I’ll tell You, there would be no way I, or any human being, could put up with what You put up with. I mean, these pharaohs, the Israelites and millions of others worshiping other gods, gods that don’t even exist, should be locked up.
There is no way anyone can even begin to fathom Your love for mankind. We can’t understand it because we can’t love like You do. The closet we got on earth to Your love is a mother’s love for her children, which is basically the same, but their love isn’t even close to the love You have.
I am just so glad and appreciative that You love me still, even after the bad things I had done in my past.
I just hope that someday, before Jesus comes, that people will realize that there is no life without You.
This is the last book of Hosea so we will next go to…
The Call to Repent
1 O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
3 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
6 His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
7 They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
9 Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.
The colossal Egyptian temple complex of Karnak at Thebes was not among the original Seven Wonders of the World, unlike the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Many tourists today, however, find the scale and grandeur of Karnak beyond anything they have ever seen. Its hypostyle hall – framed by pillars 80 feet high and encompassing 54,000 square feet – reflects the pride and ambition of Pharaohs Seti I and Ramses II, who were largely responsible for construction it.
Officially, such monuments were meant to honor the gods—in this case, Amun, the New Kingdom’s supreme deity. But because pharaohs claimed Amun as their father and patron, they were in fact glorifying themselves as well as the god when they erected such tributes to him.
Karnak was the site of a dramatic annual ceremony called the Opet Festival, which occurred in the season when the Nile flooded, an occasion of utmost importance for the ancient Egyptians and a time of thanksgiving.
The pharaoh accompanied an image of Amun from the god’s Great Temple at Karnak to the Luxor Temple at the far end of Thebes. There the king underwent a mysterious ritual that seemingly renewed his powers and confirmed that he was the god’s true son and heir.
Priests of Amun, who oversaw bakeries, breweries, and other assets within the temple complex, took this occasion to share their bounty with the people, who received bread and beer and expressed their thanks by praising Amun and his earthly embodiment, the pharaoh.
I suppose it might be good for us to understand the Egyptian Hieroglyphics, but it doesn’t really excite me. I have two other things that I am much more interested in understanding. Most of all, You. You are the one I want to understand.
Before I got to know You I probably would have been interested in the Rosetta Stone and a lot of things, but now that I know You, there is nothing in this world that actually matters to me. I just wait on Jesus because I’m ready to move on to a better life.
But while I’m still here on earth, the other thing I would like to understand, is women.
Anyway, let’s look at…
1 When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.
“When Ephraim spake” – in accordance with Jacob’s blessing (Gen 48:10-20), Ephraim became a powerful tribe from which came such prominent leaders as Joshua and Jeroboam I.
“Died” – wages of sin was death (Rom 6:23), and the end of the nation was at hand.
2 And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.
“Men…kiss the calves” – this phrase calls to mind the calves (and all sacrifices made to them) set up by Jeroboam to win the allegiance of the northern tribes in Israel.
“Kiss” – show homage to.
3 Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
4 Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no savior beside me.
5 I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.
6 According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.
7 Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:
13:7-8 – the Lord, preciously pictured as a shepherd would attack like the wild beasts that often ravaged the flocks.
8 I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.
9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
10 I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
“Where is any other that may save thee…?” – help is only from the Lord, not from kings. The prophet likely alludes to the royal assassinations of his day.
11 I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.
13 The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.
“A travailing woman” – their helpless situation was comparable to that of a woman in child birth who cannot deliver the child and consequently dies.
14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
“Death” – the personified reference is to the death of the nation. Paul applies this passage to resurrection (1 Cor 15:55).
15 Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.
“He be fruitful” – in Hebrew a wordplay on Ephraim (meaning “fruitful”). The drought-brining east wind is here a figure of Assyria, an instrument of the Lord. Assyria invaded the northern kingdom in 734 B.C., then crushed it and exiled its people in 722-721.
16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
The Rosetta Stone
His philological works laid the foundation of the science of Egyptology where he partly deciphered the Hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone by showing the original identity of the enchorial [i.e. Demotic] with the sacred characters [i.e. hieroglyphic].Ancient Egyptian inscriptions mystified modern historians until the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799 during Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and its Egyptian text was deciphered.
The stone—inscribed in 196 B.C. during the reign of King Ptolemy V of Egypt—contained the same text in Greek (the official language of the Ptolemaic dynasty), hieroglyphs (the original Egyptian script), and demotic (a cursive Egyptian script derived from hieroglyphs).
Nevertheless, deciphering the hieroglyphs took two decades.
