I was watching Jimmy Swaggart today. He’s been doing a series on Bible prophecy, which covers the rapture, the Antichrist, the Second Coming, and Christ’s millennial reign. I had a bunch of episodes on my DVR, and I was in somewhat of a putrid mood, so I spent much of my day watching Joyce Meyer and Jimmy Swaggart, while doing my II Samuel quiet time in the interim. That helped me get my mind off myself.
Swaggart said that Satan wants to disprove the Bible as the word of God, which is why he seeks to destroy the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. His rationale is that God predicted the Jews’ survival, and Satan seeks to thwart the fulfillment of God’s prediction to make God look like an untrustworthy liar.
Having been trained in liberal higher criticism of the Bible, I thought, “But haven’t certain predictions in the Bible already been discredited? Ezekiel predicted that Babylon would conquer Egypt, and that didn’t happen” (or so say secular historians and many biblical scholars). I wondered how Swaggart addressed those prophecies.
What I like about Swaggart’s Expositor’s Study Bible is that he tackles every chapter, even the supposedly barren ones in Leviticus and I Chronicles. I admire anyone who takes all of the Bible that seriously, whatever his or her ideology about the text may be. And so I expected Swaggart to address the “unfulfilled” prophecies of Ezekiel on the Babylonian conquest of Egypt.
In some places, Swaggart says that the fall of Egypt has a historical and an eschatological fulfillment, as the cocky Pharaoh is a type of the Antichrist. Sometimes, he says that Babylon conquered Egypt. At other times, he states that Egypt started having non-Egyptian rulers in the time of the Persians–which is essentially what secular historians say, as they claim that Persia (unlike Babylon) conquered Egypt. Then there are times when I get the vibe from Swaggart that Babylon weakened Egypt, which could have occurred even if Babylon failed in her attempted conquest.
But what’s interesting is Swaggart’s interpretation of Ezekiel 29:11, which says that, after the conguest, no man or beast will pass through Egypt, nor will it be inhabited for forty years. Swaggart states: “The idea is that no ‘man’ or ‘beast’ shall pass through Egypt regarding the prosperity of the nation. There would certainly be men or beasts there, but they would be subject to foreign rulers, which actually lasted for ‘forty years.'” Swaggart places the end of the forty years during the reign of the Persian king Cyrus. He assumes that Cyrus gave Egypt “a measure of statehood” and allowed her exiles to return, as he did for Israel.
Swaggart goes with a figurative interpretation of Ezekiel 29:11, not a literal one. Whether that’s legitimate or not, I do not know. The ancients could use hyperbole. The Merneptah Stele says that Merneptah slaughtered whole populations, right before it mentions survivors.
But we see here an example of something James Barr said about fundamentalists: Fundamentalists don’t necessarily take the Bible “literally.” For them, inerrancy takes first place. To safeguard inerrancy, they will resort to seeing the Bible as figurative if they deem that necessary. That’s why fundamentalists can’t be called “literalists,” strictly speaking.
NOTE: See my post, Should Josephus Be Used in Biblical Studies?, for more on the Babylonian invasion of Egypt. Josephus, relying on a Chaldean source, claims that Babylon did conquer Egypt.