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EGYPT (ē'jĭpt, Gr. Aigyptos).

I. Its Name. To the Israelites, Egypt was Mizraim (Heb. mitsrayim), a term of which the form and derivation are unknown. The Egyptians themselves had a number of names they used for their country; usually it was called “the Two Lands,” which has reference to the origin of the nation in the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, just as the name “the United States of America” has historical derivation. Egypt was also Kemet, “the Black Land,” the rich alluvial soil of the valley, as opposed to Desheret, “the Red Land,” the barren waste of the desert.

II. The Nile. “Egypt,” said Hecateus, echoed by Herodotus, “is the gift of the Nile.” This is a reflection of actual circumstances and of the Egyptian appreciation of the great river. The Nile, which courses like a living vein through the desiccated hills and deserts of NE Africa, laid down the black alluvium of the delta and the entire river valley. In view of the almost complete absence of rain, the annual overflow of the Nile was of great importance to the land, for it watered the soil and provided it with new alluvium and some organic fertilizer. Its waters were used for drinking (Exod.7.18, Exod.7.21, Exod.7.24; Ps.78.44), for bathing (Exod.2.5), and for irrigation (Deut.11.10). Its stream (Heb. ye’or) was the main channel of commerce and travel, with a prevailing north wind to favor southbound sailing vessels against the current.

The regularity of the inundation afforded a practical agricultural calendar, and the coincidence of the rise of the Nile and the appearance of the Dog Star (Sirius; e.g., Sothis) on the horizon at daybreak around July 19 was the basis for a chronological unit of 1,460 years, which is termed a Sothic cycle. Since the Egyptian calendar of 365 days was one-fourth of a day short of the true year, the Egyptian New Year’s Day worked its way through the calendar until it again coincided with the rising of Sothis and the inundation (365 x 4 = 1,460). The recognition of this cycle and several references to it in dates of historical records make some helpful checkpoints in Egyptian chronology.

The awareness of the dependence of land and people on the resources of the Nile led to the deification of the river. The longest river in the world, the Nile covers some 4,000 miles (6,667 km.) from its sources in equatorial Africa to its divided mouths that open into the Mediterranean. The White Nile is the principal stream, with tributaries joining it from their eastern points of origin in the Ethiopian hills. The Blue Nile enters at Khartoum. Farther north, the Atbara, the last consequential tributary, empties its periodic flow into the northbound stream. From this junction the Nile continues some 1,500 miles (2,500 km.) without tributary to the sea. Numbered from Aswan south, in order of their discovery by modern explorers, are six cataracts, areas in which hard rock resisted the erosive action of the rushing stream. To varying degrees these hindered river travel and served as barriers to military movement. From Aswan to Cairo is a stretch of somewhat less than 600 (1,000 km.) miles. Below Cairo spreads the fan of the delta, about 125 miles (208 km.) long and 125 miles (208 km.) wide.

III. Its Geography. The division of the land into Upper and Lower Egypt predates the union into one nation. Lower Egypt included the delta and a short section of the valley southward; the rest of the valley to Aswan was Upper Egypt. These areas were subdivided into administrative units that in Greek times were called “nomes,” twenty in Lower Egypt and twenty-two in its southern counterpart. With the cataracts and the Nubian desert to the south and SE, the Libyan desert and the Sahara to the west, and the Arabian desert on the east, the valley was not subject to the frequent invasions that characterized less defensible lands. The biggest threat from outside was on the delta edges; even here the passage of armies was handicapped by terrain and climate. On the NE border, fronting Asia, the Egyptians made early use of fortresses and other checkpoints to control invasion from this direction. With such protection, the country was free to develop its culture in comparative security and still to retain a free exchange of goods and ideas with other peoples.

IV. Its Climate. The climate of the land, along with the particular beliefs of the people, has been of great advantage to archaeology, so that it may be said that Egypt is the archaeological area par excellence. Lack of rain and frost, plenty of dry sand to form a protective cover over remains, and abundant use of stone for monumental building are helpful environmental factors. The burial customs have been of much help to the cultural historian, for the relief sculpture, tomb furniture, models, and inscriptions tell much of the daily life of antiquity.

V. Its Religion. The religion of ancient Egypt is a vast and labyrinthine subject. Much of the religious literature appears as a hodgepodge of conflicting statements to the modern Western reader, to whom many of the allusions must remain obscure. In general, the religion may be described as a complex polytheism, with many local deities of varying importance. A list of these divinities would be impractical, but these may be singled out: Osiris and Isis, who are well known from their later adoption by the mystery religions of Greece and Rome; Ra (Re), a sun-god, who came into prominence in the Fifth Dynasty; Horus, another sun-god, the son of Osiris and Isis; Set, the rival of Osiris and Horus; Amon-Re, who became the god of empire; Ptah, the god of Memphis; Khnum, the god of Elephantine. The attempt of Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) to reorient Egyptian religion with a primary emphasis on Aton, the sun-disc, has been widely discussed as a tendency toward monotheism. There is no evidence of possible Israelite influence on his beliefs. His innovations did not long survive him and the priests of Amon at Thebes scored a theological-political victory. Much of the religious literature has a mortuary interest; this preoccupation with death was a futile gesture to transfer earthly life to an eternal dimension. There are no reflections of the Egyptian concept in the Bible, and the absence of any large body of OT teaching concerning life beyond the grave may be a divine avoidance of a possible snare to the Israelites. The influence of Egyptian religion on Israelite religious practice was largely negative. In several instances the Israelites were led into apostasy to worship Egyptian gods (see below), but even these occasions were rare.

VI. Its History. Preceding the historical or dynastic period are a number of prehistoric cultures that are known in general outline. In the late predynastic epoch there is interesting evidence of cultural influence from Mesopotamia. The rudiments of hieroglyphic writings also appear about this time and usher in the historical period. The materials for writing the political history of Egypt are lists of kings (such as those inscribed in temples of Abydos and Karnak, that of a tomb at Sakkarah, the Turin Papyrus, and the Palermo Stone) and numerous historical records, both of kings and of lesser persons active in history-making. The dynastic scheme is a historiographical convenience inherited from the priest-historian Manetho, who divided Egyptian his- tory from Menes to Alexander into thirty-one dynasties. Egyptologists have used a somewhat standard arrangement of these dynasties into historical periods. A highly condensed outline follows.

A. Protodynastic Period (Dyn. 1-2; 3100-2700 b.c.). According to the tradition of Manetho, the first king of united Egypt was Menes, who came from Thinis in Upper Egypt, united the two lands, and established his capital at Memphis in about 3200-3100. Some scholars equate Menes with Narmer and/or Aha. Royal tombs of this period have been found at Sakkarah and Abydos.

B. Old Kingdom (Dyn. 3-6; 2700-2200). This is a high point in Egyptian history. The canons of art were firmly established in this period and perhaps the bases of the applied sciences were also laid. In the Third Dynasty, the step pyramid of Djoser, “the world’s first monumental architecture in stone,” was built at Sakkarah. Its architect, Imhotep, was also famed in other fields of accomplishment. The Fourth Dynasty was the time of the pyramid-builders par excellence: the pyramids of Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), and Menkaure (Mycerions) were constructed at Giza. Kings of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties had their pyramids at Sakkarah; in these were inscribed the religious writings known as the Pyramid Texts. The proverbs of Ptahhotep, a vizier of the Fifth Dynasty, are well-known.

C. First Intermediate Period (Dyn. 7-11; 2200-2050). This was a period of weakness and confusion. The Seventh and Eighth Dynasties were at Memphis, the Ninth and Tenth were at Herakleopolis, and the Eleventh was at Thebes. The literature is an outgrowth of the pessimism of the times; it includes the writings of Ipuwer, the dialogue of a Man Weary of Life; the Song of the Harper.

D. Middle Kingdom (Dyn. 12; 2050-1800) was another peak in Egyptian history. Art and architecture flourished. This is the time of the Eloquent Peasant and of the adventures of the courtier Sinuhe. In religious literature the Coffin Texts are found. There is a trend toward democratization of royal privileges, along with an emphasis on ma‘at, “justice, right.” The king is heralded as “the shepherd” of the people.

E. Second Intermediate Period (Dyn. 13-17; 1800-1580) was another dark age for Egypt. Insignificant rulers made up the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasties. The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties are the Hyksos dynasties, which may be of greater importance than brief, derogatory Egyptian references lead us to think. The Seventeenth Dynasty was made up of Theban rulers who began the movement to expel the Hyksos.

