Biblical Egypt by R. David Pogge

Chapter 16

Egypt in Prophecy - Part 2

Jeremiah's Prophecies

Section 16.1 - Pharaoh Necho

Necho was the second pharaoh of the 26th Dynasty. His name is spelled “Nekau” in some literature, and he is also known as Wahemibre.

This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations:

Concerning Egypt:

This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:

The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh.  I will give them into the hands of those who want to kill them—Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Later, however, Egypt will be inhabited as in times past,” declares the Lord. 1

In the next chapter we will see that Daniel predicted that after Babylon had captured the entire Middle East, Babylon’s conquered territory (including Egypt) would be taken by the Medes (and Persians). Jeremiah predicted the same thing.

“Sharpen the arrows, take up the shields! The Lord has stirred up the kings of the Medes, because his purpose is to destroy Babylon. The Lord will take vengeance, vengeance for his temple. 2

This prophecy came true about 75 years later when the Persians conquered Egypt and started the 27th dynasty, making Egypt part of the Medo-Persian empire.

Section 16.2 - A Bad Place to Flee

In Section 14.2 we said that Jews thought Egypt was “A Good Place to Flee.” Sometimes it was. After the fall of Jerusalem, Gedaliah was appointed by the Babylonians to govern Judea, but Ishmael assassinated him. As a result, he and his co-conspirators fled to Egypt.

And they went on, stopping at Geruth Kimham near Bethlehem on their way to Egypt  to escape the Babylonians. They were afraid of them because Ishmael son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor over the land. 3

The Bible doesn’t say if Egypt was a safe refuge for them, or not; but the Bible does say that fleeing to Egypt didn’t work for Uriah.

Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did.  When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king was determined to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt.  King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Akbor to Egypt, along with some other men.  They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people. 4

Section 16.3 - Don’t Trust in Egypt

In Chapter 15 we saw that Ezekiel warned the Jews about trusting in Egypt instead of God. Large sections of the Book of Jeremiah say the same thing. Here are four representative samples.

Now why go to Egypt to drink water from the Nile? And why go to Assyria to drink water from the Euphrates? Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. 5

But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’ Why do you go about so much, changing your ways? You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria. You will also leave that place with your hands on your head, for the Lord has rejected those you trust; you will not be helped by them. 6

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” 7

This is what the Lord says: ‘I am going to deliver Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hands of his enemies who want to kill him, just as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who wanted to kill him.’” 8

Most people don’t know which pharaoh Hophra was.

Section 16.4 - Hophra’s Four Names

The fourth pharaoh of the 26th Dynasty is called Wahibre by many modern Egyptologists. But he is also sometimes referred to as Haaibre by other scholars. Presumably this is because of a difference of opinion about how to pronounce hieroglyphics. Ancient Greek historians called him Apries, so that is what he is often called in scholarly literature, and is the name you are most likely to recognize. The Jews called him Hophra. Since I have to pick one of those four names, and since this is a book about Biblical Egypt, I call him Hophra.

Section 16.5 - Babylon vs. Egypt

The Jews were depending upon Egypt to protect them from Babylon. Jeremiah warned them not to even when it appeared that Hophra was about to come to the rescue.

Pharaoh’s army had marched out of Egypt, and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet:  “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of me, ‘Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt.  Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’ 9

Although Jeremiah’s prediction was contrary to conventional wisdom, students of history can tell you that is exactly what happened. Hophra took his army back home, and Babylon conquered Jerusalem.

Section 16.6 - No Safety in Egypt

It was God’s will that the Jews should submit to Babylonian captivity for 70 years as punishment for their sinfulness. Some Jews thought they could avoid slavery in Babylon by going to Egypt. But God warned them that they would die in Egypt.

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition, says:  ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you.  Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands.  I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’

“However, if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ and so disobey the Lord your God,  and if you say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt, where we will not see war or hear the trumpet or be hungry for bread,’  then hear the word of the Lord, you remnant of Judah. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there,  then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die.  Indeed, all who are determined to go to Egypt to settle there will die by the sword, famine and plague; not one of them will survive or escape the disaster I will bring on them.’  This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘As my anger and wrath have been poured out on those who lived in Jerusalem, so will my wrath be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You will be a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach; you will never see this place again.’

“Remnant of Judah, the Lord has told you, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ 10

When Jeremiah had finished telling the people all the words of the Lord their God—everything the Lord had sent him to tell them—Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’  But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon.” 11

Many Jews listened to the false prophet, Azariah, and did go to Egypt, and Jeremiah followed them there.

In Tahpanhes [in northern Egypt, where the Jews had fled] the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:  “While the Jews are watching, take some large stones with you and bury them in clay in the brick pavement at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Then say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them.  He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword. 12

Nebuchadnezzar did attack Egypt, and it did become part of the Babylonian Empire; but surprisingly, God told Jeremiah that some unspecified enemies (other than Nebuchadnezzar) would remove Hophra from the throne. This is surprising because one would naturally assume that Nebuchadnezzar would be the one to do it.

“‘This will be the sign to you that I will punish you in this place,’ declares the Lord, ‘so that you will know that my threats of harm against you will surely stand.’  This is what the Lord says: ‘I am going to deliver Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hands of his enemies who want to kill him, just as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who wanted to kill him.’” 13

Not surprising to those of us who believe prophecy, the surprising prophecy came true. Hophra (a.k.a Apries) lost his power because of an internal coup as a result of fear of the Babylonian threat, not because of an attack by Nebuchadnezzar.

