If modern Egypt, with all its political and religious strife, wants to know the 5 W’s of its existence and purpose, then its people need to learn their origins. They need to know where they came from, both physically and spiritually. Only then will Egypt know its final destiny.
The Bible and the Flood
One crucial part of the theory of evolution is the concept of long ages, of the earth being billions of years old and of human civilization being many thousands of years old. Carbon-14 dating, which is inherently flawed, contributes to this concept. Various sources date ancient Egypt back to 5000 BC, for example. But I don’t believe any of it.
Unlike evolutionists and secular students of ancient cultures, I believe the Bible is the final authority on matters both religious and historical. I choose to use it for ancient human chronology. Others want to make the Bible fit ancient history. If it doesn’t, they discard it. I believe the reverse, i.e. ancient history must fit the Bible. When it doesn’t, I discard it.
Through men inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20), God wrote the Bible. He does not lie or get his facts confused. I can’t say that for ancient, non-biblical writings and legends. Bible chronology says the earth is 6,000 years old. The first man Adam was created c. 4000 BC. The flood occurred c. 2400 BC and it was worldwide, not localized. God spared and kept safe in an ark only eight people: Noah, his wife, his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), and their wives.
So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. …
And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” …
“And behold, I Myself am bringing flood waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark–you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” …
“For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” …
And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.
— Genesis 6:7-8, 13, 17-18, 7:4, 21-23 (NKJV)
All the earth’s peoples and cultures, both ancient and modern, can be traced back to Noah. From Japheth sprang Western cultures (i.e. Greece), from Shem Semitic ones (i.e. Israel), and from Ham sub-Saharan ones (i.e. Egypt). Yes, ancient Egypt sprang from Ham. His second son was named “Mizraim” (Genesis). This word is the same as “Egypt” in Hebrew. It means “land of the Copts” or “double straits” (H.4714). Ham itself is a biblical substitute for Egypt (1 Chronicles 4:40, Psalm 78:51, 105:23-27, 106:22). Therefore, Egypt could not have begun as a civilization before 2400 BC. Whatever population existed in that region earlier was destroyed by the flood. However, this doesn’t mean that physical traces of them (i.e. pottery) were also destroyed.
Archeologists recently discovered a sandstone shard, called a ‘palette,’ in southern Egypt. Some scholars think it describes the country’s political unification by a pre-dynastic pharaoh named “Narmer” (Brier and Hobbs 2). He also founded Memphis, Egypt’s first capital city (3). [Thebes was next.] Other scholars think the shard was created by later generations to describe a legendary event in Egypt’s pre-dynastic history (Wiki). They don’t know if the event is historic or not.
What interests me about Narmer is another archeological discovery. Some Egyptologists think he was the first to lead “troops beyond the borders of Egypt, since a pottery fragment inscribed with his name was found in southern Israel” (Brier and Hobbs 202). I think another explanation is possible, namely that Narmer helped build the tower of Babel in the plain of Shinar (Genesis 11:1-9). Nimrod, a Ham descendant through Cush, built the kingdom of Babel there (10:8-10). After God “confounded their language” and “scattered them abroad” (11:7-9), Narmer either traveled to Egypt on foot or was carried there by the Holy Spirit. All the descendants of Ham, Mizraim (and Narmer) included, would have passed through Israel on their treks to various lands. A third, less likely possibility is that Narmer pre-dated the flood and died in it.
Word Studies: The Curse
So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” And he said: “Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.” — Genesis 9:24-27 (NKJV)
Some people think Noah cursed Canaan, the fourth and final son of Ham (Genesis 10:6), rather than his own son. I don’t believe it. First, Ham was guilty, not his son. In context “Canaan” must refer to Ham as an alternate name. It has been common, both then and now, for men to name children after themselves. Besides, Japheth and Shem are also named in this episode rather than their descendants. Secondly, throughout Israel’s history as a nation the curse of Ham (or Canaan) did not rest on the land of Canaan. It rested on Egypt, which is often called “Ham.”
