Isaiah 19:18
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.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBWESTSK
(18) In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan.—The prophecy is, it will be noticed, parallel to that affecting Ethiopia in Isaiah 18:7, and at least expresses the yearnings of the prophet’s heart after the conversion of Egypt to the worship of Jehovah. Like the previous prediction, it connects itself with Psalms 87, as recording the admission of proselytes as from other countries, so also from Rahab (i.e., Egypt). The “five cities” stand either as a certain number for an uncertain (Isaiah 30:17; Isaiah 17:6; Leviticus 26:8; 1Corinthians 14:19), or possibly as the actual number of the chief or royal cities of Egypt. The “language of Canaan” is Hebrew, and the prediction is that this will become the speech of the worshippers of Jehovah in the Egyptian cities. There is to be one universal speech for the universal Church of the true Israel.

And swear to the Lord of hosts.—The oath, as in the parallel phrase of Isaiah 45:23, is one of allegiance, and implies, therefore, something like a covenant of obedience.

The city of destruction.—There is probably something like a play on the name of the Egyptian city On, the Greek Heliopolis, the City of the Sun (Heb., Ir-ha-kheres), and the word which the prophet actually uses (Ir-ha-cheres), the “city of destruction.” The paronomasia, like in character to Ezekiel’s transformation of On into Aven, “nothingness,” or “vanity” (Ezekiel 30:17), or Hosea’s of Beth-el (“house of God”) into Bethaven (“ house of nothingness”) (Hosea 4:15), was intended to indicate the future demolition of the sun-idols, and is so interpreted in the Targum on this passage, “Bethshemesh (i.e., Heliopolis), whose future fate shall be destruction.” The word for destruction is cognate with the verb used of Gideon’s breaking down the image of Baal, in Judges 6:25; and in Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 43:13), “He shall break the pillars in the house of the sun,” we may probably trace an allusive reference to Isaiah’s language. Other meanings, such as “city of rescue,” “city of protection,” “city of restoration,” have been suggested, but on inadequate grounds. The Vulg. gives civitas solis. The LXX. rendering, “city asedek,” apparently following a different reading of the Hebrew, and giving the meaning, “city of righteousness,” was probably connected historically with the erection of a Jewish temple at Leon-topolis by Onias IV., in the time of Ptolemy Philomêtor, which for some two centuries shared with the Temple at Jerusalem the homage of Egyptian Jews. Onias and his followers pointed to Isaiah’s words as giving a sanction to what their brethren in Palestine looked on as a rival and sacrilegious worship.

Isaiah 19:18. In that day — After that time, as this phrase is often used; that is, in the times of the gospel. This latter part of the prophecy contains an account of the salutary benefits which God would bestow on Egypt after the above-mentioned calamities. “Isaiah, to whom God had most clearly revealed the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles to the grace of Christ, everywhere takes occasion to speak of it; and frequently finishes his prophecies concerning the nations with a promise of the spiritual blessings designed for them by God; but he does this nowhere more explicitly than in the present passage;” in which one cannot but observe with what ease he passes from the one argument to the other. He had said that some of the Egyptians, when under these calamities, should be afraid of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which he should shake over Egypt, and should fear, because of his counsel which he had determined against it; and he now teaches, that this servile fear and dread should hereafter be turned into a religious fear, with this effect, that five cities in the land of Egypt, that is, that many of their chief cities, a certain number being put for an uncertain, should speak the language of Canaan — That is, should profess the Jewish religion, or agree with the Jews in their worship of one living and true God. Thus, I will turn to the people a pure language, (Zephaniah 3:9,) signifies, I will restore to the people a pure religion; or, I will change and purify their conversation, their hearts and lips, that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. And shall swear to the Lord of hosts — Swearing to the Lord implies the dedication and yielding up of a person or thing to the Lord, by a solemn vow or covenant, as appears from 2 Chronicles 15:14; Psalm 132:2; Isaiah 45:23-24. One — Or one of them, namely, of the five; shall be called the city of destruction — Or, of the sun, as it is in the margin of our Bibles, meaning Heliopolis, a famous city in Egypt, and a chief seat of idolatry, being a city of the priests, as Strabo reports; and therefore its conversion to the faith was the more wonderful. It must be acknowledged, however, that there is much uncertainty as to the true reading of the text, whether it be עיר החרס, city of the sun, or, עיר החרםcity of destruction, and therefore “no one,” as Bishop Lowth justly observes, “can pretend to determine what the city was that is here mentioned by name; much less to determine what the four other cities were which the prophet does not name.” “I take the whole passage,” says he, “from the eighteenth verse to the end of the chapter, to contain a general intimation of the future propagation of the knowledge of the true God in Egypt and Syria, under the successors of Alexander; and, in consequence of this propagation, of the early reception of the gospel in the same countries, when it should be published to the world.”

