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.

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A Song of Praise ~ Yesha’yahu 12:1-6

In my last post, we concluded looking at The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 11:10-16. In this post, we examine A Song of Praise on Yesha’yahu 12:1-6.

As we have previously learned, Yesha’yahu’s name means Adonai is salvation, and salvation is a crucial theme in this song. Then we read that the Lord Yeshua HaMashiach is both our God and our Salvation, the Holy One of Isra’el in the midst of us.

Yesha’yahu concludes chapters 6-12 by foreseeing the day when God’s people will praise Him for the abundant joys of his salvation.

1 On that day you will say: “I thank you, Adonai, because, although you were angry at me, Your anger is now turned away; and You are comforting me. 

On that day points to a future date with Isra’el’s regathering and reunion and the righteous reign of the Lord Yeshua HaMashiach. The Jewish remnant will have come through the time of tribulation on earth (known as the trouble of Ya’akov in Jeremiah 30:7), seen their Mashiach, repented, and received Him by faith. Cleansed and established in their promised kingdom, the nation will praise the Lord and worship Him among the Gentiles. In addition to an application to Yesha’yahu’s day, there is also a prophetic application of this passage.

2 “See! God is my salvation. I am confident and unafraid; for Yah Adonai is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation!”

Yah is a shortened form of the divine name Yahweh, God’s covenant name that He revealed to Moshe at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14-15).

3 Then you will joyfully draw water from the springs of salvation.

In a relatively dry land like Isra’el, water, and the refreshment it brings was an apt image for salvation. The picture of water bubbling up in the spring evokes freshness and abundance.

Jon Courson offers a fascinating insight into this verse: [1]

“Whoever drinks of that water will thirst again,” Jesus said to the woman at the well (John 4:13). The crazy thing about the water in the world is that it only makes you thirsty. If you draw from the wells of materialism or hedonism, you’ll have to return because you’ll just want more. If you’re thirsty today, don’t go back to the old watering holes. They won’t satisfy you. Come to the Lord and drink again.

4 On that day you will say, “Give thanks to Adonai! Call on His name! Make His deeds known among the peoples declare how exalted is His name.

The praise of God serves as a testimony not just within God’s people, but also to the nations. They were also recipients of God’s blessing through Avraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:1-13). The story of salvation must be told, even beyond the community of Isra’el (Psalms 67:2; 70:4; 98:2).

5 Sing to Adonai, for he has triumphed— this is being made known throughout the earth. 6 Shout and sing for joy, you who live in Tziyon; for the Holy One of Isra’el is with you in his greatness!”  ~ Yesha’yahu 12:1-6 (CJB)

This beautiful picture of the kingdom comes to a close with a song of praise, and we enter a new section of the Book of Yesha’yahu. 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. In my next post, we’ll begin the journey through this section in Yesha’yahu 13 by learning about A Prophecy Against Babylon ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 13 1-9.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 11:10-16

In my last post, we begin a new series on The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 11:1-9. In this post, we concluded looking at The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 11:10-16.

10 On that day the root of Yishai, which stands as a banner for the peoples – the Goyim [Gentiles] will seek Him out, and the place where He rests will be glorious.

Sha’ul quotes this verse in Romans 15:12 to describe his ambition to reach the Goyim with the gospel: he sees himself as living in the Messianic time the OT expected, in which the Goyim would come to know the true God, and thus his own ministry involved spreading Messiah’s rule among the Goyim.

The banner was used as a means of calling out an army of a particular 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.

11 On that day Adonai will raise His hand again, a second time, to reclaim the remnant of His people who remain from Ashur, Egypt, Patros, Ethiopia, ‘Eilam, Shin‘ar, Hamat and the islands in the sea.

The places named here are not necessarily intended to represent locations of known exile for Israelites. Rather they are equivalent to the four quarters of the earth referred to in the next verse. Ashur is mentioned first as the actual location of exiles but also as a representative of the northeastern area. Egypt, to the southwest, is identified in three segments up the Nile. ‘Eilam represents the southeast extremes, while Hamat represents the regions to the north. Finally, the islands are a way of representing the areas furthest west.

