Where the world comes to study the Bible

Isaiah 10


Assyria Is God's Instrument The Punishment of Samaria
Ephraim's Judgment An Object Lesson for Judah
The LORD Will Punish Israel
The Ordeals of the Northern Kingdom
10:1-4 10:1-4
  Arrogant Assyria Also Judged Woe, O Assyria! The Emperor of Assyria As the Instrument of God Against the King of Assyria
10:5-6 10:5-11
10:12-14 10:12-14 10:12-14 10:12 10:12-14
(13-14) (13-14) (13-14) 10:13-14 (13-14)
10:15 10:15-19
A Remnant Will Return The Returning Remnant of Israel Only a Remnant Will Return A Few Will Come Back The Little Remnant
10:20-23 10:20-23
10:20-23 10:20-23 10:20-23
(21-22)   Oracle of Promise The Lord Will Punish Assyria Trust in God
10:24-27 10:24-27 10:24-27a 10:24-27 20:24-27
  (27) The Approach of the Assyrians    
The Invader Attacks The Invasion
The LORD, the Forester, Will Cut Down Assyria 10:28-32 10:28-34


READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



1Woe to those who enact evil statutes
And to those who constantly record unjust decisions,
2So as to deprive the needy of justice
And rob the poor of My people of their rights,
So that widows may be their spoil
And that they may plunder the orphans.
3Now what will you do in the day of punishment,
And in the devastation which will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help?
And where will you leave your wealth?
4Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives
Or fall among the slain.
In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out.

10:1 "Woe" This interjection (BDB 222) is used often in Isaiah (and Jeremiah). It is translated (NASB 1995 Update)

1. "also," 1:4; 17:12

2. "ah," 1:24

3. "woe," 5:8,11,18,20,21,22; 10:1,5; 18:1; 28:1; 29:1,5; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1; 45:9,10; 55:1 (i.e., woe oracles)

4. "ho," 55:1; also possibly 10:5

It denotes anguish and pain or a summons (i.e., #4 above). There is another interjection (BDB 17), which is usually translated "woe," which expresses grief and despair (cf. 3:9,11; 6:5; 24:16 and 8 times in Jeremiah).

The parallelism of v. 1a and b links the civil leaders (i.e., those who enact evil statutes) and judges (who constantly record unjust decisions, cf. 5:23). Israel's leadership has knowingly violated the Mosaic covenant emphasis on care for the poor, socially ostracized, and socially powerless people (cf. v. 2; 1:17,23; 3:14,15; 11:4; Deut. 16:19; 24:17; 27:19; Pro. 17:23; 18:5; Amos 4:1; 5:12).

10:2 Things are so upside down that the very ones YHWH seeks to protect (i.e., widows and orphans) have become the spoil and plunder!

10:3 A series of questions spells out the fate of these exploiters! One day, whether temporally or eschatologically, the Creator will call His creatures, made in His image and likeness, to give an account of the stewardship of the gift of life (cf. v. 4). YHWH is a moral, ethical, compassionate Deity and He demands these characteristics in His covenant people so that "the nations" may know and come to Him!! Israel was giving a false message!

10:4 "His hand is still stretched out" This is a recurrent phrase in this literary unit (cf. 9:12,17,21). It is an anthropomorphic (see Special Topic at 6:1) way of expressing God's unrelenting judgment.

5Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
6I send it against a godless nation
And commission it against the people of My fury
To capture booty and to seize plunder,
And to trample them down like mud in the streets.
7Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations.
8For it says, "Are not my princes all kings?
9Is not Calno like Carchemish,
Or Hamath like Arpad,
Or Samaria like Damascus?
10As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose graven images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images
Just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?"

10:5-19 This is a literary unit on God's activity in the nation of Assyria. It was the cruelest ANE power. It was brutal toward captive people groups. YHWH will use this godless pagan nation to accomplish His purposes (cf. vv. 5b; 6b; as Hab. 1:12-17 asked God about His use of the Babylonian exile). God uses evil to do His biding! He did not make them (i.e., Satan, demons, fallen angels, evil empires), but He directs them for the larger good (cf. Job 12:23; Ps.47:7-8; 66:7; Dan. 2:21; Acts 17:26, i.e., His universal redemptive plan, see Special Topic at 1:3).

However, evil reaps the consequences of their acts. One day they, too, will be judged (cf. Deut. 32:34-43; Isa. 14:24-27; 30:27-33; 31:5-9). What Assyria did to others, Babylon (cf. 13:5) will do to them!

10:5 "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger" God's tool for punishing His people's rebellion was the cruel nation of Assyria (cf. 7:17; 8:7). However, they were responsible for their acts (cf. 10:24-27). The arrogance of Assyria is seen in vv. 8-11,12.

