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Isaiah 19:1--20:6

Context
The Lord Will Judge Egypt

19:1 Here is a message about Egypt:

Look, the Lord rides on a swift-moving cloud

and approaches Egypt.

The idols of Egypt tremble before him;

the Egyptians lose their courage. 1 

19:2 “I will provoke civil strife in Egypt, 2 

brothers will fight with each other,

as will neighbors,

cities, and kingdoms. 3 

19:3 The Egyptians will panic, 4 

and I will confuse their strategy. 5 

They will seek guidance from the idols and from the spirits of the dead,

from the pits used to conjure up underworld spirits, and from the magicians. 6 

19:4 I will hand Egypt over to a harsh master;

a powerful king will rule over them,”

says the sovereign master, 7  the Lord who commands armies.

19:5 The water of the sea will be dried up,

and the river will dry up and be empty. 8 

19:6 The canals 9  will stink; 10 

the streams of Egypt will trickle and then dry up;

the bulrushes and reeds will decay,

19:7 along with the plants by the mouth of the river. 11 

All the cultivated land near the river

will turn to dust and be blown away. 12 

19:8 The fishermen will mourn and lament,

all those who cast a fishhook into the river,

and those who spread out a net on the water’s surface will grieve. 13 

19:9 Those who make clothes from combed flax will be embarrassed;

those who weave will turn pale. 14 

19:10 Those who make cloth 15  will be demoralized; 16 

all the hired workers will be depressed. 17 

19:11 The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools; 18 

Pharaoh’s wise advisers give stupid advice.

How dare you say to Pharaoh,

“I am one of the sages,

one well-versed in the writings of the ancient kings?” 19 

19:12 But where, oh where, are your wise men? 20 

Let them tell you, let them find out

what the Lord who commands armies has planned for Egypt.

19:13 The officials of Zoan are fools,

the officials of Memphis 21  are misled;

the rulers 22  of her tribes lead Egypt astray.

19:14 The Lord has made them undiscerning; 23 

they lead Egypt astray in all she does,

so that she is like a drunk sliding around in his own vomit. 24 

19:15 Egypt will not be able to do a thing,

head or tail, shoots and stalk. 25 

19:16 At that time 26  the Egyptians 27  will be like women. 28  They will tremble and fear because the Lord who commands armies brandishes his fist against them. 29  19:17 The land of Judah will humiliate Egypt. Everyone who hears about Judah will be afraid because of what the Lord who commands armies is planning to do to them. 30 

19:18 At that time five cities 31  in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord who commands armies. One will be called the City of the Sun. 32  19:19 At that time there will be an altar for the Lord in the middle of the land of Egypt, as well as a sacred pillar 33  dedicated to the Lord at its border. 19:20 It 34  will become a visual reminder in the land of Egypt of 35  the Lord who commands armies. When they cry out to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a deliverer and defender 36  who will rescue them. 19:21 The Lord will reveal himself to the Egyptians, and they 37  will acknowledge the Lord’s authority 38  at that time. 39  They will present sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them. 19:22 The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and then healing them. They will turn to the Lord and he will listen to their prayers 40  and heal them.

19:23 At that time there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will visit Egypt, and the Egyptians will visit Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 41  19:24 At that time Israel will be the third member of the group, along with Egypt and Assyria, and will be a recipient of blessing 42  in the earth. 43  19:25 The Lord who commands armies will pronounce a blessing over the earth, saying, 44  “Blessed be my people, Egypt, and the work of my hands, Assyria, and my special possession, 45  Israel!”

20:1 The Lord revealed the following message during the year in which King Sargon of Assyria sent his commanding general to Ashdod, and he fought against it and captured it. 46  20:2 At that time the Lord announced through 47  Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments 48  and barefoot. 20:3 Later the Lord explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush, 20:4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, both young and old. They will be in undergarments and barefoot, with the buttocks exposed; the Egyptians will be publicly humiliated. 49  20:5 Those who put their hope in Cush and took pride in Egypt will be afraid and embarrassed. 50  20:6 At that time 51  those who live on this coast 52  will say, ‘Look what has happened to our source of hope to whom we fled for help, expecting to be rescued from the king of Assyria! How can we escape now?’”

