Isaiah 19 – The Doom of Egypt & Nebuchadnezzar II

I just don’t get it.  There was a time when I didn’t believe that You existed, I thought it was a lot of baloney.  It’s difficult for our little minds to believe that anyone as great as You could be real, and it’s even harder for us to comprehend that You even love us.  I mean, we’re pretty disgusting, well You know that, You made us, what a disappointment. 

Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes (often identified with Narmer).

The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Egypt reached the pinnacle of its power in the New Kingdom, ruling much of Nubia and a sizable portion of the Near East, after which it entered a period of slow decline. During the course of its history Egypt was invaded or conquered by a number of foreign powers, including the Hyksos, the Libyans, the Nubians, the Assyrians, the Achaemenid Persians, and the Macedonians under the command of Alexander the Great. The Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom, formed in the aftermath of Alexander’s death, ruled Egypt until 30 BC, when, under Cleopatra, it fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province.

The success of ancient Egyptian civilization came partly from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River valley for agriculture. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which supported a more dense population, and social development and culture. With resources to spare, the administration sponsored mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions, the early development of an independent writing system, the organization of collective construction and agricultural projects, trade with surrounding regions, and a military intended to assert Egyptian dominance. Motivating and organizing these activities was a bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, and administrators under the control of a pharaoh, who ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people in the context of an elaborate system of religious beliefs.

The many achievements of the ancient Egyptians include the quarrying, surveying and construction techniques that supported the building of monumental pyramids, temples, and obelisks; a system of mathematics, a practical and effective system of medicine, irrigation systems and agricultural production techniques, the first known planked boats, Egyptian faience and glass technology, new forms of literature, and the earliest known peace treaty, made with the Hittites.

Ancient Egypt has left a lasting legacy. Its art and architecture were widely copied, and its antiquities carried off to far corners of the world. Its monumental ruins have inspired the imaginations of travelers and writers for centuries. A new-found respect for antiquities and excavations in the early modern period by Europeans and Egyptians led to the scientific investigation of Egyptian civilization and a greater appreciation of its cultural legacy

Yet, all anyone has to do is look around and know that somebody much greater than us created all this.  And if they still doubt it, all they have to do is ask You (Jas 1:5), that’s what I did, and sure enough, there You were. 

But what I really don’t get is how anyone, like back in the B.C.days, worship a god that is nothing more than a creation of clay or rock that we made?  People do stupid things though, for example, I wouldn’t say that voting for Obama to be president the first time was stupid because we had to choose between Laurel and Hardy, and Laurel won.  But to vote for him a second time, that is absolute stupidity.

1 The 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.

“Rideth upon a swift cloud” – a metaphor used also in Ps 68:4, 104:3; Matt 26:64.

“Idols…be moved” – see Jer 50:2.  God had also previously judged Egypt’s idols during the ten plaques (see Ex 12:12).

“Heart…melt” – see 13:7.

2 And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.

“Egyptian’s against the Egyptians” – cf 9:21.  The Libyan dynasty clashed with the “Ethiopians” (Cushites) and with the Saites of Dynasty 24.

3 And 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.

“Spirit of Egypt shall fail” – the Egyptians will become demoralized.

“Seek to…wizards’ – spiritists who consult the dead.  Israel also did so in desperate times (see 8:19 and note).

4 And 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.

“Cruel lord” – the king of Assyria (see 20:4).  Esarhaddon conquered Egypt in 670 B.C.

5 And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.

“Waters shall fail from the sea” – the Nile was the lifeline of Egypt; its annual flooding provided essential water and produced the only fertile soil there.

6 And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defense shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither.

“They shall turn the rivers far away” – Lit. “the rivers (or canals) will stink.”

7 The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and everything sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.

“Everything sown by the brooks” – Egypt’s crops were normally abundant, and some were exported.

8 The 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.

“Fishers” – fish were usually plentiful (see Num 11:5).

9 Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded.

“They that work in fine flax” – large amounts of water were needed to process flax.

“Networks” – white linen, answer well-known Egyptian export.

10 And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof all that make sluices and ponds for fish.

11  Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counselors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?

“Zoan” – a city (possibly Tanis) in the northeastern part of the Nile delta.  It would have been familiar to the Israelites enslaved in Egypt (see Num 13:22; Ps 78:12, 43).  It was the northern capital for the 25th dynasty.

“Son of the wise” – see v 12.  Egypt was famous for its wise men (see 1 Kgs 4:30).

12 Where 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.

13 The 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.

“Noph” – Memphis, an important city 15 miles south of the delta that was the capital during the Old Kingdom (c 2686-2160 B.C.).

“They that are the stay of the tribes” – prophets and priests, as well as political leaders (see 9:15-16).

14 The 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.

“Mingled a perverse spirit…As a drunken man staggereth” – the Lord had caused their leaders to stumble and stagger like drunks.  Israel’s leaders stagger in 28:7-8).

