Modern Times Meet Days of Antiquity – Today’s Readings: Isaiah 18,19,20 and Isaiah 22:1-14
Welcome back to today’s bible study. Our story in the OT today stems from human fear.
On that day there will be an altar to Adonai in the middle of the land of Egypt, as well as a standing-stone for Adonai at its border. It will be a sign and witness to Adonai–Tzva’ot in the land of Egypt; so that when they cry out to Adonai for help because of the oppressors, he will send them a savior to defend and rescue them.
Adonai will make himself known to Egypt;
on that day, the Egyptians will know Adonai.
They will worship him with sacrifices and offerings,
they will make vows to Adonai and keep them.
Yet Adonai will strike Egypt, both striking and healing,
so they will return to Adonai.
He will listen to their prayers,
and he will heal them.
The protagonist in our story, King Hezekiah, begins to have fear of the Assyrians, even contemplating making an alliance with Egypt/Ethiopia. During this time period, the king of Ethiopia, Tirhakah, was creating his own empire and had taken over Egypt, combining the Ethiopian and Egyptian kingdoms. Tirhakah was trying to join forces with the nation of Judah against Assyria. (Isaiah 37:9) Hezekiah now has to make the decision, what to do.
Our readings today are in Isaiah 18, 19, 20. Isaiah, the prophet, and King Hezekiah were very close. Hezekiah listened to the prophet and sought Isaiah’s advice. So many of the prophecies that we find in Isaiah about Ethiopia and Egypt stem from the alliance that Hezekiah was contemplating. Spoiler alert, the Lord was not real keen on this alliance, and this is evident as you read the passages in these chapters.
Interestedly, antiquity and modern history converge in this story. At some point in time, a sect of Jews moved to Ethiopia. Did this group disperse there during the Assyrian conquest? There are many theories and thoughts, but what they do know is that this sub group of people still practiced the Hebrew laws and practices amidst their tribal fellow neighbors. One of the members of this group recalled when interviewed by Los Angeles times “Our grandmothers and our grandfathers used to tell us that one day we would go to the Holy Land. All of us grew up hearing that, and our people had always heard that. It was a part of our religion.” (1) In 1980’s, a secret mission took place to bring these Ethopian jewish practicing brothers back to Israel in separate missions called operation Moses and operation Solomon.
Imagine what fears the people of Judah were experiencing as their friends in the north were being dispersed all over the world. Did some of their friends disperse all the way to Ethiopia? Did it take over 2700 years for these countrymen to return to their homeland? And like Hezekiah, would you contemplate making an alliance to save yourself? Lots to think about. What we do know is God is still working in the world today and He keeps His promises.
(1)www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-07-07-mn-9368-story.html , Saga of Secret Airlift : Ethiopian Jews: Exodus of a Tribe, 1985