DIG: Isaiah anticipates a tremendous change in Egypt during the Great Tribulation. How and why will Egypt’s sense of superiority over Judah change? Compare Isaiah 19:19-20 with Exodus 3:7-10. What does this tell you about the judgments of the LORD? How much does God love the Egyptians (see my commentary on Genesis Ej - Hagar and the Angel of the LORD)?
REFLECT: In 19:16-22, Egypt moves from (a) fearing God, to (b) calling upon Him for help, to (c) joyfully worshiping Him. How far along are you on that a-b-c highway? What most excites you about what it will be like when the promises of these verses are fulfilled? How could the altar in the heart of Egypt, in turn, alter your heart of hearts? What does the knowledge that the Egyptians will one day worship the LORD do to your faith?
The second half of Chapter 19 moves from poetry to prose, and from the judgment of Egypt to her redemption (see my commentary on Exodus Bz – Redemption). Isaiah now begins with a three-stage progression that will lead to Egypt’s national conversion. From this point on, Isaiah uses the phrase, in that day, to indicate the far eschatological future for Egypt. The first statement is a transitional one from the previous section.
In the first stage we see Egypt’s fear of Judah. In that day, the Egyptians will no longer be warriors standing tall in battle. They will be like women in the midst of war, who know themselves defenseless, cowering in fear before their victor. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the LORD of heaven’s angelic armies (CJB) raises against them (19:16). The emphasis here is on Egypt’s fear and trembling. The cause of that fear is the LORD of heaven’s armies (CJB). As Israel had been a source of horror to the Egyptians hundreds of years earlier (Exodus 10:7; 12:33), Judah will now be also. And the reason will be the same in both cases. It was not because they would pose any military threat. Rather, it is because of the way that ADONAI will make His power visible to the world to see.
In contrast with Isaiah’s day when Judah was thinking about turning to Egypt for help, a time will come when Egypt will recognize Judah as the dominant force in the world. During the Millennial Kingdom their fear will so great that when Israel is mentioned, they begin to shudder. What is the cause of Egypt’s terror? It will be that the Messiah, who will abide in the Temple in the land of Judah, will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the LORD of heaven’s angelic armies had done to the Egyptians during the Great Tribulation (19:17). But why is it necessary to bring terror? Not all the Egyptians had died by the end of the Great Tribulation. Many had survived and entered the Messianic Kingdom in their natural, sinful state. They, in turn, bore children who were sinners who needed to be saved before reaching the age of one hundred years old (Isaiah 65:20).
Those who have not experienced the results of their sin are very likely to deny that they have any sin. But those who are crushed by their sin will look for a way out. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (Second Corinthians 7:10). They will be looking for a Redeemer, and that is what Isaiah is promising.
Once again the phrase, in that day, is used placing this prophecy in the eschatological future. In the second stage, Isaiah begins to speak of an Egypt turning to God, presumably as a result of the outworking of the LORD's plan upon them. How often do people whose comfortable world has come crashing down around them turn to God in desperation and find, almost to their surprise, that He had been waiting to receive them? So Isaiah pictures Egypt turning to God during the Messianic Kingdom.58
In that day five cities in Egypt will speak in Hebrew, the language (literally the lip) of Canaan, and swear allegiance to the LORD of heaven’s angelic armies (19:18a). At first glance, this seems like an odd statement. Five cities out of 30,000 or so in Egypt is hardly a large percentage. But God uses the figure of five cities to convey the radical nature of the turn. To think of even one city adopting the language of the “sand-dwellers,” the Semites, whom the Egyptians held in contempt (Genesis 46:31-34), would be astonishing. But for five to do so would truly be amazing. So Isaiah says that Egypt’s turn to God will be so complete that some cities will go so far as to adopt even the language of Judah.59 One of these cities will be Heres, or Heliopolis (Ezekiel 30:17), called the City of the Sun (19:18b NLT). It was one of the major cities in the south end of Egypt’s delta, and was dedicated to worshiping the Egyptian sun god Ra. Such a significant change, to worshiping ADONAI instead of Ra, will prove to the world and to Israel that Egypt is dedicated to the LORD. What a day that will be!
In that day is used again for the third time, pointing to the eschatological future. The third stage is the national regeneration of Egypt. An altar will be built to the LORD along with a monument at Egypt’s border (19:19). The altar is for sacrifice, and Egypt submits to ADONAI by means of sacrifice (Zechariah 14:16-19 and Malachi 1:11). The monument (pillar in the KJV) is for a memorial. The purpose of the monument will be a sign and a witness that the land of Egypt, the former enemy of Israel, had received Messiah Yeshua. At the end of the Great Tribulation they will cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, and He will forgive them of their sins. Not only that, He will also send them a Savior and defender who will rescue them (19:20). For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Because of her continued foolishness throughout the dispensations of God, Ezekiel describes the devastation Egypt will face during the Messianic Kingdom. The Egyptians, like the Jews, will be dispersed throughout the peoples of the earth for forty years. During that time, Egypt will be desolate and no one will pass through (Ezekiel 29:6-12). After that time they will be gathered back to Egypt, which will have been deserted the entire time (Ezekiel 29:13-16). The world will plainly see that Egypt is worshiping ADONAI, the God of Israel. So the LORD will make Himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge Him. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings. They will make vows to ADONAI and keep them (19:21).
Next is the summary of Egypt’s salvation. The language here is similar to that of the Exodus (Exodus 7:5, 9:28; 14:4). The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague. He will strike them and heal them. They will turn to Him and He will respond to their pleas (19:22). They will be struck with a plague as in the Exodus, but this time they will turn to ADONAI. Egypt will be in the same position as Israel, in the sense that, when the Egyptians ask God for help He will give it to them. This message was seemingly unbelievable to the people of Judah during Isaiah’s day. But the Bible says it will occur. In that day, at that time, there is going to be a national regeneration of Egypt. But they are not the only ones.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2013