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The confusion of Egypt. The foolishness of their princes. The calling of Egypt to the church. The covenant of Egypt, Assyria, and Israel.
Before Christ 714.
Isaiah 19:1. The burden of Egypt— The fifth discourse of the second book of Isaiah's prophesy contained in this chapter, delivered at another time, and much later than the preceding, copiously sets forth the fate of Egypt, a nation from the remotest antiquity famous in the east. The scene of the prophesy is, according to Isaiah's manner, elegantly laid. He introduces God, borne upon a swift cloud, coming into Egypt to execute the decrees of his justice, to the confusion of the idols of that superstitious country. He then describes the evils and calamities, as well of the approaching as of future time, which should fall upon Egypt; in which the presence of God, as the judge of this people, should be observed. The prophesy is twofold. The FIRST part describes the evil which should happen to Egypt; wherein we have, first, a figurative proposition, which sets forth the argument of the prophesy, Isaiah 19:1. Secondly, the evils about to happen to Egypt are enumerated; Isaiah 19:2-4. Thirdly, the consequence of these evils, Isaiah 19:5-10. Fourthly, the immediate cause of these evils, the want of salutary counsel in the princes of Egypt; Isaiah 19:11-17. The LATTER part exhibits, first, a proposition concerning the grace of God and the knowledge of true religion, to be communicated to the Egyptians; Isa 19:18 to the middle of 20. Secondly, the causes of that benefit:—middle of 20 to 22. Thirdly, some notable adjuncts of it, Isaiah 19:23-25. Some expositors interpret this prophesy literally, others mystically; but the more judicious are for the literal interpretation; and Vitringa thinks, that the greater part of the prophesy refers to the time of Cambyses, and the desolation brought upon Egypt by the Persians: But of this we shall speak more at large in the following notes. Concerning the history of Egypt we refer the reader to Vitringa and the Univ. Hist. vol. 1: p. 319 and vol. 2: p. 97.
Behold, the Lord rideth, &c.— The prophet begins with an elegant proposition, wherein he advises us that God is there present where he judges, or that the judgments of God are most certain testimonies of his presence among men as their ruler and judge, and that, the time of his longsuffering being completed, he will execute his judgments suddenly, and more swiftly than human expectation. See Malachi 3:5. The first effect of God's coming to judgment upon Egypt is said to be, the commotion of the idols. The prophet declares, that at the approach of God they should be moved, and fall from their places, like Dagon at the presence of the ark. The second effect is, that the heart of Egypt should melt in the midst of it; that is, the Egyptians should be in so great a consternation, that their very souls should faint within them, through dread of their approaching calamities. See Deuteronomy 20:8. Luke 21:26. Hereby the prophet means to inform us, that the prince who should come upon Egypt, and lay it waste, should approach with the most swift and rapid motion, as the executor of the decrees of the divine justice; that he should throw down and destroy their idols, and fill all Egypt with the greatest consternation. Now it is certain, that Cambyses, about forty-four years after the delivery of this prophesy, exactly fulfilled these things; particularly with respect to the idols of Egypt. His first attempt, says Bishop Newton, was upon Pelusium, a strong town at the entrance of Egypt, and the key of the kingdom; and he succeeded by the stratagem of placing before his army a great number of dogs, sheep, cats, and other animals, which being held sacred by the Egyptians, not one of them would cast a javelin, or shoot an arrow that way; and so the town was stormed and taken in a manner without resistance. He treated the gods of Egypt with marvellous contempt, laughed at the people, and chastised the priests for worshipping such deities. He slew Apis, or the sacred ox, which the Egyptians worshipped, with his own hand, burned and demolished their other idols and temples; and would likewise, if he had not been prevented, have destroyed the famous temple of Jupiter Ammon. Ochus too, who was another king of Persia, and subdued the Egyptians again, after they had revolted, plundered their temples, and caused Apis to be slain, and served up in a banquet to him and his friends. See Bishop Newton and Vitringa.
