Isaiah 19:24
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the middle of the land:
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19:18-25 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.In that day shall Israel be the third - That is, the three shall be united as one people. Instead of being rival, hostile, and contending kingdoms, they shall be united and friendly; and instead of having different and jarring religions, they shall all worship the same God. The prophecy rather refers to the spread of the true religion, and the worship of the true God, than to a political or civil alliance.

Even a blessing - It shall be a source of blessing, because from Judea the true religion would extend into the other lands.

In the midst of the land - That is, "the united land" - composed of the three nations now joined in alliance. Judea was situated in the "midst" of this united land, or occupied a central position between the two. It was also true that it occupied a central position in regard to the whole earth, and that from it, as a radiating point, the true religion was disseminated throughout all nations.

24. third—The three shall be joined as one nation.

blessing—the source of blessings to other nations, and the object of their benedictions.

in the midst of the land—rather, "earth" (Mic 5:7). Judah is designed to be the grand center of the whole earth (Jer 3:17).

The third; the third party, to wit, in that sacred league, whereby all of them oblige themselves to God.

With Egypt and with Assyria: these people are named because they were the most obstinate and malicious enemies to God’s church, and therefore in a special manner accursed by God; but they are here put synecdochically for all the Gentiles.

Even a blessing: this is peculiar to Israel, who is not only a third party, as the others are, but is the most eminent and blessed of the three, as being the fountain, or rather the conduit-pipe, by which the blessing is conveyed to the other two, because Christ was to be born of them, and the gospel church and ordinances were first established among them, and from them derived to the Gentiles.

In the midst of the land; or, of the earth; which may be added, to imply that God’s blessing should be conveyed from and by Israel, not only to the Egyptians and the Assyrians, but to all the nations of the earth, in the midst of which the land of Israel might well be said to lie. Or, of that land of which I am here speaking; or, the singular number being put for the plural, of those lands, Egypt and Assyria, between which Israel lay. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria,.... There shall be a triple alliance between them; Jew and Gentile shall be made one, the middle wall of partition being broken down; yea, Israel, or the Jews, shall be the third, or the Mediator between them both, or the means of uniting the Gentiles together, since the Gospel of peace was to go out from them, as it did. Perhaps there may be an allusion to the situation of the land of Israel between Egypt and Assyria:

even a blessing in the midst of the land; or of the earth, the whole world, being the means of conveying the blessings of grace to the several nations of the world; the Messiah, in whom all nations are blessed, descending from them, and the Gospel being sent out from them unto all nations, which publishes the blessings of grace by Christ, and is the means both of the knowledge, application, and possession of them.

In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
24. shall Israel be the third]—member of the Messianic League. For land read earth as R.V.Verse 24. - In that day shall Israel be the third; rather, a third. Not third in rank, for ver. 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. At first there is only slavish fear; but there is the beginning of a turn to something better. "In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan, and swearing to Jehovah of hosts: 'Ir ha-Heres will one be called." Five cities are very few for Egypt, which was completely covered with cities; but this is simply a fragmentary commencement of Egypt's future and complete conversion. The description given of them, as beginning to speak the language of Canaan, i.e., the sacred language of the worship of Jehovah (comp. Zephaniah 3:9), and to give themselves up to Jehovah with vows made on oath, is simply a periphrastic announcement of the conversion of the five cities. ל נשׁבּע (different from בּ נשׁבּע, Isaiah 65:16, as Isaiah 45:23 clearly shows) signifies to swear to a person, to promise him fidelity, to give one's self up to him. One of these five will be called ‛Ir ha-Heres. As this is evidently intended for a proper name, lâ'echât does not mean unicuique, as in Judges 8:18 and Ezekiel 1:6, but uni. It is a customary thing with Isaiah to express the nature of anything under the form of some future name (vid., Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 32:5; Isaiah 61:6; Isaiah 62:4). The name in this instance, therefore, must have a distinctive and promising meaning.

But what does ‛Ir ha-Heres mean? The Septuagint has changed it into πόλις ἀσεδέκ, equivalent to ‛Ir hazzedek (city of righteousness), possibly in honour of the temple in the Heliopolitan nomos, which was founded under Ptolemaeus Philometor about 160 b.c., during the Syrian reign of terror, by Onias IV, son of the high priest Onias III, who emigrated to Egypt.

(Note: See Frankel on this Egyptian auxiliary temple, in his Monatschrift fr Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums, 1852, p. 273ff.; Herzfeld, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, iii. 460ff., 557ff.; and Grtz, Geschichte der Juden, iii.36ff.)