1 tn Heb “and the heart of Egypt melts within it.”

2 tn Heb I will provoke Egypt against Egypt” (NAB similar).

3 tn Heb “and they will fight, a man against his brother, and a man against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.” Civil strife will extend all the way from the domestic level to the provincial arena.

4 tn Heb “and the spirit of Egypt will be laid waste in its midst.”

5 tn The verb בָּלַע (bala’, “confuse”) is a homonym of the more common בָּלַע (bala’, “swallow”); see HALOT 135 s.v. I בלע.

6 tn Heb “they will inquire of the idols and of the spirits of the dead and of the ritual pits and of the magicians.” Hebrew אוֹב (’ov, “ritual pit”) refers to a pit used by a magician to conjure up underworld spirits. See the note on “incantations” in 8:19.

7 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

8 tn Heb “will dry up and be dry.” Two synonyms are joined for emphasis.

9 tn Heb “rivers” (so KJV, ASV); NAB, CEV “streams”; TEV “channels.”

10 tn The verb form appears as a Hiphil in the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa; the form in MT may be a so-called “mixed form,” reflecting the Hebrew Hiphil stem and the functionally corresponding Aramaic Aphel stem. See HALOT 276 s.v. I זנח.

11 tn Heb “the plants by the river, by the mouth of the river.”

12 tn Heb “will dry up, [being] scattered, and it will vanish.”

13 tn Or perhaps, “will disappear”; cf. TEV “will be useless.”

14 tn BDB 301 s.v. חוֹרִי suggests the meaning “white stuff” for חוֹרִי (khori); the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa has חָוֵרוּ (khaveru), probably a Qal perfect, third plural form of חוּר, (khur, “be white, pale”). See HALOT 299 s.v. I חור. The latter reading is assumed in the translation above.

15 tn Some interpret שָׁתֹתֶיהָ (shatoteha) as “her foundations,” i.e., leaders, nobles. See BDB 1011 s.v. שָׁת. Others, on the basis of alleged cognates in Akkadian and Coptic, repoint the form שְׁתִיתֶיהָ (shÿtiteha) and translate “her weavers.” See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:370.

16 tn Heb “crushed.” Emotional distress is the focus of the context (see vv. 8-9, 10b).

17 tn Heb “sad of soul”; cf. NIV, NLT “sick at heart.”

18 tn Or “certainly the officials of Zoan are fools.” אַךְ (’akh) can carry the sense, “only, nothing but,” or “certainly, surely.”

19 tn Heb “A son of wise men am I, a son of ancient kings.” The term בֶּן (ben, “son of”) could refer to literal descent, but many understand the word, at least in the first line, in its idiomatic sense of “member [of a guild].” See HALOT 138 s.v. בֶּן and J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:371. If this is the case, then one can take the word in a figurative sense in the second line as well, the “son of ancient kings” being one devoted to their memory as preserved in their literature.

20 tn Heb “Where are they? Where are your wise men?” The juxtaposition of the interrogative pronouns is emphatic. See HALOT 38 s.v. אֶי.

21 tn Heb “Noph” (so KJV); most recent English versions substitute the more familiar “Memphis.”

22 tn Heb “the cornerstone.” The singular form should be emended to a plural.

23 tn Heb “the Lord has mixed into her midst a spirit of blindness.”

24 tn Heb “like the going astray of a drunkard in his vomit.”

25 tn Heb “And there will not be for Egypt a deed, which head and tail, shoot and stalk can do.” In 9:14-15 the phrase “head or tail” refers to leaders and prophets, respectively. This interpretation makes good sense in this context, where both leaders and advisers (probably including prophets and diviners) are mentioned (vv. 11-14). Here, as in 9:14, “shoots and stalk” picture a reed, which symbolizes the leadership of the nation in its entirety.

