Isaiah 18-22 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt

From Isaiah 18-22

23 Isaiah kneelingToday’s chapter readings include a condemnation of Egypt (Isa 19.1-15). Egypt has never really commanded a lot respect in Israel’s history. Its true foreign nations like them are used to discipline and punish Israel. But they do not thereby escape the LORD’s justice. They are accountable for the way they treat God’s chosen people. In today’s passage Isaiah continues his judgment on Egypt.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Isaiah continues his judgment on Egypt.

16 In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them. 17 And 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. (Is 19:16–17)

Women are given a bad wrap in the Old Testament. There are many examples of courageous women in the OT. For example: Sarah (Gen 12.10-20), Tamar (Gen 38.24), Ruth (1.16-18), Deborah (Jdg 4.4-10), Jael (Jdg 4.21), Hannah (1 Sam 1.15-18), and Abigail (1 Sam 25.18-23) just to name a few. Perhaps they are described like this here because courage was typically associated with fighting. Battle is the domain of men.

‘Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians’. Not because the land of Judah (including its inhabitants) will wipe them out.

Egypt will fear what happened to Judah will also happen to them!

When they hear of what happened to Judah, they will fear for themselves also. If God;’s own people are punished like this, what will happen to those whom the LORD has not chosen and favoured? (cf. 1 Pet 4.18)

18 In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction. (Is 19:18)

‘In that day’. The phrase will be repeated through the passage.

It marks a turnaround in the fate of Egypt. Something amazing will happen.

It starts off looking fairly bleak. Imagine if the city you lived in was called the City of Destruction. Hiroshima and Nagasaki come to mind.

19 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. 20 It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them.

21 And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them.

22 And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them. (Is 19:19-22)

‘In that day there will be an altar to the LORD’. What? The verse can be explained by saying some if the Israelites will reside in Egypt and build an altar there. They will ‘cry to the LORD because of oppressors’. The Egyptians oppress them and they cry out to the LORD. In response the ‘He will send them a saviour and defender and deliver them’. The LORD will deliver his people from the Egyptians. In this way. Seeing the LORD save his own people, ‘the LORD will make himself known to them’. And this profoundly affects Egypt.

The Egyptians will worship and sacrifice to the LORD.

The LORD will do this by striking and healing. He will rebuke and punish. They will fear him and repent. He will heal and restore them. The pattern of striking and healing will repeat itself over and over again. The LORD will do this for Egypt’s good (cf. Jn 15.2).

When Isaiah is judging and punishing Israel and all the nations with them. He predicts a brighter future for the nation that many would expect is the least likely to have this happen to them.

23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. (Is 19:23)

‘In that day’ Egypt will be joined with Assyria. Both will come to the LORD and worship him.

24 In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” (Is 19:24–25)

Isaiah gives Israel equal blessing with Egypt and Assyria. He is in effect raising Israel up to have equal prominence with Egypt and Assyria. The two world superpowers.  The LORD will bless them.

Three words describe what the LORD will do. He will bless Egypt and call them his people. He will favour them. Protect them. Save them. Prosper them. He says Assyria is the work of his hands. He created them. He made them. Formed them to do his will. Israel will be his inheritance. His portion and reward.

These must have been shocking words for the original audience. Unheard of.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Isaiah’s prophecy is connected to the LORD’s promises in Genesis. The LORD promised Abram;

3 “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3)

All families shall be bless. All nations shall be blessed. The blessing includes Egypt and Assyria as well as Israel. These promises did not come into effect until much later. But they were remembered in the gospel.

Story of Jesus

In the gospel there are occasional references to Gentiles being blessed in some way shape or form. Jesus came for his own people, but extended his blessings to all nations who sought him out. He knew his death and resurrection were for all nations.

The following text tells the story of when Jesus was a child and was taken to the temple to do what was described in the Law of Moses.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Lk 2.22-35)

Simeon says ‘according to the LORD’s word’ because he has in mind numerous predictions from Isaiah and the Psalms (Isa 42.6; 45.25; 46.13; 49.6; 52.10; 60.3; Ps 98.2). According to his word he sees salvation. Jesus is the promised saviour who will be seen by all peoples.

When the LORD saved Israel from the Egyptian oppression they knew the LORD (Isa 19.21). Jesus our saviour is ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’ (Lk 2.32). Through Jesus and the salvation he brought, many nations. Yes even the Egyptians will come to know the LORD and be blessed.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.