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Isaiah 19


Message to Egypt Proclamation Against Egypt Against Egypt God Will Punish Egypt Against Egypt
19:1-4 19:1-4
19:5-10 19:5-15
    Conversion of Egypt and Assyria Egypt Will Worship the Lord The Conversion of Egypt
19:16-17 19:16-17 19:16-17 19:16-17 19:16-23
  Egypt, Assyria and Israel Blessed      
19:18 19:18 19:18 19:18  
19:19-22 19:19-22 19:19-22 19:19-22  
19:23 19:23 19:23 19:23-25  
19:24-25 19:24-25 19:24-25   19:24-25

READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



1The oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt;
The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence,
And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
2"So I will incite Egyptians against Egyptians;
And they will each fight against his brother and each against his neighbor,
City against city and kingdom against kingdom.
3Then the spirit of the Egyptians will be demoralized within them;
And I will confound their strategy,
So that they will resort to idols and ghosts of the dead
And to mediums and spiritists.
4Moreover, I will deliver the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel master,
And a mighty king will rule over them," declares the Lord God of hosts.

19:1 "the Lord is riding on a swift cloud" This is metaphorical language describing YHWH as

1. controller of nature

2. director of nature's power

3. swift in His coming

See Ps. 18:10; 104:3. The phrase has Messianic connections in Dan. 7:13 and Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62.

As with many OT phrases that describe YHWH we find that similar ones are used of pagan deities or rulers of the ANE. Riding on clouds is used of Ba'al in Ugaritic poems. As God's people encountered the hyperbolic statements/claims of the surrounding nations, she attributed them to her God, the only God, the one in whom they may truly find their fulfillment. This is true of phrases such as "King of kings and Lord of lords" and so many other popular titles of YHWH.

▣ "and is about to come to Egypt" YHWH's presence again is both a judgment (vv. 1-15) and a salvation (vv. 16-23). It is this double meaning that runs through much of Hebrew prophecy. The literary technique known as "reversal" dominates this genre. It is like antithetical parallelism taken to a larger piece of writing (as is paradox).

Egypt will be judged to be cleansed and prepared to worship YHWH. He will come to her in deliverance as He has to Judah. YHWH's heart is directed at humans made in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), not just a select group of humans (i.e., Israel). He uses Abraham's seed to accomplish a larger purpose (cf. Gen. 3:15)!

▣ "The idols of Egypt" Egypt had many gods (Exod. 12:12; Num. 33:4). Her idolatry and spiritism are delineated in v. 3.

1. idols (BDB 47)

2. ghosts of the dead (BDB 31, found only here)

3. mediums (BDB 15, "necromancers," cf. Deut. 18:11)

4. spiritists (BDB 396, "wizards," "familiar spirits," cf. Deut. 18:11)

See note at 8:19.

The plagues of the Exodus purposefully depreciated many of the Egyptian gods for the purposes of producing faith in both Israelites and Egyptians (i.e., "mixed multitude," cf. Exod. 12:38).

In this text the people claimed to have the power or spiritual connection (i.e., familiar spirit) to communicate with the dead (cf. Lev. 19:31; 20:6,27; Deut. 18:11; I Sam. 28:8; II Kgs. 21:6; II Chr. 33:6; Isa. 8:19; 19:3). They were seeking information about and control of the future, but apart from YHWH. This is caused by

1. the fallen nature of humanity

2. self-deceived priests/prophets

3. demon activity

4. search for spiritual power over our lives and the lives of others


The last two lines of v. 1 are parallel.

1. the idols of Egypt will tremble, BDB 631, KB 681, Qal perfect, cf. 6:4; 7:2 (twice); 19:1; 24:20 (twice); 29:9; 37:22

2. the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them, BDB 587, KB 606, Niphal imperfect, cf. 13:7; Josh. 2:11; 5:1; 7:5 (i.e., "holy war" terminology)


19:2 One wonders if this relates to

1. the military advance of the Nubian rulers against the native Egyptians of the Delta region

2. the conflicts between the different cities of Egypt, each with their special gods

This internal conflict between the same people and their armies is another example of "holy war" (i.e., Jdgs. 7:22; I Sam. 14:20; II Chr. 20:23).

