on Joel 3 :19
Egypt shall be a desolation - While peace, plenty, and prosperity of every kind, shall crown my people, all their enemies shall be as a wilderness; and those who have used violence against the saints of God, and shed the blood of innocents (of the holy Martyrs) in their land, when they had political power; these and all such shall fall under the just judgments of God.
on Joel 3 :19
Egypt shall be a desolation - "Egypt" and "Edom" represent each a different class of enemies of the people of God, and both together exhibit the lot of all. Egypt was the powerful oppressor, who kept Israel long time in hard bondage, and tried, by the murder of their male children, to extirpate them. Edom was, by birth, the nearest allied to them, but had, from the time of their approach to the promised land, been hostile to them, and showed a malicious joy in all their calamities (Obadiah 1:10-14; Ezekiel 25:12; Ezekiel 35:15; Ezekiel 36:5; Lamentations 4:22; Psalm 137:7; see the note at Amos 1:11). "Their land," in which Egypt and Edom shed the "innocent blood of the children of Judah," may either be Edom, Egypt, or Judaea. If the land was Judaea, the sin is aggravated by its being God's land, the possession of which they were disputing with God. If it was Egypt and Edom, then it was probably the blood of those who took refuge there, or, as to Edom, of prisoners delivered up to them (see the note at Amos 1:9).
This is the first prophecy of the humiliation of Egypt. Hosea had threatened, that Egypt should be the grave of those of Israel who should flee there Hosea 9:6. He speaks of it as the vain trust, and a real evil to Israel Hosea 7:11-12, Hosea 7:16; Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3; Hosea 11:5; of its own future he says nothing. Brief as Joel's words are, they express distinctly an abiding condition of Egypt. They are expanded by Ezekiel EZechariah 29:9-12, Ezekiel 29:15; particular chastisements are foretold by Isaiah Isa. 19; Isaiah 20:1-6, Jeremiah Jer. 46, Ezekiel Ezek. 29-32, Zechariah Zechariah 10:11. But the three words of Joel , "Egypt shall become desolation," are more comprehensive than any prophecy, except those by Ezekiel. They foretell that abiding condition, not only by the force of the words, but by the contrast with an abiding condition of bliss. The words say, not only "it shall be desolated," as by a passing scourge sweeping over it, but "it shall itself 'pass over into' that state;" it shall become what it had not been ; and this, in contrast with the abiding condition of God's people. The contrast is like that of the Psalmist, "He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water-springs" Psalm 107:33-35. Judah should overflow with blessing, and the streams of God's grace should pass beyond its bounds, and carry fruitfulness to what now was dry and barren. But what should reject His grace should be itself rejected.
Yet when Joel thus threatened Egypt, there were no human symptoms of its decay; the instruments of its successive overthrows were as yet wild hordes, (as the Chaldees, Persians, and Macedonians,) to be consolidated thereafter into powerful empires, or (as Rome) had not the beginnings of being. : "The continuous monumental history of Egypt" went back seven centuries before this, to about 1520 b.c. They had had a line of conquerors among their kings, who subdued much of Asia, and disputed with Assyria the country which lay between there . Even after the time of Joel, they had great conquerors, as Tirhaka; Psammetichus won Ashdod back from Assyria , Neco was probably successful against it, as well as against Syria and king Josiah, for he took Cadytis on his return from his expedition against Carchemish 2 Kings 23:29; Pharaoh Hophra, or Apries, until he fell by his pride Ezekiel 29:3, renewed for a time the prosperity of Psammetichus ; the reign of Amasis, even after Nebuchadnezzars conquest, was said to be "the most prosperous time which Egypt ever saw" ; it was still a period of foreign conquest , and its cities could be magnified into 20,000.
