Series: Thru the Bible
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Blessed be My people, Egypt, the work of My hands, Assyria, and My special possession, Israel!
“(1) Send rams as tribute to the ruler of the land, from Sela in the wilderness to the hill of Daughter Zion.”
This tribute has a long history in Israel and that part of the world at large. The Moabites were conquered by David and paid him an annual tribute (2Sam. 8:2) and when the kingdom was divided in Rehoboam’s time, the tribute was paid to the kings of Israel. This continued until Ahab. At that time the Moabites rebelled by refusing to pay the tribute (2Kings 3:4). The tribute now mentioned was to be paid in lambs and rams to the king of Judah. As the language will begin to make clear, this king is Jesus as the future and millennial king over the earth who reigns from David’s throne in Jerusalem and is in fact his physical heir.
“(2) At the fords of the Arnon the Moabite women are like a bird that flies about when forced from its nest.
(3) “Bring a plan, make a decision! Provide some shade in the middle of the day! Hide the fugitives! Do not betray the one who tries to escape! (4) Please let the Moabite fugitives live among you. Hide them from the destroyer!”
Certainly the one who applies pressure will cease, the destroyer will come to an end, those who trample will disappear from the earth.
(5) Then a trustworthy king will be established; he will rule in a reliable manner, this one from David’s family. He will be sure to make just decisions and will be experienced in executing justice.
(6) We have heard about Moab’s pride, their great arrogance, their boasting, pride, and excess. But their boastful claims are empty! (7) So Moab wails over its demise – they all wail! Completely devastated, they moan about what has happened to the raisin cakes of Kir Hareseth. (8) For the fields of Heshbon are dried up, as well as the vines of Sibmah. The rulers of the nations trample all over its vines, which reach Jazer and spread to the wilderness; their shoots spread out and cross the sea. (9) So I weep along with Jazer over the vines of Sibmah. I will saturate you with my tears, Heshbon and Elealeh, for the conquering invaders shout triumphantly over your fruit and crops. (10) Joy and happiness disappear from the orchards, and in the vineyards no one rejoices or shouts; no one treads out juice in the wine vats – I have brought the joyful shouts to an end. (11) So my heart constantly sighs for Moab, like the strumming of a harp, my inner being sighs for Kir Hareseth. (12) When the Moabites plead with all their might at their high places, and enter their temples to pray, their prayers will be ineffective! (13) This is the message the LORD previously announced about Moab. (14) Now the LORD makes this announcement: “Within exactly three years Moab’s splendor will disappear, along with all her many people; there will be just a few, insignificant survivors left.”
Damascus was and is the capital city of Syria. It is among the most ancient cities of the world which has come to destruction several times and been rebuilt each time.
The Midrash, which is an expansive Jewish exegesis of the Old Testament and which adds details which are sometimes worthy of note, says regarding those of Damascus, that they were the most extensive and flagrant of all idolaters. “There were in Damascus three hundred and sixty-five streets, in each of these was an idol, and each idol had his peculiar day of worship; so that the whole were worshiped in the course of the year.”
As we have begun to see as a pattern, beginning with the southern kingdom of Israel being called in Judah, even so the entire northern kingdom of Israel is named in its dominant tribe of Ephraim.
“(1) This is an oracle about Damascus: “Look, Damascus is no longer a city, it is a heap of ruins! (2) The cities of Aroer are abandoned. They will be used for herds, which will lie down there in peace. (3) Fortified cities will disappear from Ephraim, and Damascus will lose its kingdom.
The survivors in Syria will end up like the splendor of the Israelites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
(4) “At that time Jacob’s splendor will be greatly diminished, and he will become skin and bones. (5) It will be as when one gathers the grain harvest, and his hand gleans the ear of grain. It will be like one gathering the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim.
(6) There will be some left behind, like when an olive tree is beaten – two or three ripe olives remain toward the very top, four or five on its fruitful branches,” says the LORD God of Israel.
(7) At that time men will trust in their Creator; they will depend on the Holy One of Israel. (8) They will no longer trust in the altars their hands made, or depend on the Asherah poles and incense altars their fingers made.
(9) At that time their fortified cities will be like the abandoned summits of the Amorites, which they abandoned because of the Israelites; there will be desolation.
(10) For you ignore the God Who rescues you; you pay no attention to your strong Protector. So this is what happens: You cultivate beautiful plants and plant exotic vines. (11) The day you begin cultivating, you do what you can to make it grow; the morning you begin planting, you do what you can to make it sprout. Yet the harvest will disappear in the day of disease and incurable pain.
(12) Beware, you many nations massing together, those who make a commotion as loud as the roaring of the sea’s waves. Beware, you people making such an uproar, those who make an uproar as loud as the roaring of powerful waves.
(13) Though these people make an uproar as loud as the roaring of powerful waves, when He shouts at them, they will flee to a distant land, driven before the wind like dead weeds on the hills, or like dead thistles before a strong gale.
