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An Oracle concerning Egypt


An oracle concerning Egypt.


See, the L ord is riding on a swift cloud

and comes to Egypt;

the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,

and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.


I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,

and they will fight, one against the other,

neighbor against neighbor,

city against city, kingdom against kingdom;


the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,

and I will confound their plans;

they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead

and the ghosts and the familiar spirits;


I will deliver the Egyptians

into the hand of a hard master;

a fierce king will rule over them,

says the Sovereign, the L ord of hosts.



The waters of the Nile will be dried up,

and the river will be parched and dry;


its canals will become foul,

and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up,

reeds and rushes will rot away.


There will be bare places by the Nile,

on the brink of the Nile;

and all that is sown by the Nile will dry up,

be driven away, and be no more.


Those who fish will mourn;

all who cast hooks in the Nile will lament,

and those who spread nets on the water will languish.


The workers in flax will be in despair,

and the carders and those at the loom will grow pale.


Its weavers will be dismayed,

and all who work for wages will be grieved.



The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish;

the wise counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.

How can you say to Pharaoh,

“I am one of the sages,

a descendant of ancient kings”?


Where now are your sages?

Let them tell you and make known

what the L ord of hosts has planned against Egypt.


The princes of Zoan have become fools,

and the princes of Memphis are deluded;

those who are the cornerstones of its tribes

have led Egypt astray.


The L ord has poured into them

a spirit of confusion;

and they have made Egypt stagger in all its doings

as a drunkard staggers around in vomit.


Neither head nor tail, palm branch or reed,

will be able to do anything for Egypt.


16 On that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the L ord of hosts raises against them. 17And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the plan that the L ord of hosts is planning against them.

Egypt, Assyria, and Israel Blessed

18 On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the L ord of hosts. One of these will be called the City of the Sun.

19 On that day there will be an altar to the L ord in the center of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the L ord at its border. 20It will be a sign and a witness to the L ord of hosts in the land of Egypt; when they cry to the L ord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior, and will defend and deliver them. 21The L ord will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the L ord on that day, and will worship with sacrifice and burnt offering, and they will make vows to the L ord and perform them. 22The L ord will strike Egypt, striking and healing; they will return to the L ord, and he will listen to their supplications and heal them.

23 On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

24 On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25whom the L ord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.”


19. In that day shall there be an altar in the midst of the land of Egypt. He continues what he had said in the former verse, and states more clearly that the aspect of Egypt will be renewed, because there true religion will flourish, the pure worship of God will be set up, and all superstitions will fall to the ground. He employs the word altar to denote, as by a sign, the worship of God; for sacrifices and oblations were the outward acts of piety. By the midst of Egypt he means the chief part of the whole kingdom, as if he had said, “in the very metropolis,” or, “in the very heart of the kingdom.”

And a statue 4242    {Bogus footnote} to the Lord. Let it not be supposed that by statue are meant images which carry the resemblance of men or of saints; but memorials (μνημόσυνα) of piety; for he means that they will be marks similar to those which point out the boundaries of kingdoms, and that in this manner signs will be evident, to make known to all men that God rules over this nation. And indeed it usually happens that a nation truly converted to God, after having laid aside idols and superstitions, openly sets up signs of the true religion, that all may know that the worship of God is purely observed in it.

Josephus relates (Ant. 13. 3. 1,) that Onias perverted this passage, when he fled to Ptolemy Philometor, 4343    {Bogus footnote} whom he persuaded that it would be advantageous to erect an altar there, on which the Jews who dwelt in that country might sacrifice; and he brought forward this passage, alleging that what the Prophet had foretold ought to be accomplished. The wicked and ambitious priest persuaded the king to do this, though it was openly opposed by the Jews; for the king looked to his own advantage, and that scoundrel, who had been deprived of his rank, sought to obtain additional honor and advancement; so that no entreaty could prevent the execution of that wicked counsel. But Isaiah simply describes the pure worship of God under the figure of signs which were then in use; for he has his eye upon his own age and the men with whom he had to do. This passage, therefore, was wickedly and maliciously perverted by Onias.

But not less impudently do the Popish doctors of the present day torture a passage in Malachi to defend the sacrifice of the Mass. When he says that “a pure oblation will everywhere be offered to God,” (Malachi 1:11,) they infer that it is some sacrifice different from the ancient sacrifices, because oxen and sheep must no longer be sacrificed, and therefore that it is the Mass. A witty and ingenious argument truly! Now, it is evident that under the legal figure Malachi describes nothing else than the pure worship of God, as Isaiah does here; and we ought carefully to observe such forms of expression, which are frequently employed by the prophets.

