The Women of Yerushalayim ~ Yesha’yahu 32:9-20

In my last post, we learned of the Coming of a Righteous King in Yesha’yahu 32:1-8. In this post, we examine a prophecy concerning The Women of Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 32:9-20.

9 You women who are so complacent, listen to me! Overconfident women pay attention to my words!

The prophecy now addresses the women in the community of the people of Adonai. They also show pride in human resources rather than in the Adonai. They are complacent and overconfident.

10 In a year and a few days more, you overconfident women will shudder, because the vintage will fail, the harvest will not come.

It appears that the security of these women is in the abundant produce of the land, but Yesha’hayu pointed out that this prosperity is temporary. In the next year, vintage (wine) and harvest (crop production) will fail. Tough economic times are ahead.

11 Tremble, you complacent women! Shudder, you overconfident women! Strip bare, wear sackcloth to cover yourselves.

Yesha’hayu seems to be saying: “You should be wearing sackcloth in brokenness and humility. Instead, you’re dressed for a party.” One of the rituals associated with mourning and supplication is to wear sackcloth (see Genesis 37:34; 1 Kings 20:31-32). Any society whose women begin to lose their moral moorings and begin to flaunt their sensuality is headed for trouble.

12 Beat your breasts in mourning for the pleasant fields and fruitful vines,

In addition to wearing sackcloth, beating one’s chest was also a mourning customs.

13 for the land of my people, producing thorns and briars, for all the happy homes in the joyful city.

The land will produce thorns and briers, useless plants, instead of grains and vines. The idea is similar to the curse against Adam in Genesis 3:18.

14 For the palace will be abandoned, the crowded city deserted, ‘Ofel and fortress wastelands forever, a delight for wild donkeys and a pasture for flocks –

Not only will the fields be desolate and unproductive, but so will the city of Yerushalayim. It will be turned into the haunt of wild animals.Ofel (Citadel) refers to a portion of Yerushalayim where a specific watchtower stood (see Nehemiah 3:26).

Because the Adonai would mercifully and mightily deliver Yerushalayim from destruction at the hand of the Ashurim, this prophecy would see fulfillment when the Jews were carried into captivity to Bavel in 586 BCE. Of course, it would be even more fully and tragically realized in the destruction of Yerushalayim by Rome in 70 CE.

15 till the Spirit is poured out on us from above, and the desert becomes a fertile field, with the fertile field regarded as a forest.

When the Spirit is poured out, everything changes. We see three great outpourings of the Spirit in Scripture: before the end times in Joel 2, at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and in the millennial kingdom as seen here. That is not to say that the Spirit isn’t being poured out daily now.

16 Then justice will dwell in the desert, and righteousness abides in the fertile field. 17 The effect of righteousness will be peace; the result of righteousness, quiet trust forever.

Being right with Adonai and our neighbors will bring peace. Shalom is more than the absence of conflict. It includes personal wholeness and does not depend on outside circumstances.

 18 My people will live in a peaceful place, in secure neighborhoods, and tranquil dwellings.

Living in a peaceful place and feeling secure and tranquil were blessings of Isra’el’s covenant with the Adonai, but the people’s sin had previously brought curses rather than blessings.

19 Just as the forest will surely come down, the city will surely be laid low. 20 Happy are you who sow by all streams, letting oxen and donkeys roam freely. ~ Isaiah 32:9-20 (CJB)

The godly would remain secure even with evidence of Adonai’s judgment all around them.

In my next post, we move to the sixth and final woe in chapters 28-33 in Yesha’hayu 33:1-13 to learn about A Woe Against Those on Whom the King Will Take Vengeance ~ Part 1.

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Coming of a Righteous King ~ Yesha’yahu 32:1-8

In my last post, we concluded our investigation of a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 30:27-33. In this post, we take a brief respite from the woes, and we will learn of the Coming of a Righteous King in Yesha’yahu 32:1-8.

1 There is coming a king who will reign justly and princes who will rule uprightly.

In light of the dark days they were experiencing, this would have been a message of comfort and hope to Adonai’s people. Scholars are divided over whether the king who will reign righteously is a direct reference to the Messiah or whether it describes a historical king like Hizikiyahu (sees 2 Kings 18-21) or Yoshiyahu (see 2 Kings 21-23). Of course, Yeshua is THE King, and Hizikiyahu and Yoshiyahu were pale anticipations of the Him. The point is that the future will bring just leadership.

2 A man will be like a refuge from the wind, like protection from a storm, like streams of water on arid ground, like a rock cliff shading a weary land.

The benefits the people will experience because of their righteous leaders are described metaphorically. They are protection and provision in difficult circumstances. Ultimately, Yeshua is the hiding place in a weary land.

3 The eyes of those seeing will not be closed; the ears of those hearing will pay close attention. 4 The minds of the impetuous will learn to weigh carefully; the tongues of the stutterers will speak readily and clearly. 5 The mean person will no longer be called generous, or the miserly said to be noble;

These verses form a reversal of the conditions faced by Yesha’yahu in his description of his calling in 6:9-10. What changes Israel’s fortunes is the rise of a righteous king who enforces the law and maintains order.

