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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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IR-HA-HERES . In Isaiah 19:18 the name to be given in the ideal future to one of the ‘five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan, and swear to Jehovah of hosts’; AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘one shall be called, The city of destruction.’ The usually accepted explanation of the passage is that the name ‘city of heres , or destruction,’ or, more exactly, ‘of tearing down ’ (the verb hâras being used of pulling or tearing down cities, altars, walls, etc., Judges 6:25 , Isaiah 14:17 , Ezekiel 13:14 ), is chosen for the sake of a punning allusion to cheres , in Heb. a rare word for ‘sun’ ( Job 9:7 ), the ‘city of cheres ,’ or ‘the sun,’ being a designation which might have been given in Heb. to On, the Heliopolis of the Greeks, a city a few miles N.E. of the modern Cairo, in ancient times the chief centre of the sun-worship in Egypt, and full of obelisks dedicated to the sun-god Ra (‘Cleopatra’s needle,’ now on the Thames Embankment, was originally one of these obelisks, erected by Thothmes iii. in front of the temple of the sun-god at On); and the meaning of the passage being that the place which has hitherto been a ‘city of the sun’ will in the future be called the ‘city of destroying,’ i.e. a city devoted to destroying the temples and emblems of the sun (cf. Jeremiah 43:13 ). [The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] have polis hasedek, i.e. ‘city of righteousness,’ a reading which is open to the suspicion of being an alteration based on 1:26.]

To some scholars, however, this explanation appears artificial; and the question is further complicated by historical considerations. The high priest Onias iii., after his deposition by Antiochus Epiphanes in b.c. 175 ( 2Ma 4:7-9 ), despairing of better times in Judah, sought refuge in Egypt with Ptolemy Philometor; and conceived the idea of building there a temple dedicated to J″ [Note: Jahweh.] , in which the ancient rites of his people might be carried on without molestation, and which might form a religions centre for the Jews settled in Egypt. Ptolemy granted him a site at Leontopolis, in the ‘nome,’ or district, of Heliopolis; and there Onias erected his temple (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] BJ . I. i. 1, Ant . XIII. iii. 1 3, and elsewhere; Ewald, Hist . v. 355 f.), not improbably at Tell el-Yahudiyeh, about 10 m. N. of Heliopolis, near which there are remains of a Jewish necropolis (Naville, The Mound of the Jew and the City of Onias , pp. 18 20). In support of his plan, Onias had pointed to Isaiah 19:18 and its context as a prediction that a temple to J″ [Note: Jahweh.] was to be built in Egypt (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant . XIII. iii. 1 end ). These facts have indeed no bearing on Isaiah 19:18 , supposing the passage to be really Isaiah’s; but many modern scholars are of opinion that Isaiah 19:16-25 (Isa 18:16 25) are not Isaiah’s, and even those who do not go so far as this would be ready to grant that Isaiah 19:18 b (from ‘one shall be called’) might be a later addition to the original text of Isaiah.

The following are the chief views taken by those who hold that this clause (with or without its context) is not Isaiah’s. (1) Duhm and Marti render boldly ‘shall be called Lion-city ( or Leontopolis),’ explaining heres from the Arab [Note: Arabic.] , haris , properly the bruiser, crusher , a poetical name for a lion. But that a very special and fig. application of an Arab. [Note: Arabic.] root, not occurring in Heb. even in its usual Arabic sense, should be found in Heb. is not probable. (2) Dillmann, while accepting the prophecy as a whole as Isaiah’s, threw out the suggestion that Isaiah 19:18 b was added after the temple of Onias was built, cheres , ‘sun’ (so Symm., Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] , and some Heb. MSS), being the original reading, which was altered afterwards by the Jews of Palestine into heres , ‘destruction,’ in order to obtain a condemnation of the Egyptian temple, and by the Jews of Egypt into tsedek , ‘righteousness’ (LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ), in order to make the prophecy more diatioctly favourable to it. (3) Cheyne ( Introd. to Is . pp. 102 110) and Skinner, understanding Isaiah 19:18 (‘there shall be five cities,’ etc.), not (as is dooe upon the ordinary view) of the conversion of Egyp. cities to the worship of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] , but of Jewish colonies in Egyp. maintaining their national language and religion, suppose Isaiah 19:16-25 to have been written in the latter years of the first Ptolemy (Lagi), c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 290, when there were undoubtedly many Jewish settlements in Egypt: the original reading, these scholars suppose with Dillmann, was ‘city of the sun,’ the meaning being that one of these colonies, preserving loyally the faith of their fathers, should flourish even in Heliopolis, the city of the sun-god; the reading was altered afterwards, when the Jews of Palestine began to show hostility towards the Egyptian temple, by the Jews of Egypt into ‘city of righteousness’ (LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ), and then further, by the Jews of Palestine, as a counter-blow, into ‘city of destruction’ (Heb. text).

It may be doubted whether there are sufficient reasons for departing from the ordinary explanation of the passage.

S. R. Driver.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ir-ha-Heres'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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