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Isaiah 29


Jerusalem Is Warned Woe To Jerusalem Judah's Eventual Restoration The Fate of Jerusalem On Jerusalem
29:1-4 29:1-12
(5-8) 29:5-8 (5-8)
  The Blindness of Disobedience Spiritual Insensibility Disregarded Warnings  
29:9-12 (9-10)
  29:11-12 29:11-12   Prophecy
29:13-14 29:13-14
      Hope for the Future The Triumph of Light
(15-16) 29:15-16 29:15-24
Blessing After Discipline Future Recovery of Wisdom      
(17-21) 29:17  

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. The Jewish Study Bible (pp. 839-840) outlines the chapter as three separate and independent poems.

1. vv. 1-8 (starts with "woe")

2. vv. 9-12

3. vv. 15-24 (starts with "woe")


B. YHWH's surprising reversal of His people's problems is a recurrent theme.

1. 3:25-5:6

2. 8:6-8

3. 8:22-9:1


C. The historical setting of this chapter seems to be Sennacherib's invasion of Judah in 701 b.c. Jerusalem is spared (Isaiah's theology), but Judah is devastated.

1. Isaiah 36-39

2. II Kings 18-19

3. II Chronicles 32



1Woe, O Ariel, Ariel the city where David once camped!
Add year to year, observe your feasts on schedule.
2I will bring distress to Ariel,
And she will be a city of lamenting and mourning;
And she will be like an Ariel to me.
3I will camp against you encircling you,
And I will set siegeworks against you,
And I will raise up battle towers against you.
4Then you will be brought low;
From the earth you will speak,
And from the dust where you are prostrate
Your words will come.
Your voice will also be like that of a spirit from the ground,
And your speech will whisper from the dust.

29:1 "Woe" See note at 5:8.

▣ "Ariel" (v. 1,2,7) This term can mean

1. heros, cf. II Sam. 23:20; I Chr. 11:22 (BDB72 I, #3)

2. "lion of God" (BDB 72 I #1)

3. "hearth of God" (BDB 72 II)

Because it is used in the sense of altar-hearth in v. 2, which follows Ezek. 43:15-16, I believe this refers to the hearth of God, which can be seen clearly in 31:9. Because of v. 7, it is obvious that this is an allusion to Jerusalem. The first strophe (i.e., 29:1-4) deals with the capital of Judah, Jerusalem, as 28:1-4 dealt with the capital of the Northern Ten Tribes, Samaria.

▣ "Add year to year, observe your feasts on schedule" This second line of v. 1 reinforces the view that vv. 1-4 refer to Jerusalem, the place of Israel's feasts (cf. Exodus 23; Deuteronomy 16).

1. add, BDB 414, KB 418, Qal imperative

2. observe, BDB 668, KB 722, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense


29:2-3 These verses describe what YHWH will do to His own chosen city (i.e., Jerusalem, the place where He caused His name to dwell, cf. Deut. 12:5,11,21; 14:23,24; 16:2,6,11; 26:2).

1. I will bring distress, BDB 847, KB 1014, Hiphil perfect, cf. v. 7; 51:13 (twice); Deut. 28:53, 55,57.

2. she will be like

a. lamenting, BDB 58, cf. 21:2; 35:10; 51:11

b. mourning, BDB 58 doubling so characteristic of Isaiah, also note Lam. 2:5

c. a burned-out hearth, BDB 72, cf. vv. 1,2,7

3. I will camp against you, BDB 333, KB 332, Qal perfect, cf. Luke 19:43,44

4. I will set up siege works, BDB 848 II; KB 1015, Qal perfect, cf. 21:2

5. I will raise up battle towers, BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil perfect, cf. 23:13


29:4 This verse has a series of metaphors for death.

1. you shall be brought low, BDB 1050, KB 1631, Qal perfect

2. from the earth you shall speak, BDB 180, KB 210, Piel imperfect

3. from the dust where you are prostrate, BDB 1005, KB 1458, Niphal imperfect

4. your voice shall be like that of a spirit from the ground, BDB 224, KB 283, Qal perfect

5. your speech shall whisper from the dust, BDB 861, KB 1050, Pilpel imperfect

This context is not dealing with necromancy, as Deut. 18:9-12,14 is, but metaphorical language to describe Jerusalem, on the brink of total destruction, crying out to her God in a weak voice while lying on the ground just before death.

