Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.b) Prophecies that give Warning not to Trust in False Help Against Assyria
CHAPTER 19, 20
α) EGYPT NOW IN TIME TO COME
Various expositors from EICHHORN to HITZIG have attacked the genuineness of this chapter in whole or in part. But one may judge in advance how little valid the alleged reasons for this are, by the fact that KNOBEL rejects them all, and is decided in his recognition of Isaiah, as its author. We may therefore spare ourselves the investigation of these doubts, and so much the more as in our exposition of particulars, it will appear how very much the thoughts and expressions correspond to Isaiah’s way of thinking and speaking. The chapter is very artistically arranged. It evidently divides into three parts of which the first (Isa 19:1–15) shows how the LORD by His judgments reveals His arm to the Egyptians (52:10; 53:1); the second (Isa 19:16–17), as a transition, sets forth how Egypt fears before Jehovah; finally the third (Isa 19:18–25) presents the prospect that Egypt will fear the LORD as third in the confederation with Assyria and Israel.
א) How the LORD reveals His arm to the Egyptians by severe judgments
1 THE BURDEN OF EGYPT.
Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud,
And 1shall come into Egypt:
And the idols of Egypt 2shall be moved at his presence,
And the heart of Egypt 3shall melt in the midst of it.
2 And I will 4set 5the Egyptians against the Egyptians:
And they shall fight every one against his brother,
And every one against his 6neighbor;
City against city,
And kingdom against kingdom.
3 And the spirit of Egypt 7shall fail in the midst thereof;
And I will 8destroy the counsel thereof:
And they shall seek to the idols, and to the 9charmers,
And to 10them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizzards.
4 And 11the Egyptians will I 12give over into the hand of a 13cruel lord;
And a 14fierce king shall rule over them,
Saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts.
5 And the waters shall fail from the sea,
And the river shall be wasted and dried up.
6 And 15they shall turn the rivers far away;
And the brooks of 16defence shall be emptied and dried up:
17The reeds and flags shall wither.
7 The 18paper reeds by the brooks, 19by the mouth of the brooks,
And 20everything sown by the brooks,
Shall wither, be driven away, 21and be no more.
8 The fishers also shall mourn,
And all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament,
And they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish..
9 Moreover they that work in fine flax,
And they that weave 22networks, shall be confounded.
10 And 23they shall be broken in the 24purposes thereof:
All that make sluices and ponds 25for fish.
11 26Surely the princes of Zoan are fools,
27The counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish:
How say ye unto Pharaoh,
I am the son of the wise,
The son of ancient kings?
12 Where are they? where are thy wise men?
And let them tell thee now, and let them know
What the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt.
13 The princes of Zoan are 28become fools,
The princes of Noph are deceived;
29They have also seduced Egypt, even they that are30 31the stay of the tribes thereof.
14 The LORD hath mingled 32a perverse spirit in the midst thereof:
And they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof,
As a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.
15 Neither shall there be any work for Egypt,
Which the head or tail, branch or rush may do.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 19:1. נוע is one of the words that occur only in the first part of Isaiah: 6:4; 7:2; 24: 20; 37:22.—קֶרֶב, in some sense as the enclosure that contains the לֵב or רוּחַ, frequent: 26:9; 63:11; Ps. 39:4; 51:12; 55:5, etc.——אלילים, see on 2:8.——ולב מ׳ ימם, see on 13:7.
Isa 19:2. On סִכְסֵךְ comp. at 9:10.
Isa 19:3. נבקה comp. GREEN Gr., § 141, 1; Isa. 24: 1, 3.——אִטִּים, ἅπ. λεγ., probably kindred to לְאַט, which is used of the soft murmuring of a brook, 8:6, and of soft, slow, gentle stepping or acting, Gen. 33:14; 2 Sam. 18:5, etc.——אֹבוֹת and יִדְּעֹנִים, compare on 8:19.
Isa 19:4. אֲדֹנִים, Plural, with the abstract notion of dominion, comp. Gen. 39:20; 42:30, 33; in Isa. again only 26:13.——עַז 25:3; 43:16; 56:11.——סכר, properly “to shut up,” only here in Isaiah.
Isa 19:5. The form נִשְּׁתוּ, as also נָשָֽׁתָּה 41:17, and נָֽשְׁתָה Jer. 51:30 can be referred to שָׁתַת (comp. Ps. 73:9; 88:7), as is done by HITZIG, if the meaning “to seat oneself,” desidere suited our passage and 41:17. But in both places (also 19:5 on account of the מִן before הַיָּם) it is too evident that the meaning “exaruit, to become dry,” is demanded by the context. Moreover the whole of verse 5 is with little alteration taken from Job 14:11. For there it reads:—אָֽזְלוּ מַיִם מִנִּי־יָם וְנָהָר יֶֽחֱרַב וְיָבֵשׁ. It is seen that the expressions differ somewhat in the first clause, while in the second clause they are literally alike. Job employs the language as the figure for growing old and dying off, without any reference to the Nile. Isaiah applies it to the Nile particularly, and hence exchanges אזלו (diffluunt) for נשׁתו.
Isa 19:6. There is no substantive אֶזְנַח; so הֶֽאֶזְנִיחַ may not be taken as denominativum, though even EWALD (§ 126 b) adopts the view. OLSHAUSEN (§ 255 b) explains the form as simply a blunder; חִזְנִיחוּ is to be restored. The meaning must be “to produce, to spread a stench.”——The plural נהרות occurs only here in the first part of Isaiah; in the second part: 41:18; 42:15; 43:2, 19, 20; 44:27; 47:2; 50:2. נהרים 18:1, 2, 7; 33:21.——דָּלַל comp. 38:14; 17:4.——On מָצוֹר see Exeg. Com. on Isa 19:1.——יְאוֹר is an Egyptian word. According to EBERS (1. c. I. p. 338) the sacred name of the Nile in the hieroglyphic text is Hapi, the profane name, on the other hand, Aur. Along with the latter name often stands aa, i, e., “great,” therefore, Aur-aa = great river. The ancient hieratic form Aur became, in the mouth of the people, iar or ial (r and l are exchanged according to fancy in Egyptian, EBERS, p. 96). From Aur-aa came iaro. So the word sounds also in Koptic. The plural יארים occurs 33:21, of water ditches, used for defence; Job 28:1 of the shafts that the miner digs. Otherwise the word is used only of the canals of the Nile: Exod. 7:19; 8:1, etc. Comp. 7:18; 37:25; 2 Kings 19:24.——קָנֶה “cane,” hence κανών, canalis, 35: 7; 36:6; 42:3; 43:24; 46:6.——סוּף “a reed,” Exod. 2:3, 5; only here in Isaiah. קָמֵל (קָמַל kindred to אָמַל) “marcescere, to languish,” occurs again only 33:9.
