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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 19:19

In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord near its border.
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. Bridgeway Bible Commentary
  3. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
  4. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  5. E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
  6. Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
  7. Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible
  8. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
  9. John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
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Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Pillar;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Egypt;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Tirhakah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Testimony;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ir-Ha-Heres;   Pillars;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Oracles;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Deuteronomy;   Idolatry;   Ir-Ha-Heres;   Isaiah, Book of;   Seveneh;   Ten Commandments;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Paul (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Pillar;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Borrow;   Outcasts;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Egypt;   On;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Dispersion, the;   Images;   Ir-Ha-Heres;   Isaiah;   Pillar;   Salvation;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Joy;   Leontopolis;   Pillar;   Sacrifice;   Stone and Stone-Worship;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

An altar to the Lord - צבאות tsebaoth, "of hosts," or Yehovah tsebaoth, is added by eight MSS. of good repute, and the Syriac Version.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Egypt's punishment and conversion (19:1-25)

At various times Judah was tempted to rely on Egypt for help against aggressors. Isaiah shows in this message how useless such reliance is. He pictures the day when God acts against Egypt, and sees that all Egypt's magic and all her gods cannot save her. Civil war breaks out, followed by the harsh rule of a dictator (19:1-4).

Drought causes the Nile, Egypt's only water supply, to dry up. This ruins the nation's farming, fishing and cotton industries, and creates nationwide unemployment (5-10). Try as they may, the nation's rulers and advisers cannot solve its problems, for those problems have been sent upon them by God (11-13). As a result the nation is reduced to helplessness. No one knows what to do (14-15).

Having been humbled, Egypt fears Judah. It also fears Judah's almighty God, Yahweh (16-17). Judeans then migrate to Egypt and establish the worship of Yahweh in places where people had once worshipped heathen gods. God now treats the people of Egypt as previously he treated those of Israel and Judah. He delivers them from their oppressors, punishes them for their sins, and forgives them when they repent (18-22). People from Egypt, along with people from other former enemies of Israel-Judah, will have an equal part with the people of Israel-Judah in God's universal kingdom (23-25).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"In that day shall there be an altar to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to Jehovah. And it shall be a sign for a witness unto Jehovah of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they shall cry unto Jehovah because of oppressors, and he will send them a saviour and a defender, and he will deliver them. And Jehovah shall be known to Egypt and, the Egyptians shall know Jehovah in that day; yea, they shall worship with sacrifice and oblation, and shall vow a vow unto Jehovah, and shall perform it. And Jehovah will smite Egypt, smiting and healing; and they shall return unto Jehovah, and he will be entreated of them, and will heal them."

Archer's understanding of this we believe to be correct. He wrote:

"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."[17]

Regarding this temple (including an altar, of course) that Onias built in Alexandria, Josephus has this:

"This Onias resolved to send to king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra, to ask leave of them that he might build a temple in Egypt like that in Jerusalem, and might order Levites and priests out of their own stock. The chief reason why he was so desirous to do this, was, that he relied upon the prophet Isaiah who lived about six hundred years earlier, and foretold that there was certainly to be a temple built to Almighty God in Egypt."[18]

In like manner, Isaiah 19:21,22, are doubtless references to the "Christianization" of Egypt (and the whole world) during the Messianic age. Egypt served God with sacrifice and oblation "in the same sense as the rest of the Church (Malachi 1:1)."[19] Isaiah, writing in the eighth century B.C., would of course, describe the worship of God in the only terms that the people of that time could understand.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

In that day shall there be an altar - An “altar” is properly a place on which sacrifices are offered. According to the Mosaic law, but one great altar was to be erected for sacrifices. But the word ‹altar‘ is often used in another sense to denote a place of “memorial;” or a place of worship in general (Joshua 22:22-26. It is clear that Isaiah did not intend that this should be taken “literally,” or that there should be a rival temple and altar erected in Egypt, but his description is evidently taken in part from the account of the religion of the patriarchs who erected altars and pillars and monuments to mark the places of the worship of the true God. The parallelism here, where ‹pillars‘ are mentioned, shows in what sense the word ‹altar‘ is used. It means that the worship of the true God would be established in Egypt, and that certain “places” should be set apart to his service. “altars” were among the first places reared as connected with the worship of God (see Genesis 8:20; Genesis 12:7; Genesis 35:1; Exodus 17:15).

To the Lord - To Yahweh - the true God.

And a pillar - That is, a memorial to God. Thus Jacob set up the stone on which he had lain ‹for a pillar,‘ and poured oil on it Genesis 28:18. Again Genesis 35:14, he set up a pillar to mark the place where God met him and talked with him (compare Genesis 31:13; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22). The word ‹pillar,‘ when thus used, denotes a stone, or column of wood, erected as a monument or memorial; and especially a memorial of some manifestation of God or of his favor. Before temples were known, such pillars would naturally be erected; and the description here means simply that Yahweh would be worshipped in Egypt.

At the border thereof - Not in one place merely, but in all parts of Egypt. It is not improbable that the “name” of Yahweh, or some rude designation of the nature of his worship, would be inscribed on such pillars. It is known that the Egyptians were accustomed to rear pillars, monuments, obelisks, etc., to commemorate great events, and that the names and deeds of illustrious persons were engraven on them; and the prophet here says, that such monuments should be reared to Yahweh. In regard to the fulfillment of this prophecy, there can be no question. After the time of Alexander the Great, large numbers of Jews were settled in Egypt. They were favored by the Ptolemies, and they became so numerous that it was deemed necessary that their Scriptures should be translated into Greek for their use, and accordingly the translation called the Septuagint was made. See Introduction, Section 8,1, (1).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

an altar. See App-81.

a pillar. Probably a boundary pillar. Hebrew. nazab. A pillar or monument. Not for worship.

at = close to.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

19.In that day shall there be an altar in the midst of the land of Egypt. He continues what he had said in the former verse, and states more clearly that the aspect of Egypt will be renewed, because there true religion will flourish, the pure worship of God will be set up, and all superstitions will fall to the ground. He employs the word altar to denote, as by a sign, the worship of God; for sacrifices and oblations were the outward acts of piety. By the midst of Egypt he means the chief part of the whole kingdom, as if he had said, “in the very metropolis,” or, “in the very heart of the kingdom.”

And a statue (42) to the Lord. Let it not be supposed that by statue are meant images which carry the resemblance of men or of saints; but memorials ( μνημόσυνα) of piety; for he means that they will be marks similar to those which point out the boundaries of kingdoms, and that in this manner signs will be evident, to make known to all men that God rules over this nation. And indeed it usually happens that a nation truly converted to God, after having laid aside idols and superstitions, openly sets up signs of the true religion, that all may know that the worship of God is purely observed in it.

Josephus relates (Ant. 13. 3. 1,) that Onias perverted this passage, when he fled to Ptolemy Philometor, (43) whom he persuaded that it would be advantageous to erect an altar there, on which the Jews who dwelt in that country might sacrifice; and he brought forward this passage, alleging that what the Prophet had foretold ought to be accomplished. The wicked and ambitious priest persuaded the king to do this, though it was openly opposed by the Jews; for the king looked to his own advantage, and that scoundrel, who had been deprived of his rank, sought to obtain additional honor and advancement; so that no entreaty could prevent the execution of that wicked counsel. But Isaiah simply describes the pure worship of God under the figure of signs which were then in use; for he has his eye upon his own age and the men with whom he had to do. This passage, therefore, was wickedly and maliciously perverted by Onias.

But not less impudently do the Popish doctors of the present day torture a passage in Malachi to defend the sacrifice of the Mass. When he says that “a pure oblation will everywhere be offered to God,” (Malachi 1:11,) they infer that it is some sacrifice different from the ancient sacrifices, because oxen and sheep must no longer be sacrificed, and therefore that it is the Mass. A witty and ingenious argument truly! Now, it is evident that under the legal figure Malachi describes nothing else than the pure worship of God, as Isaiah does here; and we ought carefully to observe such forms of expression, which are frequently employed by the prophets.

This will be clearly explained by a passage in Joel, which we shall quote as an example. “Your sons and your daughters,” says he, “shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Joel 2:28.) Peter shews (Acts 2:16) that this prediction was fulfilled, when the apostles spoke various languages through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Having formerly been uneducated men, they began to be qualified for declaring the mysteries of God. On that occasion we perceive no “dreams,” so that it might be thought that Peter quoted that passage inappropriately; but it is evident that Joel there describes nothing else than prophecy, and for the purpose of adorning it, he mentioned “visions and dreams,” by means of which the Lord anciently held communication with the prophets. (Numbers 12:6.) He kept in view the ordinary custom of that age; for otherwise the Jews would have found it difficult to comprehend the gifts of the Spirit which at that time were unknown. Having been reared under that preparatory instruction of the Law, (44) they could rise no higher than where they were conducted by sacrifices, ceremonies, sacraments, and signs. (45) So then the prophets addressed them as children, who ought to have nothing set before them beyond what they can learn in a homely style ( παχυμερέστερον) by custom and experience.

This doctrine will unfold to us various passages, the obscurity of which might lead to much hesitation. It is plain that the Prophet speaks of the kingdom of Christ, and that these things were not fulfilled before his coming. We must therefore take away the shadows and look at the reality of things, in order that by the altar we may understand a true and sincere calling on God. But by these signs the Prophet likewise shews that the worship of God cannot be maintained without external acts of devotion, though we have no right to lay down rules for them. Away with the inventions of men, that we may listen to God alone on this subject.

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These files are public domain.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. God is again seen as concerned w/all nations!
      1. Especially longing for them to turn to Him.
      2. He is in control of the rise & fall of all nations!
    2. A number of people in Judah advised the king to get help from Egypt against the mighty Assyrians.
      1. Read Is.31:1-3
      2. Isaiah warns them here…“believe me, they won’t be able to help!”
  2. EGYPT! (Ch.19)
    1. ​​​​​​​DISCOURAGED! (1)
    2. The Lord riding a swift cloud - speaks of judgment!
    3. Hearts melting – discouragement. (Ps.119:28)
    4. DIVIDED! (2)
    5. Forsees an impending ivil War.
    7. DOMINATION! (4)
    8. The mighty Nile & its tributaries dry up & cause many problems.
    9. DROUGHT! (5-7)
      1. This drought creates a stench(6,7).
    10. ECONOMIC DESPAIR! (8-10)
    11. Continued affects of the drought.
      1. It affects the Fisherman(8).
      2. It affects the Garment Industry(9) [because water is needed to grow flax, which is used to make linen].
      3. Egypt’s whole economy would be destroyed(10).
    12. DELUDED FOOLS! (11-15)
    13. So a nation that would be: Discouraged, Divided, relying on Demonic counsel, Dominated by another country, & in economic Despair…“How are they going to help you?”
      1. ​​​​​​​By Deluded Fools? Oh, I mean by their wise counsel!!! – “Oh!”
      2. They were known for their “wise guys”! – They prided themselves on their learning & wisdom.
        1. 1 Kings 4:30 “Thus Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt.”
      3. God’s people get their wisdom from God, not from the world.
      4. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,”
      5. Q: Today, who are the world’s counselors? – Dr. Phil; Laura Schlesinger; Oprah?
      6. Q: Does your own education ever get in the way because of pride?
    14. (14,15) The wisdom of Egypt would lead them into overwhelming & humiliating defeat.
    15. So, once again…“How was Egypt going to be your deliverer?”
  3. ​​​​​​​CONVERSION OF EGYPT! (16-25)
    1. Now let’s look out into the future(mill.), what does God have in store for both Egyptians & Jews?
      1. The situation will be reversed. (Egypt will turn to Israel for help!)
    2. (16,17) Q: When is fear a good thing? (When it is the beginning of hope! – As it was for Egypt!)
      1. Q: What place does fear have in the Christian experience?
        1. Wrong fear = fear of circumstances & situations.
        2. Healthy fear = of God, sin, etc.
      2. Look at Egypt’s response to fear!
        1. (18) Submission (even learning Hebrew)
        2. (19) Worship
        3. (23) Fellowship
        4. (24,25) Acceptance w/in the family of God.
    3. (20) When they cry out to God, He will listen & become their Savior & Champion & Deliverer.
    4. (21) They’ll worship with “memorial” sacrifices.
    5. (22) Remember I said God is longing for the nations to turn to Him.
      1. Here in verses 22 & 25 we see that more than ever!
      2. Strike & heal? – Isn’t that what a doctors shot is all about? Spanking a babies rear?
    6. (23) No longer battle each other but visit one another on God’s Highway!
    7. (24) Here we see another example of Abraham’s great promise being fulfilled regarding “all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through him” (i.e. his descendants).
    8. Now wait a minute, before we tackle ch.20’s short chapter. Wasn’t “going down into Egypt a problem a little earlier with Israel?”
      1. During their wilderness wanderings, the people wanted to go back!
        1. God would not permit it!
        2. See Ex.13:17.
      2. Here Isaiah warned against it. Jeremiah warned against it(42,43)
      3. The book of Hebrews warns against “going back in unbelief” but to “go forward in faith”!
        1. Heb.6:1 “let us go on to perfection,”
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary


Now he turns to Egypt.

The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians ( Isaiah 19:1-2 ):

So God is speaking here of a civil war.

and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom ( Isaiah 19:2 ).

There"s going to be civil turmoil and war within Egypt.

And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards. And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts ( Isaiah 19:3-4 ).

And then he begins to make some very interesting predictions.

The waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up. And they shall turn the rivers far away ( Isaiah 19:5-6 );

The word there is translated in one of the new versions, "And they shall dam the river far away."

and the brooks of defense shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither. The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more. The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast their hook into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread their nets upon the waters shall languish. Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded. And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make the sluices and ponds for fish. Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counselors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say you of the Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? ( Isaiah 19:6-11 )

Now here is a prediction that the river shall be dammed far away. The Aswan Dam surely answers to this prediction. As early as1970 they began to discover some of the ecological problems that were created by the building of the Aswan Dam. In a report made to the Congress and has become a part of the Congressional record, number S3448, in an ecology report the first thing that they drew the attention to was the smog in Los Angeles as an ecology disaster. But the second thing was the DDT problem that since has been resolved by laws. But then the third thing was Egypt, and here is what was said, "The Aswan Dam has slowed down the Nile. Six hundred miles downriver the sandbars have stopped building up on the delta. The Mediterranean is flooding the delta and one million fertile acres have disappeared under saltwater. Below the dam, snails carry the blood flukes of schistosomiasis. And thousands of men and women and children are going to die of this painful, cruel disease. The Nile no longer carries its nutrient-rich sediments out to sea, and the fish are disappearing and the fishing families are moving to the slums of Cairo and Alexandria. That source of food is disappearing. Also, oxygen from the loss of the greenery and water."

Now ten years later, as further studies are made concerning the ecological damage of the building of the Aswan Dam, the first thing, of course, that the prophet here does talk about is the saltwater intrusion into the delta, the rich delta farmland area. And this has continued. The idea of damming up the Aswan was, of course, to create a control of the water flow into the irrigation canals and so forth and hopefully to open up thousands of new agricultural acres by the irrigation projects. But they have discovered that through the saltwater intrusion and into the most fertile area of Egypt, into the delta, the Nile delta, through the saltwater intrusion, they have lost over twice the acreage, agriculture acreage as they were gaining. You see, it used to be at the flood tide as the Nile River would bring the silt and all into the Mediterranean, that it built up these silt dams against the Mediterranean creating this very fertile delta area much like we have down in El Centro and so forth, that fertile area that has been built up by the Colorado over the years.

Now with the Nile no longer flooding, they"ve lost the agricultural area by saltwater intrusion from the Mediterranean. First thing he predicted. But not only that, all the reeds and so forth that used to grow along the Nile were killed because there is a little snail that sort of feeds, eats at its roots, but it used to be carried away every year in the flood season. But now that there is no more flood season, these little snails have destroyed all of the reeds and everything that used to be along the Nile River. Even as Isaiah said.

Now in1970 the fishing industry was beginning to disappear, it has now totally disappeared. It doesn"t exist. They do not have any more fishing industry. There in the Mediterranean there used to be tremendous schools of fish that supplied Egypt with one of its greatest protein sources. Just an overabundant supply of fish, because they would feed on the rich nutrients that were carried by the Nile River on into the Mediterranean Sea. But now that there is no great flooding and the carrying of these nutrients in, the fish, they don"t know what happened to them, if they just left and gone someplace else, or just disappeared. But there is no more fishing industry. It is amazing to me that2700 years ago, God inspired the prophet Isaiah to not only prophesy the building of the Aswan Dam as they will turn away the river far away, but also to prophesy those ecological disasters that would be created by the damming of the Nile River. There has even been suggestions by the Egyptians that the Aswan Dam be blown up in order to seek to correct the ecological disasters that have resulted from its building.

It is interesting then that at the end of the prophecy he sort of takes off against those engineers and counselors that advised them to build the Aswan Dam. "The counselors of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counselors of Pharaoh is become brutish. How can they say, "I am wise, the son of the ancient kings"?"

Where are they? where are the wise men? and let them tell you now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts has purposed upon Egypt ( Isaiah 19:12 ).

Men are so wise. Now let them tell you. God has already told you what damages are going to happen. These men are so wise let them tell you what God has purposed.

The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof. The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man who is staggering in his own vomit ( Isaiah 19:13-14 ).

What a graphic picture.

Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do. In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shakes over it. And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that makes mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it ( Isaiah 19:15-17 ).

And so interesting as we look at the situations today and see how clearly and concisely God has actually spoken of these things. "The land of Judah even again becoming a terror unto Egypt."

In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction. 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 to the LORD. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day ( Isaiah 19:18-21 ),

"In that day," begins to go ahead into the future into the day of the Lord. When God is going to work, of course, in the coming of Jesus Christ throughout the world. But Egypt is going to become a religious center for the worshipping of the Lord. Right now, of course, Egypt is strongly Moslem. They have laws in Egypt against witnessing, proselytizing; it"s a capital crime. If you seek to lead a Moslem to Jesus Christ in Egypt, you could be put to death. It"s a capital offense to seek to convert a Moslem to another faith. But in that day, the Lord shall be known to Egypt. They"ll know the Lord.

and they will do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them ( Isaiah 19:21-22 ).

Now Egypt will be smitten by the antichrist, actually, when he takes his forces and he starts a move towards Africa to conquer Africa. He will pass through Egypt. He"ll get to the borders of Ethiopia, at which time tidings out of the north and the east will trouble him, for he will hear that the Chinese have been moving their armies westward. And he will turn in all of his fury to meet the invading armies of the east and of the north, the regrouped forces of Russia, and they will meet in a deadly conflict in the valley of Megiddo. So Egypt is going to suffer. They will be conquered by the forces of Europe as they begin their invasion of Africa. But it is an invasion that will never be completed, because as soon as Egypt is taken, as they start to move against Ethiopia, is when the news comes of the invading forces from the east and from the north at which time the antichrist will turn to meet them with the European forces. And thus the battle of Armageddon.

In that day ( Isaiah 19:24 )

The day of the Lord after He has healed them and established them, actually Assyria, which is modern-day Iraq, and Egypt will have a highway going between them passing through Israel. And the three nations will be joined together in a beautiful harmony and accord in the glorious day of the Lord.

it shall be that Israel shall be a third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance ( Isaiah 19:24-25 ).

And so God"s glorious work in that day; that day when Jesus comes to establish God"s kingdom. "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

The Judgment, on Egypt

A prophecy concerning Egypt, probably belonging to the same period as Isaiah 18, and designed to show the speedy collapse of Egypt's power, on which a strong political party in Judah in Hezekiah's reign had placed their hopes (see Intro.). Sargon defeated the Egyptians at Raphia in 720 b.c., and the prophet in Isaiah 19:2-3 may refer to the anarchy and confusion consequent upon that overthrow. At any rate, he shows a remarkable acquaintance both with the country and the people of Egypt.

1-10. The impending calamity of Egypt.

11-15. Its helplessness at the crisis.

16-25. The outcome of the judgment: (a) a state of terror (16, 17); (b) recognition of Jehovah (18-22); (c) followed by a call to share the blessings of God's chosen people (23-25).

1. Burden] see on Isaiah 13:1. Rideth] cp. Psalms 18:9, Psalms 18:10. The strength of Egypt is broken at Jehovah's approach.

2. Civil war rages between the petty princes of lower Egypt.

4. The Assyrian monarch Sargon may be the cruel lord in the prophet's thoughts; he defeated the Egyptians more than once (720, 711, b.c.).

6. RV 'And the rivers shall stink; the streams of Egypt shall be minished and dried up.'

7. RV 'The meadows by the Nile, by the brink of the Nile,' etc.

8. With the failure of the river the occupation of the fishermen will be gone. Brooks] RV 'Nile.'

9. Networks] RV 'white cloth.'

10. RV 'And her pillars shall be broken in pieces, all they that work for hire shall be grieved in soul.' Pillars] i.e. the foundations of society (Psalms 11:3), or principal men (Galatians 2:9).

11. Zoan] or Tanis, in the Delta.

12. The first proof of their folly; they cannot foresee the future.

13. A. second proof, by ill-judged counsel they have brought about disaster.

Noph] i.e. Memphis, a chief city of Lower Egypt. Stay] RV 'corner stone': cp. Zechariah 10:4.

15. Branch] RV 'palm branch': cp. Zechariah 9:14 the expressions in the v. are figurative of all classes of society.

16. In that day] the Day of God's judgment.

17. Egypt is filled with terror at the mention of Judah, because of Judah's God.

18. Five] a small number. Language of Canaan] Hebrew. Swear] i.e. swear allegiance. Shall be called] as deserving the name (Isaiah 1:26).

City of destruction] i.e. Heliopolis, the city of the sun (Irhacheres), but by a slight change in one letter (Irhaheres), the prophet symbolically indicates its fate—the place where the sun was worshipped will be destroyed. Somewhat similarly Beth-El ('house of God') is written Beth Aven ('house of nought'), Hosea 4:15, and Bosheth ('shame') stands for Baal (Jeremiah 11:13).

19. There will be visible signs of Egypt's allegiance to Jehovah. Pillar] or obelisk, such as were common in Egypt; the mark of a holy place.

20-22. Isaiah loots forward to a time when, instead of Egypt exercising an evil influence over the destiny of Judah, Judah shall be the means of spiritual blessing to Egypt.

23-25. The prophet in rapt vision sees the historic and traditional enemies of his nation joined with it in membership of one holy people of God, where all share equal privilege. A like wonderful catholic and missionary spirit is shown in Psalms 87.

Like Isaiah's other pictures of the ideal future, this prophecy (Isaiah 19:20-25) yet awaits its complete fulfilment. We may, however, trace partial and, as it were, preparatory fulfilments (a) in the influence of the Persian monarchy, which succeeded the Assyrian empire and did much for the spread of monotheism in the world. Cyrus himself, in his proclamations, recognised Jehovah as the God of heaven (Ezra 1:2); (b) the Jewish exiles in Egypt acted as leaven, and under the Ptolemies the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek. Thus, in a wonderful manner was the way prepared for the extension of the gospel of Christ, and the bringing of the nations to the knowledge of the true God.

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Abraham built an altar to express his gratitude and commitment to the Lord ( Genesis 12:8; cf. Joshua 22:34; Joshua 24:26-27), and Jacob erected a pillar when he memorialized God"s covenant to him ( Genesis 28:22). The Egyptians will do these things throughout their land to express those things in that day ( Isaiah 19:19). Israelites during the Judges Period cried out to God because of their oppressors, and He sent them deliverers ( Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15; Judges 6:7; Judges 10:10). Their great oppressor in the past, of course, had been Egypt herself. Similarly, when the Egyptians call out to God for help, He will send them a Savior and a Champion, Messiah ( Isaiah 19:20). The Lord revealed Himself to the Israelites and brought them into a saving relationship with Himself through bitter defeat in the Exodus ( Exodus 7:5; Exodus 9:29; Exodus 14:4). He will do the same to the Egyptians in that future day ( Isaiah 19:21; cf. Jeremiah 31:34; Zechariah 14:16-18), and they will respond with appropriate worship. Parents sometimes strike their children to bring them into line, and God will discipline Egypt to bring her to Himself. He will hurt them, but He will hurt them to heal them, like a surgeon ( Isaiah 19:22). This whole section is a picture of reconciliation still future.

"This is the point: the worship of Yahweh in Egypt will be open and official.... Historical fulfillment here, like historical fulfillment in each of the five "in that day" passages, did not occur." [Note: Watts, p258.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(19) In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord . . .—The words naturally tended to bring about their own fulfilment, as related in the preceding note. From the prophet’s own stand-point, however, the altar was probably thought of, not as the centre of a rival worship, but, like that erected by the trans-Jordanic tribes in the time of Joshua, as an altar of “witness” (Joshua 22:27), and the words that follow supply a distinct confirmation of this view. Substantially the prophet saw in the distant future a time in which the connection between Judah and Egypt should be one influencing the latter for good, and not the former for evil. The admission of Egyptian and Ethiopian proselytes, already referred to, was as the first fruits of such an influence. It may not be without interest to note some of its later workings. (1) In the time of Manasseh, who gave to his son Amon a name singularly Egyptian in its sound, a body of Jewish settlers were invited by Psammetichus to station themselves on the frontiers of Upper Egypt (“Pseudo-Aristeas,” in Hudson’s Josephus). (2) Under Ptolemy I. large numbers of Jewish emigrants fixed themselves at Alexandria, with full toleration of their faith and worship. (3) Under Ptolemy Philadelphus the intercourse between the Palestinians and Egyptians led to the translation of the Old Testament Scriptures known as the LXX., and this was followed by the growth of a Hellenistic or a Græco-Jewish literature, of which we have the remains in the Apocrypha and in Philo. (4) There was the erection of the Leontopolis Temple, already spoken of, and this was followed by that of numerous synagogues, perhaps also of monasteries for communities of Jewish ascetics of the Essene type, such as that which Philo describes under the name of the Thera-pœutœ (Euseb. H.E. ii. 17).

A pillar at the border thereof . . .—The pillar was the familiar obelisk of the Egyptians, commonly associated with the worship of the sun. The point of Isaiah’s prediction was that the symbol should be rescued from its idolatrous uses, and stand on the border-land of Egypt and of Judah, as a witness that Jehovah, the Lord of hosts, was worshipped in both countries.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

The Burden of Egypt

Isaiah 19:1

In the preface to a volume of travel-letters by Dr. Liddon, his sister says: "Dr. Liddon"s interests were always the same. This was nowhere more evident than in Egypt, which had for him extraordinary fascinations, because, as he would frequently explain, the life of the ancient Egyptians all pointed one way; their monuments and their literature alike show that they held the real business of this life to be preparation for death. It was neither on their palaces nor on their public buildings that they lavished their art and their wealth, but on their temples and their tombs. "What an example for us," he would often say; "one that can only fill us with humiliation and shame.""

