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Adam Clarke Commentary

Isaiah 19

Introduction

Prophecy concerning Egypt, in which her lamentable condition under the Babylonians, Persians, etc., Is forcibly pointed out, vv. 1-17. The true religion shall be propagated in Egypt; referring primarily to the great spread of Judaism in that country in the reign of the Ptolemies, and ultimately to its reception of the Gospel in the latter days, Isaiah 19:18 -22. Profound peace between Egypt, Assyria, and Israel, and their blessed condition under the Gospel, Isaiah 19:23 -25.Not many years after the destruction of Sennacherib's army before Jerusalem, by which the Egyptians were freed from the yoke with which they were threatened by so powerful an enemy, who had carried on a successful war of three years' continuance against them; the affairs of Egypt were again thrown into confusion by intestine broils among themselves, which ended in a perfect anarchy, that lasted some few years. This was followed by an aristocracy, or rather tyranny, of twelve princes, who divided the country between them, and at last by the sole dominion of Psammitichus, which he held for fifty-four years. Not long after that followed the invasion and conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, and then by the Persians under Cambyses, the son of Cyrus. The yoke of the Persians was so grievous, that the conquest of the Persians by Alexander may well be considered as a deliverance to Egypt; especially as he and his successors greatly favored the people and improved the country. To all these events the prophet seems to have had a view in this chapter; and in particular, from Isaiah 19:18 , the prophecy of the propagation of the true religion in Egypt seems to point to the flourishing state of Judaism in that country, in consequence of the great favor shown to the Jews by the Ptolemies. Alexander himself settled a great many Jews in his new city Alexandria, granting them privileges equal to those of the Macedonians. The first Ptolemy, called Soter, carried great numbers of them thither, and gave them such encouragement that still more of them were collected there from different parts; so that Philo reckons that in his time there were a million of Jews in that country. These worshipped the God of their fathers; and their example and influence must have had a great effect in spreading the knowledge and worship of the true God through the whole country. See Bp. Newton on the Prophecies, Dissert. xii.

Verse 1

The burden of Egypt - That is, the prophet's declaration concerning Egypt.

Verse 3

They shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards - And thei schul asken their symulacres, and their debynouris, and their devyl clepers, and their devyl sacristers. - Old Bible. The import of the original words has already been given where they occur in the Pentateuch. See Deuteronomy 18:10 , etc.

Verse 4

A cruel lord "Cruel lords" - Nebuchadnezzar in the first place, and afterwards the whole succession of Persian kings, who in general were hard masters, and grievously oppressed the country. Note, that for קשה kasheh, lord, a MS. reads קשים kashim, lords, agreeable to which is the rendering of the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate.

Verse 5

The river shall be wasted and dried up - The Nile shall not overflow its banks; and if no inundation, the land must become barren. For, as there is little or no rain in Egypt, its fertility depends on the overflowing of the Nile.

Verse 6

Shall turn the rivers far away "Shall become putrid" - האזניחו heeznichu. This sense of the word, which Simonis gives in his Lexicon, from the meaning of it in Arabic, suits the place much better than any other interpretation hitherto given; and that the word in Hebrew had some such signification, is probable from 2 Chronicles 29:19 , where the Vulgate renders it by polluit, polluted, and the Targum, by profaned, and made abominable, which the context in that place seems plainly to require. The form of the verb here is very irregular; and the rabbins and grammarians seem to give no probable account of it.

Verse 8

The fishers also "And the fishers" - There was great plenty of fish in Egypt; see Numbers 11:5 . "The Nile," says Diodorus, lib. i., "abounds with incredible numbers of all sorts of fish." And much more the lakes. So Egmont, Pococke, etc.

Verse 9

They that work in fine flax - פשתים שריקות pishtim sericoth, heckled flax, i.e., flax dressed on the heckle, or comb used for that purpose. The Vulgate uses the word pectentes, combing.They that weave networks shall be confounded - And confounden schul ben that wrogten flax, plattinge and webynge sotel thingis. - Old MS. Bible.