Isa 19:7. עָרוֹת (from עָרָה, nudum esse, loca nuda), occurs only in this place. These ערות evidently correspond to the Egyptian אָֽחוּ (Gen. 41:2; Job 8:11), the Nile, or reed, or rush-meadow on the bank of the Nile. Comp. EBERS l. c. p. 338.——פי יאור can hardly signify “the mouthing.” For wherefore should only the meadows at the mouthing of the Nile wither? Rather (comp. Ps. 133:2) the mouth of the Nile here is the same as the lips of the Nile elsewhere (שְׂפַת חַיְאֹר Gen. 41:3, hieroglyphic sept., EBERS, l. c. p. 339.——מִזְרָע, ἅπ. λεγ. can mean here only “the place of sowing, the sowed field” (comp. זֶרַע שִׁהֹר 23:3).——נדף, dispellere, dissipare, occurs again only 41:2.——ואיננו a form of expression that occurs relatively the oftenest in Job: 3:21; 23:8; 24:24; 27:19. Comp. beside Psalms 37:10; 103:16; Prov. 23:5, etc.
Isa 19:8. אָנוּ comp. 3:26.——חַכָּה and מכמרת are found only here in Isaiah; on the former compare Job 40:25; on the latter, Hab. 1:15.——אֻמְלָלוּ comp. on 16:8.
Isa 19:9. פשׁתים שׂריקות are lina pectinata, i.e., linen stuff made of hackeled, pure, fine flax. שׂריקות is ἅπ. λεγ.; so also is חוֹרַי. The root of the latter חָוַר (29:22) means candidum, then nobilem, splendidum esse. We encounter this meaning again in הֹר nobilis, הֹרִי “fine, white bread,” (Gen. 40:16), probably, too, in the proper names חוּרָם (ingenuus) חִירָה (nobilitas). Accordingly הֹרַי would be “a fine white garment.” Whether the stuff was linen or cotton is not to be determined from the word itself. The distinction from פִשְׁתִּים rather favors the opinion that it was cotton. The ending ăj is an old singular ending; comp. EWALD, § 164, c; 177 a.
Isa 19:10. The word שָׁתוֹת occurs again only Ps. 11:3; and there means undoubtedly “pillars, posts.” This meaning suits perfectly in this place also. Only verse 10 is not to be connected with what precedes, but is to be construed as the theme for what follows, yet in the sense that the following verses specify exclusively the notion שׁתות. Only at the end of Isa 19:15 the underlying thought of Isa 19:10 recurs. For “head and tail, palm branch and rush” is only another expression for that which is called “foundation pillars and hired laborers.”——שֶׂכֶר (compare שָׂכִיר, mercenarius) means “merces, pay,” and occurs again only Prov. 11:18. They are, therefore, “quœstum facientes, hired laborers;” a comprehensive designation of the lower classes.——The expression אגמי נפשׂ recalls אַגְמֵי מַיִם 14:23. The meaning “troubled,” which some give to אגמי in our text, would form a solitary instance. Everywhere else the word means “stagnum, palus” (35:7; 41:18; 42:15), or “arundinetum” (Jer. 51:32). The word is used for the pools, puddles, swamps made by the Nile (Exod. 7:19; 8:1).
Isa 19:11. בָּעַר is verb. denom. from בָּעַר, brutus, stolidus. The Niph. only here in Isaiah; comp. Jer. 10:14, 21.——אֲנִי, this is said because the prophet has in mind a single priest: he thinks, perhaps, of the ʼαρχιερεύς, “the chief of the entire priesthood,” (EBERS, l. c. p. 344).
Isa 19:13. נואלו, “infatuated,” only here in Isa; comp. Num. 12:11; Jer. 5:4; 50:36.——נִשָּׁא, “betrayed;” Niph. only here; Hiph. 36:14; 37:10.——נֹף is = מֹף. Memphis (comp. DELITZSCH and BRUGSCH Hist. d’Egyptc).——פִנָּה “the corner;” then by metonymy for אֶבֶיּֽפ׳ “the corner-stone,” Job 38:6; comp. Isa. 28:15; Jer. 51:26; Ps. 118:22.
Isa 19:14. עִוְעִים, “perverseness,” ἅπ. λεγ., compare רוּחַ שֶׁקֶר 1 Kings 22:22 sq.——בקרבה see on Isa 19:1. מָּסַךְ, 5:22.
Isa 19:15. וְ before זנב and אגמון is here equivalent to “or” (comp EWALD, § 352, a; Jer. 44:28)
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Jehovah draws near to the judgment against Egypt: the idols flee, the nation is dispirited (Isa 19:1). This is the theme of the discourse. In what follows the Prophet lets the LORD Himself set forth how He means to carry out in detail what is announced in Isa 19:1. The Egyptians shall war on one another (Isa 19:2); bereft of all prudent deliberation, they shall seek counsel from the idols and wizards (Isa 19:3). But it is of no use. Egypt is subjected to a harsh rule (Isa 19:4). The Nile dries up; its rushes and canes wither (Isa 19:5, 6), and also the meadows and fields on its banks (Isa 19:7); its fisheries come to a miserable end (Isa 19:8); the preparation of linen and cotton stuff ceases (Isa 19:9). The highest as well as the lowest classes are ruined (Isa 19:10); the priests and the wise men that boast an ancient royal descent are at an end with their wisdom; they know not what the LORD has determined concerning Egypt (Isa 19:11, 12); they are altogether perplexed in their thoughts, so that they only lead Egypt about in a maze (Isa 19:13, 14). Neither for the highest nor the lowest does labor for the general benefit succeed any more (Isa 19:15).
