The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 19

Isa 19:1

The word "oracle" or "burden" (Isa 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1; 22:1; 23:1) is from the Heb "to lift up", in foreboding or expectation; it implies something that God has planned for another. More often than not, it speaks of a coming punishment; but at times it simply means an important event involving a particular people. The distinction must be determined by the context. Often, the "burden" begins with warnings of judgments to come, and then proceeds with prophecies of something beneficial arising out of the dark times. Zec 12 illustrates this: it begins with a "burden... for Israel... in the siege", but then quickly speaks of a time of blessing succeeding the time of affliction: Jerusalem inhabited again in her own place (Zec 12:6,7). The burdens of Isaiah generally follow this same pattern, with special ref to the LD of Gentile times and the establishment of "Israel in their own land" (Isa 14:1) and Christ as the "ruler of the land... upon the mount of the daughter of Zion" (Isa 16:1). Also the roles of various Gentile powers, esp in relation to Israel and God's plans for the LD, are outlined. What might first appear to be a dry and unrewarding study becomes in reality a promise of God's deliverance for His people (in typical prophecies) and a glorious assurance (in initial fulfillments) that God's purpose stands firm (Isa 14:26,27).

Isa 19: Prophecy against Egypt: cp Jer 46; Eze 30;32; Joel 3:19.

THE LORD RIDES ON A SWIFT CLOUD: Yahweh is often pictured as riding upon a cloud of glory, or the wings of the storm (Deu 33:26; Psa 68:33; Nah 1:3; Psa 18:10; 104:3). In Exo 14, the cloud of the Shekinah Glory was leaving Egypt and going into the wilderness with His people. Now, however, because refugees of His people were fleeing into Egypt, the Cloud was coming also.

THE IDOLS OF EGYPT TREMBLE BEFORE HIM: The idols which had felt the divine stroke in the time of Moses (Exo 12:12; Num 33:4), and were again be relied upon by superstitious Egyptians (cp 1Sa 5:4).

Isa 19:2

One of the resultant judgments God brings upon Egypt is civil war and social chaos throughout the land. Herodotus describes just such a period in Egypt soon after 700 BC. (Cp generally Eze 38:21.)

Isa 19:3

I WILL BRING THEIR PLANS TO NOTHING: Lit, "I will swallow up", using the sw as Exo 7:12 -- when the rod became a serpent and "swallowed up" the serpent-rods of the Egyptians.

CONSULT THE IDOLS AND THE SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, THE MEDIUMS AND THE SPIRITISTS: Egypt was renowned for its magic arts (Exo 7:22; 8:7; cp Jannes and Jambres in 2Ti 3:8). Such practices were forbidden by LM (Lev 19:31; 20:6,27) upon pain of death.

Isa 19:4

A CRUEL MASTER: Perhaps Cambyses, a ruler of "maniacal savagery", per Herodotus (Tes 48:391). Other suggestions: Nebuchadnezzar, the Persian dynasty, the Romans, the Saracens, etc. More apropos to context, sb Sargon or Sennacherib -- although it is not known for certain that Sennacherib's army did much damage in Egypt. However, Isa 43:3 suggests that they did. As for the Assyrians: Sennacherib wars with Tirhakah at Libnah (2Ki 18:19), but he dies (2Ki 19:35,37). His son Esarhaddon subdued Egypt, 675 BC. Tirhakah rebelled, but was suppressed by Asshurbanipal, c 660 BC.

Isa 19:5

Vv 5-10: In both lit and sym languages, describes all aspects of Egyptian life reduced to chaos.

THE WATERS OF THE RIVER: KJV has "sea", but this a term used of Nile (cp Isa 18:2; Nah 3:8).

// Eze 30:12.

Currently: Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser?

Isa 19:6

STREAMS: The vast Nile delta.

EGYPT: Heb "matsowr" = "defence" in KJV. But very similar to "Mitzraim", the ancient name for Egypt.

Isa 19:11

Vv 11-15: "Sustained and contemptuous exposure of the experienced statecraft of Egypt. The political skill of that land's priests and Pharaohs had wide reputation outside its own borders (Exo 1:10; 1Ki 4:30; Act 7:22). Yet it would all prove useless to stave off the downfall and chaos purposed by the Lord of the hosts of angels, who in Moses' day had wrought such havoc in that land of unmatched prosperity (Psa 78:49)" (WIsa 229).

ZOAN: Ancient city on east part of delta, built shortly after Hebron (Num 13:22). City of Rameses (Exo 1:11), where Moses met Pharaoh (Psa 78:12,43). Zoan was captured by Assyrians in time of Ezekiel (Eze 30:14).

