Isaiah 19:2
And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.
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(2) I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians . . .—The discord predicted was probably the natural consequence of the overthrow of the Ethiopian power by Sargon, the Assyrian king, in B.C. 720. Under Piankhi each nome, or district, had been governed by a chief, owning the suzerainty of the Ethiopian king, and these, when the restraint was removed, would naturally assert their independence. So Herodotus (ii. 147) relates that on the overthrow of Sabaco, the last of the Ethiopian dynasty, the unity of Egypt was broken up into a dodecarchy.

Isaiah 19:2-3. I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians — Two principal calamities to befall Egypt are foretold in this prophecy; the first of which is here described: civil wars should arise among them. They shall fight every one against his brother and neighbour — Whom he ought to love as himself. City against city, and kingdom against kingdom — “The LXX. read, νομος επι νομον, province against province, Egypt being divided into prefectures, or provinces. Vitringa and others apply this to the time of the twelve kings, the anarchy that preceded, and the civil wars that ensued, in which Psammitichus prevailed over the rest; but it may, perhaps, be more properly applied to what agrees better, in point of time, with other parts of the prophecy, the civil wars between Apries and Amasis, at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion; and the civil wars a little before the country was finally subdued by Ochus. It is no wonder, that in such distractions and distresses as these, the Egyptians, being naturally a cowardly people, should be destitute of counsel, and that the spirit of Egypt should fail in the midst thereof, as the prophet foretels, (Isaiah 19:3,) and that, being also a very superstitious people, they should seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that had familiar spirits, and to the wizards. But their divination was all in vain,” God having determined that they should be subdued and oppressed by cruel lords and tyrants, as it follows.19:1-17 God shall come into Egypt with his judgments. He will raise up the causes of their destruction from among themselves. When ungodly men escape danger, they are apt to think themselves secure; but evil pursues sinners, and will speedily overtake them, except they repent. The Egyptians will be given over into the hand of one who shall rule them with rigour, as was shortly after fulfilled. The Egyptians were renowned for wisdom and science; yet the Lord would give them up to their own perverse schemes, and to quarrel, till their land would be brought by their contests to become an object of contempt and pity. He renders sinners afraid of those whom they have despised and oppressed; and the Lord of hosts will make the workers of iniquity a terror to themselves, and to each other; and every object around a terror to them.And I will set - (סכסכתי sı̂ksaketı̂y). This word (from סכך sākak) means properly "to cover," to spread over, to hide, conceal, to protect. Another signification of the verb is, to weave, to intermingle. It may mean here, 'I will arm the Egyptians against each other' (Gesenius); or, as in our version, 'I will mingle, confound, or throw them into discord and strife.' The Septuagint renders it, Ἐπεγερθήσονται Epegerthēsontai - 'They shall be excited,' or, 'raised up.' Symmachus, Συμβαλῶ Sumbalō. Syriac and Chaldee, 'I will excite.' The sense is, that there would be discord and civil war, and this is traced to the agency or overruling providence of God - meaning that he would "permit and overrule" it. Compare the notes at Isaiah 45:7 : 'I make peace, and I create evil; I, Yahweh, do all these things;' Amos 3:6 : 'Shall there be evil in a city and Jehovah hath not done it?' The civil war here referred to was probably that which arose between the twelve kings in the time of the dodekarchy (see the Analysis to the chapter), and which resulted in the single dominion of Psammetichus. Dr. Newton ("On the Prophecies," xii.) supposes, however, that the prophet refers to the civil wars between Apries and Amasis at the time of the invasion by Nebuchadnezzar. But it agrees much better with the former discord than with this. The description which follows is that of anarchy or civil strife, where "many" parties are formed, and would naturally lead to the supposition that there were more than two engaged.

And kingdom against kingdom - Septuagint, Νόμος έπὶ νόμων Nomos epi nomōn - 'Nome against nomes.' Egypt was formerly divided into forty-two "nomes" or districts. The version by the Septuagint was made in Egypt, and the translators would naturally employ the terms which were in common use. Still the event referred to was probably not that of one "nome" contending against another, but a civil war in which one dynasty would be excited against another (Gesenius), or when there would be anarchy and strife among the different members of the dodekarchy. See the Analysis of the chapter.

