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people, and the leaders of the present to Jehovah to mnount Sion, are the same people. And the act of leading a present to Jehovah to mount Sion must be an act of worshippers of Jehovah; for it is an act of worship. They therefore who lead the present will be true worshippers, performing that service from religious motives. Those, who shall thus be instruments in this blessed work, may well be described, in the figured language of prophecy, as the carriers of God's message to his people. The situation of the country, destined to so high an office, is not otherwise described in the prophecy, than by this cir. cumstance; that it is to be beyond the rivers of Cush: hat is, far to the west of Judea, if these rivers of Cush are to be understood, as they have been generally understood, of the Nile and other Ethiopian rivers; far to the east, if of the Tigris and the Euphrates. The one, or the other, they must denote ; but which, is uncertain
“ My notion of the prophet's geographical language is, that it is the language of the Phenician voyagers of his time. And, in those times, the most distant voyages being made along the coasts, the Phenician mariners would speak of every place which lay to the west of the mouths of the Nile, as beyond the Nile, that is, in the poetical language of the prophet, beyond the rivers of Cush; because, keeping always along the coast, they would pass within sight of the mouth of the Nile, before they reached that western place. According to this nautical phraseology of the voyagers of those times, the circumstance of being beyond the rivers of Cush was alike applicable to France, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, in short any part of Europe without the streights. Not more to any part of Europe, than to any part of Africa, without the streights. Not more to any part of Europe or Africa, than to the whole eastern coast of North and South America. The particular situation of the country therefore is by no means ascertained by this circumstance*.” Yet, however indefinite the present prophecy may be in fixing the precise quarter of the globe where we are to look for the messenger people, others, which will be discussed hereafter in their
proper place, give us sufficient reason to believe that they will
, * Letter on Isaiah xviii.
be some European nation. What European nation indeed, is wholly uncertain ; but their character, as described by Isaiah, necessarily leads us to conclude, that they will be a maritime nation of faithful worshippers.
The prophet has now foretold the chief matters relative to the restoration of the converted Jews; such as their being opposed unsuccessfully by the army of Antichrist, and their being assisted in their return to their own country by a great maritime nation of faithful worshippers : he proceeds therefore next to detail certain collateral events, which will be closely connected with their restoration. He had already foretold in a former prophecy*, that the Lord should smite with a drought the tongue of the Egyption sea, and that he should shake his hand over the great river of Assyria with a vehement wind; in order that there might be a high-way for the remnant of his people, and that they might return, as they did of old out of the land of Egypt. He now enters more diffusely upon the subject, connecting it, as before, both with the exploits of Antichrist, and with the restoration of the Jews. In a strain of awful sublimity, he represents the Almighty as riding upon a swift cloud, and as confounding the counsels of Egypt; as sowing discord among her governors, and as giving her over into the hand of cruel lords and a fierce king. The tyrant and his inferior lords, here described, I take to be Antichrist and his vassal kings, during the period of his temporary success. In a parallel prophecy of Daniel, his character is largely set forth: and it is intimated, that,
at the epoch of the restoration of the Jews, the land of Egypt shall not escape him ; but that he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and that the Libyans and Cushim shall be at his stepst. Hence Isaiah, in perfect accordance with Daniel, predicts, that, at this very epoch, Egypt shall be delivered into the hand of a fierce king : for, that the conquest of Egypt by the fierce king is to be referred to this epoch, will be manifest to any one, who compares the language used by Isaiah in his former prophecy with that which he uses at the close of the present prophecy. In the former, he foretells, that * Isaiah xi. 15, 16.
| Dan. xi. 41.xii. 1.
there shall be a high-way for the remnant of his people that shall be left from Assyria : in the present, he similarly foretells, that, notwithstanding the success of the Antichristian tyrant, God will deliver Egypt by the hand of a mighty Saviour, convert it to the profession of real religion, and cause a high-way to be made between it and Assyria through the land of Israel, so that there shall be a free religious intercourse between the three countries. And this, according to both prophecies, is to be effected by the drying up of the mystical Nile ; and, according to the former prophecy, by the drying up both of the Euphrates and the Nile*.
As for the manner in which Isaiah describes the religious state of Egypt at the period when it will be invaded by Antichrist, he seems in this, as in other instancest, to exhibit it to us, rather according to what it was in his own days, than what it probably will be in the age of the accomplishment of the prophecy : yet it is worthy of notice, that the prophecy is not incapable of receiving even a literal accomplishment. By the intermixture of the corrupt Christians of the Greek church with the professors of Mohammedism, much idolatry still prevails in Egypt; which we cannot conceive to be more acceptable to God, than either its kindred papal idolatry, or the ancient pagan idolatry: and it is worthy of notice, that even some of the Mohammedans themselves, according to Niebuhr, are tainted with the superstitious veneration of images, which disgraces the worship of their Christian fellow-citizens t. But I am more inclined to adopt the other interpretation of this part of the prophecy, and to suppose that Isaiah describes Egypt agreeably to what it was in his own age.