Isa 19:12

LET THEM SHOW YOU AND MAKE KNOWN WHAT THE LORD ALMIGHTY HAS PLANNED AGAINST EGYPT: The same challenge had been issued in Moses' day (Deu 18:22), and would be scornfully repeated by Isaiah against the gods of Assyria (Isa 41:22,26; 43:9; 45:21; 48:14).

Isa 19:13

MEMPHIS: Capital of lower Egypt, threatened by Jeremiah (Jer 46:19) and Ezekiel (Eze 30:13,16). Jews fled from Nebuchadnezzar and settled there unadvisedly (Jer 44:1).

Isa 19:14

A SPIRIT OF DIZZINESS: Cp Isa 29:9; 44:20; Eze 21:29; 1Ki 22:22. A judicial blindness imposed by God, along lines of 2Th 2:11; Mat 24:5,11; 1Ti 4:1.

Isa 19:16

THEY WILL SHUDDER WITH FEAR: As happened in the time of Moses (Exo 7:5; 10:12)

Isa 19:17

THE LAND OF JUDAH WILL BRING TERROR TO THE EGYPTIANS: The awe-inspiring disaster which the angel of the LORD brought on the previously-invincible army of Sennacherib.

Isa 19:18

FIVE CITIES: There were 5 divine-royal cities, the homes of 5 supreme gods of Egypt. Yet all will "in that day" speak the language of the God of Israel. "It has been suggested that the 5 cities are the three named in Jer 44:1 [Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis], together with Heliopolis (the city of the sun) and Leontopolis where, centuries later, a Jewish temple was erected for the Jewish Diaspora" (WIsa 230).

WILL SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF CANAAN: Hebrew spoken by Jewish refugees, or Jewish captives, living in Egypt (cp Isa 11:11; 30:1,2). (Egyptian sympathizers speak the same language.) Is this the "pure language" of Zep 3:9?

CANAAN: Why "Canaan" and not "Israel" or "Judah"? Perhaps to recall the migration of Jacob and his family into Egypt -- for safety sake.

THE CITY OF DESTRUCTION: Almost certainly Heliopolis (Gen 41:45; Jer 43:13), for the Heb wd ('on') is almost identical with 'sun'... one of Isaiah's characteristic puns. The destruction foretold here was prob brought about by an Assyrian invasion in the time of Sennacherib.

Isa 19:19

AN ALTAR TO THE LORD IN THE HEART OF EGYPT: An altar comparable to that erected at Jordan by the eastern tribes, not in a schismatic spirit but to proclaim their essential oneness with their brethren in the Holy Land proper (Jos 22:27,28). And such an altar in Egypt would proclaim that Jehovah was "the God of the gods of Egypt" also!

(LD) An "altar" sig repentance on the part of the refugees (or captives) in Egypt, who cry to the LORD because of their oppressors (cp Exo 3:9; 14:13), after which He will send them a "Savior"!

A MONUMENT TO THE LORD AT ITS BORDER: A pillar at the northeast border of Egypt to proclaim a covenant unity (Gen 28:18-22) with the Jews back home.

Isa 19:22

"The smiting of Egypt, which is vividly foretold in vv 1-10, took place in the massive defeat of Pharaoh's army at El-tekeh, and may have been the consequence of ill-treatment of Heb refugees. However, the overthrow of the Assyrians at Jerusalem changed Egyptian attitudes drastically to one of reverence for Israel's God (v 22b)" (WIsa 232).

Isa 19:23

Vv 23-25: In general, a humbling of the great powers Assyria and Egypt, because of the great outpouring of power in Sennacherib's destruction. But the real fulfillment of these vv belongs to the time of the Messiah.

A HIGHWAY FROM EGYPT TO ASSYRIA: For the Jewish refugees of Egypt and the Jewish captives in Assyria, to come back home. For possible LD application, see Isa 11:16; 35:8; 40:3; Mic 7:12; Isa 62:10.

THE EGYPTIANS AND ASSYRIANS WILL WORSHIP TOGETHER: And "offer sacrifice" (sw Exo 3:12; 9:13; 10:26; 12:31).

Isa 19:24

A BLESSING ON THE EARTH: Or, "in the midst of the Land" (KJV). Israel, being a "third" in the midst of the Eretz, suggests poss interpretation of the "third" in Rev (Rev 8:7-12; 9:15,18; 12:4).

Isa 19:25

EGYPT MY PEOPLE: The people scattered and enslaved, being set free to return to their homes (Lev 25:10).

ASSYRIA MY HANDIWORK: Re Jubilee, the work of GOD's "hands", not man's (Lev 25:11).

ISRAEL MY INHERITANCE: The redemption of the Land for every family (Lev 25:24...).

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