The Lord Will Judge Egypt
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.#tn Heb “and the heart of Egypt melts within it.”
2 “I will provoke civil strife in Egypt,#tn Heb I will provoke Egypt against Egypt” (NAB similar).
brothers will fight with each other,
as will neighbors,
cities, and kingdoms.#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.
3 The Egyptians will panic,#tn Heb “and the spirit of Egypt will be laid waste in its midst.”
and I will confuse their strategy.#tn The verb בָּלַע (bala’, “confuse”) is a homonym of the more common בָּלַע (bala’, “swallow”); see HALOT 135 s.v. I בלע.
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.#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.
4 I will hand Egypt over to a harsh master;
a powerful king will rule over them,”
says the sovereign master,#tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay). the Lord who commands armies.
5 The water of the sea will be dried up,
and the river will dry up and be empty.#tn Heb “will dry up and be dry.” Two synonyms are joined for emphasis.
6 The canals#tn Heb “rivers” (so KJV, ASV); NAB, CEV “streams”; TEV “channels.” will stink;#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.
the streams of Egypt will trickle and then dry up;
the bulrushes and reeds will decay,
7 along with the plants by the mouth of the river.#tn Heb “the plants by the river, by the mouth of the river.”
All the cultivated land near the river
will turn to dust and be blown away.#tn Heb “will dry up, [being] scattered, and it will vanish.”
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.#tn Or perhaps, “will disappear”; cf. TEV “will be useless.”
9 Those who make clothes from combed flax will be embarrassed;
those who weave will turn pale.#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.
10 Those who make cloth#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. will be demoralized;#tn Heb “crushed.” Emotional distress is the focus of the context (see vv. 8-9, 10b).
all the hired workers will be depressed.#tn Heb “sad of soul”; cf. NIV, NLT “sick at heart.”
11 The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools;#tn Or “certainly the officials of Zoan are fools.” אַךְ (’akh) can carry the sense, “only, nothing but,” or “certainly, surely.”
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?”#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.
12 But where, oh where, are your wise men?#tn Heb “Where are they? Where are your wise men?” The juxtaposition of the interrogative pronouns is emphatic. See HALOT 38 s.v. אֶי.
Let them tell you, let them find out
what the Lord who commands armies has planned for Egypt.
13 The officials of Zoan are fools,
the officials of Memphis#tn Heb “Noph” (so KJV); most recent English versions substitute the more familiar “Memphis.” are misled;
the rulers#tn Heb “the cornerstone.” The singular form should be emended to a plural. of her tribes lead Egypt astray.
14 The Lord has made them undiscerning;#tn Heb “the Lord has mixed into her midst a spirit of blindness.”
they lead Egypt astray in all she does,
so that she is like a drunk sliding around in his own vomit.#tn Heb “like the going astray of a drunkard in his vomit.”
15 Egypt will not be able to do a thing,
head or tail, shoots and stalk.#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.
16 At that time#tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV), likewise at the beginning of vv. 18 and 19. the Egyptians#tn Heb “Egypt,” which stands by metonymy for the country’s inhabitants. will be like women.#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. They will tremble and fear because the Lord who commands armies brandishes his fist against them.#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. 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.#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.”
18 At that time five cities#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. 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.#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. 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#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. dedicated to the Lord at its border. 20 It#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. will become a visual reminder in the land of Egypt of#tn Heb “a sign and a witness to the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts] in the land of Egypt.” the Lord who commands armies. When they cry out to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a deliverer and defender#tn רָב (rav) is a substantival participle (from רִיב, riv) meaning “one who strives, contends.” who will rescue them. 21 The Lord will reveal himself to the Egyptians, and they#tn Heb “Egypt.” For stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy, the present translation uses the pronoun (“they”) here. will acknowledge the Lord’s authority#tn Heb “will know the Lord.” at that time.#tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV), likewise at the beginning of vv. 23 and 24. They will present sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them. 22 The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and then healing them. They will turn to the Lord and he will listen to their prayers#tn Heb “he will be entreated.” The Niphal has a tolerative sense here, “he will allow himself to be entreated.” and heal them.
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.#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. 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#tn Heb “will be a blessing” (so NCV). in the earth.#tn Or “land” (KJV, NAB). 25 The Lord who commands armies will pronounce a blessing over the earth, saying,#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. “Blessed be my people, Egypt, and the work of my hands, Assyria, and my special possession,#tn Or “my inheritance” (NAB, NASB, NIV). Israel!”