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.In that day - The word 'day' is used in Scripture in a large signification, "as including the whole period under consideration," or the whole time that is embraced in the scope of a prophecy. In this chapter it is used in this sense; and evidently means that the event here foretold would take place "somewhere" in the period that is embraced in the design of the prophecy. That is, the event recorded in this verse would occur in the series of events that the prophet saw respecting Egypt (see Isaiah 4:1). The sense is, that somewhere in the general time here designated Isaiah 19:4-17, the event here described would take place. There would be an extensive fear of Yahweh, and an extensive embracing of the true religion, in the land of Egypt.

Shall five cities - The number 'five' here is evidently used to denote an "indefinite" number, in the same way as 'seven' is often used in the Scriptures (see Leviticus 26:8). It means, that several cities in Egypt would use that language, one of which only is specified.

The language of Canaan - Margin, 'Lip of Canaan.' So the Hebrew; but the word often means 'language.' The language of Canaan evidently means the "Hebrew" language; and it is called 'the language of Canaan' either because it was spoken by the original inhabitants of the land of Canaan, or more probably because it was used by the Hebrews who occupied Canaan as the promised land; and then it will mean the language spoken in the land of Canaan. The phrase used here is employed probably to denote that they would be converted to the Jewish religion; or that the religion of the Jews would flourish there. A similar expression, to denote conversion to the true God, occurs in Zephaniah 3:9 : 'For there I will turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.'

And swear to the Lord of hosts - That is, they shall "devote" themselves to him; or they shall bind themselves to his service by solemn covenant; compare Deuteronomy 10:20; Isaiah 45:20, where conversion to God, and a purpose to serve him, is expressed in the same manner by "swearing" to him, that is, by solemnly devoting themselves to his service.

One shall be called - The name of one of them shall be, etc. Why "one" particularly is designated is not known.

The city of destruction - There has been a great variety of interpretation in regard to this expression. Margin, 'Heres,' or, 'The sun.' The Vulgate, 'The city of the sun;' evidently meaning Heliopolis. The Septuagint Ασεδέκ Asedik - 'The city Asedek.' The Chaldee, 'The city of the house of the sun (שׁמשׁ בית bēyith shemesh), which is to be destroyed.' The Syriac, 'The city of Heres.' The common reading of the Hebrew text is, ההרס עיר 'iyr haheres. This reading is found in most MS. editions and versions. The word הרס heres commonly means "destruction," though it may also mean "deliverance;" and Gesenius supposes the name was to be given to it because it was to be a "delivered" city; that is, it would be the city to which 'the saviour' mentioned in Isaiah 19:20, would come, and which he would make his capital. Ikenius contends that the word 'Heres' is taken from the Arabic, and that the name is the same as Leontopolis - 'The city of the lion,' a city in Egypt. But besides other objections which may be made to this interpretation, the signification of "lion" is not given to the word in the Hebrew language.

