Isaiah 19:1-25

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19:1. Masoretic Text: A pronouncement [regarding] Egypt. Look! YHWH is riding on a swift cloud and coming to Egypt. And idols [literally, “worthless things”] will tremble before him [literally, “his face”], and the heart of Egypt will melt within its midst.

Septuagint: Vision [regarding] Egypt. Look! The Lord is sitting on a swift cloud and will come to Egypt, and the handmade things [idols] of Egypt will be shaken before him [literally, “his face”], and their heart will be overcome in them.

The Hebrew expression translated “before him” may also be understood as having a causal significance (“because of him”).

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the “cup of cursing” that would be given “to Egypt to drink.”

Commentary

The Hebrew word massá’ is commonly understood to mean a “pronouncement,” “oracle,” “utterance,” or “burden.” Whereas the Vulgate renders the term as onus (“load” or “burden”), the Septuagint reads “vision,” indicating this to have been the means by which the prophet received the “pronouncement” or message.

Instead of trusting in YHWH, many in the kingdom of Judah looked to Egypt for military aid to ensure their security. The “pronouncement” revealed that their reliance on Egypt would lead to disappointment, for Egypt would experience calamity.

YHWH’s sitting on a “swift cloud” indicated that the cloud moved rapidly. This suggests that there would be no delay in his coming to Egypt for judgment but that it would soon occur. The idols of Egypt were worthless things, for the deities they represented were nonexistent and could not provide any aid. Therefore, the idols, mere “handmade things” (LXX), are portrayed as trembling in fear at YHWH’s presence. According to the Septuagint rendering, these “handmade things” would be shaken. The “heart” of Egypt is representative of the collective courage of the people. That courage would fail them, as if melting and thus losing all strength.

19:2. Masoretic Text: And I will incite Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight — a man against his brother and a man against his companion, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.

Septuagint: And Egyptians will be incited against Egyptians, and a man will fight his brother and a man his companion, city against city and nome against nome.

Commentary

This depicts a total breakdown of Egyptian unity, with resulting internal conflicts. On an individual level, people would turn against their own brothers and companions. The inhabitants of one city would rise up against the inhabitants of another city, and the people of one “kingdom,” “nome” or province would war against the people of another “kingdom.”

19:3. Masoretic Text: And the spirit of Egypt will be disturbed in its midst, and I will confound its counsel. And they will consult the idols [literally, “worthless things”] and the ventriloquists and the mediums and the fortune-tellers.

Septuagint: And the spirit of the Egyptians will be troubled within them, and I will scatter their counsel. And they will consult their gods and their idols and those resounding [with a voice] out of the earth and the ventriloquists [literally, “speakers from the belly”].

Commentary

Egypt would be plunged into chaos, with the prevailing spirit among the people being one of confusion and anxiety. There would seem to be no way out of their distressing situation. According to the prophetic words, YHWH is the one who would frustrate every plan. This would be by reason of his permitting the Egyptians to experience the troubled state.

In their desperation, they would consult their idols (the deities the images represented) and the practicers of occult arts. The exact nature of the terms applied to those to whom the Egyptians looked for guidance cannot be determined from the context. According to Isaiah 8:19, inquiring of the dead was one of the occult practices. The Septuagint rendering suggests that they conveyed messages in other than a normal voice. Among them were persons whose words appeared to come out of the ground and ventriloquists or speakers from the belly.

19:4. Masoretic Text: And I will deliver the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master, and a strong king will rule over them, says the Lord, YHWH of hosts.

Septuagint: And I will deliver Egypt into the hands of men, hard masters, and hard kings will dominate them. This [is what] the Lord Sabaoth says.

“Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “armies” or “hosts.” It identifies YHWH as having hosts of angels in his service.

