By Dr. Joseph B Fuiten
Sunday, February 5, 2011
The sudden chaos of Egypt appears to have taken the world by surprise.
Neither the Israeli nor US intelligence seemed to see this coming. Considerable indecision, fear and handwringing characterized the early response of the United States to this crisis. As a Christian, I am interested in what happens in Egypt. I also think the Bible can help me think about what is going on there. Even though we cannot know the exact timing of the biblical prophecies, they do give us a general impression about Egypt's future.
I have visited Egypt several times and find it a fascinating place. As I have walked through the history of that land, I see the dominating power it once held. When I read the Bible, I can see that they were the center of power for millennia. Looking at the Great Sphinx guarding the Pyramids I hear the echo of the Cherubim as they guarded the sacred spaces of the Garden of Eden.
The Bible tells us a lot about Egypt's past but it also tells us about its future. We are told of both the good and bad of its future. We can gain insight on the current crisis if we can place it in the context of the Bible prophecies. There are three prophecies about Egypt that I would like to consider.
FIRST, Egypt will never again be a dominating world power or even a regional power according to Ezekiel 29:15-16. That text was written between 593-571 BC. Here is how that prophecy reads:
"It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt
itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it
will never again rule over the nations. Egypt will no longer
be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help.
Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.'" (NIV)
While the prophecy indicates that Egypt would recover from some desolation, it would never regain its rule over other nations. At the time of this prophecy, Egypt was powerful. Egypt had been a world power for centuries, dominating many nations, including Israel. Since Ezekiel spoke those words, Egypt has been more impacted by foreign powers, including the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and more recently Turkey, France, and England. Today, Egypt is again an independent nation. Yet the millions of tourists who go to Egypt do so to see its amazing history preserved in stone rather than what it is today.
The dominating power of Egypt was a temptation to the nation of Israel in Biblical times. Israel was tempted to rely upon the protection of Egypt rather than upon the protection of God. I suspect this had something to do with why God reduced Egypt to its low position. Egypt went from a most powerful nation that served as a shelter to other nations to being dependent upon other nations for assistance. According to the prophecy of Ezekiel, it will never recover its former place of power or dominance.
There have been those who have tried to restore the power of Egypt most notably President Abdul Nasser. He rose to power with the army behind him. In his presidency, he envisioned Egypt as the center of three circles. Those three circles were the Arab circle, the Muslim circle, and the African circle. He did briefly establish a United Arab Republic with Syria but it soon fell apart. All his various restoration efforts came to nothing. Egypt's nearly 80 million people, although the largest in the Arab world, remain with little power.
One of the great fears of the current unrest is that Egypt will betaken over by radicals and will use its large population, control of the Suez Canal, and proximity to Israel to become dominant in that part of the world. Ezekiel 29 would suggest that it will not become a nation that rules over other nations. In my view, fear of radical Islam in Egypt will eventually prove unfounded. It will go the way of Nassar's vision, who even with massive Russian help could not achieve victory.
* Scroll down for images credits.
Another concern in the present crisis is that Egypt will become radicalized by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and will become a great threat to Israel and the peace of the region.
It is true that Egypt has managed the Muslim Brotherhood threat going back to Nassar and beyond. We should also note that Egypt has had a full peace treaty with Israel since 1979 thanks to the great courage of Anwar El Sadat. Prior to the peace treaty Egypt had fought wars with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967, and in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. I have heard reports that some leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood have said they would honor the peace treaty if they had an influence in any new government. Who knows if the report itself or the sentiment behind the reports has any real validity! Besides the peace treaty, we could also point out that Egypt has been influential, to a significant degree, in restricting the flow of arms into Gaza. Egypt has been an uneven but generally positive force for peace with Israel since the peace treaty. The first prophecy predicts Egyptian weakness and lack of dominance, which have never been overcome.
The SECOND prophecy I would like to consider has a bearing on the question of the radicals.
For those who study prophecy, Ezekiel 38 and 39 are key chapters. Those chapters describe a list of nations who will come against Israel in the last days. The nations are listed there by their sixth century BC names but most are traceable into the present times. Here is a key part of that Scripture, Ezekiel 38:1-6:
"The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him 3 and say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army - your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. 5 Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, 6 also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops - the many nations with you." (NIV)
These chapters point to nations that will come against Israel in the last days. Interestingly, those that can be identified are Islamic countries. We see Persia or Iran as listed among those coming against Israel. That fits with everything we know of Iran at the moment. I have my doubts as to whether Russia is on that list, but many Evangelical scholars seem to think so in spite of my reservations. There can be no doubt about the Islamic nature of those we can identify. That also fits with the obvious hostility of Islam toward Israel. Many of the Moslem nations joined with Hitler in WWII to try to destroy the Jews and they will attempt to do so yet again.
