Isaiah 31 – Woe to Them That Go Down to Egypt

In Chapter 31, Isaiah continues with his ‘woes’. This woe is to them that go down to Egypt for help. Egypt, of course, in the Bible is always a type of the world.

Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Isaiah 31
1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

Both David and Solomon warned against trusting in horses as well. (Ps 20:7; Pr 21:31) These verses are Old Testament versions of 2 Corinthians 5:7: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) The Law actually forbade both these things, multiplying horses and returning to Egypt, in the same verse. (Deut 17:16) Presumably, the reason for this was so the people would trust in God to fight their battles for them.

2 Yet he [God] also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.
3 Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth [Egypt] shall fall, and he that is holpen [those Jews who go down to Egypt for help] shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.

I believe Isaiah was seeing one hundred years into the future. In Jeremiah 40 and 41, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah refused to believe that God wanted Judah to submit to Babylon (as Jeremiah had been saying). He therefore killed Gedaliah, who Nebuchadnezzar had appointed governor, and all who were with him. After the slaughter, those who were left came to Jeremiah and asked him to inquire of God for them, so they could decide what to do. They promised Jeremiah they would do whatever he said. (Jer 42) However, when Jeremiah came back to them with God’s answer — to stay and submit to Nebuchadnezzar — they refused to believe Jeremiah and accused him of being a traitor. (Jer 43) They were scared of Nebuchadnezzar so they fled to Egypt. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel warned against going to Egypt (as did Moses and Isaiah). Ezekiel 29:19 reiterated the warning of Isaiah, that Egypt would be unable to help them because Egypt would be defeated as well. According to the Institute for Creation Research, there has been some archeological evidence discovered in recent years that this all came to pass.

4 For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.

Verses 4-7 sound like Isaiah is seeing into the great tribulation period. The first time Jesus came as a lamb. The next time He is coming as a Lion. (Rev 5:5; 10:3) A preview of how Jesus will defend Jerusalem at his Second Coming was given in Isaiah’s day. (Isa 37)

5 As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.
6 Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.
7 For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.

The Jews were cured of idolatry during their captivity in Babylon. Unfortunately much of the rest of the world has still not learned this lesson. Living in India for two years showed me just how horrible the sin of idolatry is. Not only does it blind the eyes of the idolater, but it is an insult to God. If someone were to put your name under a picture of a monkey, you would be insulted. In India, I saw huge statues of monkeys that were worshiped as gods. Whatever representation is chosen, it is an insult compared to God’s true glory.

8 Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited.

Many commentators see this not only as a judgment against Assyria in general, but also the Antichrist himself. Many believe the Antichrist will be from Assyria. (Micah 5:5; cf Isa 10:5, 24) Specifically, this would refer to the political leader. His false prophet, also called the Antichrist, will be a Roman (ie the prince that shall come Dan 9:26). As I said before, there would be a victory in Isaiah’s day that would foreshadow how God will defend Jerusalem in the great tribulation period. When the Assyrians are defeated in Isaiah 37, it will have nothing to do with Hezekiah’s army (his mighty men) or any of the citizens (the mean, or average men). It was God alone. So shall it be at the Battle of Armageddon.

9 And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.
Isaiah 31


As I pointed out above, trusting in Egypt instead of the God of Israel was proven to be folly later when Nebuchadnezzar attacked. This was a negative example. A positive and more recent example of how this works took place in the American War of Independence. Great Britain had a far superior army and navy than the newly formed thirteen states did. At that time, Great Britain commanded what was arguably the most powerful empire in the history of the world. A group of colonists who had very few resources, yet trusted in God, decided that they would declare independence and go to war with Great Britain. A letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail dated September 16, 1774, shows that it was Psalm 35 that convinced the newly formed Continental Congress that they could win a war against Great Britain. Less than two years later, the colonists claimed the moral high ground and wrote the Declaration of Independence outlining their case. Among other things, the Declaration said ‘all men are created equal’. One of the reasons many of the founders chose to separate from Great Britain was that King George III had vetoed anti-slavery laws enacted by several of the colonies. Declaration signers such as Samuel Adams and Charles Carroll cited religious freedom as the reason they became involved in the American Revolution. According to America’s historian, David Barton, the American War of Independence was one of the few wars in history where there were no atrocities, at least not on the American side. There were many atrocities on the British side. It was the trust that the Americans put in God, and their obedience to Him in executing a just war that gave them a miraculous victory over the mighty British Empire. Would to God that we could find our way back to that obedience and trust in Him once more. I’m afraid that for quite some time now, America has been ‘going down to Egypt’.

The application for us as individuals is trusting God rather than worldly means to achieve results. For example, trusting in uncertain riches. (1 Tim 6:17) Solomon wrote that ‘under the sun’ … money answereth all things. (Ecc 10:9b) In the Son, however, there are far better solutions which are much more effective. I recently read a book written by Richard Harvey called 70 Years of Miracles. (Horizon Books, 1977) Dick Harvey was a preacher like his father before him. As I was reading this book, it occurred to me that the reason he saw so many miracles in his life was that he was born into a poor family. They learned to trust God for everything because they could not afford to buy anything for themselves.

This principle of not trusting in the world and its ways is something we need to learn as Christians. Perhaps you have been tempted to lie in order to get ahead in some way. That would be ‘going down to Egypt’ instead of trusting the LORD. This world is changing fast. America is looking more and more like Babylon each day. Now is no time to be playing games with our Christian faith. Now is the time to trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge Him in all your ways, and allow Him direct your path. Whether you are poor or rich, I think what we can take away from Isaiah 31 is that we should always trust in the Lord, whatever challenges we may face.

     Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Psalm 127:1

Father, help us to serve and worship You in Spirit and in truth. Help us to trust in You in all things. Help us to not be distracted by the deceitful things of the world, or to be conformed to this world, but rather to walk by faith, stand for the truth, and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.