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Ethiopia is charged to note God's judgments.
1 Woe to the land shadowing in the heat of harvest. with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:
2 That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!
3 All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet,
5 For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches. 6 They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.
7 In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning 4 For so the LORD said unto hitherto; a nation meted out me, I will take my rest, and I and trodden under foot, whose will consider in my dwelling land the rivers have spoiled, to place like a clear heat upon the place of the name of the herbs, and like a cloud of dew LORD of hosts, the mount Zion. LECTURE 1119.
The present which all men ought to give to God.
The country to which this obscure prophecy was most probably addressed, is Éthiopia in Africa, nearly the same with that which is now called Abyssinia; and which, in respect of the land of Israel, lay "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia," to the south of those rivers which were called by its name. Thus much at least is certain, that Sennacherib, the monarch of Assyria, whose miraculous discomfiture is predicted at the close of the preceding chapter, was engaged in warfare at the same time with Tirhakah king of Ethiopia. See 2 Kings 19. 9. Egypt also appears to have been then in league with Hezekiah. See 2 Kings 18. 21. And it is known from other historic records, that Egypt, which lay between Jerusalem and Ethiopia, was about the same period in close connection with the latter country; having for its sovereign a prince of Ethiopian extraction. Finding therefore the doom of Sennacherib at the end of the chapter preceding this, and observing that "The burden of Egypt," ch. 19. 1, occupies the chapter following, we may deem it highly probable, that the subject of this chapter is a solemn message to the king of Ethiopia, bidding him note the great judgment which the Lord was about to inflict upon their common enemy, the king of Assyria.
Besides a wide difference of opinion as to the general subject of this prophecy, there is also much difficulty as to the right translation of many expressions in it, as will be seen in the margin of our bibles, where many different translations are suggested. And it has been thought that the first word translated "Woe," is no more, in this place, than a term calling attention to the message about to be delivered. But Ethiopia might be doomed to woe hereafter, for its idolatry, though for the present in league with the people of the Lord. And the message might begin with warning, though it consisted of good tidings in the main. It is addressed to a land "shadowing with wings," words which perhaps refer to the multitude of its winged insects. It is spoken of as sending ambassadors both "by the sea," that is, the Red Sea close at hand, and "in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters," that is on its rivers, and especially on the upper portion of the Nile. This may mean that it carried on a great commerce both by river and by sea. It is described to the swift messengers, who are supposed to bear the prophets message, as "a people scattered and peeled," which expression may refer to its extensive territory, or, like other expressions in the same verse, may allude to circumstances now unknown. See Ezek. 30. 9. And it is told, nay, all the inhabitants of the world are told, to mark the interference of the arm of the Lord in behalf of his own chosen nation. All were to watch for the ensign which He would soon lift up upon his mountains. All were to listen for the trumpet which He soon would blow. For whilst the proud invader would defy his power, and rush on in full confidence of success, God would wait, as He had revealed to Isaiah, in calm and quiet rest, like the stillness of the midday heat, taking his own season to cut off, and to cut down, and to take away, the pride and power of Sennacherib, and to make the multitude of his host a prey for the fowls of the mountains, and for the beasts of the earth.
Of the Ethiopians, thus invited to observe God's judgments, it is further here foretold, that they would bring "the present unto the Lord of hosts." They would be among those nations, of whom we read in the sacred history, that after this miraculous deliverance," many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth." 2 Chron. 32.
And further, when we call to mind the fact, that Abyssinia has long been a nation professing Christianity, though now separated from the rest of Christendom by the realms of unbelievers, we shall be inclined to think, that these words foreshew another offering, that "the present," here spoken of, is that gift of themselves to God, through Christ, which they and we and all the "dwellers on the earth," owe to Him for his great salvation.
The burden of Egypt, of its princes and people.
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. 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.
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.
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.
15 Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do.
The misery of having no useful employment.
Amongst the great nations of antiquity, none were more nearly connected with the history of the Israelites than Egypt. How appropriate to the gross superstitions of that infatuated country is this account of the effect of the visitation of the Lord, "the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it!" How awful, in a time of
public calamity, must be the state of that nation which has trusted in false gods, and finds them all unable to help; which resorts to idols, and charmers, and wizards, and gets no relief or deliverance! How deplorable, in like manner, in a case of private distress, is the desolation of heart and soul, which overtakes the unbelieving professor of a true religion! His religion may be true; but if his heart be false, if his faith in the truth be no real conviction of things unseen, if his thoughts and affections be all the while devoted to the idols of this world of sense; how does his spirit fail within him in the day of visitation, when this world eludes his grasp, and he has no hold of hope upon another!
The writings of heathen historians attest the fulfilment of this prophecy, in several of these remarkable particulars. They tell us of a time when the sovereign authority in Egypt was divided amongst twelve kings, who soon fell into violent contentions with each other. They record also the savage cruelties inflicted on the Egyptians by Persian monarchs in after times; one of whom in particular treated their idols with great indignity, and slew many of the priests and worshippers. To these calamities inflicted by man was to be added another, not particularly recorded in history, the failure of the waters of the Nile; which at a certain season of the year, spreads over all Egypt like a sea, and is the cause of its remarkable fertility. Hence all those whose trade and occupation were connected with the periodical overflowing of the river would be reduced to the utmost distress. The princes too of Egypt would be remarkable, as we know from history that they were, for a foolish vanity, and gross infatuation; leading them to undertake the most gigantic works, for no other object, as it seems, than to astonish the beholders, and to signalize themselves. The monuments of their misdirected labour, which still remain, and of which the most learned are at a loss to divine the use, are a standing evidence of the "perverse spirit" to which Egypt was given up for its sins; and shew us, at the present time, how the rulers of that land of idols "caused Egypt to err in every work thereof." No wonder that God appointed for its fitting punishment, that there should not be any "work for Egypt," for either the rulers or multitude, to do. An awful burden, to be an idle useless race. A fearful warning to the indolent, who do no work for the good of man or for the glory of God. Never may we be sentenced to this miserable condition of having no work that we may do. Whatever be our station of life, may it be ever our privilege, and pleasure, to have some useful employment, and therein to be "not slothful in business:" but "fervent in spirit; serving the Lord!" Rom. 12. 11.
PART VII. 0. T.
The smiting and the healing of Egypt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
The conversion of the Gentiles to the true faith.
A disposition to be alarmed adds much to the sufferings of those who are in danger, and is here laid upon Egypt as part of its burden in the day of its visitation. The Egyptians would be afraid, "because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of hosts," because God would send terror into their hearts. And especially "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." With the name of Judah there would be connected, in the minds of the Egyptians, a recollection of the mighty works which the God of Israel had wrought, and an apprehension of the judgments which they had provoked at his hands, by often tempting his people to transgress.