This Egyptian king, known to the Greeks as Apries, reigned about 20 years (589-570 BC). Because of an army revolt he had to yield the throne to the army commander Ahmose, better known by the Greek name Amosis. 14

Jeremiah also correctly predicted that Babylon’s incursion into Egypt would be brief.

The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh.  I will give them into the hands of those who want to kill them—Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Later, however, Egypt will be inhabited as in times past,” declares the Lord. 15

Section 16.7 - Resolve to Read Jeremiah

With this overview of the prophecies of Jeremiah regarding Egypt, the entire Book of Jeremiah should make more sense to you.

Many people make a New Year’s Resolution to read the entire Bible in one year. Some succeed; but most fail because it is a lot to read. On the other hand, you can read the entire Book of Jeremiah in less time than it takes to watch a TV show. (A LOT less time if that TV show is a football game.)

If you read the Book of Jeremiah in one sitting you will notice one theme is repeated again and again—trust and obey God, not Egypt. If you need help, turn to God, not some human agency, to rescue you. If you obey God, God will bless you. If you disobey God, God won’t protect you from evil, and you will suffer. Jeremiah said it again and again, in slightly different ways because it is such an important message.

Section 16.8 - John 3:16

If you ask most Christians, “What is the most important verse in the Bible?” they will probably quote this one:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 16

Why that particular verse more than any other? Because John 3:16 is so unusual. There are very few other verses like it anywhere else in the Bible. It is one of a very few verses which says what itching ears want to hear, so it is quoted often. Not only that, it is taken out of context so as to twist its meaning. By itself, Jesus seems to be telling Nicodemus that God is going to save everyone who claims to believe in Him. But just a few verses earlier, Jesus told this to Nicodemus (a righteous, religious man):

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” …  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.17

Nicodemus, as religious as he was, had to repent! Not only that, the verses immediately following John 3:16 say that most people will perish and not have eternal life. Christians rarely quote THE VERDICT:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. 18

Ezekiel and Jeremiah said, over and over, that people who trust in human wisdom rather than trusting in God’s word, and who disobey God, will not be saved by God. That’s not just an Old Testament teaching. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 19

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. … Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 20

False prophets use verses like John 3:16 to lull Christians into thinking that all they have to do is to say they accept Jesus as their savior, and they will be saved. That wasn't Jesus' Gospel. Matthew and Mark summarized Jesus’ message this way:

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.21

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!22

Jesus preached an end-time judgment message. The Good News is that we will be saved if we love Him. Jesus told us how He will determine if we love Him or not.

If you love me, keep my commands. …  Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” … Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.23

Most of Jesus’ parables stress the need to repent and obey to be saved—and the time to do it is right now. That’s exactly what Ezekiel and Jeremiah said. Ezekiel and Jeremiah used the Jews' ill-advised trust in Egypt to show that salvation comes only from God.

Some say that Paul invented modern Christianity, and that in Pauline Christianity we don’t have to obey the law because Jesus nailed the law to the cross, and we are saved by grace. Paul himself refutes that claim.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? … What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 24

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.   God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile;  but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism.

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.  (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)  This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. 25

The confusion comes from this passage:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 26

It is our sins, our transgression of the law, that was nailed to the cross—not the law itself. If the law had been abolished there would be no sin because, “where there is no law there is no transgression.” 27

Section 16.9 - National Tragedy

Ezekiel’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies about Egypt were intended to teach the Jews that the Babylonian captivity was a punishment from God because the Jews had turned from God and turned to the Egyptian army and Egyptian gods for protection. Both prophets promised the Jews protection in Babylon if they submitted to God’s punishment, but warned the Jews of death if they went to Egypt for protection. The Jews were God’s chosen people, and He expected them to obey Him. When they disobeyed, they became Lo-Ammi. 28

The Gospel in the New Testament is that the Law of God is still binding, and transgression of that law is punishable by death—but God promises that the Holy Spirit will dwell in our hearts, giving us the motivation and power to keep God’s laws, and He will forgive our past transgressions.

The lesson for us today is that we are risking national tragedy because, just like the Kingdom of Judah, we have turned from God and now trust in atheistic philosophies and human agencies. We need to repent and obey God if we want to receive and enjoy His blessings. If we disobey, we are not his people, no matter what we profess is.

Back to Chapter 15 Table of Contents On to Chapter 17

Footnotes:

1 Jeremiah 46:1-2, 25-26
2 Jeremiah 51:11
3 Jeremiah 41: 17-18
4 Jeremiah 26:20-23
5 Jeremiah 2:18-19
6 Jeremiah 2:35-37
7 Jeremiah 9:25-26
8 Jeremiah 44:30
9 Jeremiah 37:5-8
10 Jeremiah 42:9-19
11 Jeremiah 43:1-3
12 Jeremiah 43:8-11
13 Jeremiah 44:29-30
14 SDA Bible Commentary, Volume 4, page 502
15 Jeremiah 46:25-26
16 John 3:16
17 John 3:3,5
18 John 3:17-21
19 Matthew 5:17-20
20 Matthew 7:13-15, 21-23
21 Matthew 4:17
22 Mark 1:14-15
23 John 14:15, 21, 23-24
24 Romans 6:1-2, 15
25 Romans 1:5-16
26 Colossians 2:13-14
27 Romans 4:15
28 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means ‘not my people’), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.” Hosea 1:9