Commentary

On account of what YHWH would allow to befall the Egyptians, he is the one portrayed as delivering them into the hand of a “hard,” severe, or cruel “master” (“masters” [LXX]). History confirms that the Egyptians did suffer at the hands of foreign powers. Assyrian monarch Esar-haddon invaded Egypt and, in his annals, boasted that he hit Tirhakah the king of Egypt five times with his arrows, laid siege to Memphis, deported the Ethiopians from Egypt, and appointed new officials in the country that would be answerable to him. Later, Assyrian king Ashurbanipal carried out a punitive campaign against Egypt after news reached him about the rebellion of Tirhakah, who had taken up residence in Memphis. When Tirhakah’s warriors were defeated, he fled to Thebes, which city Ashurbanipal thereafter conquered. In the latter part of the sixth century BCE, the Persian king Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, subdued the country. After the death of Cambyses, the Egyptians rebelled, but Darius the Great reconquered Egypt. It is not possible, however, to identify any of these rulers specifically as having been the “hard master.”

19:5. Masoretic Text: And the waters will be dried up from the sea, and the river will be parched and dry.

Septuagint: And the Egyptians will drink the water [that is] by the sea, but the river will fail and dry up.

Commentary

At flood stage, the Nile was considerably wider and so may here be referred to as the “sea.” (See flood stage for an example of what the Nile looked like when flooded.) Egypt’s prosperity depended on the Nile, as its waters were needed for irrigation. Without any significant flooding of the Nile, it would not be a “sea” and so could be referred to as drying up. The rendering of the Septuagint seems to reflect the time when the Egyptians could not drink the water from the Nile but had to dig along the river bank to obtain water for drinking. (Exodus 7:24) The drying up of the river (the Nile) would have had disastrous consequences for the entire country. (See Nile for pictures and additional information about the river.)

19:6. Masoretic Text: And canals will stink. The streams of Egypt will be diminished and parched. Reed and rush will rot away.

Septuagint: And the rivers and the canals of the river will fail, and every collection of water will dry up, even in every marsh of reed and papyrus.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the definite article precedes the term rendered “canals,” and the conjunction “and” appears before the phrase about the “streams of Egypt.” After the words translated “reed and rush,” this scroll (the Great Isaiah Scroll) reads, “and they will rot away,” but the words of another Dead Sea Scroll are the same as those in the Masoretic Text.

Commentary

The canals may have been the channels through which water for irrigation flowed. As these would begin to dry up, whatever stagnant water remained would begin to stink. The water level of the streams from the Nile would drop and become dry. Reeds and rushes, particularly papyrus, would die and rot from lack of water. According to the Septuagint, places where any water had collected (as in small pools) would dry up, as would the marshes where reeds and papyrus had formerly flourished.

19:7. Masoretic Text: Reeds [‘aráh] by the stream [the Nile], on the bank [literally, “mouth”] of the stream, and everything sown along the stream will dry up, be blown away, and be no more.

Septuagint: And the grass, all greenery around the river, and everything sown along the river will be dried up, blasted [by wind].

Commentary

A measure of uncertainty exists about the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘aráh, which lexicographers have suggested as meaning “bare place” and “reed.” Renderings found in translations include “bare places” (ESV, NRSV), “meadows” (ASV), “mosses” (Margolis), “Nile papyrus” (Tanakh), “lotus” (REB), “Nile plants” (NJB), “bulrushes” (NAB), “plants” (NIV), and “greenery” (NLT).

All the cultivated areas along the Nile would dry up for lack of water. The withered plants would be blown away, and no cultivated crops or any other plants would remain.

19:8. Masoretic Text: And the fishermen will mourn, and all those casting a fish hook into the stream [the Nile] will lament, and those spreading nets on the surface of the waters will languish.

Septuagint: And the fishermen will moan, and all those casting a fish hook into the river will moan, and those casting dragnets and those using casting nets will mourn.

Commentary

A significant drop in the level of the Nile would adversely affect the livelihood of fishermen. Whether using a hook, a dragnet, or a circular casting net, fishermen would labor in vain. They would groan and lament on account of the unfavorable condition that resulted from the drying up of the Nile. The fishermen would “languish,” pine away, or become completely disheartened.