Verse 10

And they shall be broken, etc. "Her stores" - שתתיה shathotheyha, αποθηκαι, granaries. - Aquila.All that make sluices and ponds for fish "All that make a gain of pools for fish" - This obscure line is rendered by different interpreters in very different manners. Kimchi explains אגמי agmey as if it were the same with אגמה agemah, from Job 30:25 , in which he is followed by some of the rabbins, and supported by the Septuagint: and שכר secher, which I translate gain, and which some take for nets or enclosures, the Septuagint render by ζυθον, strong drink or beer, which it is well known was much used in Egypt; and so likewise the Syriac, retaining the Hebrew word שכרא sekra. I submit these very different interpretations to the reader's judgment. The Version of the Septuagint is as follows:

Verse 11

The counsel of the wise counselors of Pharaoh is become brutish "Have counseled a brutish counsel" - The sentence as it now stands in the Hebrew, is imperfect: it wants the verb. Archbishop Secker conjectures that the words יועצי פרעה yoatsey pharoh should be transposed; which would in some degree remove the difficulty. But it is to be observed, that the translator of the Vulgate seems to have found in his copy the verb יעצו yaatsu added after פרעה pharoh: Sapientes consiliarii Pharaonis dederunt consilium insipiens, "The wise counsellors of Pharaoh gave unwise counsel." This is probably the true reading: it is perfectly agreeable to the Hebrew idiom, makes the construction of the sentence clear, and renders the transposition of the words above mentioned unnecessary. - L.

Verse 12

Let them tell thee now "And let them declare" - For ידעו yidu, let them know, perhaps we ought to read יודיעו yodiu, let them make known. - Secker. The Septuagint and Vulgate favor this reading, ειπατωισαν, let them declare.

Verse 13

Are deceived "They have caused," etc. - The text has וחתעו vehithu, And they have caused to err. Fifty of Kennicott's MSS., fifty-three of De Rossi's, and one of my own, ancient, thirty-two editions, and the Vulgate and Chaldee. omit the ו vau, and.Stay "Pillars" - פנת pinnath, to be pointed as plural pinnoth, without doubt. So Grotius, and so the Chaldee.

Verse 14

In the midst thereof - בקרבם bekirbam; so the Septuagint, and perhaps more correctly." - Secker. So likewise the Chaldee.

Verse 15

The head or tail, branch or rush - R. D. Kimchi says, there are some who suppose that these words mean the dragon's head and tail; and refer to all those who are conversant in astronomy, astrology, etc.

Verse 16

Shall Egypt be "The Egyptians shall be" - יהיו yihyu, they shall be, plural, MS. Bodl. Septuagint, and Chaldee. This is not proposed as an emendation, for either form is proper.

Verse 17

And the land of Judah - The threatening hand of God will be held out and shaken over Egypt, from the side of Judea; through which the Assyrians will march to invade it. It signifies that kind of terror that drives one to his wit's end, that causes him to reel like a drunken man, to be giddy through astonishment. Such is the import of חג chag, and חגה chagah. Five MSS. and two editions have לחגה lechagah.

