Isaiah chapter 19

English Standard Version

2And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, each against another and each against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom; 3and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confound their counsel; and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers, and the mediums and the necromancers; 4and I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master, and a fierce king will rule over them, declares the Lord GOD of hosts. 5And the waters of the sea will be dried up, and the river will be dry and parched, 6and its canals will become foul, and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up, reeds and rushes will rot away. 7There will be bare places by the Nile, on the brink of the Nile, and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched, will be driven away, and will be no more. 8The fishermen will mourn and lament, all who cast a hook in the Nile; and they will languish who spread nets on the water. 9The workers in combed flax will be in despair, and the weavers of white cotton. 10Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed, and all who work for pay will be grieved. 11The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”? 12Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. 13The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of her tribes have made Egypt stagger. 14The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit. 15And there will be nothing for Egypt that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do. 16In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them. 17And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians. Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.
New International Version

New American Standard Bible

1The pronouncement concerning Egypt: Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. 2'So I will incite Egyptians against Egyptians; And they will fight, each against his brother and each against his neighbor, City against city and kingdom against kingdom. 3Then the spirit of the Egyptians will be demoralized within them; And I will confuse their strategy, So that they will resort to idols and ghosts of the dead, And to mediums and spiritists. 4Furthermore, I will hand the Egyptians over to a cruel master, And a mighty king will rule over them,' declares the Lord God of armies. 5The waters from the sea will dry up, And the river will be parched and dry. 6The canals will emit a stench, The streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up; The reeds and rushes will rot away. 7The bulrushes by the Nile, by the edge of the Nile And all the sown fields by the Nile Will become dry, be driven away, and be no more. 8And the fishermen will grieve, And all those who cast a line into the Nile will mourn, And those who spread nets on the waters will dwindle away. 9Moreover, the manufacturers of linen made from combed flax And the weavers of white cloth will be utterly dejected. 10And the pillars of Egypt will be crushed; All the hired laborers will be grieved in soul. 11The officials of Zoan are mere fools; The advice of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers has become stupid. How can you say to Pharaoh, 'I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings'? 12Well then, where are your wise men? Please let them tell you, And let them understand what the Lord of armies Has planned against Egypt. 13The officials of Zoan have turned out to be fools, The officials of Memphis are deluded; Those who are the cornerstone of her tribes Have led Egypt astray. 14The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of distortion; They have led Egypt astray in all that it does, As a drunken person staggers in his vomit. 15There will be no work for Egypt Which its head or tail, its palm branch or bulrush, may do.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

1The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. 2And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. 3And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards. 4And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts. 5And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up. 6And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither. 7The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more. 8The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish. 9Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded. 10And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish. 11Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellers of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? 12Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt. 13The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof. 14The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit. 15Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do. 16In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it. 17And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it.

What does Isaiah chapter 19 mean?

Chapter 19 and 20 contain Isaiah's oracles and prophecies about nations other than Israel. The point of these oracles from the Lord is to instruct the people of Judah. They should not put their trust and security in other nations. Nor should they rely on the false gods of those nations. The Lord wants His people to understand that they must put their hope and trust in Him alone.

The first part of chapter 19 contains the main oracle against Egypt in the form of a poem. Isaiah describes the Lord's coming judgment against Egypt in the three areas of her supposed great strength. These are the religious life of the people, the economic bounty produced by the Nile River, and her international reputation for great wisdom and insight (Isaiah 19:1–15).

First, Isaiah describes the Lord as riding into Egypt on a swift cloud. The Egyptians imagined their god Baal as riding on clouds, but Isaiah insists that it is the Lord, not Baal, who will arrive. He further drives home this point by saying that these false idols will know fear in the presence of the one true God. The people will share their terror, perhaps recalling what the God of the Israelites did to Egypt's ancestors (Exodus 3:19–20) during the time of Israel's exodus (Isaiah 19:1).

In response to the Lord's judgment, the Egyptian people will turn on each other. At every level of society, there will be infighting and violence. Great despair will fall on the people. They will turn for help to idols and those who claim to channel the dead. In this weakened condition, the nation will be conquered by a tyrant and ruled by a fierce king. God's rhetorical question is this: why would Judah try to rely on a people so easily defeated (Isaiah 19:2–4)?

Next, the Lord will judge Egypt by means of a drought. Egypt's economy was prosperous because of the rich resources provided by the predictable flooding of the Nile River. Unless there was drought, the river would flood and recede at the same time every year, creating temporary "seas" and depositing sediment. That sediment would become the fertile soil of the following years crops when the waters receded. Without the Nile, Egypt's economy will sink and many people will become destitute. This is one of the judgment God promises: to dry up the Nile and eliminate this source of resources (Isaiah 19:5–10).

Finally, Egypt was famous in the world for its great men of wisdom. That reputation came, in part, because of an emphasis on education. It's likely that Egypt's prosperity contributed to a view that its leaders were wise men. The final piece of the Lord's judgment will reveal Egypt's counselors to be fools. These supposed wise men will be unable to understand the plans of Israel's God, causing the nation to stumble around in confusion (Isaiah 19:11–15).

After describing these harsh judgments, the prophecy takes a sudden turn. Isaiah looks into Egypt's far future, likely during the reign of Messiah as king of Israel and the world. After a time of trembling in fear about the Lord's power over them, the people of Egypt will repent and swear allegiance to the Lord, worshiping Him with sacrifices, offering, and vows. The Lord will respond by making Himself known to the people of Egypt, even rescuing them from their enemies. He will discipline Egypt by striking it but will also listen to the people's pleas for mercy and heal them (Isaiah 19:16–22).

Finally, and shockingly to those reading these words during Isaiah's life, the Assyrians will join Egypt in worshiping the God of Israel. Egypt, Assyria, and Israel will stand together as a blessing to the world as they are blessed by God (Isaiah 19:23–25).
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