Isaiah 19:2-3. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians— Two principal misfortunes of Egypt, on which the rest depend, are related in this prophesy; the first, a civil war to arise in Egypt, with its consequence; Isaiah 19:2-3. The other, the oppression of Egypt by some potent prince or princes. Instead of kingdom against kingdom, the LXX read, province against province, νομος επι νομον, Egypt being divided into nomoi, praefectures or provinces. Vitringa and others apply this to the time of the reign of the twelve kings, the anarchy which preceded, and the civil wars which ensued; wherein Psammiticus prevailed over the rest: but it may perhaps be more properly applied to what agrees better in point of time with other parts of the prophesy; the civil wars between Apries and Amasis, at the time of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion; and the civil wars between Tachos, Nectanebus, and the Mendesian, a little before the country was finally subdued by Ochus. It is no wonder that, in consequence of such distractions and distresses as these, the Egyptians, being naturally a cowardly people, should be destitute of counsel; and that the spirit of Egypt should fail in the midst thereof; and that, being also a very superstitious people; they should seek to their idols, &c.; a remarkable instance whereof, with respect to Psammiticus, we are told by Herodotus, lib, 2: p. 169. See Bishop Newton and Vitringa as before.
Isaiah 19:4. And the Egyptians will I give over, &c.— The second calamity is here described, which is the chief, and the description whereof makes the body of this prophesy. The sum of it is, that Egypt for a long time should be delivered up into the power of mighty and severe foreign rulers, who should so hardly and imperiously treat the nation, that Egypt should be deprived of all its former prosperity and glory, and be reduced to a state of the utmost distress and most abject slavery. This prophesy with the utmost propriety and justice may be applied to the Persians, and especially to Cambyses and Ochus; one of whom put a yoke upon the neck of the Egyptians, and the other riveted it there; and who are both branded in history for cruel tyrants and monsters of men. The Egyptians said, that Cambyses, after his killing of Apis, was stricken with madness; but his actions, says Dr. Prideaux after Herodotus, shewed him to have been mad long before. He could hardly have performed those great exploits if he had been a downright madman; and yet it is certain that he was very much like one; there was a mixture of barbarity and madness in all his behaviour. And Ochus was the cruellest and worst of all the kings of Persia, and was so destructive and oppressive to Egypt in particular, that his favourite eunuch Bagoas, who was an Egyptian, in revenge poisoned him: the favours shewn to himself could not compensate for the wrongs done to his country. No other allegation is wanting to prove that the Persian yoke was galling and intolerable to the Egyptians in the extreme, than their frequent revolts and rebellions, which served still but to augment their misery and enslave them more and more. See Bishop Newton.
Isaiah 19:5-7. And the waters shall fail— These verses should be rendered thus: And the waters shall fail from the sea, [from the Nile, which is frequently, both in Scripture, and in profane writers, termed the sea. See Nahum 3:8. Eze 32:2-3 and Seneca, Quaest. Nat. lib. iv. c. 2.] and the river [the Nile] shall be wasted and dried up, Isa 19:6 and the rivers shall be turned back: The rivers of Egypt shall be emptied and dried up; the reed and the lotus shall languish; Isa 19:7 the papyrus near the brooks on the banks of the rivers, and every thing from by the river, shall wither: it shall be driven back; it shall be no more. See Vitringa. The prophet in these words exhibits the state of the kingdom of Egypt, spoiled, plundered, languishing; and in the next verses its general mourning and lamentation on that account, and both metaphorically. Here he supposes a great tempest to be raised in Egypt, which should drive back the waters of the Nile, dry up its rivulets and channels, and so break, throw down, and destroy, all the productions of the Nile, that they should entirely perish. The meaning of which is, that those enemies, or cruel lords, who should reduce Egypt into servitude, should destroy all the plenty and abundance of Egypt, and plunder all the good things of that kingdom. The Nile here figures out the whole kingdom of Egypt; the reed, the lotus, the papyrus, and the other productions of the Nile, signify the riches, merchandise, and whatever was found in the flourishing state of Egypt: and as, when the waters of the Nile are withdrawn, or dried up, or do not rise to their proper height, all things languish and wither in Egypt, and the greatest poverty and necessity ensue; so the kingdom of Egypt, being depressed under the dominion of its cruel lords, the Persians, who should rule it by rapacious governors, (for this is the exsiccation of the Nile,) all things should languish in that kingdom; the cities with the temples and ornaments be subverted; their riches consumed by strangers, and their lands left uncultivated. In short, the face of their country should be desolate and melancholy, as when the Nile withheld its necessary overflowings. See Vitringa, Exo 7:19 and the Observations, p. 367; the author of which remarks, that the rivers mentioned in the 6th verse mean the branches of the Nile, by which its waters pass into the sea; as the brooks mean the canals drawn by Egyptian princes from the river.