When Yeshua reigns in righteousness, men will see clearly. As a result, dark will not be called light (Yesha’yahu 5:20). Things will be seen for what they are in truth. That is why the mean or foolish, person will no longer be thought of as generous and noble.

6 for the mean person will speak meanness, his heart planning evil so that he can act godlessly, spreading error concerning Adonai, as he lets the hungry go on starving and deprives the thirsty of drink.

Proverbs make it clear that a fool is someone who rejects Adonai and has a detrimental effect on the community. Here Yesha’yahu claims that folly among the leadership leads to hunger and thirst.

7 The mean person’s means are mean – he devises wicked devices to ruin the poor and needy with lies, even when their cause is just. 8 But the generous person devises generous things, and his generosity will keep him standing. ~ Isaiah 32:1-8 (CJB)

In contrast to the person who will be destroyed by his self-interest and indulgence, the generous person will thrive because of his selflessness. Yeshua would not only perfectly embody this principle but put it into words when He said, “Whoever finds his own life will lose it, but the person who loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~ Matthew 10:39 (CJB)

In my next post, we move on in Yesha’hayu 32 to learn about The Women of Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 32:9-20.

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Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt ~ Yesha’yahu 31:1-9

In my last post, we began to explore a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 30:12-29. In this post, we conclude our investigation of a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 30:27-33.

This is the fifth woe in chapters 28-33. The issue again is that Adonai’s people were trusting foreign nations (in this case, Egypt) rather than Adonai for help against their enemies.

1 Woe to those going down to Egypt expecting help relying on horses; trusting in chariots, because they have many, and in the strength of their cavalrymen but not looking to the Holy One of Isra’el, not consulting Adonai.

The “holy war” theme of the Tanakh makes it clear that Isra’el’s safety depended on Adonai, not on the size of their army. Examples include the battle of Jericho (Joshua 7), Gid’on’s victory over the Midyan (Judges 7-8), and countless other accounts (Psalm 20:7).

2 But He too is wise and can bring disaster, and He does not take back His words; He will rise against the house of evildoers and against the help of those who do wrong. 3 Now the Egyptians are men and not God, and their horses’ flesh and not spirit. So, when Adonai stretches out His hand, both he who helps will stumble, and he who is helped will fall; both will perish together.

Isra’el’s attempt to get help from Egypt will backfire because Adonai will cause both helper (Egypt) and helped (Adonai’s people) to be destroyed. It’s as if the Adonai is saying, Why are you looking to the Egyptians? They’re not going to be able to help you. They’re not Adonai. They’re only men. So, seek Me instead.”

Are we reticent to seek the Adonai? Our strength comes from our dependence upon Adonai alone.

4 For here is what Adonai says to me: “As a lion or lion cub growls at its prey and isn’t frightened away by the shouts of hordes of shepherds called out against him their voices do not upset him so likewise Adonai-Tzva’ot will descend to fight on Mount Tziyon, on its hill. 5 Like hovering birds, Adonai-Tzva’ot will protect Yerushalayim. In protecting it, He will rescue it; in sparing it, He will save it.

Adonai is the only One who can protect His people. In these verses, Yesha’yahu uses two images to describe Adonai’s protection. He is a fearless lion on behalf of Isra’el against the foreign armies (represented by the shepherds who try to fend Him off). He is also hovering over His people as birds hover over their prey. The point is that Adonai will see to the deliverance of His people.

6 People of Isra’el! Return to Him to whom you have been so deeply disloyal! 7 For on that day everyone will discard his idols of silver and idols of gold, which you made for yourselves with your own sinful hands.

The restoration of Adonai’s people has two sides: returning to Him, which implies repentance, and rejecting false gods in the form of silver and gold idols. We see this prophecy fulfilled when Hezekiah removed the high places, broke the idols, and cut down the groves used in idol worship (2 Kings 18:4).

8 Then Ashur will fall by a sword, not of mortals, a sword, not of humans, will devour him; he will flee before the sword, and his young men will be put to forced labor.

Adonai is the real reason Ashur will fall. He will use Bavel for this task, but Adonai is the One who will give Bavel the victory.

9 His rock, out of terror, will pass away, and his panicked officers will desert the standard.” So says Adonai, whose fire is in Tziyon, whose furnace is in Yerushalayim. ~ Isaiah 31:1-9 (CJB)

Though the reference is unusual, the rock is probably a reference to the Ashurim king. A rock is something that provides shelter and protection, but in this case, the rock will fail to give a defense. The standard is a reference to a battle standard used to rally troops. Tziyon’s fire and Yerushalayim’s furnace may be a reference to the altar fire, but in the context of judgment, it may point to the fire that will come out of Yerushalayim to destroy the attacking enemy.

In my next post, we move on to Yesha’hayu 32. Yesha’yahu takes a brief respite from the woes in this chapter, and we will learn of the Coming of a Righteous King in verses 1-8.