F. The New Kingdom or Empire (Dyn. 18-20; 1580-1090) marked the height of Egyptian imperialistic ambitions, with some fluctuations. Outstanding rulers include: in the Eighteenth Dynasty, Hatshepsut, the woman-king who sponsored a voyage to Punt and built a fine mortuary temple at Deir el Bahri; Thutmose III, the energetic warrior and capable administrator; Amenhotep III, the Magnificent, a lavish spender who neglected the empire and with his successor Akhenaton, the religious innovator, ignored the pleas for help from Palestine-Syria (Amarna Tablets). In the Nineteenth Dynasty, the outstanding figure is Rameses II, the builder, renovator, and chiseler; in the Twentieth Dynasty, it is Rameses III, who defeated the Sea Peoples.

G. The Post-Empire Period or Period of Decline (Dyn. 21-25; 1150-663) finds Egypt a “broken reed.”

H. The Saite Period (Dyn. 26; 663-525). There was a short restoration in this period, which includes Neco and Apries (biblical Hophra, Jer.44.30).

I. Later Egypt. In 525 b.c., Persia (under Cambyses) took over Egypt; what followed were two centuries of Persian domination, limited independence, and Egyptian rebellions (Dyn. 27-30; 525-332). With Alexander the Great came the end of the dynasties and of native rule. After the death of Alexander (323), Egypt was governed by the Ptolemies until the Romans made it a province in 31.

VII. Egypt and the Bible. To the Israelites, Egypt was somewhat of an enigma, a land of contrast, a country that they hated but respected. When a psalmist looked back to the days of the Exodus, he referred to the Egyptians as “a people of foreign tongue” (Ps.114.1), a description to which even many moderns may assent. Egypt was the iron furnace of affliction during the bondage, but Israelites were so impressed with the might of the Pharaonic kingdom that there were elements in Judah that looked to Egypt for help even after Egypt had become the broken reed of Assyrian contempt (cf. 2Kgs.18.21; Isa.36.6). An unreliable ally, Egypt was also a sanctuary for some of Israel’s individual enemies. From Egypt, too, came some of the worst occasions for apostasy in Israel. Egypt appears in the Bible as a type of the transitory, earthbound system called “the world.” In one instance it is an allegorical synonym for Sodom and for rebellious Jerusalem (Rev.11.8). Nevertheless, it was an abundant Near Eastern breadbasket and was for centuries the ranking world power. It afforded food for many a hungry Palestinian, and heat-smitten wandering tribes were permitted to cross its borders to graze their animals in the delta. Joseph realized that God’s providence was in his being sold into Egypt (Gen.45.5-Gen.45.9), and Jacob was instructed by the Lord to go to Egypt (Gen.46.3-Gen.46.4).

Egypt appears early in biblical references, since Mizraim (Egypt) is found in the Table of Nations as a son of Ham (Gen.10.6). Abram’s sojourn in Egypt is a well-known incident. It is evident from Gen.12.10 that Egypt was the place to which Palestinians naturally looked in time of famine. The famous scene from the wallpaintings of the tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hasan shows a group of Asiatics in Middle Egypt for purposes of trade and illustrates several facets of Abram’s descent into Egypt. The fears of Abram concerning the king’s interest in Sarai were real and perhaps well-founded, but there is no certain evidence for such royal behavior in Egyptian literature. The oft-cited Tale of Two Brothers relates a quite different sort of situation, for there the wife is anxious to be rid of her husband so that she may become a wife of Pharaoh.

With this weakness, the time was ripening for the rapid growth of a young and vigorous nation in the former Asiatic empire of Egypt. When the Israelite monarchy came into existence, neither Saul nor David recorded immediate dealings with the land of the Nile. Solomon, however, married a daughter of the current Pharaoh, who captured and destroyed Gezer and presented it to his daughter as dowry (1Kgs.9.16). It is stated that Solomon’s wisdom excelled that of his commercial relations with Egypt (2Chr.1.16-2Chr.1.17). Late in Solomon’s reign, an Edomite enemy, Hadad, who as a child had found asylum in Egypt after a raid by David into Edomite territory, left Egypt to become an active adversary of Solomon. Jeroboam fled to Egypt to escape Solomon; as first king of the northern tribes, this Jeroboam, “who made Israel to sin,” set up calf images at Dan and Bethel (1Kgs.12.26-1Kgs.12.33), a religious importation influenced by his Egyptian exile. In the fifth year of Rehoboam (926 b.c.) the Egyptian King Sheshonk (biblical Shishak) carried out an expedition into Palestine that saw the temple stripped of its treasures to meet his demands (1Kgs.14.25, 1Kgs.14.26; 2Chr.12.1-2Chr.12.9).

Egypt was a strong influence in Judean politics in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, who were aware of the weakness of Egypt against the Assyrian threat. When the Assyrian remnant was making its dying stand and Egypt marched to aid them against the rampaging Babylonians, the Judean Josiah made a fatal effort to stop the Egyptian forces at Megiddo (2Kgs.23.29-2Kgs.23.30; 2Chr.35.20-2Chr.35.27). After the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. and the subsequent murder of Gedaliah, the Judeans again looked to Egypt as a place of refuge in spite of the prophet’s warning. Here they were scattered about, with a group as far south as Elephantine maintaining a temple and keeping up correspondence with Palestine, as revealed by the Aramaic papyri found at Elephantine.

In the NT most of the references to Egypt have to do with Israel’s past. One important mention had current meaning, for Joseph was divinely directed to take the infant Jesus and Mary to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod (Matt.2.13-Matt.2.15; cf. Exod.4.22; Hos.11.1).

VIII. Its Significance and Future. It is remarkable that Egypt so often was a place of refuge or a means of sustaining life. Though it is regarded by typological extremists as an invariable epitome of “the world,” Egypt has the scriptural prediction of a wonderful future: “In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (Isa.19.24-Isa.19.25; cf. Isa.19.18-Isa.19.23).——CEDV

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)



1. The Basis of the Land 2. The Nile Valley 3. Earliest Human Remains 4. Climate 5. Conditions of Life 6. The Nile 7. The Fauna 8. The Flora 9. The Prehistoric Races


1. 1st and 2nd Ages: Prehistoric 2. 3d Age: Ist and IInd Dynasties 3. 4th Age: IIIrd through VIth Dynasties 4. 5th Age: VIIth through XIVth Dynasties 5. 6th Age: XVth through XXIVth Dynasties 6. 7th Age: XXVth Dynasty to Roman Times 7. 8th Age: Arabic 8. Early Foreign Connections


1. Semitic Connections 2. Abramic Times 3. Circumcision 4. Joseph 5. Descent into Egypt 6. The Oppression 7. The Historic Position 8. The Plagues 9. Date of the Exodus 10. Route of the Exodus 11. Numbers of the Exodus 12. Israel in Canaan 13. Hadad 14. Pharaoh's Daughter|Pharaoh’s Daughter 15. Shishak 16. Zerakh 17. The Ethiopians 18. Tahpanhes 19. Hophra 20. The Jews of Syene 21. The New Jerusalem of Oniah 22. The Egyptian Jew 23. Cities and Places Alphabetically


1. Language 2. Writing 3. Literature 4. Four Views of Future Life 5. Four Groups of Gods 6. Foreign Gods 7. Laws 8. Character


Egypt (mitsrayim; he Aiguptos):

Usually supposed to represent the dual of Mitsrayim, referring to "the two lands," as the Egyptians called their country. This dualism, however, has been denied by some.

I. The Country.

1. The Basis of the Land:

Though Egypt is one of the earliest countries in recorded history, and as regards its continuous civilization, yet it is a late country in its geological history and in its occupation by a settled population. The whole land up to Silsileh is a thick mass of Eocene limestone, with later marls over that in the lower districts. It has been elevated on the East, up to the mountains of igneous rocks many thousand feet high toward the Red Sea. It has been depressed on the West, down to the Fayum and the oases below sea-level. This strain resulted in a deep fault from North to South for some hundreds of miles up from the Mediterranean. This fault left its eastern side about 200 ft. above its western, and into it the drainage of the plateau poured, widening it out so as to form the Nile valley, as the permanent drain of Northeast Africa. The access of water to the rift seems to have caused the basalt outflows, which are seen as black columnar basalt South of the Fayum, and brown massive basalt at Khankah, North of Cairo.