Isaiah 19:8-10. The fishers also shall mourn— The prophet here sets forth the common and universal grief of the Egyptian nation, upon the calamity above described. The 10th verse should be rendered, And their stamina [or networks] shall be broken; all that make drag-nets for pond-fish [shall be confounded]. In this passage three things are supposed; first, that the fish in Egypt, as well in the Nile, as in the lakes and ponds which were formed by the waters of that river, were abundant; secondly, that flax, and that of the better kind, was used for fishing; and thirdly, that this flax was of Egypt; particulars well known from history: hence the letter of the passage is clear enough. The metaphorical sense is this: the persons who reaped advantage from the Nile and its branches were the fishermen, and the makers of nets for those fishermen; who may be considered in a more general or particular view. If we consider them in general, by the fishermen of the Nile may be understood all the Egyptians of the higher class, who from the abundance of that kingdom gained their wealth; and by the makers of the nets for the fishermen, those of inferior rank in the state, who are doomed to labour for the advantage of others. If under this general sense a more particular one may be included, the fishermen may mean those in the state, who, by their superior policy and art, whether by the hook or net, gained wealth and advantages to themselves, and kept all the meaner artificers and mechanics in subordination to them. The former, the Demetriuses, who made the silver shrines; the latter, the craftsmen who had their livelihood thence. See Acts 19:24. The plain meaning is, that all the inhabitants of Egypt, high and low, should mutually deplore this common calamity.
Isaiah 19:11-15. Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, &c.— Surely the princes of Zoan are fools; the very wisest of Pharaoh's counsellors: counsel is become brutish. How will you boast unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? Isaiah 19:13.—They have also seduced Egypt, even the chiefs of the tribes thereof; Isaiah 19:14. The Lord hath mingled in the midst of them a spirit of giddiness, &c. From the 11th to the 18th verse, we have the immediate causes of the Egyptian calamity; the first of which, contained in the present passage, is their want of salutary counsel; and here occurs, first, a proposition concerning the folly of the counsellors of Pharaoh, in Isaiah 19:11. Secondly, an upbraiding of their imprudence; the discourse being first turned to these counsellors themselves, and then to Pharaoh,—middle of Isa 19:11 and Isaiah 19:12. Thirdly, a confirmation of the proposition, Isaiah 19:13. Fourthly, the cause of this imprudence and stupidity, namely, the divine judgment, Isaiah 19:14-15. The meaning of the last verse is, that there should be such confusion in the state, such perturbation of judgment, and want of counsel, that there should be no man in the state, of political or sacerdotal order, fit to give honest and salutary advice; they should all labour under the same disease of mind, ch. Isaiah 9:14. The reader will observe with how fine a gradation the prophet rises in this passage; wherein he alludes to the high antiquity of the Egyptian government, and their same for wisdom, and acknowledges their claim to both these particulars; and indeed the very force of his exultation depends upon the truth of it: for, what reason is there for insisting so much on the power and wisdom of God, in destroying the council of Egypt, if Pharaoh and his counsellors only pretended to be, but were not, wise, nor yet the sons of ancient kings? In general it may be said, that Egypt would not have become so easy a prey to so many foreign enemies, but through the excessive weakness of the Egyptians, both in counsel and action. They had not the courage to defend themselves. They trusted to their Grecian and other mercenaries, who, instead of defending, were often the first to betray them. To finish this particular, let any one shew us now the least trace of learning or wisdom, which is similar to what this nation was formerly celebrated for, if he can; and if he cannot, let him own that this prophesy is fulfilled, even in the present state of Egypt. See Divine Leg. Newton, and Vitringa.