19:9. Masoretic Text: And workers in combed flax will be ashamed, also those weaving white fabric.

Septuagint: And shame will seize those working the split flax and those working the linen.

Commentary

Lack of water for irrigation would ruin the flax crop. An insufficient supply of flax would bring a halt to the manufacture of linen, bringing “shame” or bitter disappointment and grief to all who were engaged in this enterprise.

In his Natural History (XIX, 3), Pliny the Elder describes the process of making linen from flax. “In our part of the world the ripeness of flax is usually ascertained by two signs, the swelling of the seed, and its assuming a yellowish tint. It is then pulled up by the roots, made up into small sheaves that will just fill the hand, and hung to dry in the sun. It is suspended with the roots upwards the first day, and then for the five following days the heads of the sheaves are placed, reclining one against the other, in such a way that the seed which drops out may fall into the middle.

“After the wheat harvest is over, the stalks of flax are plunged in water that has been warmed in the sun, and are then submitted to pressure with a weight; for there is nothing known that is more light and buoyant than this. When the outer coat is loosened, it is a sign that the stalks have been sufficiently steeped; after which they are again turned with the heads downwards, and left to dry as before in the sun: when thoroughly dried, they are beaten with a tow-mallet on a stone.

“The part that lies nearest to the outer coat is known by the name of ‘stuppa’; it is a flax of inferior quality, and is mostly employed for making the wicks of lamps. This, however, requires to be combed out with iron hatchels, until the whole of the outer skin is removed. The inner part presents numerous varieties of flax, esteemed respectively in proportion to their whiteness and their softness. Spinning flax is held to be an honorable employment for men even: the husks, or outer coats, are employed for heating furnaces and ovens. There is a certain amount of skill required in hatchelling flax and dressing it: it is a fair proportion for fifty pounds in the sheaf to yield fifteen pounds of flax combed out. When spun into thread, it is rendered additionally supple by being soaked in water and then beaten out upon a stone; and after it is woven into a tissue, it is again beaten with heavy maces: indeed, the more roughly it is treated the better it is.”

The work with “combed flax” or “split flax” (LXX) mentioned in the Isaiah passage appears to relate to the labor involved after the fibers are separated and combed.

19:10. Masoretic Text: And it will occur that her foundations will be crushed. All who labor for wages [will be] grieved in soul.

Septuagint: And those weaving them will be in pain, and all those making beer will mourn, and they will suffer in the souls.

Unlike the Masoretic Text and the rendering of the Septuagint, the Targum of Isaiah continues with a focus on the water as the subject. At places where people drink from the water, these would be trampled down, including where “every man” collected water “as he wished.”

Commentary

There is uncertainty about the meaning of the form of the Hebrew word shath or sheth, here translated “foundations.” Among the other renderings (based on the views of lexicographers) for the Hebrew expression are “weavers” (NJB, NRSV) or “spinners” (NAB, REB), “drinkers” (Tanakh, footnote reading based on an emendation).

“Foundations” could refer to everyone and everything that provided stability for Egypt. The crushing of such foundations would result in chaos.

When the reference is understood to be to weavers or spinners, their being crushed could be descriptive of their downcast condition because of not having flax. According to the Septuagint rendering, they would be in “pain” or distress.

Without having the needed materials for doing work, hired laborers would have no jobs. They would be sad on account of not receiving any wages.

The Septuagint mentions those who make beer. Crop failures would also affect them, prompting them to mourn.

In this case, their being “grieved in soul” or suffering “in the souls” would mean that they themselves would be sorrowful or would suffer.

19:11. Masoretic Text: Princes of Zoan are surely foolish. The wise counselors of Pharaoh [give] senseless counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of kings of old”?

Septuagint: And the rulers of Tanis will be fools. The wise counselors of the king — their counsel will become foolish. How can you say to the king, “We are sons of the intelligent, sons of kings from the beginning”?

