Isaiah 19

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 30, 1999

Introduction

Isaiah 13 began a section called the "burdens". These are predominantly prophecies given against various nations, all of whom were at one time enemies of God’s people.

They are called "burdens" because they carry heavy, serious warnings.

:1-10 Judgment on Egypt

:1 I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians … kingdom against kingdom.

While Egypt in Isaiah’s day was ruled by an Ethiopian monarchy, eventually the Ethiopians pulled back to the south ("Upper Egypt"), while the northern part was ruled by Sethos, one of the Egyptian priests, with his capital alternating between Zoan and Memphis.

kingdom against kingdom – the Septuagint has "nome against nome". Egypt eventually divided into forty-two provinces, called "nomes", and these would turn to fight each other.

:3 And the spirit of Egypt shall fail

spiritruwach – wind, breath, mind, spirit. We might think of this in terms of the Egyptians losing heart, or even "getting the wind knocked out of it".

:3 to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits

charmers … – all are words describing those who claim to make some kind of contact with the dead. In our advanced society, we call them "psychics" and people who "channel" the spirits. The Bible calls it dangerous and forbids it.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12 There shall not be found among you [any one] that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, [or] that useth divination, [or] an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12 For all that do these things [are] an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

Later in the chapter we read:

(Isa 19:22 KJV) And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it…

The idea is that there are some problems in Egypt that need to be taken care of. One of their problems had to do with getting bad counsel. They were listening to the wrong people.

:4 the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord

cruel lord – probably Esarhaddon of Assyria, who conquered Egypt in 671 BC.

:5 And the waters shall fail from the sea

sea – every August, the Nile would overflow its banks, and the flood would water the fields. The flood waters were like a "sea". If the river didn’t overflow its banks, there would be famine.

The center of Egypt’s economy was the Nile river. Everything was built around the Nile. Farming was dependent on annual flooding from the Nile. The fishing industry was dependent upon the Nile. Cloth manufacturing was dependent upon the flax plants grown by the water from the Nile.

Modern Fulfillment: It has been suggested that verses 5-11 were fulfilled when the Aswan High Dam was completed in Egypt in 1970. Built 500 miles south of Cairo, it has stopped the annual flooding of the Nile and has opened up huge amounts of irrigated land. It also created the world’s largest man-made lake, Lake Nassar. But there was a major problem created with the dam. When the Nile used to overflow its banks, it not only watered the fields, but spread a rich layer of silt over the fields. Now the silt stays up at the dam, the fields aren’t fertilized, and it’s causing an ecological nightmare. Additionally, there has been saltwater intrusion in the farming areas in the delta region. And even the fishing industry in the delta area has suffered.

:6 the brooks of defence shall be emptied … the reeds …

brooks of defence – the canals will dry up.

reeds and flags – papyrus reeds will wither

:8 they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament

cast angle – fish with hooks

:9 fine flax … weave networks

flax – the plant the is used in making linen.

weave networks – no, not computer nerds, but weavers of white cloth.

:11-15 The Princes

:11 the princes of Zoan are fools … brutish

Zoan – once the capital of Egypt (2050-1800 BC). It was also called "Tanis" (as in "Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark"). See map.

This is the place where Moses was thought to have performed his miracles before Pharaoh (Ps. 78:12, 43)

counsellors – Egypt was known for its wise men. These were usually the priests. The kings of Egypt were usually chosen from the priests.

brutish – stupid. The wise men have nothing worth saying.

:12 let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed

(Isa 19:12 NLT) What has happened to your wise counselors, Pharaoh? If they are so wise, let them tell you what the LORD Almighty is going to do to Egypt.

They can’t tell you what God is thinking because they don’t know Him.

:13 Zoan … Noph … the stay of the tribes thereof

Zoan – or, Tanis. See map.

Noph = Memphis. It was on the Nile about 20 miles north of Cairo, and was the first capital of united Egypt (3200 BC) and one of the major cities during much of its long history. See map.

stay of the tribes – the "cornerstone of the tribes". The people who are supposed to provide the solid, stable support for the nation have led the nation astray.

:13 they have also seduced Egypt

The problem with bad counsel is that it is usually just what we want to hear.

