Isaiah 19

The Word Made Fresh

1An oracle regarding Egypt:
Do you see? The LORD rides on a cloud moving quickly,
and comes to Egypt.
 The idols of Egypt will tremble,
  and the hearts of the Egyptians will melt within them.
2I will turn the Egyptians on themselves
  and they will fight against each other,
   neighbor against neighbor,
   city against city, kingdom against kingdom.
3The spirit of Egypt within them will be poured out,
  and I will confuse their plans.
They will consult idols and dead spirits
  and ghosts and popular beliefs.
4But I will give the Egyptians over to the authority of a hard master.
  A fierce and angry king will rule over them,
   says the LORD of hosts, the sovereign God.

5The Nile River will dry up, parched and empty.
6Its canals will stink and be fouled
and the branches of the Nile will become empty and dry.
  The reeds and rushes shall rot away.
7The land around the Nile will become bare,
and every seed sown beside the Nile will perish,
  driven away to be no more.
8Those who go there to fish will be sorrowful,
  and everyone who casts hooks in the Nile will mourn,
and those who throw nets in the Nile will gather nothing.
9Those who work with flax will despair,
and those who weave fine linen will lose hope.
10The weavers will be dismayed
and all who hire themselves out for wages will be aggrieved.

11The royal princes in Zoan are completely stupid;
Pharaoh’s counselors will give foolish advise.
They will no longer be able to say to Pharaoh,
“I am wise; I am a descendant of the kings of old.”
12So, where are your wise men now?
  If they tell you they are wise, tell them to reveal
  what the LORD of hosts has planned against Egypt.
13The princes of Zoan are fools. The princes of Memphis are in delusion.
Tribal leaders have led the Egyptians astray.
14And now the LORD has given them over to delusional ideas,
and has made Egypt confused in everything it does,
like a drunkard staggering in his own vomit.
15Nothing, not head nor tail nor palm branch nor reed
will be able to do anything for Egypt.

16When these things happen, the Egyptian people will be like frightened women, and shudder fearfully before the hand of God that is raised against them. 17Then the land of Judah will terrify the Egyptians. Everyone who mentions Judah will shudder in fear because of the plan the LORD Almighty has shaped for them.

18When that day comes there will be five cities in Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear to be followers of the LORD Almighty. One of these cities will be known as City of the Sun.

19Then there will be an altar to the LORD in the middle of Egypt’s land, and a monument to the LORD on the border. 20They will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in Egypt’s land. When they cry to the LORD because they are being oppressed, the LORD will send them a savior to defend them and rescue them. The LORD will be known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD that day, and will worship with sacrifices and burnt offerings. They will make promises to the LORD and keep them. 22That is how the LORD will treat Egypt; by striking them and healing them. And they will return to the LORD. And the LORD will hear their prayers and supplications and bring them healing.

23Then there will be a road from Egypt all the way to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come to Egypt and the Egyptians will go to Assyria and worship with the Assyrians. 24Then Israel will be the third party in an alliance with Egypt and Assyria, and it will a great blessing in the earth. 25because the LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Let my people Egypt, and Assyria whom I have made, and my heritage Israel, be blessed.”


1-4: The first twelve chapters of Isaiah dealt with God’s judgment on Judah and God’s plan for their eventual restoration and the establishment of Mt. Zion as an international religious center. Beginning with chapter 13 we have had a progression of pronouncements against Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, and Ethiopia. Now the prophet turns to Egypt, a perennial power in that part of the world. Egypt is condemned for worshiping idols. Isaiah sees God sweeping into Egypt like a storm, and prophesies civil war in that country. The war will result in their being ruled by a “hard master, a fierce king.” War between factions in Egypt was not an uncommon occurrence, making it difficult for scholars to pin down a specific event to which the prophecy might correspond.

5-10: He pictures a drought so severe that the Nile is dried up. The economy of Egypt was directly tied to the regular flood stages of the Nile. When those floods did not materialize the canals dried up, the flax crop failed, and the country was thrown into crisis.

11-15: Zoan (also called Tanis) and Memphis (also called Noph) were both Egyptian throne cities. Zoan was located in the Nile delta region in the north and Memphis was further up the Nile a little south of modern Cairo. The reference to civil war in verse 2 may be related to the rivalry between these two cities.

16-17: These verses begin a section of five pronouncements about Egypt. Isaiah imagines that the Egyptians will cower like frightened women at the mention of Judah. Quite an imagination, I’d say.

18: There is evidence that Canaanite dialects were indeed spoken in certain parts of Egypt around 500 B. C. and likely much earlier. We also know that the Jews had pockets of converts scattered throughout Egypt.

19-22: He imagines the Egyptians turning whole-heartedly to the worship of Israel’s God.

23: Isaiah foresees a remarkable reign of peace and cooperation between the two great powers of the day, Assyria and Egypt.

24-25: Israel, located between Egypt and Assyria, is envisioned as co-equals with them. So far as we know, such a situation never came to pass.


Isaiah’s vision about the future of Israel’s primary enemies – Egypt and Assyria – surely gave the Israelites hope that God would indeed rescue them from their enemies. He hasn’t told them (yet?) that their rescue would come in the guise of a baby born in Bethlehem.