But notice who is not on the list. Egypt is not mentioned (nor is Iraq). Writing in the sixth century BC, there is no way any reasonable person would have left Egypt, that most powerful of nations, off the list. That would be comparable to leaving the US and China off the list of economic powers in the world today. The omission of Egypt from the list cannot be an oversight. It must be that Ezekiel did not see Egypt as among those who would attack Israel in the last days. Of course, we believe it is more than Ezekiel. We think the Lord was speaking through Ezekiel. We see something similar in Psalm 83 where Egypt is not among those who come against Israel. Although the Psalm lacks the timing element that we see in Ezekiel, it might readily be applied to the end time.
Let's bring this second prophecy to the present crisis in Egypt.
The West's great fear in Egypt is not that Mubarak will be lost or that the economic output of Egypt will be lost. No one seems to care much if Muslims fight with each other or if Egyptians die. The West fears that a radical group like the Muslim Brotherhood will rise to power. This is not an idle fear since we have several examples of the radicalization of the Middle East such as the Ayatollahs and Clerics in Iran, Hamas in Gaza, the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the threat of Al Qaeda in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
If radicals rise to power in Egypt, they might shut off the Suez Canal and the nearby Sumed pipeline (also known as the Suez-Mediterranean pipeline.) The Suez Canal connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez with the Mediterranean Sea. Its closure would affect the supply of oil to the world and thereby the price of oil. With some 3,000 tankers prevented from passing through the Canal annually, higher oil prices could send our fragile economies into a deeper slide.
If we are in the end times that Ezekiel foresaw, and I believe we are, then Egypt will not be in the forefront of the attack upon Israel.
Even though its proximity and history of war with Israel would suggest it might be, Egypt is not on the biblical list. That makes me think the Muslim Brotherhood or other similar radical group will not end up in charge of Egypt. Of course, the final war is preceded by the arrival of the Antichrist who will rise to the top promising peace and prosperity. His "peace" will be superficial and misleading since he will be quite literally a devil in the flesh.
In the THIRD biblical prophecy Egypt plays quite a different role.
- We began with Egypt as the great power tempting Israel to trust in Egypt rather than in God.
- Then we noticed that Egypt was absent from the attacks upon Israel.
- In this final example, Egypt becomes a symbol of true worship to God.
Isaiah has a series of prophecies in chapters 17 to 19 that are worth considering. In Isaiah 17, for example, describes the destruction of Damascus at some yet future date. Chapter 19 has passages that might describe the scene in Tahrir Square, beginning in verse 2-4:
"I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian - brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists. I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them," declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty." (NIV)
Feb. 3: Anti-government protestors throw stones during clashes in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's prime minister apologized for an attack by government supporters on protesters in a surprising show of contrition Thursday, and the government offered more concessions to try to calm the wave of demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. (AP) Read more ...�
Isaiah then describes the virtual drying up of the Nile. Whether that future event happens because of lack of rainfall up river or diversion into the desert by some man made or natural catastrophe we cannot say. Maybe it will be related to the High Dam at Aswan. We don't know how, we just know that it will happen.
What follows in Isaiah 19:17-25 describes a day that is yet future:
"And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone
to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the LORD Almighty is planning against them. In that day five cities in
Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD Almighty. One of them will be called the City of Destruction.
In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the LORD at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry
out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the LORD and keep them. The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 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." (NIV)
It is remarkable to consider three ancient enemies united in peace, communication, and worship of God. Each one blessed of the Lord is some unique way. Maybe this is why Egypt and Iraq (Assyria) are not listed among the end time nations attacking Israel. Rather than following the hard line and antichrist ways of the Islamists, these nations will turn to the Lord.
We cannot know when all this will happen. Prior to the Islamic invasions, these lands were Christian lands. They will be so again. We do not know if these things are connected to the return of Christ or will happen before or after. We only know that this is the future of Egypt. The future of that land is not to descend into chaos or to be a radical Islamic state. There may be ups and downs for Egypt as has been true for all its history. However, the long term future of Egypt is clear. Egypt will worship God.
These three prophecies cannot be pinned too closely to individual events. They do however show us the general flow of the future for the nation of Egypt. Knowing this will help us to pray for those people in this their hour of turmoil.
"Strategic Importance of the Suez Canal" by BBC.