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The nineteenth and twentieth chapters are connected, but with an interval between. Egypt had been held by an Ethiopian dynasty, Sabacho, Sevechus, or Sabacho II, and Tirhakah, for forty or fifty years. Sevechus (called So, the ally of Hoshea, 2Ki 17:4), retired from Lower Egypt on account of the resistance of the priests; and perhaps also, as the Assyrians threatened Lower Egypt. On his withdrawal, Sethos, one of the priestly caste, became supreme, having Tanis ("Zoan") or else Memphis as his capital, 718 B.C.; while the Ethiopians retained Upper Egypt, with Thebes as its capital, under Tirhakah. A third native dynasty was at Sais, in the west of Lower Egypt; to this at a later period belonged Psammetichus, the first who admitted Greeks into Egypt and its armies; he was one of the dodecarchy, a number of petty kings between whom Egypt was divided, and by aid of foreign auxiliaries overcame the rest, 670 B.C. To the divisions at this last time, GESENIUS refers Isa 19:2; and Psammetichus, Isa 19:4, "a cruel lord." The dissensions of the ruling castes are certainly referred to. But the time referred to is much earlier than that of Psammetichus. In Isa 19:1, the invasion of Egypt is represented as caused by "the Lord"; and in Isa 19:17, "Judah" is spoken of as "a terror to Egypt," which it could hardly have been by itself. Probably, therefore, the Assyrian invasion of Egypt under Sargon, when Judah was the ally of Assyria, and Hezekiah had not yet refused tribute as he did in the beginning of Sennacherib's reign, is meant. That Assyria was in Isaiah's mind appears from the way in which it is joined with Israel and Egypt in the worship of Jehovah (Isa 19:24, 25). Thus the dissensions referred to (Isa 19:2) allude to the time of the withdrawal of the Ethiopians from Lower Egypt, probably not without a struggle, especially with the priestly caste; also to the time when Sethos usurped the throne and entered on the contest with the military caste, by the aid of the town populations: when the Saitic dynasty was another cause of division. Sargon's reign was between 722-715 B.C. answering to 718 B.C., when Sethos usurped his throne [G. V. SMITH].
1. burden--(See on
2. set--stir up. GESENIUS translates, "arm."
3. spirit--wisdom, for which Egypt was famed
answering to "counsel" in the parallel clause.
4. cruel lord--"Sargon," in Hebrew it is lords; but plural is often used to express greatness, where, one alone is meant (Ge 39:2). The parallel word "king" (singular) proves it. NEWTON makes the general reference to be to Nebuchadnezzar, and a particular reference to Cambyses, son of Cyrus (who killed the Egyptian god, Apis), and Ochus, Persian conquerors of Egypt, noted for their "fierce cruelty." GESENIUS refers it to Psammetichus, who had brought into Egypt Greek and other foreign mercenaries to subdue the other eleven princes of the dodecarchy.
5. the sea--the Nile. Physical calamities, it is observed in history, often accompany political convulsions (Eze 30:12). The Nile shall "fail" to rise to its wonted height, the result of which will be barrenness and famine. Its "waters" at the time of the overflow resemble "a sea" [PLINY, Natural History, 85.11]; and it is still called El-Bahr," "the sea," by the Egyptians (Isa 18:2; Jer 51:36). A public record is kept at Cairo of the daily rise of the water at the proper time of overflow, namely, August: if it rises to a less height than twelve cubits, it will not overflow the land, and famine must be the result. So, also, when it rises higher than sixteen; for the waters are not drained off in time sufficient to sow the seed.
6. they shall turn the rivers--rather, "the streams shall become
putrid"; that is, the artificial streams made for irrigation shall
become stagnant and offensive when the waters fail
with the Septuagint, translates, "And waters from the sea shall be
drunk"; by the failure of the river water they shall be reduced to sea
7. paper-reeds--rather, pastures, literally, "places naked" of
wood, and famed for rich herbage, on the banks of the Nile [GESENIUS]. Compare
HORSLEY translates, "nakedness upon the river,"
descriptive of the appearance of a river when its bottom is bare and
its banks stripped of verdure by long drought: so Vulgate.
8. fishers--The Nile was famed for fish
many would be thrown out of employment by the failure of fishes.
9. fine flax--GESENIUS, for "fine,"
translates, "combed"; fine "linen"
was worn by the rich only
Egypt was famous for it
The processes of its manufacture are represented on the Egyptian tombs.
Israel learned the art in Egypt
The cloth now found on the mummies was linen, as is shown by the
microscope. WILKINSON mentions linen from Egypt
which has five hundred forty (or two hundred seventy double) threads in
one inch in the warp; whereas some modern cambric has but a hundred
10. in the purposes--rather, "the foundations," that is, "the nobles
shall be broken" or brought low: so
"The princes--the stay of the tribes. The Arabs call a prince "a
pillar of the people" [MAURER]. "Their
weaving-frames" [HORSLEY]. "Dykes"
11. Zoan--The Greeks called it Tanis, a city of Lower Egypt, east of
the Tanitic arms of the Nile, now San; it was one the Egyptian towns
nearest to Palestine
the scene of Moses' miracles
(Ps 78:12, 43).
It, or else Memphis, was the capital under Sethos.
12. let them know--that is, How is it that, with all their boast of knowing the future [DIODORUS, 1.81], they do not know what Jehovah of hosts . . .
13. Noph--called also Moph; Greek, Memphis
on the western bank of the Nile, capital of Lower Egypt, second only to
Thebes in all Egypt: residence of the kings, until the Ptolemies
removed to Alexandria; the word means the "port of the good" [PLUTARCH]. The military caste probably ruled in
it: "they also are deceived," in fancying their country secure
from Assyrian invasion.
14. err in every work thereof--referring to the anarchy arising from their internal feuds. HORSLEY translates, "with respect to all His (God's) work"; they misinterpreted God's dealings at every step. "Mingled" contains the same image as "drunken"; as one mixes spices with wine to make it intoxicating (Isa 5:22; Pr 9:2, 5), so Jehovah has poured among them a spirit of giddiness, so that they are as helpless as a "drunken man."
15. work for Egypt--nothing which Egypt can do to extricate itself
from the difficulty.
17. Judah . . . terror unto Egypt--not by itself: but
at this time Hezekiah was the active subordinate ally of Assyria in its
invasion of Egypt under Sargon. Similarly to the alliance of Judah with
Assyria here is
where Josiah takes the field against Pharaoh-nechoh of Egypt, probably
as ally of Assyria against Egypt [G. V. SMITH].
VITRINGA explains it that Egypt in its calamities
would remember that prophets of Judah had foretold them, and so Judah
would be "a terror unto Egypt."
18-22. In that day, &c.--Suffering shall lead to repentance. Struck
with "terror" and "afraid"
because of Jehovah's judgments, Egypt shall be converted to Him: nay,
even Assyria shall join in serving Him; so that Israel, Assyria, and
Egypt, once mutual foes, shall be bound together by the tie of a common
faith as one people. So a similar issue from other prophecies
(Isa 18:7; 23:18).