* Let the reader compare together Isaiah xi. 15, 16, and Isaiah xix. 5, 23, 24 ; and he must, I think, be convinced that both these predictions relate to the same events. In this case, since Isaiah xi. 15, 16, must plainly be refer. red to the era of the restoration of Judah, the whole of Isaiah xix must likewise be referred to the same era. The propriety of such a conclusion will be the more evident, if he further compare both these prophecies with Zechar. x. 10, 11, 12; which, like Isaiah xi. 15, 16, will clearly not be accomplished till the Fews are brought back into the land of their fathers.
+ Such an instance occurs indeed even in the course of the very prophecy concerning which I am now treating. “ 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.” (Isaiah xix. 21.) Upon which Bp. Newton justly remarks, that “the prophet describes the worship of future times, according to the rites and ceremonies of his own time.” Dissert. xii. 3.
# See Niebuhr's Travels, Vol. 1. pp. 35, 47, 103, 195. In Skinner's Eccles, Hist. of Scotland, Vol. 11. p. 634-639, there is a curious account of an at.
The exhaustion of the river, which he dwells upon with so much minuteness, is plainly, according to the usual phraseology of Symbols, nothing more than the overthrow of the Egyptian government with its concomitants. These concomitants, as in the case of the exhaustion of the great river Euphrates under the sixth apocalyptic vial*, seem to be a diminution of the population of Egypt, and an emigration of its inhabitants ; for such is the most natural exposition that can be given of the drying up of its river, and the diversion of its streams into other channels.
It is worthy of notice, that the population of Egypt has already begun to diminish, much in the same manner as the population of Turkey, which must, almost undoubtedly I think, be considered as symbolized by the mystical Euphrates of the sixth vial.
“ Alexandria,” says Mr. Niebuhr, “has fallen by de. grees from its grandeur, population, and wealth- This city might be in a more flourishing condition, did not disadvantages of all sorts concur to depress it. Its inhabitants appear to have a natural genius for commerce, were it not checked by the malignant influence of the government—The trade of Alexandria is notwithstanding very trifling; although almost all the nations of Egyptt have consuls heref-Ancient historians and geographers enumerate such a multitude of cities in Egypt, that it seems to be at present quite a desert in comparison with what it was in the day of antiquity. New cities have indeed arisen, but these are mere trifles, compared with the number, the extent, and the magnificence, of the ancient. All the remains of monuments, referable to the most remote antiquity, bespeak the hand of a numerous and opulent people, who have entirely disappeared. When however we reflect on the revolutions which this country has undergone, and the length of time during which it has been under the dominion of strangers, we can no longer be surprized at the decline of its wealth and population. It has been successively subdued by the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabians, and the Turks ; has enjoyed no interval of tranquillity and freedom ; but has been constantly oppressed and pillaged by the lieutenants of a distant lord. Those usurpers and their servants, having no other views but to draw as large a revenue as possible from an opulent province, scarce left the people bare means of subsistence. Agriculture was ruined by the miseries of the husbandman; and the cities decayed with its decline. Even at present, the population is decreasing ; and the peasant, although in a fertile country, is miserably poor: for the exactions of government and its officers leave him nothing to lay out in the improvement and culture of his lands; while the cities are falling into ruins, because the same unhappy restraints render it impossible for the citizens to engage in any lucrative undertaking* -If an ancient origin and illustrious ancestors could confer merit, the Copts would be a highly estimable people. They are descended from the ancient Egyptians; and the Turks, upon this account, call them, in derision, the posterity of Pharaoh. But their uncouth figure, their stupidity, ignorance, and wretchedness, do little credit to the sovereigns of ancient Egypt. They have lived for 2000 years under the dominion of different foreign conquerors, and have experienced many vicissitudes of fortune. They have lost their manners, their language, their religion, and almost their existence. They are reduced to a small number in comparison to the Arabs, who have poured like a flood over this country. Of the diminution of the numbers of the Copts some idea may be formed from the reduction of the number of their bishops. They were seventy
tempt that was made, between the years 1716 and 1725, to effect an union between the non-juring prelates and those of the Greek church. The attempt failed from the resolute adherence of the Orientals to image-worship and other superstitious vanities.
See my Dissert. on the 1260 years, Vol. 11. p. 345–349. (2d Edit. p. 383–387.)
† So the passage stands in my edition of Niebuhr, and therefore I have not ventured to alter it; but for Egypt I think we ought surely to read Europe. As this variation is not noticed in the errata, it is possible that this little mistake (for so I cannot help considering it) may be an uncorrected oversight of the author himself.
# Travels, Vol. 1. p. 36, 37.