The nineteenth and twentieth chapters are connected,
but with an interval between. Egypt had been held by an Ethiopian
dynasty, Sabacho, Sevechus, or Sabacho II, and Tirhakah, for forty or
fifty years. Sevechus (called So, the ally of Hoshea, 2Ki 17:4), retired from Lower Egypt on
account of the resistance of the priests; and perhaps also, as the
Assyrians threatened Lower Egypt. On his withdrawal, Sethos, one of the
priestly caste, became supreme, having Tanis ("Zoan") or else Memphis
as his capital, 718 B.C.; while the
Ethiopians retained Upper Egypt, with Thebes as its capital, under
Tirhakah. A third native dynasty was at Sais, in the west of Lower
Egypt; to this at a later period belonged Psammetichus, the first who
admitted Greeks into Egypt and its armies; he was one of the
dodecarchy, a number of petty kings between whom Egypt was divided, and
by aid of foreign auxiliaries overcame the rest, 670 B.C. To the divisions at this last time, Gesenius refers Isa 19:2; and Psammetichus, Isa 19:4, "a cruel lord." The dissensions of the
ruling castes are certainly referred to. But the time referred to is
much earlier than that of Psammetichus. In Isa 19:1, the invasion of Egypt is represented as
caused by "the Lord"; and in Isa 19:17, "Judah" is spoken of as "a terror to
Egypt," which it could hardly have been by itself. Probably,
therefore, the Assyrian invasion of Egypt under Sargon, when Judah was
the ally of Assyria, and Hezekiah had not yet refused tribute as he did
in the beginning of Sennacherib's reign, is meant. That Assyria was in
Isaiah's mind appears from the way in which it is joined with Israel
and Egypt in the worship of Jehovah (Isa 19:24, 25). Thus the dissensions referred to
19:2) allude to the time of
the withdrawal of the Ethiopians from Lower Egypt, probably not without
a struggle, especially with the priestly caste; also to the time when
Sethos usurped the throne and entered on the contest with the military
caste, by the aid of the town populations: when the Saitic dynasty was
another cause of division. Sargon's reign was between 722-715 B.C. answering to 718 B.C., when Sethos usurped his throne [G. V. Smith].
1. burden—(See on Isa
upon … cloud—(Ps 104:3;
come into Egypt—to inflict vengeance.
"Egypt," in Hebrew, Misraim, plural form, to express the two
regions of Egypt. Bunsen observes, The
title of their kings runs thus: "Lord of Upper and Lower Egypt."
idols—the bull, crocodile, &c. The
idols poetically are said to be "moved" with fear at the presence of
one mightier than even they were supposed to be (Ex 12:12; Jer
2. set—stir up. Gesenius translates, "arm."
Egyptians against the Egyptians—Lower
against Upper: and Saitic against both. (See Isa 3:10). Newton
refers it to the civil wars between Apries and Amasis at the time of
Nebuchadnezzar's invasion; also between Tachos, Nectanebus, and the
Mendesians, just before Ochus subdued Egypt.
kingdom against kingdom—The
Septuagint has "nome against nome"; Egypt was divided into
forty-two nomes or districts.
3. spirit—wisdom, for which Egypt
was famed (Isa 31:2; 1Ki 4:30; Ac 7:22); answering to "counsel" in the parallel
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 Isa
4. cruel lord—"Sargon," in Hebrew
it is lords; but plural is often used to express
greatness, where, one alone is meant (Ge 39:2). The parallel word "king" (singular)
proves it. Newton makes the
general reference to be to Nebuchadnezzar, and a
particular reference to Cambyses, son of Cyrus (who killed the
Egyptian god, Apis), and Ochus, Persian conquerors of Egypt, noted for
their "fierce cruelty." Gesenius refers
it to Psammetichus, who had brought into Egypt Greek and other foreign
mercenaries to subdue the other eleven princes of the dodecarchy.
5. the sea—the Nile. Physical
calamities, it is observed in history, often accompany political
convulsions (Eze 30:12).
The Nile shall "fail" to rise to its wonted height, the result of which
will be barrenness and famine. Its "waters" at the time of the overflow
resemble "a sea" [Pliny, Natural
History, 85.11]; and it is still called El-Bahr," "the sea,"
by the Egyptians (Isa 18:2; Jer 51:36). A public record is kept at Cairo of
the daily rise of the water at the proper time of overflow, namely,
August: if it rises to a less height than twelve cubits, it will not
overflow the land, and famine must be the result. So, also, when it
rises higher than sixteen; for the waters are not drained off in time
sufficient to sow the seed.