Isaiah 19:16-17. In that day shall Egypt be like unto women— The cowardice and effeminacy of the people in general, joined with their fear and trepidation, is here set forth as the other cause of their calamity; and the reason of this, among other things, is drawn from a sense of the divine judgment. They shall be like women; and this, because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of Hosts, which he shall shake over them; that is to say, because they shall see and perceive that they are borne down by some greater power, even that of the Divinity; and (which some of them shall discern) that very Divinity whom the Jews worshipped at Jerusalem. In consequence of this, it is added in the 17th verse, And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt; that is to say, the Egyptians, crushed by these severe judgments, shall recollect the prophesies delivered by the prophets of the true God concerning this very calamity, and whereof they had obtained the knowledge. And when many of them, on the truth of these predictions, should begin to discern the majesty and supreme power of the God of Israel, it should come to pass, that upon the mention of the land of Judah, the peculiar habitation of that God, they should fear and tremble. The last words of this verse, as well as those in the 18th, abundantly prove the propriety of this interpretation. See the preceding note, respecting the completion of this part of the prophesy, and the note on chap. Isaiah 18:7.
Isaiah 19:18. In that day, &c.— The latter part of this prophesy contains an account of the salutary benefits, temporal as well as spiritual, which God would bestow on Egypt after the above-mentioned calamity. Isaiah, to whom God had most clearly revealed the mystery of the calling of the nations to the grace of Christ, every where takes occasion to speak of it; and frequently finishes his prophesies concerning the nations, with a promise of the salutary blessings determined by God for them; but he does this no where more explicitly than in the present passage. He takes the most convenient occasion of passing from one argument to the other: he had said, that some of the Egyptians, when, under this calamity and oppression, they should observe the impotence of their gods, and seriously reflect upon the true cause of this judgment, should turn their minds to the God of Israel, and, under the sense of what he had foretold by his prophets, should tremble with fear at the mention of him. Isaiah teaches that this servile fear and trembling should in time [after that day, or time] be turned into religious fear; with this effect, that many Egyptians, not all, should speak the language of Canaan; that is to say, profess the true religion. For the analysis of this period, see on the 1st verse. The proposition has two members or gradations, distinguished by the prophet. The former in this verse, wherein the prophet assures us, that after the time of the preceding calamity, there should be five cities in Egypt, who should profess the true religion, and that one of them should be Heliopolis; for, instead of the city of destruction, we may read, the city of the sun, or Heliopolis, a celebrated city in Egypt, and most particularly remarkable for its superstition. It is said, that the conversion of the Egyptians should be effected principally in five cities. If a certain number be not put for an uncertain, the five cities wherein the worship of the one true God was first received, were, Heliopolis, which is particularly named in the text, and the four others, mentioned Jer 44:1 viz. Migdol, or Magdolum, Tahpanhes, or Daphe, Noph, or Memphis, and that in the country of Pathros, or Thebais, not mentioned by name, perhaps Amonno or Diospolis. There the Jews chiefly resided at that time; and some good men, mingled among them, might open these prophesies to the Egyptians; and they themselves, when they saw them fulfilled, might embrace the Jewish religion. See Bishop Newton, vol. 1: p. 374 and Vitringa.