2. The burden——midst of it.
Isa 19:1. Mizraim, is not the native name for the land of Egypt. The ancient Egyptians never used it. It is neither to be found in the hieroglyphic inscriptions, nor can it be explained from the Koptic language. The Egyptians called their land (the Nile valley) Cham; Koptic, Keme, Kemi, Chemi (i.e. “black”). Mizraim is the name given to the land by its eastern, Semitic neighbors. EBERS (l. c., p. 71 sqq.) proceeds from מָצוֹר, which means coarctatio, and then munimentum, “fortification” (Ps. 31:22; 60:11; Mic. 7:12; Hab. 2:1, etc.). Egypt is so named, Isa. 19:6; 37:25; 2 Kings 19:24; Mic. 7:12. EBERS maintains that the eastern neighbors so named Lower Egypt primarily, from the circumvallation that extended through the entire Isthmus, from Sues of Pelusium to the Red Sea, and thus completely shut off Lower Egypt from the East; so that it was an אֶרֶץ מָצוֹר, “a land shut off by fortification” for those eastern neighbors. But when the Hyksos had forced an entrance into the land, they learned for the first that it was far larger than they had supposed, viz., that it extended beyond the southern extremity of the fortification far up the Nile to the cataracts: in other words they learned that there was a Lower and an Upper Egypt. Hence the dual מִצרַים. Although the normal dual of מָצוֹר would sound differently, yet EBERS is right in saying that the inflection of proper names often takes its own peculiar form (l. c., p. 86). It is debatable whether the original distinction between מָצוֹר and מִצְרַיִם was afterwards strictly adhered to. In Isa. 11:11, מצרים is evidently used in the narrower sense in which מצור was originally used. [“מִצְרַיִם is here the name of the ancestor (Gen. 10:6), put for his descendants.” J. A. A.—“Mizraim, or Misrim, the name given to Egypt in the Scriptures, is in the plural form, and is the Hebrew mode of expressing the ‘two regions of Egypt’ (so commonly met with in the hieroglyphics), or the ‘two Miser,’ a name still used by the Arabs, who call Egypt, as well as Cairo, Musk, or Misr.” WILKINSON’S Mann. and Cust. of Anc. Egypt, I. 2, quoted by BARNES in loc., who adds: “The origin of the name ‘Egypt’ is unknown. Egyptus is said by some to have been an ancient king of the country”].
Jehovah sets out for Egypt to hold an assize there. He rides swiftly thither on light clouds (Ps. 18:11; 68:34). Egypt’s idols flee before Him. They recognize in Him their lord and master, Luke 4:34. The people are dispirited; their courage sinks. One is involuntarily reminded of the visitation Egypt once before experienced on the part of Jehovah (Exod. 12:12). Idols and people of Egypt have once before felt the power of Jehovah: just for this reason they flee and tremble before Him (comp. Jer. 46:25; Ezek. 30:13; 1 Sam. 5:3).
3. And I will set——Lord of hosts.
Isa 19:2-4. DUNCKER (Gesch. des Alterth., I. p. 602) says: “It cannot be determined whether this passage refers to the anarchy that followed the expulsion of the Ethiopians (DIODOR., I. 66) about the year 695, or the contests that preceded Psammetichus’ ascending the throne (between 678–670).” But it appears that the anarchy after the withdrawal of the Ethiopians was not considerable. HERODOTUS (II. 147) especially praises the beautiful harmony of the Dodecarche. And if misunderstandings did arise, they might be taken into the Prophet’s comprehensive glance as essentially of the same sort with those that soon after preceded the sole dominion of Psammetichus. Such periods of internal discord, any way, occurred often in Egypt. Thus a papyrus discovered by HARRIS in 1855, and belonging to the time of Ramses III., leaf 75 sqq. informs us: “The land of Egypt fell into a decline: every one did as he pleased, long years there was no sovereign for them, that had the supreme power over the rest of things. The land of Egypt belonged to the princes in the districts. One killed another in jealousy.” Comp. EISENLOHR, The great HARRIS Papyrus; a lecture, Leipzig, 1872. Thus even the disturbances with which Egypt was visited in consequence of the irruption of the Ethiopian king Pianchi Meramen may be included, which STADE (De Is. vatt. aeth., p. 30 sqq.) holds to be intended by the cruel lord and fierce king Isa 19:4. For when Isaiah wrote, if the date given above is correct, the events under Pianchi Meramen belonged to the past and not to the future. By the aid of Ionian and Karian pirates (HEROD. II. 152) Psammetichus subdued his opponents, after an eight years’ contest, in the decisive battle of Momemphis.
What the Prophet says (Isa 19:3) of the emptying out of the spirit of Egypt and swallowing up its counsel (comp. 3:12) indicates the impotence of the rulers to help the situation with such means as shall be at their command. In their extremity they will apply to their idols, their interpreters, i.e. “the mutterers.” But in vain. Egypt is handed over to a harsh rule and a stern king. It cannot be denied that these terms apply very well to Psammetichus and the subsequent kings of his race, Necho and Hophra, for they called in foreign help to the support of their dominion, and gave thereby a blow to the old Egyptian existence from which it never recovered. We are told by DIODORUS (I. 67) and HERODOTUS (II. 30) that, in consequence of the favor that Psammetichus showed to foreigners, more than 200,000 Egyptians of the military caste emigrated to Ethiopia during the reign of that king. Under Necho, of the laborers on the canal that was to connect the Nile with the Red Sea, 120,000 perished (HER. II. 158). Hophra or Apries was dethroned because an expedition against Cyrene, for which he had employed an army composed only of Egyptians, ended in severe defeat. For his conduct was construed to be an intentional devotion of the Egyptians to destruction (HEROD. II. 161–169; IV. 159). These and other historical events may be regarded as belonging to the fulfilment of our prophecy. But they do not exhaust it. Nothing was less in Isaiah’s mind than to make those transactions the subject of special prediction. How would we in that case apply what follows, where he speaks of the Nile drying up and vegetation ceasing? Can this, too, be meant literally? By both declarations the Prophet means only to announce to Egypt a judgment by which, on both sides of its life, the historical and the natural, it shall be reduced to extremities. This judgment has not been realized by only one or a few definite events. It is realized by every thing that precedes the conversion of Egypt to Jehovah (Isa 19:21 sqq.) and contributes to it; and to that belongs, above all, its oppression by a foe from without, that is by Assyria. This moment, it is true, does not appear especially in chapt. 19, but to the presentation of this the complementary chapt. 20 is exclusively devoted.