10:6 "a godless nation. . .the people of my fury" Oh, my, this refers to the nation of Israel (cf. 9:17,19)! This same phrase is used of Israel in 19:17; 32:6. What irony, the covenant people are called "godless" and made morally equivalent to "godless" Assyria!

▣ "To capture booty and to seize plunder" As v. 21, "a remnant will return," reflects Isaiah's first son's name (cf. 7:3), this reflects his second son's symbolic name (cf. 8:1,3).

10:7 "Yet it does not so intend

Nor does it plan so in its heart" Assyria did not know that YHWH was directing its actions for His purposes. Assyria was only after more and more spoil.

The intent of YHWH for the king of Assyria is revealed in a series of Qal infinitive constructs (v. 6) against Israel.

1. take spoil (BDB 1021, KB 1531)

2. seize plunder (BDB 102, KB 117)

3. tread down (verbal BDB 962, KB 1321, noun BDB 942)

The intent of the King of Assyria is expressed in two Hiphil infinitive constructs in v. 7c,d.

1. to destroy (BDB 1029, KB 1552)

2. to cut off (BDB 503, KB 500)


10:8-11 The King of Assyria's thoughts (i.e., "boasts," TEV) are revealed in these verses

1. all his military commanders are kings (NRSV, TEV, NJB, REB, Peshitta), v. 8

2. his (Tiglath-Pileser III or possibly Sennacherib in 701 b.c.) army has defeated several other trans-Euphrates cities and nations, along with all their gods, v. 9

a. Calno (or Calneh), city in northern Syria (cf. Amos 6:2) fell in 742 b.c. (all these dates are estimates only)

b. Carchemish, major city of the Hittites near the headwaters of the Euphrates, joined Assyrian coalition in 738 b.c.

c. Hamath, city on the northern boundary of Israel (cf. II Chr. 8:4) on the Orontes River, fell in 738 b.c.

d. Arpad, city in northwest Syria fell in 741 b.c

e. Samaria (capital of Israel) fell in 722 b.c to Sargon II

f. Damascus (capital of Syria) fell in 732 b.c.

3. he threatened to destroy Jerusalem and her "idols" as he had Samaria, v. 11. He had no knowledge of the distinction between "idols" (cf. 2:8) and the true worship of YHWH.

Just a word about which Assyrian invasion is depicted. The place names follow a traditional invasion route of ANE empires from Mesopotamia. Because of the desert, they had to follow the Euphrates River to its headwaters and then go south along the coastal plain. The problem with identifying which Assyrian invasion is complicated because Sennacherib, who did approach Jerusalem to besiege it, actually came from the south of the city in 701 b.c. The fall of the cities mentioned occurred under Tiglath-Pileser III (i.e., Pul). Therefore, I think the route was "idealized" as a northern invader.

10:11 "images" This is an interesting word (BDB 47). Its basic meaning is uncertain, but it is spelled similarly to Elohim, which has caused scholars to assume it refers to weak and non-existent idols (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 411). Monotheism is the uniqueness of Israel's faith. There are other spiritual beings, but only one true God (cf. Deut. 4:35,39; 6:8; 32:39; Isa. 43:9-11; 45:21-22; Jer. 2:11; 5:7,10; Rom. 3:30; I Cor. 8:4,6; I Tim. 2:5; James 2:19). The idols represent nothing, only the false hopes and fears (superstitions) of fallen humanity realizing there is more to reality than the physical, but unable to comprehend spiritual truth (i.e., revelation).

12So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, "I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness."
13For he has said,
"By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this,
For I have understanding;
And I removed the boundaries of the peoples
And plundered their treasures,
And like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants,
14And my hand reached to the riches of the peoples like a nest,
And as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth;
And there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped."

10:12-14 YHWH asserts His control of Assyria and her victories. He will judge the king of Assyria (v. 12) for his

1. arrogant heart

2. haughtiness of his eyes

The Assyrian king's pride is shown in a series of self praises (vv. 12-14), which sound very much like Assyrian documents of the period (see The IVP Bible Background Commentary OT, p. 599)

1. by the power of my hand

2. by my wisdom

He robbed the nations on the west banks of the Euphrates as one robs a bird's nest!


NASB"like a mighty man"
NKJV"like a valiant man"
REB"like a bull"
NJB"like a hero"

The adjective's (BDB 7) basic meaning, "strong," can refer to

1. mighty/violent man, Job 24:22; 34:20; Jer. 46:15; Lam. 1:15

2. stubborn minded, Isa. 46:12

3. angels, Ps. 78:25

4. animals

a. bulls, Isa. 10:13 may refer to a bull because a winged bull was the symbol of Assyria (i.e., on the sides of the Ishtar gates, cf. Ps. 22:13; 68:30; Isa. 34:7)

b. horses, Jdgs. 5:22; Jer. 8:16; 47:3; 50:11


10:14 The Bible often uses bird metaphors to describe God's protection and care (cf. Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11; Ruth 2:12; Isa. 31:5; Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), but here the metaphor is reversed! God has removed His protection!

15Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?
Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?
That would be like a club wielding those who lift it,
Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.
16Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, will send a wasting disease among his stout warriors;
And under his glory a fire will be kindled like a burning flame.
17And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame,
And it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day.
18And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, both soul and body,
And it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
19And the rest of the trees of his forest will be so small in number
That a child could write them down.

10:15-19 YHWH responds to the boasts of the King of Assyria by questioning.

1. Is the power in the axe or the one who used the axe?

2. Is the power in the saw or the one who wields the saw?

3. Is the power in the club or the one who swings the club?

4. Is the power in a scepter or in the one who lifts the scepter?

YHWH will judge him and his army in one day (v. 17). This refers to (1) Tiglath-Pileser III or (2) specifically to Sennacherib (701 b.c.), recorded in Isaiah 36-38; II Kgs. 18:17-21:11; II Chr. 32:9-24, where 185,000 soldiers die before the walls of Jerusalem in response to the arrogance of the king of Assyria and his military leaders (#2 fits best, but did not happen until decades after Tiglath-Pileser III took Samaria). There is a difference between the God of Israel and the idols of the nations!

10:16 YHWH is in control of history. This is the basic premise of monotheism linked to an involved Deity. He is present and active in His creation. In the OT all causality is attributed to YHWH (cf. Deut. 32:29; Job 5:18; Isa. 45:7; Hos. 6:1; Amos 3:6). It was a way to affirm monotheism. Exactly how, when, where He acts is unknown, but there is

1. an eternal redemptive plan

2. a covenant people

3. a coming Messiah

4. a heart for "the nations"

History is not cyclical, but teleological!

10:17 Light (see note at 9:2) and fire are symbols of Deity (cf. 9:19; 29:6; 30:27; 31:9; 33:11-12,14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE at 1:31.

10:18 "both soul and body" Mankind has both a physical component and a life force. We as humans are prepared for life on this planet and for fellowship with a non-corporeal Deity! We share planet-life with animals, but we are creatures of eternity!

20Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.
21A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
22For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea,
 Only a remnant within them will return;
 A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.
23For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord God of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land.

10:20-23 This paragraph focuses on two theological truths.

1. YHWH will protect and restore a faithful remnant ("truly rely on the Lord," BDB 1043, KB 1612, Niphal perfect) to accomplish His purposes with Abraham's seed.

2. "In that day" refers to a day of deliverance. One is never sure if this promise is fulfilled in Persia or the Maccabees or the end-time. The book that has really helped me understand the genre of Prophecy and Apocalyptic is D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.


10:20 "will never again rely on the one who struck them" Ahaz trusted/relied on Assyria for help instead of YHWH, but not so in the future. They (i.e., the covenant people) will rely on YHWH alone!

10:21 "A remnant will return" This remnant is described as from Jacob and Israel. In this context it must refer to the Northern Ten Tribes that split off in 922 b.c. and were exiled by Assyria in 722 b.c. Few of them returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel and Joshua after Cyrus' edict in 538 b.c. allowed all the exiled people groups to return to their native lands. See Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses at 1:9. The phrase translates Isaiah's first son's name (Shear-jashub) who went with his father to confront King Ahaz (cf. 7:1-3).

"to the mighty God" This is the same title used of the Messiah in 9:6. It is found only in these two places.

10:22 "may be like the sand of the sea" This is a reference to the promise of many descendants, which was a major part of the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Gen. 22:17; 32:12).

What a sad contrast occurs when the promises of YHWH to the Patriarchs of many descendants

1. like the stars

2. like the dust

3. like the sand

is reduced through covenant disobedience and lack of personal trust (cf. v. 20) to only a few to return (cf. vv. 21-22). Here is the nexus of God's intended blessing and fallen human ability!

▣ "A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness" Israel's judgment has been

1. determined by YHWH, v. 22

2. decreed by YHWH, v. 23

Both of these words (NASB 1995) translate the same verb (BDB 358, KB 356, cf. 28:22; Dan. 9:26,27; 11:36). God will judge His people (v. 22). Verse 23 is (1) parallel to this or (2) YHWH will judge all the earth (LXX, Peshitta, NRSV. Paul quotes the LXX in Rom. 9:27-28). Context fits option #1 better. YHWH said He would do it; He did it!

24Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, "O My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod and lifts up his staff against you, the way Egypt did. 25For in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent and My anger will be directed to their destruction." 26The Lord of hosts will arouse a scourge against him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and His staff will be over the sea and He will lift it up the way He did in Egypt. 27So it will be in that day, that his burden will be removed from your shoulders and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be broken because of fatness.

10:24-27 The paragraph again stresses YHWH's moral righteousness which is reflected in judgment against evil.