5But the multitude of your enemies will become like fine dust,
And the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away;
And it will happen instantly, suddenly.
6From the Lord of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise,
With whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire.
7And the multitude of all the nations who wage war against Ariel,
Even all who wage war against her and her stronghold, and who distress her,
Will be like a dream, a vision of the night.
8It will be as when a hungry man dreams-
And behold, he is eating;
But when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied,
Or as when a thirsty man dreams-
And behold, he is drinking,
But when he awakens, behold, he is faint
And his thirst is not quenched.
Thus the multitude of all the nations will be
Who wage war against Mount Zion.

29:5-6 What a radical reversal these two verses are in the context. God has promised to judge Jerusalem and now promises to save Jerusalem from the enemy siege of Isaiah 36-37. In v. 6, there is a use of a storm metaphor to describe God. This is a recurrent theme throughout the Prophets. An even stronger use of this metaphor can be found in 30:27-33.

Notice what YHWH (i.e., Lord of hosts, v. 6) will do to the invaders.

1. shall become like fine dust

2. shall become like chaff which blows away

3. shall happen instantly, suddenly (both BDB 837, עתפ, cf. 30:13 and םאתפ, cf. 47:11; 48:3)

4. will be punished (lit. "visited with," BDB 823, KB 955, Niphal imperfect) with thunder (BDB 947)

5. will be punished with earthquakes (BDB 950)

6. will be punished with loud noise (BDB 876, this is used in 33:3 as a prophetic message which may parallel I Thess. 4:16)

7. will be punished with whirlwind (BDB 693)

8. will be punished with tempest (BDB 704)

9. will be punished with the flame of consuming fire (BDB 529 construct BDB 77; verbal, BDB 37, KB 46, Qal active participle)

These describe the coming/visitation of YHWH for judgment (cf. 28:2). These types of violent metaphors were the beginning source of apocalyptic language.


NKJV, NRSV"foes"

The MT has "of your strangers" (זריך, BDB 266, KB 267, Qal active participle), but there is a possibility of an "R" (ר) - "D" (ד) confusion. The Hebrew of "of your enemies" (זדוך) is from the Targums.

29:7-8 This is the use of the metaphor of a nightmare (lit. "dream," BDB 321; "a vision of the night," BDB 302 construct 538) to describe the results of God's action both in Judah and to Assyria. In v. 7, Assyria's siege will be like a nightmare that passes Judah, but in v. 8 the nightmare will occur to the army of Assyria (cf. II Kgs. 19:35-37; II Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36-37).


NASB, NRSV"her stronghold"
NKJV"her fortress"

The difference between these two options is the "R" and "D" confusion.

1. stronghold, BDB 845 II, ומצדתה

2. siege, BDB 849, ומצרתה

The UBS Hebrew Text Project gives #1 a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

9Be delayed and wait,
Blind yourselves and be blind;
They become drunk, but not with wine,
They stagger, but not with strong drink.
10For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep,
He has shut your eyes, the prophets;
And He has covered your heads, the seers.
11The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, "Please read this," he will say, "I cannot, for it is sealed." 12Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, "Please read this." And he will say, "I cannot read."

29:9 "Be delayed and wait,

Blind yourselves and be blind" The first two poetic lines of this verse have four imperatives.

1. be delayed, BDB 554, KB 552, Hithpalpel imperative, masculine plural

2. wait, BDB 1069, KB 1744, Qal imperative, masculine plural; lit. "be astounded," cf. Hab. 1:5 

NASB "wait"

NKJV "wonder"

NRSV "be in a stupor"

NJB "stunned"

LXX, Peshitta "be amazed"

3. blind yourselves, BDB 1044 I, KB 1612, Hithpalpel imperative, masculine plural

4. be blind, BDB 1044, KB 1612, Qal imperative, masculine plural, cf. 6:9-10; Micah 3:6-7

It is possible that #3 and #4 are from the Hebrew root "to delight in" (BDB 1044 II), if so then the phrase is sarcasm.

Notice the balance between human freedom, v. 9 and divine sovereignty, v. 10. Both are true! See Special Topic at 1:3.

▣ "They became drunk" This is another use of the term drunkenness (BDB 1016, KB 1500, Qal perfect) to describe the apostasy of the political and religious leaders of God's people (cf. 28:1-4,7-8).

29:10-12 Notice YHWH's activities in removing His message from His people (cf. 6:9-10; Mic. 3:6-7).

1. the Lord has poured on you (BDB 650, KB 703, Qal perfect) a spirit of deep sleep (BDB 924 construct BDB 922)

2. He has shut (BDB 783, KB 868, Piel imperfect) the eyes of your prophets

3. He has covered (BDB 491, KB 487, Piel perfect, TEV "blindfolded") both the civic and religious leadership's eyes (cf. vv. 11-12; 6:9-10; 8:16)

Verse 10 is quoted by Paul in his discussion of Israel's failure to believe/trust in Jesus as Israel's Messiah in Rom. 11:8.

29:11 "sealed" This verbal (BDB 367, KB 364, Qal passive participle) is also used by Isaiah in 8:16, where it refers to a revelatory scroll written by the prophet at God's direction. The "sealing" referred to a way of

1. indicating ownership

2. assuring security

This was accomplished by

1. blob of wax (or clay) on the rolled up edge with a signet ring of the sender impressed in it

2. two blobs of wax (or clay) with a string between them and both impressed with the sender's ring or symbol

As Isaiah was told to seal up the message in 8:16, so too, Daniel in Dan. 12:4. However, in 29:11 it is simply a metaphor for the ceasing of God's revelation.

13Then the Lord said,
"Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
14Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed."

29:13 "draw near with their words" This term (BDB 620, KB 670, Niphal perfect) speaks of public acts of worship in the temple. It was originally used of priests (i.e., Exod. 19:22).

"their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote" This is a significant theological truth which shows that ritual and liturgy, without personal relationship, accompanied by lifestyle, love, and morality, are an abomination to God (cf. 1:10-15; 58:1-5; Jeremiah 7; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Matt. 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23; Col. 2:16-23; II Tim. 3:5). The ritual was not wrong, it was the person's attitude that attempted to manipulate God.

The above line of poetry is parallel to the next, "honor Me with their lip service" (cf. Jer. 12:2). They say one thing, but live another (cf. Matt. 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-7, where "words" and "lip" are described as "neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men," illustrated in Mark 7:3,5,9,13).

29:14 "I will once again deal marvelously. . .wondrously marvelous" In English these phrases sound good, but they are the Hiphil infinitive construct; the Hiphil infinitive absolute; and the noun all of the same root (BDB 810), which denotes

1. extraordinary plagues in Exod. 3:20; Deut. 28:59

2. extraordinary counsel in 9:6; 28:29

3. wonderful acts in Exod. 34:10; I Chr. 16:9,12,24; Isa. 25:1

Context must determine if it is positive or negative. Here it is negative of YHWH's judgment on His own people. This judgment will be that their wise counselors and religious leaders will fail to do their job (cf. vv. 9-12).

Paul quotes this verse in I Cor. 1:19 in his discussion of the foolishness of human wisdom, especially as it deals with understanding why the Messiah had to suffer and die (i.e., the gospel).

15Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord,
And whose deeds are done in a dark place,
And they say, "Who sees us?" or "Who knows us?"
16You turn things around!
Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay,
That what is made would say to its maker, "He did not make me";
Or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?

29:15 "hide their plans from the Lord" This refers to Judah's leadership's plan for a political alliance with Egypt (cf. 28:7-22; 30:1-5; 31:1-3) to protect them from Assyria. They are trusting in Egypt, not YHWH!

"Who sees us?" or "Who knows us" This is basically a denial of God's personal presence. Verse 16 expresses the logic and foolishness of these statements.

29:16 "the potter" God as potter is a common biblical metaphor (cf. Isa. 45:9; 64:8; Jer. 18:4ff; Job 10:9). It possibly developed from the initial creation of humanity in Gen. 2:7. Paul alludes to this text in Rom. 9:20. Romans 9 is the affirmation of the complete and total sovereignty of God!

