Isaiah 19 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Isaiah 19 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

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.

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

(19:2-4) And they shall fight every one against his brother.
The God of Peace will set Egyptian against Egyptian, brother against brother, and kingdom against kingdom. Then he'll make the survivors seed the counsel of "wizards," and subject them to a "cruel lord."
The God of Peace will also judge the world. God's attribute, such as his love for peace cannot be put against his love for justice and holiness as if they were somehow in conflict. They are in perfect harmony. So on one hand this war is what the sins of the Egyptians will have bought them. On the other hand it is a warning to flee from their sins and do righteousness, like Jonah was send to Nineveh to warn them about the coming destruction, Jonah 4:2.
And besides this destruction that would befall Egypt, Isaiah also promises them that the Messiah would come, verse 20. And that when they would cry to the Lord, he would deliver them. And God promises them that they shall know him, verse 21, and that there will be peace between gentile and Jew, verses 23-24. And the Egyptians will be called God's people and not be excluded from the blessings of Israel.

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.

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.

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

The river of Egypt (identified as the Nile in RSV) shall dry up. This has never occurred.
We have a similar prophesy in Zech. 10:11. John Gill mentions two explanations that do not take this drying up literally, but metaphorically. But his preference is to take it literally. The author of the SAB tells us this has never happened. How do we know? Do we have perfect records?
I found a resource on the Internet that says that without the contribution of the White Nile, the Nile would run dry in Egypt:

The other main source is the White Nile originating in Uganda and Burundi. It contributes with 16%, but this is a more steady flow. Without it, the river Nile would run dry in May.

If a contribution of 16% is so important, it seems the flow of Nile is fairly vulnerable and that it drying out is not a physical impossibility given the right circumstances.

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

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

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.

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

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 counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?

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.

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.

God sends a "perverse spirit" among the Egyptians and causes them to err "as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit."
The perverse spirit was mingled with their drink, to intoxicate them so to speak. The reason is, as John Gill explains:

So that the infatuation and want of wisdom in their counsels were from the Lord; who, because of the vain boasts of their wisdom in righteous judgment, gave them up to judicial blindness, stupidity, and folly

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

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.

Egypt will become weakened and frightened "like unto women."
It is a clear fact that women are weaker than man. Their bodies are different and they have less muscular mass. If women had to compete with men in physical sports, there would be no competition. For example on the 100 metre run the difference between men and women is 3/4 of a second. That's huge. And actually the US high school male record is faster than the fastest women athlete on the planet. This simply indicates that even when women train, they get beaten by a high school student. Let alone when they do not train at all.
And that is the comparison Isaiah makes here: the strength of Egypt was a men, but they would become like women.
And for reasons of political correctness, let me add that in the Bible wisdom is a woman, Prov. 8:1-2

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.

"The land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt."
Judah never invaded Egypt and was never a military threat to Egypt.
The author of the SAB is right, Judah never invaded Egypt. But that is not what the prophet says. Judah will be a terror means that when the Egyptians here what had befallen Judah, they will be scared:

Not by reason of war breaking out between them, they being in strict alliance with each other at this time; but on account of what they should hear had befallen the land of Judea, and the cities of it, by the invasion of Sennacherib's army, which had taken and laid them waste; the tidings of which being brought them a panic would seize them, fearing that they should next fall a sacrifice to them, because of their alliance with them, and nearness to them, there being only the land of the Philistines between them and Egypt; and Judea being invaded and overrun, the way was open for the Assyrian army into their country; and besides they might reflect, that if the judgments of God fell so heavy on his own people, what might they not expect?

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.

According to 19:18, there shall be five cities in Egypt that speak the Canaanite language. But that language was never spoken in Egypt, and it is extinct now.
The Canaanite language is not the language of the people of Canaan before Israel was founded, but the Hebrew language. And it has to be understood in the spiritual sense as the language of the Bible. Many in these cities will speak a new language, not the language of sin, but a godly language. Not the language of “I want”, but “Lord, what willest thou me to do.”

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.

(19:18-21) These verses predict that the Egyptians will worship the Lord (Yahweh) with sacrifices and offerings. But Judaism has never been an important religion in Egypt.
John Gill writes that an altar and temple was build in Egypt:

Josephus, and other Jewish writers, suppose this to be fulfilled when Onias, the son of Simeon the just, fled into Egypt, and obtained leave of Ptolemy king of Egypt, and Queen Cleopatra, to build a temple and an altar there, like those at Jerusalem, in order to draw the Jews thither, which was about six hundred years after this prophecy; and who did build both a temple and an altar in the nome of Heliopolis, about twenty three miles from the city of Memphis, and which continued three hundred and forty three years;

But he continues that this is not the meaning as the meaning is the same as in the previous verse: with the altar, pillar and sacrifices gospel blessings and gospel duties are meant. And Judaism has never been an important religion in Egypt, that is true. But the Gospel has flourished there for a time.

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 saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.

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.

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 intreated of them, and shall heal them.

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.

(19:23-24) These verses predict that there will be an alliance between Egypt, Israel, and Assyria. But there has never been any such alliance, and it's unlikely that it ever will since Assyria no longer exists.
This refers to the times of the early New Testament Church, the times of the Gospel. Serving here is serving the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a service of love.

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.