This will be clearly explained by a passage in Joel, which we shall quote as an example. “Your sons and your daughters,” says he, “shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Joel 2:28.) Peter shews (Acts 2:16) that this prediction was fulfilled, when the apostles spoke various languages through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Having formerly been uneducated men, they began to be qualified for declaring the mysteries of God. On that occasion we perceive no “dreams,” so that it might be thought that Peter quoted that passage inappropriately; but it is evident that Joel there describes nothing else than prophecy, and for the purpose of adorning it, he mentioned “visions and dreams,” by means of which the Lord anciently held communication with the prophets. (Numbers 12:6.) He kept in view the ordinary custom of that age; for otherwise the Jews would have found it difficult to comprehend the gifts of the Spirit which at that time were unknown. Having been reared under that preparatory instruction of the Law, 4444    {Bogus footnote} they could rise no higher than where they were conducted by sacrifices, ceremonies, sacraments, and signs. 4545    {Bogus footnote} So then the prophets addressed them as children, who ought to have nothing set before them beyond what they can learn in a homely style (παχυμερέστερον) by custom and experience.

This doctrine will unfold to us various passages, the obscurity of which might lead to much hesitation. It is plain that the Prophet speaks of the kingdom of Christ, and that these things were not fulfilled before his coming. We must therefore take away the shadows and look at the reality of things, in order that by the altar we may understand a true and sincere calling on God. But by these signs the Prophet likewise shews that the worship of God cannot be maintained without external acts of devotion, though we have no right to lay down rules for them. Away with the inventions of men, that we may listen to God alone on this subject.

20. And he will send them a Savior. We cannot serve God unless he first bestow his grace upon us; for no one will dedicate himself to God, till he be drawn by his goodness, and embrace him with all his heart. He must therefore call us to him before we call upon him; we can have no access till he first invite us. Formerly he shewed that they must be subdued by various afflictions in order that they may submit to God, and now he repeats the same thing; for men never deny themselves and forsake idle follies any farther than the scourge compels them to yield obedience. But he likewise adds another kind of invitation, that, having experienced the kindness of God, they will freely approach to Him.

They will cry unto the Lord. The cry of which he speaks proceeds from faith, for they would never resort to this refuge till they had been allured and delighted by the goodness of God. When the Lord promises that he will send a Savior, by whose hand the Egyptians will be delivered, this can mean no other than Christ; for Egypt was not delivered from its distresses before the doctrine of Christ reached it. We read of various changes which that country suffered for four hundred years, foreign and civil wars by which it was wasted and almost destroyed; but when we would be ready to think that it is utterly ruined, lo! it is converted to the Lord, and is rescued from the hand of enemies and tyrants. Thus Christ delivered that country, when it had begun to know him. In like manner, we must be brought to the knowledge and worship of God, that, where we have suffered various afflictions, we may learn that salvation is found in him alone. Would that the world would now learn this lesson, having suffered so many calamities that it appears to be on the brink of ruin! For what can be the issue but that it shall either perish or by repentance acknowledge that it has been justly punished for so great wickedness?

That he may deliver them. When he adds these words, we ought to draw from them a profitable doctrine, that God assists us through Christ, by whose agency he gave deliverance to his own people from the beginning. He has always been the Mediator, by whose intercession all blessings were obtained from God the Father; and now that he has been revealed, let us learn that nothing can be obtained from God but through him. 4646    {Bogus footnote}

21. And the Lord shall be known by the Egyptians. Isaiah now adds what was most important; for we cannot worship the Lord, or call upon him, till we have first acknowledged him to be our Father. “How,” says Paul, “shall they call on him whom they know not?” 4747    {Bogus footnote} (Romans 10:14.) We cannot be partakers of the gifts of God for our salvation without previously having true knowledge, which is by faith. He therefore properly adds, the knowledge of God, as the foundation of all religion, or the key that opens to us the gate of the heavenly kingdom. Now, there cannot be knowledge without doctrine; and hence infer, that God disapproves of all kinds of false worship; for he cannot approve of anything that is not guided by knowledge, which springs from hearing true and pure doctrine. Whatever contrivance therefore men may make out of their own minds, they will never attain by it the true worship of God. We ought carefully to observe passages like this, in which the Spirit of God shews what is the true worship and calling of God, that, having abandoned the inventions to which men are too obstinately attached, we may allow ourselves to be taught by the pure word of God, and, relying on his authority, may freely and boldly condemn all that the world applauds and admires.

