The Prophetic Message ~ Yesha’yahu 8:11-23

In my last post, we learned more about The Assyrian Invasion of Y’hudah in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10. In this post, we learn about Y’hudah’s response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23.

11 For this is what Adonai said to me, speaking with a strong hand, warning me not to live the way this people does:

God spoke to Yesha’yahu (me) so he would not conform to the world’s beliefs. Rabbi Sha’ul instructs us to not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh. Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed. ~ Romans 12:2 (CJB)

12 “Don’t regard as alliance what this people calls alliance, and don’t fear what they fear or be awestruck by it;

The alliance may refer to the partnership between Aram (Syria) and the northern kingdom of Isra’el against Y’hudah or perhaps a secret cooperation against the pro-Assyrian party of Achaz. Whatever the exact alliance in view, the point was that Yesha’yahu must not be afraid like the people were.

13 but Adonai-Tzva’ot – consecrate him! Let him be the object of your fear and awe! 

The fear of God [here called the God of Heaven’s Armies] overshadows all other concerns (see Luke 12:5). The reason Yesha’yahu and others must not fear threatening alliances is that God is the only One who should be feared. There is a difference in the quality of the two fears described in these verses. The fear of human beings may be defined as terror (v. 12), while the fear of Adonai-Tzva’ot is described as awe.

14 He is there to be a sanctuary. But for both the houses of Isra’el he will be a stone to stumble over, a rock obstructing their way; a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Yerushalayim.

The sanctuary image highlights God’s holiness and suggests that He protects His people, but because they have rejected Him, the people of Y’hudah will experience Him as a stumbling stone.

The trap and snare are used for hunting birds and small animals. This provides a fascinating image of what God thinks of this rebellious people.

Who shall be our sanctuary? Yeshua. If you come to Him, you’ll find a place of safety. If you turn from Him, you’ll only stumble and fall.

15 Many of them will stumble and fall, be broken and trapped and captured. 16 “Wrap up this document and confine its teaching to those I have instructed.”

Scrolls could be sealed either by tying a string around them and sealing the knot with clay or by placing them in a jar and sealing the cover. The clay or the seal around the lid would be impressed with the owner’s seal. The seals were intended to ensure the integrity of the contents. They warned against tampering and, if intact, attested to the authenticity of the document.

17 I will wait for Adonai, who is hiding his face from the house of Ya‘akov; yes, I will look for him.

Because of their sin, God will withdraw His saving presence (hiding His face) from His people (the house of Ya’akov). The faithful, represented by Yesha’yahu, will wait for His sure return.

18 Meanwhile, I and the children whom Adonai has given me will become for Isra’el signs and wonders from Adonai-Tzva’ot living on Mount Tziyon.

The children who are signs and wonders are Sh’ar Yashuv (7:3) and Maher Shalal Hash Baz (8:1).

19 So when they tell you to consult those squeaking, squawking mediums and fortune-tellers; [you are to answer], “Shouldn’t a people seek their God? Must the living ask the dead 20 for teaching and instruction?” For they will indeed give you this unenlightened suggestion.

Because of the well-developed ancestor cult permeating much of the ancient Near East, the dead were considered to have some power to affect the living. It was believed that if libations were poured out on behalf of the deceased ancestors, their spirits would then offer protection and help to those still living. [1]

Yesha’yahu realized that things would be coming down in the northern tribes. So, he gathered his talmidim together and said, “I will seek the Lord’s face and spend time in His Word. As for you, when others tell you to listen to the astrologers, wizards, or channelers, turn instead to the Word alone.”

21 Distressed and hungry they will pass through the land, and because of their hunger they will grow angry and curse by their king and by their God. But whether they look up [to God] 22 or [down] at the earth, they will see only trouble and darkness, anguished gloom and pervasive darkness.

Those who look for a new light, a new age, a new way or a new green deal will find only the old darkness and despair. Yesha’yahu contrasts his counsel with that of his ungodly contemporaries. Yesha’yahu’s message gives light, whereas the message of the spiritists led to darkness and death.

1 But there will be no more gloom for those who are now in anguish. In the past the land of Z’vulun and the land of Naftali were regarded lightly; but in the future, he will honor the way to the lake, beyond the Yarden, Galil-of-the-Goyim. ~ Yesha’yahu 8:11-9:1 (CJB) [2]

In my next blog, we learn of The Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7.

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] Verse 9:1 is actually 8:23 in the Jewish Bible. I will save a discussion on that verse until the next post.

The Assyrian Invasion ~ Yesha’yahu 8:1-10

In my last post, we concluded the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:17-25. We learned that despite the alliance with Assyria, the King of Assyria would invade Y’hudah. In this post, we learn more about The Assyrian Invasion in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10.

