The LORD’s Burden Against Egypt
An uncertain future lies ahead for the country of Egypt. They have experienced devastating terror attacks, (see here) national riots, protests, and political upheaval. Riots and a political take-over, initiated by the Muslim Brotherhood, forced the military to take control of the country. General Sisi now leads the country but he faces fierce opposition inside and outside his country.
There is a lot of uncertainty and concern for the future. Today this is one of the greatest of the many Arab-dominant countries in the world. Their past is glorious and rich. The future–only God knows.
The prophet Isaiah served the Lord God from approximately 740 bc to 680 bc. His primary message was directed toward the Nation of Judah, and secondarily to the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel. But God’s word, from the prophet, went beyond the Jewish people. God, as the creator of all people, often spoke to the surrounding nations. His messages were almost always a rebuke and a warning, often giving details of impending doom.
As we exist today in the 21st century we can look a long way back into the time of the prophet Isaiah. When we read his words the temptation is to assume his message reaches all the way to today. In the case of Egypt, and the prophecy of chapter nineteen, we must ask if any of the prophecies have already occurred.
It does seem likely that a lot of the prophecies in this chapter have seen a historical fulfillment. Some though look like they will see a future fulfillment.
Let’s take a look at the chapter.
The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst. “I will set Egyptians against Egyptians; everyone will fight against his brother, and every one against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. The spirit of Egypt will fail in its midst; I will destroy their counsel, and they will consult the idols and the charmers, the mediums, and the sorcerers. And the Egyptians I will give into the hand of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them,” says the Lord, the LORD of hosts.
The burden against Egypt:
Isaiah uses the familiar word, ‘burden’ in his prophecy. This referred to a heavy load the prophet carried and must ‘unload’ on the subject of the prophecy. The Lord had a message for the country. The nation, once led by great pharaohs, was subject to the Mighty God who did not recognize their great leaders as anything but what they were–fallen and sinful men.
At this time in their history, their once great power was gone. They clung to their past glory but it had faded considerably. The powerful nations of the region were in Mesopotamia at the time of this writing. The glory of the golden Pharaohs was gone, gloom and judgment was their future.
The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence:
It is well known that Egyptians worshipped many gods. The Lord predicts their idols would totter and fall at the presence of the Almighty.
“In Isaiah’s day, there was no other nation on earth that was so much in the grip of superstition and filthy idolatry as Egypt. Apes, cats, frogs, crocodiles, lizards – everything was venerated by them.” (Bultema)
The idols of Egypt:
At the time of the Exodus, long before Isaiah’s day, God directed each of the plagues against a particular idol of Egypt.
He knocked over these false gods
- Khnum, the guardian of the Nile,
- Hapi, the spirit of the Nile,
- Osiris (who had the Nile as his bloodstream), when the waters were turned to blood.
- Heqt, the frog-goddess of fertility, with the plague of frogs.
- Hathor, a cow-like mother goddess, with the plague on livestock.
- Imhotep, the god of medicine, with the plague of boils.
- Nut, the sky goddess, with the plague of hail.
- the whole system of Egyptian worship of their gods with loathsome lice and swarms of insects.
- Seth thought to be the protector of crops, with the plague of locusts.
- And the god Ra thought to be the sun god, with the plague of darkness.
- Osiris, the Egyptian god thought to be the giver of life,
- And the supposed deity of Pharaoh himself, with the plague against the firstborn.
I will set Egyptians against Egyptians:
Isaiah prophesies about a coming civil war. Historical records allow us to look back and see the results of what the prophet spoke. The country broke into many factions and the Egyptians were at war with each other. History reveals yet again, God’s Word is true.
“Not many years after this time it was divided into twelve several kingdoms, between whom there were many and cruel wars, as is related by the historians of those times.” (Poole)
The spirit of Egypt will fail…I will destroy their counsel:
This passage brings in an interesting idea. This “Spirit of Egypt,” could be a reference to an angelic entity that had influence over the rulers of the country. Paul the Apostle wrote about “powers and principalities.” Daniel the prophet wrote about Angelic beings who hold power over a country or region. This idea is foreign to our thinking but the Bible supports these ideas. There is a ‘war’ going on, its a war over the future of humanity. It sounds like science fiction but its real.