2. The Nile Valley:

The gouging out of the Nile valley by rainfall must have continued when the land was 300 ft. higher than at present, as is shown by the immense fails of strata into collapsed caverns which were far below the present Nile level. Then, after the excavations of the valley, it has been submerged to 500 ft. lower than at present, as is shown by the rolled gravel beds and deposits on the tops of the water-worn cliffs, and the filling up of the tributary valleys--as at Thebes--by deep deposits, through which the subsequent stream beds have been scoured out. The land still had the Nile source 30 ft. higher than it is now within the human period, as seen by the worked flints in high gravel beds above the Nile plain. The distribution of land and water was very different from that at present when the land was only 100 ft. lower than now. Such a change would make the valley an estuary up to South of the Fayum, would submerge much of the western desert, and would unite the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean. Such differences would entirely alter the conditions of animal life by sea and land. And as the human period began when the water was considerably higher, the conditions of climate and of life must have greatly changed in the earlier ages of man’s occupation.

3. Earliest Human Remains:

The earliest human remains belonging to the present condition of the country are large paleolithic flints found in the side valleys at the present level of the Nile. As these are perfectly fresh, and not rolled or altered, they show that paleolithic man lived in Egypt under the present conditions. The close of this paleolithic age of hunters, and the beginning of a settled population of cultivators, cannot have been before the drying up of the climate, which by depriving the Nile of tributary streams enfeebled it so that its mud was deposited and formed a basis for agriculture. From the known rate of deposit, and depth of mud soil, this change took place about 10,000 years ago. As the recorded history of the country extends 7,500 years, and we know of two prehistoric ages before that, it is pretty well fixed that the disappearance of paleolithic man, and the beginning of the continuous civilization must have been about 9,000 to 10,000 years ago. For the continuation of this subject see the section on "History" below.

4. Climate:

The climate of Egypt is unique in the world. So far as solar heat determines it, the condition is tropical; for, though just North of the tropic which lies at the boundary of Egypt and Nubia, the cloudless condition fully compensates for higher latitude. So far as temperature of the air is concerned, the climate is temperate, the mean heat of the winter months being 52 degree and of the summer about 80 degree, much the same as Italy. This is due to the steady prevalence of north winds, which maintain fit conditions for active, strenuous work. The rainlessness and dry air give the same facility of living that is found in deserts, where shelter is only needed for temperature and not for wet; while the inundation provides abundant moisture for the richest crops.

5. Conditions of Life:

The primitive condition--only recently changed--of the crops being all raised during five cool months from November to April, and the inundation covering the land during all the hot weather, left the population free from labor during the enervating season, and only required their energies when work was possible under favorable conditions. At the same time it gave a great opportunity for monumental work, as any amount of labor could be drawn upon without the smallest reduction in the produce of the country. The great structures which covered the land gave training and organization to the people, without being any drain upon the welfare of the country. The inundation covering the plain also provided the easiest transport for great masses from the quarries at the time when labor was abundant. Thus the climatic conditions were all in favor of a great civilization, and aided its production of monuments. The whole mass of the country being of limestone, and much of it of the finest quality, provided material for construction at every point. In the south, sandstone and granite were also at hand upon the great waterway.

6. The Nile:

The Nile is the great factor which makes life possible in Northeast Africa, and without it Egypt would only be a desolate corner of the Sahara. The union of two essentially different streams takes place at Kharrum. The White or light Nile comes from the great plains of the Sudan, while the Blue or dark Nile descends from the mountains of Abyssinia. The Sudan Nile from Gondokoro is filtered by the lakes and the sudd vegetation, so that it carries little mud; the Abyssinian Nile, by its rapid course, brings down all the soil which is deposited in Egypt, and which forms the basis for cultivation. The Sudan Nile rises only 6 ft. from April to November; while the Abyssinian Nile rises 26 ft. from April to August. The latter makes the rise of the inundation, while the Sudan Nile maintains the level into the winter. In Egypt itself the unchecked Nile at Aswan rises 25 ft. from the end of May to the beginning of September; while at Cairo, where modified by the irrigation system, it rises 16 ft. from May to the end of September. It was usually drained off the land by the beginning of November, and cultivation was begun. The whole cultivable land of Egypt is but the dried-up bed of the great river, which fills its ancient limits during a third of the year. The time taken by a flush of water to come down the Nile is about 15 days from 400 miles above Khartum to Aswan, and about 6 days from Aswan to Cairo, or 80 to 90 miles a day, which shows a flow of 3 to 3 1/2 miles an hour when in flood.

7. The Fauna:

The fauna has undergone great changes during the human period. At the close of the prehistoric age there are represented the giraffe, elephant, wild ox, lion, leopard, stag, long-necked gazelle and great dogs, none of which are found in the historic period. During historic times various kinds of antelopes have been exterminated, the hippopotamus was driven out of the Delta during Roman times, and the crocodile was cleared out of Upper Egypt and Nubia in the last century. Cranes and other birds shown on early sculptures are now unknown in the country. The animals still surviving are the wolf, jackal, hyena, dogs, ichneumon, jerboa, rats, mice, lizards (up to 4 ft. long) and snakes, besides a great variety of birds, admirably figured by Whymper, Birds of Egypt. Of tamed animals, the ox, sheep, goat and donkey are ancient; the cat and horse were brought in about 2000 BC, the camel was not commonly known till 200 AD, and the buffalo was brought to Egypt and Italy in the Middle Ages.

8. The Flora:

The cultivated plants of Egypt were numerous. In ancient times we find the maize (durrah), wheat, barley and lentil; the vine, currant, date palm, dum palm, fig, olive and pomegranate; the onion, garlic, cucumber, melon and radish; the sont acacia, sycamore and tamarisk; the flax, henna and clover; and for ornament, the lotus, convolvulus and many others. The extension of commerce brought in by the Greek period, the bean, pea, sesame, lupin, helbeh, colocasia and sugar-cane; also the peach, walnut, castor-oil and pear. In the Roman and Arabic ages came in the chick pea, oats, rice, cotton, orange and lemon. In recent times have come the cactus, aloe, tomato, Indian corn, lebbek acacia and beetroot. Many European flowering and ornamental plants were also used in Egypt by the Greeks, and brought in later by the Arabs.

9. The Prehistoric Races:

The original race in Egypt seems to have been of the steatopygous type now only found in South Africa. Figures of this race are known in the caves of France, in Malta, and later in Somaliland. As this race was still known in Egypt at the beginning of the neolithic civilization, and is there represented only by female figures in the graves, it seems that it was being exterminated by the newcomers and only the women were kept as slaves. The neolithic race of Egypt was apparently of the Libyan stock. There seems to have been a single type of the Amorites in Syria, the prehistoric Egyptians and the Libyans; this race had a high, well-filled head, long nose slightly aquiline, and short beard; the profile was upright and not prognathous, the hair was wavy brown. It was a better type than the present south Europeans, of a very capable and intelligent appearance. From the objects found, and the religious legends, it seems that this race was subdued by an eastern, and probably Arabian race, in the prehistoric age.

II. The History.

The founders of the dynastic history were very different, having a profile with nose and forehead in one straight line, and rather thick, but well-formed lips. Historically the indications point to their coming from about Somali land by water, and crossing into Egypt by the Koptos road from the Red Sea. The IInd Dynasty gave place to some new blood, probably of Sudany origin. In the VIth and VIIth Dynasties foreigners poured in apparently from the North, perhaps from Crete, judging by their foreign products. The XVth and XVIth Dynasties were Hyksos, or Semitic "princes of the desert" from the East. The XVIIth and XVIIIth Dynasties were Berber in origin. The XIXth Dynasty was largely Semitic from Syria. The XXIId Dynasty was headed by an eastern adventurer Sheshenq, or Shusinak, "the man of Susa." The XXVth Dynasty was Ethiopian. The XXVIth Dynasty was Libyan. The Greeks then poured into the Delta and the Fayum, and Hellenized Egypt. The Roman made but little change in the population; but during his rule the Arab began to enter the eastern side, and by 641 AD the Arab conquest swept the land, and brought in a large part--perhaps the majority--of the ancestors of the present inhabitants. After 3 centuries the Tunisians--the old Libyans--conquered Egypt again. The later administrations by Syrians, Circassians, Turks and others probably made no change in the general population. The economic changes of the past century have brought in Greeks, Italians and other foreigners to the large towns; but all these only amount to an eightieth of the population. The Coptics are the descendants of the very mixed Egyptians of Roman age, kept separate from the Arab invaders by their Christianity. They are mainly in Upper Egypt, where some villages are entirely Coptic, and are distinguished by their superior cleanliness, regularity, and the freedom of the women from unwholesome seclusion. The Coptics, though only a fifteenth of the population, have always had a large share of official posts, owing to their intelligence and ability being above that of the Muslim.