Isaiah 19:19. In that day shall there be an altar, &c.— In this and the former part of the next verse, we have the second member or article of the general proposition; The discourse rises, as is every where the case with our prophet. It seem strange to assert that the Egyptians, struck by the true God, should tremble with a servile fear at the mention of his name. It seems stranger still that they, or some of them, from the principles of affection and internal reverence, should become worshippers of the true God; and yet what is related in this verse is much more; that there should be an altar to the Lord, &c.—for a sign, and for a witness, Isa 19:20 that Egypt should be now devoted to the Lord of Hosts. By pillar, some understand such a one as that which was erected by Jacob at Beth-el: Vitringa renders the word מצבה matsebah, a monument, who thinks that this was some column, consecrated to God, in order to preserve the memory of this great event; the introduction of the true religion into Egypt. See 1Sa 7:12 and Malachi 1:11. The meaning of the passage is, that the temple-service shall be abolished, and the God of Israel worshipped with the most solemn rites, even in the most abhorred and unsanctified places, such as the Jews esteemed Egypt. This is the more remote meaning of this prophesy, as it alludes to the Christian dispensation. In its primary sense it relates to the conversion of the Egyptians to the Jewish religion; and this was brought about by the following progressive changes. Alexander the Great transplanted many of the Jews to Alexandria, and allowed them extraordinary immunities equal to those of the Macedonians themselves. Ptolemy Soter carried more of them into Egypt, who enjoyed such advantages that many of them were allured to settle there. Ptolemy Philadelphus redeemed and released the captive Jews; and in his and his father's reign, the Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek. Ptolemy Euergetes, having subdued Syria, did not sacrifice to the gods of Egypt in acknowledgment of his victory; but, coming to Jerusalem, made his oblations to God after the manner of the Jews. Ptolemy Philometor, and his queen Cleopatra, committed the whole management of the kingdom to two Jews, Onias and Dositheus, who were the chief ministers and generals. This Onias obtained a licence to build a temple for the Jews in Egypt, alleging for that purpose this very prophesy; and the king and queen, in their rescript, make mention of the law, and of Isaiah, and express a dread of offending God. The place chosen for this temple was in the prefecture of Heliopolis, or the city of the sun, likewise mentioned in prophesy. It was built after the model of the temple of Jerusalem, but not so sumptuous. Onias himself was made high-priest; other priests and Levites were appointed for the ministration, and divine service was daily performed there in the same manner as at Jerusalem, and continued as long; for Vespasian, having destroyed the temple at Jerusalem, ordered this to be demolished also. See Newton Proph. vol. 1: p. 375.
Isaiah 19:20-22. For they shall cry unto the Lord— The prophet here sets forth the causes of this happy change in Egypt, with its immediate effects. The impulsive cause he shews to be their cry to Jehovah, on account of their oppressors; the instrumental some Saviour or avenger; some great one so called, who should deliver them from their oppression, Isaiah 19:20. The immediate effects are said to be, first, true faith, to be produced or confirmed in the Egyptians by this means, Isaiah 19:21.; secondly, the healing of them, as to their external state, and the restoration of their government, Isaiah 19:22. Here it is plainly foretold, that a great prince, sent by God from a foreign country, should deliver the Egyptians from their Persian oppressors, and heal their country, which was smitten of God and afflicted; and who could this be but Alexander, who is always distinguished by the name of the great, and whose first successor in Egypt was called the great Ptolemy, and Ptolemy Soter, or the saviour? Upon Alexander's first coming into Egypt, the people all cheerfully submitted to him; for which reason he treated them with kindness, built a city there called Alexandria, appointed one of their own country for their civil governor, and permitted them to be governed by their own laws and customs. By these regulations, and the gentle administration of some of the Ptolemies, Egypt revived, trade and learning flourished, and for a while peace and plenty blessed the land. But it is more largely foretold, Isa 19:21 that about the same time the true religion and worship of the God of Israel should spread in Egypt; and what event was ever more unlikely to happen than the conversion of a people who looked upon themselves as the most learned in the world, to the religion of those whom they despised; and at a time too when these Egyptians were so sunk in superstition and idolatry of the grossest kind? It is certain, that many of the Jews fled into Egypt after Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jerusalem, and carried with them Jeremiah, who there uttered many of his prophesies concerning the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar (see Jeremiah 43 : &c.). Hence, and by the means above described, some knowledge of God, and some notice of the prophesies, might easily be derived to the Egyptians. By their means the Lord must in some degree have been known to Egypt, and the Egyptians have been known to the Lord; and without doubt there must have been many proselytes among them. With these who came up to the feast of Pentecost, Act 2:10 there are particularly mentioned, the dwellers in Egypt, and in the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, Jews and proselytes. Nay, from the instance of Candace's eunuch, Act 8:27 we may infer that there were proselytes even beyond Egypt in Ethiopia. Thus were the Jews settled and encouraged in Egypt; insomuch that Philo represents their number as not less than ten hundred thousand men. Bishop Newton, as above.
