It’s incredible how much can happen in 8 days. The land of Egypt is so rich, so saturated with history and stories that it would be nearly impossible to take it all in, even with decades of study. Our tour guide, Osman, (who is one of the best men I have ever met) is by far also one of the best tour guides in all of Egypt. He is professional Egyptologist, tour guide, hieroglyphics teacher, and Biblical historian. Not only did he take us around to all the famous sites, but at each one he did his best to tie in all the geography, temples, etc. to the stories in the Bible. I never realized just how much Egypt had to do with the development of Judaism and ultimately Christianity.
I would like to start my summary of our trip by recording some of the things I learned that my Sunday school teachers never knew:
– The pyramids were seen by Abraham, Joseph (and his entire family), Moses, and Jesus
– There is technically more than one Temple. When Judea was overrun and many Jews taken captive and Solomon’s Temple was destroyed, many Jews escaped to Egypt and built a full-scale replica of the Temple, complete with priests and a sacrificial altar. In fact, a second full-scale replica was built on an island in the Nile called Elephantine Island (which archeologists are excavating right now). What’s more, the Egyptians built a temple of their own called the Temple of Philae which is based off of those other two replicas of Solomon’s Temple.
– The Ark of the Covenant probably wasn’t a big box. It would have been shaped like a small boat with a shrine area in the middle and two cheribum on either end. (I will post a picture later) How do we know this? Because in the Egyptian temples (which included a “Holy of Holies” where the god was and only the high priest could enter) the god was kept in an “Ark” which was a small boat with two long poles on either side which the priests used to carry the ark. Also, the 14 Commandments of Egypt were kept on display inside the ark. Moses, growing up around the main temple complex in Luxor, would have seen this ark taken out of the temple on many occasions.
– When the Israelites were encamped around Sinai and built a golden calf, it was most likely a representation of the goddess Hathor, one of the main goddesses worshiped in the time of their enslavement.
– The Egyptians had a god in their pantheon named Set, who was the god of chaos, evil, and the wilderness. From the name of Set, the Jews derived the name for Satan.
– The Egyptian priests made a practice of removing their sandals when they were inside the Temple, which was considered “holy ground”. God told Moses to remove his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground.
– The only exception to this practice of removing their sandals was during a time of war, when every man had to be prepared for fight of flight. God told the Israelites on the night of the Passover to keep their sandals on as they ate the meal, for they were getting ready to run. Paul told Christians in Ephesians 6 to keep our shoes on, which is the preparation of the gospel of peace, during a time of spiritual warfare.
– Early Christians made it a practice to use pagan symbols as their own symbols of the faith. For instance, they ancient Egyptians used a symbol called an ankh, which was the “key of life” carried by all the god, representing the Nile river. It looks like a cross with a circle on the top. Early Christians in Egypt used this symbol as their own to represent the life which we have in Christ.
OK, I’ll stop here for now. There’s more I could talk about, but I’ll leave that until the actual trip summary. I wanted to go ahead and write this stuff down before I forgot about it. All of this goes to show that God, in His infinite wisdom, has no problem with reaching people on their level. He used the things which the Israelites knew. He met them where they were and showed them the way to himself. Our God truly is an awesome God.