1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mizraim

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MIZRAIM, the biblical name for Egypt (Gen. x. 6, 13, Hebrew Miṣrayim; the apparently dual termination -aim may be due to a misunderstanding); there is an alternative poetical form Māṣōr (2 Kings xix. 24, &c.). In Isa. xi. 11 the name is kept distinct from Pathros or Upper Egypt, and represents some portion at least of Lower Egypt. It perhaps means “boundary” or “frontier,” a somewhat ambiguous term, which illustrates the topographical problems. First (a), E. Schrader pointed out in 1874 that the Assyrians knew of some Muṣri (i.e. Mizraim) in North Syria, and it is extremely probable that this land is referred to in 2 Kings vii. 6 (mentioned with the Hittites), and in 1 Kings x. 28 seq., 2 Chron. i. 16 seq., where the word for “droves” (Heb. m-q-v-h) conceals the contiguous land Kuë (Cilicia).[1] Next (b), C. T. Beke, as long ago as 1834, concluded in his Origines biblicae (p. 167 et passim) that “Egypt” in the Old Testament sometimes designates a district near Midian and the Gulf of ‘Akaba, and the view restated recently and quite independently by H. Winckler on later evidence (1893) has been the subject of continued debate. Egypt is known to have laid claim to the southern half of Palestine from early times, and consequently the extension of the name of Egypt beyond the limits of Egypt and of the Sinaitic peninsula, is inherently probable. When, for example, Hagar, the “Egyptian,” is the ancestress of Ishmaelite tribes, the evidence makes it very unlikely that the term is to be understood in the strict ethnical sense; and there are other passages more suitably interpreted on the hypothesis that the wider extension of the term was once familiar. In the second half of the 8th century B.C., Assyrian inscriptions allude to a powerful Muṣri at a time when the Nile empire was disintegrated and scarcely in a position to play the part ascribed to it (i.e. if by Muṣri we are to understand Egypt).[2] Not until the supremacy of Tirhakah does the ambiguity begin to disappear, and much depends upon the unbiased discussion of the related biblical history (especially the writings of Isaiah and Hosea) and the Egyptian data. But even in the period of disintegration the minor princes of the Delta were no doubt associated with their eastern neighbours, and although the Assyrian Muṣri stands in the same relation to the people of Philistia as do the Edomites and allied tribes of the Old Testament, Philistia itself was always intimately associated with Egypt. (See Philistines.)

The problem is complicated by the obscurity which overhangs the history of south Palestine and the Delta (see Edom; Midian). The political importance of Egypt was not constant, and the known fluctuations of geographical terms combine with the doubtful accuracy of early writers to increase the difficulties. The Assyrian evidence alone points very strongly to a Muṣri in north-west Arabia; the biblical evidence alone suggests an extra-Egyptian Miṣrayim. On the whole the result of discussion has been to admit the probability that Miṣrayim could refer to a district outside the limits of Egypt proper. But it has not justified the application of this conclusion to all the instances in which some critics have relied upon it, or the sweeping inferences and reconstructions which have sometimes been based upon it. Each case must be taken on its merits.

See further, H. Winckler, Altorient. Forschungen, i. 24 seq.; Mitteil. d. vorderasiat. Gesell. (1898), pp. 1 sqq., 169 sqq.; Hibbert Journal (April 1904); Keilinschr. u. das alte Test., 3rd ed., 136 sqq.; and Im Kampfe um den alten Orient, ii. (1907); T. K. Cheyne, especially Kingdom of Judah (1908), pp. xiv. sqq.; F. Hommel, Vier neue arab. Landschaftsnamen in A.T. For criticisms (many of them somewhat captious) see König's reply to Hommel (Berlin, 1902), A. Noordtzij, Theolog. Tijdsch. (1906, July, September), and E. Meyer, Israeliten u. ihre Nachbarstamme, pp. 455 sgq. A valuable sunvey of the geographical and other conditions is given by N. Schmidt, Hibbert Journal (January 1908). (S. A. C.)


  1. See further, H. Winckler, Alt. test. Untersuch. (1892), pp. 168-174.
  2. So, too, according to one passage, Tiglath-pileser IV. appoints a governor over Muṣri before Egypt itself had actually been conquered.