2. set—stir up. Gesenius translates, "arm."

Egyptians against the Egyptians—Lower against Upper: and Saitic against both. (See Isa 3:10). Newton refers it to the civil wars between Apries and Amasis at the time of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion; also between Tachos, Nectanebus, and the Mendesians, just before Ochus subdued Egypt.

kingdom against kingdom—The Septuagint has "nome against nome"; Egypt was divided into forty-two nomes or districts.

I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians; I will raise civil wars among them.

Kingdom against kingdom; for although all Egypt was now one kingdom, and under one king, yet not many years after this time it was divided into twelve several kingdoms, between whom there were many and cruel wars, as is related by the historians of those times, and particularly by Herodotus and Diodorus. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians,.... Or mingle and confound them together; in which confusion they should fall upon and destroy one another, as the Midianites did: the phrase is expressive of rebellions and civil wars, as the following words explain it; and which show, that the calamities of Egypt should be brought upon them, not by means of a foreign invasion, but by internal quarrels, and other means, which the Lord would in judgment send among them:

and they shall fight everyone against his brother, and everyone against his neighbour; and destroy one another:

city against city; of which there were great numbers in Egypt; in the times of Amasis, it is said (s), there were twenty thousand:

and kingdom against kingdom; for though Egypt was but originally one kingdom, yet upon the death of Sethon, one of its kings, who had been a priest of Vulcan, there being no successor, twelve of the nobility started up, and set up themselves as kings, and divided the kingdom into twelve parts (t), and reigned in confederacy, for the space of fifteen years; when, falling out among themselves, they excluded Psammiticus, one of the twelve, from any share of government; who gathering an army together, fought with and conquered the other eleven, and seized the whole kingdom to himself, and who seems afterwards regarded in this prophecy; all this happened in the times of Manasseh king of Judah, and so in or quickly after Isaiah's time: though some understand this of the civil wars between Apries and Amasis, in the times of Nebuchadnezzar. The Septuagint version renders the phrase here, "nome against nome"; for the whole land of Egypt, by Sesostris, one of its kings, was divided into thirty six (u) nomes, districts, or provinces, whose names are given by Herodotus (w), Pliny (x), and others; for so the words of that version should be rendered, and not as they are by the Latin interpreter, and in the Arabic version, which follows it, "law upon law".

(s) Herodot. l. 2. c. 177. (t) Ib. c. 147. (u) There were ten of them in Thebais, the same number in Delta, and sixteen between them. (w) Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 164, 165, 166. (x) Nat. Hist. I. 5. c. 9. Ptolem. Geograph. l. 4. c. 4. Strabo Geogr. l. 17. P. 541.

And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall {c} fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.

(c) As he caused the Ammonites, Moabites and Idumeans to kill one another, when they came to destroy the Church of God, 2Ch 20:22, Isa 49:26.

2. Jehovah speaks. The description of anarchy and civil war recalls ch. Isaiah 3:5, Isaiah 9:18 ff.

I will set … Egyptians] Lit. I will stir up (see ch. Isaiah 9:11) Egypt against Egypt—the general expression for civil discord which is explained in the remainder of the verse. kingdom against kingdom] LXX. νομὸς ἐπὶ νομόν—a correct translation drawn from the translator’s local knowledge of Egypt. The numerous nomes or cantons were but loosely federated, and dissensions and local jealousies were always apt to break out when the central government was paralysed.Verse 2. - I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians. The disintegration of Egypt commenced about B.C. 760-750, towards the close of the twenty-second dynasty. About B.C. 735 a struggle began between Plan-khi, King of Upper Egypt, and Tafnekhf, King of Sais and Memphis, in which the other princes took different sides. Ten or twelve years later there was a struggle between Bocchoris and Sabaeo. From this time onwards, until Psamatik I. reestablished the unity of Egypt (about B.C. 650), the country was always more or less divided, and on the occurrence of any crisis the princes were apt to make war one up, n another. Kingdom against kingdom. During the period of disintegration, the title of" king" was assumed by most of the potty princes, though they were little more than chiefs of cities (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 2. p. 100; G. Smith, 'History of Asshur-bani-pal,' pp. 20-22). The prophecy commences with hoi, which never signifies heus, but always vae (woe). Here, however, it differs from Isaiah 17:12, and is an expression of compassion (cf., Isaiah 55:1; Zechariah 2:10) rather than of anger; for the fact that the mighty Ethiopia is oppressed by the still mightier Asshur, is a humiliation which Jehovah has prepared for the former. Isaiah 18:1, Isaiah 18:2: "Woe to the land of the whirring of wings, which is beyond the rivers of Cush, that sends ambassadors into the sea and in boats of papyrus over the face of the waters." The land of Cush commences, according to Ezekiel 29:10 (cf., Isaiah 30:6), where Upper Egypt ends. The Sevēneh (Aswân), mentioned by Ezekiel, is the boundary-point at which the Nile enters Mizraim proper, and which is still a depot for goods coming from the south down the Nile. The naharē-Cush (rivers of Cush) are chiefly those that surround the Cushite Seba (Genesis 10:7). This is the name given to the present Sennr, the Meroitic island which is enclosed between the White and Blue Nile (the Astapos of Ptolemy, or the present Bahr el-Abyad, and the Astaboras of Ptolemy, or the present Bahr el-Azrak). According to the latest researches, more especially those of Speke, the White Nile, which takes its rise in the Lake of Nyanza, is the chief source of the Nile. The latter, and the Blue Nile, whose confluence (makran) with it takes place in lat. 15 25, are fed by many larger or smaller tributary streams (as well as mountain torrents); the Blue Nile even more than the Nile proper. And this abundance of water in the land to the south of Sevēnēh, and still farther south beyond Seba (or Mero), might very well have been known to the prophet as a general fact. The land "beyond the rivers of Cush" is the land bounded by the sources of the Nile, i.e., (including Ethiopia itself in the stricter sense of the word) the south land under Ethiopian rule that lay still deeper in the heart of the country, the land of its African auxiliary tribes, whose names (which probably include the later Nubians and Abyssinians), as given in 2 Chronicles 12:3; Nahum 3:9; Ezekiel 30:5; Jeremiah 46:9, suppose a minuteness of information which has not yet been attained by modern research. To this Ethiopia, which is designated by its farthest limits (compare Zephaniah 3:10, where Wolff, in his book of Judith, erroneously supposes Media to be intended as the Asiatic Cush), the prophets give the strange name of eretz tziltzal cenâp. This has been interpreted as meaning "the land of the wings of an army with clashing arms" by Gesenius and others; but cenâphaim does not occur in this sense, like 'agappim in Ezekiel. Others render it "the land of the noise of waves" (Umbreit); but cenâphaim cannot be used of waters except in such a connection as Isaiah 8:8. Moreover, tziltzal is not a fitting onomatopoetic word either for the clashing of arms or the noise of waves. Others, again, render it "the land of the double shadow" (Grotius, Vitringa, Knobel, and others); but, however appropriate this epithet might be to Ethiopia as a tropical land, it is very hazardous to take the word in a sense which is not sustained by the usage of the language; and the same objection may be brought against Luzzatto's "land of the far-shadowing defence." Shelling has also suggested another objection - namely, that the shadow thrown even in tropical lands is not a double one, falling northwards and southwards at the same time, and therefore that it cannot be figuratively described as double-winged. Tziltzal cenâphaim is the buzzing of the wings of insects, with which Egypt and Ethiopia swarmed on account of the climate and the abundance of water: צלצל, constr. צלצל, tinnitus, stridor, a primary meaning from which the other three meanings of the word-cymbal, harpoon (a whirring dart), and grasshopper

(Note: Schrring supposes tziltzal to be the scarabaeus sacer (Linn.); but it would be much more natural, if any particular animal is intended, to think of the tzaltzalya, as it is called in the language of the Gallas, the tzetze in the Betschuana language, the most dreaded diptera of the interior of Africa, a species of glossina which attacks all the larger mammalia (though not men). Vid., Hartmann, Naturgeschichtlich-medic. Skizze der Nillnder, Abth. i. p. 205.)

- are derived. In Isaiah 7:18 the forces of Egypt are called "the fly from the end of the rivers of Egypt." Here Egypt and Ethiopia are called the land of the whirring of wings, inasmuch as the prophet had in his mind, under the designation of swarms of insects, the motley swarms of different people included in this great kingdom that were so fabulously strange to an Asiatic. Within this great kingdom messengers were now passing to and fro upon its great waters in boats of papyrus (on gōme, Copt. ‛gōme, Talm. gâmi, see at Job 8:11), Greek βαρίδες παπύριναι (βαρίς, from the Egyptian bari, bali, a barque). In such vessels as these, and with Egyptian tackle, they went as far as the remote island of Taprobane. The boats were made to clap together (pilcatiles), so as to be carried past the cataracts (Parthey on Plutarch. de Iside, pp. 198-9). And it is to these messengers in their paper boats that the appeal of the prophet is addressed.

He sends them home; and what they are to say to their own people is generalized into an announcement to the whole earth. "Go, swift messengers, to the people stretched out and polished, to the terrible people far away on the other side, to the nation of command upon command and treading down, whose land rivers cut through. All ye possessors of the globe and inhabitants of the earth, when a banner rises on the mountains, look ye; and when they blow the trumpets, hearken!" We learn from what follows to what it is that the attention of Ethiopia and all the nations of the earth is directed: it is the destruction of Asshur by Jehovah. They are to attend, when they observe the two signals, the banner and the trumpet-blast; these are decisive moments. Because Jehovah was about to deliver the world from the conquering might of Assyria, against which the Ethiopian kingdom was now summoning all the means of self-defence, the prophet sends the messengers home. Their own people, to which he sends them home, are elaborately described. They are memusshâk, stretched out, i.e., very tall (lxx ἔθνος μετέωρον), just as the Sabaeans are said to have been in Isaiah 45:14. They are also mōrât equals memorât (Ges. 52, Anm. 6), smoothed, politus, i.e., either not disfigured by an ugly growth of hair, or else, without any reference to depilation, but rather with reference to the bronze colour of their skin, smooth and shining with healthy freshness. The description which Herodotus gives of the Ethiopians, μέγιστοι καὶ κάλλιστοι ἀνθρώπων πάντων (iii. 20), quite answers to these first two predicates. They are still further described, with reference to the wide extent of their kingdom, which reached to the remotest south, as "the terrible nation והלאה מן־הוּא," i.e., from this point, where the prophet meets with the messengers, farther and farther off (compare 1 Samuel 20:21-22, but not 1 Samuel 18:9, where the expression has a chronological meaning, which would be less suitable here, where everything is so pictorial, and which is also to be rejected, because מן־הוּא cannot be equivalent to הוּא מאשׁר; cf., Nahum 2:9). We may see from Isaiah 28:10, Isaiah 28:13, what kâv (kăv, with connecting accusatives and before makkeph), a measuring or levelling line, signifies, when used by the prophet with the reduplication which he employs here: it is a people of "command upon command," - that is to say, a commanding nation; (according to Ewald, Knobel, and others, kâv is equivalent to the Arabic kūwe, strength, a nation of double or gigantic strength.) "A people of treading down" (sc., of others; mebūsah is a second genitive to goi), i.e., one which subdues and tramples down wherever it appears. These are all distinctive predicates - a nation of imposing grandeur, a ruling and conquering nation. The last predicate extols its fertile land. בּזא we take not in the sense of diripere, or as equivalent to bâzaz, like מאס, to melt, equivalent to mâsas, but in the sense of findere, i.e., as equivalent to בזע, like גּמא, to sip equals גּמע. For it is no praise to say that a land is scoured out, or washed away, by rivers. Bttcher, who is wrong in describing this chapter as "perhaps the most difficult in the whole of the Old Testament," very aptly compares with it the expression used by Herodotus (ii. 108), κατετμήθη ἡ Αἴγυπτος. But why this strange elaboration instead of the simple name? There is a divine irony in the fact that a nation so great and glorious, and (though not without reason, considering its natural gifts) so full of self-consciousness, should be thrown into such violent agitation in the prospect of the danger that threatened it, and should be making such strenuous exertions to avert that danger, when Jehovah the God of Israel was about to destroy the threatening power itself in a night, and consequently all the care and trouble of Ethiopia were utterly needless.

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