1. 1st and 2d Ages: Prehistoric:

In dealing with the history, we here follow the dating which was believed and followed by the Egyptians themselves. All the monumental remains agree with this, so far as they can check it; and the various arbitrary reductions that have been made on some periods are solely due to some critics preferring their internal sense to all the external facts. For the details involved in the chronology, see Historical Studies, II (British School of Archaeology in Egypt). The general outline of the periods is given here, and the detailed view of the connection with Old Testament history is treated in later sections.

1st Age.

The prehistoric age begins probably about 8000 BC, as soon as there was a sufficient amount of Nile deposit to attract a settled population. The desert river valley of Egypt was probably one of the latest haunts of steatopygous Paleolithic man of the Bushman type. So soon as there was an opening for a pastoral or agricultural people, he was forced away by settlers from Libya. These settlers were clad in goatskins, and made a small amount of pottery by hand; they knew also of small quantities of copper, but mainly used flint, of which they gradually developed the finest working known in any age. They rapidly advanced in civilization. Their pottery of red polished ware was decorated with white clay patterns, exactly like the pottery still made in the mountains of Algeria. The forms of it were very varied and exquisitely regular, although made without the wheel. Their hardstone vases are finer than any of those of the historic ages. They adopted spinning, weaving and woodwork.

2nd Age.

Upon these people came in others probably from the East, who brought in the use of the Arab face-veil, the belief in amulets, and the Persian lapis lazuli. Most of the previous forms of pottery disappear, and nearly all the productions are greatly altered. Copper became common, while gold, silver and lead were also known. Heliopolis was probably a center of rule.

2. 3d Age: Ist and IId Dynasties:

About 5900 BC a new people came in with the elements of the art of writing, and a strong political ability of organization. Before 5800 BC they had established kings at Abydos in Upper Egypt, and for 3 centuries they gradually increased their power. On the carved slates which they have left, the standards of the allied tribes are represented; the earliest in style shows the standard of Koptos, the next has a standard as far North as Hermopolis, and the latest bears the standard of Letopolis, and shows the conquest of the Fayum, or perhaps one of the coast lakes. This last is of the first king of the Ist Dynasty, Mena.

The conquest of all Egypt is marked by the beginning of the series of numbered dynasties beginning with Mena, at about 5550 BC. The civilization rapidly advanced. The art was at its best under the third king, Zer, and thence steadily declined. Writing was still ideographic under Mena, but became more syllabic and phonetic toward the end of the dynasty. The work in hardstone was at its height in the vases of the early part of the Ist Dynasty, when an immense variety of beautiful stones appear. It greatly fell off on reaching the IId Dynasty. The tombs were all of timber, built in large pits in the ground.

3. 4th Age: IIIrd through VIth Dynasties:

The IInd Dynasty fell about 5000 BC, and a new power rapidly raised the art from an almost barbarous state to its highest triumphs by about 4750 BC, when the pyramid building was started. Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid in the IVth Dynasty, was one of the greatest rulers of Egypt. He organized the administration on lines which lasted for ages. He reformed the religious system, abolishing the endowments, and substituting models for the sacrifice of animals. He trained the largest body of skilled labor that ever appeared, for the building of his pyramid, the greatest and most accurate structure that the world has ever seen. The statuary of this age is more lifelike than that of any later age. The later reigns show steady decay in the character of work, with less dignity and more superficiality in the article

4. 5th Age: VIIth through XIVth Dynasties:

By about 4050 BC, the decline of Egypt allowed of fresh people pressing in from the North, probably connected with Crete. There are few traces of these invaders; a curious class of barbaric buttons used as seals are their commonest remains. Probably the so-called "Hyksos sphinxes" and statues are of these people, and belong to the time of their attaining power in Egypt. By 3600 BC, the art developed into the great ages of the XIth to the XIIth Dynasties which lasted about 2 centuries. The work is more scholastic and less natural than before; but it is very beautiful and of splendid accuracy. The exquisite jewelry of Dahshur is of this age. After some centuries of decay this civilization passed away.

5. 6th Age: XVth through XXIVth Dynasties:

The Semitic tribes had long been filtering into Egypt, and Babylonian Semites even ruled the land until the great migration of the Hyksos took place about 2700 BC. These tribes were ruled by kings entitled "princes of the desert," like the Semitic Absha, or Abishai, shown in the tomb of Beni-hasan, as coming to settle in Egypt. By 1700 BC the Berbers who had adopted the Egyptian civilization pressed down from the South, and ejected the Hyksos rule. This opened the most flourishing period of Egyptian history, the XVIIIth Dynasty, 1587-1328 BC. The profusion of painted tombs at Thebes, which were copied and popularized by Gardner Wilkinson, has made the life of this period very familiar to us. The immense temples of Karnak and of Luqsor, and the finest of the Tombs of the Kings have impressed us with the royal magnificence of this age. The names of Thothmes I and III, of the great queen Hatshepsut, of the magnificent Amenhotep III, and of the monotheist reformer Akchenaton are among those best known in the history. Their foreign connections we shall notice later.

The XIXth and XXth Dynasties were a period of continual degradation from the XVIIIth. Even in the best work of the 6th Age there is hardly ever the real solidity and perfection which is seen in that of the 4th or 5th Ages. But under the Ramessides cheap effects and showy imitations were the regular system. The great Rameses II was a great advertiser, but inferior in power to half a dozen kings of the previous dynasty. In the XXth Dynasty one of the royal daughters married the high priest of Amen at Thebes; and on the unexpected death of the young Rameses V, the throne reverted to his uncle Rameses VI, whose daughter then became the heiress, and her descendants, the high priests of Amen, became the rightful rulers. This priestly rule at Thebes; beginning in 1102 BC, was balanced by a purely secular rule of the north at Tanis (Zoan). These lasted until the rise of Sheshenq I (Shishak) in 952 BC, the founder of the XXIId Dynasty. His successors gradually decayed till the fall of the XXIIIrd Dynasty in 721 BC. The Ethiopian XXVIth Dynasty then held Egypt as a province of Ethiopia, down to 664 BC.

6. 7th Age: XXVth Dynasty to Roman Times:

It is hard to say when the next age began--perhaps with the Ethiopians; but it rose to importance with the XXVIth Dynasty under Psamtek (Psammitichos I), 664-610 BC, and continued under the well-known names of Necoh, Hophra and Amasis until overthrown by the Persians in 525 BC. From 405 to 342 the Egyptians were independent; then the Persians again crushed them, and in 332 they fell into the hands of the Macedonians by the conquest of Alexander.

The Macedonian Age of the Ptolemies was one of the richest and most brilliant at its start, but soon faded under bad rulers till it fell hopelessly to pieces and succumbed to the Roman subjection in 30 BC. From that time Egypt was ground by taxation, and steadily impoverished. By 300 AD it was too poor to keep even a copper currency in circulation, and barter became general. Public monuments entirely ceased to be erected, and Decius in 250 AD is the last ruler whose name was written in the old hieroglyphs, which were thenceforward totally forgotten. After three more centuries of increasing degradation and misery, the Arab invasion burst upon the land, and a few thousand men rode through it and cleared out the remaining effete garrisons of the empire in 641 AD.

7. 8th Age: Arabic:

The Arab invasion found the country exhausted and helpless; repeated waves of tribes poured in, and for a generation or two there was no chance of a settlement. Gradually the majority of the inhabitants were pressed into Islam, and by about 800 AD a strong government was established from Bagdad, and Egypt rapidly advanced. In place of being the most impoverished country it became the richest land of the Mediterranean. The great period of medieval Egypt was under the guidance of the Mesopotamian civilization, 800-969 AD. The Tunisian dominion of the Fatimites, 969-1171, was less successful. Occasionally strong rulers arose, such as Salah-ed-Din (Saladin), but the age of the Mamalukes, 1250-1577, was one of steady decline. Under the Turkish dominion, 1517, Egypt was split up into many half-independent counties, whose rulers began by yielding tribute, but relapsed into ignoring the Caliphate and living in continual internal feuds. In 1771 Aly Bey, a slave, succeeded in conquering Syria. The French and British quarrel left Muhamed Aly to rise supreme, and to guide Egypt for over 40 years. Again Egypt conquered Syria, 1831-39, but was compelled by Europe to retreat. The opening of the Suez Canal (1869) necessarily led to the subjection of Egypt to European direction.

