Egypt is a much-mentioned Bible country. From Genesis to Jude, Egypt is mentioned in 32 books of the Bible, 27 books in the Old Testament and five in the New Testament. Although it is generally referred to as a Middle East country, Egypt is actually an African country. It is included in this commentary because of its great historical and prophetic prominence.
The fabled land of Egypt is one of the world’s oldest civilizations with its famed pyramids, Sphinx, the Temple at Karnak and the Valley of the Gods. The Nile—the world’s second largest river—is its fluid bloodstream.
Following World War I, the British had control of Egypt. But, by 1923, Egypt was basically a new modern country, finally getting full freedom in 1956. As with other Middle Eastern countries, Egypt is like a budding tree in modern times, perhaps the budding concurrent with Israel’s budding fig tree (Luke 21:29).
Egyptian culture is exceedingly old. It reaches back at least 3,200 years before Christ when the civilizations of Upper and Lower Egypt joined together to form a united Egypt. A series of some 30 dynasties ruled the country. The third dynasty gave us the Pyramids, which are actually huge tombs. It was about the time of the 18th to 20th dynasties that the Israelites left Egypt.
Egyptians practiced a pagan religion. They worshipped multiple gods until one ruler made them monotheistic, although still pagan. They honored animals and the Sun and made elaborate plans to go from this life into the next. Untold millions of dollars worth of accompanying items were entombed with the Pharaohs to assist them in a happy afterlife. If the Pharaoh was happy, all the people would be happy.
Egypt was home to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world. One was the great lighthouse off Alexandria and the other is the Great Pyramid. The pyramids west of the Nile are at the north end of a 60 mile-long graveyard. The Egyptians were preoccupied with death. Rulers spent most of their lives preparing for the afterlife by building huge structures. The largest of these is the Great Pyramid at Giza not too far from Cairo.
The Great Pyramid is the largest single structure in the world. It covers 13 acres and stands 486 feet high and 755 feet wide on each side. It was built with 2,000,000 stones averaging 5,000 pounds each. It was surfaced with bright stone, which is now mostly gone. It has a huge chamber inside that led to the burial spot of the Pharaoh. The room was ingeniously blocked when a person who sacrificed his own life tripped an enormous stone. It is the world’s largest tomb. Contrast that with the Empty Tomb near Calvary. The former is one of incredible gloom and spiritual darkness; the latter is one of triumph and glory.
In a further contrast, the ancient Egyptians thought the scarab was an emblem of eternal life. It is actually a dung beetle so named because it rolls dung to feed its young. A snake adorned the headdresses of many pharaohs. This is an example of what Paul said in Romans 1:23. They “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”
Biblical Egypt is first mentioned when Abraham, then called Abram, went there in time of famine (Gen. 12:10). He lied about his marriage to Sarah, who was so beautiful that he thought the Pharaoh would kill him and take her as his wife. Despite Abraham’s lie, Sarah wound up in Pharaoh’s house, but God rescued Abraham, and the Pharaoh sent them out. Abraham must have been quite far south at the time since the capitol of Egypt was then in Memphis, which is a bit south of modern Cairo and likely west of the Nile River.
The land covenant God made with Abraham went from the northern border of Egypt, known as the River of Egypt, in the present Rapha area up to the Euphrates River (Gen. 12:18). When Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar, an Egyptian, she took a wife for the boy out of Egypt (Gen. 21:21).
Beginning in Genesis 37:28 and continuing through the rest of book and into Exodus, we find the story of Joseph and the children of Israel in Egypt. Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery. His father Jacob sent his remaining sons, except for Benjamin, down to Egypt in a time of famine. Joseph, who was by then second in command in Egypt, provided the family with food. After a family reunion, Jacob’s entire family moved down to Egypt at the Pharaoh’s invitation, and thus began the 400 hundred-year stay of the Israelites in Egypt.
Eventually, a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph became ruler, and the Israelites became slaves in terrible bondage. The 10 horrendous plagues pronounced by Moses ended with the slaying of all firstborn children in Egypt. The Israelites were spared by shedding a perfect lamb’s blood and applying it on the doorway and eating its flesh. This was the Passover when God’s destroying angel passed over them.
The Israelites left Egypt in the miraculous Exodus, but the Jews were not gone from Egypt forever. Jeroboam fled from Solomon to Egypt (I Kings 12), and some Jews at the time of the Babylonian captivity took tragic refuge there (Jeremiah 43). History records that Jews taken captive when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD were sold back into Egypt.
