A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 23:11-18

In my last post, we began to examine the last of the prophecies that Yesha’yahu had received from Adonai against the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah: A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 1b in Yesha’yahu 23:1-10. In this post, we complete our examination of A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 23:11-18.

11 He has stretched out his hand against the sea, he has shaken kingdoms; Adonai has ordered that Kena‘an’s fortresses be destroyed.

The Hebrew text here actually reads Kena‘an. The choice to translate Phoenicia helps the reader stay focused on Tzor’s destruction. However, that destruction is (1) based on the Kena‘ani culture of the Phoenicians that is condemned by Adonai and (2) exemplified here by Adonai’s stretching out his hand over the sea to demonstrate that this friendly resource of the Phoenician traders will not save them.

12 He has said, “Exult no more, oppressed virgin daughter of Tzidon. Arise, cross to Kittim; even there you will find no rest.”

Tzidon is compared to a rape victim, who must leave to seek refuge in Kittim (Cyprus).

13 Look at the land of the Kasdim! This was the people who did not exist when Ashur destined it for desert creatures. They erected their siege towers and tore down her palaces, so that it has been made a ruin.

An analogy is drawn between the fall of the Kasdim (Chaldeans) and the fall of Tzor. Since the verse goes on to imply the fall of Bavel at the hands of the Ashurim, it probably refers to the first of these, not the second in which Bavel was victorious.

Ashurim reliefs from the palace at Nineveh and the annals of several kings depict a number of different types of siege engines. One of the most common was the siege tower, which was rolled up as close as possible to a city’s walls. From its heights archers could target enemy soldiers, and assault bridges could be extended onto the ramparts. At the base of the tower, protected from the rain of stones, hot oil and arrows, engineers and sappers could work to undermine the walls or employ battering rams. [1]

14 Howl, you “Tarshish” ships, because your fortress is destroyed. 15 When that day comes, Tzor will be forgotten for seventy years, the lifetime of a king. After seventy years, its fate will be the same as that of the prostitute in this song:

Interestingly, 70 years is cited as the length of the exile and punishment of the people of God (Jeremiah 25:12; Daniel 9:2; Zecheriah 1:12). There have been some attempts to identify such a time period (from the death of Sennacherib to the time of Nebuchadnezzar), but this cannot be done with certainty.

16 “Take a lyre, walk the city, you poor, forgotten whore! Play sweetly, sing all your songs, so that they will remember you!”

The prostitute’s song in verse 15c and 16 may have been popular in ancient Isra’el. It speaks of an old prostitute forgotten by men who tried to attract attention by singing songs. The revived Tzor is like this prostitute. The image of the prostitute suggests Tzor itself, since it was a trading city.

17 After seventy years are over Adonai will remember Tzor. She will receive her wages again and prostitute herself to all the world’s kingdoms on the face of the earth. 18 But her merchandise and profits will be dedicated to Adonai; they will not be stored up or hoarded, because her profits will be for those living in Adonai’s presence, so that they can eat their fill and wear fine clothing. ~ Isaiah 23:11-18 (CJB)

Yesha’yahu prophesied that this proud, pompous city would be pushed into the sea and carried into captivity. Yet the time would come when her merchandise would be used to give honor to the Lord. In writing of the coming kingdom, the psalmist declared that Tzor would bring riches to the Lord (Psalm 45:12). This speaks to me of the incredible grace and mercy of our Father – always ready to give people another chance to come to Him.

In my next post, we will begin to explore The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth in Yesha’yahu 24.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 1b ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10

In my last post, we began to examine the last of the prophecies that Yesha’yahu had received from Adonai against the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah, A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10. Unfortunately, I got caught up going down a rabbit trail, and we didn’t get beyond verse 1. In this post, we will explore the full passage.

In the twenty-third chapter of Yesha’yahu, we come to the final judgment pronounced on the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah. Here, judgment is declared on the Phoenician city of Tzor (Tyre), in present-day Lebanon not far from the northern border of Isra’el on the Mediterranean Sea. So capable a seafaring people were the people of Tzor that there has been speculation that they reached the shores of North America. [1] And, because they used their navy for commerce as well as for conquest, they grew very wealthy.

1 A prophecy about Tzor: Howl, you “Tarshish” ships, because the harbor is destroyed! On returning from Kittim, they discover they cannot enter it.

Even the people inhabiting Kittim, or the present-day island of Cypress, would hear about the judgment coming down on the city of Tzor.

