Anyone who grew up familiar with the Church naturally sees Ancient Egypt as the land of Exodus, home of the hard hearted Pharoah and of idolatrous heathens. In the last several decades, scientists, archeologists, historians, and spiritual aspirants have increasingly come to regard Egypt (Kemet) as the true home of philosophy, mathematics, a profound spirituality, science, writing and ultimately civilization itself. Still, many feel that, as good Christians, there's no need to embrace or even be concerned with Ancient Egypt. Many even dismiss it.
Egypt is part of our African heritage. Its wisdom, insights and culture are our birthright. What possibly could make us shun our own shining legacy? The Bible? Our religion? The Western European worldview? The deleterious effects of American slavery?
Well first, let's remove the greatest assumption, which is that Egypt can accurately be understood by looking at one Pharoah. That's like saying all of America can be understood by looking at the behavior of George W. Bush. (Consider also that the U.S. is only 200 years old, while the civilization of Ancient Egypt extended over 4000 years.)
Let's keep in mind that according to Genesis, the Egyptians are cousins of the Israelites. One of Noah's descendants was Mizraim, the brother of Cush. Mizraim is the Hebrew word for Upper and Lower Egypt and he was somehow associated with it's earlier history. Abraham traveled to Egypt to survive, when there was a famine in his land. His wife Hagar was Egyptian, and naturally his son Ishmael was half Egyptian. Later, Abraham's great grandson Joseph was taken in by one of Egypt's Pharoahs. He named Joseph "Zaphnath-paaneah" and made him Governor over the land. This Pharoah also gave him a wife, Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah, priest of On. (Gen. 46:20). Their two children, Ephraim and Manasseh, established tribes who were numbered among the tribes of Israel. When Joseph died, he was embalmed and "put in a coffin in Egypt."(Gen. 50:26).
It is worth noting that nowhere in Genesis is there any mention of Egypt in a disparaging manner. However, all that changed centuries later with this turn of events:
"Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." (Exodus 1:8).
That's all well and good, but let's get to the point. The Egyptians, as far as we have been taught, worshipped many idols and gods. The Bible says:
" I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God." (Exodus 20:2-5).