Egypt History & Scripture Reference


Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is a huge city of over 12 million people that sprawls in all directions. But thankfully, Cairo is full of little districts and communities that feel much smaller and more intimate than the city of which they are a part.

From "Old Cairo," it is possible to see that topography dictated that anyone coming to Biblical Egypt from the north and east must pass through this valley. Everyone, from Abraham, Joseph & Moses to the family of Jesus set foot on this land.  Cairo bears the physical remains of a 1000 years of being conquered and reconquered by various groups. The city didn't begin with the pharaohs; they quartered themselves in nearby Memphis and Heliopolis, areas only recently overtaken by Cairo's outward urban spread. Cairo actually began as a Roman trading post, which was later taken over by the Arabs (7th century) and then the French and the British (19th century). The revolution of 1952 finally returned power to Egyptian hands

What makes Cairo unique is that each new ruler, rather than destroying what he found, simply built a new city next to the old one. Thus you can follow the progression of history by walking through the various districts of Cairo. Each district retains a distinct identity, not only in its buildings, but also among its residents and their way of life. Coptic Cairo remains a Christian area, with more crosses than crescents. The medieval precinct of Islamic Cairo is still where families traditionally go during Ramadan to spend the night eating and smoking after a day of abstinence.  This is one of the main attractions of Cairo, that its historic areas are still vibrant, living spaces rather than open-air museums. In Cairo, you don't just visit relics of the past, you can experience the past as it expresses itself in modern times. The relics of the past, however, are about as good as they get. Cairo and the nearby areas of Memphis and Giza hold some of the world's best museums, monuments and ancient treasures, the vast majority of which are of a religious nature. In addition to its relics of Ancient Egypt, Cairo is perhaps second only to Jerusalem in its concentration of sites of interest to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is an archaeological site comprising two massive rock temples in southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 290 km southwest of Aswan. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments" [1], which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan).

The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan dam reservoir.

The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan dam on the Nile River. Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt's top tourist attractions.

Although both the Hittites and the Egyptians claimed victory in the Battle of Kadesh, Ramesses II is represented as victorious on the walls of the greater temple of Abu Simbel.
Model showing the positions of the Abu Simbel temples before and after relocation.Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1284 BC and lasted for circa 20 years, until 1264 BC. Known as the "Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun", it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramesses. Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbours, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region.

With the passing of time, the temples became covered by sand. Already in the 6th century BC, the sand covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist JL Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. He took everything valuable and portable with him. Tour guides at the site relate the legend that "Abu Simbel" was a young local boy who guided these early re-discoverers to the site of the buried temple which he had seen from time to time in the shifting sands. Eventually, they named the complex after him: Abu Simbel.

In 1959 an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964, and cost some USD $80 million. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was cut into large blocks, dismantled and reassembled in a new location - 65 m higher and 200 m back from the river, in what many consider one of the greatest feats of archaeological engineering. Today, thousands of tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.

The complex consists of two temples. The larger one is dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah and Amun, Egypt's three state deities of the time, and features four large statues of Ramesses II in the facade. The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, personified by Nefertari, Ramesses's most beloved wife (in total, the pharaoh had some 200 wives and concubines.


Aswan, called Swenet by the ancient Egyptians, is located at the southern end of Egypt at the first set of rapids on the Nile River.  It is from here that the Egyptians quarried much of their granite that was used for their temples.  It is also the gateway that led to the southern bound caravan routes to Sudan and Nubia.  In the time of Ptolemies, the town was known as Syene, and the granite known as syenite.  South of the city is Aswan High Dam, built by Egypt and the Soviet Union, and forming Lake Nasser. 


