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Tuesday, 05 May 2015
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The Land of Egypt in the Holy Scriptures
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EGYPT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

The first mention of Egypt in the Old Testament is in Gen 12:10, where we are told that “there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there.” Egypt is mentioned once again in Gen 13:10: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt.”

Egypt was a land of plenty, described as being even as the garden of the Lord. The Lord allowed Joseph to be sold to the Egyptians by his brothers, in order to bring Israel and his children into Egypt, where for more than 400 years, the church of the Old Testament would be nurtured in Egypt.

When the time came for the Lord to bring His people out of Egypt, he allowed Moses to be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, and we are told “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” (Acts 7:22)

But the major story about Egypt in the Old Testament is without a doubt the story of Exodus. A simplistic way of looking upon the Exodus account is to view it as a good guys versus bad guys story, the good guys win and the bad guys loose. If, on the other hand we look more carefully at the account in Exodus, we will find a totally different story emerging.

In Exodus 7:3, the Lord tells Moses, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.” One may wonder, why would the Lord harden Pharaoh’s heart, and then punish the Egyptians by visiting the ten plagues upon them? But the answer to this query comes in Exodus 7:5, where the Lord explains, “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.”

The key verse here is, “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” This was God’s plan for the salvation of the Egyptians. The Lord wanted to bring them into His fold. But the Lord knew that the Egyptians were stubborn and proud and that the only way to bring them into His fold was to bring them to their knees.

Again, in Exodus 14:4 “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.

Exodus 14:17 “And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”

In a most emphatic way, the lord tells Moses that the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. And it worked, for when the Lord troubles the host of the Egyptians and takes off their chariot wheels (Ex 14:24,) the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them. (Ex 14:25)

A similar encounter between the Egyptians and the Lord happened 900 years later, in the time of Ezekiel and Jeremiah. When Nebuchadnezzar set siege to Jerusalem, the Egyptians incited the Israelis to resist, promising them military assistance. This was contrary to the word of the Lord through Jeremiah, who told the Israelis to submit themselves to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, for the Babylonian exile was fore-ordained by the Lord. The Egyptians were thus a stumbling block unto Judah, and for this the Lord visited them with another set of plagues that are described in the Book of Ezekiel.

In Ez. 29:3-6 the Lord says, “Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales. And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the Lord” The same words used in Exodus are used here.

  • Ez. 29:9 “And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ez. 30:8 “And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and when all her helpers shall be destroyed.”
  • Again and again we are told that the object of these plagues is to bring the Egyptians to the knowledge of the Lord.
  • Ez. 30:13,19 “Thus saith the Lord God; I will also destroy their idols, and I will cause their images to cease out of Noph; and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt. Thus will I execute judgments in Egypt: and they shall know that I am the Lord.”

Here it becomes more clear, I will destroy their idols and cause the images to cease, a strong indication of the conversion of the Egyptians from idol worship to the knowledge of the Lord.

  • Ez. 30:25 But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am the Lord.
  • Ez. 30:26 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the Lord.
  • Ez. 32:15 When I shall make the land of Egypt desolate, and the country shall be destitute of that whereof it was full, when I shall smite all them that dwell therein, then shall they know that I am the Lord.

What the Lord is telling Ezekiel here is this, when I have broken the idols of the Egyptians, not only their idols of stone, but also their idols of pride, of arrogance, of obstinacy, when I bring them down to their knees, only then will they know that I am the Lord.

The Book of Isaiah, summarizes for us the dealings of the Lord with the Egyptians in Is. 19:22 “And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.”

You see, the Egyptians needed to be smitten, in order to return to the Lord, and be healed by the lord. The smiting came in the time of Moses and in the time of Ezekiel, the healing came later, when in MAT 2:13, we are told that, “the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”

The coming of the Lord into the land of Egypt to seek refuge from the tyranny of Herod was the healing and the reconciliation that came after the smiting. Like a loving Father Who chastens and corrects then he reconciles and heals.

Isaiah prophesies about the coming of the lord into Egypt in Is. 19:1, “Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.”

Then in Is. 19:19-21, we are told about the beginning of the Church of Egypt: “In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it.”

The altar to the Lord in the Land of Egypt is not an Old Testament altar, for it was not lawful to have any altar except in Jerusalem, it is the spiritual altar of the New Testament. And the sacrifice and oblation mentioned are not Old Testament sacrifices, which could only be offered in Jerusalem, they are the bloodless sacrifice of the Eucharist.

The story has a very happy ending in Is. 19:25 where we are told that, “the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people.” Egypt becomes the only nation among the gentiles to be called “my people” by the Lord. And in return for the plagues Egypt receives a blessing from the Lord, “Blessed be Egypt my people.”



 
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