Commentary

Zoan or Tanis was an ancient Egyptian city situated in the northeastern part of the Nile Delta. When faced with the foretold calamity, the princes of Zoan would prove to be foolish, unable to offer any advice that would result in a favorable outcome for the Egyptians. Pharaoh’s counselors likewise would only come up with ineffectual advice, revealing their counsel to be senseless. These counselors then would have no basis for claiming to be wise, being sons of sages and coming from a line of ancient kings. The claim about kings could be understood to mean descendants of kings or persons having been taught the wisdom of kings from of old. The implication of the claim would be that their link to ancient royalty gave them a heritage of wisdom.

19:12. Masoretic Text: Where then [are] your wise men? And let them tell you now and make known what YHWH of hosts has counseled against Egypt.

Septuagint: Where now are your wise ones? And let them announce to you and say what the Lord Sabaoth has counseled against Egypt.

“Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “armies” or “hosts.”

Commentary

According to the fifth-century Greek writer Herodotus (Histories, II, 160), the Egyptians were the “wisest of men.” Regardless of their reputation, their “wisdom” would prove to be of no value in dealing with what YHWH had determined regarding Egypt. The question in verse 12 presented a challenge to the Egyptians. Where were the men in Egypt who had the wisdom to know what YHWH had purposed regarding their country? By implication, the question included the thought whether they had the needed wisdom to avoid having YHWH’s adverse judgment expressed against them? As the one with hosts of angels at his service, YHWH would without fail carry out his counsel or purpose.

19:13. Masoretic Text: Princes of Zoan have become foolish. Princes of Noph have been deceived. Rulers [literally, “corners”] of her tribes have misled Egypt.

Septuagint: The rulers of Tanis have failed, and the rulers of Memphis have been elevated. And they will deceive Egypt according to tribes.

In the Septuagint, the words “according to tribes” may be understood to mean “tribe by tribe.” In this context, the elevation of the rulers of Egypt could refer to their being exalted for being perceived as possessing remarkable wisdom.

Commentary

The rulers of Zoan or Tanis, a city in the northeastern part of the Nile Delta, are portrayed as becoming foolish, evidently because of their inability to do anything to prevent the calamity from befalling them and the rest of the people. They would not be able to do anything to protect themselves nor anyone else, and their advice would be shown up as having been senseless. According to the Septuagint rendering, they failed, suggesting that, at the time of calamity, nothing they advised nor did had any value in dealing with the dire situation.

Noph or Memphis has commonly been identified with a site south of Cairo. The deception to which the princes became victims related to the thinking that they had the wisdom to escape the calamity that the word of YHWH decreed to befall them.

The reference to “tribes” may be to the people living in the different nomes of Egypt. On the basis of what the “rulers” or the prominent ones (comparable to the supporting “corners” of a building) counseled regarding future developments, the people were deceived, being lulled into a false sense of security.

19:14. Masoretic Text: YHWH has mixed a spirit of confusion within her. And they have made Egypt to stagger in all its [literally, “his”] dealings, like a drunkard staggers in his vomit.

Septuagint: For the Lord has mixed a spirit of deception for them, and they have deceived Egypt in all their works, like the drunkard and the one vomiting are deceived together.

Commentary

YHWH’s mixing a “spirit of confusion in her midst” probably relates to his leaving the people in the land of Egypt in a state of bewilderment. No one would be able to provide any sound advice for dealing with the distressing circumstances into which Egypt would be plunged. As a result, the people would be in a confused state, with no clear direction. They would be like persons unable to walk straight. In all that would be undertaken, Egypt would be in a state of confusion, comparable to the staggering of a man who is so drunk as to induce vomiting.

The Septuagint rendering seems to identify the prominent ones of Tanis and Memphis as coming to be in the deluded state that God “mixed” or “prepared” for them. As persons deceived, they could only offer advice that would deceive the people. Therefore, “in all their works” (or in everything they would undertake), the Egyptians would be deceived. They would find themselves as having followed the wrong course and nothing they did would result in a favorable outcome. Their experience would prove to be like that of a drunkard and a man who has overindulged in drink to the point of vomiting. Both are deceived by the initial pleasurable effect from the intoxicating drink, which leads them to the harmful results from drunkenness.

