Isaiah, A Brief CommentaryRelated Media
I. The Assyrian Era (With Other Prophecies), Isaiah 1-39
I.A.1. General Introduction To The Book.
I.A.1.A. A Vision.
This book represents the vision (ḥazon) that Isaiah had about Judah and Jerusalem during the reigns of four kings who ruled between 767 and 686 B.C., so the vision was not the event of a night but of years, various separate revelations combining to form the vision of Judah and Jerusalem that God gave. Visions were the normal expectation for prophets (1 Sam 3:1; Jer 14:14; Lam 2:9; Ezek 7:26; Hos 12:10; Mic 2:6); such prophetic vision was needed by God’s people (Prov 29:18). God declared in Deuteronomy 18:14-22 that he would declare his will to his covenant people through prophets. Nathan received a vision about David’s future (1 Chron 17:15). The term is often used with respect to the future (e.g., Ezek 12:27), and other prophets use this term to describe the revelation that God gave them (Obad 1:1; Nah 1:1).
I.A.1.B. Poetic And Messianic.
Most modern translations put much of Isaiah in poetic form, detecting a use of meter and parallelism that distinguishes the writing from prose. Isaiah, called the prince of the prophets, wrote with exceptional beauty and imagery. He creates moods, evocative scenes, and atmospheres, as poetry does. God used him to uncover spiritual realities of his own time but also of the near and far future. What Peter wrote seems especially true of Isaiah, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Pet 1:10-11 ESV). For Isaiah spoke of several different time periods in prophecies that could quickly shift from one to the other. He gave prophecies of Christ but also prophecies of Cyrus. He prophesied about immediate enemies, such as the Assyrians, but also of more distant enemies, such as the Babylonians, and both could serve as types for enemies at the end of the age.
I.A.1.C. The Author’s Life.
Isaiah lived in Jerusalem and served King Hezekiah with great distinction. However, tradition suggests that he may have been sawn in two during the time of Hezekiah’s son Manasseh (cf. Heb 11:37). He boldly confronted King Ahaz (Isaiah 7) and was evidently the author of the depiction of Assyrian invasion in 2 Kings 18-20 (cf. Isaiah 36-39). He recorded the events of King Uzziah’s reign (2 Chron 26:22) along with those of Hezekiah’s (2 Chron 32:32). Isaiah is the Old Testament (OT) book alluded to most in the New Testament (NT), and the second most quoted book after Psalms. Its prophecies of Christ are the most extensive of all OT prophecies of him. Isaiah was exceptionally close to the Lord.
I.A.2. Multi-Author Theory.
I.A.2.A. A Liberal Theory Due To Time Shifts.
Prolific shifts in time frame have caused many liberal scholars to assume that Isaiah was written by more than one author; they imagine a school of Isaiah that carried on his work over the centuries. They divide the book into first Isaiah (chs. 1-39), second Isaiah (chs. 40-55), and third Isaiah (chs. 56-66). The first faced the Assyrian threat, the second was written during the Babylonian exile, and the third was written about the time of the return (520 to 516 B.C.). But because there is genuine prophecy throughout the Bible, no clear indication of such authorial divisions within the book, and NT reference to these texts simply as from the prophet Isaiah, it is best to assume that the book has a single author. Matthew 13:14 cites Isaiah 6:9, Matthew 3:3 cites Isaiah 40:3, and Luke 4:17 quotes Isaiah 61:1-2, all referring to the prophet Isaiah, not just the prophecy. Detailed studies of the words used in the book support this understanding, since some uncommon words are repeated in all three sections of the book.
I.A.2.B. God’s Purpose For Time Shifts.
Since God wanted to use Isaiah to prophecy great things about the Messiah and coming kingdom, he enabled him to prophesy about sixth-century events. Isaiah’s eschatology would not have matched NT prophecy if he had only used eighth-century events. His predictions about the sixth century not only showed God’s sovereignty over history but were a poignant warning of what was to come. Even though God sent Isaiah to turn the people’s hearts, he knew that they would not listen (Isaiah 6), so worse events were to come than Isaiah’s generation faced. Isaiah foretold them. His naming of Cyrus (Isa 44:28; 45:1) is one of two cases in Scripture when a prophet mentions a future historical figure by name (cf. 1 Kgs 13:2), and in both cases the purpose was to elevate the sovereignty and omniscience of God.
I.A.3. Isaiah As Covenant Spokesman.
Since the Mosaic covenant represented the operating rules (laws) of God’s relationship with Israel, it is natural that the prophets, instruments of the covenant (Deut 18:14-22), should articulate God’s position towards Israel at any time in view of the covenant. Since the covenant promised blessings or curses corresponding to Israel’s response to its covenantal obligations (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28), it was natural for prophets to confront the nation in those terms. The psalmists allude to the covenant at Sinai (Pss 78:10; 103:17-18; 106:45). The historians regard it as central in explaining national judgment (2 Kgs 17:14-15, 34-38).
I.B. Alternating Prophecies Of Near And Far Future, Isaiah 1-5.
I.B.1. Isaiah 1 As Covenant Lawsuit Inclusive Of Near And Far Future.
Isaiah 1 can be regarded as a covenant lawsuit against Israel, and it reflects Deuteronomy 32, which also condemned Israel for its rejection of God. Isaiah wrote about the great calamities and ultimate restoration that the Mosaic covenant declared would occur. It begins with the near future but includes the far future.
I.B.1.A. Covenant Confrontation Was A Prophetic Norm.
Isaiah was not the only prophet to bring a lawsuit or legal charge against Israel (see, e.g., Jer 2:4-12; Ezek 16:59; Psalm 50). This was standard procedure for the prophets. Eight-century Hosea makes God’s covenant with Israel prominent (Hos 4:1-19; 6:7; 8:1). Isaiah’s contemporary Micah announced the Lord’s lawsuit against Israel based on his redemption of them from Egypt (Mic 6:1-5), and used ideas in the covenant curses (Mic 6:13-15; cf. Deut 28:30, 38-40; Lev 26:16, 20, 26). Isaiah’s contemporary Amos announced judgment on Judah for failure to keep the Lord’s law and decrees (Amos 2:7), mentioned specific Mosaic laws violated (2:6-8, 11-12; contrast Deut 15:7-11; Ex 23:6; Lev 18:8; Deut 24:17; Num 6:2-21), and recalled God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Amos 2:10). Israelites after the eighth century viewed relationship with God in terms of the Mosaic law and covenant (Jer 11:1-13; 31:31-33; Ezra 9:6-15; Neh 1:5-11; 9:6-37; Dan 9:4-19; Hag 2:5; Zech 9:11; Mal 2:10; 3:1). Isaiah would have been an exception if he had not evaluated Israel’s stance before God in terms of the Mosaic covenant.
I.B.1.B. Covenant Lawsuit Form In Isaiah 1.
The call for heaven and earth to hear (Isa 1:2) is wording that helps identify Isaiah 1 as a covenant lawsuit, for elsewhere this call to heaven and earth to hear implies a responsibility for them to act as witnesses in relation to covenant fidelity (Deut 4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1; Psa 50:4). After the call to witnesses follows the complaint (Isa 1:2b-3), address of the accused with accusations, interrogations, and threats (1:4-15), an appeal for betterment (1:16-17), the offer of an agreement (1:18-20), a final complaint (1:21-23), and restatement of the different treatment accorded the repentant versus stubborn offenders (1:24-31). Some want to separate 1:4-9 as a woe oracle, since verse 4 is in the third person, while covenant lawsuits generally use direct address, often in the forms of questions (Ps 50:13, 16, 21; Mic 6:3, 6-7; Deut 32:6; Jer 2:5). But the LXX, Syriac, and some English translations take Isaiah 1:4-9 as direct address. It is not odd in Semitic languages for a vocative to be followed by a relative clause containing a third-person verb. The Hebrew word translated “woe” is an exclamation used often in laments, and the typical lament pattern is direct address of the dead (2 Kings 13:30; 2 Sam 1:26; 2 Sam 19:1). So direct address may be normal with this word.
I.B.1.C. Comparison Of Isaiah 1 With Deuteronomy 32.
Isaiah 1:1-9 reflects Deuteronomy 32 in the infliction of covenant curses; Jewish scholars Rashi and Ibn Ezra made this connection in the Middle Ages. Isaiah 1:10-20 rejects covenant-mandated worship when the nation defies social standards of the covenant. It is guilty of bloodshed (Isa 1:15; cf. Deut 5:17) and evil deeds (Isa 1:16). It does not perform justice, care for the widow, or protect the orphan (see Deut 1:16-17; 24:17). The Hebrew verb translated “reason together” in Isaiah 1:18 also functions in a covenant lawsuit in Micah 6:2 as “dispute” or “bring charges.” Here are some parallels between Isaiah 1 and Deuteronomy 32. Both start with much the same address to the heavens and earth. Both move to the subject of Israelites as God’s sons (Isa 1:2; Deut 32:5). Both show God’s care for Israel as a son or child (Isa 1:2; Deut 32:6-14). Israel is shown as rebellious against God (Isa 1:2; Deut 32:15-18). Israel does not know, understand (Isa 1:3), or remember their Father (Deut 32:6, 18). The Israelites are corrupt sons (Isa 1:4; Deut 32:5; cf. Deut 4:16, 25; 31:29). Both chapters use the same verb for Israel’s rejection of God (Isa 1:4; Deut 31:20). Both chapters (Isa 1:4; Deut 32:15-21) charge that Israel has forsaken God (cf. Deut 28:20; 29:25). Israelites are estranged (Isa 1:4), not his sons though he is their Father (Deut 32:5-6). They are a brood of evildoers (Isa 1:4), a perverse, sinful generation (Deut 32:5). Both chapters describe a judgment that greatly decimates Israel (Isa 1:5-9; Deut 32:21-27). Both symbolize God’s judgment as a “sword” (Isa 1:20; Deut 32:25). God is determined to take vengeance on adversaries (Isa 1:24; Deut 32:41). Both chapters show ruin for rebels abandoning God (Isa 1:28; Deut 32:5, 15, 18-20, 23-26). Both deal with idolatry (Isa 1:29; Deut 32:16-17, 21, 37-39). Both describe a burning pertaining to idolatrous sinners (Isa 1:31; Deut 32:21-22).
I.B.1.D. Covenantal Overview Of Book.
Isaiah 1 can be a summarizing overview of the book, and some think it was added after the rest of the book was written. If it recalls the covenant, it can give a covenant tone to the whole book. Isaiah 1 calls Israel to account by alluding to the Song of Moses. Ibn Ezra wrote about Isaiah 1:2: “And he began by calling the witnesses whom Moses had summoned to witness against Israel ‘that you shall surely perish.’ And look, the time had come.” Ibn Ezra linked 1:2 with Deut 4:26 and 30:18-19, where Moses warns that the people will perish if they worship idols in the land. The Song of Moses was to be a witness against Israel at the time that God destroyed the nation for its idolatry, and idolatry constituted one of Isaiah’s major criticisms of Israel as he prophesied its destruction. Other early texts in Isaiah seen as Deuteronomic include 4:4-5; 5:25-26; and 19:20. Later Isaiah 51:10 speaks of the Exodus.
I.B.1.E. Isaiah 1 As A Judgment.
I.B.1.E.I. A Purging Of The Nation.
The “writing prophets,” who began to appear in the eighth century, prophesied a divine judgment that would bring collapse of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. They condemned the sins leading to this judgment. The “writing prophets” differed from their predecessors, except possibly Moses, because they had an eschatological element in their writing. They expected God’s final demolition of affairs pertaining to this aeon so that very different conditions of a new aeon could arise. These prophets describe the judgment that purges Israel (e.g., Isa 1:25) as ultimately purging those everywhere who are hostile to Israel. Then Israel can rise again in glory. The judgments preannounced in the Mosaic covenant met the eschatological concerns of the writing prophets at this place of purging (see Isa 1:25).
I.B.1.E.II. The Purging Within God’s Greater Plan.
By the time Isaiah was called by God, Israel had had centuries to resolve its sin problems. In the eighth century the sin patterns of the nation were deepening. Long before 722 and 586 B.C. God determined to send Assyria and Babylon in judgment (Isa 22:11; 37:26; 46:10). He planned not to intervene miraculously to reverse the downward slide of the Israelite kingdoms. Their free choices would be determinative, and his prophets, by confronting the people with their sin, would stir antagonism that hastened the slide (see 30:10-11). Isaiah’s ultimate effect would not be to reform his society but to announce its sins and their implications for judgment. Yet God’s covenants with Israel promised its ultimate well-being (Gen 17:7; 28:14; Deut 4:31; 2 Sam 7:16). The writing prophets magnified God’s faithfulness to bless as well as to judge by pointing to the future rebirth of the nation as a result of its fall. This hope would be the outcome of God’s sentence upon Israel’s covenant violations. So Isaiah 1 concludes partly with a vision for this blessed future (Isa 1:26-27).
I.B.2. The Specifics Of Isaiah 1.
I.B.2.A. Israelites As Sons, 1:1-4.
God describes the Israelites as sons who do not recognize the Father who raised them. For a son to fail to recognize his nurturing father would be disgraceful. God explains that Israel has rebelled, and other Scripture shows that they worshiped other gods such as Baal (2 Kgs 17:16; 23:4) and Tammuz (Ezek 8:14). Their infidelity made them less intelligent than animals, who know their master (Isa 1:3).
I.B.2.B. Other Images For Israel, 1:5-9.
Isaiah personifies Israel as a person beaten up and covered with untended wounds (vv. 5-6), which symbolize the forms of discipline God has brought against the nation to turn it back to himself. He pictured Jerusalem, personified as a woman (“daughter Zion”; Zion was a hill in Jerusalem on which the city of David was built) under attack as a flimsy shelter used in the fields at harvest time and then as a city under siege. The latter image corresponded to reality when the Assyrians had conquered everything but Jerusalem in 701 B.C., so some see Isaiah 1 as having been written after then. It was only God’s determination to preserve a remnant of his people that kept them from annihilation like Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 9).
I.B.2.C. Israel’s Unreal Worship, 1:10-17.
God criticized the hypocrisy in Israel. He implied that the lifestyle of Israel was like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet despite the oppression and murder, Israel came before God with offerings in the temple. God ignored such phony respect and called for repentance marked by righteous behavior.
I.B.2.D. God’s Offer, 1:18-20.
God promises forgiveness and blessing for obedience but destruction for further rebellion. He could rightly threaten death for disobedience because of his supreme authority as Lord of all.
I.B.2.E. Review Of The Past, 1:21-31.
God summarizes the history of Jerusalem. Jerusalem began in righteousness with King David’s rule (v. 21) but had become a harlot. This is another reference to infidelity because God often pictured his relationship with Israel as that of a husband, and Jerusalem could represent the nation, which gave its loyalty to other nations and gods in return for what they could offer, such as protection from enemy attack (e.g., Ahaz going to Assyria for help in Isaiah 7; see 2 Kgs 16:7-17). Now murder and thievery characterized the people, even the leaders. They failed to give justice to the vulnerable as God’s law required. So God would take vengeance by removing such people until the city was again what it had been at the start. This vision really extends to the end of this age (cf. Isaiah 2) since any fulfillment of a redeemed city after the Babylonian Captivity was incomplete. For that reason, perhaps, the chapter ends on a negative note of warning of national destruction for idolatry.
I.B.2.F. Textual Notes.
Some translations (NIV, NET, CJB) call the trees in verse 29 “sacred,” or clarify that idolatry is in view (NLT, DRA). The trees marked groves for idols. The Septuagint and Vulgate have “idols” as the translation of the word for trees. The form of the word for “oaks” or “terebinths” is similar in form to the word for “gods.” Another text-critical matter in the chapter pertains to a word in verse 17 translated either “oppressor” or “oppressed.” The medieval Masoretes, who added symbols for vowels to the Hebrew consonants, took the word as “oppressor” (modern translations with this idea include GWN, NASB, NJB, NKJV), but the ancient versions (LXX, Vulgate, and Syriac), which were much earlier, understood a different vowel at one point. Their idea of “oppressed” fits the context of widows and orphans and is the choice of most English translations.
I.B.3. The Future Versus The Present, Isaiah 2.
I.B.3.A. The Future, 2:1-5.
Isaiah 2:1-5 gives a separate vision that Isaiah received about Judah and Jerusalem concerning “the end of the days,” or the final times of the future when the glorious goal for Jerusalem of 1:26-27 will be realized. Fulfillment will involve the Lord actively intervening on earth (Isa 2:3-4). This evidently corresponds to the Lord’s enthronement on earth described in Matthew 25:31. The term “word” in Isaiah 2:1 could also signify “thing.” A change in the elevation of Mt. Zion will apparently occur (Isa 2:2), one connected with a great earthquake (Zech 14:3-5), a rebuilding of Jerusalem (Jer 31:38-40), and a changed landscape (Ezekiel 47 and Joel 3:18). Jerusalem will attract the world’s nations (cf. Hag 2:6-9; Zech 14:16-19; Zeph 3:9-11; Isa 60:3; 66:23). Isaiah envisions a time when the nations are submissive to the Lord’s active rule from Jerusalem.
I.B.3.B. The Present, 2:6-8.
But verses 6-8 shift to the contrary contemporary scene in which Israel was influenced towards idolatry by the other nations rather than the nations being influenced towards the Lord by Israel.
I.B.3.C. Transition To The Future: High To Low, 2:9-22.
Verses 9-22 are a poetic prevision of a judgment on this elevation of human things (v. 8) so that the Lord is exalted and mankind is brought low. The poetry is obvious in the repetitions: refrains (vv. 11, 17), “land” three times in verses 7-8; “brought low” and “humbled” (vv. 9, 11, 17); “from dread of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty” (vv. 10, 19, 21), and “rocks” (vv. 10, 18, 21). The “idols” of verse 8 find mention in verses 18 and 20 as an expression of human arrogance. Words for pride here in Hebrew derive from roots referring to height, so the contrast between high and low is an outstanding feature of the poem. Zechariah 14:9 similarly predicts that on the day of the Lord he will be king, and his name will be the only name. Isaiah 2:9-22 teaches that it is wrong to make too much of man (v. 22), because the Lord is at the center of everything.
I.B.4. In The Present: High To Low: Isaiah 3.
I.B.4.A. Loss And Judgment Of Leadership, 3:1-15.
If Isaiah could use his times as types of the end time, he could work the other way, because Isaiah 3 is a contemporary example of the kind of humbling of pride that 2:9-22 portrays of the end time. The two chapters are joined by a connective word “for,” addressing the people of Isaiah’s day, who were the recipients of the command in 2:22. They were not to elevate man because God was about to remove all the props that supported Israelite society. The chapter warns of defeat and exile. All the high-placed people would be removed from Jerusalem along with the material support, either by war, exile, or flight. Verses 4-5 and 12 show the same kind of role reversal seen in 2:9-20, except where earlier what was high became low, in 3:4, 12 what is low becomes high as people turn against one another in the meltdown. Verses 6-7 show a ruined society where civic pride is gone. Rebellion against the Lord and brazen sin (vv. 8-11) brought this ruin. Verses 12-15 show that the Lord’s judgment falls on leaders who mislead the people and abuse the poor.
I.B.4.B. Haughty Women Humbled. 3:16-4:1.
The verb “are haughty” in verse 16 can also mean “are high/exalted,” so the women of Zion, evidently the same ones who rule the men according to verse 12, are an example of what is high that is brought low, as in 2:9-22. The finery is overwhelming and so testifies to vanity. These are probably the wives of the rulers who oppress the poor. The severity of God’s discipline is plain in verse 17. The sores, baldness, stench, rope, sackcloth, and branding suggest captivity and exile, which match the defeat in warfare of the men in verse 25. Zion’s gates mourn because the people are gone. The city is personified as sitting on the ground “desolate” (NKLV, DRA, KJV, NAB), where the Hebrew term more strictly means “emptied.” This is an early warning of the Babylonian exile. There is a slight textual issue with the word “women” in verse 12 because the LXX, Aquila, Theodotion, and the Targum have an idea more like “exactors,” which would just involve a different vowel supposed for the originally vowelless text. The Latin Vulgate and Syriac support the understanding “women” of the Masoretic Text (MT), which seems a bit better in the context of improper people ruling (vv. 4, 12). Women humbled by judgment will seek to avoid being spinsters, since so many men have died in war (see a similar covenant curse in Lev 26:26). The chapter division puts these humbled women in Isaiah 4, for word of them is introduced by “in that day,” the same phrase that begins futuristic 4:2. It is typical of Isaiah to shift from present to future with an ambiguous verse. These could be women whose filth is washed (4:4), but it will be in another era when Israel’s defeat gives way to victory.
I.B.5. The Far Future Of Blessing, Isaiah 4:2-6.
The passage shifts back to the end time, showing a reversal from judgment to blessing. There is debate whether “branch” in verse 2 is a name for the Messiah (the NIV, NASB, and NKJV capitalize “branch”) or indicates “growth” of vegetation. The Hebrew word refers to what springs up from the ground but sometimes serves as a name for the Messiah (Jer 23:5; 33:15: Zech 3:8; 6:12; see the related verb in Ps 132:17). Here in Isa 4:2 the term is parallel with the “fruit of the land,” so it may refer to what the Lord causes to grow. Uninhibited plant growth after military defeat is a theme of Isaiah 7:23-25, so it could fit the context here, with the fruit being what grows naturally. The abundant plant life signals God’s blessing. The holiness of the survivors points to the end of the age (cf. Zech 13:1-2; 14:20-21; Isa 10:20-22). The imagery of shade from heat and shelter from storm rains corresponds to that in the Messianic setting of Isaiah 32:1-2. The cloud of smoke by day and glow of fire at night recall the divine presence protecting Israel at the Exodus (Ex 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 24). Likewise, the glory and the canopy in Isaiah 4:5 suggest an idyllic setting in the messianic kingdom.
I.B.6. The Near Future Of Doom, Isaiah 5.
I.B.6.A. Song Of The Vineyard, Isaiah 5:1-7.
Isaiah 5 shifts back to judgment as Isaiah sings a song about the Lord and his vineyard, Israel. Isaiah loved the Lord, and the Lord loved his vineyard, doing everything for it that could be done. But because it produced the bad fruit of murder and cries of distress, he was going to destroy it. The briers and thorns in this parabolic song are a prophecy of the reality in 7:24-25. It is not ultimately Assyria and Babylon that cause Israel’s ruin; they are the Lord’s instruments.
I.B.6.B. Woes Upon Israel For Its Sin, 5:8-30.
A series of woes pronounced against the nation spell out the song’s warning in greater specificity. The first woe (vv. 8-10) against those who accumulated great estates came because the Lord intended for families to preserve the land inheritance assigned to each. Taking permanently the land of other families violated the principle that God was the ultimate owner of the land, and the people were his tenants (Lev 25:23-24). The second woe (Isa 5:11-17) was against worldly hedonists. Their lack of interest in the Lord would lead to their dying without even understanding why death was coming. Isaiah personified Sheol, the place of the dead, as having a limitless mouth to consume the Israelites. Verses 15-16 repeat the theme of the poem in 2:9-22 about mankind being brought low and the Lord being exalted through judgment. However, this is the near future, not the eschaton. Strangers would possess the land of Israel (v. 17). There is woe for sinners who mock at God’s work (vv. 18-19), those who upend God’s set of values (v. 20), and those who take pride in themselves rather than God (v. 21). The last woe in the chapter (vv. 22-24) is about big drinkers who corrupt justice.
I.B.6.C. General Consequences, 5:25-30.
Introduced by “therefore,” a summary reports what will befall all these groups. The Lord acts in two stages, initially striking people dead so intensely that the mountains shake (v. 25). This could describe the internecine war between the northern and southern kingdoms that led to King Pekah killing 120,000 Judahite soldiers in one day (2 Chron 28:6) at the time of King Ahaz. But God’s anger was unsatisfied, and he struck Israel through foreign nations (Isa 5:26-30) such as Assyria and Babylon. These enemy soldiers seem empowered by God. The “darkness and distress” (v. 30) seem a preview of the “distress and darkness” of 8:22 related to Assyrian invasion and the time preceding Jesus’ birth (Isa 9:1-2).
I.C. Prophecies Of Judgment Mixed With Messianic Hope, Isaiah 6-12.
I.C.1. Isaiah’s Commission, Isaiah 6.
Isaiah 6 records God’s call to Isaiah for his mission, which came in 740 B.C., the year of Uzziah’s death.
I.C.1.A. Isaiah’s Vision And Cleansing, 6:1-7.
God reveals himself in a form expressive of glory and majesty. The fact that Isaiah saw himself as undone, a person of unclean lips, suggests that the Lord had not sent him to prophesy before this time. In that case the Lord is not giving him a special message but telling him what the thrust of his ministry will be. Some take the angels’ saying “holy” three times to be in honor of the Trinity, but threefold repetition could be epizeuxis, an emphatic way to say something (cf. Jer 22:29; Ezek 21:27). The word “seraphs” means “burning ones,” and this may be another name for the cherubim, who are similar in description and surrounded by flames (Ezek 1:13-14; 10:2, 7, 20). With both groups there are burning coals in the midst. Since the NT says that nobody has seen the face of God the Father, many assume that the Lord seen by Isaiah was the preincarnate Christ (and see John 12:39-41).
I.C.1.B. Isaiah’s Dialogue With God, 6:8-13.
