THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Part One: Prophecies of Condemnation
Isaiah's Oracles of Woe (Pt II: 29:1-32:20)
Instill in us the courage to submit to Your plan for our lives. Protect us from ambitions and desires that might mislead us in spiritually unhealthy directions. Help us to trust that since You have called us to serve You and to live in obedience according to the Laws of Mother Church, that You will give us the gifts we need to be successful as You judge success: in our families, our businesses, and in our faith communities. Also, Lord, give us the ability to discern between friendships and alliances that will promote our faith and those that might lead us into temptations that are opposed to the path of righteousness and justice that is the narrow path to Heaven. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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They hate the
man who teaches justice at the city gate and detest anyone who declares the
truth. For trampling on the poor man and for extorting levies on his wheat:
although you have built houses of dressed stone, you will not live in them;
although you have planted pleasant vineyards, you will not drink wine from
them: for I know how many your crimes are and how outrageous your sins, you oppressors
of the upright, who hold people to ransom and thrust the poor aside at the
gates. That is why anyone prudent keeps silent now, since the time is evil.
Chapter 29: Isaiah's Woe Against Jerusalem
In Isaiah's "Woe" oracles (chapters 28-33), the prophet uses the Hebrew word hoy six times (28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1). The first four uses of the term introduce woes against God's own people. The last two are directed against nations with whom the covenant people preferred to make earthly alliances instead of trusting in Yahweh, particularly Assyria and Egypt. Isaiah warned that their plans with these nations would fail and that only those who trusted in the God of Israel would find lasting peace and security.
Isaiah's "woe" against Jerusalem in Isiah 29:1-16 includes three elements:
Isaiah 29:1-8 ~ Judgment against Jerusalem
1 Woe, Ariel, Ariel, city where David encamped. Let year after year pass, let the feasts make their full round, 2 then I shall inflict trouble on Ariel, and there will be sighing and sobbing, and I shall make it truly Ariel. 3 I shall encamp all round you, I shall lay siege to you and mount siege-works against you. 4 You will be laid low, will speak from the underworld, your words will rise like a murmur from the dust. Your voice from the earth will be like a ghost's, it will whisper as though coming from the dust. 5 The horde of your enemies will be like fine dust, the horde of the warriors like flying chaff. And suddenly, in an instant, 6 you will be visited by Yahweh Sabaoth with thunder, earthquake, mighty din, hurricane, tempest, flame of devouring fire. 7 It will be like a dream, like a vision at night: the horde of all the nations at war with Ariel, all those fighting, besieging and troubling it. 8 It will be like the dream of a hungry man: he eats, then wakes up with an empty belly; or like the dream of a thirsty man: he drinks, then wakes up exhausted with a parched throat. So will it be with the horde of all the nations making war on Mount Zion.
This prophecy is probably dated to the period preceding the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians in 701 BC. The symbolic name "Ariel" designates Jerusalem in Isaiah 29:1, 2 (twice), 7 and 33:7 ~ Look, Ariel is lamenting in the streets, the ambassadors of peace are weeping bitterly. The Hebrew word has been explained in several ways:
The third meaning expresses the sacred character of the holy city, and this interpretation seems to be confirmed by the reference to the annual rituals of sacrifice and worship at the end of verse 1: Let year after year pass, let the feasts make their full round, and it is also identified more clearly in 29:2 and 6 when Jerusalem itself becomes a place of burning, an altar hearth of sacrifice: you will be visited by Yahweh Sabaoth with thunder, earthquake, mighty din, hurricane, tempest, flame of devouring fire.(1)
Jerusalem is called David's city because he conquered it from the Jebusites in c. 1000 BC and made the city his capital (2 Sam 5:6-12). The reference to the seven sacred annual feasts in 29:1b that marked the liturgical year is meant to be sarcastic. The people believe they are being obedient to God by observing the rituals of worship, but their hearts are not devoted to God "they are just going through the motions in feigning true worship, as Isaiah will explain in verses 13-14.
Isaiah 29:9-12 ~ The People's Blindness and Perversity
9 Be stupefied and stunned, go blind, unseeing, drunk but not on wine, staggering but not through liquor. 10 For Yahweh has infused you will a spirit of lethargy, he has closed your eyes (the prophets), he has veiled your heads (the seers). 11 For to you every vision has become like the words of a sealed book. You give it to someone able to read and say, "Read that." He replies, "I cannot, because it is sealed." 12 You then give the book to someone who cannot read, and say, "Read that." He replies, "I cannot read."