1 Adonai said to me [Yesha’yahu], “Take a large tablet, and write on it in easily readable letters; ‘Maher shalal, hash baz [the spoil hurries, the prey speeds along].’”

The significance of the large size of the tablet may merely be that the writing was to be prominent and clear. The inscription means that an invasion was imminent.

2 I had it witnessed for me by reliable witnesses – Uriyah the cohen and Z’kharyahu the son of Y’verekhyahu.

The presence of witnesses indicates that the writing of this prophecy had the force of a legal document. If the prophecy did not come true, then these two witnesses could attest to its falsity. If it did come true, they could proclaim that it was written before, and not after, the fact.

3 Then I had sexual relations with my wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son; and Adonai said to me, “Name him Maher Shalal Hash Baz;

Other English translations indicate that Yesha’yahu’s wife was herself a prophetess. The title “prophetess” is never used just to designate the wife of a prophet but consistently for a female prophet. While we need not doubt that this prophetess was Yesha’yahu’s wife, she must also be regarded as a woman who functioned prophetically in her own right.

The first fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy may well relate to the birth of Maher Shalal Hash Baz recorded here.

4because before the child knows how to cry, ‘Abba!’ and ‘Eema!’, the riches of Dammesek and the spoil of Shomron will be carried off and given to the king of Ashur.”

Before the child could say “Daddy” or “Mommy,” the invasion of Ashur into Isra’el would take place.

5 Adonai went on speaking and said more to me: 6 “Since this people has rejected the gently flowing waters from Shilo’ach and takes joy in Retzin and the son of Remalyah;

Hezekiah’s tunnel had not yet been constructed at this time. The waters flowed from a spring on the side of Mount Moriah into a tranquil pool. It was to this pool that Yeshua sent a man born blind to regain his sight (John 9).

7now Adonai will bring upon them the mighty floodwaters of the [Euphrates] River — that is, the king of Ashur and his power. It will rise above all its channels and overflow all its banks.

The mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates represent the Assyrian king and thus Assyrian might. By aligning with Ashur to help him against the Syro-Ephraimite alliance, Achaz was choosing a foreign nation rather than God.

8 It will sweep through Y’hudah, flooding everything and passing on. It will reach even up to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the whole expanse of the land.” God is with us! [Hebrew: ‘immanu El]

The waters that represent Ashur will come up to Y’hudah’s neck. They will not be drowned, but they will find themselves paying annual tribute. On occasion, the Assyrian army will threaten their independent existence.

9 You may make an uproar, peoples; but you will be shattered. Listen, all of you from distant lands: arm yourselves, but you will be shattered; yes, arm yourselves, but you will be shattered; 10 devise a plan, but it will come to nothing; say anything you like, but it won’t happen; because God is with us [Hebrew: ‘immanu El]. ~ Yesha’yahu 8:1-10 (CJB)

It was a common strategy for the Assyrians to claim that the deities of their rebellious vassals had abandoned them because they had broken the oaths that had secured their loyalty to the Assyrians. However, Ashur will not completely subjugate Y’hudah. After all, God was still with them.

In my next blog, we learn of the response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23.

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The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:13-25

In my last post, we continued the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12. We learned that Achaz had put his fate in an alliance with Assyria rather than in God. In this post, we conclude our exploration of The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:13-25.

17 Adonai will bring the king of Ashur [Assyria] on you, your people and your father’s house. These will be days worse than any you’ve known since Efrayim broke loose from Y’hudah.”

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was inaugurated soon after Tiglath-Pileser III’s accession to the throne in 745 BCE and was not to be overthrown until 612 BCE when Nineveh fell to the alliance of the Medes and Babylonians. At its height, it included all or part of the modern countries of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Isra’el and Egypt. Ashur’s reputation as an aggressive regime is supported by extensive documentation and stands as its historical legacy. Its strategy of psychological warfare included terrifying rhetoric, brutal destructions and carefully chosen examples of cruel torture. Its expansion was fueled by the potential for economic gain, which would come through the plunder, tribute, and tariffs that would result from control of trade and the trade routes

But it was not just Aram and the northern kingdom of Isra’el that would experience Assyrian devastation. Y’hudah would also suffer God’s punishment. As later events showed, paying Tiglath-Pileser III to take care of Achaz’s northern problem was not the smartest strategy. From that point on Achaz paid a heavy tribute as Ashur’s vassal.

18 Yes, when that day comes, Adonai will whistle for the fly in the farthest streams of the Nile in Egypt and for the bee in the land of Ashur.