17Is it not yet just a little while
Before Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field,
And the fertile field will be considered as a forest?
18On that day the deaf will hear words of a book,
And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.
19The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the Lord,
And the needy of mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20For the ruthless will come to an end and the scorner will be finished,
Indeed all who are intent on doing evil will be cut off;
21Who cause a person to be indicted by a word,
And ensnare him who adjudicates at the gate,
And defraud the one in the right with meaningless arguments.

29:17-21 This describes the new Messianic day that is coming.

1. it is coming soon, v. 17a (cf. 10:24-25)

2. Lebanon will become very fertile, v. 17b,c, cf. 32:15; 35:1-2 (the NASB Study Bible, p. 996, links this to Isa. 10:34 and asserts that Lebanon might be a way of referring to Assyria). Sennacherib bragged of his exploitation of Lebanon's forest (cf. 37:24; II Kgs. 19:23).

3. the deaf shall hear, v. 18a, cf. 32:3; 35:5

4. the blind shall see, v. 18b, cf. 32:3; 35:5

5. the afflicted shall be glad in the Lord, v. 19a, cf. 11:4; 61:1

6. the needy shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel, v. 19b, cf. 3:14-15; 11:4; 14:30,32

7. the ruthless will come to an end, v. 20a

8. the scorner will be finished, v. 20a, cf. 28:14

9. those intent on doing evil will be cut off, v. 20b

10. justice will be restored at the gate, v. 21, cf. 32:7

This is parallel theologically to the wonderful description of YHWH's character in 25:4.

Be sure to note that #3 and #4 are primarily metaphorical for receiving and understanding YHWH's revelation (cf. Deut. 29:4; Isa. 5:12,13; 6:9; 30:9).

29:19 "Holy" See Special Topic at 6:3.

22Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
"Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now turn pale;
23But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst,
They will sanctify My name;
Indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
And will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24Those who err in mind will know the truth,
And those who criticize will accept instruction.

29:22-24 As vv. 5-8 break into the context of judgment on Jerusalem with a word of hope, so too, vv. 22-24. This rapid contrast between judgment oracles and promise oracles is characteristic of the Prophets. Judgment is always for the purpose of restoration!

Yes, God will judge His people when they sin and break His covenant, but He has a greater purpose for them (i.e., an eternal redemptive plan for all humanity).

Notice the different phrases and titles that denote the covenant Deity.

1. the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, v. 22

2. his children, the work of My hands, v. 23

3. My name. . .the Holy One of Jacob, v. 23

4. the God of Israel, v. 23, cf. 1:4


29:22 The chosen family of Abraham developed into the tribes of Jacob's sons. YHWH promises a day when, by His power and covenant presence, they

1. shall not be ashamed, BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect, used often in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah

2. nor shall his face grow pale, BDB 301, KB 299, Qal imperfect, the verb is found only here

Both of these verbs refer to Hebrew idioms of despair and guilt over disobedient behavior. The sinner feels the displeasure of God!

▣ "who redeemed Abraham" This verb (BDB 804, KB 911, Qal perfect, see Special Topic following) is here used of Abraham. This could mean

1. redeemed from a polytheistic family (cf. Genesis 11)

2. uniquely chosen as God's covenant partner (i.e., Genesis 12, 15, 17)

3. a specific act of deliverance

a. from Pharaoh (cf. Gen. 12:10-20)

b. from Abimelech (cf. Genesis 20)

YHWH is called "the Redeemer of Israel" (cf. 41:14; 43:14; 48:17; 49:7,26; 54:5,8). That concept of YHWH as the special redeemer of a chosen family may be the theological thrust of vv. 22-23.


29:24 This verse is the opposite of vv. 9-12,14. Revelation and understanding shall return to God's people through His called leadership, both civil and religious! This is a lifting of the blindness and deafness of 6:9-10!!

LXX, Peshitta"spirit"

The Hebrew word is ruah (BDB 924), used in the sense of mental activity (cf. Exod. 28:3; Deut. 34:9; I Chr. 28:12; Job 20:3; Ezek. 20:32). Remember, context, context, context determines word meaning!


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