Tzor was the southernmost major city of Phoenicia. It was a wealthy city, due to its development and control of sea trade. As an island city (with overflow population living on the mainland) its major port was easily protected. Tzor had established a trading colony on Tarshish. The ships of Tarshish were particularly impressive since they traveled so far between Tzor and Iberia. The destruction of Tzor prophetically described in this prophecy is difficult to pin down from the description made here. In the latter part of the eighth century and the early seventh century BCE, the Assyrians tried to take Tzor several times. However, the prophecy may also look forward to Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Tzor (including a thirteen-year siege) in the sixth century and perhaps even to the final destruction of Tzor by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. Cyprus was a large island about 75 miles west of Tzor and would have been the last port of call before reaching Tzor. [2]

2 Silence, you who live on the coast, you who have been enriched by the merchants of Tzidon crossing the sea.

Tzidon was another important Phoenician trade port north of Tzor. Its mention indicates that, though the prophecy was directed explicitly toward Tzor (the city closest to Yerushalayim), the whole of Phoenicia was under judgment. The silence following the defeat of Tzor would be a marked contrast to the bustle of commerce that once characterized her.

3 By the great water, the grain of Shichor, the harvest of the Nile, brought you profits. She was marketplace for the nations.

Phoenician merchants transported items from throughout the Mediterranean. The grain from Shichor represents the fruitful harvests of Egypt, shipped up the Nile and on to the coast. Standing out from the coast approximately six hundred yards from the mainland, the island city of Tzor and its harbor were secure from anything but a sustained siege. The waters were also deep enough to allow for heavily laden ships to approach and offload their cargoes. Dedicated to commercial activity, Tzor was supplied with food and other essentials. Ships from Tzor established colonies, including some on Cyprus and the North African city of Carthage, around the Mediterranean to draw on the resources of these areas, especially metals, and to funnel goods back and forth between the eastern and western Mediterranean. [3]

4 Shame, Tzidon, for the sea speaks; the fortress of the sea says, “I no longer have labor pains or bear children, yet I have raised neither boys nor girls.”

The sea here is personified to lament for its barrenness in the loss of Tzidon.

5 When the report reaches Egypt, they will be in anguish at the fate of Tzor.

Egypt will also lament because it had lost an important trading partner.

6 Cross over to Tarshish! Howl, you who live on the coast!

Because of the destruction of the Phoenician coastland, its inhabitants will have to disperse, some perhaps going as far as the trading colony Tarshish.

7 Is this your boisterous city, whose feet long ago in antiquity carried her off to found distant colonies?

The boisterous city is Tzor, the ancient city that established Tarshish as a colony. After it is destroyed, its inhabitants will flee to Tarshish.

8 Who planned this against Tzor, the city that once bestowed crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traders are honored throughout the earth? 9 Adonai-Tzva’ot planned it to break the pride of all the arrogant, to humiliate all those who are honored everywhere on earth.

Tzor’s wealth had brought her enormous power and prestige. In answer to the question of verse 8, the prophecy proclaims that the One who planned the fall of the magnificent city of Tzor was none other than Adonai-Tzva’ot. Thus, this prophecy continues the teaching that God is sovereign over all nations.

10 People of Tarshish! Nothing restricts you now. You can flow freely over your land just like the Nile River. ~ Yesha’yahu 23:2-10 (CJB)

Now Tarshish will overflow with all the refugees from the destroyed cities of the Phoenician coastland.

In my next post, we continue to explore A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tzor) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 23:11-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] HCSB Study Bible

[3] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament

A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 1a ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10

In my last post, we completed our examination of A Prophecy Against the Valley of Vision ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 22:12-25. In this post, we begin to examine the last of the prophecies that Yesha’yahu had received from Adonai against the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah: A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10.

1 A prophecy about Tzor:
Howl, you “Tarshish” ships, because the harbor is destroyed! On returning from Kittim, they discover they cannot enter it.

Yesha’yahu begins his prophecy against Tzor’s destruction by mentioning the merchant ships of “Tarshish” (why the quotation marks?). The exact location of Tarshish is apparently unknown, though many scholars place it in Spain at Tartessus. The more I looked at this verse, the more I wanted to know where Tarshish was located, so:


Let’s go down a rabbit trail first.

Tarshish is first mentioned in Genesis 10:4, but that is the name of one of the sons of Yavan. The ships of Tarshish are first mentioned in 1 Kings 10:22 and again in 1 King 22:48. Yesha’yahu first mentions the ships in Yesha’yahu 2:16 and I completely ran right by that in The Coming Day of the Lord ~ Part 2. He mentions four times in this chapter alone and again in 60:9 and 66:19. Tarshish is mention by Jeremiah once (10:19); Ezekiel three times (27:12, 25, 38:13); and Jonah twice (1:3 and 4:2). Jonah tried to run away from Adonai by catching a ship headed to Tarshish (1:3). Tarshish is also mentioned in Psalm 48:7 and 72:10; Esther 1:14; 2 Chronicles 9:21; 20:26,27. By my count that makes the place, or the ships mentioned a total of twenty-two times in the Tanakh. One would think that someplace with that many citations would be readily located. But, by the time of the writing of the Brit Hadashah, Tarshish either no longer existed or was just not part of the Gospel message.

