Thursday, May 26, 2016

Isaiah 19 possibly about Ptolemaic Egypt?

I've argued before for a large part of Isaiah 19 being about 20th Century Egypt and the Aswan Damn.   And I'm still compelled by that, but it requires significant gaps to tie in with other parts of the Prophecy.

Given my recent realignments in how to think of Egypt's role in Bible Prophecy over all.  I decided to go over this chapter again, and I think a strong argument can be made for it being about some Ptolemaic History, maybe crossing over at the end into the Time of Christ.

Let's go over it verse by verse.
The burden of Egypt. Behold, Yahuah rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.
The first verse is arguably the strongest argument for this being End Times, with Yahuah riding on a Cloud, but such imagery is not uncommon in the Hebrew Scriptures.
And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.
Some people have argued the "Kingdom Against Kingdom" statement here may be what Jesus was drawing on in the Olivite Discourse.  But in the context of Ancient Egypt this terminology is likely meant to make one think of Egypt's traditional division between Upper and Lower Egypt.

Now we often think of that as not a factor in Ptolemaic Egypt.  However during the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopater, a rebel named Horwennefer/Ankhwennefer proclaimed himself King in Thebes (Upper Egypt).  Ptolemy IV is also the villain in the controversial 3 Maccabees which I intend to discus in the future, but isn't relevant to this subject.
And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.
Ptolemaic Egypt was very important to the history of the occult.  Particularly the cult of Serapis.  But also Gnosticism was born from combining aspects of Platonic Philosophy and Egyptian religious ideas, then later the most famous forms of it brought in Judeo-Christian concepts.
And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, Yahuah of hosts.
The brief independence of Upper Egypt was put down by Ptolemy IV's son, Ptolemy V Epiphanes.  (Coincidentally he has the same infamous epithet as as the Seleucid Antiochus IV, who is so often a subject of Bible Prophecy discussions.)  Ending Horwennefer's reign wasn't the only internal conflict he dealt with either (going back to verse 2).

Wikipedia twice uses the word "cruel" dealing with Ptolemy Epiphanes putting down these insurgents.  For one of them citing this Historical Source as a reference.
The king, says Polybius, "treated them cruelly, and fell into many dangers."
Which in turn quotes Polybius.

Verses 5 through 10 are the center piece of the Aswan Damn argument.  And I still partly feel only what happened then can (so far) fit the full scale of what's described here.  But Ancient Egypt had many famines caused by the Nile drying up.  Is there evidence of a similar event during the time of Ptolemy V?

The argument that Imhotep is Joseph is largely dependent on the Famine Stele.  It is the only source linking Imhotep to a Seven year Famine.  But it still lacks the Seven years of plenty and other details about Joseph.  And Imhotep doesn't have his dream in advance, he's given a solution after there has already been seven years of famine.  And in The Bible it's the Pharaoh not Joseph who has the dream, making the Famine of Neferkasokar closer to being the same scenario but still not quite.

The reason I mention it here is it's incredibly late, it's Ptolemaic and even been specifically dated to the reign of Ptolemy V.  I've read some websites claim Imhotep was very popular during the reign of Ptolemy V.

What if it was a story told about a more ancient figure as a commentary on contemporary events?  Saying either that someone in their time did what is attributed to Imhotep here, or as a more critical commentary saying someone should have done what Imhotep did.

Verses 11-15 mentions Zoan.  What is meant by the Biblical Zoan is rather controversial.  The City of Tanis most likely meant in Isaiah's time was only strictly speaking the Capital during the 21st Dynasty.  I support the Revised Chronology view that the 21st Dynasty overlaps the Persian and Ptolemaic periods.  And that a 21st Dynasty inscription mentions Alexander The Great at Siwa.

Verses 16-17.
In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of Yahuah of hosts, which he shaketh over it.  And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of Yahuah  of hosts, which he hath determined against it.
This is the most difficult part for this theory.

