A lot of attention goes to the Euphrates in the bible, justifiably. But the Nile River also figures prominently in the bible and also in prophecy. God uses all to His glory; people, demons, angels, and rivers, too. For example, Moses drifted down the Nile on a basket made of reeds. It is the western border to the Promised Land. It is the main artery that keeps Egypt alive.
As far as prophecy goes for the Nile, in three places in the bible it says that the Nile River will dry up. (Isaiah 19:5, Ezekiel 30:12, and Zechariah 10:11).
|Nile Delta from space, source|
The Nile is a tremendous river with its own presence and personality in the bible. A most mysterious and beautiful river, today about 83% of all Egyptians live by the Nile. It is the world's longest river, coming in at a whopping 4,100 miles, and it runs through 10 countries. 80% of the water for the Nile comes from Blue Nile which begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia.
|Map showing the courses of the White and Blue Nile|
The Nile's annual floods are well known and one of the most regular 'natural disasters' in all of the globe. John Feeney wrote and photographed "The Last Nile Flood". His writing is great and the photographs are phenomenal.
"Flowing out of a barren desert, from a source “beyond all known horizons,” the Nile had baffled the world for thousands of years. Regular as sun and moon, in the middle of burning summer, without a drop of rain in sight, when all other rivers on earth were drying up, for no apparent reason at all, the Nile rose out of its bed every year, and for three months embraced all of Egypt."
"The ancient Egyptians knew when the flood would come, almost to the hour, but they never knew how much water it would bring to irrigate their fields. Egypt’s prosperity depended not only on the flood but also upon the accurate measurement of its height, for on that depended the allotment of water to its many users and the taxes they would have to pay in the coming year. “Nilometers” built into the river’s banks to measure the flood had, for 4000 years, decreed how much water would be available to irrigate each man’s field."
"What was it that prevented the ancient Egyptians from finding the source of their great stream and perhaps learning how high it would flood in any given year? In its waters the Nile held many secrets. Fierce roaring cataracts, six series of them in a thousand kilometers (600 mi), guarded the river’s upstream reaches, and neither the pharaohs nor the power of Rome could conquer all the cataracts. And beyond the cataracts, deep within southern Sudan, lay “The Land of the Swamps,” a wilderness of trackless reeds that, even in the 19th century, marked the end of the known world. For hundreds of years, no one who followed the Nile into this swamp ever returned."
"The Nile’s source was only revealed a little more than a hundred years ago. In the heart of Africa, European explorers discovered a vast chain of equatorial lakes. And rising to nearly 5000 meters (16,000') above these immense lakes, on the equator between Uganda and the Congo but nonetheless capped with snow, were mountains known as the Ruwenzoris, often identified with Ptolemy’s “Mountains of the Moon.” Around their silent peaks they clasp the frozen vapors of distant oceans. Earth’s greatest single stream, the White Nile, begins upon them. But this was not the complete answer. Why did the river rise so mysteriously every summer to flood Egypt?"
"Away to the east, as impenetrable to outsiders as the swamps, wild as the cataracts, Ethiopia towers above the deserts of Egypt and Sudan. And it was Ethiopia that held the ultimate secret, for here there was another Nile, the Blue Nile, more distant and mightier than even the White."
And here we pick up the verses that say in future times, the Nile will dry up. For example, regarding a prophecy against Egypt, Isaiah 19:5-9 states,
"And the waters of the sea will be dried up, and the river will be dry and parched, and its canals will become foul, and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up, reeds and rushes will rot away. There will be bare places by the Nile, on the brink of the Nile, and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched, will be driven away, and will be no more. The fishermen will mourn and lament, all who cast a hook in the Nile; and they will languish who spread nets on the water. There will be no flax for the harvesters, no thread for the weavers."
I wrote so much about the Nile so that you can get an idea that when it dries up, you can comprehend what an ecological disaster for all of Egypt it will be.
One thing that may hurry this disaster along is the dam that Ethiopia is building. We read above that the headwaters were only discovered a century ago and they are in Ethiopia. Ethiopia (and other nations) are tired of Egypt dominating the River. The Ethiopians are building a huge dam so they, too, can control the waters.
Whenever man messes with a river things tend to go wrong. Like when they diverted the Colorado in the western United States and an engineering accident created the Salton Sea instead. Or when they tried to control the annual flooding of the Nile, one of the largest dams in the world was built in Egypt in 1971: Aswan High Dam. That was a big oops. Unfortunately, the rich silt that normally fertilized the dry Egyptian land settled in Lake Nasser after the building of the dam, forcing farmers to use one million tons of artificial fertilizer every year to substitute. (source). The very flooding was what made the land so rich.