English Egyptologist Thomas Young achieved an early breakthrough in 1814 by identifying Ptolemy’s name as a cartouche (a set of hieroglyphs contained within an oval) at several places in the text.
French linguist Jean-Francois Champollion expanded on Young’s work in 1822–1824 and cracked the code by determining that some hieroglyphs represent objects or concepts while others are phonetic, representing syllables in the spoken language.
The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek.
Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences among them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The Rosetta Stone:
What does it say?
The Rosetta Stone is a text written by a group of priests in Egypt to honor the Egyptian pharaoh. It lists all of the things that the pharaoh has done that are good for the priests and the people of Egypt.
I understand why these kings and queens would want to be in charge, it makes life easier. Yet, how good can it be if you have to worry all the time if someone is going to take you out? They can’t truly believe they will always stay on top, only You will always be above all things.
We can all look at Satan and see what happened to him:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isa 14:12-15).
Anyway, I saw quite a few interesting things in the above information so before we move on to Mediterranean Conquests I would like to look at a couple real short items, like…
1 Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
2 The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.
“Jacob”– Israel. The Lord indicated both kingdoms – all the descendants of Father Jacob. In their deceitfulness, Israel and Judah were living up to the name of their forefather (Jacob means “he grasps the heel”; figuratively, “he deceives”).
3 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:
“Took his brother by the heel” – God’s covenant people here relived the experience of Father Jacob and now had to return to God, just as Jacob was called back to Beth-el (Gen 31:1-15).
4 Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us;
“”Beth-el” – in Hosea’s time, Beth-el was the most important royal sanctuary in the northern kingdom.
5 Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.
6 Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
7 He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.
8 And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.
“They shall find none iniquity in me” – like a dishonest merchant, Ephraim (Israel) was confident that her deceitfulness would not come to light.
9 And I that am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.
“Solemn feast” – probably the feast of tabernacles (Lev 23:42-44), which commemorated the wilderness journey.
10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
“Spoken by the prophets” – there had been ample warning.
11 Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.
12 And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.
“Iniquity in Gilead” – Gilead was overrun by Assyria in 734-732 B.C.
“Gilgal” – the Hebrew contains a wordplay between “Gilgal” and “heaps” (Hebrew gallim). Rather than assuring safety, the altars themselves would be destroyed.
13 And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.
“Prophet” – Moses.
“Was he preserve
d” – as Jacob had cared for Laban’s flocks, so the Lord cared for Israel dring her wilderness wandering. Earlier leadership by the prophet Moses stands in contrast with Israel’s present disregard for prophets.
14 Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.
“His blood” – this may refer either to violence against the prophets or to human sacrifice. In legal passages (Lev 20:11-17), “their blood shall be upon them” describes guilt. The prophet drew a contrast between past divine preservation and present divine anger that would bring punishment.
Egypt’s Imperial Heyday
King Ahmose I inaugurated the triumphant New Kingdom around 1550 B.C. when he drove the Hyksos out and pursued them into Palestine, capturing their fortress at Sharuhen. He also reasserted Egyptian control over Nubia, which had broken free during the tumultuous Hyksos era.
The conquests of Ahmose and his successors enriched pharaohs and their forces, who claimed spoils and tribute from lands they conquered and took captives as slaves.
Commanders who served the king faithfully were granted high positions as royal officials or governors, replacing troublesome nobles who had formerly served as governors and vied with pharaohs for power.
Like earlier pharaohs, rulers of the New Kingdom claimed descent from Egypt’s supreme deity—an honor now held by Amun, the patron god of Thebes, whose symbolizing the breath of life was among the treasures entombed with cult incorporated that of Re, favored during the New Kingdom.
The magnificent temple complex at Karnak, located on the outskirts of Thebes, was the center of this powerful religious sect, which owned vast tracts of land throughout Egypt, huge herds of livestock, and dozens of workshops where laborers produced bread, beer, and linen garments for the priesthood.
Pharaohs donated to this cult part of what they gained through conquest. Priests returned the favor by making offerings at monuments that glorified Amun (sometimes referred to as Amun-Re) and the rulers devoted to him, including mortuary temples located near the entrance to royal tombs hewn out of cliffs across the Nile from Thebes.
Unlike the soaring pyramids of old, these tombs were hidden to prevent grave robbers from pilfering the treasures deposited in burial chambers to afford rulers a luxurious after life.
The campaigns that brought Egypt wealth and imperial glory were holy wars, waged by pharaohs who trusted in Amun and other honored deities to grant them victory over foes who worshiped lesser gods.