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Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 30:27-33

In my last post, we began to explore a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 30:12-29. In this post, we conclude our investigation of a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 30:27-33.

Recall from our previous study that the rebellious children were Adonai’s chosen people who sought help from Egypt rather than relying on Adonai.

The prophecy in verses 27-33 describes Adonai’s appearance as a judging warrior. The object of His wrath is not revealed until verse 31, where Ashur, the oppressor of God’s people, is named.

27 Here comes the name of Adonai from afar, His anger burning, in thick rising smoke. His lips are full to the brim with fury, His tongue a consuming fire. 28 His breath is like a racing torrent that rises up to the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction, and put a bridle in the peoples’ mouths to lead them astray.

Adonai‘s anger is described in human terms as if He had lips, tongue, breath, and neck. He is hot with anger. He will take the wayward nations and bridle them as if they were a donkey or horse. Then He will guide them in the way He wants them to go.

There were two types of sieves used by Israeli farmers gave them different results. One had large holes that caught stones and other large objects as the worker shifted it back and forth. The sieve of destruction in this passage had smaller holes and was meant to separate the smaller items from the grain through a swift up-and-down motion. This makes an excellent metaphor for Adonai’s act of judgment.

29 Your song will be like one that is sung on a night when a holy feast is kept, and your hearts will be happy, as if walking to the sound of the flute, to the mountain of Adonai, to the Rock of Isra’el.

The scene shifts to the people of Adonai who will celebrate this act of God. The judgment of their enemies is a cause for rejoicing. They will praise Adonai as if it were a holy feast like Pesach or Sukkot. The mountain of Adonai refers to Tziyon where Adonai (their Rock, a title that signifies shelter and protection) will make His presence known.

30 Adonai will make his glorious voice heard, and he will reveal his arm descending with furious anger in a flaming firestorm, with cloudbursts, tempests, and hailstones.

Adonai often uses weather as His weapons against the objects of His anger.

31 For Adonai’s voice will terrify Ashur, as with His scepter He strikes them down.

Adonai’s voice is powerful. Ashur, the region’s superpower, will be punished.

Jon Courson opines:

This speaks not only of that local situation but also of the end times yet to come, for Ashurim was also a name for the antichrist, the charismatic world figure who will seek to dominate the planet. Like the Ashurim army of old, however, antichrist, too, will be beaten down. [1]

32 Every sweep of the punishing rod that Adonai imposes on him will be to tambourines and lyres, as He brandishes His arm against them in battle.

The blows of weapons are compared to the beating of tambourines. Bavel was the appointed punishing rod of Adonai to bring down Ashur in the late seventh century BCE.

33 For the Tofet fire pit has long been ready, prepared for the king, made large and deep, with plenty of wood and blazing with fire; like a stream of sulfur, Adonai’s breath sets it aflame. ~ Isaiah 30:27-33 (CJB)

Tofet was in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom (Jeremiah 7:30-34). This valley was immediately south and west of Yerushalayim. At times, it functioned as a garbage heap for the city. In Greek, this valley was known as Gehenna, which became associated with hell. Before King Josiah’s (one of the good kings) reforms, it had been a place where the foreign god Molech was worshiped. Jeremiah said it epitomized the sin and guilt of the people. Adonai explicitly had forbidden human sacrifice as well as the worship of Molech. Here though it is being used for a good purpose – the burning of the body of the king of Ashur after his defeat.

In my next post, we move on to unpack another woe, this time a Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt in Yesha’hayu 31.

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

Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 30:12-26

In my last post, we began to explore a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 30:1-11. In this post, we continue to investigate a Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 30:12-26.

Recall from our previous study that the rebellious children were Adonai’s chosen people who sought help from Egypt rather than relying on Adonai.

12 Therefore here is what the Holy One of Isra’el says: “Because you reject this word, trust in extortion and rely on deceit, 13 this sin will become for you a crack bulging out high on a wall, showing signs it is ready to fall; then suddenly, all at once, it breaks.” 14 He will break it like a clay pot, ruthlessly shattering it into pieces so tiny not even a potsherd remains for taking fire from the fireplace or scooping water from the cistern.

The people rejected the Yesha’yahu’s warning to trust in Adonai alone and instead trusted in oppression and deceit by seeking the protection of Egypt. As a result, Adonai will cause them to collapse. They thought that Egypt would be a high wall of protection against the Ashurim, but the wall had a huge crack. It would eventually be obliterated. A potsherd is a broken piece of ceramic material.

15 For this is what Adonai Elohim, the Holy One of Isra’el, says: “Returning and resting is what will save you; calmness and confidence will make you strong – but you want none of this! 16 ‘No!’ you say, ‘We will flee on horseback!’ Therefore, you will surely flee. And, ‘We will ride on swift ones!’ So, your pursuers will be swift.17 A thousand will flee at the threat of one, you all will flee at the threat of five, until you are left isolated, like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.”