6. they shall turn the rivers—rather,
"the streams shall become putrid"; that is, the artificial streams made
for irrigation shall become stagnant and offensive when the waters fail
[Maurer]. Horsley, with the Septuagint, translates,
"And waters from the sea shall be drunk"; by the failure of the river
water they shall be reduced to sea water.
brooks of defence—rather, "canals of
Egypt"; "canals," literally, "Niles," Nile canals, the
plural of the Egyptian term for the great river. The same
Hebrew word, Matzor, whence comes Mitzraim,
expresses Egypt, and a place of "defense." Horsley, as English Version translates it,
reeds … flags—the papyrus. "Reed
and rush"; utter withering.
7. paper-reeds—rather, pastures,
literally, "places naked" of wood, and famed for rich herbage, on the
banks of the Nile [Gesenius]. Compare
13:10; De 11:10. Horsley translates, "nakedness upon the river,"
descriptive of the appearance of a river when its bottom is bare and
its banks stripped of verdure by long drought: so Vulgate.
the brooks—the river.
mouth—rather, "the source"
[Vulgate]. "Even close to the river's side vegetation
shall be so withered as to be scattered in the shape of powder by the
wind" (English Version, "driven away") [Horsley].
8. fishers—The Nile was famed for fish
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.
9. fine flax—Gesenius, for "fine," translates, "combed"; fine
"linen" was worn by the rich only (Lu 16:19). Egypt was famous for it (Ex 9:31; 1Ki 10:28; Pr 7:16; Eze 27:7). The processes of its manufacture are
represented on the Egyptian tombs. Israel learned the art in Egypt
26:36). The cloth now found
on the mummies was linen, as is shown by the microscope. Wilkinson mentions linen from Egypt which has
five hundred forty (or two hundred seventy double) threads in one inch
in the warp; whereas some modern cambric has but a hundred sixty [Barnes].
networks—rather, white cloth
10. in the purposes—rather, "the
foundations," that is, "the nobles shall be broken" or brought low: so
3:1; Ps 11:3; compare Isa 19:13, "The princes—the
stay of the tribes. The Arabs call a prince "a pillar of
the people" [Maurer]. "Their
weaving-frames" [Horsley]. "Dykes"
all that make sluices, &c.—"makers
of dams," made to confine the waters which overflow from the Nile in
artificial fish-ponds [Horsley]. "Makers
of gain," that is, the common people who have to earn their livelihood,
as opposed to the "nobles" previously [Maurer].
11. Zoan—The Greeks called it Tanis, a
city of Lower Egypt, east of the Tanitic arms of the Nile, now
San; it was one the Egyptian towns nearest to Palestine (Nu 13:22), the scene of Moses' miracles
78:12, 43). It, or else
Memphis, was the capital under Sethos.
I am … son of the wise …
kings—Ye have no advice to suggest to Pharaoh in the crisis,
notwithstanding that ye boast of descent from wise and royal ancestors.
The priests were the usual "counsellors" of the Egyptian king. He was
generally chosen from the priestly caste, or, if from the warrior
caste, he was admitted into the sacred order, and was called a priest.
The priests are, therefore, meant by the expression, "son of the wise,
and of ancient kings"; this was their favorite boast (Herodotus, 2.141; compare Am 7:14;
Ac 23:6; Php 3:5). "Pharaoh"
was the common name of all the kings: Sethos, probably, is here
12. let them know—that is, How is it
that, with all their boast of knowing the future [Diodorus, 1.81], they do not know what Jehovah of
13. Noph—called also Moph; Greek,
Memphis (Ho 9:6); on
the western bank of the Nile, capital of Lower Egypt, second only to
Thebes in all Egypt: residence of the kings, until the Ptolemies
removed to Alexandria; the word means the "port of the good" [Plutarch]. The military caste probably
ruled in it: "they also are deceived," in fancying their country
secure from Assyrian invasion.
stay of … tribes—rather,
"corner-stone of her castes" [Maurer],
that is, the princes, the two ruling castes, the priests and the
warriors: image from a building which rests mainly on its corner-stones
(see on Isa 19:10; Isa
28:16; Ps 118:22; Nu 24:17,
Margin; Jud 20:2; 1Sa 14:28, Margin; Zec 10:4).
14. err in every work thereof—referring
to the anarchy arising from their internal feuds. Horsley translates, "with respect to all His
(God's) work"; they misinterpreted God's dealings at every step.
"Mingled" contains the same image as "drunken"; as one mixes
spices with wine to make it intoxicating (Isa 5:22; Pr
9:2, 5), so Jehovah has
poured among them a spirit of giddiness, so that they are as
helpless as a "drunken man."
15. work for Egypt—nothing which Egypt
can do to extricate itself from the difficulty.
head or tail—high or low (Isa 19:11-15, and Isa 19:8-10).
branch or rush—the lofty palm branch
or the humble reed (Isa 9:14, 15; 10:33, 34).
16. like … women—timid and
helpless (Jer 51:30; Na 3:13).
shaking of … hand—His judgments
by means of the invaders (Isa 10:5, 32; 11:15).