About 1457 B.C., King Thutmose III put his faith in the test by campaigning against rebels in Palestine and Syria. His grandfather, Thutmose I, had swept through those lands with his army and forced princes there to pay Egypt tribute.
But Thutmose III faced lingering opposition in the region from powerful rivals, including the Hittites in Asia Minor and the kingdom of Mitanni in northern Mesopotamian, which sought to expand at Egypt’s expense by encouraging this rebellion.
Thutmose III was urged by his officers to take a roundabout route to Megiddo, a hilltop city in Palestine where his foes were camped, overlooking the main road from Egypt to Syria. Instead, he insisted on advancing directly through a treacherous mountain pass at Aruna to show that he had no fear of being attacked there by the rebels he despised.
According to an inscription at Karnak URL touting his feats, he declared:
I swear; as Re loves me, as my father Amun favors me…my majesty goes! A servant follows his lord.
The pharaoh rode up front during that perilous advanced to show that he completely trusted in the gods to protect him and his troops, who indeed made it through the pass unscathed.
Then he entered battle at Megiddo “on a chariot of fine gold, decked in his shining armor,” dazzling and intimidating his opponents, who soon gave up the fight and retreated to their last bastion of safety within the city walls.
Gathering up prisoners, weapons, and chariots abandoned by their foes, his troops “jubilated and gave praise to Amun for the victory he had given to his son.”
After a lengthy siege, Megiddo fell to the Egyptians, and the rebel leaders crawled on their bellies in supplication before Thutmose, whose triumph they believed demonstrated the power of his father Amun “over all foreign lands.”
Thutmose III went on to humble the king of Mitanni by driving his forces from Syria, securing that country temporarily for the Egyptians, who still had to reckon with the formidable Hittites. The long struggle between those two powers culminated around 1275 B.C. when Egyptian troops led by King Ramses II met Hittites in battle at Kadesh, a stronghold in Syria.
The Egyptian army consisted of four divisions, named for the gods Amun, Re, Ptah, and Seth. Ramses was up front with the Amun division when Hittite charioteers surprised the Re division to his rear and routed it.
According to a flattering account composed at his command, Ramses saved the day by turning his chariot on the Hittites and overwhelming them:
His majesty slaughtered them in their places; they sprawled before his horses; and his majesty was alone, none other with him.
Unlike the account commissioned earlier by King Thutmose III, which gave some credit for his victory at Megiddo to his “valiant army,” Ramses’ inscription portrayed him as a superhuman figure, scattering the Hittites with no help from his troops.
In truth, the battle at Kadesh was no great victory. It was at best a draw for his hard-pressed soldiers, who withdrew from Syria afterward. Eventually, he concluded a peace treaty with the Hittite king, sealed when that monarch promised to send his daughter to join Ramses’ harem, bringing a large dowry.
When Ramses wrote to inquire when that princess would be arriving with her gifts, she dictated her own response, chiding him for mentioning the dowry. “My brother possesses nothing?” she asked the conspicuously wealthy king.
“That you, my brother, should wish to enrich yourself from me is neither friendly nor honorable!” This alliance revealed more about Egypt’s imperial ambitions than the deceptive account of Ramses’ “victory” at Kadesh.
Although rulers of the New Kingdom boasted that all lands were subject to them, they were largely content with dominating neighboring lands such as Palestine and Nubia, which provided them with tribute and also served as buffers, shielding them from raiders or invaders.
Unlike the Persians and Romans, who rose from obscurity and set out to prove themselves in battle by subduing one distant country after another, Egyptians possessed a mighty kingdom long before they acquired an empire.
They showed little interest in conquering the wider world as long as their homeland was secure and their neighbors bowed to them. Ramses had won a concession when the Hittite king offered his daughter to him in marriage. But this was a compromise between two longtime foes, not a conquest for Egyptians.
They owed their success not just to their military prowess but also to their diplomatic skills, demonstrated by pacts that brought to the king’s household princesses from many lands. (As long as Egypt remained a great power, Egyptian princesses were not given as wives to foreign rulers.)
When pharaohs returned from campaigns to their palace, they left behind the masculine world of battle and bravado and entered a realm where women were prominent. The most important women in the imperial family were the king’s mother – who might serve as regent if he succeeded his father as a boy – and the king’s principal wife.
Males born to this principal wife were first in the line of succession, but princes born to secondary wives in the harem sometimes reached the throne.
A principal wife who produced no male heir by her husband before he died might remain a prominent figure if she served as regent to a youngster he conceived with one of his secondary wives.
