|The Real Devil A Biblical Exploration|
Contact the author, Duncan Heaster
4-2-3 Case Study: The Gods Of Egypt
Consider the plagues upon Egypt; each of those miracles (for
that is what they were) was designed by God to expose the utter
non-existence of the main Egyptian demons (idols). “Against all
the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahweh” (Ex.
12:12; 15:11; Num. 33:4). The “gods” are spoken of for a
moment as real and existing, in order to show Yahweh’s total
superiority over them to the point that they didn’t exist. Note
how it was the Egyptian people who were judged (Gen. 15:14); their
idols (“gods”) are used by metonymy to stand for those who
believed in them. Likewise “demons” is sometimes put by
metonymy for those who believed in them (e.g. Mk. 2:32,34). The
judgment upon Egypt's gods is brought out by an otherwise obscure
reference in Ex. 7:19 to how "there shall be blood in all the land of
Egypt on wood and in stone". "Wood and stone" is a term usually used in
the Bible for idols; and "the Egyptian priests used to wash the images
of their gods in water every day early in the morning" (1). Thus the
gods were shown to be effectively dead and bleeding. The greatest
Egyptian god was the sun-god Ra, and the Pharaoh was seen as his
manifestation on earth. It may be that Pharaoh alludes to this when he
threatens Moses: "Look, for there is evil [ra'a] before you"
(Ex. 10:10). And Yahweh's response was to darken the sun and create a
darkness which could be felt (Ex. 10:21)
The Other Gods Of Egypt
Yet rarely is there an explicit denial by God of the existence of those gods. They are shown to be meaningless inventions of men by the sheer power of the miracles. The New Testament use of demon terminology to describe the miracles of Jesus is another example of this. There is no explicit denial of the existence of demons, but their non-existence is demonstrated by the miracles. It is significant that the New Testament language of demon possession only occurs in the context of the power of God being shown through His miracles of healing. And yet, generally, Israel failed to grasp the lesson.
Have you ever wondered why Israel chose to make a golden calf?
Why not some other animal? It appears that Israel identified the golden
calf with the Egyptian goddess Hathor. "The Egyptian goddess Hathor
came in the form of a cow, a woman with a cow’s head, or a woman
with cows horns and / or cows ears. She bore several other titles
including The Golden One and Mistress of Music. She was the patron of
love, motherhood, drunkenness, fun, dance and music. The worship of
Hathor degenerated into immorality and she is depicted in some scenes
and statues as a sensual young woman. Hathor was the protector of
travelers from Egypt to various areas including Sinai" . So Israel so
quickly forgot the lesson so artlessly taught them- that the idols /
demons of Egypt were of no power at all!
Hathor had several forms including, a cow, a women with a
cow’s head, or a woman with cows horns and or ears (2).
Whilst considering Israel’s relationship to Egypt, it is fascinating to discover that the dreams of Pharaoh at the time of Joseph were a clear inversion of the surrounding pagan ideas. One of the foremost Egyptian gods, Osiris, had seven cows; it must have taken some courage for Joseph to comment on the fact that the seven fat cows were to be eaten up by the seven thin ones (Gen. 41:20; possibly representing Israel in the long term, cp. Hos. 4:15-16; Am. 4:1). The point I wish to make in the present context is that the pagan ideas of Pharaoh were not explicitly corrected; instead, the supremacy of Yahweh and His people over them was taught by implication.
It has been shown by many writers that there are a number of mythical stories in surrounding Middle Eastern culture which sound like allusions to Biblical miracles like the sun standing still, the Red Sea drying up etc. (11). They attribute these miracles to their various gods. It is quite possible that these legends are only corruptions of the events which occurred in the Biblical record, and had their origin well after the performance of the miracles. However, it is impossible to accurately date the origin of these pagan legends. In accordance with the ample evidence that God did such miracles in order to destroy the credibility of the surrounding mythology and philosophy, it seems quite probable that these legends existed before the Biblical miracles occurred. When God parted the Red Sea or stopped earth’s rotation He would have been powerfully alluding to the legends which stated that such miracles had been done by deity X, Y or Z. It was clear that Yahweh, Israel’s God, had done these things – and in actual reality, not just in storybook legend.
APPENDIX: "Even the demons believe and tremble" (James 2:19)
"Demons" is put here by metonymy for the [supposedly] demon possessed people, and their observed 'trembling' at the time of their cure. But I don't think that this verse is James as it were telling us doctrinal truth about demons. The context of James 2 shows it to be part of an imagined dialogue between the "works man" [who thinks works can save], and a "faith man" [who thinks merely saying we believe is enough and our lives are irrelevant]. Both these imaginary men come out with 'wrong' statements, so it's not surprising that the 'works man' disparages 'faith' by saying that even demon possessed people can believe and be cured. Of itself, this passage can hardly be taken as proof that demons really do believe- the usual position taken is that demons are fallen angels who cannot believe and cannot repent nor be healed. This passage even taken on face value would contradict that system of belief.
Another possibility here is that there is an allusion to Is. 19:1: "An oracle concerning Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them" (NIV). I have elsewhere demonstrated in Section 4-2 Demons and Idols that the idols of the first century Middle Eastern world were made to demons; and the ultimate non-existence of idols therefore proves the non-existence of demons.
(2) M.A. Murray, Egyptian Temples (London: Duckworth, 1931) pp. 53-54.
(3) Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 5, p.57.
(4) Eretz Israel, Vol. 12, p.118.
(5) Joyce Tyldesley, Hatchepsut The Female Pharaoh (London: Penguin, 1998) p.171.
(6) Joyce Tyldesley, ibid p.171.
(7) M.A. Murray, op cit p. 185.
(8) Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 5, P.57.
(9) D.B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan And Israel In Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) p.232.
(10) M.A. Murray, op cit p.54.
(11) Several standard Religious Education textbooks for schools include some references relevant here. Perhaps the most striking evidence for the extent of the allusions is provided by Immanuel Velikovsky in his books Worlds In Collision and Ages In Chaos ( London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1957 & 1959).