17. Judah … terror unto Egypt—not
by itself: but at this time Hezekiah was the active subordinate ally of
Assyria in its invasion of Egypt under Sargon. Similarly to the
alliance of Judah with Assyria here is 2Ki 23:29, where Josiah takes the field against
Pharaoh-nechoh of Egypt, probably as ally of Assyria against Egypt
[G. V. Smith]. Vitringa explains it that Egypt in its calamities
would remember that prophets of Judah had foretold them, and so Judah
would be "a terror unto Egypt."
18-22. In that day, &c.—Suffering
shall lead to repentance. Struck with "terror" and "afraid" (Isa 19:17) because of Jehovah's judgments,
Egypt shall be converted to Him: nay, even Assyria shall join in
serving Him; so that Israel, Assyria, and Egypt, once mutual foes,
shall be bound together by the tie of a common faith as one people. So
a similar issue from other prophecies (Isa 18:7; 23:18).
five cities—that is, several
cities, as in Isa 17:6; 30:17; Ge 43:34; Le 26:8. Rather, five definite
cities of Lower Egypt (Isa 19:11, 13; 30:4), which had close intercourse with the
neighboring Jewish cities [Maurer]; some
say, Heliopolis, Leontopolis (else Diospolis), Migdol, Daphne
(Tahpanes), and Memphis.
language of Canaan—that is, of the
Hebrews in Canaan, the language of revelation; figuratively for, They
shall embrace the Jewish religion: so "a pure language"
and conversion to God are connected in Zep 3:9; as also the first confounding and
multiplication of languages was the punishment of the making of gods at
Babel, other than the One God. Pentecost (Ac 2:4) was the counterpart of Babel: the
separation of nations is not to hinder the unity of faith; the full
realization of this is yet future (Zec 14:9; Joh 17:21). The next clause, "swear to the Lord of
Hosts," agrees with this view; that is, bind themselves to Him by
solemn covenant (Isa 45:23; 65:16; De 6:13).
city of destruction—Onias; "city of
the sun," that is, On, or Heliopolis; he persuaded Ptolemy
Philometer (149 B.C.) to let him build a
temple in the prefecture (nome) of Heliopolis, on the ground that it
would induce Jews to reside there, and that the very site was foretold
by Isaiah six hundred years before. The reading of the Hebrew
text is, however, better supported, "city of destruction";
referring to Leontopolis, the site of Onias' temple: which casts a
reproach on that city because it was about to contain a temple
rivalling the only sanctioned temple, that at Jerusalem. Maurer, with some manuscripts, reads "city of
defense" or "deliverance"; namely, Memphis, or some such
city, to which God was about to send "a saviour" (Isa 19:20), to "deliver them."
19. altar—not for sacrifice, but
as the "pillar" for memorial and worship (Jos 22:22-26). Isaiah does not contemplate a
temple in Egypt: for the only legal temple was at Jerusalem;
but, like the patriarchs, they shall have altars in various places.
pillar—such as Jacob reared (Ge 28:18;
35:14); it was a common
practice in Egypt to raise obelisks commemorating divine and great
at the border—of Egypt and Judah, to
proclaim to both countries the common faith. This passage shows how the
Holy Spirit raised Isaiah above a narrow-minded nationality to a
charity anticipatory of gospel catholicity.
20. it—the altar and pillar.
a sign—(of the fulfilment of prophecy)
to their contemporaries.
a witness—to their descendants.
unto the Lord—no longer, to their
idols, but to Jehovah.
for they shall cry—or, "a sign …
that they cried, … and He sent to them a saviour";
probably, Alexander the Great (so "a great one"), whom the
Egyptians welcomed as a deliverer (Greek, Soter, a title of the
Ptolemies) out of the hands of the Persians, who under Cambyses had
been their "oppressors." At Alexandria, called from him, the Old
Testament was translated into Greek for the Greek-speaking Jews,
who in large numbers dwelt in Egypt under the Ptolemies, his
successors. Messiah is the antitype ultimately intended (compare Ac 2:10, "Egypt").
22. return—for heathen sin and idolatry
are an apostasy from primitive truth.
heal—as described (Isa 19:18-20).
23. highway—free communication, resting
on the highest basis, the common faith of both (Isa 19:18;
Isa 11:16). Assyria and Egypt
were joined under Alexander as parts of his empire: Jews and proselytes
from both met at the feasts of Jerusalem. A type of gospel times to
serve with—serve Jehovah with
the Assyrians. So "serve" is used absolutely (Job 36:11).
24. third—The three shall be joined as
blessing—the source of blessings to
other nations, and the object of their benedictions.
in the midst of the land—rather,
5:7). Judah is designed to be
the grand center of the whole earth (Jer 3:17).
25. Whom—rather, "Which," namely, "the
land," or "earth," that is, the people of it [Maurer].
my people—the peculiar designation of
Israel, the elect people, here applied to Egypt to express its entire
admission to religious privileges (Ro 9:24-26; 1Pe 2:9, 10).
work of my hands—spiritually (Ho 2:23;