The Egyptians were the neighbors of the Israelites. Perhaps the most significant connection that Israelites have with the Egyptians is their deliverance from them. This became a defining event in the identity of Israel, characterizing God’s relationship with His people.
The Egyptians lived along the Nile River to the southwest of Israel.
They formed one of the oldest and most powerful kingdoms in the ancient world. The land around them was desert, but the Nile River swelled its banks each spring and enabled crops to grow.
Israel’s early contact with Egypt came through Jacob, whose family eventually settled in Egypt after Joseph rose to a high position there (Genesis 35–49).
Later, however, the Egyptians began to oppress the Israelites, and the Lord rescued them by ten miraculous plagues (Exodus 1–15). This deliverance was recounted for generations as the event that established the Lord as the God of Israel and formed the basis for Israel’s obedience to God’s commandments (Exodus 20:2; 2 Kings 17:35–39).
Israel had little significant contact with the Egyptians for many years after this, until the Babylonians were rising to power around 609 BC. Then the Egyptians asserted their control over Israel, but the Babylonians gained the upper hand and took over Israel (2 Kings 23–24).
After the time of Alexander the Great, Egypt was ruled by the descendants of one of Alexander’s generals, and Israel came under their rule as well. Later Egypt came under the rule of the Roman Empire.
Shortly before Jesus was born, many Jews moved to the city of Alexandria in Egypt and began to speak Greek as their native language. They translated the scriptures (only the Old Testament at the time) into Greek, and this translation, known as the Septuagint, became the Bible of many in the early church.