Part of the ancient necropolis of Memphis, the Giza plateau rises on the western bank of the Nile River across from Cairo.  It is here the pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty built one of the seven wonders of the world, the Sphinx and the pyramids.  The largest pyramid is Cheops, or Khufu, which is said to have taken 100,000 men working in shifts of 3 months a year, for 20 years, to build.  Cheops stands 450 feet high, and coming in at 448 feet is the pyramid of Khafre, or Chephren, the pharaoh whom is also thought to have built the Sphinx.  The Sphinx has the body of a lion with a human face, possibly that of the pharaoh himself.  It is carved from the natural rock outcropping and is 241 feet long by 65 feet high.  Between it's legs is the "Dream Stela" of Thutmose IV that promised him the kingship in return for clearing the sand from around the Sphinx.  Menkure is the third pyramid, also known as Mycerinus, which stands at 203 feet.  To the south of this pyramid are three smaller pyramids built for relatives of the pharaoh. 
Period of the Exodus  Exodus 12:29-32 - Thutmose IV's reign began after his fathers passing, and although not much is known about this period, a stela was found at the base of the Sphinx, between it's legs.  This stela stated that as a youth Thutmose IV dug the Sphinx out of the sand and so was promised that someday he would be king.  The "Dream Stela" could indirectly confirm the death of the Pharaoh's firstborn son at the time of the Exodus, since Thutmose IV would not have needed such a promise had he been the firstborn.

Goshen/Cities of the Exodus 

The area of Egypt where the Israelites settled is known as the "region of Goshen" (Gen. 46:28-34)  Located near the route that led up to the "Philistine country" (Ex. 13:17) on the eastern frontier of lower Egypt.  In Psalm 78:12, 43 this region is called the "region [or pastoral plain] of Zoan" a city that was located at mouth of the Bubastic branch of the Nile River. 
Patriarchal Period  Genesis 46:28-47:6 - Jacob led his family to Goshen during the time of the seven-year famine.  Joseph asked the pharaoh to give his family permission to dwell in Goshen as shepherds.
Period of the Exodus  Exodus 1:11 - The Israelites living in Goshen were enslaved and forced to build the Egyptian storage cities of Pithom and Rameses.  Exodus 8:22, 9:26 - During the plagues on Egypt, God said He would deal differently with "the land of Goshen" so that a number of the plagues affected only the Egyptians and not the Israelites.

"Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father's family.  He lived a hundred and ten years and saw the third generation of Ephraim's children.  Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph's knees [that is, were counted as his].  Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am about to die.  But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob'.  And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.  So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten.  And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt."  Genesis 50:22-26
-David M. Rohl, A Test of Time:  The Bible from Myth to History (1995), pp. 350-351, 355.

"The pyramid tomb discovered by Manfred Beitak and his team in Area F at Tell ed-Daba, was the original burial place of the patriarch/vizier Joseph (before his body was removed by Moses for reburial in the Promised Land).  The shattered limestone head and shoulders found in the tomb originally formed the upper part of a cult statue of Joseph, awarded to him by Amenemhat III for the Hebrew vizier's outstanding services to the Egyptian nation during a time of great trials and tribulations."
-David M. Rohl, A Test of Time:  The Bible from Myth to History (1995), p. 355, 358.

"Immediately atop an earlier Syrian Villa at Tell ed-Daba was 'a large Egyptian-style palace, to which was attached a beautiful garden.  The pottery and stratigraphy indicated that the palace had been built during the early 13th Dynasty.  The elegant palace... was originally erected as the residence for the vizier Joseph in the regional capital of Avaris - the headquarters of the delta administration known as the Department of the North.'" 

"In the garden, a tomb was uncovered of typical Egyptian style.  It was found to be almost empty, having been broken into long ago.  However, Bietak did discover the desecrated remains of a twice life-size colossus or statue of the occupant of the tomb and palace.  Over his right shoulder is a throw stick', representing a holder of office and authority.  The figure is Asiatic.  The face has been mostly cleaved off and there are marks on the head where someone has tried to split the stone."
-John Fulton, "A New Chronology - Synopsis of David Rohl's book 'A Test of Time'"