We have seen the first gathering of Isra’el with the Zionist movement, beginning in the late 1800s, climaxing in 1948 when Isra’el became a nation. But the Lord says there will be a second gathering and that He is going to pull Jews from the four corners of the earth to reestablish them in the land of Isra’el.

12 He will hoist a banner for the Goyim, assemble the dispersed of Isra’el, and gather the scattered of Y’hudah from the four corners of the earth.

It was typical in the ancient world to refer to four regions of the inhabited world. Akkadian literature speaks of kings ruling the four quarters, most likely making reference to the most distant coasts or extremities in the four major directions. In this sense it is referring to not four slices of the geographical pie but four edges, thereby including everything in between. [1]

13 Efrayim’s jealousy will cease— those who harass Y’hudah will be cut off, Efrayim will stop envying Y’hudah, and Y’hudah will stop provoking Efrayim.

At least from the time of Rehoboam, Shlomo’s son, enmity and political division had existed between Y’hudah and Efrayim (the northern kingdom of Isra’el also known as Shomron). The future will bring an end to hostilities and a reunion of God’s people.

14 They will swoop down on the flank of the P’lishtim to the west. Together they will pillage the people to the east – they will put out their hand over Edom and Mo’av, and the people of ‘Amon will obey them.

As the previous verses had focused on a universal perspective, this verse addresses the near neighbors on the east, west and south.

15 Adonai will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian Sea. He will shake his hand over the [Euphrates] River to bring a scorching wind, dividing it into seven streams and enabling people to cross dry-shod.

This is the only occurrence in the Bible of a body of water called the Egyptian Sea and is therefore difficult to place with any certainty. Most commentators identify it with the Gulf of Suez. In Mesopotamia, the water supply was regulated for irrigation use by separating and diverting sluice channels from canals that drew water off from the river system. As water was diverted, the various channels slowed the flow of the water. [2]

Just as He used a wind to part the Red Sea in the Book of Exodus (14:21), God will use the wind to part the waters again so that His people can return to Israel.

16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people who are still left from Ashur, just as there was for Isra’el when he came out from the land of Egypt. ~ Isaiah 11:10-16 (CJB)

The Exodus imagery is used to describe the return of the remnant from Ashur. God will split the Euphrates River like He did the Red Sea, but in this case, He won’t split it into two parts but seven.

In my next post, we explore Yesha’yahu 12 by learning about A Song of Praise in Yesha’yahu 12:1-6.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] Ibid.

The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 11:1-9

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of Yesha’yahu 10 by learning about The Remnant of Isra’el in verses 20-34. In this post, we begin a new series on The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 11:1-9.

In chapter eleven Yeshua is portrayed as the Root and Branch of David, the logos to whom chosen sinners must be gathered, and that one by whom we have both the Spirit of God and the glorious rest of faith and salvation.

1 But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai; a shoot will grow from his roots.

Judgment in Yesha’yahu is often described as a cutting down of trees (see Yesha’yahu 6:13; 10:33-34). The trunk of Yishai indicates that the Davidic line has also been cut down, but the tree is yet living. The shoot that springs up shows that David’s line will have new life. It will be restored and will once again bear fruit. The association of the trunk of Yishai rather than David indicates that there is a new beginning here, a going back to origins, and a distancing from the later corrupt kings of Y’hudah.

2 The Spirit of Adonai will rest on Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and fearing Adonai –

At His baptism, the Spirit of Adonai descended upon Yeshua in the form of a dove, and He was empowered for ministry and service. He was already filled with the Spirit, conceived by the Spirit – and yet now He was empowered for ministry.

How I hope and pray that each one of us might seek the anointing and empowering of the Spirit of Adonai. The Messiah’s coming would bring justice and righteousness (11:4), peace (11:8), and the extension of the Kingdom to the nations (11:10; see also 32:15-16). The promised Messiah would have great wisdom and understanding, like Solomon, as well as knowledge and the fear of the Adonai (see 1 Kings 3:28; 4:29; Proverbs 1:1-7; 2:6-7). The Spirit of counsel and might alludes to Yesha’yahu 9:6. The Messiah will be full of wisdom and will have the power to execute his righteous rule.