Isaiah expressed his gratitude for his cleansing from sin by answering the Lord’s call for someone to send. Jesus used verses 9-10 about Israel in his day, and the verses appear several times in the NT (e.g., Mt 13:14-15; Mk 4:11; Lk 4:20; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:27). God seeks people, but they must be willing to listen. That is how his word can change hearts. God forewarns Isaiah that his calls for Israelites to repent (e.g., 1:18-20) will cause them to shut themselves off from the message and thus from God. Because God knows in advance what the response will be, one can say that God brings about the result. However, Jesus made it clear that it is the people who have shut their eyes, ears, and heart (Mt 13:15). Isaiah asked how long he would need to go on preaching, and the Lord clarified that the conclusion of the matter would be national destruction and exile. Verse 13 indicated that a second destruction would follow the first, but even so there was still hope. The Assyrians took captive about 200,000 people, according to the annals of King Sennacherib, and killed many others, so the destruction of the surviving tenth could be the Babylonian invasion and exile. A quite similar phrase to “holy seed” (v. 13) occurs in Ezra 9:2 of the Israelites as God’s chosen people. Isaiah 6:13 compares the nation to a tree cut down that retains a root stock and so can regrow. Isaiah adds that its root stock is holy seed, that is, the Israelite survivors, or remnant.
I.C.2. The Failure Of Ahaz, Isaiah 7.
Historical prose largely replaces poetry here.
I.C.2.A. Initial Pronouncements To Ahaz, 7:1-9.
The Lord took initiative to send Isaiah to King Ahaz as he faced invasion from the northern kingdom of Israel along with Syria (Aram). As mentioned earlier, there was a deadly war that killed 120,000 Judaeans at one point. The divine reason for bringing the attack was Ahaz’s infidelity to the Lord, his making idols to worship Baal, his sacrifice of sons in fire, and his support of all sorts of pagan religion (2 Chron 28:1-5). Since Ahaz has just heard of the alliance of Israel and Syria in Isaiah 7:2, and 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 only mention one war between Judah and Israel, it may be that Isaiah went to Ahaz before the war. The statement that the two kings went up for war but could not overpower Jerusalem (Isa 7:2) matches a statement in 2 Kings 16:5. Second Chronicles 28:5-6 mentions Syria and Israel separately as defeating Judah, but the same conflict seems to be in view. So this was a deadly war, where Ahaz lost a son and top advisors (2 Chron 28:7). The statement of the enemy’s inability to prevail (Isa 7:1) is an advance summary of the outcome. The Lord was right to tell the king that the enemy’s intention, which was to replace Ahaz with a king of their choosing, would not happen (v. 7). Yet God did not get into details of the assault, only promising that in not too many years these enemy kingdoms would not exist. However, he warned Ahaz that if he did not stand in the faith, he would not stand.
I.C.2.B. The Sign And Immediate Future, 7:10-16.
Ahaz did not stand firm in the faith, it seems, because he did not cooperate when God invited him to request a sign. His rationale that he would not test the Lord was false since God wanted him to seek a sign for the sake of his faith. So Isaiah rebuked him for trying God’s patience and gave the house of David a sign. A virgin would conceive and bear a child, naming him “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23 says that the birth of Christ fulfilled this text. One might think Matthew simply reused the words, applying to Jesus what originally concerned a woman who got pregnant in Isaiah’s time and named her son after the prospect of God supporting Israel. However, since this name ‘God with us” (“Immanuel” in Hebrew) reoccurs in 8:8, 10, and then a child called the “mighty God” appears in 9:6 pointing to the Messiah, there is evidently prophecy of Christ in 7:14. Several theories exist about how the words work in the eighth-century context. It could be an unnamed virgin, or it could be Isaiah’s wife, since an event about her in 8:1-4 is similar in predicting the defeat of these two kings when the child is small (7:15-16; 8:3-4). Since Isaiah already had a son Shear Jashub, whose name means “A Remnant Will Return,” the prophetess either was a second wife or the Hebrew word translated “virgin” did not have that implication in this case. Since Isaiah’s child gets a separate name, it seems better to think of two children with two different mothers. It is conceivable that the child in Isaiah 7 is only the Messiah, for he would not have been old enough to know good and evil before he was born. The words would be tortuous, but as David told God (Ps 18:26), “With the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.” Ahaz did retain his throne but immediately submitted to the King of Assyria to gain help against Syria and Israel. This action eventually brought Assyria against Judah, however (2 Chron 28:20-21). He also started worshiping the Syrian god, since Syria had defeated him (2 Chron 28:22-24). His infidelity to God increased (2 Chron 28:24-25), stirring the divine anger mentioned in Isaiah 5:25.
I.C.2.C. The Further Future Of Assyrian Threat, 7:17-25.
Isaiah 5:26 speaks of God whistling to distant nations at the end of the earth, and in 7:18 God whistles for the flies in Egypt and bees in Assyria, metaphors for the armies of those places. The shaving of Israel (7:20), head to feet including beard, indicates a greatly humiliating act (cf. 2 Sam 10:4-6). God was the one shaving, with the King of Assyria and his army being the hired razor. The rest of the chapter describes the humble conditions in Israel after the Assyrian assault. It gives a less positive slant on Immanuel eating curds and honey in Isaiah 7:15. It is the food of poverty, not royalty (v. 22).
I.C.3. More Prophecy About Assyria, Isaiah 8.
I.C.3.A. The Sign, 8:1-4.
Isaiah 8 shows Isaiah with a large scroll functioning as a placard. It read, “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” The message is literally: “Hastening plunder; speedy spoil.” The verb forms seem to be adjectival participles. The message may refer to the speed with which the wealth of Damascus and plunder of Samaria would be carried off. The word “plunder” occurs again in the Lord’s explanation of the name (v. 4). God sent two respectable men, unnamed elsewhere in Scripture, to be witnesses to Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming defeat of the northern kingdom of Israel and Syria. When the defeat occurred, they would be able to testify that Isaiah had foretold it. God timed the event by having Isaiah name his new son by this message, whose fulfillment would precede the son being able to call his father or mother with words. The agent of defeat would be Assyria, as Ahaz sought.
I.C.3.B. Broad Message About Assyria, 8:5-10.
But God had a less favorable message to add.
I.C.3.B.I. Unfavorable Aspect, 8:5-8.
The rejected waters of “Siloah” are in the pool of Siloam in southeast Jerusalem, according to the lexicons (Jn 9:7; Neh 3:15). The people could have rejoiced over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, because they left Jerusalem, but so many Judaeans died then that it seems more likely that Judaeans rejoiced over the kings’ defeat by Assyria, which brought an end to these two kingdoms hostile to Judah. But Judah had rejected the Lord (symbolized by the waters of Siloam) to obtain this deliverance, not trusting him but the king of Assyria. The Lord would let Judah have the Assyrian waters, but they would come in the form of a flooding river. Ahaz had put Assyria’s attention on the wealth they could gain from Judah. The armies of Assyria would be like mighty floodwaters overrunning the banks of the Euphrates River, which ran by Assyrian territory. Judah would be inundated with water to the neck; that is, they would barely survive. Isaiah addresses Immanuel; Assyria would cover his land. The words seem excessive for some obscure child merely included to date an event and God’s favor against Israel and Aram. The name is being used in connection with Assyrian invasion of the whole land and so points back to God’s harsh discipline of his people (Isa 7:20). That was also what it could mean to have “God with us.”
I.C.3.B.II. More Favorable Aspect, 8:9-10.
Assyria would come with other nations as allies. Assyrian military policy was to conquer a people and move it to some distant place where it would be dependent on Assyria. So when verses 9-10 taunt the nations planning to attack Judah, they can have Assyria in mind, but perhaps as representative of all the enemy nations. They would ultimately fail because God had eternal plans for his chosen people and would protect them. He was with them (v. 10); Isaiah repeats the wording “Immanuel” for the third time.
I.C.3.C. God’s Word For Isaiah, 8:11-15.
The strong hand on Isaiah in verse 11 was to prevent him from conforming to the thinking of his fellow countrymen, because they were not following God. They would first fear Israel and Syria, but God had said those nations would not last. Then they might fear Assyria, but Isaiah knew Assyria was only God’s tool. For Isaiah God would be a sanctuary. Isaiah was to continue to fear God and regard him as the Holy One, unlike his idolatrous neighbors. In both Israel and Judah the majority would find God a rock over which they stumbled and fell. Because they were under the Mosaic covenant, he would be a trap and snare as they failed to live as he said and so came under the covenant curses. The imagery of stumbling and falling returns in verse 15 of battle defeat and captivity.
I.C.3.D. Isaiah’s Response, 8:16-22.
God might speak in verse 16, but the first-person referent would shift to Isaiah (v. 17) without notice. Or Isaiah may pray or command others in verse 16.
I.C.3.D.I. Instruction And Observation, 8:16-18.
“Bind” and “seal up” imply protection and preservation. Some think the “testimony” (the Hebrew word occurs also in Ruth 4:7, there as a legal term) and “law” refer to the prophecy at the start of the chapter and its attesting placard. The children given to Isaiah (Isa 8:18) could be the disciples, but it was his literal children who were signs and symbols in Israel through the names God had Isaiah give them. Isaiah would wait for God to act in fulfillment of his prophecies. The words in verse 18 are applied to Jesus and his disciples in Hebrews 2:13. Isaiah may mention God dwelling in Zion because so many in the nation seemed to forget that reality.
I.C.3.D.II. Warning, 8:19-22.
Many consulted mediums and spiritists, whom Isaiah mocked by evoking their whispering and muttering behavior. Seekers should seek the living God about living people and not consult spirits of the dead, a practice God had made a capital offence (Lev 19:31; 20:6, 27). Verse 20 repeats the terms “law” and “testimony” from verse 16. They are guidance for the whole nation, so law probably refers to the Mosaic law, while testimony can include the large scroll of 8:1 as part of God’s testimony through history. To guide one’s life by anything else than God’s word brought failure. People could anticipate only hunger, rage, and further hostility to God and his societal order. God would consign them to a hopeless fate.
I.C.4. Mercy And Anger, Isaiah 9.
I.C.4.A. The Lord’s Victorious Mercy, 9:1-7.
Isaiah 9 retains the foregoing setting of darkness. Assyria had invaded the northern kingdom under Tiglath-Pileser, stripping away Gilead and Galilee, with all the land of Naphtali, as well as many cities, deporting the people to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). This explains how God brought low the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali (Isa 9:1). Tiglath-Pileser listed his captives and their cities, and several of the cities not listed in 2 Kings 15 were in Zebulon (The MacMillan Bible Atlas, p. 147). God’s determination to honor Galilee shifts to a future time. Matthew 4:13-16 cites Isaiah 9:1-2 as fulfilled in Jesus. He was the “great light” that “dawned.” Zechariah the priest prophesied of Jesus that “the sunrise from on high has visited us” (Lk 1:78), and Jesus said that he was “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). The “day of Midian” (Isa 9:4) refers to Gideon’s defeat of Midianites (Judges 7). The time of ultimate fulfillment is eschatological, even though Isaiah speaks of a child being born, since the defeat of the enemy (Isa 9:4-5) comes at the return of Messiah to defeat the nations (Revelation 19), which leads to the messianic kingdom (Isa 9:7; Rev 20:4-6). Yet the kingdom was established at Christ’s first advent, so Isaiah 9:1-7 summarizes a continuum of events.
I.C.4.B. The Downfall Of Ephraim, 9:8-21.
I.C.4.B.I. False Pride And Local Enemies, 9:8-12.
Verses 8-21 return to Isaiah’s time. The statement in 5:25 about God’s anger and outstretched arm forms a refrain in 9:12, 17, and 21. But while Isaiah 5 focused on Judah and Jerusalem, 9:7-21 focuses on the northern kingdom of Israel. It had built a rich capital city, but it had faced attack. Northern Israel assumed it could bounce back even stronger (Isa 9:9-10), but their ally, Rezin of Syria, was about to be defeated (v. 11; 7:1), and Syria would turn against Israel, as would the Philistines. Further trouble was ahead (v. 12).
I.C.4.B.II. Failure To Repent Brings Divine Judgment, 9:13-17.
The Israelites never turned back to the Lord (v. 13), so the end was at hand (vv. 14-17). “Head and tail” form a merism referring to the whole nation. So are “palm branch and reed,” since the reed is the humblest of plants, while the palm branch is quite glorious. Elders (v. 15) were leaders of towns and tribes. God’s anger is against the weakest in the nation, too: the young, fatherless, and widows.
I.C.4.B.III. Breakdown Of The Northern Kingdom, 9:18-21.
Wickedness and divine wrath would burn up the land, turning people against one another (vv. 18-19). Unsatisfied desires pitted families and tribes against one another, and they would drive the north down against Judah. More wrath would come because attack on Judah led to Assyrian elimination of the northern kingdom.
I.C.5. More Anger And Its Removal, Isaiah 10.
Isaiah 10 continues the “woe” oracles from chapter 5 and the divine anger/outstretched arm statements from chapters 5 and 9.
I.C.5.A. Woe Against Jewish Lawmakers, 10:1-4.
Legislators abused the poor, whom God wanted to receive special care (vv. 1-2; Ex 22:25; Deut 15:7). He required justice for them (Ex 23:6), but powerbrokers withheld it. They attacked the widows and fatherless despite God’s warning and curse about doing so (Ex 22:22; Deut 27:19). They could only anticipate ruin. How could such people expect God’s help when they were attacked (Isa 10:3-4)?
I.C.5.B. Woe Against Assyria, 10:5-19.
I.C.5.B.I. Inflated Mission, 10:5-7.
Assyria, the agent of divine discipline for Judah, exceeded God’s role by wanting to annihilate nations rather than just loot and humiliate them (vv. 5-7). The Hebrew of the second half of verse 5 may say: “and my indignation is a staff in their hand.”
I.C.5.B.II. Confident Assyrian Claims, 10:8-11.
Assyria’s speech (vv. 8-11) reflects a history of success. Carchemish’s defeat preceded Calno’s, Arpad’s preceded Hamath’s, and Damascus’ (Syria’s) preceded Samaria’s (Israel’s). Assyria assumed it could do whatever it liked. Their national god had the same name as the nation in Hebrew (Ashur), and they felt that they were defeating nations with inferior gods. Their national policy was extortion and violence.
I.C.5.B.III. God’s Vow To Punish Assyrian Pride, 10:12-19.
But God’s promise was to punish the Assyrian arrogance as soon as he had used Assyria to punish Judah. He characterized the Assyrian attitude as haughty pride. They would exceed their authority when they tried to annihilate Jerusalem.
Assyrian royal annals show just this kind of self-congratulatory, boastful speech. Assyria’s strategy was to impose terror.
God found Assyria’s aggression inappropriate as it assaulted divine authority (vv. 15-16). The threatened wasting disease (v. 16) became a reality when Assyria came against God’s holy city (Isa 37:36-37). God, source of Israel’s life, would become a fire to attack what threatened that life. “The phrase “Lord Yahweh of armies” (10:16) may point to angelic armies since an angel struck the Assyrian army. Assyria’s forest symbolizes its strength but also its soldiers. “Thorns and briers” (v. 16) are often associated with what is ungodly in the Book of Isaiah, probably due to Genesis 3:18, where these things are a punishment of human sin. The prophecy was written after Samaria’s ruin (v. 11). The fire of Assyria’s defeat would occur in one day (v. 17; cf. 37:36). God is pictured as a consuming fire in Deuteronomy 4:24, perhaps due to his appearance on Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:17). In Isaiah 10:18 the phrase is literally “from soul and as far as flesh”: from what is most inward to what is most outward. It is a merism here for complete destruction. The remaining trees of Assyria’s forest would be few, as the army of Assyria came to be (v. 19).
I.C.5.C. Judah Reduced To A Righteous Remnant, 10:20-23.
King Ahaz had mistakenly relied on Assyria to defeat the northern kingdom of Israel, but God’s defeat of Assyria would teach Judah to trust the Lord (v. 20) and to repent (v. 21). Repetition of “remnant” 4 times in 3 verses stresses the national reduction. The remnant can refer to survivors of Assyrian attack but may carry further application to later returns. Repetition of roots for “destruction” and “decreed” are also emphatic (vv. 22-23). The term “overflowing” (v. 22) recalls 8:7-8.
I.C.5.D. God’s Assurance To Judah, 10:24-27.
Assyria’s cruelty resembled that of Egypt during Egyptian slavery, but it would not last long, for God’s anger would turn from Judah towards Assyria. The rock of Oreb was where Midianite princes Oreb and Zeeb were slaughtered (Judg 7:25; 8:3; cf. Ps 83:11). Isaiah concludes the prediction of God’s judgment on Assyria by returning to the language of 9:4, not just with Midian but the yoke and bar. So the defeat of Assyria will be comparable to the defeat of Israel’s enemies that the Messiah brings. When one compares the suddenness of Christ’s victory in Revelation 19 to the angelic defeat of Sennacherib at Jerusalem, the resemblance is close (cf. Zech 14:12-15).
I.C.5.E. God Halts Assyria’s Advance, Isaiah 10:28-34.
Isaiah pictures the Assyrian army moving south through Judaean cities en route to Jerusalem (vv. 28-32). Judaeans flee from the intervening towns. The Assyrians seem unstoppable in their threat. But the Lord cuts down the army like a lumberjack cutting cedars on the mountains of Lebanon (vv. 33-34).
I.C.6. The Blessed Kingdom, Isaiah 11-12.
I.C.6.A. Messiah Establishes His Kingdom, Isaiah 11.
Isaiah 11 shifts to messianic prophecy about the descendant of David who is to rule over a kingdom.
I.C.6.A.I. Character Of The King, 11:1-5.
Jesse was David’s father (Ruth 4:17; 1 Sam 16:1-13). The word for branch in 11:1 is not the same word as in 4:2, but it sounds like the first part of “Nazareth,” which some think is a Greek form of the word. Scripture uses the number 7 to symbolize completeness, so that may be why 7 qualities of the Spirit are mentioned in 11:2 (cf. Jn 3:34). Isaiah 11:3-4 may point to divine guidance in Messiah’s decision-making, since Jesus said that he did nothing apart from the Father (Jn 8:28). The same concern for the poor (v. 4) characterizes Messiah as characterizes Yahweh (Pss 113:7; 140:12). The Messiah lives out God’s righteousness and faithfulness (Isa 11:5).
I.C.6.A.II. General Features Of His Kingdom, 11:7-9.
The kingdom is still future in its fulness. Nature will become non-violent and cooperative (vv. 6-8). God will still have a holy mountain (cf. 2:2). Peaceful nature will reflect worldwide knowledge of the Lord at that time (11:9; cf. 2:4).
I.C.6.A.III. The Nature Of The King’s Reign, 11:10-16.
All nations submit to the messianic king (vv. 10, 12; cf. Pss 2:8; 72:8-11). His administration in Israel (Isa 2:2) is glorious (11:10; cf. 2:1-4; 4:5-6). There will be another exodus, with Israelites brought out of all nations (11:11). He tasks the nations with returning the Jews (v. 12), who will form a unified nation (v. 13). The military activity (v. 14) could flashback to the Tribulation, but the order of events favors a transitional period after Armageddon (cf. Dan 12:11-12), with subjugation of any resisting nations around them. The Lord will facilitate the return of Jews from formerly hostile nations, perhaps supernaturally because the action is compared to the Exodus (Isa 11:15-16).
I.C.6.B. The People Will Be Glad, Isaiah 12.
The setting of Isaiah 12 is when the kingdom has come: “in that day” (12:1). God’s “anger” was focused on in Isaiah 5, 9-10, and the word “comfort” here will return especially in 40:1, which foresees the same time. The second half of verse 2 is taken from Exodus 15:2. Isaiah 12:4 in part matches 1 Chronicles 16:8 and Psalm 105:1. The first half of Isaiah 12:5 resembles Psalm 98:1. Isaiah 12 is an exuberant psalm of praise expressing the kind of traditional sentiments the Israelites will offer when God fulfills all his good promises to them through the Messiah. There is a need to make these things known to the entire world (vv. 4b and 5b; cf. Pss 67:2; 106:8).
I.D. Oracles Against The Nations, Isaiah 13-23.
I.D.1. Oracles Against Babylon, Isaiah 13-14:23.
I.D.1.A. The Attack, Isaiah 13.
Isaiah 13 is another chapter that has an eschatological flavor, although it speaks of ancient nations. It does not seem perfectly to match the historical events but to point beyond them to something more ultimate, the day of the Lord.
I.D.1.A.I. The Lord Assembles An Army Against Babylon, 13:1-5.
The oracle could be about Babylon when it was captured by Assyria, but there is no mention of Assyria and only the Medes. Also, 14:1-3 shows the Israelites as captives in Babylon, so the sixth century seems to be in view. The Medes and Persians were responsible for the conquest of Babylon at the end of the Neo-Babylonian empire, but the city Babylon did not become uninhabited then (v. 20). Since Babylon is the name Revelation gives to the end-time world power (Rev 17:5; 18:2), and since Zechariah 5:5-11 shows after the Babylonian exile that Babylon will be the dwelling place of wickedness in the future, Isaiah may be using the Median conquest of Babylon to give a type of eschatological realities. God summons a multitude of nations and armies for war to execute his wrath against the whole land of Babylon by destroying it (Isa 13:2-5; cf. Rev 17:15-18).
I.D.1.A.II. Characteristics Of The Day Of The Lord, 13:6-16.
Much of verse 6 is like Joel 1:15. The wail of mourning suits this destructive time (Isa 13:6). A loss of nerve results from a sense of supernatural doom (v. 7). The most fear-ridden emotions control the human hearts (v. 8)
The Day of the Lord, as elsewhere, has cruel wrath (Zeph 1:15) and darkened heavenly bodies (cf. Joel 2:1; 3:14-15; Amos 5:18, 20). God is punishing the whole world in these events; the language of bringing low what is high returns from Isaiah 2:9-22 in 13:11. God will make human beings rarer than the finest gold (v. 12). These two facts suggest the end times. The heavens shake as the earth is moved from its place (v. 13).
Perhaps it is foreign mercenaries who feel they are prey and flee to various homelands (v. 14). In a merciless atmosphere capture means death (v. 15). Babylonians face infanticide, looting, and rape (v. 16).
I.D.1.A.III. The Lord’s Destiny For Babylon, 13:17-22.
This pitiless scene unfolds because God chose Median adversaries who do not really care about spoil or about mercy (vv. 17-18). They turn Babylon, whose beauty was heralded in the ancient world, into total ruin like Sodom and Gomorrah. Although Babylon is in ruins today, the invasion of the Medes and Persians was not very destructive, and the city continued to be inhabited until about 650 A.D., with a village called Babel lasting until the 10th century A.D. So if its overthrow by God is to be like that of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 19), some suppose that it will be rebuilt, or that ancient Babylon served as a type for prophecy about the “Babylon” of which Revelation speaks. For ancient Babylon fell when its capital was conquered by invasion, as the end-time “Babylon” will fall (Revelation 17-18). Isaiah 13:20-22 emphasizes the utter desolation of the place and that this ruin is coming soon. Even the Median conquest of the city was some 160 years in the future to Isaiah, but God gave him many visions about that time, and in God’s time the destruction may not have been far off.
I.D.1.B. Aftermath Of Battle, Isaiah 14:1-23.
I.D.1.B.I. Release For Captive Israel, 14:1-2.
Isaiah 14 seems to form a matched pair with Isaiah 13 because the context for 14:1-23 is still Babylon, and it seems to describe the end-time blessing for Israel after Babylon’s fall. God has compassion on Israel, which may be the same as the comfort of 12:1. He chooses the people again, so the times of the Gentiles seem to be over, along with the scattering of Israel among the nations, according to Luke 21:24. The nations will bring the Israelites to their own land (Isa 14:1-2), and the Israelites will even treat the Gentiles as male and female servants, as Isaiah 60 also describes (cf. Isa 66:20). Nothing like that happened at the historical return from Babylon, and so the scene seems eschatological.
I.D.1.B.II. Taunt Song Against The King Of Babylon, 14:3-21.
Israel will sing this song (v. 3). The final king of the Neo-Babylonian empire, Belshazzar, was disrespectful to God (Daniel 5), not outstandingly wicked (Isa 14:4-6). Perhaps, though, he symbolized the whole dynasty. Belshazzar did not strike down all the lands in fury (vv. 6-7). The celebration of the pine and cedar trees matches later passages in Isaiah that seem to go beyond the historical reality of the Jewish return from Babylon in 536 B.C. (cf. 35:1-2; 55:12-13). A name like “morning star” (14:12) did not suit Belshazzar. The king’s grandiose ambitions (vv. 12-14) may go beyond those of Belshazzar. Belshazzar did not “shake the earth” or make “the world a desert” (vv. 16-17). Isaiah describes a king whose fate shocks the rest of the underworld and who does not receive a burial as they did (vv. 15-20). This makes one think of the world-conquering Antichrist, who will be cast alive to the lake of fire (Rev 19:20). Defeat could mean death to royal offspring associated with their father’s wrongs and presenting a threat of rebellion (Isa 14:21).
I.D.1.B.III. God’s Summary Pronouncement, 14:22-23.
God will fulfill the promise of the song. Babylon itself will have no surviving progeny, nor will the city have any future. These facts do not suit historical Babylon and again sound like eschatology.
I.D.2. Oracle Against Assyria, Isaiah 14:24-27.
