Isaiah 11:15
And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over with dry sandals.
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(15) The tongue . . .—Better, as in Joshua 15:2; Joshua 15:5; Joshua 18:19, the “bay” or “gulf.” The “Egyptian sea” is the Gulf of Suez, and the prophet pictures to himself another marvel like the passage of the Red Sea in Exodus 14:22. The “river,” on the other hand, is the word Commonly used for the Euphrates (Genesis 31:21; Joshua 24:2), and that meaning is assigned to it here by most commentators, who refer to Isaiah 44:27 as a parallel. In Isaiah 19:5, however, it is found, as here, in parallelism with the “sea” of Egypt, and as it there refers to the Nile, that meaning may well be accepted here. The prophet describes, in language which almost excludes the thought of a merely literal fulfilment, a renewal of wonders transcending those of the Exodus, and it was natural that his description should bear the local colouring of the region. He contemplates a return from Egypt as much as from Assyria (Isaiah 11:11). On this view the words that follow, “will smite it in the seven streams,” refer naturally enough to the seven mouths that enclose and intersect the Delta of the Nile. On the other view, the words may be interpreted as meaning literally, “I will smite it [Euphrates] into seven streams,” and figuratively, “I will reduce the power of Assyria [or Babylon, as an Assyrian city] to insignificance.”

Isaiah 11:15-16. And the Lord shall utterly destroy — Shall not only divide it, as of old, but shall quite dry it up, that it may be a highway; the tongue of the Egyptian sea — The Red sea, which may well be called the Egyptian sea, both because it borders upon Egypt, and because the Egyptians were drowned in it. It is called a tongue, both here and in the Hebrew text, (Joshua 15:2; Joshua 15:5,) as having some resemblance to a tongue; and for a similar reason the name of tongue has been given by geographers to promontories of land which shoot forth into the sea, as this sea shoots out of the main ocean into the land. Bishop Lowth renders the clause, Jehovah shall smite with a drought the tongue, &c., following the Chaldee, which, instead of החרים, he destroyed, reads החריב, he dried up. And the next clause, which he understands, not of the river Nile, but of the Euphrates, the bishop very properly translates, “And he shall shake his hand over the river with his vehement wind; and he shall strike it into seven streams, and make them pass over it dry-shod.” Thus also Dr. Waterland, after Vitringa: “He shall shake his hand over the Euphrates, and shall smite it into seven outlets;” that is, he shall divide or separate it into seven small rivers, so as to render it easy to be passed over. What is thus expressed metaphorically in this clause, is declared in plain words in the next verse: And there shall be a highway for the remnant of his people, &c. — As there shall be a highway from Egypt, the Red sea being dried up, so shall there be from Assyria, the river Euphrates being rendered fordable. In other words, and without a figure, all impediments shall be removed, and a way shall be made for the return of God’s Israel from all parts of the world. He mentions Egypt and Assyria particularly, because they were then two flourishing kingdoms which bordered upon Judea, and by turns were the great oppressors of God’s people. And the ten tribes having been carried captive to Assyria, their case especially seemed desperate. But these two kingdoms stand here, in the prophetic style, for the adverse empires in general, especially those of idolatry and superstition, which shall be either destroyed or reduced to such a state of weakness as not to be able to hinder the progress of the conversion of the Jews and Gentiles. “My belief,” says Vitringa, “upon the strength of this prophecy is, that all the impediments of the great empires of the world being removed, which yet delay the perfect completion of the great and excellent promises made to the church, and hinder the calling and collection of the Jews and Gentiles, the empire of the kingdom of Christ will extend itself over the whole world, according to the remarkable prediction of Daniel, chap. 2:35, &c.” 11:10-16 When the gospel should be publicly preached, the Gentiles would seek Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and find rest of soul. When God's time is come for the deliverance of his people, mountains of opposition shall become plains before him. God can soon turn gloomy days into glorious ones. And while we expect the Lord to gather his ancient people, and bring them home to his church, also to bring in the fulness of the Gentiles, when all will be united in holy love, let us tread the highway of holiness he has made for his redeemed. Let us wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life, looking to him to prepare our way through death, that river which separates this world from the eternal world.And the Lord - The prophet goes on with the description of the effect which shall follow the return of the scattered Jews to God. The language is figurative, and is here drawn from that which was the great storehouse of all the imagery of the Jews - the deliverance of their fathers from the bondage of Egypt. The general sense is, that all the embarrassments which would tend to impede them would be removed; and that God would make their return as easy and as safe, as would have been the journey of their fathers to the land of Canaan, if the 'Egyptian Sea' had been removed entirely, and if the 'river,' with its 'seven streams,' by nature so formidable a barrier, had been dried up, and a path had been made to occupy its former place. Figuratively, the passage means, that all the obstructions to the peace and safety of the people of God would be removed, and that their way would be easy and safe.