▣ "I will. . ." Isaiah is speaking directly for YHWH (vv. 2,3,4). YHWH causes

1. civil war, v. 2

2. demoralization, v. 3a

3. confused counsel/strategy, v. 3b

4. reliance on false gods, v. 3,c,d

5. the coming of a cruel master, a mighty king, v. 4


NASB, REB"I will incite"
NKJV"I will set"
Peshitta"I will stir up"

This verb (BDB 696 I or BDB 1127) is used twice in the Pilpel stem (Isa. 9:11 and here). In context it seems to mean

1. stir up

2. provoke

3. incite (Ethiopian root)

The Arabic root means "to stink" (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 233).

19:3 "confound" This Hebrew root (BDB 118 I) normally means "to swallow." Many scholars assume a second meaning for the same root, "confound" or "confuse" (BDB 118 III, cf. 3:12; 9:15; 28:7).

19:4 In context (cf. 20:4) this could refer to (1) Assyria (cf. chap. 20) or (2) Nubian invaders (cf. chap. 18). The same terminology is used for Babylon in Jer. 46:26; Ezek. 29:19. YHWH directs world empires for His purposes.

You must decide if this is typical ANE royal hyperbole, so common in the ancient world, or reality (i.e., a biblical world view). Inspired authors take the terminology of the ANE and apply it to YHWH. Its validity is a faith issue! Is the Bible a unique, inspired, self-revelation of the one true God? This is the issue! See my sermons on "Why I Trust the OT" and "Why I Trust the NT" online at in the "Biblical Interpretation Seminar" section (revised Video Seminar 2009, Lesson 3).

▣ "I will deliver" This verb (BDB 698, KB 755, Piel perfect) means "hand over to" (cf. Targums, LXX, Peshitta). The Piel appears only here. The verb does appear in the Niphal in Gen. 8:2 and Ps. 63:12, where it means "be stopped." The Piel connotation comes from an old Aramaic root. Therefore, there may be two separate Hebrew roots.

5The waters from the sea will dry up,
And the river will be parched and dry.
6The canals will emit a stench,
The streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up;
The reeds and rushes will rot away.
7The bulrushes by the Nile, by the edge of the Nile
And all the sown fields by the Nile
Will become dry, be driven away, and be no more.
8And the fishermen will lament,
And all those who cast a line into the Nile will mourn,
And those who spread nets on the waters will pine away.
9Moreover, the manufacturers of linen made from combed flax
And the weavers of white cloth will be utterly dejected.
10And the pillars of Egypt will be crushed;
All the hired laborers will be grieved in soul.

19:5-10 This strophe describes YHWH's judgment on Egypt.

1. their abundant water from the Nile dries up.

2. with its loss the river vegetation dies.

3. with its loss irrigated crops die.

4. with its loss the fishing industry will lament and languish.

5. with the loss the clothing industry stops.

6. Egyptian society comes to a crushing, grinding stop.

7. all hired laborers will grieve.

There are three related verbs which denote the loss of water.

1. "dry up," BDB 677, KB 732, Niphal perfect, v. 5; 41:17;

2. "be parched," BDB 351, KB 349, Qal imperfect, vv. 5,6; 11:15; 37:25; 44:27; 50:2; 51:10

3. "be dry," BDB 386, KB 384, Qal perfect, vv. 5,7; 15:6; 27:11; 40:7,8,24; 42:15 (twice); 44:27

God's ability to control water (the only physical material that God does not audibly create in Genesis 1) is recurrent in the OT.

