Isaiah 19:20
And it shall be for a sign and for a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry to the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a savior, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) For they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors . . .—The words are almost as an anticipation of the great truth proclaimed in John 4:21. The prayers of the worshippers in spirit and in truth, whether Jews or proselytes, in Egypt should find as immediate an access to the ear of Jehovah as if they had been offered in the Temple at Jerusalem. If the people suffered under the oppression of a Pharaoh, or a Cambyses, or a Ptolemy, and prayed for deliverance, He would as certainly send them a saviour who should free them from the yoke as He had sent saviours to Israel of old in the persons of the judges (Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15; Judges 4:4). It is open to us to see a yet higher fulfilment in the fact that the message of the Gospel brought peace and joy to those who were weary and heavy laden in Egypt, as well as in Galilee; to those who were looking for redemption in Alexandria not less than to those who were looking for it in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 19:20-22. And it shall be for a sign — Namely, the altar or pillar, last mentioned; and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts — To testify that they own the Lord for their God. For they shall cry unto the Lord because of their oppressors — Being sorely distressed, and finding that their idols are unable to help them, they shall turn unto the true God. And he shall send them a saviour, and a great one — In these words the prophet sets forth the cause of this happy change in Egypt, with its immediate effects, namely, their crying to the Lord in their distress, and his sending them a saviour, who should deliver them. “Here it is clearly foretold,” says Bishop Newton, “that a great prince, sent by God, from a foreign country, should deliver the Egyptians from their Persian oppressors, and heal their country, which was smitten of God, and afflicted: and who could this be but Alexander, who is always distinguished by the name of Alexander the Great, and whose first successor in Egypt was called the great Ptolemy, and Ptolemy Soter, or the saviour? Upon Alexander’s first coming into Egypt the people all cheerfully submitted to him out of hatred to the Persians, so that he became master of the country without any opposition. For this reason he treated them with humanity and kindness, built there a city, which, after his own name, he called Alexandria, appointed one of their own country for their civil governor, and permitted them to be governed by their own laws and customs. By these changes and regulations, and by the prudent and gentle administration of some of the first Ptolemies, Egypt revived, trade and learning flourished, and, for a while, peace and plenty blessed the land. But it is more largely foretold, that, about the same time, the true religion and the worship of the God of Israel should begin to spread and prevail in the land of Egypt; and what event was ever more unlikely to happen than the conversion of a people so sunk and lost in superstition and idolatry, of the worst and grossest kind? It is certain that many of the Jews, after Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jerusalem, fled into Egypt, and carried along with them Jeremiah the prophet, who there uttered many of his prophecies concerning the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar. “From hence,” and by the means above described, “some knowledge of God, and some notice of the prophecies, might easily be derived to the Egyptians.” “By these means, the Lord must, in some degree, have been known to Egypt, and the Egyptians must have known the Lord — And, without doubt, there must have been many proselytes among them. Among those who came up to the feast of pentecost, (Acts 2:10,) are particularly mentioned the dwellers in Egypt, and in the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, Jews and proselytes. Nay, from the instance of Candace’s eunuch, (Acts 8:27,) we may infer that there were proselytes even beyond Egypt, in Ethiopia. Thus were the Jews settled and encouraged in Egypt, insomuch that Philo represents their number as not less than a hundred myriads, or ten hundred thousand men.” But though this prophecy concerning Egypt might have its first accomplishment in the deliverance of the Egyptians from the Persian yoke by Alexander the Great, and in that knowledge of the true God, and of his revealed will, which many of the Egyptians received under the government of the Ptolemies, through their intercourse with the Jews, and the translation of the Jewish Scriptures into the Greek language; yet, doubtless, this prediction has a further and higher aspect, as commentators in general have understood it, and refers to that spiritual redemption and salvation which the Egyptians, among many other ignorant and idolatrous Gentiles, were to receive, and actually did receive, by the coming of Christ, the great and only Saviour of lost mankind, and by the publication of his gospel to them. This appears still more evidently from the verses which follow. But the full and final accomplishment of this, as well as of many other important prophecies, shall not take place till Mohammedanism and idolatry shall be completely overthrown, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.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.And it shall be for a sign - The altar, and the pillar. This shows that the altar was not to be for sacrifice, but was a "memorial," or designed to designate a place of worship.