The Egyptians shall know. It is not without good reason that he twice mentions this knowledge. A matter of so great importance ought not to be slightly passed by; for it holds the chief place, and without it there is nothing that can properly be called worship.

And shall make sacrifice and oblation. This passage must be explained in the same manner as the former, in which he mentioned an altar. What would have been the use of sacrifices after the manifestation of Christ? He therefore describes metaphorically confession of faith and calling on God, which followed the preaching of the gospel. Here he includes everything that was offered to God — slain beasts, bread, fruits of every description, and all that was fitted to express gratitude. But we must attend to the difference between the Old and New Testaments, and under the shadows of ceremonies we must understand to be meant that “reasonable worship” of which Paul speaks. (Romans 12:1.)

And shall vow vows to the Lord and perform them. What he adds about vows is likewise a part of the worship of God. The Jews were accustomed to express their gratitude to God by vows, and especially they rendered thanksgiving by a solemn vow, when they had received from God any extraordinary blessing. Of their own accord also, when any one chose to do so, they made vows on various occasions. (Deuteronomy 12:6; 23:21-23.) And yet every person was not at liberty to make this or that vow according to his own pleasure; but a rule was laid down. (Numbers 30:3.) Whatever may be in that respect, it is evident that by the word vows the Prophet means nothing else than the worship of God, to which the Egyptians devoted themselves after having learned it from the word of God; but he mentions the acts of devotion by which the Jews made profession of the true worship and religion.

Hence the Papists draw an argument to prove, that whatever we vow to God ought to be performed; but since they make vows at random, and without any exercise of judgment, this passage lends no aid to defend their error. Isaiah foretells what the Egyptians will do, after having embraced and followed the instruction given by God. 4848    {Bogus footnote} In like manner, when David exhorts the people to vow and to perform their vows, (Psalm 76:11,) they think that he is on their side; but be does not therefore exhort them to make unlawful and rash vows. (Ecclesiastes 5:2.) There always remains in force the law of vows, which we are not at liberty to transgress, namely, the word of God, by which we learn what he requires from us, and what he wishes us to vow and perform. We never received permission to vow whatever we please, because we are too much disposed to go to excess, and to take every kind of liberty with regard to God, and because we act more imprudently towards him than if we had to deal with men. It was therefore necessary that men should be laid under some restraint to prevent them from taking so great liberties in the worship of God and religion.

This being the case, it is evident that God permits nothing but what is agreeable to his law, and that he rejects everything else as unacceptable and superstitious. What a man has vowed of his own accord, and without the support of the word, cannot be binding. If he perform it, he offends doubly; first, in vowing rashly, as if he were sporting with God; and secondly, in executing his resolutions wickedly and rashly, when he ought rather to have set them aside and repented. So far, therefore, is any man from being bound by vows, that he ought, on the contrary, to turn back and acknowledge his sinful rashness.

Now, if any one inquire about the vows of Papists, it will be easy to shew that they derive no support from the word of God. If those things which they highly applaud and reckon to be lawful, such as the vows of monks, are unlawful and wicked, what opinion must we form of the rest? They vow perpetual celibacy, as if it were indiscriminately permitted to all; but we know that the gift of continence is not an ordinary gift, and is not promised to every one, not even to those who in other respects are endued with extraordinary graces. Abraham was eminent for faith, steadfastness, meekness, and holiness, and yet he did not possess this gift. (Genesis 11:29; 25:1.) Christ himself, when the apostles loudly commended this state of celibacy, testified that it is not given to all. (Matthew 19:11,12.) Paul states the same thing. (1 Corinthians 7:7,9,26.) Whosoever, therefore, does not possess this gift of continence, if he vow it, does wrong, and will be justly punished for his rashness. Hence have arisen dreadful instances of want of chastity, by which God has justly punished Popery for this presumption.

They likewise vow poverty, as if they would have nothing of their own, though they have abundance of everything beyond other men. Is not this an open mockery of God? The obedience which they vow is full of deceit; for they shake off the yoke of Christ, that they may become the slaves of men. Others vow pilgrimages, to abstain from eating flesh, to observe days, and other things full of superstition. Others promise to God toys and trinkets, as if they were dealing with a child. We would be ashamed to act thus, or to pursue such a line of conduct towards men, among whom nothing is settled till it has been agreed to on both sides by mutual consent. Much less is it lawful to attempt anything in the worship of God but what has been declared by his word. What kind of worship will it be, if the judgment of God has no weight with us, and if we yield only to the will of men? Will it be possible that it can please God? Will it not be (ἐθελοθρησκεία) “will-worship,” which Paul so severely censures? (Colossians 2:23.) In vain, therefore, do they who make such vows boast that they serve God; and in vain do they endeavor to find support in this passage; for the Lord abhors that kind of worship.

22. Therefore Jehovah will smite Egypt. From what has been already said the Prophet draws the conclusion, that the chastisement which he has mentioned will be advantageous to the Egyptians, because it will be a preparation for their conversion; 4949    {Bogus footnote} as if he had said, that it will be for the good of Egypt that the Lord will punish her. Those who translate the words, “he will strike with a wound that may be healed,” misinterpret this passage, and greatly weaken the Prophet’s meaning; for it means that the wounds will be advantageous to them, and that by means of these wounds the Lord will bring them back. Hence we ought to conclude, that we must not refuse to be chastised by God, for it is done for our benefit. (Proverbs 3:11, 12; Hebrews 12:5-7.) Exemption from punishment would cherish a disposition to sin with less control. As men are exceedingly prone to give way to their own inclinations, whenever God spares them for a little, it is necessary on this account that the Lord should prevent this danger, which he does by chastisements and stripes, which excite and arouse us to repentance. A remarkable instance of this is here exhibited in Egypt, which abounded in superstitions and wickedness, and went beyond all nations in idolatry, and yet experienced the mercy of God.

For they shall be turned to Jehovah. We must attend to the manner of its accomplishment, which is, their conversion to God. It is the explanation of the former clause; as if he had said, “God will heal the Egyptians, because they shall be converted.” The copulative ו (vau) signifies for. Hence we infer that conversion may be said to be a resurrection from eternal death. We are utterly ruined so long as we are turned away from God; but when we are converted, we return to his favor, and are delivered from death; not that we deserve the favor of God by our repentance, but because in this manner God raises us up, as it were, from death to life. To repentance is added a promise, from which we conclude, that when we sincerely repent, 5050    {Bogus footnote} we do not in vain implore forgiveness. Now, when the Prophet says that the Lord will be gracious and reconciled to the Egyptians, he at the same time shews, that as soon as they have been converted, they will obtain forgiveness. It will therefore be a true conversion when it is followed by a calling on God. But without faith (Romans 10:14) it is impossible to call on God; for even the ungodly may acknowledge sin; but no man will have recourse to the mercy of God, or obtain reconciliation, till he be moved by a true feeling of repentance, which is likewise accompanied by faith.

And will heal them. He does not repeat what he had said, that God strikes in order to heal; but he promises healing in another sense, that is, that God will cease to inflict punishments. The former healing, which he mentioned a little before, was internal; but the latter relates to stripes and wounds. In short, he means that it will be a speedy remedy for all their distresses. After having been reconciled to God, there is nothing in us that calls for punishment; for whence comes punishment but on account of guilt? and when guilt is pardoned, exemption from punishment will quickly follow. 5151    {Bogus footnote} And if we be chastised, it is an evidence that we are not yet sufficiently prepared for repentance.

In a word, let us remember this order, which the Prophet points out to us; first, that stripes prepare men for repentance; secondly, that they are healed, because they are delivered from eternal destruction; thirdly, that when they have been brought to the knowledge of their guilt, they obtain pardon; fourthly, that God is gracious and reconciled to them; fifthly, that chastisements cease after they have obtained pardon from God. There is no man who ought not to acknowledge in himself what Isaiah here declares concerning the Egyptians, in whom the Lord holds out an example to the whole world.

23. In that day. The Prophet now foretells that the Lord will diffuse his goodness throughout the whole world; as if he had said, “It will not be shut up in a corner, or exclusively known, as it formerly was, by a single nation.” Here he speaks of two nations that were the most inveterate enemies of the Church, and that appeared to be farther removed than any other from the kingdom of God; for much more might have been expected from distant nations, because the nations here mentioned openly made war with God and persecuted his Church. And if the Lord is so gracious to the deadly enemies of the Church, that he pardons and adopts them to be his children, what shall be the case with other nations? This prophecy thus includes the calling of all nations.

There shall be a highway. Now, when he says that, in consequence of a highway having been opened up, there will be mutual access that they may visit each other, he describes brotherly intercourse. We know that the Egyptians carried on almost incessant wars with the Assyrians, and cherished an inveterate hatred towards each other. He now foretells that the Lord will change their dispositions, and will reconcile them to each other, so that they will have mutual communications, mutual coming in and going out, in consequence of laying open the highways which were formerly shut. Here we ought to observe what we formerly remarked at the fourth verse of the second chapter, 5252    {Bogus footnote} namely, that when men have been reconciled to God, it is likewise proper that they should cherish brotherly kindness towards each other. Strife, quarreling, disputes, hatred, and malice, ought to cease when God has been pacified. We need not wonder, therefore, that he says that a highway to Egypt is opened up for the Assyrians; but this ought undoubtedly to be referred to the reign of Christ, for we do not read that the Egyptians were on a friendly footing with the Assyrians till after they had known Christ.