Despite God's promise to save the city of Jerusalem from
the Assyrians (Is 10:24-34), the people refuse to believe that He will save
them. As a result of their spiritual failures, God in His judgment poured over
His people a spiritual stupor (29:9-10), and He would no longer send them
prophets and seers who they will only dismiss. Isaiah compares his mission to
a sealed book/scroll. Illiterate people couldn't read it because they didn't
have the skill, and literate people couldn't read it because it was sealed. In
any event, the message wasn't read and applied to the lives of the people.
Question: How do verses 11-12 relate to what God told Isaiah in 6:9-10?
Answer: The more Isaiah preaches the more the people close their ears to him and refuse to understand his message.
The "sealed book/scroll" will be revisited by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 12:1-9, and the book/scroll will be unsealed by the Lamb in Revelation 5:1-3. Important scrolls were closed with a seal of wax with the impression of the mark of the sender; it was a symbol of that person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object of document (Gen 38:18; 41:42; Dt 32:34). Soldiers were marked with the brand or seal of their general and slaves with their master's seal. A seal authenticated a juridical act or document and sometimes indicated it was to remain secret or only opened by a certain person (see 1 Kng 21:8; Jer 32:10). The sealed book/scroll in Isaiah 29:11 may be a similar reference.
Question: What did Jesus say about being marked
with a seal? See Jn 6:27. Are Christians marked with a seal? See 2 Cor 1:21-22;
Eph 1:13; 4:30; Rev 7:2-3; 9:4 and CCC 1295-96.
Answer: Jesus said He was marked with the Father's seal. Yes, Christians received an indelible seal in the Sacrament of Baptism when they are reborn into the family of God. Christians are also marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, which completes baptism and identifies the Christian as totally belonging to Christ.
Isaiah 29:13-16 ~ God accuses the Citizens of Jerusalem
13 The Lord then said: "Because this people approaches me only in words, honors me only with lip-service while their hearts are far from me, and reverence for me, as far as they are concerning, is nothing but human commandment, a lesson memorized; 14 very well, I shall have to go on astounding this people with prodigies and wonders: for the wisdom of its wise men is doomed, the understanding of any who understand will vanish. 15 Woe to those who burrow down to conceal their plans from Yahweh, who scheme in the dark and say, "Who can see us? Who knows who we are?" 16 How perverse you are! Is the potter no better than the clay? Something that was made, can it say of its maker, "He did not make me"? Or a pot say of the potter, "He does not know his job"?
their hearts are far from me
In Scripture the "heart" represents the true moral and spiritual essence of the person (cf., Dt 6:5; 29:3; Jer 31:33; Ez 36:26, Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5). The Catechism teaches: "The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one's being, where the person decides for or against God (CCC 368).
Question: What two accusations does God make
against His covenant people?
Answer: The Lord accuses the people of insincere worship in verses 13-14 and perversity in verses 15-16.
The accusation of hypocritical religion in 29:13 is the same accusation that God made through Isaiah in 1:10-20, and made by God through the prophets Amos (4:4-5; 5:21-24) and Hosea (6:4-6). It was also a false expression of devotion that the prophet Samuel warned against as an affront to God (1 Sam 15:22-23). Their lack of sincerity in the rituals of worship was symptomatic of a deeper spiritual issue:
and reverence for me, as far as they are concerning,
is nothing but human commandment, a lesson memorized...
The Bible teaches that as far as human behavior is concerned, there is "nothing is new under the sun" (Ecc 1:9); and this verse demonstrates that saying. This is a familiar accusation those outside the Catholic faith often make, that Catholics are only following man-made laws and rituals to show reverence for God. Such an attitude is only an excuse and an exercise of their own faulty understanding of Sacred Scripture in the Old and New Testaments.
14 very well, I
shall have to go on astounding this people with prodigies and wonders: for the
wisdom of its wise men is doomed, the understanding of any who understand will
God will continue making works and providing wonders to encourage belief in His people, but sadly, since the extent of their wisdom was all based only on the foolish wisdom of men, they will not understand. Those to do understand will die and real understanding will not continue into the next generation because the day will come when God will withhold His prophets. After the return from exile, Malachi (late 6th century BC) was the last true prophet until the coming of Christ.
15 Woe to those
who burrow down to conceal their plans from Yahweh, who scheme in the dark and
say, "Who can see us? Who knows who we are?" 16 How perverse you are! Is the potter no better than the clay?
Something that was made, can it say of its maker, "He did not make me"? Or a
pot say of the potter, "He does not know his job"?
Isaiah warns those citizens who make their own plans in defiance of God, thinking that they could hide their plans from God.
Question: What is the point of the two rhetorical questions Isaiah asks in verse 16?
