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Holman Bible Dictionary

Egyptian, the

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The leader of an unsuccessful attempt to capture Jerusalem in about A.D. 54. In Acts 21:38 the tribune commanding the Antonia fortress mistook Paul for this revolutionary who led 4,000 “Assassins” into the wilderness. Josephus mentioned two incidents involving the same, or similar, character. In the first, an Egyptian false prophet led a group into the desert. The procurator Felix dispersed this revolutionary band with calvary and foot soldiers. Later the Egyptian gathered 30,000 in the wilderness, leading the multitude to the Mount of Olives from which, so he promised, they would see the walls of Jerusalem fall at his command. Felix again responded with force, killing 400 and taking 200 captive. The Egyptian ringleader escaped.

Such a sizeable following suggests that either an Egyptian Jew or a proselyte to Judaism was the leader of the revolt rather than a pagan Egyptian. The tribune presumed that the Egyptian was a barbarian (unable to speak Greek). This presumption together with Paul's response that he was a Jew of Tarsus, an important city of Cilicia, suggests a rural origin for the Egyptian rebel.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Egyptian, the'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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