1. separated water above and water below, Gen. 1:7

2. gathered the waters so dry land could appear, Gen. 1:9-10

3. sent the flood, Gen. 7:4,7

4. dried up the flood, Gen. 8:2-3

5. provided a well of water for Hagar, Gen. 21:19

6. split and restored the Sea of Reeds, Exod. 14:16,27

7. purified the water at Marah, Exod. 15:22-25

8. provided water that came from rocks in the wilderness, Num. 20:8,11

9. promised agricultural abundance if covenant was obeyed, Deuteronomy 27-28

10. split the Jordan River, Josh. 3:14-17; 4:23-24

11. dried up the Nile and its tributaries, Isa. 19:5

12. will dry up the Euphrates, Rev. 16:12

13. water flows from the new temple (Ezek. 47:1) from Jerusalem (Zech. 14:8) and the new heavenly city, Rev. 22:1

For desert people these were truly mighty miracles and proof of God's power because water was a symbol of life itself. Remember, the Nile was viewed as one of the main deities of Egypt (as was Re, the sun god, cf. v. 18).

19:6 "will emit a stench" This verb (BDB 276 II, KB 276, Hiphil perfect) occurs only here. It seems to reflect an Arabic root. The abundant dead vegetation begins to rot!


NASB, NJB"white cloth"
NKJV"fine fabric"
NRSV, REB"grow pale"

The MT has חורי, "white cloth" (for Aramaic parallel see Dan. 7:9), but the parallelism fits better with חורו, "grow pale" (cf. Isa. 29:22 and DSS of this text). There is obviously an intended play on "white" (חור, BDB 301).


NASB"the pillars"
NKJV, JPSOA"its foundations"
NJB"its weavers"

The MT (BDB 1011, only here) has "foundation" or "stay" (of society), which would refer to the upper class leaders. "Weavers" comes from those who are looking for a balanced parallelism to "hired laborers" (DSS, Targums from Aramaic root, "weavers") in the second line. The question is, "Is the parallelism synonymous (weavers) or antithetical (upper class and lower class)?" The Hebrew text remains ambiguous (cf. LXX and Peshitta).

11The princes of Zoan are mere fools;
The advice of Pharaoh's wisest advisers has become stupid.
How can you men say to Pharaoh,
"I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings"?
12Well then, where are your wise men?
Please let them tell you,
And let them understand what the Lord of hosts
Has purposed against Egypt.
13The princes of Zoan have acted foolishly,
The princes of Memphis are deluded;
Those who are the cornerstone of her tribes
Have led Egypt astray.
14The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of distortion;
They have led Egypt astray in all that it does,
As a drunken man staggers in his vomit.
15There will be no work for Egypt
Which its head or tail, its palm branch or bulrush, may do.

19:11-15 This strophe is an elaboration of v. 3.

1. v. 11, "the princes of Zoan" (Tanis, capital of the Delta region) are mere fools (BDB 17, used of Judah in Jer. 4:22)

2. v. 11, "the advice of Pharaoh's wisest advisers has become stupid" (lit. "brutish," BDB 129 II, KB 146, Niphal participle, cf. Jer. 10:14,21; 51:17)

3. v. 13, "the princes of Zoan have acted foolishly" (BDB 383, KB 381, Niphal participle, cf. Jer. 5:4; 50:36)

4. v. 13, "the princes of Memphis (Noph, another Egyptian capital) are deluded" (BDB 674, KB 728, Niphal perfect; Hiphil perfect used in Gen. 3:13)

5. v. 13, "have led Egypt astray" (BDB 1073, KB 1766, Hiphil perfect, cf. v. 14; 3:12; 9:16; Jer. 23:13,32; Hos. 4:12; Micah 3:5)

6. v. 14, "led astray. . .staggers" (same verb as #5, here denoting drunkenness)


19:11 Line 4 is idiomatic for a group of wise men, similar to which Daniel was a part in Babylon. The word "son" functions as "member of a group."

19:12 YHWH asks a sarcastic rhetorical question. It is furthered by two imperfects (BDB 616, KB 615, and BDB 393, KB 390) used in a jussive sense (i.e., "let them. . .").

They claimed to be wise (v. 11d; I Kgs. 4:30; Acts 7:22). They claimed to have plans (v. 3b), but their wisdom and plans are negated in YHWH's purposes (v. 12a).

19:13 "Those who are the cornerstone of her tribes" Here "cornerstone" (BDB 819) denotes leaders (cf. Jdgs. 20:2; I Sam. 14:38).


