I Will Stir Up Egyptian Against Egyptian

19: 1-10

    DIG: Egypt was the most likely ally for Judah against Assyria (see Chapters 30 and 31). Why was that so foolish? What about the Exodus might account for the idols trembling (see Exodus 7:10-12; 8:16-18; 9:10-11)?

    REFLECT: How do you keep from aligning yourself with the wrong people or causes in your life? Who is there to warn you of the dangers? Even if someone told you, you were in danger, would you listen to them? Why or why not? Have you ignored warnings in the past? What was the result? What would you do different now?

    An oracle concerning Egypt. Some of the Jews living in Judah wanted to look to Egypt for help against the Assyrian threat. But Isaiah pointed out that Egypt would be no help at all, because she too would be overwhelmed by the LORD’s judgment. In this poem of three nearly equal strophes ADONAI exposes the weaknesses that would supposedly make Egypt great: her idols (19:1-4), her wealth (19:5-10), and her wisdom (19:11-15). None of these could save Egypt against the coming onslaught, so why should Judah tie her national destiny to that doomed nation? So in general terms, ADONAI is merely exposing Egypt’s weaknesses in 19:1-5. She is no solution to the Assyrian problem facing Judah. The details are not important.

    First, Egypt’s idols could not save her. Isaiah tells Judah that Egypt will be judged by means of internal troubles, which will lead to a civil war. See, ADONAI rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt (19:1a). God is pictured riding on a swift cloud (Psalms 68:4 and 33; 104:3). In Canaanite mythology this same idea is used of Baal, the god of rain and fertility. However, the LORD, not Baal, is the true Giver of rain (something Egypt would really need) and fertility. The gods of Egypt would not be able to save their people from the coming judgments.57 The idols of Egypt tremble before Him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them (19:1b). Egypt’s many idols will be exposed as worthless before the presence of God. They can offer neither help nor hope. Their idols will tremble before Him and will cause the Egyptians to be disheartened and depressed.

    Egypt will be judged by means of internal troubles, which will lead to a civil war. I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian – brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom (19:2). Throughout her history Egypt was especially prone to civil war. After six strong dynasties of the Old Kingdom, there came a two hundred year period when each of the forty-two city-states became independent and chaos reigned. Then the Twelfth Dynasty again united the people for about two hundred years, but chaos again took over for two centuries. Each city-state had its own god, which would lead to dissolution if there was no one man who had enough leadership capabilities to pull the nation together under one pharaoh. And so it went again and again. Isaiah sees this kind of disaster ahead for Egypt. In general terms, her gods could not hold her together because of the LORD's judgment.

    Not only would there be civil war, there would be judgment against Egyptian occult practices. The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing (19:3a). When people begin to lose their hope, depression settles in. They become despondent, lacking in spirit. When this happens, spirit is often replaced by spiritism. And that is exactly what will happen in Egypt. Isaiah prophesied that they would consult with idols and the spirits of the dead, with mediums and spiritists (Isaiah 8:19; Leviticus 19:31, 20:6). Losing the power of logical reasoning, the Egyptians have clung to sorcery and witchcraft (19:3b).

    The nation whose gods have deserted them is ripe for oppression. It lacks both the will and the guts to resist any attack from either inside or outside the nation. And then a cruel master and a fierce king will overtake them. Egypt, who centuries before had been a cruel master over Israel (Exodus 1:11-14), would now be the object of cruelty. And a fierce king will rule over them. This judgment would come from ADONAI, the LORD of heavens armies (19:4).

    Secondly, Egypt’s wealth could not save her. It is not an understatement to say that without the Nile there would be no Egypt. The lifeblood and the entire industry of Egypt were based upon the Nile River. Therefore, to show that the judgment would come from God, Isaiah said that the destruction would affect Egypt’s natural resources. The waters of the river will dry up (19:5a). Here Isaiah pointed to the fact that if the Nile were ever shut off, the rich and haughty Egypt would cease to exist. The critical weakness that Isaiah was emphasizing to Judah in this strophe is not to depend on a country who could not even control its only resource for existence. It was not in their own hands, it was in the hands of the LORD.

    This would result in the destruction of certain industries. The riverbed will be parched and dry. The canals will stink; the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up (19:5b-6a). Before God, the mighty Nile could be shut off, the canals made dry and stinking, and the Delta become as dry as a desert. Why would Judah want to commit herself to a nation as vulnerable as that!

    The first result of the river’s drying up would be the destruction of the lush plant life along its edges. The reeds and rushes will wither, also the plants along the Nile, at the mouth of the river. But not only would the rushes and the papyrus reeds disappear, but every sown field along the Nile would become parched, blow away and be no more (19:6b-7). Throughout Egypt’s history, she was able to export grain to the rest of the world. Paul traveled to Rome on a grain ship from Egypt in Acts 28:11. When judgment comes, however, she will not be able to feed herself let alone anyone else.

    But if the Nile dried up, so would the marine life. The fisherman will groan and lament, all who cast hooks into the Nile; those who throw nets on the water will pine away (19:8). Fishing was one of the major industries of Egypt (Numbers 11:5; Ezekiel 29:4), and that industry would obviously cease to exist if the Nile stopped flowing.

    Another industry representative of the Egyptian life was the production of linen from flax. Those who combed flax to break down its fibers to make thread will despair, the weavers of fine linen will lose hope (19:9). Like the production of grain and the fishing industry, the growing of flax and the making of fine linen was totally dependent upon on the Nile. But the Judeans needed to understand that all of it could be taken away in an instant. Who would put their trust in something as tenuous as that?

    The result would be unemployment. The workers in cloth will be dejected, and all the wage earners will be sick at heart (19:10). The entire economy depended upon the Nile River. Isaiah knew the country well, but was convinced that all its productivity was no more than a gift from God.

 

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