Such was the case with Queen Hatshepsut, who broke with tradition by strategizing to retain her power even after the heir placed under her regency came of age.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of King Thutmose I, who did much to expand the Egyptian empire, and she became the principal wife of King Thutmose II, her half-brother.
Incestuous marriages were not the rule among Egyptian royalty, but they had the advantage of uniting two descendants of a king who was considered to be a god and producing offspring of the highest breeding.
Royals who wed their siblings found precedents in Egyptian mythology, including the marriage of the god Osiris to his sister Isis, who, after her husband was dismembered by his scheming brother Seth, put Osiris back together and restored him to life.
For that feat and for preventing Seth from murdering her child Horus – destined to rule Egypt as a god and guide its first pharaohs – Isis served as an inspiration for Egyptian women, especially the queens.
Unlike Isis, Hatshepsut had no prince by her husband-brother, who left her with only a daughter when he died in 1479 B.C. His designated heir – the boy who would later win glory at Megiddo as King Thutmose III – was the son of a secondary wife who lacked the exalted ancestry of his regent, Hathsepsut.
Only the king’s rightful male heir was entitled to call the god Amun his father, but by wedding Thutmose II, Hatshepsut had earned the title “god’s wife,” or wife of Amun, thus strengthening her connection to Egypt’s supreme deity.
She may have resented the fact that her husband’s successor was the child of a woman she considered far beneath her. She acted less like that boy’s temporary overseer and more like Egypt’s rightful ruler, referring to herself as “mistress of the Two Lands.”
Regencies were supposed to end when the boy-king reached maturity. As that transition loomed, however, Hatshepsut threw caution aside and declared herself pharaoh, adopting all the emblems associated with kingship except the “Mighty Bull.”
She went so far as to claim Amun as her father, authorizing an account that described how the god conceived her by impersonating King Thutmose I and impregnating her mother. Amun meant for her to take charge of Egypt, she insisted: “I acted under his command; it was he who led me.”
A few women had ruled Egypt before Hatshepsut, but they were obscure successors to kings who evidently had no male heirs. For her to assert priority over Thutmose III was a radical move in this conservative society and could not have been achieved unless she had support from high officials at court, who risked losing power, if not their lives, if she yielded to Thutmose.
She could not match her father’s conquests by leading troops to battle, a role reserved for men, although her commanders conducted some military campaigns. Her proudest venture, however, portrayed on the walls of her mortuary temple was a trading expedition she dispatched to the land of Punt, along the Red Sea.
It returned laden with gold, ivory, myrrh (prized as incense), and menagerie of exotic animals, including monkeys, apes, panthers, giraffes, and baboons.
Hatshepsut did not banish Thutmose III—officially, he served as her co-ruler— but she overshadowed him. He may have waited patiently for her to die, or he may have plotted against her and hastened her departure, which occurred two decades or so after she became regent.
Now about 30, Thutmose took power and followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by achieving victories in Palestine and Syria.
Queen Hatshepsut may have contributed to those imperial feats by strengthening his drive to triumph in battle, an arena where she as a woman could not venture. Other brilliant and fearless women later figured prominently in the history of the New Kingdom, including Queen Tiy, the daughter of an army commander.
She became the principal wife of King Amenhotep III. Tiy was portrayed by sculptors at Amenhotep’s mortuary temple seated at his side on a shared throne, suggesting that their union was a royal partnership in which both the king and the queen were worthy of reverence.
Their son, crowned Amenhotep IV, paid similar tribute to his principal wife, Nefertiti, who joined him when he left Thebes around 1350 B.C. to devote himself to Aten (a radiant deity inhabiting the solar disk), whom he worshiped to the exclusion of all other gods at a new capital, Akhetaten (“Horizon of Aten”), under a new name, Akhenaten (“He Who Serves Aten”).
He was said to be the author of the “Hymn to Aten,” which offers high praise to the god from “your son who came from your body.” Akhenaten portrayed Aren as his father much as earlier pharaohs claimed to be the son of Amun or Re.
This cultural revolution was too much for traditi
onalists, and Akhenaten was later vilified as a heretic by rulers who restored the old forms of worship, honoring various gods.
Preoccupied with spiritual matters, Akhenaten did little to bolster the Egyptian empire. Although he fathered numerous daughters, he failed to provide a male heir, leaving the throne to his son-in-law Smenkhare, who survived Akhenaten by only a few months.