The common reading is that which occurs in the text - the city of "Heres." But another reading (החרס hacheres) is found in sixteen manuscripts, and has been copied in the Complutensian Polyglot. This word ( חרס cheres) properly means the "sun," and the phrase means the city of the sun; that is, Heliopolis. Onias, who was disappointed in obtaining the high priesthood (149 b.c.) on the death of his uncle Menelaus, fled into Egypt, and ingratiated himself into the favor of Ptolemy Philometer and Cleopatra, and was advanced to the highest rank in the army and the court, and made use of his influence to obtain permission to build a temple in Egypt like that at Jerusalem, with a grant that he and his descendants should always have a right to officiate in it as high priests. In order to obtain this, he alleged that it would be for the interest of Egypt, by inducing many Jews to come and reside there, and that their going annually to Jerusalem to attend the great feasts would expose them to alienation from the Egyptians, to join the Syrian interest ("see" Prideaux's "Connection," under the year 149 b.c. Josephus expressly tells us ("Ant." xiii. 3.-1-3), that in order to obtain this layout, he urged that it had been predicted by Isaiah six hundred years before, and that in consequence of this, Ptolemy granted him permission to build the temple, and that it was built at Leontopolis. It resembled that at Jerusalem, but was smaller and less splendid. It was within the Nomos or prefecture of Heliopolis, at the distance of twenty-four miles from Memphis. Onias pretended that the very place was foretold by Isaiah; and this would seem to suppose that the ancient reading was that of 'the city of the sun.' He urged this prediction in order to reconcile the Jews to the idea of another temple besides that at Jerusalem, because a temple erected in Egypt would be an object of disapprobation to the Jews in Palestine. Perhaps for the same reason the translation of Isaiah in the Septuagint renders this, Ἀσεδέκ Asedek - 'The city of Asedek,' as if the original were צדקה tsedâqâh - 'The city of righteousness' - that is, a city where righteousness dwells; or a city which was approved by God. But this is manifestly a corruption of the Hebrew text.

It may be proper to remark that the change in the Hebrew between the word rendered 'destruction' (הרס heres), and the word 'sun' (חרס cheres), is a change of a single letter where one might be easily mistaken for the other - the change of the Hebrew letter ה (h) into the Hebrew letter ח (ch). This might have occurred by the error of a transcriber, though the circumstances would lead us to think it not improbable that it "may" have been made designedly, but by whom is unknown. It "may" have been originally as Onias pretended and have been subsequently altered by the Jews to counteract the authority which he urged for building a temple in Egypt; but there is no certain evidence of it. The evidence from MSS. is greatly in favor of the reading as in our translation (הרס heres), and this may be rendered either 'destruction,' or more probably, according to Gesenius, 'deliverance,' so called from the "deliverance" that would be brought to it by the promised saviour Isaiah 19:20.

It may be added, that there is no evidence that Isaiah meant to designate the city where Onias built the temple, but merely to predict that many cities in Egypt would be converted, one of which would be the one here designated. Onias took "advantage" of this, and made an artful use of it, but it was manifestly not the design of Isaiah. Which is the true reading of the passage it is impossible now to determine; nor is it important. I think the most probable interpretation is that which supposes that Isaiah meant to refer to a city saved from destruction, as mentioned in Isaiah 19:20, and that he did not design to designate any particular city by name. The city of Heliopolis was situated on the Pelusian branch of the Nile, about five miles below the point of the ancient Delta. It was deserted in the time of Strabo; and this geographer mentions its mounds of ruin, but the houses were shown in which Eudoxus and Plato had studied.

The place was celebrated for its learning, and its temple dedicated to the sun. There are now no ruins of ancient buildings, unless the mounds can be regarded as such; the walls, however, can still be traced, and there is an entire obelisk still standing. This obelisk is of red granite, about seventy feet high, and from its great antiquity has excited much attention among the learned. In the neighboring villages there are many fragments which have been evidently transferred from this city. Dr. Robinson who visited it, says, that 'the site about two hours N. N. E. from Cairo. The way thither passes along the edge of the desert, which is continually making encroachments, so soon as then ceases to be a supply of water for the surface of the ground. The site of Heliopolis is marked by low mounds, enclosing a space about three quarters of a mile in length, by half a mile in breadth, which was once occupied by houses, and partly by the celebrated temple of the sun. This area is now a plowed field, a garden of herbs; and the solitary obelisk which rises in the midst is the sole remnant of the splendor of the place. Near by it is a very old sycamore, its trunk straggling and gnarled, under which legendary tradition relates that the holy family once. rested.' ("Bib. Researches," vol. i. pp. 36, 37.) The illustration in the book, from the Pictorial Bible, will give an idea of the present appearance of Heliopolis.

