Isaiah 19:3
And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the middle thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.
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(3) The charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits . . .—The old reputation of Egypt for magic arts (Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:7) seems to have continued. The “charmers” or mutterers were probably distinguished, like “those that peep” in Isaiah 8:19, by some peculiar form of ventriloquism. A time of panic, when the counsels of ordinary statesmen failed, was sure there, as at Athens in its times of peril, to be fruitful in oracles and divinations.

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 the spirit of Egypt - (see Isaiah 19:1). They shall be exhausted with their long internal contentions and strifes; and seeing no prospect of deliverance, and anxious that the turmoils should end, they shall seek counsel and refuge in their gods and necromancers, but in vain.

Shall fail - (נבקה nâbeqâh). Margin, 'Be emptied.' The word means, literally, "to pour out, empty, depopulate." Here it means that they would become disheartened and discouraged.

And I will destroy - Margin, as the Hebrew, 'I will swallow up.' So the word is used in Psalm 107:27, 'All their wisdom is destroyed' (Hebrew, 'swallowed up. ')

And they shall seek to the idols - According to Herodotus (ii. 152), Psammetichus had consulted the oracle of Latona at Butos, and received for answer that the sea should avenge his cause by producing brazen men. Some time after, a body of Ionians and Carians were compelled by stress of weather to touch at Egypt, and landed there, clad in brass armor. Some Egyptians, alarmed at their appearance, came to Psammetichus, and described them as brazen men who had risen from the sea, and were plundering the country. He instantly supposed that this was the accomplishment of the oracle, and entered into an alliance with the strangers, and by their aid was enabled to obtain the victory over his foes. Compare the different accounts of Diodorus in the Analysis of this chapter. The whole history of Egypt shows how much they were accustomed to consult their idols (see Herodot. ii. 54ff, 82, 83, 139, 152). Herodotus says (ii. 83), that the art of divination in Egypt was confined to certain of their deities. There were in that country the oracles of Hercules, of Apollo, of Mars, of Diana, and of Jupiter; but the oracle of Latona in Butos was held in greater veneration than any of the rest.

And to the charmers - (אטים 'ı̂ṭı̂ym). This word occurs nowhere else. The root אטט 'âṭaṭ, in Arabic, means "to mutter, to make a gentle noise;" and this word probably denotes conjurors, diviners (see the note at Isaiah 8:19). The Septuagint renders it, 'Their idols.'

And to them that have familiar spirits - (see the note at Isaiah 8:19). The Septuagint renders this, 'Those who speak from the ground.'

And to the wizards - Septuagint - Ἐγγαστριμύθους Engastrimuthous - 'Ventriloquists.' The Hebrew word means a wise man, a soothsayer, a magician (ידענים yı̂dı̂‛onı̂ym from ידע yâda‛ "to know;" see Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:11). This fake science abounded in Egypt, and in most Oriental countries.

3. spirit—wisdom, for which Egypt was famed (Isa 31:2; 1Ki 4:30; Ac 7:22); answering to "counsel" in the parallel clause.

fail—literally, "be poured out," that is, be made void (Jer 19:7). They shall "seek" help from sources that can afford none, "charmers," &c. (Isa 8:19).

charmers—literally, "those making a faint sound"; the soothsayers imitated the faint sound which was attributed to the spirits of the dead (see on [717]Isa 8:19).

The spirit; either

1. Their courage. But of that he spake Isaiah 19:1. Or,

2. Their understanding, as it is explained in the next clause; for the word spirit is oft put for the reasonable soul, as Ecclesiastes 3:21 12:7, and for the thoughts of the mind, as Proverbs 29:11 Eze 13.

3. They shall seek to the idols, as not knowing what to do without the help of a higher power. And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof,.... Meaning not the spirit of valour and courage, that is expressed before, but of wisdom, prudence, and understanding; the wisdom of Egypt, in which Moses is said to be brought up, Acts 7:22 was famous all the world over; hither men of learning, as the ancient philosophers, Pythagoras, Plato, and others, travelled, to improve in knowledge, and gain a larger acquaintance with things human and divine; it was the mother and mistress of the liberal arts and sciences; but now what was before like a river full of water, was about to be "emptied", and drained dry, as the word (y) used signifies:

and I will destroy the counsels thereof; or "swallow them up" (z), so that they shall be no more seen, or take effect: this explains what is before meant by the spirit of Egypt, and which is further enlarged on, and illustrated in Isaiah 19:11,

and they shall seek to the idols; with which the land abounded, particularly to Osiris and Isis, to Apis, Latona, and others:

and to the charmers; that used incantations and spells; magicians and conjurers, that whispered and muttered; for the word used has the signification of speaking in a slow and drawling manner. The Targum renders it "witches"; but Jarchi takes it to be the name of an idol:

and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards; See Gill on Isaiah 8:19.

(y) "evacuabitur", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator, Cocceius. (z) "deglutiam", Montanus; "absorpsero", Junius & Tremellius; "absorbebo", Piscator.

And the {d} spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst of her; and I will destroy her counsel: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to the mediums, and to the wizards.