The tongue - The Hebrews applied the word 'tongue' to anything that resembled a tongue - to a bar of gold Joshua 7:21, Joshua 7:24; to a flame of fire (note, Isaiah 5:24; compare Acts 2:3); to a bay of the sea, or a gulf, from its shape Joshua 15:5; Joshua 18:19. So we speak of a tongue of land. When it is said that the Lord would 'utterly destroy' it, it is equivalent to saying that it would be entirely dried up; that is, so as to present no obstruction.

Of the Egyptian Sea - Some interpreters, among whom is Vitringa, have supposed that by the tongue of the Egyptian Sea mentioned here, is meant the river Nile, which flows into the Mediterranean, here called, as they suppose, the Egyptian Sea. Vitringa observes that the Nile, before it flows into the Mediterranean, is divided into two streams or rivers, which form the Delta or the triangular territory lying between these two rivers, and bounded on the north by the Mediterranean. The eastern branch of the Nile being the largest, he supposes is called the tongue or "bay" of the Egyptian Sea. But to this interpretation there are obvious objections:

(1) It is not known that the Mediterranean is elsewhere called the Egyptian Sea.

(2) This whole description pertains to the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt The imagery is all drawn from that. But, in their departure, the Nile constituted no obstruction. Their place of residence, in Goshen, was east of the Nile. All the obstruction that they met with, from any sea or river, was from the Red Sea.

(3) The Red Sea is divided, at its northern extremity, into two bays, or forks, which may be called the "tongues" of the sea, and across one of which the Israelites passed in going from Egypt. Of these branches, the western one was called the Heroopolite branch, and the eastern, the Elanitic branch. It was across the western branch that they passed. When it is said that Yahweh would 'destroy' this, it means that he would dry it up so that it would be no obstruction; in other words, he would take the most formidable obstructions to the progress of his people out of the way.

And with his mighty wind - With a strong and powerful wind. Michaelis supposes that by this is meant a tempest. But there is, more probably, a reference to a strong and steady hot wind, such as blows over burning deserts, and such as would have a tendency to dry up even mighty waters. The illustration is, probably, derived from the fact that a strong east wind was employed to make a way through the Red Sea Exodus 14:21. If the allusion here be rather to a mighty wind or a tempest, than to one that is hot, and that tends to evaporate the waters even of the rivers, then it means that the wind would be so mighty as to part the waters, and make a path through the river, as was done in the Red Sea and at the Jordan. The "idea" is, that God would remove the obstructions to the rapid and complete deliverance and conversion of people.

Shall he shake his hand - This is to indicate that the mighty wind will be sent from God, and that it is designed to effect this passage through the rivers. The shaking of the band, in the Scripture, is usually an indication of anger, or of strong and settled purpose (see Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 13:2; Zechariah 2:9).

Over the river - Many have understood this as referring to the Nile; but two considerations show that the Euphrates is rather intended:

(1) The term 'the river' (הנהר hanâhâr) is usually applied to the Euphrates, called the river, by way of eminence; and when the term is used without any qualification, that river is commonly intended (see the notes at Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 8:7; compare Genesis 31:21; Genesis 36:37; 1 Kings 4:21; Ezra 4:10, Ezra 4:16; Ezra 5:3).

(2) the effect of this smiting of the river is said to be Isaiah 11:16 that there would be a highway for the people "from Assyria," which could be caused only by removing the obstruction which is produced by the Euphrates lying between Judea and some parts of Assyria.

And shall smite it - That is to dry it up, or to make it pasable.

In the seven streams - The word 'streams' here (נחלים nechâlı̂ym) denotes streams of much less dimensions than a river. It is applied to a "valley" with a brook running through it Genesis 26:19; and then to any small brook or stream, or rivulet Genesis 32:24; Psalm 74:15. Here it denotes brooks or streams that would be fordable. When it is said that the river should be smitten 'in the seven streams,' the Hebrew does not mean that it was "already" divided into seven streams, and that God would smite "them," but it means, that God would smite it "into" seven streams or rivulets; that is, into "many" such rivulets (for the number seven is often used to denote a large indefinite number, Note, Isaiah 4:1); and the expression denotes, that though the river presented an obstruction, in its natural size, which they could not overcome, yet God would make new channels for it, and scatter it into innumerable rivulets or small streams, so that they could pass ever it dry-shod.