18-22. In that day, &c.—Suffering shall lead to repentance. Struck with "terror" and "afraid" (Isa 19:17) because of Jehovah's judgments, Egypt shall be converted to Him: nay, even Assyria shall join in serving Him; so that Israel, Assyria, and Egypt, once mutual foes, shall be bound together by the tie of a common faith as one people. So a similar issue from other prophecies (Isa 18:7; 23:18).

five cities—that is, several cities, as in Isa 17:6; 30:17; Ge 43:34; Le 26:8. Rather, five definite cities of Lower Egypt (Isa 19:11, 13; 30:4), which had close intercourse with the neighboring Jewish cities [Maurer]; some say, Heliopolis, Leontopolis (else Diospolis), Migdol, Daphne (Tahpanes), and Memphis.

language of Canaan—that is, of the Hebrews in Canaan, the language of revelation; figuratively for, They shall embrace the Jewish religion: so "a pure language" and conversion to God are connected in Zep 3:9; as also the first confounding and multiplication of languages was the punishment of the making of gods at Babel, other than the One God. Pentecost (Ac 2:4) was the counterpart of Babel: the separation of nations is not to hinder the unity of faith; the full realization of this is yet future (Zec 14:9; Joh 17:21). The next clause, "swear to the Lord of Hosts," agrees with this view; that is, bind themselves to Him by solemn covenant (Isa 45:23; 65:16; De 6:13).

city of destruction—Onias; "city of the sun," that is, On, or Heliopolis; he persuaded Ptolemy Philometer (149 B.C.) to let him build a temple in the prefecture (nome) of Heliopolis, on the ground that it would induce Jews to reside there, and that the very site was foretold by Isaiah six hundred years before. The reading of the Hebrew text is, however, better supported, "city of destruction"; referring to Leontopolis, the site of Onias' temple: which casts a reproach on that city because it was about to contain a temple rivalling the only sanctioned temple, that at Jerusalem. Maurer, with some manuscripts, reads "city of defense" or "deliverance"; namely, Memphis, or some such city, to which God was about to send "a saviour" (Isa 19:20), to "deliver them."

In that day; after that time, as this phrase is used, Isaiah 4:2 18:7, and oft elsewhere. In the times of the gospel, which are oft noted in the prophets by that very expression.

Five cities; a considerable number of their chief cities, a certain number being put for an uncertain.

Speak the language of Canaan; profess the Jewish religion, agree with them in the same mind; which is fitly signified by speaking the same language, because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Thus the changing and purifying of a people’s lips is used to signify the change of their hearts and lives, Zephaniah 3:9; and praising God with one mouth, to note their unity or consent in the faith, Romans 15:6.

Swear to the Lord of hosts: it is well observed by some learned interpreters, that he doth not say swear by the Lord, which is the most common phrase, and which, being one eminent part and act of worship, is put for the whole; but swear to the Lord; which phrase is also used 2 Chronicles 15:14 Psalm 132:2 Isaiah 45:23; and it implies the dedication, or oblation, and yielding up of a person or thing to the Lord, by a solemn vow, or covenant, or oath, as appears by the places now quoted. In like manner God is said to swear to a man, Deu 26:15, and one man to another, Genesis 21:23, when they oblige themselves by oath to do such or such a thing for them. And therefore what is called swearing to God, Isaiah 45:23, is rendered or expounded bowing the knee (which signifies the subjection of a man’s self) to God, and confessing to God, Romans 14:11.

One; not one of the five, for they are supposed to be saved in the foregoing clause; but one city, or 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. Others render this clause thus, one of them

shall be called, ( or, shall be; for to be called is oft put for to be.) The city of the sun; or, as the Grecians call it, Heliopolis; which the Egyptians called On, Genesis 41:45; which was a very eminent city, and a chief seat of idolatry, being a city of priests, as Strabo reports; and therefore its conversion to the faith was more wonderful.

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.

In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt {q} speak the language of Canaan, and {r} swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of {s} destruction.

(q) Will make one confession of faith with the people of God, by the speech of Canaan, meaning the language in which God was then served.

(r) Will renounce their superstitions and protest to serve God correctly.

(s) Meaning of six cities, five would serve God, and the sixth would remain in their wickedness: and so there would be but one lost.