Has God said?
From the moment the snake in the garden inticed Eve with the words, “Has God said,” the war was on. Satan would not rest until he could wrestle control away from God. Control of what? Satan has legions of angelic beings at his disposal, some more powerful than others. He uses those rebellious followers (We can call them demons if you like.) to control what mankind thinks or believes. In this case regarding Egypt, as in many others, he is able to control countries when they blindly follow frogs, rivers, and the sun as gods. He wanted then and still fights today to have control over every person and nation.
Fictional?–not at all.
The spirit of Egypt fell to God. The counsel of the false gods and their so-called wise men the Pharaoh trusted in were exposed as liars.
The LORD strikes Egypt by drying up the Nile, thus wrecking their economy.
The waters will fail from the sea, and the river will be wasted and dried up. The rivers will turn foul; the brooks of defense will be emptied and dried up; the reeds and rushes will wither. The papyrus reeds by the River, by the mouth of the River, and everything sown by the River, will wither, be driven away, and be no more. The fishermen also will mourn; all those will lament who cast hooks into the River, and they will languish who spread nets on the waters. Moreover, those who work in fine flax and those who weave fine fabric will be ashamed; and its foundations will be broken. All who make wages will be troubled of soul.
The river will be wasted and dried up:
The Nile River was and is still the key to Egypt’s agriculture and economy. For it to suffer a severe drought would have a devastating effect on the lives of every Egyptian. God promised this would happen as a judgment against Egypt. It had an impact on every part of Egyptian society. To them, the river was protected by a god. The One and only True God always has the last say when people trust in false gods.
The LORD judged Egypt by allowing them to trust in foolish counsel.
Surely the princes of Zoan are fools; Pharaoh’s wise counselors give foolish counsel. How do you say to Pharaoh, “I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?” Where are they? Where are your wise men? Let them tell you now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools; the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also deluded Egypt, those who are the mainstay of its tribes. The LORD has mingled a perverse spirit in her midst; and they have caused Egypt to err in all her work, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit. Neither will there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, palm branch or bulrush, may do.
Surely the princes of Zoan are fools; Pharaoh’s wise counselors give foolish counsel:
When the Lord judged Egypt he gave them cruel rulers and foolish counselors. It’s a story we see repeated time and time again across the span of human history. Foolish leaders want to hear lies told to them. They hire fools to tell them they are great and their empires will live forever. The leaders and counselors die as the fools they are. It is foolish, so the Bible tells us, to trust in any god but the One God.
In that day Egypt will be like women, and will be afraid and fear because of the waving of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which He waves over it. And the land of Judah will be a terror to Egypt; everyone who makes mention of it will be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts which He has determined against it.
Because of the waving of the hand of the LORD of hosts:
At the wave of his hand, the LORD makes his enemies cringe in fear. A great embarrassment often follows the waving of God’s hand. The tiny nation of Judah, the Hebrews, will strike fear in the Egyptians. What a humbling change for the once mighty golden empire of Egypt.
For thousands of years, the land of Judah was quiet and submissive to the power of the great Egyptian Empire. The LORD spoke of a day when Judah would become more powerful than Egypt. When Isaiah wrote about this, the power of Egypt and Israel were in decline. Today we see a remarkably different story. Israeli military forces are powerful beyond any time in their past. The Egyptian military is regaining strength but is far behind Israel’s abilities. From these verses until the end of the chapter we read of prophecies that point to a future fulfillment.
In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear by the LORD of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction. In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them. Then the LORD will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the LORD and perform it. And the LORD will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the LORD, and He will be entreated by them and heal them.