19:15. Masoretic Text: And [there] will not be for Egypt a deed that head and tail, shoot [kippáh] and reed [’agmón], can do.

Septuagint: And [there] will not be for the Egyptians a work that could make head and tail, beginning and end.

Commentary

The Targum of Isaiah is specific in identifying the ones who would cease to be among the Egyptians. They would have no king, no head, no leader, no ruler, and no tyrant. In the Hebrew text, the reference to the “head” is to the prominent ones in Israel and to the “tail” is to the ones who followed and supported the wishes and aims of the leading members of the nation. The Septuagint rendering appears to convey a different sense, representing the Egyptians at all levels of society as being unable to bring anything to a successful outcome in view of what they would be facing.

The Hebrew noun kippáh denotes “shoot” or “frond” and designates those who were “great,” being in a lofty position like a frond on a palm tree. Those referred to as the “tail” are like a “reed,” “rush,” or “bulrush” (meanings assigned to the Hebrew term ’agmón). Instead of being high up like a branch or a shoot on a tree, they were like a lowly reed sprouting from the ground.

19:16. In that day Egypt will be like women and tremble and be in dread because of the waving [tenupháh] of the hand of YHWH of hosts, which he is shaking over it.

Septuagint: But in that day the Egyptians will be like women in fear and in trembling before the face of the hand of the Lord Sabaoth, which he himself will cast on them.

The Hebrew expression rendered “because of” is the word “face” preceded by a preposition, and the Septuagint literally follows the Hebrew. In view of the apparent causal significance, this expression has been translated “because of.”

“Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that means “armies” or hosts” and identifies YHWH as having hosts of angels in his service.

Commentary

For Egypt, or the people of Egypt, to become like women would signify that the Egyptians would prove to be weak and defenseless. They would tremble in fear and be filled with dread.

The Hebrew word tenupháh commonly has been defined as meaning “waving,” “swinging,” or “brandishing.” Another suggested meaning is “lifting up” or “raising.” Translations vary in their renderings. “On that day the Egyptians shall be like women, trembling with fear, because of the LORD of hosts shaking his fist at them.” (NAB) “In that day shall Egypt be like unto women; and it shall tremble and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which He shaketh over it.” (Margolis) “On that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the Lord of hosts raises against them.” (NRSV) “In that day, the Egyptians shall be like women, trembling and terrified because the LORD of Hosts will raise His hand against them.” (Tanakh) Whether the reference is to the waving of the hand back and forth in a threatening manner or to the raising of the hand to strike, the basic meaning is the same. The Egyptians would be terrified of YHWH’s hand or of his power that would be directed against them by military forces that he would permit to invade their land.

19:17. Masoretic Text: And the land of Judah will become confusion for Egypt. Everyone to whom one mentions it will be afraid because of the counsel of YHWH of hosts, which he has counseled against it.

Septuagint: And the country of the Judeans will be for dread to the Egyptians. Everyone who would name it to them — they [to whom it was mentioned] will be afraid because of the counsel that the Lord has counseled against it [Egypt].

In view of its causal significance, the Hebrew expression consisting of a preposition followed by the word “face” is rendered “because of” (as it is in the Septuagint).

Commentary

YHWH is recognized as God in the land of Judah. Therefore, the mere mention of the “land of Judah” by reason of its association with YHWH would fill the Egyptians with dread, resulting in their confusion or reeling in terror. The fear would be prompted on account of the calamity that YHWH, the God with hosts of angels in his service, had purposed to befall Egypt.

19:18. Masoretic Text: In that day [there] will be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan and swearing to YHWH of hosts. The City of Destruction will one [of them] be called.

Septuagint: In that day [there] will be five cities in Egypt speaking the Canaanite language and swearing in the name of the Lord. City Asedek will the one city be called.