(d) Meaning, their policy and wisdom.

3. the spirit of Egypt shall fail] lit. be poured out, cf. Jeremiah 19:7. “Spirit” is here used of intellectual power, as “heart” in Isaiah 19:1 denotes courage.

I will destroy] or “swallow up,” “annihilate,” but see on ch. Isaiah 3:12. In their desperation the Egyptians betake themselves to incantations, a sign in Isaiah’s view of hopeless intellectual embarrassment; ch. Isaiah 8:19. The word rendered charmers means “mutterers” (of magical spells). For the other expressions employed, see ch. Isaiah 8:19.Verse 3. - They shall seek to the idols. The Egyptians believed that their gods gave them oracles. Menephthah claims to have been warned by Phthah, the god of Memphis, not to take the field in person against the Libyans when they invaded the Delta, but to leave the task of contending with them to his generals (Brugsch, 'History of Egypt,' vol. 2. p. 119). Herodotus speaks of there being several well-known oracular shrines in Egypt, the most trustworthy being that of Maut, at the city which he calls Buto (2. 152; comp. Isaiah 111). The charmers... them that have familiar spirits... wizards. Classes of men corresponding to the "magicians" and "wise men" of earlier times (Genesis 41:8). (On the large place which magic occupied in the thoughts of the Egyptians, see 'Pulpit Commentary' on Exodus 7:11.) There was no diminution of the confidence reposed in them as time went on; and some remains of their practices seem to survive to the present day. The prophet knows for certain that the messengers may be home and announce this act of Jehovah to their own people and to all the world. "For thus hath Jehovah spoken to me: I will be still, and will observe upon my throne during clear weather in sunshine, during a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. For before the harvest, when the blossom falls off, and the fruit becomes the ripening grape: then will He cut off the branches with pruning-hooks; and the tendrils He removes, breaks off. They are left altogether to the birds of prey on the mountains, and to the cattle of the land; and the birds of prey summer thereon, and all the cattle of the land will winter thereon." The prophecy explains itself here, as is very frequently the case, especially with Isaiah; for the literal words of v. 6 show us unquestionably what it is that Jehovah will allow to develop itself so prosperously under favourable circumstances, and without any interposition on His part, until He suddenly and violently puts an end to the whole, must as it is approaching perfect maturity. It is the might of Assyria. Jehovah quietly looks on from the heavenly seat of His glorious presence, without disturbing the course of the thing intended. This quietness, however, is not negligence, but, as the hortative expressions show, a well-considered resolution. The two Caphs in v. 4 are not comparative, but indicate the time. He remains quiet whilst there is clear weather with sunshine (עלי indicating continuance, as in Jeremiah 8:18; 1 Samuel 14:32), and whilst there is a dew-cloud in the midst of that warmth, which is so favourable for the harvest, by causing the plants that have been thoroughly heated in the day and refreshed at night by the dew, to shoot up and ripen with rapidity and luxuriance. The plant thought of, as v. 5 clearly shows, is the vine. By liphnē kâtzir (before the harvest) we are either to understand the period just before the wheat-harvest, which coincides with the flowering of the grape; or, since Isaiah uses kâtzir for bâzri in Isaiah 16:9, the time at the close of the summer, immediately preceding the vintage. Here again the Caph indicates the time. When the blossoming is over, so that the flower fades away, and the fruit that has set becomes a ripening grape (boser, as in Job 15:33, not in the sense of labruscum, but of omphax; and gâmal, maturescere, as in Numbers 17:8, maturare), He cuts off the branches (zalzalilm, from zilzēl, to swing to and fro; compare the Arabic dâliye, a vine-branch, from dalâ, to hang long and loose) upon which the nearly ripened grapes are hanging, and removes or nips off

(Note: התז equals התז with a pausal sharpening of the tzere, which is lengthened by the tone, from tâzaz or tı̄z in post-biblical Hebrew, to knock off, knock to pieces, or weaken (compare tâshash). On this change of vowels in pause, see at Genesis 17:14; and compare Olshausen, 91, d. For an example of the post-biblical use of the word, vid., b. Sanhedrin 102a, "like two sticks hammattı̄zōth," i.e., one of which "hits the other in two" (hittiz, apparently from tūz, or tiz, like hinnı̄ach from nuach).)

the tendrils (netishoth, as in Jeremiah 5:10, from nâtash, to stretch far out; niphal, to twist about a long way, Isaiah 16:8, compare Jeremiah 48:32); an intentional asyndeton with a pictorial sound. The words of Jehovah concerning Himself have here passed imperceptibly into words of the prophet concerning Jehovah. The ripening grapes, as Isaiah 18:6 now explains, are the Assyrians, who were not far from the summit of their power; the fruit-branches that are cut off and nipped in pieces are their corpses, which are now through both summer and winter the food of swarms of summer birds, as well as of beasts of prey that remain the whole winter through. This is the act of divine judgment, to which the approaching exaltation of the banner, and the approaching blast of trumpets, is to call the attention of the people of Ethiopia.

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