Egypt [Heb: Misraim (dual) or Misor (singular)] was a nation bordering the land of Canaan. It is most notable for being the nation that enslaved the Hebrews (the people group who would become the independent nation of Israel) for centuries and was the birthplace of of Moses.
Asides from this, this the nation where Joseph was sent as slave only to later become its Prime Minister; and the nation where Jesus, his father, and mother hid while Herod the Great posed a threat to their safety.
The two names for the nation, Misor and Misraim, are derived from the root word Tsuwr <tsoor>, meaning to enclose or make secure. The place name "Mitsur" indicates a secured location. Of the sons of Ham, those who went the furthest from Babel were just called Misraim. It is unknown how they derived the name.
However, stories of the flood may have influenced the first settlers of the Nile valley as floods filled the plains they first found there. Building cities would have required structures that would stand periodic flooding. These "misraim" seem to have evolved into the name they gave their land. The dual form most likely comes from the historic two regions being united under the founders.
Egypt was founded by the Mizraim, descendants of Ham. This is all that is known from Scripture. By the time that the lists were written tribal or national groups were put in place of those who came before. After Babel, the sons of Ham made their way west, but when Aram and his sons had claimed the banks of the Euphrates in the north, the Hamites turned south.
As the Canaanites began to settle the eastern coast of the Great Sea, it seems they forced the Cushites and progenitors of the Misraim across the desert to the banks of a river that formed a fertile delta on the southern coast. It seemed that having been forced out of Canaan had been a blessing in disguise. In time they would follow the river -- later named the Nile -- south towards its headwaters deeper into eastern Africa.
The nation is seen as a great regional power in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This was a period stretching for about 400 years (from Abram at 75 years old to the death of Jacob in Egypt. When Abram entered Egypt with Sarai to escape a famine in Canaan, they picked up a slave girl named Hagar, to whom Abram's firstborn son Ishmael would be born,
Famine would arise in Canaan again in the days of Isaac, Abraham's son by Sarah, who had become married to Rebekah. Unlike his father, Isaac did not visit Egypt, having been warned by God against going there. However, years later, his son Jacob would follow his son Joseph into Egypt, where the younger man had become prime minister. The extended family of over 70 people settled in the province of Goshen in the delta of the Nile. Life was good until a new dynasty arose, The tribe had grown considerably and was subjugated into slavery by the new regime.
Another leader of Egypt arose from among the tribes composed of Jacob's twelve sons. Rather than rising through slavery as an adult, young Moses became the adopted son of the Pharaoh's daughter. Groomed to lead, Moses rebelled when he saw the cruel treatment of the Hebrew slaves from which he had come. It would be 40 years before he would return to Egypt. As the spokesman of God Moses called down awful plagues upon all of Egypt (though Goshen was spared). Eventually the Egyptians, not being able to handle any more plagues allowed Israel to leave.
In the vast desert south of the united kingdom of Israel, the Amalekites, whose land bordered Egypt, apparently had dealing, perhaps even border skirmishes, with the Egyptians. At any rate, the commander of the Amalekites had an Egyptian slave who he had left for dead in the desert. This turn of events turned out to be the turning point in David's battle against Israel's enemies.
It would be years later, after peace had come to all of Israel, that Solomon would make a treaty with Egypt, taking for his wife one of the Pharaoh's daughters. Though known for its educated elite philosophers, Egypt had nothing on Israel's philosopher king, Solomon. All of the days of Solomon, Egypt served as a refuge to his enemies, but kept up a cordial relation with the king as well. It was not until the days of Rehoboam, that Pharaoh Shishak sent his troops against the now much smaller southern kingdom, Judah. As a result, Egypt at long last recouped the loss of wealth it had sustained in the panic to get rid of the curse Yahweh had brought upon their land.
With the rise of Assyria as a world power, Egypt would use the land of Israel as a battleground in hopes of saving itself from being overran. Josiah, king of Judah, went into battle on behalf of his fellow Hebrews in the northern kingdom only to be killed in the process. His heir, Jehoahaz, was replaced by another of his sons, Eliakim, and Judah became a vassal state under the rule of Egypt. Jehoahaz would be taken hostage to assure Judah's subordination. The young prince would die there. The sacking of the temple in Jerusalem would not go unpunished, though, as Assyria would be used by God to subjugate Egypt. Isaiah even went down into Egypt to boldly act out that land's fate, walking naked in their streets..
Years later, when the Babylonians had finally had enough of their vassal state of Judah (they had taken it from Egypt), the prophet Jeremiah would warn the king and his advisers to surrender and live. But the kings was stubborn, and many died in the fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah, though, was kidnapped and brought down to Egypt, where he would die years later. Running to Egypt, though, did not save the conspirators in the end, for Babylon did not stop in Judah.
After defeating Babylon, the Greek empire would spread south, bringing Greek culture to the ancient land. Egypt would then become a Roman province with ties to the Judean vassal state in its king Herod the great. This connection made it convenient place to escape from the cruel kings schemes in 1 BC as Joseph, with his wife Mary and the child Jesus, fled. The young family found many Jews living in such towns as Alexandria, a remnant of Greek occupation.
Despite the large Jewish population, many who became Christians, Egypt would continue to be a symbol of the world apart from God. It would be used along with Sodom as a symbolic name for what had become a decadent religion of Judaism in the latter days of the first century AD.
- ↑ Genesis 10:6 (Link)
- ↑ Genesis 12:10-13:1; 16:1-15 (Link)
- ↑ Genesis 26:2 (Link)
- ↑ Genesis 41:41-44 (Link)
- ↑ Genesis 46:27 (Link)
- ↑ Exodus 1:8; 2:23 (Link)
- ↑ Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:21-22; Hebrews 11:23-24 (Link)
- ↑ Genesis 2:11-15; Acts 7:23-29 (Link)
- ↑ 1 Samuel 30:13-17 (Link)
- ↑ 1 Kings 3:1 (Link)
- ↑ 1 Kings 4:30 (Link)
- ↑ 2 Chronicles 12:9 (Link)
- ↑ 2 Kings 23:29 (Link)
- ↑ 2 Kings 23:34 (Link)
- ↑ Isaiah 20:2-3 (Link)
- ↑ Jeremiah 43:6-7 (Link)
- ↑ Matthew 2:7-13 (Link)
- ↑ Revelation 11:8 (Link)