And the Egyptians shall serve the Assyrians, (or, with the Assyrians.) 5353    {Bogus footnote} This clause may be rendered, “shall serve God;” but as the name of God is not expressed here, it may refer to the Assyrians, which is also pointed out by the particle אתth.) 5454    {Bogus footnote} It may therefore be explained thus. They who formerly burned with a desire to injure one another will be changed in their dispositions, and will desire to shew kindness. In short, the fruit of true repentance will be made evident, for they who formerly distressed each other in mutual wars will lend mutual aid. And this opinion will agree very well with those words of the Prophet with which they stand connected. Yet I do not set aside another interpretation which is almost universally adopted, namely, “They who formerly worshipped other gods will henceforth acknowledge one God, and will assent to the same confession of faith.” I leave every one to adopt that interpretation which he thinks best. If the latter interpretation be preferred, the Prophet makes brotherly love to flow from godliness, 5555    {Bogus footnote} as from its source.

24. In that day shall Israel. Isaiah concludes the promise which he had briefly glanced at, that the Egyptians and Assyrians, as well as Israel, shall be blessed. Formerly the grace of God was in some measure confined to Israel, because with that nation only had the Lord entered into covenant. The Lord had stretched out “his cord” over Jacob, (Deuteronomy 32:9,) as Moses speaks; 5656    {Bogus footnote} and David says,

“He hath not done so to any nation, and hath not made known to them his judgments.” (Psalm 147:20.)

In a word, the blessing of God dwelt solely in Judea, but he says that it will be shared with the Egyptians and Assyrians, under whose name he includes also the rest of the nations. He does not mention them for the purpose of shewing respect, but because they were the constant enemies of God, and appeared to be more estranged from him and farther removed from the hope of favor than all others. Accordingly, though he had formerly adopted none but the children of Abraham, he now wished to be called, without distinction, “The father of all nations.” (Genesis 17:7; Exodus 19:5,6; Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2.)

Israel shall be the third blessing. Some render it, Israel shall be the third 5757    {Bogus footnote} I do not approve of that rendering; for the adjective being in the feminine gender, ought to be construed with the noun ברכה, (berachah,) blessing, and blessing means here a form or pattern of blessing.

25. Because the Lord of hosts will bless him. 5858    {Bogus footnote} He assigns a reason, and explains the former statement; for he shews that, through the undeserved goodness of God, the Assyrians and Egyptians shall be admitted to fellowship with the chosen people of God. As if he had said, “Though these titles belonged exclusively to Israel, they shall likewise be conferred on other nations, which the Lord hath adopted to be his own.” There is a mutual relation between God and his people, so that they who are called by his mouth “a holy people,” (Exodus 19:6,) may justly, in return, call him their God. Yet this designation is bestowed indiscriminately on Egyptians and Assyrians.

Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands. Though the Prophet intended to describe foreign nations as associated with the Jews who had belonged to God’s household, yet he employs most appropriate marks to describe the degrees. By calling the Egyptians “the people of God,” he means that they will share in the honor which God deigned to bestow in a peculiar manner on the Jews alone. When he calls Assyrians the work of his hands, he distinguishes them by the title peculiar to his Church. We have elsewhere remarked 5959    {Bogus footnote} that the Church is called “the workmanship” (τὸ ποίημα) of God, (Ephesians 2:10,) because by the spirit of regeneration believers are created anew, so as to bear the image of God. Thus, he means that we are “the work of God’s hands,” not so far as we are created to be men, but so far as they who are separated from the world, and become new creatures, are created anew to a new life. Hence we acknowledge that in “newness of life” nothing ought to be claimed as our own, for we are wholly “the work of God.”

And Israel my inheritance. When he comes to Israel, he invests him with his prerogative, which is, that he is the inheritance of God, so that among the new brethren he still holds the rank and honor of the first-born. The word inheritance suggests the idea of some kind of superiority; and indeed that covenant which the Lord first made with them, bestowed on them the privilege which cannot be made void by their ingratitude; for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” as Paul declares, (Romans 11:29,) who shews that in the house of God they are the first-born. (Ephesians 2:12.) Although therefore the grace of God is now more widely spread, yet they still hold the highest rank, not by their own merit, but by the firmness of the promises.

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