Illustration

A man was on the golf practice course, when the club pro, Maury, brought an important-looking man out for a lesson. Maury watched the guy swing several times and started making suggestions for improvement, but each time the pupil interrupted with his own versions of what was wrong and how to correct it. After a few minutes of this interference, Maury began nodding his head in agreement. At the end of the lesson, the man paid Maury, congratulated him on his expertise as a teacher and left in an obviously pleased frame of mind. The observer was so astonished by the performance, that he had to ask, "Why did you go along with him?" "Son," the old pro said with a grin as he carefully pocketed his fee, "I learned long ago that it's a waste of time to sell answers to a man who wants to buy echoes."

-- J.F. Moore, Reader's Digest

Are you a person who really wants to know what God thinks?

Illustration

The folly of human nature is neatly summed up by the case of the middle-aged school teacher who invested her life savings in a business enterprise which had been elaborately explained to her by a swindler. When her investment disappeared and the wonderful dream was shattered, she went to the office of the Better Business Bureau. "Why on earth," they asked, "didn't you come to us first? Didn't you know about the Better Business Bureau?" "Oh, yes," said the lady sadly, "I've always known about you. But I didn't come because I was afraid you'd tell me not to do it."

Lesson

Get your advice from the right place.

There’s a lot of garbage floating around out in the world. There are LOTS of places to be getting advice. Not all of it is good.

Psa 1:1-3 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. {2} But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. {3} And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

If you’re making your decisions in life based on what people think, and not on what God thinks, you’re heading for trouble.

How can I get advice from God?

Stay in the Word. Read the Word. If people are giving you advice and counsel, you’d better be sure it’s counsel coming from God’s Word.

Don’t just settle for "religious sounding" talk. Make sure you always check it in the Word.

Read your Bible every day. Don’t just read the same passage over and over. Take yourself through the entire Bible. Start immersing yourself in God’s Word.

(Psa 119:99 KJV) I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

But even greater than knowing God’s Word is doing it. It’s as we apply God’s Word accurately to our lives that we become like the tree planted by the river.

:14 The LORD hath mingled … a drunken man

mingledmacak – to mix, mingle, produce by mixing. It’s a picture of mixing a drink, with God mixing a "distortion" into Egypt.

As a result, Egypt acts intoxicated by the strange counsel they have been getting.

:15 Neither shall there be any work for Egypt

There will be nothing that Egypt can do for itself to get itself out of its problem.

Lesson

It’s not what you do, but what Jesus does that counts.

There are a lot of "self-help" programs out there. Some of them can actually help you for a while. But the thing we need most is not what we can do for ourselves, but what Jesus can do for us.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to come to the "end of our rope". It’s at that point that we have nothing left to do but to call on Jesus for help.

:16-25 In that day …

:16 In that day …

The phrase appears in Isaiah 43 times, and though it might be referring to the time of this particular judgment, there is often a sense in which it is talking about the end times. I think much of this next section appears to be speaking of the time after Jesus comes back.

:16 it shall be afraid and fear

In Isaiah’s day Egypt was a power for Israel to fear. The tables will be turned.

It’s interesting to think of how far Egypt has come in the last thirty years. In 1967 and 1973, it participated with the other Arab countries to attack Israel. By 1979, they had become the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

:18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt

It’s possible that these five cities are representative of the entire nation.

:18 speak the language of Canaan

Canaan is the land that Israel is in. The Egyptians will learn to speak Hebrew.

It’s interesting to note that until this century, Hebrew was only a language used by Rabbis and Old Testament scholars. Modern Hebrew is now the official language of Israel.

:18 one shall be called, The city of destruction.

One of the cities that will follow the Lord would be named "the city of destruction".

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint have a slightly different reading, a change of a single Hebrew letter, but instead it is "the city of the sun". This is the name of one of Egypt’s major cities, Heliopolis, which had been dedicated to the worship of the sun god. See map.

There will be such a radical change in Egypt, that an entire city that had been worshipping false gods will now worship the true God, Yahweh.

:19 an altar to the LORD … and a pillar at the border

The altar in the middle of Egypt is so that they can offer sacrifices to the Lord.

The pillar at the border is a witness to those entering into Egypt that the Egyptians worship the Lord.

pillarmatstsebah – pillar, "mastaba"; as monument, personal memorial

mastaba – an oblong structure with a flat roof and sloping sides, built over the opening of a mummy chamber or burial pit in ancient Egypt and used as a tomb

The mastaba was a precursor to the development of the pyramid. Originally the Egyptians buried their dead in sandpits. They learned to place a solid rectangular structure (mastaba) over the grave to keep the sand from blowing away. Later, one of the royal architects, Imhotep, designed a pyramid by stacking six mastabas on top of each other. This eventually led to the pyramids. The Great Pyramids were built around 2550 BC.

