And they shall turn the rivers far away
The river Nile, called "rivers", the plural for the singular, because of the abundance of water in it; or its seven streams, with other rivulets, derived from it. Some make the "they" here to refer to the kings of Egypt, and interpret the words of some projects of theirs, by which the course of the river was turned to great disadvantage; particularly they understand it of the twelve tyrants that reigned after Sethon, to whom they ascribe the digging of the vast lake of Moeris, the two pyramids built in the midst of it, and a labyrinth near it, though only the labyrinth was made by them F2; and as for the lake, it was made by Moeris, a king of Egypt, from whom it had its name, some hundred years before; and, besides, was of service, and not disservice, to the Nile; for it received its waters when it overflowed too much, and it furnished it with water by an outlet when it failed: rather therefore this passage may be illustrated by the attempt which Necus, the son of Psammiticus, whom the Scripture calls Pharaohnecho, made, to join the Nile and the Red Sea together, by making a canal from the one to the other; in which work he lost a hundred and twenty thousand men, and desisted from it without finishing it F3; but it is thought hereby the river was greatly weakened:
[and] the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up;
as the river of Nile and its streams were the defence of the land of Egypt, as well as made for the fruitfulness of it, for these must make it less accessible to a foreign enemy; and besides, here lay their shipping, which were their protection; and moreover, from hence brooks and courses of water might be derived and carried about their fortified cities, which added to the strength of them. The Targum renders it deep brooks or rivers; and Kimchi interprets it the brooks of Egypt, taking Matzor to signify Egypt, a word in sound near to Mitzraim, the common word used for Egypt. It looks, by this and other expressions in the context, as if more were designed than the above instance or instances will account for:
the reeds and flags shall wither;
which grew in the brooks, and near them; and therefore much more the grass and corn, and other trees, which were at a distance; besides, these are mentioned, bemuse of the great usefulness they were of; for of these they made ships, barks, and boats, and mats for bedding, and nets fishing; as also paper to write on, as follows, and which was a staple commodity with them; (See Gill on Isaiah 18:2).
F2 Herodot. l. 2. c. 148, 149.
F3 Ib. c. 158.