113-119 Isaiah Chapter 19
Message to Egypt
Egypt also was a great power in the ancient world. Egypt was immediate to the south of Israel and was a nation that Israel had to reckon with often. Many a time Egypt was the enemy of Israel and at other times Egypt was a place of refuge to Israel. And there were times that Egypt offered a tempting and ungodly alliance to Israel. This chapter holds both a prophecy against and for Egypt.
Egypt had many gods that they worshiped and God by His hand would knock over their many different gods. “In Isaiah’s day, there was no other nation on earth that was so much in the grip of superstition and filthy idolatry as Egypt. Apes, cats, frogs, crocodiles, lizards – everything was venerated by them.” (Bultema)
During the time of the Exodus when Pharaoh would not let the Israelite people go the Lord also made the idols of Egypt to totter at His presence. Each of the plagues was directed towards one of the gods of Egypt. God knocked over the god of Khnum the god of the Nile. The god Hapi the spirit of the Nile, and the god Osiris who had the Nile as his bloodstream when the waters turned blood red. God knocked out the goddess Heqt, the frog goddess of fertility with the plague of the frogs. Then the goddess Hathor, a cow-like mother goddess and God placed a plague on the livestock. God knocked over the god Imhotep, the god of medicine with a plague of boils. The god Nut, the sky goddess with a plague of hail. God knocked over the whole system of worship of their gods with loathsome lice and swarms of insects. God knocked over the god Seth who was the protector of the crops with a plague of locusts. Then the god Ra thought to be the sun god with a plague of darkness. He knocked over the god Osiris the god who was the giver of life and the deity of Pharaoh himself with a plague of the firstborn. God had made all the gods of Egypt to totter and Isaiah was telling them God will do it again.
Isaiah tells the Egyptians that they would suffer civil war which was indirectly the hand of God’s judgment. “Not many years after this time it was divided into twelve several kingdoms, between whom there were many and cruel wars, as is related by the historians of those times.” (Poole)
When a nation is under the judgment of God there seems to be a lack of wisdom and sound judgment with the leaders. They will seek vain and pagan things for wisdom instead. “Egypt was renowned for her class of wise men (1 Kings 4:30), but they would not be able to cope with this judgment from the Lord.” (Wolf)
There are two ways that God can judge a nation’s leadership. First He may remove their confident leadership. Second by giving them cruel and oppressive rulers.
For the nation of Egypt, the Nile River was the lifeblood of their agriculture and economy. A drought or the lowering of the water table would have a devastating effect on the lives of all the Egyptians. In God’s judgment against Egypt, this is what would happen. Those who cast their nets to fish will mourn and they will languish beside the waterway. The weavers of fine fabric will be ashamed of the lack of material for their fabrics. Those who work for their wages will be troubled.
When the Lord strikes Egypt He will not only give the people cruel rulers but also those rulers will have foolish counsel. We are reminded of what true wisdom is. Wisdom comes from knowing what the will of the Lord of Host is and what He has proposed. Having great knowledge, long-term plans and strategies are not true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
All the Lord God need do is wave His hand and the people of Egypt will become terrified and will live in fear. They will suffer a reversal of fortune as for thousands of years Judah was submissive in the shadow of Egypt but now the Egyptians will fear the Judeans. The day is coming the Lord says when Judah will be more powerful than Egypt. This is the case today as Israel has military superiority over Egypt.
There will be five cities in Egypt that will find their identity with the Lord. The phrase “City of Destruction” may be better translated “City of the Sun” which is the Egyptian city Heliopolis.
Then Egypt will worship the Lord and will build altars to the Lord and memorialize the works of the Lord with a pillar dedicated to the Lord. When oppression falls upon the people of Egypt they will cry to the Lord and He will send them a Savior to deliver them. During the time of the Maccabees, the High Priest Onias IV was forced to flee to Egypt. There he built a Temple that was similar to the Temple in Jerusalem. Some commentators relate the Temple as the altar in verse 19. This may be the relation to the City of the Sun as Onias IV built the Temple in the province Heliopolis.
In the land of Egypt, there came to be widespread knowledge of the Lord. In the time of Jesus, there were more than a million Jews who lived in Egypt. In the early days of Christianity, there was a strong and vital Church in Egypt for more than 600 years.
Sacrifice on the altars most likely will happen in the Millennium when sacrifices will again be allowed as a memorial of the work Jesus did on the cross. “For just as restored Israel will bring blood sacrifices unto the Lord to keep in remembrance of the all-sufficient blood sacrifice of Christ, so this may also take place in Egypt on that memorable day.” (Bultema)
Whenever the judgment of God is felt the purpose is that people would repent and return to Him that they may be healed.
God is promising that the day will come when there will be peace between Israel, Egypt, and Assyria. There will be trade and travel, on the highways between Egypt and Assyria through Israel In that day all three nations will be blessed by the Lord. This will be an amazing work of God’s redemption. The salvation of God is extended to all nations and God will call forth His own not only from Israel but also from Assyria and Egypt. It was powerful to say this of Egypt; it was almost unbelievable to say it about Assyria, the nation Jonah hated so much. “In Isaiah’s day, Assyria was the one power feared by every little nation in the Fertile Crescent. The calculated brutality of the Assyrians probably made them more of an object of general hatred than any other nation of antiquity. The Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians were all capable of inhuman acts, but the Assyrian record for callous cruelty is difficult to parallel.” (Grogan)
“But Israel is always his inheritance. There he finds rest and home, for the Lord’s portion is his people. Oh to know the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints!” (Meyer) Those of the body of Christ, the Church, is also the Lord’s inheritance. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:18)