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 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 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.

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.

Click here for the PDF version.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click for the PDF version.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for PDF version.

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

[2] HCSB Study Bible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.