So when man messes with the natural flow of things the way God set them up, there are often unintended consequences. The Egyptians have to substitute the loss of the rich silt with man-made fertilizer. What will happen when Ethiopia finishes their dam? There will be intended and unintended consequences. This BBC article says they hurried all the permits through without doing any feasibility studies.
"So urgent was the need to get the dam built quickly that the government short-circuited the usual internationally accepted procedures for these kinds of massive infrastructure projects. ... The corporation also short-circuited the environmental and social impact assessment (EIA) process. Instead the study - which gave the project a clean bill of health - was published two years after construction began."
Instead it is explained that studies and permits are a luxury. From the same article--
"It's a luxury that Mihert Debeba, head of the Electricity Corporation, said Ethiopia simply can't afford. He said: "Africa is in the dark. If we have to use very luxurious preconditions we wouldn't develop any hydro-power. ..."
Egypt is definitely not impressed. The following story was posted yesterday--
Egypt, Ethiopia Tiff Over Nile Dam Continues
"New research has suggested there is sufficient water in the Nile to support all 10 countries it flows through. This emerged on Monday as Ethiopia’s massive dam-building plans continued to cause disquiet in downstream Egypt. He made this statement as Ethiopia and Egypt are at each other’s throats over the former’s actions along the Nile River. Top Ethiopia government officials have reportedly said they are looking at jumpstarting the massive Renaissance Dam project along the Nile River in an effort to increase water resources and energy for the East African country. Political analysts have said this could threaten regional stability. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also called on Addis Ababa to push the dam project to the backburner in order to focus on other economic initiatives. While Cairo has denied any intention of attacking the dam, as reported by whistleblower website Wikileaks, the country’s Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Bahaa el-Din has reportedly said that Egypt was maintaining its concerns about the construction of the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia."
But Ethiopia is NOT putting the Addis Ababa dam on the back burner. Posted this week, we read that-
Ethiopia on track to complete first mega-dams by 2015: minister
Energy chief Alemayehu Tegenu said the plan's centerpiece - the $4.1 billion-Grand Renaissance Dam along the Nile River in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region - was on course to be completed on time in 2015. Two other smaller dams should also come on line by that point, he said, generating a total of more than 8,000 megawatts of power at full capacity."
So far they have achieved 13 percent of the total construction. When finished, it will be all of Africa's largest dam.
I bring this up for several reasons. First, let's look at a map of northern Africa-
Tents of Edom—Palestinians and Southern Jordanians
Moab—Palestinians and Central Jordanians
Gebal—Hezbollah and Northern Lebanese
Ammon—Palestinians and Northern Jordanians
Amalek—Arabs of the Sinai
Philistia—Hamas of the Gaza Strip
Tyre—Hezbollah and Southern Lebanese
Assyria—Syria and Northern Iraqis
And the Gog Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39 will include the nations of Turkey, Iran, Russia, Armenia, and nations at the northern tier of Africa such as Sudan, Ethiopia, and Libya.
When we read of water shortages and dams and nations of Africa at each other's throats, those tensions will boil over to war between and among them, but eventually their hatred of Israel will prevail over their individual national tiffs and they will come together to attack.
Secondly, I recommend studying the Natural History of these places we read about. Learning the facts about the Nile, and its history, help deepen an understanding of the prophecy about its drying up. When the Lord uses an example of a lion's prowl, it helps to learn how a lion prowls, how far its roar goes, and other facts about the animal. Same with the agricultural metaphors Jesus used. Most of us are not hand-farmers any more but learning what He means when He says threshing or winnowing will enhance the passage when you read it next.
Ask yourself questions when you read a passage. Why that animal? What are its properties? Where is this place they mention? How far from here to there? What is the terrain? Does it ever rain? What are rainfall amounts...etc. Like that
So I encourage you to learn where the places the bible mentions are, and the topography, climate, animals, etc. It's fun and it's interesting and best of all it will help you go deeper into the bible!
Last, I mention the Nile to give a flavor of the unseen-to-us but very present tensions over the issues the bible says will cause a boiling over. Water, lands, tribal, food, political issues and more are all coming up to the surface. For example, it would not take very much for Egypt to make good on their promise to destroy Ethiopia's dam.
Egypt's Nile River will dry up. It is one sign to keep looking for, even as you continue to look up!
For further reading:
This is a NatGeo article so of course it has lovely photos. Ethiopia Moves Forward with Massive Nile Dam project
This article from 2010 titled "Nile-lessness" reports water shortages in Egypt due to increased population and increased water consumption
My padt posts on the Natural History of Israel:
Miracle of migratory bird patterns and the Great Supper of the Lamb
Wheat and Tares: learn about darnel
Threshing and winnowing
Making wine, and the winepress
How the topography of the Golan Heights helps Israel
Petra By Night