Isaiah 19:3
And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst 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. Isaiah 19:3"And I spur Egypt against Egypt: and they go to war, every one with his brother, and every one with his neighbour; city against city, kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit of Egypt is emptied out within it: and I swallow up its ready counsel; and they go to the idols to inquire, and to the mutterers, and to the oracle-spirits, and to the soothsayers. And I shut up Egypt in the hand of a hard rule; and a fierce king will reign over them, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts." Civil war will rage in Egypt (on sicsēc, see at Isaiah 9:10). The people once so shrewd are now at their wits' end; their spirit is quite poured out נבקה, with the reduplication removed, for נבקּה, according to Ges. 68, Anm. 11 - as, for example, in Genesis 11:7; Ezekiel 41:7), so that there is nothing left of either intelligence or resolution. Then (and this is also part of the judgment) they turn for help, in counsel and action, where no help is to be found, viz., to their "nothings" of gods, and the manifold demoniacal arts, of which Egypt could boast of being the primary seat. On the names of the practisers of the black art, see Isaiah 8:19; 'ittim, the mutterers, is from 'âtat, to squeak (used of a camel-saddle, especially when new), or to rumble (used of an empty stomach): see Lane's Lexicon. But all this is of no avail: Jehovah gives them up (סכּר, syn. הסגּיר, συγκλείειν to be ruled over by a hard-hearted and cruel king. The prophecy does not relate to a foreign conqueror, so as to lead us to think of Sargon (Knobel) or Cambyses (Luzzatto), but to a native despot. In comparing the prophecy with the fulfilment, we must bear in mind that Isaiah 19:2 relates to the national revolution which broke out in Sais, and resulted in the overthrow of the Ethiopian rule, and to the federal dodekarchy to which the rising of the nation led. "Kingdom against kingdom:" this exactly suits those twelve small kingdoms into which Egypt was split up after the overthrow of the Ethiopian dynasty in the year 695, until Psammetichus, the dodekarch of Sais, succeeded in the year 670 in comprehending these twelve states once more under a single monarchy. This very Psammetichus (and the royal house of Psammetichus generally) is the hard ruler, the reckless despot. He succeeded in gaining the battle at Momemphis, by which he established himself in the monarchy, through having first of all strengthened himself with mercenary troops from Ionia, Caria, and Greece. From his time downwards, the true Egyptian character was destroyed by the admixture of foreign elements;

(Note: See Leo, Universalgesch. i. 152, and what Brugsch says in his Histoire d'Egypte, i. 250, with regard to the brusques changements that Egypt endured under Psammetichus.)

and this occasioned the emigration of a large portion of the military caste to Meroe. The Egyptian nation very soon came to feel how oppressive this new dynasty was, when Necho (616-597), the son and successor of Psammetichus, renewed the project of Ramses-Miamun, to construct a Suez canal, and tore away 120,000 of the natives of the land from their homes, sending them to wear out their lives in forced labour of the most wearisome kind. A revolt on the part of the native troops, who had been sent against the rising Cyrene, and driven back into the desert, led to the overthrow of Hophra, the grandson of Necho (570), and put an end to the hateful government of the family of Psammetichus.

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