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Throughout the course of the Bible’s creation, which spans approximately 1,600 years, its history and prophecies are intertwined with multiple world powers. One such power, renowned for its pyramids and the Nile River, is Egypt. Egypt played a crucial role in the formation of the nation of Israel, and Moses, who is credited with writing the first five books of the Bible, was born and educated in this ancient land. Secular history and archaeology provide various examples that corroborate the accounts in the Bible related to Egypt.
The accuracy of the Bible’s historical accounts can be seen in its attention to detail, such as customs, etiquette, names, and titles of officials. For instance, the Genesis narrative concerning Joseph and the book of Exodus demonstrate a thorough understanding of the Egyptian language, culture, beliefs, court life, and officialdom. Moreover, the Bible writers utilized the appropriate titles and observed the proper court etiquette of the time.
The Bible’s account of the Israelites’ enslavement in Egypt includes their labor of brickmaking, using clay and straw as binding material. This aligns with historical evidence, as sun-dried bricks were, and still are, the primary building material in Egypt. Furthermore, the use of straw in brickmaking is a documented Egyptian practice, providing additional support for the Bible’s narrative.
Another cultural detail mentioned in the Bible is the practice of shaving. While Hebrew men typically had beards, the Bible recounts that Joseph shaved before appearing before Pharaoh to adhere to Egyptian customs, which considered facial hair unclean. This fact has been substantiated through archaeological findings of cosmetic sets containing razors, tweezers, and mirrors.
The Bible also offers specific details about business enterprises, such as King Solomon’s trade in horses and chariots with the Egyptians and Hittites. These accounts are consistent with historical evidence and the exchange rates documented during Solomon’s reign. Additionally, the Bible records the invasion of Judah by Pharaoh Shishak, which has been confirmed through the discovery of a relief on the wall of an Egyptian temple at Karnak.
Bible writers, aware of their responsibility to God, presented truthful accounts, even when the facts portrayed were not favorable. This contrasts with the often embellished records of ancient Egyptian scribes. The prophecies found within the Bible are also trustworthy, as only God can predict the future with certainty. For example, the Bible accurately prophesied the fates of the Egyptian cities Memphis and Thebes.
One of the earliest prophecies in the Bible, written during the time of the Egyptian world power, foretells the coming of a “seed” or offspring who would defeat Satan and his followers. This “seed” is ultimately revealed to be Jesus Christ, the Messiah. With his reign encompassing the entire earth, Christ will remove all wickedness and oppressive governments, ensuring that no one will suffer at the hands of others.
This hope is further solidified by another prophecy from the time of ancient Egypt, which promises that God will deliver humanity from the grave through resurrection. Many millions who have died will be raised to life, with the opportunity to live forever in a paradise on earth. As Revelation 21:3-4 states, “The tent of God is with mankind,” and there will be no more death, mourning, or pain.
The theme of trustworthy history and prophecy will continue in the following articles of this series, which will explore other world powers connected to the Bible, beginning with ancient Assyria, the successor to Egypt.
In 1896, archaeologists discovered a significant artifact in an Egyptian funerary temple, now known as the Merneptah Stela. This black granite pillar celebrates the accomplishments of Egyptian King Merneptah, who is thought to have ruled in the late 13th century B.C.E. Among the inscriptions on the stela is a hymn that includes the phrase: “Israel is laid waste, his seed is no more.” This statement represents the sole reference to Israel in ancient Egyptian texts and the earliest mention outside the Bible.
The creation of the stela coincides with the Biblical period of the Judges, a time chronicled in the Bible’s book of Judges. In contrast to the self-praising records of the pharaohs, the book of Judges provides an honest account of Israel’s successes and failures. Regarding the nation’s shortcomings, Judges 2:11-12 asserts, “And the sons of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals [Canaanite gods]; and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the peoples that were round about them, and bowed themselves down unto them: and they provoked the Lord to anger.” This forthrightness is a characteristic feature of the entire Bible.