18. The verse may mean either (1) that an indefinite, but small, number of Egyptian cities shall be converted to the worship of Jehovah and adopt Hebrew as at least their sacred language; or (2) that at a certain epoch there shall be five (and no more) Jewish colonies in Egypt maintaining their national language and religion. On the former view “five” is a round number (as in ch. Isaiah 30:17; Genesis 43:34; Leviticus 26:8; 1 Samuel 17:40; 1 Samuel 21:3; 2 Kings 7:13), and the verse is a prophecy of the first beginnings of the conversion of Egypt—a “day of small things.” This interpretation, although grammatically defensible, is not natural. No parallel can be found in Isaiah’s writings to the anticipation of a gradual dissemination of the true religion by sporadic conversions. He always treats the nations as units, and it is very questionable if the idea of a religious schism within the Egyptian nationality could have presented itself to him or his contemporaries as a desirable thing, or a realisation of the Messianic hope. If we adopt the second view the prophecy must have been written at a time when the prospect of Hebrew-speaking Jewish communes in Egypt was a natural expression of the anticipation that the influence of the Jewish religion would extend to that country. This was not the case at the very late date maintained by some critics (b.c. 160). By that time the Egyptian Jews had so completely abandoned their native tongue that a Greek translation of the Scriptures had become necessary for their use. This part of the prophecy is more intelligible at a considerably earlier period, before the universal solvent of the Greek language had begun to leaven the varied nationalities of the old world.—It is of course impossible to identify the “five cities.” Hitzig has attempted it by the help of Jeremiah 44:1, adding to the three towns there mentioned, Heliopolis and Leontopolis (see below).

one shall be called, The city of destruction] The exegesis of this clause is complicated by a diversity of text. (α) The received text has ‘îr hahereṣ, which in Hebrew can only mean “the city of Destruction.” The insurmountable objection to this reading is that it is inconsistent with the favourable general sense of the verse; for the translation “city of [the] destruction of idolatry, &c.” is quite unwarranted. Some, however, explain the word by haris, an Arabic epithet of the lion, rendering, “city of the Lion,” i.e. Leontopolis, where the Jewish Temple was built. This might be intelligible as a correction of the reading to be next mentioned; hardly as an independent text. Moreover, the Greek translator of Isaiah knew nothing of it, but followed an entirely different reading (γ below). (β) Another reading, found in some Hebrew MSS. and followed by the Vulg., is ‘îr haḥeres, “city of the Sun,” i.e. Heliopolis. This gives a good sense. Heliopolis, the biblical On (Genesis 41:50, &c.), might be especially mentioned because of its great importance in the religion of Egypt, as it is (under the name “house of the Sun”) in Jeremiah 43:13. (γ) The LXX. reads “city of Righteousness” (‘îr haççedeq). This reading, in itself the least probable of the three, is defended by some commentators as most in accordance with Isaiah’s use of names as descriptive of the essential quality of the objects (cf. Isaiah 1:26, Isaiah 4:3, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6). So here “city of righteousness” is regarded not as the proper name of any one city, but an epithet applicable to any of the five. On the whole, the suggestion of Cheyne seems as plausible as any, that the original form was ḥereṣ, and the reference was to Heliopolis; that this was altered by the Egyptian Jews to çedeq and by those of Palestine to hereṣ (destruction), the motive in both cases being to establish a reference (in the first case favourable, in the second unfavourable) to the temple at Leontopolis. The latter variant, however, might be due to accident.

[The Jewish Temple in Egypt was erected about 160 with the sanction of Ptolemy Philometor and his consort by Onias IV., the legitimate heir of the high-priesthood at Jerusalem. (Josephus, Ant. xiii. 3, 1 f.; Bell. Jud. vii. 10, 2 f.) It was a brilliant conception on the part of the priest, but was probably not dictated by very lofty motives. Having been ousted from his rights by the intrigues of the apostate party in Judæa, he sought by this means to retain the state and emoluments of a great ecclesiastical dignitary. His enterprise cannot have been regarded with friendly eyes by the patriotic party in Jerusalem, and afterwards when the new Temple began to divert the stream of Jewish liberality from Jerusalem, their antipathy increased. The temple was built, after the model of that at Jerusalem, on the ruins of an Egyptian temple of the lion-headed goddess Bast (hence the name Leontopolis) in the Heliopolitan nome.]

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. Isaiah 19:18At 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.

Isaiah 19:18 Interlinear
Isaiah 19:18 Parallel Texts

Isaiah 19:18 NIV
Isaiah 19:18 NLT
Isaiah 19:18 ESV
Isaiah 19:18 NASB
Isaiah 19:18 KJV

Isaiah 19:18 Bible Apps
Isaiah 19:18 Parallel
Isaiah 19:18 Biblia Paralela
Isaiah 19:18 Chinese Bible
Isaiah 19:18 French Bible
Isaiah 19:18 German Bible

Bible Hub

Isaiah 19:17
Top of Page
Top of Page