Karnak is a city with five names- the original name was Weset or Newt, which meant simply "the city".   It then became No-amon "the city of Amun" or simply No- "the city" during the Middle and New Kingdom periods, when the city was the political and religious center for Egypt.  During the Hellenistic period the city became Thebes, a Greek name sometimes used by Bible translators.  The name Luxor was derived from Arabic al-Qusur "the palaces", following the Muslim conquest. 
Single Kingdom  Nahum 3:8 - Nahum asked Nineveh whether it was "better than Thebes [No-amon]," a city that the Assyrians had attacked and destroyed in 663 BC.  Jeremiah 46:25 - God announced that He would punish "Amon god of Thebes" along with the pharaoh and Egypt's false gods.  Ezekiel 30:14-16 - Ezekiel announced God's judgement on Thebes and several other cities in Egypt.
Apostolic Age  Hebrews 11:24-26 - Moses would have spent some of his childhood in Pharaoh's house in Thebes.  This is certainly on e spot where Moses saw the "treasures of Egypt" that the writer of Hebrews says he ultimately rejected.


The town is known for the major Ptolemaic temple, built between 237 BCE to 57 BCE, into the reign of Cleopatra VII. Of all the temple remains in Egypt, the Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most completely preserved. Built from sandstone blocks, the huge Ptolemaic temple was constructed over the site of a smaller New Kingdom temple, oriented east to west, facing towards the river. The later structure faces north to south and leaves the ruined remains of the older temple pylon to be seen on the east side of the first court. 
Horus is a god of the Ancient Egyptian religion, most commonly known by the Greek version Horus, of the Egyptian Heru/Har. Horus was an ancient and important deity and the Eye of Horus became an important Egyptian symbol of power. Horus had a man's body and a falcon's head. One of Horus' eyes became injured as after Osiris was murdered by his brother Set, Horus fought with Set for the throne of Egypt. In this battle one of his eyes was injured and later it was healed by Thoth. This healing of the eye became a symbol of renewal. Horus united Egypt and bestowed divinity upon the pharaoh. Pharaohs were viewed as the incarnation of Horus.  It is interesting to note that there is a yearly pilgrimage to this temple by a growing number of people to worship here.

Kom Umbo

The Temple of Kom Ombo is an unusual double temple built during the rule Ptolemaic dynasty in the Egyptian town of Kom Ombo. One side of the temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, god of fertility and creator of the world. The other side is dedicated to the falcon god Haroeris, also known as Horus the Elder. The temple is atypical because everything is perfectly symmetrical along the main axis.
The temple was started by Ptolemy VI Philometor (180-145 BC) at the beginning of his reign and added to by other Ptolemys, most notably Ptolemy XIII (47-44 BC), who built the inner and outer hypostyle halls.
Much of the temple has been destroyed by the Nile, earthquakes, and later builders who used the stones for other projects. Some of the reliefs inside were defaced by Copts who once used the temple as a church.
A few of the three-hundred crocodile mummies discovered in the vicinity are displayed inside the temple.


Marah means bitterness. it is a spring at the sixth station of the Israelites (Ex. 15:23, 24; Num. 33:8) whose waters were so bitter that they could not drink them. On this account they murmured against Moses, who, under divine direction, cast into the fountain "a certain tree" which took away its bitterness, so that the people drank of it. This was probably the 'Ain Hawarah, where there are still several springs of water that are very "bitter," distant some 47 miles from 'Ayun Mousa.


Founded around 3100 BC by Menes (Narmer), the city of Memphis allowed him to control the land and water routes between Upper Egypt and the Delta.  By the Third Dynasty Memphis had become the administrative and religious center of all Egypt.  The original name for the city was Ineb-Hedj, "the White Wall"- a name which referred to the white mudbrick wall built around the city by Menes.  The Greek name of Memphis most likely came from the transliteration of the pyramid complex at nearby Saqqara which was called Mennefer ("the good place") or, in Coptic, Menfe.
Divided Kingdom  Isaiah 19:13 - Isaiah announced God's judgement on Egypt, in part because the princes of Memphis were "deceived".  Hosea 9:6 - Hosea predicted that the people of Memphis would be burying those Jews who had fled there for refuge.
Single Kingdom  Jeremiah 2:16 - Jeremiah said the men of Memphis had "shaved the crown of your head", pointing to Judah's humiliating subjection to Egypt.  Jeremiah 44:1 - Jeremiah delivered a message to those Jews living in Egypt, including those dwelling in Memphis.  Jeremiah 46:14-19 - Jeremiah predicted the destruction of Memphis by the Babylonians.  Ezekiel 30:13-16 - God threatened to destroy the idols and the leaders in the city of Memphis.