A prophecy about the Assyrians emphasizes God’s sovereign control over all historical events. He intends to crush the Assyrian in his land, and that is what happened outside Jerusalem in 701 B.C. (Isaiah 37). The language of the Assyrian yoke and burden being removed (Isa 14:25) matches 10:27 and suggests one specific context for 9:4. As this is God’s plan for the whole world, all the nations, Assyria is a model. But it can also be a type because the Antichrist will meet his end as he attacks Jerusalem with a great army in the end time (Rev 16:12-16; 19:11-21).
I.D.3. Oracle Against Philistia, Isaiah 14:28-32.
The prophecy about Philistia (vv. 28-32) starts with the death of Ahaz, a specific date, while most prophecies are not dated. One would assume that the broken rod striking Philistia was Ahaz, but some object that he was a victim rather than a perpetrator of Philistine raids (2 Chron 28:18). Yet perhaps Ahaz had done something to Philistia, too. History conveys that the earliest possible date of Ahaz’s death could also have been the year of Tiglath-Pileser III’s death (727 B.C.; 2 Kgs 18:1, 9-10). But Hezekiah could have started a co-reign with Ahaz then, since 2 Kings 18:13 suggests a death for Ahaz in 715 B.C. (no Assyrian king died around 715 B.C., with Shalmaneser dying in 722, and Sargon in 705). The prophecy is likely to revolve round the named person, Ahaz, and not an unnamed Assyrian king’s death. The “venomous serpent” (v. 29) was likely to be Hezekiah, who defeated the Philistines repeatedly (2 Kgs 18:8). The “poorest of the poor” (Isa 14:30) are likely Israelites in contrast to Philistine survivors of the attack described in verse 31, who would die by famine. The north (v. 31) was the typical direction from which Mesopotamian invaders attacked Israel and surrounding nations. The army in verse 31 resembles the Assyrian army depicted in 5:26-29. King Sennacherib of Assyria squashed Philistine rebellion against Assyria in 701 B.C., but Judah under Hezekiah would answer Assyria’s envoys (14:32a) with a resolve not to surrender (Isaiah 36-37). The resolve would be based on faith that the Lord who gave Judah its capital in Jerusalem would make the city a refuge (14:32b). That is what happened as the Assyrians took every city in Israel except Jerusalem.
I.D.4. Oracles Against Moab, Isaiah 15-16.
I.D.4.A. The Defeat Of Moab, Isaiah 15.
The chapters about Moab (15-16) resemble those about Babylon (13-14) in that the second of each pair (14, 16) introduces the connection with Judah. The NIV Study Bible identifies the attack with one made by King Sargon II of Assyria in 715/13 B.C. Jeremiah 48 repeats much of the language about an attack occurring much later (Josephus dated events of Jeremiah 48 to the 23rd year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon [Antiquities 10.9.7].). Ar (Isa 15:1) was an ancient city (Num 21:15), and Kir is probably Kir Hareseth, a main fortress (Isa 16:7). The picture is sudden, nighttime destruction of the Moabite cities, so that all the Moabite survivors are in extreme grief (15:1-4). The person grieving in verse 5 seems to be God, based on the speaker soon saying that he will bring lions on Dimon (v. 9). The impression deepens with similar first-person sorrow in 16:9, 11 because the “I’ of 16:10 is God. Sorrow over the suffering does not prevent God from imposing needed wrath. In 15:6-9 image after image conveys suffering. People flee from the enemy, taking their belongings with them. Drought has struck the land, and the people’s blood is in the water.
I.D.4.B. Appeal To Judah For Mercy, Isaiah 16.
I.D.4.B.I. Moab Appeals To Judah, 16:1-4.
Divine instruction to the Moabite king advises a gift of lambs to Jerusalem as an appeal for refuge from the enemy (16:1). The women of Moab, perhaps widows, crowd by the border to Judah at the fords of the Arnon River, asking to be hidden by Judah. The land north of the Arnon traditionally belonged to the Israelite tribe of Reuben. Verses 3-4a share what the Moabite women would say to the Judaeans.
I.D.4.B.II. Messiah Will End Oppression, 16:4b-5.
An end will come to the kind of destruction Moab faced from Assyria. For God’s love will establish his kingdom with a faithful, righteous, and just descendant of David. Jesus will do what no king of Israel did after this prophecy.
I.D.4.B.III. Two Prophecies About Moab, 16:6:14.
Moab’s pride and wrongful boasting are the reason for this wailing loss (vv. 6-7). The words for pride correspond to some for pride or majesty in 2:9-22. Verses 8-12 picture the natural beauty and plenty of Moab withering as the nation’s joy and people disappear. God is sorrowful over this, but Moab’s prayers to its false gods will receive no answer.
Fulfillment of these words would come in exactly three years because the counting would be like that of a hired man keeping close track of the days of his contract (v. 14). The northern enemy would decimate Moab.
I.D.5. Oracle Against Syria And Implications For Israel, Isaiah 17.
I.D.5.A. Syria’s Destruction Will Harm Ephraim, 17:1-4.
The ruin of Syria (Aram) came largely as Shalmaneser took the city of Damascus in 732 B.C. after a stifling siege. The same king initially attacked Israel later (2 Kgs 17:3-4; 18:9). The most famous “Aroer” (v. 2) is the one near the Arnon River (see Deut 2:36; cf. Josh 13:25; 1 Sam 30:28). The LXX does not have Aroer here but rather “forever,” and the Targum has “its cities,” with Damascus as the pronominal antecedent. Rather than posit an otherwise unknown Aroer in Syria, one can understand “cities of Aroer” to introduce the northern kingdom of Israel early in this prophecy, which associates northern Israel with Syria twice in verse 3. Or Syria’s power went as far south as Aroer at this time. Syria’s capital would suffer ruin, and Ephraim’s cities (v. 3) would vanish. Isaiah associated Syria’s downfall with Ephraim’s, which came a decade later, for the two kingdoms were allied (see Isa 7:1, 4-6). Also, Ahaz hired the King of Assyria against both.
I.D.5.B. Three Results Of Aram’s Destruction. 17:4-9.
Each begins with “in that day.”
I.D.5.B.I. The Pitiful Diminishment Of Jacob, 17:4-6.
Franz Delitzsch (Isaiah, 1:341) assumed that “the glory of Jacob” (v. 4) included Judah, whose defeat by Assyria came in 701 B.C. and almost wiped it out (the valley of Rephaim [v. 5] was in the territory of Judah), but “Jacob” might be another name for “Israel” here, in contrast to Judah, as in 9:8. Verse 5 is giving a simile using the valley of Rephaim, but the referent could be the northern kingdom.
I.D.5.B.II. A Return To The Lord, 17:7-8.
In either case, there would be few survivors, and God’s judgment would turn the attention of his people back to him rather than idols. Isaiah associated idols with human initiative contrary to God (v. 8).
I.D.5.B.III. Forsaken Land, 17:9.
Israelite cities in that day would be as abandoned to thicket and undergrowth as the Canaanite cities had become after Joshua conquered the land for Israel.
I.D.5.C. Rebuke Of Israel, 17:10-11.
Israel has forgotten God its Savior (v. 10). The verse suits the northern kingdom best because Hezekiah and Isaiah in the south did not forget God their Savior but depended on him (and Syria never had Yahweh as its God). The Israelites might plant the finest plants and imported vines, but in keeping with the Mosaic curses (Lev 26:16; Deut 28:38-40), they would not harvest them. Foreign plants may symbolize foreign influences in the northern kingdom.
I.D.5.D. The Futility Of Nations Attacking Judah, 17:12-14.
Lament suits the raging of nations who attack God’s people, because raging leads to national death. The nations resemble those in 29:5-8, but Isaiah refers again to Damascus and Ephraim. As with Moab, God’s judgment could come suddenly at evening (17:14; cf. 15:1). Since this is an oracle about Damascus (17: 1) that includes Ephraim, Ephraim is included among those who “loot us” (v. 14), “us” being God’s people. Ephraim allied itself with Syria to tear Judah apart and depose its king of Judah (7:6), so its portion was to be counted among the many nations and destroyed as not part of “us.”
I.D.6. Oracles Against Cush And Egypt, Isaiah 18-20.
I.D.6.A. Oracle Against Cush, Isaiah 18.
I.D.6.A.I. A Message Of Woe, 18:1-2.
The first word in Isaiah 18 usually indicates a prophecy of woe associated with judgment and death. Some think the word here is an attention-getting shout (Isa 55:1; Zech 2:10), but historical context suggests woe because Isaiah was prophesying against Cush for three years (20:3-5). Cush designates the lands around the Nile in southern Egypt, that is, Nubia and northern Sudan (from about the Second Cataract south to Khartoum). The whirring wings (18:1) probably represent crickets/locusts (Deut 28:42), which can be devastating in that part of the world. The 25th dynasty in Egypt consisted of pharaohs who came from the Kingdom of Cush, whose capital was Napata near the Fourth Cataract. They reigned over part or all of Egypt from 744–656 B.C. The Cushite Tirhakah (or Taharqa), who later became Pharaoh, led an Egyptian army into Palestine to help Hezekiah against Assyria but was defeated by Assyria at the battle of Eltekeh in 701 B.C.
I.D.6.A.II. God’s Message For The Whole World, 18:4-6.
The raising of a standard (v. 3) recalls 11:12 and 13:2. The mountains are probably those of Israel (see Ezek 39:4), and the standard and trumpet suggest a call to battle in which Cush is likely to participate. The passive voice and trumpet can suggest that God is raising the banner, as in Isaiah 11:12 and 13:2. But in the meanwhile, 18:4-6 picture divine patience and observation. God, like sunshine and cloud, is watching the harvest of earth develop. At the best time, like a vine keeper, God will prune off all the useless vine growth, and birds and animals will feed on it for many months. The scene seems symbolic of judgment that will come when the banner is raised. War often is pictured as producing many victims that the wild animals consume. This image is used of Armageddon (Rev 19:17-18; cf. Ezek 39:4). Since the scene affect all nations, it is broader than the Assyrian attack of Judah.
I.D.6.A.III. Aftermath Of The Battle, 18:7.
The true harvest will remain, and part of that harvest will be Cushites, who will bring an offering to the Lord at Mount Zion in what seems the messianic kingdom. Some suppose that they brought gifts after Sennacherib’s defeat at Jerusalem (2 Chron 32:23), and if that happened, it may have served as a type for the battle of Armageddon, since the next oracle, specifically about Egypt, looks ahead to the messianic kingdom (19:18-25).
I.D.6.B. Oracle Against Egypt, Isaiah 19.
Israel tended to rely on Egypt for help as Assyria attacked it (see Isa 30:1-5; 31:1-3). Isaiah 19 may try to undermine such misplaced confidence as it shows Egypt’s weakness and its need to rely on Yahweh.
I.D.6.B.I. The Lord Advances Against Egypt, V. 1.
The Lord riding on a cloud agrees with his making the clouds his chariot and riding on the wings of the wind (Ps 104:3; cf. Hab 3:8; Ps 68:17). Egyptian idols and people are afraid just as a nation would fear enemy chariots. So God comes to war against Egypt.
I.D.6.B.II. God’s War Plans Against Egypt, 19:2-10.
As God does elsewhere in war (2 Chron 20:20-23; Zech 14:13), he will stir the Egyptians against each other (Isa 19:2). He is so displeased with Egypt that he will frustrate their plans, which are based on false religious practices (v. 3). The identity of the fierce king who rules over them is unclear. Sennacherib’s son Esarhaddon conquered Egypt in 671 B.C., although the Pharoah Tirhakah escaped. Esarhaddon’s son Ashurbanipal invaded Egypt in 667 B.C. He defeated Tirhakah, and Tirhakah died in 664 B.C. in Thebes at about the time the Assyrians were sacking the city.
The text seems too detailed to be poetic analogy. God afflicts the nation with drought along with war (vv. 5-7a). Egypt’s life depends on the Nile, so the Nile’s failure brings down the whole economy (vv. 7b-10).
I.D.6.B.III. God’s Taunt Of Egyptian Wisdom, 19:11-15.
Like a warrior, God mocks the helpless foe. Wise men were undeserving of the title, leading Egypt astray (vv. 11, 13). They could not thwart what God was planning against Egypt (v. 12). Zoan and Memphis were capitals, respectively, of Lower and Upper Egypt. The effect of God’s judgment is compared to drunkenness, as often in Scripture. Neither top nor bottom of society could help Egypt (v. 15).
I.D.6.B.IV. Four Consequences Of God’s Victory, 19:16-25.
Each begins with “in that day.”
“In that day” (v. 16) could refer to imminent events, but it is often an eschatological phrase and is so in verse 18. Verses 16-17 may be transitional, applicable to the near future of Assyrian attack but also to the far future. The name “Judah” could have disquieted Egypt (v. 17) because it meant failure and loss vis-à-vis Assyria. But it will also be an unsettling name eschatologically when all nations come against Jerusalem only to be defeated (Zechariah 12, 14). Gog, who seems to represent the Antichrist in Ezekiel, has as one of his allies Cush (Ezek 38:5), which ruled Egypt in Isaiah’s time.
For “city of destruction” (v. 18) the Dead Sea Scrolls, some Hebrew manuscripts, Symmachus, the Targum, the Vulgate, and the Arabic have “city of the sun,” referring to Heliopolis. Some towns may have spoken Hebrew after Israelites fled there to escape Babylon (Jeremiah 43-44), but not Heliopolis, which was an important Egyptian city, a regional capital and major religious center honoring the sun god. For it to swear allegiance to Yahweh would imply a great change to the nation.
An altar to the Lord in the middle of Egypt and a monument to him at the border (v. 19) would also imply great change. That God saves the Egyptians when they call shows that they pray to Yahweh and are in right relations with him (v. 20). Verse 21 spells out this relationship. But before amity comes, the Lord sends a plague (v. 22) that leads to Egypt’s repentance and healing.
End-time cooperation binds Assyria, Egypt, and Israel, as 11:15-16 hinted. The Lord will have the worship from other nations that was his ultimate vision when choosing Abraham and his offspring, and his offspring will be the blessing on earth (19:24) that God said they would be when he chose them (Gen 12:2-3).
I.D.6.C. Enacted Prophecy Against Cush And Egypt, Isaiah 20.
I.D.6.C.I. Time Of The Prophecy, 20:1.
The consensus is that this prophecy concerns King Sargon of Assyria’s attack on Ashdod in Philistia in 711 B.C. Probably with the support of the Cushite Shabako, who ruled over Egypt beginning in 714 B.C., the Ashdodites in 713 B.C. removed Ahimiti, a vassal king Sargon had appointed over Ashdod, and they installed Yamani in his place. Sargon II attacked the city, Yamani fled to Egypt, and Egypt meekly sent Yamani bound to Assyria. Sargon made Ashdod a province of Assyria. The events proved that Israel could not rely on Egypt’s help against Assyria. It was also proof that Assyria had little to fear from Egypt.
I.D.6.C.II. Instruction To The Prophet, 20:2.
Sackcloth was a standard garment worn to express mourning, and Isaiah as a prophet could have conveyed a message of mourning to his people by wearing it (see Rev 11:3). The command to remove it in favor of nakedness may have still implied a loincloth, as “naked” does in John 21:7, where Peter wears an inner garment (see also Isa 58:7 and Jas 2:15, where “naked” seems to imply relative nakedness). The loincloth could have left Isaiah’s buttocks bare.
I.D.6.C.III. A Later, Explanatory Prophecy, 20:3-6.
Three years after the Lord’s command in verse 2, he explained the meaning of Isaiah’s actions (v. 3), which show how connected Egypt and Cush were. Usually enacted prophecy described Israel directly; it was unusual for Isaiah to represent himself as Egypt and Cush, soon to be captive slaves to Assyria (v. 4). He warned of their coming defeat by Assyria so long to dissuade Hezekiah and Israel from trusting Egypt. Their error was serious and would put them to shame (v. 5). Punishment from Assyria was coming (v. 6). The answer to how they could escape (v. 6) was in Isaiah’s Lord, “the hope of Israel and its Savior in time of trouble” (Jer 14:8).
I.D.7. Oracle Against Babylon, Isaiah 21.
I.D.7.A. A Frightening Vision About Babylon, 21:1-5.
I.D.7.A.I. Questions Of Place And Date.
The desert of verse 1 need not describe Babylon since the invader of Babylon comes from the desert. The lands to the east of the Persian Gulf, where Elam was, have stretches of desert. Is this another vision of the fall of Babylon in chapter 13, which also mentioned Medes and could refer to 539 B.C. (see also ch. 47)? The seemingly related oracle concerning Arabia (21:16) would be fulfilled in precisely a year and so could favor an early date for the oracle about Babylon. Since Babylon fell (v. 9), the destruction of the city in 689 B.C. by Sennacherib might be in view. Yet attack by Elamites and Medes seems to bring the end (v. 2). The fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. was good news; it might not be so here (see vv. 3-4). The scene in verse 5 resembles Babylon’s invasion by Cyrus during Belshazzar’s banquet (Daniel 5), which caught the Babylonians unprepared. But Jerusalem is similarly unready in Isaiah 22:13.
I.D.7.A.II. Contemporary Circumstances.
Elam and Media attack Babylon (v. 2), which for much of Isaiah’s time was controlled by Assyria. However, it revolted from Assyria under Merodach Baladan (722 to 710 B.C.; 703 to 702 B.C.). Later in 694 B.C. the Elamites captured and executed Ashur-nadin-shumi, a son of Sennacherib whom his father appointed king of Babylon from 700 B.C. to his death. The Elamites installed Nergal-ushezib as king, but after little more than a year Sennacherib fought Babylon and captured Nergal-ushezib. Mushezib-Marduk replaced Nergal-ushezib as king in 693 B.C. and in 691 led a rebellion of the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Persians, Medes, Elamites and Aramaic tribes against Sennacherib and Assyria at the Battle of Halule. Both sides declared victory, but when the King of Elam suffered a stroke later that year, Sennacherib began a nine-month siege of Babylon that ended with its capture and destruction (though Esarhaddon rebuilt it in 680 B.C.). Mushezib-Marduk’s rebellion could explain why the term “betrayer” was used in verse 2.
I.D.7.A.III. Several Puzzles.
God will bring to an end to “its groaning.” The groaning could be what Babylon suffered or what it caused, with several versions understanding the latter (NIV, NLT, NASB, NRSV). Although the “I” bringing this end seems to be God (v. 2b), the “I” who staggers because of what he hears and sees, and whose body is racked with pain (v. 3), is likely to be the one shown the vision (v. 2a), that is, Isaiah. He could have staggered at such an ancient, city of culture falling, at the severity of its fall, or at the loss of an ally against Assyria.
It is hard to see why God would judge and destroy an oppressed city, so it seems better to think of the groaning as caused by Babylon. That suits the 539 B.C. time better. Sennacherib’s destruction was not by the Elamites and Medes and so does not suit verse 2 as well. Nor was Sennacherib’s destruction critical historically. The feature of the watchmen (vv. 6-12) allows for a wait before Babylon’s fall, even if Kedar was destroyed very soon. Babylon’s fall in 539 B.C. could merit another vision because of its biblical importance. Isaiah’s fear and trembling may be like God’s sorrow over Moab’s fall despite Moab regularly being Israel’s enemy (see 25:10-11). The vivid vision of war may have shocked Isaiah’s night (21:4).
I.D.7.B. The Scene Of Watchmen, 21:6-10.
I.D.7.B.I. God’s Instruction, 21:6-7.
Babylon’s fall had relevance for Judah because God commanded Isaiah to post a watchman to wait for news from Babylon (v. 6). Perhaps “watchman” is a wordplay here, with a secondary meaning of prophet (62:6; cf. Ezek 3:17). Visitors to Jerusalem would be fleeing from Babylon or bringing news from the east (v. 7).
I.D.7.B.II. The Watchman’s Report, 21:8-9.
The report comes that Babylon’s idol gods were destroyed as the city fell. Revelation 14:8 and 18:2 repeat the words about Babylon falling (see also Jer 51:8, 43, 49, where the words prophesy about 539 B.C.).
I.D.7.B.III. Isaiah’s Announcement, 21:10.
This could be good or bad news, depending on the larger interpretation. In 689 B.C. the news might have been disheartening, but God did not want Israel relying on other nations. So it is more likely that God is giving good news about 539 B.C.
I.D.8. The Oracle Of Dumah, Isaiah 21:11-12.
Dumah was an oasis in the Arabian desert. Seir, which was another name for Edom, was on a trade route that ran though Dumah. Harm to places further east could hurt Seir’s economy. Assyria controlled the northern route that followed the Euphrates River, so rebels might have used this southern route. The first “night” (v. 11) might represent Assyrian oppression. Edom appears in Sennacherib’s inscriptions. Coming “morning” (v. 12) could be the end of Assyria, with following “night” being Neo-Babylonian oppression (Nebuchaddnezzar destroyed Edom).
I.D.9. Oracle Over Arabia, Isaiah 21:13-17.
The Dedanites were an Arabian tribe that seems to have lived near Edom, according to Jeremiah 49:8 (Esau=Edom). There was a Hamitic Dedan (Gen 10:7; 1 Chron 1:9) and a Semitic one descended from Abraham and Keturah (Gen 25:3; 1 Chron 1:32). The names listed with the Hamitic Dedan are later found in the southern Arabian peninsula. If the Dedanites in Isaiah are those in Jeremiah, they may have been Semitic and northern Arabian. Their caravans may have plied the trade route. The divine call comes to aid fugitives, perhaps those from Kedar. Tema, another Arabian tribe living on an oasis in the Arabian desert, was to bring the fugitives food. Kedar was a largely nomadic Arabian tribe that ranged over the north Arabian desert at this time. Its first historical mention comes in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. Kedar, Dumah and Tema were sons of Ishmael (Gen 25:13-15), which is another reason to think that the associated Dedanites were Semitic. In 703 B.C. Sennacherib defeated the Arabian tribes helping the rebellion of Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon. So he could have reduced Kedar to a few warriors (Isa 21:17). Inscriptions of Ashurbanipal show that Hazail, king of the Arabs, against whom Sennacherib's army fought between 691 and 689 B.C. in the region of Dumah, and who surrendered to Esarhaddon, was the king of Kedar.
I.D.10. Oracle Against Judah, Isaiah 22.
I.D.10.A. Jerusalem’s Pitiful Defeat, 22:1-4.
Jeremiah 21:13 puts Jerusalem in a valley. “Valley of vision” (Isa 22:1) could name Jerusalem sarcastically due to lack of vision: the people partied on rooftops in the face of military threat (vv. 1-2). But Isaiah may speak of a vision given him of the city’s future defeat (vv. 2b-3), one causing him to weep over its coming destruction (v. 4). The slain he sees not fighting to the death but fleeing and being caught (vv. 2-3). This is what occurred in 586 B.C., when King Zedekiah and the army fled and were caught (2 Kgs 25:4-7).
I.D.10.B. The Lord’s Day Of Tumult, 22:5-8a.
Isaiah foresaw a dark day of battle when Elam and Moab (see Kir in 15:1) would be attacking. Moab fought with Babylon against Judah in its last days (2 Kgs 24:2). Nebuchadnezzar put down an invasion from Elam in about 596 B.C., so he may have had Elamites fighting with him. Walls were not torn down (Is 22:5) in 701 B.C.
I.D.10.C. Worldly Preparation For War, 22:8b-13.
Jerusalem was diligent about defenses (vv. 8b-11; see 2 Chron 32:1-5 in Assyrian times). They even got the ornamental shields from Solomon’s showcase palace of the forest (1 Kgs 7:2; 10:17, 21; 14:26-27). But they did not give attention to the Lord, who had planned the disaster and so could have turned it aside. This inattention was inexcusable because God had called them to repent in tears, and they did the opposite (Isa 22:12-13). They justified their revelry by saying that death could soon come.
I.D.10.D. The Lord’s Sentence, 22:14.
The city’s sin, God revealed, could only end in death because sacrifice could not atone for defiant sin, which deserved death (Num 15:30-31).
I.D.10.E. The Case Of Shebna, 22:15-25.
Shebna evidently typified the worldly spirit that would ultimately lead to Jerusalem’s destruction.
I.D.10.E.I. God’s Judgment On Him, 22:15-19.
Shebna was over the palace, but God would remove him from the position for a self-aggrandizing attitude. Shebna had splendid chariots and a splendid tomb but was a disgrace, so he evidently should have gotten permission from the king to carve a tomb where he did. Perhaps the Lord’s harsh warning through Isaiah moved Shebna to repent, for he appears later as secretary after Eliakim had become over the palace (36:22; 37:2). Or his removal to a large country (Assyria?) where he would die could have come later.
I.D.10.E.II. His Replacement, 22:20-25.
It must have been humbling for Shebna to hear the Lord call Eliakim his servant. Eliakim would wield the power of his office rightly, becoming a support for all his family. But one day he would lose his position, to the detriment of all who depended on him. John Oswalt (Isaiah, NICOT, 1:423-24) suggests that people not looking to the Lord put too much on the shoulders of the few godly men, so they ultimately failed. On the other hand, the first verb in verse 25 can mean “depart” in the sense of “be removed” (cf. 54:10 of the mountains). The fact that the peg was driven into a firm place could imply that it was “cut off” 22:25) by an outside force, such as ungodly Manasseh when he became king. Manasseh was coregent with Hezekiah from 697 B.C. and became sole king in 686.
I.D.11. Oracle Against Phoenicia, Isaiah 23.
