Notes on Isaiah 19 & 20
David H. Linden, University
Presbyterian Church, Las Cruces,
New Mexico, USA revised
Isaiah 19 shows Egyptian plans, cut
down by God, just as in chapter 18. Chapter 20 forecasts Egypt’s defeat by Assyria.
Since this is what God has spoken, the people of God are being given multiple
reasons not to trust in Egypt
to save them. Egypt
cannot save itself. But God can save, and here He shows His intention to bring
Egyptians to bow before the Lord with other of like precious faith, namely
God-worshipping Assyrians and Israelites.
That is three miracles in one.
19:1 God will bring swift judgment on the gods
just as He did in the time of the Exodus (Exodus 12:12). The true and living
Lord God will allow no competitors. If Egypt’s gods were a real help, then
the Lord would lose His glory as God alone. They must tremble before Him and
their worshippers likewise. The Lord rides the clouds; He is in control. Riding
indicates that He is moving or acting.
19:2-4 Egypt will have
civil war, discouragement, frustration, and even turn to mediums in
desperation. V.4 indicates a dictator.
19:5-10 Its entire
infrastructure will crumble. This part
shows the suffering of the people. They
depend on the Nile and it will be so low that
the irrigation canals cannot supply water for crops. There are no fish. With no flax product, there will be no
production of linen. The country is in distress, one that began in the opening
of this oracle by Egypt
having false gods.
19:11-15 Their leaders are
confused. The advice of its wise men is
confounded by the Lord who says, “the wisdom of the wise will perish,” (29:14; 1
Corinthians 1:19). What they suggest fails. It is the Lord Who has a plan
no plan of God is ever frustrated, and no plan of man opposing Him ever
succeeds. Cornerstones are leaders, as in 28:16 and Ephesians 2:20. The
staggering of a drunkard illustrates the confusion of its leaders. Isaiah spoke of head and tail, as in 9:14-16.
In other words, both leaders and people are in despair.
19:16-17 As women cry out
in anguish, Egypt
will be overwhelmed with fear. The uplifted hand of the Sovereign Lord will be
against them. And since this is a fear instilled by the hand of the Lord,
bowing to it involves a fear of both the Lord and His people, in this case,
Judah. There is no salvation that is simply a matter between a repentant sinner
and God, for the Lord joins all who believe in Him together in His church. No
one can be united to Christ the Head without being united to the body of
Christ. (Compare 14:1,2).There is no unilateral
relationship, one with God and God only. The fear of the Lord in Egypt combined with a fear of Israel. This
proper fear of Israel
happened earlier at the conquest of the land of Canaan.
(See Joshua 2:22-24, a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 2:25 & 11:25.) When Israel lived in sin, no one feared them, but
when they trusted the Lord and saw His deliverance, a fear of Israel followed. This is seen also
in Esther 8:17. When God was protecting Israel, men feared their God and His
people as well.
19:18 Isaiah loves to make a sudden shift, which, like
43:24,25, switches from judgment to salvation.
V.17 is an odd kind of wonderful judgment. The Egyptians experience terror, they come to
fear Judah because of Judah’s
God. God’s plan against them is to
subdue them, and in doing so they are saved!
They speak a new language with words that swear allegiance to the Lord
Almighty. We cannot be saved without
being subdued before the One we confess as Lord. For rebels against God, making such a
confession is a terror. They can see
nothing but defeat in it, a loss of autonomy.
But the one who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart
will be saved, (Romans 10:9). God
“terrorizes” by making them bow at the feet of a mighty Conqueror. But He is that Conqueror and in His mercy
they are saved. This salvation is presented in progressive terms: five cities,
the nation (vv.19, 20); and finally, the world (vv.23-25) composed of its chief
Zechariah 10 The end of Isaiah 19 has a number of
parallels with Zechariah 10. There we read of storm clouds, reference to false
gods, and empty counsel. From the Jews will come the cornerstone, a label used
of Christ in 28:16 and Psalm 118:22. The House of
Judah becomes fearsome in battle. Judgment on Egypt
includes specific mention of the Nile. Both
Assyria and Egypt
suffer defeat, but then the Lord graciously makes these two foes He defeated to
be “strong in the Lord, and they
shall walk in His Name…” (ESV).