(14) In the evening there is sudden terror; by morning they vanish. This is the fate of those who try to plunder us, the destiny of those who try to loot us!”
This is considered to be a bit of an obscure prophecy. Cush is believed to be in association with Ethiopia
“(1) Beware, land of buzzing wings, the one beyond the rivers of Cush, (2) that sends messengers by sea, who glide over the water’s surface in boats made of papyrus.
Go, you swift messengers, to a nation of tall, smooth-skinned people, to a people that are feared far and wide, to a nation strong and victorious, whose land rivers divide.
(3) All you who live in the world, who reside on the earth, you will see a signal flag raised on the mountains; you will hear a trumpet being blown.
(4) For this is what the LORD has told me:
“I will wait and watch from My place, like scorching heat produced by the sunlight, like a cloud of mist in the heat of harvest.”
(5) For before the harvest, when the bud has sprouted, and the ripening fruit appears, He will cut off the unproductive shoots with pruning knives; He will prune the tendrils. (6) They will all be left for the birds of the hills and the wild animals; the birds will eat them during the summer, and all the wild animals will eat them during the winter.
(7) At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, by a people that are tall and smooth-skinned, a people that are feared far and wide, a nation strong and victorious, whose land rivers divide.
The tribute will be brought to the place where the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has chosen to reside, on Mount Zion.”
I personally believe this may have something to do with the future as well as what was currently happening at the time. The scriptures tell us that when Messiah reigns on the earth, gifts will be brought to Him from
Psalm 72:1-20, “(1) For Solomon. O God, grant the king the ability to make just decisions! Grant the king’s son the ability to make fair decisions! (2) Then he will judge your people fairly, and your oppressed ones equitably. (3) The mountains will bring news of peace to the people, and the hills will announce justice. (4) He will defend the oppressed among the people; he will deliver the children of the poor and crush the oppressor. (5) People will fear you as long as the sun and moon remain in the sky, for generation after generation. (6) He will descend like rain on the mown grass, like showers that drench the earth. (7) During his days the godly will flourish; peace will prevail as long as the moon remains in the sky. (8) May he rule from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth! (9) Before him the coastlands will bow down, and his enemies will lick the dust. (10) The kings of Tarshish and the coastlands will offer gifts; the kings of Sheba and Seba will bring tribute. (11) All kings will bow down to him; all nations will serve him. (12) For he will rescue the needy when they cry out for help, and the oppressed who have no defender. (13) He will take pity on the poor and needy; the lives of the needy he will save. (14) From harm and violence he will defend them; he will value their lives. (15) May he live! May they offer him gold from Sheba! May they continually pray for him! May they pronounce blessings on him all day long! (16) May there be an abundance of grain in the earth; on the tops of the mountains may it sway! May its fruit trees flourish like the forests of Lebanon! May its crops be as abundant as the grass of the earth! (17) May His fame endure! May his dynasty last as long as the sun remains in the sky! May they use his name when they formulate their blessings! May all nations consider him to be favored by God! (18) The LORD God, the God of Israel, deserves praise! He alone accomplishes amazing things! (19) His glorious name deserves praise forevermore! May His majestic splendor fill the whole earth! We agree! We agree! (20) This collection of the prayers of David son of Jesse ends here.”
“This may have been fulfilled in some way close to Isaiah’s time. But we know it was fulfilled in Acts 8:26-40, when an Ethiopian came to worship the LORD at Jerusalem, and then trusted in Jesus at the preaching of Philip. It was also fulfilled in the strong Ethiopian church the first few centuries, and the enduring Ethiopian church today.”
When I went to write the forward for this segment of the prophecy I thought to reference a few commentators beginning with Guzik, and found he said what I wanted to so rather than write my own I’ll read from his.
“Egypt was one of the great powers of the ancient world, and being situated immediately to the south of Israel, it was an empire that Israel constantly had to reckon with. Many times Egypt had been the enemy of Israel, at times Egypt had been a refuge for Israel, and sometimes Egypt offered a tempting but ungodly alliance to Israel. In this chapter, the LORD presents both a prophecy against and for Egypt.
The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence: Egypt was known for its worship of many, many different gods. Through His hand of judgment, the LORD will “knock over” these many different gods.”
“(1) This is an oracle 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. (2) “I will provoke civil strife in Egypt, brothers will fight with each other, as will neighbors, cities, and kingdoms.
(3) The Egyptians will panic, and I will confuse their strategy.
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.
(4) I will hand Egypt over to a harsh master; a powerful king will rule over them,” says the Sovereign LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
(5) The water of the sea will be dried up, and the river will dry up and be empty. (6) The canals will stink; 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.
All the cultivated land near the river will turn to dust and be blown away.
(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.
(9) Those who make clothes from combed flax will be embarrassed; those who weave will turn pale.
(10) Those who make cloth will be demoralized; all the hired workers will be depressed.
