Isaiah 19:17-18 Hebrew Language in Egypt

The land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt; everyone to whom it is mentioned will be in dread of it, because of the purpose of the LORD of hosts which He is purposing against them.

Who and where is the land of Judah? Judah is a son of Jacob/Israel from Genesis. The lineage of Judah becomes the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 46, 49).  Jesus is from this tribe and is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). This tribe is synonymous with the southern kingdom in the day of Isaiah. It is modern day southern Israel, the area which shares a border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

From previous verses, we know the Nile River is dry during this time. The text does not say if the cause is by drought or if water is being withheld by the Aswan Dam. Time will tell. The following is food for thought in the event the waters of Nile are restrained by the dam.

Recently as 2009, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has stirred controversy with comments about Arab citizens and Egypt. He once suggested Egypt’s Aswan Dam might be bombed. In 2008, he said Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian President at that time, could “go to hell.”

Now if Israel is threatening to bomb the Aswan Dam, this would most certainly cause fear, dread, and terror. The concept of the verse is reeling in terror. This would effectively flood and wipe out Egypt. Granted, God has many options at his disposal in regards to stirring up fear. He has plagues, weather, darkness (Exodus) just to mention a few.  I am not suggesting or claiming to know the mind or purpose of God. It does not say. I do find the scenario worth noting in today’s geo-political world. God can absolutely plant an idea into the mind of a person (see Ezekiel 38, 39 with Gog and note Pharaoh and his hardened heart in Exodus).

In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will be speaking the language of Canaan and swearing allegiance to the LORD of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction.

There are all kinds of speculation and conjecture as to the symbolism or meaning of the five cities noted in this verse. Some commentators are looking for a hidden meaning. Some are seeking spiritual significance of the number five. Some are allegorizing the number of cities.

I am going to take God at His word and believe that He says what He means. There will be five cities in Egypt where those residents will speak Hebrew. Those people in those five cities will be committed to the God of the Bible.

One of those cities is named. The name of that city is debated with legitimate scholarship, not speculation or allegorical interpretation. The argument lies in which text. Here are the considerations.

The Hebrew text has עִיר הַהֶרֶס (’ir haheres, “City of Destruction”; cf. NASB, NIV).

The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa (Dead Sea Scrolls) and some medieval Hebrew manuscripts read   עִיר הָחֶרֶס (ir hakheres, “City of the Sun,” i.e., Heliopolis). This reading also finds support from Symmachus’ Greek version, the Targum (Aramaic translation of the Bible), and the Vulgate (Latin translation of the Bible).

FYI, Heliopolis is located in northern Egypt on the Nile River where it branches into multiple rivers and streams.

I trust at some point in the future this city name will be clarified and make sense.

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