All He wants from us is to come to Him, rest in Him, trust in Him, and obey Him. He is our protector.

After the judgment described in verses 18-26, Adonai would restore His people to His favor.

18 Yet Adonai is just waiting to show you favor; he will have pity on you from on high; for Adonai is a God of justice; happy are all who wait for him!

Why does Adonai want us to wait for Him? Because, in reality, He’s waiting for the people to repent before turning His judgment into compassion and restoration. Are you relying on someone or something else for your peace?

19 People in Tziyon, who live in Yerushalayim, you will weep no more. At the sound of your cry, He will show you His grace; on hearing it, He will answer you.

The cry of the people refers to their repentance, an acknowledgment of their sin, and a turn to Adonai for help. As a result, He would respond with His favor. They will live in Yerushalayim near the presence of Adonai. The beginning of the fulfillment of this promise occurred after the Jews began returning from Bavel exile in 539 BCE.

20 Though Adonai may give you but bread and water, and not very much of that; your teacher will no longer hide Himself, but with your own eyes you will see your teacher.

The teacher of the people of Adonai is a reference to Adonai Himself, who would show them the right way to behave.

21 With your ears, you will hear a word from behind you: “This is the way; stay on it, whether you go to the right or the left.”

This is the still, small voice Eliyahu discovered that quiet voice that cannot be heard in the hustling, bustling, and scheming to which we are so vulnerable. What a joy it is to take a significant portion of time to be quiet before Adonai, for it is then that we hear His word in our ear, saying, “Follow the path I have prepared for you.”

22 You will treat as unclean your silver-covered idols and your cast metal images plated with gold; you will throw them away, like menstrual cloths; you will say to them, “Get out of here!”

To the Jewish mind, there could be no more defiling substance than menstrual blood (see Leviticus 15:19-23) and, for the people, no more defiling object than an idol (see Deuteronomy 4:15-19). Idols were among the most precious objects in the culture, but now will be treated as the most disgusting piece of trash. The spiritual transformation of the people of Adonai involves moving toward the true God and away from false gods.

23 Then he will give you rain for the seed you use to sow your land, and the food that comes from the ground will be rich and abundant. When that day comes, your cattle will graze in spacious pastures. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the land will eat a tasty mixture, winnowed free of chaff, spread by pitchfork and shovel.

Based on the lists of covenant blessings found in places like Deuteronomy 28, Adonai will grant agricultural prosperity to His restored people. While they had nothing but bread and water in verse 20, during their oppression, they would have large quantities of food in the future. Even the oxen and donkeys would have plenty of good food.

25 On every high mountain and lofty hill will be streams and flowing brooks, on a day of great slaughter, when the towers fall.

Isra’el’s prosperity was normally tenuous because of limited water supplies. Here the picture is of overflowing streams and brooks. The reference to the great slaughter and the fall of towers is probably a reference to the downfall of their oppressors.

26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as bright as the light of the sun; and the light of the sun will be seven times stronger, like the light of seven days [in one], on the day Adonai binds up the wounds of His people and heals the bruise caused by the blow. ~ Isaiah 30:12-26 (CJB)

Not only will there be abundant food and water, but light as well. Light represents what is right and godly. When Yeshua returns, the world will be completely free of the stranglehold of idolatry and will walk in His blessing and light.

In my next post, we conclude our exploration of the Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 3 in Yesha’hayu 30:27-33.

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Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 30:1-11

In my last post, we concluded our examination of a Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 29:13-24. In this post, we begin to explore a Woe to the Rebellious Children in Yesha’hayu 30:1-11.

1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says Adonai. “They make plans, but the plans are not mine; they develop alliances, but not from my Spirit, in order to pile sin upon sin.

This is the fourth woe in chapters 28-33. The rebellious children were Adonai’s chosen people who sought help from a foreign nation rather than from Adonai Himself.

2 They go down to Egypt but don’t consult Me, seeking refuge in Pharaoh’s protection, seeking shelter in Egypt’s shadow.

The plan was to ally with Egypt to counter the Ashurim threat. Seeking shelter implies the relationship with Egypt would not be as equal partners; Adonai’s people would be the junior partner. This arrangement involved the payment of annual tribute as well as the forfeiture of an independent foreign policy. The description of Egypt in this prophecy fits with the time of King Hezekiah of Y’hudah and may indicate the threat of an invasion by Sennacherib in 701 BCE. Rather than preserving Isra’el’s glory, it would lead to shame because Egypt was an unreliable ally.

3 But Pharaoh’s protection will bring you shame, shelter in Egypt’s shadow will lead to disgrace. 4 Though his princes are at Tzo‘an, and his envoys have reached Hannes,

Yesha’yahu emphasizes the futility of Hezekiah’s diplomatic overtures to Egypt. Tzo‘an was an important city, formerly a capital of Egypt, mentioned in this verse because it was the residence of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers. This is the only mention of Hannes in the Bible. According to extrabiblical sources, it “was an important regional capital” identified with Heracleopolis Magna. [1]

5 they all are disappointed with a people that doesn’t help them, who give no assistance and no advantage, only disappointment, and disgrace.”