26 tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV), likewise at the beginning of vv. 18 and 19.

27 tn Heb “Egypt,” which stands by metonymy for the country’s inhabitants.

28 sn As the rest of the verse indicates, the point of the simile is that the Egyptians will be relatively weak physically and will wilt in fear before the Lord’s onslaught.

29 tn Heb “and he will tremble and be afraid because of the brandishing of the hand of the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts], which he brandishes against him.” Since according to the imagery here the Lord’s “hand” is raised as a weapon against the Egyptians, the term “fist” has been used in the translation.

30 tn Heb “and the land of Judah will become [a source of] shame to Egypt, everyone to whom one mentions it [i.e., the land of Judah] will fear because of the plan of the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts] which he is planning against him.”

31 sn The significance of the number “five” in this context is uncertain. For a discussion of various proposals, see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:376-77.

32 tc The Hebrew text has עִיר הַהֶרֶס (’ir haheres, “City of Destruction”; cf. NASB, NIV) but this does not fit the positive emphasis of vv. 18-22. The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa and some medieval Hebrew mss read עִיר הָחֶרֶס (’ir hakheres, “City of the Sun,” i.e., Heliopolis). This reading also finds support from Symmachus’ Greek version, the Targum, and the Vulgate. See HALOT 257 s.v. חֶרֶס and HALOT 355 s.v. II חֶרֶס.

33 tn This word is sometimes used of a sacred pillar associated with pagan worship, but here it is associated with the worship of the Lord.

34 tn The masculine noun מִזְבֵּחַ (mizbbeakh, “altar”) in v. 19 is probably the subject of the masculine singular verb הָיָה (hayah) rather than the feminine noun מַצֵּבָה (matsevah, “sacred pillar”), also in v. 19.

35 tn Heb “a sign and a witness to the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts] in the land of Egypt.”

36 tn רָב (rav) is a substantival participle (from רִיב, riv) meaning “one who strives, contends.”

37 tn Heb “Egypt.” For stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy, the present translation uses the pronoun (“they”) here.

38 tn Heb “will know the Lord.”

39 tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV), likewise at the beginning of vv. 23 and 24.

40 tn Heb “he will be entreated.” The Niphal has a tolerative sense here, “he will allow himself to be entreated.”

41 tn The text could be translated, “and Egypt will serve Assyria” (cf. NAB), but subjugation of one nation to the other does not seem to be a theme in vv. 23-25. Rather the nations are viewed as equals before the Lord (v. 25). Therefore it is better to take אֶת (’et) in v. 23b as a preposition, “together with,” rather than the accusative sign. The names of the two countries are understood to refer by metonymy to their respective inhabitants.

42 tn Heb “will be a blessing” (so NCV).

43 tn Or “land” (KJV, NAB).

44 tn Heb “which the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts] will bless [it], saying.” The third masculine singular suffix on the form בֵּרֲכוֹ (berakho) should probably be emended to a third feminine singular suffix בֵּרֲכָהּ (berakhah), for its antecedent would appear to be the feminine noun אֶרֶץ (’erets, “earth”) at the end of v. 24.

45 tn Or “my inheritance” (NAB, NASB, NIV).

46 tn Heb “In the year the commanding general came to Ashdod, when Sargon king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and captured it.”

sn This probably refers to the Assyrian campaign against Philistia in 712 or 711 b.c.

47 tn Heb “spoke by the hand of.”

48 tn The word used here (עָרוֹם, ’arom) sometimes means “naked,” but here it appears to mean simply “lightly dressed,” i.e., stripped to one’s undergarments. See HALOT 883 s.v. עָרוֹם. The term also occurs in vv. 3, 4.

49 tn Heb “lightly dressed and barefoot, and bare with respect to the buttocks, the nakedness of Egypt.”

50 tn Heb “and they will be afraid and embarrassed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their beauty.”

51 tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV).

52 sn This probably refers to the coastal region of Philistia (cf. TEV).



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