“Asedek” appears to be a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “righteousness.”

Commentary

Subsequent to the judgment that would befall Egypt, there would be a positive development in the land. Five cities in Egypt would become locations where the language of Canaan would be spoken. This would be Hebrew, the language of the Israelites. In the five cities, YHWH would be acknowledged as the true God with hosts of angels in his service. The inhabitants would swear loyalty to him, or swear by or “in his name” (LXX), indicating that they were devoted to him as his worshipers.

The Septuagint rendering for one of the five cities (“City of Righteousness”) suggests that the name “City of Destruction” could mean a city devoted exclusively for a sacred purpose. This is because something devoted could either be devoted to God for sacred use or devoted to destruction as if sacrificed to him. Another possibility is to regard the reference to destruction to signify the destruction of idolatry in the city and its resultant transformation into a place devoted to the worship of YHWH.

The Targum of Isaiah says that “Beth-shemesh” (“House of the Sun”), a city that was about to be laid waste, would be one of the five cities where the language of Canaan would be spoken. In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the reading is “City of the Sun,” and this is also the rendering in the Vulgate (civitas Solis). This could be understood to signify that a place where sun worship had been prominent would become a city where YHWH would come to be revered.

After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the temple there, a remnant of the Israelites that had not been taken into exile fled to Egypt, fearing that there would be reprisals because of the assassination of Gedaliah, the governor who functioned as the representative of Babylon. Thus Egypt came to have a distinct Jewish community that did speak the Hebrew language.

There is yet another aspect, however, that may be considered. Because Hebrew was the language of God’s people, the meaning could be that, among the Egyptians, there would be those who would become worshipers of YHWH after the time of judgment and thus they would come to speak the same language as the Israelites.

19:19. Masoretic Text: In that day [there] will be an altar to YHWH in the midst of the land of Egypt and a pillar to YHWH by its boundary.

Septuagint: In that day [there] will be an altar to the Lord in the country of the Egyptians and a stele to the Lord at its boundary.

Commentary

In the sixth century BCE, a temple for the worship of YHWH existed in the land of Egypt, and sacrifices were offered on the altar there. A papyrus letter (written in Aramaic) from the fifth century BCE says that, when Cambyses came to Egypt, he found this temple in Elephantine. Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great who conquered Babylon with the military forces under his command, died in 522 BCE. This means that, before the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, a functioning temple existed in Egypt. According to the letter, the temple in Elephantine was destroyed at the instigation of Vidaranag. His son Nefayan led Egyptians with other forces to Elephantine and leveled the temple to the ground.

The letter from the fifth century BCE is addressed to “Bagoas, governor of Judah,” and petitioned him for support in having the temple rebuilt. (For a digitized facsimile copy of this letter and additional comments, see letter.) Another document from the fifth century BCE contains the instruction from Bagoas and Delaiah (son of Sanballat the governor of Samaria) that the temple be rebuilt.

It may have been after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that the Jews in Egypt, based on the prophetic words of Isaiah, regarded it as appropriate to build a temple and to offer sacrifices there. Although there is no preserved evidence about when the temple was built in Egypt, one conjecture for a much earlier date is that the deplorable circumstances during the reign of King Manasseh prompted many in the realm to flee to Egypt and thereafter to build a temple. (2 Kings 21:2-16; 2 Chronicles 33:2-9) In his Antiquities (X, iii, 1), the Jewish historian Josephus, while referring to Manasseh as having slain “all the righteous men,” did not mention that Judeans fled to Egypt to escape persecution. It seems unusual that Josephus would have failed to include such a significant development in his account, and this raises a serious question about the validity of the conjecture.

