3.62 Deuteronomy -- Treatment of Foreigners: Egyptians

c.  The only reference to the treatment of Egyptians is in connection with Edom:

          Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as an alien in his country (Deut 23:7).

Egypt is a unique reference point, always to be remembered as the backdrop for God’s mighty deeds that made Israel a nation (Deut 5:6Deut 5:15Deut 6:12Deut 6:20-23Deut 7:8Deut 7:18-19Deut 8:14Deut 13:5Deut 15:15Deut 16:1-6Deut 16:12Deut 24:18Deut 24:22Deut 26:5-8Deut 28:27Deut 28:60Deut 29:2-3Deut 29:16).  Remembering Egypt seemed to be a way for Israel to stay grounded in faith, humility, and compassion toward other foreigners.  Yet it was also important that Israel never return to Egypt.  However, if she proved unfaithful, God Himself threatened to send her back there (Deut 28:68).
 
This is very instructive:  despite the record of centuries of enslavement and injustice, Egyptians could be fully joined to Israel in only three generations.  There was to be no harboring of bitterness on the part of Israel against Egyptians, no recitation of past injustices.  This is a significant precedent for reconciliation in our own time: there are many examples of national and ethnic rivalries that have lasted for many generations  -- American whites  vs African Americans and Native Americans, Europeans vs Jews, South African and Indian racial divisions.  The conventional wisdom is that untangling the hostilities and remaining injustices, plus facing up to the bad feelings involved, will take a prolonged and indefinite period of time. There must be extensive fact-finding, truth-telling, negotiating, reparations.  Indeed, some relationships may never be healed.  

         

In contrast to modern so-called "peace-making," God took a surprisingly light view of Egypt's genocidal crimes.  Notice especially that He acted severely in the short term: the nine plagues, culminating in the death of the firstborn sons and destruction of Pharaoh's army.  But once the acts of judgment and liberation were complete, God moved on to the next step.  It would not have been unexpected if He had announced a permanent ban on Egyptian participation in the covenant promises.  Instead, reconciliation was a comparatively short-term process.  Egypt got off far easier than Ammon or Moab, who were blood relations of Israel.  Plus, God commanded Israel to "not abhor an Egyptian," which is probably exactly what their natural attitude was.  They must have felt that they had every justification under heaven to abhor their oppressors.
         
God is a God of mercy, yes, even the God of the Old Testament.  Too many modern critics see only God's severity to the Canaanites, and ignore completely the example of His mercy to the undeserving Egyptians.