Isaiah 19


‘A prophecy against Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear. “I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—brother will fight against brother, neighbour against neighbour, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists. I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.’ Isaiah 19:1-4

A Prophecy Against Egypt

In this chapter, we read the prophecy against Egypt and we read that the Egyptians are threatened with confusion.

Shortly after the destruction of Sennacherib’s army at Jerusalem which freed the Egyptians from the yoke of paying tribute to Assyria, Egypt became overconfident and Isaiah here tells the cause of her national ruin. Notice the ‘idols of Egypt tremble’, this tells us that these man-made gods couldn’t help them, they were shaken by the presence of God.

God is pictured as riding upon a swift cloud to bring judgement, and we have a picture of a civil war in Egypt, which is often the result of a nation that believe in many different gods. Prior to 712 B.C., Egypt was in civil conflict because of the lack of any strong central government.

They would consult their idols, the spirits of the dead, Isaiah 8:19, mediums Isaiah 8:19, and the spiritists, Leviticus 19:31 / Leviticus 20:6 / Deuteronomy 18:11, but to no avail.

It was to no avail because all such things are the creation of man’s own mind. Those who continue in their ignorance of the true God will elect for themselves officials or misguided spiritual leaders who will be dictators over them.

‘The waters of the river will dry up, and the riverbed will be parched and dry. The canals will stink; the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up. The reeds and rushes will wither, also the plants along the Nile, at the mouth of the river. Every sown field along the Nile will become parched, will blow away and be no more. The fishermen will groan and lament, all who cast hooks into the Nile; those who throw nets on the water will pine away. Those who work with combed flax will despair, the weavers of fine linen will lose hope. The workers in cloth will be dejected, and all the wage earners will be sick at heart.’ Isaiah 19:5-10

These verses show the material depression which falls over all of Egypt. The Nile was the heart of Egypt, it was the source of life for Egypt and here the Nile river is pictured as dried up and the fertility of the land disappears. What is pictured here is the total collapse of the Egyptian farming industry and businesses.

‘The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools; the wise counsellors of Pharaoh give senseless advice. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am one of the wise men, a disciple of the ancient kings”? Where are your wise men now? Let them show you and make known what the LORD Almighty has planned against Egypt. The officials of Zoan have become fools, the leaders of Memphis are deceived; the cornerstones of her peoples have led Egypt astray. The LORD has poured into them a spirit of dizziness; they make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit. There is nothing Egypt can do—head or tail, palm branch or reed.’ Isaiah 19:11-15

These verses show that all political counsel in Egypt is to fail. All of Pharaoh’s advisers claim to be wise counsellors, but their counselling failed.

He challenged them to determine the judgment that God was proclaiming concerning their fate. The counsellors were predicting a prosperous future for the nation, but Isaiah was prophesying doom.

Unemployment and famine stalked the land of Egypt. The false prophets of the land deceived the leadership into thinking that there was a bright future for the country, hence, why the nation economically and morally staggered around like a drunkard, Isaiah 10:5-6.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘These three paragraphs give a terrible picture indeed of the disasters prophesied for the land of Egypt. It is the intelligence and competence of the central government itself that are mentioned here, designating it as a blundering,’ incompetent power led by fools and listening to the advice of fools! The proof of the foolishness of the government advisers is seen 1. in their ignorance of Jehovah and of his will, and their utter inability to see the disaster that lies at the end of their foolish plans, Isaiah 19:12, and also 2. in their blindness to the fact that their counsels have ended in disaster, Isaiah 19:13. ‘Palm branch and rush’ and ‘head or tail’ are expressions used figuratively for ‘all classes of society’.’

A perverse spirit and the worship of idols made the Egyptians unable to accomplish anything. No nation can worship idols, drink, fight, and spend itself on economic security.

‘In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the LORD Almighty raises against them. And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the LORD Almighty is planning against them.’ Isaiah 19:16-17

Here we read of the beginning of the eventual turning to the Lord on the part of some of the Egyptians.

Egypt will tremble as a woman who is afraid, Jeremiah 51:30 / Nahum 3:13. As a woman who easily fears because she is weak, so will the nation of Egypt be when God brings judgment upon her. Since these words of judgment came from a prophet of Judah, the Egyptians would come to fear the God of Judah.

‘In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD Almighty. One of them will be called the City of the Sun. In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the LORD at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a saviour and defender, and he will rescue them. So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the LORD and keep them. The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” Isaiah 19:18-25

‘In that day’ is the day that Egypt is brought low.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘That is, the event recorded in this verse would occur in the series of events that the prophet saw respecting Egypt, Isaiah 4:1. The sense is, that somewhere in the general time here designated, Isaiah 19:4-17, the event here described would take place. There would be an extensive fear of Yahweh, and an extensive embracing of the true religion, in the land of Egypt.’

The altar was a sign that God had proven Himself to be the God of their salvation that is to be supreme over them.

Archer, in his commentary, says the following.

‘There would even be an altar erected unto Jehovah, Isaiah 19:19, in Egypt. Such an altar was erected by a Jewish high priest named Onias in the reign of Ptolemy VI, and this was an earnest of the later conversion of Egyptians to Christianity. And God here promised to send them a saviour, Isaiah 19:20. Historically, this was first fulfilled when Alexander the Great freed the oppressed peoples from their yoke of Persian submission but in the higher dimension, it stands for the coming of the divine Saviour who would free them from their sins.’

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘What is envisioned here is the uniting of once hostile peoples in the service of God through Jesus Christ in the age of Messiah. This vision of a highway, in Isaiah’s prophecy, is a reference to ‘the way of truth’, Isaiah 11:16 / Isaiah 35:8 / Isaiah 40:3 / Isaiah 62:10. Thus, ‘the highway’ appears as a favourite metaphor in Isaiah and it should also be noted that it appears repeatedly through all sections of the prophecy, witnessing for the unity and integrity of Isaiah.’

Many commentators see these last few verses are Messianic, referring to the conversion of some of the Egyptians. They understand these verses to be pointing to mean the universal nature of the Gospel blessings.

In other words, many of the Egyptians would be converted to the Jewish religion there can be no doubt. This was the result in all countries where the Jews had a residence, Acts 2:9-11.

Under the latter kings of Persia and Alexander the Great, Egypt, Judea, and Assyria lived peaceable and much commerce was carried on between Assyria and Egypt. Egypt, Assyria, and Israel are equated together.

Describing the universal conduct of religion and this only happened in the dispensation of Christ. If not, then when was it fulfilled? Paul said, ‘all are one in Christ Jesus’, Galatians 3:28.

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