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  430 years in Mizra´im
 God said to Jacob in Canaan:
"fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will THERE make of you a great nation." 
God's chosen place to grow the family of Abraham into a nation.






Genesis 46:3
Later in Canaan,
when offering the firstfruits to God,
every Israelite was to say:
"A wandering Aramean was my father [Jacob]. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there,
few in number, and THERE he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous."
Deuteronomy 26:5.
And so
Israel is instructed:
"You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land." Deuteronomy 23:7.
In the Bible,
the term for Egypt is Mizraim (descended from Ham son of Noah). This name is plural and literally means the 'two territories'.
This dual-territory idea (of its valley and its delta) has been a dominant feature of Egypt's life from its earliest times.
 
Understanding
this ancient nation's influence during Israel's formative period is very significant to a fuller understanding of Israel's beginnings and the foundations of her National Covenant with God established at Mount Sinai.
 
 
Egypt was in effect the 'womb' from which Israel was born in the Exodus event.
 
To extend
this metaphor, Israel's spiritual identity was 'conceived' in the faith of the three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel) and then, after the Exodus event, it was clothed with national covenant at Sinai. So this 430-year period in Egypt is Israel's gestation period (Ex.12:40-41; Gal.3:17).
 
It is presumptuous, as is often presumed, to think that this period was nothing more than a waiting time, a passive period that ended with the agony of an Egyptian servitude.
 
It is also illogical indeed to assume that this God-given background to Israel's forming from a family to a nation had not imparted some lasting influence on that young nation's early development.
 
The
origin of the Hebrew language itself, which Abraham and his family derived from the Canaanite, is shown in the Sinaitic inscriptions (with an alphabet of thirty signs) by Semitic nomads working in Egyptian controlled copper mines during the first half of the second millennium BC/BCE to bear a close resemblance to certain characters of the "Hebrew" alphabet as well as various forms of Egyptian hieroglyphs (Chomsky 1957:63).
 
So to
My Giza visit, August 2005
My Giza visit, Aug. 2005
understand this Egyptian factor in early Israel's experience, three things need to be born in mind:
1. 
God speaks inerrantly but always within the conceptual framework of His audience – for He speaks to be understood;
2. 
Any culture (Israel, for instance) will always tend to absorb from its environment (such as Egypt) into its own conceptual framework;
3. 
Common elements between cultures may also indicate a common source, as much as they may indicate borrowing, unless evidence indicates otherwise.
 

Remember then that
Ancient Egypt
was the dominant regional power during the nomadic life of all three of Israel's greatest Patriarchs;
was the refuge for the family of Jacob in the seven years of famine;
was the home of Israel for more than three hundred years before they became oppressed and eventually liberated in the Exodus event (Ex.12:41).
 
Some
evidence of this influence is found in ancient Israel's own
 
Language and Terms
 
An example
of this Ancient Egyptian influence within the textual fabric of the Bible is found in the very first chapter of Exodus.
 
The
Hebrew word used here for 'birthstool' (האבנים/haobhnayim) literally means 'the two stone tablets' (Exodus 1:16). These stone birth-blocks were an ancient Egyptian custom for use by a woman in labour. They were supports against which the woman pressed her feet, or crouched t, during the birth of her baby.
 
A
dominant culture commonly influences the terminology of a subordinate group, which Israel certainly was during its four centuries in Egypt.  Egyptian influence therefore, particularly of New Kingdom Egypt, can be found in the shared terms which are common to the Hebrew of the Bible and the language of these ancient Egyptians.
 
Ancient Egyptian 
 
 Biblical Hebrew
1
I
ánuk   ánuk אנכי
2
ark
tebah
 
tebah
תּבה
3
*sea
ym
 
ym
ים
4
river
ye'or
 
ye'or
יאר
5
to die
mwt
 
mwt
מוּת
6 fine linen shêsh   shêsh שׁשׁ
7
bulrushes
gm'
 
gm'
גּמא
8
magicians
hrtmm
 
hrtmm
חרטם
9
river reeds
ahu
 
ahu
אחוּ
10
 trained person
hnkh
 
hnkh
חניך
 
*A
significant exception here is the word for sea (yam), used in the New Kingdom era (Moses time) in ancient Egypt.
 
