When I think about Egypt, two perspectives come to mind. The first one is from the vantage point of a 12 year boy. It’s all raiders of the lost ark and mummies. Golden people dancing around with crookedy arms. Lots of sand, strange clothes, curved swords and whiny music. When I was doing some online research before this trip, it was pretty much the same “hollywood” viewpoint. “Land of mystery”.
Then there is the Egypt of the bible. The bible stories I have heard since I was a kid include a lot of detail about Egypt. Mostly it was a bad place ruled by bad people who enslaved the people of God. But in the end, God uses a man, Moses and his faithful men to lead God’s people to freedom and a promised land.
This first picture for me was the gateway to a collision of my 12 year old mind and my Sunday school life.
Saqqarra. Not far from Cairo, was the first of the ancient places we visited. Talk about stepping into the past! It was like a time tunnel ( 12 year old ).
Inside the columns was a large courtyard complete with Joseph’s pyramid, some of his underground grain storage locations and several other ancient buildings. Many believe that the Egyptians called Joseph, Imhotep. The descriptions of who he was, what he did and when he did it match up. It was at this moment that many of the bible personalities I have been reading about most of my life grew skin. Imhotep is credited to be the architectural genius behind much of Egypt’s fame.
That just makes sense concidering the way God promoted him from a slave boy to commander and then saviour of Egypt. God gifted Joseph. The right gift at the right time and everyone noticed it. History still marvels at the story. The back story is the one that most people think about. His brothers sell him to traveling slave traders… he gets thrown in prison… unjustly… etc. On the surface, not exactly the description of a life blest by God. I don’t know anyone who wants to sign up to trade places with him. He was completely familiar with suffering. We, having the benefit of historical writings know that everything turned out pretty good for him and his family. A picture that God wants firmly planted in our hearts and minds. In our own lives, we are born into slavery, sold at birth to sin and imprisonment. To us, a choice is presented.. an opportunity to accept a promised pardon. Some of us choose the pardon that comes with it’s own hardships but a clear promise of paradise in the end. The happy ending. But many choose to stay in prison. It’s what they know. It’s where they have become comfortable. It’s well documented that many convicts will choose to commit a crime after they have been released from prison to return to the known structure of confinement. Egypt is the metaphor of comfort in slavery and sin for the people of God.
The Pyramids at Giza, complete with Camel.
One thing I did not realize until I saw it was just how close these pyramids were to the city of Cairo. You can literally stand facing the the pyramids and there is nothing but desert for as far as you can see and turn 180 degrees and you see nothing but city.
Cairo at dusk and Cairo by night from the Nile river.
A view of the Nile river valley from the van near the pyramids.
Mark Beeson near the entrance of Saqqarra. Can anyone say.. “Indiana Mark ” ?
While we were in Cairo, we had all the expected comforts and safety that cities offer. But it was crowded, very crowded. The third most congested city in the world. On one trip alone, our van was hit twice by other cars. We all learned the Egyptian equivalent of “the finger”. The air was polluted with exhaust and dust carried in on the winds of the desert.
On our way out of Egypt, this scene was repeated over and over again. An endless stream of incomplete housing complexes.
As we began our Exodus from Cairo, it did not take long before the lush greenery of the Nile valley would be gone and replaced by dirt, rocks, sand and desert winds of “The Wilderness of Sin” on the way to Marah.