A possibility exists for an explanation that does not involve a literal temple and altar in Egypt. The thought expressed may be that, in a land where many altars and pillars had been erected for numerous deities, there would be an altar for sacrificing to YHWH and a pillar serving as a memorial to him. The mention of an “altar”and a “pillar” may simply be a tangible way to portray that true worship would come to have a significant role in Egypt. This did prove to be the case. The first translation of the sacred writings from Hebrew into Greek began in Egypt, and the Greek translation (commonly known as the Septuagint) had a significant part in advancing true worship in the Greco-Roman world. Additionally, at an early date communities of believers in Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ existed. Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt, spoke in the synagogues about Jesus. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him in the synagogue at Ephesus, they thereafter assisted him to a fuller understanding of the glad tidings about Jesus Christ. Subsequently Apollos did much in advancing Jesus Christ’s interests. (Acts 18:24-28)

19:20. Masoretic Text: And it will be a sign and a witness to YHWH of hosts in the land of Egypt. For they will cry to YHWH because of oppressors, and he [YHWH] will send them a savior and [that one] will contend for and deliver them.

Septuagint: And it will be for a sign always [literally, “into the age”] to the Lord in the country of Egypt. For they will cry to the Lord because of those oppressing them, and the Lord will send them a man who will save them; judging, he will save them.

In view of its causal significance, the Hebrew expression consisting of a preposition followed by the word “face” is rendered “because of” (as it is in the Septuagint).

The meaning “contend” is based on linking the Hebrew word to riv. A number of translations, however, contain a rendering drawn from the Hebrew root rav, meaning “great.” “And he will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and he will deliver them.” (NKJV) “And He sendeth to them a saviour, even a great one.” (Young)

Commentary

The purpose of the “pillar” is for it to serve as a “sign and a testimony” (or a memorial), probably to indicate that YHWH could be called upon for aid in the land of Egypt. On account of experiencing oppression, Egyptians would cry out to YHWH for relief. He would answer their outcry, sending them a savior who would come to their defense and deliver them. When regarded as a Messianic prophecy, the words of Isaiah indicate that the “savior” is Jesus, the promised Messiah or Christ, who would deliver Egyptians (those among them who turn to God through Jesus Christ) from the heavy burden of sin.

19:21. Masoretic Text: And YHWH will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know YHWH in that day and serve [him] with sacrifice and offering, and they will vow a vow to YHWH and fulfill it.

Septuagint: And the Lord will be known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day. And they will make sacrifices and will vow vows to the Lord and pay [them].

Commentary

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH would reveal his might to the Egyptians by doing good to them. This “good,” as evident from the previous verse, is his delivering them from oppressors. In this way, he would make himself known as the God on whom they could depend, and they would know or recognize him as their God, one whom they would serve and to whom they would make their vows and thereafter fulfill them.

Serving YHWH is expressed in keeping with the then-existing arrangement for sacrifice and vows. In relation to the future when Egyptians and peoples of other nations would come to know YHWH, worship would not depend on any geographical location nor the presentation of animals in sacrifice and the compliance with specific regulations relating to vows. As Jesus Christ explained to a Samaritan woman, worship that is acceptable to God must be “in spirit and truth.” Being “in spirit,” such worship is not dependent on anything of a material nature. It should harmonize with the truth God has revealed about himself, particularly through his Son, and so should reflect who God is (based on the complete revelation he has provided). Being “in truth,” such worship would be genuine and not a mere expression of the lips or a ritualistic routine. (John 4:24)

19:22. Masoretic Text: And YHWH will strike Egypt, striking and healing; and they will return to YHWH, and he will be supplicated by them, and he will heal them.

Septuagint: And the Lord will strike the Egyptians with a great blow, and he will heal them with a healing; and they will return to the Lord, and he will hear them and heal them.

Commentary

After experiencing YHWH’s punitive action, the Egyptians would have the opportunity to be healed, coming to enjoy an approved relationship with him. This would require their returning to YHWH, repenting of their sins. He would then hear or respond favorably to their supplication, healing them.

From the fourth decade of the first century CE onward, healing meant forgiveness of sins on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death for sinners. This included the Egyptians who had formerly been in a state of alienation from God and had in the past warred against his people.

19:23. Masoretic Text: In that day [there] will be a highway from Egypt to Asshur [Assyria], and Asshur will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Asshur; and the Egyptians will serve with Asshur.