Adonai had declared, Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). “If you want to be strong, sit still, and look to Me.”

6 A prophecy about the animals in the Negev: In a land of trouble and anguish, of lionesses and roaring lions, of vipers and poisonous flying serpents, they carry their riches on donkeys’ backs and their treasures on camels’ humps to a people who will not help them.

The Negev was the wilderness region south of the southern Israeli city of Be’er-Sheva. It was on the way to Egypt. Nomadic peoples and various animals such as those listed in the first part of this verse populated this area. The people who carried their wealth on the backs of donkeys describe those who took tribute to Egypt to buy protection against the Ashurim threat. Yesha’yahu saw this as a waste of money.

7 For Egypt’s help is worthless, pointless; so I call her “Arrogance Doing Nothing.”

Several English translations use Rahab verses Arrogance. Although not mentioned in any known text outside the Bible, Rahab is comparable to the chaos monster Livyatan, which also takes the form of a twisting serpent (Job 26:12-13). Rahab is also used synonymously for Egypt. For instance, in Psalm 87:4, the major nations are listed as subject to the power of Adonai. Rahab, Egypt’s metaphorical name, is paired here with Bavel in terms of importance. Here the prophet taunts an impotent Egypt/Rahab’s ability to help Isra’el or stop Ashur. [2]

8 Now go, inscribe it on a tablet, write it for them in a scroll, so that on the final day it will be a witness forever and ever.

Yesha’yahu is told to write Adonai’s indictment against the people of Yerushalayim so that all who followed would know that Adonai’s judgment against her was justified.

9 For this is a rebellious people; they are lying children, children who refuse to hear the Torah of Adonai.

The rebellious people did not obey Adonai’s instruction, which refers to His law and perhaps to His prohibition against entering into alliances with other nations.

10 They say to the seers, “Do not see!” to those who have visions, “Do not tell us the visions you have as they really are; but flatter us, fabricate illusions! 11 Get out of the way! Leave the path! Rid us of the Holy One of Isra’el!” ~ Isaiah 30:1-11 (CJB)

More tickling of the ears? People want to hear pleasant things, not the hard stuff that prophets like Yesha’yahu told them. True prophets warned them of coming judgment and urged them to restore their relationship with Adonai, but they responded by declaring they wanted nothing to do with this Adonai. The Holy One of Isra’el is one of Yesha’yahu’s favorite titles for Adonai, appearing more than 25 times in his book. It emphasizes Adonai’s distaste for sin.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Woe to the Rebellious Children ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 30:12-26.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] HCSB Study Bible.

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

Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 29:13-24

In my last post, we examined a Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 29:1-12. In this post, we concluded our examination of a Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 29:13-24.

13 Then Adonai said: “Because these people approach Me with empty words, and the honor they bestow on Me is mere lip-service; while in fact, they have distanced their hearts from Me, and their ‘Fear of Me’ is just a mitzvah of human origin —

The worship of the people was empty and meaningless. They were just going through the motions.

14 therefore, I will have to keep shocking these people with astounding and amazing things, until the ‘wisdom’ of their ‘wise ones’ vanishes, and the ‘discernment’ of their ‘discerning ones’ is hidden away.” 15 Woe to those who burrow down deep to hide their plans from Adonai! They work in the dark and say to themselves, “Nobody sees us; nobody knows us.”

A new woe prophecy begins with verse 15 and extends to the end of the chapter. This is the third woe presented in chapters 28-33. Those who did evil thought they could hide their actions from Adonai. Rather than relying on Adonai’s providence, it may be that they had planned to seek help against Ashur from Egypt. Such presumption would not go unpunished.

16 How you turn things upside down!— Is the potter not better than the clay, does something made say of its maker, “He didn’t make me”? Does the product say of its producer, “He has no discernment”?

The metaphor of Adonai as a potter is used in a few key places in prophetic literature (see Isaiah 45:9; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-12; Romans 9:21). It evokes the description of the creation of Adam from the dust of the ground. The prophets pointed out how crazy it was for Adonai’s creature, the pot made from clay, to challenge or question their Maker, the Potter.

As with the previous woe prophecy, there is a shift in this prophecy from judgment to hope in verse 17.

17 In but a little while, the L’vanon will be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field regarded as a forest.

L’vanon was known for its cedar forests, but it will be transformed into an orchard – a place for fruit-bearing trees. The cedar is often used in the Bible as a symbol of power and arrogance, so perhaps the transformation has to do with a change from pride to humble service.

18 On that day, the deaf will hear the words of a book, and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see.

The coming transformation is also pictured as the deaf will hear, and the blind will see. The book probably is an allusion back to the scroll in verses 11-12 that we looked at in the previous post. In those verses, the scroll could not be understood, but now it can.