I. That the true business of life is to prepare for death has ever been the belief of all serious, of all catholic, Christians, from Dr. Liddon to Thomas Carlyle"s peasant father "impressively pronouncing the words, "Prepare us for these solemn events, death, judgment, and eternity"". It may have receded in the thin and washy versions of Christianity current in our day, but it must return. For life is a judgment as well as a discipline, and unless the moral nerve has been cauterized to death, the soul must seek the way by which alone the offended justice of God can be met in peace. And desire as well as fear, the desire of the soul created for God and restless till it finds Him, can be contented only with the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The faith that joins us to Christ and restores us to God must be maintained by steady preparation—the preparation of prayer, labour, and self-scrutiny—for the supreme hour when, in presence of the Lord of Truth, the spirit makes its answer.

But we are told "other worldliness" has gone out of fashion, that our business is with the rectification of life on earth. Yes; but that can only be accomplished by souls detached from time, though detained within it. Nothing, said St. Paul, could separate him from the love of Christ; neither life nor death, things present nor things to come. Neque instantia. And neither did Christ"s love separate him from things present Rather it made him and it makes all in the same case the true servants and rulers of the present.

To depreciate or stand aloof from the great tasks of social reform is a real denial of Christ. These questions will never be settled by war. They cannot be settled so long as personal passion and pique—envy, jealousy, and malice—are in the ascendant. They will yield only to those who are content to live and die humble servants of God, yet brave and free citizens.

II. This readiness will give us the transfigured courage of love. We shall not flinch at the slings and arrows of our foes; these cannot touch the immortal part. We shall not pander to the vain hopes of those we serve, but tell them plainly that stern limits are set to the efficacy of earthly good; and that all possessions will but leave them poorer if they miss salvation. We shall not be dismayed when foes and friends alike turn upon us. The best cause may come to such a pass that all men will seem to forsake it and flee; the rain will descend, the floods come, the winds blow and beat upon the house. But what is built on the rock will stand. The disciple is not greater than his Lord, and it may be, as Heine says, that wherever a lofty soul utters its thoughts there is Golgotha. Even so in the bold and free acceptance of death there is given perfect courage and perfect self-command. Jesus died among legions of peace-breathing angels, and His peace passes to the prepared soul in death. When the cruellest blow falls, when the few human faces that made our inner world are fading, the hope rooted in Christ remains, for we know they depart to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. The affections are no more nerves to suffer with when in Christ, bereavement and death are met with the fullness of willing love.

—W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten Minute Sermons, p153.

References.—XIX:23, 24.—J. Wordsworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi1899, p346. XIX:23-25.—W. L. Watkinson, ibid. vol. lii1897, p236; see also The Blind Spot, p21. XIX:24.—J. H. Shakespeare, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii1897, p228. XIX:24, 25.—Hugh Price Hughes, Essential Christianity, p249. J. Scott Lidgett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi1907, p156.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible


The Burden of Egypt

1. The judgment announced (Isaiah 19:1-15) 2. Egypt blest with Israel in the last days (Isaiah 19:16-25) Egypt has passed through many judgments. Hundreds of years after the divine predictions had been given the Word of the Lord was accomplished. The final judgment upon Egypt comes in that day when the Lord appears in visible glory. Egypt will come, like other nations, to the front once more at the close of the times of the Gentiles. But mercy is also in store for Egypt. Egypt will be called “His people.” When the Lord smites Egypt that land will return to Him. It will then be lifted out of the dust and receive a place of blessing only second to that which Israel will enjoy.

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

These two chapters (19, 20) contain the burden of Egypt. Its doom is first declared (19: 1-15) . Jehovah's advent will result in the destruction of idols, in civil war, in failure in counsel, and in the government of the Egyptian people by a cruel lord, a false king. This day of visitation will be one of physical catastrophe. The waters of the Nile will fail, and consequently all industry-fishing, weaving, and building-will be paralyzed. Egypt is to be utterly discomfited by the failure of its rulers, of its people, and of all its enterprises.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt,.... JosephusF3Antiqu. l. 13. c. 3. sect. 1. 3. & de Bello Jud. l. 7. c. 10. sect. 2, 3, 4. , and other Jewish writersF4T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 109. 2. , suppose this to be fulfilled when Onias, the son of Simeon the just, fled into Egypt, and obtained leave of Ptolemy king of Egypt, and Queen Cleopatra, to build a temple and an altar there, like those at Jerusalem, in order to draw the Jews thither, which was about six hundred years after this prophecy; and who did build both a temple and an altar in the nome of Heliopolis, about twenty three miles from the city of Memphis, and which continued three hundred and forty three years; but not a material altar is here meant, but a figurative and spiritual one, and no other than Christ, who is the altar that sanctifies every gift, and upon which the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise being offered up are acceptable to God. The phrase denotes a public profession of Christ, and a setting up of his worship; it is used in allusion to the patriarchs, who, wherever they came, set up an altar to the Lord, and worshipped him:

and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord; in like manner as the patriarchs used to do, Genesis 28:18 it signifies not only that in the middle of the land, but upon the borders of it, the Christian religion should be embraced and professed; so that no sooner did a man step into it, but he should find that this was the religion professed there: it signifies that here would be placed ministers of the Gospel, who are as pillars to hold forth and support the doctrines of it; and a church state, which is the pillar and ground of it; and persons converted, that should be pillars in the house of God, that should never go out; see Proverbs 9:1.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

— Judgment upon Egypt - Isaiah 19:1-25 records Isaiah's prophecy against Egypt.

Isaiah 19:19Comments- F. F. Bruce tells us that a collection of ancient Aramaic manuscripts, mostly papyri, were discovered between 1893,1908 in the area of the first cataract of the Nile, at the place now called Aswan and the river-island nearby called by the ancient Egyptians as Yeb. The Greeks later called these two places by the names Syene and Elephantine. These manuscripts verified that a Jewish colony lived in Egypt during the period of the Persian Empire. In fact, a Jewish temple was built on the island of Elephantine. These Jews came to these locations originally as mercenary soldiers employed by Psammetichus II of Egypt (594to 588 B.C.) This temple was later destroyed in 410 B.C. by Egypt in an attempt to purge its empire of other religions. 42]

42] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 53-54.

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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Geneva Study Bible

In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and t a pillar at its border to the LORD.

(t) There will be evident signs and tokens, that God's religion is there: which manner of speech is taken of the patriarchs and ancient time, when God has not as yet appointed the place, and full manner how he would be worshipped.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Altar. If the Jews were forbidden to have any other than the one at Jerusalem, how can the prophet announce this as a blessing? Onias being excluded from the high priesthood, retired into Egypt, and obtained leave to build the temple Onion, in the Nome, though not in the city of Helipolis, above Bubaste, on the Nile, alleging that Isaias had foretold this event, and that one was already built at Leontopolis. (Josephus, Antiquities xii. 15., and xiii. 6.) --- But we must allow with the fathers and Jews in the days of St. Jerome, that this prediction regarded the Messias, when altars might be lawfully erected in every nation. See Misna, tr. Moneuth, xiii. 10. --- Monument. The cross is set up wherever Christ is adored. (Calmet) --- The Egyptians shall embrace Christianity, and St. Anthony of Thebes, &c., shall live a holy (Worthington) and austere life. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books




Harry A. Ironside, Litt.D.

Copyright @ 1952

edited for 3BSB by Baptist Bible Believer in the spirit of the Colportage ministry of a century ago



AS WE STUDY THESE CHAPTERS, however little we understand all the details referred to, we cannot fail to recognize the hand of GOD dealing with this one-time proud, haughty kingdom in retaliatory judgments because of its independent spirit and proud attitude toward the people of the Lord, who, in centuries gone by, had been subjected to cruel bondage and often since had suffered through Egyptian violence. Even though, at the time Isaiah prophesied, Egypt was outwardly in alliance with Judah, she proved utterly undependable when it came to helping Ahaz and, later, Hezekiah to stand against the onrush of the Assyrian armies.

The philosophy of history might be summed up in the words of Galatians 6:7 by substituting "nation" for "man" and "it" for "he": Whatsoever a nation soweth, that shall it also reap. All down through the centuries the blessing of GOD has rested upon nations that followed after righteousness, even in measure, and His judgments have fallen when corruption and violence took the place of subjection to His hand. There is not enough agreement among historians and archaeologists to enable us to speak positively as to just when the predictions contained in the first part of this chapter were fulfilled, but we may be absolutely certain that whether as yet we have monumental confirmation of them they all came to pass as divinely foretold.

We do know that about the time of Isaiah's prophecy, Egypt was for some years in a state of internal strife, Pharaoh himself having proven unable to control the populace or even the Egyptian armies. As a result, his dynasty was overthrown and a number of independent states were set up, until eventually a king arose who was able to unite them again into one empire.

It should be remembered that Egyptian records go back to the very dawn of history. In the beginning the religion of Egypt was a pure monotheism. That which the Apostle Paul in Romans 1 says of the heathen generally was manifested in that country to a marked degree. When they knew GOD they turned away from Him and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, setting up images, first of all made like to corruptible men, whom they recognized as gods of the various forces of nature. Later they deified birds like the sacred Ibis, and beasts like the sacred Bull and the Cat of Bubastes, and then degenerated even to the worship of reptiles such as the sacred Crocodile and the Asp, and last of all, even deified certain forms of insect life,

of which the sacred Scarab is the one with which we are most familiar.

No man's life nor the life of a nation is any better than that of the gods that are worshiped, and so Egypt became debased politically, morally, and spiritually, until at last that once-proud empire was destroyed and became a base kingdom, not to be reckoned among the major dominions.

In the opening verses of chapter nineteen, GOD is pictured as riding upon the divine chariot, coming down from heaven to deal with this guilty nation.

"The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof; and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards" (verses 1-3).

GOD's patience with Egypt had at last come to an end.

He Himself would deal with their false gods, demonstrating their inability to deliver, and manifesting His own omnipotence. Terrified by the sufferings to which they were exposed, the worshipers of these idols would seek in vain for help from their false deities. The heart of the people would fail and in their desperation they would turn to those who professed to deal with departed spirits, the necromancers and other charlatans, who already abounded in great numbers in that land of superstition.

No longer respecting the king who ruled over them, city after city would revolt and independent rival states be set up. This new system, however, would not result in peace and security because of the jealousies of the various names, or counties, as we might call them.

"And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts. And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up. And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defense shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither. The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more. The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish. Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded. And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish" (verses 4-10).

After some years of almost constant civil war and internal strife, history records the rise of a cruel and tyrannical leader known as Psammetichus who founded a new dynasty and succeeded in bringing about at least an outward semblance of unity. He is generally considered to be the "cruel lord" referred to in verse 4. On the other hand, a question may be raised as to whether all that we have here was to follow in immediate sequence.

Some have thought that the prophecy looked on to the day when Egypt would be so weakened that she would be powerless to resist the onslaught of the Arabs and, later, the Ottoman Turks, and that the cruel lord referred not to anyone individual but to the succession of Ottoman rulers who subjected Egypt to the very hardest servitude and taxed the people so as to reduce them to the most desperate poverty.

The verses that follow tell of the destruction of all of the great commercial enterprises in which Egypt once excelled, and the centuries since bear witness to the literal fulfillment of these prophecies. In some way the great fishing industry of Egypt was brought to an end and the Nile that once abounded with fish ceased to be productive. Egypt, at one time the center of the papyrus Industry which in olden times took the place of the paper to which we are now accustomed, ceased to produce this material because the papyrus plant no longer grew in quantities on the banks of the Nile.

It is a well known fact that Egyptian linens were exported into all civilized lands and this industry was a source of enormous income to the merchants of that land, but singularly enough and in exact accord with this prophecy, the production of flax came almost to an end, and that which had been an Egyptian monopoly was taken up by other nations and Egypt never since has been a linen-producing country to any serious extent. So literally have these prophetic words been fulfilled.

"Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the Lord of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt. The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof. The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit. Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do" (verses 11-15).

The prophecy definitely depicts a time of great business depression and political perplexity when Pharaoh's counselors proved themselves unable to handle the situation aright. Their advice offered no real solution of the problems that the nation was facing. The princes of Zoan (the Egyptian Tanis), and of Noph (known to us as Memphis), sought in vain for a way out of the conditions that confronted them.

The reason for their failure comes out clearly in the closing verses of this section. They refused to turn to the only One who could have helped them, that is the GOD of Israel, whom they had despised. Therefore, they were like drunken men, unable to control themselves or their country, a spirit of perversity having taken hold upon them. In all that we have seen thus far, we are again reminded of that which comes out so plainly in other parts of Scripture, that Egypt is a type of this present evil world - that godless system which once held the people of GOD in bondage when they were made to serve with rigor under the lashing of the lusts of the flesh.

This world has grown no better throughout all the centuries during which the gospel has been preached and the Lord has been taking out a people for His name. Rather has it become hardened in its attitude toward GOD and His Word; "Evil men and seducers," we are told, "shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13). Nor will this state of things be changed until the now-rejected CHRIST returns from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who know not GOD. Then will His kingdom of righteousness supersede all the kingdoms that man has set up and "the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."

Starting with verse 16, we have five distinct sections each beginning with the words "In that day," all therefore looking forward to the Day of the Lord, the day of the Lord's triumph.

In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which he shaketh over it. And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts, which he hath determined against it" (verses 16, 17).

There is a very definite sense in which these words are even now in course of fulfillment. We have seen Israel returning in unbelief to her own land and one of her chief adversaries has been the nation of Egypt, which appears to dread the growing power of the nation once enslaved by the Pharaohs.

But according to these verses the acknowledged weakness of Egypt and the recognition of GOD's manifested power in permitting the resettlement of His people in their own land, will prove to be the precursor of blessing, and Egyptian enmity will come to an end in the day that Israel shall turn to GOD in repentance and receive the Messiah they once rejected. But if we take the prophecy as having to do with the times shortly following Isaiah's day, we see only the fear of Egypt, as of old, lest the Israelites should multiply and become stronger than they. However, Judah was carried away by Babylon and for the time being the Lord's testimony ceased to exist in the land of Palestine.

"In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction" (verse 18).

Commentators generally refer this prophecy to the migration of many of the Jews to the land of Egypt following the destruction of the first temple. We know from history that the day came when many thousands of Israelites dwelt in the cities of Egypt and synagogues were erected there and the law of Moses read and taught. It may be that it is to this the verse refers, but there is also the possibility that it is looking on to a future day when the relations of the Egyptians and the Jews shall become very close indeed, as both together shall acknowledge the one true and living GOD. The City of Destruction mentioned here is generally considered to be Heliopolis, "The City of the Sun." Its Hebrew name was Ir-ha-cheres, which by the change of one letter became Ir-ha-heres, "The City of Destruction." John Bunyan was wisely guided when he selected this as the name for the original home of his Pilgrim, who declared that he was born in the City of Destruction, and had the name, Graceless.

"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 to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a Saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it. And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them" (verses 19-22).

Many have been the conjectures as to the real meaning of this passage. Most of us are familiar with the views of the Anglo-Israelites and others, even including the founder of the Russellite Movement, now known as "Jehovah's Witnesses," who maintain that the altar and pillar here spoken of refer to the Great Pyramid. This pyramid is supposed to have been erected by divine instruction and the length of its passages, etc., to indicate the exact period of the Times of the Gentiles, and many theories have been founded upon it as to the time when this age would end by the coming of the Lord JESUS. But all the dates once suggested have expired and still the word remains true that of that day and hour knoweth no man. The Great Pyramid is not an altar nor is it a pillar. It is simply a gigantic tomb.

It seems evident that in the last days when Egypt shall turn to the Lord, this altar and pillar in the form of a memorial of some kind where worship is offered to the Lord, will be set up in the border of Egypt, but it is useless to speculate where GOD has withheld further information. Surely, however, the Saviour yet to be sent to Egypt can be none other than our blessed Lord JESUS who, after Egypt has learned its lesson because of the judgments that have been poured upon it, will heal it and bring it into lasting blessing.

In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians" (verse 23).

This surely refers to millennial days when these two great Gentile powers, or perhaps more accurately, the people who shall dwell in their lands in that day, will have friendly commercial relations with one another and, with Israel, will be recognized as the people of the Lord. See also Isaiah 35:8-10. Then these one-time warring powers will be brought into fullness of blessing as we read in the next two verses.

"In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance" (verses 24, 25).

Thus we see Jew and Gentile enjoying together the blessings of the promised kingdom when the Lord Himself takes over the government of the universe.

The twentieth chapter still refers to GOD's dealing with Egypt, but now a definite date is given.

"In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,)

and fought against Ashdod, and took it; at the same time spake the Lord by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. And the Lord said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory. And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape? (chapter 20).

Sargon, the king of Assyria, was unknown to history until his name was, in our times, found upon monuments, and thus Isaiah's record confirmed. Scripture does not need to be vindicated by the often conflicting histories of ancient times nor by archaeological inscriptions, for we may be sure of this, the Bible is GOD's inerrant Word and therefore always right, even though some of the ancient records might be in conflict with it; but again and again it has pleased GOD through the spade of the archaeologist to give full confirmation of the truth of His Word concerning doubts and questions that unbelievers have been only too glad to raise.

Sargon exercised tremendous power though but for a short time. Isaiah was commanded by GOD to become a sign to the Egyptians of the hardships that would be brought upon them by the Assyrian armies. He was commanded to lay aside his outer garments and put off his sandals and walk "naked and barefoot" before the people as an indication of the circumstances the Egyptians would have to face. Observe, it was not nudity but nakedness that was commanded.

To an Oriental, the laying aside of his long robe gave him the appearance of nakedness, and it was in this way that Isaiah became a sign. Others have pointed out that we are not here told that the prophet had to go about in this manner for the three years of Egyptian punishment, but that in all likelihood, three days on his part answered to the three years in which they were to suffer. As to the rest of this chapter, in their desperation the Egyptians would recognize their helplessness and cry out for a deliverer.

That Deliverer was yet to be revealed, as we have seen, in the coming Day of the Lord.

~ end of chapter 19, 20 ~





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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

In that day, etc. — Suffering shall lead to repentance. Struck with “terror” and “afraid” (Isaiah 19:17) because of Jehovah‘s judgments, Egypt shall be converted to Him: nay, even Assyria shall join in serving Him; so that Israel, Assyria, and Egypt, once mutual foes, shall be bound together by the tie of a common faith as one people. So a similar issue from other prophecies (Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 23:18).

five cities — that is, several cities, as in Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 30:17; Genesis 43:34; Leviticus 26:8. Rather, five definite cities of Lower Egypt (Isaiah 19:11, Isaiah 19:13; Isaiah 30:4), which had close intercourse with the neighboring Jewish cities [Maurer]; some say, Heliopolis, Leontopolis (else Diospolis), Migdol, Daphne (Tahpanes), and Memphis.

language of Canaan — that is, of the Hebrews in Canaan, the language of revelation; figuratively for, They shall embrace the Jewish religion: so “a pure language” and conversion to God are connected in Zephaniah 3:9; as also the first confounding and multiplication of languages was the punishment of the making of gods at Babel, other than the One God. Pentecost (Acts 2:4) was the counterpart of Babel: the separation of nations is not to hinder the unity of faith; the full realization of this is yet future (Zechariah 14:9; John 17:21). The next clause, “swear to the Lord of Hosts,” agrees with this view; that is, bind themselves to Him by solemn covenant (Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 65:16; Deuteronomy 6:13).

city of destruction — Onias; “city of the sun,” that is, On, or Heliopolis; he persuaded Ptolemy Philometer (149 b.c.) to let him build a temple in the prefecture (nome) of Heliopolis, on the ground that it would induce Jews to reside there, and that the very site was foretold by Isaiah six hundred years before. The reading of the Hebrew text is, however, better supported, “city of destruction”; referring to Leontopolis, the site of Onias‘ temple: which casts a reproach on that city because it was about to contain a temple rivaling the only sanctioned temple, that at Jerusalem. Maurer, with some manuscripts, reads “city of defense” or “deliverance”; namely, Memphis, or some such city, to which God was about to send “a savior” (Isaiah 19:20), to “deliver them.”

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

altar — not for sacrifice, but as the “pillar” for memorial and worship (Joshua 22:22-26). Isaiah does not contemplate a temple in Egypt: for the only legal temple was at Jerusalem; but, like the patriarchs, they shall have altars in various places.

pillar — such as Jacob reared (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 35:14); it was a common practice in Egypt to raise obelisks commemorating divine and great events.

at the border — of Egypt and Judah, to proclaim to both countries the common faith. This passage shows how the Holy Spirit raised Isaiah above a narrow-minded nationality to a charity anticipatory of gospel catholicity.

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.

-Suffering shall lead to repentance. Struck with "terror" and "afraid" (Isaiah 19:17), because of Yahweh's judgments, Egypt shall be converted to Him; nay, even Assyria shall join in serving Him; so that Israel, Assyria, and Egypt, once mutual foes, shall be bound together by the tie of a common faith as one people. So a similar issue from other prophecies (Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 23:18).

Verse 18. In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt - i:e., several cities; as in Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 30:17; Genesis 43:34; Leviticus 26:8. Rather, five definite cities of Lower Egypt (Isaiah 19:11; Isaiah 19:13; Isaiah 30:4), which had close contact with the neighbouring Jewish cities (Maurer): some say, Heliopolis, Leontopolis (else Diospolis), Migdol, Daphne (Tahpanes), and Memphis.

Speak the language of Canaan - i:e., of the Hebrews in Canaan; the language of revelation. A figure. They shall embrace the Jewish religion: so "a pure language" and conversion to God are connected in Zephaniah 3:9. Since also the first confounding and multiplication of languages was the punishment of the making of gods at Babel, other than the One God. Pentecost (Acts 2:4) was the counterpart and antidote of Babel: the separation of nations is not to hinder the unity of faith: the full realization of this is yet future (Zechariah 14:9; John 17:21): 'Multae terricolis linguae, coelestibus una.' One language alone was the vehicle of honouring God in Israelite times. In the coming antitype to the old theocracy, "the multitude which no man can number, of all tongues" shall sing one and the same song of praise for "salvation" to the Lamb (Revelation 7:9). Mark is reported by tradition to have preached the Gospel in Alexandria and Egypt. Then their language became spiritually that "of Canaan," the heavenly inheritance: it was no longer uncircumcised, but pure (Isaiah 6:5).

And swear to the Lord of hosts, This clause agrees with this view - i:e., shall bind themselves to Him by solemn covenant (Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 65:16; Deuteronomy 6:13).

City of destruction - [ hacherec (Hebrew #2775)]. Onias, who had fled, in disappointment at not getting the high-priesthood, into Egypt, and rose to high rank under Ptolemy Philometer, read 'city of the sun' [ hacherec (Hebrew #2775)] - i:e., On, or Heliopolis: he persuaded Ptolemy Philometer (149 BC) to let him build a temple in the prefecture (nome) of Heliopolis, on the ground that it would induce Jews to reside there, and that the very site was foretold by Isaiah 600 years before. So 16 manuscripts. So Vulgate reads. The Chaldaic reads, 'One of them shall be called The city, the house of the sun which is doomed to be destroyed.' The reading of the Hebrew text is, however, better supported, "city of destruction," referring to Leontopolis, the site of Onias' temple: which casts a reproach on that city because it was about to contain a temple rivalling the only sanctioned temple, that at Jerusalem. Maurer and Gesenius translate, 'city of defense,' or 'deliverance'-namely, Memphis, or some such city, to which God was about to send a "saviour" (Isaiah 19:20), to 'deliver them from their many calamities.'

Verse 19. Altar - not for sacrifice, but as the "pillar" for memorial and worship (). Isaiah does not contemplate a temple in Egypt: for the only legal temple was at Jerusalem; but, like the patriarchs, they shall have altars in various places.

And a pillar - such as Jacob reared (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 35:14); it was a common practice in Egypt to raise obelisks commemorating divine and great events.

At the border - of Egypt and Judah, to proclaim to both countries the common faith. This passage shows how the Holy Spirit raised Isaiah above a narrow-minded nationality to a charity anticipatory of Gospel catholicity.

Verse 20. And it - the altar and pillar.

For a sign (of the fulfillment of prophecy) - to their contemporaries.

And for a witness - to their descendants.

Cry unto the Lord - no longer to their idols, but to Yahweh. And he shall send them a saviour - probably Alexander the Great (so "a great one"), whom the Egyptians welcomed as a deliverer (Greek, Soter, a title of the Ptolemies) out of the hands of the Persians, who under Cambyses had been their "oppressors." At Alexandria, called from him, the Old Testament was translated into Greek for the Greek-speaking Jews, who in large numbers dwelt in Egypt under the Ptolemies, his successors. Messiah is the Antitype ultimately intended (cf. Acts 2:10, in "Egypt.")

Verse 21. The Egyptians ... shall do ... oblation - unbloody (Hebrew, minchah (Hebrew #4503)).

Verse 22. The Lord shall smite Egypt ... and heal it - as described, .

And they shall return (even) to the Lord - for pagan sin and idolatry are an apostasy from primitive truth.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Divine Action

Isaiah 19

We seem to have fallen upon commonplace times, unless indeed we have the prophetic instinct and imagination which can turn even apparent commonplaces into things really grand and spiritually significant. What great winds roar through these prophecies of Isaiah! what startling judgments fall upon the nations! what trumpetings and thunderings! what rendings and revolutions! and yet we seem to be standing in quietness and peace, and nothing is occurring around us which does not lie easily within the limits of the coldest calculation. Perhaps, however, there would be more stirring of the divine energy if we had the hearing ear and the seeing eye: that energy may still be moving on, but we may have lost its music through our spiritual indifference. If the picture is in the eye of the beholder, if the music is in the ear of the listener, if eloquence is in the hearer as much as in the speaker, then may we not turn upon ourselves with pungent accent and say that it is because we have lost the faculty of observation, the eyes of insight, and the power of attention, that we allow providence now to move on without recognition and without praise? It is a common observation that to the humorist humorous things are constantly occurring—that he sees them where dull eyes would take no note of them. Song of Solomon, to the philosopher philosophy is always evolving itself, arresting his attention, fascinating him with new aspects, and delighting him with new possibilities. So it would be to the student of providence, or history, of God. If the right spirit were in us there would be no want of material. All winds are alike to the dead; the cemetery knows nothing of the thunderstorm or of the quiet beauty of the dawn. If we had more life, we should have more insight and more knowledge, and be quite sure that God still reigns and holds everything within the grasp of his almighty hand. Probably Isaiah had more life than we have; so he had more gift of prophecy. If we have resigned the prophet"s mantle, and said we have fallen upon insignificant days, God may let us have our own way so far; he may allow us to feed upon the wind and to satisfy our hunger with the sand of the desert. If we do not see great things to-day, it is not because great things are not occurring, but because we have lost the faculty of sight and the genius of reverent attention. We may be gleaners in a great historic field. To that humble capacity we may at least betake ourselves. Those who were immediately interested in the occurrences related in such a chapter have passed on: now we may modestly find our way into the field which they once occupied, and by looking carefully around we may be able to see an ear or two of corn, which, rightly used, planted in the right soil, and fostered by the right conditions, may even now bring forth thirty and sixty fold.