A remarkable illustration of this occurs in Herodotus (i.:189): 'Cyrus, in his march to Babylon, arrived at the river Gyndes, which, rising in the mountains of Matiene, and passing through the country of the Darneans, loses itself in the Tigris; and this, after flowing by Opis, is finally discharged into the Red Sea. While Cyrus was endeavoring to pass this river, which could not be perfomed without boats, one of the white consecrated horses boldly entering the stream, in his attempts to cross it, was borne away by the rapidity of the current, and totally lost. Cyrus, exasperated by the accident, made a vow that he would render this stream so very insignificant, that women should hereafter be able to cross it without so much as wetting their feet. He accordingly suspended his designs on Babylon, and divided his forces into two parts; he then marked out with a line on each side of the river, one hundred and eighty trenches; these were dug according to his orders, and so great a number of people were employed that he accomplished his purpose; but he thus wasted the whole of that summer' (see also Seneca, "De Ira." iii.continued...

15. There shall be a second exodus, destined to eclipse even the former one from Egypt in its wonders. So the prophecies elsewhere (Ps 68:22; Ex 14:22; Zec 10:11). The same deliverance furnishes the imagery by which the return from Babylon is described (Isa 48:20, 21).

destroy—literally, "devote," or "doom," that is, dry up; for what God dooms, perishes (Ps 106:9 Na 1:4).

tongue—the Bubastic branch of the Nile [Vitringa]; but as the Nile was not the obstruction to the exodus, it is rather the west tongue or Heroöpolite fork of the Red Sea.

with … mighty wind—such as the "strong east wind" (Ex 14:21), by which God made a way for Israel through the Red Sea. The Hebrew for "mighty" means terrible. Maurer translates, "With the terror of His anger"; that is, His terrible anger.

in the seven streams—rather, "shall smite it (divide it by smiting) into seven (many) streams, so as to be easily crossed" [Lowth]. So Cyrus divided the river Gyndes, which retarded his march against Babylon, into three hundred sixty streams, so that even a woman could cross it [Herodotus, 1.189]. "The river" is the Euphrates, the obstruction to Israel's return "from Assyria" (Isa 11:16), a type of all future impediments to the restoration of the Jews.

dry shod—Hebrew, "in shoes." Even in sandals they should be able to pass over the once mighty river without being wet (Re 16:12).

Shall utterly destroy; shall not only divide it, as of old, but will quite dry it up, that it may be a highway, as it is explained in the next verse.

The tongue of the Egyptian sea; the Red Sea, which may well be called the Egyptian sea, both because it borders upon Egypt, and because the Egyptians were drowned in it, which is called a tongue in the Hebrew text, Joshua 15:2,5, as having some resemblance with a tongue; for which reason the name of hath been given by geographers to promontories of land which shoot forth into the sea, as this sea did shoot out of the main ocean into the laud.

Shake his hand; he alludes to Moses’s shaking of his hand with the rod of God in it over the sea;

over the river, to wit, of Egypt, Nilus, as appears both from the foregoing and from the following words.

The seven streams; for which Nilus is famous in all authors, and by which it emptieth itself into the sea. And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea,.... Which Kimchi and Abarbinel interpret of the Egyptian river Sichor, or the Nile; others of a bay of the Egyptian sea, so called because in the form of a tongue; the destroying of it designs the drying of it up, so that people might pass over it dry shod; the allusion is to the drying up of the Red Sea, when the Israelites came out of Egypt, and passed through it, as on dry land; and it intends the destruction of Egypt itself, not literally by the Romans, in the times of Augustus Caesar, as Jerom thinks, who interprets the "strong wind", in the following clause, of them; but figuratively, the destruction of Rome, which is spiritually called Egypt, Revelation 11:8 and the utter destruction of it, by an anathema, and with a curse, from the Lord himself; as the word here used signifies; and which will take place upon the battle at Armageddon, Revelation 16:16 which has its name from the word in the text:

and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river; in allusion to Moses's stretching out his hand over the Red sea, and the Lord's causing it to go back with a strong east wind, Exodus 14:21. Some understand this of the river Nile as before, and that because of what follows; but Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of the river Euphrates, which is commonly understood in Scripture when "the river", without any explication, is made mention of; and so the Targum,