Part of the lore of beekeeping maintained that a swarm could be lured out of its hive to another location by a whistling sound. Attacking armies are compared to flies and bees in Homer’s Iliad as well. [1]

19 They will come and settle, all of them, in steep vadis and holes in the rocks and on all thorn bushes and brambles.

This verse continues the imagery of bees by listing the places where bees are naturally inclined to make their hives. Such locations were also places of refuge for the desperate. However, Y’hudah’s enemies would find them there.

20 When that day comes, Adonai will shave – with a razor hired beyond the [Euphrates] River, that is, with the king of Ashur – the head and the hair between the legs and get rid of the beard as well.

While many translations suggest the shaving of the entire head, the forehead seems to be indicated explicitly by the Hebrew word. In Mesopotamia shaving off half the hair was used as a punishment intended to bring public humiliation. Additionally, a style of the haircut was used to designate a slave. Most commentators believe that the hair between the legs is a euphemism for pubic hair. [2]

21 When that day comes, a man will raise a young cow and two sheep. 22 Will they produce in abundance? No, he will [have to] eat curdled milk. Indeed, everyone left in the land will eat curdled milk and [wild] honey. 23 When that day comes, wherever there once were a thousand grapevines, worth a thousand pieces of silver, there will be only briars and thorns.

It is difficult to determine whether the text refers to a thousand vines that would be bought or sold for a shekel each (an exorbitant price), or, more reasonably, to a vineyard housing a thousand vines whose annual produce would bring a thousand shekels. The latter understanding would find support in Song of Songs 8:11. In short, the farmers faced near total disaster.

24 One will go there [to hunt] with bow and arrow because all the land will be briars and thorns. 25 You won’t visit hills once worked with a hoe, for fear of the briars and thorns; it will be good only for pasturing cattle and being trampled down by sheep. ~ Isaiah 7:17-25 (CJB)

Cattle and flocks could be devastating to agricultural land. Their movements would trample the soil, and their grazing would defoliate it, eventually leading to massive erosion of the topsoil and depletion of water sources.

In my next blog, we learn about The Assyrian Invasion in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10.

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] Ibid.

The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:7-12

In my last post, we looked at The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 7:1-6. We learned that Aram and Isra’el had formed an alliance and were coming to the south to conquer Y’hudah. In this post, we continue the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12.

Yesha’yahu said to King Achaz:

7 “This is what Adonai Elohim says: ‘It won’t occur, it won’t happen. 8 For the head of Aram is Dammesek and the head of Dammesek Retzin. In sixty-five years Efrayim will be broken and will cease to be a people.

The reference to 65 years is puzzling. If this prophecy is dated to 735 BCE or thereabouts, then it would point to approximately 670 BCE, but Assyria soundly defeated the northern kingdom in 722 BCE. Of course, that is “within 65 years,” but perhaps the reference is to some unknown event among the survivors of the northern kingdom around 670 BCE. It is also possible that the deportations of Israelites and the importation of foreigners into their former region happened around that time.

9 The head of Efrayim is Shomron, and the head of Shomron is the son of Remalyah. Without firm faith, you will not be firmly established.’

The challenge that the prophecy presented to Achaz was that he should trust God and not Assyria as he faced a threat from Retzin and Pekach. Their confederacy was not going to be successful.

We know what God says always comes to pass. Sha’ul writes: Moreover, my God will fill every need of yours according to his glorious wealth, in union with the Messiah Yeshua. ~ Philippians 4:19 (CJB) We can either believe that or reject it. If we reject it, His promise still stands – but we’ll go through all kinds of unnecessary tension. Yeshua said He’s coming back for us (John 14:3). Even if you don’t believe that He’s still coming back, but if you don’t believe it when you look at the situation of the world today, you’ll be filled with fear. It’s far better to rest in the promises of God.

10 Adonai spoke again to Achaz; he said, 11 ‘Ask Adonai your God to give you a sign. Ask it anywhere, from the depths of Sh’ol to the heights above.’

There are a number of cases of signs being given by God in the Tanakh. The most similar examples are found in 1 Samuel 2:34 and 2 Kings 19:29. In these instances, the sign relates to the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy. The purpose of this sign in our text was to give Achaz even more reason to have confidence in God rather than Assyria to rescue him from Retzin and Pekach.

12 But Achaz answered, ‘I won’t ask, I won’t test Adonai.’”  ~ Isaiah 7:7-12 (CJB)

Although Achaz’s response sounds holy, in reality, it was hypocrisy because, in 2 Kings 16, we read that Achaz had previously taken a journey to Assyria to make his peace pact with the Assyrians. Because he sought the king of the Assyrians, he didn’t think he needed a sign from the King of the universe.

In my next blog, we will conclude our exploration of The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:13-25.

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The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:1-6

In my last post, we looked at Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in Yesha’yahu 6:8-13. In this post, we will begin to look at The Sign of Immanuel in Yesha’yahu 7:1-6.