They shall cry to the Lord because of the oppressors - That is, oppressed and borne down under the exactions of their rulers, they shall seek deliverance from the true God - one instance among many of the effect of affliction and oppression in leading people to embrace the true religion.

And he shall send them a saviour - Who this "saviour" would be, has been a subject on which there has been a great difference of opinion. Grotius supposes that it would be "the angel" by which the army of Sennacherib would be destroyed. Gesenius thinks it was Psammetichus, who would deliver them from the tyranny of the eleven kings who were contending with each other, or that, since in Isaiah 19:4, he is called a 'severe lord,' it is probable that the promise here is to be understood of a delivering or protecting angel. But it is evident that some person is here denoted who would be sent "subsequently" to the national judgments which are here designated. Dr. Gill supposes that by the saviour here is meant the Messiah; but this interpretation does not suit the connection, for it is evident that the event here predicted, was to take place before the coming of Christ. Vitringa and Dr. Newton suppose with more probability that Alexander the Great is here referred to, who took possession of Egypt after his conquest in the East, and who might be called "a saviour," inasmuch as he delivered them from the reign of the oppressive kings who had tyrannized there, and inasmuch as his reign and the reigns of those who succeeded him in Egypt, would be much more mild than that of the former kings of that country.

That Alexander the Great was regarded by the Egyptians as a saviour or deliverer, is apparent from history. Upon his coming to Egypt, the people submitted to him cheerfully, out of hatred to the Persians, so that he became master of the country without any opposition (Diod. Sic. xvii. 49; Arrian, iii. 3, 1; Q. Curtius, iv. 7, 8, as quoted by Newton). He treated them with much kindness; built the city of Alexandria, calling it after his own name, designing to make it the capital of his empire; and under him and the Ptolemies who succeeded him, trade revived, commerce flourished, learning was patronized, and peace and plenty blessed the land. Among other things, Alexander transplanted many Jews into Alexandria, and granted them many privileges, equal to the Macedonians themselves (Jos. "Bell. Jud." ii. 18. 7; "Contra Ap." ii. 4). 'The arrival of Alexander,' says Wilkinson ("Ancient Egyptians," vol. i. pp. 213, 214), 'was greeted with universal satisfaction.

Their hatred of the Persians, and their frequent alliances with the Greeks, who had fought under the same banners against a common enemy, naturally taught the Egyptians to welcome the Macedonian army with the strongest demonstrations of friendship, and to consider their coming as a direct interposition of the gods; and so wise and considerate was the conduct of the early Ptolemies, that they almost ceased to regret the period when they were governed by their native princes.' Under the Ptolemies, large numbers of the Jews settled in Egypt. For their use, as has been remarked, the Old Testament was translated into Greek, and a temple was built by Onias, under the sixth Ptolemy. Philo represents the number of the Jews in Egypt in his time at not less than one million. They were settled in nearly all parts oF Egypt; but particularly in Heliopolis or the city of the sun, in Migdol, in Tahpanes, in Noph or Memphis, in Pathros or Thebais Jeremiah 44:1 - perhaps the five cities referred to in Isaiah 19:18.

And a great one - (ורב vârâb). A mighty one; a powerful saviour. The name 'great' has been commonly assigned to Alexander. The Septuagint renders this, 'Judging (κρίνων krinōn), he shall save them;' evidently regarding רב râb as derived from ריב riyb "to manage a cause, or to judge." Lowth renders it, 'A vindicator.' The word means "great, mighty;" and is repeatedly applied to a prince, chief, or captain 2 Kings 25:8; Esther 1:8; Daniel 1:3; Daniel 2:48; Daniel 5:11.