Tyre had a mainland part, but its strength was a fortress built on two islands. This oracle against the island fortress aligns best with the city’s destruction by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C., when the city was finally leveled. But Tyre rebelled against world powers and had numerous attackers before 332 B.C.: Shalmaneser, Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal, and Nebuchadnezzar.
I.D.11.A. Wailing Over Tyre’s Destruction, 23:1-14.
Isaiah pictures the ships of Tarshish, which were vessels capable of long-distance travel (Tarshish is of uncertain identity, perhaps Tartessos in Spain) getting the news of the city’s destruction far from home and wailing about it. Eastern mourning regularly incorporated wailing. Silence (v. 2) and shame (v. 4) suited Tyre and Sidon for the humiliation they had experienced. Shihor (v. 3) was either an eastern branch of the Nile or a lake in the eastern Nile Delta. The sea says that it is as if it had never been in labor or borne children because the people of Tyre are dead. Egypt would grieve because of their great trade with Tyre. The survivors of Tyre who escaped were to go to Tarshish and grieve. Verse 7 begins with the same root translated “revelry” in v. 12, “Is this to you, revelling one?” Tyre established trading colonies around the Mediterranean (v. 7). The Lord was the planner of this defeat to humble the inordinate pride of Tyrians (vv. 8-9). Isaiah often notes the Lord’s role as planner of great historical events. The Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the LXX in reading “till” rather than “cross” (MT) at the start of verse 10 (see NIV, NJB). It is the difference between two easily confused letters. Tilling by the Nile involved irrigation. “Daughter of Tarshish” would, in this reading, be a reference to Tyre, which has lost its harbor (v. 1). The people, who may have originated in Tarshish, had to farm now that sea faring had become impractical. The word “harbor” in verse 10) is obtained either by switching the last two letters of the Hebrew word or giving it a different meaning (HALOT) than in two other occurrences in Scripture, where it means “waistband, girdle.” The Lord similarly “stretched out his hand” (v. 11) over Egypt at the Exodus to strike it. The daughter of Sidon is the Canaanite nation, which formerly had been virginal in the sense of being unravished by another nation but now was crushed (v. 12). Isaiah’s prophecy was a forewarning, and Tyre needed to look at Babylon to see what rebellion produced, since Assyria destroyed rebellious Babylon in 689 B.C. (v. 13).
I.D.11.B. The Revival Of Tyre, 23:15-18.
I.D.11.B.I. Identifying The 70-Year Period, 23:15a.
Some think that Sennacherib’s attack on Tyre in 701 B.C. could explain the 70-year period, since Tyre suffered eclipse after that until Assyrian power waned about 630 B.C. He installed his own vassal king Ethbaal when Luli, the king of Tyre and Sidon, fled by boat. But he did not destroy the island (nor did Nebuchadnezzar later: Ezek 29:18). It is hard to point out a 70-year period after Alexander’s destruction, but Tyre, though rebuilt and flourishing, did not regain her former glory.
I.D.11.B.II. The Song Of The Prostitute, 23:15b-18.
Perhaps Isaiah used a popular song about a prostitute (v. 16) to describe Tyre’s return. The city was like a prostitute in prioritizing money. It sold itself for commercial gain, not military or international power. Dedicating a harlot’s hire to the Lord as a gift was forbidden in Israel (Deut 23:18), but this was just an analogy, and Isaiah spoke of something holy (23:18). The time when Tyre’s profits do not enrich her but those who live before the Lord (v. 18), that is, Israelites and perhaps temple servants especially, may be the messianic and eternal kingdoms (Isa 60:5; Hag 2:7; Rev 21:24-26), for Isaiah often shifts to eschatology. Tyre in Christian times became seat of a bishopric.
I.E. The Little Apocalypse, Isaiah 24-27.
After Isaiah gave prophecies about most of the nations in the Middle East, he answered the question of where they were all finally headed in a series of poems now called the Little Apocalypse (The Book of Revelation is the big apocalypse; the first Greek word of Revelation is the one from which comes the English “apocalypse”). Isaiah’s poems are short, sketchy, and evocative of moods or scenes.
I.E.1. Isaiah 24.
Isaiah 24 gives a bird’s eye view of the end of the age.
I.E.1.A. A Universal Disaster, 24:1-3.
God will destroy this present earth, displace its people, and confront everyone with the same disastrous realities.
I.E.1.B. Sin Is The Cause, 24:4-6.
A curse comes because of human guilt. Nature withers because of mankind’s defilement, disobedience, and unfaithfulness. The last sin listed is breaking “the everlasting covenant” (v. 5), a term used for the Noahic covenant (Gen 9:16), which prohibited murder. The resulting divine curse that consumes the earth recalls the curses in Revelation that do this (Revelation 6, 8-9, 16). The burning of earth’s inhabitants (Isa 24:6) until few are left also corresponds to these Revelation chapters and represents the extreme violence of the time.
I.E.1.C. The Blessings Of Life Disappear, 24:7-13.
There will be no more partying, and any alcoholic drinking will be bitter because people know it is to escape a dreadful reality. Cities are deserted and ruined. The survivors on earth are like the gleanings after the harvest.
I.E.1.D. Worldwide Victory From The Lord Will Come, 24:14-16a.
From the earth’s far corners those who worship the Lord will praise the appearance of the Lord’s splendor.
I.E.1.E. Agonizing Danger Precedes Victory, 24:16b-18a.
Before God takes power, wicked men prey on humanity, making human survival hazardous due to one danger after another.
I.E.1.F. Earth Is Like A Collapsing Building, 24:18b-20.
Isaiah used language reminiscent of Noah’s flood (v. 18b) to picture a planet split open. Sin makes it teeter and sway until collapse.
I.E.1.G. God Replaces The Old System, 24:21-23.
Heavenly and earthly rebels will be imprisoned until punishment. The imprisonment probably occurs during the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev 20:1-3) after which comes the white throne judgment (Rev 20:7-15). The Lord reigning on Mount Zion recalls Isaiah 2:1-4. But the sun and moon being ashamed may point beyond the millennium to the new heavens and earth, where the sun and moon are not needed because God’s glory gives the light, and the Lord Jesus is the lamp (Rev. 21:23).
I.E.2. Three Pictures Of God’s Victory, Isaiah 25.
I.E.2.A. Subduing The Violent, 25:1-5.
The Lord destroys a city to protect the poor and needy. Even mighty people revere him as a result. God planned it long in advance, to be a refuge for the weak from ruthless worldly strength that he silences.
I.E.2.B. Preparing A Feast, 25:6-9.
“This mountain” is evidently Zion. The banquet may be the same end-time one mentioned by Jesus (Lk 13:28-30). It seems to occur after the first resurrection as the Lord swallows up death forever. Israel will finally receive honor (Isa 25:8b). Faith in God will be vindicated at that time, and the Lord exalted (v. 9).
I.E.2.C. Humiliating The Foes, 25:10-12.
Moab, a traditional foe of Israel, represents worldly opposition to the Lord’s will. God’s hand will rest on Zion to support it (v. 10), but Moab will be trampled under the Lord. After the word “trampled,” the translation could be “under him” or “in its place,” depending whether the contrast is between the hand of the Lord and his feet, or the mountain and Moab’s place. The former seems more vivid. Straw was pressed into dung to form manure. The enemy’s humiliation is highlighted by the picture of thrashing hands in manure. Not only fortifications but pride would fall.
I.E.3. The Lord’s Dealings With The Righteous And Wicked, Isaiah 26.
I.E.3.A. The Righteous Have A Strong City, 26:1-6.
Isaiah segues from the enemy’s ruined city (Isa 25:12) to the strong city of the righteous nation (26:1-2), one that trusts in the Lord (vv. 3-4). God uses poor and needy folk to humble and trample the city of the mighty of earth (vv. 5-6).
I.E.3.B. The Righteous Versus The Wicked, 26:7-11.
God levels the “path” for the righteous, who follow the “path” of his laws (vv. 7-8). They desire God and know that He judges to achieve righteousness (v. 9). The wicked do not acknowledge the Lord. The righteous pray for God to save them so the enemies can endure shame as they perish (vv. 10-11).
I.E.3.C. The Lord Gives His People Their Achievements, 26:12-15.
The peace they have comes from him (v. 12). They knew other lords, but there is no comparison (v. 13). Those men died and will not rise, for God eliminated them (v. 14). He enlarged his people’s nation, probably as a result (v. 15).
I.E.3.D. The Lord Gives His People New Life, 26:16-19.
This stanza seems paired with the previous one. Both start with vocative “Lord.” In one, people die without rising; in the other, people who die will rise. Israel came to God without strength as in the anguish of childbirth (vv. 16-17). They failed in their efforts and did not bring salvation or new birth to the world (v. 18). But nonetheless they will rise from the dead; that was their firm hope (v. 19).
I.E.3.E. The Lord Gives The Wicked Judgment, 26:20-21.
God invites his people to rest and hide while his wrath passes by. The scene recalls the tenth plague in Egypt as the death angel passed by the Israelite homes to kill among the rest. In the last days the Lord will come down to rid the world of its wicked ones. Revelation 18:24 speaks of the blood of those unjustly slain on earth being found in Babylon (Isa 26:21).
I.E.4. Judgment Of Satan And Israel’s Salvation Await Its Repentance, Isaiah 27.
I.E.4.A. Punishment Of Satan, 27:1.
The phrase “In that day” refers back to the punishment of the earth, which Jesus and Revelation call the Great Tribulation (Mt 24:21; Rev 7:14). It concludes with the Lord’s coming and the punishment of Satan (Rev 20:1-3), whom Revelation calls the “ancient serpent” (Rev 12:9; 20:2). The imagery of a seven-headed serpent (cf. Rev 12:3), slippery and wriggling, came from the Baal-and-Mot myth written in Ugarit, a society destroyed in 1200 B.C. The Bible used ancient myths for various purposes, referring to this serpent several times (see Ps 74:14; 104:26; Job 3:8; 41:1).
I.E.4.B. Israel, A Fruitful Vineyard, 27:2-6.
The phrase “in that time” signals the same period as Satan’s punishment. The Lord is again caring for his vineyard (cf. Isa 5:1-7), and finally Israel will be fruitful. Briers and thorns as weeds are an enemy to a vineyard, and God would quickly attack such a foe. “Briers and thorns” symbolize the Assyrian army in 10:17. The other option is to submit to the Lord (27:5). In the end time those opposed to an Israel reconciled to God will be opposed to God. Israel will be a blessing to all the world (v. 6).
I.E.4.C. God Waits For Israel To Turn To Him, 27:7-11.
Verse 7 assumes some blow against Israel by the Lord, but the comfort is that his dealings are not as harsh as they have been with the nations that have attacked Israel. Those attackers he killed, but he made war against Israel in a way that led to exile, the nation being driven away as by a harsh, hot wind (v. 8). God will know Israel has repented when it gets rid of idols (v. 9). In the present time of the prophecy the land suffers the effects of exile, with the few remaining people eking out a living. The Lord promised to bless an obedient Israel (Deut 28:1-14), so circumstances show the nation’s rebellious lack of understanding (cf. Deut 32:28), which deserve no compassion or favor from him.
I.E.4.D. In The Future Compassion Will Come, 27:12-13.
“In that day” in verses 12-13 probably refers to the same time as the phrase in verses 1-2, Satan’s punishment and Israel’s kingdom. Isaiah returns to the regathering of Israel from Egypt and Assyria that he broached in 11:15-16 and 19:23-25, with this passage helping to give the time for those earlier prophecies. The nations worshipping the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem (27:13) agrees with 2:1-4.
I.F. Mostly Woe Oracles, Isaiah 28-33.
These chapters deal with the Assyrian crisis but often look beyond it to the end of the age. They are judgmental but include many visions of the future to provide hope.
I.F.1. Woe To Ephraim And Judah, Isaiah 28.
I.F.1.A. Woe To Ephraim, 28:1-4.
The wreath and fading flower were Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom. The people were debauched with wine and would lose their glory (v. 1). The strong one the Lord compared to a destructive storm was Assyria (v. 30). The northern kingdom would be a desirable prize, like a first-ripe fig (vv. 3-4). Speed of conquest is not the idea since the siege took three years (2 Kings 17:5).
I.F.1.B. Promise That Matches The Woe, 28:5-6.
“In that day” may refer to the eschaton, as in 27:12-13. Ephraim had gloried in the wreath of Samaria, and someday the Lord will be a wreath for his people, but more, a glorious crown (v. 5). He will inspire the judges for justice and the warriors for might (v. 6).
I.F.1.C. Wine Also Disables Jerusalem, 28:7-10.
I.F.1.C.I. The Problem Of Wine, 28:7-8.
Isaiah had already condemned Ephraim to judgment, so the shift to priest and prophet seems to be to the southern kingdom. Isaiah would have had no respect or concern for the northern priests, who rejected the Lord’s ways. There is a chiasm in verse 7, for the priests could render judicial decisions (Deut 17:8-13), while the prophets saw visions. Drunkenness was widespread and extreme (Isa 28:8). It was especially shameful in priest and prophets, and particularly during service to God and man (Deut 21:20; Lev 10:9-10).
I.F.1.C.II. The Resulting Inability, 28:9-10.
Verses 9-10 could be words of the people mocking Isaiah. They could imply that he talks to them like babies in repeating commands and lines of instruction, or in giving babble (since the repeated words in Hebrew could sound like babble). Perhaps better, Isaiah could ask whom God will teach knowledge or explain a message, since the priest and prophet are both drunk, along with all those sitting at tables. From time to time God teaches command by command, line by line, so is he to teach babies, the only sober ones?
I.F.1.D. God Will Get Their Attention By Judgment, 28:11-13.
God would get his people’s attention by speaking through foreigners. He had a message of rest for Judaeans, but they were unwilling to listen. So God’s word to them would be command upon command, line upon line, spoken from time to time by foreign invaders, so that the Judaeans would stumble backwards (cf. 8:14-15) and suffer injury, entrapment, and captivity. The wording of 28:9-10 reoccurs here in irony.
I.F.1.E. God’s Message Of Sheer Terror, 28:14-22.
I.F.1.E.I. The People’s Boast, 28:14-15.
The Lord had a word for the scoffing leaders of Jerusalem, who thought they could have safety without trusting the Lord and assumed they had an agreement with death. The overflowing scourge that they thought would pass by without touching them recalls the river Euphrates, symbolic of Assyria, that would overflow and pass by (8:8). Their covenant was likely that of Ahaz with Tiglath-Pileser, who was to protect them from death at the hands of Ephraim and Syria. The lie they were trusting in could have been the word of Assyria, since that predatory nation probably did not intend to leave Judah untouched when extortion and conquest were its way of life.
I.F.1.E.II. The Lord’s Response, 28:16-19a.
God intended to lay down an immovable foundation to give the believer confidence despite overflowing scourges (v. 16). The NT identifies this cornerstone as the Lord Jesus (Mt 21:42; Acts 4:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:6-7). God would use justice and righteousness as measuring tools for construction of the building around the cornerstone (Isa 28:17a). The storm associated with the overflowing scourge would destroy Judah’s shelter in falsehood. Judah would not avoid death, but the scourge would repeatedly pass by, carrying people away in its flood. The Assyrians took every Judaean city but Jerusalem.
I.F.1.E.III. The Need To Accept The Message, 28:19b-22.
The terror in the message was that there was no way to make it a comfortable one (vv. 19b-20). The Lord would rise (v. 21a) against Judah the way he rose against the Philistines at Mount Perazim (2 Sam 5:20) or the Amorites in the Valley of Gibeon (Josh 10:10-13). It was a strange work for God to attack his own people (Isa 28:21b). Mocking activity by the Judaeans would only intensify this disciplinary treatment, for he had decreed a destruction that would come (v. 22).
I.F.1.E.IV. The Only Comfort Was The Lord’s Wisdom, 28:23-29.
The Lord was going to bring tragedy to Judah, but there was a good purpose behind it. The wisdom God gives farmers (vv. 26, 29) was applicable. Both sowing (vv. 24-25) and reaping (vv. 27-28) show the same restrained use of force. God’s cutting and blows would suit the Judaeans, being no harder than they needed. He did not intend to destroy his vineyard (cf. 27:2-5) but to obtain a harvest.
I.F.2. Woe To Jerusalem And Then Blessing, Isaiah 29.
I.F.2.A. God Punishes With Nations That He Then Rejects, 29:1-8.
I.F.2.A.I. They Bring Low Sinful Judah, 29:1-4.
“Ariel” means “Altar Hearth” and symbolizes Jerusalem as home to the Lord’s altar. David captured Jerusalem and made it his capital (1 Chron 11:4-9). The Israelite worship did not impress God because of its falseness (cf. Isa 1:11-17). When God says he will besiege (29:3), he means that he will do so through Assyria and allied nations (see v. 7). He would use their siege towers (v. 4). Judah would be brought low, as God promised to do to the high and proud in 2:9-22. Judaeans in deathly weakness would whisper like a spiritualist medium. In disobedience to God their mediums used to whisper (8:19).
I.F.2.A.II. But Then They Disappear, 29:5-8.
Dust is a link between verses 4 and 5. The foes humbling Jerusalem become like windblown chaff (29:5). In a sudden theophany, God comes with powerful phenomena that sometimes accompany him (v. 6). The nations besieging Zion will have no more reality than a dream from which one has awoken. They thought they were satisfying themselves, but it would not be. Assyria brought Judah low and then fled away overnight when the Lord struck (Isa 37:36-37). This can also prefigure the eschaton, when God will come with might to defeat the nations fighting against Jerusalem (Zechariah 12, 14; Revelation 19).
I.F.2.B. Israel Would Not Understand This Vision, 29:9-12.
People would blind themselves (cf. 6:9-10) by refusing to see what Isaiah said. They lacked the sobriety provided by a close walk with the Lord (29:9). Prophets, too, lacked insight as they reacted with rebellious insensitivity to the Lord’s actions, something God foreknew and was pleased to actuate (v. 10). People would view the Lord’s message as inscrutable or see themselves as unable to understand it (vv. 11-12).
I.F.2.C. Incomprehension Was Due To Infidelity, 29:13-16.
Israelites sounded godly but were not since they did not worship God truly but because somebody told them to do so (v. 13). So God would again “do wonders,” words used of the Exodus and at Sinai (Ex 3:20; 15:11; 34:10), to make the worldly wise see how little they knew (Isa 29:14). For they made plans in secret as if to hide from the Lord (v. 15). They criticized God, acting as though they were God (v. 16). Isaiah could refer to Assyrian attack and its repulsion (cf. vv. 5-8).
I.F.2.D. God’s Wisdom Will Eventually Shine, 29:17-24.
I.F.2.D.I. He Will Reverse Present Circumstances, 29:17-21.
If mountainous Lebanon becomes a fertile field, and a fertile field a forest, conditions are reversed (v. 17). The prophecy seems eschatological (cf. 32:15). The deaf will hear the words of a scroll, and the blind will see (cf. 29:9-12). Spiritual deadness will change to receptivity (v. 18). The humble will rejoice in God instead of suffering (v. 19), The ruthless evil ones, who falsely accuse, undermine the righteous, and deprive the innocent of justice, will be banished instead of ruling (vv. 19-20).
I.F.2.D.II. He Will Bless His People Israel, 29:22-24.
God, who redeemed Abraham, will remove the shame of his descendants permanently (v. 22). His regathering of them will motivate them to revere Him (v. 23). Israelites who go astray spiritually will repent (v. 24), unlike in Isaiah’s day.
I.F.3. Woe To Obstinate Children, Isaiah 30.
I.F.3.A. The Folly Of Seeking Egypt’s Help, 30:1-5.
It was sinful for Judah to make an alliance with Egypt, something that was not God’s plan and could not end well (vv. 1-2). God had told Israel never to go back to Egypt (Deut 17:16). Sending ambassadors to Egyptian cities would bring shame because Egypt would not be helpful (vv. 3-5).
I.F.3.B. Oracle Of The Desert Animals, 30:6-7.
Isaiah pictured the ambassadors traveling to Egypt with gifts for that nation. On the hard trip there are not only camels and donkeys, and not only wild animals like lions and adders, but they are bringing the gifts to a monster animal (Egypt), one that will hurt Israel by doing nothing. So Isaiah called it Rahab, the name of a mythic monster that means “surger” after the boisterousness of sea waves.
I.F.3.C. God’s Testimony: Rebellious Children, 30:8-11.
Most think that Isaiah was to write the name “Rahab” and the description of its just sitting as a lasting witness against Judah for disobedience in going to Egypt. The scroll may be the Book of Isaiah. The people’s actions proved that they did not listen to the Lord’s instruction (v. 9). They defied God by discouraging prophets who warned them. Judah wanted visions of things going well (v. 10) but did not want to hear about God’s demands (v. 11), though he was the source of their well-being.
I.F.3.D. Their Sin Will Remove Their Security, 30:12-14.
Since Israel rejected God’s good way and relied on deceit and oppression, that sinful source of trust was like a bulging crack moving down a great wall. As a wall suddenly collapses, so Judah’s security will disappear. Judah will be like a jar so smashed that no shard is big enough to carry coals or scoop water.
I.F.3.E. Waiting On The Lord Brings Safety, 30:15-18.
God sought Judah’s repentance and trust, but Judah sought safety in buying horses from Egypt, the closest source (31:1; Deut 17:16, 1 Kgs 10:28). God mocked their flight plans as causing a need for flight (Isa 30:16). Judah would be left like a banner without an army, a pitiful few in replication of a Mosaic covenant prophecy about one enemy soldier chasing a thousand Israelites (Deut 32:30). Yet God stood ready to be gracious to people who looked to him for deliverance (Isa 30:18).
I.F.3.F. His Graciousness Will Win Their Loyalty, 30:19-22.
Graciousness is a link between verses 18 and 19. God would respond immediately as they called (v. 19). Bread and water were prison rations (see 1 Kgs 22:27) and symbolize the nation’s divine discipline of suffering. God would supply teachers when they were ready to listen (Isa 30:20) and would guide them directly (v. 21). They would respond by rejecting idols, even precious ones (v. 22).
I.F.3.G. This Blessing Comes In The Kingdom Age, 30:23-26.
Since verse 23 continues the narrative, and this section presents altered heavenly lights (v. 26), Isaiah implies that Israel’s full turning to God will bring another age. Healing for Israel will come in the kingdom (v. 26), when God blesses nature richly (vv. 23-24; cf. Isaiah 35). This time will follow a day of great slaughter and destruction, the Day of the Lord (cf. Zech 14:12-15; Rev 16:14; 19:15-21).
I.F.3.H. God’s Judgment Of Assyria Foreshadows This Day, 30:27-33.
A person’s name represented his character (v. 27). Smoke symbolizes God’s anger (see Ps 18:7-8). Assyria had been like an overflowing river up to the Judaeans’ necks (Isa 8:8), and now God would be like that to the Assyrians (30:28). His sovereignty shakes nations in a sieve (cf. 40:15) and puts bits in their jaws. Israel would rejoice at God’s victory over Assyria (30:29), coming with heavenly signs and his voice (vv. 30-31). Israel would play instruments as God acted (v. 32; cf. 2 Chron 20:21, 28). Topheth was a place for sacrifice of children to the god Molech in the Valley of Hinnom (Jer 7:31); God had long planned to sacrifice the Assyrians there (Isa 30:33). Assyria can picture the end-time enemy, who meets his end outside Jerusalem (Dan 11:45; Rev 14:20).
I.F.4. Woe To Judah Going To Egypt For Help, Isaiah 31.
I.F.4.A. Seeking Egypt And Seeking God Are Incompatible, 31:1-3.
Judgment will come to those whose actions show they seek material strength (v. 1), not God. But Assyria was not the only danger. God could be a spiritual enemy to the wicked Judaeans and their Egyptian helpers (v. 2). Egypt could not save Judah from the Lord and would perish with her in trying (v. 3).
I.F.4.B. Nonetheless God Would Save Israel, 31:4-5.
The Holy One of Israel (v. 1) would protect Jerusalem despite its defeat that would come (vv. 1-3). He would have the undistracted focus of a lion on its prey as he came to battle Jerusalem’s attackers, the Assyrians (v. 8). He would shield the city like birds over their nest.
I.F.4.C. Coming To The Lord Sooner Is Better, 31:6-9.
Israelites should repent at the promise, for they surely would turn to the Lord, rejecting idols that they made as sin, on the day he saved them from Assyria (vv. 6-7). Assyria’s defeat would come from God, not man (v. 8). Isaiah went beyond the Jerusalem battle to the destiny of the Assyrian nation. Battle flight, forced labor, and military destruction of their fortress (their “rock”) lay ahead because of the Lord’s will (v. 9). God’s fire and furnace may refer to the temple altar fire, which was never to go out (Lev 6:13).
I.F.5. A Preview Of The Future Focusing On Blessedness, Isaiah 32.
The shift from Assyrian defeat (31:8) to kingdom blessedness (32:1) is typical of Isaiah, who uses historical events to prefigure end-time ones. The Antichrist’s defeat in Israel will precede Messiah’s kingdom (cf. Dan 11:36-12:13).
I.F.5.A. The Kingdom Will Have Exceptional Administrators, 32:1-2.
Not only will the king rule rightly, but those under him. They are described in imagery used of God and his actions (cf. 4:6).
I.F.5.B. Society Will Heal, Evaluating People Correctly, 32:3-8.
