August 26, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Saint Paul wrote in the first ten verses of I Corinthians 10 of things that happened to the Israelites as they left Egypt and wandered in the Sinai Peninsula. In the first four verses, he described the blessings God gave His people – deliverance, His presence, protection, and provision. But in the next six verses the apostle turns to half a dozen incidences of God’s judgment and discipline upon the Israelites because of their unbelief and disobedience. Then in verse 11 he writes, “Now all these things happened to them as examples; and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.” This principle holds true throughout the Old Testament – we are to learn from what happened to people in the Old Testament, and apply it to our Christian lives today!
The experiences of the Israelites From Egypt To Canaan are our examples showing us how to better live out the Christian life! Let’s start with Exodus 1:8 through 11:
Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he
said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and
mightier than we; come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and
it happen, in the event of war, that they join our enemies and fight against
us, and so go up out of the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them
to afflict them with their burdens.
You probably know the story of Joseph – sold into Egypt by his jealous brothers, he rose to be prime minister of the entire country, and was instrumental in saving his family (and many, many others) from starvation! But Joseph had died, and the current Pharaoh was not familiar with his life-saving advice and leadership. What that Egyptian king did know was that the Israelites had multiplied so greatly, he perceived them as a threat! So he gave the order to enslave the Hebrew nation!
It has long been recognized by Bible scholars through the ages that Egypt represents the godless world! Didymus the Blind ( c. 313 – c. 398) headed the catechetical school of New Alexandria in Egypt. He is thus quoted in De Trinitate II:14:
Egypt represents the world, in which we harm ourselves if we live badly; the
people are those who are now enlightened…the waters, which are for these
people the means of salvation, represent Baptism; Pharaoh and his soldiers
are the Devil and his satellites.
The website, Jesus Plus Nothing (http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/exodus1.htm) features an article by Iain Gordon of New Zealand, part of which I quote here as a good summary of how the Bible views Egypt as representing the world:
As a picture of ‘worldliness’, the Egyptian empire oozed power, wealth and
control, and it was from this empire that God called His people out so that
they would be separate for Him. The same applies today….
The Pharaoh had absolute control over Egypt, and was even worshiped as
a god by his subjects. In the actions of Pharaoh, in stubbornly refusing to
allow God’s people to leave Egypt we have a picture of Satan – the ‘god of
this world’ who exercises his power and control to prevent those called to-
day from leaving his worldly system and coming to God.
Is it any wonder that in the Scriptures the Israelites are thus challenged to stay away from Egypt…
• …by Nehemiah in Nehemiah 9:16, 17 – “But they [the Israelites] and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments. They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage.”
• …by God in Isaiah 30:1-3 – “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the LORD, ‘who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation.’ ”
• …God in Hosea 8:11-13 – “Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, they have become altars for sinning. I have written to him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing. For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it, but the LORD does not accept them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. They shall return to Egypt. For Israel has forgotten his Maker….”
In our next blog, we will consider how the Hebrews slavery in Egypt is a picture of our slavery to sin!