Isaiah 19:11

11 The princes of Zoan are complete fools; Pharaoh's wisest advisers give stupid advice! How can you say to Pharaoh, "I am one[a] of the wise, a student of eastern[b] kings."

Isaiah 19:11 Meaning and Commentary

Isaiah 19:11

Surely the princes of Zoan [are] fools
Zoan was a very ancient city of Egypt, it was built within seven years of Hebron in the land of Judah, ( Numbers 13:22 ) here it was that the Lord did those miracles, by the hands of Moses and Aaron, before Pharaoh and his people, in order to oblige him to let Israel go, ( Psalms 78:12 Psalms 78:43 ) by which it appears that it was then the royal city, as it seems to have been now; since mention is made of the princes of it, who usually have their residence where the court is. The Targum, Septuagint, and Vulgate Latin versions, call it Tanis, which was the metropolis of one of the nomes or provinces of Egypt, called from it the Tanitic nome F17; near it was one of the gates of the Nile, which had from it the name of the Tanitic gate F18; the princes of this place, the lords of this nome, though they had princely education, acted a foolish part, in flattering their sovereign, as afterwards mentioned, and in putting him upon doing things destructive to his kingdom and subjects: the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish;
the men of whose privy council were esteemed very wise, and greatly boasted of, and much confided in; and yet the counsel they gave him were such as made them look more like brutes than men: how say ye unto Pharaoh;
the then reigning prince, for Pharaoh was a name common to all the kings of Egypt. Some think their king Cethon is meant, said to be a very foolish king: others Psammiticus; which seems more likely; though there is no need to apply it to any particular king, they being used to say what follows to all their kings: I [am] the son of the wise;
suggesting that wisdom was natural and hereditary to him; though this may not merely respect his immediate ancestors, but remote ones, as Menes or Mizraim, the first king of Egypt, to whom is attributed the invention of arts and sciences; and his son Thoth, the same with Hermes, the Mercury of the Egyptians. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, make these words to be spoken by the wise counsellors of themselves, "we are the sons of wise men", and so the next clause; likewise Aben Ezra and Jarchi, also the Targum: the son of ancient kings?
according to these, it is spoken to Pharaoh thus, "and thou the son of kings of old"; of Ham, Mizraim, Thoth; the Egyptians boasted much of the antiquity of their kingdom and kings; and they say, from their first king Menes, to Sethon the priest of Vulcan, who lived about the time of this prophecy, were three hundred and forty one generations or ages of men, in which were as many kings and priests; and three hundred generations are equal to ten thousand years F19; and so many years, and more, their kings had reigned down to the prophet's time; which was all vain boasting, there being no manner of foundation for it. Vitringa renders it the son of ancient counsellors; this, as the former, being spoken by the counsellors, not of Pharaoh, but themselves.


F17 Herodot. l. 2. c. 166. Plin. l. 5. c. 9. Ptolem. Geogr. l. 4. c. 5.
F18 Ptolem. ib. Plin. l. 5. c. 10.
F19 Herodot. l. 2. c. 142.

Isaiah 19:11 In-Context

9 Those who work with flax will be dismayed; the combers and weavers will turn pale.
10 [Egypt's] weavers will be dejected; all her wage earners will be demoralized.
11 The princes of Zoan are complete fools; Pharaoh's wisest advisers give stupid advice! How can you say to Pharaoh, "I am one of the wise, a student of eastern kings."
12 Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you and reveal what the Lord of Hosts has planned against Egypt.
13 The princes of Zoan have been fools; the princes of Memphis are deceived. Her tribal chieftains have led Egypt astray.

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