8. Early Foreign Connections:

The foreign connections of Egypt have been brought to light only during the last 20 years. In place of supposing that Egypt was isolated until the Greek conquest, we now see that it was in the closest commercial relation with the rest of the world throughout its history. We have already noted the influences which entered by conquest. During the periods of high civilization in Egypt, foreign connections came into notice by exploration and by trade. The lazuli of Persia was imported in the prehistoric age, as well as the emery of Smyrna. In the Ist Dynasty, Egypt conquered and held Sinai for the sake of the turquoise mines. In the IIIrd Dynasty, large fleets of ships were built, some as much as 160 ft. long; and the presence of much pottery imported from Crete and the north, even before this, points to a Mediterranean trade. In the Vth Dynasty, King Unas had relations with Syria. From the XIIth Dynasty comes the detailed account of the life of an Egyptian in Palestine (Sanehat); and Cretan pottery of this age is found traded into Egypt.

III. The Old Testament Connections.

1. Semitic Connections:

The Hyksos invasion unified the rule of Syria and Egypt, and Syrian pottery is often found in Egypt of this age. The return of the wave, when Egypt drove out the Hyksos, and conquered Syria out to the Euphrates, was the greatest expansion of Egypt. Tahutmes I set up his statue on the Euphrates, and all Syria was in his hands. Tahutmes III repeatedly raided Syria, bringing back plunder and captives year by year throughout most of his reign. The number of Syrian artists and of Syrian women brought into Egypt largely changed the style of art and the standard of beauty. Amenhotep III held all Syria in peace, and recorded his triumphs at the Euphrates on the walls of the temple of Soleb far up in Nubia. His monotheist son, Amenhotep IV, took the name of Akhenaton, "the glory of the sun’s disc," and established the worship of the radiant sun as the Aton, or Adon of Syria. The cuneiform letters from Tell el-Amarna place all this age before us in detail. There are some from the kings of the Amorites and Hittites, from Naharain and even Babylonia, to the great suzerain Amenhotep III. There is also the long series describing the gradual loss of Syria under Akhenaton, as written by the governors and chiefs, of the various towns. The main letters are summarized in the Students’ History of Egypt, II, and full abstracts of all the letters are in Syria and Egypt, arranged in historical order.

Pal was reconquered by Seti I and his son Rameses II, but they only held about a third of the extent which formerly belonged to Amenhotep III. Merenptah, son of Rameses, also raided Southern Palestine. After that; it was left alone till the raid of Sheshenq in 933 BC. The only considerable assertion of Egyptian power was in Necoh’s two raids up to the Euphrates, in 609 and 605 BC. But Egypt generally held the desert and a few minor points along the south border of Palestine. The Ptolemies seldom possessed more than that, their aspirations in Syria not lasting as permanent conquests. They were more successful in holding Cyprus.

2. Abramic Times:

We now come to the specific connections of Egypt with the Old Testament. The movement of the family of Abram from Ur in the south of Mesopotamia up to Haran in the north (Ge 11:31) and thence down Syria into Egypt (Ge 12:5,10) was like that of the earlier Semitic "princes of the desert," when they entered Egypt as the Hyksos kings about 2600 BC. Their earlier dominion was the XVth Dynasty of Egypt, and that was followed by another movement, the XVIth Dynasty, about 2250 BC, which was the date of the migration of Terah from Ur. Thus the Abramic family took part in the second Hyksos movement. The cause of these tribal movements has been partly explained by Mr. Huntington’s researches on the recurrence of dry periods in Asia (Royal Geogr. Soc., May 26, 1910: The Pulse of Asia). Such lack of rain forces the desert peoples on to the cultivated lands, and then later famines are recorded. The dry age which pushed the Arab tribes on to the Mediterranean in 640 AD was succeeded by famines in Egypt during 6 centuries So as soon as Abram moved into Syria a famine pushed him on to Egypt (Ge 12:10). To this succeeded other famines in Canaan (Ge 26:1), and later in both Canaan and Egypt (Ge 41:56; 43:1; 47:13). The migration of Abram was thus conditioned by the general dry period, which forced the second Hyksos movement of which it was a part. The culture of the Hyksos was entirely nomadic, and agrees in all that we can trace with the patriarchal culture pictured in Gen.

3. Circumcision:

Circumcision was a very ancient mutilation in Egypt, and is still kept up there by both Muslim and Christian. It was first adopted by Abram for Ishmael, the son of the Egyptian Hagar (Ge 16:3; 17:23), before Isaac was promised. Hagar married Ishmael to an Egyptian (Ge 21:21), so that the Ishmaelites, or Hagarenes, of Gilead and Moab were three-quarters Egyptian.

At Gerar, in the south of Palestine, Egyptian was the prevailing race and language, as the general of Abimelech was Phichol, the Egyptian name Pa-khal, "the Syrian," showing that the Gerarites were not Syrians.

4. Joseph:

The history of Joseph rising to importance as a capable slave is perfectly natural in Egypt at that time, and equally so in later periods down to our own days. That this occurred during the Hyksos period is shown by the title given to Joseph-- Abrekh, (’abhrekh) (Ge 41:43) which is Abarakhu, the high Babylonian title. The names Zaphnath-paaneah, Asenath, and Potipherah have been variously equated in Egyptian, Naville seeing forms of the XVIIIth Dynasty in them, but Spiegelberg, with more probability, seeing types of names of the XXIInd Dynasty or later. The names are most likely an expansion of the original document; but there is not a single feature or incident in the relations of Joseph to the Egyptians which is at all improbable from the history and civilization that we know. See Joseph.

5. Descent into Egypt:

The descent into Egypt and sojourn there are what might be expected of any Semitic tribe at this time. The allocation in Goshen (Ge 47:27) was the most suitable, as that was on the eastern border of the Delta, at the mouth of the Wady Tumilat, and was a district isolated from the general Egyptian population. The whole of Goshen is not more than 100 square miles, being bounded by the deserts, and by the large Egyptian city of Budastis on the West. The accounts of the embalming for 40 days and mourning for 70 days (Ge 50:3), and putting in a coffin (Ge 50:26) are exact. The 70 days’ mourning existed both in the Ist Dynasty and in the XXth.

6. The Oppression:

The oppression in Egypt began with a new king that knew not Joseph. This can hardly be other than the rise of the Berber conquerors who took the Delta from the Hyksos at the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty, 1582 BC, and expelled the Hyksos into Syria. It could not be later than this, as the period of oppression in Egypt is stated at 4 centuries (Ge 15:13; Ac 7:6), and the Exodus cannot be later than about 1220 BC, which leaves 360 years for the oppression. Also this length of oppression bars any much earlier date for the Exodus. The 360 years of oppression from 430 of the total sojourn in Egypt, leaves 70 years of freedom there. As Joseph died at 110 ( Ge 50:26), this implies that he was over 40 when his family came into Egypt, which would be quite consistent with the history.

7. The Historic Position:

The store cities Pithom and Raamses are the sites Tell el-Maskhuta and Tell Rotab in the Wady Tumilat, both built by Rameses II as frontier defenses. It is evident then that the serving with rigor was under that king, probably in the earlier part of his long reign of 67 years (1300-1234 BC), when he was actively campaigning in Palestine. This is shown in the narrative, for Moses was not yet born when the rigor began (Ex 1; 2:2), and he grew up, slew an Egyptian, and then lived long in Midian before the king of Egypt died (Ex 2:23), perhaps 40 or 50 years after the rigorous servitude began, for he is represented as being 80 at the time of the Exodus (De 34:7). These numbers are probably not precise, but as a whole they agree well enough with Egyptian history. After the king died, Moses returned to Egypt, and began moving to get his kin away to the eastern deserts, with which he had been well acquainted in his exile from Egypt. A harsher servitude ensues, which might be expected from the more vigorous reign of Merenptah, after the slackness of the old age of Rameses. The campaign of Merenptah against Israel and other people in Palestine would not make him any less severe in his treatment of Semites in Egypt.

8. The Plagues:

The plagues are in the order of usual seasonal troubles in Egypt, from the red unwholesome Nile in June, through the frogs, insects, hail and rain, locusts, and sandstorms in March. The death of the firstborn was in April at the Passover.

9. Date of the Exodus:

The date of the Exodus is indicated as being about 1200 BC, by the 4 centuries of oppression, and by the names of the land and the city of Rameses (Ge 47:4; compare Ex 1:11). The historical limit is that the Egyptians were incessantly raiding Palestine down to 1194 BC, and then abandoned it till the invasion of Shishak. As there is no trace of these Egyptian invasions during all the ups and downs of the age of the Judges, it seems impossible to suppose the Israelites entered Canaan till after 1194 BC. The setting back of the Exodus much earlier has arisen from taking three simultaneous histories of the Judges as consecutive, as we shall notice farther on. The facts stated above, and the length of all three lines of the priestly genealogies, agree completely with the Egyptian history in putting the Exodus at about 1220 BC, and the entry into Canaan about 1180 BC.

