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Isaiah 2

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God's Universal Reign The Future House of God Second Superscription Everlasting Peace Everlasting Peace
2:1 2:1-4 2:1 2:1-5 2:1-5
    The New Hope    
2:2-4
(2-4)
 (2-4) 2:2-4
(2-4)
 (2-3)  (2-3)
      (4) (4)
    The Day of the Lord    
2:5-11 2:5-9 2:5-22   (5)
(5-11) (5) (5-22) Arrogance Will Be Destroyed The Brilliance of Yahweh's Majesty
  (6-9)   2:6-8 2:6-22
        (6-8)
      2:9 (9-10)
  2:10-11   2:10-18  
  (10-11)      
A Day of Reckoning Coming       (11-16)
2:12-22 2:12-22      
(12-22) (12-18)      
        (17)
        (18-19)
  (19)   2:19-21  
  (20-21)      
        (21)
  (22)   2:22 (22)

 

READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Chapter 2 begins with another introductory phrase, like 1:1. It is possible that editors or compilers put Isaiah's sermons/visions/messages together based on

1. chronology (under which king)

2. topic

3. catch words

4. unknown literary scheme

5. a written copy of several Isaiah messages

See note in The Jewish Study Bible, p. 787.

 

B. This chapter is typical of the prophet's messages.

1. hope for all nations through His covenant people (vv. 2-4)

2. judgment for covenant violations and wickedness (vv. 5-22)

 

C. YHWH wants a righteous, holy, covenant people to reflect His character to the nations so that they can respond to Him in faith and righteousness (cf. 45:22; 49:6; 60:3; 66:18,23).

 

D. Remember in these poetic literary units (visions), do not push the details or single lexical studies, but the overall pattern of parallelism, word plays, and contrasts! The whole poem is meant to convey one major truth! Be careful of picking and choosing themes, words, or truths you are comfortable with or that fit you're á priori systematic theology. Let Isaiah speak!

 

E. Because of the unifying theme of Jerusalem (judged and blessed), chapters 2-4 form a literary unit.

 

F. A book that has helped me understand the language of prophecy and apocalyptic is D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, IVP, ISBN 0-83-8-2653-X.

 

BRIEF OUTLINE 

A.  The Parabolic Song, vv. 1-6

 

B. The Ironical Interpretation, v. 7

 

C. The resultant Judgment of YHWH, vv. 8-30

1. Series of woes, vv. 8-23

2. Judgment, vv. 24-30

a. natural, v. 25

b. invader, vv. 26-30

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 2:1
  1The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2:1 It is uncertain why Isaiah's messages are described as

1. vision, 1:1; 29:7 (BDB 302, cf. Micah 3:6)

2. he saw, 1:1; 2:1; 13:1; 26:11; 33:17; 48:6; 57:8 (cf. Micah 1:1)

This is the mystery of revelation. It comes in different ways to different biblical authors (visions, dreams, theophanies, words, etc.). Moderns do not know how much freedom the individual writers (authors, editors, compilers) had to structure and present God's message. They obviously used their own language skills and vocabularies. Even without a full and complete understanding of the way revelation works, the concept is crucial! These are God's messages given through a historically conditioned person, to a particular time and group, yet they are relevant for all people in all times! The key for a proper interpretation is that the intent of an original inspired author must be the criteria for interpretation (one meaning but many significances/applications).

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 2:2-4
Now it will come about that
2In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
3And many peoples will come and say,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths."
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

2:2-4 This brief paragraph summarizes the OT perspective on the place and purpose of the covenant people (similar to Micah 4:1-5). They were to be a light to the nations (cf. 51:4,5; Luke 24:47)! See the Special Topic at 1:3.

2:2 "In the last days" This phrase refers to the future horizon of the particular biblical writer (see G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, chapter 14, "The Language of Eschatology," pp. 243-271). It denoted a time of fulfillment of God's purposes.

