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There are some relatively new (in the last 25 years say) theories as to what Is 19:19 and 20, in whatever Bible translation one cares to look at, is referring to when talking about 'altar' and 'pillar', which one will not find being referenced among the notable theologians in 'Biblehub Commentaries', so I am not interested in any answers based on their theorizing, as all their comments pre date the last 25 years, when the new theorizing wasn't even plausible.

The new theories center around the Great Pyramid of Giza and the possibility that this great 'enduring'relic (possibly at least 4500 years old) is actually a portrayal of the 'Bible in Stone' and may actually mark both the first and coming 'Advents of Christ, among other time lines.

According to the scriptures, God has placed wonders in Egypt to be a sign at the return of the Lord to deliver those who call on the Lord. This altar is said to be on the border but yet in the middle. "Giza" means "border" and it is at the border of Upper and Lower Egypt. Therefore, it is also in the middle of Egypt. The Great Pyramid, the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, is located in Giza. The nature of the GP and it's complex (including the Sphinx, a would be 'pillar' possibly??), makes it the only real candidate fitting the prophecy found in Isaiah.

See also Jer 32:20a ...who has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt...

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    See my answer here >> hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/77346/…
    – Dottard
    Jul 12, 2022 at 22:21
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    Pyramid theories and pyramid prophecies have been around for many years and were revived by the likes of Edgar Cayce and others. I do not buy this stuff as I believe in the principle of the Bible alone (Sola Scriptura)
    – Dottard
    Jul 16, 2022 at 22:19
  • @Dottard - and yet there is something truly magical about the Great Pyramid of Giza; the embodied mathematics, not to mention precision, of which .... are mind bending. We are talking about a possible/in all probable, 4500 year old enduring structure after all ....... Jul 16, 2022 at 23:26
  • I agree that the pyramids are an engineering wonder.
    – Dottard
    Jul 17, 2022 at 2:19
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    @Olde English How does "the last 25 years, when the new theorizing wasn't even plausible" come into this? That the Great Pyramid is a portrayal of the 'Bible in Stone' wasn't a new theory when I first met it not 25 but 45 years ago. Am I wrong in assuming you're familiar with Rutherford's Pyramidology? Aug 27, 2022 at 0:23

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The question asks what is meant in Isaiah 19:19 by the 'altar' and the 'pillar'. so here are the relevant verses in full, to provide context:

"In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord Almighty. One of them will be called the City of Destruction. In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a saviour and defender, and he will rescue them. Isaiah 19:18-20 N.I.V. 1987 edition

The N.I.V. Study Bible provides commentary on those verses, and this is how it interprets the relevant points:

19:16-25 A chain of four announcements of coming events associated with "that day": (1) An act of divine judgment will cause Egypt to "shudder with fear" (v.16) and be in terror of Judah (vv.16-17). (2) "Five cities" in Egypt will "swear allegiance" to the Lord (v.18). (3) Because of a divine act of deliverance and healing in Egypt, an altar will be erected in Egypt where Egyptians will offer sacrifices to the Lord (vv.19-22). (4) Egypt, Assyria and Israel will be linked to form one people of the Lord (vv.23-25).

The prophet looks well beyond the present realities in which the world powers do not acknowledge the true God and proudly pursue their own destinies, running roughshod over the people of the Lord. He foresees a series of divine acts that will bring about the conversion of the nations.

19:16, 18-19, 23-24 In that day. The coming day of the Lord (see 10:20, 27 cf. 11:10-11) [See my note at the end of this quote from the NIV Study Bible.]

19:17 land of Judah. The Egyptians will somehow recognise (perhaps through court contacts with Hezekiah) that it is the God of Judah who has brought judgment upon them.

19:18 five. Perhaps in the sense of "many". speak the language of Canaan. Either a symbolic reference to Egypt's allegiance to the Lord (see vv. 21-22,25) or a literal reference to Jews living in Egypt. After the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., many Jews fled to Egypt (Jer 44:1). City of Destruction. Probably a reference to Heliopolis,, city of the sun-god; it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (see Jer 43:12-13). The Hebrew for "destruction" is almost identical to the Hebrew for "sun".

19:19 altar. Some relate this to the temple built in Egypt by the Jewish High Priest Onias IV, who fled to Egypt in the second century B.C., but the reference appears to be a conversion to the Lord of a significant number of Egyptians.

19:20 sign and witness. Cf. the purpose of the altar built near the Jordan River by the Trans-Jordan tribes in Jos 22:26-27. oppressors...saviour. It is uncertain who this saviour and defender is, but the prophet may well have in mind the promised Son of the house of David (see 11:1-10)...