Isaiah 19:23-25. In that day shall there be a high way— We have here the wonderful consequence of this benefit of divine grace toward the Egyptians, namely, their spiritual alliance with the Assyrians and Israelites, with a great abundance of the divine blessing. The sum of the period is, that the Egyptians, being brought to the knowledge of true religion, should enjoy a communion of that religion with the Assyrians, from whom they were formerly greatly divided; and that they should cultivate this communion by an easy way; that is, in the most friendly and amicable manner, as the Assyrians do in return with the Egyptians, and that both should be in communion with the Israelites; that they should constitute one church, composed as it were of three members, should enjoy the same spiritual privileges, and in this state should jointly share a large degree of the divine blessings: things which, however unlikely when Isaiah wrote, were abundantly proved by the event; for the Jews were not only favoured by the Egyptians, as we have shewn in the former note, but also by the kings of Syria. Seleucus Nicator made them free of the cities which he built in Asia and the lower Syria, and of Antioch itself, the capital of his kingdom, and granted the same rights and privileges to them as to the Greeks and Macedonians. Antiochus the Great published several decrees in favour of those who dwelt in Mesopotamia and Babylon. Josephus informs us, that they gained many proselytes in Antioch; and thus, by means of the Jews and proselytes dwelling in Egypt and Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Syria, were in some measure united in the same worship. But the prophesy was more fully accomplished when their countries became Christian, and multitudes in each nation were made members of the same body in Christ Jesus. See Bishop Newton.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Egypt had often been a broken reed to the house of Judah, who, notwithstanding the misery their fathers had there endured, were ever flying thither for help, and making this their confidence, though ever to their hurt. God therefore will in the destruction of Egypt cut off this false resource. We have here,
1. The terror of Egypt, and the helplessness of their idol-gods, when the Lord cometh on the swift cloud, in terrible majesty, hastening as a judge to condemn the malefactors; or as a general at the head of his troops, with impetuous speed, and irresistible power, to lay the country waste before him. At his presence the idols, like Dagon's image before the ark, shall be confounded, and their courageous soldiers be utterly dispirited. Note; Before an avenging God who can stand?
2. Intestine feuds shall embroil them, and lay them more open to the invader. Note; They are the greatest enemies of their country, who foment a spirit of faction, and seek to embroil brother against brother.
3. A spirit of infatuation and folly shall seize the Egyptians. Their princes and wisest counsellors, notwithstanding their boasts of science, and descent from a long train of illustrious ancestors, are become brutish and fools, unable to discover the divine purposes; neither can their idols or magicians inform them. Deceived themselves, their princes have deceived their country; and they who should have been the stay thereof, hasten its destruction. Like men intoxicated with wine, they have drunk of the cup of error, and every step they take is wrong. Their counsels are weak, unsteady, perverse, and by them the state is led to the precipice of ruin. Note; It is a needful and weighty petition of the Litany of the church of England, That it may please thee to endue the Lords of the council and all the nobility, with grace, wisdom, and understanding.
4. They shall be sold into the hand of a cruel lord or lords; either the twelve tyrants who succeeded Sethon, or Psammiticus who united the monarchy under himself; or rather the Persian emperors, Cambyses and Ochus, to whom the character aptly applies. See the Critical Annotations. Note; (1.) A tyrant king is the scourge of his land. (2.) How great reason have we to bless God for the mild government we enjoy!
5. The sources of their riches and commerce should be cut off, and want and wretchedness ensue. The Nile, the great cause of Egypt's fertility, shall fail them, occasioned by such a drought as would prevent its usual overflowing, or by the imprudent attempts of their kings, one of whom Pharaoh Necho, by endeavouring to join the Nile with the Red Sea, is said to have greatly weakened its force; the consequence of which would be, [1.] That their defence would be gone, the ditches with the water of the Nile filled round their fortified places being drained. [2.] That famine would be in their land, because, as they have no rain in Egypt, the Nile not rising as usual, nothing would grow; and if the reeds on its banks, from whence paper and a variety of other things were made, withered for want of moisture, much more would all the fruits of the ground. [3.] Even their fish, which in such vast plenty abounded, would be no more: the river dried up, the fishermen destitute of employment would mourn, and the people, who were generally supported by the fish, be reduced to deep distress. Nor shall the rich be able to supply their tables, when their sluices and ponds shall alike be exhausted. [4.] Their manufactories, for want of flax, shall be at a stand: they who wove in the loom, or spun, or made their nets, now unemployed, would pine away in want, and an entire stop be put to their trade and commerce, there being no work which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do. Note; Our common blessings are grievously overlooked; but one year of drought, that should destroy our harvest, would sensibly teach us the value of the mercies that we disregard. May our ingratitude and unmindfulness of God never provoke him thus to plague us!
