|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verses 18-22. - THE TURNING OF EGYPT TO JEHOVAH. The chastisement of the Egyptians shall be followed, after a while, by a great change. Influences from Canaan shall penetrate Egypt (ver. 18), an altar shall be raised in her midst to Jehovah (ver. 19), and she herself shall cry to him for succor (ver. 20) and be delivered (ver. 20). Egypt shall even become a part of Jehovah's kingdom, shall "know him," and serve him with sacrifice and oblation (ver. 21), and perform her vows to Jehovah, and have her supplications heard by him, and be converted and healed (ver. 22). Verse 18. - In that day. Not really the day of vengeance, but that which, in the prophet's mind, is most closely connected with it - the day of restitution - whereof he has spoken perpetually (Isaiah 1:25-27; Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 6:13, etc.). The two are parts of one scheme of things, and belong in the prophet's mind to one time. Shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan. It is quite true, as Mr. Cheyne remarks, that the Eastern Delta was from a very early date continually more and more Semitized by an influx of settlers from Palestine, and that Egyptian literature bears strong marks of this linguistic influence. But this is scarcely what the prophet intends to speak about. He is not interested in philology. What he means is that there will be an appreciable influx into Egypt of Palestinian ideas, thoughts, and sentiments. "Five" is probably used as a "round" number. The first manifest fulfillment of the prophecy was at the foundation of Alexandria, when the Jews were encouraged to become settlers by the concession of important privileges (Josephus, 'Contr. Ap.,' 2:4), and where they ultimately became the predominant element in the population, amounting, according to Philo ('In Flaec.,' § 6), to nearly a million souls. The next great Palestinian influx was under Ptolemy YI. (Philometor), when Onias fled from Palestine with a number of his partisans, and obtained permission to erect a Jewish temple near Heliopelis. The site of this temple is probably marked by the ruins at Tel-el-Yahoudeh ('Quarterly Statement' of Palest. Expl. Fund for July, 1880, pp. 137-139). It seems to have been a center to a number of Jewish communities in the neighborhood. In this double way Jehovah became known to Egypt before Christianity. A Christian Church was early established in Alexandria, possibly by St. Mark. Swear to the Lord of hosts; i.e. "swear fidelity to him." One shall be called, The city of destruction. Some manuscripts read 'Ir-ha-Kheres, "City of the Sun," for 'Ir-ha-heres, "City of Destruction," in which case the reference would be plainly to Heliopelis, which was in the immediate neighborhood of Tel-el-Yahoudeh, and which in the Ptolemaic period may well have fallen under Jewish influence. Even if 'Ir-ha-heres stand as the true reading, the name may still have been given with allusion to Heliopolis, the prophet intending to say, "That city which was known as the City of the Sun-God shall become known as the City of Destruction of the Sun-God and of idolatrous worship generally." That Heliopolis did actually fall under Jewish influence in the Ptolemaic period appears from a remarkable passage of Polyhistor, who says of the Exodus and the passage of the Red Sea, "The Memphites say that Moses, being well acquainted with the district, watched the ebb of the tide, and so led the people across the dry bed of the sea; but they of Heliopolis affirm that the king, at the head of a vast force, and having the sacred animals also with him, pursued after the Jews, because they were carrying away with them the riches which they had borrowed from the Egyptians. Then, "they say," the voice of God commanded Moses to smite the sea with his rod, and divide it; and Moses, when he heard, touched the water with it, and so the sea parted asunder, and the host marched through on dry ground." Such an account of the Exodus would scarcely have been given by Egyptians unless they were three parts Hebraized.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt,.... Here opens a scene of mercy, a prophecy of good things to the Egyptians in future times; for this is not to be understood of the selfsame time, that the former calamities would come upon them; but of some time after that; and not of Egypt, spiritual or mystical, that is, Rome, or the antichristian jurisdiction, so called, Revelation 11:8 and of the five kingdoms that should revolt from it at the Reformation, as Cocceius thinks; who interprets the above prophecy of the antichristian state, and names the five kingdoms that should break off from it, and did; as Great Britain, the United States of Holland, Denmark and Norway, Swedeland, the people of Germany, and those near them, as Bohemia, Hungary, Transylvania, and Helvetia; but Egypt literally is here designed; and its five cities either intend just so many principal ones, as some think, namely, Memphis, Tanis, Alexandria, Bubastis, and Heliopolis; or rather it is a certain number for an uncertain; and to be understood either of many, as five out of six, since afterwards one is mentioned, as to be