Considering Isaiah's dominant hostile portrayal of Egypt as either

"oppressors" or "cruel masters" or a "splintered reed" and or aught to be coming to Israel in chains etc..

What is the significance of Isaiah's eschatological submission of a (seemingly allegiant) altar dedicated to the Lord (יהוה) "in the heart of Egypt" - Isaiah 19:19?

In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the center of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD near her border.

  • Do verses like these open Egyptian (i.e.: Oppressors) up to a future, redemptive re-orientation towards Yahwism Or is this altar intended exclusively for Israelite worship? // Why & How?
  • Or is their another significant precedence and context that the textual criticism shows?

ps: Although not part of my original question (as my intention is to keep it less opinionated): My ultimate goal is to determine the Wider Implications of Isaiah's eschatological position on Israel with other Nations. So if you can help substantiate and contextualize Isaiah's wider eschatological inclusion / exclusion / or lack their-of with other nations; that will be greatly appreciated!

2 Answers 2


According to Josephus, the Jews did in fact construct an altar (and a temple) in Egypt during the period of Greek rule. I hesitate to suggest that this fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy, because other details to not fit. For example the Egyptians of this time did not speak the language of Canaan (vs. 18). The NABRE suggests that Isaiah referred to the Ethiopian Shabaka who gained control of all of Egypt around 712 B.C.

Be that as it may, a problem with Isaiah's prophecy here is that an altar dedicated to the LORD in the heart of Egypt contradicts Deuteronomy's insistence that, once the Jewish kingdom was established, only one such altar should exist (in Jerusalem).

Deut. 12

13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like, 14 but offer them in the place which the Lord chooses in one of your tribal territories; there you shall do what I command you.

This scripture is the basis for the "Jerusalem only" policy that did away with the "high places" and other sanctuaries even when they were dedicated to the LORD. However, if one holds to the hypothesis that Deuteronomy was written in the time of King Josiah, then Isaiah's prophecy was written prior to Deuteronomy's law being enacted. If this law was promulgated by Moses, then Isaiah's prophecy seems to contradict the law of God.

In terms of Isaiah's eschatology, the issue is debatable, as the book - which many scholars believe is the work of more than one man, written both before and during the Babylon Exile - sometimes speaks in messianic terms and at other times in terms of the return of the Jews from exile.

Isaiah 10:

20 Now on that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will no longer rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.

Generally, the book sees "that day" as something that happens in earthly history, not at the end of it, as in the case of the Book of Revelation. In a nutshell, Isaiah foresaw a time when the Jewish religion would spread over the Earth as "a light to the Gentiles." (60:3) The prophecy of an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt fits with Isaiah's universalistic vision.


The prophecy of Isa 19 is quite extensive and involves far more than a temple and pillar, specifically:

  • V16 - the Egyptians will be like women (ie, unable to fight and fearful)
  • V16 - They will tremble with fear beneath the uplifted hand of the LORD of Hosts, when He brandishes it against them.
  • V17 - The land of Judah will bring terror to Egypt
  • V17 - whenever Judah is mentioned, Egypt will tremble over what the LORD of Hosts has planned against it.
  • V18 - five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan
  • V18 - [five cities in the land of Egypt will] swear allegiance to the LORD of Hosts
  • V18 - One of them will be called the City of Destruction
  • V19 - In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the center of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD near her border.
  • V20 - It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of Hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, He will send them a savior and defender to rescue them.
  • V21 - The LORD will make Himself known to Egypt, and on that day Egypt will acknowledge the LORD. They will worship with sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the LORD and fulfill them.
  • V22 - And the LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; He will strike them but heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and He will hear their prayers and heal them.
  • V23 - In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
  • V24, 25 - In that day Israel will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing upon the earth. The LORD of Hosts will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”

It is immediately apparent that almost none of these has been fulfilled. One presumes that if these prophecies are to be fulfilled that it will occur eschatologically, when the LORD Jesus returns the second time.

Because of this, we cannot say anything further because (as Sir Isaac Newton observed) "Prophecy was given to men, not to make them prophets, but to strengthen their faith when it is fulfilled."

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