Isaiah 19:18‭-‬25 - Isaiah's Prophecy of the Salvation of Egypt?

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
To the Old Testament Scholars on the PB. What is going on here? According to the various commentators, there are three interpretations that I have come across. The fourth choice is by me.
  1. This is a prophecy that never came true.
  2. This is a prophecy that is fulfilled in the amillennial sense in that some Egyptians are Christians. (At this time 90% of Egyptians are Muslims with an approximate 8% to 10% being Christian at some level)
  3. This is a prophecy yet future in a postmillennial sense.
  4. This prophecy has to do with the Eternal State. - (this fourth option I am throwing into the mix because some may say this is the case)
Any help you can provide would be appreciated.


In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction. In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord , and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance."
Isaiah 19:18‭-‬25 ESV


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Egypt has seen days gone by when far greater percentages of its population were denominated Christian, and may yet in the future see it again. This is a prophecy that is bound to be precious to native Egyptian believers, even to this day, when taken most literally. You might like to know that Egypt has more Christians (at least nominal) today than the entire population of a smaller country like Jordan, for example. Plus, official counts of religious affiliation are also often undercounted as pertains to non-Muslims (typically Christian), for various political and religious reasons.

The prophecy is messianic in nature, pertaining to the Messianic age. It's ideal fulfillment, as with many such prophecies, is in the perfect age to come. But still, there are indistinct lines of partial or spiritual fulfillment already (already/not yet).

Isaiah is looking ahead to a moment in time when the people of God are not confined to one nation, i.e. Israel. But she will be "third," along with hereditary enemies of God's people: Egypt and Assyria. Egypt, a longstanding symbol of the world in Israelite scriptures, was their oppressor in the Books of Moses which Isaiah was familiar with. Isaiah lived through the Assyrian dismantling of the northern kingdom, and invasion of Judah. But these Gentile peoples will be worshipers of the one true God someday (relative to Isaiah).

Here we see the relativizing of the geographical promises to Israel in the age to come. The little strip of eastern Mediterranean shoreline was never going to be sufficient to contain even a fraction of such descendants of Abraham as was promised in comparison with the stars and the sands. Even if they were all his bloodline, it was still too small a territory, even allowing for many generations dying out of the world. The exponential increase of progeny guaranteed a case of "no vacancy." That Israel sinned, and never saw the numbers (a blessing hinted at by the growth observed in Egypt under great persecution) is no block to admitting the reality that the promise of obedience meant a blowing out of the original borders.

Isaiah understands the demographic and territorial demand of the messianic age. It is a blessing that must incorporate the whole earth. Abraham must become not only a blessing to ALL nations, but must be heir to the whole world, Rom.4:13. This passage in Isaiah views the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham in those comprehensive and messianic terms.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Bruce's answer is (as always) very helpful. It's worth adding a couple more details. This passage is part of a larger block of oracles against the surrounding nations. Egypt and Assyria were the two biggest neighbors of Israel and Judah that provided alternating temptations- the temptations to trust in them for help, rather than trusting in the Lord, and the temptation to be afraid of their threat rather than fearing the Lord. The focus of the oracles against the nations (especially Egypt here) is on the Lord's judgment of them, cutting them down to size so that they will no longer be a threat nor a potential ally. Yet in the midst of that, the Lord gives Isaiah a vision of a future in which Israel's enemies no longer need be feared, not simply because they have been destroyed, but because they too have come to share in the salvation promised to Israel. So Egypt (and Assyria) serve as grand exemplars of the larger promise that Israel will be a light to the Gentiles.
So the larger application in our context would be:
1) we are not to love the world and trust it to deliver us from our dangers
2) we are not to fear the world and be terrified of its threats
3) we are to preach the gospel to the world, trusting that God has a remnant even in the places historically most hostile to his people. That would include present day Egypt and Iraq, but by no means be limited narrowly to them. If Christ can redeem a remnant of his own hard hearted people, given their long history of opposing God and the messengers he has sent, then the nations too can be included in the new Israel he is building through faith in him. Cue Ephesians 2...
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