Verse 18

The city of destruction "The city of the sun" - עיר החרס ir hacheres. This passage is attended with much difficulty and obscurity. First, in regard to the true reading. It is well known that Onias applied it to his own views, either to procure from the king of Egypt permission to build his temple in the Hieropolitan Nome, or to gain credit and authority to it when built; from the notion which he industriously propagated, that Isaiah had in this place prophesied of the building of such a temple. He pretended that the very place where it should be built was expressly named by the prophet, עיר החרס ir hacheres, the city of the sun. This possibly may have been the original reading. The present text has עיר ההרס ir haheres, the city of destruction; which some suppose to have been introduced into the text by the Jews of Palestine afterwards, to express their detestation of the place, being much offended with this schismatical temple in Egypt. Some think the latter to have been the true reading, and that the prophet himself gave this turn to the name out of contempt, and to intimate the demolition of this Hieropolitan temple; which in effect was destroyed by Vespasian's orders, after that of Jerusalem, "Videtur propheta consulto scripsisse הרס heres, pro חרס cheres, ut alibi scribitur בית און beith aven pro בית אל beith El: איש בשת ish bosheth for איש בעל ish baal, etc. Vide Lowth in loc." - Secker. "It seems that the prophet designedly wrote הרס heres, destruction, for חרס cheres, the sun: as elsewhere בית און beith aven, the house of iniquity, is written for בית אל beith El, the house of God; איש בשת ish bosheth for איש בעל ish baal," etc. But on the supposition that עיר ההרס air haheres is the true reading, others understand it differently. The word הרס heres in Arabic signifies a lion; and Conrad Ikenius has written a dissertation (Dissert. Philol. Theol. XVI.) to prove that the place here mentioned is not Heliopolis, as it is commonly supposed to be, but Leontopolis in the Heliopolitan Nome, as it is indeed called in the letter, whether real or pretended, of Onias to Ptolemy, which Josephus has inserted in his Jewish Antiquities, lib. 13 c. 3. And I find that several persons of great learning and judgment think that Ikenius has proved the point beyond contradiction. See Christian. Muller. Satura Observ. Philolog. Michaelis Bibliotheque Oriental, Part v., p. 171. But, after all, I believe that neither Onias, Heliopolis, nor Leontopolis has any thing to do with this subject. The application of this place of Isaiah to Onias's purpose seems to have been a mere invention, and in consequence of it there may perhaps have been some unfair management to accommodate the text to that purpose; which has been carried even farther than the Hebrew text; for the Greek version has here been either translated from a corrupted text, or wilfully mistranslated or corrupted, to serve the same cause. The place is there called πολις Ασεδεκ, the city of righteousness; a name apparently contrived by Onias's party to give credit to their temple, which was to rival that of Jerusalem. Upon the whole, the true reading of the Hebrew text in this place is very uncertain; fifteen MSS. and seven editions have חרס cheres, the city of Hacheres, or, of the sun. So likewise Symmachas, the Vulgate, Arabic, Septuagint, and Complutensian. On the other hand, Aquila, Theodotion, and the Syriac read הרס heres, destruction; the Chaldee paraphrase takes in both readings.The reading of the text being so uncertain, no one can pretend to determine what the city was that is here mentioned by name; much less to determine what the four other cities were which the prophet does not name. I take the whole passage from the 18th verse to the end of the chapter, to contain a general intimation of the future propagation of the knowledge of the true God in Egypt and Syria, under the successors of Alexander; and, in consequence of this propagation, of the early reception of the Gospel in the same countries, when it should be published to the world. See more on this subject in Prideaux's Connect. An. 145; Dr. Owen's Inquiry into the present state of the Septuagint Version, p. 41; and Bryant's Observations on Ancient History, p. 124. - L.

Verse 19

An altar to the Lord - צבאות tsebaoth, "of hosts," or Yehovah tsebaoth, is added by eight MSS. of good repute, and the Syriac Version.

Verse 23

Shall there be a highway - Under the latter kings of Persia, and under Alexander, Egypt, Judea, and Assyria lived peaceably under the same government, and were on such friendly terms that there was a regular, uninterrupted intercourse between them, so that the Assyrian came into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and Israel became the third, i.e., was in strict union with the other two; and was a blessing to both, as affording them some knowledge of the true God, Isaiah 19:24 .

Verse 25

Blessed be Egypt - Assyria - and Israel - All these countries shall be converted to the Lord. Concerning Egypt, it was said, Isaiah 18:7 , that it should bring gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem. Here it is predicted, Isaiah 19:19 , that there shall be an altar to the Lord in Egypt itself; and that they, with the Assyrians shall become the people of God with the Israelites. This remains partly to be fulfilled. These countries shall be all, and perhaps at no very distant time from this, converted to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 19


  1 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.
  2 And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.
  3 And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.
  4 And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce 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 they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither.
  7 The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and 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 networks, shall be confounded.
  10 And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish.
  11 Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the 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 become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof.
  14 The LORD hath mingled a 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.
  16 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.
  17 And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it.
  18 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.
  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 a great one, and he shall deliver them.
  21 And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, 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 entreated of them, and shall heal them.
  23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
  24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
  25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

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