Prophet Ezekiel is prophesying on doomsday destiny of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on doomsday destiny of Egypt’s ego-centered culture, of which Pharaoh is top representative. Ezekiel quotes the life-philosophy of that culture:
“Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great crocodile who couches within the midst of his streams, who has said “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).
What is the message conveyed by the prophet?
Yeor is biblical Hebrew for the Nile river, source of life that flows throughout Egypt and has enabled, throughout history, flourishing Egyptian civilization and human habitation, even though rain is rare in this geographical region. There is seemingly no need in this region for the grace of the Divine to live (have water). The constantly flowing Nile provides that commodity aplenty throughout the year and no prayer to the Divine for life-giving rain is required. The immediate consequence is this: “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).
Not surprisingly, the life-giving Yeor had been raised by ancient Egyptians to the level of Deity, as told to us by historians of ancient Egypt. Prophet Ezekiel succinctly summarizes the underlying philosophy of the supreme being of Egypt, King Pharaoh: Not only has he raised himself to the level of Deity (“I produced myself”) but he has also made the world in which he lived, the Nile river (“the world of the great crocodile”) his own (“Yeor is my own”). Contrast this with the prevailing Scripture principle: “How manifold are thy works, O Jehovah, in wisdom have you made them all” (Psalms 104:24).
The Land of Israel is diametrically at odds with the Land of Egypt. And the Torah finds it necessary to explicitly state the essential difference in the physical reality encountered by human beings living in the two regions:
“For the land, into which thou go to possess it, is unlike the land of Egypt… where you sow thy seed and water it with thy foot, as in a garden of vegetables; The land, which you transit into to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, by rain of heaven would thou drink water” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12).
Two regions, naturally (but not necessarily) leading to two cultures: One culture expressing no faith in the Divine (“I have produced myself”) or in Divine intervention (“World is my own”); Another based on inherent faith in the Divine and in Divine intervention.
The story of Pharaoh is not singular in the Bible. In fact, its underlying theme resurfaces in three different variations (as will be expounded soon). The background “story” differs between variations. Yet, the underlying theme remains the same, and this same theme has re-surfaced as a major guiding principle in today’s prevailing culture, contrary to what a simple fact-finding exploration might have taught us.
After nearly five hundred years of modern science (starting with its initiators, like Copernicus (1473-1543), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727)), and accompanied by advances in technology that have immensely improved our well-being (and occasionally also our “bad-being”), humankind has not moved one iota closer to solving the fundamental mysteries of human existence on Earth, mysteries that confront us every single day of our lives:
* Why are we here?
* Where have we come from and where are we going to (if at all)?
* Why does the world exist?
* How has the universe come into being out of nothing?
* Is there God?
Yet, advances in science and technology (modern day “eating of the fruit of knowledge”) have blinded us to this grim reality and hid it from our vision. Consequently, we find ourselves today unknowingly in the same state-of-mind as were Adam and Eve, as were the builders of the Tower of Babel, as was Pharaoh, king of Egypt:
* Adam and Eve wished to eat of the fruit of knowledge to be Elohim-like (knowing law of nature, thereby controlling nature); Yet they ignored the true name of God, Jehovah-Elohim, which conveys the double-faceted leadership of the Divine in our world. The narrator of the story of the Forbidden Fruit repeats this double-name no less than eleven times, using no other name for the Divine; Yet Eve and the Serpent relate only to Elohim. For not desiring at all to be also Jehovah-like, Adam and Eve were doomed to be expelled from the Garden of Eden, with the Serpent, which can never advance in a straight-line, becoming their permanent escort;
* The people of the city of Babel, led by Nimrod (literally meaning “Let us rebel”; Genesis 10:9-10), have just developed new technologies to rule nature and have proven them viable: “And they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly; And they had brick for stone and slime had they for mortar” (Genesis 11:2). Once the people of Babel have become aware of their newly acquired technological capabilities, allowing control of nature, the immediate aftermath of this realization is not unlike modern day response to current-day scientific and technological advances: “Let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches Heaven” (Genesis 11:4);
* Pharaoh: “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).
Three biblical stories telling same story in three varieties. They all convey same human condition in which we find ourselves today (only to the extreme), resulting in an identical response:
“World is My Own and I have Made Myself”
*Shorty is a short post