The prophet is great in this chapter; indeed, Isaiah is always great. Yet how wonderful it is that his greatness subsides so as to allow the divine majesty even the advantage of a background. Isaiah"s power of language never fails him,—his harp is never out of tune, his fingers never lose their cunning; and he is as great in these minor burdens which he is now uttering as in the greater burdens we have already studied: yet he steps aside and allows the divine action to be seen in all its energy and mystery. Let us note a few points in that divine action.

Here is one way in which the Lord comes—namely, "upon a a swift cloud" (v. i). The intimation is one of mystery. No man can tell which way the Lord will come to-day. Let us keep our eyes upon every point of the horizon; let us distribute the watchmen wisely, and assign to each his sphere of observation; for by what door the Lord may enter the field of vision no one can tell,—by a political event, by some new movement in foreign policy, by the discovery of new riches in the earth, by great shocks which try men"s strength, by grim sorrow, by cruel death, by judgments that have no name, by mercies" tender as the tenderest love, by compassions all tears, by providences that are surprises of gladness: watch all these doors, for by any one of them the Lord may come into the nation, the family, the individual heart. This divine policy, if it may be so named, baffles the watchers who trust to their own sagacity. If men say they will circumvent God and know all the ways of his providence, behold God forsakes all ways that are familiar and that lie within the calculation of the human mind; and he startles those who watch with light from unexpected quarters, with shakings and tremblings never before felt in the vibrations of history. "Clouds and darkness are round about him": the cloud that appears to be nothing but vapour may enshrine the Deity; the bush, yesterday so common that any bird might have alighted upon it, to-day burns with unseen, infinite energy. The Lord will come by what way he pleases,—now as if from the depths of the earth, and now as from the heights of heaven; blessed is that servant who is ready to receive him and to welcome him to the heart"s hospitality of love.

Notice a method of administration which belongs to all the ages of Providence. It is recorded in the second verse:—

"will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom." ( Isaiah 19:2)

Civil war is the cruellest of all. When men are stretching forth the neck of their expectation that they may behold in the far distance an approaching enemy, God troubles them with home difficulties, and they who were going forth to win new laurels on distant fields have to turn round and slay one another, sons of the same parents, inheritors of the same soil! This is distinctly ascribed to the divine energy and will: "I will set": I will create the war, I will make it of the kind known as internecine; men who have known one another a lifetime I will make enemies; and this shall all be done that good may be wrought out, which under any other circumstances would be impossible. This method of administration, we say, obtains and prevails in all ages. This is the meaning of many a controversy, of many a quarrel, of many a dissension, in cabinets, in families, in nations. Men are surprised that they should turn upon their brothers with disdain, and even with cruel hatred. It is indeed matter of surprise and great sorrow, and if looked at within narrow limits it would seem to be a reflection upon Providence; but when does God ask to be judged within the four corners of human imagination or criticism? He not only does the deed, he does it within a field which he himself has measured, and within the range of declarations which have about them all the mystery and graciousness of evangelical prophecies. We must, therefore, look not only at the incident, but at all its surroundings and to all its issues. When we are puzzled by household difficulties, by commercial perplexities, by unions that only exist for a moment and then dissolve or are turned into sourness and alienation, we must never forget that there is One who rules over all, and who may be the Author of this fratricidal war. The mystery of Providence is infinite. Lord, increase our faith!

Observe, further, the religion of bewilderment. It is graphically set forth in the third verse:—

"And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards." ( Isaiah 19:3)

How often have we seen men seek out their deities in the time of trouble! To know what a man"s religion really is we must wait until all heaven is dark with thunderclouds, and until what he believed to be the solid earth feels under his feet like a quaking bog; then we shall know whether he has been playing the little philosopher, adventuring his little intellectual all with the small empiric, or whether there is in him the real seed of God, the true life divine. Imagine the picture: all Egypt is bewildered and dismayed, not knowing which is east, which is west, which is the upper place, which is the underground; all distinctions, boundaries, limits, are blurred and obliterated; and hear the howling and the crying for the deities to whose care the heart and all its issues have been entrusted! What a call for charmers, and for familiar spirits, and for wizards, and for anything that can mutter and offer some religious hope to the shattered fancy of man! Thus God educates the world. There come times in human history when a man revises all his ideas, conceptions, theories, hypotheses, and professions: what a casting out of the ship there is of all these things in the great storm-hour! The ship is heavy laden and the sea is heavy upon her planks, and all hope of being saved is taken away—then out go all the false theories, and prejudices, and philosophies, and mutterings, and impieties, and hypocrisies, if haply even yet the poor ship may be saved. It is well that such times should occur; they are cleansing times, dismantling and disburdening times; and, rightly used, we come out of them with simpler prayers, larger faith, tenderer love. Lord, show us the meaning of all thy shakings of the earth, and all the evermore truly governed but seemingly ungoverned perplexities of the human mind.

Then there is a wonderful action of Providence in the matter of natural blessings:—

"The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more. The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall Lamentations, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish. Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded. And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish" ( ).

The natural food of Egypt shall be taken away. What does the country produce? God will one day lay his hand upon it all, and taking it from us will leave nothing but emptiness, that we may learn in hunger the prayer we could not have learned in fulness. God will empty the Nile—God will lay his hand upon the busy mill in the manufacturing districts and order it to be quiet; God will intercept the incoming of the hemp, the flax, the cotton—whatever the product may be—so that it shall be lost on the way, and the men who were expecting its arrival shall be confounded with disappointments. All these things are God"s. And all these prophecies show on what a deep rock-basis lies the great word of Christ, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you," for the Lord is God of the rivers and the fords and the seas, and the vineyards and the wheatfields and the olive-yards, and God will rain into the wilderness feathered fowl from heaven if such should be his determination and purpose. He is Lord of all. The earth is the Lord"s, and the fulness thereof. Our daily bread is given to us from heaven: blessed are they who recognise the gift, and who eat the bread as sacramental flesh, having in it meanings of life and immortality, not obvious to the merely carnal eye. Let us ask questions about our poverty and about our unprosperous harvests, our withering fields, our rivers choked with dead fish, our sluices and networks that we cannot move or set in successful action. Let the question be religious. No question is worth asking that does not bore its way into the heart of things. Whilst others may be asking flippant questions about the decay of industry, the depression of trade, the clouding of commercial prospects, let those who believe in an over-ruling Providence renounce all trivial inquiries, and begin to ask their questions within the shadow of the altar. It may be that we have sinned, and that God"s only way of touching our conscience is through the impoverishment of the body. No man may dogmatise on these things; but holy, noble, large, reverent questions may be asked surely, when the earth trembles and becomes uncertain in her very revolutions.

Then there is an action of the divine energy upon the mind as shown in ver14:—

"The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit." ( Isaiah 19:14)

What is this action? It may be indicated by a familiar word which does not occur in the text. When we read of a "perverse spirit" we may substitute for that expression dizziness. God turns a man dizzy, so that he is drunk, but not with wine. How many powers has the Almighty! We have seen by how many doors he may come in. How many are the actions of God in human history! He makes Egypt dizzy; he does not strike Egypt with a rod of iron, or confound her by some great phenomena that burn all over the face of heaven to affright her,—he simply sends dizziness into the nation, so that the king feels all things going round, and the mean man is sure that he has lost his wit and sense and shrewdness; he fixes his eye upon stable pillars, and, behold, they move, they circulate, and he says, Is it I or is it the pillar moving? so that he cannot reason, he cannot put things together; when he begins to count he forgets his reckoning, when he commences a story he cuts it off at an inferior point, and cannot conduct it to a period; yet he says he is well, he is without a pain, he cannot account for this whirl, this movement, it is taking him on and on, and away and away; he says, What is it? How God can humble men! The strong man shall need a little child to lead him, and the sagacious man may require a child to help his memory, for his recollection is quite withered; and they who once were proud ask to be allowed to take the meanest position; and men whose judgment was once waited for because of its completeness and solidity are now not reckoned with the counsellors of the land. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Now the Lord himself will prophesy. The Lord in going away from a people sometimes suddenly turns round and looks at them, and behold there is a smile where once there was a frown:—

"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 to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it. And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them" ( ).

Here the Lord says that Egypt is given over to himself in holy obedience and love and homage. The Lord shall be the God of Egypt; Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God; lands that have been filled with idols shall be cleansed of all their folly and wickedness, and in the midst of them shall stand the pillar of God, emblem of righteousness and purity, and the border thereof shall be as a border of gold, set with precious stones. There is always a line of hope even in connection with the darkest judgment. The Lord never gives up the issue of things to the devil. He recognises the devil"s existence, and allows him to operate within certain lines upon the life of nations and the life of individuals, but always he sees the latter end, and says, The evening shall be brighter than the morning; when all this tragedy is completed Jesus shall have the heathen for his inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession. We see but a little, we know next to nothing; but God who is enthroned in eternity tells us that there shall yet arise upon the earth a morning without a cloud, there shall shine over the whole land a day in which there is no frown of judgment. In these vaticinations the soul lives; and because they are written in the Book of God, souls that otherwise would be cast into dejection toil with hopefulness because their assurance is in God.

From studies of this kind we learn that the scheme of Providence is one. Details vary, but the divine movement never changes as to its moral characteristics and its beneficent purpose. We have seen how prophets and poets are at liberty to decorate great judgment-utterances with all manner of illustration and imagery, trope and metaphor, according to the fertility of the individual genius; but the innermost thing is always the same, namely, Say ye unto the righteous, It shall be well with him; say ye unto the wicked, he is on the way to ruin. We learn that escape from judgment is impossible. God handles all the nations one after another—Moab, and Damascus, and Egypt, and the desert sea, and the Valley of Vision, and the land of Tyre,—all are under his notice, and if any one of them seems to be missed it is only for a moment; the time comes when the smallest of the peoples as well as the greatest shall be judged by the living God. The eternal lesson is that the only security is in being right. Righteousness fears no judgment. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion." The good man cares not who comes up the path, he can bring no danger to him. The honest soul is not frightened by the rustling of a leaf, no footfall shakes down the cowardice of his frail security; he says, I live in God, I am the servant of the living God, I know no will but God"s; come, go, who will, who may, my foundation standeth sure, and is inscribed in letters of gold with this legend, "The Lord knoweth them that are his." "Righteousness exalteth a nation." Righteousness is the glory of any man. How calm is the righteous man! Others are hearing noises which affright them; they are sure the hour of crisis has come; an unfamiliar voice means the upsetting of judgment which is already shaken, but the righteous man is calm in the darkness and in the light, he has an abundance of peace in the storm, his vintage is empurpled with richest grapes even in the winter time, and all his mountains are covered with cattle even when other lands are depopulated and ruined; if he have nothing, he yet has all things; if his hands are empty, his heart is overflowing; he says, "A man"s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." To be at peace with God is to control all things; for it is to be one with God. The immediate burden is passed, the historical reference is fulfilled, but the eternal thing that looks upon us all is this, that God is on the throne, and that he will judge morally. To whom much has been given from him shall much be expected. He that knew his Lord"s will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes; he who did his best, though that best was but little, shall be recognised and honoured. The way of the Lord is equal. Blessed are they who, through the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, are at peace with God through the Atonement which was wrought out in Gethsemane and on Calvary. For that blessedness let all men seek!


Almighty God, we know thee through thy Song of Solomon, Jesus Christ. Did he not say unto us, He that hath seen me hath seen the Father? and is he not known unto us as Immanuel, and as God manifest in the flesh? We read his life, therefore, that we may read thy life, thou Infinite One. Into this condescension hast thou come, that we may peruse thy ways and understand somewhat of thy purpose, and follow thee in all the great mystery of thy providence. We watch the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, not that we may see him alone, but that we may see the Father also, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. Beyond the man we see thyself, Father of us all. Help us thus to read the life of thy Son; then shall it be a new life to us, a new mystery will show itself in it day by day. The Lord grant unto us a wise and understanding heart, that we may read all nature aright, and all providence; that we may put the pieces and sections of history together with a skilful hand, and thus discover that in so doing we are wise master-builders, erecting a temple, building a sanctuary, yea, rearing an altar; and we shall see that every place is holy ground and every spot of earth is the gate of heaven. May we read ourselves aright,—these wondrous mysteries that are within us, these incalculable palpitations, throbbings, pulsings, urgings of a strange force: may we know that what is within us is of the nature of divinity; may we understand that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life, and that he became, by what processes we know not, a living soul. Help us to rear the soul into all strength and healthfulness and nobleness; may we bestow more culture upon the soul than upon the body. We know that in our body is written the condemnation of death, but on our soul is written the signature of God. May we be wise men herein, caring for the greater more than for the less, showing intenser concern about the infinite future than about the decayed past and the transient present. The years are flying away; more have gone in many instances than can be yet to come upon the earth; the tale is more than half told, yea, it has now come down to its last paragraphs and trembling sentences, so that the earth recedes, and time rolls back, and nothing is so near as heaven"s brightness as the judgment of eternity. We would be solemn in this view, composed in mind, sober in understanding, putting away from us all levity, frivolity, folly, and looking calmly upon the certainties of things, knowing that now as ever there is but a step between us and death. Yet: we would be joyful; thou hast not brought us into thy Church to make us sad: whosoever has been crucified with Christ shall be raised with him, and in the anticipated glory of resurrection thy people may despise the shame of the Cross and triumph over all its abasement. Enable us to look at the future from the Cross of Christ. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: all kings shall bow down before him, and bring gold and incense in worship; all nations shall call the Redeemer blessed. These words were spoken in the night time of history, yea, when the darkness was sevenfold; and we have lived to see the dawning of the brighter day, the beginning of the infinite splendour. Enable us to believe that the zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish every prophecy. Save us from self-trust, from intellectual vanity, from supposing that ought depends upon us but humble toil: may we know that the decree is written in eternity, and that the covenant dates from unbeginning time. Thus may we be lifted up in the whole Christian thought, raised to a vital atmosphere, inspired by the Holy Ghost to read, and think, and understand. Thou lookest upon the whole earth, in the midst of summer, and in the depth of winter; thou knowest its poor little tragic history, full of sin and self-sufficiency, and bitterness and all evil—a very hell in space. Yet thou dost love the earth as if it were an only star, as if thine own peace and blessedness depended upon its purity and tranquillity. Thou didst send thy Son to be born upon it, to live upon it, to teach it, to redeem it; yea, he has made it twice sacred by his birth and by his resurrection. He was twice born here; we will call it Christ"s natal place; we will think of the cradle, and of the grave that was vanquished, and bless the Lord that Christ has touched our history and made it noble. Lord, many whom thou lovest are sick, and the Sabbath bells cannot raise them even into momentary gladness: life is ebbing away; all the little joys of time have departed one by one from their dim eyes, and young children who seem born only to laugh are filled with crying and tears. Thou dost permit the earth to open and swallow up the loved remains of our dead. Thou knowest best; the whole nation is within thy rule, and thou wilt not withhold thy blessing where the stroke is severest. O Physician of men, Healer of broken hearts, Emancipator of slaves, look upon us, come near us, touch us every one, and give us to feel that the earth sin-laden is yet not God-forsaken. Amen.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 19:4. A cruel lord. Such was Nebuchadnezzar; and after him, Cambyses, and other Persian kings. One oppression succeeded another, as illustrated in Daniel 11.

Isaiah 19:11. The princes of Zoan. This was the most ancient city of lower Egypt, as appears from its being but seven years less ancient than Hebron. Numbers 13. It is called Taneos by the LXX, and Tanes or Tanis by the Chaldee, and the ancient geographers. This is done, says Poole, by the omission of a letter. Troan is made Tanes, as Tuor or Tsur is made Tyre. It was the key of the Nile, and the capital of Tanis. Rosetta has now succeeded Zoan.

Isaiah 19:13. The princes of Noph; that is, Memphis, where the kings of Egypt were interred. Hence some would change the Hebrew letter nun for mem.

Isaiah 19:18. In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts: one [of the five cities] shall be called destruction. Just the reverse is the reading of the LXX πολις ασεδεκ, the city of righteousness. Dr. Lowth reads, the city of the sun; that is, Heliopolis, עיר החרס îr ha-cheres. Lowth [of whom I would make a more frequent use, only Dr. Clarke has reprinted the whole volume of his notes on Isaiah] adds, this passage is attended with much difficulty. First, with regard to the true reading; for Onias the third being a refugee in Egypt during the captivity, built a temple at Heliopolis in imitation of that in Jerusalem, which continued till the time of Vespasian, by whose command it was destroyed. Egesippus. lib. 2. cap. 13. Now, though the present Hebrew text reads, ההרס ha-heres, which by the alteration of a single letter makes it destruction, it is conjectured by some, that the Jews out of contempt for a rival temple, falsified the reading of Isaiah. Be that as it may, Isaiah certainly never imagined that his words would be construed to favour the temple at Heliopolis, and leave the mount of God, the place he chose with fire from heaven. Still it must ever strike the reader, that the word destruction, after the prophet had spoken so many handsome things of the five cities, is very incongruous.

Isaiah 19:19. In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of Egypt. When Onias, son of Onias the highpriest, went into Egypt, favoured by the king, Ptolemy Philometor, he erected an altar to the Lord at Heliopolis, and offered burnt-offerings, alleging this text of Isaiah in defence of a conduct so unusual among the Jews.


Egypt was one of the most ancient kingdoms of the earth. It was first inhabited by Mizraim son of Ham or Cham, and grandson of Noah. Genesis 10. The Turks and Arabs still call it Mizir. It is usually divided into three parts; the lower or the Delta; the middle or the country above Cairo; and Thebais or upper Egypt. The river Nile waters it for six hundred miles, and makes it the most fruitful country in the world. About the 29th of June it begins to rise by the tropical rains in Abyssinia and towards the mountains of the moon, and its waters encrease for forty days, and decrease in forty days more. It sometimes rises thirty one feet, and sometimes but sixteen: twenty four feet is the medium. Our Bruce visited the Abyssinian source of the Nile, but the western and main source, which is said to be lake Nilid, near the mountains of the moon, is as yet unknown to us. Ancient Egypt was once the most flourishing kingdom in the world, and said to contain three thousand cities. Sesostris was the most celebrated of all its kings. His father, whom the learned say was Amenophis, or Memnon, trained him for conquest. All the males born on the same day he educated at court, and made them companions of his son, and captains in his army. This young prince first subdued the Arabs, then Libya, and next he reduced the Abyssinians to tribute. Not long after he marched against Jerusalem, and snatched away the riches of Solomon from the hand of Rehoboam. He carried his conquest beyond the Ganges, and even to the north of Asia as far as the Scythians. After a career of conquests for nine years Sesostris returned to Egypt loaded with spoil, and his chariot drawn by captive kings. But Egypt afterwards fell, never to rise to its former glory. Thus the sacred writings mark the sentence of heaven against a faithless nation.

The calamities here predicted against Egypt are six in number.

(1) Civil commotions. I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: Isaiah 19:2. This was fulfilled after the death of Sethon; or after Sennacherib’s invasion proved abortive, when twelve tyrants divided the kingdom, and often fought one against another. Psammiticus subdued his eleven rivals, and reigned in all fifty four years.

(2) Confusion of counsel was another calamity predicted against Egypt: Isaiah 19:14. When God is about to punish a nation, he apparently commissions his angels to baffle the wisest counsellors, and deceive the most experienced generals. Whereas on the contrary, the invader succeeds in his measures, and even beyond his expectations.

(3) Famine was another scourge. The Lord would deny the periodical rains, which would occasion the brooks and canals to dry up, and the fish to die; and the Egyptians, not eating many of the animals of which we eat, would be driven to extreme want: Isaiah 19:5-8.

(4) Another plague was the almost total loss of trade. The starving weavers and manufacturers were confounded: Isaiah 19:9. The want of bread, and the want of work, are the heaviest of visitations on the poor.

(5) Imbecility was the character of their kings. They advised and retracted; they gave orders, and countermanded them again: Isaiah 19:11. The government was characterized by weakness of council, and indecision of conduct. Jerome reads Isaiah 19:11, Stulti principes Taneos, sapientes concilliarii Pharaonis, dederunt concillium incipiens.

(6) This naturally dispirited the army: they who were so bold and valiant under Sesostris, were now timid and fearful like women: Isaiah 19:16. Now, all these calamities came upon them in succession. Sennacherib’s war is supposed to have occasioned the anarchy; and Nebuchadnezzar visited them with his heavy hand of conquest. Cambyses, son of Cyrus, was a cruel king, and God soon gave him his reward. Advancing against the Ethiopians as a fool, without order, without guides, without discipline, he saw his army perish in the desert for want of food, before he had reached the enemy’s country. Lastly, Isaiah saw that Egypt would be a sanctuary for the Jews who should escape the sword of the Chaldees: and at one time the number of the refugees was so great that “five cities did literally speak the language of Canaan.” Alexander the great was a saviour to them, and the Ptolemies were their patrons. God blesses the nation that receives his exiled people. This prophecy may however have a reference to the future conversion of Egypt to the christian faith.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 19:19 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 to the LORD.

Ver. 19. In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord.] A spiritual altar for spiritual sacrifices. {as Isaiah 19:20 Hebrews 13:10} Onias, the Jewish priest, who hereupon went and built an altar at Heliopolis in Egypt, and sacrificed to God there, was as much mistaken as the Anabaptists of Germany were in their Munster, which they termed New Jerusalem, and acted accordingly, sending forth apostles, casting out orthodox ministers, &c.

And a pillar in the border thereof.] That is, saith one, the gospels and writings of the apostles, that pillar and ground of truth, or a public confession of the Christian, faith. [Romans 10:9] An allusion to Joshua 22:10; Joshua 22:25. See Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:20-21.

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Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

The allusion to the sun-city, which had become the city of destruction, led to the m azzeboth or obelisks (see Jeremiah 43:13), which were standing there on the spot where Ra was worshipped. “In that day there stands an altar consecrated to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and an obelisk near the border of the land consecrated to Jehovah. And a sign and a witness for Jehovah of hosts is this in the land of Egypt: when they cry to Jehovah for oppressors, He will send them a helper and champion, and deliver them.” This is the passage of Isaiah (not v. 18) to which Onias IV appealed, when he sought permission of Ptolemaeus Philometor to build a temple of Jehovah in Egypt. He built such a temple in the nomos of Heliopolis, 180 stadia (22 1/2 miles) to the north-east of Memphis (Josephus, Bell . vii. 10, 3), and on the foundation and soil of the ὀχύρωμα in Leontopolis, which was dedicated to Bubastis ( Ant . xiii. 3, 1, 2).

(Note: We are acquainted with two cities called Leontopolis, viz., the capital of the nomos called by its name, which was situated between the Busiritic and the Tanitic nomoi ; and a second between Herōōn - poils and Magdōlon (see Brugsch, Geogr . i. 262). The Leontopolis of Josephus, however, must have been another, or third. It may possibly have derived its name, as Lauth conjectures, from the fact that the goddess Bast (from which comes Boubastos, House of Bast) was called Pacht when regarded in her destructive character (Todtenbuch, 164, 12). The meaning of the name is “lioness,” and, as her many statues show, she was represented with a lion's head. At the same time, the boundaries of the districts fluctuated, and the Heliopolitan Leontopolis of Josephus may have originally belonged to the Bubastic district.)

This temple, which was altogether unlike the temple of Jerusalem in its outward appearance, being built in the form of a castle, and which stood for more than two hundred years (from 160 b.c. to a.d. 71, when it was closed by command of Vespasian), was splendidly furnished and much frequented; but the recognition of it was strongly contested both in Palestine and Egypt. It was really situated “in the midst of the land of Egypt.” But it is out of the question to seek in this temple for the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, from the simple fact that it was by Jews and for Jews that it was erected. And where, in that case, would the obelisk be, which, as Isaiah prophesies, was to stand on the border of Egypt, i.e., on the side towards the desert and Canaan? The altar was to be “ a sign ” ( 'oth ) that there were worshippers of Jehovah in Egypt; and the obelisk a “witness” ( ‛ēd ) that Jehovah had proved Himself, to Egypt's salvation, to be the God of the gods of Egypt. And now, if they who erected this place of worship and this monument cried to Jehovah, He would show Himself ready to help them; and they would no longer cry in vain, as they had formerly done to their own idols (Isaiah 19:3). Consequently it is the approaching conversion of the native Egyptians that is here spoken of. The fact that from the Grecian epoch Judaism became a power in Egypt, is certainly not unconnected with this. But we should be able to trace this connection more closely, if we had any information as to the extent to which Judaism had then spread among the natives, which we do know to have been by no means small. The therapeutae described by Philo, which were spread through all the nomoi of Egypt, were of a mixed Egypto-Jewish character (vid., Philo, Opp . ii. p. 474, ed. Mangey). It was a victory on the part of the religion of Jehovah, that Egypt was covered with Jewish synagogues and coenobia even in the age before Christ. And Alexandra was the place where the law of Jehovah was translated into Greek, and thus made accessible to the heathen world, and where the religion of Jehovah created for itself those forms of language and thought, under which it was to become, as Christianity, the religion of the world. And after the introduction of Christianity into the world, there were more than one m azzebah (obelisk) that were met with on the way from Palestine to Egypt, even by the end of the first century, and more than one mizbeach (altar) found in the heart of Egypt itself. The importance of Alexandria and of the monasticism and anachoretism of the peninsula of Sinai and also of Egypt, in connection with the history of the spread of Christianity, is very well known.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". 1854-1889.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Egypt Worships the LORD

The influence of God's people will increase. There will even be an altar to the LORD "in that day" in the midst of the land of Egypt (Isa 19:19). Because of this they will testify of Him (Isa 19:20). There is also "a pillar" or "a memorial stone" at his border, which speaks of the acknowledgment that their land is the property of the LORD. Then the blessing for Egypt takes a great flight. The LORD takes it up for them when enemies come and they pray to Him. He makes Himself known to them as His people and they will know Him (Isa 19:21). They will offer sacrifices to Him and make vows, which they will not fail to perform. Isa 19:22 is a summary of all previous verses.

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 19:19". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

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 Jer_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 Lev_26:44; Deu_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 19:19". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical


  Isaiah 19:18-25

18 In that day [FN35]shall five cities in the land of Egypt

[FN36]Speak [FN37]the language of Canaan,

And [FN38]swear to the Lord of hosts;

One shall be called, [FN39]The city of [FN40]destruction.

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 to the Lord.

20 And it shall be for a sign and for a witness

Unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt:

For they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors,

And he shall send them a Saviour, and [FN41]a great one,

[FN42]And he shall deliver them.

21 And the Lord shall be known to Egypt,

And [FN43]the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day,

And shall do sacrifice and oblation;

[FN44]Yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it.

22 And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it:

And they shall return even to the Lord,

And he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.