19:23 highway. For centuries Egyptians and Assyrians had fought each other (see 20:4), but in the future they would be linked in a bond of friendship sealed by their common allegiance to the Lord (cf. 25:3)...

19:25 Egypt my people. Such a universal vision seems possible for Isaiah only in the light of what has been said about the "shoot... from the stump of Jesse". Ibid. N.I.V. pp. 1026 & 1027

The N.I.V. also notes that Isaiah 20:1-6 is an epilogue, summing up the main points. Interpretatively, those verse tell us that the king of Assyria would lead away stripped and barefoot Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, shaming Egypt. Observers would note what had happened to those they had trusted in for deliverance from the king of Assyria, knowing they would not escape him either. Dates for historic events of this nature are detailed. But nowhere (nor in the many notes I have not copied, as they are not relevant) is there any mention of Egyptian pyramids in general, or the Great Pyramid of Giza in particular.

A reason why not, is that from the mid-1800s on there was a spate of interpretations claiming that that pyramid was symbolic of future events, leading to the Gospel Age, then the Harvest, then the Millennial Age. I have in front of my an 1889 book called The Divine Plan of the Ages, with a chart showing various pyramid shapes, some small, some large. The author, Charles Taze Russell, made many calculations and came out with many dates, predicting how prophecies would be fulfilled. He claimed that in 1889 the cleansing of the sanctuary was in progress, divine favour was being shown to (fleshly) Israel, and:

"The Great Pyramid in Egypt is a Witness to all these events of the ages and of our day, testifying in symbols. The Pyramid's downward passage under 'A Draconis' symbolizes the course of Sin. Its first ascending passage symbolizes the Jewish age..." ad infinitum.

I will not trawl through its 349 pages of interpretations looking for anything about Isaiah's 'altar' and 'pillar'. That is because the whole notion of examining this Egyptian pyramid to 'unlock' symbolic meanings for the future has been discredited. This would-be-interpreter, Russell, is largely an embarrassment to modern-day inheritors of his (now vastly changed) belief system. The next president, Rutherford, re-wrote many key beliefs and interpretations and changed predicted dates as well. Such are the traps of studying the Great Pyramid of Giza in such a way. That is why it is a waste of time searching that avenue for meanings behind Isaiah's 'altar' and 'pillar'. The NIV says not a word about pyriamidology. The NIV comments offer suggestions for the meaning of this 'altar' and 'pillar' - very little, really - but including context and background in this answer is needed to show that.

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  • I asked and answered this Q. over 2 years ago, but you must have also seen my Q. and A. of this January - Who, or what are the "four living creatures", as introduced in Revelation 4:6,7 & 8? - where I expounded more on the pyramidology aspect, as you answered same, for which I gave you credit, so you must know that I can't go along with you and the NIV interpretation of Isaiah 19:19 & 20, but I appreciate that you took the time to answer here. I don't think that the possible symbolic meanings of the Egyptian pyramid have been discredited, it's just that they have still yet to be understood. Sep 14, 2023 at 10:17
  • @Olde English Thank you for reminding me of that Q posted 1/2/23. My answer then said not a word about pyramidology but stuck to the Revelation text. Nor did I cite the NIV. I quoted from a book by John Metcalfe, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" where he dealt with the 24 elders and the 144,000. I agree with his interpretation. For this new answer, please note that my quoting the NIV comments does not necessarily mean I agree with all of them, but they show how others view them without a hint of pyramidology in view. I know you are keen on that and so will not accept my answer. That's OK.
    – Anne
    Sep 14, 2023 at 11:03
  • Yes, I knew you had not mentioned anything on pyramidology, I was just pointing you towards what I had said in furtherance of my views on the matter. I just worded the previous comment badly. Sep 14, 2023 at 14:04
  • @OldeEnglish Given that I have 1889 book that's keen on pyramidology (plus another from a different denomination published in 1914) I have already considered such views. Hermeneutics requires sticking to the verses in question, which is what I did, and Isaiah does not mention pyramids; they cannot be said to influence his prophetic utterances in those verses, in my view.
    – Anne
    Sep 14, 2023 at 14:21
  • I too have read both and both had views that I couldn't possibly agree with, but I think Russell was on to something, which the other guys tried to run with (blood brothers if I remember rightly). Isaiah and Jeremiah may not have mentioned pyramids per se, but Isaiah did reference an altar and a pillar to be as a witness to something special but not to be realized until the "End Times" it would seem, which I do believe we are already in and have been in for sometime. Sep 14, 2023 at 15:02
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Altars are regularly a place of sacrifice and/or covenant in Jewish writing. Many scholars see this as a description of a temple to be built in Egypt.