This from the Encyclopedia:

"The Egyptians worshiped the sun as their chief god (named "Ra"), often represented by a symbolic pyramidal stone, or ben-ben. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the sun was a triangle divided into three zones horizontally--red, white, and yellow. It would seem to represent the sun (the top, or yellow zone) spreading its rays upon the Earth (the bottom, or red zone). The pyramids at Giza were once faced in a smooth coating of white marble with a band of pink at the base and a pyramidal block of pure gold at the top. It has been concluded that the pyramids themselves were huge ben-bens, symbols of the sun and its rays reaching down to Earth. When the pharaoh died he was said to ascend the sun's rays to join his father, the sun-god. Thus the pyramid would also seem to have been the symbolic staircase up which its occupant, the pharaoh, would climb to reach heaven." (From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia Deluxe © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.)

I wonder if this "pillar" or "monument" erected to the Lord at the border of Egypt will be something similar to the pyramids, perhaps a pyramid itself?

But instead of drawing attention to silly pagan gods, it will draw everyone’s attention to the Lord God of Israel.

:20 they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour

In 640 AD, Egypt was conquered by the Arabs, and the country changed from Christian to Islamic. Those remaining Christians were called "Copts", meaning "Egyptian". The language of Egyptian remained only in the Coptic Church, while the country changed languages to Arabic.

Today there is a small minority of Christians in Egypt, mostly in the ancient, orthodox Coptic Church. But there will be a day when the Muslims of Egypt will come to Jesus.

At the pastors’ conference a few weeks ago, I met a gentleman named Samy Tanagho, who is an Egyptian who converted from Islam to Christianity. I’m hoping to have him come to our church and share with us how we can talk to our Islamic friends about Jesus.

:21 the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day

It’s interesting that this idea of Egyptians worshipping the Lord isn’t all that strange to the Scripture. Moses wrote that Egyptians, after the third generation, would be allowed into the "congregation of the LORD". (Deut. 23:7-8)

:22 And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it

smitenagaph – to strike, smite

healrapha' – to heal, make healthful

Lesson

Pain for healing.

Sometimes God allows difficult times in our lives, but for the very purpose of bringing healing to us.

It’s tough, especially when we’re in the middle of the pain, to understand why God could be allowing something so difficult.

But there are some diseases that can only be helped if we undergo surgery. It takes incisions to get to the thing that needs to be removed.

Illustration

When my dad had his recent heart attack, he described it as an incredible pain and pressure on his chest. When they took him to the hospital, the doctor first did an angiogram, where he inserts dye into the heart to see where the blockage is. Then the doctor performed an angioplasty, where a line is inserted into the artery and a little balloon is blown up inside the artery to open up the blockage. Because my dad’s blood pressure was so low from the heart attack, they couldn’t give him any anesthesia. My dad explained that the heart attack itself was pretty painful, but the angioplasty was far worse. That is, until they opened up the blockage. That’s when the healing began to take place.

Sometimes we have to be hurt, smitten, in order to get to the healing.

If you are going through a difficult time right now, ask yourself the difficult questions.

Is there something in my life that needs to be removed?

Is there something that needs to be changed, something I’ve been unwilling to deal with? Something I’m reluctant to change?

If you want to see the healing take place, you’ve got to deal with the root issues.

:23-25 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria

highway[email protected] – highway, raised way, public road

(Isa 11:16 KJV) And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.

This was talking about how God would be making a highway out of Assyria by drying up the Euphrates river, allowing the Jews in Assyria to come back to Israel. Now we see the other part of the highway, coming from Egypt to Israel.

There will be peace between the nations of Israel, Egypt, and Assyria (modern Iraq).

Lesson

Only Jesus can bring real peace.

Can you even begin to imagine peace between Israel and Iraq? No way! But with Jesus, it’s possible. He’s the Prince of peace (Is. 9:6).

It starts when you know His peace inside you. Egypt will first call on their Savior. Then they’ll have peace.

(John 14:27 KJV) Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Is there someone you need peace with? It starts with you being at peace with God.