Isaiah 19:8 Commentaries: And the fishermen will lament, And all those who cast a line into the Nile will mourn, And those who spread nets on the waters will pine away.
Isaiah 19:8
The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets on the waters shall languish.
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(8) The fishers also shall mourn.—With the failure of the river, one at least of the industries of Egypt failed also. Fish had at all times formed part of the diet of the working-classes of Egypt (Herod. ii. 93; Numbers 11:5), and the pictures of Egyptian life continually represent the two modes of fishing, with the “angle” or hook, and with the net.

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.The fishers also - In this verse, and the two following, the prophet describes the calamities that would come upon various classes of the inhabitants, as the consequence of the failing of the waters of the Nile. The first class which he mentions are the fishermen. Egypt is mentioned Numbers 11:5, as producing great quantities of fish. 'We remember the fish which we did eat in Eypt freely.' 'The Nile,' says Diodorus (i.), 'abounds with incredible numbers of all sorts of fish.' The same was true of the artificial canals, and lakes, and reservoirs of water Isaiah 19:10. Herodotus (ii. 93) says that large quantities of fish were produced in the Nile: 'At the season of spawning,' says he, 'they move in vast multitudes toward the sea. As soon as that season is over they leave the sea, return up the river, and endeavor to regain their accustomed haunts.' As a specimen of his "credulity," however, and also of the attention which he bestowed on natural history, the reader may consult the passage here referred to in regard to the mode of their propagation.

He also says that it is observed of the fish that are taken in their passage to the sea, that they have 'the left part of their heads depressed.' Of those that are taken on their return, the "right" side of the head is found to be depressed. This he accounts for by observing, that 'the cause of this is obvious: as they pass to the sea they rub themselves on the banks on the left side; as they return they keep closely to the same bank, and, in both instances, press against it, that they may not be obliged to deviate from their course by the current of the stream.' Speaking of the Lake Moeris, Herodotus says, that 'for six months the lake empties itself into the Nile, and the remaining six, the Nile supplies the lake. During the six months in which the waters ebb, the fishing which is here carried on furnishes the royal treasury with a talent of silver (about 180) every day' (ii. 149). 'The silver which the fishery of this lake produced, was appropriated to find the queen with clothes and perfumes.' (Diod. i. 52.) The Lake Moeris is now farmed for 30 purses (about 193) annually.

Michaud says that the Lake Menzaleh now yields an annual revenue of 800 purses,' about 5364. 'The great abundance of fish produced in the Nile was an invaluable provision of nature, in a country which had neither extended pasture grounds, nor large herds of cattle, and where grain was the principal production. When the Nile inundated the country, and filled the lakes and canals with its overflowing waters, these precious gifts were extended to the most remote villages in the interior of the valley, and the plentiful supply of fish which they obtained was an additional benefit conferred upon them at this season of the year.' (Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," vol. iii. pp. 62, 63.) Hence, the greatness of the calamity here referred to by the prophet when the lakes and canals should be dried up. The whole country would feel it.

And all they that cast angle - Two kinds of fishermen are mentioned - those who used a hook, and those who used the net. The former would fish mainly in the "brooks" or canals that were cut from the Nile to water their lands. For the various methods of fishing, illustrated by drawings, the reader may consult Wilklnson's "Ancient Egyptians," vol. ii. p. 21; vol. iii. p. 53ff.

8. fishers—The Nile was famed for fish (Nu 11:5); many would be thrown out of employment by the failure of fishes.

angle—a hook. Used in the "brooks" or canals, as the "net" was in "the waters" of the river itself.

Because they could catch few or no fish, by which trade they got their living; which also was a great plague to the people, whose common diet this was, because out of superstitious conceits they killed and eat but few living creatures, as appears both from sacred and profane writers. The fishers also shall mourn,.... Because there will be no fish to catch, the waters of the river being dried up, and so will have none to sell, and nothing to support themselves and families with; and this must also affect the people in general, fish being the common food they lived upon, see Numbers 11:5, not only because of the great plenty there usually was, but because they killed and ate but very few living creatures, through a superstitious regard unto them; though Herodotus says (h) the Egyptian priests might not taste of fishes, yet the common people might; for, according to that historian (i), when the river Nile flowed out of the lake of Moeris, a talent of silver every day was brought into the king's treasury, arising from the profit of fish; and when it flowed in, twenty pounds; nay, he expressly says (k), that some of them live upon fish only, gutted, and dried with the sun:

and all they that cast angle, or hook,

into the brooks shall lament; which describes one sort of fishermen, and way of catching fishes, with the angle and hook, as the following clause describes another sort:

and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish; be dispirited and enfeebled for want of trade and subsistence, and with grief and horror.

(h) Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 37. (i) Ibid. c. 149. (k) Ibid. c. 92.

The fishermen also shall {h} mourn, and all they that cast hook into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.

(h) The Scriptures describe the destruction of a country by the taking away of the conveniences of it, as by vines, flesh, fish and such other things by which countries are enriched.

8. Fishing, one of the staple industries of Egypt, is first mentioned, as that most immediately affected (cf. Exodus 7:21). The two methods referred to, angling and net-fishing, are both depicted on the monuments.

that cast angle into the brooks] R.V. Nile.Verse 8. - The fishers also shall mourn. The fisherman's trade was extensively practiced in ancient Egypt, and anything which interfered with it would necessarily be regarded as a great calamity. A large class supported itself by the capture and sale of fish fresh or salted. The Nile produced great abundance of fish, both in its main stream and in its canals and backwaters. Lake Moeris also provided an extensive supply (Herod., 2:149). All they that east angle into the brooks; rather, into the river. Fishing with a hook was practiced in Egypt, though not very widely, except as an amusement by the rich. Actual hooks have been found, not very different from modern ones (Rawlinson, 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 506), and representations of angling occur in some of the tombs. Sometimes a line only is used, sometimes a rod and line (see Rawlinson, 'Herodotus,' vol. 2. pp. 101, 103, 2nd edit.). They that spread nets. Nets were very much more widely employed than lines and hooks. Ordinarily a dragnet was used; but sometimes small fry were taken in the shallows by means of a double-handled landing-net (ibid., p. 108, note 2). "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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