3 He will be inspired by fearing Adonai. He will not judge by what His eyes see or decide by what His ears hear, 4 but He will judge the impoverished justly; He will decide fairly for the humble of the land. He will strike the land with a rod from His mouth and slay the wicked with a breath from His lips.

The foremost responsibility of a king in the ancient world was to establish justice. The brilliance of his insight assessed the wisdom of a king into complex cases, and his suitability for the throne was evaluated by his commitment to providing for the vulnerable classes of society. The ability to resolve difficult cases was believed to be divinely endowed (compare Solomon) and therefore was not dependent solely on the evidence that could be presented in court (see Proverbs 16:10). The wicked kings of Israel and the ancient Near East exploited and took advantage of the weak, but this king will rule with justice and protect their rights.

The fear of the Adonai is the fundamental characteristic of a wise, godly person (Proverbs 1:7). The fear described here is not terror but awe. This thoughtful, Spirit-filled person will not judge according to external appearances, but he will cut to the heart of the truth.

5 Justice will be the belt around his waist, faithfulness the sash around his hips.

The same word belt and sash is used in both lines of this verse, but one item is a wrap around the thighs, while the other winds between the legs. These are the most necessary articles of clothing, and without them, an individual would be naked.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard lie down with the kid; calf, young lion and fattened lamb together, with a little child to lead them. 7 Cow and bear will feed together, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 An infant will play on a cobra’s hole, a toddler put his hand in a viper’s nest. 9 They will not hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain, for the earth will be as full of the knowledge of Adonai as water covering the sea. ~ Yesha’yahu 11:1-9 (CJB)

Here, we see the peace of the kingdom. The future rule is described in terms associated with the Garden of Eden where there is no animosity among God’s creatures. The knowledge of the Lord will permeate this future ideal world ushered in by the branch … from the trunk of Yishai.

If you look at creation, you can see something of God. But nature doesn’t give a full revelation of God because, although we can gain insight into His ingenuity and creativity, we won’t see His love since nature is always at war with itself through the survival of the fittest and the devouring of one animal by another. Nature can’t tell us of the love of God because Adam’s fall affected all of nature. That, however, will be reversed when Yeshua comes back – for then a little child will be able to lead a menagerie of otherwise deadly animals.

In my next post, we begin to explore Yesha’yahu 11 by learning about The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 11:10-16.

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The Remnant of Isra’el ~ Yesha’yahu 10:20-34

In my last post, we continued to learn more about The Woes of Ashur in Yesha’yahu 10:12-19. In this post, we conclude our exploration of Yesha’yahu 10 by learning about The Remnant of Isra’el in verses 20-34.

The Remnant of Isra’el

20 On that day the remnant of Isra’el, those of the house of Ya‘akov who escaped, will no longer rely on the man who struck them down, but will truly rely on Adonai, the Holy One of Isra’el. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Ya‘akov, to the mighty God. 22 For, although your people, Isra’el, are like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with justice.

The remnant will turn their trust to God rather than a foreign power. God had promised Avraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand of the sea (see Gen 22:17; 32:12; 41:49), but because of their punishment, only a remnant would survive, and even that would be an act of God’s grace.

23 Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot will bring about this decreed destruction throughout all the land.

The divine decree that a city should be destroyed is a familiar motif in the ancient Near East. Though there is not always a reason that could be cited as “righteous,” the concept presented here is very familiar.

24 Therefore Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot says: “My people living in Tziyon, don’t be afraid of Ashur, even when he strikes you with a stick and raises his staff against you, the way it was in Egypt.

The present Assyrian threat is compared to bondage in Egypt. This comparison evokes memories of God’s deliverance of His people at the Red Sea (Exodus 14-15).