4. And the waters——confounded.
Isa 19:5-9. The Nile is called a sea (comp. 18:2; 27:1; Nah. 3:8; Mic. 7:12?), not merely because of its normal breadth within its own banks, but also because it really spreads out like a sea at the time of overflow, which to suit the context, must be regarded as the special allusion here. Hence HERODOTUS (II. 97) calls it “the sea of Egypt.” Comp. PLIN. Hist. nat., 35, 11. “The water of the Nile resembles a sea.” SENECA Quaest. nat. IV. 2. “At first it abates, then by continued accession of waters it spreads out into the appearance of a broad and turbid sea,” GESEN. in loc. If יָם, “sea” designates the Nile in its overflow, then נהר means the stream within its normal bed, and the נהרות, “streams” and יארים “ditches,” mean the arms and canals of the Nile. With the drying up of the Nile and its branches perishes, of course, the vegetation that depends on them, and thus also the fisheries and the important manufacture of linen and cotton. On the extraordinary, productive fisheries of the Nile, comp. WILKINSON, l. c. I. and II. Linen garments were especially worn by the priests. In the temples they were allowed to wear only linen garments. All mummy bandages also were required to be of linen. On the manufacture of linen and cotton in Egypt, see WILKINSON II.
5. And they shall be broken——rush, may do.
Isa 19:10-15. In these verses the Prophet portrays the ruin of Egypt in another aspect of its national life, viz.: the division into castes, in which he especially sets forth the highest class as overtaken by the ruin. By שׁתות (see under Text. and Gram.), is not to be understood the lower classes (HENDEWERK and EWALD) nor weaving (with a reference to שִׁית שַׁיִת, ROORDA, ROSENMUELLER and others). They are the upper classes, the highest castes (comp. 3:1). These shall be מדכאים i.e., “cast down, crumbled to ruins” (comp. 53:5, 10; 3:15; 57:15), what is thus predicated corresponding to the figurative meaning of the subject, in which I see an allusion to the ruins. For already in Isaiah’s time there were buildings in Egypt whose origin dated back more than a thousand years.
Is it not fitting that the Prophet compares the humiliation of the grandees of Egypt to the ruins of its ancient buildings, and the sorely visited lower classes to swamps of its Nile? (See Text, and Gram. on Isa 19:10).
In what follows he depicts further the coming to nought of the grandees, setting forth especially the bankruptcy of their wisdom, so celebrated of old (Acts 7:22; HEROD. IV. 6, 77, 160). The princes of Zoan are only fools. (Zoan = Tanis, the royal residence of Lower Egypt, situated in the Delta of the Nile, comp. EBERS, l. c., I. p. 272 sqq.; identical with Ramses, according to BRUGSCH, address before the Oriental Congress, London, 1874). “The sages among the counsellors of Pharaoh,” are properly those of the counsellors who alone deserve the predicate “wise.” The expression recalls חַכְמוֹת שָׂרוֹתֶיהָ “her wise ladies” in the song of Deborah (Jud. 5:29) which must also be translated: “the wisest among her princesses.” On the חֲכָמִים, the priestly counsellors of Pharaoh, see EBERS, l. c. I. p. 341 sqq.
As to the name Pharaoh, it reads in the hieroglyphic and hieratic writing “Peraa” or “Perā,” which means literally “great house” (comp. sublime Porte). Comp. EBERS, p. 263 sqq. The word designates also simply the king’s palace (EBERS, ibid.).
The Prophet assumes that the Egyptian priests base their claim to wisdom on two circumstances: 1) on their antiquity, 2) on their high, royal origin. If the ancient kings were of a priestly race, which is correctly assumed, and if the wisdom of the priests was traditional, then the counsel which they gave the king originated from a source which must enjoy the highest consideration in his eyes. How lamentably, says Isaiah, must this counsel, proceeding from such high authority, come to confusion. Did they know what God had determined against Egypt, they could then take measures against it (Isa 19:12). As it is they are in a maze. They are themselves infatuated, and deceived; hence the “corner-stone of its tribes” (i.e., the tribe, viz.: the class on which the whole Egyptian body politic rests; the priestly class) leads the whole land astray (Isa 19:13). The LORD has, in fact, as it were, mingled a spirit of perverseness in the inward part of Egypt, so that by the very ones in whom, so to speak, the understanding of the land concentrated, the land is led astray in the most shameful manner. This shameful leading astray he expresses by a very revolting figure: he compares Egypt to a drunken man rolling about hither and thither in his own vomitings (Isa 19:14). Comp. 28:8; Jer. 48:26 uses the same figure of Moab.——Thus Egypt becomes poor in deeds. All it does is nothing done. Neither head nor tail; neither palm-branch nor rush, i.e., neither the highest nor the lowest (comp. on 9:13) will accomplish anything. With this the Prophet returns back to the thought from which (Isa 19:9) he started out.
move, or flee.
Egypt against Egypt.
of stern command and rough tread.
Heb. shall be emptied.
Heb. swallow up.
Or, shut up.
the rivers shall stink.
Reed and rush.
on the bank of the.
all the sown ground of.
Heb. and shall not be.
Or, white works.
her pillars shall be ruins, all laborers for hire soul-swamps.
Or, of living things.
Only fools are the.
The wise among the counsellors of Pharaoh, their counsel is.
And the corner-stone of its castes has led Egypt astray.
Heb. a spirit of perverseness.
In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it.ב) The Transition: Egypt fears the LORD
CHAPTER 19:16, 17
16 In that day shall Egypt be like unto women:
And it shall be afraid and fear
33Because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts,
Which he shaketh over it.