23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria,

And [FN45]the Assyrian shall come into Egypt,

And [FN46]the Egyptian into Assyria,

And [FN47]the Egyptians shall serve with [FN48]the Assyrians.

24 In that day shall Israel be the third

With Egypt and Assyria.

25 Even a blessing in the midst of the [FN49]land: [FN50]whom the Lord of hosts [FN51]shall bless, saying:

Blessed be Egypt my people,

And Assyria the work of my hands,

And Israel mine inheritance.


Isaiah 19:18. The expression שְׂפַת כ׳ occurs only here.—נִשְׁבַּע with לְ must be distinguished from its use with בְּ. The latter is “to swear by one” ( Isaiah 62:8; Amos 6:8; Amos 8:7, etc.); the former is “to swear, to oblige one’s self to another by oath,” ( Zephaniah 1:5; Genesis 24:7; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:5; Psalm 132:2, etc.). הַהֶרֶם or הַחֶרֶם. Sixteen Codd. have the latter reading, also several editions. The LXX. indeed reads ἀσεδέκ, which is evidently a designed alteration resulting from the application of Isaiah 1:26 to the Egyptian city. But Symm, the Vulg. (civitas solis), Saadia, the Talmud (Menachot Fol. 110, A), also translate “city of the sun.” On the other hand the majority of codices and editions have הֶרֶם, and among the ancient versions at least the Syriac decidedly so reads (for Ἀρές, which Aqc. and Theod. read, could stand also for חֶרֶם). Thus critically the reading הֶרֶם is the best supported. The authority of the Masora is for it. But the reading חֶרֶם, Isaiah, any way, very ancient Symmachus, Jerome, the Targumist met with it. And it must have enjoyed equal authority with the other reading. Else the Targumist would not have combined both readings when he writes: קַרְתָּא בֵית־שֶׁמֶשׁ דַּֽעֲתִידָא לְמֶֽחֱרַב, i.e., the city “Beth-Shemes quae futura est ad evertendum, i.e., quae evertetur.” And the fact that the treatise Menachot reads חֶרֶם is certainly proof that weighty authorities supported this reading. Add to this that הרם by no means affords a satisfactory sense. For the meaning “lion,” which some assume from the Arabic (haris “the render”) is very doubtful, first from the fact that it rests only on Arabic etymology. Yet more uncertain is the meaning liberatio, salus, amor, be it derived from the Syriac (which, as Gesen. in loc. demonstrates, rests on pure misunderstanding) or, with Maurer, from the Hebrew, by taking הֶרֶם = “tearing loose,” whereas it can only mean “rending in pieces, destroying.” And in this latter sense many expositors take the word. But how can a word of such mischievous import suit in a context so full of joy and comfort? Caspari (Zeitschr. für Luth. Theol. 1841, III.), whom Drechsler and Delitzsch follow, is therefore of the opinion that the Prophet, by a slight change wrote הרם instead of חרם, but will have this word הרם understood in the sense of “destroying the idolatry,” like Jeremiah 43:13 prophesies the “breaking in pieces of the obelisks in the temple of the sun in the land of Egypt.” But against this view is the fact that such twisting of words occurs always only in a bad sense. Thus Ezekiel 30:17 calls the city אוֹן by the name אָוֶן; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8 (comp. Amos 5:5) calls בֵּית־אֵל by the name בֵּית־אָוֶן (for which moreover an actual and neighboring בֵּית־אָוֶן Joshua 7:2 gave the handle); Isaiah 7:6 changes the name טָֽבְאֵל into טָֽבְּאַל, although he uses it in pausa; and Isaiah 21:11 he introduces Edom under the name of דּוּמָה (“silence of the dead”) and, finally the Talmud in the treatise Aboda sara (Fol. 46 a, in the German translation of Ewald, Nuremberg, 1856, p324) gives the following examples as prescribing the rule for changing the names of cities that have an idolatrous meaning: “Has such a city had the name בֵּית גַּלְיָא, “house of Revelation,” it should be called בֵּית כַּרְיָא “house of concealment” (or fossae, latrinae); has the city been called בֵּית מֶלֶךְ, “house of the king,” it should be called בֵּית כֶּלֶב “house of the dog;” instead of עֵין כֹּל “the all-seeing eye,” call it עֵין קוֹץ “the eye of thorns.”—Further examples of the kind see in Buxtorff, Lex, Chald, Talmud, et rabb., p1086 sq, s. v., כַּריָא——Thus we see that הרם as a twisting of חרם must either be opposed to the context or to the usus loquendi. I therefore hold חֶרֶם to be the original correct reading. But חרם means “the sun” ( Judges 1:35, where it is remarkable that a little before, Isaiah 19:23, a בֵּית־שֶׁמֶשׁ is mentioned——, Isaiah 8:13; Isaiah 14:18; Job 9:7). I think, as older expositors (comp. Gesen. in loc.) and latterly Pressel (Herz. R. Encycl. X, p612) have conjectured, that it is not impossible that this name עיר־החרם in our verse was the occasion for seeking a locality near Heliopolis for the temple of Onias. The reason why it was not built immediately in or at Heliopolis was that a suitable site (ἐπιτηδειότατον τόπον) for building was found at Leontopolis, which was yet in the Nome of Heliopolis. That Onias in his petition to Philometor and Cleopatra evidently appealed in a special way to verse19 proves nothing against the assumption that Isaiah 19:18 also had a significance for him. He even says expressly, after having quoted the contents of Isaiah 19:19 : “καὶ πολλὰ δὲ προεφήτευσεν ἄλλᾳ τοιαῦτα διὰ τὸν τόπον.” But if the Egyptian temple, which, according to Josephus (Bell. Judges 7, 10, 4), stood 343 years (it ought rather to say243), was a great offence to the Hebrew Jews, it could easily happen that חרם of our verse was changed by them to הרם. There are in fact six MSS. that read expressly עִיר הַחֵרֶם “city of the curse;” and the Ἀσεδέκ of the LXX. is manifestly an intentional alteration in the opposite sense.——Therefore intentional changes pro et contra have undeniably been perpetrated. Thus is explained not only the duplicate reading in general, but especially, too, the tradition of הרם as the orthodox reading, and the fixing of the same by the Masorets.—Comp. moreover, Reinke in the Tüb. theol. Quart. Schrift. 1870, Heft I, on the imputed changes of the Masoretic text in Isaiah 19:18, and the remarks of the same writer in his Beiträgen zur Eklr. des A. T. Giesen 1872, Band VIII, p87 sqq.

Isaiah 19:20. The combination לאות ולער occurs only here. Of more frequent occurrence is אֹות וּמוֹכֶּת, Deuteronomy 13:2; Deuteronomy 28:46; Isaiah 20:3.——רָכ particip. = “contestant, champion,” comp. Isaiah 45:9; Jeremiah 51:36; not an uncommon use of the word in Judges 6:31; Judges 11:25; Judges 21:22.

Isaiah 19:21. עָכַר with latent transitive notion; Exodus 10:26; comp. Genesis 30:29.

Isaiah 19:22. The reason why Isaiah uses the word נָגַף is probably because this word is repeatedly used of the plagues of Egypt: Exodus 7:27; Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:23; Exodus 12:27; Joshua 24:5—נעתר, audientem se praestitit alicui; only here in Isaiah; comp. Genesis 25:21; 2 Samuel 21:14; 2 Samuel 24:25.

Isaiah 19:23. מְסִלָּה see Isaiah 7:3.——עברו can only be understood as the abbreviation of the statement that occurs entire immediately before with application there to Egypt alone. The same service (עבר) shall Egypt perform in union with Assyria. The Prophet could so much the more readily express himself thus, in as much as עָבר is used also elsewhere ( Job 36:11) in the same absolute way.

Isaiah 19:24. שׁלישׁיה is in itself tertia; yet not merely pars, but size, degree generally, designated by “three.” Compare עגלת שׁלישׁיה Isaiah 15:5. Here it is the third element, the third factor that must be added in order to make the harmony complete.

Isaiah 19:25. אשׁר cannot be construed as simple relative pronoun. For then the suffix in ברכו must be referred to הארץ which will hardly do. It is therefore construed = “so that,” or “since,” and the suffix named is referred to the individual that each of the three forms by itself (comp. Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 17:13). Therefore אשׁר here is a conjunction (Green (Gr., § 239, 1).


1. Egypt will gradually be altogether converted to the Lord. At first, indeed, only five cities will serve Him ( Isaiah 19:18), but soon the Lord will have an altar in Egypt, and a pillar dedicated to Him on the border ( Isaiah 19:19) will at once announce to the approaching traveller that Egypt is a land that pays worship to Jehovah. Then, when they cry to the Lord, He will deliver them from oppression as He did Israel of old in the days of the judges ( Isaiah 19:20). He will reveal Himself to them, and they will know Him and offer Him divine service in due form ( Isaiah 19:21). He will, indeed, smite them like His own people, but then He will heal them again: but they will turn to Him, and He will let Himself be entreated of them ( Isaiah 19:22). But not only Egypt—Assyria too will then be converted to the Lord. And between Egypt and Assyria there will be busy intercourse, and they will no more be enemies of one another, but serve the Lord in common ( Isaiah 19:23). And Israel will be the third in the confederation, and that will be a great blessing from the Lord for the whole earth ( Isaiah 19:24), who then will call Egypt His people, Assyria the work of His hand, but Israel always still His special inheritance.

2. In that day——destruction.

Isaiah 19:18. The fifth is the half of ten. It appears to me to be neither a small nor a great number (Corn. a Lapide). But if in the ten there lies the idea of completeness, wholeness, then five is not any sort of fraction of the whole, but the half, which added to itself forms the whole. By the five the ten is assured. There does not, therefore, lie in the five the idea of the mustard seed, but rather the idea of being already half attained. From passages like Genesis 45:22; Exodus 22:1; Numbers 7:17; Numbers 7:23; Matthew 25:2; Matthew 25:20; 1 Corinthians 14:19, it is not erroneously concluded that the five has a certain symbolical meaning. Besides this, in respect to the division of the year into seven months (of freedom from water) and five months (of the overflow) the five was a sacred number to the Egyptians. Comp. Ebers, l. c., p. Isaiah 359: “Seven and five present themselves as especially sacred numbers.” To think, as Hitzig does, of five particular cities (Heliopolis, Leontopolis, Migdol, Daphne, Memphis), is opposed to the character of the prophecy. Five cities, therefore, shall speak the language of Canaan, the sacred language, the language of the law. That Isaiah, they shall found a place in the midst of them for the worship of Jehovah.

[“The construction of Calvin (who understands five out of six to be intended) is to be preferred, because the others arbitrarily assume a standard of comparison (twenty thousand, ten thousand, ten, etc.); whereas this hypothesis finds it in the verse itself, five professing the true religion to one rejecting it. Most of the other interpretations understand the one to be included in the five, as if he had said one of them. As לאחת admits either of these senses, or rather applications, the question must depend upon the meaning given to the rest of the clause. Even on Calvin’s hypothesis, however, the proportion indicated need not be taken with mathematical precision. What appears to be meant is that five-sixths, i.e., a very large proportion, shall profess the true religion, while the remaining sixth persists in unbelief.” “It shall be said to one, i.e., one shall be addressed as follows, or called by the following name. This periphrasis is common in Isaiah, but is never applied, as Gesenius observes, to the actual appellation, but always to a description or symbolical title (see Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 61:6; Isaiah 62:4). This may be urged as an argument against the explanation of הַהֶרֶם as a proper name.” “All the interpretations which have now been mentioned [the one Dr. Naegelsbach favors being included in the number—Tr.] either depart from the common text or explain it by some forced or foreign analogy. If, however, we proceed upon the only safe principle of adhering to the common text, and to Hebrew usage, without the strongest reasons for abandoning either or both, no explanation of the name can be so satisfactory as that given by Calvin (civitas desolationis) and the Eng. Version (‘city of destruction’).” J. A. A.]

The city of destruction.—Isaiah often expresses the future existence of a person or matter by a name, of which he says it shall be applied to the person in question ( Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 61:6; Isaiah 62:4). Here there seems to be intended, not so much a characteristic of the nature, as a mark that shall serve as a means for recognizing the fulfilment. For why does the Prophet give the name of only one city? Why does he not give the five cities a name in common? It seems to me that the Prophet saw five points that shone forth out of the obscurity that concealed the future of Egypt from his eyes. They are the five cities in which the worship of Jehovah shall find a place. But only one of these cities, doubtless the greatest and most considerable, does he see so clearly that he even knows its name. This name he gives—and thus is given a mark whereby to identify the time of the fulfilment. For if in the future there comes about a condition of things in Egypt corresponding to our prophecy, and if a city under those circumstances bears the name the Prophet gives here, then it is a sure sign that said condition is the fulfilment of the present prophecy. Now, from the dispersion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar on, Egypt became, to a great part of the Israelites, a second home; in fact it became the place of a second Jehovah-Temple; later it even became a wholly Christian land.

That Jehovah-Temple was built by Onias IV. (according to another calculation II.) under Ptolomæus Philometor (180–145) at Leontopolis in the Nome of Heliopolis (Josephus Antiq. 12, 9, 7; 13, 3, 1–3; 20, 10; Bell. Judges 7, 10, 2-4), or rather was a ruined Egyptian temple restored. Built upon a foundation sixty feet high, and constructed like a tower, this temple, of course, did not in its outward form resemble that at Jerusalem. But the altar was accurately patterned after the one in Jerusalem. Onias (and probably in opposition to his fellow-countrymen) appealed to our passage. For the building, strictly interpreted, was of course unlawful. And it was steadily opposed by the Hebrew Jews with greater or less determination. But the Egyptian Jews, as said, thought themselves authorized in the undertaking by our passage, especially Isaiah 19:19. It is not impossible that the choice of the locality was conditioned by the fact that our passage originally read עיר הַחֶרֶם (see under Text. and Gram.) which was translated “city of the sun” and was referred to Heliopolis, the ancient On, the celebrated priestly city ( Genesis 41:45; Genesis 41:50; Genesis 46:20). [Would it not be a juster interpretation of the fulfilment of this prophecy in regard to the foregoing application to repeat, mutatis mutandis, Dr. Naegelsbach’s own remark in the exegetical comment on Isaiah 19:2-4 above, p224. “Nothing was less in Isaiah’s mind than to make those transactions the subject of a special prediction. Else how then is what follows to be applied, where it speaks of a Jehovah-altar in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar or obelisk dedicated to the Lord on the border of it? Can this be meant literally? If not, then neither can Isaiah 19:18 be understood literally.” Dr. Naegelsbach admits above that, “strictly interpreted,” the building of such a temple “was of course unlawful;” and the altar must be included in this statement. But in a matter appertaining to a legal and ceremonial worship a “strict interpretation,” which must mean “strictly legal,” is the only admissible interpretation. Deeds of formal worship that are unlawful by that interpretation cannot be right by any other interpretation, seeing that no other applies to them. How could Isaiah refer prophetically to such a matter as the mimic temple of Jehovah at Leontopolis in such language as we have in our verses18, 19?—Tr.]

3. In that day——heal them.

Isaiah 19:19-22. What was only hinted in Isaiah 19:18, is in Isaiah 19:19 expressly affirmed: The Lord shall have an altar in Egypt. How this was fulfilled we have indicated already above. Egypt became not only a second home to the people of Israel. [But it must be remembered that this never received the token of God’s approval, who said Hosea 11:5, “He shall not return into the land of Egypt.”—Tr.]. It became also the birth-place of a most significant form of development of the Jewish spirit. It became moreover a Christian land, and as such had played a prominent part in the history of the Christian church. Call to mind only Origen and Athanasius. If thus the prophecy of the altar of Jehovah in Egypt was literally fulfilled, so the prophecy of the מַצֵּבָה, “pillar,” was fulfilled in a way not so literally, but not therefore in a less real sense. The word means statua, “standing image,” cippus, “monument.” Jeremiah 43:14 so designates the numerous obelisks that were in Heliopolis. Often idol pillars are so designated ( 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:27, etc.), the raising of which was expressly forbidden in the law ( Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22). When it is announced here that a מצבה dedicated to Jehovah would be raised up, it is not meant that this would be for the purpose of divine service. Rather we see from “at the border” and also from Isaiah 19:20 that the pillar (the obelisk) should serve merely for a sign and mark by which any one crossing the border could know at once that he treads a land that is exclusively consecrated to the service of Jehovah. Altar and pillar, each in its place,—the pillar first and preparatory, the altar afterwards in the midst of the land and definitive—shall be sign and witness of it.

When we said above that this word was fulfilled not literally, yet not therefore less really, we mean it thus: that Egypt, when it ceased to be a heathen land certainly presented just as plainly to the eye of every one entering it the traces of its confession to the true religion, as we now a days observe more or less distinctly on entering a land, how it is with religion and religiousness there. [J. A. A, on verse19. “A just view of this passage is that it predicts the prevalence of the true religion, and the practice of its rites in language borrowed from the Mosaic or rather from the patriarchal institutions. As we might now speak of a missionary pitching his tent at Hebron—without intending to describe the precise form of his habitation, so the Prophet represents the converts to the true faith as erecting an altar and a pillar to the Lord in Egypt, as Abraham and Jacob did of old in Canaan. [So for substance also Barnes.—Tr.]. Those explanations of the verse which suppose the altar and the pillar, or the centre and the border of the land to be contrasted, are equally at variance with good taste and the usage of the language, which continually separates in parallel clauses, words and things which the reader is expected to combine. See an example of this usage Isaiah 18:6. As the wintering of the beasts, and the summering of the birds are there intended to denote the presence of both beasts and birds throughout the year, so here the altar in the midst of the land, and the pillar at its border denote altars and pillars through its whole extent.”].

In what follows we observe the effort to show that the Lord will treat Egypt just like Israel. There will be therefore a certain reciprocity: Egypt conducts itself toward the Lord like Israel, therefore will the Lord conduct Himself toward Egypt as He has done toward Israel. Thus the second half of Isaiah 19:20 reminds one of that “crying of the children of Israel to Jehovah” that is so often mentioned in the book of Judges ( Isaiah 3:9; Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 6:6, etc.). In that survey of the times of the judges contained in Judges 2:11 sqq. (at Isaiah 19:18 comp. Judges 1:34; Judges 6:9) the oppressors of Israel are called לֹחֲצִים just as here, and Judges 2:16; Judges 2:18 the performance of the judges whom God sent to the people, is designated הוֹשִׁיעַ, and the judges are on that account expressly called מוֹשִׁיעַ “deliverers, saviours,” ( Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15; Judges 6:36; Judges 12:3). הִצִּל, too, occurs in this sense in Judges 6:9; Judges 8:34; Judges 9:17, etc.—In consequence of these manifold mutual relations Jehovah shall become known to the Egyptians. The expression “shall be known,” etc., recalls the celebrated passage Exodus 6:3. “But by my name Jehovah, was I not known to them.” There the Lord reveals Himself to those that were held in bondage by the Egyptians; here is seen the remarkable advance that the Lord reveals Himself to the Egyptians themselves as Jehovah, that they, too, really know Him as such; serving Him in accordance with His law, they present sacrifice and oblation, i.e., bloody and unbloody offerings, and make vows to Him which they scrupulously perform as recognition of His divine majesty and grace (comp. Leviticus 27; Numbers 30; Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 23:21 sqq.; Jeremiah 44:25; Psalm 61:9; Psalm 66:13; Psalm 116:14; Psalm 116:18, etc.). Egypt is like Israel moreover in this, that the Lord now and then chastises it as not yet sinless, but still heals again. The second half of Isaiah 19:22 is related to the first as particularizing the latter. In the first half it is merely said: Jehovah will smite and heal Egypt. But in the second half it is put as the condition of healing after the smiting that “they shall return,” etc. Thereby is affirmed that the Egyptians shall find grace only on this condition; and also that they will fulfil this condition. The contrast of smiting and healing reminds one of Deuteronomy 32:39, comp. Job 5:18; Hosea 6:1 sqq.

4. In that day——mine inheritance.

Isaiah 19:23-25. It is observed in verses19–22, that the climax of the discourse is not quite attained, for Egypt alone is spoken of, and an Egypt that needed to be disciplined. But now the Prophet rises to the contemplation of a glorious picture of the future that is extensively and intensively complete. Israel’s situation between the northern and southern world-powers had ever been to it the source of the greatest distress inwardly and outwardly. But precisely this middle position had also its advantage. Israel breaks forth on the right hand and on the left. The spirit of Israel penetrates gradually Egypt and Assyria, and thus binds together these two opponents into one, and that something higher. This the Prophet expresses by saying there will be a laid out road, a highway, leading from Egypt to Assyria and from Assyria to Egypt. Such a road must, naturally, traverse the land of Israel, in fact, according to all that precedes, we must assume that this road properly goes out from Israel in both directions. For it is the Lord that makes Himself known to Assyria as well as to Egypt ( Isaiah 19:21), and both these unite in the service of the Lord. For it is clear that the concluding clause of Isaiah 19:23, does not mean that Egypt shall be subject to Assyria (see עברו in Text. and Gram.). Then Israel will no longer be the unfortunate sacrifice to the enmity of its two mighty neighbors, but their peer and the third member of their union. Thus a harmony will be established, and the threefold accord will be a blessing in the midst of the whole earth and for them, because the Lord will bless them. For Israel as the earthly home of the kingdom of God, and Assyria and Egypt as the natural world-powers represent the entire earth. From them the blessing must come forth upon all. But they must be so blest that the predicates, that hitherto Israel had alone, will be applied to all three. Egypt is called עַמִּי “my people” (comp. Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 10:2; Isaiah 10:24, and often), Assyria מעשׂה ירי “work of my hands,” (comp. Isaiah 60:21; Isaiah 64:7 and often), but Israel retains the name of honor נחלתי, “mine inheritance,” for thereby it is characterized as the actual son of the house and head of the family.


FN#33 - From before the lifting of the hand, etc, which He lifteth against it.

FN#34 - recall it

FN#35 - Shall be.

FN#36 - Speaking.

FN#37 - Heb. the lip.

FN#38 - swearing.

FN#39 - Ir Ha-heres.

FN#40 - Or, Heres, or the sun.

FN#41 - champion.

FN#42 - And shall, etc.

FN#43 - Egypt.

FN#44 - And.

FN#45 - Assyria.

FN#46 - Egypt

FN#47 - Egypt.

FN#48 - Assyria.

FN#49 - earth.

FN#50 - since.

FN#51 - blesses them.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Promises to Egypt. B. C. 710.

18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts one shall be called, The city of destruction. 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 to the LORD. 20 And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. 21 And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. 22 And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. 23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. 24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: 25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

Out of the thick and threatening clouds of the foregoing prophecy the sun of comfort here breaks forth, and it is the sun of righteousness. Still God has mercy in store for Egypt, and he will show it, not so much by reviving their trade and replenishing their river again as by bringing the true religion among them, calling them to, and accepting them in, the worship of the one only living and true God and these blessings of grace were much more valuable than all the blessings of nature wherewith Egypt was enriched. We know not of any event in which this prophecy can be thought to have its full accomplishment short of the conversion of Egypt to the faith of Christ, by the preaching (as is supposed) of Mark the Evangelist, and the founding of many Christian churches there, which flourished for many ages. Many prophecies of this book point to the days of the Messiah and why not this? It is no unusual thing to speak of gospel graces and ordinances in the language of the Old-Testament institutions. And, in these prophecies, those words, in that day, perhaps have not always a reference to what goes immediately before, but have a peculiar significancy pointing at that day which had been so long fixed, and so often spoken of, when the day-spring from on high should visit this dark world. Yet it is not improbable (which some conjecture) that this prophecy was in part fulfilled when those Jews who fled from their own country to take shelter in Egypt, when Sennacherib invaded their land, brought their religion along with them, and, being awakened to great seriousness by the troubles they were in, made an open and zealous profession of it there, and were instrumental to bring many of the Egyptians to embrace it, which was an earnest and specimen of the more plentiful harvest of souls that should be gathered in to God by the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Josephus indeed tells us that Onias the son of Onias the high priest, living an outlaw at Alexandria in Egypt, obtained leave of Ptolemy Philometer, then king, and Cleopatra his queen, to build a temple to the God of Israel, like that at Jerusalem, at Bubastis in Egypt, and pretended a warrant for doing it from this prophecy in Isaiah, that there shall be an altar to the Lord in the land of Egypt and the service of God, Josephus affirms, continued in it about 333 years, when it was shut up by Paulinus soon after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans see Antiq. 13.62-79, and Jewish War 7.426-436. But that temple was all along looked upon by the pious Jews as so great an irregularity, and an affront to the temple at Jerusalem, that we cannot suppose this prophecy to be fulfilled in it.

Observe how the conversion of Egypt is here described.

I. They shall speak the language of Canaan, the holy language, the scripture-language they shall not only understand it, but use it (Isaiah 19:18) they shall introduce that language among them, and converse freely with the people of God, and not, as they used to do, by an interpreter, Genesis 42:23. Note, Converting grace, by changing the heart, changes the language for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Five cities in Egypt shall speak this language so many Jews shall come to reside in Egypt, and they shall so multiply there, that they shall soon replenish five cities, one of which shall be the city of Heres, or of the sun, Heliopolis, where the sun was worshipped, the most infamous of all the cities of Egypt for idolatry even there shall be a wonderful reformation, they shall speak the language of Canaan. Or it may be taken thus, as we render it--That for every five cities that shall embrace religion there shall be one (a sixth part of the cities of Egypt) that shall reject it, and that shall be called a city of destruction, because it refuses the methods of salvation.

II. They shall swear to the Lord of hosts, not only swear by him, giving him the honour of appealing to him, as all nations did to the gods they worshipped but they shall by a solemn oath and vow devote themselves to his honour and bind themselves to his service. They shall swear to cleave to him with purpose of heart, and shall worship him, not occasionally, but constantly. They shall swear allegiance to him as their King, to Christ, to whom all judgment is committed.

III. They shall set up the public worship of God in their land (Isaiah 19:19): There shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, an altar on which they shall do sacrifice and oblation (Isaiah 19:21) therefore it must be understood spiritually. Christ, the great altar, who sanctifies every gift, shall be owned there, and the gospel sacrifices of prayer and praise shall be offered up for by the law of Moses there was to be no altar for sacrifice but that at Jerusalem. In Christ Jesus all distinction of nations is taken away and a spiritual altar, a gospel church, in the midst of the land of Egypt, is as acceptable to God as one in the midst of the land of Israel and spiritual sacrifices of faith and love, and a contrite heart, please the Lord better than an ox or bullock.

IV. There shall be a face of religion upon the nation, and an open profession made of it, discernible to all who come among them. Not only in the heart of the country, but even in the borders of it, there shall be a pillar, or pillars, inscribed, To Jehovah, to his honour, as before there had been such pillars set up in honour of false gods. As soon as a stranger entered upon the borders of Egypt he might perceive what God they worshipped. Those that serve God must not be ashamed to own him, but be forward to do any thing that may be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts. Even in the land of Egypt he had some faithful worshippers, who boasted of their relation to him and made his name their strong tower, or bulwark, on their borders, with which their coasts were fortified against all assailants.