25 For in but a little while, my fury will end; and my anger will have destroyed them.” 26 Adonai-Tzva’ot will wield a whip against them, as he did when striking Midyan at the Rock of ‘Orev; as his staff was over the sea, he will raise it, the way it was in Egypt.  

‘Orev was a Midianite leader who oppressed the Israelites during the period of the judges. The forces of Gideon defeated him and executed at a rock that was given his name in Judges 7:24-25). The reference to God’s staff in Egypt recalls the crossing of the Red Sea. Moshe raised his staff, representing God’s presence. God caused the sea to divide, allowing the Israelites to escape the Egyptian army (Exodus 14:21-31).

27 On that day his burden will fall from your shoulders and his yoke from your neck; the yoke will be destroyed by your prosperity.

The yoke is an image of political domination frequently used by the prophets.

28 He has come to ‘Ayat and passed through Migron. He has stored his equipment at Mikhmas. 29 They have crossed the pass, then lodged at Geva. Ramah is shaking, Giv‘at-Sha’ul has fled. 30 Cry, shriek, Bat-Gallim! Listen, Layish! Poor ‘Anatot! 31 Madmenah is in flight, the people of Gevim take cover. 32 This very day he will stop at Nov; and he will shake his fist at the mountain of the daughter of Tziyon, at the hill of Yerushalayim.

The prophecy in these verses describes the march of the Assyrian army from the north to the very doorstep of Yerushalayim. While some have suggested that this illustrates an actual attack on Yerushalayim, it cannot be equated with the Assyrian advance that took place in 701 BCE because the army made a different route. This leads certain scholars to propose a second, later Assyrian campaign on Y’hudah, but this is doubtful. The journey described in these verses is unlikely to be one taken by an actual army since the terrain would be difficult to cross. The best understanding of these verses is as a visionary image of an attack, not a description of an actual attack. The route described is the most direct route “as the crow flies,” indicating that not even natural obstacles could slow down the army’s advance. [1]

33 See how Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot lops off the branches with terrible violence! The ones standing highest are chopped down, the lofty are laid low. 34 He will hack down the forest underbrush with an axe, and the L’vanon in its splendor falls. ~ Isaiah 10:20-34 (CJB)

The prophecy ends with a sudden reversal. Assyria marched on Yerushalayim, but the army met with destruction. They will become trees (the final line implies a cedar from L’vanon) that will be felled by none other than God Himself. The Assyrians had been the ax in God’s hand against His people in verse 15, but God will wield an ax against them.

In my next post, we begin to explore Yesha’yahu 11 by learning about The Branch of Yishai (Jesse) ~ Part 1.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] HCSB Study Bible.

Woes on Y’hudah and Ashur ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 10:12-19

In my last post, we learned about The Woes of Ashur ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 10:5-11. In this post, we continue to learn more about The Woes of Ashur in Yesha’yahu 10:12-19.

The Woes of Ashur Continue

12 Therefore when Adonai has done everything, He intends to do to Mount Tziyon and Yerushalayim, “I will punish the king of Ashur for the boasting that comes from his proud heart and from reveling in his arrogant looks.

God will overrule Ashur’s imperialistic intentions. Indeed, He will use their godless motivation to accomplish His own goal of punishing His idolatrous people. Nonetheless, the king of Ashur and his nation will not get off scot-free.

13 For he says, “‘With my own strong arm I have done this, and with my wisdom because I’m so clever! I erased the boundaries between peoples; I plundered their stores for the future; as a mighty man, I subjugated the inhabitants. 14 My hand found the riches of the peoples like a nest; and as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered the whole earth! Not one wing fluttered, not one beak opened or let out a chirp!’”

The arrogant claims put in the mouth of the Ashur’s king by Yesha’yahu is not at all exaggerated. This boastful quotation from the king reflects the type of bombastic language used in contemporary Assyrian royal inscriptions. The image of the king stealing eggs from an abandoned nest emphasizes his cruelty in taking advantage of weaker nations. Indeed, no one can put up a substantial challenge to his growing power.