It was during the reigns of Ptolemy IV/V that Judea changed from being under Ptolemaic control to Seleucid under Antiochus III The Great.  This point in the Prophetic narrative of Daniel 11 is around verse 14&15, which has been taken as implying this happens because the people of Judah themselves sided with Antiochus over Ptolemy.  Josephus possibly supports this in Antiquities of the Jews Book 12 Chapter 3 Section 3.

If what 3 Maccabees claims about Ptolemy IV's treatment of The Jews has some truth to it, that could explain this change in allegiance.
In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to Yahuah of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.  In that day shall there be an altar to Yahuah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to Yahuah.
Now we enter the part that is often taken one of two ways, sometimes both at the same time.  That this can only be Millennial, and that the Pillar/Altar is the great Pyramid.  That latter view I've debunked elsewhere, the former had been my main assumption, but now I'm thinking maybe not.

The five cities speaking Hebrew could well refer to Jewish settlements in Egypt made during and after the time of Alexander.  Which includes Alexandria which Josephus and Philo tell us was 2 Fifths Jewish in their time.

The argument that the "City of Destruction" is Heliopolis is absolutely valid.  From Wikipedia.
In the time of the major prophetsIsaiah made a reference to the City of the Sun as one of the five cities of Egypt that would come to speak Hebrew. However he made a wordplay on "city of the sun" (’ir hašemeš) by writing ’ir haheres which literally means "city of destruction".[Freedman, Myers, & Beck. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, (ISBN 0802824005ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4), “City of the Sun”, p. 261] These play of words were a prophetic description later reinforced by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel.[Isaiah 19:18 NLT] The Hebrew name, Beth-shemesh, where Beth means "house" and shemesh means "Sun" was also used to describe Heliopolis by Jeremiah. He prophesied this city's fate specifically when he declared that the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, would shatter the obelisks of Heliopolis and burn the temple of the sun in fire.[Jeremiah 43:13 NASB; Compare NIV] Jeremiah’s contemporary Ezekiel, reinforced this message by saying that the "young men of Aven (or Beth-Aven) would fall by the sword". Like Isaiah, Ezekiel also made a word play on the original Hebrew name of Heliopolis that was used in the time of Joseph, the city of On. The Hebrew word aven means "folly" or "iniquity", so that his reference implied "temple of folly" or "temple of iniquity".[Ezekiel 30:17 NIV]
So while I'd in the past like most assumed Onias IV's desire to apply this to his Temple in Leontopolis (a city in the district of Heliopolis) was totally spurious.  I'm now thinking it may not have been.

If the Elephantine Temple was still in use or at least partly still standing it could explain the Pillar at the border.   Some traditions from the Ethiopian Beta Israel community implies their ancestors still had a presence on Elephantine till the fall of Alexandria in 30 BC.

It was Ptolemy VI, the son and successor of Ptolemy V who gave Onias permission to build his Temple.
And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto Yahuah of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto Yahuah because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
Is it possible we've now leaped forward to the time of Christ?  Most uses of the peculiar noun form of this Hebrew word for "save" that the KJV renders "Saviour" (Moshiah) are taken as references to Jesus.  Egypt was under Roman oppression when Jesus was born.  Is it possible Jesus family visited the Onias Temple during their time in Egypt?

The talk of Assyria that follows could very well refer to Adiabene which became Jewish at this time, and also Osroene/Edessa.  And the Highway to Roman Roads.  But Assyria in Isaiah's time would have included much of what was Roman Syria, including Antioch which became a major center of early Christianity.

Many Christian want to build a negative image of Alexandria's role in Church History because they say the Alexandrian were mentioned negatively in Acts 6.  But if you read all of that story it arguably implies these Alexandrians and Cyrnecians were eventually won over by Stephen's arguments.  Meanwhile Apollos we are told was from Alexandria.

This is one option for this Prophecy.  But I am open to other theories.

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