V. Being in distress, they shall seek to God, and he shall be found of them and this shall be a sign and a witness for the Lord of hosts that he is a God hearing prayer to all flesh that come to him, v. 20. See Psalm 65:2. When they cry to God by reason of their oppressors, the cruel lords that shall rule over them (Isaiah 19:4) he shall be entreated of them (Isaiah 19:22) whereas he had told his people Israel, who had made it their own choice to have such a king, that they should cry to him by reason of their king, and he would not hear them, 1 Samuel 8:18.

VI. They shall have an interest in the great Redeemer. When they were under the oppression of cruel lords perhaps God sometimes raised them up mighty deliverers, as he did for Israel in the days of the judges and by them, though he had smitten the land, he healed it again and, upon their return to God in a way of duty, he returned to them in a way of mercy, and repaired the breaches of their tottering state. For repenting Egyptians shall find the same favour with God that repenting Ninevites did. But all these deliverances wrought for them, as those for Israel, were but figures of gospel salvation. Doubtless Jesus Christ is the Saviour and the great one here spoken of, whom God will send the glad tidings of to the Egyptians, and by whom he will deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, that they may serve him without fear, Luke 1:74,75. Jesus Christ delivered the Gentile nations from the service of dumb idols, and did himself both purchase and preach liberty to the captives.

VII. The knowledge of God shall prevail among them, Isaiah 19:21. 1. They shall have the means of knowledge. For many ages in Judah only was God known, for there only were the lively oracles found but now the Lord, and his name and will, shall be known to Egypt. Perhaps this may in part refer to the translation of the Old Testament out of Hebrew into Greek by the LXX., which was done at Alexandria in Egypt, by the command of Ptolemy king of Egypt and it was the first time that the scriptures were translated into any other language. By the help of this (the Grecian monarchy having introduced their language into that country) the Lord was known to Egypt, and a happy omen and means it was of his being further known. 2. They shall have grace to improve those means. It is promised not only that the Lord shall be known to Egypt, but that the Egyptians shall know the Lord they shall receive and entertain the light granted to them, and shall submit themselves to the power of it. The Lord is known to our nation, and yet I fear there are many of our nation that do not know the Lord. But the promise of the new covenant is that all shall know the Lord, from the least even to the greatest, which promise is sure to all the seed. The effect of this knowledge of God is that they shall vow a vow to the Lord and perform it. For those do not know God aright who either are not willing to come under binding obligations to the Lord or do not make good those obligations.

VIII. They shall come into the communion of saints. Being joined to the Lord, they shall be added to the church, and be incorporated with all the saints. 1. All enmities shall be slain. Mortal feuds there had been between Egypt and Assyria they often made war upon one another but now there shall be a highway between Egypt and Assyria (Isaiah 19:23), a happy correspondence settled between he two nations they shall trade with one another, and every thing that passes between them shall be friendly. The Egyptians shall serve (shall worship the true God) with the Assyrians and therefore the Assyrians shall come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria. Note, It becomes those who have communion with the same God, through the same Mediator, to keep up an amicable correspondence with one another. The consideration of our meeting at the same throne of grace, and our serving with each other in the same business of religion, should put an end to all heats and animosities, and knit our hearts to each other in holy love. 2. The Gentile nations shall not only unite with each other in the gospel fold under Christ the great shepherd, but they shall all be united with the Jews. When Egypt and Assyria become partners in serving God Israel shall make a third with them (Isaiah 19:24) they shall become a three-fold cord, not easily broken. The ceremonial law, which had long been the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles, shall be taken down, and then they shall become one sheep-fold under one shepherd. Thus united, they shall be a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, Isaiah 19:24,25. (1.) Israel shall be a blessing to them all, because of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, and they were the natural branches of the good olive, to whom did originally pertain its root and fatness, and the Gentiles were but grafted in among them, Romans 11:17. Israel lay between Egypt and Assyria, and was a blessing to them both by bringing them to meet in that word of the Lord which went forth from Jerusalem, and that church which was first set up in the land of Israel. Qui conveniunt in aliquo tertio inter se conveniunt--Those who meet in a third meet in each other. Israel is that third in whom Egypt and Assyria agree, and is therefore a blessing for those are real and great blessings to their generation who are instrumental to unite those that have been at variance. (2.) They shall all be a blessing to the world: so the Christian church is, made up of Jews and Gentiles it is the beauty, riches, and support of the world. (3.) They shall all be blessed of the Lord. [1.] They shall all be owned by him as his. Though Egypt was formerly a house of bondage to the people of God, and Assyria an unjust invader of them, all this shall now be forgiven and forgotten, and they shall be as welcome to God as Israel. They are all alike his people whom he takes under his protection. They are formed by him, for they are the work of his hands not only as a people, but as his people. They are formed for him for they are his inheritance, precious in his eyes, and dear to him, and from whom he has his rent of honour out of this lower world. [2.] They shall be owned together by him as jointly his, his in concert they shall all share in one and the same blessing. Note, Those that are united in the love and blessing of God ought, for that reason, to be united to each other in charity.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The words, “In that day,” do not always refer to the passage just before. At a time which was to come, the Egyptians shall speak the holy language, the Scripture language; not only understand it, but use it. Converting grace, by changing the heart, changes the language; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. So many Jews shall come to Egypt, that they shall soon fill five cities. Where the sun was worshipped, a place infamous for idolatry, even there shall be a wonderful reformation. Christ, the great Altar, who sanctifies every gift, shall be owned, and the gospel sacrifices of prayer and praise shall be offered up. Let the broken-hearted and afflicted, whom the Lord has wounded, and thus taught to return to, and call upon him, take courage; for He will heal their souls, and turn their sorrowing supplications into joyful praises. The Gentile nations shall not only unite with each other in the gospel fold under Christ, the great Shepherd, but they shall all be united with the Jews. They shall be owned together by him; they shall all share in one and the same blessing. Meeting at the same throne of grace, and serving with each other in the same business of religion, should end all disputes, and unite the hearts of believers to each other in holy love.

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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

An altar for God’s worship; not a Levitical, but a spiritual and evangelical altar, as appears from hence, because that was confined to one place, Deuteronomy 12:13,14. The altar is put for the worship of God, as it is in many places both of the Old and New Testament. And nothing is more common in the prophets than to speak of gospel worship in the phrases of the law.

A pillar; a monument of the true religion. Here also he alludes to the ancient custom of erecting pillars to God; of which See Poole "Genesis 12:7", See Poole "Genesis 28:18", See Poole "Joshua 22:10", See Poole "Joshua 24:26", See Poole "Joshua 24:27".

At the border thereof; as before, in the midst of it. The meaning is, There shall be evidences of their piety in all places.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘In that day there will be an altar to Yahweh in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at its border to Yahweh, and it will be a sign and a witness to Yahweh of hosts in the land of Egypt. For they will cry to Yahweh because of the oppressors, and he will send them a deliverer and a defender, and he will deliver them.’

These are further evidence of their total conversion to Yahweh, again in terms of the symbols of the day. The setting up of an altar was a token of submission to the god for whom the altar was set up, in this case the living God (compare Joshua 22:34), and its being in the midst declared that it was for all Egypt. It would be conceived of as a memorial altar for no other altar would be conceivable to Israel outside God’s land. The setting up of a pillar on the border would be a sign to all who entered of the presence of God there (Genesis 28:18). Thus they would be a sign and a witness to Yahweh of hosts for the whole of Egypt. And that is what the church of Christ in Egypt became.

But the altar that would be set up is the cross, and the sacrifice that will be offered is our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:10; Hebrews 9:26-28; Hebrews 10:12-14). For He is the one sacrifice for sin for ever, after Whose offering no further sacrifice is required.

‘For they will cry to Yahweh because of the oppressors, and he will send them a deliverer and a defender, and he will deliver them.’ Not only will Egypt receive the word of Yahweh, but they will receive a Deliverer, a Saviour. And He will bring them deliverance far more wonderful than Isaiah could ever know. For he will deliver them from themselves, and from sin and from the evils of the world and from Satan. This reference to a deliverer could only, in terms of Isaiah’s thought, be to Immanuel Who was coming (Isaiah 7:14), the root of Jesse (11., 1-5, 10), the son who was to be miraculously born of a virginal woman (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6), the Saviour, the Prince of Peace.

The pictures are idealistic, but even in spite of the failure of the church to be what it should be, and the reversals suffered since the invasion of Islam, nothing will prevent the final triumph of Yahweh in Egypt. For the remnant have continued in Egypt through the centuries (in the Coptic church) and it will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth when all who are there of Egypt will own His sway, and will worship Him. And God will be all in all. And that is what essentially Isaiah is declaring here. That is his vision.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. Five cities in Egypt will speak Hebrew and swear fealty to Yahweh. One shall be called "city of the sun." There will be an altar to Yahweh in Egypt, and an obelisk to Him at its border, which shall witness for Him; and He will send a deliverer from their oppressors, so that they will worship Him with the animal and vegetable offerings and perform vows to Him. Then He will treat them as He had often treated Israel, smiting them for transgression, and healing them when they repented after their chastisement. Then a highway will lead from Egypt through Palestine to Assyria, that there may be free intercourse between them; for not only Egypt but also Assyria will serve Yahweh, and Israel will be united with these two empires as the third member of the league.

Isaiah 19:18. Herodotus reckons the cities of Egypt as 20,000. Five is thus a very small proportion. These cities are apparently inhabited by Hebrew-speaking Jews. The Jews in Egypt nearly all spoke Greek, and the LXX translation was made because they were unable to read the Scriptures in Hebrew.—The city of destruction: the text is uncertain. There are two Heb. variants—Heres, "destruction," and Heres, "sun." The former is also rendered "lion," and the reference supposed to be to Leontopolis, where Onias IV built a Jewish temple in 170 B.C. The translation, however, seems far-fetched: the rendering "destruction" does not suit the favourable tone of the prophecy; it may be a correction made by Palestinian Jews to express the anticipated doom of the Egyptian temple. Similarly the LXX, "city of righteousness," may be a deliberate Alexandrian alteration to secure sanction for the Egyptian temple. On the whole it seems best to read "city of the sun"; in that case Heliopolis (i.e. sun-city) is meant. Leontopolis was situated in the district of Heliopolis.

Isaiah 19:19. The altar is intended for sacrifice, and thus the author rises above the limitation of sacrifice to the Temple at Jerusalem. The pillar is probably simply memorial, and in that case does not conflict with the prohibition of pillars in Dt. It is placed at the border of Egypt to testify of Yahweh to all who enter the country.

Isaiah 19:23. Assyria probably means Syria (Isaiah 11:11*).

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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Isa . In that day shall five cities, &c.

I. God is able to raise up monuments and trophies of His grace in the most unlikely places (Isa ). For the historical fulfilments of these predictions, see the ordinary commentaries. They should teach us not to despair of the progress of religion in the most unlikely places, the most unlikely times, among the most unlikely persons. The grace of God is able to subdue the hardest hearts, to enlighten the darkest minds, to convert the most guilty natures, to cast out Satan where his power seems strongest and his interest most secure. Despair not of your own salvation (H. E. I., 2376), of the salvation of those dear to you, of the final triumph of the cause of truth (H. E. I., 979, 1166-1168). But recollect that all that has been done has been done by the use of appropriate means: the altar to God in Egypt was built by human hands, the Ark was not built by miracle but by means; all the triumphs we anticipate are to be achieved by the diffusion of Divine truth, by the prayers and efforts of the Church. What effort are you making?

III. It is God's prerogative to raise up a Saviour (Isa ). Whatever comforts or deliverances you have had through the medium of creatures, the hand of God is to be pre-eminently acknowledged in them all. Spiritually we need a great Saviour, and God has provided one equal to the emergency of the case. Our guilt is very great, our danger very threatening, our enemies very powerful, our ruin very awful, but help is laid on One that is mighty. The greatness of Christ as a Saviour appears from the essential dignity of His nature (Heb 1:1), from the certain efficacy of His atonement (Heb 7:25), from the countless number of the redeemed (Rev 7:9), from the completeness of the salvation He imparts (1Co 1:30).—Samuel Thodey.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

I beseech the Reader to remark every word in these verses. Let him observe how the sweet promises contained in them open. In that day, namely, the gospel day; the day of Christ, which Abraham, ages back, but now so much nearer, saw afar off; rejoiced and was glad. And how blessed is the promise to Egypt in this day. Egypt, had been miserably spoken of before, but now in mercies. So is it in all the transitions from nature to grace. The language of Canaan is the language of the gospel; so that Egypt, shall partake with Israel in the mercies of redemption, and shall speak the same language. And observe, that this is to be not in one or two instances, but by towns and cities; yea, five at once, as if to intimate that day of gospel grace, when the Holy Ghost shall be poured out upon all flesh, agreeably to the promise, Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21. Neither is this all: for an altar to the Lord shall be set up in Egypt. Christ is the New Testament Altar, and the Egyptians, like Israel, shall present all their offerings upon Him, and in Him, and by Him: neither doth the blessing of gospel grace stop here; for when the poor sinner, under convictions of sin, and the oppressions of the enemy, is constrained to cry out unto the Lord, the Lord will send a Saviour, and a great one, and he will deliver him from all his burden, and from all his sins. Pray, Reader, pause over this precious scripture, for it is indeed most precious; and say, to whom but to Jesus the almighty Saviour of lost sinners, can this refer? Indeed was not his name called Jesus by the angel, for this express reason, because he should save his people from their sins? Matthew 1:21.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 19:19. In that day shall there be an altar — For God’s worship; not a Levitical, but a spiritual and evangelical altar, as appears from hence, that the Levitical altar was confined to one place, Deuteronomy 12:13-14. The altar is here put for the worship of God, as it is in many places, both of the Old and New Testaments. And nothing is more common in the prophets than to speak of gospel worship in those phrases of the law which were suitable to their own age. And, accordingly, when they speak of the Gentiles coming into the church, they represent them as serving the true God by such acts of devotion as were most in use in their own time, and therefore could be best understood by those to whom they directed their discourses. And a pillar — A monument of the true religion; (he alludes to the ancient custom of erecting pillars to God;) at the border thereof — Of the land, as before in the midst of it. The meaning is, There shall be evidences of their piety in all places. This passage evidently implies that the temple-service, which was confined to Jerusalem, should be abolished, as it was by the introduction of Christianity, and that the God of Israel should be worshipped with the most solemn rites, even in the most abhorred and unsanctified places, such as the Jews esteemed Egypt to be. Such is the meaning of this prophecy, as it refers to the Christian dispensation, and such will be its more remote and ultimate accomplishment. But, in its primary sense, it seems to relate to the conversion of the Egyptians to the Jewish religion; which 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 Philometer 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 license to build a temple for the Jews in Egypt, alleging for that purpose this very prophecy; and the king and queen, in their rescript, make honourable 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 prophecy. 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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

The Biblical Illustrator

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 19:19". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

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, Isaiah 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 1 Samuel 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.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expositor's Bible Commentary




736-702 B.C.

Isaiah 14:24-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 23:1-18

THE centre of the Book of Isaiah (chapters 13 to 23) is occupied by a number of long and short prophecies which are a fertile source of perplexity to the conscientious reader of the Bible. With the exhilaration of one who traverses plain roads and beholds vast prospects, he has passed through the opening chapters of the book as far as the end of the twelfth; and he may look forward to enjoying a similar experience when he reaches those other clear stretches of vision from the twenty-fourth to the twenty-seventh and from the thirtieth to the thirty-second. But here he loses himself among a series of prophecies obscure in themselves and without obvious relation to one another. The subjects of them are the nations, tribes, and cities with which in Isaiah’s day, by war or treaty or common fear in face of the Assyrian conquest, Judah was being brought into contact. There are none of the familiar names of the land and tribes of Israel which meet the reader in other obscure prophecies and lighten their darkness with the face of a friend. The names and allusions are foreign, some of them the names of tribes long since extinct, and of places which it is no more possible to identify. It is a very jungle of prophecy, in which, without much Gospel or geographical light, we have to grope our way, thankful for an occasional gleam of the picturesque-a sandstorm in the desert, the forsaken ruins of Babylon haunted by wild beasts, a view of Egypt’s canals or Phoenicia’s harbours, a glimpse of an Arab raid or of a grave Ethiopian embassy.

But in order to understand the Book of Isaiah, in order to understand Isaiah himself in some of the largest of his activities and hopes; we must traverse this thicket. It would be tedious and unprofitable to search every corner of it. We propose, therefore, to give a list of the various oracles, with their dates and titles, for the guidance of Bible-readers, then to take three representative texts and gather the meaning of all the oracles round them.

First, however, two of the prophecies must be put aside. The twenty-second chapter does not refer to a foreign State, but to Jerusalem itself; and the large prophecy which opens the series (chapters 13-14:23) deals with the overthrow of Babylon in circumstances that did not arise till long after Isaiah’s time, and so falls to be considered by us along with similar prophecies at the close of this volume. (See Book V)

All the rest of these chapters-14-21 and 23-refer to Isaiah’s own day. They were delivered by the prophet at various times throughout his career; but the most of them evidently date from immediately after the year 705, when, on the death of Sargon, there was a general rebellion of the Assyrian vassals.

1. Isaiah 14:24-27 -OATH OF JEHOVAH that the Assyrian shall be broken. Probable date, towards 701.

2. Isaiah 14:28-32 -ORACLE FOR PHILISTIA. Warning to Philistia not to rejoice because one Assyrian king is dead, for a worse one shall arise: "Out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a basilisk. Philistia shall be melted away, but Zion shall stand." The inscription to this oracle (Isaiah 14:28) is not genuine. The oracle plainly speaks of the death and accession of Assyrian, not Judaean, kings. It may be ascribed to 705, the date of the death of Sargon and accession of Sennacherib. But some hold that it refers to the previous change on the Assyrian throne-the death of Salmanassar and the accession of Sargon.

3 Isaiah 15:1-9 - Isaiah 16:12 -ORACLE FOR MOAB. A long prophecy against Moab. This oracle, whether originally by himself at an earlier period of his life, or more probably by an older prophet, Isaiah adopts and ratifies, and intimates its immediate fulfilment, in Isaiah 16:13-14 : "This is the word which Jehovah spake concerning Moab long ago. But now Jehovah hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of a hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be brought into contempt with all the great multitude, and the remnant shall be very small and of no account." The dates both of the original publication of this prophecy and of its reissue with the appendix are quite uncertain. The latter may fall about 711, when Moab was threatened by Sargon for complicity in the Ashdod conspiracy or in 704, when, with other states, Moab came under the cloud of Sennacherib’s invasion. The main prophecy is remarkable for its vivid picture of the disaster that has overtaken Moab and for the sympathy with her which the Jewish prophet expresses; for the mention of a "remnant" of Moab; for the exhortation to her to send tribute in her adversity "to the mount of the daughter of Zion"; [Isaiah 16:1] for an appeal to Zion to shelter the outcasts of Moab and to take up her cause: "Bring counsel, make a decision, make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts, bewray not the wanderer;" for a statement of the Messiah similar to those in chapters 9 and 11; and for the offer to the oppressed Moabites of the security of Judah in Messianic times (Isaiah 16:4-5). But there is one great obstacle to this prospect of Moab lying down in the shadow of Judah-Moab’s arrogance. "We have heard of the pride of Moab, that he is very proud," [Isaiah 16:6, cf. Jeremiah 48:29; Jeremiah 48:42;, Zephaniah 2:10] which pride shall not only keep this country in ruin, but prevent the Moabites prevailing in prayer at their own sanctuary (Isaiah 16:12)-a very remarkable admission about the worship of another god than Jehovah.

4. Isaiah 17:1-11 -ORACLE FOR DAMASCUS. One of the earliest and most crisp of Isaiah’s prophecies. Of the time of Syria’s and Ephraim’s league against Judah, somewhere between 736 and 732.

5. Isaiah 17:12-14 -UNTITLED. The crash of the peoples upon Jerusalem and their dispersion. This magnificent piece of sound, which we analyse below, is usually understood of Sennacherib’s rush upon Jerusalem. Isaiah 17:14 is an accurate summary of the sudden break-up and "retreat from Moscow" of his army. The Assyrian hosts are described as "nations," as they are elsewhere more than once by Isaiah. [Isaiah 22:6; Isaiah 29:7] But in all this there is no final reason for referring the oracle to Sennacherib’s invasion, and it may just as well be interpreted of Isaiah’s confidence of the defeat of Syria and Ephraim (734-723). Its proximity to the oracle against Damascus would then be very natural, and it would stand as a parallel prophecy to Isaiah 8:9 : "Make an uproar, O ye peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of the distances of the earth: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces"-a prophecy which we know belongs to the period of the Syro-Ephraimitic league.

6. Isaiah 18:1-7 -UNTITLED. An address to Ethiopia, "land of a rustling of wings, land of many sails, whose messengers dart to and fro upon the rivers in their skiffs of reed." The prophet tells Ethiopia, cast into excitement by the news of the Assyrian advance, how Jehovah is resting quietly till the Assyrian be ripe for destruction. When the Ethiopians shall see His sudden miracle they shall send their tribute to Jehovah, "to the place of the name of Jehovah of hosts, Mount Zion." It is difficult to know to which southward march of Assyria to ascribe this prophecy-Sargon’s or Sennacherib’s? For at the time of both of these an Ethiopian ruled Egypt.

7. Isaiah 19:1-25 -ORACLE FOR EGYPT. The first fifteen verses (Isaiah 19:1-15) describe judgment as ready to fall on the land of the Pharaohs. The last ten speak of the religious results to Egypt of that judgment, and they form the most universal and "missionary" of all Isaiah’s prophecies. Although doubts have been expressed of the Isaiah authorship of the second half of this chapter on the score of its universalism, as well as of its literary style, which is judged to be "a pale reflection" of Isaiah’s own, there is no final reason for declining the credit of it to Isaiah, while there are insuperable difficulties against relegating it to the late date which is sometimes demanded for it. On the date and authenticity of this prophecy, which are of great importance for the question of Isaiah’s "missionary" opinions, see Cheyne’s introduction to the chapter and Robertson Smith’s notes in "The Prophets of Israel" (p. 433). The latter puts it in 703, during Sennacherib’s advance upon the south. The former suggests that the second half may have been written by the prophet much later than the first, and justly says, "We can hardly imagine a more ‘swan-like end’ for the dying prophet."

8. Isaiah 20:1-6 -UNTITLED. Also upon Egypt, but in narrative and of an earlier date than at least the latter half of chapter 19. Tells how Isaiah walked naked and barefoot in the streets of Jerusalem for a sign against Egypt and against the help Judah hoped to get from her in the years 711-709, when the Tartan, or Assyrian commander-in-chief, came south to subdue Ashdod.

9. Isaiah 21:1-10 -ORACLE FOR THE WILDERNESS OF THESEA, announcing but lamenting the fall of Babylon. Probably 709.

10. Isaiah 21:11-12 -ORACLE FOR DUMAH. Dumah, or Silence - Psalms 94:17;, Psalms 115:17, "the land of the silence of death," the grave - is probably used as an anagram for Edom and an enigmatic sign to the wise Edomites, in their own fashion, of the kind of silence their land is lying under-the silence of rapid decay. The prophet hears this silence at last broken by a cry. Edom cannot bear the darkness any more. "Unto me one is calling from Seir, Watchman, how much off the night? how much off the night? Said the watchman, Cometh the morning, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire, come back again." What other answer is possible for a land on which the silence of decay seems to have settled down? He may, however, give them an answer later on, if they will come back. Date uncertain, perhaps between 704 and 701.

11. 21:13-17 -ORACLE FOR ARABIA. From Edom the prophet passes to their neighbours the Dedanites, travelling merchants. And as he saw night upon Edom, so, by a play upon words, he speaks of evening upon Arabia: "in the forest, in Arabia," or with the same consonants, "in the evening." In the time of the insecurity of the Assyrian invasion the travelling merchants have to go aside from their great trading roads "in the evening to lodge in the thickets." There they entertain fugitives, or (for the sense is not quite clear) are themselves as fugitives entertained. It is a picture of the "grievousness of war," which was now upon the world, flowing down even those distant, desert roads. But things have not yet reached the worst. The fugitives are but the heralds of armies, that "within a year" shall waste the "children of Kedar," for Jehovah, the God of Israel, hath spoken it. So did the prophet of little Jerusalem take possession of even the far deserts in the name of his nation’s God.

12. Isaiah 23:1-18 -ORACLE FOR TYRE. Elegy over its fall, probably as Sennacherib came south upon it in 703 or 702. To be further considered by us.

These, then, are Isaiah’s oracles for the Nations, who tremble, intrigue, and go down before the might of Assyria.

We have promised to gather the circumstances and meaning of these prophecies round three representative texts. These are-

1. "Ah! the booming of the peoples, the multitudes, like the booming of the seas they boom; and the rushing of the nations, like the rushing of mighty waters they rush; nations, like the rushing of many waters they rush. But He rebuketh it, and it fleeth afar off, and is chased like the chaff on the mountains before the wind and like whirling dust before the whirlwind." [Isaiah 17:12-13]

2. "What then shall one answer the messengers of a nation? That Jehovah hath founded Zion, and in her shall find refuge the afflicted of His people." [Isaiah 14:32]

3. "In that day shall Israel be a third to Egypt and to Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, for that Jehovah of hosts hath blessed them, saying, Blessed be My people Egypt, and the work of My hands Assyria, and Mine inheritance Israel". [Isaiah 19:24-25]


The first of these texts shows all the prophet’s prospect filled with storm, the second of them the solitary rock and lighthouse in the midst of the storm: Zion, His own watchtower and His people’s refuge; while the third of them, looking far into the future, tells us, as it were, of the firm continent which shall rise out of the waters-Israel no longer a solitary lighthouse, "but in that day shall Israel be a third to Egypt and to Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth." These three texts give us a summary of the meaning of all Isaiah’s obscure prophecies to the foreign nations-a stormy ocean, a solitary rock in the midst of it, and the new continent that shall rise out of the waters about the rock.

The restlessness of Western Asia beneath the Assyrian rule (from 719, when Sargon’s victory at Rafia extended that rule to the borders of Egypt) found vent, as we saw, in two great Explosions, for both of which the mine was laid by Egyptian intrigue. The first Explosion happened in 711, and was confined to Ashdod. The second took place on Sargon’s death in 705, and was universal. Till Sennacherib marched south on Palestine in 701, there were all over Western Asia hurryings to and fro, consultations and intrigues, embassies and engineerings from Babylon to Meroe in far Ethiopia, and from the tents of Kedar to the cities of the Philistines. For these Jerusalem, the one inviolate capital from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt, was the natural centre. And the one far-seeing, steady-hearted man in Jerusalem was Isaiah. We have already seen that there was enough within the city to occupy Isaiah’s attention, especially from 705 onward; but for Isaiah the walls of Jerusalem, dear as they were and thronged with duty, neither limited his sympathies nor marked the scope of the gospel he had to preach. Jerusalem is simply his watchtower. His field-and this is the peculiar glory of the prophet’s later life-his field is the world.

