Isaiah 19


Prophecy concerning Egypt, in which her lamentable condition

under the Babylonians, Persians, &c., is forcibly pointed out,


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, 18-22.

Profound peace between Egypt, Assyria, and Israel, and their

blessed condition under the Gospel, 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

favoured 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 Isa 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 favour

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 devynouris, 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 De 18:10, &c.

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 kasheh, lord, a MS. reads

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"]

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

2Ch 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 Nu 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, &c.

Verse 9. They that work in fine flax] pishtim

sericoth, heckled flax, i.e., flax dressed on the heckle, or comb

used for that purpose. The Vulgate uses the word pectentes,


They that weave networks shall be confounded-And confounden

schul ben that wrogten flax, plattinge and wevynge sotel

thingis.-Old MS. Bible.

Verse 10. And they shall be broken, &c.-"Her stores"]

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 agmey

as if it were the same with agemah, from Job 30:25, in

which he is followed by some of the rabbins, and supported by the

Septuagint: and secher, which I translate gain, and

which some take for nets or inclosures, 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 sekra. I submit these very different interpretations to

the reader's judgment. The Version of the Septuagint is as

follows: καιπαντεςοιποιουντεςτονζυθονλυπηθησονταικαιτας

ψυχαςπονεσουσι "And all they that make barley wine shall mourn,

and be grieved in soul."

Verse 11. The counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is

become brutish-"Have counselled a brutish counsel"] The sentence

as it now stands in the Hebrew, is imperfect: it wants the verb.

Archbishop Secker conjectures that the words 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 yaatsu

added after 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 come"] Here too a word seems to have been

left out of the text. After chochameycha, thy wise men, two

MSS., one ancient, add yibu, let them come; which, if we

consider the form and construction of the sentence, has very much

the appearance of being genuine: otherwise the connective

conjunction at the beginning of the next member is not only

superfluous but embarrassing. See also the Version of the

Septuagint, in which the same deficiency is manifest.

Let them tell thee now-"And let them declare"] For yidu,

let them know, perhaps we ought to read yodiu, let them

make known.-Secker. The Septuagint and Vulgate favour this

reading, ειπατωισαν, let them declare.

Verse 13. Are deceived-"They have caused," &c.] The text has

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 vau, and.

Stay-"Pillars"] pinnath, to be pointed as plural pinnoth,

without doubt. So Grotius, and so the Chaldee.

Verse 14. In the midst thereof] bekirbam; so the

Septuagint, and perhaps more correctly."-Secker. So likewise the


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, &c.

Verse 16. Shall Egypt be-"The Egyptians shall be"] 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 chag, and chagah. Five MSS.

and two editions have lechagah.

Verse 18. The city of destruction-"The city of the sun"]

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, ir hacheres, the city

of the sun. This possibly may have been the original reading. The

present text has 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 heres, pro

cheres, ut alibi scribitur beith aven pro

beith El: ish bosheth pro ish

baal, &c. Vide Lowth in loc."-Secker. "It seems that the prophet

designedly wrote heres, destruction, for cheres, the

sun: as elsewhere beith aven, the house of iniquity, is

written for beith El, the house of God; ish

bosheth for ish baal," &c. But on the supposition that

air haheres is the true reading, others understand it

differently. The word 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. xiii. 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 ali, 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 πολιςασεδεκ, 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

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

heres, destruction; the Chaldee paraphrase takes in both


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.


Verse 19. An altar to the Lord] 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, Isa 19:24.

Verse 25. Blessed be Egypt-Assyria-and Israel] All these

countries shall be converted to the Lord. Concerning Egypt, it was

said, Isa 18:7, that it should bring gifts to the Lord at

Jerusalem. Here it is predicted, Isa 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.

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