17 And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt,
Every one that 34maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself,
Because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts,
Which he hath determined against it.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 19:16. חרד comp. 10:29; 32:16; 41:5.——פחד 12:2; 33:14; 44:8, 11; 60:5.——The verb הֵנִיף we have already read of the hand lifted up in threatening: 11:15, comp. 10:15, 32; 13:2; 30:28.——תנופה, frequent in the Pentateuch, occurs in Isaiah only here and 30:32.——Regarding the expression אדמת יהודה it is to be remarked that, apart from the frequent אדמת ישׂראל in Ezekiel, אדמה never occurs in connection with the name of a nation except here and Gen. 47:20, 26, in the expression אדמת מצרים——חָגָּא (from חָגַג, circulare, tripudiare), “the revolving movement of dizziness,” is ἅπ. λεγ.——The expression כֹּל אֲשֶר וגו׳, is a resolving of the otherwise usual participial construction, on which comp. EWALD, § 337, c, sq.—The Hiph. הִזְכִּיר is frequent in Isaiah: 12:4; 26:13; 36:3:22, 43:26; 48:1; 62:6, etc.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. The discourse is artistically arranged: according to the foregoing, Egypt still thinks it may be saved by its own wisdom. Now it has surrendered this hope. It trembles before the threatening gesture of Jehovah’s hand (Isa 19:16). In fact, whenever the land of Judah is thought of, Egypt quakes with fear lest the decree of Jehovah may be accomplished (Isa 19:17).
2. The expression of Isaiah “in that day” which is peculiar to the first part (in the second it occurs only 52:6) appears with more frequency in the present chapter, than in any other passage: viz.: Isa 19:16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24. Comp. the remark at 2:12. As often as one utters the name Judah, men turn affrighted to him, for they know but too well the power of the God of Judah. The counsel of Jehovah, then, of which Isa 19:12 speaks, must have been partly accomplished. Men fear its further and complete fulfilment.
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.ג) EGYPT BY DEGREES CONVERTED WHOLLY TO THE LORD, AND THE THIRD IN THE CONFEDERATION WITH ASSYRIA AND ISRAEL
18 In that day 35shall five cities in the land of Egypt
36Speak 37the language of Canaan,
And 38swear to the LORD of hosts;
One shall be called, 39The city of 40destruction.
19 In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD
In the midst of the land of Egypt,
And a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD.
20 And it shall be for a sign and for a witness
Unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt:
For they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors,
And he shall send them a Saviour, and 41a great one,
42And he shall deliver them.
21 And the LORD shall be known to Egypt,
And 43the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day,
And shall do sacrifice and oblation;
44Yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.
22 And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it:
And they shall return even to the LORD,
And he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria,
And 45the Assyrian shall come into Egypt,
And 46the Egyptian into Assyria,
And 47the Egyptians shall serve with 48the Assyrians.
24 In that day shall Israel be the third
With Egypt and Assyria.
25 Even a blessing in the midst of the 49land: 50whom the LORD of hosts 51shall bless, saying:
Blessed be Egypt my people,
And Assyria the work of my hands,
And Israel mine inheritance.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Isa 19:18. The expression שְׂפַת כ׳ occurs only here.—נִשְׁבַּע with לְ must be distinguished from its use with בְּ. The latter is “to swear by one” (62:8; Amos 6:8; 8:7, etc.); the former is “to swear, to oblige one’s self to another by oath,” (Zeph. 1:5; Gen. 24:7; 50:24; Exod. 13:5; Ps. 132:2, etc.). הַהֶרֶם or הַחֶרֶם. Sixteen CODD. have the latter reading, also several editions. The LXX. indeed reads ἀσεδέκ, which is evidently a designed alteration resulting from the application of 1:26 to the Egyptian city. But SYMM., the VULG. (civitas solis), SAADIA, the TALMUD (Menachot Fol. 110, A), also translate “city of the sun.” On the other hand the majority of codices and editions have הֶרֶם, and among the ancient versions at least the SYRIAC decidedly so reads (for Ἀρές, which AQC. and THEOD. read, could stand also for חֶרֶם). Thus critically the reading הֶרֶם is the best supported. The authority of the Masora is for it. But the reading חֶרֶם is, any way, very ancient SYMMACHUS, JEROME, the TARGUMIST met with it. And it must have enjoyed equal authority with the other reading. Else the TARGUMIST would not have combined both readings when he writes: קַרְתָּא בֵית־שֶׁמֶשׁ דַּֽעֲתִידָא לְמֶֽחֱרַב, i.e., the city “Beth-Shemes quae futura est ad evertendum, i.e., quae evertetur.” And the fact that the treatise Menachot reads חֶרֶם is certainly proof that weighty authorities supported this reading. Add to this that הרם by no means affords a satisfactory sense. For the meaning “lion,” which some assume from the Arabic (haris “the render”) is very doubtful, first from the fact that it rests only on Arabic etymology. Yet more uncertain is the meaning liberatio, salus, amor, be it derived from the Syriac (which, as GESEN. in loc. demonstrates, rests on pure misunderstanding) or, with MAURER, from the Hebrew, by taking הֶרֶם = “tearing loose,” whereas it can only mean “rending in pieces, destroying.” And in this latter sense many expositors take the word. But how can a word of such mischievous import suit in a context so full of joy and comfort? CASPARI (Zeitschr. für Luth. Theol. 