Where the world comes to study the Bible

Report Inappropriate Ad

Isaiah 24


Judgment on the Earth  Impending Judgment on the Earth The "Isaiah" Apocalypse
The Lord Will Punish the Earth Yahweh's Judgment
    Universal Judgment    
24:1-6 24:1-13
24:1-3 24:1-6
  (4-6) (4-13) 24:4-13 Song About the Ruined City
(14-16) 24:14-16a The Last Battle
      24:16b-20 24:16-23b
  (17-18) (17-20)    
(21-23) 24:21-23  

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.



A. Isaiah 24-27 form a literary unit related to the end-time (i.e., world judgment). This particular genre in Isaiah (it set the literary stage for the development of apocalyptic genre) is a pattern of end-time blessings and judgments interwoven, much like Deuteronomy 27-28. Isaiah 24 speaks of God's universal judgment on the earth, while chapter 25 speaks of the entire earth being blessed by a restored Zion (cf. Isa. 2:2-24).


B. Isaiah 13-23 shows God's judgment on the surrounding nations that affected the people of God. Isaiah 24-27 is an obvious conclusion to this literary unit. This same concluding genre can be seen in chapters 24 and 35.


C. See Special Topic following.




1Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants. 2And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. 3The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the Lord has spoken this word. 4The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. 5The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. 6Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.

24:1 "the Lord lays the earth waste" Verses 1 and 3 use a series of strong verbs to describe YHWH's judgment on the earth (not "land" here because of parallel to "world" [BDB 385, cf. 14:16-17; 34:1; Jer. 10:12; 51:15], see Special Topic following).

1. lays. . .waste, v. 1, BDB 132, KB 150, Qal active participle, cf. v. 3; Nah. 2:2

2. devastates, v. 1, BDB 118, KB 135, Qal active participle, cf. Nah. 2:10

3. distorts (lit. "twists," cf. NRSV), BDB 730, KB 796, Piel perfect

4. scatters, v. 1, BDB 806, KB 918, Hiphil perfect

5. completely laid waste, v. 3, BDB 132, KB 150, Niphal infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root denote intensity

6. completely despoiled, v. 3, BDB 102, KB 117, Niphal infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root denotes intensity. YHWH takes back His gifts, given in creation (cf. vv. 5-6). This is a reversal of the purpose of original creation, but a faithful remnant will survive (cf. v. 6)!

Verses 1 and 3 are very similar to God's judgment of the earth (ץרא, BDB 75) in Noah's day (cf. Genesis 6-9; also note the attempts to avoid God's judgment in 2:10,19,21). Worldwide emptying is exactly the opposite of creation's purpose!


▣ "distorts its surface" This could either be a metaphor of God's judgment on the earth in physical terms (lit. "twist," BDB 730, KB 796, Piel perfect) or it may be a metaphor of God emptying earth's inhabitants as someone would clean dirty kitchen pans.

▣ "and scatters its inhabitants" This is very similar to the terminology used in Genesis 10 for the tower of Babel. Here it denotes exile.

24:2 This shows that all social distinctions are removed. Everyone is judged (cf. v. 4).

24:3 "for the Lord has spoken this word" This shows the certainty of this event because God has said it (BDB 180, KB 210, Piel perfect, cf. 24:3; 25:8; 40:8; 55:10-11). Also note the intended contrast; the spoken word of creation is now the spoken word of judgment.

24:4 Note the description of the earth.

1. mourns - (1) BDB 5 I, KB 6, Qal perfect, cf. Jer. 23:10; for the personification of the earth, also note v. 7, or (2) BDB 5 II means "dry up," which fits the parallelism of vv. 4 and 7 better (cf. NRSV, REB)

2. withers - BDB 615, KB 663, Qal perfect (twice)

3. fades - BDB 51, KB 63, Pulal perfect, cf. 16:8; 33:9

4. polluted - BDB 337, KB 335, Qal perfect

Notice the number of perfect verbs in vv. 4 and 5 that denote a settled action, a complete action!  All of these verbs have a sound similarity.

The God of creation is acting as sovereign in His creation. It was made to be a stage for Him and mankind to interact, but His creatures have polluted and defiled it by their action. It was created for abundance, but now lies judged and unproductive.

▣ "the world" This Hebrew term (BDB 385) is often used in conjunction with "earth" (BDB 75, cf. Job 37:12; Ps. 96:13; 98:9; Jer. 10:12; Lam. 4:12, see Special Topic at v. 1). Isaiah uses this word more than any other prophet (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 273, cf. 13:11; 24:4; 34:1).