The spiritual blindness and deafness of Israel will depart (v. 3, cf. 29:9-12). Those with various personal problems will overcome them (32:4). The ungodly will no longer receive respect (v. 5). The fool is harmfully godless and fails to meet the needs of others (v. 6). The scoundrel is devoted to wicked schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when they are truth-tellers (v. 7). Noble people will succeed by their noble plans (v. 8)
I.F.5.C. Judgment Soon And Lasting Is Replaced By Blessing, 32:9-20.
The complacent Judaean women would tremble over failed crops in little more than a year. The prophet calls them to express grief over a land overgrown with thorns and briers (vv. 11-13). This seems to be crop failure due to invasion, leading to untended fields (see 5:6 and 7:23-25). Fort and city are abandoned, even Jerusalem, the city of “revelry” (32:13; see 22:2, 13). So Isaiah looked beyond Assyria to the Babylonian exile (32:14). The nation would be perpetually bare fields until God poured out the Holy Spirit on the nation (v. 15). This outpouring is probably not Pentecost but the end-time of conversion of Israel to the Lord (Rom 11:26). This will bring great improvement, desert becoming fertile field, and fertile field, forest (Isa 32:16). Justice and righteousness dominate these places, producing a quiet, confident society of peace and security (vv. 16-18). The hail leveling forest and city may point to Tribulation events, whose outcome will be the idyllic conditions of the kingdom age (vv. 19-20).
I.F.6. Woe To The Oppressor As The King Comes, Isaiah 33.
I.F.6.A. Threat To The Oppressor, 33:1.
The terms “destroyer” and “betrayer” occur in 21:2 in reverse order. “Betrayer” implies a relationship with those attacked that was not honored. This is second-person singular, an individual. “Destroyer” was used of the attacker of Moab in Isaiah 15-16, so this is probably a king. Providence would deal with this person as he dealt to others.
I.F.6.B. Prayer From The Oppressed, 33:2-4.
The oppressed person praying for help against the nations is probably responding to the destroyer in verse 1, who, therefore, is probably leading nations against Israel. For the first-person plural in prayers to Yahweh is Israel if there is no further qualification, and verse 2 is typical psalmic language. Verse 3 uses wording that Moses prayed whenever the ark moved in the wilderness (Num 10:35): “Arise, LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” The plunder (v. 4) is evidently taken by the Israelites from the nations as they flee from attacking Israel.
I.F.6.C. Exaltation Of The Savior, 33:5-6.
The Lord’s exaltation naturally follows his scattering of the enemies. His rising (v. 3) and exaltation (v. 5) recall the eschatological poem where the Lord rises (2:19) and is exalted (2:11, 17). The heavenly king will fill his chosen city with his own character qualities (33:5). He is the security of Zion’s times as a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. Fear of the Lord is the treasure he gives to people because it is a fountain of life (Prov 14:27), making available what the Lord has in store.
I.F.6.D. Exaltation When Things Are Worst, 33:7-12.
Brave men crying, envoys of peace weeping from rejection, and highways empty of travelers are caused by somebody powerful who breaks a treaty, despises cities, and does not respect humanity (vv. 7-8). Isaiah imagined nature itself in mourning over these conditions (v. 9); verse 9 is the opposite of 35:2, describing the period that follows this one of mourning. In this sad time the Lord will arise (33:10; cf. v. 3) to end the power behind this disorder. The “you” in verse 11 is plural, the enemy forces, whose schemes come to nothing and whose life force is self-destructive in assaulting the Lord’s vineyard. He will set ablaze the thorns (v. 12), as he warned in 27:4.
I.F.6.E. The Lord, A Consuming Fire To Enemies, 33:13-16.
This rescue (vv. 2-3, 6, 10-12) is a sign to people everywhere of divine power. Within Zion sinners fear, perhaps remembering how Israel has long called God a “consuming fire” (Deut 4:24; 9:3). “Everlasting burnings” (Isa 33:14) resemble the “eternal fire” God has for those who mistreat his people (Mt 25:41). But people living right can dwell with him as he supplies their individual needs (Isa 33:14-15); they do not allow their bodies to participate in evil (v. 15: feet, mouth, hand, ears, eyes).
I.F.6.F. Saved Israelites Will See The Messiah, 33:17-19.
The king’s beauty can be glory, but also beauty of character and person (v. 17). The setting is not Hezekiah’s Israel. The land stretching far is an expanded nation. The former terror implies the evil ruler of verses 1 and 8. The towers could have been siege towers; foreign officers demanded tribute. The imagery of the obscure speech and strange language links to prophecies of Assyria in 28:11, but Assyria can be a type of the Antichrist, as the scene requires an era beyond this one.
I.F.6.G. Saved Israelites Will See Messianic Zion, 33:20-22.
This is the Zion where the Lord reigns (vv. 22-23; cf. 2:3-4). Kingdom prophecy shows holy festivals celebrated (33:20; Zech 14:18; Ezek 45:21; 46:11). Jerusalem will never be moved again. The topography will change to broad rivers and streams, in line with other prophecy (Isa 30:25; Ezek 47:1-12; Joel 3:18). The Lord as judge, lawgiver, and king will protect his people from foreign ships. The water could be so broad that it acts as a defense against enemy ships (see Thebes [Nah 3:8] or Tyre).
I.F.6.H. Enemy Ships Will Become Israel’s Spoil, 33:23-24.
“Your rigging” has a second-person, feminine, singular pronoun, for a ship could be personified as female. The ship is inoperable and has been stormed by those dividing the plunder, even the lame. But Jerusalem will not have sick people because, its residents will be forgiven of sin (cf. 35:5). The time could be transitional as the nations at their attack of God’s people were plundered in defeat (33:4).
I.G. Judgment Of Nations And Redemption Of Israel, Isaiah 34-35.
These two chapters are paired accounts that have opposing structures. Common denominators are the Lord’s vengeance, Zion’s welfare, and an eschatological setting.
I.G.1. Judgment Of The Nations, Isaiah 34.
I.G.1.A. The Lord’s Anger Will Strike Down All Nations, 34:1-4.
The Lord warns all nations that his anger is against them and their armies, suggesting a military setting for the execution of his wrath. He will impose a sentence of destruction (vv. 1-2). There will be an overwhelming slaughter (v. 3). Isaiah speaks of heavenly bodies (v. 4), as do some of the most calamitous OT prophecies against nations, but also as do the Lord’s prophecies about the end times, especially those in Revelation.
I.G.1.B. Edom Is An Example Of The Slaughtered Nations, 34:5-7.
Isaiah pictured the Lord in heaven with a sword reaching down to earth (v. 5). He depicted the Edomites as various animals slaughtered for the Lord’s sacrifice, using gritty imagery (vv. 6-7).
I.G.1.C. God Is Avenged Against Edom For Its Violence To Zion, 34:8-15.
The phrase “day of vengeance” can refer to any day (Prov 6:34) but in Isaiah refers elsewhere to the end time (Isa 61:2; 63:4), and 63:4 mentions Edom. Edom was a bitter enemy of Israel and a special object of the Lord’s wrath (Mal 1:3; Obad 1-21). The vengeance is against all the nations (Isa 34:2), but perhaps its force is best visible against the worst offenders. Isaiah shows Edom as a burning ruin still smoking in the next generations due to pitch and sulfur, either in the soil or from heaven (v. 10; cf. Gen 19:24; Lk 17:29). It will be permanently uninhabited by people (Isa 34:10). God measures it for destruction (v. 11). God’s foreknowing, all-seeing perspective carefully observes the plants and animals that will inhabit its ruins, most of the animals being unclean (vv. 11-15).
I.G.1.D. The Animals Will Possess It Forever, 34:16-17.
These animals are named in the Lord’s book, probably the Book of Isaiah, because God has determined that they will be there at this future time. God’s Spirit will ensure their gathering (v. 16). God will provide for them and allot the land to them for the lasting future (v. 17).
I.G.2. The Land And People Of Zion Will Be Glorified And Holy, Isaiah 35.
I.G.2.A. The Desert And Arid Land Will Bloom Richly, 35:1-2.
Since Carmel and Sharon are in Israel, it should be assumed that parched land and wilderness are there, too. It is a divine passive in verse 2; God gives splendor to this land. Isaiah shows the natural world reflecting the joy of the occasion as God’s glory is revealed in manifold ways.
I.G.2.B. The Divine Vengeance Benefits Weakened Zion, 35:3-4.
Israel is under pressure, marked by feeble limbs and fearful hearts. But they need to know God will save them. The vengeance to uphold Zion’s cause (34:8) is the same vengeance with which God comes in 35:4. His coming to save Israel from the nations is the main eschatological subject of Scripture.
I.G.2.C. God’s Coming Brings Miraculous, Positive Changes, 35:5-7.
The end-time setting is apparent not only in the Lord’s coming and the glorification of the land of Israel (v. 7) but in the healing of the blind, deaf, and lame (vv. 5-6). The God who changed nature to match human sin alters it again to match redemption.
I.G.2.D. God Prepares A Highway So The Redeemed May Return, 35:8-10.
Isaiah has mentioned such a highway outside Israel (11:15-16; 19:23). A highway from Egypt to Assyria would probably run through Israel, and 35:8-10 could allude to the Israelite section, since it brings the returning Israelites into Zion (v. 10). God allows only the godly on this highway, where they are protected from natural and human evil (vv. 8-9). There is wordplay between “way” as a road and a manner of life (v. 8). The people have the joy that nature reflects (v. 10). They are spiritually as well as physically redeemed because they have “everlasting joy.”
I.H. The History Surrounding Assyrian Invasion, Isaiah 36-39.
Isaiah employs historical narrative in these chapters, though some words of Isaiah and Hezekiah (Isaiah 38) are poetic.
I.H.1. The Rabshakeh’s Appeal And Rationale, Isaiah 36.
I.H.1.A. The Meeting, 36:1-3.
The fourteenth year of Hezekiah (v. 1) was 701 B.C.; Sennacherib ruled Assyria from 705 to 681 B.C. Hezekiah had rebelled against Assyrian rule (2 Kgs 18:7). According to Assyrian records, he imprisoned Padi, the king of Ekron, in Jerusalem when a coup occurred in Ekron. “Rabshakeh” means “chief cupbearer” (NJB), The NLT calls him “chief of staff” (CSB: “royal spokesman”), but he was in a military capacity (NIV: “field commander”). He meets Hezekiah’s representatives where Isaiah had met King Ahaz (7:2).
I.H.1.B. The First Speech, 36:4-10.
Everything he said aimed to undermine the confidence of Judah in its rebellion. It had no meaningful strategy (vv. 4-5d), reliable ally (v. 6), or divine support (v. 7). Israel’s army was no match for Assyria (v. 9), and Yahweh commanded the attack against Israel (v. 10). The Rabshakeh made a grandiose promise if surrender occurred (v. 8).
I.H.1.C. The Objection, 36:11-12.
Hezekiah’s representatives urged the Assyrian to speak in Aramaic, which was the language of diplomacy at the time. The logic was that negotiations should be among state officials (v. 11). But the Assyrian said that everybody should hear, since they would all be affected by the siege, which would degrade them (v. 12).
I.H.1.D. The Second Speech, 36:13-20.
The Assyrian’s second effort was to undermine King Hezekiah’s authority. Hezekiah, he said, was deceptive, was incapable of rescuing, and gave false promises of the Lord’s deliverance (vv. 14-15, 18). The Rabshakeh reasoned that the gods of no other place had delivered it from the Assyrians. His long list of city-states, including the northern kingdom of Israel, had to be impressive (vv.18-20). He promised that surrender would allow Judaeans to enjoy their own land until Assyria deported them to a similar land (vv. 16-17).
I.H.1.E. The Silent Response Of Judah, 36:21-22.
The people on the wall had royal orders to say nothing (v. 21). There is no mention of the king’s envoys replying, though they may have. Their torn garments were a sign of mourning as they reported the message to the king (v. 22).
I.H.2. Resolution Of The Conflict, Isaiah 37.
This chapter orients one to the larger historical context of the book.
I.H.2.A. Hezekiah’s Appeal To Isaiah, 37:1-4.
Hezekiah agreed with the need for mourning by tearing his own clothes. His going to the temple shows how primary his faith was. He sought Isaiah’s help in prayer (vv. 2, 4). In Hezekiah’s thinking, there was no one closer to God within access. Hezekiah had rebelled against Assyria but now realized that he lacked the strength to succeed in his effort (v. 3). He had been a godly king (2 Chronicles 28-31) and expressed faith in God about this crisis (2 Chron 32:7-8), but his godliness could not outweigh the nation’s ungodliness. Despite his godly actions, God had sent Isaiah to preach to a rebellious people. Even the king had weaknesses (chapter 39) that may have led to political mistakes like seeking Egypt’s help. But he saw the Assyrian insults of Yahweh as a possible basis for mercy.
I.H.2.B. Isaiah’s Favorable Answer To The Appeal, 37:5-7.
God agreed that the Assyrians had blasphemed him. The report Sennacherib would hear that sent him home was the death of his army (vv. 36-37). Sennacherib later would die for his blasphemy (v. 7).
I.H.2.C. The Rabshakeh Departed, 37:8.
The great army outside Jerusalem’s wall left, bringing temporary relief. But Sennacherib was still taking Israelite cities.
I.H.2.D. Sennacherib Tried To Instill Doubt In Hezekiah, 37:9-13.
Sennacherib would soon defeat the Egyptians, led by Tirhakah, the Cushite general who later became Pharaoh, at the Battle of Eltekeh. Sennacherib reinforced the Rabshakeh’s message with one like it. He granted the existence of Israel’s god but considered him deceptive and weak. He named more conquests of Assyria than Rabshakeh had (9 versus 4).
I.H.2.E. Hezekiah’s Prayer Of Mighty Faith, 37:14-20.
Hezekiah’s monotheism kept him from buckling under Sennacherib’s logic (vv. 14-16). He believed in an interventionist God who had seen the insults and would respond (v. 17; v. 7). He understood what a testimony to God the defeat of Sennacherib would be and made it his prayer (vv. 18-20).
I.H.2.F. Isaiah’s Message To Hezekiah About Sennacherib, 37:21-35.
His prayer was in God’s will.
I.H.2.F.I. Summary Of Outcome And Causation, 37:21-25.
Isaiah sent the answer to Hezekiah’s prayer (vv. 21-22) in an apostrophe to Sennacherib. He would flee Jerusalem, which is pictured as an unravished virgin with contempt for her suitor (v. 22). The reason for the flight was the blasphemy aimed at God by the insults of the messengers (v. 23). The Assyrian king thought he could do whatever he liked, controlling everything (vv. 24-25).
I.H.2.F.II. God’s Sovereign Control Of Sennacherib, 37:26-29.
Sennacherib should have known that God had ordained Sennacherib’s conquests (vv. 26-27). The omniscient God saw Sennacherib’s raging against him and would send him home like a conquered slave (vv. 28-29).
I.H.2.F.III. God’s Sign For Hezekiah, 37:30-32.
Judah’s remnant, huddled behind city walls, had not brought in the harvest that year and evidently had missed the planting season for the next year. They would survive on what sprang up of itself and plant the third year (v. 30). This sequence would give confidence that the rest of the promise would come true, the reestablishment of Judah by God’s zeal (vv. 31-32).
I.H.2.F.IV. God’s Promise About Sennacherib, 37:33-35.
God said twice for emphasis that the Assyrian king would not enter Jerusalem. He would not execute any attack action against it. God would defend the city for his sake, for the eternal plan that he had, and for David’s sake, to fulfill his covenant with David. Assyria would not wipe out Judah but go home empty-handed.
I.H.2.F.V. The Angelic Battle, 37:36-38.
The Lord’s angel executed the Lord’s attack pictured in 30:27-33. Assyria is understood to have had the largest army in the world up to that time.
I.H.2.F.VI. Sennacherib’s Sentence, 37:38.
Sennacherib’s god did not protect him from the true God, who used his own sons to kill him. Esarhaddon recorded that a palace coup led to his father’s death.
I.H.3. Hezekiah’s Illness And Recovery, Isaiah 38.
I.H.3.A. Hezekiah’s Bad News And Prayer, 38:1-3.
God himself had Isaiah tell Hezekiah he would die from his deadly illness. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall for privacy and prayed with bitterness, appealing to God on the grounds of his good, devoted actions as king.
I.H.3.B. God Answers His Prayer, 38:4-8.
I.H.3.B.I. A Promise Of Fifteen More Years, 38:4-6.
God seems to have taken the davidic covenant into account when healing Hezekiah, whose tears expressed his love for life and relationship with God (vv. 4-5). God’s promise to protect the city from Assyria (v. 6) leads many to assume the sickness preceded the Assyrian invasion (cf. similar words in 37:35). Since Sennacherib reigned 20 years after the attack, the promise could have concerned the potential for a reinvasion. Parallel accounts also place the incident after a record of the invasion (2 Chron 33:24; 2 Kgs 20:1).
I.H.3.B.II. The Sign Of Coming Healing, 38:7-8.
God accommodated the king’s anxiety with a miraculous sign. God gave Hezekiah a choice about whether the shadow should go up or down, with the king choosing the less natural path (2 Kgs 20:9-11).
I.H.3.C. Hezekiah’s Psalm Of Thanksgiving, 38:9-20.
I.H.3.C.I. Introduction, 38:9.
Hezekiah wrote it after he was well again (v. 9).
I.H.3.C.II. Hezekiah Recreated His Gloomy Prayer, 38:10-14.
He characterized his life as half done (v. 10) and saw his imminent death as a deprivation. Verse 11 is the opposite of Psalms 116:9 and 27:13. The shepherd’s tent conveyed brevity of life and the weaver’s cut, finality in life (vv. 12-13). He was crushed, crying, and weak as he prayed for help (vv. 13-14).
I.H.3.C.III. He Explained His Gratitude. 38:15-20.
He was speechless and permanently humbled (v. 15). The antecedent for “them” (“on account of them they live”; v. 16) may be God’s speaking and acting (v. 15a), which brought Hezekiah’s preservation and restoration. The antecedent for “them” (“by everything in them”) may be “my years” (v. 15b) because both words are feminine in Hebrew. Hezekiah saw that God worked all things together for good (v. 17) and saved the king from death because of his love and forgiveness. Hezekiah realized his duty to praise God for his life and pass along his faith to the next generation (vv. 18-19). He would do these things through worshipful singing in the temple that may have included this song (v. 20).
I.H.3.D. Footnotes To The Account, 38:21-22.
Isaiah may have held back the details to give a more forceful account. Isaiah gave instruction for a divinely healing poultice, and Hezekiah had requested the sign. The account in 2 Kings shows that Isaiah gave the instruction when he told the king that his prayer was answered, and that the king requested the sign then.
I.H.4. Hezekiah Meets Babylonian Officials, Isaiah 39.
I.H.4.A. He Rejoices Over Their Visit And Gifts, 39:1-2.
Recognition by letters from the distant King of Babylon must have been encouraging. Merodach Baladan was also a rebel against Sennacherib. Hezekiah’s display of all his wealth, which was very great (2 Chron 32:27), showed misplaced absence of concern about divulging such information. Sennacherib’s defeat brought Hezekiah many gifts and high respect from monarchs (2 Chron 32:23). But his vow of humility (Isa 38:15) did not last. Pride arose in failure to recall his survival as a mercy, so God’s wrath came on him and Judah (2 Chron 32:25). This may be why God left him with the Babylonians to test him and know his heart (2 Chron 32:31). Jesus considered being left alone by God a sign of his displeasure (Jn 8:29).
I.H.4.B. Dialogue Between King And Prophet, 39:3-4.
Isaiah came on a mission to query Hezekiah about the state visit, and the king admitted to having displayed all his wealth.
I.H.4.C. Isaiah’s Pronouncement Of Future Exile, 39:5-7.
God’s word came that Babylon was no trustworthy friend but would steal everything it had been shown. Hezekiah’s royal offspring would become eunuch slaves in the Babylonian palace.
I.H.4.D. Hezekiah’s Self-Comfort, 39:8.
Hezekiah found a silver lining of peace in the cloud of judgment. He may seem selfish or uncaring, but he and Jerusalem repented of pride, thus averting God’s wrath during the rest of Hezekiah’s reign (2 Chron 32:26).
II. The Babylonian Era (Near And Far), Isaiah 40-55
Isaiah’s vision of the future Babylonian exile (Isa 39:5-7) was part of a larger set of revelations God gave him about the future that focused on the Babylonian threat and the comfort God would give to Israel.
II.A. The Glorious God Will Come To Israel, Isaiah 40-41.
II.A.1. Four Messages, Isaiah 40.
II.A.1.A. Command To Comfort, 40:1-2.
A time is coming when the disciplines that the Lord dealt to Israel, like the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions, will be over. God will have allowed hard times double what her sins required.
II.A.1.B. Call To Ready The Lord’s Way, 40:3-5.
The messenger preparing the Lord’s way reappears in Malachi 3:1. When a dignitary visited a city in ancient times, the city might make a new road for his welcome. The lowering of hills and mountains echoes 2:14, which also concerned that day of the Lord’s exaltation. God’s coming will be universally visible because of the glory involved. Jesus spoke similarly about his return (Mt 24:30; Lk 17:24; Rev 1:7). The gospels show this passage with a partial fulfillment in the ministry of John the Baptist to announce Jesus to Israel (Mt 3:3; 11:10; Mk 1:1-2; Lk 3:4-6). Jesus’ ministry was the beginning of God’s comfort for Israel.
II.A.1.C. The Voice About Man’s Transience, 40:6-8.
God’s perspective is that human glory is like the grass and flowers that wither. God makes them wither (v. 7). The permanence in human society comes from what God injects into it: his word. It may be implied that permanence for mankind is attainable through God’s word.
II.A.1.D. The Voice Of Good News, 40:9-11.
It announces the Shepherd’s coming. In ancient times passing along news could take a lot of effort. God is going to come to Zion bringing his sheep in love. He will come to reward his flock, but since reward and recompense are with and before him, and the flock is with and before him (v. 11), his people may be his reward here.
II.A.1.E. The Incomparability Of God, 40:12-31.
II.A.1.E.I. Questions Asking Who Is Like God, 40:12-14.
The Lord does things impossible for anyone else (v. 12), and no one can understand God, much less teach him anything (vv. 13-14).
II.A.1.E.II. God’s Size, 40:15-17.
The Lord reveals just how incomprehensibly big he is. Perhaps because of human sin the nations are “less than nothing” (v. 17).
II.A.1.E.III. God’s Superiority To An Idol, 40:18-21.
The gods of the other nations are a natural competitor to God, but there is not really much resemblance. There is something inadequate about a god who needs humans to make an image for him, an image that could fall over.
II.A.1.E.IV. God’s Well-Known Sovereignty, 40:22-24.
Romans 1:20 agrees (v. 21) that God’s divine nature and eternal power have been clearly seen since the creation, being understood by what has been made. He controls earth and heaven (v. 22). He controls all people (23-24) and is not shy in speaking about his power to kill.
II.A.1.E.V. The Creator’s Uniqueness, 40:25-26.
The vastness and constancy of the heavens exalt their Creator as unequaled.
II.A.1.E.VI. Foolish Complaint About The Sustaining God, 40:27-31.
Israel’s complaints about God reflect ignorance of the reality that the Creator does not tire or lack knowledge in his provision for his people in need (vv. 27-29). Believers in him will be awarded the strength to thrive (vv. 30-31).
II.A.2. The Real God Acts On Israel’s Behalf, Isaiah 41.
II.A.2.A. He Calls A Conqueror, 41:1-4.
God summons the idols to court to tell who brought this undefeatable ruler of nations from the East (vv. 1-3). It is the same One who brought forth the generations from the beginning of time, the Lord, who has been with all of them (v. 4). Later context will clarify that God brings Cyrus. The context of this chapter suggests that he comes to deliver Israel.
II.A.2.B. Idols Are A Defense Against God, 41:5-7.
The islands, parallel with “ends of the earth,” represent distant places (v. 5). In a man-made enterprise they respond to the Lord’s action by constructing idols as a defense (vv. 6-7).
II.A.2.C. But God Is With Israel, 41:8-10.
God earlier brought Abraham from the east and now was committed to Abraham’s offspring, Israel, a nation that was his servant by covenant (vv. 8-9). Israel did not need to fear the conqueror, since God would help, strengthen, and preserve the nation (v. 10).
II.A.2.D. God Will Give It Strength Against Enemies, 41:11-16.
All Israel’s foes would fail and disappear like winnowed chaff carried away by wind (vv. 11-12, 16). For the One reassuring Israel of help was the Lord, its God (v. 13). Fearful Israel could count on his help (v. 14). He would make it against its enemies like a powerful threshing sledge, a board studded with sharp stones or metal pieces that was dragged over wheat to separate grain from straw (vv. 15-16).
II.A.2.E. He Will Provide Its Needs Miraculously, 41:17-20.
Israel was suffering acute thirst, but God would respond (vv. 17-18) to provide water supernaturally, beautifying nature in the process (vv. 18-19). The miracle would be a testimony to the Lord for all nations.
II.A.2.F. Idols Are Inactive And Lack Power, 41:21-24.
God calls the idols to bring their case for their reality as controllers of the future (v. 21-22a). They should either recount past predictions, showing how they were fulfilled (v. 22b), or they should forecast future things so everyone could know they were gods (vv. 22c-23a). Let them affect reality for good or ill to show they deserved reverence (v. 23b). They could not do these things and were worthless, so anyone serving them was detestable (v. 24).