19 The humble will again rejoice in Adonai, and the poor exult in the Holy One of Isra’el, 20 for the tyrant is now nothing, the scoffer is finished, and all alert to do evil are cut off – 21 those whose words make a man out to be a sinner, those who set traps for the arbitrator at the city gate, and those who groundlessly deny justice to the one in the right.

The gate of a walled city was where public hearings and judicial proceedings were held. The arbitrator was the person who heard a case. His removal would lead to injustice.

22 Therefore, here are the words of Adonai, who redeemed Avraham, concerning the house of Ya‘akov: “Ya‘akov will no longer be ashamed, no longer will his face grow pale.

The patriarchs of the Jews of Yesha’yahu’s day would no longer be ashamed of the unbelief of their descendants.

23 When his descendants see the work of My hands among them, they will consecrate My name. Yes, they will consecrate the Holy one of Ya‘akov and stand in awe of the God of Isra’el. 24 Those whose spirits stray will come to understand, and those who complain will learn their lesson. ~ Isaiah 29:13-24 (CJB)

People who were previously murmuring would now be discussing the things of Adonai. Adonai will fulfill His promise to Avraham and Ya‘akov by transforming His people.

In my next post, we will explore the Woe to the Rebellious Children in Yesha’hayu 30.

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Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 29:1-12

In my last post, we concluded our examination of a Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 28:14-29. In this post, we move on to another in a series of woes, Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 1 in Yesha’hayu 29:1-12.

1 Woe to Ari’el [fireplace on God’s altar, lion of God] – Ari’el, the city where David encamped! Celebrate the feasts for a few more years,

Ari’el is a descriptive term for Yerushalayim. In the brackets, Stern translates its meaning. El is always a reference to Adonai. This is the second woe presented in chapters 28-33. The present prophecy tells of a city that will be destroyed like the sacrifices brought to the altar.

Yerushalayim has been the most besieged city in world history. No other city has been conquered and fought over as much as Yerushalayim. The city of peace has been anything but peaceful because there can be no real peace until the Prince of Peace sits on the throne.

Celebrate the feasts refers to the three-pilgrimage journey required of all adult males to Yerushalayim of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Ingathering that served as the dominant agricultural festivals of the Isra’eli calendar.

2 but then I will bring trouble to Ari’el. There will be mourning and moaning, as she becomes truly an ari’el for me.

Adonai will turn Yerushalayim into an ari’el – fireplace on God’s altar. The meaning seems to be that He will destroy it by fire.

3 I will encamp all around you, besiege you with towers and mount siege-works against you.

Though on a literal level, it will be Ashur that will set up a siege around Yerushalayim, the prophet knew that it would do so only as an agent of the Lord.

4 Prostrate, you will speak from the ground; your words will be stifled by the dust; your voice will sound like a ghost in the ground, your words like squeaks in the dust.

Adonai speaks to Yerushalayim in the second person (you and your) and thus personifies the city. He will kill Yerushalayim, and it will be like a ghost in the ground.

5 But your many foes will become like fine powder, the horde of tyrants like blowing chaff, and it will happen very suddenly.

Suddenly, in verses 5-8, the prophecy shifts from a judgment against Yerushalayim to the restoration of the city.

6 You will be visited by Adonai-Tzva’ot with thunder, earthquakes and loud noises, whirlwinds, tempests, flaming firestorms.

When Adonai-Tzva’ot comes like a warrior, He often takes the form of a storm, earthquake, and fire.

7 Then, all the nations fighting Ari’el, everyone at war with her, the ramparts around her, the people that trouble her will fade like a dream, like a vision in the night. 8 It will be like a hungry man dreaming he’s eating; but when he wakes up, his stomach is empty; or like a thirsty man dreaming he’s drinking; but when he wakes up, he is dry and exhausted – it will be like this for the horde of all nations fighting against Mount Tziyon.

Those armies that move against Yerushalayim will ultimately be unsuccessful. Their early successes will give way to failure so that their first actions will seem like a dream.

9 If you make yourselves stupid, you will stay stupid! If you blind yourselves, you will stay blind! You are drunk, but not from wine; you are staggering, but not from strong liquor.

We have here a fundamental truth. If you don’t want to understand Scripture, you won’t. If you’re not interested in doing the will of Adonai or knowing the heart of Adonai, the Bible will become meaningless to you. Regardless of how educated or uneducated, you are, you will find the Word to be dry, dull, and an unsolvable mystery. It is when we approach the Word with a submitted spirit, saying, “Lord, this Book is talking to me and talking about me. Therefore, change me, Lord. Deal with my heart and life” that we receive illumination.

10 For Adonai has poured over you a spirit of lethargy; he has closed your eyes (that is, the prophets) and covered your heads (that is, the seers).

Closing the eyes and covering the head are most likely images of death here, as they are parallel to a spirit of lethargy.