According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Tarshish is a Phoenician word from the Akkadian meaning smelting plant or refinery. The name is employed in the OT in connection with ships, merchants, and trade. The “navy,” or “fleet of Tarshish” that Solomon’s ally Hiram I of Tyre built for the Hebrew monarch at Ezion-geber on the Persian Gulf has been illuminated from ancient oriental sources. A better rendering of Solomon’s merchant marine in the light of increased knowledge of early Phoenician trading activities in the Mediterranean would be “smeltery” or “refining fleet,” which brought smelted metal home from the colonial mines. Phoenician boats used to ply the sea regularly, transporting smelted ores from the mining towns in Sardinia and Spain. Tarshish ships developed from the original idea of material-carrying boats to all ships of first-rate magnitude to whatever place the voyage may have taken them.

BibleAtlas.org provides this interesting map image:

So my rabbit trail didn’t lead us anywhere. In my next post tomorrow, we will actually look at A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 1b in Yesha’yahu 23:1-10.

Click here for the PDF version.

A Prophecy Against the Valley of Vision ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 22:12-25

In my last post, we began to learn of A Prophecy Against the Valley of Vision ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 22:1-11. In this post, we complete our examination of A Prophecy Against the Valley of Vision ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 22:12-25.

12 That day Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot called on you to weep and mourn, to shave your heads and wear sackcloth;13 but instead, one sees joy and celebrating, killing of oxen, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, drinking of wine – “Let’s eat and drink now, because tomorrow we’ll be dead!” 14 Then Adonai-Tzva’ot revealed Himself in my ears: “You will not atone for this iniquity until you die.” This is what Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot says.

God called for mourning by shaving their heads and wearing sackcloth, but the people celebrated the lifting of the siege on the city. The people lived for the moment. The fact that the sin of the people would never be removed boded poorly for the future of the city.

The prophecy against Yerushalayim in the following verses concludes with an evaluation of two stewards. Shevna abused his office and would be replaced by Elyakim. Elyakim was competent, and Yesha’yahu praised him, but even Elyakim eventually failed. The message is that politicians cannot be relied on to solve problems that only God can answer. Oh, that we would hear that same message today, people!

15 Thus says Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot: “Go and find that steward, Shevna, administrator of the palace, and ask him:

The office of steward was an important role, analogous to the chief of staff of a president. Shevna is known elsewhere as a high-ranking officer in the court of Hezekiah (Yesha’yahu 36:3,11,22; 37:2; 2 Kings 18:18; 19:2), though in those passages he is called a secretary which may indicate that he had been demoted.

16 ‘What do you own here, and who gave you the right to cut yourself a tomb here? Why do you get such an eminent tomb? Why are you carving a resting-place for yourself in the rock?’”

Shevna was concerned more about himself and his glory than with the well-being of the city. Rock-hewn tombs from antiquity may be seen today all around Yerushalayim, but mainly east of the city. Archaeologists discovered a tomb near Yerushalayim that contained an inscription with the title of a person who was “in charge of the palace.” However, there was no name on the tomb. Since he was demoted, it may not be Shevna’s.

17 Look, strong man! Adonai is about to throw you out! He will grab you, 18 roll you up and toss you around like a ball in the open country. There you will die, with your fancy chariots, you disgrace to your master’s palace!

Shevna not only exalted himself by the type of tomb he was building, but also by driving glorious chariots. (Is it just me, or did you picture a baseball game when you first read verse 18?)

19 “I will remove you from your office, I will snatch you from your post. Because of his vanity and self-promotion, God will replace him in his position as a Steward.

20 When that day comes, I will summon my servant Elyakim, the son of Hilkiyahu.

Elyakim means “May El establish,” has been found on seal impressions from Tell Beit Mirsim, Beth Shemesh, and Ramat Rahel. He served as Royal Steward under King Hezekiah (see 2 Kings 18:18; 19:2; Isaiah 36:3), and therefore would have been expected to affix his official seal to many documents.

21 I will dress him in your robe, gird him with your sash of office, and invest him with your authority. He will be a father to the people living in Yerushalayim and to the house of Y’hudah.

The robe and sash were symbols of the office of Steward. As opposed to self-serving Shevna, Elyakim will function as a father, looking after the needs of his people.

22 I will place the key of David’s house on his shoulder; no one will shut what he opens; no one will open what he shuts.

The key, whether literal or metaphorical, indicates the control the Steward had over the distribution of resources.

23 “I will fasten him firmly in place like a peg so that he will become a seat of honor for his clan.

Elyakim will not be shaken like Shevna but will be a firmly implanted peg. The metaphor probably refers to a peg driven into a plastered wall to hold up shelves.