1841, III.), whom DRECHSLER and DELITZSCH follow, is therefore of the opinion that the Prophet, by a slight change wrote הרם instead of חרם, but will have this word הרם understood in the sense of “destroying the idolatry,” like Jer. 43:13 prophesies the “breaking in pieces of the obelisks in the temple of the sun in the land of Egypt.” But against this view is the fact that such twisting of words occurs always only in a bad sense. Thus Ezek. 30:17 calls the city אוֹן by the name אָוֶן; Hos. 4:15; 5:8 (comp. Amos 5:5) calls בֵּית־אֵל by the name בֵּית־אָוֶן (for which moreover an actual and neighboring בֵּית־אָוֶן Josh. 7:2 gave the handle); Isa. 7:6 changes the name טָֽבְאֵל into טָֽבְּאַל, although he uses it in pausa; and 21:11 he introduces Edom under the name of דּוּמָה (“silence of the dead”) and, finally the TALMUD in the treatise Aboda sara (Fol. 46 a, in the German translation of EWALD, Nuremberg, 1856, p. 324) gives the following examples as prescribing the rule for changing the names of cities that have an idolatrous meaning: “Has such a city had the name בֵּית גַּלְיָא, “house of revelation,” it should be called בֵּית כַּרְיָא “house of concealment” (or fossae, latrinae); has the city been called בֵּית מֶלֶךְ, “house of the king,” it should be called בֵּית כֶּלֶב “house of the dog;” instead of עֵין כֹּל “the all-seeing eye,” call it עֵין קוֹץ “the eye of thorns.”—Further examples of the kind see in BUXTORFF, Lex., Chald., Talmud, et rabb., p. 1086 sq., s. v., כַּריָא——Thus we see that הרם as a twisting of חרם must either be opposed to the context or to the usus loquendi. I therefore hold חֶרֶם to be the original correct reading. But חרם means “the sun” (Jud. 1:35, where it is remarkable that a little before, Isa 19:23, a בֵּית־שֶׁמֶשׁ is mentioned——, 8:13; 14:18; Job 9:7). I think, as older expositors (comp. GESEN. in loc.) and latterly PRESSEL (HERZ. R. Encycl. X., p. 612) have conjectured, that it is not impossible that this name עיר־החרם in our verse was the occasion for seeking a locality near Heliopolis for the temple of Onias. The reason why it was not built immediately in or at Heliopolis was that a suitable site (ἐπιτηδειότατον τόπον) for building was found at Leontopolis, which was yet in the Nome of Heliopolis. That Onias in his petition to Philometor and Cleopatra evidently appealed in a special way to verse 19 proves nothing against the assumption that Isa 19:18 also had a significance for him. He even says expressly, after having quoted the contents of Isa 19:19: “καὶ πολλὰ δὲ προεφήτευσεν ἄλλᾳ τοιαῦτα διὰ τὸν τόπον.” But if the Egyptian temple, which, according to JOSEPHUS (Bell. jud. 7, 10, 4), stood 343 years (it ought rather to say 243), was a great offence to the Hebrew Jews, it could easily happen that חרם of our verse was changed by them to הרם. There are in fact six MSS. that read expressly עִיר הַחֵרֶם “city of the curse;” and the Ἀσεδέκ of the LXX. is manifestly an intentional alteration in the opposite sense.——Therefore intentional changes Proverbs et contra have undeniably been perpetrated. Thus is explained not only the duplicate reading in general, but especially, too, the tradition of הרם as the orthodox reading, and the fixing of the same by the Masorets.—Comp. moreover, REINKE in the Tüb. theol. Quart. Schrift. 1870, Heft I., on the imputed changes of the Masoretic text in Isa. 19:18, and the remarks of the same writer in his Beiträgen zur Eklr. des A. T. Giesen 1872, Band VIII., p. 87 sqq.
Isa 19:20. The combination לאות ולער occurs only here. Of more frequent occurrence is אֹות וּמוֹכֶּת, Deut. 13:2; 28:46; Isa. 20:3.——רָכ particip. = “contestant, champion,” comp. 45:9; Jer. 51:36; not an uncommon use of the word in Judges: 6:31; 11:25; 21:22.
Isa 19:21. עָכַר with latent transitive notion; Exod. 10:26; comp. Gen. 30:29.
Isa 19:22. The reason why Isaiah uses the word נָגַף is probably because this word is repeatedly used of the plagues of Egypt: Exod. 7:27; 12:13, 23, 27; Josh. 24:5—נעתר, audientem se praestitit alicui; only here in Isaiah; comp. Gen. 25:21; 2 Sam. 21:14; 24:25.
Isa 19:23. מְסִלָּה see 7:3.——עברו can only be understood as the abbreviation of the statement that occurs entire immediately before with application there to Egypt alone. The same service (עבר) shall Egypt perform in union with Assyria. The Prophet could so much the more readily express himself thus, in as much as עָבר is used also elsewhere (Job 36:11) in the same absolute way.
Isa 19:24. שׁלישׁיה is in itself tertia; yet not merely pars, but size, degree generally, designated by “three.” Compare עגלת שׁלישׁיה 15:5. Here it is the third element, the third factor that must be added in order to make the harmony complete.
Isa 19:25. אשׁר cannot be construed as simple relative pronoun. For then the suffix in ברכו must be referred to הארץ which will hardly do. It is therefore construed = “so that,” or “since,” and the suffix named is referred to the individual that each of the three forms by itself (comp. 17:10, 13). Therefore אשׁר here is a conjunction (GREEN (Gr., § 239, 1).
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Egypt will gradually be altogether converted to the LORD. At first, indeed, only five cities will serve Him (Isa 19:18), but soon the LORD will have an altar in Egypt, and a pillar dedicated to Him on the border (Isa 19:19) will at once announce to the approaching traveller that Egypt is a land that pays worship to Jehovah. Then, when they cry to the Lord, He will deliver them from oppression as He did Israel of old in the days of the judges (Isa 19:20). He will reveal Himself to them, and they will know Him and offer Him divine service in due form (Isa 19:21). He will, indeed, smite them like His own people, but then He will heal them again: but they will turn to Him, and He will let Himself be entreated of them (Isa 19:22). But not only Egypt—Assyria too will then be converted to the Lord. And between Egypt and Assyria there will be busy intercourse, and they will no more be enemies of one another, but serve the Lord in common (Isa 19:23). And Israel will be the third in the confederation, and that will be a great blessing from the LORD for the whole earth (Isa 19:24), who then will call Egypt His people, Assyria the work of His hand, but Israel always still His special inheritance.