1 During the days of Achaz the son of Yotam, the son of ‘Uziyahu, king of Y’hudah, Retzin the king of Aram (Syria) and Pekach the son of Remalyah, king of Isra’el, advanced on Yerushalayim to attack it but were unable to conquer it. 2 It was told to the house of David that Aram and Efrayim had become allies. Achaz’s heart began to tremble, as did the hearts of his people, like forest trees shaken by the wind. 

‘Uziyahu was a good king and a godly man. His son, Yotam, was also a good king and a godly man. Achaz, however, was one of the worst kings in the history of Y’hudah and a wicked man. Not only did he turn his own heart against the Lord, but he caused the entire nation to backslide.

When Achaz heard that the ten northern tribes of Isra’el had formed an alliance with Aram and were going to come down and march against the two southern tribes of Y’hudah, Achaz was blown away like trees in the wind. What was the reason for this alliance? Historically, these two countries allied to protect themselves from the threat of Assyria. Assyria was to the northeast of Aram – a vast and brutal empire. Both Aram and Isra’el wanted Y’hudah to join in the confederacy, but Y’hudah refused. Therefore, Isra’el and Aram were coming to attack Y’hudah to force her to join their stand against the Assyrian threat.

The chronology of the reigns of Yotam (Jotham), Achaz (Ahaz) and Achazyah (Hezekiah) is very complicated. Nevertheless, the invasion referred to in verse one can be confidently dated to 735 BCE. By 734 BCE Tiglath-Pileser III had begun responding to the problems in the west, and the coalition would not have felt at liberty to take such aggressive action.

Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III was occupied with Urartu and Media between 737 and 735. During this time the western states were working to put together a coalition that might resist Assyrian incursions. Retzin had most likely played a significant role in bringing Pekach to the throne of Samaria. It is suspected that the attack against Yerushalayim was related to Achaz’s pro-Assyrian position. The siege was intended to result in replacing Achaz with an anti-Assyrian representative on the throne, who would then join in the coalition.

3 Then Adonai said to Yesha‘yahu, “Go out now to meet Achaz, you and your son Sh’ar Yashuv, at the end of the aqueduct from the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderers’ Field;

The name of Yesha’yahu’s son, Sh’ar Yashuv, means “a remnant will return,” a theme that has already played a significant role in the first six chapters of the book.

Achaz deserved to be wiped out. He was, after all, a wicked ruler, a man who had no interest in the things of God. God sent Yesha‘yahu to talk to him, thereby giving Achaz yet another chance to turn to Him.

We can learn a valuable lesson here. Oh, the mercy of our Lord. How longsuffering and patient He was with Achaz. How longsuffering and patient He is with me.

4 and say to him, ‘Take care to stay calm and unafraid; don’t be demoralized by these two smoldering stumps of firewood, by the blazing anger of Retzin and Aram or the son of Remalyah; 5 or because Aram, Efrayim and the son of Remalyah have been plotting against you, thinking,

Go out now to meet with Achaz,” the Lord said to Yesha‘yahu, and tell him to stay calm and unafraid. The plans of these two firebrands are not going to work the way they think or hope. In fact, in sixty-five years, the ten northern tribes will not even be a people. Indeed, within sixty-five years, the Assyrians came down and carried away the ten northern tribes, and they haven’t been heard from since.

6  “We will invade Y’hudah, tear it apart, divide it among ourselves and appoint the son of Tav’el as king there. ~ Isaiah 7:1-6 (CJB)

Though nothing is known historically of this individual, the name Tav’el is Aramaic and thus suggests someone in the royal household (likely of Davidic lineage) whose mother was perhaps a princess from the area of Aram. Such an individual would be more likely to be a sympathizer with Aramean causes.

The political intentions of Retzin and Pekach were clear. They wanted to remove Achaz from the throne because of his unwillingness to join their coalition and they intended to install a puppet king who would be more easily manipulated.

In my next blog, we will continue to explore The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12.

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The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 6:8-13

In my last post, we began to look at Yesha’yahu taken to the Throne of God in Yesha’yahu 6:1-7. In this post, we will look at Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in Yesha’yahu 6:8-13.

8 Then I [Yesha’yahu] heard the voice of Adonai saying, “Whom should I send? Who will go for us?” I answered, “I’m here, send me!”

Who is us in this verse? In my humble opinion, this is the same us in B’resheet (Genesis 1:26) God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Yesha’yahu’s readiness to serve contrasts with the reluctance of Moshe and Yirmeyahu (Exodus 4:1-17; Jeremiah 1:6). He didn’t passively say, “Lord, if You want, You can use me.” Rather, the original text indicates he said, “Behold me. Look at me, Lord.” Thus, with the enthusiasm of an eager first-grader who knows the answer, Yesha’yahu raised his hand to get the Teacher’s attention and said, “I’m here, send me!”

It has been said that Yesha’yahu’s calling can be summarized as Woe, Lo, and Go.

  • “Woe is me, “Yesha’yahu said in verse 5.
  • “Lo, this iniquity is taken away,” the s’rafim said in verse 7.
  • “Go,” the Lord said in verse 9. [1]

9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Yes, you hear, but you don’t understand. You certainly see, but you don’t get the point!’ 10 “Make the heart of this people [sluggish with] fat, stop up their ears, and shut their eyes. Otherwise, seeing with their eyes, and hearing with their ears, then understanding with their hearts, they might repent and be healed!”

Yesha’yahu was a prophet with a message of judgment. God’s commission recognized that, because of its sin, Isra’el’s healing could only come about through their punishment. Yeshayahu’s message from God would serve only to distance them even more from God.

What does the Lord say to you about your calling? What has He commissioned you to do for Him? Will you go? Whether that means across the seas or the street, around the block or the office, will you tell people about the One who saved your soul? Will you make talmidim (disciples)?

God wanted Yesha’yahu to speak His Word and to be His witness so that people might see how they were either rejecting or responding to Him. Our calling is not to be successful in ministry. Our calling is simply to be obedient to the Master. Those who are elected will respond. Others won’t.

This passage is quoted or referred to by Yeshua in Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; and John12:40. Sha’ul quotes it in Acts 28:-26-27. Yesha‘yahu said these things because he saw the Sh’khinah of Yeshua and spoke about him. ~ John 12:41 (CJB) It seems to me that such repetition makes it important to grab ahold of and respond to our calling as talmidim makers.

11 I asked, “Adonai, how long?” and he answered, “Until cities become uninhabited ruins, houses without human presence, the land utterly wasted; 12 until Adonai drives the people far away, and the land is one vast desolation. 13 If even a tenth [of the people] remain, it will again be devoured. “But like a pistachio tree or an oak, whose trunk remains alive after its leaves fall off, the holy seed will be its trunk.” ~ Yesha’yahu 6:8-13 (CJB)

From the start, Yesha’yahu knew that his message would not lead God’s people to repentance. They would experience destruction. Even so, a remnant would survive. This remnant is pictured as the trunk remains alive after its leaves fall off. How long would the heart of the nation be hard, the eyes of the nation be blind? Until they were carried captive into Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar carried the Jews captive into Babylon, one-tenth were left to care for the land (2 Kings 25:12, 22). Thus, this prophecy was fulfilled perfectly.

In my next blog, we will move on to The Sign of Immanuel in Yesha’yahu 7.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 6:1-7 

In my last post, we concluded our examination of the last of The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 5:22-30. In this post, will look at Yesha’yahu taken to the Throne of God in Yesha’yahu 6:1-7.

Most prophets record a time when God called them to their ministry. Moshe received God’s call at the burning bush (Exodus 3). Jeremiah heard God tell him that he had been chosen from the womb to deliver a message of judgment and salvation to the nations (Jeremiah 1:4-10). Ezekiel experienced an incredible vision while he was in exile in Babylon (Ezekiel 1:4-3:27). Yesha’yahu received his commissioning vision in the Temple, but in his vision, the Temple was transformed into the Throne Room of Heaven itself.

1 In the year of King ‘Uziyahu’s [Uzziah] death, I saw Adonai sitting on a high, lofty throne! The hem [most translations use train] of his robe filled the Temple.

‘Uziyahu is believed to have died in 739 BCE. This is a critical juncture in history. In 740-738 BCE Assyrian King Tiglath- Pileser III made his first campaign into the west. This is the beginning of a serious military threat that will eventually bring about the downfall of the northern kingdom, Isra’el, the destruction of the capital city of Samaria (along with many other cities of Isra’el and Y’hudah) and the deportation of large segments of the population. The Assyrians are on the brink of establishing the empire that will dominate the ancient Near East for over a century.

Second Chronicles 26:8 tells us that ‘Uziyahu was known worldwide as a king who brought peace and prosperity. He was an inventor. He built up his army to be a powerful force. He was a man who walked with the Lord and was strengthened by the Lord.

The Essentially Holy Place (Holy of Holies) was viewed as the Throne Room of the Lord, so it is logical that the vision is set in the Temple complex. The Ark of the Covenant is portrayed as the footstool of His Throne.

The word translated train by many refers to the hem. It is the richly decorated and distinctive border around the high priestly robe (see comments on Exodus 28:31-35). The hem was used as a mark of identity for people of rank such as priests and kings.

2 S’rafim [Seraphim] stood over him, each with six wings — two for covering his face, two for covering his feet and two for flying. 3 They were crying out to each other, “More holy than the holiest holiness is Adonai-Tzva’ot! [1] The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

The s’rafim were angelic creatures of great power and importance. Their name means “burning ones,” and the implication of fire evokes thoughts of danger and mystery. Covering their eyes shielded them from the brilliance of the divine glory. Covering their feet may have been a posture of submission.

More holy than the holiest holiness [2] is an emphatic or superlative phrase which points to God’s character. He is completely separated from anything profane or sinful. His sovereignty is underlined by the fact that His glory filled the whole earth.

4 The doorposts shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe to me! I [too] am doomed! – because I, a man with unclean lips, living among a people with unclean lips, have seen with my own eyes the King, Adonai-Tzva’ot!”

In Amos 9:1 the shaking of doorposts or thresholds indicates the beginning of demolition. If this was the case, the smoke could be the result of destructive forces at work.

In the presence of such holiness, Yesha’yahu felt the weight of his sinfulness. In the first five chapters, he was saying, Woe unto you. Woe unto you. Woe unto you. But when he saw the Lord, he said, Woe to me. That’s always the way it is. When Kefa realized who Yeshua was, he fell in his boat and said, Get away from me, sir, because I’m a sinner! ~ Luke 5:8 (CJB) When Yochanan saw the Lord on the Isle of Patmos, he fell as though he were dead (Revelation 1:17).

6 One of the s’rafim flew to me with a glowing coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Here! This has touched your lips. Your iniquity is gone; your sin is atoned for.” ~ Isaiah 6:1-7 (CJB)

God prepared Yesha’yahu by cleansing his lips, the instrument by which he would execute his prophetic task. He did this symbolically by having one of His s’rafim touch the prophet’s lips with a burning coal. Fire can purify (Numbers 31:22-23), and this burning coal was taken from the altar where sacrifices were offered to atone for sin (1 Chronicles 6:49).

As the coal touched the area where Yesha’yahu was plagued, it wasn’t to burn him up but to build him up. It cauterized the flow of iniquity from his lips. When we come to a place of saying, “Lord, woe is me. This area of my life is undone. My mind is impure. My speech is cutting. My eyes are wandering. My hands are evil”—whatever might be your area of weakness, the Lord will send a coal from off the altar. If you’ll humble yourself before Him and be open to Him, He’ll cauterize that area – just as He did with Yesha’yahu. [3]

I have always struggled with the idea of having a burning coal applied to my lips. I can recall having my tongue stuck on a freezing flag pole as a kid and getting it unstuck was no fun. When I grew older, I developed a bad case of being a “potty-mouth.” It wasn’t until the Ruach got ahold of me and pointed out scripture that I was convicted of my sin.

In my next blog, we will move on to Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning ~ Part 2.

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[1] See the Glossary page above.

[2] Unlike English, Hebrew does not have an equivalent phrase for good, better, best. Consequently, the phrase more holy than the holiest holiness (literally Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh in Hebrew) serves that purpose.

[3] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 5:22-30 

In my last post, we continued to unpack the next three woes of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 5:18-21. We covered the next three of the six woes Yesha’yahu declares to Isra’el. In this post, will conclude our examination of the last of The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 5:22-30.

The sixth and final woe returns to the earlier issue of alcoholism and twisting justice for money.

22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, men whose power goes to mixing strong drinks, 23 who acquit the guilty for bribes but deny justice to the righteous!

The Bible Background Commentary has this to offer regarding the issue of strong drinks in this period.

A wide variety of alcoholic beverages was available in the ancient world. Wine (from honey, dates or grapes) and beer were the most common. What is classed today as “hard liquor” (requiring a distillation process) was not yet known. The two terms used in this verse may refer respectively to grape wine and date wine, but it is difficult to be certain. The mixing that is mentioned here involves mixing in herbs, spices or oils. [1]

Because people have given themselves over to wine and strong drink, people no longer think clearly. Woe to a society which has come under the bondage of strong drink.

True justice (see Leviticus 19:15) is expected of kings, officials and local magistrates. In fact, in the book of Judges and prophetic literature (Yesha’yahu 1:23) describes a society in which “laws are enacted but ignored.” At that time and true today, an efficiently administered state depends on the reliability of the law and its enforcement. The temptation for judges and government officials to accept bribes is found in every time and place (see Proverbs 6:35; Micah 7:3). Taking bribes becomes almost institutionally accepted in bureaucratic situations as competing parties attempt to outmaneuver each other (see Ezra 4:4-5; Micah 3:11). However, at least on the ideal level, arguments and penalties are imposed to eliminate or at least lessen this problem. Exodus 23:8 forbids the taking of bribes and the perversion of justice as an offense against God, the weak and innocent, and the entire community (see Amos 5:12).

Two judgment speeches (verses 24 and 25) follow the woes.

24 Therefore, as fire licks up the stubble, and the chaff is consumed in the flame; so, their root will rot, and their flowers scatter like dust; because they have rejected the Torah of Adonai-Tzva’ot, they have despised the word of the Holy One of Isra’el. 25 This is why Adonai’s anger blazed up against His people, why He stretched out His hand against them and struck them [so hard that] the hills shook, and corpses lay like trash in the streets. Even after all this, His anger remains, His upraised hand still threatens.

“You brought judgment and destruction upon yourself,” God says, “but My hand is outstretched still.” Look at that hand. It’s not stretched out to strike you down. As I look at that hand, I see the scars where a nail pierced and penetrated the palm (or wrist as some people believe) and I realize that His hand is stretched out not to come down on me but to reach out and save me.

God’s hand is stretched out. The mistakes we’ve made personally, as a church family, as a community, and as a country have been forgiven and covered by the blood of Yeshua if we’ll simply respond and say, “Thank You, Lord, for reaching out, for stretching out Your hand on the Cross, for absorbing My sins. I repent. I change direction. I’m turning away from my old paths to walk in Your way.”

God comes to the vineyard of our nation and looks for the fruit of thanksgiving, rightness, holiness, love, mercy, and compassion, but all He finds is sour grapes and wild fruit. What is the solution? Repentance. Nations don’t repent. People repent. Therefore, it’s time for us to accept our part in the corrupt state of our society. It’s time for us to change our activity and pray on behalf of our country.

26 He will give a signal to faraway nations, he will whistle for them to come from the ends of the earth; and here they come, so fast! – 27 none of them tired or stumbling, none of them sleeping or drowsy, none with a loose belt, none with a broken sandal-strap.

The signal or banner was used as a means of calling out an army of a territory or indicating the place where a muster was taking place, or a camp was located. It often featured an insignia of the tribe or division. The word translated whistle can also refer to a hiss.

 28 Their arrows are sharp; all their bows are strung, their horses’ hoofs are like flint, and their [chariot] wheels like a whirlwind.

The Assyrians did not shoe horses, so horses with hard hooves were the more desirable, especially for the rocky terrain of Isra’el. The bow was the main offensive weapon of the Assyrian army. Arrowheads were made of various materials including bone, horn, and various metals. Chariots could accommodate four people and had heavy six or eight spoke wheels.

 29 They will roar like lions – yes, roaring like young lions, they growl and seize the prey and carry it off, with no one to rescue. 30 On that day they will growl at them, like the sea when it growls – and when one looks toward land, one sees darkness closing in; the light is dissipated in the obscuring overcast.” ~ Yesha’yahu 5:22-30 (CJB)

The lion would typically roar as a warning in a territorial confrontation. The growl is appropriate to the seizing of prey. Both images are reflected here. Because of the Lord’s allowance, the Assyrian army would descend on Isra’el in a flawless military maneuver.

In my next blog, we will move on to Yesha’yahu 6 covering his visit to The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 5:18-21

In my last post, we began to explore the SixWoes and Judgments of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 5:8ff. We covered the first two of six woes Yesha’yahu declares to Isra’el. In this post, we continue to unpack the next three woes of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 5:18-21.

18 Woe to those who begin by pulling at transgression with a thread but end by dragging sin along as if with a cart rope. 19 They say, “We want God to speed up his work, to hurry it along, so we can see it! We want the Holy One of Isra’el’s plan to come true right now, so we can be sure of it!”

Liberalism and looseness are the third woe. Their sin was one of cynicism. With a tone of disbelief, they challenged God to act. People plunge into sin and then mistake the mercy, patience, and long-suffering of God for apathy, impotence, or even approval. Our Father is incredibly long-suffering, and the wheels of His judgment turn slowly. He waits for us to repent and to come to our sensesbut eventually, we will find ourselves ground up in the inevitable wheels of justice.

Augustine of Hippo says of verse 18: [1]

“Every man braids a rope for himself in his sins. Who makes the rope long? Who adds sin to sin? How are sins added to sins? When sins that have been committed are combined with other sins! Someone committed a theft. To ensure that no one may find out he committed it, he seeks out an astrologer. It would be enough to have committed the theft; why do you want to join a second sin to the first? Then you have two sins. When you are forbidden to go to an astrologer, you rebuke the bishop. Now there are three sins. When you hear it said of you, ‘Cast him out of the Church,’ you reply, ‘I will go to the party of Donatus.’ Now you have added a fourth sin. The rope is growing. Beware of the rope!”

20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness into light and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter!

Relativism and existentialismthe lack of absolutesis the fourth woe. How many times have we heard sayings such as?

“Dark is light, and light is dark. Sweet is bitter and bitter is sweet. You can’t say what’s right and wrong for everyone. What’s right for you may or may not be right for me. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Just do whatever you want.”

They classified actions as an evil that God would call good and vice versa. While the principle is broader than judicial, such moral confusion was particularly reprehensible in the courtroom as we will see in verse 23.

21 Woe to those seeing themselves as wise, esteeming themselves as clever. ~ Isaiah 5:18-21 (CJB)

The fifth woe is intellectualism. The human issue is one of autonomy. Many self-proclaimed intellectuals are agnosticsbut the Bible says it is the fool who has said in his heart that there is no God (see Psalm 14:1). This would be like an ant defiantly declaring that he doesn’t believe in man. I could yell and jump up and down in front of him to prove my existence, but his perspective is so puny, his intellect so small, his perception so restricted that he doesn’t see me. Does that mean I don’t exist? No, it means he’s too small to see me. The only way I would be able to save that ant from destruction would be to become an ant. That’s what God did with us. God said, “I love you so much; I’ll become one of you to talk to you about life and death, heaven and hell, sin and salvation.” That’s how much our Lord loves us.

In my next blog, we will conclude our examination of The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 5:22-30.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The Church’s Bible – Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators.

The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 5:8-17

In my last post, we examined The Parable (or Song) of the Vineyard in Yesha’yahu 5:1-7. In this post, we begin to explore the SixWoes and Judgments of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 5:8ff. Today, we will cover the first two of six woes Yesha’yahu declares to Isra’el.

The previous passage described Isra’el as a vineyard that produced worthless grapes. The six woes that follow illustrate why Isra’el was so worthless with judgments to follow.

8 Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there’s no room for anyone else, and you live in splendor alone on your land. 9 Adonai-Tzva’ot said in my ears, “Many houses will be brought to ruin, large, magnificent ones left empty; 10 for a ten-acre vineyard will produce only five gallons of wine, and seed from five bushels of grain will yield but half a bushel.”

The first woe pronounced upon Isra’el deals with corrupt capitalism. Capitalism can become corrupted just as surely as socialism, communism, or any other form of government. Here, God is saying essentially, “People have taken over properties, homes, and fields to build their empires.” And, because they were motivated only by money, God indicts them. “You’re not going to get away with this indefinitely,” He says, “A day of reckoning will come when all of your efforts to increase your empire will backfire. The land won’t produce. The resources won’t be released.”

Expansion of real estate holdings in the ancient world was usually at someone else’s expense. Bad harvests over several seasons could necessitate giving up ownership over the property to pay off or work off debt. In Isra’el this was a theological as well as an economic crisis. Since God had given them the land as a benefit of the covenant, each family considered its landholdings as its little share in the covenant. Therefore, what otherwise would be a financial tragedy (often with an oppressive dimension) also served to deprive family members of their part in the covenant. Additionally, the decision-making body in any community was comprised of landowners (as it was originally in the United States).

A vineyard would typically be expected to yield at least one thousand gallons of wine per acre. Harvests of grain in irrigated areas across the ancient Near East yielded a normal seed to crop ratio of about one to ten (though higher yields are attested in the literature). Therefore, a bushel of seed would usually be expected to yield ten bushels of grain. Here the ratio is reversed as ten to one.

11 Woe to those who get up early to pursue intoxicating liquor; who stay up late at night, until wine inflames them. 12 They have lutes and lyres, drums and flutes, and wine at their parties; but they pay no attention to how Adonai works and never look at what His hands have made. 13 For such lack of knowledge, my people go into exile; this is also why their respected men starve, and their masses are parched from thirst. 14 Therefore Sh’ol has enlarged itself and opened its limitless jaws – and down go their nobles and masses, along with their noise and revels. 15 The masses are lowered; the nobles are humbled – proud looks will be brought down. 16 But Adonai-Tzva’ot is exalted through justice, God the Holy One is consecrated through righteousness. 17 Then lambs will be able to feed as if they were in their own pasture, and those wandering through will eat from the ruined fields of the overfed. ~ Isaiah 5:8-17 (CJB)

The second woe is hedonismthe pursuit of pleasure above all else. So too, our own country seems to be in a relentless pursuit of hedonism. Nothing can stand between us and our pleasure. We spend fortunes on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling; on bigger houses and faster cars, but don’t have money or time to help the poor.

As God’s people indulged themselves with drink and food, so Sh’ol will open its large mouth and swallow them. Sh’ol refers to the grave and in some contexts signifies the underworld. The idea of Sh’ol swallowing its victims did not originate with the Hebrews but may stem from the Canaanite story that describes the god of death swallowing his victims.

In my next blog, we will continue to examine The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 5:18ff.

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