▣ "the exalted of the people of the earth fade away" The RSV translation (with a change of vowels only) implies that this phrase relates to the judgment of heaven and earth (i.e., all creation), not to the elite (i.e., "height") people of the earth only.

24:5 "The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants" Nature suffers because of mankind's sin (cf. 24:20; Gen. 3:17-19; Num. 35:33; Jer. 3:1-2,9; Rom. 8:18-25).

1. they transgressed laws, BDB 716, KB 778, Qal perfect

2. they violated statutes, BDB 322, KB 321, Qal perfect

3. they broke the everlasting covenant, BDB 830, KB 974, Hiphil perfect

This does not refer to the Mosaic Law, but either (1) to the natural revelation found in Ps. 19:1-6 and Rom. 1:19, 20; 2:14-15 or (2) to Noah's day (cf. Gen. 6:5-7,11-12, possibly specifically to 9:4-6). The same phrase "everlasting covenant" appears in Gen. 9:16. This everlasting covenant would relate to the taking of human life (cf. 26:21). Murder has consequences! Life belongs to God. He wants mankind to be fruitful and fill the earth, not kill each other!

24:6 "a curse devours the earth" This sounds very similar to the curse of Gen. 3:17-19. Theologically this functions like Rom. 1:18-3:20; all have sinned (i.e., broken a covenant, cf. v. 5) and need God's salvation!

JB"are burned"
Peshitta"shall be destroyed"
LXX"shall be poor"

DSS "grow pale" (from BDB 301 I, cf. Isa. 29:22)

The MT has "burned" (BDB 359 I, KB 357 or 351 I, Qal perfect). Scholars have suggested another possible Arab root, "to reduce" (KB 351 II), which matches the next phrase.

This is a good example of the difficulty in ambiguous Hebrew poetry. Context often is an interpreter's only safe guide and even then, other roots and cognates are possible. The MT is not the earliest Hebrew text.

▣ "and few men are left" This is basically the OT idea of a faithful remnant that God will spare a few of the people of the earth. This sounds very similar to Jesus' words in Matt. 7:14. See Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses at 1:9.

7The new wine mourns,
The vine decays,
All the merry-hearted sigh.
8The gaiety of tambourines ceases,
The noise of revelers stops,
The gaiety of the harp ceases.
9They do not drink wine with song;
Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
10The city of chaos is broken down;
Every house is shut up so that none may enter.
11There is an outcry in the streets concerning the wine;
All joy turns to gloom.
The gaiety of the earth is banished.
12Desolation is left in the city
And the gate is battered to ruins.
13For thus it will be in the midst of the earth among the peoples,
As the shaking of an olive tree,
As the gleanings when the grape harvest is over.
14They raise their voices, they shout for joy;
They cry out from the west concerning the majesty of the Lord.
15Therefore glorify the Lord in the east,
The name of the Lord, the God of Israel,
In the coastlands of the sea.
16From the ends of the earth we hear songs, "Glory to the Righteous One,"
But I say, "Woe to me! Woe to me! Alas for me!
The treacherous deal treacherously,
And the treacherous deal very treacherously."
17Terror and pit and snare
Confront you, O inhabitant of the earth.
18Then it will be that he who flees the report of disaster will fall into the pit,
And he who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare;
For the windows above are opened, and the foundations of the earth shake.
19The earth is broken asunder,
The earth is split through,
The earth is shaken violently.
20The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard
And it totters like a shack,
For its transgression is heavy upon it,
And it will fall, never to rise again.
21So it will happen in that day,
That the Lord will punish the host of heaven on high,
And the kings of the earth on earth.
22They will be gathered together
Like prisoners in the dungeon,
And will be confined in prison;
And after many days they will be punished.
23Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed,
For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
And His glory will be before His elders.

24:7-14 This is a series of metaphors about the normal social activities of an agricultural community which is brought to an end because of the judgment of God.

24:9 "wine. . .strong drink" See Special Topic at 1:22.

24:10 "The city of chaos is broken down" There is a play throughout this literary unit on "a city." It is not specifically identified and, therefore, seems to be a symbol of all human society functioning apart from God (similar to the city of Genesis 11). It is metaphorically similar to the use of (1) "the world" in I John and (2) the "whore of Babylon" in Revelation 18 as standing for all fallen human society. This city can be seen in Isa. 25:2,3,12. An allusion to God's city is found in Isa. 26:1-6 (cf. Heb. 11:10,16).

Literally, the term "chaos" (BDB 1062) means "emptiness," "vanity," "formlessness," "confusion," or "unreality" used to describe the earth in Genesis 1:2 ("formless"). It is used often in Isaiah (cf. 24:10; 29:21; 34:11; 40:17,23; 41:29; 44:9; 45:18,19; 49:4; 59:4), but only one other time in all the Prophets (i.e., Jer. 4:23). God started over with His creation with Noah (Genesis 6-9), now He will do it again!

See Chart of the "Two" Cities at Introduction to chapter 26, D.

24:12 "the gate is battered to ruins" The verb (BDB 510, KB 507, Hophal imperfect) denotes that "the unidentified city" is defenseless, her gates are in ruins! Who can stand before YHWH?

24:13 "For thus it will be in the midst of the earth among the peoples" This could be interpreted in two ways: (1) it could refer to all of the people of the earth (cf. v. 1 and Isa. 11:10 ) or (2) it could refer to the scattered Jews of the Exile (cf. 11:11 and 24:8). It is difficult to make a decision on this point, but it seems to me that because of vv. 14,16 and 25:6,7, we are talking about the universalism (i.e., option #1) so characteristic of Isaiah. This universalism is very specific in its invitation to both Egypt and Assyria to be a part of God's Kingdom in Isa. 19:18-25.

"As the shaking of an olive tree,

As the gleanings when the grape harvest is over" This was an agricultural metaphor of harvesting. It denotes the fact that there will be very few people left (cf. v. 6; Mic. 7:1). Verses 14-16 are a praise unit referring to those who trust YHWH. It is characteristic of this literary unit and this particular kind of genre in Isaiah to promise blessings right in the midst of judgment.

24:14-15 "west. . .east" The term "west" (BDB 410) is literally "sea" and refers to the Mediterranean Ocean. The term "east" (BDB 22) is literally "light" which refers to the rising of the sun. Again, these two terms may refer to Egypt to the west and Assyria to the east (cf. 19:23-25).

24:15 The Jewish Study Bible asserts that some group (Judeans or Gentiles who have trusted YHWH, vv. 15,16a; 25:3) begins to thank God in praise (v. 14) that the judgment is over, but they suddenly realize it is not (cf. vv. 16b-23).

Recognizing the majesty and glory of YHWH is obviously the first sign of a new relationship with Him (cf. 12:5; 26:10). A few humans (Jew and Gentile), the faithful remnant (cf. v. 6; see Special Topic at 1:9) will be found faithful even amidst judgment (cf. Hab. 2:4).

▣ "in the coastlands of the sea" In the LXX this is "the islands," which is usually a reference within Isaiah to Gentiles (cf. 41:5; 42:4,10).

24:16a This is another reference to the universal aspect of the inclusion of Gentile believers (cf. 2:2-4).

"the Righteous One" The NASB and NRSV translations take this phrase to denote Israel's God. The Peshitta, KJV, and ASV have "the righteous," which is another reference to the believing remnant which will be saved out of Israel and the peoples of the earth. The REB has "the righteous nation," apparently the ideal Israel.

24:16b There is an obvious break here which is not clearly marked by the traditional verse divisions. From the obvious praise section of vv. 14-16a, v. 16b begins a funeral dirge relating to the coming judgment of God (note "woe" [twice, lit. "I pine or waste away"] and "woe," the interjection, BDB 17). Its exact relation to the context is somewhat uncertain. It may be a personal comment of Isaiah himself that his own day did not fit, vv. 14-16a. There have been many different English translations of this phrase.

The AB Commentary (p. 353) notes that this phrase is omitted by the Septuagint and the author (Blenkinsop) assumes the Aramaic root for "secret," which follows rabbinical tradition and the Peshitta and Vulgate versions.

24:16c,d This is a very powerful word play. There are several uses of one word (BDB 93, KB 108), which has a powerful, repetitious emphasis on the faithless, deceitful people. Note

1. the treacherous, BDB 93, KB 108, Qal active participle

2. deal treacherously, BDB 93, KB 108, Qal perfect

3. noun, BDB 93 I (cf. Jer. 12:1)

4. repeat of #1

5. repeat of #2


24:17 "Terror and pit and snare" This is a sound play on similar words. All of these words (BDB 808, 809, 809) are used of trapping animals (cf. Jer. 48:43,44).


NASB"the report of disaster"
NKJV, Peshitta"the noise of fear"
NRSV"the sound of the terror"
NJB"the cry of fear"
LXX"the fear"
REB"the rattle of the scare"

The MT has "at the sound of the terror" (BDB 876 construct BDB 808). This is an allusion to (1) the sound of battle (cf. Isa. 29:6; Jer. 4:19,21; Ezek. 1:24), (2) the voice of God (cf. 30:30-31), or (3) a covenant concept (cf. Jer. 3:13,25; 7:23; 11:4,7; 26:13; 38:20).

▣ "fall into a pit. . .caught in a snare" These are allusions to humans being trapped like animals (cf. 8:15; 28:13). Humans will try to flee God's judgment only to find disaster (cf. 2:10,19-22).

24:18c "the windows above are opened" This is another allusion to the flood account of Genesis (cf. 7:11; 8:2). The opening of the windows of heaven can be for blessing (i.e., water for agriculture and flocks, cf. II Kgs. 7:2,19; Mal. 3:10) or judgment (i.e., sending of too much water, cf. Gen. 7:11; 8:2; Isa. 24:18, or no water).

24:19 Note the parallelism from the infinitive absolute and matching verb.

1. broken asunder, BDB 949, KB 1270, Qal infinitive absolute and Hithpoel perfect

2. split through, BDB 830, KB 975, Qal infinitive absolute and Hithpoel perfect

3. shaken violently, BDB 556, KB 555, Qal infinitive absolute and Hithpoel perfect

This same intensified form (i.e., infinitive absolute and verb from the same root) continues in v. 20, BDB 631, KB 681, Qal infinitive absolute and Qal imperfect.

The earth, created for God and humanity to meet and fellowship, created for abundance and life, has become ruin and will be destroyed

1. by water, Genesis 6-9

2. by the spoken word, Isa. 24:3

3. by apocalyptic imagery, Jer. 4:23-28

4. by fire, II Pet. 3:10-11


24:20 Drunkenness (i.e., staggering, BDB 631, KB 681, infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root) is often used as a symbol for judgment in the OT (cf. Isa. 19:14; 28:7,8; 29:9).

▣ "And it totters like a shack" This is another cultural allusion to a small booth (BDB 434) which was built in the field during harvest time for someone to live so he could protect the harvest (cf. 1:8). Verses 19-20 describe the sin-laden physical creation (cf. Rom. 8:18-22).

▣ "never to rise again" This is a hyperbolic statement to show the intensity of God's judgment on a morally polluted earth. But from other texts, we know He will have mercy on it and restore it! For the use of hyperbolic language in both prophecy and apocalyptic literature see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.

24:21 "in that day" See note at 2:11. This eschatological theme marker is repeated in 25:9; 26:1,2,12.

▣ "the host of heaven" Many times in the OT this refers to the Babylonian astral deities (cf. 40:26; 45:12). However, in this context it refers to the OT concept of the angels of the nations (cf. Deut. 32:8 in the LXX and Daniel 10). God will judge both the human beings who rebel against Him and also the angels who have aided in either the human rebellion or satanic temptation (see G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, p. 179).

24:22 Both the prideful and arrogant kings of the earth (cf. 10:12; 13:11) and the national rebellious angels (cf. LXX of Deut. 32:8 and Dan. 10:10-13) will be judged and imprisoned. This is very similar to II Pet. 2:4; Jude, v. 6; and Rev. 20:1-3. This seems to be an allusion to Sheol (OT) or Tartarus (NT). See Special Topic at 5:14.

Some scholars have asserted that "after many days" refers to the millennium of Rev. 20:1-6. This is typical of millennial scholars who desperately seek some biblical evidence for the timeframe mentioned in Revelation 20. See my written commentary on Revelation 20 on the Internet at

▣ "prisoners" This form (BDB 64) is found only here and it is missing in the DSS, the LXX, and the Aramaic Targums.

24:23 "the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed" This is apocalyptic language speaking of the cataclysmic events within nature as the Creator approaches. The presence of the Lord Himself will become the light for mankind (cf. Isa. 30:26; 60:19, 20; Rev. 21:23; 22:5).

▣ "the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem" Here again is the universal aspect of all the world flowing unto Jerusalem to know the one true God (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; 24:23; 25:6-7; 27:6, 13). This imagery is universalized to YHWH's reign over all the earth in Dan. 2:35,44-45!

▣ "His glory will be before His elders" The elders (BDB 278) were leaders in Moses' day (i.e., Exod. 3:16,18; 4:29; 12:21, etc.). The term denoted older men of the different tribes. It came to stand for all civil leadership. In Isaiah the elders are irresponsible (cf. 3:2-3; 9:14-16), but here in the eschaton they will behold YHWH's glory (presumably in worship and adoration, i.e., redeemed elders). Robert Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament (p. 245) says they are representatives of all God's people.



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.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why are chapters 24-27 called apocalyptic?

2. From what OT passage does Isaiah draw his imagery?

3. How is the faithful city of 1:26 related to the city of chaos in 24:10?

4. Who speaks in vv. 14-16a and who in v. 16b?

5. Who are the "hosts of heaven" (lit. "the host of the height in the height")?


Report Inappropriate Ad