And young Tutankhamen (known as King Tut), who would be remembered largely for the spectacular treasures later found in his tomb. They were among the last rulers of the accomplished 18th Dynasty, which was founded by Ahmose I and endured for nearly three centuries.
No king did more to father sons and heirs and sustain his royal lineage than Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty, who lived up to the title Mighty Bull by siring more than 100 princes and princesses by the many wives in his harem before he died in 1221 B.C. after a 67-year reign.
Keeping a large harem, as Ramses did, increased the chances that a king would produce male heirs. It also had diplomatic advantages. A foreign ruler who gave his daughter to the pharaoh might prove more cooperative and less likely to turn against him.
But harems could also undermine the pharaoh and his great house by becoming centers of plots against the king and his rightful successor.
One such conspiracy was aimed at Ramses III of the 20th Dynasty, who took the throne about 1187 B.C. and succeeded in repelling invasions by Libyans from the west, as well as mysterious intruders called the Sea Peoples, who swept down from the northern Mediterranean.
In his later years, one of his secondary wives plotted with other women in the harem and officials at court to kill the king and place her son by him on the throne instead of his designated successor.
The plotters were apprehended, but Ramses IIIdied soon afterward, either of natural causes or because the conspirators succeeded in their scheme.
Ramses III was the last imposing ruler of imperial Egypt. The challenges he faced before he died in 1156 B.C., including threats from abroad and treachery at home, continued to plague the New Kingdom until it collapsed around 1070 B.C.
Egypt still had kings, but they were no longer Lords of the Two Lands. One dynasty governed Lower Egypt from Tanis, a city in the Nile Delta, while high priests of Amin-Re in Thebes—who were allowed to marry and have children—formed a rival dynasty and controlled Upper Egypt.
This was an age of transition and turmoil throughout the Near East. Contributing to the upheaval were advances in the technology of ironworking, which yielded stronger weapons than those made of bronze. The main source of iron ore in the Near East was Asia Minor.
When the Hittite empire collapsed there around 1200 B.C. pressure from the Sea Peoples, those invaders and other rising military powers gained greater access to the ore and became increasingly skilled at forging it.
Although Egypt succeeded in repelling the Sea Peoples some of them occupied the Mediterranean coast above the delta. Known as Philistines, they lent their name to Palestine and bequeathed their expertise as ironworkers to the Israelites, who solidified a kingdom under David and Solomon about 1000 B.C.
Having lost control of Palestine, the Egyptians had no buffer against aggressive powers such as the Assyrians, who gained strength in Mesopotamia this tumultuous Iron Age and eventually shattered the kingdom of Israel, threatening to do the same to Egypt.
Meanwhile, Egypt was subject to takeovers that were friendly compared with the hostile advances of the Assyrians and later conquerors. Like other imperial forces, the Egyptian army had recruited many men from countries it conquered or campaigned against, including Libyans and Nubians.
Many of those recruits adopted Egyptian customs, and some settled in Egypt. As the kingdom weakened, commanders of foreign origin gained political clout. About 950 B.C., a Libyan chieftain named Sheshonk from Bubastis, a city in the Nile Delta where Libyan recruits had settled and were now largely Egyptianized became king of Lower Egypt.
He and his successors tried to win over the rulers of Upper Egypt in Thebes through marriage alliances with high priests there. Thebans remained wary of the Libyans, however, and employed Nubian forces to fend them off.
Around 750 B.C., King Piye of Kush (as Nubia was now known) entered Thebes unopposed and took power, reassuring the populace by worshiping Amun-Re at Karnak. He went on to defeat the Libyans in the north and establish a Nubian dynasty whose rulers honored Egyptian traditions and differed little from earlier pharaohs except in complexion.
In 667 B.C., Assyrians invaded Egypt and ended Nubian rule. Thereafter, Egypt was prey to one great imperial power after another, a bitter fate for a kingdom whose rulers once portrayed all foreign lands as subject to them.
Periodically, Egyptians regained control of their country, only to be conquered anew—by Cambyses of Persia in 525, Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 332, and finally the Roman emperor Octavian, or Augustus Caesar, whose invasion in 30 B.C. drove Queen Cleopatra to suicide and Egypt to a Roman province.
Such was the power and persistence of Egyptian culture and beliefs that Cleopatra, last ruler of the Macedonian Dynasty founded by Alexander’s general Ptolemy, likened herself to the goddess Isis.
When she died, the kingdom of Egypt expired with her. But the legend of Cleopatra survived, as did the cultural legacy of the 30 dynasties that preceded hers over 3,000 years, leaving a monumental impression on the world.
1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
A third appeal to history traces God’s choice of Israel back to Egypt, the exodus from that country having given birth to the nation. Israel’s response to the Lord is now illustrated by the wayward son rather than by the unfaithful wife. For Israel as a son and for God as Father.
Hosea saw God’s love as the basis for the election of Israel. Matthew found in the call of Israel from Egypt a typological picture of Jesus’ coming from Egypt:
“And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matt 2:15).
2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.
“Go” – this picture of a father teaching is child to walk is one of the most tender in the Old Testament.
4 I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.
The imagery is unclear, but the figure seems to change to a farmer tending his work animals. Another interpretation sees a continuation of the son image, with the father lifting the son to his cheek.
“Laid meat unto them” – God supplied miraculous food in the wilderness (see Ex 16; Deut 8:16).
5 He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.
“Egypt…Assyria “ – the tender tone changes to threat of exile to the two countries between which Israel had vacillated. It is ironic that the people rescued from Egypt should be returned there because of their disloyalty to the One who had rescued them.
6 And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.
7 And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
8 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
The stubborn son was subject to stoning, but the Lord’s compassion overcame His wrath and He refused to destroy Ephraim (Israel).
“Admah…Zeboim” – cities of the plain overthrown when Sodom was destroyed and symbolizing total destruction.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
“God, and not man” – although Israel has been as unreliable as man, God will not be untrue to the love He has shown toward Israel. Israel was to be punished, but not destroyed.
10 They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
“Roar like a lion” – rather than threatening destruction God’s roar was now a clear signal to return from exile.
“The west” – the islands of the sea, as well as coastlands.
11 They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.
“As a bird…as a dove” – suggests swiftness of return and is not derogatory, as was the earlier comparison to a silly dove.
12 Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.
Constructed around 2500 B.C. to hold the remains of King Khufu of the 4th dynasty, the Great Pyramid at Giza contains more than two million stone blocks weighing on average about two and a half tons each.
Archaeologists continue to investigate how those huge limestone and granite blocks were hefted into place. They came from distant quarries, up to 500 miles away, and must have been transported down the Nile to Giza on barges.
Some sort of ramp was probably used to haul them up the sides of the emerging pyramid, which rose to a height of 481 feet.
Within the magnificent and impressive structure are passageways leading to the King’s Chamber, containing a stone sarcophagus for the pharaoh’s remains. The tomb was robbed ages ago, leaving no mummy or grave treasures.
So-called air shafts leading from the King’s Chamber to the surface of the pyramid may have been intended not for ventilation but to allow the king’s spirit to ascend to heaven.
Tens of thousands of laborers toiled for two decades constructing this great monument. Teams of workers with names such as “Victorious Gang” left their titles inscribed on the blocks. Many were peasants, conscripted to labor on the pyramid seasonally.
The Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt around 450 B.C., wrote that Khufu’s name was “odious, even to posterity,” for the labors he imposed on those who cut and transported the stones and built the Great Pyramid: “100,000 men were thus employed at a time, and they were relieved by an equal number every three months.”
Herodotus was repeating stories told to him thousands of years after Khufu died, but building such monuments must indeed have been taxing on Egypt and its people. That may explain why later pharaohs built smaller tombs than those erected at Giza by Khufu and his 4th-dynasty successors.
No one knows how those pyramids were made and I doubt we’ll ever know, unless You tell us.
I want to briefly…
1 Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.
2 Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.
“Their heart is divided” – Israel formally called to God, but they dishonored Him by pagan worship.
3 For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?
“We have no king” – such would soon be their condition when Assyria destroyed the nation.
4 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
“They have spoken words” – the last kings of Israel were notoriously corrupt and deceitful.
“Calves of Beth-aven” – the idol that Jeroboam set up at Beth-el (Beth-aven means “house of wickedness,” a derogatory name for Beth-el, which means “house of God.”
5 The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.
6 It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.
8 The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
9 O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.
10 It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows.
11 And Ephraim is as a heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.
“Heifer…taught” – up to now Ephraim (Israel) had been as contented as a young cow that ate while threshing grain. But now God would cause Israel (here called both Ephraim and Jacob) and Judah to do the heavy work of plowing and harrowing under a yoke – a picture of going into the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.
“Break his clods” – be no longer unproductive, but repentant, making a radical new beginning and becoming productive and fruitful.
12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
13 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
14 Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.
“Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel” – the event is otherwise unknown, as are the names mentioned. Atrocities against civilians were common in ancient warfare.
15 So shall Beth-el do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.
Old and Middle Kingdoms:
Pyramids of Power
No one rebels against me in all lands,” declared Queen Hatshepsut, one of the few women ever to rule Egypt in her own right. “All foreign lands are my subjects.” When she had those words inscribed on a monument around 1470 B.C., she was exaggerating the extent of her power, as many monarchs did.
Her New Kingdom empire had evolved from the unified state of the Old Kingdom, becoming a domain that reached from Nubia in the south to Syria in the north. But the Egyptians never made the people of Mesopotamia or more distant lands their subjects or rivaled the feats of later empire-builders such as the Persians or Romans.
The majesty of Egypt lay not in the scope of its conquests but in the remarkable stability and persistence of this proud kingdom, which raised its pharaohs to great heights long before it became a great empire.
Despite the heavy demands Egyptian rulers placed on those who waged their wars and built their monumental tombs and temples, rebellions were infrequent. One dynasty succeeded another over the centuries with few radical changes in practices or beliefs.
Pharaohs reigned as god-kings, and the order they imposed was viewed by people of all ranks as a gift from heaven. A society deeply concerned with the next life and achieving immortality, Egypt came as close as any ancient kingdom to reigning for an eternity and inspiring everlasting awe.
In the beginning, Egypt was not one country, but two. Lower Egypt, situated along the lower Nile River where it branches out to form the delta, was known as the Black Land because it was a marshy area, abounding in wildlife.
Upper Egypt, upriver to the south, was the Red Land because it was largely desert—except for a fertile floodplain along the Nile. The river was swelled in summer by monsoon rains falling in the highlands of East Africa and overflowed, leaving a fertile layer of silt.
By raising dikes and digging canals digging canals, villagers in Upper Egypt managed those floodwaters and increased the amount of land under cultivation, harvesting enough grain to support those who toiled in the fields as well as merchants, artisans, and other specialists.
Here as in Mesopotamia, strong rulers emerged. They oversaw those irrigation projects, claimed part of the harvest to support their troops and officials, and used the navigable Nile to extend their authority over distant communities.
About 3100 B.C., a king from Upper Egypt known as Narmer (sometimes referred to as Menes) conquered the delta and became Lord of the Two Lands, a title held proudly by his successors for centuries.
The kingdom that Narmer founded extended from the Mediterranean Sea some 500 miles south to the First Cataract of the Nile. This was not yet an empire, because its people made up a single, coherent society, sharing a common culture, language, and script, which featured alluring characters called hieroglyphs.
But ruling a kingdom of this size involved some of the same methods used elsewhere by emperors and their scribes to command obedience, including portraying the king as a sacred figure.
Early Egyptian cities were less populous than those in Mesopotamia and did not evolve into distinct city-states. But each had its own patron deity to whom the inhabitants prayed. The patron deity of Hierakonpolis—the city in Upper Egypt from which Narmer hailed—was Horus, a soaring spirit pictured as a falcon.
Horus watched over Egypt’s first pharaohs, a term meaning “great house,” referring both to the palace and the king.
As pharaohs grew more powerful, they associated themselves with a deity even higher and mightier than Horus: the solar god Re. The sun was revered in many lands, but it had special significance in sunbaked Egypt, where it dispersed the annual floods, bringing life to the land.
The sun traveled through a dark underworld each night to rise anew each dawn, a phenomenon viewed by Egyptians as a miraculous resurrection.
Myths portrayed pharaohs as sons of this sun god—conceived when Re impersonated their father the king and impregnated the queen—and promised that their eternal spirit would rise up after death and join Re in heaven.
That mythology, spelled out in hieroglyphs, was a matter of faith for pharaohs and their follower. But it was also a form of propaganda designed to make the king’s subjects worship and obey him and place their duties to the pharaoh above their obligations to any other lord or god.
Around 2700 B.C., Egypt moved beyond its formative phase—when rulers of its first two dynasties secured their hold on the land—and entered the golden age of the Old Kingdom.
The concept of divine kingship was now firmly established, and pharaohs staked their claim to immortality by erecting massive tombs to hold their mummified remains. (If a spirit was not housed in a well-preserved body, it might be lost, Egyptians feared, and never fulfill its destiny).
Pharaohs of the 4th dynasty signaled their lofty ambitions by building towering, smooth-sided pyramids, whose shape mimicked the sun’s slanting rays as they pierced the clouds.
According to an inscription, the Great Pyramids of King Khufu—erected about 2550 B.C. at Giza, near the Old Kingdom capital of Memphis—was designed to elevate his spirit so that it would “ascend to heaven as the eye of Re.”
