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A Threat of Destruction
v. 1. The burden of Egypt, including both Lower and Upper Egypt: Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, coming on light clouds as His chariots, in order to pass sentence, and shall come into Egypt; and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence, trembling with terror at their approaching fall and doom, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it, namely, for fear of the impending punishment. Thus the prophet summarizes his entire prophecy upon Egypt.
v. 2. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians, inciting them to civil war and anarchy such as we are told of by secular historians; and they shall fight every one against his brother and every one against his neighbor; city against city and kingdom against kingdom. All this was fulfilled at the beginning of the seventh century before Christ, about the time before Nebuchadnezzar's invasion, when Egypt was divided into twelve kingdoms and into forty-two nomes, or districts, between some of whom there was always dissension, and real peace was not established even after Psammetichus had become sole ruler of the country.
v. 3. And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof, so that the courage of the Egyptians would, literally, "be emptied out"; and I will destroy the counsel thereof, swallowing all their plans, so that the rulers would be helpless in the situation; and they shall seek to the idols, appealing to them for help, and to the charmers, literally, "the murmurers, or mutterers," those who professed to be in touch with the spirit world, and to them that have familiar spirits, the spiritists of those days, and to the wizards, those actually in league with the Evil One. Then, as now, people who refused to accept the true God resorted to superstitious rites and to the assistance of the spirits of darkness.
v. 4. And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord, the reference being either to one of their own tyrannical rulers or to the Assyrian conquerors; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts. Three Pharaohs, namely, Psammetichus, Necho, and Hophra, oppressed the Egyptians so severely that the land never recovered from their tyranny.
v. 5. And the waters shall fail from the sea, the Nile itself being so called on account of its great width at the time of its annual overflow, which, however, would not take place now, and the river shall be wasted and dried up, this condition being a calamity for Egypt, since it depended entirely upon irrigation.
v. 6. And they shall turn the rivers far away, rather, "and the rivers shall produce a stench," being reduced to stagnating pools; and the brooks of defense shall be emptied and dried up, that is, the canals of the Nile, especially in its delta and in the irrigation systems, would carry no more water; the reeds and flags, principally the papyrus-plants depending altogether upon the moisture of the river, shall wither.
v. 7. The paper-reeds by the brooks, literally, "the naked places," the meadows on the Nile, by the mouth of the brooks, along the banks of the river, and everything sown by the brooks, the grain-fields along the very edge of the Nile, shall wither, be driven away, scattered by the wind in the form of dust, and be no more.
v. 8. The fishers also shall mourn, because they would be thrown out of employment, and all they that cast angle into the brooks, that is, the Nile, shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish, since the rich fisheries of the Nile would no longer exist.
v. 9. Moreover, they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, white cotton cloth, shall be confounded, since neither flax nor cotton would grow, and this important industry would thus be made impossible.
v. 10. And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish, literally, "and shall be her foundations ruins, all laborers for hire swamps of the soul," that is, the upper castes of the nation would lose their power, and the poorest people of the country would give way to hopelessness and despair.
v. 11. Surely the princes of Zoan, or Tanis, a city of Lower Egypt, at one time the capital of the country, are fools, the counsel of the wise counselors of Pharaoh is become brutish, the priestly counselors of the Egyptian king had lost all their wisdom. How say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? In spite of the fact that they boasted their descent from wise and ancient counselors, even of royalty, they were unable to offer advice in the present crisis.
v. 12. Where are they? Where are thy wise men? And, let them tell thee now, in a certain prophecy, and let them know what the Lord of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt. But the challenge remains unanswered.
v. 13. The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph, of Memphis, on the western bank of the Nile, capital of Lower Egypt, are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, led its people astray by their false claims and foolish counsel, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof, upon whom the people depended for leadership. The explanation for this condition is now given.
v. 14. The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof, for the false wisdom of the leading castes acted like a spirit of intoxication; and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit, unable to find his way out.
v. 15. Neither shall there be any work for Egypt which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do, that is, no person in Egypt, whether of the ruling or of the serving class, whether lofty or humble, will be able to do anything to stop the general destruction. Such is the effect of the Lord's judgment upon Egypt.
A Promise of Blessing
v. 16. In that day shall Egypt be like unto women, on account of the greater timidity which usually characterizes the weaker sex; and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of hosts which He shaketh over it, His judgments and punishments thus being scattered by means of the invaders of Egypt.
v. 17. And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, either because the mere mention of the name struck terror to their hearts at this time, or because Judah was now allied with Assyria against the king of Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof, namely, of Judah, shall be afraid in himself because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts which He hath determined against it, for they all dreaded the punishment which they felt was now inevitable. But in the very midst of the threatened destruction a ray of hope shone upon those who turned to the Lord in true repentance.
v. 18. In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, that is, accept the true, revealed religion, and swear to the Lord of hosts, pledging themselves to Him with a sacred oath; one shall be called The City of Destruction, literally, "Ir-ha-heres," which may have been the city of the sun, or Heliopolis. The prophecy of Jeremiah 43:13, also means to point to the destruction of this or a similar city.
v. 19. In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof, probably an obelisk, to the Lord. The reference is either to the establishment of the religion of Jehovah in Egypt in the second century before Christ, when Alexandria became the center of Egyptian Jewry, or, better still, to the foothold which the Christian religion gained in Egypt at a very early date in the new era.
v. 20. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt, so that their contemporaries could see the evidence of their worship and their descendants have this proof of their religion; for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and He shall send them a savior, and a great one, a mighty warrior, and he shall deliver them, the reference probably being to Alexander the Great, whose coming was a deliverance to Egypt in various ways.
v. 21. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, namely, when Jehovah would visit Egypt in mercy and cause the truth to be proclaimed to its people, and shall do sacrifice and oblation, perform the acts of true worship to the only God; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord and perform it, pledging themselves to Jehovah and His service.
v. 22. And the Lord shall smite Egypt, in order to bring its people to repentance; He shall smite and heal it, for His purpose is always one of mercy; and they shall return even to the Lord, His punishment having taken the right effect, and He shall be intreated of them and shall heal them. Cf Leviticus 26:44; Deuteronomy 32:36.
v. 23. In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, permitting free and friendly communication, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians, proselytes and Jews from both countries meeting at Jerusalem and elsewhere for the worship of Jehovah.
v. 24. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, the believers of the three countries being joined by the one faith, even a blessing in the midst of the land, since blessings would go forth from them to the inhabitants of other countries all over the world;
v. 25. whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt, My people, admitted to all the spiritual privileges formerly held by Israel alone, and Assyria, the work of My hands, His workmanship in the spiritual sense, and Israel, Mine inheritance, still designated thus as the actual son of the household of God and head of His family. Altogether, we have here a splendid example of the spread of the true religion under the merciful direction of God, especially in Messianic times.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Isaiah 19". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30