Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 19

In chapter 19 of Isaiah, we once again find ourselves face to face with another of Israel's enemies. Egypt had been one of the dominant cultures on the planet for centuries, but around the time that Isaiah was written, their culture was a shadow of its former self. We saw an example of their power from the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob up to the Exodus. Though the early Egyptians had befriended Joseph and his family, by the time of Moses they had turned on them and made the Israelites slaves.

Does this judgment mean that God hates Egypt because of the way that she mistreated Israel? Not necessarily. God is angry with Egypt here because of the way that she worshipped false idols instead of God. That is outlined here in chapter 19 through Isaiah's poetic verse. Here Isaiah speaks about how Egypt will turn to her idols and false gods in a time of crisis, but those gods would be silent. Because of that, Egypt will learn to fear the Lord.

1 An oracle concerning Egypt:
       See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud
       and is coming to Egypt.
       The idols of Egypt tremble before him,
       and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.

 2 "I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—
       brother will fight against brother,
       neighbor against neighbor,
       city against city,
       kingdom against kingdom.

 3 The Egyptians will lose heart,
       and I will bring their plans to nothing;
       they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead,
       the mediums and the spiritists.

 4 I will hand the Egyptians over
       to the power of a cruel master,
       and a fierce king will rule over them,"
       declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

 5 The waters of the river will dry up,
       and the riverbed will be parched and dry.

 6 The canals will stink;
       the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up.
       The reeds and rushes will wither,

 7 also the plants along the Nile,
       at the mouth of the river.
       Every sown field along the Nile
       will become parched, will blow away and be no more. – Isaiah 19:1-7

Why would God show this judgment to Egypt? Well, like He did with the Assyrians, Babylonians, and such before this, God wanted to get Egypt's attention. So much of Egypt's economy relied on the Nile river and its annual floods. Here, this prophecy pretty clearly alludes to a disastrous drought that would prevent the floods from bringing their annual water for crops. Such a thing would be catastrophic, and naturally Egypt would turn to its own gods first. Since those gods were powerless, the true God would finally have their attention.

16 In that day the Egyptians will be like women. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the LORD Almighty raises against them. 17 And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the LORD Almighty is planning against them. 18 In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD Almighty. One of them will be called the City of Destruction. 19 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the LORD at its border. 20 It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. – Isaiah 19:16-20

Here, we see hope for Egypt. In their time of greatest fear, a people that they oppressed, Judah, would come back and settle in the heart of Egypt. We also see here a final promise of the Lord delivering a Savior. Now why would God deliver a Savior to people that He hated? Well, this just shows His love and that he intends for all people to love Him. If God can love the enemies of His people and provide a Savior for them then, we can learn from this lesson and learn to love our own enemies.


  1. How would shaking up the kingdom of Egypt get the Egyptians to love God?
  2. Why would Judah want to go and live in the land that had oppressed them?
  3. Has this already happened, or is it yet to happen?

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