The Persian invasion was drawn upon it by an alliance with Lydia, where Amasis sent 120,000 men ; its, at times, successful struggles against the gigantic armies of its Persian conquerors betoken great inherent strength; yet it sank for ever, a perpetual desolation. "Rent, twenty-three centuries ago, from her natural proprietors," says an unbelieving writer , "she has seen Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Georgians, and at length, the race of Tartars, distinguished by the name of Ottoman Turks, establish themselves in her bosom." "The system of oppression is methodical;" "an universal air of misery is manifest in all which the traveler meets." : "Mud-walled cottages are now the only habitations, where the ruins of temples and palaces abound. The desert covers many extensive regions, which once raised Egypt among the chief of the kingdoms." The desolation of Egypt is the stranger, because exceeding misrule alone could have effected it.
Egypt in its largest dimensions, has been calculated to contain 123,527 square miless or 79,057,339 acres, and to be three fourths of the size of France Memoire sur le lae de Moeris. (1843). The mountains which hem in Upper Egypt, diverge at Cairo, parting, the one range, due east, the other northwest. The mountains on the west sink into the plains; those on the east retain their height as far as Suez. About 10 miles below Cairo, the Nile parted, enclosing within the outside of its seven branches, that triangle of wondrous fertility, the Delta. A network of canals, formed by the stupendous industry of the ancient Egyptians, enclosed this triangle in another yet larger, whose base, along the coast, was 235 miles, in direct distance about 181. East of the eastern-most branch of the Nile, lay the "land of Goshen," formerly, at least for cattle, "the good of the land" Genesis 47:6, Genesis 47:11, a part, at least, of the present esh-Sharkiyyeh, second in size of the provinces of Egypt, but which, 1375 a.d., yielded the highest revenue of the state .
On the western side of the Nile, and about a degree south of the apex of the Delta, a stupendous work, the artificial lake of Moeris , enclosing within masonry 64 34 square miles of water, received the superfluous waters of the river, and thus at once prevented the injury incidental on any too great rise of the Nile, and supplied water during six months for the irrigation of 1724 square miles, or 1,103, 375, acres .
The Nile which, when it overflowed, spread like a sea over Egypt , encircling its cities like islands, carried with it a fertilizing power, attested by all, but which, unless so attested, would seem fabulous. Beneath a glowing heat, greater than its latitude will account for, the earth, supplied with continual moisture and an ever renewed alluvial deposit which supersedes all need of "dressing" the soil, yields, within the year, three harvests of varied produce . This system of canalising Egypt must have been of very early antiquity. That giant conception of the water system of lake Moeris is supposed to have been the work of Ammenemhes, perhaps about 1673, b.c. . But such a giant plan presupposes the existence of an artificial system of irrigation which it expanded. In the time of Moses, we hear incidentally of "the streams" of Egypt, "the canals" (that is, those used for irrigation), and "the ponds" Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:1, the receptacles of the water which was left when the Nile retired.
Besides these, an artificial mode of irrigation "by the foot" Deuteronomy 11:40 is mentioned, now no longer distinctly known, but used, like the present plans of the water-wheel and the lever , to irrigate the lands for the later harvests. This system of irrigation had, in the time of Joel, lasted probably for above 1000 years. The Egyptians ascribed the first turning of the Nile to their first king, Menes , of fabulous antiquity. But while it lasted in any degree, Egypt could not become barren except by miracle. Even now it recovers, whenever water is applied. "Wherever there is water, there is fertility." : "The productive powers of the soil of Egypt are incalculable. Wherever water is scattered, there springs up a rapid and beautiful vegetation. The seed is sown and watered, and scarcely any other care is requisite for the ordinary fruits of the earth. Even in spots adjacent to the desert and which seem to be taken possession of by the sands, irrigation brings rapidly forth a variety of green herbs and plants." For its first crop, there needed but to cast the seed, and have it trodden in by cattle .
Nothing then could desolate Egypt, except man's abiding negligence or oppression. No passing storm or inroad could annihilate a fertility, which poured in upon it in everrenewing richness. For 1000 years, the Nile had brought to Egypt unabated richness. The Nile overflows still, but in vain amid depopulation, and grinding, uniform, oppression. Not the country is exhausted, but man.