For those of us who want to be used by the Lord, we need to realize we are nothing more than instruments in His hand. The Lord doesn’t need us. He can use rocks in our place (see Luke 19:40). He gives us the privilege of being used in His service. Therefore, when the Lord uses us, please understand it is not because of our great personality, the immensity of our faith, or the power of our prayer. Instead, He uses us solely because of His grace.

15 Should the axe glorify itself over the one who chops with it? Should the saw magnify itself over the one who moves it? It’s as if a stick could wave the hand that raises it up, or as if a wooden staff could lift [a person, who is] not made of wood.

The king’s boasts are ill-founded. From his perspective, he was a mighty warrior and a great leader of armies. From a heavenly perspective, he was a mere tool used by God to accomplish His purposes. The use of rhetorical questions directed to the king has the function of scolding and embarrassing him in his pretension. Each issue has the implied answer, “Of course not.”

16 Therefore the Lord, Adonai-Tzva’ot, will send leanness to his well-fed ones; and in place of his glory, a fire will be kindled that will burn and burn. 17 The light of Isra’el will become a fire and His Holy One a flame, burning and devouring his thorns and briars in a single day. 18 The glory of his forest and of his fertile land he will consume body and soul, like an invalid wasting away. 19 So few forest trees will remain that a child could list them. ~ Yesha’yahu 10:12-19 (CJB)

Though the Ashur’s king fashioned himself as the light of all his people, Adonai, the Light of Israel, was going to outshine him. The kings boasted of their destructions of fields and orchards, and of their incineration of cities – now they will suffer a similar fate. The armies that were the power and pride of these kings were to be decimated the walls of Yerushalayim in 701 BCE. The complete overthrow of Ashur was not accomplished until about eighty-five years later as the Medes and Babylonians conquered Ashur and Nineveh.

When this prophecy was fulfilled in 2 Kings 18, the general of the Assyrian army yelled to the people of Yerushalayim who sat terrified on the walls, “Has any god of any nation ever saved his land from the power of the king of Ashur?” ~ 2 Kings 18:33 (CJB). Hearing these threats, Hezekiah poured out His heart to the Lord. The Lord responded, “For I will defend this city and save it, both for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” ~ 2 Kings 19:34 (CJB)

In my next post, we conclude Yesha’yahu 10 by learning about The Remnant of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 10:20-34.

Click here for the PDF version.

Woes on Y’hudah and Ashur ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 10:5-11

In my last post, we learned about The Woes of Y’hudah in Yesha’yahu 10:1-4. In this post, we move on to The Woes of Ashur ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 10:5-11.

The Woes of Ashur (Assyria)

5 “Oh Ashur, the rod expressing my anger! The club in their hands is my fury!

The prophecy opens with a woe against Ashur. We have become quite accustomed to hearing woes as we have study Yesha’yahu. This woe is directed toward the enemy rather than toward God’s people. Ashur is the tool God will use to bring punishment against Isra’el and Y’hudah. The reference to a rod brings to mind the extensive teaching in Proverbs about using a rod to drive the folly out of a child (Proverbs 10:13; 22:15) and how a rod is applied to one’s son to encourage him to travel the right path (Proverbs 13:24; 23:13-14).

6 I am sending him [Ashur] against a hypocritical nation, ordering him to march against a people who enrage me, to take the spoil and the plunder and trample them down like mud in the street.

The godless nation is ironically not Ashur but Isra’el. They will become the object of God’s anger. The phrase to take spoils, to plunder is reminiscent of the name we learned in Yesha’yahu 8:1: Maher Shalal, Hash Baz [the spoil hurries, the prey speeds along].

Ashur was to have been an instrument of discipline, but they became an instrument of destruction.

 7 That is not what Ashur intends, that is not what they think; rather, they mean to destroy, to cut down nation after nation.  

There was a difference between the divine intention and the intention of Ashur. This difference was no obstacle to God’s use of Ashur for His purposes, but it did bode poorly for the tool of God’s anger. While God intended to promote His glory by punishing His sinful people, Ashur was interested only in imperialistic expansion.