NASB, LXX"mixed"
NKJV, Peshitta"mingled"
NRSV, JB"poured"
REB, NJB"infused"

The MT has the verb "mixed" (ךסמ, BDB 587, KB 605, Qal perfect), which denotes a strong drink (cf. 5:22). However, because of Isa. 29:10 it is possible the verb should be נסך ("poured out," BDB 650, KB 703, Qal perfect), which is found in the DSS. In either case the point is drunkenness as a metaphor for confusion and instability.

19:15 The second line has two idioms which denote all levels of society (cf. 9:14-15).

1. head - tail

2. palm - bulrush

There will be a God-sent (cf. v. 14a) total inability! Those who claimed to be wise (cf. vv. 11d, 12a, 13c) have proven to be unwise because they trusted in (1) false gods; (2) false religionists; and (3) poor plans (cf. v. 3)! All of Egypt's leadership (cf. vv. 11-12), civil and religious, are out of a job, as are all her laborers (cf. vv. 8-10).

16In that day the Egyptians will become like women, and they will tremble and be in dread because of the waving of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which He is going to wave over them. 17The land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt; everyone to whom it is mentioned will be in dread of it, because of the purpose of the Lord of hosts which He is purposing against them.

19:16-17 This describes what YHWH's actions (i.e., "the waving of the hand of the Lord of hosts") will do, His purpose (v. 17b, BDB 420).

1. Egyptians will become like women, v. 16

2. they will tremble, v. 16 (BDB 353, KB 350, Qal perfect)

3. they will be in dread, v. 16 (BDB 808, KB 922, Qal perfect)

4. Judah will become a terror to Egypt, v. 17 (verb, Qal perfect, noun, "terror," BDB 291, but found only here)

5. they will be in dread, v. 17 (BDB 808, KB 922, Qal imperfect, see #3)


19:16 "the Lord of hosts" As the phrase "in that day" links these last five strophes (cf. vv. 16, 18, 19, 23, 24), so does this recurrent title for YHWH (cf. vv. 16, 17, 18, 20, 25 and Lord alone in vv. 19, 20, 21, 22). The covenant God is very active in these wonderfully redemptive strophes for the nations!

18In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will be speaking the language of Canaan and swearing allegiance to the Lord of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction.

19:18 This is a separate paragraph. It denotes a conversion from idol worship to the worship of YWHH. The "language of Canaan" would denote Hebrew (BDB 488 I). This may be an allusion to Isa. 6:5 or even Gen. 11:1.

The phrase "swearing allegiance" (BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal participle) denotes a new relationship with Judah's God (cf. vv. 19-22, 23, 24-25). This has always been the purpose of divine judgment!

▣ "In that day" Notice the recurrent phrase, "in that day," vv. 16, 18, 19, 23, 24. This points toward specific future days.

1. one of judgment and dread, vv. 16-17

2. one of conversion (vv. 18, 19-22) and worldwide worship (vv. 23, 24-25)

Again, a current crisis (cf. v. 20) in the ANE reflects an eschatological event. Judgment has a redemptive purpose (cf. v. 22). Evil, rebellion, and ignorance will not be the last word! YHWH has an eternal redemptive plan and purpose for the whole world (cf. v. 24b).

▣ "five cities" The reason for this specific number is uncertain. It denotes a conversion, but not a complete (i.e., half of ten, see Special Topic: Symbols and Numbers in Scripture at 11:12) conversion. The question remains, "To whom does it refer?"

1. cities of Jewish settlers

2. cities of Egyptian deities

Because of vv. 19-22, 23, 24-25 I choose option #2. This context is not addressing Jews, but Egyptians.

NASB, NKJV"the City of Destruction"
NJB"the City of the Sun"

The MT's "destruction" (BDB 249) appears only here. The verb of the same root (BDB 248) means "to throw down," "break," or "tear down." It may be a play on the Egyptian city who worshiped the "Sun" god (On, Heliopolis).

1. ההרס, city of the Sun (BDB 357, cf. DSS, Targums, Vulgate)

2. החרס, city of destruction

The implication is that the temples to Re (Sun god) have been torn down.