The Hyksos Period
The Hyksos Period, an era in Egyptian history, is often associated with Joseph’s arrival in Egypt and his family’s subsequent settlement there. However, this period remains obscure and not well-understood. Scholars have differing opinions on the extent and duration of the Hyksos rule, with some attributing it to the Thirteenth through Seventeenth Dynasties for 200 years, while others limit it to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties for a century or a century and a half. The term “Hyksos” has been interpreted in various ways, such as “Shepherd Kings” or “Rulers of Foreign Countries,” and their origin remains a subject of debate among scholars.
The nature of the Hyksos’ conquest of Egypt is also a matter of speculation. Some researchers envision it as an invasion by northern forces that swept through Palestine and Egypt, while others see it as a gradual infiltration of nomads or semi-nomads who took control of the country incrementally or through a swift coup d’état. Recent scholarship suggests that the Hyksos rulers were not a conquering horde of Asiatics, but rather wandering Semitic groups that had long come to Egypt for trade and peaceful purposes. However, this theory does not fully explain how these wandering groups could have taken control of Egypt.
Historical accounts of the Hyksos are scarce and often unreliable. Ancient writer Manetho’s account, cited by Josephus in his work Against Apion, is one such example. Josephus claims that Manetho’s account directly links the Hyksos with the Israelites, but he disputes many of the details in the narrative. Manetho’s account, if accurately preserved by Josephus, might represent a distorted tradition that developed from earlier Egyptian attempts to rationalize the events that took place during the Israelite sojourn in Egypt.
The Hyksos period has been considered by some scholars as potentially aligning with the Israelite Exodus, but chronology and other factors render this hypothesis untenable. The divine providence behind Joseph’s rise to power and the benefits it brought to Israel negate the need for an alternative explanation involving friendly “Shepherd Kings.”
The historical records of Egypt were closely tied to the priesthood and often served propagandistic purposes. It is possible that Manetho’s account, which emerged more than a thousand years after the Exodus, represents the distorted traditions passed down by successive generations of Egyptians to explain the biblical account of Israel in Egypt. This would be in line with the tendency for historical narratives in the region to be manipulated in order to present the oppressors as the oppressed and the innocent victims as dangerous aggressors.
Other Biblical Archaeological Finds in Egypt
Rosetta Stone: Discovered in 1799, the Rosetta Stone is an inscribed slab that helped scholars decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. By enabling the translation of Egyptian texts, the Rosetta Stone has facilitated a better understanding of the biblical world and its historical context.
The Brooklyn Papyrus: This ancient Egyptian papyrus, dating to around 1800 B.C.E., contains a list of slaves, some of whom are identified as Hebrews. This document provides evidence for the presence of Hebrew people in Egypt before the Exodus described in the Bible.
The Amarna Letters: A collection of clay tablets found in the ancient city of Amarna, dating back to the 14th century B.C.E., contain correspondence between Egyptian rulers and their counterparts in the region, including rulers of Canaanite cities. These letters provide valuable information about the political and social climate during the time of the Israelites’ entrance into Canaan.
The Beni Hasan Tomb: Located in an Egyptian cemetery, this tomb dates back to the early 2nd millennium B.C.E. and features a wall painting depicting a group of people called the “Aamu,” believed to be Semitic travelers or traders. The scene highlights the interactions between Egypt and the surrounding regions during the time of the biblical patriarchs.
The Tale of Sinuhe: This ancient Egyptian text, dating back to around 1800 B.C.E., narrates the story of an Egyptian official named Sinuhe, who fled Egypt and found refuge in Canaan. This story shares similarities with the biblical account of Joseph, providing insights into the cultural and social interactions between Egypt and Canaan during the time of the patriarchs.
These archaeological discoveries, among others, have contributed to a deeper understanding of the biblical narrative and the historical context in which the events took place.