(11) The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools; 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?”
(12) But where, oh where, are your wise men? Let them tell you, let them find out what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has planned for Egypt.
(13) The officials of Zoan are fools, the officials of Memphis are misled; the rulers of her tribes lead Egypt astray.
(14) The LORD has made them undiscerning; they lead Egypt astray in all she does, so that she is like a drunk sliding around in his own vomit. (15) Egypt will not be able to do a thing, head or tail, shoots or stalk.”
Egypt, Assyria, Israel Blessed
“(16) At that time the Egyptians will be like women. They will tremble and fear because the LORD of Heaven’s Armies brandishes his fist against them.
(17) The land of Judah will humiliate Egypt. Everyone who hears about Judah will be afraid because of what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is planning to do to them.
(18) At that time five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
One will be called the City of the Sun. (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 dedicated to the LORD at its border.
(20) It will become a visual reminder in the land of Egypt of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. When they cry out to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a deliverer and defender who will rescue them.”
“In the time of the Maccabees, the high priest Onias IV was forced to flee to Egypt, and there he built a temple that was similar to the one in Jerusalem. Some commentators relate the ‘altar’ of Isaiah19:19 to this structure.” (Wolf) This may relate to the City of the Sun prophecy, because the temple Onias IV built was in the province of Heliopolis.” – Guzik
“(21) The LORD will reveal Himself to the Egyptians, and they will acknowledge the LORD’s authority at that time. 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 and heal them.”
There did come to be a widespread knowledge of the LORD in Egypt. In the days of Jesus, more than a million Jews lived in Egypt. In the early days of Christianity, there was a strong, vital church in Egypt for more than 600 years.
This prophecy may have additional fulfillment during the Millennium, but it certainly has been fulfilled in history.
In the fourth century, the great theologian Athanasius, wrote this from Egypt: “The thing is happening before our very eyes, here in Egypt; and thereby another prophecy is fulfilled, for at no other time have the Egyptians ceased from their false worship save when the Lord of all, riding as on a cloud, came down here in the body and brought the error of idols to nothing and won over everybody to Himself and through Himself to the Father.” (From On the Incarnation, cited by Grogan)
The altar and sacrifice described most likely are fulfilled during the Millennium, when sacrifice will be allowed as a memorial of Jesus’ great work, but never as atonement. “For just as restored Israel will bring blood sacrifices unto the Lord to keep in remembrance of the all-sufficient blood sacrifice of Christ, so this may also take place in Egypt on that memorable day.” – Harry Bultema
Building altars in expression of worship and for memorials were often erected in the ancient world which we have read of several times with the patriarchs.
The Egyptians did this as well. During the Inter-testamental Period, an altar was built to Yahweh in Egypt, as Josephus reported…
“… the son of Onias the high priest, who was of the same name with his father, and who fled to king Ptolemy, who was called Philometor, lived now at Alexandria, as we have said already. When this Onias saw that Judea was oppressed by the Macedonians and their kings, out of a desire to purchase to himself a memorial and eternal fame, he resolved to send to king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra, to ask leave of them that he might build a temple in Egypt like to that at Jerusalem, and might ordain Levites and priests out of their own stock. The chief reason why he was desirous so to do, was, that he relied upon the prophet Isaiah, who lived about six hundred years before, and foretold that there certainly was to be a temple built to Almighty God in Egypt by a man that was a Jew. … ‘for the prophet Isaiah foretold, that there should be an altar in Egypt to the Lord.”
Nevertheless, to me, the context of this prophecy is the end times. This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. As one commentator noted, Onias’ act prefigured what will happen in the end times.
“(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.
(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 in the earth.
(25) The LORD of Heaven’s Armies will pronounce a blessing over the earth, saying, “Blessed be My people, Egypt, and the work of My hands, Assyria, and my special possession, Israel!”
A Sign against Egypt and Cush
“(1) The LORD revealed the following message during the year in which King Sargon of Assyria sent his commanding general to Ashdod, and he fought against it and captured it.
(2) At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz:
“Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.”
This is well attested to in history as having happened in 711 B.C.
“He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot.
(3) Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that My servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush, (4) so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, both young and old.
They will be in undergarments and barefoot, with the buttocks exposed; the Egyptians will be publicly humiliated.
(5) Those who put their hope in Cush and took pride in Egypt will be afraid and embarrassed.
(6) At that time those who live on this coast will say, ‘Look what has happened to our source of hope to whom we fled for help, expecting to be rescued from the king of Assyria! How can we escape now?’”
I like the words of Morgan regarding this, he says,
“Whenever our expectation is in something wrong, or our glory is in something wrong, the LORD will find a way to make those things disappoint us. Judah set their expectation on Ethiopia, and looked to Egypt for glory, but now they are left afraid and ashamed.There is no place of security for the people of God, other than that to be found in the rule of God. All expectation not centred in God, is doomed to disappointment and discomfiture.” (Morgan)