The Hebrew word "sun" has the same consonants as "ban" (i.e. devoted to destruction). There may be a double wordplay.

19In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord near its border. 20It will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. 21Thus the Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the Lord and perform it. 22The Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and will heal them.


Peshitta"in the midst of the land of Egypt"
NRSV, NJB"in the center of the land of Egypt"
REB"in the heart of Egypt"
LXX"at its border"

The use of this term (BDB 1063) in Josh. 3:17; 4:3,9,10,18 should be understood as "brink," not "middle." This is the origin of "by its border" in the LXX.

When does this event occur?

1. the small Jewish temple built by Jewish mercenaries on an island in the Nile (Elephantine, modern Aswan, at the first cataract of the Nile), sometime before 525 b.c.

2. the Jewish temple (modeled after the temple in Jerusalem) built at Leontopolis by Onias IV, an outcast Jewish high priest from Jerusalem, about 160 b.c. (cf. Josephus, Antiq. 12.9.7; 13.3.3)

3. an eschatological event


19:19-20 What a wonderful, but surprising event that a physical presence of YHWH will be established in Egypt.

19:20 This process is comparable to how YHWH dealt with Israel in the book of Judges. The cruel judgment of invasion and occupation (cf. v. 4) brings repentance and faith in God and His ability and willingness to act in deliverance. Egypt has come to that spiritual moment and YHWH responds.

What a great witness this context is about the character of Israel's God. He is willing to forgive and fully accept His covenant people's enemies. He is truly the God of the nations, the Savior of the world (cf. John 3:16; Titus 1:3; 2:10; 3:4).

▣ "a Savior and a Champion" In context this refers to one who will defeat the cruel master and mighty king of v. 4, but ultimately it has Messianic implications. In Isaiah this "Savior" is YHWH Himself and no other (cf. 43:3,11; 45:15,21), but from the NT we know it was the Messiah acting as YHWH's representative (i.e., Isa. 28:16; Rom. 9:30-33; 10:9-13; I Pet. 2:6-10).

1. a Savior, BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil participle

2. a defender, BDB 936, KB 1224, Qal participle

3. a deliverer, BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil perfect


19:21 "the Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord" This is a play on the Hebrew word "know" (BDB 393, KB 390), which denotes both knowledge of and personal relationship with.


▣ "worship" Notice the elements of worship (BDB 712, KB 773, Qal perfect) mentioned. 

1. sacrifice, BDB 257

2. offering, BDB 585

3. vow, BDB 623, KB 674, Qal perfect

They will not only do the rituals of worship, but will live out (BDB 1022, KB 1532, Piel perfect, lit. "perform") those rituals (i.e., vows).

19:22 YHWH's actions toward Egypt mimic His actions toward the covenant people.

1. He strikes them (twice, BDB 619, KB 669)

2. they cry out to Him, v. 20

3. He heals them (twice, BDB 950, KB 1272)

4. they return to Him (BDB 996, KB 1427, this is the Hebrew term for repentance)

5. He responds to them (BDB 801 I, KB 905, Niphal perfect, see imperfect in Gen. 25:21; II Chr. 33:13; Ezra 8:23. YHWH hears and responds to repentance supplication).

Be sure to note that judgment (i.e., striking) was for the purpose of establishing (or for Israel, restoring) a relationship with YHWH.

23In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

19:23 There will be a free-flowing movement between nations for the purpose of worshiping YHWH. The nations have come!

It is interesting how many times Isaiah uses the imagery of a highway.

1. a highway for the exiled Jews to return, 11:16; 57:14

2. a highway for Gentile worshipers to come, 19:23

3. a highway of holiness, 26:7; 35:8; 43:19; 49:11; 51:10

4. a Messianic highway, 40:3; 42:16


24In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance."

19:25 These are covenant phrases now used for the hated Egyptians and Assyrians.

Compare this with 45:14-17. What a contrast. It is so hard to hold these together (i.e., the nations loved, the nations judged). I choose v. 22! I choose v. 20!


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