20. it—the altar and pillar.

a sign—(of the fulfilment of prophecy) to their contemporaries.

a witness—to their descendants.

unto the Lord—no longer, to their idols, but to Jehovah.

for they shall cry—or, "a sign … that they cried, … and He sent to them a saviour"; probably, Alexander the Great (so "a great one"), whom the Egyptians welcomed as a deliverer (Greek, Soter, a title of the Ptolemies) out of the hands of the Persians, who under Cambyses had been their "oppressors." At Alexandria, called from him, the Old Testament was translated into Greek for the Greek-speaking Jews, who in large numbers dwelt in Egypt under the Ptolemies, his successors. Messiah is the antitype ultimately intended (compare Ac 2:10, "Egypt").

And it, the altar or pillar last mentioned,

shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord, to testify that they own the Lord for their God.

They shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors; being sorely distressed, and finding the weakness of their idols, they shall turn unto the true God.

A Saviour, and a great one; a great or mighty Saviour, by a common figure called hendiaduo, as a cloud and smoke is put for a smoking cloud, Isaiah 4:5; or, a Saviour and a Prince, even Christ, who is so called, Acts 5:31, as is evident from the whole context, which apparently speaks of gospel times. And the emphatical phrase here used directed them to look for an extraordinary Saviour. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt,.... This refers either to what goes before, that the altar and pillar were signs and witnesses that the Lord was believed in, professed, and worshipped there; or to what follows after, that the Lord's hearing the cries of men, and answering them, by sending a great Saviour to them, is a token and testimony for him of his great love unto them:

for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors; as men awakened and convinced do, feeling the oppressions of a guilty conscience, and a tempting devil, and an ensnaring wicked world:

and he shall send them a Saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them; this is Christ, whom God sent in the fulness of time to be the Saviour of lost sinners; and he is a "great" one indeed, the great God, and our Saviour, Titus 2:13 who is the Son of God, the true God, and eternal life, who has all the perfections of deity in him; the Creator and Upholder of all things; and must have therefore great and sufficient abilities to save sinners to the uttermost; and those that come to God by him he does save and deliver from all their sins, and out of the hands of all their enemies, and from wrath, ruin, and destruction. Abarbinel (e) owns that the Messiah is here meant, as undoubtedly he is; and not the angel that destroyed Sennacherib's army, as Kimchi; for the text speaks not of the Jews, but of the Egyptians. Vitringa thinks that either Alexander, called the Great, or else Ptolemy the son of Lagus, who had the same epithet, and who was also called "Soter", the saviour, is here meant.

(e) Mashmiah Jeshua, fol. 13. 1.

And it shall be for a sign and for a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry to the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them {u} a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.

(u) This declares that this prophecy would be accomplished in the time of Christ.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts] i.e. a reminder that He has a people in Egypt, and that by their presence the land is consecrated to Him.

The process of conversion in this and the following verses is finely conceived. First, the name of Jehovah is made known by the religious observances of the Jewish colonists and proselytes; then, in a time of trouble, the Egyptians turn to Him instead of to their false gods, and learn to know Him through His answer to their prayers (20, 21); finally this experience of Jehovah is deepened and purified by a discipline similar to that to which Israel was subjected in the time of the Judges (22).

the oppressors] Omit the art.; the reference is quite general.

a saviour] See Jdg 3:9; Jdg 3:15; 2 Kings 13:5.

a great one] Better: a champion. A special allusion to Ptolemy Soter, or to the Jewish generals who served under Ptolemy Philometor is not called for.Verse 20. - It shall be for a sign. The outward tokens of Jehovah-worship shall witness to God that he has in Egypt now a covenant people, and he will deal with them accordingly. He shall send them a savior, and a great one. This does not seem to point to any earthly deliverer, but to the Savior from the worst of all oppressors, sin and Satan, whom they will need equally with the rest of his people. 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.
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