15 Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do.

“Head or tail, branch or rush” – Egypt’s leaders.  The same two pairs are sued of Israel’s leaders in 9:14-15.

16 In 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.

19:16-25 – a chain of four announcements of coming events associated with “that day”:

Esarhaddon conquered Egypt in 670 B.C.
Esarhaddon (reigned 681-669 BCE) was the third king of the Sargonid Dynasty of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He was the youngest son of King Sennacherib (reigned 705-681 BCE), and his mother was not the queen but a concubine named Zakutu (also known as Naqia-Zakutu, c.701-668 BCE). Esarhaddon is mentioned in the Bible in II Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38, and Ezra 4:2.

He is best known for re-building Babylon (which his father had destroyed) and for his military campaigns in Egypt. An avid follower of astrology, he consulted oracles on a regular basis throughout his reign, far more than any other Assyrian king.

He claimed the gods had ordained him to restore Babylon and cleverly omitted from his inscriptions anything that would implicate Sennacherib in the city’s fall. In his other diplomatic letters he seems equally careful and maintained, then enlarged, the empire his father had left to him. He died on campaign in Egypt and left the throne to his son, Ashurbanipal.

1.  An act of divine judgment will cause Egypt to “be afraid and fear” (v 16) and be in terror of Judah (vv 16-17).

2. “Five cities” in Egypt will “swear” an oath of loyalty to the Lord (v 18).

3. Because of a divine act of deliverance and healing in Egypt, an altar will be erected in Egypt where Egyptians will offer sacrifices to the Lord (vv 19-22).

4. Egypt, Assyria, and Israel will be linked into one people of the Lord (vv 23-25).

The prophet looks well beyond the present realities in which the world powers do not acknowledge the true God and proudly pursue their own destinies, running roughshod over people of the Lord.  He foresees a series of divine acts that will bring about the conversion of the nations.

19:16, 18-19, 23-24 – “In that day” – the coming day of the Lord (see10:20, 27 and note; cf 11:10-11).

“Be afraid and fear” – like the people of Jericho (Josh 2:9, 11).

“Shaking the hand of the LORD of hosts” – see 14:26-27 and note.

17 And 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.

“Land of Judah” – the Egyptians will somehow recognize (perhaps through court contacts with Hezekiah) that it is the God of Judah who has brought judgment upon them.

18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.

“Speak the language of Canaan” – either a symbolic reference to Egypt’s allegiance to the Lord (see vv 21-22, 25).  Or literal reference to Jews living in Egypt.  After the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. many Jews fled to Egypt (Jer 44:1).

“City of destruction” – probably a reference to Heliopolis, city of the sun-god; it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (see Jer 42:12-13).  The Hebrew for “destruction” is almost identical to the Hebrew for “sun.”

19 In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD.

“Altar” – some relate this to the temple built in Egypt by the Jewish high Priest Onias IV, who fled to Egypt in the 2nd century B.C., but the reference appearance appears to be to a conversion to the Lord of a significant number of Egyptians.

Heliopolis
Heliopolis was a major city of ancient Egypt. It was the capital of the 13th or Heliopolite Nome of Lower Egypt and a major religious center. It is now located in Ayn Shams, a northeastern suburb of Cairo.

Heliopolis was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, occupied since the Predynastic Period. It greatly expanded under the Old and Middle Kingdoms but is today mostly destroyed, its temples and other buildings having been scavenged for the construction of medieval Cairo. Most information about the ancient city comes from surviving records.

The major surviving remnant of Heliopolis is the obelisk of the Temple of Ra-Atum erected by Senusret I of Dynasty XII. It still stands in its original position, now within Al-Masalla in Al-Matariyyah, Cairo. The 21 m (69 ft) high red granite obelisk weighs 120 tons (240,000 lbs).

20 And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a savior, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.

“Sign and for a witness” – cf the purpose of the altar built by the tribes east of the Jordan River in Josh 22:26-27.

“Oppressors…savior” – the language of the book of Judges (see Judg 2:18).  The “Savior” is the promised Son of the house of David (see 11:1-10).

21 And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.

“The LORD shall be known” – cf Ex 7:5.

“Shall do sacrifice” – offerings of foreigners are also mentioned in 56:7, 60:7; cf Zech 14:16-19.

22 And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them.

“Smite Egypt” – oppression (see v 20) and plague were two common forms of divine affliction.  Contrast the results of the plague on the firstborn in Ex 12:23.

“Shall be entreated…heal” – cf 6:10.  Here parallel to sending Egypt a “savior, and a great one” (v 20).  Earlier a hardhearted pharaoh had not turned to the Lord (Ex 9:34-35).

23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.

“Highway” – cf the highway to Jerusalem in 11:16.  For centuries Egyptians and Assyrians had fought each other (see 20:4), but in the future they would be linked in bond of friendship sealed by their common allegiance to the LORD (cf 25:3).

“Serve with” – this description of peace and of unity in worship is similar to 2:2-4.

24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:

25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

“Shall bless” – fulfillment of Gen 12:3.

“Egypt my people” – such a universal vision seems possible for Isaiah only in the light of what has been said about the “rod out of the tern of Jesse” (11:1, see 11:1-10, cf 45:14; Eph 2:11-13).

Nebuchadnezzar II

Amel-Marduk
“The wretched, weary person weeps…” The Crown Prince, son of Nebuchadnezzar II, wrote this anguished poem in prison. Once freed, he attributed his rescue to the god Marduk, by changing his name to Amel-Marduk (the Biblical Evil-Merodach). From Borsippa, Southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. Neo-Babylonian Period, circa 550 BCE. (The British Museum, London)

Amel-Marduk , “man of Marduk” (died c. 560 BC) was the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon.

His name, along with the length of his reign, are recorded in the ‘Uruk King List’ and the Canon of Ptolemy, however no surviving cuneiform document records anything concerning his life or deeds.

Berossus writes that he was murdered in a plot orchestrated by Nergal-sharezer, his successor and brother-in-law. Berossus also notes that “he governed public affairs after an illegal and impure manner,” possibly an allusion to actions that infuriated the priestly class, including reforms made to the policies of Nebuchadnezzar.

One such reform is recorded in the Hebrew Bible, where Evil-Merodach is remembered for releasing the Jewish king Jehoiachin from prison after 37 years in captivity.

Later Jewish and Christian texts expand the Biblical account. Josephus and the Avot of Rabbi Natan state that the king believed that Jehoiachin was held by his father without cause, and thus decided to release him upon the latter’s death.

Originally, Josephus assigned eighteen years to his reign, but in a later work, Josephus states that Berossus assigned a reign of two years. Seder Olam Rabbah assigned twenty-three years to his reign.

Leviticus Rabbah 18:2 states that Evil-Merodach was made king while Nebuchadnezzar was still living, and was punished for this act of rebellion by his father, who had him imprisoned. In Esther Rabbah, Evil-Merodach, owing to his father’s actions before his death, is heir to a bankrupt treasury.

Nebuchadnezzar II was a Babylonian king around 605 B.C. and was the second king in the Chaldean dynasty.  He was born in 635 B.C. and died in the October of 562 B.C. He became King in 605 B.C., three weeks after his father’s death.

He was 30 years old when he became king and reigned for 44 years. When he died his son, Amel-Marduk took over the throne.

He wasn’t only a great king but a great warlord.  He is known for conquering Jerusalem, deporting the king of Judah, Jehoiakim, and many of Jehoiakim’s people to Babylon.  He and his father Nabopolassar commanded an army together north of Assyria. When he led a campaign against the Egyptians and came back victorious.

Babylon became the most powerful military force in the Middle East.  When he was 25 years old he started acting as a military administrator.  One year after his crowning he gets the oath of submission from the rulers of the local states in Syria and Palestine.

When Nebuchadnezzar gets his first serious military defeat which was when he was fighting an Egyptian army, it weakened him politically and many of the states withdrew their oaths of submission.

His other main achievements were revitalizing Babylon, rebuilding the temple of Marduk and a nearby ziggurat.  The Median Wall was built under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. The Ishtar Gate, one of the eight gates of the inner city of Babylon, was also built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon dedicated the great Ishtar Gate to the goddess Ishtar. It was the main entrance into Babylon.

His most famous achievement was creating the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Some people think that King Nebuchadnezzar built the gardens for his homesick wife from Medes.

A historian in 450 B.C. named Herodotus wrote that the Hanging Garden outer walls had “a 56 mile length, a 80 foot thickness, and a 320 foot height,” but archaeologists claim that it’s outer walls had about a length of 10 miles and not nearly as high but still high enough to be very impressive.

It was made with huge slabs of stone (stone was only used one other time in Babylon and that was on the north wall of the Northern Citadel). Within the walls there were fortresses and temples with huge statues of solid gold.

The Gardens were said to be irrigated by the use of a chain pump in which slaves turned a handle to rotate the wheel.  We have no evidence that the Gardens truly existed but if they did they would certainly be a wondrous sight.

King Nebuchadnezzar was said to be the most powerful ruler of the whole Chaldean dynasty.  He made Babylon one of the greatest cities before Rome.  He was a successful warlord and a respected political leader.

Yet, King Nebuchadnezzar and Satan had something in common, they were both overwhelmed with their own greatness, their pride.  The only real difference in their pride is that the king worshiped the false god Marduk and the false god that Satan worshiped was himself.  The difference between their sin of pride is that King Nebuchadnezzar repented and Satan thought he was better than his creator, basically he cursed God:

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Isa 14:14-15).

God forgave Nebuchadnezzar (Isa Dan 4:33-37) and with Satan He said:

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isa 14:16).

Read about Nebuchadnezzar’s sin and punishment tomorrow.