The previous verses contain prophecies of doom and woe upon Egypt, but as noted by Victor Ludlow:

Beginning with these verses, Isaiah promises great blessings to Egypt. The Egyptians will serve the Lord "in that day" (v. 21), and built a pillar and altar to the Lord (vs. 19. 21). Scholars generally agree that the pillar and altar represent a temple to be built in Egypt. (Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, And Poet p. 219)

This view is not necessarily new, but there are recent events/discoveries that strengthen the idea.

  • Many see verse 10, and the surrounding context on the decimation of the Nile, to be poignantly fulfilled by the modern Aswan dam. This would support the idea that Isaiah's predictions pertain to the last days. Ludlow supports the Aswan dam interpretation as well, and suggests that in Isaiah "in that day" is typical language for a last days prediction (ibid pp. 213-217). This then could be a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, in which a temple--a place of sacrifice & covenant--is built in Egypt.
  • Another possibility, competing with the "last days" view, also finds support through modern discovery. The Elephantine papyri (discovered in 1893) suggest a population of Jews constructed a temple in Egypt after Jerusalem was conquered by Babylon. Although the idea of faithful Jews building a temple outside of Jerusalem was often rejected as an impossibility in past generations, evidence continues to mount that some groups did do this (ibid p. 219)

I am unfamiliar with theories applying Isaiah 19:16-25 to the pyramids, though there is much about the pyramids to suggest religious significance. Pyramids both in Egypt and in the new world appear to have held a place of sanctity (at least for a time) for their civilizations similar to the way the temple did for the Jews. The possibility that the beliefs of Noah, Abraham, and others had an influence on Egyptian theology is consistent with Genesis, and it does not surprise me to find elements of Noahic or Abrahamic beliefs appearing there.

Dual fulfilment prophecies are common in Isaiah, so multiple interpretations presented here are not necessarily mutually exclusive:

Isaiah spoke in such a manner that his words find application and fulfillment in many different ages or events in world history. (ibid p. 54)

I conclude that the most likely meaning of this prophecy is that a temple would/will be built in Egypt, while also acknowledging that Isaiah's prophecies often are fulfilled in more than one way.

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It has become obvious to me that I needed to answer my own Q. So, in light of resurrected interest, brought about by the recent bounty offered by @Gremosa, I present the following:

. What are some of the remarkable facts about the Great Pyramid?

. Was it divinely provided to testify in our day in corroboration of the Bible?

"In that day shall there be an alter to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt" (Isa. 19:19,20)

IT has for long been recognized that the Great Pyramid contains numerous scientific truths, but it is not so generally known that this ancient monument is referred to in the Bible, and few realize that the scriptural plan of salvation is corroborated by the symbolisms of the building. However true it may be that some, probably all, of the other pyramids of Egypt were intended to serve as tombs, careful investigation has demonstrated that the Great Pyramid, at all events, was not erected for this purpose. While constructed by human agencies it is, like the Bible, of Divine origin, designed for the purpose of testifying to the truth of God's infinite wisdom, justice, love and power.

The more complete our knowledge of the plan of salvation becomes, the more our appreciation of the Great Pyramid increases. Then the wonder which may have been evoked in us by the building's immense proportions, the marvelous skill displayed in its construction, its great antiquity and quality of endurance and the many scientific features which it embodies, will give place to a new wonder inspired by reverence for God, when we reflect how the great Architect, by means of a few simple passages and chambers, could portray in it the whole of His glorious "Plan of the Ages" - not merely the philosophy of that plan, but even also the time feature marked off in the outworking of it.

THE BIBLE REFERS TO PYRAMIDAL STRUCTURE

In the imagery of the Bible, the pyramidal structure is used to illustrate the exalted pre-eminence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself alluded to this beautiful symbolism when addressing the rulers of Israel: "Did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?" (Matt. 21:42). While every edifice of importance has its cornerstone, the figurative language of Jesus can properly apply only to a pyramid; for in this type of building we find one stone which is distinctively apparent as the cornerstone, the head of the corner. The geometrical definition of a pyramid is a solid with a regular rectilinear base, and plane triangular sides meeting in a point exactly above the center of the base. This point is contained in the head cornerstone. We thus perceive how apt is the Scriptural simile which likens Jesus Christ to a "chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20), for in Him the spiritual "pyramid" of God's plan of redemption is complete.

