Egypt – Israel’s Friend or Foe?
For reasons not fully known to us, and in an unprecedented move to seek a solution to the Mid-East unrest, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt has broken from the league of Arab nations. He has made a daring trip to Israel, which ignited the Arab world and initiated peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt. His visit to Israel was a tacit acknowledgment of the Jewish state’s existence – an acknowledgment which no other Arab state has made in the twenty-nine year history of the modern state of Israel. Basic to any agreement is the insistence that Israel return occupied lands to the Arabs. Despite Sadat’s psychological breakthrough, the road to peace is still hazardous and difficult.
Many of God’s people are asking questions – “Are we seeing prophecy fulfilled?” and if so, “Where do these events fit into God’s prophetic program?” What do the Scriptures have to say concerning the relationship between Egypt and Israel, historically and prophetically?
There are three extended passages relating to this subject, part of which were fulfilled centuries ago and some which are yet to be fulfilled. These three passages, Isaiah 13-23, Jeremiah 46-51 and Ezekiel 25-32, contain 680 verses. Of these verses, approximately 250 are of prophecies which were unfulfilled at the time the inspired writers penned the Scriptures. There are many other isolated passages which deal with Egypt.
Yet, with all this information, these Scriptures have been generally ignored by Bible scholars. Few have written on the future of Egypt in Bible prophecy.
The late Dr. Wilbur M. Smith wrote, “In two massive bibliographies on ancient Egypt available in the New York Public Library, over sixteen thousand volumes are listed, many of them relating to Egypt and the Bible, yet there is not a single reference either to articles in periodicals, or to books, to biblical prophecies about Egypt.”
Egypt’s Generosity To Israel
Soon after God called Abram to Canaan, there was a famine in the land. Accordingly, Abram had to go down to Egypt to find food (Gen. 12:10). Fearing for his safety because of Sarai’s beauty, he told the Egyptians that his wife was his sister.
Pharaoh “entreated Abram well for her sake” (Gen. 12:16). They were cared for and had sheep, oxen, asses, menservants, maidservants, she asses and camels. Pharaoh dealt kindly with Abram and his needs were more than met by the Egyptians. It was only after God sent plagues to Pharaoh’s house because of his interest in Sarai that the Egyptians sent them away. Egypt thus treated the father of the Jewish race fairly in this encounter.
Joseph, sold into slavery, was treated kindly when he was carried down to Egypt. As the Lord prospered Joseph, he was given a place of honor by the Egyptians on two occasions. He was made the overseer of Potiphar’s house until falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. Again he was raised up by the Lord to be second in the land to Pharaoh. The Lord used the kindness of Egypt to bless the children of Jacob and protect them for many years.
To protect the child Jesus from the vicious attacks made against the male children of the Jews by Herod, Joseph was directed by the angelic messenger to go down into Egypt. We have no record of Joseph, Mary and the Child being mistreated during their sojourn in Egypt. As far as we know, Egypt dealt kindly with the family.
Egypt’s Clashes With Israel
Years after the death of Joseph, the children of Israel grew and prospered much, and the new dynasty of Pharaohs felt the Jewish people had become a threat to them. To stop this threat, the children of Israel were enslaved, and their male children were to be killed at birth.
Within five years after the death of Solomon, Shishak, the king of Egypt, came against Rehoboam because he felt the small kingdom of Judah was weak after the split with the larger northern kingdom. Shishak won many battles and succeeded in removing all the treasures from the temple. But, according to 2 Chronicles 12:5-8, when Rehoboam was restored to fellowship with the Lord, the wrath of God was removed and Egypt was no longer a threat to Israel.
The foolish act of Josiah, a godly king who went out to fight Pharaoh-neco of Egypt, is recorded in 2 Kings 23:29-30 and 2 Chronicles 35:20-24. Pharaoh-neco was in a campaign against Assyria, and Josiah tried to intervene. The Egyptians pleaded with Josiah not to get involved, but he refused to listen and was killed in battle.
From an historical perspective, there were times when Egypt was a friend and times when she was a foe to the nation Israel. As we ponder the moves of President Anwar Sadat, we cannot be sure into which category the present events will fall.
Present Spiritual Condition Of Egypt
Darkness prevails over the nation of Egypt as far as the gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned. Though there were many good missionary works during the nineteenth century, today the government of Egypt forbids anyone declaring his intention of preaching the gospel to come and live in the land. Islam is more fervent than ever before. There is limited witness for the Lord in Egypt.
Future Spiritual Condition Of Egypt
In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction. In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border of it to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a savior, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it. And the Lord shall smite Egypt; he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be entreated by them, and shall heal them. In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance. (Isaiah 19:18-25)
This passage addresses Egypt’s future spiritual awakening. We can draw five conclusions from these verses:
- There will be an altar in Egypt to the Lord.
- The Egyptians will know the Lord and be known of Him.
- The Lord will heal Egypt.
- Israel, Assyria and Egypt will be bound together.
- God calls the people of Egypt His people.
This speaks of a day of redemption, still future, for Egypt.
Future Problems Egypt Must Face Before Her Spiritual Awakening
The Scriptures point out clearly that before Egypt knows the redemption spoke of above, she must go through some very troublous times. In Daniel 11 it is recorded that the anti-Christ will move against a number of nations, one of whom specifically is Egypt. Daniel 11:42-43 points out that anti-Christ will invade Egypt and completely control her economically. In light of the present Middle-East lineup of nations, it is interesting to note that some Bible scholars believe the anti-Christ will come from that part of the Roman Empire which is today known as Syria, and which is at the time of this writing in vehement opposition to Egypt.
The 11th chapter of Isaiah speaks of a time when “the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea” (verse 15). Many feel this speaks of the destruction of the Suez Canal, which is on the western tongue of the Red Sea (the Gulf of Suez) and which would have worldwide effect on shipping, including oil.
Tying all these things together with Isaiah 19:20, it would appear that when Egypt is finally brought totally to her knees, she will cry out to the Lord who, in grace, will deliver her and save her people.
We are seeing some very remarkable things happening with regard to Egypt in biblical prophecy.
First, she was a nation under foreign control for many centuries, and thus she could not fulfill the prophecies concerning her future. She had to become a sovereign state to fulfill prophetic truth. In our lifetime that has become a reality.
Second, she has been an enemy of Israel since the founding of the modern state in 1948, but in recent days she has become more conciliatory than other Arab states. Could this become a factor that would cause these nations to turn on Egypt and eventually bring her to her knees, thus fulfilling the biblical narrative?
Third, in 1974 Egypt broke ties with Russia, causing her to no longer receive the military aid which she so desperately needs. Could this also be part of the scenario that will cause her to suffer defeat at a later time?
Fourth, Egypt has broken with the Arab league, recognized Israel as a sovereign state, and is willing to have bilateral negotiations with her. At the time of this writing, Egypt stands alone among the Arab nations. No one knows where this will lead her.
Fifth, powerful nations are angered with Egypt’s present peace initiative. Could this be the beginning of the animosity which will develop during the tribulation period?
Perhaps we have raised more questions than we have answered, but clearly present events cast their shadow. Of this we can be certain, Egypt will be involved in the final affairs of this age. She will be a nation to be dealt with. It is impossible to categorically state exactly where the present situation fits into biblical prophecy; but once again we see the pieces of the puzzle of the nations slowly falling into place, one at a time, finally preparing the world for the second advent of Jesus Christ and His great Millennial reign. Then Egypt will be joined in a very close tie with Israel (Isaiah 19:24-25).
God is moving the nations like chessmen into place for the final countdown to human history. God is “still” on the throne and very active on the throne He’s still on.