Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Isaiah 19: 4-7

“Moreover, I will deliver the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel master,
And a mighty king will rule over them,” declares the Lord God of hosts.
5 The waters from the sea will dry up,
And the river will be parched and dry.
The canals will emit a stench,
The streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up;
The reeds and rushes will rot away.
The bulrushes by the Nile, by the edge of the Nile
And all the sown fields by the Nile
Will become dry, be driven away, and be no more.

Moving forward in Chapter 19, Isaiah continues to bring forth the word of judgment upon Egypt. Last week, we looked at how the nation would crumble from the inside out, with poor judgment and internal strife ruling over wisdom. This week, we look at the effect God's judgment will have upon His Creation in this part of the world.

But, first, verse 4 [which, in hindsight, should have been included with last week's bundle of verses]. Not only will conditions be ripe for a takeover at the top realms of government, but God will bring forward a "mighty" and "cruel master" of a king to rule the nation. If we remember back to the days of Moses' calling, we know that Egypt's ruler, Pharaoh, fits the bill for a cruel master. The people of God were slaves to this leader, who treated them unfairly and caused them great suffering. Now, in Isaiah's prophecy, we see a turning of those tables.

"Now the barbarous usage which the Egyptian task masters gave to God’s Israel long ago was remembered against them and they were paid in their own coin by another Pharaoh. It is sad with a people when the powers that should be for edification are for destruction, and they are ruined by those by whom they should be ruled...."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible
Indeed, Egypt would be ruled by tyrants and by foreign rulers--among them, kings from Assyria and Babylon--with like mightiness and fierceness. Though God does not condone cruelty, He has allowed its use as a punishment.

Creation does not lie still in response to the work of God. It responds to God as part of His work in a given situation. I'm guessing that if you asked people on the street for three facts about Egypt, one of those would contain mention of the Nile River. One of the world's longest rivers, the Nile flows from southern Africa up north, emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The mouth of the the Nile is in Egypt.

Every year, the Nile River has a period of great rising due to changes in climate. Back in the day, it was flooding. When the waters receded, after scaling the river's banks, nutrient-rich soil deposits remained. The farmers took advantage of the prime condition of the land to plant their crops. In fact, Egypt was known as the "bread basket" of the world, as it was a chief exporter of crops. (Reformation Study Bible)

It is with this background that we look at the conditions to come, beginning with verse 5. The "sea," "waters," "river," will "thin out" and "dry up." Making the Nile run dry is the job of only One! God is knocking out the tributaries and connecting waters that the Nile feeds, too. The "canals will emit a stench." (vs. 6) If you have ever walked near a drying river bed that is still a bit damp, there is a smell from the mud and whatever natural or unnatural deposits remain on the soil, not to mention the foul odor of the standing water itself. There would be an even stronger scent over time:

"'...The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.'"
--Exodus 7:18

More on the loss of the fish next week. Verse 6 also says that "the reeds and the rushes will rot away." 

"'...Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh?
Can the rushes grow without water?....'"

--Job 8:11

The swamp plants and grasses that make their home along the river will die. In these times, these plants were used judiciously in making baskets, mats and papyrus--as the verse in Job points out--which was used as a paper and building material. Nothing was wasted. These plants usually self-seed and grow continuously with the wealth of water and its resources at the river's edge. God's drying up of the Nile will affect this unmaintained blessing.

Then, verse 7, "all the sown fields of the Nile...," will face the impact of God's hand. If the Nile no longer floods and God refuses to send rain, the result is obvious, and the repercussions of that result enormously difficult on the health and economy of the nation--of which we'll explore more next week.

"Yet this is not all; the drying up of their rivers is the destruction...of their fortifications, for they are brooks of defence (Isa. 19:6), making the country difficult of access to an enemy. Deep rivers are the strongest lines, and most hardly forced. Pharaoh is said to be a great dragon lying in the midst of his rivers, and guarded by them, bidding defiance to all about him, (Ezekiel 29:3)."
--Matthew Henry

Although it might have been easy for an Egyptian of this day to consider God Himself the "cruel master," for the resident of Judah hearing this prophecy, it might well have served as a plea of remembrance for whom to best maintain an alliance. Who saved the Israelites? The "cruel master" or the Lord God of hosts?

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
--Romans 8:31


Egyptian industry will suffer in the wake of the loss of the Nile. ...'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week:  Isaiah 19: 8-10
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).