 
In the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script, the term 'ym' (sea), unlike most Egyptian words, is shown in syllabic orthography; that is, it is not an Egyptian word, it is a loan-word; it was imported. The word 'ym' is Semitic! It was therefore almost certainly borrowed from the renowned Semitic sailors of the ancient world, the Phoenicians. This is highly significant in understanding the Exodus event.
 
Yam Suph  
Phoenician loan-word
This foreign source of Egypt's use of their word 'ym' should therefore condition our understanding. This is also the 'ym' through which Moses led Israel in their Exodus from Egypt.
 
(But it has patently not conditioned understanding in the TEV or Good News Bible, some other translations, and the minds of many academics across the world).
Instead,
because the associated Hebrew word 'suph' may be translated as reeds, many scholars have jumped to the conclusion that it therefore means a fresh water lake or swamp, which eases them out of believing in a supernatural event. Unfortunately, this unscientific approach ignores its association with New Kingdom Egypt's actual use of 'ym' or 'yam'. 
 
 
Professional Phoenician mariners sailing ships in a muddy reed-filled fresh water swamp is really most unlikely!
As are Pharaoh's most elite charioteers drowning in a muddy creek.
 
In the
Bible's account, this same term, 'yam suph', is also used for the Gulf of Aqaba (an arm of the Red Sea). Many scholars have generally avoided finding reasons for this by treating it as a 'derived term' from this fresh-water lake-myth of their unscholarly Exodus event theory.
 
 
However, this term 'sûph' (סוּף) is adequately explained by the Red Sea's ample seaweed which fed the large herds of dugong* (sea cows) for centuries (Dugong still survive there today, though in greatly reduced numbers). It is far more likely then that this grazing distinctive gave its name to the Red Sea. (Sadly some scholars, ignoring the Egyptian use of 'yam', regard 'suph' as derived from the Hebrew 'sôph', meaning 'end', and so a sea at the 'end' or southern extremity of Palestine – a different method leading to a similar identification, but which still does not fit customary language use based on travel/trade experience,).
*Exodus 25:5 – 'תּחשׁ'/tachash, is sometimes translated as 'dolphin' or 'seal', but both the Literal Translation and Modern King James versions favour 'dugong'.
The Bible
itself then further confirms a Red Sea identification of yam suph (including its gulfs of Suez and Aqaba), by describing the dumping of the great locust plague from the whole length of Egypt  into 'yam suph' by a strong westerly wind, that is, into a sea to the east of the Nile valley (Exodus 10:13-19).
 
This incident also makes an eastern Delta identification/limitation of 'yam suph' an impossibility. (If we attach any credence to the Bible, and if not, why bother). Israel in Goshen was the only area free from the locusts and so excluded from the description of an eastward dumping of locusts into 'yam suph'. So the postulated east-delta-lake-theory was anything but 'yam suph'!
 
The
use of this same word in the book of Jonah should be the final clincher on this issue. Jonah the runaway prophet, between being thrown into the Mediterranean off his ship to Tarshish (region of modern Portugal), and being swallowed by the God-prepared 'great fish' (probably a whale), he describes his near fatal experience as –
"The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep (tehôm) surrounded me;
[sea not river] weeds (sûph) were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains."
Jonah 2:5-6.

Thus,
both linguistic and contextual evidences point to nothing less than an identification of 'yam suph' with the Red Sea and its gulfs.
 
 
It really seems ridiculous that serious scholars could ever have honestly thought that 'yam suph' referred to the muddy fresh water of an inland lake when the founding religious documents of a people who lived in that vicinity specify the supernatural crossing of this obstacle as the ultimate miracle which drowned the elite chariot corps of Egypt (super-power of the day) and initiated Israel's nationhood.
 
 
       And so, Moses exulted –
"The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Yam Suph."
Exodus 15:4.
It is much more believable that the prejudice of an anti-supernaturalist-bias really lies hidden behind a pretence at reasoned academic thought.
 