In the Bible, God used Egypt as a spiritual symbol of the curse of darkness and death. Through the exodus, He led Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Fourteen hundred years later, God led his son Jesus Christ out of Egypt and back into Nazareth, after his parents fled there to escape Herod. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15). Both episodes are a type and symbol of the body of believers called the church (ekklesia), which has been called out of darkness and into light (1 Peter 2:9).
As I said before, “Ham” is another name for Egypt. This word is cham in Hebrew and means “hot” or “warm” (H.2525-2526). The root word chamam (H.2552) means “to be hot [or] become warm,” i.e. of passion. In other words, it means “to become aroused [or] enflame oneself with.” This word is translated in the King James Version as “warm,” “hot,” “heat,” or “enflaming.”
What’s the point? Spiritual heat or zeal is normally an excellent thing. But the spiritual heat God refers to in some biblical contexts is evil. It is his judgment on Ham’s descendants because of Noah’s curse. God often accused Israel of enflaming itself with pagan gods instead of trusting in him (Isaiah 57:15, Hosea 7:7). The nation first learned to practice idolatry in Egypt. Those who fled to Jehovah and later Jesus Christ were filled with the zeal of the Holy Spirit and saved. Those who fled to idolatry, symbolized by Egypt, were filled with false zeal and destroyed. God used Ham as a spiritual lightning rod, a line in the sand, and a choice for man’s free will.
“Mizraim” is matsowr in Hebrew, which means “siege, rampart, entrenchment, [or] enclosure” (H.4692-4693). This word is translated in the King James Version as “besieged places,” “defense,” “fortress,” “fortified,” “siege,” “bulwarks,” and “tower.” It can also refer to a mound or citadel. The root word tsuwr (H.6696) is similar. It means “to bind, besiege, confine, cramp, secure, shut in, straighten, press upon, compress, [or] enclose.” Another meaning is “to show hostility to, be an adversary, [or] treat as foe.” The final layer means “to form, fashion, cut, [or] divide.” This word is translated in the King James Version as “besiege,” “distress,” “bind,” “assault,” “adversaries,” “beset,” “cast,” “fashioned,” “fortify,” and “enclose.”
I think God formed Egypt as a symbolic fortress, but not for the protection of his people. Instead, he strengthened this place so that when he came against and overcame it as an adversary through his servant Moses, God alone would receive the glory. He besieged, assaulted, and cramped Egypt’s style through the ten plagues, in judgment for their assaulting the nation of Israel. God designed Egypt as a vessel for his glory, even though they fought against him.
The same thing happened before Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem. Unbelieving Jews wanted to flee to Egypt, while believers like Daniel and Ezekiel were taken to Babylon. God destroyed Egypt through Nebuchadnezzar both to receive glory, since Babylon was his agent, and so that never again would Israel see Egypt as a protector (Isaiah 30; Jeremiah 42-44, 46, Ezekiel 29-32). He made Egypt “wages” for Nebuchadnezzar’s army (Ezekiel 29:19-20).
Because of his own holiness and man’s free will, God always makes a clear division between right and wrong, blessing and cursing, light and darkness, life and death. In the Old Testament, He always gave people a choice: himself or pharaoh, Canaan (Promised Land) or Egypt. Those who chose wrongly were cursed and destroyed, while those who chose rightly were blessed and saved. God simply used Egypt as his instrument of free will, the line he drew in the sand.
“The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” — Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)
“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.” — Isaiah 42:16 (NKJV)
These passages can refer to Egypt just as much as Israel. In Jesus Christ, God can turn a curse into a blessing, death into life, and darkness into light. He makes crooked things straight. God isn’t done with Egypt, since like Israel the nation still exists. Those who flee to Christ will be saved, regardless of nationality or ethnicity. God will do this for his own glory. All that matters is Christ in the heart and his blood on the soul. In the end, Egypt will be saved. She too will sing the “song of Moses” around the throne (Revelation 15:2-4).
“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 thereof 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. The LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. The LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. …
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 19:19-22, 24-25 (NKJV)
Blue Letter Bible (NKJV)
Brier, Bob, and Hoyt Hobbs. Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.