Asylum in Egypt

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Asylum in Egypt

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The Jewish remnant journeyed into Egypt "as far as Tahpanhes" (Jeremiah 43:7)—to "Pharaoh’s house" there (Jeremiah 43:9). Notice this from the famous British pioneer archaeologist and Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, who discovered the site in 1886: "Tahpanhes was an important garrison, and as the Jews fled there it must have been close to the frontier. It is thus clear that it was the Greek Daphnae, the modern Tell Defneh, which is on the road to Palestine . . .

"Of this," he continues, "an echo comes across the long ages; the fortress mound is known as Qasr Bint el Yehudi, the palace of the Jew’s daughter. It is named Qasr, as a palace, not Qala, a fortress. It is not named Tell Bint el Yehudi, as it would be if were called so after it were a ruinous heap. Qasr is a name which shows its descent from the time of . . . habitation for nobility and not merely for troops. So through the long ages of Greek and Roman and Arab there has come down the memory of the royal residence for the king’s daughters from the wreck of Jerusalem" (Egypt and Israel, 1911, pp. 85-86; see also "Daphne," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed., Vol. 7, p. 48).

Yet there certainly were many troops there as well. Petrie states: "Psamtik [Pharaoh Psammetichus I, founder of Egypt’s 26th dynasty of which Hophra was the fourth king] guarded the frontiers of Egypt with three strong garrisons, placing the Ionian and Carian mercenaries especially at the Pelusian Daphnae . . . in the northeast, from which quarter the most formidable enemies were likely to appear" (p. 40).

These were Greek forces primarily from the west coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). "Ionian" and "Carian" primarily designated the Greek city of Miletus there: "Within Egypt itself, normally hostile to any foreign settlement, the Greeks gained a foothold . . . About 650 [B.C.] the Milesians [from Miletus] opened a ‘factory,’ or trading post, at Naucratis on the Canopic branch of the Nile. Pharaoh Psamtik I tolerated them because they made good mercenaries, while their commerce provided rich prey for his collectors of customs revenues" (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 2: The Life of Greece, 1966, p. 173).

Miletus will factor greatly in pursuing this whole subject to its conclusion. Suffice it to say for now that many of these "Greek" forces in Egypt were not so unrelated to the Jews taking refuge with them. There was evidently a kinship going way back. The ancient Greeks had often referred to themselves as Danaans—a name evidently derived from the Israelite tribe of Dan (see Appendix 2: "Were the Greeks Israelites?").

Indeed, a number of the Greek mercenaries employed in Egyptian service were probably Israelites whose ancestors had earlier settled in Greece and neighboring lands. And here they were—guarding the remnant of the Davidic royal family under orders of the Egyptian pharaoh!

Yet this arrangement was not to last. "The Greeks continued to play a prominent role during the reigns of Psammeticus II and Apries (the Pharaoh Hophra of Jeremiah). Under the latter, however, a national movement among the Egyptians led to a revolt [ca. 570 B.C.] against the [Egyptian] king and the Greek element, with the result that the throne passed to the general Amasis (Ahmosis II), who withdrew the Greeks from Daphnai" (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, 1959, Vol. 5)—evidently expelling many of them whom he considered loyal to Hophra.

Adding to the need for expulsion was the fact that although Ahmose confined the remaining Greek mercenaries near his capital, making many of them part of a royal guard, "an element within Egyptian culture . . . resisted this; and the presence of foreigners in Egypt, both as invaders and settlers, led to the rise of a nationalism" that wanted the foreigners out ("Egypt," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, Vol. 18, 1985, p. 165; "Ahmose II," Micropaedia, Vol. 1, p. 168).

It was now about 16 years after the fall of Jerusalem, and up to this point things had apparently gone rather well in Egypt for those who had fled there. But God had warned of the calamity to befall Hophra (Jeremiah 44:30). And He had warned the Jewish remnant seeking refuge in Egypt that they would be consumed there (Jeremiah 44:27). Clearly, then, the turn of events was from Him. The Egyptians drove many of the Greco-Israelite mercenaries from the country. And most of the Jewish remnant was probably slaughtered around this time, if not in the uprising then probably in Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt two years later in 568 B.C., which laid waste most of the Nile valley.

Based on God’s prophecies, a few evidently made it back to Judah (Jeremiah 44:28). But what about Jeremiah, Baruch and the kings daughters? Where did they go? The book of Jeremiah doesn’t actually tell us, although it contains some hints.