 
Another
example of this dynamic influence on language when cultures meet is found in Genesis 41:40 in the words of Pharaoh. As later recorded by Moses, Egypt's Pharaoh said to Joseph –
ועל פיך ישׁק כל עמי
Or 'we-al pikha yishshak kol ami', in which the word 'yishshak' is from the Hebrew word 'nâshaq' (to kiss).
Traditional
mistranslation
in Genesis 41:40.
 
So the Jewish Septuagint translators (more than a thousand-years later), in the time of Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy, translated the Hebrew word נשׁק (nâshaq) as 'mouth' for that word in the Hebrew had by then come to mean 'kiss' in their own time, as is later reflected in Mishnaic Hebrew from which modern Hebrew is derived.
 
So
most translations ever since then have clumsily given this word an idiomatic meaning as "all my people shall be obedient to thy word" (from to kiss in submission), except the Modern King James Version which gives it the more literal later Hebrew meaning as 'all my people shall kiss (the hand) at your word'.
Yet this literal later Hebrew meaning, in the words of Prof. William Chomsky, "makes no sense whatsoever" (1957:38).
 
But in
the ancient Egyptian language however, this same word meant 'to eat' (not 'kiss'), and in terms of the early relationship between these two languages, particularly in the time of Moses, this would then mean in the words of Pharaoh to Joseph –
"...according to your word all my people shall eat"
which makes much more sense in its own Biblical context.

See:
Restructured Genesis
Study Text
  Moses  
More
than any other individual, Moses illustrates the relevance to us today of understanding Israel's Egyptian background. Moses, the founder of Israel's nationhood, is described in the New Testament as being learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians at age 40 and powerful in speech and action (Acts 7:22). Within this context then we must understand his first direct encounter with God as an 80-year-old stutterer before a burning thorn bush in a desert that he had known for 40 years (Exodus 3:2-5).
 
 
Much time has been wasted trying to find explanations of how the bush could naturally catch fire or appear to burn, and almost none upon Moses' own perceptual framework of this event. His 40 years experience in New Kingdom Egyptian culture, and 40 years experience in desert phenomena with Jethro of Midian, must both be taken into account in understanding his experience of this burning bush call.
 
 
It is not coincidence that the early traditions of ancient Egypt (the great super-power of that day) describe their supreme god Ra or Re as first speaking to humanity from out of a fire burning in a tree (usually described as an Ished or Persea tree). Thus, it is within the context of Moses' own Egyptian background that the God of the Hebrew Patriarchs first presents Himself to this uniquely situated man. By so doing, God shows Himself to Moses, not merely as the Hebrew tribal god, but as the one Supreme God! The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one and only Supreme God!
Remember:
not without significance our Bible gives detail of the high priest of Ra in On, father-in-law to the great Joseph (Gen.41:45).
In Egyptian tradition a large Persea tree stood before the sacred pool of its temple to commemorate this first word.
 
Note, that in the earliest traditions of On, the city of Ra, the disk of the sun itself was not worshipped. (Worship of the sun was the heretical Atenism of Pharaoh Ikhnaton). The sun was seen as representing the Most High, the Source of all life, hence the pyramid form expressed His life-giving radiating rays; such as in Malachi (4:2) –
"for you who revere My name,
the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings
[literally – extensions/flaps, hence radiance]."

Some Shared Concepts
 
A Single Creator
 
 
In contrast to other Near Eastern cultures, the ancient Egyptians, in spite of regional differences in names, believed in a single Creator and source of divine power.
 
 
The Method of Creation
 
 
Again, in contrast, ancient Egyptians believed the act of creation was not a result of contest between gods, but in their Memphite theology it was believed that the Creator spoke creation into existence out of nothing.
 
 
Egyptian Circumcision
Gebel el-Arak ceremonial flint knife, Egyptian Gerzean-period
Ripple-flaked flint knife from about 3300 to 3200 BC with ivory handle of a hippopotamus canine tooth. Click for closeup of both sides of handle. (Musée du Louvre, Accession number E 11517)
 
Circumcision was invented by Neolithic (New Stone Age) Egyptians as the male-initiation to marriageable age. Probably with respect this early origin therefore, the ancient Egyptians always circumcised with a flint knife. In other words, it was already an old practice even before Abraham was born.
 