8 For [their king] says, ‘Aren’t all my commanders kings? 9 Hasn’t Kalno [suffered] like Kark’mish, Hamat like Arpad, Shomron like Dammesek?  

These three pairs of cities each begin with the southernmost of the two. Thus, Kalno was south of Kark’mish, Hamat was south of Arpad, and Shomron was south of Dammesek. These cities were paired and listed for geographical and not chronological reasons since Kark’mish was conquered by the Assyrians in 717, Kalno in 738, Hamat in 738 and 720, and Arpad in 740 BCE. The claim of the King of Ashur was an imperialistic one, again demonstrating that his intention was different from God’s.

10 Just as My hand reached the kingdoms of non-gods, with more images than in Yerushalayim and Shomron;

There is no distinction made in this speech between the religious practices of Isra’el and Y’hudah on the one hand and the other cities of the west. They were all worshipping false gods and idols.

11 so won’t I do to Yerushalayim and her non-gods what I did to Shomron and her idols?’”  ~ Yesha’yahu 10:5-11 (CJB)

The comparisons of southern cities to northern ones culminate in a final contrast between Shomron in the north and Yerushalayim in the south: both were practicing idolatry as the cities of Ashur had.

In my next post, we will move on in Yesha’yahu 10 to continue to learn about The Woes of Ashur ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 10:12-19.

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Woes on Y’hudah and Ashur ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 10:1-4

In my last post, we learned about Judgment Against Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 9:8-21. We left off in our study by learning that Efrayim and M’nasheh together they oppose Y’hudah. In this post, we begin to examine the Woes on Y’hudah and Ashur ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 10:1-4.

The Woes of Y’hudah

1  Woe to those who enact unjust decrees and draft oppressive legislation…

The reference here is not to create a justice system but to issuing decrees or regulations regarding specific issues. In the political climate that existed in Yesha’yahu’s time, one of the particular problems that had to be addressed was the raising of funds with which to pay tribute. This was generally accomplished through special tax levies, though there were always exemptions granted to either a class of people or cities that had been given sacred status.

2  to deprive the impoverished of justice and rob my people’s poor of their rights, looting widows and preying on orphans!

In the culture of the ancient Near East, kings considered it part of their role as “wise rulers” to protect the rights of the poor, the widow and the orphan. God’s law protected the socially vulnerable: the poor (see Exodus 23:6,11; Deuteronomy 15:4-11), widows (see Exodus 22:22), and the fatherless (see Deuteronomy 10:18). Yesha’yahu condemned human-made laws that corrupted justice.

Yeshua picked up this same theme when He talked about the P’rushim. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and make long prayers just for show. This is why you will receive a harsher punishment.” ~ Matthew 23:14 (HCSB) [1]

3  What will you do on the day of punishment, when calamity comes from afar? To whom will you flee for help? Where will you leave your wealth, 4  so as not to squat among the prisoners or fall among the slain? Even after all this, his anger remains, his upraised hand still threatens. ~ Yesha’yahu 10:1-4 (CJB)

With the fourth repetition of the refrain concerning God’s anger (compare 9:12,17,21), the section on the Woes of Isra’el and Y’hudah comes to a close. The refrain identifies the central theme of the passage (9:8-10:4). Though punishment has occurred, God’s people still have not repented. More judgment will follow.

We as individuals and as a nation need to spend some time meditating on the questions posed by Yesha’yahu in verses 3-4.

In my next post, we move on in Yesha’yahu 10 to learn about the Woes of Ashur in Yesha’yahu 10:5-11.

Woes on Y’hudah and Ashur ~ Part1

[1] Admittedly, some translations (including the Complete Jewish Bible) don’t have this verse.

Judgment Against Isra’el ~ Yesha’yahu 9:8-21

In my last post, we learned more about The Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7. In this post, we learn about Judgment Against Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 9:8-21.

8 Adonai sent a word to Ya‘akov, and it has fallen on Isra’el. 9 All the people know it, Efrayim and the inhabitants of Shomron. But they say in pride, in the arrogance of their hearts, 10 “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stone; the sycamore-fig trees have been chopped down, but we will replace them with cedars.”