1. the Messianic kingdom, Gen. 49:1 (esp. 49:10); Num. 24:14-25 (esp. 24:17); Isa. 2:2; Jer. 48:47; 49:39; Ezek. 38:8,16

2. Israel's rebellion, Deut. 31:29

3. Israel's return to YHWH in repentance and faith, Deut. 4:30; Hos. 3:5; Jer. 23:19-22 (esp. 23:20)

4. an end-time attack on the covenant people, Ezek. 38:16; Dan. 2:28; 10:14 (possibly Psalm 2)

5. exile, Amos 4:2

Only context can clarify which period. Be careful of your systematic theology!

SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME

▣ "The mountain of the house of the Lord" This refers to the temple located on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem. It was the place of centralized worship of YHWH (the place He caused His name to dwell, cf. Deut. 12:5,11,14,18,21,26; 14:25; 15:20; 16:2,6,11,15; 17:8,10; 18:6; 26:2; 31:11).

The NIV Study Bible (pp. 962-3) comments how common in Isaiah is the theme of the mountain of the Lord where all the nations come in the last days (cf. 11:9; 27:13; 56:7; 57:13; 65:25; 66:20).

In a sense this elevation of Mt. Zion (i.e., Jerusalem, the site of the temple of YHWH) is depicted in Canaanite myth (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1314-1321). For the Canaanites the gods dwelt on Mt. Zaphon in the far north (cf. Isa. 14:13), but Ps. 48:2 changes the imagery to Mt. Zion. YHWH is above all Canaanite deities!

This same concept of a temple or a city being raised is also found in Mesopotamian literature (cf. The Weidner Chronicle, Assyrian inscriptions, Marduk Prophecy). So the concept is not unique to Isaiah.

Notice the metaphorical language used to describe the chief place of YHWH's revelation to Abraham's descendants.

1. "the chief of the mountains," i.e., the place of true revelation

2. "raised above the hills," a symbol of preeminence and exclusiveness

3. "all the nations will stream to it," this has always been YHWH's goal, cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6; Ps. 22:27; 66:1-4; 86:8-10; Isa. 12:4-5; 25:6-9; 42:6-12; 45:22-23; 49:5-6; 51:4-5; 56:6-8; 60:1-3; 66:23; Micah 4:1-4; Mal. 1:11; John 3:16; 4:42; I Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; II Pet. 3:9; I John 2:1; 4:14! This is the natural result of monotheism.

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: WHY ARE THE END-TIME EVENTS SO CONTROVERSIAL?

▣ "all the nations will stream to it" This verb (BDB 625, KB 676, Qal perfect) denotes an ever-flowing stream of water, like an artesian well. Here it is metaphorical of the unending flow of people to YHWH.

2:3 Notice the request of the nations.

1. "come,"BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

2. "let us go up to the mountain of the Lord," BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense

3. "That He may teach us concerning His ways," BDB 434, KB 436, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense

4. "that we may walk in His paths," BDB 229, KB 246, Qal cohortative

5. "that the law (teachings) will go forth from Zion," BDB 422, KB 425, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense

 

▣ "His paths" This term (BDB 73) is used several times in Isaiah (cf. 2:3; 3:12; 26:7,8; 30:11; 33:8; 40:18; 41:3) and prominently in Proverbs (cf. 1:19; 2:8,13,15,19,20; 3:6; 4:14,18; 5:6; 8:20; 9:15; 10:17; 12:28; 15:10,19,24; 17:23; 22:25). It metaphorically denoted a lifestyle faith that obeyed and walked in (cf. Exod. 16:4; Isa. 30:20; 42:24; Jer. 9:12; 26:4; 32:23; 44:10,23; Zech 7:12) God's teachings. This metaphor for lifestyle, faithful living became the first title of the NT church, "The Way" (cf. John 14:6; Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22; 18:25-26).

▣ "Zion" Jerusalem (like Rome) was built on seven hills. Zion (BDB 851, meaning uncertain) was the hill on which the original Canaanite city of Jebus or Salem was built (cf. I Kgs. 8:1; II Chr. 5:2). As Jerusalem grew it became a way of referring to the whole city and temple (cf. v. 3, lines 6 and 7; Jer. 50:28: 51:10).

