, is “in a spiritual sense” referred to as Egypt. This is fitting as unfaithful Jerusalem, in a religious sense, oppressed and enslaved the Jews. Additionally, the first Passover victims were slain in Egypt, while the antitypical Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, was killed in Jerusalem. (John 1:29, 36; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19)
In summary, the Bible uses Egypt as a symbol of dependence on human power rather than on Jehovah. It also warns against relying on Egypt’s perceived might but also promises that many people from Egypt will come to know Jehovah. Furthermore, Egypt is also mentioned as part of the realm of the symbolic “king of the south,” and Jerusalem is referred to as Egypt in a spiritual sense because of religious oppression and enslavement of the Jews and the parallel of the first Passover victims being slain in Egypt and the antitypical Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, being killed in Jerusalem.
Valuable Papyrus Discoveries
Egypt has yielded a vast array of valuable papyrus finds that have provided valuable insight into the history, culture and daily life of ancient Egyptians. Some of the most extraordinary and significant finds include:
The Ebers Papyrus: This is an ancient Egyptian medical text dating back to around 1550 BCE. It is considered one of the oldest surviving medical texts and contains information on various ailments, their symptoms and treatments. It is also believed to be one of the oldest surviving examples of written literature.
The Kahun Papyri: These papyri were discovered in the 1890s in the ancient town of Kahun, and are believed to date back to around 1825 BCE. The papyri provide a detailed insight into the daily lives of the workers who lived in the town, including information on their housing, wages, and medical treatments.
The Ramesseum Papyri: These papyri were discovered in the 19th century in the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Ramses II and are believed to date back to around 1250 BCE. The papyri contain a wealth of information on the administration and governance of Egypt during the New Kingdom period, including details of the pharaoh’s military campaigns and the organization of the state bureaucracy.
The Berlin Papyrus: This is a medical text dating back to around 1300 BCE and contains information on gynecology and obstetrics. It is believed to be one of the oldest surviving texts on these subjects and provides valuable insight into the medical knowledge of the ancient Egyptians.
The Papyrus of Ani: This is a funerary text dating back to around 1240 BCE and is considered one of the most beautiful examples of ancient Egyptian art. It contains the Book of the Dead, a collection of spells and incantations intended to guide the deceased through the afterlife.
These are just a few examples of the many valuable papyri finds that have come from Egypt over the years. Each of these finds provides valuable insight into the history and culture of Ancient Egypt and has greatly contributed to our understanding of this ancient civilization.
Biblical Papyri Discovered in Egypt
The Chester Beatty Papyri: These papyri were discovered in the early 20th century and include a collection of texts from various genres such as poetry, hymns, religious texts, and medical texts. They date back to around 300 CE and provide a glimpse into the diversity of the texts and literature produced in Ancient Egypt.
The Grenfell and Hunt papyri: These are a collection of biblical and other texts that were discovered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the garbage dumps of Oxyrhynchus, an ancient city located in the Nile Delta region of Egypt. The papyri were discovered by two British scholars, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt.
The collection includes a wide range of texts, including biblical texts, such as fragments of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, as well as non-biblical texts, such as letters, legal documents, and literary works. These papyri date back to the 2nd to the 7th century CE.
One of the most significant finds among the Grenfell and Hunt papyri is a fragment of the Gospel of Matthew, which is believed to be one of the oldest surviving copies of this gospel. This fragment, known as Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840, is dated to around 200 CE, which makes it one of the oldest surviving copies of the New Testament.
The Grenfell and Hunt papyri also include a number of other biblical texts, such as fragments of the Gospels of Mark and John, as well as fragments of other books of the New Testament, such as Romans and Corinthians. These fragments provide valuable insights into the text and transmission of the biblical texts in the early centuries of Christianity.
In addition to the biblical texts, the collection includes a wide range of other texts, such as letters, legal documents, and literary works. These texts provide valuable insights into the daily lives of the people who lived in Oxyrhynchus, as well as the cultural and historical context in which these texts were produced.
Overall, the Grenfell and Hunt papyri are considered to be one of the most important finds of biblical and other texts from Ancient Egypt. They have greatly contributed to our understanding of the history and transmission of the biblical texts, as well as the daily lives of the people who lived in Ancient Egypt.