Septuagint: In that day [there] will be a way from Egypt to the Assyrians, and the Assyrians will enter into Egypt, and the Egyptians will go to the Assyrians; and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians.

A number of translations of the Septuagint have rendered the concluding phrase as meaning that the Egyptians would serve the Assyrians, but the words douleúsousin hoi Aigýptioi tois Assyríois can be translated as they are here. This rendering also harmonizes with the context and the Hebrew text.

The Targum of Isaiah conveys a negative sense, saying that the Assyrians would fight the Egyptians and that the Egyptians would fight the Assyrians. The context, however, does not support this interpretation.

Commentary

A highway from Egypt to Assyria would pass through the land of Israel, suggesting that the former hostilities would no longer exist but would be replaced by harmonious interaction. In the Hebrew text, the word for “serve” does not have an object. Based on the context, which identifies the Egyptians and the Assyrians as coming to have YHWH’s blessing, one may reasonably conclude that serving relates to their serving YHWH. A number of translations make this significance explicit in their renderings. “The Egyptians and the Assyrians will worship God together.” (NCV) “Then the Egyptians together with the Assyrians shall serve [the LORD].” (Tanakh) “Egyptians will worship with Assyrians.” (REB) This began to be fulfilled in the first century CE among those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Although they had formerly been at enmity with one another, they became part of a loving family of God’s approved children. (Ephesians 2:11-22; Titus 3:3-7)

19:24. Masoretic Text: In that day Israel will be a third with Egypt and Asshur [Assyria], a blessing in the midst of the earth,

Septuagint: In that day Israel will be a third among the Assyrians and among the Egyptians, being blessed in the earth,

Commentary

With Israel being a “third” and Egypt and Assyria each being a “third,” the former enemies would form one united whole. They would all have an equal standing, with no one occupying a more dominant position. The “blessing” in which the Egyptians and the Assyrians could share, however, would originate with Israel. This agrees with the promise God made to Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth will bless themselves [‘will be blessed,’ LXX].” (Genesis 22:18) That blessing is bound up with forgiveness of sins and everything this makes possible for all members of the human family. As Jesus Christ made known to a Samaritan woman, “Salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22) He is the “seed” of Abraham, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob according to the human ancestral line, and through him deliverance from sin was made possible for peoples of all nations.

19:25. Masoretic Text: him [Israel] whom YHWH of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be my people, Egypt; and the work of my hands, Asshur [Assyria], and my inheritance, Israel.”

Septuagint: which the Lord Sabaoth has blessed, saying, “Blessed be my people who [are] in Egypt and who [are] among the Assyrians and my inheritance, Israel.

“Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that means “hosts” or “armies” and identifies YHWH as the one with hosts of angels in his service.

The Septuagint rendering may be understood to mean that God’s people, Israelites, were living among the Assyrians and among the Egyptians and would be restored to an approved standing with him as blessed ones. The concluding conjunction “and” may be translated “even” (“even my inheritance, Israel”).

In the Targum of Isaiah, the meaning is definitely restricted to Israelites. They are referred to as the people whom YHWH brought out of Egypt and who, on account of their sin, had been taken into exile to Assyria and thereafter had repented. YHWH is represented as saying, “Now that they have repented, they will be called, My people and my inheritance, even Israel.”

Commentary

Unlike the Targum of Isaiah and the Septuagint, the Hebrew text represents YHWH as identifying the Egyptians as his people and the Assyrians as his creation and, therefore, as belonging to him. Israel is his inheritance, being the people whom he had specifically chosen as his possession in keeping with his oath-bound promise to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 7:7-10)

The prophetic acknowledgment ascribed to YHWH indicated that peoples formerly alienated from him would come to be recognized as his own. He made this possible by sending his Son to the earth and having him surrender his life for the human family. In this way, people everywhere, though formerly at enmity with God as were the Egyptians and the Assyrians, have been reconciled to him through their faith in Jesus Christ.