That hypnotic image, which can be found on the U.S. dollar bill, achieved immortality even if the rulers buried in such tombs – many of which were later plundered and left vacant – did not.
Pyramids, obelisks, and other symbols of Egyptians might became lasting emblems of power and permanence, associated later with national heroes such as George Washington and with imperial glory seekers such as Napoleon, who invaded Egypt and marveled at monuments that would continue to dazzle onlookers long after the sun set on his ambitions.
The Egyptian workers who built those pyramids were conscripts, not slaves, and have they may well have taken pride in the results of their efforts. But the burden placed on the kingdom by these massive projects, which took decades to complete, could not be sustained by later rulers.
Kings of the 5th and 6th dynasties were buried in small pyramids, hastily constructed. Egyptian nobles, meanwhile, were acquiring more wealth and power in relation to the pharaoh and erecting impressive tombs of their own.
Eventually, many Egyptians with the means to do so would arrange to have their bodies mummified after death and placed in coffins containing funerary texts—spells designed to aid them when they entered the underworld and stood in judgment before Osiris, the god who ruled that shadowy kingdom and offered eternal life to those who proved worthy.
Egypt grew stronger and more stable when the king no longer towered so high above his subjects that he alone was deemed worthy of a glorious afterlife. In time, pharaohs, officials, priests, scribes, soldiers, and common people would all have their place in an orderly social hierarchy that endured because it afforded those at lower levels, on whose efforts rulers depended, security in this life and some hope of salvation after death.
Before Egypt achieved that stability, however, it underwent upheaval. About 2150 B.C., the Old Kingdom collapsed. Persistent drought may have caused famine and unrest. Local rulers vied with each other for supremacy until King Mentuhotep II of Thebes reunited Egypt by force of arms around 2050, inaugurating the Middle Kingdom.
Egypt emerged as an imperial power under Mentuhotep II and his successors, who sent troops south into Nubia. Earlier pharaohs had dispatched trading or raiding parties into Nubia to obtain gold, ivory, ebony, and other treasures.
But Egyptians now established a permanent military presence there by building fortresses such as Buhen, a huge structure bristling with battlements and surrounded by a moat. Situated near the Second Cataract of the Nile, well upriver from the traditional boundary between Egypt and Nubia.
It served as a frontier outpost, offering refuge to traders and guarding against attempts by Nubians or other foreigners to raid Egyptian towns. Later pharaohs advanced that frontier and brought most of Nubia under Egyptian control.
Some Nubians were captured and enslaved, but Egyptians did not reserve such treatment only for black Africans living to their south. They also enslaved light-skinned people from western Asia.
Many Nubians remained free and came to terms with their Egyptian overlords, serving them capably as soldiers or local officials and adopting their customs and beliefs. Eventually, Nubians would emerge from under Egypt’s shadow and build pyramids to house the remains of their own rulers.
Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom also made armed incursions into Palestine, the biblical land of Canaan, although they did not fortify and hold that country as they did Nubia. Instead, many people from Palestine and beyond began infiltrating the Nile Delta.
Around 1650 B.C., intruders of Asiatic origin known as the Hyksos, meaning “rulers of foreign lands,” took control of the delta. Riding horse-drawn chariots like the Hittites who would soon storm Babylon, they overpowered Egyptian forces.
Looking back on that invasion more than a thousand years afterward, the Egyptian historian Manetho characterized the Hyksos as barbarians who “burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of our gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others.
After occupying Lower Egypt and establishing their capital at Avaris, the Hyksos refrained from attacking the rulers of Upper Egypt in Thebes. Instead, they demanded tribute from the Thebans and took their princesses as wives.
Far from dragging Egypt back into barbarism, the Hyksos prodded the country forward by introducing new technology, including chariots and bronze weapons. Those innovations were adopted and exploited by Egyptians when they wearied of paying tribute to the foreigners and set out to defeat them.
King Kamose of Thebes launched that campaign, vowing to save Egypt and “smite the Asiatics.” He died before completing the conquest, though, leaving as heir his young relative Ahmose, who may still have been under the care of his mother, Queen Ahhotep.
Ahmose later praised her in writing as one who cared for Egypt and “looked after her soldiers,” suggesting that she served as regent until he matured and took command.
When Ahmose expelled the Hyksos from the delta around 1550, the triumph marked the dawn of the New Kingdom, whose rulers concluded that the best way to prevent another invasion from western Asia was to compete there for imperial supremacy.