II.A.2.G. God, Not Idols, Brought This One, 41:25-29.
The one God brings from the north is probably the same as the one from the east (v. 2), since the parallel line says that he is from the rising sun. Conquerors from the far east often advanced on Palestine from the north. This northern one’s success in battle (v. 25b) matches that of the king from the east in verses 2-3. No one else but God preannounced this one (v. 26), and he did so as good news to Jerusalem (v. 27). The silence of idols about this one was another proof of their worthlessness (vv. 28-29). God may be pictured as in the future looking back at Isaiah’s unique predictions of Cyrus.
II.B. God’s Servant, Isaiah 42-44.
II.B.1. Apparently Two Contrasted Servants, Isaiah 42.
II.B.1.A. The Servant God Upholds And Calls, 42:1-7.
The Messiah is part of Isaiah 1-39, and the “servant” sometimes represents him in Isaiah 40-66. God calls David “my servant (42:1) twice in 2 Samuel 7:5, 8 when he inaugurates the covenant with him, and then David calls himself “your servant” ten times in the chapter. Matthew 12:15-21 quotes Isaiah 42:1-3 as fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. A king would impose his law on nations (v. 3), and the Messiah is to rule the nations (Pss 2:8; 72:8). Nations put hope in a ruler (Isa 42:3), and the king’s role was to secure justice (vv. 1, 3-4). God put his Spirit on the first Israelite kings. God stresses his role as Creator and Sustainer before telling the servant that he has called him for a righteous purpose (v. 6). Simeon applied verse 6 to Jesus (Lk 2:32) when he called him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” The word for people in verse 6 (‘am), and especially in parallel with “nations/Gentiles” (גּוֹיִם, goyim) tends to refer to Israel. The servant’s tasks in verse 7 may have repetition in 61:1. When John the Baptist asked if Jesus was the coming one, Jesus told him that “the blind receive their sight” (Lk 7:22). Isaiah 42:7 was a verse that gave Israel that understanding of the Messiah’s role.
II.B.1.B. The Lord Does Praiseworthy New Things, 42:8-12.
The “former things” are past prophecies like the Exodus, with the new things referring to a pair of men, Cyrus (see 48:6, 15) and the servant. Cyrus’ deliverance of Israel from Babylon is a type of Messiah delivering Israel from the end-time Babylon (Revelation 17-18). God announces new things in this prophecy of the servant (Isa 42:1-7). The new things (v. 9) merit a new song (v. 10), one sung in the far corners of the world. A “new song” implies fresh inspiration and perhaps a basis in events.
II.B.1.C. God Will Be A Mighty Warrior For His People, 42:13-17.
The Lord’s marching out as a warrior seems to suit the dramatic verses that follow. The battle cry (v. 13) was preceded by a long silence (v. 14) but now comes out like the cry of a woman in childbirth (v. 15). The warrior lays waste the mountains, hills, rivers, and pools. This can symbolize a destructive conflict. Then he leads the blind, who can represent his blind servants (v. 18), along unfamiliar paths, which recall the highway God will prepare in the end times for the return of his people to Israel. The turning of darkness to light and rough to smooth suggests amelioration of their situation. The ones he does not forsake are elsewhere almost always his people, who are contrasted here with those who trust in idols (v. 17). Being “turned back,” especially in shame, is often an idiom for defeat in a fight or battle (Jer 46:5; Pss 35:4; 40:14; 70:3; 129:5), and this is a battle context. So the conflict was between his people and those who worshiped idols.
II.B.1.D. The Blind, Disobedient, Plundered Servant, 42:18-25.
It may be the blindness of the servants (v. 18) that led to the conflict from which the Lord delivered them (vv. 13-17). The present tense implied in parts of verses 18-25 hint at a long-standing blindness that characterizes Israel. A sharp contrast exists between the servant in 1-7 and the one in 18-25, leading readers to ask why. The blindness of the servant recalls Isaiah’s fate of blinding Israel (6:10), and God’s description of them as blinded (29:9, 18). It was still true in the time of Jesus, who called Israelite leaders blind (Mt 15:14; 23:16-17, 19, 24, 26) and saw his role as like Isaiah’s (Mt 13:15). Israel disobeyed God’s glorious law (Isa 42:21, 24), with the result that God allowed the people to be plundered, hidden, and imprisoned (v. 22). This message would be relevant, too, in time to come (23), in the Babylonian exile and later, when Israel would be completely plundered (v. 24). Divine wrath would express itself in war against uncomprehending sinners (v. 25).
II.B.2. Israel’s Preciousness Despite Blind Sin, Isaiah 43.
II.B.2.A. Return From Exile In Earth’s Four Corners, 43:1-7.
The words “But now” in 43:1 imply a contrast from the picture of destruction in 42:8-25. God will redeem Israel (43:1), though it will be through trials of flood and fire (v. 2). God is willing to sacrifice other nations for the value of saving precious, beloved Israel (vv. 3-4). It will be a return from exile in distant places all over the earth of a people God intends for glory (vv. 5-7).
II.B.2.B. God Delivers Blind Witnesses To His Unique Deity, 43:8-13.
Israel is still spiritually blind when this return from exile begins (v. 8). No other nation with its gods predicted either this event or the earlier things God had done (v. 9). The Israelites were witnesses to God because he had worked with them as a people chosen to know and trust him as sole God and Savior (vv. 10-11). He is the only God Israel has experienced, and from ancient times. He saved because he acts with sovereign power that can also punish (vv. 12-13).
II.B.2.C. God Will Save Israel From Babylon As From Egypt, 43:14-21.
It is for Israel’s sake that God will turn all the Babylonians into fugitives, for he rules Israel, which he created (vv. 14-15). The God of the Exodus is going to do something that will make the Exodus forgettable (vv. 16-18). The new thing will also involve a way through the desert with supernatural provision of water so his people can declare his praise (vv. 19-21). The roadway in the desert for his people’s return to Israel appears again (cf. 35:8-9; 19:23; 11:15-16).
II.B.2.D. Israel’s Immediate Future Is Destruction, 43:22-28.
Israel’s lack of prayers to the Lord (v. 22) and offerings for him (v. 23a) does not suit the biblical period, unless it is hyperbole about the unfaithfulness in the days prior to exile in 586 B.C. Nor does God’s lack of demand for grain offerings or incense (v. 23b) suit that time. The reality of Israel presenting burdensome sins to God rather than offerings could match much of history since Rome destroyed Israel. God finds it right in his purposes to forgive Israelites’ sins, but they were neither calling for forgiveness (v. 22) nor were they innocent (v. 26). Since God used the names Jacob and Israel, he is probably the first father of the nation who sinned (v. 27; cf. Deut 26:5). The noun after “father” indicates an official go-between, here probably between Israel and God, referring to prophets, priests, and kings. The history of national sin without prayer for forgiveness moved God to impose disciplinary curses of destruction and scorn on the people. Miraculous salvation will come later. The return from a worldwide exile (Isa 43:5-6) suggests that Isaiah looked beyond 536 B.C. and the return authorized by Cyrus of Persia. So Isaiah probably described the return in 536 B.C. and a return at the end of the age engineered by the Servant. They were in the future as Isaiah wrote.
II.B.3. The True God Assures Israel, His Servant, Isaiah 44.
II.B.3.A. Promise Of The Spirit For Israel, 44:1-5.
The words “but now” in verse 1 transition from judgment (43:22-28) to blessing just as these words do in 43:1. Isaiah regularly shifts from judgment to blessing, with the blessing often involving the end of the age. The forming of Israel in the womb (44:2) could refer to God’s choice of Abraham before there was a nation. Repetition of the idea of God’s choice (vv. 1-2) conveys comfort to Israelites. Jeshurun is a name Moses used for Israel (Deut 32:15; 33:5, 26) that is related to a word meaning “upright.” The pouring out of water on dry ground and the Spirit on people (Isa 44:3) recalls the pouring out of the Spirit in 32:15, which causes the desert to become a fertile field indwelt by righteousness and justice. Isaiah 35:6-7 describes water in the desert in another eschatological picture of changed spiritual conditions bringing changed physical ones. The gift of the Spirit for all the people is something Moses desired (Num 11:29). The Israelites will multiply at this future time, each feeling a loyalty to his heritage in the Lord (Isa 44:4-5).
II.B.3.B. Israelites Witness To Yahweh As Sole God, 44:6-8.
Yahweh as the only God (v. 6) is highlighted by the phrase “the first and the last,” which is applied to Jesus (Rev 1:17; 2:8; 22:13). There were many so-called gods, but Yahweh challenged whether they were like him (Isa 44:7). God recounted the ancient past and foretold the future accurately, things other gods could not do (v. 7). Israel is not to fear as history unfolds, since God has foretold the events, showing his sovereignty. Israelites have a special part in witnessing to God’s unique actions (v. 8).
II.B.3.C. Makers Of Idols Show Their Folly, 44:9-20.
II.B.3.C.I. Idolators Have No Future, 44:9-11.
Idol-makers may have had status in their societies, but God saw them as valueless, and their gold idols as worthless. Speaking on behalf of idols was spiritual blindness and ignorance (v. 9). Making idols brought no real profit (v. 10) but instead shame, and ultimately it will bring the terror of divine judgment (v. 11).
II.B.3.C.II. A Thoroughly Human Product, 44:9-13.
An idol takes a lot of strength and ingenuity to make but is often in human form in its temple.
II.B.3.C.III. Praying To The Same Wood Used For Cooking, 44:14-17.
After the maker selects or grows a tree, he may use some of its wood to cook his food and the rest to make an idol to which he prays.
II.B.3.C.IV. Deluded Blindness About The Activity, 44:18-20.
Idol makers, held captive to wrong thinking, fail to see the silliness of their behavior (v. 18). They do not consider that they worship a god they made from what they used to cook dinner (v. 19). They cannot save themselves by these efforts, nor even realize the lie of the idol (v. 20).
II.B.3.C.V. God Calls Israel To Remember This Instruction, 44:21-22.
Israel needed to remember the falsity of idols because they served the true God, who formed the nation to be his servant. God, who sweeps away clouds and mist, will have swept away their rebellions and sins in his promised help (vv. 1-5). That rebellion included idolatry, in which they forgot God, yet He would not forget them but would redeem them according to promise.
II.B.3.C.VI. God’s Redemption Will Cause The World To Rejoice, 44:23.
Isaiah transports us to the time of fulfillment. Not only will the desert be glad about the redeemed (35:1, 9), but heaven and earth will sing and shout, and mountains and trees, when God shows glory in redeeming Israel.
II.B.3.C.VII. God’s Self-Description, 44:24-28.
He is Creator (v. 24), Debunker of falsehood (v. 25), Fulfiller of prophecies of ruined Jerusalem’s restoration (v. 26), Dryer of the streams (v. 27), and Announcer of Cyrus, the man who will be God’s shepherd for Israel (v. 28). The drying of streams relates to the drying of the Red Sea and Jordan but can also relate to the way Cyrus took Babylon. Herodotus, the Greek historian, gave two different instances in which Cyrus drained water from a river to access Babylon. God’s last self-identification was awesome because Cyrus was born 100 years after Sennacherib’s attack of Jerusalem. Josiah is the only other person in biblical prophecy named with his actual name generations before he was born (1 Kgs 13:2). This is an instance of God foretelling the future as the idols cannot. Isaiah correctly predicted that Cyrus would give permission for Jerusalem to be rebuilt (2 Chron 36:23).
II.C. Deliverance From Babylon, Isaiah 45-48.
II.C.1. God Is Sovereign Over Israel And The World, Isaiah 45.
II.C.1.A. God’s Plan For Cyrus, 45:1-8.
God highly honored Cyrus as his shepherd and anointed one and would personally guide his conquests (v. 1). The doors and gates belong to cities Cyrus takes. The language here resembles that in Isaiah 41, which allows one to identify the one from the east there as Cyrus. God “calls” the person (41:2; 45:4), who “subdues” (41:2; 45:1) his foes consisting of “nations” and “kings” (41:2; 45:1). The person’s mission brings “righteousness” (41:2; 45:8). God would eliminate the barriers to Cyrus’ success (45:2). Cyrus gained fabled riches (v. 3) in defeating King Croesus of Lydia. He also conquered Media before taking Babylon in 539 B.C. God’s guidance would make it possible for Cyrus to learn about the God of Israel as the sole God. Cyrus’ success was for God’s goal of freeing Israel from Babylonian captivity (v. 4). God would do these things despite Cyrus’ not knowing the Lord (vv. 4-5). These events would eventually create a worldwide testimony to God’s reality through Jesus Christ. The world needs to know who is responsible for the blessing and misfortune in it (v.7). God would use Cyrus as part of his plan to make righteousness and salvation grow over the earth (v. 8).
II.C.1.B. The Trustworthiness Of His Plan, 45:9-13.
People, probably Israelites, were finding fault with God’s plan. God compared such negativism to clay complaining about the potter (v. 9), or a child criticizing what his parents produced (v. 10). Paul uses words like verse 9 to discuss God’s plan for Israel (Rom 9:20-21). God knew what he was doing with the nation that he created and formed (43:1, 7, 15, 21; 44:2, 21, 24). They were his sons (43:6), his children (45:11). Even if his discipline in the Babylonian conquest seemed harsh, it was to a good end. People questioning the things God prophesied about Israel (v. 11) were questioning the Creator of all things (v. 12). But God would prepare Cyrus to carry out God’s righteous plan to free Israel to rebuild its temple, and he would not have to pay Cyrus to do it (v. 13).
II.C.1.C. His Plan Is The Defeat Of Idols, 45:14-17.
The people of Egypt and Cush in Africa, and the Sabaeans of South Arabia (modern Yemen) were idol worshippers. Seba was the first-named son of Cush (Gen 10:7). They will someday come with their wealth in defeated slavery, bowing to Israel and admitting that the only God has helped Israel defeat them (Isa 45:14). God truly is a God hiding himself because not until the end of the age will everyone know the Lord’s sole deity (v. 15). But the idol worshippers will in the end times rise against Israel and meet defeat (v. 16). For God will save his people everlastingly with no further shame or disgrace (v. 17).
II.C.1.D. God’s Plan Is Not Israel’s Failure, 45:18-19.
The earth’s population will be decimated by the final war, but God intended the earth to be full of inhabitants, so victorious Israel will be important in refilling it, a reality helping ensure no further disgrace (v. 18). This is not a secret, for God’s word has many such promises. Israel’s ages in the wilderness of mistreatment and misunderstanding will not end in futility. They will find God as his good and right plans come to fruition (v. 19)
II.C.1.E. The Nations Will Surrender To God, 45:21-25.
God invites the survivors of this great war who are from the other nations to gather to him. The idols they worshiped in ignorance had not saved them (v. 20). God invites them to foretell the future as the Lord alone had done in foretelling this defeat of the nations who fight Israel (v. 21). Of course, only he could as the sole God. God will invite all the world’s people to turn from those idols to be saved by the only God (v. 23). God has ordained and sworn that all people will submit to his authority (23). They will know that righteousness and strength come from him (v. 24). Rebels against him will be condemned before him (v. 25), while all the seed of Israel will be vindicated and will celebrate. This chapter that begins by talking about Cyrus ends in the eschaton because Cyrus is a type of the final shepherd and anointed one, the Lord Jesus.
II.C.2. The True God Versus Babylonian Gods, Isaiah 46.
II.C.2.A. Contrast Between Idols And The Lord, 46:1-4.
II.C.2.A.I. The Idols, 46:1-2.
Isaiah’s frequent repetition of themes such as God’s incomparability, the inability of idols to know the past or future, and the folly of making idols shows the severity of Israel’s attraction to idolatry. Bel and Nebo were Babylonian gods. Isaiah 46:1-2 pictures their idols carried on the back of animals in flight from defeated Babylon, it seems. They weigh down the animals until both the animals and idols collapse.
II.C.2.A.II. The Lord, 46:3-4.
The Israelites are “carried” just like the idols (vv. 3, 1). But it is the Lord, rather than animals, who bears the Israelites. While the animals fail, the Lord has carried Israel from conception and will until old age (vv. 3-4).
II.C.2.B. Idols, A Poor Imitation Of The Lord, 46:5-7.
God has asked who is like him (v. 5) several times (cf. 44:7; 43:9; 41:26; 40:18). People try to make a comparable god, but it cannot move, respond, or save (46:6-7).
II.C.2.C. So Israel Needs To Trust Rather Than Rebel, 46:8-13.
II.C.2.C.I. A Call To Remember, 46:8-11.
Israel needed to remember the futility of idols (v. 8) and the things from long ago that showed Yahweh as the only God (v. 9), such as the Exodus (43:16-18). He is unique in announcing the future in advance and fulfilling his words (v. 10). An example of this is his call of Cyrus, which he preannounced through Isaiah (v. 11). God’s comparison of Cyrus to a bird of prey is like’s the Law’s simile between a distant, conquering nation and an eagle swooping down (Deut 28:49).
II.C.2.C.II. A Call To Listen, 46:12-13.
Despite the rebellion of Israelites, God would accomplish his plan on schedule to install righteousness in his people at the time he saved and glorified Israel.
II.C.3. The Humbling Of Queen Babylon, Isaiah 47.
This chapter, except for the doxology in verse 4, is a series of four addresses by God to Babylon.
II.C.3.A. Babylon In Defeat Personified As A Woman, 47:1-3.
Babylon was a virgin, not having been molested, but would have to leave her position of rule (v. 1). She had a reputation for fine things but would become a common worker (v. 2a). Wading through water might symbolize flight (v. 2b). Xenophon and Herodotus say that the Euphrates River running through Babylon was drained into a lake by Cyrus’ army until one of the river’s channels was low enough for enemy soldiers to ford to enter Babylon. Exposure of nakedness was something done to adulteresses or criminals but here might symbolize defeat in war; God took vengeance through Cyrus (v. 3). Belshazzar died that night (Daniel 5), so there was almost certainly fighting.
II.C.3.B. Responsive Praise From Israel, 47:4.
Israel praises God as its Redeemer from captivity in Babylon.
II.C.3.C. God Indicts Former Queen Babylon, 47:5-7.
The silence (v. 5) may contrast to court revelry. Darkness may represent imprisonment or oblivion (v. 5). Babylon exceeds its limits in punishing Israel (v. 6), just as Assyria did (10:6-7). Babylon did not consider the outcome of mistreatment of Israel but arrogantly assumed invincibility (v. 7).
II.C.3.D. God Announces Babylon’s Calamity, 47:8-11.
The kingdom indulged in pleasures with no anticipation of defeat (v. 8). In one day the “queen” would suffer complete loss, both husband and children (v. 9), which might symbolize king and people. Her occult practices would not save her (vv. 9-11) from the Lord (cf. 44:25).
II.C.3.E. God Mocks Babylon’s Reliance On The Occult, 47:12-15.
This warning given a century in advance would not stifle Babylon’s occultism, which God mocks. The Book of Daniel shows how reliant the nation was on magicians, enchanters, and astrologers (Dan 1:20; 2:2; 3:8; 4:7). They hoped to arouse terror in their enemies (v. 12). God invited them to do their best with their astrologers, but such people wore out a nation (v. 13). They were like tinder for Babylon’s conflagration, since they sparked God’s wrath (v. 14). Babylon relied on misguided people unable to save the kingdom (v. 15).
II.C.4. Israel In Babylon For Its Sin, Isaiah 48.
II.C.4.A. God’s Ways With Rebellious Israel, 48:1-11.
II.C.4.A.I. Special Ways In The Past, 48:1-6a.
The Israelites, descended from the forefathers, swearing by the same God, did not do so in truth or righteousness (v. 1). Yet they relied on God (v. 2). God fulfilled former prophecies, such as the Exodus preannounced to Abraham more than 450 years beforehand (Gen 15:13-16). God brought fulfillment suddenly so Israelites could not claim their idols had accomplished the good (Isa 48:3, 5). They would make such claims from a neck of iron sinew, rebellious against God (v. 4). Israelites at the Exodus were repeatedly called stiff-necked (Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9). Israel knew what God had done and needed to testify to such things (Isa 48:6a).
II.C.4.A.II. Special Ways With New Prophecies, 48:6b-11.
God through Isaiah was announcing new prophecies. God delayed announcement lest Israel grow complacent in its knowledge (vv. 6b-7). They did not understand what was happening because they were treacherous to the Lord, rebelling from the start (vv. 8-9). God held back wrath for his own sake, so his name would not be polluted and minimized in comparison to some other name (vv. 9, 11). Yet he afflicted and refined the Israelites (v. 10).
II.C.4.B. His Promise Of Redemption To Israel, 48:12-16.
The new prophecy was the promise of redemption from Babylon.
II.C.4.B.I. General Address To Israel, 48:12-13.
The eternal One, named the First and Last earlier in 41:4 and 44:6, called the nation to listen to the Creator and Sovereign.
II.C.4.B.II. Address To Israel About Cyrus, 48:14-15.
There is a second call to gather and listen, with a challenge to Israel to name another god who had foretold as God was foretelling. God talks about one he “loved” who would carry out his “purpose” (v. 14). This is evidently Cyrus because the idea of calling him (v. 15) occurred earlier in 41:2 and 44:4. The plan to “bring” him suits the Lord “stirring up” Cyrus “from the east” (41:2) and taking hold of his right hand (45:1). Cyrus fulfills the Lord’s “purpose” (44:28). The Lord’s “purpose” (46:10) is to call a man from the east (46:11), another probable mention of Cyrus.
II.C.4.B.III. Address To Israel About The Servant, 48:16.
Then God again calls the people to draw near and listen, as he stresses both how public his prophecies are and how present he is at their fulfillment. The speaker saying that God sent him (v. 16b) could be Isaiah (6:8), but he has not spoken elsewhere in this section of the book. The servant speaks in the first person in 49:1 and may introduce himself here. His having the Spirit and being sent matches the person in 61:1, who is the servant (on the other hand, Isaiah has the Spirit in 59:21 and was sent [6:8]).
II.C.4.C. Expression Of Regret About Israel’s Lost Peace, 48:17-19.
The One who addressed them was their Teacher (v. 17). Had they learned, they would have had peace and great numbers (v. 18). This regret probably pertains to the entire time from Israel’s rebellion in Isaiah’s day to Israel’s deliverance from the end-time Babylon by the servant, the Lord Jesus. The two calls to Israel to listen, one about Cyrus and the other about the servant, prepare Israel for a command to leave Babylon (vv. 20-22) that applies to both periods in history.
II.C.4.D. Call For Them To Leave Babylon, 48:20-22.
This command will spread with joy as will an announcement of redemption to the earth’s ends (v. 20). God will bring Israel safely home with divine provision of water (v. 21). There is ambiguity in this message, which could apply to the return from Babylon in 536 B.C. but also can point to the end times in the worldwide announcement of redemption and the transformation of the desert (cf. Isa 35:6). Verse 21, if applied rhetorically to the return in 536 B.C., where no miracle is mentioned, could suggest a divine provision like that of the original Exodus (Ex 17:6; Ps 105:41). Isaiah envisions another exodus. But the wicked can have no peace (v. 22). The “wicked” can refer to doomed Babylon but also to the rebellious Israelites through history (48:1-11).
II.D. The Special Servant, Isaiah 49-53.
II.D.1. Israel Who Gathers Israel, Isaiah 49.
II.D.1.A. Servant Israel, God’s Concealed Weapon, Speaks, 49:1-4.
The fact that Israel (v. 3) speaks as an individual could imply a personification. Birth terms (v. 1) are used of national Israel (e.g., Ezek 16:3-6). The words about God displaying beauty through Israel apply to the entire nation in 60:21 and 61:3. But the man’s being called from his mother’s belly makes one think of a person like Jeremiah (Jer 1:5). The servant’s concealment (v. 2) could refer to Jesus’ years before public ministry. His expenditure of strength to no purpose (v. 4) applies to Jesus’ rejection by his people. His desert of reward (v. 4) could envision the coming kingdom.
II.D.1.B. God Explains The Servant’s Role, 49:5-7.
Verses 5-6 are important to identifying the servant in Isaiah. This servant called Israel (v. 3) cannot be national Israel because God appoints him to regather national Israel to God (v. 5). The idea of an individual Israel within national Israel seems comparable to Paul’s notion of an individual “seed,” Christ, within the ethnic “seed” of Abraham (Gal 3:16). Just as Christ brings the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promises of blessing for the world, so the individual Israel, again Christ, embodies God’s hope in establishing national Israel. This person will also be “a light for the Gentiles” to bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. At Jesus’ dedication as an infant, Simeon, filled with the Spirit, called Jesus “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” Jesus Christ brought word of God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. So this servant who speaks embodies the ideal of Israel but is a person whom we now call the Lord Jesus. This is the same honored servant of Isaiah 42:1-7, who was also called “a light for the Gentiles” (42:7). The servant who is the nation Israel is displeasing to God (42:18-25), but this servant is honored by God (49:5). This one “despised and abhorred by a nation” (v. 7) is thus the same person as the servant in Isaiah 53, who is likewise described as “despised” and rejected (53:3). The despising nation was Israel. Jesus served rulers by being obedient to their dictates (v. 7). The honor to be shown him by kings and princes (v. 8) has an echo in 52:15, and the honor came because of the Lord’s faithfulness (49:8) in helping the one he chose (cf. Lk 9:35).
II.D.1.C. What The Servant Will Do For Israel, 49:8-13.