"and the Lord shall dry up the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and shall lift up the stroke of his strength upon Euphrates, by the word of his prophets;''

and this designs the destruction of the Turks, or the Ottoman empire, which is signified by the drying up of the river Euphrates, Revelation 16:12 where it is thought by some there is an allusion to the words here:

and shall smite it in the seven streams; which have made some think the river Nile is meant, because that had its seven streams, or gates, as Juvenal calls (o) them, or mouths, by which the sea issued into it; which are called (p) the Canopic or Heracleotic, the Bolbitine or Bolbitic, the Sebennitic, the Phatnitic, the Mendesian, the Tanitic or Saitic, and the Pelusian or Bubastic, from the cities Canopus and Heracleum, Bolbitine, Sebennytus, Phatnus, Mendes, Tanis or Sais, Pelusium, and Bubastus, built on the shore of these entrances; but it may be observed, that the river Euphrates was drained by seven ditches or rivulets by Cyrus, when Babylon was taken, by which means his soldiers entered the city dry shod, to which the allusion may be here; and it may denote the entire destruction of the Turkish empire, in all its branches; for "seven", as Kimchi observes, may signify a multitude, even the many kingdoms, people, and nations, under that jurisdiction:

and make men go over dryshod; or "with shoes", with them on, there being no need to pluck them off, the river and its streams being dried up; by the "men" are, meant the "kings of the east", of which See Gill on Revelation 16:12 all these phrases denote the removal of all impediments out of the way of God's people in those parts, in coming over to the Christian religion, and their embracing and professing that.

(o) Satyr. 13. (p) Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 10.

And the LORD shall utterly destroy the {i} tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand {k} over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.

(i) Meaning a corner of the sea that enters into the land and has the form of a tongue.

(k) That is, Nile, the great river of Egypt which enters into the sea with seven streams.

15. Cf. Zechariah 10:10 f. shall utterly destroy] lit. “lay under the ban.” But the reading of several ancient versions (heḥěrîb for heḥěrîm) gives a better sense: dry up; cf. ch. Isaiah 50:2. the tongue of the Egyptian sea is the Gulf of Suez (cf. Joshua 15:2; Joshua 15:5; Joshua 18:19).

with his mighty wind] Perhaps with the fierce heat of his breath. The word rendered “fierce heat” does not occur again in Hebrew, but a similar Arabic word is used of internal heat (either physical or mental). The phrase seems misplaced; it belongs to the figure of the drying up of the sea, not to that of shaking the hand. over the river] the Euphrates, as in ch. Isaiah 7:20, Isaiah 8:7. smile it in the seven streams] R.V. into seven streams. dryshod] lit. “in sandals.”

15, 16. A miraculous passage prepared for the return of the exiles. The allusions to the Exodus are palpable and extend to the next chapter.Verse 15. - The Lord shall utterly destroy; rather, shall lay under a curse (Aquila, ἀναθεματίσει). The tongue of the Egyptian sea. Either the Gulf of Suez or that of Akabah. God shall do away with those obstacles which keep the nations apart and prevent ready intercourse. Both gulfs are thought to have extended anciently considerably further inland than they do at present. With his mighty wind; rather, with the might of his breath (in fortitudine spiritus sui, Vulgate). Shall he shake his hand. A gesture of menace (comp. Isaiah 10:32). Over the river. "The river" (hun-unbar) is, as usually, the Euphrates, the great river of Western Asia. And smite it in the seven streams; rather, and smite it into seven streams; i.e. divide its waters among seven channels, so that it may be readily forded, and cease to be a barrier. Dry-shod; literally, in their shoes; i.e. without taking them off; The fruit of righteousness is peace, which now reigns in humanity under the rule of the Prince of Peace, and even in the animal world, with nothing whatever to disturb it. "And the wolf dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the kid; and calf and lion and stalled ox together: a little boy drives them. And cow and bear go to the pasture; their young ones lie down together: and the lion eats shopped straw like the ox. And the suckling plays by the hole of the adder, and the weaned child stretches its hand to the pupil of the basilisk-viper. They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the land is filled with knowledge of Jehovah, like the waters covering the sea." The fathers, and such commentators as Luther, Calvin, and Vitringa, have taken all these figures from the animal world as symbolical. Modern rationalists, on the other hand, understand them literally, but regard the whole as a beautiful dream and wish. It is a prophecy, however, the realization of which is to be expected on this side of the boundary between time and eternity, and, as Paul has shown in Romans 8, is an integral link in the predestined course of the history of salvation (Hengstenberg, Umbreit, Hofmann, Drechsler). There now reign among irrational creatures, from the greatest to the least, - even among such as are invisible, - fierce conflicts and bloodthirstiness of the most savage kind. But when the Son of David enters upon the full possession of His royal inheritance, the peace of paradise will be renewed, and all that is true in the popular legends of the golden age be realized and confirmed. This is what the prophet depicts in such lovely colours. The wolf and lamb, those two hereditary foes, will be perfectly reconciled then. The leopard will let the teazing kid lie down beside it. The lion, between the calf and stalled ox, neither seizes upon its weaker neighbour, nor longs for the fatter one. Cow and bear graze together, whilst their young ones lie side beside in the pasture. The lion no longer thirsts for blood, but contents itself, like the ox, with chopped straw. The suckling pursues its sport (pilpel of שׁעע, mulcere) by the adder's hole, and the child just weaned stretches out its hand boldly and fearlessly to me'ūrath tziph‛ōni. It is evident from Jeremiah 8:17 that tziph‛ōni is the name of a species of snake. According to Aquila and the Vulgate, it is basiliskos, serpens regulus, possibly from tzaph, to pipe or hiss (Ges., Frst); for Isidorus, in his Origg. xii. 4, says, Sibilus idem est qui et regulus; sibilo enim occidit, antequam mordeat vel exurat. For the hapax leg. hâdâh, the meaning dirigere, tendere, is established by the Arabic; but there is all the more uncertainty about the meaning of the hap. leg. מאורה. According to the parallel חר, it seems to signify the hollow (Syr., Vulg., lxx, κοίτη): whether from אּוּר equals עוּר, from which comes מערה; or from אור, the light-hole (like מאור, which occurs in the Mishna, Ohaloth xiii. 1) or opening where a cavern opens to the light of day. It is probable, however, that me'ūrâh refers to something that exerts an attractive influence upon the child, either the "blending of colours" (Saad. renders tziph‛oni, errakas', the motley snake), or better still, the "pupil of the eye" (Targum), taking the word as a feminine of mâ'ōr, the light of the eye (b. Erubin 55b - the power of vision). The look of a snake, more especially of the basilisk (not merely the basilisk-lizard, but also the basilisk-viper), was supposed to have a paralyzing and bewitching influence; but now the snake will lose this pernicious power (Isaiah 65:25), and the basilisk become so tame and harmless, as to let children handle its sparkling eyes as if they were jewels. All this, as we should say with Luthardt and Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, ii. 2, 567), is only colouring which the hand of the prophet employs, for the purpose of painting the peace of that glorified state which surpasses all possibility of description; and it is unquestionably necessary to take the thought of the promise in a spiritual sense, without adhering literally to the medium employed in expressing it. But, on the other hand, we must guard against treating the description itself as merely a drapery thrown around the actual object; whereas it is rather the refraction of the object in the mind of the prophet himself, and therefore a manifestation of the true nature of that which he actually saw.

