In Isa. 19:23, it is written,

23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. NKJV, 1982

כג בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא תִּהְיֶה מְסִלָּה מִמִּצְרַיִם אַשּׁוּרָה וּבָא אַשּׁוּר בְּמִצְרַיִם וּמִצְרַיִם בְּאַשּׁוּר וְעָבְדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת אַשּׁוּר

Many English translations translate the Hebrew word מְסִלָּה (mĕsillâ) as “highway.” Of course, there were no such “highways” then as we know them today. So, what is the meaning of the word מְסִלָּה in this verse?


2 Answers 2


There is only one highway from Egypt to Assyria. It is known still today as the 'fertile crescent'. Basically it followed a path where water was available.

It goes: north from Egypt through Canaan (now Levant) along the Mediterranean Sea through Phoenicia east to Assyria (and then south on to Mesopotamia/Elam). Every invading army of Phoenicia/Canaan took this route, and so did army's intent on invading Egypt.

The most direct route would be straight from Egypt through the Syrian Desert, but this would have been impossible with an army needing food, water and grassland.

Interestingly, when Yosef took Miryam and Yeshua to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23) they would have taken the same well-worn route (meaning - followed in the footsteps of other Israelites before them who ended up in Egypt).

The highway then implied invasion and exile. It was a metaphor for Israel's correction.

Notice Matt 2:15 quoting of Hos 11:1? The same highway in Isa 19 is also referenced in Hos 11:5 - They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

Notice the invasion mentioned in the very next verse Hos 11:6?

When Yehshua and his family went into Egypt it was representative of Israel's first exile. However, the House of Israel and Judah were to experience a second exile (except Judah's exile into Babylon would only last a few years).

Yehshua would not experience a 2nd exile but his followers would (Matt 26:31). They were sent (Matt 10:6) onto this highway to seek those who had taken this path - and so they went. This is the highway spoken of in Isa 19.

  • This isn't a literal 'motorway'. Study the elements of the context again, namely; 1- ''in that day'', 2-a unique 'language shared'', 3-'Egyptians, God's spiritual arch enemies'', implying a conversion' 4-a city set apart as of 'destruction' in that unique time of that highway, 5-an altar to the Most High in the 'midst' and this doesn't mean 'centre' but as the Holy Spirit is in the midst of a people. The list is quite long. So look again.
    – Ted O
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:04
  • Agreed. You'll notice that my response wasn't about a 'motorway'. The biblical use of 'highway' is not like the modern use.
    – user34445
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:05
  • My point is that it has nothing to do with literal motion as you implied that in your citing Mathew 2:13-23 concerning Mary and Joseph's exile.
    – Ted O
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:08
  • 1
    And I'm agreeing with you. Clearly you don't understand my point.
    – user34445
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:08
  • The sense here is the same as it is in Isa 11:16, Isa 35:8, Isa 40:3 and others. Clearly we're not talking about a motorway, or motion.
    – user34445
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:28

The term highway is much used as symbolic for a specific of way of life based on given doctrines.
It is a unique way of life that characterises a people who are a direct work of the God of Israel, which way transcends cultural backgrounds. To understand the whole picture, let's pull up a couple of verses here for reference.
This highway is the same in;

Isaiah 35:8

And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. ~

And in Isa 19:23

In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.

As well as in Isa 11:16

And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.

In this latter, it's obvious that rarely a path is for only a specific people, even less so for only returnee exiles. It refers to a lifestyle relative to certain principles, a distinct culture.
Therefore in the context here, crucial points not to miss are in the terms; remnant, highway, a blessing and My people.

Isa 19:24

In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: . .

Isa 19:25

Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

A remnant is quite a familiar term, the seed said by John to be born not of the will of man, a people who are righteous but whose righteousness is largely the work of God and less of personal effort. They are a direct devine work. This was the ''7000'' in 1 Kings 19:18, Isaiah 10:20-22, etc. Of this category Messiah's followers are majority.

Now concerning Egypt, Assyria and Israel being a blessing in the land; First of all Assyria and Egypt or any other nation are never referred to as 'My people,' it's ever Israel, because the 'My people' is the 'remnant' whom even some of Israel's errant generations werent counted a part of.

These are the seed in Abraham's blessing; Genesis 22

17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.
18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." .


Isaiah 10:22
For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.

Note that while in Genesis 22 God says Abraham's seed will be as the sand of the sea, by Isaiah 10:22 He says only a few will be saved though they are as the sand of the sea, meaning that the multitudes promised to Abraham but diminished by the decreed consumption in Isaiah 10:22, are made up by those not of the stock of Israel, but themselves a blessing in the land, even Egypt and Assyria in Isaiah 19, themselves also symbolic for all nations. So named because of their former characteristic lifesytles from spirit princes who were rulers over them in wickedness before they saw the light of Messiah.

Isaiah 66:20 Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says the LORD, "just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD.
21 I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites," says the LORD.

Levites and priestood were hereditary, exile didn't strip one of their tribe or priesthood

Isaiah 49:6
He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

That's why in Isaiah 19:25 even Egypt and Assyria are blessings in the land alongside Israel the chosen people.

The phrase 'in that day' largely refers to messianic times and the fulfilment of the blessing on Abraham in saying ''all nations shall be blessed in your seed,'' a seed starting in Messiah. The highway is their unique lifestyle based on God's power in them to reject apostasy. That's why the unclean cannot walk on it, not that they can't see it, but that they can't stand it.

Therefore that highway is the common denominator that characterises this category of people that God calls 'My people' and 'My inheritance' but who are as diverse in their roots as Egypt with Israel.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.