Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
The Oracle Concerning Egypt - Isaiah 19
The three prophecies in Isaiah 18:1-7, 19 and Isaiah 20:1-6 really form a trilogy. The first (Isaiah 18:1-7), which, like chapter 1, the introduction to the whole, is without any special heading, treats in language of the sublimest pathos of Ethiopia. The second (chapter 19) treats in a calmer and more descriptive tone of Egypt. The third (Isaiah 20:1-6) treats of both Egypt and Ethiopia in the style of historic prose. The kingdom to which all three prophecies refer is one and the same, viz., the Egypto-Ethiopian kingdom; but whilst Isaiah 18:1-7 refers to the ruling nation, chapter 19 treats of the conquered one, and Isaiah 20:1-6 embraces both together. The reason why such particular attention is given to Egypt in the prophecy, is that no nation on earth was so mixed up with the history of the kingdom of God, from the patriarchal times downwards, as Egypt was. And because Israel, as the law plainly enjoined upon it, was never to forget that it had been sheltered for a long time in Egypt, and there had grown into a great nation, and had received many benefits; whenever prophecy has to speak concerning Egypt, it is quite as earnest in its promises as it is in its threats. And thus the massa of Isaiah falls into two distinct halves, viz., a threatening one (Isaiah 19:1-15), and a promising one (Isaiah 19:18-25); whilst between the judgment and the salvation (in Isaiah 19:16 and Isaiah 19:17) there stands the alarm, forming as it were a connecting bridge between the two. And just in proportion as the coil of punishments is unfolded on the one hand by the prophet, the promise is also unfolded in just as many stages on the other; and moving on in ever new grooves, rises at length to such a height, that it breaks not only through the limits of contemporaneous history, but even through those of the Old Testament itself, and speaks in the spiritual language of the world-embracing love of the New Testament.
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.The oracle opens with a short introduction, condensing the whole of the substance of the first half into a few weighty words - an art in which Isaiah peculiarly excelled. In this the name of Egypt, the land without an equal, occurs no less than three times. "Behold, Jehovah rideth upon a light cloud, and cometh to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt shake before Him, and the heart of Egypt melteth within it." Jehovah rides upon clouds when He is about to reveal Himself in His judicial majesty (Psalm 18:11); and in this instance He rides upon a light cloud, because it will take place rapidly. The word kal signifies both light and swift, because what is light moves swiftly; and even a light cloud, which is light because it is thin, is comparatively עב, i.e., literally dense, opaque, or obscure. The idols of Egypt shake נוּע, as in Isaiah 6:4; Isaiah 7:2), because Jehovah comes over them to judgment (cf., Exodus 12:12; Jeremiah 46:25; Ezekiel 30:13): they must shake, for they are to be thrown down; and their shaking for fear is a shaking to their fall נוּע, as in Isaiah 24:20; Isaiah 29:9). The Vav apodosis in ונעוּ together the cause and effect, as in Isaiah 6:7. - In what judgments the judgment will be fulfilled, is now declared by the majestic Judge Himself.
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 I spur Egypt against Egypt: and they go to war, every one with his brother, and every one with his neighbour; city against city, kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit of Egypt is emptied out within it: and I swallow up its ready counsel; and they go to the idols to inquire, and to the mutterers, and to the oracle-spirits, and to the soothsayers. And I shut up Egypt in the hand of a hard rule; and a fierce king will reign over them, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts." Civil war will rage in Egypt (on sicsēc, see at Isaiah 9:10). The people once so shrewd are now at their wits' end; their spirit is quite poured out נבקה, with the reduplication removed, for נבקּה, according to Ges. 68, Anm. 11 - as, for example, in Genesis 11:7; Ezekiel 41:7), so that there is nothing left of either intelligence or resolution. Then (and this is also part of the judgment) they turn for help, in counsel and action, where no help is to be found, viz., to their "nothings" of gods, and the manifold demoniacal arts, of which Egypt could boast of being the primary seat. On the names of the practisers of the black art, see Isaiah 8:19; 'ittim, the mutterers, is from 'âtat, to squeak (used of a camel-saddle, especially when new), or to rumble (used of an empty stomach): see Lane's Lexicon. But all this is of no avail: Jehovah gives them up (סכּר, syn. הסגּיר, συγκλείειν to be ruled over by a hard-hearted and cruel king. The prophecy does not relate to a foreign conqueror, so as to lead us to think of Sargon (Knobel) or Cambyses (Luzzatto), but to a native despot. In comparing the prophecy with the fulfilment, we must bear in mind that Isaiah 19:2 relates to the national revolution which broke out in Sais, and resulted in the overthrow of the Ethiopian rule, and to the federal dodekarchy to which the rising of the nation led. "Kingdom against kingdom:" this exactly suits those twelve small kingdoms into which Egypt was split up after the overthrow of the Ethiopian dynasty in the year 695, until Psammetichus, the dodekarch of Sais, succeeded in the year 670 in comprehending these twelve states once more under a single monarchy. This very Psammetichus (and the royal house of Psammetichus generally) is the hard ruler, the reckless despot. He succeeded in gaining the battle at Momemphis, by which he established himself in the monarchy, through having first of all strengthened himself with mercenary troops from Ionia, Caria, and Greece. From his time downwards, the true Egyptian character was destroyed by the admixture of foreign elements;
(Note: See Leo, Universalgesch. i. 152, and what Brugsch says in his Histoire d'Egypte, i. 250, with regard to the brusques changements that Egypt endured under Psammetichus.)
and this occasioned the emigration of a large portion of the military caste to Meroe. The Egyptian nation very soon came to feel how oppressive this new dynasty was, when Necho (616-597), the son and successor of Psammetichus, renewed the project of Ramses-Miamun, to construct a Suez canal, and tore away 120,000 of the natives of the land from their homes, sending them to wear out their lives in forced labour of the most wearisome kind. A revolt on the part of the native troops, who had been sent against the rising Cyrene, and driven back into the desert, led to the overthrow of Hophra, the grandson of Necho (570), and put an end to the hateful government of the family of Psammetichus.
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.
And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.The prophet then proceeds to foretell another misfortune which was coming upon Egypt: the Nile dries up, and with this the fertility of the land disappears. "And the waters will dry up from the sea, and the river is parched and dried. And the arms of the river spread a stench; the channels of Matzor become shallow and parched: reed and rush shrivel up. The meadows by the Nile, on the border of the Nile, and every corn-field of the Nile, dries up, is scattered, and disappears. And the fishermen groan, and all who throw draw-nets into the Nile lament, and they that spread out the net upon the face of the waters languish away. And the workers of fine combed flax are confounded, and the weavers of cotton fabrics. And the pillars of the land are ground to powder; all that work for wages are troubled in mind." In Isaiah 19:5 the Nile is called yâm (a sea), just as Homer calls it Oceanus, which, as Diodorus observes, was the name given by the natives to the river (Egypt. oham). The White Nile is called bahr el-abyad (the White Sea), the Blue Nile bahr el-azrak, and the combined waters bahr eṅNil, or, in the language of the Besharn, as here in Isaiah, yām. And in the account of the creation, in Genesis 1, yammim is the collective name for great seas and rivers. But the Nile itself is more like an inland sea than a river, from the point at which the great bodies of water brought down by the Blue Nile and the White Nile, which rises a few weeks later, flow together; partly on account of its great breadth, and partly also because of its remaining stagnant throughout the dry season. It is not till the tropical rains commence that the swelling river begins to flow more rapidly, and the yâm becomes a nâhâr. But when, as is here threatened, the Nile sea and Nile river in Upper Egypt sink together and dry up (nisshethu, niphal either of shâthath equals nâshattu, to set, to grow shallow; or more probably from nâshath, to dry up, since Isaiah 41:17 and Jeremiah 51:30 warrant the assumption that there was such a verb), the mouths (or arms) of the Nile (nehâr), which flow through the Delta, and the many canals (ye'orim), by which the benefits of the overflow are conveyed to the Nile valley, are turned into stinking puddles (האזניחוּ, a hiphil, half substantive half verbal, unparalleled elsewhere,
(Note: It is not unparalleled as a hiph. denom. (compare הצהיר, oil, יצהר, to press, Job 24:11, Talm. התליע, to become worm-eaten, and many others of a similar kind); and as a mixed form (possibly a mixture of two readings, as Gesenius and Bttcher suppose, though it is not necessarily so), the language admitted of much that was strange, more especially in the vulgar tongue, which found its way here and there into written composition.)
signifying to spread a stench; possibly it may have been used in the place of הזניח, from אזנח or אזנח, stinking, to which a different application was given in ordinary use). In all probability it is not without intention that Isaiah uses the expression Mâtzor, inasmuch as he distinguishes Mâzort from Pathros (Isaiah 11:11), i.e., Lower from Upper Egypt (Egyp. sa-het, the low land, and sa-res, the higher land), the two together being Mitzrayim. And ye'orim (by the side of nehâroth) we are warranted in regarding as the name given of the Nile canals. The canal system in Egypt and the system of irrigation are older than the invasion of the Hyksos (vid., Lepsius, in Herzog's Cyclopaedia). On the other hand, ye'ōr in Isaiah 19:7 (where it is written three times plene, as it is also in Isaiah 19:8) is the Egyptian name of the Nile generally (yaro).
(Note: From the fact that aur in old Egyptian means the Nile, we may explain the Φρουορῶ ἤτοι Νεῖλος, with which the Laterculus of Eratosthenes closes.)
It is repeated emphatically three times, like Mitzrayim in Isaiah 19:1. Parallel to mizra‛, but yet different from it, is ערות, from ערה, to be naked or bare, which signifies, like many derivatives of the synonymous word in Arabic, either open spaces, or as here, grassy tracts by the water-side, i.e., meadows. Even the meadows, which lie close to the water-side (pi equals ora, as in Psalm 133:2, not ostium), and all the fields, become so parched, that they blow away like ashes.
Then the three leading sources from which Egypt derived its maintenance all fail: - viz. the fishing; the linen manufacture, which supplied dresses for the priests and bandages for mummies; and the cotton manufacture, by which all who were not priests were supplied with clothes. The Egyptian fishery was very important. In the Berlin Museum there is an Egyptian micmoreth with lead attached. The mode of working the flax by means of serikâh, pectinatio (compare סרוק, wool-combs, Kelim, 12, 2), is shown on the monuments. In the Berlin Museum there are also Egyptian combs of this description with which the flax was carded. The productions of the Egyptian looms were celebrated in antiquity: chōrây, lit., white cloth (singularet. with the old termination ay), is the general name for cotton fabrics, or the different kinds of byssus that were woven there (compare the βυσσίνων ὀθονίων of the Rosetta inscription). All the castes, from the highest to the lowest, are not thrown into agonies of despair. The shâthōth (an epithet that was probably suggested by the thought of shethi, a warp, Syr. 'ashti, to weave, through the natural association of ideas), i.e., the "pillars" of the land (with a suffix relating to Mitzrayim, see at Isaiah 3:8, and construed as a masculine as at Psalm 11:3), were the highest castes, who were the direct supporters of the state edifice; and שׂכר עשׂי cannot mean the citizens engaged in trade, i.e., the middle classes, but such of the people as hired themselves to the employers of labour, and therefore lived upon wages and not upon their own property (שׂכר is used here as in Proverbs 11:18, and not as equivalent to סכר, the dammers-up of the water for the purpose of catching the fish, like סכרין, Kelim, 23, 5).
And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence 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.
Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellers of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?The prophet now dwells upon the punishment which falls upon the pillars of the land, and describes it in Isaiah 19:11-13 : "The princes of Zoan become mere fools, the wise counsellors of Pharaoh; readiness in counsel is stupefied. How can ye say to Pharaoh, I am a son of wise men, a son of kings of the olden time? Where are they then, thy wise men? Let them announce to thee, and know what Jehovah of hosts hath determined concerning Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools, the princes of Memphis are deceived; and they have led Egypt astray who are the corner-stone of its castes." The two constructives יעצי חכמי do not stand in a subordinate relation, but in a co-ordinate one (see at Psalm 78:9 and Job 20:17; compare also 2 Kings 17:13, Keri), viz., "the wise men, counsellors of Pharaoh,"
(Note: Pharaoh does not mean "the king" (equivalent to the Coptic π-ουρο), but according to Brugsch, "great house" (Upper Egyptian perâa, Lower Egyptian pher-âo; vid., aus dem Orient, i. 36). Lauth refers in confirmation of this to Horapollo, i. 62, ὄφις καὶ οἶκος μέγας ἐν μέσω αὐτοῦ σημαίνει βασιλέα, and explains this Coptic name for a king from that of the Οὐραῖος (βασιλίσκος) upon the head of the king, which was a specifically regal sign.)
so that the second noun is the explanatory permutative of the first. Zoan is the Tanis of primeval times (Numbers 13:22), which was situated on one of the arms through which the Nile flows into the sea (viz., the ostium Taniticum), and was the home from which two dynasties sprang. Noph (per aphaer. equals Menoph, contracted into Moph in Hosea 9:6) is Memphis, probably the seat of the Pharaohs in the time of Joseph, and raised by Psammetichus into the metropolis of the whole kingdom. The village of Mitrahenni still stands upon its ruins, with the Serapeum to the north-west.
(Note: What the lexicons say with reference to Zoan and Noph needs rectifying. Zoan (old Egyptian Zane, with the hieroglyphic of striding legs, Copt. 'Gane) points back to the radical idea of pelli or fugere; and according to the latest researches, to which the Turin papyrus No. 112 has led, it is the same as Αὔαρις (Ἄβαρις), which is said to mean the house of flight (Ha-uare), and was the seat of government under the Hykshōs. But Memphis is not equivalent to Ma-m-ptah, as Champollion assumed (although this city is unquestionably sometimes called Ha-ka-ptah, house of the essential being of Ptah); it is rather equivalent to Men-nefer (with the hieroglyphic of the pyramids), place of the good (see Brugsch, Histoire d'Egypte, i. 17). In the later language it is called pa-nuf or ma-nuf, which has the same meaning (Copt. nufi, good). Hence Moph is the contraction of the name commencing with ma, and Noph the abbreviation of the name commencing with ma or pa by the rejection of the local prefix; for we cannot for a moment think of Nup, which is the second district of Upper Egypt (Brugsch, Geogr. i. 66). Noph is undoubtedly Memphis.)
Consequently princes of Zoan and Memphis are princes of the chief cities of the land, and of the supposed primeval pedigree; probably priest-princes, since the wisdom of the Egyptian priest was of world-wide renown (Herod. ii. 77, 260), and the oldest kings of Egypt sprang from the priestly caste. Even in the time of Hezekiah, when the military caste had long become the ruling one, the priests once more succeeded in raising one of their own number, namely Sethos, to the throne of Sais. These magnates of Egypt, with their wisdom, would be turned into fools by the history of Egypt of the immediate future; and (this is the meaning of the sarcastic "how can ye say") they would no longer trust themselves to boast of their hereditary priestly wisdom, or their royal descent, when giving counsel to Pharaoh. They were the corner-stone of the shebâtim, i.e., of the castes of Egypt (not of the districts or provinces, νομοί); but instead of supporting and defending their people, it is now very evident that they only led them astray. התעוּ, as the Masora on Isaiah 19:15 observes, has no Vav cop.
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.In Isaiah 19:14 and Isaiah 19:15 this state of confusion is more minutely described: "Jehovah hath poured a spirit of giddiness into the heart of Egypt, so that they have led Egypt astray in all its doing, as a drunken man wandereth about in his vomit. And there does not occur of Egypt any work, which worked, of head and tail, palm-branch and rush." The spirit which God pours out (as it also said elsewhere) is not only a spirit of salvation, but also a spirit of judgment. The judicial, penal result which He produces is here called עועים, which is formed from עועו (root עו, to curve), and is either contracted from עועוים, or points back to a supposed singular עועה (vid., Ewald, 158, b). The suffix in b'kribâh points to Egypt. The divine spirit of judgment makes use of the imaginary wisdom of the priestly caste, and thereby plunges the people, as it were, into the giddiness of intoxication. The prophet employs the hiphil התעה to denote the carefully considered actions of the leaders of the nation, and the niphal נתעה to denote the constrained actions of a drunken man, who has lost all self-control. The nation has been so perverted by false counsels and hopes, that it lies there like a drunken man in his own vomit, and gropes and rolls about, without being able to find any way of escape. "No work that worked," i.e., that averted trouble (עשׂה is as emphatic as in Daniel 8:24), was successfully carried out by any one, either by the leaders of the nation or by the common people and their flatterers, either by the upper classes or by the mob.
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 shaketh over it.The result of all these plagues, which were coming upon Egypt, would be fear of Jehovah and of the people of Jehovah. "In that day will the Egyptians become like women, and tremble and be alarmed at the swinging of the hand of Jehovah of hosts, which He sets in motion against it. And the land of Judah becomes a shuddering for Egypt; as often as they mention this against Egypt, it is alarmed, because of the decree of Jehovah of hosts, that He suspendeth over it." The swinging (tenuphâh) of the hand (Isaiah 30:32) points back to the foregoing judgments, which have fallen upon Egypt blow after blow. These humiliations make the Egyptians as soft and timid as women (tert. compar., not as in Isaiah 13:7-8; Isaiah 21:3-4). And the sacred soil of Judah ('adâmâh, as in Isaiah 14:1-2; Isaiah 32:13), which Egypt has so often made the scene of war, throws them into giddiness, into agitation at the sight of terrors, whenever it is mentioned (אשׁר כּל, cf., 1 Samuel 2:13, lit., "whoever," equivalent to "as often as any one," Ewald, 337, 3, f; חגּא is written according to the Aramaean form, with Aleph for He, like זרא) in Numbers 11:20, קרחא in Ezekiel 37:31, compare כּלּא, Ezekiel 36:5, and similar in form to חפה in Isaiah 4:5).
The author of the plagues is well known to them, their faith in the idols is shaken, and the desire arises in their heart to avert fresh plagues by presents to Jehovah.
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.
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.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.
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.The allusion to the sun-city, which had become the city of destruction, led to the mazzeboth 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 mazzebah (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.
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.When Egypt became the prey of Islam in the year 640, there was already to be seen, at all events in the form of a magnificent prelude, the fulfilment of what the prophet foretells in Isaiah 19:21, Isaiah 19:22 : "And Jehovah makes Himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians know Jehovah in that day; and they serve with slain-offerings and meat-offerings, and vow vows to Jehovah, and pay them. And Jehovah smites Egypt, smiting and healing; and if they return to Jehovah, He suffers Himself to be entreated, and heals them." From that small commencement of five cities, and a solitary altar, and one solitary obelisk, it has now come to this: Jehovah extends the knowledge of Himself to the whole of Egypt ענודע, reflective se cognoscendum dare, or neuter innotescere), and throughout all Egypt there arises the knowledge of God, which soon shows itself in acts of worship. This worship is represented by the prophet, just as we should expect according to the Old Testament view, as consisting in the offering of bleeding and bloodless, or legal and free-will offerings: ועבדוּ, viz., את־יהוה, so that עבד is construed with a double accusative, as in Exodus 10:26, cf., Genesis 30:29; or it may possibly be used directly in the sense of sacrificing, as in the Phoenician, and like עשׂה in the Thorah; and even if we took it in this sense, it would yield no evidence against Isaiah's authorship (compare Isaiah 28:21; Isaiah 32:17). Egypt, though converted, is still sinful; but Jehovah smites it, "smiting and healing" (nâgoph verâpho', compare 1 Kings 20:37), so that in the act of smiting the intention of healing prevails; and healing follows the smiting, since the chastisement of Jehovah leads it to repentance. Thus Egypt is now under the same plan of salvation as Israel (e.g., Leviticus 26:44; Deuteronomy 32:36).
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.
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.Asshur, as we already know from Isaiah 18:1-7, is equally humbled; so that now the two great powers, which have hitherto only met as enemies, meet in the worship of Jehovah, which unites them together. "In that day a road will run from Egypt to Asshur, and Asshur comes into Egypt, and Egypt to Asshur; and Egypt worships (Jehovah) with Asshur." את is not a sign of the accusative, for there can be no longer any idea of the subjection of Egypt to Asshur: on the contrary, it is a preposition indicating fellowship; and עבדוּ is used in the sense of worship, as in Isaiah 19:21. Friendly intercourse is established between Egypt and Assyria by the fact that both nations are now converted to Jehovah. The road of communication runs through Canaan.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:Thus is the way prepared for the highest point of all, which the prophet foretells in Isaiah 19:24, Isaiah 19:25 : "In that day will Israel be the third part to Egypt and Asshur, a blessing in the midst of the earth, since Jehovah of hosts blesseth them thus: Blessed be thou, my people Egypt; and thou Asshur, the work of my hands; and thou Israel, mine inheritance." Israel is added to the covenant between Egypt and Asshur, so that it becomes a tripartite covenant in which Israel forms the "third part" (sheilshiyyâh, tertia pars, like ‛ası̄ryyâh, decima pars, in Isaiah 6:13). Israel has now reached the great end of its calling - to be a blessing in "the midst of the earth" (b'kereb hâ'âretz, in the whole circuit of the earth), all nations being here represented by Egypt and Assyria. Hitherto it had been only to the disadvantage of Israel to be situated between Egypt and Assyria. The history of the Ephraimitish kingdom, as well as that of Judah, clearly proves this. If Israel relied upon Egypt, it deceived itself, and was deceived; and if it relied on Assyria, it only became the slave of Assyria, and had Egypt for a foe. Thus Israel was in a most painful vise between the two great powers of the earth, the western and the eastern powers. But how will all this be altered now! Egypt and Assyria become one in Jehovah, and Israel the third in the covenant. Israel is lo longer the only nation of God, the creation of God, the heir of God; but all this applies to Egypt and Assyria now, as well as to Israel. To give full expression to this, Israel's three titles of honour are mixed together, and each of the three nations receives one of the choice names - nachali, "my inheritance," being reserved for Israel, as pointing back to its earliest history. This essential equalization of the heathen nations and Israel is no degradation to the latter. For although from this time forward there is to be no essential difference between the nations in their relation to God, it is still the God of Israel who obtains this universal recognition, and the nation of Israel that has become, according to the promise, the medium of blessing to the world.
Thus has the second half of the prophecy ascended step by step from salvation to salvation, as the first descended step by step from judgment to judgment. The culminating point in Isaiah 19:25 answers to the lowest point in Isaiah 19:15. Every step in the ascending half is indicated by the expression "in that day." Six times do we find this sign-post to the future within the limits of Isaiah 19:16-25. This expression is almost as characteristic of Isaiah as the corresponding expression, "Behold, the days come" (hinneh yâm bâ'im), is of Jeremiah (compare, for example, Isaiah 7:18-25). And it is more particularly in the promising or Messianic portions of the prophecy that it is so favourite an introduction (Isaiah 11:10-11; Isaiah 12:1; compare Zech). Nevertheless, the genuineness of Isaiah 19:16-25 has recently been called in question, more especially by Hitzig. Sometimes this passage has not been found fanatical enough to have emanated from Isaiah, i.e., too free from hatred towards the heathen; whereas, on the other hand, Knobel adduces evidence that the prophet was no fanatic at all. Sometimes it is too fanatical; in reply to which we observe, that there never was a prophet of God in the world who did not appear to a "sound human understanding" to be beside himself, since, even assuming that this human understanding be sound, it is only within the four sides of its own peculiar province that it is so. Again, in Isaiah 19:18, Isaiah 19:19, a prophecy has been discovered which is too special to be Isaiah's, in opposition to which Knobel proves that it is not so special as is supposed. But it is quite special enough; and this can never astonish any one who can discern in the prophecy a revelation of the future communicated by God, whereas in itself it neither proves nor disproves the authorship of Isaiah. So far as the other arguments adduced against the genuineness are concerned, they have been answered exhaustively by Caspari, in a paper which he contributed on the subject to the Lutherische Zeitschrift, 1841, 3. Hvernick, in his Introduction, has not been able to do anything better than appropriate the arguments adduced by Caspari. And we will not repeat for a third time what has been said twice already. The two halves of the prophecy are like the two wings of a bird. And it is only through its second half that the prophecy becomes the significant centre of the Ethiopic and Egyptian trilogy. For chapter 19 predicts the saving effect that will be produced upon Egypt by the destruction of Assyria. And Isaiah 19:23. announces what will become of Assyria. Assyria will also pass through judgment to salvation. This eschatological conclusion to chapter 19, in which Egypt and Assyria are raised above themselves into representatives of the two halves of the heathen world, is the golden clasp which connects chapters 19 and Isaiah 20:1-6. We now turn to this third portion of the trilogy, which bears the same relation to chapter 19 as Isaiah 16:13-14 to Isaiah 15-16:12.
Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.