The Bible was written over a period of some 1,600 years. Its history and prophecy are linked to seven world powers: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and Anglo-America. Each of these will be considered in a series of seven articles. The objective? To show that the Bible is trustworthy and inspired of God and that its message is one of hope for an end to the suffering caused by human misrule.
EGYPT, famous for its pyramids and the Nile River, was the first world power of Bible history. Under its shadow the nation of Israel was formed. Moses, who penned the first five books of the Bible, was born and educated in Egypt. Do secular history and archaeology corroborate what Moses wrote about that ancient land? Consider some examples.
Titles and terms.
Accurate history is often revealed in the details—customs, etiquette, names and titles of officials, and so on. How do the books of Genesis and Exodus, the first two books of the Bible, measure up in this respect? Regarding the Genesis narrative about Joseph, a son of the patriarch Jacob, as well as the Bible book of Exodus, J. Garrow Duncan says in his book New Light on Hebrew Origins: “[The Bible writer] was thoroughly well acquainted with the Egyptian language, customs, beliefs, court life, and etiquette and officialdom.” He adds: “[The writer] employs the correct title in use and exactly as it was used at the period referred to. . . . In fact, nothing more convincingly proves the intimate knowledge of things Egyptian in the Old Testament, and the reliability of the writers, than the use of the word Pharaoh at different periods.” Duncan also states: “When [the writer] brings his characters into the presence of Pharaoh, he makes them observe the correct court etiquette and use the correct language.”
During their period of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites made bricks out of clay mixed with straw, which served as a binding material. (Exodus 1:14; 5:6-18) * Some years ago, the book Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries stated: “In few places has [brickmaking] been practised more than in Egypt, where sun-dried bricks still are, as they always have been, the characteristic building material of the country.” The book also mentions “the Egyptian practice of using straw in making bricks,” thus corroborating that additional detail recorded in the Bible.
Hebrew men of ancient times grew beards. Yet, the Bible tells us that Joseph shaved prior to appearing before Pharaoh. (Genesis 41:14) Why did he shave? To conform with Egyptian custom and etiquette, which considered facial hair to be a sign of uncleanness. “[The Egyptians] prided themselves on being clean-shaven,” says the book Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt. In fact, cosmetic sets consisting of razors, tweezers, and mirrors, along with their containers, have been found in tombs. Clearly, Moses was a meticulous chronicler. The same can be said of other Bible writers who documented events relating to ancient Egypt.
Jeremiah, who wrote the two books of Kings, gave specific details regarding King Solomon’s trade in horses and chariots with the Egyptians and the Hittites. A chariot cost “six hundred silver pieces, and a horse . . . a hundred and fifty,” or one quarter the cost of a chariot, the Bible states.—1 Kings 10:29.
According to the book Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, the Greek historian Herodotus and archaeological findings both confirm that a lively trade in horses and chariots was carried on during the reign of Solomon. In fact, “a standard exchange rate of four . . . horses for one Egyptian chariot was established,” the book states, corroborating the figures given in the Bible.
Jeremiah and Ezra also mention the invasion of Judah by Pharaoh Shishak, specifically stating that it occurred “in the fifth year of [Judean] King Rehoboam,” or 993 B.C.E. (1 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chronicles 12:1-12) For a long time, the only record of that invasion was the one found in the Bible. Then there came to light a relief on the wall of an Egyptian temple at Karnak (ancient Thebes).
The relief depicts Shishak standing before the god Amon, Shishak’s arm raised in the act of smiting captives. Also recorded are the names of conquered Israelite towns, many of which have been identified with Biblical sites. Additionally, the document mentions “The Field of Abram”—the earliest reference to the Biblical patriarch Abraham in Egyptian records.—Genesis 25:7-10.
Clearly, the Bible writers did not pen fiction. Recognizing their accountability to God, they wrote truth, even when doing so was unflattering—as in the case of Shishak’s victories in Judah. Such candor contrasts sharply with the varnished, exaggerated chronicles of the ancient Egyptian scribes, who refused to record anything that might be uncomplimentary to their rulers or people.
Only Jehovah God, the Author of the Bible, can unfailingly predict the future. Note, for example, what he inspired Jeremiah to foretell concerning two Egyptian cities—Memphis and Thebes. Memphis, or Noph, was once a prominent commercial, political, and religious center. Yet, God said: “Noph itself will become a mere object of astonishment and will actually be set afire, so as to be without an inhabitant.” (Jeremiah 46:19) And so it turned out. The book In the Steps of Moses the Lawgiver says that “the titanic ruins of Memphis” were pillaged by Arab conquerors, who used them as a quarry. It adds that today “within the circuit of the ancient city not a stone protrudes above the black soil.”
Thebes, earlier called No-amon or just No, suffered a similar fate, along with its impotent gods. Concerning this onetime capital of Egypt and principal center of the worship of the god Amon, Jehovah said: “Here I am turning my attention upon Amon . . . and upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt and upon her gods . . . And I will give them into . . . the hand of Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon.” (Jeremiah 46:25, 26) As prophesied, the Babylonian monarch conquered Egypt and its prominent city of No-amon. Then, after Persian ruler Cambyses II dealt another blow to the city in 525 B.C.E., it steadily declined, finally being completely ruined by the Romans. Yes, accurate prophecy puts the Bible in a class of its own, giving us confidence in what it says about our future.
A Hope You Can Trust
The very first prophecy recorded in the Bible was penned by Moses during the time of the Egyptian world power. * Found at Genesis 3:15, the prophecy states that God would produce a “seed,” or offspring, who would crush Satan and his “seed”—those who adopt Satan’s wicked ways. (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8) The primary “seed” of God proved to be the Messiah, Jesus Christ.—Luke 2:9-14.
Christ’s reign will encompass the entire earth, from which he will remove all wickedness and oppressive human governments. No longer will ‘man dominate man to his injury.’ (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Moreover, like Joshua of old, who led Israel into the Promised Land, Jesus will safely lead “a great crowd” of God-fearing humans into a far greater “Promised Land”—a cleansed earth that will be transformed into a global paradise.—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 17; Luke 23:43.
That precious hope calls to mind yet another prophecy recorded during the time of ancient Egypt. Found at Job 33:24, 25, the prophecy states that God will deliver humans even from “the pit,” or the grave, by means of a resurrection. Yes, in addition to those spared through the coming destruction of the wicked, many millions now dead will be raised to life with the prospect of everlasting life in Paradise on earth. (Acts 24:15) “The tent of God is with mankind,” says Revelation 21:3, 4. “He will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”
Trustworthy history and prophecy—that theme will continue in the next article in this series, which will focus on ancient Assyria, the world power that followed Egypt.
^ par. 7 If you do not have a Bible but have access to the Internet, you can check the scriptures electronically at www.watchtower.org. There you will see the box “Read the Bible Online.”