Isaiah 19:11 MEANING

Isaiah 19:11
(11) Surely the princes of Zoan are fools.--Zoan, the great city of the Delta, was known to the Greeks as Tanis, founded, as stated in Numbers 13:22, seven years after Hebron. Here the great Rameses II. fixed his capital, and the city thus acquired the name of Pi-Rameses.

How say ye unto Pharaoh . . .?--The princes of Zoan, probably priest-princes and priest-magicians (Exodus 7:11), boasting at once of their wisdom and their ancestry, are represented as speaking to the Pharaoh of the time (probably, as in Isaiah 18, of Ethiopian origin) in something like a tone of superiority. They claim to be the only counsellors; and the prophet challenges their claim. Can they disclose, as he can, the future that impends over their country?

Verse 11. - Surely the princes of Zoan are fools. Zoan, or Tanis, which had been an insignificant city since the time of the shepherd-kings, came to the front once more at the time of the struggle between Egypt and Assyria. Esarhaddon made it the head of one of the petty kingdoms into which he divided Egypt (G. Smith, 'History of Asshur-bani-pal,' p. 21, 1. 2). Early in the reign of his son it revolted, in conjunction with Sais and Mendes, but was ere long reduced to subjection by the Assyrians. Its king, Petu-bastes, was taken to Nineveh, and there probably put to death. Its "princes" were, no doubt, among those who counseled resistance to Assyria. The counsel of the wise, etc.; literally, as for the wise coun-sellers of Pharaoh, their counsel is become senseless. Two classes of advisers seem to be intended - nobles, supposed to be qualified by birth; and "wise men," qualified by study and education. Both would now be found equally incapable. Pharaoh. Probably Tirhakah is intended. It is possible that he was really suzerain of Egypt at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, when Shabatek was nominally king. It is certain that, after the death of Shabatok (about B.C. 698), he was recognized as sovereign both of Ethiopia and of Egypt, and ruled over both countries. Esarhaddon found him still occupying this position in B.C. 673, when he made his Egyptian expedition. Tirhakah's capital at this time was Memphis. How say ye, etc.? With what face can you boast of your descent, or of your learning, when you are unable to give any sound advice?

19:1-17 God shall come into Egypt with his judgments. He will raise up the causes of their destruction from among themselves. When ungodly men escape danger, they are apt to think themselves secure; but evil pursues sinners, and will speedily overtake them, except they repent. The Egyptians will be given over into the hand of one who shall rule them with rigour, as was shortly after fulfilled. The Egyptians were renowned for wisdom and science; yet the Lord would give them up to their own perverse schemes, and to quarrel, till their land would be brought by their contests to become an object of contempt and pity. He renders sinners afraid of those whom they have despised and oppressed; and the Lord of hosts will make the workers of iniquity a terror to themselves, and to each other; and every object around a terror to them.Surely the princes of Zoan are fools,.... Zoan was a very ancient city of Egypt, it was built within seven years of Hebron in the land of Judah, Numbers 13:22 here it was that the Lord did those miracles, by the hands of Moses and Aaron, before Pharaoh and his people, in order to oblige him to let Israel go, Psalm 78:12 by which it appears that it was then the royal city, as it seems to have been now; since mention is made of the princes of it, who usually have their residence where the court is. The Targum, Septuagint, and Vulgate Latin versions, call it Tanis, which was the metropolis of one of the nomes or provinces of Egypt, called from it the Tanitic nome (q); near it was one of the gates of the Nile, which had from it the name of the Tanitic gate (r); the princes of this place, the lords of this nome, though they had princely education, acted a foolish part, in flattering their sovereign, as afterwards mentioned, and in putting him upon doing things destructive to his kingdom and subjects:

the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish; the men of whose privy council were esteemed very wise, and greatly boasted of, and much confided in; and yet the counsel they gave him were such as made them look more like brutes than men:

how say ye unto Pharaoh; the then reigning prince, for Pharaoh was a name common to all the kings of Egypt. Some think their king Cethon is meant, said to be a very foolish king: others Psammiticus; which seems more likely; though there is no need to apply it to any particular king, they being used to say what follows to all their kings:

I am the son of the wise; suggesting that wisdom was natural and hereditary to him; though this may not merely respect his immediate ancestors, but remote ones, as Menes or Mizraim, the first king of Egypt, to whom is attributed the invention of arts and sciences; and his son Thoth, the same with Hermes, the Mercury of the Egyptians. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, make these words to be spoken by the wise counsellors of themselves, "we are the sons of wise men", and so the next clause; likewise Aben Ezra and Jarchi, also the Targum:

the son of ancient kings? according to these, it is spoken to Pharaoh thus, "and thou the son of kings of old"; of Ham, Mizraim, Thoth, &c.; the Egyptians boasted much of the antiquity of their kingdom and kings; and they say, from their first king Menes, to Sethon the priest of Vulcan, who lived about the time of this prophecy, were three hundred and forty one generations or ages of men, in which were as many kings and priests; and three hundred generations are equal to ten thousand years (s); and so many years, and more, their kings had reigned down to the prophet's time; which was all vain boasting, there being no manner of foundation for it. Vitringa renders it the son of ancient counsellors; this, as the former, being spoken by the counsellors, not of Pharaoh, but themselves.

(q) Herodot. l. 2. c. 166. Plin. l. 5. c. 9. Ptolem. Geogr. l. 4. c. 5. (r) Ptolem. ib. Plin. l. 5. c. 10. (s) Herodot. l. 2. c. 142.

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