CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 19.
In this chapter, the Lord sends his warning to Egypt. He says that they have chosen destruction, but in time they will turn back to Him so that He can heal them. He says that both Egypt and Assyria will, in time, be blessed with Israel. Notice that it doesn’t say they will be blessed by Israel. This is not about political power reigning over them. They will be blessed with Israel, meaning they will be restored as rightful children of Abraham and will obtain blessings through temple covenants (see also Isaiah 11).
The “swift cloud” in verse 1 is another reference to the sheckinah (see also Pslam 104:3), or the presence of the Lord. This is the same “cloud” that led the Israelites by day through the wilderness (and fire by night). It is how the Lord leads us, one step at a time, line upon line, from where we are to where we need to be next to be on our way Home.
In verse 3, Isaiah describes a civil war within Egypt, with everyone fighting against each other, the kingdom fighting against itself. The Savior said that any kingdom (or family!) divided against itself will not stand (Mark 3:24-25). Here Isaiah says Egypt will fall because of its own fighting. He says the people will seek information and counsel and guidance from false idols who can do nothing and fake spiritual advisors who have no real power.
Because their chosen source of wisdom was empty, and their chosen source of strength was nothing, they will be conquered by those attacking them (verse 4). The waters will be dried up (verse 5), he says, and besides any literal fulfillment this also means their source of survival, income, and pride (verse 6). Even their education, one of the best things about Egypt, as symbolized by reeds and papyrus which they used to read and write, even that would falter because they have turned their backs on their true source of knowledge and power (verse 7). They will not have food or export crops (verse 8), nor will they have their fancy linens that set them apart and bring them such wealth (verse 9). Their sources of sustenance, export (income), and pride will all be gone, destroyed, “dried up” until they are “broken in purpose” (verse 10).
Isaiah says the princes (leadership) are fools and the counsel to Pharaoh is “brutish” (verse 11). He asks them to consider how choosing such complete destruction is “wise”. Where is the wisdom in any of it? He tells them that if they really are wise, and not fools, they would tell Pharaoh the truth of what is about to happen to Egypt, so that the Pharaoh could lead the country in repentance and turning back to God before they are destroyed (verse 12).
But because they do not, not only are the fools but they themselves are responsible for the destruction of the people, for leading them away from the Lord (verse 13). Since they refuse to live the laws of God, they are asking for the consequences. Not because God is punitive, but because His laws are that which protects and provides for the people in a positive and natural way. When they do not follow His laws, they land in their own messes they have to clean up for themselves, and Egypt is in a big mess. The Lord is going to honor their choice, and let them live the consequences “as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit” (verse 14). This is not God being “mean” or “punitive”. This is people making their own poor choices and dealing with the consequences, in a love-and-logic kind of way. There isn’t even anything the government can do to clean it up at this point (verse 15), the people will just have to accept the consequences they have chosen (verse 16).
Like anyone suffering consequences, they will hate hearing about it and not want to know the truth of why they are in such a state. Their pride will be in the way of repentance, and will cause them further struggles they wouldn’t otherwise have to experience. When Isaiah says “the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt” (verse 17), he means that the laws of God will weigh heavy on the people because they will know it would not have happened if they would have just done what He told them to do.
In verse 18, when Isaiah says “in that day”, we skip ahead to the Latter-days. Anytime Isaiah says “in that day”, it means in our day now. It may have prior applications that have already happened if it is a multiple fulfillment kind of prophecy, but it means it will also apply to now in our day.
He says that in the Latter-days, there will be five “cities” (families, literal cities, wards, stakes) that will speak “the language of Canaan”. If we go to 2 Kings 18:6 or 1 Nephi 1:12 or Mormon 9:33, we know that “the language of Canaan” is Hebrew.
Isaiah says that in the Latter-days, the Arabs will understand Hebrew.
If you go Israel today, the Arabs speak Farsi and the Jews speak Hebrew.
The languages have evolved over time so much that they are very, very similar.
Written, the languages look completely different. Hebrew with its box-ey characters, and Farsi with its flat cursive and dots. They could not look any more different.
But they sound so much the same, and they are so squashed in living together (even though neither wants the other there), that when one speaks Farsi and the other speaks Hebrew – both understand each other. In fact, rather than speak the other language to the other person, often they just speak their own language because the other one understands. It is a linguistic experience unlike anything anywhere else in the world.
Isaiah also says that in the Latter-days, the people of Egypt (“cities” mean families, wards, and stakes) will “swear to the Lord of hosts“.
This means that the people of Egypt will make covenants with Christ.
The place to make covenants is in the temple.
Isaiah is saying that one day, the Arabs will have their own temple in which they will make sacred covenants for themselves and their families (including their ancestors).
The temple is called “the city of holiness”.
Those who do not make covenants will instead be called “the city of destruction”, meaning families and political groups who destroy and refuse the Gospel instead of forgiving, uniting, becoming at-one, and making sacred covenants in the temple.
Isaiah continues in verse 19:
In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord
in the midst of the land of Egypt,
and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord.
The altar is the temple!
There will be a temple in Egypt!
There will be a temple on the border of Egypt!
This goes along with what we just studied in Isaiah 11.
The covenant-making talk continues in verse 20, where the people given their “token” of actually crying out to the Lord and the Lord gives His “sign” of accepting their repentance by giving them a temple.
And he shall send them a savior,
and a great one,
and he shall deliver them.
The Arab people will recognize the Savior, and the Prophet, and by the Prophet return to the Savior just as we all are able to do (verse 21).
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt,
and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day,
and shall do sacrifice and oblation;
yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord,
and perform it.
Sacrifice (offering) and oblation (presentation to God) and vows are all things we do in the temple! The Arab people will do their own temple work, and the work of their ancestors. They will “return to the Lord”, and He will heal them (verse 22)! This cross-references Psalm 68:31:
Princes shall come out of Egypt;
Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
Princes. Kings and Priests. Princes, submitted to the Savior our King, people on their way to becoming like Him. The Arabs, who are already very good at making and keeping covenants, will make and keep sacred temple covenants.
The people of Africa will also make and keep temple covenants, literally raising their hands to covenant with God and to sustain His priesthood and auxiliary leaders. The people already do! We have 18 missions in Africa, with a thousand wards and branches, a hundred stakes, and three temples. This part of the prophecy has already come true!
The Arab peoples will work together (verse 23) to serve in the temple there, on the borders between Egypt and Israel. 2 Nephi 21:16 says that the “highway” will be a mass deliverance of the people as a whole, that the Arabs will return to the Lord as a group – each of them individually choosing, but so many of them will choose. It is compared to when Moses delivered the people out of Egypt “to the promised land”, in the same way will the Arab people be delivered into celestial-ness. The children of Ishamel (Muslims) are children of Abraham! The Lord will keep His promise, and they will also be delivered! They will receive their blessing!
The Arabs, Muslims, and Jews will be united as one, as the children of Abraham, and even Israel (the “lost” Ten Tribes) will be reunited among them (verse 24). Israel will be a blessing among them, not in having power over them, but in restoring the ordinances needed for the temples. The Arabs and Muslims are already very good at keeping covenants; they only lack the full gospel and temple ordinances. When they turn to the Lord, and the people become at-one, the Lord will bless them with the temples that will bring them to their long-awaited inheritance.
And everyone, everyone, will know it was the Lord who has done this marvelous thing (verse 25). This is the work of His hands, His “work and glory”, His keeping His promise of blessing the children of Abraham – both Ishmael (Muslims) and Isaac (Jews). With the state of our politics today, it seems impossible. But that is exactly how we will all know it was the Lord who orchestrated it and provided the way.
But with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).