6. The devastation of Judaea by the Assyrian hosts would spread a panic among them; pangs shall come upon them as on a travailing woman, beholding the hand of the Lord thus lifted up; justly apprehensive of the vicinity of the victorious army; and fearing that, if God's own people be not spared, Egypt may not hope to escape, against which the decree is gone forth. Note; (1.) When one sinner is cut down, it becomes the survivors to look and tremble. (2.) When the wicked persist in their perverse way, the counsel of the Lord is determined for their destruction.
2nd, In the midst of wrath a beam of mercy gladdens the dreary scene. There is yet hope in their end, and spiritual blessings in store, which would infinitely outweigh the heaviest temporal calamities. The accomplishment of this prophesy may refer to the conversion of many of them by the Jews, who fled into Egypt from the Assyrians; but still more to the times of the Gospel, when Egypt, by the preaching of St. Mark and others, was early converted to the Christian faith; and also, perhaps, to some great events which should precede the establishment of Christ's universal reign.
1. Their cities shall speak the language of Canaan, becoming acquainted with the word of God, and conversing with the people of God. One shall be called the city of destruction, or, of the Sun: where idolatry was most rooted, the grace of God shall be most prevalent; or, the city which refused the Gospel, would be devoted to ruin. Note; (1.) When the soul is converted to God, we learn a new language; the love of God in Christ, and his rich salvation, known and believed, are the pleasing subjects of our conversation, a language which to the world appears strange and unknown. (2.) That soul is doomed to destruction which continues a stranger to the divine teachings, and experimentally unacquainted with the truths of gospel grace.
2. The worship of God should be publicly established. The names of idols should come no more into their lips, but their appeals be made to the heart-searching Jehovah, and to the Lord Jesus would they pledge their fidelity. To him shall they go, as the only altar where atonement had been made for their sins, and where acceptance of their services can be alone obtained. And in the utmost borders a pillar shall be erected, intimating the general profession of the faith of Christ throughout the land. Note; (1.) An oath is a solemn act of religion, and therefore to God alone must we appeal. (2.) Christ is our altar, in and by whom alone our persons and services can be accepted of God.
3. God's truth being thus embraced, and his ordinances of worship established, they would be a sign between him and his people. In time of distress, when they cry unto him, he will hear and answer them; and, by a Saviour, a great one, yea, an Almighty Saviour, Jesus, deliver them from every oppressor, from sin, Satan, death, hell, and every foe.* Note; God's ears are ever open to the prayers of his people, and Jesus ever near to help his afflicted ones. While we pray, he will never leave nor forsake us. (2.) They who feel that they have great sins, and tremble under their great corruptions, should remember that they have a great Redeemer, able to save to the uttermost.
* For the literal interpretation see the Critical Annotations.
4. They shall be brought to the knowledge of God, and, as the blessed effect of it, shall have their hearts engaged to him, paying the grateful tribute of praise and thanksgiving for his mercies. By the translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek at Alexandria, the knowledge of divine truth was, in a measure, laid open; but more especially were they enlightened, when the ministers of Christ carried the Gospel thither, and preached unto them the grace which is in Jesus Christ.
5. By his word and providences he will smite their hearts, effectually awakening their consciences; and as he wounds, healing them, forgiving their sins, and converting their souls. Note; When God wounds, it is to heal, not to destroy.
6. They shall be admitted into the communion of God's saints. All quarrels now terminated, Egypt and Assyria should become friends, and maintain intimate intercourse, and both unite in the service of the same God; and Israel, which lay between them, through the Saviour, who was of their stock, should become a blessing to them; and, cordially uniting with them, the distinction of Jew and Gentile shall cease, when they become one fold under one shepherd. For thus God, as their common Father, will regard them. Egypt is equally his people with Israel his inheritance, and blessed in the same covenant of grace; and Assyria, alike the work of his hands, will be created anew in Christ Jesus, and all united in him, and members one of another. Note; They who are the servants of the same God, bought with the same blood, and begotten by the same spirit, should unite in love, lay aside all animosities, and with one mind and one mouth join in his worship and praise.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 19". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany