Isaiah 19:13
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) The princes of Noph.—Probably, as in the LXX., Noph is the same as Memphis. The name has been derived (1) from Ma-m-pthah (“the house of Pthah,” an Egyptian deity of the Hephæstos, or Yulcan type); or (2), and more correctly, from Men-nepher (“place of the good”). This also was, as in Hosea 9:6 (where we have the form Moph), one of the chief royal cities of Lower Egypt, and the seat of the Ethiopian dynasty then ruling.

Even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof.—Better, the corner-stone of the castes. The word is the same as the “corner” of Zechariah 10:4, the “chief” of Judges 20:2; 1Samuel 14:38, and describes the position of superiority among the Egyptian castes claimed by the priest-rulers of Zoan and Noph.

19:1-17 God shall come into Egypt with his judgments. He will raise up the causes of their destruction from among themselves. When ungodly men escape danger, they are apt to think themselves secure; but evil pursues sinners, and will speedily overtake them, except they repent. The Egyptians will be given over into the hand of one who shall rule them with rigour, as was shortly after fulfilled. The Egyptians were renowned for wisdom and science; yet the Lord would give them up to their own perverse schemes, and to quarrel, till their land would be brought by their contests to become an object of contempt and pity. He renders sinners afraid of those whom they have despised and oppressed; and the Lord of hosts will make the workers of iniquity a terror to themselves, and to each other; and every object around a terror to them.The princes of Zoan - (the note at Isaiah 19:11). This "repetition" is intensive and emphatic, and shows the deep conviction of the prophet of their folly. The design is to show that "all" the counselors on which the Egyptians depended were fools.

The princes of Noph - The Vulgate, the Septuagint, and the Chaldee, render this 'Memphis,' and there is no doubt that this is the city intended. The name Memphis may have easily arisen from Noph. It was written also "Moph," and hence, Memphis. It is called "Menouf" by the Copts and Arabians. According to Plutarch, the name Memphis means "the port of the good." The situation of Memphis has been a subject of considerable dispute, and has afforded matter for long and laborious investigation. Sicard and Shaw fix its site at Djezeh or Ghizeh, opposite to old Cairo. Pococke, D'Anville, Niebuhr, and other writers and travelers, place Memphis more in the direction of Mitraheny, about fifteen miles further south, on the banks of the Nile, at the entrance of the plain of the mummies, at the north of which the pyramids are placed. It was the residence of the ancient kings of Egypt until the time of the Ptolemies, who commonly resided at Alexandria. Memphis retained its splendor until it was conquered by the Arabians, about 641 a.d. At the supposed site of Memphis south of Ghizeh, there are large mounds of rubbish, a colossal statue sunk in the ground, and a few fragments of granite, which remain to test the existence of this renowned capital. In Strabo's time, although partly in ruins, it was yet a populous city, second only to Alexandria. The total disappearance of the ancient edifices of Memphis is easily accounted for by the circumstance, that the materials were employed for the building of adjacent cities. Fostal rose out of the ruins, and when that city was again deserted, these ruins migrated again to the more modern Cairo (see Robinson's "Bib. Researches," vol. i. p. 40).

They have also seduced Egypt - That is, they have by their counsels caused it to err, and have led it into its present embarrassment.

The stay ... - Hebrew, פנה pinnâh - the "corner; that is, those who should have been the support. So the word is used to denote the head or leader of a people in Judges 20:2, Judges 20:14; 1 Samuel 14:38; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Zechariah 10:4.

13. Noph—called also Moph; Greek, Memphis (Ho 9:6); on the western bank of the Nile, capital of Lower Egypt, second only to Thebes in all Egypt: residence of the kings, until the Ptolemies removed to Alexandria; the word means the "port of the good" [Plutarch]. The military caste probably ruled in it: "they also are deceived," in fancying their country secure from Assyrian invasion.

stay of … tribes—rather, "corner-stone of her castes" [Maurer], that is, the princes, the two ruling castes, the priests and the warriors: image from a building which rests mainly on its corner-stones (see on [718]Isa 19:10; Isa 28:16; Ps 118:22; Nu 24:17, Margin; Jud 20:2; 1Sa 14:28, Margin; Zec 10:4).

Noph; another chief city, and one of the king’s seats, so called also Jeremiah 2:16 44:1; called also Moph in the Hebrew text, Hosea 9:6; and by other and later authors, Memphis.

Even they that are the stay, Heb. even the corner, or the corner-stone, which is the chief support of the building. Whereby he may design either,

1. The king; or,

2. Some eminent statesman of that age, upon, whose counsels both king and people depended; or

3. Their chief counsellors, the, singular number being then put collectively, as it is in many other places. The tribes of the provinces, which he calls by a title borrowed from the Hebrews, in whose language he spake and wrote this prophecy. The princes of Zoan are become fools,.... Or infatuated, in their counsels to Pharaoh, and by giving heed to the magicians and diviners; See Gill on Isaiah 19:11,

the princes of Noph are deceived; called Moph, in Hosea 9:6 where our translation renders it Memphis; and so do the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions here; the Arabic version has it Menphis; the Syriac version Mophis; and the Targum Mephes; the city of Memphis is no doubt intended, which was the chief of the first of the nomes or provinces of Egypt, from whence it was called Memphites: it was the metropolis of upper Egypt, and the seat of their kings and princes; it was built by their first king Menes (t), or Mizraim, and had in it the famous temple of Vulcan; it continues to this day, and goes by the name of Alkair, or Grand Cairo:

they have also seduced Egypt; the princes of the above places, being deceived themselves by the diviners and astrologers, deceived the common people that inhabited the nomes and provinces where they dwelt; it being usual with such to follow their superiors in principle and practice:

even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof; or, "who are the corner of its tribes" (u); meaning the nomes or provinces of Egypt, especially the Tanitic and Memphitic nomes, whose provinces are mentioned; these are called tribes by the prophet, in the language of the Jews, which land were divided into tribes, as the land of Egypt was divided into nomes; and about this time it was divided into twelve kingdoms, as Israel was into twelve tribes: now, the princes of these tribes and kingdoms, who should have been as cornerstones, to which civil magistrates are compared, see Psalm 118:22 the stay and support of the people, and should have kept them right, these led them wrong, into mistakes and errors.

(t) Ib. (Herodot. l. 2.) c. 99. (u) "angulus vel tribuum ejus"; so some in Vatablus.

The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of {l} Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the {m} support of its tribes.

(l) Or Memphis, Alexandria, and now called the great Cairo.

(m) The principal upholders of it are the main cause of their destruction.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. are become fools] Better are befooled—“stultified.” Noph is Memphis, the capital of Lower Egypt, and an ancient seat of Egyptian religion and learning. An older form of the Hebrew name is apparently Moph (Hosea 9:6); both forms are perhaps contracted from Mnoph (hieroglyphic Mennofer). The city was situated in the southern corner of the Delta, near Cairo, which was largely built from its ruins.

even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof] Render the corner-stone of her tribes, i.e. her ruling caste. For the metaphor, cf. Jdg 20:2; 1 Samuel 14:38; Zechariah 10:4. The “tribes” may be either the castes or the nomes (cantons).Verse 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 (2. 164) - priests, soldiers, herdsmen, swineherds, tradesmen, interpreters, and boatmen. But there were several others also, e.g., agricultural laborers, fishermen, artisans, official employee, etc. 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).

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