24 They will hang on him all the weight of his clan, descendants, and offspring, as well as all the vessels of small capacity, from pitchers to cups. 25 When that day comes, the peg fastened firmly in place will give way; it will be cut down and fall, and the weight that was on it will be cut off.” For Adonai has said it. ~ Yesha’yahu 22:12-25 (CJB)

Elyakim is compared to a shelf on which his family put a tremendous burden. The weight ultimately sheared off the peg, causing the shelf (Elyakim) to crash and its contents (his family’s hardships) to break. The message of the prophecy seems to be that the people could not trust even a competent, moral person to resolve Yerushalayim’s problems. Only God Himself can solve the problems facing humanity.

In my next post, we will learn about A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) in Yesha’yahu 23.

Click here for PDF version.

A Prophecy Against the Valley of Vision ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 22:1-11

In my last post, we learned of A Prophecy Against Dumah and Arabia in Yesha’yahu 21:11-17. In this post, we learn of A Prophecy Against the Valley of Vision ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 22:1-11.

1 A prophecy about the Valley of Vision: Tell me what is wrong with you, that you have all gone up on the roofs.

From later in the prophecy, it is clear that the Valley of Vision is a reference to Yerushalayim, even though this name is not used elsewhere of the city. It could be satirical; that is, the Valley of Vision was blind to the divine purpose. Or perhaps it could be a reference to Hinnom, where divinatory practices took place.

Gone up on the roofs may be a reference to divination or false worship. There is ample evidence in the prophetic books of Israelites burning incense on the roofs of their houses (Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5). It could also refer to their getting a better perspective on the withdrawal of a besieging army.

2 You city full of noise, confusion, and boisterous excitement, your slain did not fall to the sword, nor did they die in battle. 3 All your leaders fled together and were captured without the use of a bow; all from you who were found were captured, even though they had fled far away.

The inhabitants were jubilant because the attacking army had withdrawn from its siege. The reference to those who died apart from battle may be a reference to those who starved or contracted the disease during the siege.

From a historical perspective, the events of verses 2-3 occur during the 701 BCE campaign of Sennacherib. The Ashurim king led a massive army of mercenaries and conscripts from throughout his empire. During the invasion of Y’hudah, they will, according to Sennacherib’s Annals, “lay siege to forty-six fortified cities, walled forts, and countless villages.” King Hezekiah was bottled up in Yerushalayim“like a bird in a cage.” Any of his officials who attempted to escape and many were executed. [1]

4 This is why I said, “Don’t look at me, leave me alone to weep bitterly, don’t try to comfort me over the destruction of my people.”

Yesha’yahu did not share the joy of the city. After all, although the siege was lifted, people died.

5 For it is a day of panic, trampling, and confusion from Adonai Elohim-Tzva’ot [the Lord God of Hosts] in the Valley of Vision. With walls crashing down, they cry for help to the mountains. 6 ‘Eilam picks up the quivers, with cavalry and horsemen, and Kir uncovers the shields.

‘Elam (located on the Iranian plateau east of Bavel) and Kir appear to have fought along with the Ashurim. There is no consensus on the exact location of the country of Kir. Because of its association with Aram in Amos 9:7, several attempts have been made to place it either in northern Syria or in the western desert (west of the Euphrates). Its mention here with ‘Elam also suggests proximity to that country east of the Tigris River.
7 In time, your choicest valleys Yerushalayim by chariots, and the cavalry take their posts by the gate; 8 thus is Y’hudah’s protection removed. That day you looked for the armor in the House of the Forest.

The House of the Forest is likely the same as the storehouse in the palace complex known as the House of the Forest of L’vanon (1 Kings 7:1-12). Weapons were stored there. The people should have been looking to God for help, but they put their trust in their weapons instead.

9 You saw how many breaches there were in the City of David; you collected water from the lower pool,

Based on the discovery of the Siloam Tunnel inscription, it seems clear that Hezekiah constructed a water tunnel over eighteen hundred feet long from inside the walls of Yerushalayim to the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley. In this way, he was able to ensure a safe and continuous water supply for Yerushalayim during the Ashurim siege. The lower pool was one of two reservoirs used to hold and channel water. It was designed to provide irrigation flow to the terraced areas along the slope of the Kidron Valley, and it eventually drained into the Pool of Shelah, modern Birket el-Hamra. [2]

10 you surveyed the houses in Yerushalayim, tearing some down to fortify the wall. 11 You also built a reservoir between the two walls for the water from the Old Pool, but you didn’t look to Him who made these things; you had no respect for Him who fashioned them long ago. ~ Isaiah 22:1-11 (CJB)

Refortifying the wall with construction materials taken from demolished homes and building an emergency reservoir within the city are taken again by the prophet as a sign of individual self-reliance. They should have been looking to God for help. After all, he was the One who created it long ago.