The Salvation of Egypt 19-22: With an altar in the heart of the land and a
monument at the border to advertise the new allegiance of Egypt, the picture of Egypt’s salvation is vivid. The
marker at the border announces that Egypt is now the Lord’s land. They
too are part of the stream of nations coming to Mount Zion
in chapter 2. They are really saved, so
in their trouble they do not make an alliance with other heathen nations as
they once did; in their trouble they cry out to the Lord. (The One you call to
for help is your real God.) Imagine Jews in Isaiah’s day reading this, as God
broadcast His grace to their first persecutors. God will send His Egyptian
people a Savior when they call upon Him.
700 years later a Savior born in nearby Bethlehem, would be a Savior for all people (Luke 2:10,11).
Building the altar meant that sacrifices would be offered, offered for the
purpose of reconciliation with the Holy One of Israel, willing to be the Holy
One of the Egyptians. The Holy One of Israel can only be approached by sinners
if a sacrifice has been made to Him, satisfying to Him. Egypt has an
altar. The God of Israel will become the Lord of other people. When Gentiles
come to Zion; they will be brought to Israel’s God. To
come to God is to come to Zion.
“There will be one flock [Israel] and one shepherd [Christ]” (John 10:16). They all become one people,
speaking the same language, because the divisions of mankind at Babel are over (Genesis
11:1-9). All are united in a common language, worship, confession and
allegiance to the Lord. The Lord strikes them down, and they are healed. Many times the first way sinners will
acknowledge the Lord is to feel His rod, and then knowing Him in this sense,
the Lord then turns them to Himself and they are saved.
19:23-25 A Highway between Egypt and Assyria In this way we learn of God’s saving mercy
to even more who once lived under His wrath. Israel’s
first oppressor (Egypt)
will be saved. Then in the lifetime of Isaiah, in the very time when Assyria
was tormenting Judah
and blaspheming its God (36:18-20; 37:4), God spoke of the salvation of
Assyrians. They will not use this highway in chapter 19 for war, because they too
reconciled and made one people under one Lord. They will worship together, with
joining in – all being a blessing as promised through Abraham and his seed in
Genesis 12:3; 22:18. Terms once used of the covenant people (my people, my
handiwork) are now used of Gentiles. [Israel is called people:10:24;
handiwork: 60:21; inheritance:
63:17.] Earlier this prophecy had a remnant from Aram
(17:3) and Cush
(18:7). God’s eternal intention in salvation is unfolding in its gracious
embrace the entire world.
emphatic God’s Word is that there will be a huge Gentile response to the
gospel. It is a great shame that something so
encouraging as the salvation of Egyptians and Assyrians is not well known. They
will be united to Israel
in fellowship, all bowing before the same Lord – it is a great loss if such
words from the Lord are not worked deeply into our consciousness. What could be
more encouraging to the missionary endeavor than such a truth?
20:1-6 Isaiah switches back to the current reality,
and writes in narrative rather than in the proclamation of an oracle. Before
this salvation comes, Egypt
must be shown the futility of its gods. She must fall to Assyria.
Sargon is getting close; Ashdod, a Philistine
city in SW Judah, has fallen. Egypt had assured the people of Ashdod of their support. They never gave it. Soon the Assyrians will enter Egypt
too Like the prophet in Ezekiel 4, Isaiah will be on
display as a physical illustration. The Lord communicates primarily in words.
The Bible is a book of words. He also uses actions and pointed images to
accompany His word, and uses His word to accompany and explain visible imagery.
The point here is that the Egyptians will be taken captives and even the poor
Cushites who agreed to help them. It ought to be very clear that putting trust
is a bad idea. Poor Egypt
cannot even protect itself!
Later chapters (28 and following) speak strongly against
trusting in Egypt.
Those reading this entire prophecy, in the order in which these chapters are
written, would see this early oracle first. For readers who believe the Word of
the Lord, this would make the issue of faith all the more vivid. Later in
Isaiah it is a grief that Judah
were committed to trusting a doomed ally, but the Lord is so mighty He would
bring these unbelievers to know Him. When a comparison is made, The House of
Israel should be shamed by the future faith of the heathen (2:1-5). The Lord
marveled at Gentile faith in Matthew 8:5-13 and Matthew 15:21-28 and grieved at
the unbelief of His own people.