In our study of Isaiah chapter nineteen, we will look at the previous judgment on the land of Egypt and its promised blessing in the days to come. Pruning is a process of trimming a plant to make it stronger and healthier. As we shall see, the judgment that Isaiah speaks of is similar to this process as Egypt was not totally destroyed and will thrive again in the future.
A prophecy against Egypt: See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear.
Isaiah begins to tell the the people of Judah about the coming judgment on the land of Egypt. He begins by letting us know that this is divine judgment as he speaks of the Lord riding on a cloud. We see that the basis for this judgment is their idolatry.
'I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian - brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.'
Here, the Lord was speaking of the fighting that happened between the northern and southern kingdoms of Egypt. The Libyan dynasty to the north clashed with the Cushites to the south. Once again, we see that it is God that was causing this to happen.
'The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists.'
The "plans" refers to the grand plan of both the northern and southern pharaohs to reunite the kingdom and restore its former honor and prestige among the nations. The problem was that each one wanted to be the ruler of this reunified kingdom. This speaks of the fact that their pride is the cause their rejection of the one true God and is the basis for His pruning of them. As we see, their idolatry continues as they seek answers and power from their ancestors who were supposed to be gods.
'I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them,' declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
This prophecy was fulfilled when King Esarhaddon of Assyria conquered the land in the year 670 B.C. The Assyrians were known as the most cruel and merciless people of the day but they were used by God as an instrument (pruning shears) of judgment.
The waters of the river will dry up, and the riverbed will be parched and dry. The canals will stink, the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up. The reeds and rushes will wither, also the plants along the Nile, at the mouth of the river. Every sown field along the Nile will become parched, will blow away and be no more.
Although God used the Assyrians, we see that only God could cause the river to dry up and bring famine upon the land. The Nile river had been a great river, and when it flooded, it created fertile farmland. Here, we see that this farmland became desolate and a people who were used to selling food to other lands could no longer provide for themselves.
The fishermen will groan and lament, all who cast hooks into the Nile; those who throw nets on the water will pine away. Those who work with combed flax will despair, the weavers of fine linen will lose hope. The workers in cloth will be dejected, and all the wage earners will be sick at heart.
Now, we see the effects on the industry and economy of Egypt. Without water, the fish die and so fishermen suffer. Without water crops and grass die and so the garment industry suffers. The idols could not control nature and now God demonstrates that the work of men's hands is not sufficient either. The same type of thing is described concerning the fall of Babylon (see Revelation 18).
The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools; the wise counselors of Pharaoh give senseless advice. How can you say to Pharaoh, 'I am one of the wise men, a disciple of ancient kings'? Where are your wise men now? Let them show you and make known what the Lord Almighty has planned against Egypt.
Now, we see that the judgment demonstrates that the leaders of a nation are subject to God. Instead of leading the nation closer to God, they had trusted in their idols. The same type of thing is happening in most countries today and will continue in the final days. In Revelation, we see that the government becomes a worldwide system built on the efforts of men.
The officials of Zoan have become fools, the leaders of Memphis are deceived; the cornerstones of her peoples have led Egypt astray.
The leaders of Egypt had led the people into their gross idolatry and so the judgment begins with them. This is true for the leaders of countries today as well.
The Lord has poured into them a spirit of dizziness; they make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit. There is nothing Egypt can do - head or tail, palm branch or reed.
The Egyptians were famous for their knowledge of science but we see that God replaces their wisdom with confusion. We also see that there is nothing they can do to stop it.
In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them.
Now, Isaiah describes a future judgment of the nation of Egypt as he describes this once mighty nation as "weaklings". We see that they learn to fear God and are reminded that fear is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the Lord Almighty is planning against them.
We know that this describes future events as Egypt is not terrified by Israel today. What could make Egypt terrified? Today, the country is about 90% Muslim (they deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God). They will be terrified when they learn the truth and see His power demonstrated.
In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord Almighty. One of them will be called the City of the Sun.
There will be five cities in Egypt that will be Christian cities and the people will speak Hebrew. One of these cities will be a suburb of Cairo. The "City of the Sun" refers to Heliopolis which was a chief cult center of Ra and was the capital of the province of Goshen. Today, it is a suburb of Cairo.
In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them.
In the heart of what is now an Islamic state, there will be an altar to the Lord and a marker on the border. That is truly amazing to think of when you look at Egypt today. They will take a stand for Jesus Christ but, as we know, that will lead to persecution. When they cry out to the Lord because of this oppression, He will hear and send them help.
So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.
Now, we get a clue as to when this will happen as Isaiah speaks of sacrifices and grain offerings. We also see how this will happen in the fact that, first, God will bring hardship onto the nation. In the midst of this hardship, they will turn to the Lord. That should cause us to ask a question about our role as Christians in Egypt. The role of Christians there (as well as all over the world) is to tell people about Jesus so that they will know who to call on during the hardship. We do not have to worry about "winning them to Christ" as that is not our job. As we see in this passage, it is God that will win them through the display of His power.
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
Not only will Egypt be a Christian nation but also Northern Iraq. The two will be in good relations and both will worship the Lord. This is only possible through the coming of Jesus Christ.
In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.'
In our world today it may seem unlikely, but, on the day of the Lord, Egyptians and Assyrians will join Israel in worship. The earth will be blessed through this peace. There are many today that want to try to manufacture this peace through agreements and treaty but, as we see, real peace is not happening until the coming of the Prince of Peace.