There is a positive side to the Jews in Egypt. The young child Jesus was quickly taken there from Bethlehem by Joseph and Mary (Matt. 2:13–19) to avoid King Herod’s wrath.
I believe God has a remarkable plan for Egypt in the end times because they gave refuge to Jacob’s family and the young Christ Child and also because they were the first Arab nation to recognize Israel. (President Anwar Sadat paid for that with his life when he was assassinated in 1981 because of it.) However, that blessing will eventually come only after horrendous judgements.
Two awesome sections in the Bible outline future troubles for Egypt in the end times. In Isaiah 19, we find the following awesome predictions: “I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians, city against city and kingdom against kingdom.” (verse 2). That is one verse for the basis of Luke 21:10 where Christ speaks of “ethnic group against ethnic group.” Then, in verse 4, “…a cruel lord and fierce king shall be set over them.” In verse 11, we read that the rulers’ advice is totally erroneous or, literally, stupid. Verses 5–9 speak of horrendous judgements upon the Nile River. The Nile dries up, the vegetation along the banks is badly damaged, fishermen are terribly upset, and the textile industry is tragically damaged.
However, Isaiah 19:16–25 outlines a sweeping and glorious national revival to come. It forecasts something never seen as yet: Israel, Egypt and Assyria (modern Syria and parts of Turkey and Iraq) will be a blessing in the midst of the earth!
There are another staggering couple of chapters that refer to Egypt in the end times. Ezekiel 29 & 30 is a passage every prophecy student needs to study. Ezekiel 29:4 & 5 speak of marine creatures in the Nile being judged with fish thrown into open fields to decompose. Egypt will be uninhabitable for 40 years. Egyptians will be scattered to finally return after 40 years (vs. 11-13). Ezekiel 30 continues the description. The phrase “the day of the Lord is near” (v. 3) usually refers to the Tribulation period.
Is there anything in our day to correspond to these prophecies? In a word, yes! It has to do with the Aswan Dam and huge Lake Nasser that was created behind it.
In an effort to move from being a “backward” nation into the modern world, then-president Abdul Nasser engaged the Russians to build the Aswan Dam for water control and to generate electricity. Evidently, he mortgaged the Egyptian cotton crop to Russia. Construction began in 1960 and was complete by 1970. Many Egyptians were displaced and had to be relocated when Lake Nasser flooded the area.
Unfortunately, the Aswan Dam has all but wrecked Egypt. There is no more annual flood, which means there is no more free fertilizer. When the Nile flooded its banks each year, it would leave behind silt that enriched the soil. Now, fertilizer has to be imported at great expense. Since Egypt has no rainfall, the salinity level in the soil, which was formerly washed away by the flooding Nile, is increasing, and valuable cropland is going out of production.
Without the annual flooding, rodents thrive, and disease is a problem. Without the silt that would come from upstream, the river now flows faster, thus eroding bridge foundations. Because of evaporation in Lake Nasser, there is less water for irrigation. Porous rock absorbs water and moves it down to historical sites such as the Sphinx, damaging them. The differential in the flow of the Nile has changed the wave patterns in the Mediterranean, which are eroding delta farmland and damaging the shrimp and sardine harvest.
Some say that Lake Nassar may become a huge swamp with all the built-up silt that no longer is deposited on the river banks below the lake. Some have suggested that the Aswan Dam will one day give out because of pressure from the silt behind it. Others have even suggested blowing up the dam and returning to the former annual flooding and free fertilizer.
Ezekiel 30:8 says that the Lord will set “a fire in Egypt.” If that fire is a nuclear attack on the dam, a flood of radioactive waters would surge down the Nile Valley and surrounding countries, throwing dead fish up on land and making the land uninhabitable, perhaps for 40 years. With global nuclear fears growing, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Only a clean-up by God Himself going into the Millenium would restore the land.
Isaiah foretells a time when Israel, Egypt and Assyria will all worship the Lord. It no doubt refers to what the song says of Jesus reigning in Jerusalem after the seven-year Tribulation. As the hymn says, “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun/Does his successive journeys run,/His kingdom stretch from shore to shore/Till moons shall wax and wane no more.”
If the developments in Egypt are even a small part of the end-time forecasts of Isaiah and Ezekiel, then we are truly rushing closer to the return of Jesus Christ for His redeemed Church. God may use some other means to accomplish those Egyptian prophecies, but we now have actual or potential technologies to do it. We are indeed late in prophetic time. It is high time to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and, having found Him, to serve Him.