11 For you, this whole prophetic vision has become like the message in a sealed-up scroll. When one gives it to someone who can read and says, “Please read this,” he answers, “I can’t, because it’s sealed.” 12 If the scroll is given to someone who can’t read with the request, “Please read this,” he says, “I can’t read.” ~ Isaiah 29:1-12 (CJB)

Adonai has laid it all out for the people, but they were spiritually dull and could not make sense of it. They will not heed Adonai’s warnings and will suffer the consequences. Official documents were written on scrolls of papyrus or vellum and then, when stored or dispatched by messenger, were rolled up and sealed with string and an affixed seal. The seal, either a ring or signet, was impressed into either wax or a lump of clay.

In my next post, we explore the Woe to Ari’el (Yerushalayim) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 29:13-24.

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Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 28:1-13

In my last post, we completed exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 6 in Yesha’yahu 27:1-13. In this post, we move on to more woes over the next six chapters starting with Woe to Efrayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 28:1-13.

As mentioned above this is the first woe in chapters 28-33 (29:1,15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1). The effect of the prophecy is to announce, in this case, the northern kingdom of Isra’el (called by the name of its major tribe Efrayim), is as good as dead. Efrayim‘s in trouble. Once a beautiful flower, now in Yesha’yahu’s day, they were fading fast. They were proud and pompous no doubt due in part to the fact that they were overcome with wine.

1 Woe to the haughty crown of Efrayim’s drunks, to the fading flower of its proud splendor, located at the head of the rich valley belonging to people overcome by wine!

The haughty crown of Efrayim may be a reference to it’s capital city Samaria, which sat atop a large hill overlooking the area.

Garland worn by revelers is usually a sign of joy and happiness. In this instance, however, it is a fading flower as the party turns sour and drunkenness presages the destruction of the city of Samaria by the Ashurim in 722 BCE.

2 Adonai has someone strong and powerful. He comes like a hailstorm, a destructive tempest, like a flood of water, rushing, overwhelming; with his hand, he hurls them to the ground.

Someone seems to be a theophany. A theophany is a visible manifestation of Adonai to humankind. To indicate the power of Adonai, this encounter generally includes such things as smoke and fire, mighty winds and storms, and earthquakes.

3 The haughty crown of Efrayim’s drunks is trampled underfoot; 4 and the fading flower of its proud splendor, located at the head of the rich valley, is like the first ripe fig of summer— whoever sees it picks and eats it.

Appealing again to the images of a haughty crown and fading flower from verse 1, Yesha’yahu describes the devastating punishment coming on Efrayim. He adds the picture of the first ripe fig ready to be plucked and devoured.

An Ashurim invasion was imminent. It was ominous. Were Adonai’s people praying? Doubtful. Instead, they were partying.

5 On that day, Adonai-Tzva’ot will be a glorious crown, a brilliant diadem for the remnant of His people. 6 He will also be a spirit of justice for whoever sits as a judge, and a source of strength for those repelling enemy attacks at the gate.

Recall that on that day implies a later time. While the glorious crown of Efrayim will be trampled underfoot, Adonai Himself will become a glorious crown, a brilliant diadem for the remnant of His people. Inspired by Adonai, judges will again be just, and soldiers will still have the strength to defend their city.

While verses 1-6 criticize the nobility for their drunken behavior, the following section focuses on the priests and prophets.

7 But there are others reeling from wine, staggering about because of strong liquor; cohen and prophet reel from strong liquor, they are confused by wine. Led astray by strong liquor, they err in their visions and stumble when judging. 8 All tables are covered with vomit and feces; not a single place is clean.

The cohen and prophet were crucial to the spiritual leadership of the nation, but here they had clouded their thought with drinks. They had drunk so much alcohol that their tables are covered with vomit and feces. I must confess that is the first time that I have spotted feces mentioned in Scripture. Most English translations use filthiness. However, according to Strong’s, the Hebrew word can also be translated as dung. So, there’s that.

9 Can no one be taught anything? Can no one understand the message? Must one teach barely weaned toddlers, babies just taken from the breast, 10 so that [one has to use nursery rhymes]? — Tzav la-tzav, tzav la-tzav, kav la-kav, kav la-kav z‘eir sham, z‘eir sham [Precept by precept, precept by precept, line by line, line by line, a little here, a little there].

These decadent leaders were acting as if they were teaching babies and not adults. The content of their teaching was mocked. What they said was repetitive and meaningless.

In 2 Timothy 4:3, we read that in the last days, Believers will have itching ears, wanting to hear new doctrine. As a safeguard against strange doctrine that will lead us into error, we must study the Word line upon line, precept upon precept. Here a little, there a little, we must learn the Word for ourselves.

11 So with stammering lips, in a foreign accent, [Adonai] will speak to this people.

During this indictment against people who were no longer interested in learning the Word, Adonai said, “I’m going to speak to them through a people of stammering lips and a foreign tongue.” Who would these people be? The Ashurim. If Isra’el wouldn’t learn in the Word, she’d learn in war.

In the Book of Acts 2:4-6, we see an intriguing parallel to this verse. In Yesha’yahu’s day, Adonai used foreigners to speak to His people. On Shavuot (Pentecost), He would use His people to speak to foreigners.