St. Peter also spoke of our Lord under the figure of a head cornerstone (Acts 4:10-12; 1 Pet. 2:1-8). The Apostle knew that God had centered all hope of salvation in well-beloved Son, and he reasoned therefore that all who would be saved must by necessity come under and be built up in line with that great spiritual headstone - there could be salvation under no other name, for a pyramid has only one headstone, and "this is the stone," Jesus! The Apostle further intimated that those who reject the Word of the Lord, being disobedient, will be confounde, for they will ultimately find themselves outside the pale of salvation, because they have not come in under the shelter of that heavenly topstone - they have had no faith in Jesus as the only name under heaven, given among men, whereby they must be saved. They are like the ancient workmen whom the inspired prophet David had in mind when he penned the words: "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner" (Psa. 118:22).

THE BUILDERS AND THE HEAD CORNERSTONE

History informs us that Egypt was at one time invaded by an Eastern nation called Hyksos, or Shepherd Kings, who compelled the people of the land to close their idolatrous temples and enlisted them to erect the Great Pyramid. The Egyptians had therefore no personal interest in the work.

In the opinion of Prof. Flinders Petrie, a recognized authority on Egyptian archeology, the stones used in all important parts of the Great Pyramid were carefully cut to size at the quarries, and specially marked to fit their allotted places before being conveyed to the site of the building.

During the erecting operations, which the Greek historian Herodotus says took 30 years, the workmen would find one stone lying among the others, namely, the head cornerstone, the purpose of which must have been for some time incomprehensible; for the Great Pyramid was the first example of that style of architecture, and the workmen cannot have known of its finished design. We can imagine these men conjecturing and puzzling over this stone, and as it did not then appear what place it could occupy, rejecting it as of no use. It doubtless became, as the Apostle indicates, a "stone of stumbling" and a "rock of offence" (1Pet. 2:7,8).

Apparently the workmen did not understand that this peculiarly shaped stone was a little model of the monument they were erecting; it contained the angles to which the outer stones were required to be cut. When the building was nearing completion however, they beheld with wonder that the very stone they had rejected as useless was the only one which could crown their work!

Thus the stone which the builders rejected or refused or disallowed, the same became the head cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing, it is marvelous in our eyes! The similarity between the refusal and final receiving of the topstone of the Great Pyramid, and the rejection and ultimate recognition of Jesus Christ by the Jewish nation, is obvious. The inspired prophets and Apostles and Jesus Himself state that the material prefigured the spiritual.

The above block quotes were taken from: The Great Pyramid And The Bible, Chapter 1, from Bible Standard Ministries. For the subsequent final 3 chapters, check out the following: https://www.biblestandard.com/pyramid-and-bible-1.html ... It/they are well worth the read. And in no small part, you will see that they address all other parts of my Q., and very much more.

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    It’s not clear how your text answers your own question on altar (for all burnt offering) and pillar (border monolith).
    – grammaplow
    Apr 15, 2023 at 5:17
  • @grammaplow - Down vote!! Really?? First off, it's more the Bible Standard Ministries text than my own, and secondly, it is not clear to me, as to whether you took the time to read BSM's final 3 chapters, that I linked for further clarification. The "altar", is the Giza Pyramid itself, in that it is the "Bible in Stone". A history of the biblical ages (Patriarchal Age; Jewish Age; Gospel Age), the central theme of which is Jesus' Ransom Sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice. The "pillar" (near its border) is in symbolic reference to the "monument/testimony" to the Lord. Apr 16, 2023 at 8:33
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Explanation of Isaiah 19:16-25: It is obvious from just a cursory glance at these verses that it is talking about an Egypt in the future, not one that exists now or in the past. The phrase "in that day' is used five times.Like many passages in the Old Testament Prophets, it is talking about the time during the 1,000 year Millennium when Jesus will be ruling from Jerusalem over all the world after the seven years of Tribulation in the 'later' days. This seven years of Tribulation, just before the start of the Millennium, is more properly called 'Daniel's 70th Week. It is clear that Egypt, Assyria, and Israel will all be blessed under the Reign of Jesus. *See MacArthur Study Bible notes on these verses and other related Scripture references regarding end times prophecy.

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    Welcome to the site, Timeline Guy. On Hermeneutics evidence to back up answers is required, preferably from close examination of the verses in question. If you could enlarge on your claims, that would be good. However, branching off into interpretations of any Millennium (when it's going to happen, where it will be experienced, and who will experience it) is outwith the scope of this question which wants to know about the altar and the pillar in Isa. 19:19. If you take the hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour you will see what is looked for.
    – Anne
    Sep 13, 2023 at 9:08
  • I "echo" what Anne has said here. Sep 14, 2023 at 10:27

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