The destruction of the various Egyptian city idols (Ezek 30:13-30:16)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘I will destroy

The idols.

I will put an end

To the images

In Memphis.

There shall no longer

Be a prince

In the land of Egypt.

Thus I will put fear

Into the land of Egypt.

I will make Pathros

A desolation.

I will set fire

To Zoan.

I will execute

Acts of judgment

On Thebes.

I will pour my wrath

Upon Pelusium,

The stronghold of Egypt.

I will cut off

The hordes of Thebes.

I will set fire

To Egypt.

Pelusium shall be

In great agony.

Thebes shall be

Breached.

Memphis will face

Adversaries by day.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he was going to destroy the idols and images of the city of Memphis, the capital of lower Egypt. They would face daily adversaries. There would be no longer a prince in Egypt. Yahweh was going to put fear into the people of Egypt. He was going to decimate Pathros and set a fire in Zoan, that later became known as Tanis, in the northeast Delta area. He was going to execute his judgment on Thebes, current day Karnak, by getting rid of the multitude of people there, when the walls would be broken down. He was going to pour out his wrath on the stronghold of Pelusium that was east of Zoan, so that it would be in great agony.

 

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Against the messengers sent to Egypt (Isa 30:1-30:5)

“‘Woe to you!

Rebellious children!’

Says Yahweh.

‘You carry out a plan,

But it is not mine.

You make an alliance,

But it is against my will.

You are adding sin to sin!

You set out to go down to Egypt,

Without asking for my counsel!

You want to take refuge

In the protection of Pharaoh!

You want to seek shelter

In the shadow of Egypt!

Therefore the protection of Pharaoh

Shall become your shame.

The shelter in the shadow of Egypt

Shall become your humiliation.

Even though his officials are at Zoan,

Even though his envoys reach Hanes,

Everyone will come to shame.

They are a people

That cannot profit them.

They can bring

Neither help nor profit.

They can only bring shame and disgrace.’”

This is an oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, against sending messengers to Egypt to ask for help against Assyria around 703-701 BCE. These messengers were not from Yahweh. They were in fact rebelling against the will of Yahweh, so that they were only adding sin to sin. They went to Egypt without seeking the guidance of Yahweh, since they wanted to take refuge under the shadow and protection of the Egyptian Pharaoh. However, this protections will become their shame and humiliation. Even though these messengers are in the 2 Egyptian delta cities of Zoan in the north and Hanes in the south, everyone will be shamed. They will not get help, profit, or protection, but only shame and disgrace for this action.

Oracle against Sidon (Isa 23:2-23:4)

“Be still!

O inhabitants of the coast!

O merchants of Sidon!

Your messengers crossed

Over the sea.

They replenished you.

They were on many waters.

Your revenue

Was the grain of Shihor,

The harvest of the Nile.

You were

The merchant of the nations.

Be ashamed!

O Sidon!

The sea has spoken.

The fortress of the sea says.

‘I have neither labored

Nor given birth.

I have neither reared young men

Nor brought up young women.’”

Sidon was another Phoenician city about 25 miles north of Tyre. This maritime city is also on the southern Lebanon coastline today, mostly known for its fishing and trade. Sidon was also the name of the grandson of Noah, and thus older than Tyre. This oracle of Isaiah wants the people of Sidon to be still. Their sailors had traveled the great seas. In fact, they would bring the harvest of grain from the Nile via Shihor, a port town near Zoan in Egypt. They were the sea merchants to all the countries along the Mediterranean Sea. However, they should be ashamed. Sidon was going to be barren, no longer would young men and women be raised in Sidon, but without any explanation on why this was going to happen here.

The weakness of the Egyptian wise sages (Isa 19:11-19:15)

“The princes of Zoan

Are utterly foolish.

The wise counselors of Pharaoh

Give stupid counsel.

How can you say to Pharaoh?

‘I am one of the sages.

I am a descendant of the ancient kings.’

Where now are your sages?

Let them tell you!

Let them make known!

What has Yahweh of hosts

Planned against Egypt?

The princes of Zoan

Have become fools.

The princes of Memphis

Are deluded.

Those who are the cornerstones

Of its tribes

Have led Egypt astray.

Yahweh has poured into them

A spirit of confusion.

They have made Egypt

Stagger in all its doings.

They are as a drunken man

Staggers around in vomit.

Neither head nor tail,

Palm branch or reed,

Will be able to do

Something for Egypt.”

Now Isaiah attacks the wise sages of Egypt since he calls them stupid. Isaiah mentions the capital cities of Egypt, Zoan in the north and Memphis in the south. The princes and the wise men in these places were giving stupid advice. These wise sages had no idea what Yahweh was planning for them since they were like deluded fools. They were supposed to be the cornerstones of their tribes, but they were really in confusion. In colorful language, Isaiah says that they were like drunkards staggering around in their own vomit. Nobody could do anything for Egypt, head, tail, palm branch, or reed. The rulers were the head and palm trees, while the tail and the reed represented the ordinary people. They were all getting foolish stupid advice from their so-called wise sages.

The power of God in Egypt (Ps 78:42-78:51)

“They did not keep in mind his power.

They did not remember

The day when he redeemed them from their foe.

He displayed his signs in Egypt.

He displayed his miracles in the fields of Zoan.

He turned their rivers to blood.

They could not drink of their streams.

He sent swarms of flies among them.

The flies devoured them.

He sent frogs among them,

The frogs destroyed them.

He gave their crops to the caterpillar.

He gave the fruit of their labor to the locust.

He destroyed their vines with hail.

He destroyed their sycamores with frost.

He gave over their cattle to the hail.

He gave their flocks to thunderbolts.

He let loose on them his fierce anger.

He let loose on them his wrath.

He let loose on them his indignation.

He let loose on them his distress.

He let loose a company of destroying angels.

He made a path for his anger.

He did not spare them from death.

He gave their lives over to the plague.

He struck all the first-born in Egypt.

He stuck the first issue of their strength

In the tents of Ham.”

Here the psalmist recalls the powerful acts recorded in Exodus, chapters 7-12, about the great plagues in Egypt. He wanted to recall the great events that God did in Egypt for them against their foes. He lists the various signs or miracles that took place in the Egyptian fields of Zoan or Ramses in order to save them and bring them out of Egypt. First he turned all their streams to blood. Then he let loose swarms of flies, frogs, caterpillars, and locusts that destroyed their crops. Then he let loose with hail and thunder that destroyed their cattle and herds. He then let loose the destroying angels that brought death. They struck down all the first born people and animals that were living in Ham, another word for Egypt based on Genesis. Clearly the plagues of Egypt were part of Israelite folklore built into the Israelite psyche.

The flight from Egypt (Ps 78:12-78:16)

“In the sight of their ancestors,

He worked marvels.

In the land of Egypt,

In the fields of Zoan,

He divided the sea.

He let them pass through it.

He made the waters stand like a heap.

In the daytime,

He led them with a cloud.

All night long

He led them with a fiery light.

He split rocks open in the wilderness.

He gave them drink abundantly.

As from the deep,

He made streams come out of a rock.

He caused waters to flow down like rivers.”

Asaph, this psalmist, then laid out the history of God’s activity as the Israelites left Egypt by passing through the Red Sea. The city of Zoan was another name for the Egyptian city of Ramses. God made the waters into a big heap so that the Israelites could pass through the waters. He led then during the day with a cloud and at night, he led them with a fiery light. He gave them water in the desert by making water come from the rocks like streams or rivers. Most of this is based on the stories in Exodus, chapters 14-17.