Circumcision was completely unknown in Abraham's own cultural background of Chaldea. God took an existing Egyptian custom and honoured it as the sign of His Abrahamic covenant with Israel concerning the land (Gen. 17:10-14). This Egyptian background is why Moses' own son is reluctantly circumcised (with a flint) by his angry Midianite wife (Ex.4:24-26).
 
For this reason also, God, in a bronze age setting, in limestone Palestine, specifically commands Joshua to make flint knives (a neolithic tool in a bronze age setting?) to circumcise all the men of Israel born in their desert migration (Joshua 5:2-3).
This
is a unique event in all Israel's history. Never before or after would the situation exist in which the whole nation would be circumcised together. Therefore this unusual command to make flint knives is specially significant. The finding of flint, followed by the skilled task of ripple-flaking to make sufficient knives, laid a special and apparently unnecessary difficulty on Israel when they had no lack of metal knives. Thus, in specifically commanding the use of flint, God honoured the neolithic origin of this rite in Egypt's beginnings.
 
It is interesting to note that, of the record which says Joshua was buried 'in Timnath-Serah which is in Mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash' (Joshua 24:30), in the Jewish Septuagint version of this text it gives a significant remark, which was omitted from the much later Jewish Massoretic text on which our modern translations are based:
 
'There they put with him into the tomb in which they buried him,
the knives of stone
[flint] with which he circumcised the Children of Israel in Gilgal.'
 
Sir Lancelot
Brenton's English Septuagint (1851) translation of Joshua 24:30 reads thus –
"And they buried him by the borders of his inheritance in Thamnasarach [Timnath-serah] in the mount of Ephraim, northward of the mount of Galaad [Gaash]: there they put with him into the tomb in which they buried him, the knives of stone with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Galgala [Gilgal], when he brought them out of Egypt,
as the Lord appointed them; and there they are to this day."
 
Ten
miles north-west of Bethel lies Kef'r Ishu'a, the 'Village of Joshua'. Professor Werner Keller in 'The Bible As History' on page 163 reports that the neighbouring hillside does indeed contain some rock tombs. In 1870, in one of the sepulchers on the north side of the hill, a large number of flint knives were found...
Joshua's flint knives?
 
A Portable Religious Shrine
 
 
Winged supernatural beings protectively flanking portable shrines of the deity are not unusual in ancient Egyptian religious illustrations, centuries before Moses' experience at Sinai. The remarkable similarity to the concept expressed in Israel's ark of the covenant is most unlikely to be coincidental.
 
 
The 24 Rulers of Day and Night
 
 
To Ancient Egypt, the day and the night were each divided into 12 hours, of varying length according to the season, each ruled by its spirit lord accountable to the Most High. Thus, the vision of the Most High flanked on each side by 12 godly Assessors would not have been open to the speculative thought which Christian history has laid on it. Heaven's court in the book of Revelation, or the heavenly thrones set up, before the Most High is seated (in Daniel 7), would have been understood in the ancient world in this light – God's jurisdiction over every hour of day and night.
 
 
Unfortunately, to exegetes who lack appreciation for the sovereignty of God in human history, the 24 Elders/Seniors of the book of Revelation have usually meant Israel's 12 Patriarchs and Christ's 12 Apostles, or somehow representatively the Old Testament and New Testament witness, or simply just the People of God in general (as our hymns sometimes celebrate). But, to an ancient view it would simply reinforce understanding that angelic thrones extend the rule of the Most High over every hour of the day and night.
 
 
Egypt's Skilled Craftsmanship
 
 
The skills of Israel's Bezaleel and Oholiab were specially enhanced by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, but they are described before this anointing as skilled craftsmen (Ex.31:4-5). Egypt is the place where these men learned their trade.
 
 
In addition, all the materials for the construction of every piece of the holy tabernacle of God, its equipment, and even uniforms of the priesthood, came from Egypt. It's quality bore the mark of the culture of that time. All our reading of the detail of this marvelous inspired construction should bear in mind its Egyptian cultural and technical background.
 