"If" says Mengin , "it is true that there is no country richer than Egypt in its territorial productions, still there is perhaps no one whose inhabitants are more miserable. It is owing solely to the fertility of its soil and the sobriety of its cultivators, that it retains the population which it still has." The marked diminution of the population had begun before the Birth of our Lord. "Of old," says Diodorus , "it far exceeded in denseness of population all the known countries in the world, and in our days too it seems to be inferior to no other. For in ancient times it had more than 18,000 considerable villages and towns, as you may see registered in the sacred lists. In the time of Ptolemy Lagus more than 30,000 were counted, a number which has continued until now. But the whole people are said of old to have been about seven million, and in our days not less than three" .
A modern estimate supposes that Egypt, if cultivated to the utmost, would, in plentiful years, support eight million . It is difficult to calculate a population where different ranks wish to conceal it. It has been guessed however, that two centuries ago, it was four million; that, at the beginning of this century, it was two million and a half; and that, in 1845, it was 1,800,000 . The great diminution then had begun 1900 years ago. Temporary causes, plague, smallpox; conscription, have, in this last century, again halved the population; but down to that time, it had sunk to no lower level than it had already reached at least 18 centuries before. The land still, for its fruitfulness, continues to supply more than its inhabitants consume; it yields over and above cotton , for strangers to employ.
Yet its brilliant patches of vegetation are but indications how great the powers implanted in it. In vain "the rising Nile overflows (as it is thought) a larger proportion of the soil" than heretofore; in vain has the rich alluvial deposit encroached upon the gradual slope of the desert; in vain, in Upper Egypt has a third been added since about the time of the Exodus. Egypt is stricken. Canals and even arms of the Nile, were allowed to choke up. Of the seven branches of the Nile, two only, at first artificial, remain. : "The others have either entirely disappeared or are dry in summer." The great eastern arm, the Pelusian, is nearly effaced "buried almost wholly beneath the sands of the desert." : "The land at the mouth of the canal which represents it, is a sand waste or a marsh." : "There is now no trace of vegetation in the whole Pelusian plain. Only one slight isolated rise has some thickets on it, and some shafts of columns lie on the sand." : "In the midst of a plain the most fertile, they want the barest necessaries of life."
The sand of the desert, which was checked by the river and by the reeds on its banks, has swept over lands no longer fertilized. : "The sea has not been less destructive. It has broken down the dykes wherewith man's labor held it in, and has carried barrenness over the productive lands which it converted into lakes and marshes." A glance at the map of Egypt will show how widely the sea has burst in, where land once was. On the east, the salt lake Menzaleh, (itself from west-northwest to southeast about 50 miles long, and above 10 miles from north to south) absorbs two more of the ancient arms of the Nile, the Tanitic and the Mendesian . The Tanitic branch is marked by a deeper channel below the shallow waters of the lake . The lake of Burlos "occupies from east to west more than half the basis of the Delta." Further westward are a succession of lakes, Edkou, Madyeh (above 12 12 miles) Mareotis (37 12 miles). : "The ancient Delta has lost more than half its surface, of which one-filth is covered with the waters of the lakes Mareotis, Madyeh, Edkou, Bourlos, and Menzaleh, sad effects of the carelessness of the rulers or rather spoilers of this unhappy country." Even when the lake Mareotis was, before the English invasion in 1801, allowed nearly to dry up, it was but an unhealthy lagoon; and the Mareotic district, once famous for its wine and its olives and papyrus , had become a desert. So far from being a source of fertility, these lakes from time to time, at the low Nile, inundate the country with salt water, and are "surrounded by low and barren plains" .
The ancient populousness and capabilities of the western province are attested by its ruins. : "The ruins which the French found everywhere in the military reconnaissances of this part of Egypt attest the truth of the historical accounts of the ancient population of the Province, now deserted" ; "so deserted, that you can scarce tell the numbers of ruined cities frequented only by wandering Arabs."
on Joel 3 :19