Thursday, January 10, 2019

Egyptian Idolatry


We do not generally envision the poor enslaved Israelites in Egypt to have been at fault for their hard conditions, nor do we attribute their spiritual condition in the wilderness (other than the fiasco of the golden calf) to some kind of idol worship and connection to the Egyptian gods. But Ezekiel chapter 20 makes it very clear that our ancestors defiled themselves with the gods of Egypt. YHVH says in no uncertain terms: "… they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt” (verse 8). According to the same verse all this had taken place “in the midst of the land of Egypt.” 

Aside from Ezekiel, another scripture writer verifies this. One who was a first eye witness to his brethren's condition. It is none other than Joshua, who makes mention of this fact not only once, but twice. (Then there is also Amos in 5:25-26, whose short account is repeated in Acts 7:42-43.)

As Joshua was about to exist the stage of life, he was recalling the history of the People, reminding them Whom they were to serve, while at the same time also exhorting and challenging them: “Now therefore, fear YHVH, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve YHVH!” (Joshua 24:14 emphasis added). The “other side of the River” refers to the pre-Abrahamic days, but “in Egypt” is quite a strong and clear indictment, which is less excusable.

The other episode, during which Joshua had to deal with this painful subject, occurred much earlier. It was upon the Israelites’ entry to the land. There, in Gilgal, those born in the wilderness got circumcised, an action which was also designed to: “roll away the reproach of Egypt from you. Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal” (Joshua 4:9). The “rolling” of the “reproach of Egypt” is “galot” – literally to roll or roll off, while the similarity to the name “Gilgal” is quite apparent. The verb “galo” or “galot” shares the same root as “gilool” or “giloolim” (plural). This is what the “idols of Egypt” are called in the above-mentioned Ezekiel 20 scripture. The “giloolim” are “balls”. What kind of “balls”? They are what the Tanach calls dung balls, using another word having the same root – glalim.

So what is the connection of “dung balls” to the “idols of Egypt”? One of Egypt’s venerated and deified creatures was the scarab beetle. Scarab is a dung beetle, which when it swarms and collects provender it does so by forming it into a ball, rolling it around to its destination. When Joshua’s altar was discovered on Mount Eyval (the mount of curse) in the 1980’s, several of these man-made scarabs were unearthed. This was clear evidence that our forefathers venerated this item of the “reproach of Egypt” and carried it around, and even passed it on to their children who entered the land of Israel. In fact, Chuck Missler contends that these scarabs or beetles were the “swarms” – arov in Hebrew – which made up the fourth plague. https://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/263/

The ten plagues that YHVH inflicted upon Egypt were not only intended against Egypt’s sovereign, Par'oh, but also against the “gods” of that land. At the time of the last plague, YHVH made the declaration that the gods of Egypt were the object of His assault (as well as that land’s living beings). Indeed, as you probably know, each of the plagues was a directed against one of Egypt’s idols (refer to the above link).

As a matter of fact, even before the season of the ten plagues had begun, we see YHVH already proving His might against one of Egypt’s deities. YHVH exerts His authority and declares: “And the Egyptians shall know that I am YHVH, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt…” (Exodus 7:5). “Stretching out” in this case is “ne’to’ti” (the verb being “nato” – its root is noon, tet, hey, n.t.h). This verb denotes leading or pointing direction, and thus in verse 9, when A’haron is told to cast his rod, this article is designated by “ma’teh,” originating from the same root. A’haron and Moshe were to represent YHVH’s authority over Egypt’s ruling powers, both the natural ones as well as the supernatural. Indeed, when A’haron casts his rod in front of Par’oh it turns into a serpent, which in Hebrew is “tannin”, literally an alligator. Thus YHVH demonstrated His power over one of Egypt’s most powerful symbols. In fact, in Ezekiel 29:3 Par’oh himself is addressed as the “great tannin” (translated “monster”), that is the great alligator (for the same idea see also Ez. 32:3). The very rule and authority of Egypt is therefore symbolized by this creature that inhabited the Nile, and was the first to be challenged by Elohim. (For more on the alligators and their role in Egypt’s Pantheon see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sobek)

It is not a mere coincidence that the plagues that are to strike this world and its systems, as described in Revelation, seem to mirror the plagues that befell the Egyptians, before YHVH brought Israel out from their midst. However, the fact that the Israelites themselves were not free from the same type of idolatry should not be overlooked, especially if we refer back to the Ezekiel 20:33-38 “transitional” passage. In verses 38 and 39 we read the following: “As for you, O house of Israel,’ thus says the Lord YHVH: ‘Go, serve every one of you his idols -- and hereafter -- if you will not obey me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols.’” Would it surprise you to find out that the word there for “idols” is again “giloolim”? How revealing! Thus, if our forebears’ sojourn in Egypt and their emergence from that place is in some way equivalent to our day and age, we ought to consider the idolatry that prevailed in Israel’s camp.

No matter what these idols look like, or what form they take, or how they are being worshiped, spiritual entities do not just disappear or vanish. They are still at war with Elohim and His people, and they are still able to cling to us. Even though they do not take the form that they did in ancient Egypt, they have not ceased from being “abominable dung balls” that we are required to forcibly remove from ourselves. The Gilgal experience is not over.

As a side note we may take into consideration the fact that at the site of the greatest international interfaith convention – that is where the attempt was made to raise a tower to the heavens and to be “as the Most High”, in Bavel - Mitzrayim (the progenitor of the nation of Egypt who was also Nimrod’s uncle) would have been present. Thus the beliefs, with the entities that accompanied them, were transported from that cradle of humanity’s rebellion, to the entire known world of the day. Babylon has always played her part as the enemy’s representative, and still does, in each epoch of human history. It is from her, which is doomed to destruction, that we are to flee (while shedding off the ‘dung balls’ as we go so that we may run faster without being “unencumbered by sin”), lest we fall with her. This is summed up well in Revelation chapter 18.