After giving them a glimpse of the new day that would dawn in the future, Yesha’yahu now says to the ten tribes of Isra’el, “Don’t you see what’s happening? The invasion of Assyria has already begun. Your buildings are knocked down. Your forests are wiped out. You’re boasting that you’ll erect stronger buildings and plant more majestic trees.” The people didn’t understand that God was working, judging, and dealing with them.

The preeminent sin of God’s people is pride and arrogance. They believed they did not need God to survive and prosper.

11 So Adonai has raised up Retzin’s foes against him and spurred on his enemies –

As we have learned previously, the most notable enemies of King Retzin of Aram are the Assyrians and its vassals.

12 Aram from the east, P’lishtim from the west; and they devour Isra’el with an open mouth. Even after all this, his anger remains, his upraised hand still threatens.

The Arameans and P’lishtim were the other two primary targets of the Assyrians in the 734-732 BCE campaigns. It is likely that they had been pressed into service in the ranks of the Assyrian army as it moved against Isra’el.

13 Yet the people do not turn to the one striking them; they don’t seek Adonai-Tzva’ot.

God’s punishment of His people was intended to convince them to return to His ways, but they were so dull of mind and spirit that they did not respond.

14 Therefore Adonai will cut off Isra’el’s head and tail, [tall] palm frond and [lowly] reed in a single day.

After the first Assyrian incursion into the north, Isra’el continued in its sinful ways. God soon brought a more devastating judgment, ending their independent existence. The expression head and tail, palm branch and reed point to totality as interpreted in the next verse.

15 The old and the honored are the head, while prophets teaching lies are the tail. 16 For those leading this people lead them astray, and those led by them are destroyed.  

It was mainly the leaders (including the elder and the prophet) who were responsible for the people going in the wrong direction. The ones who were to be leading and warning were teaching lies. As a result, people were destroyed.

17 Therefore Adonai takes no joy in their young men and has no compassion on their orphans and widows; for everyone is ungodly and does evil, every mouth speaks foolishly. Even after all this, His anger remains, His upraised hand still threatens. 18 For wickedness burns like fire, it devours briars and thorns; it sets the forest underbrush ablaze, with clouds of smoke whirling upward. 19 The anger of Adonai-Tzva’ot is burning up the land; the people, too, are fuel for the fire – no one spares even his brother.

Devastation is seen as the natural consequence of wickedness itself (wickedness burns like fire) as well as the result of divine anger (the anger of Adonai-Tzva’ot scorches the land). Sin breaks up human relationships, even brotherly love.

20 The one on the right grabs but stays hungry, the one on the left eats but is unfilled. Everyone devours his own arm’s flesh –

It is uncertain whether this text refers to cannibalism or not. Nevertheless, cannibalism is a standard element of curses in Assyrian at that time. It was the last resort in times of impending starvation. This level of desperation could occur in times of severe famine or could be the result of siege when the food supply had become depleted. Siege warfare was conventional in the ancient world, so this may not have been as rare an occasion as might be presumed.

 21 M’nasheh devours Efrayim; and Efrayim, M’nasheh; while together they oppose Y’hudah. Even after all this, His anger remains, His upraised hand still threatens. ~ Yesha’yahu 9:8-21 (CJB)

Although they were united against Y’hudah, the ten northern tribes were not united themselves – as seen in the bitterness between M’nasheh and Efrayimhistorically and geographically the two closest tribes of the ten. Drought, famine, and fire were the signs of God’s judgment and the results of His people’s rebellion against Him.

In my next post, we will move on to Yesha’yahu 10 to learn about the Woes on Y’hudah and Ashur~ Part 1.

Judgment Against Isra’el

The Future Hope ~ Yesha’yahu 9:1-7

In my last post, we learned more about Y’hudah’s response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23. In this post, we learn about Y’hudah’s Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7.

Beyond destruction there is hope. In the Messiah’s kingdom, the darkness would give way to great light, which was to dawn in Galilee and reach the whole nation, and then the entire world. The Messiah’s rule would be marked by the vindication of the oppressed and the end of all oppression. He would bring justice and righteousness forever in a kingdom of peace.

