Egypt and the Bible -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 17:3 (Summer 2004)
Article: Egypt and the Bible
Author: Gary A. Byers


Egypt and the Bible

Gary A. Byers

The Land

The land known today as Egypt has remained a remarkable constant through the millennia in Africa’s northeast corner. The modern name “Egypt” is Greek (Aigyptos), originating in the hieroglyphic hi-kuptah, “palace of the ka (soul) of (the god) Ptah.” Called Misr in Arabic today, it was Misrayim (Hebrew) in the Old Testament. Mentioned among the world’s initial 70 nations in the Table of Nations of Genesis 10, Misrayim was listed with the sons of Ham who settled Africa. Misrayim, dual of Misr, seemingly reflects the dual nature of ancient Egypt.

Egyptians called their country the “Two Lands,” considering the Nile Valley as Upper (southern) Egypt and the delta as Lower (northern) Egypt. Each was symbolized by a plant native to their region: the lotus (water lily) in Upper Egypt and the papyrus in Lower Egypt.

They also referred to their country as the “Black Land” (kemet), alluding to the inhabited river valley and delta. That was opposed to the “Red Land” (deshret), the desert—the Arabian Desert to the east and the Libyan Desert to the west.

The River

Throughout history, Egyptians lived almost exclusively in the Nile River Valley and its expanded delta. Only ten percent of Egypt’s surface, it has supported 99 percent of the nation’s population from earliest times. Because the region receives minimal rain, the Nile’s annual flood has been critical for Egypt’s continuance.

Broad sail feluccas on the Nile at Luxor in Upper (south) Egypt. The current carries a ship down the Nile (north) to the delta, and a strong daily southerly wind enables sailing vessels to navigate back up the Nile (south). Understood very early in antiquity, sailing on the Nile was known as far back as the Old Kingdom.

Pharaohs generally constructed their tombs on the Nile’s western bank. In the north, during the Old Kingdom, royalty and nobility constructed pyramids in the desert sands. Pictured are the Pyramids on the Giza Plateau, the oldest and only remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Constructed long before the Israelites entered Egypt at the place where the Nile breaks into the delta, it is very likely that many of the Bible’s most important characters saw them; including Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah and even baby Je...

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