Are you putting your faith in God OR others and yourself?

In my next post, we will continue to learn about A Prophecy Against the Valley of Vision ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 22:12-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] Ibid.

Another Prophecy Against the Desert by the Sea (Bavel) ~Yesha’yahu 21:1-10.

In my last post, we learned of A Further Prophecy Against Ashdod, Egypt, and Cush in Yesha’yahu 20:1-6. In this post, we learn of Another Prophecy Against the Desert by the Sea (Bavel) in Yesha’yahu 21:1-10.

The prophecy in these verses was against the Desert by the Sea or coastal desert as Stern translates the phrase. This designation is ambiguous when first stated, but the end of the passage (verse 9) makes it clear that Bavel was meant. The description of the fall of Bavel is mysterious. Debate surrounds whether it anticipates an Ashurim defeat of Bavel in the late eighth or early seventh century BCE (three times: 710, 700, 689) or the ultimate conquest of Bavel by Persia in 539 BCE. A good argument can be made that both the earlier and the later defeats are alluded to in this prophecy. The intention of this prophecy at the time of Yesha’yahu was to show that Bavel would not be a useful ally against Ashur as even King Hezekiah of Y’hudah at one point had hoped (Yesha’yahu 39). [1]

1 A prophecy about the coastal desert: Like whirlwinds sweeping over the Negev, it comes from the desert, from a fearsome land. 2 A dire vision has been shown to me: the betrayer betrays, and the spoiler spoils. ‘Eilam, advance! Madai, lay siege! I will end all groaning.

The me here is Yesha’yahu. ‘Eilam and Madai (Medes) were countries on the Iranian plateau east of Bavel. In this verse, they are called to advance, but against whom? In the late eighth century BCE, they were allies with Bavel and would have fought against Ashur. In 539 BCE they were both parts of the Persian Empire that defeated Bavel. Perhaps the ambiguity intends the reader at a later time to recognize allusions to both events.

3 This is why my insides are racked with pain; I am seized by pangs, like a woman in labor; wrenched by what I hear, aghast at what I see.

Yesha’yahu used the theme of a woman in labor, one widely used in prophetic literature. This was a graphic image of the pain and distress that would fall on the object of God’s warring activity.

4 My mind reels, shuddering assails me. The twilight I longed for terrifies me.

The realization that judgment was coming brought Yesha’yahu no joy. The destruction was so real to him that he felt tortured inside. I’m praying that the Lord might do much more of that in our lives because we sometimes talk quite easily about heaven and hell, without really being broken and hurting over the fact that people we care about deeply are headed for judgment and an eternity apart from God. Yesha’yahu had not only a prophetic message but a prophetic heart. When is the last time you shared the Gospel message to those who have yet to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah?

5 They set the table, light the lamps, eat and drink – “Get going, princes! Oil the shields!”

The apparent banquet scene portrayed here might suggest that Bavel was unprepared for the attack that would capture the city. Attack would come during celebratory feasting, reminiscent of Daniel 5 when Belshatzar ate and drank on the eve of Bavel’s destruction.

The practice of oiling shields in preparation for battle may be based on the desire to make the leather more flexible and less brittle (see 2 Samuel 1:21). The shine from a freshly oiled leather shield might also help blind an opponent.

6 For this is what Adonai said to me: “Go, post a watchman to report what he sees!

The watchman was posted at some point distant from the battle, perhaps at the city of the attackers. He looked for signs of victory or defeat.

7 If he sees the cavalry, horsemen in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, he must be on alert, on full alert!”

The Ashurim used chariot corps, divided into squadrons of fifty, as the heart of their army’s campaign forces. They held two, three, or four men, with one man serving as a driver and the others as archers or shield bearers.

Most of what we know about the use of cavalry in the eighth century comes from depictions on Ashurim reliefs. They show that in areas such as the hilly or wooded country where chariots were ineffective, the armies in the ancient Near East employed cavalry. Some of these men were equipped with bows, while others served as lancers, carrying a long spear. These latter forces would be used as shock troops, charging along with chariots against a massed enemy, driving wedges in their ranks so the Ashurim infantry could follow into the breaches (see 1 Kings 20:21). Cavalry archers often fought in pairs, with one using his bow while the other carried a shield to protect his companion (see 2 Kings 9:25). Riders were also used to send messages on the battlefield and to report events to nearby fortresses and cities (see Ben-Hadad’s escape with covering cavalry in 1 Kings 20:20). [2]

8 He calls out like a lion: “My lord, I stand on the watchtower all day long, I stay at my post all night.” 9 Then, as they appeared — the cavalry, horsemen in pairs — he spoke these words: “She has fallen! She has fallen — Bavel! All the carved images of her gods lie shattered on the ground.”

At the death of Sargon II in 705 BCE, Merodach-Baladan once again set himself up as the ruler of Bavel. This signaled yet another series of revolts throughout the Ashurim empire. Sennacherib’s Annals describe how he systematically subjugated each rebellious region. Bavel and ‘Eilam were dealt with first because of their proximity to the heart of the Ashurim empire. Still, the Bavlim leader was able to maintain control over a portion of the south and cause Sennacherib persistent problems, despite Ashurim attempts to conciliate the Chaldean people. Bavel was finally besieged in 689 BCE, and when the walls were breached, the Ashurim slaughtered the population and destroyed the wall systems, the temples and every house within the city. They even dug canals to channel water from the Euphrates through the city to wash away foundations and brickwork. [3]

10 My people, who have been threshed, grain trodden down on my threshing-floor: I am telling you what I have heard from Adonai-Tzva’ot, the God of Isra’el. ~ Yesha’yahu 21:1-10 (CJB)

The trodden down people were the people of Isra’el. The prophet confirmed to them that the destruction of Bavel had been announced by none other than God Himself.

In my next post, we will explore A Prophecy Against Dumah and Arabia in Yesha’yahu 21:10-17.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] HCSB Study Bible.

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

[3] Ibid.

A Further Prophecy Against Ashdod, Egypt, and Cush ~ Yesha’yahu 20:1-6

In my last post, we completed The Prophecy Against Egypt ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 19:11-25. In this post, we learn of A Further Prophecy Against Ashdod, Egypt, and Cush in Yesha’yahu 20:1-6.

We have learned that Cush is modern-day Ethiopia.

1 In the year that Sargon, the king of Ashur sent his commander-in-chief to attack Ashdod, he captured it.

This is one of those rare instances where the biblical account of the Ashdod revolt of 713-711 BCE, the Ashurian records, and the archaeological remains all corroborate one another. The Philistine city revolted at the instigation of King Azuri, perhaps with the expectation of Egyptian support. The Ashurian Annals charge him with refusing to pay tribute and fomenting rebellion among his neighbors. The Ashurian emperor Sargon II responded with a swift campaign that quickly suppressed any hopes for independence. He placed Azuri’s younger brother, Ahimeti, on the throne, who in turn was almost immediately deposed by a usurper named Yamani. Sargon sent another expedition in 712, and Yamani fled to Egypt. An Ashurian commissioner was then appointed to manage Ashdod for the empire. [1]

Tartan was the commander-in-chief of the invading Ashurian army. Ashdod was one of the five cities of the Philistines.

2 It was at that time that Adonai, speaking through Yesha‘yahu, the son of Amotz, said, “Go and unwind the sackcloth from around your waist, and take your sandals off your feet.” So he did it, going about unclothed and barefoot.

God commanded Yesha’yahu to perform a symbolic action that would support his spoken prophecy. Yesha’yahu had been wearing sackcloth, a symbol of mourning, but he was told to go about naked. This would represent the coming humiliation and poverty of Egypt. Hopefully, we never get that same call.

3 In time, Adonai said, “Just as my servant Yesha‘yahu has gone about unclothed and barefoot for three years as a sign and portent against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4 so will the king of Ashur lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Ethiopia, young and old, unclothed and barefoot, with their buttocks exposed, to the shame of Egypt.

Prisoners of war were considered spoils to be divided among the conquerors. They would become slaves, and it was necessary to break their spirit immediately and at the same time, use them as a means of shaming their home countries or cities. I recall seeing images of Holocaust victims receiving the same humiliating treatment.

5 They will be dismayed and ashamed because of Ethiopia, their hope, and Egypt their pride.

Those who trusted Egypt and Ethiopia for help against their enemies would be sorely disappointed. God was and is the only proper object of the people’s trust.

6 On that day, the people living along this coast will say, ‘Look what happened to the people to whom we fled for help, hoping they would rescue us from the king of Ashur! How will we escape now?’” ~Yesha’yahu 20:1-6 (CJB)

“How will we escape now?” The prophecy envisioned other nations coming to recognize that Egypt was an unreliable ally. That’s always the way it is – for as long as we depend on men and look to men, we’ll never have true deliverance. The implicit message is that Y’hudah should come to the same realization. I believe that the current State of Isra’el has come to that same conclusion. Pray for the peace of Yerushalayim.

In my next post, we will explore Another Prophecy Against the Desert by the Sea (Bavel) in Yesha’yahu 21:1-10.

Click here for PDF version.

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

The Prophecy Against Egypt ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’hayu 19:11-25

In my last post, we examined The Prophecy Against Egypt ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 19:1-10. In this post, we continue to explore The Prophecy Against Egypt ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 19:11-25.