Oasis of Feiran - Rephidim

Rephidim was one of the places (or "stations") visited by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.

The Israelites had come from the wilderness of Sin. At Rephidim, the Israelites found no water to drink, and in their distress they blamed Moses for their troubles, to the point where Moses feared that they would stone him (Exodus 17:4). God commanded Moses to strike a certain "rock in Horeb," which caused a stream to flow from it, thus providing ample water for all of the people.

Afterwards, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites while encamped at Rephidim, but were defeated (Exodus 17:8-16). They were the "first of the nations" to make war against Israel (Numbers 24:20).

One proposal places Rephidim in the Wadi Feiran, near its junction with the Wadi esh-Sheikh. Leaving Rephidim, the Israelites advanced into the Sinai Wilderness (Exodus 19:1-2; Numbers 33:14-15), possibly marching through the two passes of the Wadi Solaf and the Wadi esh-Sheikh, which converge at the entrance to the er-Rahah plain (which would then be identified with the "Sinai Wilderness"), which is two miles long and about half a mile broad.


Part of the large necropolis (cemetary) associated with Memphis, Saqqara is the burial site of
Menes (Narmer), the first king of the First Dynasty and founder of Memphis.  Saqqara is composed of 15 royal pyramids, including the Step Pyramid, which is the earliest stone structure in the world.  Step Pyramid was built for Djoser, a king of the Third Dynasty by his vizier Imhotep.  Nearby is the pyramid of Unas, the last king of the Fifth Dynasty- this is the first pyramid to be inscribed with the funerary texts known today as the Pyramid Texts.  Prior to the completion of these pyramids, the main form of tomb architecture was a mastaba (Arabic for "bench"), a low rectangular structure built over a shaft that descended to a burial location.

Sinai (Mount) 

Mount Sinai is the name for a collection of peaks and also the biblical name for the peak on which Moses received the Ten Commandments (Jebel Musa).  To reach the summit, visitors can take the 3,750 stone carved steps made by St. Catherine's Monestary monks, and take in the view from 7,497 ft.  Here you can find the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, built in 1934 on the site of the original chapel, built in AD 363.  At the foot of the mountain is St. Catherine's Monestary, completed in AD 565 atop the supposed location of Moses' burning bush.
Period of the Exodus  Exodus 3:1-2 - Moses was pasturing his father in law's flocks at "the mountain of God" when he encountered God in the burning bush.  Exodus 19:1, 18 - Three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, and God's glory came down and rested on the mountain.  Exodus 31:18 - God gave Moses the two tablets containing the law on Mount Sinai. 
Divided Kingdom  1 Kings 19:8 - When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he came to Mount Sinai, called Mount Horeb in the text and identified as "the mountain of God".

Valley of the Kings/Queens 

The cliffs located on the west bank of the Nile River became the burial grounds for the pharaohs, beginning in the Eighteenth Dynasty until the Twentieth Dynasty.  Rather than using the necropolis at Saqqara and pyramid-style tombs, they began to cut their tombs into the limestone cliffs in Karnak/Thebes.  The Valley of the Kings contains 62 known tombs, 24 of which were for royal burials.  To the southwest is the Valley of Queens, which was originally for high officials, and eventually became the burial site for queens as well as royal children.  Here there are 80 known tombs built on a smaller scale than those in the Valley of the Kings.  In addition to the tombs the west bank of the Nile also held a number of mortuary temples, the most famous being the one built by Queen Hatshepsut.