 
Its is for this reason that the Bible gives us no explanation of the origin of the two sacred stones kept in a pouch within the linen breast-piece of Israel's High Priest, the Urim and Thummim (Ex.28:30; Neh.7:65), through which God gave specific guidance to the people. Today we must be content with educated guesswork on their appearance.
 
Egyptian temple
        Some of the terms that appear in English bibles today concerning Egypt –
Egypt (the cultural womb of Israel) from Egyptian Hikuptah (hi-ku-Ptah, the name of Memphis, 1st capital of unified Egypt) meaning 'mansion of the ka, or soul, of Ptah', which became Aigyptos in the mouths of the Greeks.
Asenath (the wife of Joseph) from Egyptian Asnet meaning 'dedicated to the goddess Neith/Net' (a Delta/Goshen goddess).
Moses (the first leader of Israel) Moshe (Hebrew), Mose (Egyptian).
On (holy City of the Sun, the city of Joseph's father-in-law) – On (Hebrew), Annu/Iunu (Egyptian), Heliopolis (Greek), near which Israel's last Temple stood (Isaiah 19:19-21), which was shut down by the Romans in 73 AD/CE after 228 years of service.

  Final Thoughts  
 
THERE are elements within the ancient Egyptian culture that anticipate God's later revelation to Israel, just as the flood story in the Gilgamesh epic in the ancient Mesopotamian valley culture anticipated the Genesis record. Therefore, if the Bible's record of early humanity is to be believed, there were pre-Mosaic oral traditions linking these early cultures to the fountainhead of human beginnings which echoed from a common base of God's self revelation to all humanity.
 
 
IT is of particular interest to the history of salvation that God transfers the Patriarchal line of Israel's development from one great river valley civilization to another, from the Euphrates-Tigris to the Nile, from Mesopotamia to Egypt – for their development into a community capable of carrying the written revelation of God. Thus, God honoured Egypt.
 
Perhaps

God's demand for flint circumcision knives, in His command to Joshua on his entrance to Palestine; and,
God's choice of this uniquely Egyptian rite of passage as the central sign of His Covenant with Israel regarding Palestine;
indicates –
 
  a divine respect for a long forgotten moral perceptivity in Neolithic Egypt
which allowed its civilization to root and grow in a manner that the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia could not
 
And
as for Egypt itself? –
"For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him,
but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God
for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles...
Therefore God gave them up...
because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie
and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
who is blessed forever! Amen."

Romans 1:21-25.
      BIBLIOGRAPHY
Budge, E.A.Wallis 1969 The Book of the Dead (translation). London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Budge, E.A.Wallis 1977 The Dwellers on the Nile. New York, USA: Dover Publications.
Chomsky, William 1969 Hebrew: The Eternal Language. Philadelphia, USA: The Jewish Publication Society of America.
Collier, Mark, Manley, Bill 1998 How To Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs. London, UK: British Museum Press
Currid, John D. 1997 Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, USA: Baker Books House.
Janssen, Rosalind M. and Jac. J. 1990 Growing up in Ancient Egypt. London, UK: The Rubicon Press.
Lehner, Mark 1997 The Complete Pyramid. London, UK: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
Manniche, Lise 1989 An Ancient Egyptian Herbal. London, UK: British Museum Press
Parkinson, R.B. 1991 Voices from Ancient Egypt. London, UK: British Museum Press.
Pinch, Geraldine 1994 Magic in Ancient Egypt. London, UK: British Museum Press.
Putnam James,Pemberton Jeremy 1994 Amazing Facts About Ancient Egypt. London, UK: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
Quirke, Stephen and Spencer, Jeffrey 1992 The British Museum Book of Ancient Egypt. London, UK: British Museum Press.
Trigger, B.G., Kemp, B.J., O'connor, D., Lloyd, A.B.   1983 Ancient Egypt; A Social History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Watterson, Barbara  1991 Women in Ancient Egypt. New York, USA: St Martin's Press.
Wilkinson, J.Gardner 1994 The Ancient Egyptians (Vol.1). London, UK: (Senate) Studio Editions Ltd.
The pyramids at Giza looking toward Cairo, August 2005.
Photographed August 2005 with modern Cairo in the background. Over the centuries these pyramids have been pillaged as a source of building material for Cairo.

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