The Lord’s “answer” to the servant implies a prayer (cf. Ps 22:24; Heb 5:8); it also implies the “salvation” mentioned (Isa 49: 8). The servant is to become a “covenant of a people” (Isa 49:8), and Jesus spoke of the new covenant being “in my blood” (Lk 22:20). The new covenant is especially for the people of Israel (Jer 31:31) and will come to full fruition when Israel turns to the Lord Jesus. That is when he will restore Israel’s land (Isa 49:8) and release its captives (v. 9; cf. 42:7; 61:1). Feeding by the roads as highways are raised up (49:9, 11) evokes earlier passages about the return to Israel of the dispersed people, and verse 12 not only suggests the return’s universality but mentions Egypt again (11:15; 19:23). This is another reference to an exodus. Mountains bursting into song recall 44:23 and 35:1. The kingdom’s coming will be the promised “comfort” (v. 13) of 40:1.
II.D.1.D. The Lord Consoles Zion, 49:14-21.
Israel’s sense of forsakenness may characterize the era of its rejection of Christ (v. 14). God gives consolation that he has more love than a mother, being unable to forget (v. 15) as he is accused of doing (v. 14). The palm engraving (v. 16) makes one think of Christ’s nail prints (the Law forbade tattoos: Lev 19:28). The proof of God’s remembrance is the return of Israelite exiles as sons to Zion, personified as a mother, while Zion’s attackers leave (Isa 49:17). This regathering will glorify the nation (v. 18) and follows the great suffering of the Tribulation (vv. 19, 21). The children born during bereavement are probably born outside Israel (v. 20). God will wonderfully repopulate Israel as the millennium starts (vv. 19-21).
II.D.1.E. God Explains How Restoration Will Happen, 49:22-26.
The Gentile transportation of Jews back to Israel appears often (11:11-12; 14:1-2; 60:3-16; 66:19-21). Profound changes in the world’s estimation of Israel will occur through the Tribulation and Second Advent (49:22-23). This is the same banner (v. 22) that in 11:12 brings the dispersed of Israel. The escort of exiles follows the return of the Lord Jesus in wrath (Isa 66:15-18) to defeat the nations attacking Israel. That is why the nations’ royalty lick the dust of the Israelites’ feet (v. 23). Israel will know that the Lord is the Lord. This is a constant refrain of Ezekiel’s eschatology (e.g., Ezek 37:14). God’s promise not to disappoint those who hope in him (Isa 49:23) resembles one in 28:16. The Antichrist’s apparent grip on Israel will be broken as the Lord takes vengeance on him and his forces (49:24-25; cf. Rev 19:11-21). Prophets speak of the sword being drunk with blood (Deut 32:42; Jer 46:10), so being drunk with one’s own blood (Isa 49:26) suggests the mutual slaughter other prophets predict for this time (cf. Zech 14:13; Ezek 38:21). The Lord will especially act to save Israel (Isa 49:26; Zech 14:1-5), and the world will know it.
II.D.2. Sinful Israel And The Servant, Isaiah 50.
II.D.2.A. Yahweh Challenges His Wife And Children, 50:1-3.
There are at least two interpretations of God’s question about the writ of divorce (v. 1): 1) it could give the reason for divorce as transgression, or 2) there is no writ because God simply sent the wife away for the children’s misbehavior. The second theory allows reconciliation, which the book shows later. Also, it provides a better parallel to the lack of creditors. Yet God reached out to sinful Israel with no response of faith from her (v. 2a). Israelites should not have viewed God as incapable of healing the situation since he is sovereign over the earth (vv. 2b-3).
II.D.2.B. The Servant’s Suffers Because God Will Vindicate Him, 50:4-9.
This is the servant speaking again (though “servant” does not appear until v. 10). The way the first-person singular shifts without marking from Yahweh to the servant has its resolution in the NT, which shows the servant to be God. No man spoke like the Lord Jesus (v. 4; Jn 7:46). Jesus prayed early in the morning (Mk 1:35). Jesus taught what he learned from his Father (Jn 14:10). It was the Father’s will to crush his Son (vv. 5-6; Isa 53:10). Jesus at his trial suffered as in verse 6 (Mk 14:65; Mt 26:67; John 19:2-3). The servant setting his face to confront suffering (Isa 50:7) matches Jesus setting his face to go to Jerusalem to suffer (Lk 9:51). Paul applies Isaiah 50:8-9 to himself as benefiting from Christ’s work on the cross (Rom 8:33-34). Opposition to the servant is doomed to fail because it is opposition to God (v. 9)
II.D.2.C. The Two Alternatives God Offers, 50:10-11.
II.D.2.C.I. Exhortation To Trust God, 50:10.
People who fear God will trust his servant. They may walk in darkness but can rely on God and his name (v. 10).
II.D.2.C.II. Warning To Those Who Trust Their Own Devices, 50:11.
The alternative is to provide one’s own light or fire to navigate the dark (v. 11). In context this implies neglecting God, which the speaker, who is God, says must end in torment.
II.D.3. The Promise Of Righteousness For Israel, Isaiah 51.
The chapter underscores themes already introduced. Three calls to “listen to me” (vv. 1, 4, 7) precede two calls to “Wake up, wake up” (vv. 9, 17) that are separated by God saying, “I, I am he” (v. 12).
II.D.3.A. Another Assurance Of Comfort, 51:1-3.
God appeals to the righteous remnant of the nation, for he has reserved his promises of blessing for that group. The lives of Abraham and Sarah represent the kind of blessing God intends to bestow. They give promise for the multiplying of the people after end-time devastation (v. 3: “ruins”). Twice God mentions the word “comfort” used twice in 40:1 (v. 3). Deserts becoming like Eden recall 30:23-25; 32:15; and 35:1-7. The joy and gladness echo 35:10.
II.D.3.B. God Reasserts That His Salvation Will Come, 51:4-6.
“Righteousness” and “salvation” occur near the start and at the end of this section (vv. 5-6). The language is also used of the servant, though it is the Lord speaking here. God calls the servant in “righteousness” (42:6) and appoints him so that God’s “salvation” may be to the ends of the earth (49:6). The servant brings “justice” to the nations (51:4; 42:1). The islands will hope in his “law” (51:4-5, 42:3). He is a “light to the nations” (51:4; 42:6; 49:6). The servant is implicit is this plan of salvation. The present heavens and end will end with great loss of human life (51:6; cf. 65:17), but they give way to an eternal salvation.
II.D.3.C. He Urges Fearlessness Toward Foes, 51:7-8.
God again addresses the righteous remnant, assuring them that the opposition of men will fail, for they will die, but divine salvation will last forever. Verse 8b is quite like verse 6b.
II.D.3.D. The Lord’s Arm Will Bring His People Home, 51:9-11.
The Lord’s arm was a powerful image at the Exodus (Ex 6:6; 15:16), and Rahab is the name for a mythical sea monster symbolizing Egypt (Pss 87:4; 89:10), perhaps as residing in the Red Sea. The sea dried to let Israel cross but destroyed the Egyptian army (Isa 51:9-10). God redeemed the people then (Ex 15:13) and would likewise redeem them from Babylon (Isa 51:10). Verse 11 repeats 35:10, an eschatological text about an exodus through the wilderness.
II.D.3.E. The Lord Chides Fearfulness Toward Men, 51:12-16.
God identifies himself as their Comforter (v. 12). They should not fear mortal man with God on their side, since the oppressor will disappear (v. 12-13). Their imprisoned ones will be released and have their needs met (v. 14). For the God of Zion rules the sea and created everything (vv. 15-16). The Lord also said that he put words in Israel's mouth and covered him with the shadow of his hand (v. 16). These words recall description of the individual servant called Israel (49:2; 50:4, 10). The individual servant Israel is like God in bringing justice (51:4) and like man in needing the protection of God’s hand (v. 16). He may be the one to free these Israelite prisoners (42:7; 49:9; 61:1).
II.D.3.F. The Lord Will Remove His People’s Judgment, 51:17-23.
This section uses drunkenness (vv. 17, 21-23) as a picture of divine judgment like other prophets (Jer 25:15-17, 26-28; Ezek 23:32-34). Israel had lacked leadership (Isa 51:18). The word “two” (v. 19) can mean “double” but may mean “pairs” here because Isaiah lists two pairs of calamities. In each pair the two items sound and look similar in Hebrew. The double blow recalls 40:2. Israel could not be “comforted” at this time. The picture of Jerusalem’s destruction signals divine wrath (51:20), but God promises drunken Israel that he will defend them so that they will never drink wrath again, another sign of end-time events (vv. 21-22). Rather Israel’s enemies who tormented her will drink it (v. 23).
II.D.4. Jerusalem’s Restoration And The Servant, Isaiah 52.
II.D.4.A. Another Call For Jerusalem To Wake Up, 52:1-3.
This second call to Jerusalem (cf. 51:17) is the reverse of the call to Babylon to come down from her throne (chapter 47). It is the end time as the time of Jerusalem’s splendor when no enemies will ever enter her again (52:1; cf. 33:21). The city has been in a captive condition (52:2; cf. 51:19-22). The city’s being sold into enemies’ hands (cf. Judg 3:8) came from divine purpose, and so would its redemption (Isa 52:3).
II.D.4.B. Yahweh Will Vindicate His Name To Israel, 52:4-6.
The Lord reviews Israel’s past oppression in Egypt and by Assyria (v. 4), but this is a climactic case of it. Israel did nothing to deserve exile, and those with power over them mock them (v. 5; the variant “mock,” rather than MT “wail” follows the Dead Sea Scrolls, Aquila, the Targum, and the Vulgate). The rulers also blaspheme God’s name, so God will vindicate it by fulfilling his prophecies (vv. 5-6).
II.D.4.C. Good News Of God’s Victory Comes To Zion, 52:7-10.
The herald of good news on the mountains by Zion resembles the herald in 40:9, who announced God coming as a Shepherd with his lambs. The parallel language associates that coming with this one in 52:9. Just as the Lord’s comfort was the theme in 40:1, so it is in 52:9, and the Lord’s lambs in 40:10-11 are the redeemed exiles returning to Jerusalem at the time of the Lord’s worldwide victory (52:7). The Lord returns to Zion in the sense of residing there again, and since it is a visible return (v. 8; Zech 14:4), it is the return of the Lord Jesus to Israel from heaven at the second advent (Mt 23:39; Mk 14:62). The city is ruined (Isa 52:9), but it is a joyful time since the whole world has witnessed God’s power (“arm”) and salvation (cf. Rev 1:7; Lk 17:24; Mt 24:30).
II.D.4.D. A Call To Leave Babylon, 52:11-12.
God calls Israel to leave their place of imprisonment. This is evidently Babylon, as seen earlier in 48:20, where language allows two divine rescues from there. Jeremiah 51:6, 45 may draw on Isaiah to call for flight from Babylon in 536 B.C., and Revelation 18:4 quotes these passages of the end-time Babylon. Israel needs to avoid Babylon’s defilement. The flight will be dignified because the Lord will be guiding it (Isa 52:12), going before and behind the people as his angel went before and behind the people at the Exodus (Ex 14:19).
II.D.4.E. The Servant Brings Great Change, 52:13-15.
Mention of the servant here indicates that he is involved in delivering Israel from the final oppressor. It is the time of his exaltation. Jesus was exalted in heaven after his ascension, but his visible glory on earth will be at his return. The terms “high” and exalted” (v. 13) match those used of Yahweh in 6:1. David “acted wisely” in his time (52:13; see 1 Sam 18:5, 14-15, 30). There is an extended comparison (52:14-15) where shuddering at the servant’s disfigurement, understood to refer to Jesus’ crucifixion, is matched by what the servant does to many nations. The MT has “sprinkle” (v. 15), but the LXX says many nations will “wonder.” The original verb in Hebrew could have been one meaning “startle”: as many were appalled, so will he startle many. This is the choice of many translations (CEB, CJB, NAB, NET, NJB, NLT, NRSV). Yet there is no other use of “startle” in the Hebrew Bible, and the root must be hypothesized from an Arabic cognate verb. The Greek, also, does not have the servant as subject of the verb, and the LXX in Isaiah is not the best. “Sprinkle” would refer to Christ’s priestly work of sprinkling people clean from sin with his blood (Ex 24:8; Heb 10:22; 12:24: 1 Pet 1:2) (ESV, GWN, KJV, NASB, NIV, CSB). Elsewhere sprinkling is “on” something, but there is no preposition here. The MT has the support of the Vulgate and Syriac. While “startle” works, the comparison (“just as” . . . “so”) could be one of cause and effect: disfigurement qualified him to be a high priest. Shutting the mouths of kings suggests universal humbling along with the universal enlightenment (Isa 52:15).
II.D.5. The Servant Suffers To Justify His People, Isaiah 53.
II.D.5.A. The Servant Did Not Seem Majestic, 53:1-3.
Paul cites the first words of the chapter as indicating lack of belief in Jesus (Rom 10:16). Isaiah associates the servant with the arm of the Lord (Isa 53:1). The servant grew up before the Lord (v. 2). The idea is that human life is “before the Lord” (cf. Gen 10:9). Jesus was not strikingly handsome (Isa 53:2). He was a person of suffering through rejection and ill repute (v. 3). The “we” is the people of Israel, as those who were with the servant and as “we” signifies in general in Isaiah (e.g. 42:24; 59:9; 63:17; 64:11).
II.D.5.B. People Misunderstood What Happened To Him, 53:4-6.
Matthew 8:17 cites the words about taking infirmities (Isa 53:4) as fulfilled in Jesus’ healings. Israel considered Jesus’ death a divine judgment on him (v. 4), but his piercing on the cross was for the sins of Israel and all people (the referent of “our” can be expanded due to NT theology). Verse 5 shows a vicarious atonement for sins made by the servant. Theologically, verse 6 goes beyond the immediate referent of Israel to all people. Everybody has gone astray in sin and can benefit from the servant’s substitutionary suffering, since he brings salvation to Gentiles everywhere (49:6).
II.D.5.C. He Lost His Life In His Service, 53:7-9.
Isaiah shows the representative nature of his suffering by describing all as sheep gone wrong, and then this one like a lamb led to slaughter, bearing that iniquity (vv. 6-7). Acts 8:32-35 applies Isaiah 53:7-8 to Jesus. Jesus was silent before accusers because his execution was God’s will (v. 7). “Oppression” and “judgment” (v. 8) are probably a hendiadys meaning oppressive judgment. To be cut off from the land of the living is to be killed (Jer 11:19). This one would have no physical descendants (Isa 53:8). Verse 8 also ends with substitutionary atonement. Jesus’ grave would have been with the wicked men who died beside him except for the intervention of rich Josephus in donating his own grave (v. 9).
II.D.5.D. He Accomplished Vicarious Redemption For Others, 53:10-12.
God intended Jesus’ suffering as a guilt offering for human sin (v. 10). Jesus does have a spiritual offspring (v. 10) because all who believe Jesus are born of God (Jn 1:12-13) as sons (Gal 3:26) and are children God gave to Jesus (Heb 2:13). Jesus will execute the Lord’s will (Isa 53:10) because God put all authority in his hands (Mt 28:18). After “see” in Isaiah 53:11, the LXX and all the Dead Sea scrolls of Isaiah have the word “light,” and this seems strong evidence for its inclusion. He would see the light of life (Job 33:30; Pss 36:9; 56:13). Jesus was pleased with the outcome of his work (Isa 53:11). It took incredible knowledge for Jesus to carry through his self-offering; consider just his forty days of fasting before facing the devil. So Jesus will enjoy great glory because of his submission to his Father to give himself in bearing the sins of the rest of mankind. His self-giving was an intercession to God on behalf of mankind (v. 12).
II.E. God Exhorts Israel About Restoration, Isaiah 54-55.
II.E.1. Jerusalem As A Rejected Wife, Isaiah 54.
The Lord addresses Jerusalem in its state of separation from the Lord, which leads to terrible consequences.
II.E.1.A. Jerusalem As A Rejected Wife, 54:1-8.
II.E.1.A.I. Israel, A Barren Woman, Will Soon Have Many Children, 54:1-3.
Superficially, verse 1 compares Jerusalem to barren Sarah versus Hagar, but it could also compare final Israel with Israel before the Lord rejected her. This passage makes one wonder whether the initial barrenness of three patriarchal wives (Gen 11:30; 25:21; 29:31) was a sign that Israel as a nation would be barren for much of its existence. The song and joy match the end-time song and joy elsewhere in Isaiah. The multiplied children are those returning from exile. The eschatological expansion of the city and the tent imagery (Isa 54:2-3) recall 33:17, 20. It is then that Israel will dispossess other nations (54:3).
II.E.1.A.II. The Lord, Her Husband, Will Retake Her, 54:4-8.
Barrenness brought shame and disgrace (v. 4) in the ancient world (cf. Lk 1:25). Israel’s future will be so bright as to dispel memory of the past, for her husband is the Lord Almighty (Isa 54:4-5). He will draw the nation back to himself (v. 6). Compared to her future, her time of rejection was a “brief moment” (v. 7), though it has lasted nearly two thousand years. The restored marriage will last forever (v. 8).
II.E.1.B. The Restoration Brings Guaranteed Permanence, 54:9-10.
The Noahic covenant ended the threat of universal flood; likewise, God’s covenant of peace with Israel will end the threat of his anger. The term for anger in verses 8-9 implies rage, fury, or wrath. God’s permanent covenant of peace appears also in Ezekiel 34:25 and 37:26. Jesus’ covenant is eternal (Heb 13:20). Isaiah shows the time when Israel, turning to the Lord, enters its blessings (Rom 11:26).
II.E.1.C. Jerusalem As A Suffering City, 54:11-17.
II.E.1.C.I. Promises Of Glory, 54:11-14.
God addresses the city under oppression (v. 11) before God’s “comfort” has come, as the Lord turns back after rejecting it (54:1-8). The city’s walls beautified with precious stones (vv. 11-12) resemble the walls of new Jerusalem (Rev 21:18-20). Jesus quoted the first line of Isaiah 54:13 as being fulfilled in himself (Jn 6:45). The righteousness of the city fulfills God’s goal for it (Isa 1:26). So it will be without fear or cause for it, far from the oppression that came as God’s discipline.
II.E.1.C.II. Promises Of Protection, 54:15-17.
Any attack will fail because God will not be behind it (v. 15). Since opposition is possible, God is likely speaking of the millennium. God sovereignly brings about weapons and destroyers to use them (v. 16). He can thus guarantee that no weapon will succeed, nor any hostile speaker. This is what God will give his servants to demonstrate their righteousness (v. 17; cf. Ps 149:6-9).
II.E.2. Invitation To Repent And Enjoy, Isaiah 55.
II.E.2.A. God Promises Good Through The Davidic Covenant, 55:1-5.
The invitation is for anyone (vv. 1-2). The verbs are plural in Hebrew. Thirst symbolizes felt spiritual need; the lack of money refers to spiritual poverty. “Buy” equates to the “buy in” of faith commitment. The milk and wine correlate to the spiritual sustenance and refreshment God provides. What is not bread is what we expend our lives to obtain that does not meet our deepest need. Jesus picked up this image in speaking of being the “bread of life” and of the need to eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:35, 53). God freely shares the truth we need through his word. He wants to make an eternal covenant. The same word for “loyal love” occurs here (v. 3) as in 54:10, where the subject is a covenant of peace. So the covenant of peace may be a renewal of the davidic covenant that lasts forever. The faithful love to David was that his seed would reign forever, one whom God would treat as a son (2 Sam 7:14). Isaiah 9:6-7 has mentioned such a son born to reign on David’s throne forever. Isaiah 55:4 notes how David was both a witness and commander over other nations. Isaiah mentions this in connection with the future renewal of the covenant when nations will hasten to Israel. Second-person plural in verses 1-3 shifts to second-person masculine singular in verse 5, so the addressee may be the davidic king. In this context he is probably be the individual servant. Then the servant will be glorified at this time, as in 52:13-15. The davidic king will have authority over the nations just as the ancient David did and will be a witness to them. The eternal covenant is God’s bond with his people to meet their needs forever through the reign of his Son.
II.E.2.B. God Appeals To Israel With This Promise Of Good, 55:6-13.
He calls the people to repent and turn back to him, even the wicked and evil, since he promises to pardon (vv. 6-7). God can make such gracious promises because his thoughts and actions are as high above those of humans as heaven is above earth (vv. 8-9). Just as rain always waters the earth to produce needed seed and grain, so God’s word always comes down from heaven to accomplish his will (vv. 10-11). The result of Israel’s repentance will be the redemption described earlier in Isaiah 35, with nature itself celebrating (55:12). This may be a renewal of nature and Israel that accompanies Israel’s victory at the Lord’s return. Israel’s beautification will be an everlasting sign to the nations of the Lord’s presence in it. God’s favor will never again depart from it (v. 13).
III. Only Righteousness Will Bring Promised Blessings, Isaiah 56-66.
III.A. The Need For Righteousness, Isaiah 56-59.
III.A.1. Two Alternatives In Israel, Isaiah 56.
III.A.1.A. The Call To Maintain Righteousness, 56:1-8.
III.A.1.A.I. Promise Of Blessing To The Righteous, 56.1-2.
Righteousness is what God’s plan will achieve, so it is the right path, bringing blessing. Keeping the Sabbath, the sign of God’s covenant with Israel (Ex 31:13), showed righteousness, as did refraining from evil.
III.A.1.A.II. No Believer Is Excluded, 56:3.
The Mosaic law excluded some foreigners and eunuchs from the Lord’s assembly (Deut 23:1-7), but God intends to include them among His people (Isa 56:3).
III.A.1.A.III. Pious Eunuchs And Foreigners Will Be Honored, 56:4-8.
God is going to welcome pious eunuchs into his temple (vv. 4-5). An everlasting name implies eternal life (v. 6). Verse 8, in the context of verses 3-7, conceivably influenced Jesus in his words of John 10:16.
III.A.1.B. Unspirituality Manifested By Israel’s Leaders, 56:9-12.
The beasts would be the enemy nations (v. 9). God invites them because Israel’s righteousness is lacking. Prophets were watchmen (Ezek 3:17), as were other national leaders overseeing the people, since the watchmen are also called shepherds (Isa 56:11; cf. Ezek 34:1-10), a term including kings (1 Chron 11:2). They are spiritually blind (Isa 29:9-10), as are the sheep, the people (43:8). Like mute dogs, the watchmen do not perform the needed function of warning about danger. Their dreaming is both laziness and distraction from duty. They are greedy (56:11). As in Ezekiel 34, the shepherds seek their own gain rather than the flock’s benefit (Isa 56:11). Their mind in on worldly drunkenness rather than the Lord (cf. 28:7-8).
III.A.2. Israel Has Sinned, But Hope Exists For The Contrite, Isaiah 57.
III.A.2.A. The Nation Is So Sinful That God Removes The Righteous, 57:1-2.
God considers death to be preferable to life in this evil society because the righteous are afflicted by its evil.
III.A.2.B. The Ways Of The Wicked, 57:3-10.
The mockers may mock the righteous who believe in the Lord, for God associates them with sorcery, rebellion, and other evils (vv. 3-4). Isaiah speaks of sexual acts of fertility worship (v. 5). Oaks and spreading trees were sites for idol worship (1 Kgs 14:23; Jer 17:2a). Sacrifice of children was forbidden by the law (Lev 18:21; 20:2-3) and an abomination in God’s eyes (Jer 32:35). Devotion to idols (Isa 57:6-7) would bring divine judgment, since it was perhaps the primary taboo to Israel (Lev 26:1), a capital offence (Lev 26:30). Idolatry is adultery towards the Lord (Isa 57:7-8). Israel engaged in it secretly at home (v. 8). The lovers with whom the covenant was made (v. 8) are probably foreign rulers sought out for the favor they could bestow. Looking on their power/hand (v. 8) may refer to the phallus. Some translations repoint the Hebrew word for “king” (v. 9 MT) to “Molech,” the god of child sacrifice (CEB, NIV, NJB, NLT, NRSV). But one did not have to travel to worship him. The king could be Israel’s (NET) but more probably was a foreign power like Assyria, Babylon, or Egypt, the “lovers.” God considered seeking help from other nations to be infidelity to him. The oil and ointments might be cosmetic in a figure of the nation as a woman, but with “envoys” they are probably gifts of tribute for the king. The ambassadors made great efforts in this regard; “Sheol” (v. 9) could suggest a place meaning death, such as Assyria, whose help Ahaz sought (2 Kgs 16:7). Despite the fatigue such ungodliness engendered, the sin continued (v. 10).
III.A.2.C. The Futility Of Seeking Help Apart From God, 57:11-13.
The fear producing infidelity (v. 11) could have been of other gods or nations. God had not disciplined, so the people went on in sin. He would give credit for anything good in their lives, but it would not help because of its paucity (v. 12). Trouble was coming, and God invited the false gods they collected to save them (v. 13). Those gods were worthless, like windblown chaff, but trust in the Lord brought enduring security (v. 13).
III.A.2.D. The Hope Of Salvation For Those Who Trust Him, 57:14-21.
Verse 14 alludes to the highway for the exiles to return to Jerusalem (cf. 62:10). It is appropriate for God to be high but for humanity to be low in humility through awareness of sin (57:15). God forgives the contrite, for otherwise he would thwart his own purpose in creating man for relationship. His unrelenting anger would be life-denying (v. 16). Unjust gain is sin against others, and God will strike in wrath the unjust who refuse to repent (v. 17). But God will heal the contrite despite what they have done, blessing society with peace and stirring praise (vv. 18-19). The unrepentant produce turmoil. God cannot bless the wicked with peace (v. 20).