As we pick up the passage in verse 11, Adonai-Tzva’ot is still speaking.

11 The princes of Tzo‘an are utter fools, Pharaoh’s wisest counselors give stupid advice. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I’m a sage, descended from kings of old.”

Tzo’an was a famous city (also known as Tanis), formerly a capital of Egypt. It is mentioned in this verse because it was the residence of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers. Egypt was known as a center of wisdom in the ancient Near East. This prophecy mocks their wisdom.

12 Where are they, then, those sages of yours? Let them tell you, so all can know what Adonai-Tzva’ot has planned against Egypt!

The ignorance of the wise men of Egypt is revealed by their ignorance of God’s plans for their country. That sounds vaguely familiar.

13 The princes of Tzo‘an have been fooled, the princes of Nof (Memphis) have been duped, Egypt’s clan chiefs have led her astray. 14 Adonai has mixed up their minds with a spirit that distorts judgment, so they make Egypt stagger in whatever she does, like a drunk staggering in his vomit.

Egyptian leaders and wise men are pictured as drunk, in a state of heightened confusion. The image of a drunkard staggering and passing out, representing the demise of God’s enemies, frequently occurs in the Prophets.

15 Nobody in Egypt will find work to do – neither head nor tail, neither [tall] palm frond nor [lowly] reed.

The expression neither head nor tail, tall palm nor lowly reed points to a totality of verse 14. Nothing can protect Egypt against God’s devastating judgment. True to this prophecy, to this day, the Egyptian economy remains unstable.

16 On that day, Egypt will be like women trembling with fear because Adonai-Tzva’ot is shaking his fist at them.

On that day points to a future but unspecified time. It was an insult to say that Egypt’s troops will be like women (Jeremiah 50:37; 51:30). {Ladies remember the culture at the time.}

17 Just mentioning the land of Y’hudah to the Egyptians will throw them into panic; they will be afraid because of what Adonai-Tzva’ot has planned for them.

Egypt was always militarily superior to Y’hudah, so Y’hudah was tempted to depend on Egypt for military support, but this verse envisions Egypt fearing Y’hudah, a shameful reversal for this proud nation. That was certainly true in the Six-Day War in 1967.

18 On that day, there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Kena‘an and swear loyalty to Adonai-Tzva’ot; one of them will be called the City of Destruction.

While Hebrew settlements were known from the postexilic period on, it is more likely that this verse refers to a conversion of at least some Egyptians to God. The five cities cannot be identified and may be a symbolic number for “a few.” But the City of Destruction (also known as the City of the Sun) is well known. It was Heliopolis, closely associated with the worship of the sun god. That the worship of Adonai would be taken up in this city is a sign of a radical transformation.

19 On that day, there will be an altar to Adonai in the middle of the land of Egypt, as well as a standing-stone for Adonai at its border.

As a sign of an Egyptian conversion to the worship of the true God, there will be an altar set up in the center of the land and a memorial pillar at the border. The land will be dedicated to the worship of the true God.

20 It will be a sign and witness to Adonai-Tzva’ot in the land of Egypt; so that when they cry out to Adonai for help because of the oppressors, He will send them a savior to defend and rescue them.

The language of this verse is reminiscent of that in the book of Judges. Here, however, sending someone to rescue a repentant nation from an oppressor describes the situation in future Egypt.

21 Adonai will make himself known to Egypt; on that day; the Egyptians will know Adonai. They will worship him with sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to Adonai and keep them.

After the days of confusion and confounding, there will come a time when Egypt will acknowledge the sovereignty and reality of the Lord, for God’s plan is to include Egypt in the millennial kingdom.

22 Yet Adonai will strike Egypt, both striking and healing, so they will return to Adonai. He will listen to their prayers, and he will heal them.

Egypt‘s conversion will be after that country experiences God’s judgment; healing will follow striking.

23 On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Ashur. Ashur will come to Egypt and Egypt to Ashur, and Egypt will worship with Ashur.

The highway is a favorite metaphor in Yesha’yahu for the removal of alienation and separation (11:16; 33:8; 35:8; 40:3; 49:11; 62:10). Ashur and Egypt had been enemies for many years, but this fantastic passage envisions a time when travel will be free and easy between them, and they will be united in the worship of God.

24 On that day Isra’el will be a third partner with Egypt and Ashur, a blessing here on earth;

Isra’el was a land bridge between Egypt and Ashur. Both of these nations had tried to control Isra’el to get a foothold against the other. Here Isra’el is added to Ashur and Egypt in an intimate relationship of love and worship of the Lord.

25 for Adonai-Tzva’ot has blessed him: “Blessed be Egypt my people, Ashur the work of my hands and Isra’el my heritage.” ~ Isaiah 19:11-25 (CJB)

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for on that day to be fulfilled in my lifetime. Come, Lord quickly.

In my next post, we continue to explore A Further Prophecy Against Ashdod, Egypt, and Cush in Yesha’yahu 20:1-6.

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The Prophecy Against Egypt ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’hayu 19:1-10

In my last post, we examined The Woes of Cush (modern Ethiopia) in Yesha’hayu 18:1-7. In this post, we explore The Prophecy Against Egypt ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 19:1-10.

1 This is a prophecy about Egypt: Look! Adonai is riding a swift cloud on His way to Egypt. Before Him, Egypt’s idols tremble, Egypt’s courage melts within them.

Egypt is a divided nation during this time. The effort to unite all Egypt had stalled. The swift cloud, a storm cloud, is God’s war chariot. The image is found elsewhere in Scripture (Psalm 18:10; 68:33; 104:3; Nahum 1:3). Egypt’s idols tremble again, just as the plagues were described as a victory over Egypt’s gods at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 12:12).

2 “I will incite Egypt against Egypt, brother will fight against brother, friend against friend, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.

The Lord had no shortage of ways to bring nations down. In the case of the Egyptians, He used civil war. During much of the eighth century, Egypt was at war with itself. There were conflicts between power centers at Tanis, Thebes, and in the delta. Not until 712 BCE was Egypt united under one pharaoh, the Cushite king Shabaka.

3 The courage of Egypt will ebb away within it; I will reduce its counsel to confusion. They will consult idols and mediums, ghosts and spirits.

Egyptian religion was filled with many gods and mysterious rites, but this verse describes a darker religious turn born out of frustration. One would think the Egyptians would not have resorted to idolatry following the poor showing of their wizards at the time of the Exodus. But, as seen here, such was not the case.

4 I will hand over the Egyptians to a cruel master. A harsh king will rule them,” says the Lord, Adonai-Tzva’ot.

It’s not all that clear who the cruel masters were, but Nebuchadnezzar may have been the first that ruled Egypt, followed by a succession of oppressive Persian kings.

5 The water will ebb from the sea; the river will be drained dry. 6 The rivers will become foul, the canals of Egypt’s Nile will dwindle and dry up, the reeds and rushes will wither. 7 The river-plants on the banks of the Nile and everything sown near the Nile will dry up, blow away and be no more.

Egyptian agriculture and commerce were utterly dependent on the Nile River system. They were fortunate in that the Nile was a predictable and manageable river. Its inundations occurred on a regular schedule (carefully recorded by scribes and kept in official repositories). Failure of the Nile‘s flood would mean poor harvests and the destruction of its industries (especially flax). The Nile‘s banks could be cut with canals and irrigation channels to expand the size of fields and the movement of light shipping. Also, the controlled flooding of the Nile brought fertile silt to Egyptian fields, ensuring abundant crops and lessening the need for fertilizing or crop rotation. Travel was also based on movement up and down the Nile. There was constant, heavy barge traffic carrying grain and other raw materials, manufactured goods, and building stones.[1]

8 Fishermen too will lament, all who cast hooks in the Nile will mourn, those who spread nets on the water lose heart.

The disappearance of the Nile waters will affect not only farmers but also those who make their living by fishing.

9 The linen-workers will be in despair, along with the weavers of white cotton; 10 the spinners will be crushed, the hired workers dejected. ~ Isaiah 19:1-10 (CJB)

The warm and humid climate in Egypt necessitated light clothing styles. Flax, cultivated since Neolithic times, was one answer to this need. It provided both food (seeds and linseed oil) as well as a fiber that could be woven into linen cloth. In Egypt flax was tightly planted (to increase height and prevent branching) in late October and harvested at the height of three feet in April or May. Younger plants were pulled up by the roots to produce fine linen, while older plants were used for ropes and belts. The stems were first soaked in tanks of stagnant water (retting) and then dried before the fibers were separated (Joshua 2:6). The dried stems were beaten, and the fibers combed out for spinning, with the longer threads being used for clothing and the shorter (tow) set aside as lamp wicks (1:31). There were several grades of linen produced. The best was set aside for the Pharaoh, the nobility and the priests. Any interruption in production would have had a ripple effect, destroying the livelihood of countless workers in the fields and factories. [2]

The loss of this industry would lead to economic depression.

We have seen the fulfillment of this prophecy in our day. The theory behind the Aswan Dam, considered one of the great projects of modern technology, was that, by controlling the flow of the Nile River, Egypt could be more productive in her farming. But it ended up costing her over a million acres of farmland as silt was caught in the dam and salt water began to work its way up the Nile. The nutrients previously carried down the river no longer flowed. Instead, snails proliferated and destroyed the reeds just as Isaiah prophesied. [3]

In my next post, we continue to explore A Prophecy Against Egypt ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 19:11-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament

[2] Ibid.

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

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.

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