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. [1]

The tribes of Z’vulun and Naftali were among those hardest hit by the Assyrians in the 733 BCE campaign (see 2 Kings 15:29). At that time, the Assyrians reduced the land holdings of the northern kingdom and integrated three new provinces into their empire. These three provinces were called Magiddo (Galilee), Du’ru (the Way of the Sea), and Gal’aza (the land east of the Jordan).

How would this honor come about? Matthew 4:12-17 tells us this is a prophecy concerning Yeshua, who began His ministry in Galilee – a region that was dark and despised.

2 The people living in darkness have seen a great light; upon those living in the land that lies in the shadow of death, light has dawned.

The Assyrian invasion brought great devastation (darkness), but the people still had great reason to hope (seen a great light). Though the events were in the future, they are described as if they had already happened.

3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice in your presence as if rejoicing at harvest time, the way men rejoice when dividing up the spoil. 4 For the yoke that weighed them down, the bar across their shoulders, and their driver’s goad you have broken as on the day of Midyan’s defeat.

The type of deliverance the prophecy pictures seemed impossible. After all, Ashur was a world power and God’s people were weak and crushed. Thus, the oracle alludes to the day of Midyan. This refers to the events of Judges 6 and 7 when Gid’on with just a handful of troops – but with the power of God – defeated the oppressive Midyanites and expelled them from the land.

5 For all the boots of soldiers marching and every cloak rolled in blood is destined for burning, fuel for the fire.

The word for boot occurs only here in the Tanakh but is equivalent to one of the common terms for sandal or shoe. In the Assyrian army, many of the infantry went barefoot, but the cavalry was equipped with knee-high soft leather boots held on by long crisscrossed thongs. Officers also were provided with boots. Boots would be among the most common plunder stripped from the slain.

In Ashur, it was familiar rhetoric to speak of land dyed red with the blood of enemies and of the army marching through the blood of their enemies. [2]

6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on his shoulders, and he will be given the name Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace],

I confess that every time I read this verse, I get goosebumps as I “hear” Handel’s Messiah playing in my mind.

In the ancient Near East, the birth of an heir to the throne was a momentous occasion. Twice earlier in this section of Yesha’yahu, the birth of children has been described as having prophetic significance (7:14; 8:1-4). For a third time, the reader learns of a future birth. Some commentators believe the text means that this future royal child will be a purely human descendant of David who will be proclaimed king and lead God’s people to a new level of freedom and prosperity.

The only possible interpretation of this passage is Messianic. This child will be given names that signify His character. He will be a sage characterized by extraordinary wisdom (Wonderful Counselor). He will have a life that is never-ending (Eternal Father). He will bring peace (Prince of Peace). But the most extraordinary thing of all that confirms He is merely not to be identified with any human because of His title, Mighty God. In the Brit Hadashah, Yeshua is recognized as the Davidic descendant who fulfilled this great promise (Matthew 1:1,22-23).

A child is born speaks of Yeshua’s humanity. A Son is given to us speaks of His deity. The sign of government on His shoulder would not be the braid of a military general or the insignia of a noted ruler. It would be a wooden cross because Yeshua would govern by laying down His life. You can get counsel from a lot of people in a lot of places, but there is only one Wonderful Counselor – and with Him, there are neither fees involved or appointments that need to be made (Hebrews 4:16).

7 in order to extend the dominion and perpetuate the peace of the throne and kingdom of David, to secure it and sustain it through justice and righteousness henceforth and forever. The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot will accomplish this. ~ Yesha’yahu 9:1-7 (CJB)

When Yeshua returns for His church, His kingdom will indeed be established politically and materially. But when He came the first time, His kingdom was not of this world because He was involved with something much more significant than throwing off the yoke of the Roman Empire politically. He was concerned with eternity and the salvation of humanity.

In my next blog, we learn about Judgment Against Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 9:8-21.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Verse 9:1 is actually 8:23 in the Jewish Bible.

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