Maurer in his Lexicon imagines that he has found the true meaning, when he renders it "city of rescue;" but the progressive advance from the meaning "to pull off' to that of "setting free" cannot be established in the case of the verb hâras; in fact, hâras does not mean to pull off or pull out, but to pull down. Heres cannot have any other meaning in Hebrew than that of "destruction." But as this appears unsuitable, it is more natural to read ‛Ir ha-cheres (which is found in some codices, though in opposition to the Masora).

(Note: But no Greek codex has the reading πόλις ἀχερές (see Holmes-Parsons' V. T. Graecum c. var. lect. t. iv. on this passage), as the Complutensian has emended it after the Vulgate (see the Vocabluarium Hebr. 37a, belonging to the Complutensian).)

This is now generally rendered "city of protection" (Rosenmller, Ewald, Knobel, and Meier), as being equivalent to an Arabic word signifying divinitus protecta. But such an appeal to the Arabic is contrary to all Hebrew usage, and is always a very precarious loophole. ‛Ir ha-cheres would mean "city of the sun" (cheres as in Job 9:7 and Judges 14:18), as the Talmud in the leading passage concerning the Onias temple (in b. Menahoth 110a) thinks that even the received reading may be understood in accordance with Job 9:7, and says "it is a description of the sun." "Sun-city" was really the name of one of the most celebrated of the old Egyptian cities, viz., Heliopolis, the city of the sun-god Ra, which was situated to the north-east of Memphis, and is called On in other passages of the Old Testament. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 30:17) alters this into Aven, for the purpose of branding the idolatry of the city.

(Note: Heliopolis answers to the sacred name Pe-ra, house of the sun-god (like Pe-Ramesses, house of Ramses), which was a name borne by the city that was at other times called On (old Egyptian anu). Cyrill, however, explains even the latter thus, Ὤν δέ ἐστι κατ ̓ αὐτοὺς ὁ ἤλιος ("On, according to their interpretation, is the sun"), which is so far true according to Lauth, that Ain, Oin, Oni, signifies the eye as an emblem of the sun; and from this, the tenth month, which marks the return of the sun to the equinoctial point, derives its name of Pa-oni, Pa-one, Pa-uni. It may possibly be with reference to this that Heliopolis is called Ain es-sems in Arabic (see Arnold, Chrestom. Arab. p. 56 s.). Edrisi (iii. 3) speaks of this Ain es-sems as "the country-seat of Pharaoh, which may God curse;" just as Bin el-Faraun is a common expression of contempt, which the Arabs apply to the Coptic fellahs.)

But this alteration of the well-attested text is a mistake; and the true explanation is, that Ir-hahares is simply used with a play upon the name Ir-hacheres. This is the explanation given by the Targum: "Heliopolis, whose future fate will be destruction." But even if the name is intended to have a distinctive and promising meaning, it is impossible to adopt the explanation given by Luzzatto, "a city restored from the ruins;" for the name points to destruction, not to restoration. Moreover, Heliopolis never has been restored since the time of its destruction, which Strabo dates as far back as the Persian invasion. There is nothing left standing now out of all its monuments but one granite obelisk: they are all either destroyed, or carried away, like the so-called "Cleopatra's Needle," or sunk in the soil of the Nile (Parthey on Plutarch, de Iside, p. 162). This destruction cannot be the one intended. But hâras is the word commonly used to signify the throwing down of heathen altars (Judges 6:25; 1 Kings 18:30; 1 Kings 19:10, 1 Kings 19:14); and the meaning of the prophecy may be, that the city which had hitherto been ‛Ir-ha-cheres, the chief city of the sun-worship, would become the city of the destruction of idolatry, as Jeremiah prophesies in Isaiah 43:13, "Jehovah will break in pieces the obelisks of the sun-temple in the land of Egypt." Hence Herzfeld's interpretation: "City of demolished Idols". It is true that in this case ha-heres merely announces the breaking up of the old, and does not say what new thing will rise upon the ruins of the old; but the context leaves no doubt as to this new thing, and the one-sided character of the description is to be accounted for from the intentional play upon the actual name of that one city out of the five to which the prophet gives especial prominence. With this interpretation - for which indeed we cannot pretend to find any special confirmation in the actual fulfilment in the history of the church, and, so to speak, the history of missions - the train of thought in the prophet's mind which led to the following groove of promises is a very obvious one.

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