2. In that day——destruction.
Isa 19:18. The fifth is the half of ten. It appears to me to be neither a small nor a great number (CORN. A LAPIDE). But if in the ten there lies the idea of completeness, wholeness, then five is not any sort of fraction of the whole, but the half, which added to itself forms the whole. By the five the ten is assured. There does not, therefore, lie in the five the idea of the mustard seed, but rather the idea of being already half attained. From passages like Gen. 45:22; Exod. 22:1; Num. 7:17, 23; Matt. 25:2, 20; 1 Cor. 14:19, it is not erroneously concluded that the five has a certain symbolical meaning. Besides this, in respect to the division of the year into seven months (of freedom from water) and five months (of the overflow) the five was a sacred number to the Egyptians. Comp. EBERS, l. c., p. 359: “Seven and five present themselves as especially sacred numbers.” To think, as HITZIG does, of five particular cities (Heliopolis, Leontopolis, Migdol, Daphne, Memphis), is opposed to the character of the prophecy. Five cities, therefore, shall speak the language of Canaan, the sacred language, the language of the law. That is, they shall found a place in the midst of them for the worship of Jehovah.
[“The construction of CALVIN (who understands five out of six to be intended) is to be preferred, because the others arbitrarily assume a standard of comparison (twenty thousand, ten thousand, ten, etc.); whereas this hypothesis finds it in the verse itself, five professing the true religion to one rejecting it. Most of the other interpretations understand the one to be included in the five, as if he had said one of them. As לאחת admits either of these senses, or rather applications, the question must depend upon the meaning given to the rest of the clause. Even on CALVIN’S hypothesis, however, the proportion indicated need not be taken with mathematical precision. What appears to be meant is that five-sixths, i.e., a very large proportion, shall profess the true religion, while the remaining sixth persists in unbelief.” “It shall be said to one, i.e., one shall be addressed as follows, or called by the following name. This periphrasis is common in Isaiah, but is never applied, as GESENIUS observes, to the actual appellation, but always to a description or symbolical title (see 4:3; 61:6; 62:4). This may be urged as an argument against the explanation of הַהֶרֶם as a proper name.” “All the interpretations which have now been mentioned [the one Dr. NAEGELSBACH favors being included in the number—TR.] either depart from the common text or explain it by some forced or foreign analogy. If, however, we proceed upon the only safe principle of adhering to the common text, and to Hebrew usage, without the strongest reasons for abandoning either or both, no explanation of the name can be so satisfactory as that given by CALVIN (civitas desolationis) and the ENG. VERSION (‘city of destruction’).” J. A. A.]
The city of destruction.—Isaiah often expresses the future existence of a person or matter by a name, of which he says it shall be applied to the person in question (1:26; 4:3; 61:6; 62:4). Here there seems to be intended, not so much a characteristic of the nature, as a mark that shall serve as a means for recognizing the fulfilment. For why does the Prophet give the name of only one city? Why does he not give the five cities a name in common? It seems to me that the Prophet saw five points that shone forth out of the obscurity that concealed the future of Egypt from his eyes. They are the five cities in which the worship of Jehovah shall find a place. But only one of these cities, doubtless the greatest and most considerable, does he see so clearly that he even knows its name. This name he gives—and thus is given a mark whereby to identify the time of the fulfilment. For if in the future there comes about a condition of things in Egypt corresponding to our prophecy, and if a city under those circumstances bears the name the Prophet gives here, then it is a sure sign that said condition is the fulfilment of the present prophecy. Now, from the dispersion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar on, Egypt became, to a great part of the Israelites, a second home; in fact it became the place of a second Jehovah-Temple; later it even became a wholly Christian land.
That Jehovah-Temple was built by Onias IV. (according to another calculation II.) under Ptolomæus Philometor (180–145) at Leontopolis in the Nome of Heliopolis (JOSEPHUS Antiq. 12, 9, 7; 13, 3, 1–3; 20, 10; Bell. Jud. 7, 10, 2–4), or rather was a ruined Egyptian temple restored. Built upon a foundation sixty feet high, and constructed like a tower, this temple, of course, did not in its outward form resemble that at Jerusalem. But the altar was accurately patterned after the one in Jerusalem. Onias (and probably in opposition to his fellow-countrymen) appealed to our passage. For the building, strictly interpreted, was of course unlawful. And it was steadily opposed by the Hebrew Jews with greater or less determination. But the Egyptian Jews, as said, thought themselves authorized in the undertaking by our passage, especially Isa 19:19. It is not impossible that the choice of the locality was conditioned by the fact that our passage originally read עיר הַחֶרֶם (see under Text. and Gram.) which was translated “city of the sun” and was referred to Heliopolis, the ancient On, the celebrated priestly city (Gen. 41:45, 50; 46:20). [Would it not be a juster interpretation of the fulfilment of this prophecy in regard to the foregoing application to repeat, mutatis mutandis, Dr. NAEGELSBACH’S own remark in the exegetical comment on Isa 19:2–4 above, p. 224. “Nothing was less in Isaiah’s mind than to make those transactions the subject of a special prediction. Else how then is what follows to be applied, where it speaks of a Jehovah-altar in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar or obelisk dedicated to the LORD on the border of it? Can this be meant literally? If not, then neither can Isa 19:18 be understood literally.” Dr. NAEGELSBACH admits above that, “strictly interpreted,” the building of such a temple “was of course unlawful;” and the altar must be included in this statement. But in a matter appertaining to a legal and ceremonial worship a “strict interpretation,” which must mean “strictly legal,” is the only admissible interpretation. Deeds of formal worship that are unlawful by that interpretation cannot be right by any other interpretation, seeing that no other applies to them. How could Isaiah refer prophetically to such a matter as the mimic temple of Jehovah at Leontopolis in such language as we have in our verses 18, 19?—TR.]
3. In that day——heal them.
Isa 19:19-22. What was only hinted in Isa 19:18, is in Isa 19:19 expressly affirmed: The LORD shall have an altar in Egypt. How this was fulfilled we have indicated already above. Egypt became not only a second home to the people of Israel. [But it must be remembered that this never received the token of God’s approval, who said Hos. 11:5, “He shall not return into the land of Egypt.”—TR.]. It became also the birth-place of a most significant form of development of the Jewish spirit. It became moreover a Christian land, and as such had played a prominent part in the history of the Christian church. Call to mind only ORIGEN and ATHANASIUS. If thus the prophecy of the altar of Jehovah in Egypt was literally fulfilled, so the prophecy of the מַצֵּבָה, “pillar,” was fulfilled in a way not so literally, but not therefore in a less real sense. The word means statua, “standing image,” cippus, “monument.” Jer. 43:14 so designates the numerous obelisks that were in Heliopolis. Often idol pillars are so designated (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 3:2; 10:27, etc.), the raising of which was expressly forbidden in the law (Lev. 26:1; Deut. 16:22). When it is announced here that a מצבה dedicated to Jehovah would be raised up, it is not meant that this would be for the purpose of divine service. Rather we see from “at the border” and also from Isa 19:20 that the pillar (the obelisk) should serve merely for a sign and mark by which any one crossing the border could know at once that he treads a land that is exclusively consecrated to the service of Jehovah. Altar and pillar, each in its place,—the pillar first and preparatory, the altar afterwards in the midst of the land and definitive—shall be sign and witness of it.
When we said above that this word was fulfilled not literally, yet not therefore less really, we mean it thus: that Egypt, when it ceased to be a heathen land certainly presented just as plainly to the eye of every one entering it the traces of its confession to the true religion, as we now a days observe more or less distinctly on entering a land, how it is with religion and religiousness there. [J. A. A., on verse 19. “A just view of this passage is that it predicts the prevalence of the true religion, and the practice of its rites in language borrowed from the Mosaic or rather from the patriarchal institutions. As we might now speak of a missionary pitching his tent at Hebron—without intending to describe the precise form of his habitation, so the Prophet represents the converts to the true faith as erecting an altar and a pillar to the LORD in Egypt, as Abraham and Jacob did of old in Canaan. [So for substance also BARNES.—TR.]. Those explanations of the verse which suppose the altar and the pillar, or the centre and the border of the land to be contrasted, are equally at variance with good taste and the usage of the language, which continually separates in parallel clauses, words and things which the reader is expected to combine. See an example of this usage 18:6. As the wintering of the beasts, and the summering of the birds are there intended to denote the presence of both beasts and birds throughout the year, so here the altar in the midst of the land, and the pillar at its border denote altars and pillars through its whole extent.”].
In what follows we observe the effort to show that the LORD will treat Egypt just like Israel. There will be therefore a certain reciprocity: Egypt conducts itself toward the LORD like Israel, therefore will the LORD conduct Himself toward Egypt as He has done toward Israel. Thus the second half of Isa 19:20 reminds one of that “crying of the children of Israel to Jehovah” that is so often mentioned in the book of Judges (3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6, etc.). In that survey of the times of the judges contained in Jud. 2:11 sqq. (at Isa 19:18 comp. Jud. 1:34; 6:9) the oppressors of Israel are called לֹחֲצִים just as here, and Jud. 2:16, 18 the performance of the judges whom God sent to the people, is designated הוֹשִׁיעַ, and the judges are on that account expressly called מוֹשִׁיעַ “deliverers, saviours,” (Jud. 3:9, 15; 6:36; 12:3). הִצִּל, too, occurs in this sense in Judges 6:9; 8:34; 9:17, etc.—In consequence of these manifold mutual relations Jehovah shall become known to the Egyptians. The expression “shall be known,” etc., recalls the celebrated passage Exod. 6:3. “But by my name Jehovah, was I not known to them.” There the LORD reveals Himself to those that were held in bondage by the Egyptians; here is seen the remarkable advance that the LORD reveals Himself to the Egyptians themselves as Jehovah, that they, too, really know Him as such; serving Him in accordance with His law, they present sacrifice and oblation, i.e., bloody and unbloody offerings, and make vows to Him which they scrupulously perform as recognition of His divine majesty and grace (comp. Lev. 27; Num. 30; Deut. 12:6; 23:21 sqq.; Jer. 44:25; Ps. 61:9; 66:13; 116:14, 18, etc.). Egypt is like Israel moreover in this, that the LORD now and then chastises it as not yet sinless, but still heals again. The second half of Isa 19:22 is related to the first as particularizing the latter. In the first half it is merely said: Jehovah will smite and heal Egypt. But in the second half it is put as the condition of healing after the smiting that “they shall return,” etc. Thereby is affirmed that the Egyptians shall find grace only on this condition; and also that they will fulfil this condition. The contrast of smiting and healing reminds one of Deut. 32:39, comp. Job 5:18; Hos. 6:1 sqq.
4. In that day——mine inheritance.
Isa 19:23-25. It is observed in verses 19–22, that the climax of the discourse is not quite attained, for Egypt alone is spoken of, and an Egypt that needed to be disciplined. But now the Prophet rises to the contemplation of a glorious picture of the future that is extensively and intensively complete. Israel’s situation between the northern and southern world-powers had ever been to it the source of the greatest distress inwardly and outwardly. But precisely this middle position had also its advantage. Israel breaks forth on the right hand and on the left. The spirit of Israel penetrates gradually Egypt and Assyria, and thus binds together these two opponents into one, and that something higher. This the Prophet expresses by saying there will be a laid out road, a highway, leading from Egypt to Assyria and from Assyria to Egypt. Such a road must, naturally, traverse the land of Israel, in fact, according to all that precedes, we must assume that this road properly goes out from Israel in both directions. For it is the LORD that makes Himself known to Assyria as well as to Egypt (Isa 19:21), and both these unite in the service of the LORD. For it is clear that the concluding clause of Isa 19:23, does not mean that Egypt shall be subject to Assyria (see עברו in Text. and Gram.). Then Israel will no longer be the unfortunate sacrifice to the enmity of its two mighty neighbors, but their peer and the third member of their union. Thus a harmony will be established, and the threefold accord will be a blessing in the midst of the whole earth and for them, because the LORD will bless them. For Israel as the earthly home of the kingdom of God, and Assyria and Egypt as the natural world-powers represent the entire earth. From them the blessing must come forth upon all. But they must be so blest that the predicates, that hitherto Israel had alone, will be applied to all three. Egypt is called עַמִּי “my people” (comp. 3:12; 10:2, 24, and often), Assyria מעשׂה ירי “work of my hands,” (comp. 60:21; 64:7 and often), but Israel retains the name of honor נחלתי, “mine inheritance,” for thereby it is characterized as the actual son of the house and head of the family.
From before the lifting of the hand, etc., which He lifteth against it.
Heb. the lip.
Or, Heres, or the sun.
And shall, etc.