Five cities in the land of Egypt will…swear by the Lord of hosts…
Wow, try explaining this verse to Egyptians today. This is another example of specific numbers, places, dates etc. the Bible uses in its prophetic literature. The Five cities aren’t named but their citizens will devote themselves to the worship of the Jewish God. Can anyone imagine that happening today? I can’t. The Bible says it will happen so it will.
Today, in that country, if you are Jewish or Christian your life could be in danger. Even if you are Muslim and believe differently than other Muslims your life is in danger. Enormous spiritual changes are in store for this country. Changes that are unimaginable right now, but the Lord says they will happen.
An altar to the Lord:
Egypt will worship the LORD, with an altar to the LORD, and will memorialize God’s great works with a pillar to the LORD.
Some quotes and historical context:
“In the time of the Maccabees, the high priest Onias IV was forced to flee to Egypt, and there he built a temple that was similar to the one in Jerusalem. Some commentators relate the ‘altar’ of verse 19 to this structure.” (Wolf)
“The text says the Savior is a great one. Oh! I wanted a great Savior. A little Savior would not have answered my turn, for great sin wanted a great atonement, and my hard heart wanted great grace to soften it down.” (Spurgeon)
The Egyptians will know the LORD in that day: There did come to be a widespread knowledge of the LORD in Egypt. In the days of Jesus, more than a million Jews lived in Egypt. In the early days of Christianity, there was a strong, vital church in Egypt for more than 600 years.
This prophecy may have additional fulfillment during the Millennium, but it certainly has been fulfilled in history. In the fourth century, the great theologian Athanasius, wrote this from Egypt: “The thing is happening before our very eyes, here in Egypt; and thereby another prophecy is fulfilled, for at no other time have the Egyptians ceased from their false worship save when the Lord of all, riding as on a cloud, came down here in the body and brought the error of idols to nothing and won over everybody to Himself and through Himself to the Father.” (From On the Incarnation, cited by Grogan)
The altar and sacrifice described most likely are fulfilled during the Millennium, when sacrifice will be allowed as a memorial of Jesus’ great work, but never as atonement. “For just as restored Israel will bring blood sacrifices unto the Lord to keep in remembrance of the all-sufficient blood sacrifice of Christ, so this may also take place in Egypt on that memorable day.” (Bultema)
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria; a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”
Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria:
God promises the day will come when there will be peace between Israel, Egypt, and Assyria. There will be trade and travel between the three nations (a highway from Egypt to Assyria). In that day, the LORD will bless all three nations.
Blessed is Egypt, My people, and Assyria, the work of My hands, and Israel is My inheritance: What an amazing work of redemption! This shows that God’s salvation will extend to the nations, and He will call forth His own even from Egypt and Assyria, not only from Israel.
“In Isaiah’s day, Assyria was the one power feared by every little nation in the Fertile Crescent. The calculated brutality of the Assyrians probably made them more of an object of general hatred than any other nation of antiquity. The Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians were all capable of inhuman acts, but the Assyrian record for callous cruelty is difficult to parallel.” (Grogan)
“Who, standing amid the terrors of the plagues, could ever have supposed that Egypt would be addressed as ‘my people’? Who could have thought that Assyria, the tyrant persecutor, would ever be called ‘the work of my hands’? Yet these are the trophies and triumphs of divine grace.” (Meyer)
From this passage In Isaiah, the renowned teacher, and preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon makes these points about God’s grace:
- 1. Often comes to the very worst of men.
- 2. Sends a Savior.
- 3. Changes men’s language.
- 4. Sets men at holy service.
- 5. Teaches men to pray.
- 6. Instructs men.
- 7. Makes even trouble a blessing to a man.
- 8. Changes the relations of men to each other.
- 9. Makes men to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. (The Fruits of Grace)
There is a lot of uncertainty in the world, let alone what will happen in Egypt. An amazing change of spiritual heart is destined for the nation of Egypt. God said it would happen. We’ve waited for thousands of years. I guess we can wait a few years more. The world longs for peace, it will not arrive until there are changes and a great spiritual renewal across the globe. When those changes come, Egypt will be at the center of it, along with the nation of Israel.