Eastern History – Old and New Testament Themes.
It is important to begin a study of Revelation with a short history of ancient Empires; and I will give Rome more detail beyond the rest. This is placed prior to the comments and notes, as without a look first at the book of Daniel and then into the Roman Empire and emperors up through the time of Constantine, we might obscure or miss critical information. Some of what is given may be commonly known, but the depth and details are likely not known to the average reader or may have not been considered by the student. It has been said that the devil is in the details.
All societies out of the East and Middle East, were Oriental by heritage and culture. Societal ascent began near the base of the Fertile Crescent in Mesopotamia (“the land between the rivers”), just as God had Moses and the scribes recorded – moving out towards the Mediterranean on the western side, roughly bordered by the Levant, the Anatoli Mountains to the north and northeast, from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Syria and the eastern lands and with the Arabian Desert to the south.
Hebrew language and customs were Eastern by nature and thus many of the customs are characteristically Oriental. For a quick example, Oriental scripts are formed with letters written page right to left. In Oriental societies, including those that continued in eastward movement and expansion, there are common idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. Losing or having face is an important illustration of the principles of courtesy and trust. By extension, the Bible (particularly the OT), is full of examples. It can be said that “the Orient” came first out of the Middle East and from the lands of the Sumer and last settled into the Far East. As such, the Bible introduces us to the ancient regions and customs where God had said that all life was created.
Of the great civilizations of antiquity some are central to early Old Testament history and none more so than Egypt. Called Mizraim in early texts, or Ptah in hieratic Egyptian. Mizraim, from the AV and earlier translations, was a son of Ham, the middle son of Noah. Mizraim is thought to have meant “the two lands,” referring to Upper and Lower Egypt. Most scholars suggest that Egypt had its beginning somewhere about 3,200 BC as an organizing society. With the various tribes united into a single country by about 2,800.
Egypt held a prominent place throughout ancient Eastern history, in the history of Israel; and it is mentioned throughout the scriptures. This was a most unique and advanced civilization from the dawn of recorded time up to its supplanting by the Assyrians (the Samarians), and Babylonians. It has been closely studied, though in modern times the hieroglyphic texts were untranslatable until the mid-19th Century. The country endured a series of declines progressively losing status until it was subjugated by the Macedonians under Philip the Second and Alexander.