10. Route of the Exodus:

The route of the Exodus was first a concentration at Raamses or Tell Rotab, in the Wady Tumliat, followed by a march to Succoth, a general name for the region of Bedawy booths; from there to Etham in the edge of the wilderness, about the modern Nefisheh. Thence they turned and encamped before Pi-hahiroth, the Egyptian Pa-qaheret, a Serapeum. Thus turning South to the West of the Red Sea (which then extended up to Tell el-Maskhuta), they had a Migdol tower behind them and Baal-zephon opposite to them. They were thus "entangled in the land." Then the strong east wind bared the shallows, and made it possible to cross the gulf and reach the opposite shore. They then went "three days in the wilderness," the three days’ route without water to Marah, the bitter spring of Hawara, and immediately beyond reached Elim, which accords entirely with the Wady Gharandel. Thence they encamped by the Red Sea. All of this account exactly agrees with the traditional route down the West of the Sinaitic peninsula; it will not agree with any other route, and there is no reason to look for any different location of the march.


11. Numbers of the Exodus:


12. Israel in Canaan:

Two points need notice here as incidentally bearing on the Egyptian connections:

(1) the Israelites in Palestine before the Exodus, indicated by Merenptah triumphing over them there before 1230 BC, and the raids during the Egyptian residence (1Ch 7:21);

(2) the triple history of the Judges, west, north, and east, each totaling to 120 years, in accord with the length of the four priestly genealogies (1Ch 6:4-8,22-28,33-35,39-43,14-47), and showing that the dates are about 1220 BC the Exodus, 1180 BC the entry to Canaan, 1150 BC the beginning of Judges, 1030 BC Saul (Egypt and Israel, 52-58).

13. Hadad:

The connections with the monarchy soon begin. David and Joab attacked Edom (2Sa 8:14), and Hadad, the young king, was carried off by his servants to Egypt for safety. The Pharaoh who received and supported him must have been Siamen, the king of Zoan, which city was then an independent capital apart from the priest kings of Thebes (1Ki 11:15-22). Hadad was married to the Egyptian queen’s sister when he grew up, probably in the reign of Pasebkhanu II.

14. Pharaoh’s Daughter:

The Pharaoh whose daughter was married to Solomon must have been the same Pasebkhanu; he reigned from 987-952 BC, and the marriage was about 970 in the middle of the reign. Another daughter of Pasebkhanu was Karamat, who was the wife of Shishak. Thus Solomon and Shishak married two sisters, and their aunt was queen of Edom. This throws light on the politics of the kingdoms. Probably Solomon had some child by Pharaoh’s daughter, and the Egyptians would expect that to be the heir. Shishak’s invasion, on the death of Solomon, was perhaps based upon the right of a nephew to the throne of Judah.

15. Shishak:

The invasion of Shishak (Egyptian, Sheshenq) took place probably at the end of his reign. His troops were Lubim (Libyans), Sukkim (men of Succoth, the east border) and Kushim (Ethiopians). The account of the war is on the side of the great fore- court at Karnak, which shows long lists of places in Judah, agreeing with the subjugation recorded in 1Ki 14:25,26, and 2Ch 12:2-4.

16. Zerakh:

Zerakh, or Usarkon, was the next king of Egypt, the son of Karamat, Solomon’s sister-in-law. He invaded Judah unsuccessfully in 903 BC (2Ch 14:9) with an army of Libyans and Sudanis (2Ch 16:8). A statue of the Nile, dedicated by him, and naming his descent from Karamat and Pasebkhanu, is in the British Museum.

17. The Ethiopians:

After a couple of centuries the Ethiopian kings intervened. Shabaka was appointed viceroy of Egypt by his father Piankhy, and is described by the Assyrians as Sibe, commander-in-chief of Muzri, and by the Hebrews as Sua or So, king of Egypt (2Ki 17:4). Tirhakah next appears as a viceroy, and Hezekiah was warned against trusting to him (2Ki 19:9). These two kings touch on Jewish history during their vice-royalties, before their full reigns began. Necoh next touches on Judah in his raid to Carchemish in 609 BC, when he slew Josiah for opposing him (2Ki 23:29,30; 2Ch 35:20-24).

18. Tahpanhes:

After the taking of Jerusalem, for fear of vengeance for the insurrection of Ishmael (2Ki 25:25,26; Jer 40; Jer 41; Jer 42), the remnant of the Jews fled to the frontier fortress of Egypt, Tahpanhes, Tehaphnehes, Greek Daphnae, modern Defenneh, about 10 miles West of the present Suez Canal (Jer 43:7-13). The brick pavement in front of the entrance to the fortress there, in which Jeremiah hid the stones, has been uncovered and the fortress completely planned. It was occupied by Greeks, who there brought Greek words and things into contact with the traveling Jews for a couple of generations before the fall of Jerusalem.

19. Hophra:

The prophecy that Hophra would be delivered to them that sought his life ( Jer 44:30) was fulfilled, as he was kept captive by his successor, Amasis, for 3 years, and after a brief attempt at liberty, he was strangled.

20. The Jews at Syene:

The account of the Jews settled in Egypt (Jer 44) is singularly illustrated by the Aramaic Jewish papyri found at Syene (Aswan). These show the use of Aramaic and of oaths by Yahu, as stated of 5 cities in Egypt (Isa 19:18). The colony at Syene was well-to-do, though not rich; they were householders who possessed all their property by regular title- deeds, who executed marriage settlements, and were fully used to litigation, having in deeds of sale a clause that no other deed could be valid. The temple of Yahu filled the space between two roads, and faced upon 3 houses, implying a building about 60 or 70 ft. wide. It was built of hewn stone, with stone columns, 7 gates, and a cedar roof. It was destroyed in 410, after lasting from before Cambyses in 525 BC, and a petition for rebuilding it was granted in 407.

21. The New Jerusalem of Oniah:

The most flourishing period of the Jews in Egypt was when Oniah IV, the son of the rightful high priest Oniah, was driven from Jerusalem by the abolition of Jewish worship and ordinances under Antiochus. In 170 BC he fled to Egypt, and there established a new Jerusalem with a temple and sacrifices as being the only way to maintain the Jewish worship. Oniah IV was a valiant man, general to queen Cleopatra I; and he offered to form the Jewish community into a frontier guard on the East of Egypt, hating the Syrians to the uttermost, if the Jews might form their own community. They so dominated the eastern Delta that troops of Caesar could not pass from Syria to Alexandria without their assent. The new Jerusalem was 20 miles North of Cairo, a site now known as Tell el-Yehudiyeh. The great mound of the temple still remains there, with the Passover ovens beneath it, and part of the massive stone fortifications on the front of it. This remained a stronghold of free Judaism until after Titus took Jerusalem; and it was only when the Zealots tried to make it a center of insurrection, that at last it was closed and fell into decay. Josephus is the original authority for this history (see Egypt and Israel, 97- 110).

22 The Egyptian Jew:

The Jew in Egypt followed a very different development from the Babylonian Jew, and this Egyptian type largely influenced Christianity. In the colony at Syene a woman named "Trust Yahweh" had no objection to swearing by the Egyptian goddess Seti when making an Egyptian contract; and in Jer 44:15-19, the Jews boasted of their heathen worship in Egypt. Oniah had no scruple in establishing a temple and sacrifices apart from Jerusalem, without any of the particularism of the Maccabean zealots. Philo at Alexandria labored all his life for the union of Jewish thought with Greek philosophy. The Hermetic books show how, from 500 to 200 BC, religious thought was developing under eclectic influence of Egyptian Jewish, Persian, Indian and Greek beliefs, and producing the tenets about the second God, the Eternal Son, who was the Logos, and the types of Conversion, as the Divine Ray, the New Birth, and the Baptism. Later the Wisdom literature of Alexandria, 200-100 BC, provided the basis of thought and simile on which the Pauline Epistles were built. The great wrench in the history of the church came when it escaped from the Babylonian-Jewish formalism of the Captivity, which ruled at Jerusalem, and grew into the wider range of ideas of the Alexandrian Jews. These ideas had been preserved in Egypt from the days of the monarchy, and had developed a great body of religious thought and phraseology from their eclectic connections. The relations of Christianity with Egypt are outside our scope, but some of them will be found in Egypt and Israel, 124-41.