1. Israel experienced YHWH's righteous anger (cf. v. 22)

2. Assyria (cf. Isa. 37:26-28)

3. Like His wrath in Egypt during the Exodus (cf. Exod. 14:16,27)

4. Like Gideon against the Midianites (Judges 6-8)

YHWH's actions, past and future, described in v. 27, are parallel to His action (cf. 14:25) through the Messiah in 9:4, which also mentions the battle against Midia (an idiom of YHWH's total defeat of an enemy cf. 9:4; Ps. 83:9-11).

10:24 "do not fear the Assyrian" This verb (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect) is used as a jussive. The implication is "fear YHWH who will bring judgment on them" (vv. 25-27).

10:26 "the rock of Oreb" Gideon summoned the Ephraimites to help him wipe out the remaining retreating Midianites. Two of the leaders were caught and killed (cf. Jdgs. 7:24-25). The place where this occurred took on the names of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. The exact location is unknown.


NASB"the yoke will be broken because of fatness"
NKJV"the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil"
LXX, REB"the yoke will be destroyed from off your shoulders"
Peshitta"the yoke shall be destroyed from your neck because of your strength"

From these translations you can see the options.

1. leave out the phrase "because of fatness," LXX, REB

2. refers to the Messiah, NKJV (i.e., anointed)

3. Peshitta sees it as a reference to strength and growth (cf. Deut. 32:15), which may contrast v. 16.

Since chapters 7-12 relate to the special children of the New Age, including the Messiah, I like NKJV's understanding as the one that makes the most sense in this large literary unit.

28He has come against Aiath,
He has passed through Migron;
At Michmash he deposited his baggage.
29They have gone through the pass, saying,
"Geba will be our lodging place."
Ramah is terrified, and Gibeah of Saul has fled away.
30Cry aloud with your voice, O daughter of Gallim!
Pay attention, Laishah and wretched Anathoth!
31Madmenah has fled.
The inhabitants of Gebim have sought refuge.
32Yet today he will halt at Nob;
He shakes his fist at the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.

10:28-32 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah, vol. 1, p. 40, describes this stanza (strophe) as "The Strategic Assyrian Advance That Almost Took Zion Described in Terms of Bulletin-from-the-Front." Many geographical locations are mentioned and what was occurring at that location as the Assyrian mercenary army approached.

▣ "Aiath" This is Ai close to Jericho. The places mentioned show the movement of the Assyrians toward Jerusalem from the north.

10:30 "Cry aloud. . .Pay attention" These are both imperatives

1. BDB 843, KB 1007, Qal imperative

2. BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperative

This breaks the pattern of vv. 28-32. If this stanza is "reports from the front lines," then v. 30 is a comment from the prophet, not an Assyrian messenger.

NASB"wretched Anathoth"
NKJV"poor Anathoth"
NRSV"Answer her, O Anathoth"
TEV"Answer, people of Anathoth"
NJB, REB"Anathoth will listen"
Peshitta"Answer me, O Anathoth"

This is from either

1. the verb "answer," BDB 772, Qal imperative

2. an adjective "poor," BDB 776

They both have the same consonants. UBS Hebrew Text Project gives #2 a "C" rating (considerable doubt). It is surely possible that "poor" and "Anathoth" are a sound play (NASB Study Bible, p. 974).

10:32 The second line of poetry expresses the Assyrian's contempt for Judah's God and His temple.

33Behold, the Lord, the God of hosts, will lop off the boughs with a terrible crash;
Those also who are tall in stature will be cut down
And those who are lofty will be abased.
34He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe,
And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.

10:33-34 Verses 33-34 are hard to define as to who is "lopped off." It seems to be a literary link between vv. 16-19 and 11:1. Isaiah often used forestry imagery. Whoever compiled the scroll of Isaiah used word plays and themes as a way to link together Isaiah's recorded prophetic messages. We must remember that the major truth of the literary unit and stanzas are more important than

1. the details

2. the exact historical setting of each literary building block

Our love for the Bible and desire to know more have caused us to treat the Bible in non-contextual, literal ways, which destroy the literary nature of Scripture and especially prophecy!

I think this is an elaboration of vv. 16-19. The imagery is the destruction of a forest, which symbolizes the Assyrian army and its leadership.

10:33 The second half of this verse has several terms found only here in the OT. This is why the central truth of the paragraph (prose) or stanza (poetry) is crucial. The main truth or imagery is key, not each and every detail.


NASB, NKJV"by the Mighty One"
NRSV"with its majestic trees"
TEV"the finest trees"
NJB"of a Mighty One"
LXX"with its lofty ones"
REB"with its noble trees"

This phrase can refer to

1. God (cf. v. 33a; v. 34a)

2. the tall trees of Lebanon (cf. v. 33b,c; LXX)


Report Inappropriate Ad