Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Friday, March 7, 2014

Failed Prophecy: Ezekiel's prophecy against Egypt

In Ezekiel 29 and 30, Ezekiel prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would invade and defeat Egypt, and that the victory would be so great that Egypt would become uninhabited for a period of 40 years.

Let's explore further...

The prophecy begins in detail in Ezekiel 29v8-12 (NET)
29:8 “‘Therefore, this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will kill every person and every animal.

29:9 The land of Egypt will become a desolate ruin. Then they will know that I am the Lord. Because he said, “The Nile is mine and I made it,”

29:10 I am against you and your waterways. I will turn the land of Egypt into an utter desolate ruin from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border with Ethiopia.

29:11 No human foot will pass through it, and no animal’s foot will pass through it; it will be uninhabited for forty years.

29:12 I will turn the land of Egypt into a desolation in the midst of desolate lands; for forty years her cities will lie desolate in the midst of ruined cities. I will scatter Egypt among the nations and disperse them among foreign countries.
Ezekiel also adds more detail in verses 19-20:
29:19 Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am about to give the land of Egypt to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon. He will carry off her wealth, capture her loot, and seize her plunder; it will be his army’s wages.

29:20 I have given him the land of Egypt as his compensation for attacking Tyre, because they did it for me, declares the sovereign Lord.

Interestingly we have here a reference to the prophecy against Tyre from Ezekiel 26. A surface reading suggests that this passage admits that Nebuchadnezzar failed to capture Tyre, and is being given Egypt as compensation.

Ezekiel chapter 30 adds even more detail linking these two sections together, and leaving us in no doubt that the destruction of Egypt will be at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar:
30:10 ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: I will put an end to the hordes of Egypt, by the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon.
Chapter 30 takes on a slightly different form, like that of a poem or a song, and it is full of references back to the previous chapter. There cannot be any doubt that chapter 30 is describing the same events as chapter 29.

So let's summarize the key points of the prophecy:
  • The land of Egypt will become a desolate ruin (v9, v10, v12) 
  • No human or animal foot will pass through the land of Egypt 
  • Egypt will be uninhabited for 40 years 
  • Egypt will be scattered among the nations 
  • The desolation of Egypt will be carried out by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon 
Did it happen? No.

Not one of these predictions came true. Not even close.

Let's examine the evidence...

Nebuchadnezzar began his reign shortly after the Battle of Carchemish, in which the Babylonian army invaded the Assyrian city of Carchemish, which was the Assyrian capital at the time. Egypt was allied with the Assyrian king and came to his aid against the Babylonians.

During this battle, which took place in 605 BCE, the Egyptian and Assyrian armies were defeated and Assyria ceased to exist as an independent power. Egypt retreated and was no longer a significant force in the Ancient Near East.

The "Jerusalem Chronicle", now housed in the British Museum, describes the battle from the Babylonian perspective:
They fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him.He accomplished their defeat and beat them to non-existence. As for the rest of the Egyptian armywhich had escaped from the defeat so quickly that no weapon had reached them, in the district of Hamaththe Babylonian troops overtook and defeated them so that not a single man escaped to his own country.At that time Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole area of Hamath.
So far so good

Nebuchadnezzar convincingly defeated the Egyptian army and forced the Egyptian king (Necho II) to retreat.

This very battle is referred to in the bible in Jeremiah 46:3-12.

If you keep reading in Jeremiah 46, from verse 13-26 we have another prophecy against Egypt, very similar to the one in Ezekiel 29.

Jeremiah 46:26 says:
I will hand them over to Nebuchadnezzar and his troops, who want to kill them. But later on, people will live in Egypt again as they did in former times. I, the Lord, affirm it!
Notice that here too we have a suggestion that after Nebuchadnezzar defeats Egypt, there will be a time when Egypt will be uninhabited. Compare also v19 ("Memphis will be laid waste. It will lie in ruins and be uninhabited").

What happens next?

Well, we already have the Battle of Hamath referred to in the Babylonian chronicles. This is where the Babylonian army caught up with the fleeing remains of the Egyptian army that was defeated at Carchemish. Necho II is not mentioned here, and nor is he mentioned in the biblical account. It is therefore possible that Necho II was not present.

Now for some numbers

Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605 BCE - 562 BCE. One of the key aspects of the prophecy is the naming of Nebuchadnezzar as the one who will destroy Egypt, so these dates give us the boundaries for when the 40 year desolation can take place (or at least when the beginning of the 40 years can take place).

The Battle of Carchemish was in 605 BCE. The battle of Hamath took place in the same year.

In Egypt, the kings we are interested in all belong to the 26th dynasty.
  • Necho II died in 595 BCE and was succeeded on the throne by his son, Psamtik II. 
  • Psamtik II reigned in Egypt until 589 BCE when he was succeeded by Apries. 
  • Apries reigned until 570 BCE when he was succeeded by Amasis II 
  • Amasis II reigned until 526 BCE, well after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. 
Nebuchadnezzar did eventually come up against Egypt, and there is a snippet of detail on Wikipedia regarding his confrontation with Amasis II:
In his fourth year (c.567 B.C.E.), Amasis was able to defeat an invasion of Egypt by the Babylonians under Nebuchadrezzar II; henceforth, the Babylonians experienced sufficient difficulties controlling their empire that they were forced to abandon future attacks against Amasis.
So here's where things come unstuck for the prophecy. Nebuchadnezzar died just 5 years later, with Egypt still being quite well populated.

Let's review the facts...

Since this prophecy was written:
  • The land of Egypt has NEVER been a desolate ruin. 
  • The land of Egypt has NEVER been uninhabited, let alone for 40 years. 
  • The Egyptians were NEVER scattered among the nations. 
  • The land of Egypt has NEVER been under Babylonian control, and especially not during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. 
Remember the key points of the prophecy?
  • The land of Egypt will become a desolate ruin - FAILED 
  • No human or animal foot will pass through the land of Egypt - FAILED 
  • Egypt will be uninhabited for 40 years - FAILED 
  • Egypt will be scattered among the nations - FAILED 
  • The desolation of Egypt will be carried out by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon - FAILED 
Finally in Ezekiel 30:19 we have the summary. I think the implications are clear.
30:19 I will execute judgments on Egypt. Then they will know that I am the Lord.