How well fitted Jerusalem then was to be the world’s watchtower, the traveller may see to this day. The city lies upon the great central ridge of Palestine, at an elevation of two thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea. If you ascend the hill behind the city, you stand upon one of the great view-points of the earth. It is a forepost of Asia. To the east rise the red hills of Moab and the uplands of Gilead and Bashan, on to which wandering tribes of the Arabian deserts beyond still push their foremost camps. Just beyond the horizon lie the immemorial paths from Northern Syria into Arabia. Within a few hours’ walk along the same central ridge, and still within the territory of Judah, you may see to the north, over a wilderness of blue hills, Hermon’s snowy crest; you know that Damascus is lying just beyond, and that through it and round the base of Hermon swings one of the longest of the old world’s highways-the main caravan road from the Euphrates to the Nile. Stand at gaze for a little, while down that road there sweep into your mind thoughts of the great empire whose troops and commerce it used to carry. Then, bearing these thoughts with you, follow the line of the road across the hills to the western coastland, and so out upon the great Egyptian desert, where you may wait till it has brought you imagination of the southern empire to which it travels. Then, lifting your eyes a little further, let them sweep back again from south to north, and you have the whole of the west, the new world, open to you, across the fringe of yellow haze that marks the sands of the Mediterranean. It is even now one of the most comprehensive prospects in the world. But in Isaiah’s day, when the world was smaller, the high places of Judah either revealed or suggested the whole of it.

But Isaiah was more than a spectator of this vast theatre. He was an actor upon it. The court of Judah, of which during Hezekiah’s reign he was the most prominent member, stood in more or less close connection with the courts of all the kingdoms of Western Asia; and in those days, when the nations were busy with intrigue against their common enemy, this little highland town and fortress became a gathering place of peoples. From Babylon, from far-off Ethiopia, from Edom, from Philistia, and no doubt from many other places also, embassies came to King Hezekiah, or to inquire of his prophet. The appearance of some of them lives for us still in Isaiah’s descriptions: "tall and shiny" figures of Ethiopians [Isaiah 18:2], with whom we are able to identify the lithe, silky-skinned, shining-black bodies of the present tribes of the Upper Nile. Now the prophet must have talked much with these strangers, for he displays a knowledge of their several countries and ways of life that is full and accurate. The agricultural conditions of Egypt; her social ranks and her industries (chapter 19); the harbours and markets of Tyre (chapter 23); the caravans of the Arab nomads, as in times of war they shun the open desert and seek the thickets [Isaiah 21:14] -Isaiah paints these for us with a vivid realism. We see how this statesman of the least of States, this prophet of a religion which was confessed over only a few square miles, was aware of the wide world, and how he loved the life that filled it. They are no mere geographical terms with which Isaiah thickly studs these prophecies. He looks out upon and paints for us, lands and cities surging with men-their trades, their castes, their religions, their besetting tempers and sins, their social structures and national policies, all quick and bending to the breeze and the shadow of the coming storm from the north.

We have said that in nothing is the legal power of our prophet’s style so manifest as in the vast horizons, which, by the use of a few words, he calls up before us. Some of the finest of these revelations are made in this part of his book, so obscure and unknown to most. Who can ever forget those descriptions-of Ethiopia in the eighteenth chapter?-"Ah! the land of the rustling of wings, which borders on the rivers of Cush, which sendeth heralds on the sea, and in vessels of reed on the face of the waters! Travel, fleet messengers, to a people lithe and shining, to a nation feared from ever it began to be, a people strong, strong and trampling, whose land the rivers divide"; or of Tyre in chapter 23?-"And on great waters the seed of Shihor, the harvest of the Nile, was her revenue; and she was the mart of nations." What expanses of sea! what fleets of ships! what floating loads of grain! what concourse of merchants moving on stately wharves beneath high warehouses!

Yet these are only segments of horizons, and perhaps the prophet reaches the height of his power of expression in the first of the three texts, which we have given as representative of his prophecies on foreign nations. Here three or four lines of marvellous sound repeat the effect of the rage of the restless world as it rises, storms, and breaks upon the steadfast will of God. The phonetics of the passage are wonderful. The general impression is that of a stormy ocean booming in to the shore and then crashing itself out into one long hiss of spray and foam upon its barriers. The details are noteworthy. In Isaiah 17:12 we have thirteen heavy M-sounds, besides two heavy B’s, to five N’s, five H’s, and four sibilants. But in Isaiah 17:13 the sibilants predominate; and before the sharp rebuke of the Lord the great, booming sound of Isaiah 17:12 scatters out into a long yish-sha ‘oon. The occasional use of a prolonged vowel amid so many hurrying consonants produces exactly the effect now of the lift of a storm swell out at sea and now of the pause of a great wave before it crashes on the shore. "Ah, the booming of the peoples, the multitudes, like the booming of the seas they boom; and the rushing of the nations, like the rushing of the mighty waters they rush: nations, like the rushing of many waters they rush. But He checketh it"-a short, sharp word with a choke and a snort in it-"and it fleeth far away, and is chased like chaff on mountains before wind, and like swirling dust before a whirlwind."

So did the rage of the world sound to Isaiah as it crashed into pieces upon the steadfast providence of God. To those who can feel the force of such language nothing need be added upon the prophet’s view of the politics of the outside world these twenty years, whether portions of it threatened Judah in their own strength, or the whole power of storm that was in it rose with the Assyrian, as in all his flood he rushed upon Zion in the year 701.


But amid this storm Zion stands immovable. It is upon Zion that the storm crashes itself into impotence. This becomes explicit in the second of our representative texts: "What then shall one answer the messengers of a nation? That Jehovah hath founded Zion, and in her shall find a refuge the afflicted of His people". [Isaiah 14:32] This oracle was drawn from Isaiah by an embassy of the Philistines. Stricken with panic at the Assyrian advance, they had sent messengers to Jerusalem, as other tribes did, with questions and proposals of defences, escapes, and alliances. They got their answer, Alliances are useless. Everything human is going down. Here, here alone, is safety, because the Lord hath decreed it.

With what light and peace do Isaiah’s words break out across that unquiet, hungry sea! How they tell the world for the first time, and have been telling it ever since, that, apart from all the struggle and strife of history, there is a refuge and security of men, which God Himself has assured. The troubled surface of life, nations heaving uneasily, kings of Assyria and their armies carrying the world before them-these are not all. The world and her powers are not all. Religion, in the very teeth of life, builds her a refuge for the afflicted.

The world seems wholly divided between force and fear. Isaiah says, It is not true. Faith has her abiding citadel in the midst, a house of God, which neither force can harm nor fear enter.

This then was Isaiah’s Interim-Answer to the Nations-Zion at least is secure for the people of Jehovah.


Isaiah could not remain content, however, with so narrow an interim-answer: Zion at least is secure, whatever happens to the rest of you. The world was there, and had to be dealt with and accounted for-had even to be saved. As we have already seen, this was the problem of Isaiah’s generation; and to have shirked it would have meant the failure of his faith to rank as universal.

Isaiah did not shirk it. He said boldly to his people, and to the nations: "The faith we have covers this vaster life. Jehovah is not only God of Israel. He rules the world." These prophecies to the foreign nations are full of revelations of the sovereignty and providence of God. The Assyrian may seem to be growing in glory; but Jehovah is watching from the heavens, till he be ripe for cutting down. [Isaiah 18:4] Egypt’s statesmen may be perverse and wilful; but Jehovah of hosts swingeth His hand against the land: "they shall tremble and shudder". [Isaiah 19:16] Egypt shall obey His purposes (chapter 17). Confusion may reign for a time, but a signal and a centre shall be lifted up, and the world gather itself in order round the revealed will of God. The audacity of such a claim for his God becomes more striking when we remember that Isaiah’s faith was not the faith of a majestic or a conquering people. When he made his claim, Judah was still tributary to Assyria, a petty highland principality, that could not hope to stand by material means against the forces which had thrown down her more powerful neighbours. It was. no experience of success, no mere instinct of being on the side of fate, which led Isaiah so resolutely to pronounce that not only should his people be secure, but that his God would vindicate His purposes upon empires like Egypt and Assyria. It was simply his sense that Jehovah was exalted in righteousness. Therefore, while inside Judah only the remnant that took the side of righteousness would be saved, outside Judah wherever there was unrighteousness, it would be rebuked, and wherever righteousness, it would be vindicated. This is the supremacy which Isaiah proclaimed for Jehovah over the whole world.

How spiritual this faith of Isaiah was, is seen from the next step the prophet took. Looking out on the troubled world, he did not merely assert that his God ruled it, but he emphatically said, what was a far more difficult thing to say, that it would all be consciously and willingly God’s. God rules this, not to restrain it only, but to make it His own. The knowledge of Him, which is today our privilege, shall be tomorrow the blessing of the whole world.

When we point to the Jewish desire, so often expressed in the Old Testament, of making the whole world subject to Jehovah, we are told that it is simply a proof of religious ambition and jealousy. We are told that this wish to convert the world no more stamps the Jewish religion as being a universal, and therefore presumably a Divine, religion than the Mohammedans’ zeal to force their tenets on men at the point of the sword is a proof of the truth of Islam.

Now we need not be concerned to defend the Jewish religion in its every particular, even as propounded by an Isaiah. It is an article of the Christian creed that Judaism was a minor and imperfect dispensation, where truth was only half revealed and virtue half developed. But at least let us do the Jewish religion justice; and we shall never do it justice till we pay attention to what its greatest prophets thought of the outside world, how they sympathised with this, and in what way they proposed to make it subject to their own faith.

Firstly then, there is something in the very manner of Isaiah’s treatment of foreign nations, which causes the old charges of religious exclusiveness to sink in our throats. Isaiah treats these foreigners at least as men. Take his prophecies on Egypt or on Tyre or on Babylon-nations which were the hereditary enemies of his nation-and you find him speaking of their natural misfortunes, their social decays, their national follies and disasters, with the same pity and with the same purely moral considerations with which he has treated his own land. When news of those far-away sorrows comes to Jerusalem, it moves this large-hearted prophet to mourning and tears. He breathes out to distant lands elegies as beautiful as he has poured upon Jerusalem. He shows as intelligent an interest in their social evolutions as he does in those of the Jewish State. He gives a picture of the industry and politics of Egypt as careful as his pictures of the fashions and statecraft of Judah. In short, as you read his prophecies upon foreign nations, you perceive that before the eyes of this man humanity, broken and scattered in his days as it was, rose up one great whole, every part of which was subject to the same laws of righteousness, and deserved from the prophet of God the same love and pity. To some few tribes he says decisively that they shall certainly be wiped out, but even them he does not address in contempt or in hatred. The large empire of Egypt, the great commercial power of Tyre, he speaks of in language of respect and admiration; but that does not prevent him from putting the plain issue to them which he put to his own countrymen: If you are unrighteous, intemperate, impure-lying diplomats and dishonest rulers-you shall certainly perish before Assyria. If you are righteous, temperate, pure, if you do trust in truth and God, nothing can move you.

But, secondly, he, who thus treated all nations with the same strict measures of justice and the same fulness of pity with which he treated his own, was surely not far from extending to the world the religious privileges which he has so frequently identified with Jerusalem. In his old age, at least, Isaiah looked forward to the time when the particular religious opportunities of the Jew should be the inheritance of humanity. For their old oppressor Egypt, for their new enemy Assyria, he anticipates the same experience and education which have made Israel the firstborn of God. Speaking to Egypt, Isaiah concludes a missionary sermon, fit to take its place beside that which Paul uttered on the Areopagus to the younger Greek civilisation, with the words, "In that day shall Israel be a third to Egypt and to Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, for that Jehovah of hosts hath blessed them, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands and Israel Mine inheritance."

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries


Isaiah 19:1-17

THE BURDEN OF EGYPT. It has been doubted whether this prophecy refers to the conquest of Egypt by Piankhi, as related in the monument which he set up at Napata, or to that by Esarhaddon, of which we gain our knowledge from the inscriptions of his son, Asshur-bani-pal. In the former case, we must suppose it written as early as B.C. 735; in the latter, its date might be as late as B.C. 690. The division of Egypt, "kingdom against kingdom," is a circumstance rather in favor of the earlier date; but the "cruel lord," and the mention of the "princes of Zoan and Noph," are decisive for the later. Piankhi is anything rather than a "cruel lord," being particularly mild and clement; Napata (Noph) is under him, and cannot be said to have been "deceived" or to have "seduced Egypt;" and Zoan plays no part in the history of the period. Esarhaddon, on the contrary, was decidedly a "cruel" prince, and treated Egypt with great severity, splitting it up into a number of governments. Zoan was one of the leading cities of the time, and Noph was the leading power on the Egyptian side, the head of the patriotic party which resisted the Assyrian monarch, but to no purpose. We may, therefore, regard this prophecy as one of Isaiah's latest, placed where it is merely on account of its head-tug—the compiler having placed all the "burdens" against foreign countries together.

Isaiah 19:1

The Lord rideth upon a swift cloud. Natural imagery to express the rapidity of Divine visitations (comp. Psalms 104:3). God, being about to visit Egypt with a judgment of extreme severity, is represented as entering the land in person (so in Isaiah 13:5). The idols of Egypt shall be moved. Neither Piankhi nor any other Ethiopian conqueror made war on the Egyptian idols; but the Assyrians were always bent on humbling the gods of the hostile countries (see above, Isaiah 10:10; and comp. Isaiah 36:18-20). We have no detailed account of Esarhaddon's campaign; but we find Asshur-bani-pal's first victory over Tirhakah immediately followed by the presentation to him in his camp of Egyptian deities, i.e. of their images. These were probably taken to Nineveh, or else destroyed. At a later date, the same monarch deprived an Egyptian temple of two of its sacred obelisks. The heart of Egypt shall molt (coup. Isaiah 13:7; Psalms 22:14).

Isaiah 19:2

I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians. The disintegration of Egypt commenced about B.C. 760-750, towards the close of the twenty-second dynasty. About B.C. 735 a struggle began between Plan-khi, King of Upper Egypt, and Tafnekhf, King of Sais and Memphis, in which the other princes took different sides. Ten or twelve years later there was a struggle between Bocchoris and Sabaeo. From this time onwards, until Psamatik I. reestablished the unity of Egypt, the country was always more or less divided, and on the occurrence of any crisis the princes were apt to make war one up, n another. Kingdom against kingdom. During the period of disintegration, the title of" king" was assumed by most of the potty princes, though they were little more than chiefs of cities.

Isaiah 19:3

They shall seek to the idols. The Egyptians believed that their gods gave them oracles. Menephthah claims to have been warned by Phthah, the god of Memphis, not to take the field in person against the Libyans when they invaded the Delta, but to leave the task of contending with them to his generals. Herodotus speaks of there being several well-known oracular shrines in Egypt, the most trustworthy being that of Maut, at the city which he calls Buto. The charmers … them that have familiar spirits … wizards. Classes of men corresponding to the "magicians" and "wise men" of earlier times (Genesis 41:8). (On the large place which magic occupied in the thoughts of the Egyptians, see 'Pulpit Commentary' on Exodus 7:11.) There was no diminution of the confidence reposed in them as time went on; and some remains of their practices seem to survive to the present day.

Isaiah 19:4

The Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord. It has been observed above that Piankhi will not answer to this description. It will, however, well suit Esarhaddon. Esarhaddon, soon after his accession, cut off the heads of Abdi-Milkut, King of Sidon, and of Sanduarri, King of Kundi, and hung them round the necks of two of their chief officers. In an expedition which he made into Arabia, he slew eight of the sovereigns, two of them being women. On conquering Egypt he treated it with extreme severity. Not only did he divide up the country into twenty governments, but he changed the names of the towns, and assigned to his twenty governors, as their main duty, that they were "to slay, plunder, and spoil" their subjects. He certainly well deserved the appellations of "a cruel lord," "a fierce king."

Isaiah 19:5

The waters shall fail from the sea. By "the sea" it is generally allowed that the Nile must be meant, as in Isaiah 18:2 and Nahum 3:8. The failure might be caused by deficient rains in Abyssinia and Equatorial Africa, producing an insufficient inundation. It might be aggravated by the neglect of dykes and canals, which would be the natural consequence of civil disorders. Wasted and dried up; rather, parched and dried up. Allowance must be made for Oriental hyperbole. The meaning is only that there shall be a great deficiency in the water supply. Such a deficiency has often been the cause of terrible famines in Egypt.

Isaiah 19:6

And they shall turn the rivers far away; rather, and the rivers shall stagnate (Cheyne). Probably the canals are intended, as in Exodus 7:19 (see 'Pulpit Commentary,' ad loc.). The brooks of defense shall be emptied. Some render this "brooks of Egypt," regarding matsor as here used for "Mitsraim;" but our translation is more forcible, and may well stand. The "brooks of defense" are those which had hitherto formed the moats round walled cities (comp. Isaiah 37:25; Nahum 3:8). The reeds and flags shall wither. Reeds, flags, rushes, and water-plants of all kinds abound in the backwaters of the Nile, and the numerous ponds and marshes connected with its overflow. These forms of vegetation would be the first to wither on the occurrence of a deficient inundation.

Isaiah 19:7

The paper reeds by the brooks, etc.; rather, the meadows on the river, along the banks of the river, and every seed-plot by the river. The banks of the Nile were partly grass-land (Genesis 41:2, Genesis 41:18), partly cultivated in grain or vegetables (Herod; 2.14), in either case producing the most luxuriant crops. All, however, depended on the inundation, and if that failed, or so far as it failed, the results predicted by the prophet would happen.

Isaiah 19:8

The fishers also shall mourn. The fisherman's trade was extensively practiced in ancient Egypt, and anything which interfered with it would necessarily be regarded as a great calamity. A large class supported itself by the capture and sale of fish fresh or salted. The Nile produced great abundance of fish, both in its main stream and in its canals and backwaters. Lake Moeris also provided an extensive supply (Herod; 2.149). All they that east angle into the brooks; rather, into the river. Fishing with a hook was practiced in Egypt, though not very widely, except as an amusement by the rich. Actual hooks have been found, not very different from modern ones, and representations of angling occur in some of the tombs. Sometimes a line only is used, sometimes a rod and line. They that spread nets. Nets were very much more widely employed than lines and hooks. Ordinarily a dragnet was used; but sometimes small fry were taken in the shallows by means of a double-handled landing-net.

Isaiah 19:9

They that work in fine flax. Linen of great fineness and delicacy was woven in Egypt, for the priests' dresses, for mummy-cloths, and for corselets. Solomon imported "linen yarn" from his Egyptian neighbors (1 Kings 10:28), and the Phoenicians a linen fabric for their sails' (Ezekiel 27:7). In the general decline of Egyptian prosperity, caused by the circumstances of the time, the manufacturers of linen would suffer. They that weave networks; rather, they that weave while clothes. Cotton fabrics are probably intended. Shall be confounded; literally, shall blush, or be ashamed.

Isaiah 19:10

And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof; rather, and the foundations thereof shall be broken, or crushed to pieces (Kay). The rich and noble, the foundations of the fabric of society, seem to be meant. All that make sluices, etc. Translate, all that work for hire (comp. Proverbs 11:18) shall be grieved in soul. The meaning is that all classes, from the highest to the lowest, shall suffer affliction (so Lowth, Gesenius, Knobel, Kay, Cheyne).

Isaiah 19:11

Surely the princes of Zoan are fools. Zoan, or Tanis, which had been an insignificant city since the time of the shepherd-kings, came to the front once more at the time of the struggle between Egypt and Assyria. Esarhaddon made it the head of one of the petty kingdoms into which he divided Egypt. Early in the reign of his son it revolted, in conjunction with Sais and Mendes, but was ere long reduced to subjection by the Assyrians. Its king, Petu-bastes, was taken to Nineveh, and there probably put to death. Its "princes" were, no doubt, among those who counseled resistance to Assyria. The counsel of the wise, etc.; literally, as for the wise counsellors of Pharaoh, their counsel is become senseless. Two classes of advisers seem to be intended—nobles, supposed to be qualified by birth; and "wise men," qualified by study and education. Both would now be found equally incapable. Pharaoh. Probably Tirhakah is intended. It is possible that he was really suzerain of Egypt at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, when Shabatek was nominally king. It is certain that, after the death of Shabatok, he was recognized as sovereign both of Ethiopia and of Egypt, and ruled over both countries. Esarhaddon found him still occupying this position in B.C. 673, when he made his Egyptian expedition. Tirhakah's capital at this time was Memphis. How say ye, etc.? With what face can you boast of your descent, or of your learning, when you are unable to give any sound advice?

Isaiah 19:12

Where are they? where, etc.? rather, Where, then, are thy wise men? If thou hast any, let them come forward anti predict the coming course of events, what Jehovah has determined to do (compare similar challenges in the later chapters of the book, Isaiah 41:21-23; Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 48:14, etc.).

Isaiah 19:13

The princes of Noph. There are no grounds for changing "Noph" into "Moph." "Noph" is probably "Napata," known as "Nap" in the hieroglyphic inscriptions—the original capital of the Ethiopian kings, and, when Memphis had become their capital, still probably regarded as the second city of the empire. The "princes of Noph" would be Tirhakah's counselors. They have also, etc. Translate, Even they have led Egypt astray, who are the corner-stone of her tribes. Strictly speaking, there were no "tribes" in Egypt, much less "castes," but only classes, marked out by strong lines of demarcation the one from the other. Herodotus gives seven of them—priests, soldiers, herdsmen, swineherds, tradesmen, interpreters, and boatmen. But there were several others also, e.g. agricultural laborers, fishermen, artisans, official employee, etc.

Isaiah 19:14

The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit, etc. "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6). To bring Egypt into so distracted a state, the hand of God had been necessary. He had introduced into the nation "a spirit of perverseness." Those in whom this spirit was had then "led Egypt astray in all her doings." They had made her "like a drunken man," who "staggers" along his path, and slips in "his own vomit." Long-continued success and prosperity produces often a sort of intoxication in a nation.

Isaiah 19:15

Neither shall there be, etc. Translate, And there shall be for Egypt no work in which both the head and the tail, both the palm branch and the rush, may (conjointly) work. The general spirit of perverseness shall prevent all union of high with low, rich with poor.

Isaiah 19:16

In that day; or, at that time; i.e. when the Assyrian invasion comes. Shall Egypt be like unto women (comp. Jeremiah 51:30). So Xerxes said of his fighting men at Salamis: "My men have become women" (Herod; 8.88). Because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord (comp. Isaiah 11:15 and Isaiah 30:32). The Egyptians would scarcely recognize Jehovah as the Author of their calamities, but it would none the less be his hand which punished them.

Isaiah 19:17

The land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt. In Manasseh's reign Judaea became subject to Assyria, and had to take part in the hostile expeditions, which both Esarhaddon and his son, Asshurbanipal, conducted against Egypt. Egypt had to keep her eye on Judaea continually, to see when danger was approaching her. If is not likely that Isaiah's prophecies caused the "terror" here spoken of. Every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid; rather, when any one maketh mention thereof, they shall turn to him in fear. The very mention of Judaea by any one shall cause fear, because they will expect to hear that an expedition has started, or is about to start, from that country. Because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts. This is how Isaiah views the Assyrian attacks on Egypt, not how the Egyptians viewed them. The fear felt by the Egyptians was not a religious fear. They simply dreaded the Assyrian armies, and Judaea as the country from which the expeditions seemed to issue.

Isaiah 19:18-22

THE TURNING OF EGYPT TO JEHOVAH. The chastisement of the Egyptians shall be followed, after a while, by a great change. Influences from Canaan shall penetrate Egypt (Isaiah 19:18), an altar shall be raised in her midst to Jehovah (Isaiah 19:19), and she herself shall cry to him for succor (Isaiah 19:20) and be delivered (Isaiah 19:20). Egypt shall even become a part of Jehovah's kingdom, shall "know him," and serve him with sacrifice and oblation (Isaiah 19:21), and perform her vows to Jehovah, and have her supplications heard by him, and be converted and healed (Isaiah 19:22).

Isaiah 19:18

In that day. Not really the day of vengeance, but that which, in the prophet's mind, is most closely connected with it—the day of restitution—whereof he has spoken perpetually (Isaiah 1:25-27; Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 6:13, etc.). The two are parts of one scheme of things, and belong in the prophet's mind to one time. Shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan. It is quite true, as Mr. Cheyne remarks, that the Eastern Delta was from a very early date continually more and more Semitized by an influx of settlers from Palestine, and that Egyptian literature bears strong marks of this linguistic influence. But this is scarcely what the prophet intends to speak about. He is not interested in philology. What he means is that there will be an appreciable influx into Egypt of Palestinian ideas, thoughts, and sentiments. "Five" is probably used as a "round" number. The first manifest fulfillment of the prophecy was at the foundation of Alexandria, when the Jews were encouraged to become settlers by the concession of important privileges (Josephus, 'Contr. Ap.,' Isaiah 2:4), and where they ultimately became the predominant element in the population, amounting, according to Philo ('In Flaec.,' § 6), to nearly a million souls. The next great Palestinian influx was under Ptolemy YI. (Philometor), when Onias fled from Palestine with a number of his partisans, and obtained permission to erect a Jewish temple near Heliopelis. The site of this temple is probably marked by the ruins at Tel-el-Yahoudeh. It seems to have been a center to a number of Jewish communities in the neighborhood. In this double way Jehovah became known to Egypt before Christianity. A Christian Church was early established in Alexandria, possibly by St. Mark. Swear to the Lord of hosts; i.e. "swear fidelity to him." One shall be called, The city of destruction. Some manuscripts read 'Ir-ha-Kheres, "City of the Sun," for 'Ir-ha-heres, "City of Destruction," in which case the reference would be plainly to Heliopelis, which was in the immediate neighborhood of Tel-el-Yahoudeh, and which in the Ptolemaic period may well have fallen under Jewish influence. Even if 'Ir-ha-heres stand as the true reading, the name may still have been given with allusion to Heliopolis, the prophet intending to say, "That city which was known as the City of the Sun-God shall become known as the City of Destruction of the Sun-God and of idolatrous worship generally." That Heliopolis did actually fall under Jewish influence in the Ptolemaic period appears from a remarkable passage of Polyhistor, who says of the Exodus and the passage of the Red Sea, "The Memphites say that Moses, being well acquainted with the district, watched the ebb of the tide, and so led the people across the dry bed of the sea; but they of Heliopolis affirm that the king, at the head of a vast force, and having the sacred animals also with him, pursued after the Jews, because they were carrying away with them the riches which they had borrowed from the Egyptians. Then, "they say," the voice of God commanded Moses to smite the sea with his rod, and divide it; and Moses, when he heard, touched the water with it, and so the sea parted asunder, and the host marched through on dry ground." Such an account of the Exodus would scarcely have been given by Egyptians unless they were three parts Hebraized.

Isaiah 19:19

There shall be an altar to the Lord. An altar to the Lord was undoubtedly erected by Onias in the temple which he obtained leave to build from Ptolemy Philometor. Josephus says that he persuaded Ptolemy by showing him this passage of Isaiah ('Ant. Jud.,' 13.3; 'Bell. Jud.,' 7.10). And a pillar at the border thereof. It is not clear that any "pillar" was ever actually erected. The erection of pillars for religious purposes was forbidden by the Law (Deuteronomy 16:22). But this would be a pillar of witness (Genesis 31:52), and would mark that the land was Jehovah's. Dr. Kay suggests that "the Jewish synagogue first, and afterwards the Christian Church at Alexandria, standing like a lofty obelisk, with the name of Jehovah inscribed upon it, at the entrance of Egypt," sufficiently fulfilled the prophecy.

Isaiah 19:20

It shall be for a sign. The outward tokens of Jehovah-worship shall witness to God that he has in Egypt now a covenant people, and he will deal with them accordingly. He shall send them a savior, and a great one. This does not seem to point to any earthly deliverer, but to the Savior from the worst of all oppressors, sin and Satan, whom they will need equally with the rest of his people.

Isaiah 19:21

The Lord shall be known; rather, shall make himself known, as in Ezekiel 20:5, Ezekiel 20:9; by answering prayer, by spiritual influences, and the like. The Egyptians shall know the Lord (comp. Jeremiah 31:34, "They shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest"). And shall do sacrifice and oblation; rather, shall serve with sacrifice and oblation. The bulk of the Jews settled in Egypt, together with their Egyptian proselytes, went up year by year to worship Jehovah at Jerusalem, and make offerings to him there (see Zechariah 14:16-19). Christian Egypt worshipped God with sacrifice and oblation in the same sense as the rest of the Church (Malachi 1:11).

Isaiah 19:22

And Jehovah shall smite Egypt, smiting and healing; i.e. Jehovah shall indeed "smite Egypt," as already prophesied (Isaiah 19:1-16), but it shall be with a merciful object, in order, after smiting, to "heal." His smiting shall induce them to "return" to him, and when they return he will forgive and save (comp. Zephaniah 3:8, Zephaniah 3:9; Jeremiah 12:14-16). Egypt was a Christian country from the third century to the seventh; and the Coptic Church (though very corrupt) still remains, knowing Jehovah, and offering the holy oblation of the Christian altar continually.

Isaiah 19:23-25

UNION BETWEEN EGYPT, ASSYRIA, AND ISRAEL. Assyria's conversion to God will follow or accompany that of Egypt. The two will be joined with Israel in an intimate connection, Israel acting as the intermediary. There will be uninterrupted communication, common worship, and the common blessing of God extending over the three.

Isaiah 19:23

Shall there be a highway. The phraseology resembles that of Isaiah 11:16; but the purpose is different. Then the "highway" was to facilitate the return of the Israelites to their own land. Now the object is perfectly free communication between the three peoples. The Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. "Shall serve" means "shall worship" (see verse 21). The "Assyrians" represent the inhabitants of the Mesopotamian regions generally. As, from the time of Alexander, Hebrew influence extended itself largely over Egypt, so, even from an earlier date, it began to be felt in the Mesopotamian countries. The transplantation of the ten tribes, or a considerable portion of them, into Upper Mesopotamia and Media, was the commencement of a diffusion of Hebrew ideas through those regions. The captivity of Judah still further impressed these ideas on the native races. Great numbers of Jews did not return from the Captivity, but remained in the countries and cities to which they had been trans ported, particularly in Babylon (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 11.1). The policy of the Seleucid princes was to establish Jewish colonies in all their great cities. In the time between Alexander and the birth of our Lord, the Hebrew community was re cognized as composed of three great sections—the Palestinian, the Egyptian, and the Syro-Babylonian. Constant communication was maintained between the three branches. Ecclesiastical regulations, framed at Jerusalem, were transmitted to Alexandria and Babylon, while collections made in all parts of Egypt and Mesopotamia for the temple service were annually carried to the Palestinian capital by trusty persons. It is thus quite reasonable to regard as an "initial stage in the fulfillment of this prophecy" the state of things existing at this period (Kay). The more complete fulfillment was doubtless after Pentecost, when Christianity was preached and established in Egypt and Libya on the one hand, in Parthia, and Media, and Elam, and Mesopotamia on the other (Acts 2:9, Acts 2:10).

Isaiah 19:24

In that day shall Israel be the third; rather, a third. Not third in rank, for Isaiah 19:25 shows that she would retain a pre-eminence, but the common intermediary, brining the other two together. A blessing in the midst of the land; rather, in the midst of the earth. Judaean monotheism, upheld by God's people in Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, would be a blessing, not only to those three countries, but to the world at large. So, and still more, would Christianity.

Isaiah 19:25

Whom the Lord of hosts bless; rather, forasmuch as the Lord of hosts hath blessed him. "Him" must be understood collectively, of the threefold Israel, spread through the three countries, which all partake of the blessing. The three countries are able to be a blessing to the world at large, because God's blessing rests upon them. Egypt my people. Egypt's great work in Jewish times, by which she became a blessing to the world, was her translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, commanded by Egyptian kings, and executed at Alexandria, the Egyptian capital. Neo-Platonism certainly owed much to this source. Stoicism probably something. Assyria the work of my hands. Assyria did no such work as Egypt. Neither the Targum of Onkelos nor the Babylonian Talmud can be compared for a moment with the Septuagint. Still the Mesopotamian Jews were a blessing to their neighbors. They kept alive in the East the notion of one true and spiritual God; they elevated the tone of men's thoughts; they were a perpetual protest against idolatry, with all its horrors. They, no doubt, prepared the way for that acceptance of Christianity by large masses of the population in Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and even in Persia, of which we have evidence in the ecclesiastical history of the first seven centuries. Israel mine inheritance (comp. Isaiah 47:6; Isaiah 63:17).


Isaiah 19:1-17

Egypt's punishment, a proof both of God's song-suffering and of His inexorable justice.

The punishment of Egypt by the Assyrian conquest, on which the prophet enlarges in this chapter, may be regarded in a double light.


1. Consider the long persistence of Egypt in sins of various kinds—idolatry, king-worship, practice of magic, kidnapping of slaves, cruel usage of captives, impurity, indecency; consider that her monarchy had lasted at least sixteen hundred years, and that both in religion and in morals she had continually grown worse.

2. Bear in mind her treatment of God's people—how she had first oppressed them (Exodus 1:8-14), then endeavored to exterminate them (Exodus 1:15-22); this failing, made their bondage harder (Exodus 5:6-19); repeatedly refused to let them go; sought to destroy them at the Red Sea (Exodus 15:9); plundered them in the time of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25, 1 Kings 14:26); alternately encouraged and deserted them in their struggles against Assyria (1 Kings 17:4; 1 Kings 18:21, 1 Kings 18:24).

3. Note also that she had helped to corrupt God's people. In Egypt many Israelites had worshipped the Egyptian gods (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:8). They had brought from Egypt an addiction to magical practices which had never left them. Manasseh, in calling his eldest son "Amon," intended to acknowledge the Egyptian god of that name. Under these circumstances, it is marvelous that Egypt had been allowed to exist so long, and, on the whole, to flourish; and the marvel can only be accounted for by the extreme long-suffering and extraordinary mercy of Almighty God.

II. AS A DECISIVE PROOF OF GOD'S INEXORABLE JUSTICE. However long God defers the punishment of sin, it comes at last with absolute certainty. It might have seemed as if the hardships suffered by his people in Egypt had escaped God's recollection, so many years was it since they had happened. It might have seemed as if all Egypt's old sins were condoned—as if she was to escape unpunished. Sixteen centuries of empire! Why, Rome herself, the "iron kingdom," that "broke in pieces and bruised" all things (Daniel 2:4), was not allowed more than twelve centuries of existence. But Egypt was allowed a far longer term, not only of existence, but of prosperity. Since the time of the shepherd-kings, four hundred years before the Exodus, she had suffered no great calamity. Even the Ethiopians had not been so much foreign conquerors, as princes connected by blood and identical in religion, who claimed the crown by right of descent from former Egyptian sovereigns. But God had all the time been waiting, with his eye upon the sinful nation, counting her offences, remembering them against her, and bent on taking vengeance. And the vengeance, when it came, was severe. First, internal discord and civil war—"kingdom against kingdom, and city against city" (verse 2); then conquest by an alien nation—conquest effected by at least three distinct expeditions, in which the whole land was overrun, the cities taken and plundered, and army after army slaughtered; finally, subjection to a "fierce king," a "cruel lord" (verse 4). And the sufferings of war aggravated, apparently, by the natural calamity of a great drought—a failure of the inundation either for one year, or possibly for several (verses 5-8). Truly, when the day of vengeance came, Egypt was afflicted indeed! No wonder she "was afraid, and feared because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of hosts" (verse 16). It is, indeed, "a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

Isaiah 19:22

Smiting and healing closely connected in God's counsels.

God's smiting is no doubt twofold,

Once only has he visited mankind at large penalty—at the Deluge; but a thousand times has he visited them remedially. Similarly with nations. He smote Egypt in Moses' time with the ten plagues, not to destroy, but to chasten. So again at the Red Sea. So now by the hands of Esarhaddon and his son. So by Nebuchadnezzar, Cambyses, Ochus. And at last he bowed their hearts and caused them to turn to him, first partially, when Judaism gained an influence over them; afterwards, as a nation, when they accepted Christianity. Former chastisements had doubtless some remedial force, or the nation would scarcely have been borne with so long; but they did not fully heal, and blow after blow became requisite. So God went on "smiting and healing." And the course of his providence is similar with individuals. Primarily he smites to heal. Each offence brings down his red, but the stroke is comparatively light at first, and intended to warn, admonish, call to amendment. If men persist in wrong courses, the blows become heavier. But still the intention is the same; it is sought to bring them to repentance. God has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. Only after repeated trials, after blow upon blow, warning upon warning, if they will not repent, if they will not be healed, the penal sentence goes forth to "pluck up and destroy" (Jeremiah 12:17).

Isaiah 19:23, Isaiah 19:24

Unity in religion joins together the bitterest foes.

As, ultimately, the establishment of the kingdom of Christ among all the nations of the earth (Isaiah 2:2) will produce a reign of universal peace, so that men will everywhere "beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks" (Isaiah 2:4), so, on a lesser scale, wherever true religion prevails, asperities are softened, old enmities die out and disappear, a friendly spirit springs up, and former adversaries are reconciled and become friends. Assyria, Egypt, Israel, long the bitterest foes, were drawn together by a common faith in the later days of Judaism and the earlier ones of Christianity—felt sympathy one with another, and lived in harmony. The Papacy was an attempt to bring all the Roman communion into a species of political unity, to abolish wars between its various members, and unite it against heathendom. This attempt had, however, only a partial success, owing to the admixture of bad with good motives in those who were at the head of the movement and had the direction of it. That war has not yet ceased among all Christian nations is a slur upon Christianity, and an indication that nations are still Christian in name rather than in spirit. The league of Assyria, Egypt, Israel, may well be held up to the modern Christian world as an example that should shame it into the adoption of "peace principles." If such foes, so fiercely hostile, so long estranged, could become close friends through the influence of a community of religion, why cannot the Christian nations of modern times attain to a similar unity?


Isaiah 19:1-4

Coming judgment upon Egypt.

The historical allusions in this passage cannot be positively cleared up. So far as the discovery of inscriptions in recent years enables us to lift a little the veil which hangs over the land, we see it shaken to the center by the wars of rival chieftains. A victory of Sargon over the Egyptian king Shabatok, in B.C. 720, has been made out from Assyrian inscriptions; and, again, the conquest of Egypt by Esarhaddon in B.C. 672, who divided the land into twenty small tributary kingdoms. The chapter may refer to this event, and it may not (see Cheyne's Introduction to the chapter).

I. THE ADVENT OF JEHOVAH. "He rideth upon a swift cloud" (comp. Psalms 18:10, "He rode upon a cherub, and did fly;" comp. Psalms 104:3). To study those magnificent winged figures, which pass generally under the name of griffins, in our museums and works of art, and as they are described by Ezekiel in the land of captivity (1.), may be the best way to realize the significance of this poetry. We must throw ourselves into that mood of mind in which all life and movement in nature is symbolic of the infinite power and majesty of the Divine Being—audibly the wind, visibly the strong gathering cloud upon the horizon. This picture, then, is a hint

The "not gods" of Egypt shall shake before him. He comes to judge them. The God of Israel is on his way to punish the teeming multitudes of Memphis, Pharaoh, and Egypt, and their gods and kings. The idols are to be destroyed, their images are to cease; and the secular power, which has been supported by a false religion, shall be laid low (comp. Exodus 12:12; Jeremiah 46:25; Ezekiel 30:13). A striking contrast is suggested between the pure sublime religion of Jehovah and the debased worship of the Egyptians, whose reverence for cats, and bulls, and crocodiles, and onions attracted the satire of later times. How could such worshippers do other than tremble, their heart melting within them at the approach of the light that reveals and judges the voluntary darknesses and confusions of the mind? As Calvin remarks, we should behold the same thing exemplified in all revolutions of kingdoms, which proceed solely from the hand of God. If the heart melts and the strength fails in men who are usually brave, and who had formerly displayed great courage, this ought to be ascribed to the judgment of God.


1. Internal dissension. One canton is set against another. There will be the feud of brother with brother, fellow with fellow, city with city, and kingdom with kingdom. Men's hearts are in the hand of God. Whenever we see in a nation social dissension setting in, unity and co-operation no longer possible, it is a sign that a new force is at work, that a new light has come in, that existing customs are being criticized, in short, that "God has awoke to judgment." Such times are times for self-scrutiny, for thoughtful study, for earnest prayer.

2. The sense of the hollowness of existing institutions. Terrible is it when a nation suddenly awakens to find its strongest ideals reduced to empty and mocking delusions; terrible also for the individual. The "heart made empty." Sometimes it is a "science falsely so called;" sometimes a spurious faith, which is suddenly found to be a leaking cistern, and the water of life has fled. Under these conditions there will be a feverish outbreak of old superstition. Men will resort to the "not gods" and to the "spiritualists"—the "mutterers," who pretend to give voices and messages from the other world. So men have done in our time. The history of the heart repeats itself from age to age. If men have not genuine religion, they must have the counterfeit of it; and they will love the lie and cling to the cheat when the possibility of the truth is no longer within reach.

3. Subjection to the tyrant. The land will be shut up into the hand of a hard lord, and a fierce king shall rule over them. And is not tyranny the last sign of Divine displeasure, as viewed from another side it is the last sign of degeneracy and weakness in a nation's manhood? "Hence we see how great is the folly of men who are desirous to have a powerful and wealthy king reigning over them, and how justly they are punished for their ambition, though it cannot be corrected by the experience of every day, which is everywhere to be seen in the world" (Calvin).—J.

Isaiah 19:5-10

The drying up of the Nile.

Nothing has left a deeper mark on the traditions of Eastern lands than the impressions of burning heat, the drying up of springs, the consequent suffering. Egypt was the "gift of the Nile," Herodotus said. Well might the presence or absence of its waters denote the pleasure or the wrath of Deity.

I. THE DESCRIPTION. The Pelusiac arm of the Nile is dried. The neglected canals, dykes, and reservoirs become stagnant, the vegetation withers. The bright oasis of the Nile will melt away into the surrounding desert. The canals, first undertaken as a necessary work of civilization and culture, become naturally neglected and choked up in time of civil war.

II. THE EFFECTS ON PEACEFUL INDUSTRY. Besides agriculture there were three main sources of Egyptian wealth: the fishing, the linen manufacture, and the cotton manufacture. There was abundance of fish in the Nile, and it was a great article of food. The combed flax was prepared for the priests' clothing and for the mummy-cloths, and the cotton for dress in general. The result is universal consternation in all ranks and classes. The wealthy classes, the "pillars" of the land, and the artisan population are alike in despair.

III. THE COINCIDENCE OF THE SPIRITUAL AND THE NATURAL WORLD. A fertile land, an industrious people, peace and plenty, the favor of God,—these are ideas that He linked together in the thought of the prophet, forming one causal chain. The displeasure of Jehovah, the effect in war, and this, again, working desolation in the face of nature and cutting at the root of industry,—these form another chain of connected representations. From the sources and springs of the mighty Nile up to the seat of thought, passion, and motion in the mightier human heart, all are in the hands of Jehovah. Alike in every occupation of the industrial and of the political and intellectual world, let us own our dependence upon him.—J.

Isaiah 19:11-15

The folly of statesmen.

God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world, in Egypt as in other lands. And the marks and characters of folly are everywhere the same.

I. THE SPIRIT OF BOASTING. The king and his priestly counselors possess sacred books, which they consult as a college in times of emergency. The priests boast of being "sons of the wise," and sons of ancient kings. The Pharaoh himself belonged to the royal stock. Boasting is ever a sign of weakness. The strong man needs not to talk of his strength; he feels it, and others feel it. Wisdom is distinguished by the absence of self-conceit, and is impressive by its silence and modesty.


1. Inability to read the signs of the times. Prediction was their favorite occupation; how is it they cannot read the thoughts of Jehovah toward the land? They resort to false methods—astrology, divination, etc. Truth may not really be loved, or it may be sought by paths that can only lead away from it. It is not by mere reading, it is not by digging in quaint and curious lore, that we can arrive at sympathy with the mind of God. All the learning of the schools is folly unless we keep the light within brightly burning, the conscience clear, the mind, if not the knees, ever bent in the attitude of uplooking and prayer.

2. Bad administration. They lead the country astray. The priestly class, that is, the intellectual and educated class, looked upon as the "corner-stone of the tribes," are themselves under an illusion, and their "light and leading" is an ignis-fastus. We are too much dazzled by the acuteness, the knowledge, the abilities, the vast grasp of facts, in our great men. Often the cleverness of such overreaches itself, and great men stumble and fall, and" run into great dangers which any peasant or artisan would have foreseen." They become inebriated by their own thoughts. But it ever sobers the mind to collect itself, so to speak, in God. "This wit, this insight, is mine, peculiarly mine"—he who speaks with himself thus—is on the brink of some fatal delusion. "It is God's peculiar gift to me; it is a talent from him, to be used for his world"—this is the thought that steadies; and "if our Wisdom rest on God, he wilt truly be a steadfast Corner-stone, which no one shall shake or overthrow."

III. JUDICIAL INFATUATIONS. These delusions are traced to the judicial act of Jehovah. It is he who has put a cup of enchantment to their lips, so that the power of discernment is suspended. The image of drunkenness fitly represents their state. It is a spirit of "perverseness," or of "subversion." And the people have imbibed the same, so that they stagger about helplessly; there is no consistency, no agreement, no firm and joint action. It is an awful thing—the being "given over to a reprobate mind." Nor dare we accuse the Almighty of injustice. We are ready enough to throw the blame of our own aberrations upon others, upon circumstances, or even upon him. But what "right" have we to anything, from the light of the sun to the light of reason in the soul? God gives and God deprives, for reasons inscrutable to us and no[, to be questioned. But, "the heart has reasons that reason knows not of;" and the heart knows that, if its choice be true, its asking will not be refused, the needed guidance will not be denied.—J.

Isaiah 19:16-25

Mingled judgment and mercy.

I. THE EFFECT OF JUDGMENT. The hind will be like timid and trembling women, for the mighty hand of Jehovah will be brandished aloft in judgment. Whenever it is felt that Divine power is working on the side of the foe, the most warlike nations lose heart. "God with us!"—a watchword that nerves the feeblest arm, and fills the faintest heart with courage. "God against us!"—the hand of the bravest hangs down, the knees of the stoutest tremble. Judah, Jehovah's seat of empire, will be a terror to the proud land of Egypt. The seeming weakest community, the most insignificant individual, will be a power if the truth is operating through it. It is not magnitude that is appalling; it is spiritual force. Men will shudder at the Name of Judah; it will be a symbol of a purpose never successfully resisted. But when thus the prospect is at its darkest for Egypt, a light of hope glimmers.


1. A view of Egypt's conversion to the true religion here opens. There will be five cities speaking the tongue of Canaan, or Hebrew, the language of the worship of Jehovah. They will take the oath of loyalty to him. And it seems that the city known as "city of the sun" shall be called" city of the breaking down of idolatrous altars." And an altar of the true religion, with the pillar marking the holy place, will be seen, visibly witnessing to the Lord of hosts in the land. There is now a covenant between Jehovah and the repentant and restored land. He will no longer be their Foe, but their Friend; and when they cry to him, in the midst of distress and oppression, he will hearken, and send a Helper and Deliverer. The people will sacrifice to him, and he will make himself known; Whether in the land or at Jerusalem (comp. Zechariah 14:16-19) is not stated.

2. This cannot be without previous suffering. Never does conversion from evil, from obstinate persistence in it, occur without suffering. But the suffering is beneficent, inflicted by love. God smites to heal. It is a thought echoed back from many a page: "I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and heal; He has torn, and he will heal us; hath smitten, and will bind us up;" "He wounds, and his hands make whole" (Deuteronomy 32:39; Hosea 6:1; Job 5:18). The fire of his wrath consumes, but purifies. "Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the Name of Jehovah, to serve him with one consent" (Zephaniah 3:8, Zephaniah 3:9). There lives a fund of pity in the heart and constitution of nature—compassion in Jehovah, the Hebrew prophet said (Jeremiah 12:14, Jeremiah 12:15). "God does not punish that he may punish, but that he may humble; wherefore, when humility is produced, his punishments proceed no further. God is of too great mercy to triumph over a prostrate soul" (South).

III. THE HAPPY RESULT. Peace replacing war, trust substituted for mutual hate. There is to be intercourse between Egypt and Assyria, a free highway between the two lands. Nay, there shall be a triple alliance, Israel being the third, and blessing is thus to be diffused over all the earth. Where Jehovah's blessing is, there is and must be prosperity. Thus have the clouds dispersed, and the golden year seems to have begun, "peace lying like a lane of beams across the sea, like a shaft of light athwart the land."

PERSONAL APPLICATION. To avoid national judgment, to secure the Divine favor, let each inquire into his own sins. Personal sins bring down national judgments. If there were no personal, there could be no national sin. In punishing the many, God does not overlook the individual. There is no suffering of a nation without the suffering of its members, no repentance which is not that of men one by one, no prosperity and favor which is not reflected from a million faces and hearts. There is infinite ground of hope from the promises of God, and from their actual fulfillment.—J.


Isaiah 19:1

God's presence a trouble.

"Behold the Lord … shall come into Egypt … and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it." The presence of God would produce consternation among the people. This is significant enough. It need excite no wonder, indeed, that the coming of the holy and righteous One into the midst of those who had provoked him by their idolatries would result in quaking of spirit, in liveliest agitation. What could await such guilty ones but the most serious rebuke, the most distressing judgments? But the presence of God is not only troublous to idolatrous Egyptians, but to his own servants. So the prophet himself found (Isaiah 6:5). The psalmist "remembered God, and was troubled" (Psalms 77:3). Why is this? Concerning the trouble which the presence of God brings to the human spirit, we remark—

I. THAT HIS KNOWN NEARNESS TO US AND POWER OVER US MIGHT BE EXPECTED TO PRECLUDE SUCH ALARM. Why should we be concerned to find God appearing unto us? Do we not know well that he is "not far from any one of us;" that "in him we live and move and have our being?" Do we not know that he is judging our actions and our attitude toward himself every moment, and is, moreover, expressing his judgment by Divine bestowals and inflictions day by day? Why should terror or alarm, or even apprehension, seize us because he manifests himself to us, and constrains us to feel conscious that we are standing in his near presence? But, however we may reason thus, it is the fact—

II. THAT OBSERVATION AND EXPERIENCE UNITE TO PROVE THAT HIS FELT PRESENCE DOES TROUBLE US. Both Old Testament and New Testament history show that any visitant from the unseen world causes "the heart to melt;" and if any mere messenger (angel), how much more he who reigns over all that realm—the Divine and eternal Spirit himself? And we find now that when men, in the full possession of their spiritual faculties, have believed themselves to be in, or to be about to pass into, the near presence of the Eternal, their spirit has shrunk and trembled at the thought. We ask—

III. THE EXPLANATION OF THE FACT. The explanation is found in two things.

1. In our sense of God's greatness, and the corresponding consciousness of our own littleness. Those who move in a humble social sphere are agitated when they find themselves in the near presence of human rank, especially of high rank, more especially of royalty; how much more so when men feel themselves to be (or to be about to be) before the King of kings, the infinite God!

2. In our sense of God's holiness and the corresponding consciousness of our own imperfection and sin.

Isaiah 19:2-10

A picture of penalty.

The threatened penalty of Egypt as painted by the prophet here will, on examination, be found to be essentially the penalty with which God causes sin to be visited always and everywhere.

I. STRIFE, especially internal strife (Isaiah 19:2). The guilty nation will find itself plunged into civil war (Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, America—northern and southern states, etc.), or rent with bitter and vindictive factions; the guilty family will have its domestic harmony destroyed by petty broils and miserable disagreements; the individual soul will be compelled to expend its powers in internal strife—conscience having a long and perhaps desperate struggle with passion; reason, which urges to immediate decision, contending with the evil spirit of procrastination; the will to submit to Divine demands doing stern, protracted battle with a desire to conform to the good pleasure of the unholy and the unwise.

II. DELUSION. (Isaiah 19:3.) As the, Egyptians, paying the penalty of disobedience, were to abandon the counsels of human wisdom for the fancies and fooleries of the juggler, so will men find that sin leads down from the guidance of reason to the dictates of folly and the misleadings of delusion. It is not long before the sinner experiences "the deceitfulness of sin;" before he finds that he does not impose ca other men half so much as he is imposed upon, or as he imposes on himself. He comes to think that utterances which are earthly, or of lower origin than that, are the voices of heaven; he "calls evil good, and good evil;" counsel which he ought to abjure as diabolical, he deems excellent and wise; neglecting truths and principles which would be his salvation, he falls back upon sentiments which lead down, with certain path, to innermost and uttermost ruin.

III. BONDAGE. (Isaiah 19:4.) It is one of the most certain and one of the saddest penalties of sin that the wrong-doer is handed over to the despotism of "a cruel lord." By what truer or more descriptive terms could these enemies of the soul be characterized into whose iron grasp the transgressor falls? Is not the insatiable craving for strong drink or for the hurtful narcotic a "cruel lord?" What but cruel lords are covetousness, ambition, lasciviousness, the voracity or extreme delicacy of those "whose God is their belly"—the passion which demands and will not be denied, which consumes the time, which saps the energy, which steals the manhood that should be devoted to nobler ends, that should be laid on a worthier altar? The victims of vice are "holden with the cords of their sins;" they are "in the hand of a cruel lord," who will make them pay "the uttermost farthing."

IV. SHRINKAGE. (Isaiah 19:5-10.) Egypt should be pitiably reduced; the waters of its life-giving river should be wanting (Isaiah 19:5), its vegetation should fade and die (Isaiah 19:6), its industries should be stopped (Isaiah 19:8, Isaiah 19:9), its chief men should be overthrown (Isaiah 19:10). All Egyptian life, through its length and breadth, should be struck a ruinous blow, should shrink from fullness and power into feebleness and decline. Under the dominion of sin, human life suffers a ruinous reduction. Made for God, for his likeness, for his fellowship, for his service, for the highest forms of usefulness and the noblest order of enjoyment, we sink into folly, into selfishness, into smallness of aim and littleness of accomplishment; our lives are narrowed, lessened, shriveled. It is the pitiful penalty of departure from God, of withholding our hearts from our Divine Friend. In Christ we realize the fair and blessed opposites of these. In him is

Isaiah 19:11-14

Leaders that mislead.

The strong, energetic language of the prophet respecting the princes and counselors of Egypt express for us the vast injury which is wrought by untrustworthy teachers in every place and time, and the duty of the people to be on their guard against such seducers (Isaiah 19:13).

I. THE LEADERS THAT MISLEAD. (Isaiah 19:10-13.) These are:

1. In the nation, leading their fellow-countrymen into a false and spurious patriotism; into vain-gloriousness; into luxury and extravagance; into the ruinous error that the fascinations of military glory are preferable to the advantages of peaceful industry, etc.

2. In the Church, leading their fellow-members into theological error; into doctrine which is not a faith but only a philosophy, or which is not a faith so much as a superstition; into indulgence in emotion without the cultivation of Christian morality; or into habits of virtue that do not rest on the basis of personal attachment to God, etc.

3. In the family, leading their children into laxity of belief; into the conviction that worldly success is of greater account than the favor of God and the possession of spiritual integrity; into the practice of dubious habits which tend to immorality or irreligion, etc.

II. THEIR LAMENTABLE RELIGIOUS IGNORANCE. (Isaiah 19:12.) The "wise men" of Egypt could not tell "what the Lord of hosts had purposed; "they did not know his mind. What availed all their other knowledge, all their political sagacity, all their pretentious skill, it they were utterly ignorant of what was in the mind of God? Our leaders of to-day, in whatever sphere they may preside, are useless and worse than useless if they cannot propose those measures, if they cannot commend those doctrines, if they cannot foster those habits and instill those principles, which are according to the mind of God, which contain the will of Jesus Christ. To advise the policy, to repeat the phrases, to build up the character which they themselves received of their fathers, may be wholly inadequate, utterly inapplicable, entirely wrong; what is wanted in our leaders is the power to perceive the mind of God, to especially understand what is "his will concerning us in Christ Jesus," to guide and teach and train so that their disciples shall live in the light of his truth and the enjoyment of his friendship.

III. THE MISCHIEF WHICH THEY WORK. (Isaiah 19:13, Isaiah 19:14.) These men seduced Egypt from the true path, and they led her to err and stagger in false paths. The immensity of the evil which is wrought by False leaders, whether in the nation, the Church, or the home, is seen by regarding it on the negative and on the positive side.

1. They seduce from the saving truth. (1 John 2:26.) They lead men from the fear of the living God; from the faith and love of Jesus Christ; from the produce of the heavenlier graces, and therefore from living the nobler and worthier life; from the possession of a peace which no distractions can disturb, and of a treasure which no thief can steal, and of a hope which triumphs over death.

2. They lead into the saddest and even the grossest evils. Their disciples "err … as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit." A painful but graphic picture of those who are led astray into evil paths, into beliefs which are not only false but shocking, into companionships and alliances which are not only unsatisfactory but demoralizing, into habits which are not only wrong but shameful. It is the duty of the community, in view of the fact that false and foolish leaders have always abounded, and that their influence is disastrous,

Isaiah 19:18-22

Smiting and healing.

We may glean from these verses—

I. THAT THE BLOWS WHICH WE SURFER IN OUR ORDINARY EXPERIENCE COME FROM THE HAND OF GOD. No doubt the various calamities by which Egypt was afflicted came to her in the ordinary ways, and appeared to her citizens as the result of common causes. They accounted for them by reference to general laws, to visible human powers, to known processes and current events. Yet we know them to have been distinctly and decidedly of God, by whatever instrumentalities they may have been brought about. "The Lord shall smite Egypt" (Isaiah 19:22). So now with us; the evils which overtake us—sickness, separation, disappointment, losses, bereavement, etc.—may occur as the result of causes which we can discover and name; nevertheless they may be regarded as visitations, as chastisement, as discipline, from the hand of God.

II. THAT THESE WOUNDS OF GOD'S CAUSING ARE INTENDED BY HIM TO ABOUND UNTO THE HEALTH OF THE WOUNDED SPIRIT. "He shall smite and heal." God's main purpose in smiting was to bring about a far healthier condition than existed before. Afterwards the chastening would "yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness;" and for this end chiefly, if not wholly, it was sent. We are to consider that this is always God's design in sending affliction to his children. He smites that he may heal, and that the new health may be much better than the old—that the blessing gained may greatly outweigh the loss endured (2 Corinthians 4:17). To part with bodily health and to obtain spiritual soundness, to lose material possessions and secure treasures which make "rich toward God,"—this is to be enlarged indeed.


1. The soul addressing itself to God in earnest prayer. "They shall cry unto the Lord" (Isaiah 19:20); "He shall be entreated of them" (Isaiah 19:22). This is an act of returning from folly and forgetfulness unto the God who has been forsaken: "They shall return," etc. (Isaiah 19:22; see also Isaiah 19:21).

2. The soul seeking God's acceptance in his appointed way. "There shall be an altar to the Lord" (Isaiah 19:19). However interpreted, this passage points to the special means appointed by God through Moses for obtaining forgiveness of sin, and suggests to us the one way—repentance and faith—by which we must seek and may find the Divine mercy.

3. Profession of attachment to God. These five cities should "swear to the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 19:18), The pillar at the border would perhaps be an obelisk, making mention of his Name as the One that was worthy of human adoration.

4. The service of the lip. They would "speak the language of Canaan"—the language spoken by the people of God. Language is far from being everything, but it is far from being nothing (Psalms 19:4; Matthew 12:37; Romans 10:10). By truthful, kindly, helpful speech, and in sacred song, we may do much in serving and in pleasing God.

5. Consecration. "They shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and shall perform it;" the solemn presentation of self unto a Divine Savior and a lifelong redemption of the vow.—C.

Isaiah 19:23, Isaiah 19:24

The crown of privilege.

The promise of the text may not have seemed to Israel so gracious and so inspiring as many others; but it was one that might well have been considered surpassingly good. For it predicted that the time would come when Israel should be closely associated as "a third" with two great world-powers- Egypt and Assyria; not, indeed, to triumph over them, but to be "a blessing in the midst" of them. This is the very crown of privilege. Concerning privilege itself we may consider—

I. ITS UNDOUBTED EXISTENCE. There are "elect" nations and individuals; it is not only a truth written in the pages of Scripture, but a fact confirmed by all testimony and observation, that God has conferred on some much more than he has allotted to others. To one nation (man) he gives one talent, to another two, and to another five. Physical strength, intellectual capacity, force of character, material wealth and natural advantages, knowledge, revealed truth,—these are some of the privileges by which 'men and nations are favored.

II. ITS PERIL. The great danger attending the possession of privilege is that of entirely mistaking the object of the Creator in conferring it; of assuming that he bestowed it simply for the gratification or the exaltation of its recipients. This was the disastrous mistake which the Jews made: hence their spiritual arrogance, their selfishness, their pitiable exclusiveness, their misreading of Scripture, their maltreatment of their Messiah. It is a mistake we are all tempted to make; it is one against which we do welt to guard with the utmost vigilance; for it is a sinful one, and one that carries ruin in its train.

III. ITS CROWN. This is to be "a blessing in the midst of the land;" to be a bond of union between other powers—a "third" to the Egypt and Assyria by which we may be surrounded. Privileged lands, like England, find their crown, not in military successes, nor in annexations, nor even in well-filled banks or well-fitted vessels; but in giving free institutions to neighboring or even distant nations, in conveying the message of Divine mercy to heathen lands, "in being a blessing in the midst of the earth." Privileged men find the crown of their life, not in possession, nor in enjoyment, nor in conscious superiority to others "that are without;" but in distributing, in imparting, in making others partakers of the peace and joy and hope that fill their own hearts, in broadening the belt of light on which they stand, in sowing the seed of the kingdom in land which now bears only briers and thorns, in being "a blessing in the midst of the land."C.

Isaiah 19:25

Lights in which God regards us.

The words intimate that there are various aspects in which the Divine Father looks at his human children, and they may suggest reciprocal views on our part.


1. As those to whom he is nearly related. Egypt in her hour of obedience has become "my people," i.e. closely connected with God, and having, therefore, serious claims upon him. God does regard his own as those who are most closely, most intimately, most tenderly related to him, standing in such close relation that they may confidently reckon on the continuance of his kindness, on the protection and interposition of his strong arm.

2. As those who are the product of his Divine energy. "Assyria the work of my hands." We who are trusting and rejoicing in him and walking in his truth are frequently to remind ourselves that we are not the product of our own wisdom and effort, but are "his workmanship created in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:10; and see 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 5:5). God has expended on us Divine thought, Divine love, Divine sorrow, Divine patience, Divine discipline.

3. As those in whom he finds a Divine delight. "Israel mine inheritance." In Israel, when that people was faithful to his rule, God found his portion, his inheritance. In us, when we are attentive to his voice, responsive to his love, obedient to his commands, submissive to his will, he finds a Divine satisfaction (John 15:11).

4. As those on whom he can confer blessedness. "Whom the Lord shall bless;" "Whom God blesses, they are blessed indeed." Theirs is not mere physical excitement, or temporary gratification, or dubious delight, but true, abiding, elevating joy.


1. As One to whom we are most intimately related more closely, indeed, than to any human kindred.

2. As One to whom we owe everything we are, as well as everything we have.

3. As that One in whom, in whose friendship, service, presence, we find (and hope to find) our true and lasting heritage.—C.


Isaiah 19:2

Political commotion regarded as Divine judgment.

"And I will spur Egypt against Egypt, and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his fellow, city against city, and kingdom against kingdom." Civil war does far more serious and permanent mischief to a nation than foreign war. There are no such distressing conditions brought about by any other agencies as those which follow civil war. There can be no true heroism in its scenes; because the impulse is either mercenary, or it is class hatred and passion. Patriotism is swallowed up in mere sectional interests. The historical connections of this prophecy seem to be made clear by the recent discoveries of Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions. There has been found an inscription containing a proclamation of one Piankhi, who, in the eighth century B.C united under his scepter the whole of Egypt and Ethiopia. Lower Egypt was divided among rival princes, whose connection with their over-lord was merely nominal, and civil wars from time to time arose. That which is true of actual civil war, is in measure true of times of political excitement and conflict, when party feeling runs high. Some of the evils of such times may be pointed out.

I. THESE TIMES OF COMMOTION SET CLASS AGAINST CLASS. It is curious to notice that political conflict is never confined to the subject about which it arose. It is opening the flood-gates and letting out all the waters of class jealousy.

II. THESE TIMES DISTURB SOCIAL ORDER. Breaking up families and friendships, and diverting men's minds and energies from their ordinary occupations.

III. THESE TIMES INTERFERE WITH BUSINESS. Which is very sensitive to disturbed conditions of the body politic. Mutual trust is essential to business development, and the sense of security gives value to property.

IV. THESE TIMES GIVE INFLUENCE TO EVIL MEN. The demagogue finds then his opportunity. The masses of society gain undue importance. Noise has more power than intelligence. Reason's voice can seldom be heard. She keeps still, for it is an evil time.

V. THESE TIMES SERIOUSLY HINDER CHRISTIAN AND CHARITABLE ENTERPRISE. Diverting both energy and money. So seasons of political commotion become agencies in executing Divine judgments, and become times of national warning and correction.—R.T.

Isaiah 19:3

Temptation to trust in diviners.

"They shall seek … to the charmers." "A time of panic, when the counsels of ordinary statesmen failed, was sure in Egypt, as at Athens in its times of peril, to be fruitful in oracles and divinations." The most remarkable instance recorded in Scripture is that of King Saul, who in his extremity, and after having himself driven the witches out of his land, imperiled his life to consult the witch of Endor. And even in these days there are most curious survivals of the old spirit, in the consultations of fortune-tellers, and the confidence placed in the guesses of prophesiers, and the vague generalities of so-called astrologers. Large numbers of ignorant and only partly educated people hold to this day their confidence in lucky and unlucky times, and their fears of thirteen at the table, the ticking of the death-watch, and the coffin-shaped cinder. In times of national distress men who pretend to prophesy find their harvest, and trade upon the fears and hopes of men.

I. THE UNIVERSAL DESIRE TO PIERCE THE UNSEEN AND THE FUTURE. On this desire rests the success of modern spiritualism. Where there is no restful confidence in God's love and lead, men try to force aside the veils that hide God and God's purposes from mortal view. Man can do so much in the present that he is fretted and annoyed because he can get no guarantees for tomorrow, and every day must act upon the uncertainty whether, for him, there will be any to-morrow. After this life, what then? Men are angry because no fellow-man has ever answered that question or ever can. Revelation from God can alone relieve the mystery. Show how in all ages men have peered into the dark future, and been compelled to confess that they could see nothing but the "folds of the wondrous veil."


1. It is necessary for our probation.

2. It prevents procrastination by impression of the supreme value of now.

3. It keeps from the self-security which nourishes free indulgence in sin.

4. It makes our life manifestly a life of faith.

III. THE REST WHICH RELIGION GIVES FROM THE CARE ABOUT THE FUTURE. Religion brings God into direct relations, and gracious relations, with the individual. Past, present, future, are all in God's control. If the soul is in right relations with God, the present is his overruling, and the future is his provision. If we are with God, all is well, here or there.R.T.

Isaiah 19:5-10

The withholding of God's gifts making man's woe.

These verses are suggestive of the thousandfold forms of trouble that follow on an unusually low Nile, or the failure of the Nile flood. It is peculiar to the valley of the Nile, and the Delta forming the land of Egypt, that cultivation of the soil depends upon the yearly flooding of the river, which, by canals, sluices, ponds, and ditches, is led over the fields as the great fertilizer. Holy Scripture gives us the picture of supreme distress following on the failure of the Nile for seven successive years in the times of Joseph. The complete dependence of the country on this periodical overflow, and the fact that all agricultural arrangements are adapted to this peculiarity, involved a remarkable helplessness throughout the land when the Nile failed to rise. The people could not do what they were accustomed to do, so they did not know what to do, and could not, in any effective way, make up for this calamity. If their river be dried up, their fruitful land will soon be turned into barrenness, and. their harvests cease. Two things are suggested for consideration.

I. THE WONDERFUL WAY IN WHICH THINGS ARE LINKED TOGETHER. So that failure in one thing brings on a most varied train of evils. The prominent thing here is the failure of the Nile flood; but how many things are found to depend on that!—the basket-trade; the paper-trade; the farmer's trade; the fish-trade; the flax-trade; the net-trade; the builder's trade. So is it still. The cotton supply from America was checked a few years ago, and the consequences reached, in one way or another, all classes of society. Depressions in trade first affect one branch, but presently rise to the highest and descend to the lowest classes of society; and so it is again and again proved that, "we are members one of another."

II. THE WONDERFUL WAY IN WHICH ALL PROSPERITY IS MADE DEPENDENT ON THE FIRST GIFTS OF GOD. Man's riches are God's gifts. Man can never add to the wealth of the world by exchanges, which only vary the possessors. Air, rain, sunshine, water, electricity, coal, increase from field and beast, are man's riches; and these are first things that are absolutely dependent on God, and out of man's control. God withholds the rains, and a nation is in misery; God tempers the air, and plague sweeps away the multitudes; God stops the flood, and Egypt pines away in its helplessness. The source of all real good is God, in whose hands are the very springs and sources of all human happiness and prosperity.—R.T.

Isaiah 19:14

Men's minds a sphere in which God's judgments may work.

"The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof." Failure in recognizing men's minds and wills, as spheres of Divine operation, makes difficult to us such cases as that of Pharaoh, whose heart the Lord is said to have hardened; or that of the prophets in the time of Ahab, amongst whom God had sent a "lying spirit." But the apostle distinctly taught that all the sides and all the forces of man's nature are in God's control, and that he can work his purposes through them all, Writing to the Romans (Romans 1:28), Paul says of the Gentiles, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient." And the heathen have a motto which embodies the same truth, "Whom the gods would destroy they first dement"—a sentence involving a belief in the control of the gods over men's minds. A further illustration may be found in the prayer offered by David in the time of his extreme peril: "O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness" (2 Samuel 15:31). This truth we can clearly see and fully accept.

I. GOD HAS CONTROL OVER MAN'S CIRCUMSTANCES. These are, undoubtedly, the usual spheres of Divine operation. Life in the midst of varying circumstances, arid subject to the influence of circumstances, is our present lot. God's providence we assume to have its sphere in things and events; and too easily we may come to limit God's working to the incidents of life, and keep him entirely in the external spheres, reaching us only through our senses. So we need to have set before us the further and more searching truth, that—

II. GOD HAS CONTROL OVER MAN'S MIND AND HEART. This may be difficult to harmonize with our notions of man's free-will and independence. But man's free-will is not an absolute thing; it is set within careful and precise limitations. Man has liberty within a tether; and he cannot be trusted beyond the tether. God never looses his hold on him. The point, however, which especially cans for illustration and enforcement here is, that God may execute his judgments on man in the sphere of his mind. A state of stubbornness, perversity, and hardening may be traced by man as the natural response of certain minds to certain circumstances. We are taught to look deeper, and see in bad mental states and moods not Divine permissions only, but Divine operations and Divine judgments. The mental blindness and deafness, the narrow-mindedness, the skeptical tendency, of a particular age, we view aright when we regard as Divine judgment working towards humility.—R.T.

Isaiah 19:19

The cry of distress after the true God.

The erection of the altar and the pillar would be a sign of desire after God. "In Isaiah's time it must have seemed incredible that the firmly organized idolatrous system of Egypt should ever be broken up. Yet such a result was brought about by a series of movements—Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek—which commenced almost immediately after the date of the above prediction. In the district of Heliopolis, on the site of a ruined temple at Leontopolis (twenty miles north-east of Memphis), the high priest Onias IV. built his temple, under a special license from Ptolemy Philometor." The chapter deals with the corrective judgments which were to come upon Egypt, and gives this prophecy as the assurance that they will in measure prove efficient; and Egypt in her distress will cry after the true God; and the presence of Jews in her midst would give direction to her cry. We only suggest the following topics for illustration:—


II. THE PRESSURE OF NATIONAL DISTRESS IS A PERSUASION TO CALL UPON GOD. III. THE ARRANGEMENTS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE ALWAYS HELP MEN'S DESIRE TO SEEK GOD. Illustrated in the fact that Jews were settled in Egypt, and witnessing for Jehovah, when the people's hearts were turning towards him. From this we may proceed to show how our establishing missions in various parts of heathendom proves to be providential help afforded to peoples who have begun to cry after God. Our "altar" and our "pillar" are thus for "a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts."—R.T.

Isaiah 19:22

God both Smiter and Healer.

"The meaning is not simply that the stroke should be followed by healing, nor is it simply that the stroke should possess a healing virtue; but both ideas seem to be included." The full thought is expressed by the Prophet Hosea (Hosea 6:1, Hosea 6:2), "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." Henderson says, "The doctrine here taught is, that when God has purposes of mercy towards a sinful people, he will continue to visit them with calamities till they are humbled, and thus brought into a fit state for appreciating the value of his mercies." For illustrations of the same view of God's working, see Job 5:17-19; Isaiah 57:15-19; Hosea 5:15. There are few conceptions of God which should seem so tender and so restfully satisfying as this to conscious sinners who long to be freed from their sins. God will not leave us alone; he will smite. God will watch the effects of his smiting, and take the first opportunity to heal. God never smites save with the prospect before him of healing, and with gracious intentions of making his healings an unspeakable blessing—"the intention of healing is predominant throughout" (comp. Zephaniah 3:8, Zephaniah 3:9; Jeremiah 12:5-7).


1. Some smite for others to heal.

2. Some smite in malice, and do not want us to be healed.

3. Some smite in willfulness, and do not care whether we are healed.

4. Some smite in kindness, but are unable to heal the wounds they make.

And so often men do not know how to smite, though they mean well, and so the wounds they make are mischievous, and only wounds, not really corrective agencies. Man's bungling ways in smiting and healing, make us say, after David, "Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of man."


1. In God's thought.

2. In God's arrangement.

3. Given time enough, also in God's action.

Because of the union God's smitings can always be severe enough to be efficient. He can venture to smite harder than any man can ever do, But God's wounds never go beyond his healing power. The most striking illustration is perhaps that set before us in the story of Job. In dealing with him we know not which to admire most—God's wonderful smitings, God's wonderful healings, or the gracious way in which the smitings and the healings fitted in together.—R.T.

Isaiah 19:24

The God-fearing man a blessing wherever he is found.

Israel is the type of the God-fearing man, and it is prophesied of Israel, as a nation, that when it is linked in friendly alliance with Egypt and Assyria, its testimony for the true God, and its example of noble living in the fear of God, would make it a blessing in the lands. The prophecy was fulfilled in the time of the Hasmonean princes. Compare the promise made to Abraham, as a man of God and man of faith, that "in him, and in his seed, all nations of the earth should be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). Scripture intimates that the Jews have been the great conservators of the two foundation-truths, of

for the whole world, and that they are yet to be the great agents in the conversion of the world to God, as revealed in Jesus Christ; and perhaps no race is so widely scattered over the earth, or so efficiently represented in all lands, as the Jews. They may be a "blessing" indeed, when the veil is taken away, and they see in Jesus of Nazareth the world's Messiah and Savior. We, however, for the purpose of this homily, think of the Jew in the world as representing the godly man set in various circumstances, and exercising a gracious influence in his circle, whatever it may be. He is a source of blessing, a means of blessing, and an object of blessing.

I. HE IS A SOURCE OF BLESSING. This term brings up for consideration his unconscious influence—the blessing which flows from the good man, by virtue of what he is, rather than of what he does. A beautiful picture, a work of perfect art, a gracious and gentle-mannered person, exert power for good apart from conscious intention. And so the pure are the "salt of the earth."

II. HE IS A MEANS OF BLESSING. This term brings to view his conscious influence. For the good man lies under trust, and wants to be faithful. And the good man, by virtue of his goodness, is full of concern for the well-being of others; so his life must be an active charity. Like his Master, he is "ever going about, doing good," inventing ways in which he can become a blessing.

III. HE IS AN OBJECT TO BE BLESSED. By God, whoso work he is doing, whose Name he is honoring, and whose service he is commending. God never forgets our work of faith and labor of love, but ensures that all who are a blessing are blessed.R.T.

Isaiah 19:25

All nations belonging unto God.

This is a singular and even surprising expression. These nations were idolatrous, and they came under severe Divine judgments, and yet God claims them as his, and even declares his favor towards them, using the same terms concerning Egypt and Assyria as concerning his own people Israel, and saying, "Blessed is my people Egypt, and the work of my hands Assyria, and mine inheritance Israel." 'Speaker's Commentary' says, "The widespread influence of the Jews over Syria, and the adjacent countries under the Syro-Macedonian kings, as well as over Egypt under the Ptolemies, may represent an initial stage in the fulfillment of the prophecy. A second stage commenced with that great day, which sent devout men back from Jerusalem into Egypt and Libya on one side, into Parthta, Media, Elam, and Mesopotamia, on the other (Acts 2:9, Acts 2:10), to tell how "God, having raised up his Son Jesus" (the Prince and the Savior), had sent him to bless "the Jews first, and in them all nations."

I. AS INDIVIDUALS, COMPOSING NATIONS, ALL MEN ARE GOD'S CREATION. So he has natural rights in them all. "It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;" then "Come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker."


III. AS ENDOWED WITH NATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS, ALL NATIONS ARE CALLED TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. For nations have special gifts, as truly as individuals; and wherever there are gifts there must be responsibility. The genius of every nation is its special ability to witness for and work for God. It has been well said that Israel, Greece, and Rome were three countries of God's election; Israel called to witness for religion, Greece for art, and Rome for law. But a similar statement might be made concerning every nation.

IV. AS UNDER MORAL TRIAL, ALL NATIONS ARE WITHIN THE SUPERVISION OF GOD. The true way to regard national history and experiences is this: In them, God's dealings with individuals find open and public illustration; and so individuals may learn moral lessons that have personal application to themselves.

V. AS NEEDING A REDEEMER, ALL NATIONS SHARE IN THE ONE PROVISION MADE BY GOD. God loves the world. All have sinned. There is only one Name, but by it all men everywhere may be saved.—R.T.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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 to the LORD.
66:23; Genesis 12:7; 28:18; Exodus 24:4; Joshua 22:10,26; Zechariah 6:15; Hebrews 13:10
Reciprocal: 1 Samuel 7:12 - took a stone;  Isaiah 19:18 - that day;  Hosea 3:4 - an image

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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 to the LORD.

An altar — The altar is put for the worship of God, as it is in many places both of the Old and New Testament. And nothing is more common in the prophets than to speak of gospel-worship in the phrases of the law.

Pillar — A monument of the true religion. Here also he alludes to the ancient custom of erecting pillars to God.

The border — As before, in the midst of it. The meaning is, There shall be evidences of their piety in all places.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

19.Altar — The word “altar” literally supposes the offering of sacrifices. Here, however, its meaning may have the confined sense of memorial, a memorial of the conversion of the Egyptians to the true religion.

Pillar — A monument of the same fact. In the prophet’s conception God (possibly) decrees to this end a conversion of the symbol of the obelisks so common in Egypt. Another illustration of this general meaning may be offered here. In this district or nome of Heliopolis, but in the city of Leontopolis, Onias IV, (see Josephus, Ant., xiii, chap. Isaiah 3:1-3,) disappointed in obtaining the highpriesthood at Jerusalem, B.C. 149, on fleeing to Ptolemy in Egypt, received permission to build a temple for Jewish worship resembling that at Jerusalem, but smaller and less splendid. Onias is said to have pleaded this very nineteenth verse as propriety and authority for his doing so. This temple and its worship lasted over two hundred years. The “altar” and “pillar” may have had exemplification here also. A sort of fulfilment of this verse may also be found in the fact of so many synagogues being erected in Egypt from Alexander’s time on, and in the fact, too, of the Hebrew Scriptures receiving a Greek version — the Septuagint — by command of Ptolemy.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 19:19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.