|Biblical Egypt||by R. David Pogge|
In the last chapter, we saw from 2 Kings 17 that Assyria conquered Israel while Ahaz was king of Judah. 2 Kings 16 tells why. Simply put, King Ahaz showed loyalty to Assyria by paying tribute and building altars to the Assyrian gods. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.
Egypt’s neighbor to the south was Nubia (present day Sudan). Throughout Egyptian history, the southern border moved up and down as a result of the relative strength of Egypt and Nubia. The 25th Dynasty began when Nubia conquered Egypt and installed a Nubian pharaoh on the throne. Naturally, the Egyptians were not happy to have a foreign ruler on the throne.
Assyria conquered the Kingdom of Israel and deported the Israelites, but left Ahaz on the throne of Judah because he faithfully paid tribute. Assyria continued moving south, and conquered Egypt—much to the delight of the Egyptians! Assyria ended the 25th Dynasty of the hated Nubians, and put someone from the Egyptian royal family (Psametik I) on the throne to begin the 26th Dynasty. Not only that, Assyria gave Egypt control of an area corresponding to modern Egypt, Suez, and the Gaza Strip.
The situation was similar to what happened near the end of World War II. British and American solders “conquered” France—but from the French point of view we “liberated” them from Nazi Germany. When Assyria conquered Egypt, the Egyptians saw it as liberation. As a result Egypt became Assyria’s faithful ally.
Things were looking up for Egypt—but not Assyria. Shortly thereafter there began a period of turmoil and civil war in Assyria. This opened the door for Nabopolassar to start to expand the Babylonian Empire. In 612 BC the Assyrian capital, Ninevah, fell (in accordance with prophecy Naham had made 28 years earlier).1
In 609 BC, Necho II, the second pharaoh in the 26th Dynasty marched north to help Assyria fight the Babylonians at Carchemish; but Josiah, King of Judah, tried to stop him.
After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Necho king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah marched out to meet him in battle. But Necho sent messengers to him, saying, “What quarrel is there, king of Judah, between you and me? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or He will destroy you.”
Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.
Archers shot King Josiah, and he told his officers, “Take me away; I am badly wounded.” So they took him out of his chariot, put him in his other chariot and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. He was buried in the tombs of his ancestors, and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him. 2
Despite Necho’s assurances that the Egyptian army was merely going to march past Judah, Josiah didn’t believe Necho and fought the Egyptians. This was disastrous for Judah for two reasons.
First, Josiah was killed in battle. 3 Josiah was one of the few good kings of Judah. Because of Judah’s reforms, God had promised not to destroy Judah in Josiah’s lifetime. 4 With Josiah dead, that promise of protection vanished. Furthermore good king Josiah was succeeded by Jehoahaz, who was so bad that Necho removed him from the throne after just three months and took him captive to Egypt. 5 Jehoahaz was followed by three other bad kings of Judah.
Second, because Necho was delayed in coming to Assyria’s defense, Babylon defeated Assyria and became the new superpower. Babylon did what Assyria did not do—it conquered Judah and the part of the Holy Land which Assyria had given to Egypt. We could speculate about whether or not Babylon could have defeated Assyria if Josiah had not prevented Egypt from helping Assyria—but that would just be speculation. The prophets tell us that it was God’s plan for Babylon to capture Judah, so it would have happened anyway. Josiah’s battle with Egypt apparently was the way that God gave Judah into Babylon’s hand.
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Footnotes:1 The whole book of Nahum (three short chapters) is a prophecy against Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. I recommend reading it in the New International Version instead of the King James Version because the NIV uses modern names for places. If you don’t know the ancient names used by the KJV, it won’t make much sense to you.