III.A.3. Salvation Will Come When Israel Really Is Righteous, Isaiah 58.
III.A.3.A. Claims Of Fasting Refuted, 58:1-5.
III.A.3.A.I. A Complaining Show Of Righteousness, 58:1-3a.
Isaiah was to announce the sin of the people (v. 1) despite their outward show of piety (v. 2). They claimed to be unable to understand why God had not rewarded their fasting and self-denial (v. 3).
III.A.3.A.II. The Righteousness Exposed As Fraudulent, 58:3b-5.
On fast days they sought their own pleasure rather than God, while driving their workers (v. 3b). God would not answer prayer when they acted with ill will and violence (v. 4). Outwards displays of self-affliction were not the essence of God-approved fasting (v. 5)
III.A.3.B. The Promises For God-Approved Fasting, 58:6-9a.
Fasting should be part of a wholistic response to life’s challenges that includes establishing justice, ending oppression, and providing for the needy (vv. 6-7). God promises to respond with light, healing, righteousness, and glory (v.8). God will answer the prayers from that kind of fast (v. 9a)
III.A.3.C. God’s Promises For A Life Reflecting These Principles, 58:9b-12.
God promised that if they to put away oppression and accusatory behavior and put on generosity to the needy, he would improve their lives (vv. 9b-10). He would accompany, supply, and bless them (v. 11). The people would restore and rebuild their ruined nation (v. 12). Rebuilding ruins was necessary after the Babylonian invasion (44:26). God cared about those ruins (51:3).
III.A.3.D. God’s Promises For A Respected Sabbath, 58:13-14.
The same phrase “finding your pleasure” (v. 13) occurred in verse 3 of the fast. If one ostensibly honors God but seeks selfish pleasure, an observance loses its meaning. Observing the Sabbath, a sign of their covenant with God (Ex 31:13), was a direct way for them to honor him. Giving oneself to God in it would result in delight (Isa 5814). Riding the heights signifies success, and feasting implies enjoying the good things of the land (see Deut 32:13). The house of Jacob was sinful (Isa 58:1), but repentance would allow enjoyment of their inheritance in Canaan (Ps 105:10-11; Gen 28:13-14; 35:12).
III.A.4. Israel Suffered Due To Sin, But God Would Still Save Them, Isaiah 59.
III.A.4.A. Israel Is In Serious Sin, 59:1-8.
The people’s continued sinning thwarted God’s desire to save them (vv. 1-2). They were guilty of murder, lying, wicked speech, dishonesty in court, and other premeditated crimes (vv. 3-4). The association of viper’s venom (Deut 32:33; Ps 140:3) and spider’s webs (Job 8:14) with people conveys, respectively, harm and uselessness. Paul quotes part of Isaiah 59:7-8 in depicting the sinfulness of mankind (Rom 3:15-17). Isaiah’s way of peace (Isa 59:8) is comparable to the “way of life” in Proverbs in contrast to the way of death (Prov 5:5-6; cf. Jer 21:8). The lack of peace (Isa 59:8) recalls 57:21.
III.A.4.B. So Israel’s Hopes Are Dashed, 59:9-11.
Absence of “justice” opens and closes this section. People cannot enjoy good things (vv. 9, 11) if they practice evil deeds. Darkness represents terrible situations (v. 9). Their figuratively blind stumbling (v. 10) lived out a covenant curse for disobedience (Deut 28:29). Being like the dead (Isa 59:10) suggests a defeated, exhausted society. Nahum 2:7 describes slaves “moaning like doves” (Isa 59:11).
III.A.4.C. Their Sins Created This Condition Of Injustice, 59:12-15a.
Israel’s many sins (v. 12) are given as the explanation for lack of justice (v. 11), and the people were aware of their guilt before God. Awareness can come when circumstances get dark (v. 9). Isaiah gives another list of sins (v. 13; see vv. 3-4): rebellion, treachery toward God, failure to follow him, oppression, falsehood, and lies. He personifies four virtues to picture their lack of effective presence (v. 14). Nobody cares or dares to speak truth, for practicing righteousness leads to one’s harm (v. 15a).
III.A.4.D. God Would Nonetheless Save Them, 59:15b-20.
As the NT shows, salvation can only come from God (cf. Isa 26:18) because of man’s lack of strength and virtue 59:15b-16). The resulting injustice is displeasing to God. Paul repeats some of the armor parts in the Christian’s armor (v. 17; Eph 6:14-17), but not garments of vengeance, which belong to God (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19). God’s zeal in saving appeared earlier in Isaiah 9:7 and 37:32. God will punish the nations who attacked Israel, since in doing so they attacked God (59:18). This is the day of vengeance (34:8; 61:2; 63:4). Then God will enjoy worldwide reverence for His glory (59:19). Isaiah 66:18 shows that this vengeance comes with glory. His coming against foes like a rushing river driven by his breath resembles how his breath came against Assyria like an overflowing stream (30:28). His coming like this is to Zion to redeem his repentant ones (cf. 57:15; 66:2). Paul quotes 59:20 in the context of God saving all Israel in the end times (Rom 11:26-27).
III.A.4.E. God Would Also Preserve His Word Among Them, 59:21.
Israel was sinful, so it might have been easy for God’s word to be lost. But Israel’s destiny was for a repentant remnant to be saved (v. 20). “Faith comes by hearing,” Paul said (Rom 10:17) right after quoting two verses of Isaiah (Rom 10:15-16: Isa 52:7; 53:1). For the end-time redemption to occur, it is important for God to preserve his word for that generation. Despite Israel’s sin, God covenanted with the nation that not only would Isaiah continue to speak by his Spirit but that both his words and the Spirit who inspired them would be with each generation of Israelites forever. The Hebrew word translated “children” by some Bibles is “seed,” and Isaiah, being from the seed of Jacob, could reckon all that seed as his seed (cf. 43:5; 61:9; 1:4; 6:13).
III.B. The Coming Salvation, Isaiah 60-62.
III.B.1. The Nations’ Glory Will Come To Zion, Isaiah 60.
This is a quite unified chapter.
III.B.1.A. God Calls Zion To Rise And See Her Glory, 60:1-5a.
III.B.1.A.I. God Calls Zion To Arise, 60:1-3.
In a dark world, divine light comes to Zion. God and his glory provide it. The nations are drawn to the light as Israel begins to shine. This is an end-times setting somewhat coincident with Israel’s redemption in 59:18-20.
III.B.1.A.II. God Calls Zion To Look Around, 60:4-5a.
God tells Zion to observe the nations coming from everywhere, bringing the people of Israel back to their land (v. 4). The city, representative of the nation, will have powerful emotions of gladness (v. 5a).
III.B.1.B. The Wealth Of The Nations Will Come To Zion, 60:5b-9.
Whether by sea (v. 5b) or land (v. 6-7), nations will bring their wealth to honor the Lord (v. 6b). Midian, son of Abraham and Keturah, fathered Ephah as his firstborn son (Gen 25:1-4). The land of Midian was between Sheba and Zion. Sheba, modern Yemen, was a port and so could receive wealth from more distant places. All the camels seem to have brought this wealth from Sheba (Isa 60:6). Gold came from overseas (1 Kgs 10:22), and incense came from Sheba (Jer 6:20), perhaps from the Far East. Nebaioth and Kedar were the first and second sons of Ishmael and were Arabic tribes in northwestern Arabia, mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions. Their flocks will be offerings in the millennial temple, which the gold and incense will adorn. God points out to Zion the ships from the far islands of the Mediterranean, bringing returned Jewish exiles along with the islands’ monetary gifts to the Lord that will beautify victorious Israel (Isa 60:8-9).
III.B.1.C. Defeated Foreigners Bring Their Wealth To Serve Israel, 60:10-16.
God’s wrath will bring Israel low before this victory (e.g., 30:25-26; 49:25-26; 51:17-23). But his compassion (e.g., 30:18; 49:13) will use the formerly hostile nations to rebuild Israel (60:10). Jerusalem is so safe it can always keep its gates open to receive foreign wealth (cf. Rev 21:25-26) and foreign kings led as willing servants (Isa 60:11). For death will be the alternative for kingdoms unwilling to serve (v. 12). Nations, perhaps former oppressors of Israel, will offer the finest woods for the temple (vv. 13-14). God will make once-rejected Israel the endless centerpiece of succeeding generations (v. 15), with Israelites enjoying international provision they know comes from the Lord, their Savior.
III.B.1.D. Israel’s Life Circumstances Will Greatly Improve, 60:17-22.
Everything in Israel will move up a grade, with peace and righteousness ruling (v. 17). Past troubles will be gone so that salvation and praise characterize the city (v. 18). God will be Israelites’ source of light and glory (v. 19; cf. Rev 22:5). Since their sun will nevermore set, the Lord will be their everlasting light, and their sorrows will end, the well-being is permanent (Isa 60:20). Since they are righteous, they get to keep the land forever, displaying God’s beauty (Isa 60:21). They will fulfill a blessing of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants to multiply greatly (v. 22; Gen 13:16; 15:5; Lev. 26:9).
III.B.2. The Servant Will Restore The Ruins Of Zion, Isaiah 61.
In another picture of glorious Zion in Isaiah 60-62, the servant plays a central part.
III.B.2.A. He Will Revive The People To Rebuild Zion, 61:1-4.
The Spirit is on the person in 61:1 as on the royal servant in 42:1, and perhaps as on the person in 48:16. This anointed one knows the Lord, unlike Cyrus (61:1; 45:1). He is evidently king, for he “releases the bound ones” as did the royal servant (42:7). Instead, the Septuagint here has him open the eyes of the blind, and that is the text that Jesus quoted of himself in Nazareth (Lk 4:18). The Hebrew has the verb used of the blind in 42:7, and it can mean to “open the eyes” without the word “eyes.” But “bound” would have to mean “bound” in the eyes (see the use of “bind” medically in Lk 13:16). Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:2 but left out “day of vengeance” because his first coming was not for vengeance as his second will be. The anointed one brings the comfort (v. 2) of 40:1. He brings joy (61:3), which elsewhere is associated with the defeat of Israel’s foes (24:14; 48:20) and the return of Israel’s exiles (35:10; 49:13). The nation as the Lord’s plant to display beauty (61:3) occurs just earlier in 59:21, so this is the same end-time setting. Zion’s people are righteous as God intended (1:26).
III.B.2.B. God Speaks Promises To Israel, 61:5-6.
He tells his people that foreigners will take care of the mundane work of shepherding and agriculture because they will be his priests, his ministers among the nations. His original intent was that Israel be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6). The other nations will provide their support as priests, as the tribes did the Levites within Israel (Num 18:8-32). The Israelites will boast because it will be the Lord’s provision for his service.
III.B.2.C. God Summarizes Their Blessed Condition, 61:7-9.
God replaces Israel’s longtime shame with a double portion of inheritance, like that of the firstborn son (v. 7; see Deut 21:17). This will be justice for Israel, whom the nations have robbed with iniquity (Isa 61:8). God will reward them with an eternal covenant (v. 8), the full expression of the davidic covenant (55:3; Heb 13:20), the covenant of peace (54:10; Ezek 34:25; 37:26). Israelites will be prominent throughout the world, plainly blessed by the Lord (61:9; cf. 65:2; Num 22:1; Deut 7:14).
III.B.2.D. Israel Expresses Gratitude For Its Blessings, 61:10-11.
Some assume the speaker is the anointed person who speaks in 61:1-3. Christ as a man will be glorified at his return, but the anointed one supplies the Israelites with a crown of beauty and garments of praise (v. 3). Israel needed righteousness and salvation, and the speaker can be personified Zion, who now has them (v. 10). God wanted them to “spring up” (45:10). The speaker mentions the Lord making praise and righteousness “spring up” before all nations (61:11), “spring up” describes what plants do (e.g., 55:10), and Israel has been called the Lord’s planting by which to display beauty in 60:21 and 61:3. In 61:3 what is planted is associated with praise and righteousness. God called Zion to arise and put on her garments of beauty (52:1), and now Israel has done that.
III.B.3. Jerusalem Will Be An Object Of Praise On The Earth, Isaiah 62.
III.B.3.A. God Stressed His Intention To Make Jerusalem Glorious, 62;1-7.
The “I” in verses 1 and 6 is probably God in both places because being “silent” (v. 1) is a word used of God elsewhere when he leaves matters alone (42:14; 57:11; 64:11; 65:6). Jerusalem’s righteousness does not yet shine out, so it is still the time of Israel’s darkness. Zion is still viewed as deserted by God and a desolate land (62:4). God assures Zion that he will make her glorious (v. 2; cf. 54:11-14). All kings will see this change as the city receives a new name (62: 2), a new identity, for the world will be focused on attacking Israel. Zion will become a witness to God’s glory. Its name Hephzibah means “My delight is in her,” and Beulah means “Married.” The reconciliation with God as husband repeats 54:1-8. Zion’s people are her sons (62:5), pictured as emotionally attached to her like a man to his bride. And God will have the same feelings towards her (v. 5). God’s spiritual watchmen are likewise not to be “silent” (v. 6) but are to pray until he fulfills his promise to make Jerusalem a city that the whole earth praises.
III.B.3.B. God’s Oath To Prevent Further Destruction, 62:8-9.
This passage could continue the previous one, describing what God swears about the future victory (v. 7 end). The “never again” of verse 8 would be like “no longer” in verse 4. Or this could be an oath God takes at the time of Israel’s victory, which verses 10-12 describe in the present tense. God takes oaths to stress the certainty of a matter. From the time of victory there will never again be defeat. God describes defeat in terms of covenant curses (v. 8; Lev 26:16; Deut 28:30-31, 33, 51). Normal circumstances will ensue in a worshipful atmosphere (62:9).
III.B.3.C. The Lord Returns To Zion With His People, 62:10-12.
The highway’s construction is for God’s people (cf. 57:14), who after the victory return on the roadway prepared for them (11:16; 19:23-24). In 52:8-11 the Lord’s coming to Zion combines with departure from Babylon, mentioned earlier in 48:20. So the gates (62:10) might be the enemy’s, which the exiles are leaving. But it seems more likely that Jerusalemites go out of their city to prepare the road for their kindred to return. The banner is raised in Zion as guidance for where the nations should bring Jewish exiles (62:10). The nations in this way announce good news of salvation to Zion. Here is the Lord’s coming foretold earlier in 40:9-11. The last sentence of 62:11 is identical with the last sentence of 40:10, in both cases preceded by a call to see God coming (cf. 59:20). “Reward” and “recompense” can be synonyms (“recompense” is positive in 49:4 and 61:8). God’s reward and recompense seem to be his people, as in 40:10-11, for “they” (62:12) can define the reward. Verse 12b is the opposite of verse 4a, and the name “Sought After” may include God’s attitude as the name Hephzibah did (v. 4).
III.C. Israel Prays For Deliverance, Isaiah 63-64.
III.C.1. The Lord Will Save When His People Pray, Isaiah 63.
III.C.1.A. The Lord On His Day Of Vengeance, 63:1-6.
Bozrah, a city in Edom, a traditional enemy of Israel, is dealt with by God, who bears bloodstains as the victorious warrior. He may come towards Israel, fielding questions (vv. 1, 3) that prompt his report of a righteous salvation achieved (vv. 3-6). Edom also represented the enemy nations (v. 6) of the end times in Isaiah 34. There is stress on the bloodiness and on no one else being there (Isa 63:3, 5). The Book of Revelation underscores the great death. Jesus said that apart from his intervention, no flesh would survive (Matt 24:22). The scene implies a grave need impelling God to get so involved in human affairs on this day of vengeance.
III.C.1.B. A Brief Theodicy For God’s Discipline Of Israel, 63:7-10.
Israel will go through much tribulation, but Isaiah was insistent on God’s righteous behavior in allowing it all. First, he has done many good things, all loyal acts of love (v. 7). This is based on his covenant relationship with the people as father of their nation (v. 8). He sympathized with their ill treatment in Egypt and delivered them. Then he provided for them in the wilderness (v. 9). But Israel rejected God’s leadership and his appointees, Moses and Aaron. This sort of behavior continued in Canaan. Beginning in the wilderness God began to thwart Israelites’ hopes (v. 10).
III.C.1.C. Israel Later Longed For The First Days Of Glory, 63:11-14.
In their alienation from God Israelites realized how they had lost the felt presence of God among them. He had at first provided such leadership, miracles, and power, filling their leaders with his Spirit as he unforgettably brought them from Egypt through Moses (vv. 11-13). God’s Spirit met their needs (v. 14), winning God great fame (v. 14).
III.C.1.D. They Prayed For God To Defeat Their Enemies, 63:15-19.
Feeling sorely his absent help, Israelites appeal to God to come down for their rescue again as he did in Egypt (v. 15). Their tie to him is stronger than their connection to Abraham or Jacob (v. 16). Since he is sovereign, they view him as responsible for their own disloyalty to him (v. 17). Because of their defeat and lost temple, they appeal for restored closeness. Isaiah may foresee the Babylonian destruction of the temple but look beyond that to the end of the age (v. 18). Israelites appeal for help based on their ancient covenant bond with him, while their enemies were not his (v. 19).
III.C.2. Israel Will Cry For Its Former Glory, Isaiah 64.
III.C.2.A. An Appeal For Divine Forgiveness And Help, 64:1-7.
Israelites imagine a second deliverance with mountain shaking like that at Sinai (v. 1). They want God to come in a conflagration that burns up their enemies, causing fear among the nations as did the rescue from Egypt (v. 2; Ex 15:14-16; Josh 2:10). God’s coming to Egypt was unexpected, so perhaps his coming could happen again (Isa 64:3). No other God unmistakably acted in history as Yahweh did (v. 4). They wait for him to do it again and want to do right so he will. But they know they have violated his ways (v. 5). All feel the guilt of their sins, which have weakened them (v. 6), and the majority have not been calling out to God in repentance (v. 7).
III.C.2.B. Israelites Call On God As Father To Pity Them, 64:8-12.
Since Israelites are clay, they plead for the Potter to mold them into what he wants (v. 8; cf. 29:15; 45:9). They ask him not to be too severe since they are his people (64:9). They consider the ruin of all their cities and the temple to be sufficient punishment (vv. 10-11). Since enemy nations did these things, they view God as having reason to help them (v. 12).
III.D. Salvation Comes Through Judgment, Isaiah 65-66.
III.D.1. Only God’s Servants Will Inhabit God’s New World, Isaiah 65.
III.D.1.A. Judgment Is Coming To Israel Because Of Sin, 65:1-7.
Many versions read “did not call” instead of the Hebrew “was not called” (v. 1), but this was an interpretive issue, since the earliest text lacked vowel points, and Paul understood verse 1 to refer to other nations, not Israel (Rom 10:20-21). He saw an example of God making Israel jealous by other nations (Deut 32:21) since Israel is the nation in Isaiah 65:2-7. Pursuing one’s own imaginations (v. 2) returns in 66:18 as the reason for judgment of all nations, and the implied contrast in both places is seeking God’s ways. God stretched out his hands for embrace (65:2), but Israel obstinately refused, preferring idols. Sacrifice was only supposed to occur in the temple (Deut 12:13-14), so sacrifices and burning incense in gardens (Isa 65:3) were wrong and almost certainly pagan (cf. 1:29). So were vigils among the graves (65:4), which sound like necromancy (cf. 8:19; Deut 18:10-11). Israelites were not to eat pigs or other meats identified as unclean (Isa 65 4; Lev 11:7). God commanded love for others, so people who stayed away from others, claiming to be more holy, were not in the truth (Isa 65:5). All these practices anger God, who will punish them according to the covenant curses (v. 7). The punishment will cover the sins of idolatrous forefathers, too, as was the case in in Jesus’ day (Lk 11:50-51).
III.D.1.B. Mercy In Judgment, 65:8-12.
God uses the term “servants” broadly in verse 8 since he plans to destroy many of them. He means Israelites, who were supposed to serve him. Much of the harvest has gone bad. But God intends to preserve a remnant to possess the land he gave the patriarchs (v. 9). Sharon was a coastal plain from about Caesarea down to Joppa in NT times. The Valley of Achor was about seven miles north of Jericho in the Judaean hills near the Jordan River. That these places will be pasturelands for the faithful remnant (v. 10) implies a prior time when they are not, evidently a time of exile. But for the unfaithful idol worshippers a sword of slaughter is coming (vv. 11-12). The unfaithful are those described in verses 2-5.
III.D.1.C. Contrast Between Real Servants And Others, 65:13-16.
God will give those who serve him their needs and blessings, but those who refuse will get nothing but shame and heartache (vv. 13-14). God will end their lives, turning their names into a curse, but his servants will get a new, honorable name (v. 15; cf. Rev 2:17; 3:12). In this future time only God will be worshiped in Israel, for the time of infidelity will be long gone (Isa 65:16).
III.D.1.D. A New Heavens And Earth, 65:17-25.
Isaiah seems to combine the millennium with the eternal state, since only the latter is called the new heavens and earth in Revelation 21:1. But Isaiah speaks about people dying and having children, things that will not occur in the eternal state. Isaiah pictures a time that makes the past like a bad memory put out of mind (Isa 65:17). There will be no weeping in Jerusalem (v. 18-19), which is a delight, as in 60:15-21 and 62:2-5. Although complete removal of tears awaits the eternal state (Rev 21:4), even the millennium greatly fortifies and extends human life, doing away with many sorrows (Isa 65:20, 22b). Lives will be free of the curses of war (vv. 21-22; cf. 62:8-9). People will not face the upending crises of life because God will bless them (65:23). God will be close in favor to answer prayers (v. 24). Verse 25 repeats and slightly alters language about the peaceful animals and world of the messianic kingdom in 11:6-9, with a hint that the ancient serpent (Rev 20:2) is held in check.
III.D.2. Humble Ones Enjoy Comfort After Worldwide Judgment, Isaiah 66.
III.D.2.A. The Person God Chooses, 66:1-4.
God is not so concerned with people outwardly glorifying him by physical beauty in a temple, since he created everything (vv. 1-2a). What matters to him is a humble, repentant heart that reveres his word (v. 2b). But Israelites carry out his worship with hearts of murderers, abusers, defilers, and idolaters (v. 3). They choose abominable ways, so God will punish them dreadfully. Verse 4b basically repeats 65:12b as a sad refrain of Israel’s unresponsiveness to him and its cost.
III.D.2.B. Shame For The Wicked, 66:5-6.
The righteous could take comfort that their Israelite persecutors will be put to shame. The mockery (v. 5b) resembles that in 5:19. The Lord’s destruction of enemies occurs at the temple, implying they have power there. This happened in 586 B.C. and in A.D. 70.
III.D.2.C. Jerusalem As A Childbearing Mother, 66:7-13.
Verse 7 might mysteriously refer to the birth of Jesus before Israel’s birth pains, which here seem to refer to the messianic kingdom of Israel coming into being (v. 8). The children produced immediately upon labor can be the exiles returning (v. 8). God created childbirth, and he guarantees the success of Jerusalem’s childbirth (v. 9). Those who love and mourn over Jerusalem are people with a stake in it (v. 10; cf. 57:18; 61:2-3). It will become a nourishing mother for them (cf. 60:16), for it will have peace and the world’s plenty (66:11-12). God will be behind the mothering comfort. “Comfort” occurs three times in verse 13, the same word as in 40:1.
III.D.2.D. Another Assuring Promise Of Judgment, 66:14-16.
The righteous will be glad about Jerusalem, but they again hear that enemies will face fury (v. 14). The Lord will come in battle, in whirlwind and fire to execute a decimating judgment of death on mankind (vv. 15-16). This sounds like the Lord’s coming to Zion in 59:19-20.
III.D.2.E. Judgment And Its Immediate Aftermath, 66:17-21.
Isaiah solemnly shifts to prose to share details of his vision. The people judged in 66:17 are the same ones as in 65:2-5, the Jewish people. So the worldwide judgment of 66:14-16 will take its toll on the unfaithful Jews. But all the nations have the same ungodly imaginations (cf. 65:2) and will suffer. The gathering of nations and tongues is to Jerusalem (see 29:6-8; Zech 12:1; 14:1). The glory they will see is the divine power in judgment (Isa 66:14-16; Matt 24:30; Rev 19:11-21). The sign (Isa 66:19) is the visible return of the Lord (Matt 24:30; Rev 1:7; Rev 19:11-16). Although the LXX has “Meshech” for “ones drawing a bow” (Isa 66:19), all the other witnesses agree with the MT. The survivors of the final battle, Armageddon (Rev 16:16), go all over the world reporting the Lord’s glory to the uninformed (Isa 66:19). And they bring the Jewish exiles to their homeland as a way of honoring the Lord (v. 20; cf. 11:10-12; 14:2; 60:3-9). The Israelites will be treated as holy (66:20), and the Lord will establish a Jewish priesthood and assistants for his worship (cf. Ezekiel 40-48).
III.D.2.F. The Extended Future, 66:22-24.
The nation of Israel will endure forever (v. 22) since Revelation 21-22 imply that the new heavens and earth are eternal. God will establish for the entire world a cycle of worship like that of Israel. The fire of the burning dead of Armageddon will provide a lasting, visible testimony of the heinousness of fighting against the Lord (Isa 66:24; cf. 34:10).
Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines