The Woes of Cush (modern Ethiopia) ~ Yesha’hayu 18:1-7

In my last post, we examined of A Prophecy About Dammesek in Yesha’yahu 17. In this post, we explore The Woes of Cush (modern Ethiopia) in Yesha’hayu 18:1-7.

The passage about Cush is not called a prophecy as the previous chapters have specified, but the opening word Woe signals a type of judgment speech. The land of Cush was south of Egypt, roughly identical to modern Ethiopia.

1  Woe to the land of whirring wings beyond the rivers of Ethiopia;

The land of whirring wings is possibly a reference to the multitude of insects that infest the Nile Valley. However, given the context of ambassadors by sea in verse 2, this more likely refers to the many fast boats made of bundled papyrus that sped their way up and down the Nile.

2 they send ambassadors by sea, across the water in papyrus-reed boats! Go, swift messengers, to a nation tall and bronzed, to a people feared far and near, to a strong and conquering nation whose land is divided by rivers!

Yes, there would have been a great deal of diplomatic activity during this period. There is some question, however, who is sending these ambassadors and to whom they are being sent. Given the desire of the Ethiopians to gain full control over Lower Egypt and the Delta, they may well be sending messengers to Assyria seeking assistance or at least a recognition of their legitimacy to rule in Egypt.

Since the Assyrians were neither tall nor bronzed, then the ambassadors may also be spreading the word to the Ethiopian people to join in the effort to unite Egypt.

The nation whose land is divided by rivers is an apt description of Mesopotamia, the “Land of Two Rivers,” the Tigris and Euphrates.

3  All you inhabitants of the world, you who live on the earth: when a banner is hoisted on the mountains, look! When the shofar is blown, listen!

Despite human diplomatic efforts, a decisive moment will occur in the future when an army gathers for battle. The banner marks the rallying point, and the trumpet signals the start of the war.

4  For Adonai has said this to me: “I will look on from my place and do nothing, like heat shimmering in the sun, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”

God was calmly in control and did nothing in contrast to the frantic efforts of diplomacy.

5  For before the harvest, when the flowering is over, and the bud becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the branches with pruning-knives, lop off the twigs and take them away.

It is the wise farmer who knows the correct times of the year to cultivate and prune his vines to ensure maximum yield. The grapevines in Isra’el first bloom in May and the fruit will begin to ripen by August. There are two calculated pruning’s:

  1. in the fall before the vines become dormant, the unproductive bunches from the previous year are removed,
  2. and once the grapes appear, excess leaves and tendrils are cut away to encourage higher yield and even ripening.

God will thus bide His time until the appropriate moment to make His pruning of nations on earth.

6  They will all be left to the vultures in the mountains and to the wild animals in the fields; the vultures will feed on them in summer and the wild animals of the fields in winter.

The cuttings from the grape vines were often used for fuel, but in this example, they are left as food and nesting for vultures and wild animals.

7  At that time tribute will be brought to Adonai-Tzva’ot from a nation tall and bronzed, from a people feared far and near, from a strong and conquering nation whose land is divided by rivers, to the place where the name of Adonai-Tzva’ot lives, Mount Tziyon. ~ Isaiah 18:1-7 (CJB)

Even now, there is hope for Isra’el as Iran threatens its annihilation as well as our own in the United States.

In my next post, we will begin to explore A Prophecy Against Egypt in Yesha’yahu 19.

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A Prophecy About Dammesek ~ Yesha’yahu 17:1-14

In my last post, we completed our examination of A Prophesy Against Mo’av ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 16. In this post, we examine in A Prophecy About Dammesek in Yesha’yahu 17.

The next prophecy is directed against Dammesek was and still is the capital city of Syria. From the time of Shlomo (Solomon) (1 Kings 11:23-25) to the mid-eighth century, there was fighting between Isra’el (the northern tribes) and Syria. Because the Syrians were the instigators of the alliance with Isra’el against Y’hudah (chapter 7), they would be judged first.

1 This is a prophecy about Dammesek: “Dammesek will soon stop being a city; it will become a heap of ruins.

The Syro-Ephraimitic War, which raged during the middle 730’s BCE, ended with King Tiglath-Pileser III invading Syria and Isra’el and devastating both of these rebellious states (734-732). The Syrian kingdom ruled from Dammesek by Retzin (see 7:1-9), had been Isra’el’s principal political and economic rival. He had meddled in Isra’el and Y’hudah’s internal affairs and had encroached on their territories for over a decade. This widespread destruction also included both the reduction of much of the city of Dammesek to rubble as well as the redistribution of its territories in Syria as well as in Transjordan and the Galilee. [1]

2 The cities of ‘Aro‘er will be abandoned, given over to flocks lying down undisturbed. 3 Efrayim will have no defenses, Dammesek will cease to rule, and Aram’s survivors will share the fate of Isra’el’s finest sons,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot.

Efrayim is another name for the ten northern tribes. It was Dammesek and Efrayim who allied, saying to Y’hudah, “Join with us. The Assyrians are coming.” But the Lord spoke to Yesha’yahu, saying, “Don’t look to a man. Seek Me.” Here, the Lord, through Yesha’yahu, is reiterating the fact that, because they forgot the Lord, Isra’el, along with Syria would be destroyed.

4 “When that day comes, Ya‘akov’s glory will wane, and his full body grow thin,

When that day points to a future but unspecified period. The first image of the destruction of Isra’el is a diseased body.

5as when the harvester collects the standing grain, reaping the ears of grain with his arm; yes, as when they glean the grain in the Refa’im Valley.

The second image of destruction is a reaper picking grain. Refa’im Valley and its farms extend southwest of Yerushalayim. The meaning of its name is ominous: “Valley of the Departed.” Yet, it provided much of the food for the inhabitants of the city and also was heavily gleaned by the poor.

As corn was harvested in this fertile valley, the once-thriving nations of Syria and Isra’el would one day be laid bare.

6 Yet gleanings will be left, as when beating an olive tree— two or three olives at the very top, four or five on its fruitful branches,” says Adonai, the God of Isra’el.

The third image of destruction concerns the harvesting of an olive tree. The tree was shaken, and the fallen olives were eaten. But this image also shows that, though the devastation will be extensive, it will not be total. A remnant, represented by berries that stayed attached to the tree, will survive. Like the grain harvesters, the workers who beat the branches of the olive trees to gather the fruit were told to leave a portion for the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. Deuteronomy 24:20 (CJB)

7 On that day, a person will heed his Maker and turn his eyes toward the Holy One of Isra’el. 8 He will pay no heed to the altars made with his own hands; he will not turn toward what his fingers made, the sacred poles and standing-stones for sun-worship.

On that day also points to a time beyond the judgment. Indeed, the judgment of God will cause the remnant to turn from false worship to the worship of the true God who created them. Asherah (referring to the sacred poles) was a Canaanite goddess of love and war.

9 When that day comes, his strong cities, which others abandoned when Isra’el advanced, will be like abandoned woods and forests; they will be laid waste.  

The destruction will turn cities into abandoned woods and mountaintops. The reason for their abandonment is the Isra’eli, who, as verse 10 explains, have sinned by forgetting God.

10 For you have forgotten the God who saved you, failed to remember the Rock of your strength; so, you plant pagan-style gardens and set out vine-cuttings for a foreign god. 11 Though you make them grow on the day you plant them, and in the morning, your seedlings flower; the crop will vanish the day disease comes, a day of incurable pain.

To remember God involves more than a mental activity; it implies trusting, obeying, and worshiping Him. To forget Him points to Isra’el’s disobedience.

12 Oh, the terror-stricken uproar of many peoples, roaring like the roar of the seas, and the rushing about of nations, rushing and surging like wild, wild waters! 13 Yes, the nations will roar like the mighty ocean, but He will rebuke them, and far will they flee, driven like chaff by a mountain wind, like whirling dust in advance of the storm.

Though the nations rage like the roar of the seas, God’s rebuke will quiet them by driving them away. Chaff was light, and wind blew it away, so God’s rebuke will blow away the tumultuous nations.

14 As evening falls, you can see terror; before sunrise, they have ceased to be. This is the lot of those who plunder us, the fate of those who prey on us. ~ Yesha’yahu 17:1-14 (CJB)

God’s judgment comes quickly, in a single day (in the evening… before morning). The victim of the nations (God’s people) speaks here in the first person (us).

I wonder how many of us are facing seemingly insurmountable odds or tremendously tricky situations. We try to figure out what kind of relationships we can form, what kind of adjustments we can make, what kind of schemes we can employ – yet all the while the Lord says, “I’ll take care of it. Trust in Me.”

In my next post, we will explore The Woes of Cush (modern Ethiopia) in Yesha’hayu 18.

Click here for PDF version.

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

A Prophecy Against Mo’av ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 16:1-14

In my last post, we began to examine A Prophesy Against Mo’av ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 15. In this post, we complete our examination in A Prophesy Against Mo’av ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 16.

At the time Yesha’yahu was prophesying, war clouds were gathering in the north. The formidable, seemingly invincible Ashurim empire was preparing to move out in its attempt to conquer the world. That is the scene as Yesha’yahu continues to prophesy concerning the countries that would be affected by this invasion and by the judgment that was falling due to their hard-heartedness and rebellion against a God who desired to draw them to Himself.

The prophecy against Mo’av is the second in a series of prophecies against nations that were immediate neighbors of Israel. Mo’av was in Transjordan opposite Jericho and on the east bank of the Dead Sea. The Bible and other sources record a long history of conflict between Isra’el and Mo’av whose origins go back to the incestuous union between Lot and his daughter (Genesis 19:30-38).

1 Send lambs for the ruler of the land from the crags toward the desert to the mountain of the daughter of Tziyon.

The land from the crags toward the desert is commonly identified as Sela in most English translations. Sela (widely recognized as the cliff fortress of Petra) was in Edom, so the Mo’avi refugees apparently will go that far. Then they will send gifts (lambs) to Tziyon. Many eschatologists believe that Petra which still exists in modern-day Jordan will become a refuge for Tribulation saints.

2 The daughters of Mo’av at the fords of the Arnon are like fluttering birds pushed from the nest.

The Valley of the Arnon is in places three miles across and is a significant barrier to traffic north and south. The fords refer to the point where the north-south highway crosses the wadi at Dibon. This would be a natural crossing point for the Mo’avi fugitives as well as an extremely strategic site.

3 “Give [us] counsel! Decide [to help]! Make your shadow [over us] like night in the middle of noonday. Hide [our] outcasts! Don’t betray [our] fugitives!

The request for shelter as well as shade is a request for protection, and it implies that Mo’av will be willing to become a vassal state of Y’hudah.

4 Let our outcasts live with you! Protect Mo’av from the attacks of robbers!” For when the extorting ends, the spoiling ceases, and those trampling on the land are destroyed, 5 a throne will be set up by grace, and on it, in the tent of David, will sit an honest judge, seeking justice and pursuing righteousness.

The prophecy evokes the picture of a just descendant of David ruling on the throne forever. The language is a reminder of the Davidic covenant in 2Sam 7:12-16, and it hints at the expectation of the Messiah.

In response to Mo’av’s request for shelter, the prophet can only lament its destruction. The following part of the prophecy is similar in wording and imagery to Jeremiah 48:29-39.

6 We have heard about Mo’av’s pride, how very proud they are; about their haughty arrogance, their insolence, and bravado.

In keeping with a significant theme throughout the book of Yesha’yahu, the heart of Mo’av’s sin is described as pride.

7 Therefore Mo’av will wail for Mo’av – they will all wail! You will sigh, stricken by grief, for the raisin-cakes of Kir-Hareset.

Raisin cakes were a delicacy mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:5 along with apples as providing sustenance for lovemaking, though it may not have been an aphrodisiac. Hosea 3:1 suggests that raisin cakes were associated with pagan rituals.

 8 For the grain fields of Heshbon are withering, also the vineyards of Sibmah, whose red grapes overpowered rulers of nations— once they reached as far as Ya‘zer and trailed out into the desert; their spreading branches even crossed the sea. 9 Therefore I will weep for Sibmah’s vine as I weep for Ya‘zer; I will water you with my tears, Heshbon and El‘aleh; because the shouts of battle are falling on your summer fruits and harvest;

Recapping the area of devastation, the prophecy describes the physical and economic ruin of the northern section of Mo’av. This includes the tableland cities of Heshbon and Ya‘zer at the north end of the Dead Sea. Both Sibmah and El’aleh are listed as part of the Heshbon district and were at one time part of Reuven’s allotment. [1]

10gladness and joy are removed from the fruitful fields. No revelry in the vineyards, no happy shouting, no one treading grapes in the winepresses – I have silenced the vintage-cheers.

Because of the devastation, joy, singing, and wine will vanish from the land of Mo’av.

11 This is why my heart throbs like a lyre for Mo’av, and everything in me for Kir-Heres. 12 Even when Mo’av is seen growing weary of worshipping on the high places and entering their sanctuaries to pray, they will have accomplished nothing.

Mo’avi worship is ineffective. His sanctuary refers to the temple of Chemosh, who was no god and therefore could not respond to prayer.

13 This is the word Adonai spoke against Mo’av in the past. 14 But now Adonai has said, “Within three years [and not a day more], as if a hired worker were keeping track of the time, the glory of Mo’av will be brought into contempt, despite its large population; and the surviving remnant will be few and feeble.” ~ Yesha’yahu 16:1-14 (CJB)

The concluding comment about the Mo’avi prophecy declares that it had been delivered at an earlier time, but from this moment Mo’av had only three more years. Presumably, a hired worker would count the time until his work was over with great attention and precision.

Most scholars associate this Mo’avi devastation with the Ashurim king Sargon’s campaign against the people of northwest Arabia in approximately 718 BCE. [2]

In my next post, we will continue in our study of A Prophecy About Dammesek in Yesha’hayu 17.

Click here for PDF version.

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

[2] HCSB Study Bible.

Shavuot (Pentecost)

God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Yesha’yahu and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost). In 2019, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Saturday, June 8th. Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, June 9th. Essentially, Jews and Christians will be celebrating on the same weekend, albeit for slightly different reasons.

Scriptural Basis

15“‘From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai. 17You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai. 18Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai. 19Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen. 21On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-21)

Basic Description

Shavu’ot was one of three festivals (Pesach/Matzah & Sukkot being the other two) appointed by Adonai where all Jewish males were to go up to Jerusalem. Shavu’ot means “weeks.” It comes exactly fifty days after Pesach. In Greek, we have come to know it as Pentecost. Pentecost means “fifty.” It was an agricultural festival to celebrate the latter fruits of the spring harvest. Recall that Yom HaBikkurim (First Fruits) immediately following Pesach celebrated the barley harvest and, as Believers, we recognize it as the resurrection of Yeshua – the first fruit from the dead. Shavu’ot celebrates the thanksgiving for the wheat harvest symbolized by the two loaves of challah.


The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and with great ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai. In addition, blood sacrifices were offered to cover the sin of the people. Since sacrifices can no longer be made with the destruction of the Second Temple, the modern Jewish observance of Shavu’ot has changed. Rabbis calculated that Moshe received the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavu’ot. Hence, the rabbinic name for Shavu’ot is Zman Matan Torateynu (the Time of the Giving of the Torah).

The custom of decorating the synagogue in greenery, flowers and baskets of fruit to symbolize the harvest aspect of Shavu’ot; the practice of marking the holiday with a meal featuring dairy products in recognition of Scripture being described as the pure milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2); and the inclusion of the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth in the service are all the primary reminders of Shavu’ot’s agricultural prominence.

But Ruth’s story sounds another theme, one more relevant to the celebration of Shavu’ot by modern Jewish people and Messianic Believers. When her husband dies, Ruth – a gentile – elects to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, telling her “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16) binding herself willingly to the people Isra’el. Ruth’s story is one of commitment to the Jewish people freely made and to the covenant with God that is the core of the Jewish religion and experience. Like Ruth, the gentile woman who was in the lineage of Yeshua, we have voluntarily said to our fellow Messianic Jewish believers your people will be my people, your God will be my God.

Shavu’ot celebrates the most important moment in the Mosaic covenant – the giving of the Torah to Moshe and its acceptance by Isra’el at Sinai. Shavu’ot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education. Traditional Jews stay up all night on the first night of this festival studying the Torah. In keeping with the theme of Jewish education, Shavu’ot has traditionally been the time when many Jewish schools mark graduation.

Messianic significance abounds in this festival. From God’s perspective, the time of great harvest when large numbers of Jewish believers and later Gentiles came into a personal relationship with Him was initiated at Shavu’ot immediately after Yeshua’s resurrection (Acts 2:40-43). The two leavened loaves of Shavu’ot may, therefore, symbolize Jew and Gentile presented to God and now part of His family. God set us free from slavery to sin by placing His Spirit in us to enable us to live as He intended (Romans 8:1-4). Hence God visibly placed His Ruach HaKodesh in Yeshua’s followers on that important Shavu’ot centuries ago (Acts 2:4).

The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh served as the completion of Pesach, the completion of our atonement, in the sense that through the Ruach, God gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to do evil.

The theme of Shavu’ot can be best summed up by the word revival. Isra’el was called to praise God for the first fruits of the ground, knowing that these early fruits assured the latter harvest. This also applies to the spiritual Kingdom of God. The first fruit of believers at Shavu’ot virtually guarantees a revival in the latter-day spiritual harvest for Messiah. Now we can understand why God included Shavu’ot in the three required festivals for every Jewish male. He had gathered Jewish men from throughout the region to hear the Good News of Yeshua in their own language. They would take that message back home with them to tell their families and friends. As Pesach speaks of redemption, Shavu’ot speaks of revival. The message of Shavu’ot is one of great hope and joy. It was a message heard and accepted by 3,000 Jewish people on that special Shavu’ot (Acts 2:41). Note that 3,000 Jewish people died because of their rebellion of worshipping the Golden Calf at the giving of the Torah.

When Is the Biblical Feast of Shavuot?

Many people desire to know the actual Biblical date for Shavu’ot. It is the only feast that God did not say fell on a specific date in the Hebrew calendar. Rather He gave a formula for calculating the day. Though the traditional Jewish community will celebrate Shavu’ot according to that traditional calculation, there is a difference of opinion on the matter. In the first century, the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date that Shavuot was to be celebrated. The question arose over which Sabbath does Firstfruits (see Vayikra 23:9-14) take place after the day after Pesach, which is generally considered a Sabbath or the regular seventh day Sabbath, i.e. Saturday during the week of Pesach?

The Pharisees claimed the correct day was the day after the first day of Matzah, the sixteenth of Nisan. The Sadducees taught that the correct day was Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. Since the writings of the Pharisees survived and developed into traditional Judaism, their opinion is accepted in modern Judaism.

But who is biblically correct? Remember, the Scriptures state, “you are to count seven full Sabbaths until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

For it to be the day after the seventh Shabbat, the initial Sabbath would have to be the weekly Sabbath. So, it would appear the Sadducees were right. Consequently, I believe that the Sadducees got this one correct. Amazingly, the year that Yeshua died, the sixteenth of Nisan fell on the Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath for the Sadducees as well. God worked it out that neither group would have a reason not to recognize Yeshua as the Firstfruits of the Resurrection.

In my next post, we will return to our series on Yesha’yahu.

Click here for PDF version.

A Prophecy Against Mo’av ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 15:1-9

In my last post, we completed our examination of A Prophecy Against Ashur and P’leshet in Yesha’yahu 14:24-32. In this post, we begin to examine A Prophesy Against Mo’av in Yesha’yahu 15. This is a two-part study in that the prophecy continues in Yesha’yahu 16.

At the time Yesha’yahu was prophesying, war clouds were gathering in the north. The formidable, seemingly invincible Ashurim empire was preparing to move out in its attempt to conquer the world. That is the scene as Yesha’yahu continues to prophesy concerning the countries that would be affected by this invasion and by the judgment that was falling due to their hard-heartedness and rebellion against a God who desired to draw them to Himself.

The prophecy against Mo’av is the second in a series of prophecies against nations that were immediate neighbors of Israel. Mo’av was in Transjordan opposite Jericho and on the east bank of the Dead Sea. The Bible and other sources record a long history of conflict between Isra’el and Mo’av whose origins go back to the incestuous union between Lot and his daughter (Genesis 19:30-38).

1 This is a prophecy about Mo’av: The night ‘Ar is sacked, Mo’av is ruined. The night Kir is sacked, Mo’av is ruined.

Those cities listed as destroyed or damaged in verses 1-4 are all in the northern sector of Mo’av:

‘Ar was a city on the Vadi Arnon in the middle part of Mo’av, and Kir was further south. N’vo and Meidva Mo’av were two northern sites east of the north tip of the Dead Sea. N’vo was further known as the mountain that Moshe ascended to catch sight of the promised land before he died. Dibon was further south about midway down the coast of the Dead Sea and some 20 miles inland. Heshbon and El‘aleh were northeastern cities in Mo’av. Yachatz was further south parallel to Dibon[1]

2 He went up to the temple, to Dibon, and to the high places, to weep. On N’vo and Meidva Mo’av is howling, every head shaved bald, every beard cut off. 3 In the streets, they wear sackcloth; on their roofs and in their squares, everyone howls and weeps profusely.

I must confess that I have not been able to identify he in verse 2. Some translations indicate Dibon goes up to its temple. In any case, there was a lot of weeping, wailing, and mourning. Communal and individual laments throughout the ancient Near East included weeping, the shaving of heads and beards, wearing sackcloth and lying on the ground or rolling about. These are all illustrative of grief as well as a temporary (usually seven-day) identification with the dead.

4 Heshbon and El‘aleh cry out, they are heard as far as Yachatz. Mo’av’s best troops cry aloud, as their courage faints away. 5 My heart cries out for Mo’av! Its fugitives flee to Tzo‘ar, a calf three years old. They ascend the slope of Luchit, weeping as they go; on their way to Horonayim, they utter heartrending cries.

The prophecy in these verses describes the attempted escape route of those who survived the devastation of northern Mo’av. The key to the line of flight for the Mo’avi fugitives is Tzo’ar since none of the other sites mentioned can be identified. According to Genesis 14:2-3, Tzo’ar is one of the cities of the plain. Speculation on its exact location, however, places it near Mount N’vo (Deuteronomy 32:1-3), near the northern tip of the Dead Sea, as well as in the area at the southern end of the Dead Sea. Considering the apparent focus of the attack in Yesha’yahu 15:1-4 around Kir and N’vo, it seems that a southern site for Tzo’ar and these other cities would be more appropriate for a flight to safety towards Edom.

6 The waters of Nimrim are desolate; the grass is dried up, the new growth fails, nothing green is left.

Following the same reasoning regarding a flight south by the Mo’avi fugitives, it seems best to identify Nimrim with the Wadi en-Numeirah, which flows west into the southern end of the Dead Sea. [2]

7 Therefore they carry away their wealth, everything they have put aside, across the Vadi of the Willows.

Assuming a southern route for the fugitives, the poplar-lined ravine would be the Vadi el-Hesa (Zered River), which marks the border between Mo’av and Edom. This broad valley (up to four miles across) runs for thirty-five miles and concludes at the southeast end of the Dead Sea.

8 For the cry has circulated throughout Mo’av’s territory— its howling has reached Eglayim, its howling has reached Be’er-Elim.  

Yesha’yahu’s prophecy would indicate a southern location for Eglayim, but no precise identification has been made.

Likewise, Be’er-Elim has not been positively identified. Some scholars speculate that it is to be equated with Be’er of Numbers 21:16, but the large number of place names which begin with Be’er (well) makes such an identification problematic. Following the line of thought used on other sites in this prophecy, one would expect it to be a southern site near the Dead Sea.

9 For the waters of Dimon are full of blood, yet I have worse in store for Dimon – a lion for those who escape from Mo’av and for those who remain in its land.” ~ Isaiah 15:1-9 (CJB)

In verse 9, it’s as if God was saying, “You can’t beat the rap. Even if you elude the Ashurim, there will be lions waiting to devour you.”  We might think we can get away with sin – but the only solution is to be cleansed from it by the blood Yeshua shed when He died in our place.

In my next post, we will continue in our study of A Prophecy Against Moav ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 16.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] HCSB Study Bible.

[2] Ibid.

A Prophecy Against Ashur and P’leshet (P’leshet) ~ Yesha’yahu 14:24-32

In my last post, we learned that God promises to restore Isra’el, and after they have rested, they will sing A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 14:12-23. In this post, we learn of A Prophecy Against Ashur and P’leshet in Yesha’yahu 14:24-32.

A Prophecy Against Ashur (Assyria)

The prophecy shifts focus from Bavel to the northern center of Mesopotamian power, Ashur. Ashur was the nation that under Tiglath-pileser III reduced the size of the northern kingdom of Isra’el in the 730’s BCE. In 722 BCE, under Shalmaneser, Ashur deported all the northern kingdoms citizens. But God will bring even this strong kingdom to an end.

24 Adonai-Tzva’ot has sworn, “Just as I thought it, it will occur; just as I planned it, so it will be. 25 I will break Ashur in my land; I will trample him down on my mountains. Then his yoke will fall off them; his burden be removed from their shoulders.”

On a human level, Ashur seemed invincible, but God assured His people of His determination to judge the Ashurim people. The judgment appears to refer to the destruction of Sennacherib’s army outside Yerushalayim in 701 BCE. The yoke was a common metaphor for political servitude.

26 This is the program planned for all the earth; this is the hand stretched out over all the nations. 27 Adonai-Tzva’ot has made His decision. Who is there that can stop Him? He has stretched out His hand. Who can turn it back?

The obvious answer to the questions in verse 27 is NO ONE! Jon Courson opines that the who is a reference not only to Ashur, but also the Antichrist. [1]

A Prophecy Against P’leshet (Philistia)

The prophecy against P’leshet is the first in a series of oracles against nations that were immediate neighbors of Israel. Indeed, P’leshet occupied part of the promised land in a region west of Yerushalayim on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The book of Genesis records the interaction between the patriarchs and the P’lishtim (Genesis 10:14; 21:32,34), but it was not until the period of the united monarchy that we hear of a sizeable presence of P’lishtim in the region. Both Sha’ul and David waged war against them.

The chronology of this period is very complicated, and it is not easy to determine the year of Achaz’s death. Some chronological systems overlap Achaz and his son Hezekiah in a coregency, with Hezekiah being the lead ruler. His death may have come as early as 726 BCE or as late as 715 BCE. The earlier one is supported by 2 Kings 17:1.

28 In the year that King Achaz died, this prophecy came: 29 Do not rejoice, P’leshet, any of you, that the rod which struck you is broken; for out of the snake’s root will come a viper, and his offspring will be a flying fiery serpent.

P’leshet had been under the control of Y’hudah during the reign of Uzziah, which took up the whole first half of the eighth century. It regained its independence during the reign of Achaz and became the aggressor. With the rise of the Neo-Ashurim empire, P’leshet came under attack just as the rest of the nations did. Tiglath- Pileser targeted Gaza in his campaign of 734 BCE, and the cities of P’leshet thus became tribute-paying vassals. When Sargon came to the throne, the P’lishtim attempted to break free of Ashur, but in 720 BCE P’leshet again came under attack and Gaza renewed its loyalty. In 712 BCE Sargon again had to come west to subdue the revolt led by Ashdod. Sennacherib’s campaign in 701 BCE brought changes on the thrones of several of the P’leshet cities. Through most of the eighth and seventh centuries, the P’lishtim shared the fate of their neighbors in Y’hudah. [2]

30 While the firstborn of the poor graze and the needy lie down in safety, I will kill off your root with famine and slaughter the rest of you. 31 Howl, gate! Cry, city! Melt away, P’leshet, all of you! For a smoke is coming from the north, with not a straggler in its ranks. 32 And what is one to answer the messengers of the nation? That Adonai founded Tziyon, and there the poor of His people will find refuge. ~ Isaiah 14:24-32 (CJB)

The cloud of dust coming from the north will be none other than the Ashurim army that will destroy P’leshet.

In my next post, we will continue in our study of Yesha’yahu by examining A Prophesy Against Moav in Yesha’yahu 15.

Click here for a PDF version.

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

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

A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 14:11-23

In my last post, we learned that God promises to restore Isra’el and after they have rested, they will sing A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 14:1-11. In this post, we continue to explore A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 14:12-23.

We left off in the song with the King of Bavel going down to Sh’ol to maggots under his mattress and worms all over his blanket.

12  “How did you come to fall from the heavens, morning star, son of the dawn? How did you come to be cut to the ground, conqueror of nations?

The Hebrew word for the morning star, helel, is not used anywhere else in the Tanakh. Dawn, shaḥar, was often personified in the Tanakh and was a known deity in Phoenician and Ugaritic inscriptions. [1]

Commentators have often connected this passage to Luke 10:18 and Revelation 12:8-9, but the context seems clear that the one fallen from the heavens is not Satan (despite the KJV translated morning star as “Lucifer”) but is instead the king of Bavel. If there is a second application, the Bible never indicates as much. The poetic theme of this passage may be modeled on the Canaanite account of a lesser god that tried to usurp the position of the high God. Such pride resulted in a quick and horrible fall.

13  You thought to yourself, ‘I will scale the heavens, I will raise my throne above God’s stars. I will sit on the Mount of Assembly far away in the north.

The word used for God here is El. While this is sometimes used to refer to Isra’el’s God in the Bible, it is also known as the name of the chief god in the Canaanite pantheon. In the Tanakh, the word stars occasionally refer to angels of the heavenly court (Job 38:7).

The attempt of a human, no matter how powerful, to take the place of God is the ultimate expression of arrogance. In Canaanite mythology, which is exploited here to make a point about human pride, the mountain of Ba’al, the chief god, was in the remotest parts of the North. Indeed, his mountain was named Mount North.

14  I will rise past the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

In the Tanakh, the Hebrew term El Elyon usually is a title for God Most High. However, since it also occurs as a divine title (and perhaps even as a divine name) in other literature from the ancient Near East (Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Phoenician), its use in a context such as this can be ambiguous. It is best known outside the Bible as a title for Ba’al in the Ugaritic texts. [2]

15  “Instead you are brought down to Sh’ol, to the uttermost depths of the pit.

Pride tries to lift a human being to the level of God, but it always causes a rapid fall to a position below humanity (the Pit).

16  Those who see you will stare at you, reflecting on what has become of you: ‘Is this the man who shook the earth, who made kingdoms tremble, 17 who made the world a desert, who destroyed its cities, who would not set his prisoners free?’

In death, the powerful, oppressive king will look weak and helpless. The nameless people who will see him are quoted as expressing amazement at how powerless he seems.

18  “All other kings of the nations, all of them, lie in glory, each in his tomb. 19  But you are discarded, unburied, like a loathed branch, clothed like the slain who were pierced by the sword, then fall to the stones inside a pit, like a corpse to be trampled underfoot. 20  You will not be joined with those kings in the grave, because you destroyed your own land, you have brought death to your own people. The descendants of evildoers will be utterly forgotten.

There is even a contrast with other kings, who were buried in beautiful tombs. This king will not even be given a decent burial but will lie dead on the battlefield, surrounded and also covered by other dead bodies. Again, the idea is that a person who was mighty in life will be reduced to a humiliating circumstance in death.

21  Get ready to slaughter his sons for the iniquity of their fathers; so they won’t arise, take over the earth and cover the world with their cities.”

It was an expectation of a powerful king that, when he died, his son would become the next king and would continue his imperialistic pretensions, but because of the depredations of the fathers, the sons would meet an untimely death.

22  “I will arise against them,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot. “I will cut off from Bavel name and remnant, offshoot and offspring,” says Adonai. 23  “I will make it a haunt for hedgehogs, it will become a swampy waste, I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot. ~ Yesha’yahu 14:12-23 (CJB)

God will bring this judgment. Bavel, particularly its most southern part, was a swampland. God would reduce the entire nation to this in the anger of His judgment. Bavel will be cut off. There won’t be a name, a remnant, or even a distant relative left. An entire civilization was destroyed, just as Yesha’yahu prophesied.

In my next post, we will wrap-up our study of Yesha’yahu 14 by examining A Prophecy Against Ashur and P’leshet (Philistia) in Yesha’yahu 14:24-32.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] Ibid.

A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 14:1-11

In my last post, we moved on to the next section of the Book of Yesha’yahu in A Prophecy Against Bavel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 13:1-10. In this post, we learn that God promises to restore Isra’el and after they have rested, they will sing A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 14:1-11

1 For Adonai will have compassion on Ya‘akov – He will once again choose Isra’el and resettle them in their own land, where foreigners will join them, attaching themselves to the house of Ya‘akov. 2 Peoples will take and escort them to their homeland, and the house of Isra’el will possess them in the land of Adonai as male and female slaves. They will take their captors captive and rule over their oppressors.

A prophecy anticipating the restoration of God’s people appears amid the prophecy against Bavel. While this seems awkward, Bavel’s fall correlates with the rise of a restored Y’hudah. Indeed, this restoration provides the context for the taunt song against Bavel’s king in the following verses. Just as God chose Isra’el in Egypt and freed them from bondage, He will do so again in Mesopotamia. As foreigners traveled with God’s people from Egypt, they will do so again. Isra’el had been the slave of the nations; now the nations will serve God’s people.

3 Then, when Adonai gives you [Isra’el]rest from your suffering and trouble and from the hard service imposed on you, 4 you will take up this taunt-song against the king of Bavel: “At last the oppressor is stilled, his arrogance is ended!

The song has its setting after Isra’el’s return to the land. The song is a song of contempt or a taunt song. It was directed toward the king of Bavel. The song speaks as if the king is a definite individual, but the lack of a specific name may mean that the king is depicted as the apex of the imperialistic machine that oppressed the people of God.

Many historians and archaeologists believe that the empire of Bavel was the greatest empire in the history of humanity. It was an incredible city, a mystical, somewhat magical place in the eyes of the people. And yet here we are told that this golden city would cease to exist. In Revelation 18:2, we see the same sort of phrase when we read that the false commercial system and the religious system will be destroyed.

5 Adonai has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers,  

The king held the staff and the scepter, and they represented his power. The staff may be a shepherd’s staff, and it could refer to the king’s responsibility to shepherd the people. The scepter was an ornamented mace used as a weapon, representing the king’s fearsome power. The fact that God has broken them indicates His superior power.

6 which furiously struck down peoples with unceasing blows, angrily beating down nations with relentless persecution. 7 The whole earth is at rest and quiet. They break into song. 8 The cypresses rejoice over you, with the cedars of the L’vanon – ‘Now that you are laid low, no one comes to cut us down.’

It is not just the inhabitants of the earth, and the people of God, who rejoice over Bavel’s downfall, but even the trees, which had been cut down to produce siege works.

The forests of L’vanon were considered a treasury by kings of the ancient world. The timber from the cedar trees was essential for temples and palaces. Kings boasted of having extended their conquests to these forests and of cutting trees from it. Invading them and taking their resources was the greatest adventure of all.

9 “Sh’ol below is stirred up to meet you when you come. It awakens for you the ghosts of the dead who were leaders on earth; it makes all the kings of the nation’s arise from their thrones. 10 They all greet you with these words: ‘Now you are as weak as we are, you have become like us! 11 Your pride has been brought down to Sh’ol with the music of your lyres, under you a mattress of maggots, over you a blanket of worms.’  ~ Isaiah 14:1-11 (CJB)

Sh’ol refers to the grave and in some contexts signifies the underworld. In these verses, Sh’ol is personified and pictured as warmly greeting its new citizen, the king of Bavel. Indeed, Sh’ol will rouse all the spirits of the departed kings to greet the king of Bavel when he arrives in the realm of the dead.

Though conscious, the spirits of the departed kings will confess that they are weak in the afterlife. This weakness contrasts with the oppressive power they had exercised in life.

Maggots and worms will crawl over the corpse in the grave. This plays on the idea that Sh’ol was considered both the grave and the underworld.

I have attached an interesting and short article on the Afterlife Beliefs in Israel and the Ancient Near East prepared by The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

In my next post, we will continue to explore A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 14: 12-23.

Click here for the PDF version.

A Prophecy Against Bavel ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 13:11-22

In my last post, we moved on to the next section of the Book of Yesha’yahu in A Prophecy Against Bavel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 13:1-10. In this post, we continue to examine A Prophecy Against Bavel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 13:11-22. In this post, we see hints of the coming Tribulation period.

11 I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity. I will end the arrogance of the proud and humble the insolence of tyrants.

The object of God’s wrath is pride that leads people to trust in themselves rather than in Him. The yet future Tribulation period is to deal with Isra’el, who has rejected the Messiah but also to judge a world that has cursed the cause of Messiah and His kingdom.

12 I will make humans rarer than gold, scarcer than Ofir’s pure gold.

The purity of the gold of Ofir is the measure for the cleansing of humanity by God’s intervention. The actual location of Ofir is still unknown, although Arabian and East African (Zimbabwe or Somalia) sites are favored (1 Kings 9:28). [1] Those who realize that Yeshua is Lord will be refined like gold. How is gold refined? In fire. Thus, good will come from the fire of the Tribulation period for perhaps millions will be refined and will be saved.

13 This is why I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the wrath of Adonai-Tzva’ot on the day of his fierce anger.

In the Tribulation period, God will shake the heavens, and the earth shall be shaken from its place. The globe is presently “out of her place” because it’s tilted on its axis. This means there is a high possibility that at one time, the earth stood straight on its axis. This would explain the evidence of vegetation under the polar ice caps. But something cataclysmic happened – perhaps the result of Lucifer being cast out of heaven or the collapse of the water canopy at the time of the Genesis Flood. It is possible that, in the time of shaking and Tribulation, the earth will be set back straight. This would cause the polar caps to melt and the world to become uniformly tropical once again. [2]

14 Then, like a hunted gazelle, like sheep with no one to gather them, everyone will head back to his own people; everyone will flee to his own land. 15 Anyone found will be pierced through; anyone caught will fall by the sword,

The destroyed Bavel had residents from many different nations. Once destroyed, the people will be leaderless and will quickly run (like hunted gazelles) back to their homeland. However, they may not make it back. The road will be lined with dangers, including robbers and perhaps even an enemy army.

16 their babies dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses looted, their wives raped.

In ancient, as well in our times, defeated cities endured the horrible atrocities described in this verse. The worst was that their children would be killed, and the women raped.

17 I will stir up against them the Medes, who cannot be tempted by silver or bought off with gold.

The attacking army is described as the implacable Medes, a people known as early as the ninth century BCE. They came from the Zagros Mountains east of the Mesopotamian plain. These warlike people are known in history as Bavel’s allies when they defeated Assyria. However, in the sixth century BCE, they were engulfed by Persia. The combined armies of the Medes and Persians defeated Bavel in 539 BCE.

18 Their bows will tear young men to pieces; they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children.” 19 Thus Bavel, that jewel of kingdoms, the pride and glory of the Kasdim, will be like S’dom and ‘Amora when overthrown by God.

For the first time, Bavel is named as the object of God’s warring activity. They are described as the jewel of the kingdoms in anticipation of the position they will assume after their defeat of Assyria at the end of the seventh century BCE. The Chaldeans were the leading tribe that produced the leaders (Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar) who led the resurgence of Bavel. The destruction of S’dom and ‘Amora is described in Genesis 19. This account in Yesha’yahu implies a horrible end. It associates Bavel with the perverse sin that led to the destruction of those cities.

20 It will never again be inhabited, never lived in through all generations. Arabs will not pitch tents there, nor shepherds bring their flocks.

Turning again to Yesha’yahu’s day, the Lord said the Medes would crush Bavel. In Yesha’yahu’s day, the Medes were nothing more than a group of nomads. Two hundred years later, the Medes would ally with the Persians and would invade Bavel. Were Yesha’yahu merely making educated guesses, he would have said it would be the Assyrians who would destroy Bavel. The Lord prophesied through him that it would be the Medes who would come against Bavel. And history, of course, would prove it to be so.

21 But wildcats will lie there, their houses will be full of owls, ostriches will live there, and wild goats will dance there. 22 Jackals will howl in their palaces and wild dogs in their temples of delight. Its time is close at hand; its days will not last long. ~ Yesha’yahu 13:11-22 (CJB)

These verses describe animals that lived in ruins and desolate places. Ostriches and owls were considered unclean (Leviticus 11:15-16).

In my next post, we learn that God promises to restore Isra’el and after they have rested, they will sing A Taunt-Song Against Bavel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 14:1-23.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

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

A Prophecy Against Bavel ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 13:1-10

In my last post, we examine A Song of Praise on Yesha’yahu 12:1-6. In this post, we move on to the next section of the Book of Yesha’yahu in A Prophecy Against Bavel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 13:1-10.

In chapters 13 through 23, we come to a passage called the book of burdens in which judgments are pronounced upon the nine nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah. They were called burdens for a reason. That is, they were heavy on his heart. These burdens hurt Yesha’yahu deeply. When we share the reality of the consequences of sin, of the existence of hell, may the Lord help us to have hearts that are broken. May He give us compassion that is obvious and concern that is very clear to those with whom we share.

Yesha’yahu’s book of burdens begins with a judgment pronounced against Bavel, the area of present-day southern Iraq.

1 This is a prophecy about Bavel, which Yesha‘yahu the son of Amotz saw:

This is a war prophecy, a declaration of war. Bavel is the object, which is surprising since Bavel was not the dominant player on the world scene in Yesha’yahu’s time. But Bavel will play a significant role in the judgment of God’s people in Y’hudah. Bavel represented cultural arrogance and human self-reliance.

2 Hoist a banner on a high mountain, shout to [the invaders]; beckon them to enter the Nobles’ Gate.

The call to lift a banner is a call to rally troops before a battle (see Yesha’yahu 5:26; 11:10,12). The identity of the army and the object of their attack are unspecified. Even though an actual gate of the nobles is unknown, the name evokes ideas of elitism, power, and pride.

3 “I have ordered My holy ones, summoned My heroes, eager and bold, to execute My anger.”

My holy ones might be angelic, but the reference is more likely to human warriors whom God will use for His purposes. Since they may not be conscious of such a divine purpose (see Yesha’yahu 10:5-11), they are not necessarily an army of the faithful.

4 Listen! A tumult on the mountains — it sounds like a vast multitude! Listen! The uproar of the kingdoms of the nations gathering together! Adonai-Tzva’ot is mustering an army for war.

As we have seen, many of the prophecies in Yesha’yahu have a double fulfillment. There is a present application to a historical situation. But they also look to the future prophetically and speak of the end of the ages. The nation of Bavel plays a significant part in prophetic Scripture. Revelation 17 and 18 speaks of Bavel as representing both a commercial and religious system that is false and abominable. In other words, Bavel speaks of the kingdom of this world – the false systems set up by the god of this world, Satan himself.

5 They come from a distant land, from beyond the horizon. It’s Adonai, with the weapons of his rage, to lay waste to all the earth.

The distant land is not specially identified, but it may be a reference to the Medes (v. 17) whom God will use (as part of the Persian Empire) to defeat Bavel. The kingdoms will come together in the end times for the battle of Armageddon.

6 Howl! for the Day of Adonai is at hand, destruction coming from Shaddai.

The day of the Lord is a future time when God will wage war against those who oppose Him.

7 This is why every arm will hang limp, and everyone’s courage melt away.

Weak arms and a melted heart refer to physical and psychological reactions to fear.

8 They will be gripped by panic, seized with pain and agony, writhing like a woman in labor, looking aghast at each other, faces aflame.

Yesha’yahu used the theme of a woman in labor, one that often appears in prophetic literature. It is a graphic image of the pain and distress that will result from God’s warring activity.

9 Here comes the Day of Adonai, full of cruelty, rage and hot fury, to desolate the earth and destroy the sinners in it.

In Yesha’yahu’s day, this spoke of the surprise invasion of Bavel by the Medes and the Persians (see Daniel 5). Looking ahead, of course, it speaks of the Tribulation period.

10 For the stars, the constellations in the sky will no longer give their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will no longer shine.  ~ Yesha’yahu 13:1-10 (CJB)

The incursion of God as warrior causes nature to go into convulsions. On the day of God’s judgment, the sun, moon, and stars, which God created to provide the world with light (see Genesis 1:14-19), will go out, plunging the world into darkness. Yeshua refers to this verse in Matthew 24:29.

In my next post, we continue in A Prophecy Against Bavel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 13:11-22.

Click here for the PDF version.