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 ~

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Revisiting Ezekiel's prophecy against Egypt

Last year I posted an article to this blog about Ezekiel's failed prophecy regarding the desolation of Egypt.

You can read that article here.

Recently I came across an article that claimed this prophecy was actually fulfilled. I will summarize its claim below.

The article claimed that Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt in 586BCE, thus fulfilling the prophecy. This is the only claim I have encountered thus far in favour of the prophecy in Ezekiel 29 and 30.

Let's investigate the claim a little further...

Did Nebuchadnezzar defeat Egypt in 586BCE?
The short answer is that it depends on your source. I have been unable to determine anything definitive on this due to disagreement between various sources.

It's difficult to find any information about a war between Egypt and Babylon around this time. The closest source I found was this one:
"If we may believe Josephus, however, the day of vengeance was not very long delayed.  Within four years of the fall of Tyre, B.C. 581, Nebuchadnezzar, he tells us, invaded Egypt, put Uaphris, the monarch who had succored Zedekiah, to death, and placed a creature of his own upon the throne.  Egyptian history, it is true, forbids our accepting this statement as correct in all its particulars.  Uaphris appears certainly to have reigned at least as late as B.C. 569, and according to Herodotus, he was put to death, not by a foreign invader, but by a rebellious subject."
Source (The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, Vol 4)
So already we find discrepancies in the historical record. It may be tempting to blindly assume that Uaphris (also known as Apries) was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar but to me the evidence suggests otherwise.

One of our best sources for Egyptian chronology is Manetho, an Egyptian historian who lived approximately during the 3rd century BCE. According to Manetho, Apries began his reign in 589BCE and died in 570BCE. This completely contradicts the claim that he was put to death in 586BCE.

The above article continues:
"Perhaps we may best harmonize the conflicting statements on the subject by supposing that Josephus has confounded two distinct invasions of Egypt, one made by Nebuchadnezzar in his twenty-third year, B.C. 581, which had no very important consequences, and the other eleven years later, B.C. 570, which terminated in the deposition of Uaphris, and the establishment on the throne of a new king, Amasis, who received a nominal royalty from Chaldaean monarch."
This could indeed account for the discrepancy.

Was the prophecy fulfilled?
Even if we grant that Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt in 586BCE, this clashes with the fact that Apries was said to have reigned from 589-570BCE.

Even if we grant that Nebuchadnezzar put Apries to death, and even if we very generously grant that this happened in 570BCE, there are still issues with the prophecy.

To make this clear, let's recap on what the prophecy actually said.
The prophecy is in Ezekiel 29:
“‘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.
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,”
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.
No human foot will pass through it, and no animal’s foot will pass through it; it will be uninhabited for forty years.
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 29:8-12
More detail is provided in chapter 30, which tells us that this will happen by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar:
"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.
He and his people with him,
the most terrifying of the nations,
will be brought there to destroy the land.
They will draw their swords against Egypt,
and fill the land with corpses.
I will dry up the waterways
and hand the land over to evil men.
I will make the land and everything in it desolate by the hand of foreigners.
I, the Lord, have spoken!"
Ezekiel 30:10-12
See, the prophecy doesn't just say that Nebuchadnezzar would defeat Egypt. It goes much further than that. It claims that God would "make the land and everything in it desolate by the hand of foreigners".

The problem should be immediately obvious. When Apries died, he was succeeded on the Egyptian throne by Amasis II in 570BCE. Amasis II reigned until 526BCE.

The prophecy specifically states that it would be fulfilled "by the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon". Nebuchadnezzar died in 562BCE, thus giving us a definite time limit for the prophecy.

The conclusion is clear. If Amasis II was still alive after 562BCE (and he was), then Egypt was not made desolate. It gets worse. This is the same Amasis II that actually defeated an invasion by Nebuchadnezzar in 567BCE:
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 much for putting "an end to the hordes of Egypt" (Ezekiel 30:10).

The prophecy claims that Egypt would be desolate, even uninhabited, for a period of 40 years (Ezekiel 29:11). It claims that this would happen by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 30:10).

This never happened. Nebuchadnezzar is long dead.

The prophecy then claims that Egypt would be scattered among foreign countries (Ezekiel 29:12). That never happened either.

This prophecy absolutely failed. There is no way around it.