But are the animals to be taken as the subject in Isaiah 11:9 also? The subject that most naturally suggests itself is undoubtedly the animals, of which a few that are alarming and destructive to men have been mentioned just before. And the fact that they really are thought of as the subject, is confirmed by Isaiah 65:25, where Isaiah 11:6-9 is repeated in a compendious form. The idea that ירעוּ requires men as the subject, is refuted by the common רעה חיּה (compare the parallel promise in Ezekiel 34:25, which rests upon Hosea 2:20). That the term yashchithu can be applied to animals, is evident from Jeremiah 2:30, and may be assumed as a matter of course. But if the animals are the subject, har kodshi (my holy mountain) is not Zion-Moriah, upon which wild beasts never made their home in historical times; but, as the generalizing col (all) clearly shows, the whole of the holy mountain-land of Israel: har kodshi has just this meaning in Isaiah 57:13 (cf., Psalm 78:54; Exodus 15:17). The fact that peace prevails in the animal world, and also peace between man and beast, is then attributed to the universal prevalence of the knowledge of God, in consequence of which that destructive hostility between the animal world and man, by which estrangement and apostasy from God were so often punished (2 Kings 17:25; Ezekiel 14:15, etc.: see also Isaiah 7:24), have entirely come to an end. The meaning of "the earth" is also determined by that of "all my holy mountain." The land of Israel, the dominion of the Son of David in the more restricted sense, will be from this time forward the paradisaical centre, as it were, of the whole earth - a prelude of its future state of perfect and universal glorification (Isaiah 6:3, "all the earth"). It has now become full of "the knowledge of Jehovah," i.e., of that experimental knowledge which consists in the fellowship of love (דעה, like לדה, is a secondary form of דעת, the more common infinitive or verbal noun from ידע: Ges. 133, 1), like the waters which cover the sea, i.e., bottom of the sea (compare Habakkuk 2:14, where lâda‛ath is a virtual accusative, full of that which is to be known). "Cover:" cissâh l' (like sâcac l', Psalm 91:4), signifies to afford a covering to another; the Lamed is frequently introduced with a participle (in Arabic regularly) as a sign of the object (Ewald, 292, e), and the omission of the article in the case of mecassim is a natural consequence of the inverted order of the words.

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