Isaiah 19:11-13 Poor Egyptian Counsel

Verse 11: The princes of Zoan are mere fools; the advice of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers has become stupid. How can you men say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”?

Zoan is located in the Nile Delta area. Specifically, Zoan was located on the eastern bank of the Tanitic branch of the Nile near the border of the Sinai. It was called Tanis by the Greeks. At times throughout history, Zoan was the capital of Egypt. Numbers 13:22b … (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) The city was noted before Abraham. It was the dwelling place of the Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. Zoan continued in importance until the time of Alexander the Great. It means, place of departure.

As God sees them, the leaders of this area are not smart. The best counsel that leadership has been offered is stupid, brutish, and dull-hearted.  They are described as wicked fools in verse 13. These are the best and the brightest in Egypt. God asks the rhetorical question, “How can you claim to be wise?” There is some debate with scholars if this is idiomatic language or does one of the guys actually claim to be a direct descendant of ancient Egyptian kings. Either way, bad advice.

Verse 12: Well then, where are your wise men? Please let them tell you, and let them understand what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt.

God wants to know. Where are the wise men? He challenges the intelligencia of Egypt. What is it that God has in store? Egypt’s best minds in the past did not know God’s intentions. The Egyptians could not interpret Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41:8 Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. He eventually called upon Joseph who credited God for the insight as to the meaning of the dreams. The Egyptians could not understand the mind of God in the past. And this will be the case in the future.

Verse 13: The princes of Zoan have acted foolishly, the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstone of her tribes have led Egypt astray.

Noph is the Hebrew name of the Egyptian city Memphis (Greek and Latin form).  Noph or Memphis is the capital of Lower Egypt and of all Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Its ruins have been carried away over time.  The stones have been used in buildings in other places. Not much is left today. Noph is located on the western side of the Nile to the south of Cairo. Noph means “presentability”.

The leaders from this area south of modern day Cairo are “deluded”. They are deceptive and shady.

The leaders and consultants mentioned in the text are from the northern ends of Egypt to the southern ends of Egypt. Opinions and advice will be sought from all reaches of Egypt. They are all crooked fools.

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