In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt
Here opens a scene of mercy, a prophecy of good things to the Egyptians in future times; for this is not to be understood of the selfsame time, that the former calamities would come upon them; but of some time after that; and not of Egypt, spiritual or mystical, that is, Rome, or the antichristian jurisdiction, so called, ( Revelation 11:8 ) and of the five kingdoms that should revolt from it at the Reformation, as Cocceius thinks; who interprets the above prophecy of the antichristian state, and names the five kingdoms that should break off from it, and did; as Great Britain, the United States of Holland, Denmark and Norway, Swedeland, the people of Germany, and those near them, as Bohemia, Hungary, Transylvania, and Helvetia; but Egypt literally is here designed; and its five cities either intend just so many principal ones, as some think, namely, Memphis, Tanis, Alexandria, Bubastis, and Heliopolis; or rather it is a certain number for an uncertain; and to be understood either of many, as five out of six, since afterwards one is mentioned, as to be destroyed; or rather of a few, as five out of twenty thousand, for so many cities are said to have been in Egypt F25; and so this number is used in Scripture for a few; see ( 1 Corinthians 14:19 ) and the prophecy respects the conversion of them, which some think was fulfilled in some little time after; either by some Jews fleeing to Egypt when Judea was invaded, and Jerusalem besieged by Sennacherib, who making known and professing the true religion there, were the means of converting many of the Egyptians; or, as the Jews F26 think, it had its accomplishment when Sennacherib's army was destroyed, and what remained of them, consisting of Egyptians and other people, were dismissed by Hezekiah, and being used kindly by him, embraced the true religion, and carried it with them into Egypt, and there professed and propagated it; but it seems most likely to refer to later times, the times of the Gospel, when it was carried and preached in Egypt by the Evangelist Mark, and others, to the conversion of them, which is expressed in the following words:
speak the language of Canaan;
the Hebrew language, which continued from the time of the confusion in the posterity of Shem, and in the family of Heber, from whom Abraham descended; which was not the language of the old Canaanites, though that was pretty near it, but what the Jews now at this time spake, who dwelt in the land of Canaan: but though this language is here referred to, and might be learned, as it is where the Gospel comes, for the sake of understanding the Scriptures in the original; yet that is not principally meant, but the religion of the Christian and converted Jews; and the sense is, that the Egyptians, hearing and embracing the Gospel, should speak the pure language of it, and make the same profession of it, and with one heart and mouth with them glorify God, and confess the Lord Jesus: and when a sinner is converted, he speaks a different language than he did before; the language of Canaan is the language of repentance towards God, faith in Christ, love to them, and all the saints; it is self-abasing, Christ exalting, and free grace magnifying language; it is the language of prayer to God for mercies wanted, and of praise and thanksgiving for mercies received, and especially for Christ, and the blessings of grace in him; it is the language of experience, and what agrees with the word of God: and in common conversation it is different from others; not swearing, or lying, or filthiness, or foolish jesting, or frothy, vain, and idle talk, are this language; but what is savoury, and for the use of edifying:
and swear to the Lord of hosts;
not by him, but to him, which sometimes is put for the whole of religious worship, ( Deuteronomy 6:13 ) and signifies a bowing, a submission, and subjection to him; compare ( Isaiah 45:23 ) with ( Romans 14:11 ) it is swearing allegiance to him, owning him to be their Lord, King, and Lawgiver, and a resolution to obey him in all his commands and ordinances, see ( Psalms 119:106 ) :
one shall be called the city of destruction;
not one of the five cities before mentioned; because all such as believe with the heart unto righteousness, and with the mouth make confession agreeably to it, shall be saved; but the sense is, that one and all, and everyone of these cities, and all such persons in them as speak not the language of Canaan, who neither embrace the Gospel, nor become subject to Christ, shall be devoted to destruction: though there is a Keri and Cetib of these words; it is written "heres", destruction, but it is read "cheres", the sun; and there was a city in Egypt called Bethshemesh, the house of the sun, ( Jeremiah 43:13 ) and by the Greeks Heliopolis F1; and by the Latins Solis Oppidum F2; and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "and one shall be called the city of the sun"; that is, Heliopolis, where the sun was worshipped, and from whence it had its name; and so the words are a display of the grace of God, that in that city, which was the seat of idolatrous worship, there the sun of righteousness should arise, and there should be a number of persons in it that should profess his name. The Targum takes in both the writing and reading of this passage, and renders it,
``the city of Bethshemesh, which is to be destroyed, shall be called one of them.''
F25 Herodot. l. 2. c. 177.
F26 T. Bab. Menachot fol. 109. 2. and 110. 1. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 23. p. 66.
F1 Herodot. l. 1. c. 3. 7. 8. 9. 59. 63.
F2 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. and 6. 29.