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Religion, Theology and Self-Improvement Sundays: What Is Prophecy? Part VII

This week we conclude our reference to Max Dimont's, Jews, God and History by offering his thoughts on whether or not the prediction contained in Genesis 15:13-14 really occurred. We look at his view from recorded history but especially from scripture.

Dimont writes:

It was under the leadership of Joseph that the famine-stricken Hebrews emigrated from Canaan to Egypt. The Book of Genesis tells us the fascinating story of how Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. Here he became a favorite of Pharaoh, rose to viceroy, and with Pharaoh's permission invited his brothers and fellow Hebrews to settle there. Here they tended their flocks peaceably until a new Pharaoh arose in the land who was not so kindly disposed to them and enslaved them. Except for the Bible, no source we know of makes any specific mention of this Jewish sojourn and subsequent captivity in Egypt, but the busy spade of the archaeologist has turned up convincing corollary evidence that these events did take place.

From the ingathering of the Jews into Egypt by Joseph in the sixteenth century B.C. until the outgathering of the Jews from Egypt under Moses, in the twelfth century, there is a four-hundred-year silence. The Bible compresses these fateful four centuries into a few sentences. This silence raises many perplexing questions. What portion of this period did the Jews in Egypt live in freedom and what portion in slavery? What religion did they practice? What language did they speak? Was there intermarriage? How did they maintain their Judaism as slaves? Who were their leaders until the advent of Moses? No one knows.

Not all the Jews left Canaan to go into Egypt with Joseph. Many remained behind, surviving the famine and keeping their covenant with Jehovah. This remnant of Jews, still known as Hebrews, remained free men, while their brothers were enslaved in Egypt. Is this enslavement of the Jews in Egypt the fulfillment of a prophecy made by Jehovah to Abraham four centuries earlier? For it was written in Genesis (15:13-14), " Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance." Or is this prophecy an interpolation by later authors, who write with hindsight of history of the great fusion to take place in Canaan when Moses leads the Israelites, as they are now called, out of Egypt into the land of Canaan, to reunite them with the remnants of Hebrews who had stayed behind?

Meanwhile the Jews - Hebrews or Israelites - are slaves in Egypt. What will happen to Abraham's grand illusion that his seed will inherit the earth? Was it all a delusion? Or was it a prophecy to be taken up by other men appointed by God and fulfilled at a later date?"

We will look at Dimont's last question next week.

Cedric Muhammad

Sunday, July 9, 2000

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