An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. 2 And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, every man against his brother and every man against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom; 3 and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confound their plans; and they will consult the idols and the sorcerers, and the mediums and the wizards; 4 and I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master; and a fierce king will rule over them, says the Lord, the LORD of hosts.
Here the Lord states that He will cause a civil war in Egypt. There have been many many of these over the millennia. Almost every dynasty rose on a degenerating political situation of the dynasty before it, if not full out civil war. There are many suggestions as to who the “hard lord” was; the Ethiopian Piankhi, or the Assyrian Sargon, or one of the others Assyrian kings of the time, the list is quite long but all in the same time frame as Isaiah’s lifetime.
FYI: Pinning down an exact lord and exact time is impossible until more historical light can be shed by the archeologist. The problem with finding that historical information is that much of Egyptian archeology has to be politically correct with Egyptian Muslim’s feelings, and they don’t like anything Jewish or Christian. So if an archeologist wants permission to work in Egypt they have to report the official Muslim line. Proving Bible prophecy is not something that is popular.
During times of upheaval and/or civil war people always turn to their religion and for the Egyptians that was worship of elemental gods, local deities, and personal gods, with special spells, charms and incantations for curses and blessing, all of which could be obtained from spiritual leaders (for a price). Apparently all of this only made it easier for the hard master to take over.
5 And the waters of the Nile will be dried up, and the river will be parched and dry; 6 and its canals will become foul, and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up, reeds and rushes will rot away. 7 There will be bare places by the Nile, on the brink of the Nile, and all that is sown by the Nile will dry up, be driven away, and be no more. 8 The fishermen will mourn and lament, all who cast hook in the Nile; and they will languish who spread nets upon the water. 9 The workers in combed flax will be in despair, and the weavers of white cotton. 10 Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed, and all who work for hire will be grieved.
Through out the Bible water is used to denote the condition of the politics of people, nations, and tongues (Rev 17:15) Here the Nile drying up means that their political fortunes are dried up. Starting with the Assyrian Empire at the time of Isaiah, Egypt went from being the vassal of one empire to the next, for centuries. First the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then the Greeks who installed themselves as Pharaohs, this lasted till the Roman Empire dethroned the last Greek Pharaoh, Cleopatra. Egypt wasn’t an independent country again until the Ottoman Empire began to dry up. [Rev 16:12] They became an independent republic in 1953.
11 The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wise counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”? 12 Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you and make known what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. 13 The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of her tribes have led Egypt astray. 14 The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion; and they have made Egypt stagger in all her doings as a drunken man staggers in his vomit. 15 And there will be nothing for Egypt which head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.
Zoan is believed to be the Egyptian city of Tanis, in what had been the land of Goshen. From this prophecy we can surmise that it must have been a place where some of the inhabitants where considered wise counselors. However their counsel was foolish and only lead the Egypt’s downfall.
16 In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand which the LORD of hosts shakes over them. 17 And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians; every one to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose which the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.
The Egyptians have not raise an effective army since this time. They rolled over for almost every invading army. The only one that failed was Antiochus Epiphanes who in 168 BC was turned back by the Roman Ambassador, who drew a line in the sand and told Antiochus that if he crossed it he would be at war with Rome. Not wanting trouble with the rising power of Rome he turned back and sacked Jerusalem instead. (but that’s another paper)
18 In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt which speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of the Sun.
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 will defend 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 burnt offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. 22 And the LORD will smite Egypt, smiting and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will heed their supplications and heal them.
We only know where two of these cities were. (it has been suggested that they were Heliopolis, Leontopolis, Migdol, Daphnae, and Memphis) It was during this time , after the Assyrian invasion, that the political instability was such that many Jews relocated into Egypt. Josephus tells of the building of a temple in Bubastis Egypt, that lasted for 333 years. Antiq. Book 13, chapter 3, section 2, and Jewish War Book 7, chapter 10, section 2.
We know from archeology that there was a Jewish temple on Elephantine Island. We know that the Persian’s had positioned Jewish mercenaries on Elephantine to keep the Egyptians loyal. So it will take more digging in Egypt to find exactly where the other three were. However the term “five” in Hebrew can also mean a few, similar to the English phrase “a hand full”. [c.f. 1 Sam 21:3]
The City of the Sun was Heliopolis. However this is not the normal Hebrew for sun, that is shemesh, this is haras which means destruction. To further muddy the waters the LXX translated it as the City of Righteousness. It could mean that the rest of Egypt calls this city, the city of destruction. For pagans are always sure that those who stop worshiping their many gods will face the wrath of those gods.
23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
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 heritage.”
After Messiah came, the next 600 years see this area as largely Christian first ruled by the pagan Roman Empire then at 313 ruled by a Christian Roman Government. It was largely a peaceful part of the Empire. As the center of the known world, trade thrived, the roads were reasonably kept safe. The ports were busy, as all the goods of the world moving east or west passed through the area. The eastern half of the Roman Empire was relatively secure. There were none of the Gothic invasions that plagued the Western Roman Empire.
This was the state of things until Islam showed up around 630 AD. The Muslim hordes swept through the area taking everyone by force. Most converted many were killed, a few hung on and their descendants are still suffering for it.
These days are fulfilled. There are other prophecies as to the final outcome of Egypt and Assyria. Eventually we hope to get to all of them.