23. Cities and Places Alphabetically:

The Egyptian cities, places and peoples named in the Old Testament may briefly be noted. AVEN (Eze 30:17) or ON (Ge 41:45) is the ’An of Egyptian, the Greek Heliopolis, now Matarieh, 7 miles North of Cairo. It was the seat of prehistoric government, the royal emblems were kept there as the sacred relics of the temple, and its high priest was "the great seer," one of the greatest of the religious officials. The schools of Heliopolis were celebrated, and it seems to have always been a center of learning. The site is now marked by the great enclosure of the temple, and one obelisk of Senusert (XIIth Dynasty). It was here that the Egyptian kings had at their installation to come and bathe in the lake in which the sun bathes daily, the ’Ainesh-Shems, or "Lake of the Sun" of the Arabs, connected with the fresh spring here which Christian tradition attributes to the visit of the Virgin and Child. The great sycamore tree here is the successor of that under which the Virgin is said to have rested.

BAAL-ZEPHON was a shrine on the eastern site of the head of the Red Sea, a few miles South of Ismailiyeh; no trace is now known of it (Ex 14:2).

CUSHIM or Ethiopians were a part of the Egyptian army of Shishak and of Usarkon (2Ch 12:3; 16:8). The army was in 4 brigades, that of Ptah of Memphis, central Egypt; that of Amen of Thebes, Southern Egypt and Ethiopia; that of Set of the eastern frontier (Sukkim); and that of Ra, Heliopolis and the Delta.

COSHEN was a fertile district at the west end of the Wady Tumilat, 40 to 50 miles Northeast of Cairo. It was bounded by the deserts on the North and Southeast, and by the Egyptian city of Bubastis on the West. Its area was not over 100 square miles; it formerly supported 4,000 Bedouin and now about 12,000 cultivators.

LUBIM, the Libyans who formed part of the Egyptian army as light-armed archers, from very early times.

MIGDOL is the name of any tower, familiar also as Magdala. It was applied to some watchtower on the West of the Red Sea, probably on the high land above the Serapeum.

No is Thebes, in Assyrian Nia, from the Egyptian Nu, "the city." This was the capital of the XIIth Dynasty, and of the XVIIth-XXIst Dynasties. Owing to the buildings being of sandstone, which is not of much use for reworking, they have largely remained since the desolation of the city under Ptolemy X. The principal divisions of the site are:

(1) Karnak, with the temple of the XIIth Dynasty, built over by all the successive kings of the XVIIIth Dynasty, and enlarged by Seti I and Rameses II, and by Shishak, Tirhakah, and the Ptolemies. The whole temple of Amon and its subsidiary temples form the largest mass of ruins that is known.

(2) Luqsor, the temple to commemorate the divine birth of Amenhotep III (1440 BC), added to by Rameses II.

(3) The funerary temples, bordering the western shore, of the kings of the XVIIIth to XXth Dynasties. These have mostly been destroyed, by the unscrupulous quarrying done by each king on the work of his predecessors; the only temple in fair condition is that of Rameses III, which is left because no later king required its material for building.

(4) The great cemetery, ranging from the splendid rock halls of the Tombs of the Kings, covered with paintings, down to the humblest graves. For any detailed account see either Baedeker’s or Murray’s Guides, or Weigall’s Guide to Antiquities.

NOPH, the Egyptian Men-nofer, Greek Memphis, now Mitraheny, 12 miles South of Cairo. This was the capital from the foundation at the beginning of the dynasties. Thebes and Alexandria shared its importance, but it was the seat of government down to the Arab invasion. In Roman times it was as large as London North of the Thames. The outlying parts are now all buried by the rise of the soil, but more than a mile length of ruins yet remains, which are now being regularly worked over by the British School. The heart of the city is the great metropolitan temple of Ptah, nearly all of which is now under 10 feet of soil, and under water most of the year. This is being excavated in sections, as it is all private property. At the north end of the ruins is the palace mound, on which has been cleared the palace of Apries (Hophra). Other temples have been located, as well as the foreign quarter containing early Greek pottery and the temple of Proteus named by Herodotus (see Memphis, I, II, III).

PATHROS is the usual name for Upper Egypt in the prophets. It is the Egyptian Pa-ta-res, "the south land."

PIBESETH is the Egyptian Pa-Bast, Greek Bubastis, at the eastern side of the Delta, the city of the cat-headed goddess Bast. The ruins are still large, and the temple site has been excavated, producing sculptures from the IVth Dynasty onward.

PITHOM is the Egyptian Pa-Tum, the city of the Sun-god Tum or Atmu, who was worshipped on the East of the Delta. The site has remains of the fortress of Rameses II, built by the Israelites, and is now known as Tell el-Maskhuta, 11 miles West of Ismailia.

RAAMSES is the other city built by the Israelites, now Tell Rotab, 20 miles West of Ismailia. A wailed camp existed here from early times, and the temple of Rameses was built on the top of the older ruins. A large part of the temple front is now at Philadelphia, excavated by the British School.

SIN is the Greek Pelusium, Assyrian Siinu, Arabic Tineh, now some desolate mounds at the extreme East coast of Egypt.

SUCCOTH was the district of "booths," the eastern part of the Wady Tumilat. It was written in Egyptian Thuku and abbreviated to Thu in which form it appears as a Roman name. The people of Succoth were Sukkim, named in the army of Shishak (2Ch 12:3).

SYENE, Hebrew Seweneh, modern Aswan, the southern border town of Egypt at the Cataract. The greater part of the old town was on the island of Elephantine. There the Jewish papyri were found, and that was probably the Jewish settlement with the temple of Yahu. The town on the eastern bank--the present Aswan--was of less importance.

TAHPANHES, TEHAPHNEHES, Greek Daphnae, Arabic Tell Defeneh. This was the first station on the Syrian road which touched the Nile canals, about 10 miles West of Kantara on the Suez Canal. It seems to have been founded by Psammetichus about 664 BC, to hold his Greek mercenaries. The fort, built by him, abounded in Greek pottery, and was finally desolated about 566 BC, as described by Herodotus. The fort and camp have been excavated; and the pavement described by Jeremiah (chapter 43), as opposite to the entrance, has been identified.

ZOAN, Greek Tanis, Arabic San, is about 26 miles from the Suez Canal, and slightly more from the coast. The ruins of the temple are surrounded by the wall of Pasebkhanu, 80 ft. thick of brickwork, and a ring of town ruins rises high around it. The temple was built in the VIth Dynasty, adorned with many statues in the XIIth and XIIIth Dynasties, and under Rameses II had many large granite obelisks and statues, especially one colossus of the king in red granite about 90 ft. high. It is probable that the Pharaoh lived here at the time of the Exodus.

IV. The Civilization.

1. Language:

We now turn to some outline of the civilization of the Egyptians. The language had primitive relations with the Semitic and the Libyan. Perhaps one common stock has separated into three languages--Semitic, Egyptian, and Libyan. But though some basal words and grammar are in common, all the bulk of the words of daily life were entirely different in the three, and no one could be said to be derived from the other. Egyptian so far as we can see, is a separate language without any connection as close as that between the Indo-European group. From its proximity to Syria, Semitic loan words were often introduced, and became common in the XVIIIth Dynasty and fashionable in the XIXth. The language continually altered, and decayed in the later periods until Coptic is as different from it as Italian is from Latin.

2. Writing:

The writing was at first ideographic, using a symbol for each word. Gradually, signs were used phonetically; but the symbol, or some emblem of the idea of the word, continued to be added to it, now called a determinative. From syllabic signs purely alphabetic signs were produced by clipping and decay, so that by 1000 to 500 BC the writing was almost alphabetic. After that it became modified by the influence of the short Greek alphabet, until by 200 AD it was expressed in Greek letters with a few extra signs. The actual signs used were elaborate pictures of the objects in the early times, and even down to the later periods very detailed signs were carved for monumental purposes. But as early as the Ist Dynasty a very much simplified current hand had been started, and during the pyramid period this became hardly recognizable from the original forms. Later on this current hand, or hieratic, is a study by itself and was written much more fully than the hieroglyphs on monuments, as its forms were so corrupt that an ample spelling was needed to identify the word. By about 800 BC begins a much shortened set of signs, still more remote from their origins, known as demotic, which continued as the popular writing till Roman times. On public decrees the hieroglyphic and demotic are both given, showing that a knowledge of one was useless for reading the other, and that they were separate studies.