2:4 "He will judge. . .render decisions" These two verbs (BDB 1047, KB 1622 and BDB 406, KB 410) describe the reasonings and decisions of a wise ruler. YHWH and His Messiah are the ultimate wise rulers!

The Lord's presence and teachings will cause the nations to abandon their attacks on God's people (cf. Psalm 2; Ezekiel 38-39). They will pursue peace (cf. 9:6-7; 11:6-9; 57:19; Hos. 2:18; Zech. 9:10).

▣ "swords into plowshares" This is an idiom for peace. The opposite occurs in Joel 3:10.

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 2:5-11
5Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
6For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob,
Because they are filled with influences from the east,
And they are soothsayers like the Philistines,
And they strike bargains with the children of foreigners.
7Their land has also been filled with silver and gold
And there is no end to their treasures;
Their land has also been filled with horses
And there is no end to their chariots.
8Their land has also been filled with idols;
They worship the work of their hands,
That which their fingers have made.
9So the common man has been humbled
And the man of importance has been abased,
But do not forgive them.
10Enter the rock and hide in the dust
From the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of His majesty.
11The proud look of man will be abased
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

2:5 Notice the parallel between v. 3 (the nations) and v. 5 (the Israelites). Lifestyle faith is the evidence of a personal trusting relationship with God. Humans must know the truth, walk in the truth, and share it with others! The nations were to learn this from Israel, but they did not!

The "light of the Lord" is the true revelation (cf. 60:1-2,19-20). The worship of the lights of the night sky is false revelation. This verse may be a rejection of Babylonian astral worship (cf. v. 6). YHWH and His Messiah are the true light for the nations (cf. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 53:11).

2:6-9 These verses describe why YHWH abandoned (BDB 643, KB 695, Qal perfect) His own covenant people.

1. They are filled with influence from the east, v. 6.

2. They are soothsayers (BDB 778 II), like the Philistines, v. 6.

3. They strike bargains with the children of foreigners, v. 6.

4. They are wealthy and militarily strong (and trust in these things), v. 7 (notice the three-fold repetition of "filled," BDB 567, KB 583, Niphal imperfect in vv. 7 and 8).

5. They are idolatrous, v. 8 (cf. 17:8; 37:19; 40:19; 44:17).

6. They treat the common people with disdain, v. 9 (cf. vv. 11,17; it is possible that this verse is parallel to v. 8 and refers to idolatry, cf. NKJV).

What can the nations learn from people like this?!

Concerning #6 above (v. 9), the NASB and NKJV translate it as another in a series of descriptions of how the covenant people are acting, but NRSV and TEV translate it as a summary and the last line is a plea for YHWH, not to forgive them (Peshitta) or a statement by YHWH that He will not forgive them (LXX).

2:6

NASB, NRSV"from the east"
NKJV"eastern ways"
TEV, JPSOA"from the East"
Peshitta"olden days"
REB"traders"

The UBS Hebrew OT Text Project gives "from the east" or "from olden times" (both possible meanings of this noun, BDB 869) a "B" rating (some doubt). The NEB and REB add one consonant and make it "traders." It seems to refer to religious influences from the east (i.e., Syria, Assyria, Babylon) which corrupted Israel's faith.

▣ "soothsayers" If this was meant to be a strict parallelism with the line above, it is possible that a noun parallel to "soothsayer," such as "diviners" (cf. Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:9-12), has inadvertently dropped out of the MT. The MT is not the earliest or most original Hebrew text. It does have textual problems! However, remember that these kinds of problems do not affect major doctrines.

NASB"they strike bargains with the children of foreigners"
NKJV"they are pleased with the children of foreigners"
NRSV"they clasp hands with foreigners"
TEV"they follow foreign customs"
NJB"is overrun with foreigners"
LXX"many strange children were born to them"
Peshitta"they reared many alien children"
REB"the children of foreigners are everywhere"
JPSOA"they abound in customs of the aliens"

The term "children" is not in the MT. The verb (1) "they strike hands" (BDB 706 I, KB 765, Hiphil imperfect) or (2) "abound" (BDB 974, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1769) is ambiguous. It can refer to

1. a commercial transaction

2. a political alliance

3. a friendship

4. an affirmation of the customs of foreigners

Obviously in context the unique faith of Israel is being compromised!

2:7 This description of Judean leadership is in direct contradiction to Deut. 17:16-17. Humans who have resources tend to trust in them (cf. 31:1), but v. 22 (cf. 31:3) shows the failure of trusting in physical or human resources!

2:9 "man. . .man" Verse 9 is a two-line, synonymous parallelism (cf. II Kgs. 7:10). The two most common terms for man/mankind are parallel.

1. adam, BDB 9, cf. Gen. 1:26; 6:1,5,6,7; 9:5,6

2. ish, BDB 35, Gen. 2:23; Num. 23:19

 

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, TEV"do not forgive them"
NJB, NIV"do not raise them again"
LXX"do not pardon them"
REB(omits as gloss, cf. Dead Sea Scroll and JB footnote)

The verb (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) means "to lift" or "to carry." Here it has the sense of "carry away" (i.e., remove their sin). This may be an exclamation from Isaiah, himself.

2:10-11 These two verses describe YHWH's advice to these covenant violators (v. 10a).

1. enter the rock, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperative (i.e., this relates to vv. 19-21, cf. Rev. 6:15-17)

2. hide in the dust, BDB 380, KB 377, Niphal imperative

They are to hide from (v. 10b)

1. the terror of the Lord, cf. vv. 19,21

2. the splendor of His majesty (cf. vv. 11c, 19,21; II Thess. 1:9)

The result will be (v. 11, note parallel in v. 17)

1. the proud look of men will be abased, BDB 1050, KB 1631, Qal perfect (opposite of v. 9)

2. the loftiness of man will be humbled, BDB 1005, KB 1458, Qal perfect (opposite of v. 9, cf. 13:11; 23:9; II Cor. 10:5)

3. the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, BDB 960, KB 1305, Niphal perfect (note parallel in v. 17 and the phrase about the "terror" and "splendor" of YHWH in vv. 19c and 21b)

Some commentators think that v. 10 is encouraging the righteous to hide from YHWH's coming judgment on the wicked (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 377), but in context (i.e., vv. 19-21) it refers to the covenant violators.

2:11 "in that day" This refers to the last days of v. 2a. It becomes a dominate theme in Amos. The theme in Isaiah is resumed in v. 12 (cf. 2:20; 3:17; 5:30; 28:5-6; Amos 2:16; 8:9; Hos. 2:18).

Conscious creation (humans and angels) will one day stand before its Creator and give account of the stewardship of the gift of life. YHWH is a moral, ethical God; creation is a moral, ethical creation. Humans do not break God's laws so much as break themselves on God's laws. The laws are for our protection in a fallen world, but humans see them as restrictions and loss of personal freedoms. One day every conscious creation, human and angel, will give an account before God!

NASB (UPDATED)TEXT: 2:12-22
12For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
13And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,
Against all the oaks of Bashan,
14Against all the lofty mountains,
Against all the hills that are lifted up,
15Against every high tower,
Against every fortified wall,
16Against all the ships of Tarshish
And against all the beautiful craft.
17The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
18But the idols will completely vanish.
19Men will go into caves of the rocks
And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the Lord
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble. 
20In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
21In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
22Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?

2:12-13 Notice the recurrent use of terms denoting arrogant, prideful humans and nations.

1. "everyone who is proud" (BDB 144)

2. "and lofty" (BDB 926, KB 1202, Qal active participle (note the same form in vv. 13, 14), v. 12

3. "everyone who is lifted up" (BDB 669, KB 724, Niphal active participle (note the same form in vv. 13,14), v. 12

4. "all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up," v. 13 (metaphor for humans and nations)

 

2:12 "For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning" This does not follow the Hebrew text. The MT has "For the day of the Lord of hosts" (cf. NKJV). The NASB translation is trying to link this back to 1:18.

2:12-16 Note the repeated use of "against" (BDB 752).

1. against everyone who is proud and lofty, v. 12

2. against all that is lifted up, v. 12

3. against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up, v. 13

4. against all the oaks of Bashan (who are also lofty and lifted up), v. 13

5. against all the lofty mountains, v. 14

6. against all the hills that are lifted up, v. 14

7. against every high tower, v. 15

8. against every fortified wall, v. 15

9. against all the ships of Tarshish, v. 16

10. against all beautiful craft, v. 16 (this word "craft" [BDB 967] appears only here and its meaning is uncertain; it seems to be parallel to "ships of Tarshish" in v. 16a)

The Lord opposes the proud (cf. vv. 11 and 17).

2:13 Because of the allusion to idolatry with trees (1:29) and gardens (1:29-30) and that YHWH will burn them, one wonders if this mention of lofty trees reflects

1. the pride and arrogance of nations

2. the worship of idols connected with trees/wood

Because of the larger context (i.e., "against" series) the first option seems best. The problem of human pride is summarized in v. 17 (which may be the theme of the entire book).

2:16 "all the ships of Tarshish" See note at 23:1.

2:17 This is parallel in thought to v. 11, which is the opposite of what evil leaders and wealthy socialites had done to the poor and humble in v. 9. Many see this verse as a summary theme of the entire book!

2:18 Idolatry will cease completely (cf. 21:9) because the worship of them is "emptiness" (cf. 30:22; 31:7; 40:18-20; 44:9-20; 46:5-7)!

2:19 "When He arises to make the earth tremble" The first verbal "arise" (BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal infinitive construct) can denote

1. appear on the scene, Exod. 1:8; Deut. 34:10; Jdgs. 5:7; II Kgs. 23:25

2. arise for action (from His throne), Num. 10:35; II Chr. 6:41; Job 31:14; Ps. 76:9; 132:8

The second verbal "tremble" (BDB 791, KB 888, Qal infinitive construct) describes physical creation as its creator approaches (cf. 13:13; 24:1,19,20; Ps. 18:7; 68:7-8; Hag. 2:6). YHWH can come for blessing or judgment. In this context it is for judgment!

2:20-21 To clarify the first line of v. 10, humans will try to hide from God

1. in caves in the rocks (cf. v. 21)

2. in holes in the ground

They will try to get rid of their precious idols

1. cast away to moles (the meaning of the word is uncertain. LXX has "vanities"; REB has "dung-beetles"; JPSOA has "flying foxes" [a type of bat, therefore, parallel to the next line of poetry]. It seems to be related to the verb "to dig" [BDB 343])

2. cast away to bats

These two verses have a series of infinitive constructs.

1. to worship (lit, "bow down"), BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel infinitive construct

2. to the moles (lit. "to dig"), BDB 343, KB 340, Qal infinitive construct

3. to go into, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal infinitive construct

4. arises, BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal infinitive construct, same form as v. 19 (line 5)

5. tremble (lit. "to frighten," BDB 791, KB 888, Qal infinitive construct, same as v. 19 (line 5)

In the IVP Bible Background Commentary "a Sumerian Hymn of Enheduanna to the goddess Inanna from the third millennium depicts gods fluttering away like bats to their caves from the goddess's terrible presence" (p. 588). This means that it must remain a possibility that it is the idols themselves that were carried down by insects (beetles) or digging animals seeking refuge from the coming of YHWH because they could not move themselves.

2:22 YHWH commands respect for human life ("cease," BDB 292, KB 292, Qal imperative) because it is contingent of God's gift of life ("breath," ruah). Mankind is transitory (cf. Ps. 144:3-4). This is a truth that atheistic humanism needs to hear!