The Folly of Statesmen
Isaiah 19:11-15
Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say you to Pharaoh…

God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world, in Egypt as in other lands. And the marks and characters of folly are everywhere the same.

I. THE SPIRIT OF BOASTING. The king and his priestly counselors possess sacred books, which they consult as a college in times of emergency. The priests boast of being "sons of the wise," and sons of ancient kings. The Pharaoh himself belonged to the royal stock. Boasting is ever a sign of weakness. The strong man needs not to talk of his strength; he feels it, and others feel it. Wisdom is distinguished by the absence of self-conceit, and is impressive by its silence and modesty.


1. Inability to read the signs of the times. Prediction was their favorite occupation; how is it they cannot read the thoughts of Jehovah toward the land? They resort to false methods - astrology, divination, etc. Truth may not really be loved, or it may be sought by paths that can only lead away from it. It is not by mere reading, it is not by digging in quaint and curious lore, that we can arrive at sympathy with the mind of God. All the learning of the schools is folly unless we keep the light within brightly burning, the conscience clear, the mind, if not the knees, ever bent in the attitude of uplooking and prayer.

2. Bad administration. They lead the country astray. The priestly class, that is, the intellectual and educated class, looked upon as the "corner-stone of the tribes," are themselves under an illusion, and their "light and leading" is an ignis-fastus. We are too much dazzled by the acuteness, the knowledge, the abilities, the vast grasp of facts, in our great men. Often the cleverness of such overreaches itself, and great men stumble and fall, and" run into great dangers which any peasant or artisan would have foreseen." They become inebriated by their own thoughts. But it ever sobers the mind to collect itself, so to speak, in God. "This wit, this insight, is mine, peculiarly mine" - he who speaks with himself thus - is on the brink of some fatal delusion. "It is God's peculiar gift to me; it is a talent from him, to be used for his world" - this is the thought that steadies; and "if our Wisdom rest on God, he wilt truly be a steadfast Corner-stone, which no one shall shake or overthrow."

III. JUDICIAL INFATUATIONS. These delusions are traced to the judicial act of Jehovah. It is he who has put a cup of enchantment to their lips, so that the power of discernment is suspended. The image of drunkenness fitly represents their state. It is a spirit of "perverseness," or of "subversion." And the people have imbibed the same, so that they stagger about helplessly; there is no consistency, no agreement, no firm and joint action. It is an awful thing - the being "given over to a reprobate mind." Nor dare we accuse the Almighty of injustice. We are ready enough to throw the blame of our own aberrations upon others, upon circumstances, or even upon him. But what "right" have we to anything, from the light of the sun to the light of reason in the soul? God gives and God deprives, for reasons inscrutable to us and no[, to be questioned. But, "the heart has reasons that reason knows not of;" and the heart knows that, if its choice be true, its asking will not be refused, the needed guidance will not be denied. - J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellers of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?

WEB: The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish. The counsel of the wisest counselors of Pharaoh has become stupid. How do you say to Pharaoh, "I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?"

On the Pride of Birth
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