On the Wisdom of Solomon, Part 26: The Dark of Night
In our last presentation in this commentary on Wisdom, presenting chapter 16, we discussed Solomon’s narrative as a Tale of Two Torments, wherein he made continual analogies which compare the punishment of the Egyptians for their destruction to the frequent punishments of the children of Israel for their correction. Solomon having done this, there must be something of substance to these comparisons which the ancient Israelites of his own time, who were much closer to the actual history of the post-Exodus period, could have understood and from which they could have learned.
In the centuries before and during the approximately 200 years that the children of Israel were in Egypt, it was a great empire which exerted its control or influence far beyond its own borders, and also held subject many of the city-states of the Levant as vassals. But from the time of pharaoh Thutmose III, which is when the Exodus had occurred, to the time of Akhenaten not even a hundred years later, Egypt had rather quickly decreased in power to the point where, as the Amarna Letters fully reflect, it would not even care to defend its vassal states in Palestine against the invading Hebrews.
For several centuries thereafter, throughout the Judges period and until the time of the divided kingdom and the chastisement of Rehoboam, Egypt had not been a threat to Israel, and apparently showed little interest in regaining its dominion over Palestine. During a short-lived revival, Rameses II exerted Egyptian military strength at the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites, where he failed in his attempt to gain the northern Syrian city. However whatever he may or may not have done in Palestine was unnoticed in Scripture and seems to have been of no consequence, as his own inscriptions were boastful and his achievements were overstated.
Then by the time of the prophet Isaiah, Egypt was invaded and was ruled over for a time by Nubians, and its blood was spoiled forever. During another short-lived revival, over a century after the deportations of Israel and apparently soon after the fall of the Assyrian Empire, Egypt once again sent its armies north, in an attempt to gain control of the ancient Hittite capital city of Carchemish for itself, which is when Josiah king of Judah was slain in battle. Shortly thereafter Egypt would fall subject to the Babylonians, and then to the Persians, and continued its decline until it became a colony for both Macedonians and Romans. So while Egypt has not really been Egypt in well over 2,500 years, its decline and inevitable destruction truly did begin with the Exodus.