3. Literature:

The literature begins during the pyramid period, before 4000 BC, with biographies and collections of maxims for conduct; these show well-regulated society, and would benefit any modern community in which they were followed. In the XIIth Dynasty tales appear, occupied with magic and foreign travel and wonders. A long poem in praise of the king shows very regular versification and system, of the type of Ps 136, the refrain differing in each stanza and being probably repeated in chorus, while the independent lines were sung by the leader. In the XVIIIth Dynasty, tales of character begin to develop and show much skill, long annals were recorded, and in the XIXth Dynasty there is an elaborate battle poem describing the valor of Rameses II. At about 700 BC there is a considerable tale which describes the quarrels of the rival chiefs, and the great fight regulated like a tournament by which the differences were settled. Such are the principal literary works apart from business documents.

4. Four Views of Future Life:

The religion of Egypt is an enormous subject, and that by which Egypt is perhaps most known. Here we can only give an outline of the growth and subdivisions of it. There never was any one religion in Egypt during historic times. There were at least four religions, all incompatible, and all believed in at once in varying degrees. The different religions can best be seen apart by their incongruity regarding the future life.

(1) The dead wandered about the cemetery seeking food, and were partly fed by the goddess in the sycamore tree. They therefore needed to have plates of food and jars of water in the tomb, and provided perpetually by their descendants in front of the doorway to the grave. The deceased is represented as looking out over this doorway in one case. Here came in the great principle of substitution. For the food, substitute its image which cannot decay, and the carved table of offerings results. For the farmstead of animals, substitute its carved image on the walls and the animal sculptures result. For the life of the family, substitute their carved figures doing all that was wanted, sacrificing and serving, and the family sculptures result. For the house, substitute a model upon the grave, and the pottery soul-houses appear with their furniture and provisions. For the servants, put their figures doing household work, and their service is eternal. For the master himself, put the most lifelike image that can be made, and his soul will occupy that as a restful home fitted for it. This principle is still believed in. Funeral offerings of food are still put even in Muslim graves, and a woman will visit a grave, and, removing a tile, will talk through a hole to her dead husband.

(2) The dead went to the kingdom of Osiris, to which only the good were admitted, while the evil were rejected, and consumed either by monsters or by fire. This heavenly kingdom was a complete duplicate of the earthly life. They planted and reaped, sported and played. And as the Egyptian felicity consisted in making others work for them, so each man was provided with a retinue of serfs to cultivate the land for him. These ushabti figures in later times usually number 400, and often 1 in 10 of them is clad as an overseer. A special chapter of the Book of the Dead is to be recited to animate them, and this, more or less abbreviated, is often inscribed upon the figures.

(3) The dead joined the company of the immortal gods, who float on the heavenly ocean in the boat of the sun. With them they have to face the terrors of the hours of the night when the sun goes through the underworld. Long charms and directions are needed for safety in this passage, and these form a large part of the funerary tests, especially on the Tombs of the Kings in the XVIIIth-XXIst Dynasties. To reach the boat of the sun a boat must be provided in the tomb, with its sailors and sails and oars. Such are frequent from the VIth-XIIIth Dynasties.

(4) The dead were carried off by the Hathor cow, or a bull, to wait for a bodily resurrection. In order to preserve the body for some life after the present age, each part must be protected by an appropriate amulet; hence, dozens of different amulets were placed on the body, especially from about 600-400 BC.

Now it will be seen that each of these beliefs contradicts the other three, and they represent, therefore, different religious origins.

5. Four Groups of Gods:

The mythology is similarly diverse, and was unified by uniting analogous gods. Hence, when we see the compounds such as Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, or Amen-Ra or Osiris-Khentamenti, it is clear that each god of the compound belongs to a different religion, like Pallas-Athene or Zeus-Labrandeus, in Greek compounds. So far as we can at present see, the gods linked with each of the beliefs about the soul are as follows:

(1) The Soul in the Tombs and Cemetery.

With this belief belong the animal gods, which form the earliest stratum of the religion; also Sokar the god of "Silence," and Mert Sokar, the "Lover of Silence," as the gods of the dead. With this was allied a belief in the soul sometimes going to the west, and hence, Khent-amenti, a jackal-headed god, "he who is in the west," became the god of the dead.

(2) The Soul in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Osiris is the lord of this kingdom, Isis his sister-wife, Horus their son, Nebhat (Nephthys) the sister of Isis, and Set her husband. Set also was regarded as coequal with Horus. This whole mythology results probably from the fusion of tribes who were originally monotheistic, and who each worshipped one of these deities. It is certain that the later parts of this mythology are tribal history, regarded as the victories and defeats of the gods whom the tribes worshipped.

(3) The Soul in the Sun-Boat.

Ra was the Sun-god, and in other forms worshipped as Khepera and Atmu. The other cosmic gods of the same group are Nut, the heaven, and her husband Geb, the earth; Shu, space, and his sister Tefnut. Anher the Sky-god belongs to Upper Egypt.

(4) The Mummy with Amulets, Preserved for a Future Life.

Probably to this group belong the gods of principles, Hathor the female principle; Min the male principle; Ptah the architect and creator of the universe; his spouse Maat, abstract truth and justice.

6. Foreign Gods:

Foreign gods frequently appear also in Egypt, mostly from Syria. Two importations were of great effect. Aton the radiant energy of the sun, the Adon or "lord," Adonai, Adonis, was introduced as a sole deity by Akhenaton 1380 BC, and all other gods were proscribed. This was a strictly rational and scientific religion, attributing all life and power to the action of the sun’s rays; but it only lasted 20 years in Egypt, and then vanished. The other important worship was that of Zeus Sarapis. The Zeus statue is said to have been imported from Sinope by Ptolemy I, but the Sarapis was the god of Memphis, Osarhapi, the Osiris form of the Hapi bull. The Egyptian worshipped his old gods; the Greek was satisfied with Zeus; and both nations united in adoring Zeus Sarapis. The temples and ritual are too wide a subject to touch in our present space; but the essential principle was that of providing a banquet for the god, and feasting in his temple, not that of an expiatory sacrifice or burnt offering, which is Semitic.

7. Laws:

The laws are but little known until the late Greek accounts. Marriage was usual with a sister, but this may have been with a half-sister, as among the Greeks and early Hebrews. Polygamy was unusual, but was legal, as many as six wives being represented in one instance. Kings of course had unlimited harems. Divorce was unusual, but was probably easy. In Coptic times a marriage contract provides for divorce by either party, upon paying six times the marriage gift. Property was strictly guarded.

8. Character:

The national character was easygoing, kindly, never delighting in torture like the Assyrians and Romans, but liable to be too slack and careless. Firmness, decision and fortitude were held up as the leading virtues. The structure of society, the arts and the industries are outside of the scope of this article.

(For differing views on chronology and sites, see articles EXODUS; WANDERINGS OF ISRAEL; PITHOM; RAAMSES, etc., and on individual kings, etc., articles under their names, and EGYPTIAN KINGS.)


Works in English, that are the most accessible, are stated in preference to foreign works, the references to which will be seen in the books stated below.

The Country: Baedeker’s Egypt; on the flora, Petrie, Hawara, Biahmu, and Arsioe.

The History: Prehistoric: Petrie, Diospolis Parva, etc.; de Morgan, Recherches; Maspero, The Dawn of Civilization, The Struggle of the Nations, The Passing of the Empires; Petrie, Student’s History of Egypt; Breasted, A History of Egypt, etc. On the Ist-IInd Dynasties, Petrie, Royal Tombs. On the IIId-VIth Dynasties, Petrie, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh; Murray, Saqqara Mastabas I. On the VIIth-XIVth Dynasties, Petrie, Gizeh and Rifeh; de Morgan, Dahchour, I, II. On the XVth-XXIVth Dynasties, Weigall, Guide to Antiquities; Baedeker on Thebes; Petrie, Six Temples at Thebes. On the XXVth Dynasty to Roman times, Petrie, Temple of Apries; Mahaffy, The Empires of the Ptolemies; Milne, History of Egypt under Roman Rule. On the early foreign connections, Petrie, Methods and Aims in Archaeology.

On the Semitic Connections: Petrie, Syria and Egypt from the Tell el-Amarna Tablets. On the Old Testament Connections: Petrie, Egypt and Israel.

On the Language: Murray, Elementary Grammar.

On the Writing and Literature: Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt; Petrie, Egyptian Tales, I, II.

On the Religion: Wiedemann, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians.

On the Customs: Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians.

On the Arts: Petrie, The Arts and Crafts of Ancient Egypt.

W. M. Flinders Petrie

See also

  • Coptic Church