destroyed; or rather of a few, as five out of twenty thousand, for so many cities are said to have been in Egypt (y); and so this number is used in Scripture for a few; see 1 Corinthians 14:19 and the prophecy respects the conversion of them, which some think was fulfilled in some little time after; either by some Jews fleeing to Egypt when Judea was invaded, and Jerusalem besieged by Sennacherib, who making known and professing the true religion there, were the means of converting many of the Egyptians; or, as the Jews (z) think, it had its accomplishment when Sennacherib's army was destroyed, and what remained of them, consisting of Egyptians and other people, were dismissed by Hezekiah, and being used kindly by him, embraced the true religion, and carried it with them into Egypt, and there professed and propagated it; but it seems most likely to refer to later times, the times of the Gospel, when it was carried and preached in Egypt by the Evangelist Mark, and others, to the conversion of them, which is expressed in the following words:
speak the language of Canaan; the Hebrew language, which continued from the time of the confusion in the posterity of Shem, and in the family of Heber, from whom Abraham descended; which was not the language of the old Canaanites, though that was pretty near it, but what the Jews now at this time spake, who dwelt in the land of Canaan: but though this language is here referred to, and might be learned, as it is where the Gospel comes, for the sake of understanding the Scriptures in the original; yet that is not principally meant, but the religion of the Christian and converted Jews; and the sense is, that the Egyptians, hearing and embracing the Gospel, should speak the pure language of it, and make the same profession of it, and with one heart and mouth with them glorify God, and confess the Lord Jesus: and when a sinner is converted, he speaks a different language than he did before; the language of Canaan is the language of repentance towards God, faith in Christ, love to them, and all the saints; it is self-abasing, Christ exalting, and free grace magnifying language; it is the language of prayer to God for mercies wanted, and of praise and thanksgiving for mercies received, and especially for Christ, and the blessings of grace in him; it is the language of experience, and what agrees with the word of God: and in common conversation it is different from others; not swearing, or lying, or filthiness, or foolish jesting, or frothy, vain, and idle talk, are this language; but what is savoury, and for the use of edifying:
and swear to the Lord of hosts; not by him, but to him, which sometimes is put for the whole of religious worship, Deuteronomy 6:13 and signifies a bowing, a submission, and subjection to him; compare Isaiah 45:23 with Romans 14:11 it is swearing allegiance to him, owning him to be their Lord, King, and Lawgiver, and a resolution to obey him in all his commands and ordinances, see Psalm 119:106,
one shall be called the city of destruction; not one of the five cities before mentioned; because all such as believe with the heart unto righteousness, and with the mouth make confession agreeably to it, shall be saved; but the sense is, that one and all, and everyone of these cities, and all such persons in them as speak not the language of Canaan, who neither embrace the Gospel, nor become subject to Christ, shall be devoted to destruction: though there is a Keri and Cetib of these words; it is written "heres", destruction, but it is read "cheres", the sun; and there was a city in Egypt called Bethshemesh, the house of the sun, Jeremiah 43:13 and by the Greeks Heliopolis (a); and by the Latins Solis Oppidum (b); and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "and one shall be called the city of the sun"; that is, Heliopolis, where the sun was worshipped, and from whence it had its name; and so the words are a display of the grace of God, that in that city, which was the seat of idolatrous worship, there the sun of righteousness should arise, and there should be a number of persons in it that should profess his name. The Targum takes in both the writing and reading of this passage, and renders it,
"the city of Bethshemesh, which is to be destroyed, shall be called one of them.''
(y) Herodot. l. 2. c. 177. (z) T. Bab. Menachot fol. 109. 2. and 110. 1. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 23. p. 66. (a) Herodot. l. 1. c. 3. 7. 8. 9. 59. 63. (b) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. and 6. 29.
Wesley's Notes on the Bible
19:18 In that day - After that time. In the times of the gospel. Five - A considerable number of their chief cities: a certain number being put for an uncertain. Speak - Profess the Jewish religion, agree with them in the same mind; which is fitly signified by speaking the same language. Swear - This implies the dedication, and yielding up of a person or thing to the Lord, by a solemn vow, or covenant. One - Not one of the five, but another city, the sixth city. As divers cities shall be converted and saved, so some other cities shall continue in their impenitency, and be destroyed.
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