12 He once told this people, “It’s time to rest, the exhausted can rest, now you can relax”- but they wouldn’t listen. 13 So now the word of Adonai for them comes “precept by precept, precept by precept, line by line, line by line, a little here, a little there,” so that when they walk, they stumble backward, and are broken, trapped and captured! ~ Isaiah 28:1-13 (CJB)

In my next post, we conclude the Woe of Efrayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’hayu 28:14-29.

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The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 6 ~ Yesha’yahu 27:1-13

In my last post, we continued exploring The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 5 in Yesha’yahu 26:11-21. In this post, we conclude our series on The Lord’s Judgment of the Whole Earth ~ Part 6 in Yesha’yahu 27:1-13.

1 On that day, Adonai, with his great, strong, relentless sword, will punish Livyatan the fleeing serpent, the twisting serpent Livyatan; he will slay the sea monster.

Several other passages in the Tanakh mention Livyatan, but most of them, like Psalm 74:14 and Job 41:1-34, speak in terms of God’s creative act that established control over watery chaos (personified by the sea serpent). Livyatan was a sea monster, representing chaos and evil in this verse. According to Revelation 13:1, this is a reference to the antichrist.

In verses 2-6, pleasant vineyard is a metaphor for God’s people. The poem has many contrasts with the vineyard song of 5:1-7. There the vineyard image is used to emphasize God’s judgment on sin; here, the vineyard image describes the restoration of His people after judgment.

2 On that day, a pleasant vineyard – sing about it! 3 “I, Adonai, guard it. Moment by moment, I water it. So that no harm will come to it, I guard it night and day. 4 I have no anger in me. If it gives me briars and thorns, then, as in war, I will trample it down and burn it up at once; 5 unless it takes hold of my strength, in order to make peace with me, yes, to make peace with me.”

In these verses, the briars and thorns seem to represent rebellion against God – the type of behavior that led to a judgment in the first place. The briars and thorns have two possible courses of action: they can experience the devastating punishment of God, or they can make peace with Him.

Many of us have the mistaken idea that God is really, really angry. All of the anger He rightly feels toward humanity, however, was poured out on Yeshua at Calvary. If we will just embrace and receive that, we can be at peace with God.

6 The time is coming when Ya‘akov will take root; Isra’el will bud and flower, and fill the whole world with a harvest.

Yesha’yahu saw a prosperous future for God’s people, one that would bring prosperity to the whole world (Genesis 12:1-3). We’re seeing this prophecy fulfilled even today, for Isra’el is the world’s third largest exporter of fruit and the fourth largest exporter of flowers. [1]

7 [Adonai] will not strike Isra’el, as He did others who struck Isra’el; He will not kill them, as He did the others.

Adonai indeed will judge all His people, but He will not annihilate them as He will do with those whom He uses to punish them.

8 Your controversy with her is fully resolved by sending her [into exile]. He removes her with a rough gust of wind on a day when it’s blowing from the east.

Rather than annihilating His people, God will scatter them. The image of a rough gust of wind evokes the picture of chaff being blown away.

Verses 9-12 speak of the future restoration of Isra’el – when God gathers His people from their dispersion throughout the world.

9 So the iniquity of Ya‘akov is atoned for by this, and removing his sin produces this result: He chops up all the altar stones like chalk – sacred poles and sun-pillars stand no more.

Limestone is crushed to produce stones like chalk that can be used for mortar, as a liming agent in cesspools and to seal stone walls with a type of “whitewash.”Sacred poles refer to Asherah poles.

10 For the fortified city is alone, abandoned and deserted, like the desert. Calves graze and lie down there, stripping its branches bare. 11 When its harvest dries up, it is broken off; women come and set it on fire. For this is a people without understanding. Therefore, he who made them will not pity them, he who formed them will show them no mercy.

The fortified city, like the city of chaos and the lofty city, represents arrogant human evil. In the aftermath of God’s judgment, this city will become grazing land.

12 On that day, Adonai will beat out the grain between the Euphrates River and the Vadi of Egypt; and you will be gathered, one by one, people of Isra’el!

The Euphrates River and the Vadi of Egypt were the far northern and southern boundaries of the promised land. It appears that modern Isra’el has more territory to settle. The image of threshing grain is an image of refining judgment since the process separated the wheat from the chaff. But the aftermath of the punishment will bring a regathering of God’s dispersed people.

13 On that day a great shofar will sound. Those lost in the land of Ashur will come, also those scattered through the land of Egypt; and they will worship Adonai on the holy mountain in Yerushalayim. ~ Isaiah 27:1-13 (CJB)

Perhaps because of their use for signaling in battle, the blast of a great shofar became a familiar image used in eschatological and apocalyptic literature as a signal for the end time (see Zechariah 9:14 and Revelation 8:6-12). Here it awakens the exiles to the moment when they will return from Ashurim exile and from the places in Egypt where they have fled for refuge.

In my next post, we will begin another series of Woes in Yesha’hayu 28.

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