Answer: The point is they have they forgotten that God is their creator and He knows them better than they know themselves. They cannot hide their thoughts and deeds from God.
In Psalm 10:3-4 the psalmist wrote: The wicked is proud of his inmost desires, by his blasphemies the grasping spurns Yahweh, the wicked in his arrogance does not look very far; "There is no God," is his only thought." With the Isaiah passage in mind, the inspired writer of Sirach warns: Like clay in the hands of the potter to mold as it pleases him, so are human beings in the hands of their Maker to reward as he judges right (Sir 33:13). And St. Paul made a reference to Isaiah 29:15-16 when he wrote: But you "who do you think you, a human being, are, to answer back to God? Something that was made, can it say to its maker: why did you make me this shape? A potter surely has the right over his clay to make out of the same lump either a pot for special use or one for ordinary use (Rom 9:20-21).
Question: What story from the Creation event has
already pictured God as a potter? See Gen 2:7.
Answer: God formed Adam, the first man, from the clay of the earth.
Isaiah 29:17-24 ~ The Triumph of Good over Evil
17 Is it not true that in a very short time the Lebanon will become productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest? 18 That day the deaf will hear the words of the book and, delivered from shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see. 19 The lowly will find ever more joy in Yahweh and the poorest of people will delight in the Holy One of Israel; 20 for the tyrant will be no more, the scoffer has vanished and all those on the look-out for evil have been destroyed: 21 those who incriminate others by their words, those who lay traps for the arbitrator at the gate and groundlessly deprive the upright of fair judgment. 22 That is why Yahweh, God of the House of Jacob, Abraham's redeemer, says this, "No longer shall Jacob be disappointed, no more shall his face grow pale, 23 for when he sees his children, my creatures, home again with him, he will acknowledge my name as holy, he will acknowledge the Holy One of Jacob to be holy and will hold the God of Israel in awe. 24 Erring spirits will learn to understand and murmurer accept instruction."
The words "the Lebanon" probably refer to the whole of the Levant from modern day Lebanon to the desert of the Negev. God promises a restoration of the land and the people. On that "day" the deaf and blind will hear, see and understand the words of Isaiah's sealed book. And the humble will find the joy of a covenant relationship with the "Holy One of Israel." God will root out the evil doers, and the "House of Jacob" will experience a spiritual renewal when the faithful remnant physically returns to the land after the exile has ended.
This passage has a physical as well as a spiritual fulfillment in Jesus. He will refer to the Isaiah passages that concern the healing of the deaf and blind in Matthew 11:4-5 and Luke 7:21-23, comparing His works to the promises of the prophets in healing the deaf, curing the lame and the blind, and raising the dead (also see Is 26:9 fulfilled by Jesus).
Question: When had God told Isaiah that His
judgment against His people would include closing their ears so they could not
hear and their eyes so they could not understand? See Isaiah chapter 6. What
is the link to this promise?
Answer: It was the judgment He gave in Isaiah's commissioning in 6:10-11. Isaiah 29:18 is a reversal of that judgment.
Question: What will be the result of this age of
renewal? When will it happen?
Answer: His covenant people will respond to His works with lives of holiness and commitment, and they will stand in reverent awe of their God. The true fulfillment of this promise will come about in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Church of the New Covenant people of God.
Chapter 30: Against an Alliance with Egypt and the Written Indictment
In chapters 30-31 Isaiah focuses on the sin of foreign alliances. There were two problems with the covenant people making foreign alliances:
From the time of the conquest of Canaan in the 13th century BC until c. 750 BC, there was no major power in the region. The old regional powers were in decline (the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hittites), and many independent states took root and vied with existing nations for land and power. With the rise of the new Assyrian state in c. 750 BC, the balance of power shifted and the lesser states felt it was necessary to form alliances.
Isaiah 30:1-7 ~ The Foolish Embassy to Egypt
1 Woe to the rebellious children "declares Yahweh "who make plans which do not come from me and make alliances not inspired by me, and so add sin to sin! 2 They are leaving for Egypt, without consulting me, to take refuge in Pharaoh's protection, to shelter in Egypt's shadow. 3 Pharaoh's protection will be your shame, the shelter of Egypt's shadow your confounding. 4 For his princes have gone to Zoan and his messengers have reached Hanes. 5 Everyone has been disappointed by a people who cannot help, who bring neither aid nor profit, only disappointment and confusion. 6 Proclamation about the beasts of the Negeb: Into the land of distress and of anguish, of lioness and roaring lion, of viper and flying dragon, they bear their riches on donkeys backs, their treasures on camels' humps, to a nation that cannot help: 7 Egypt, whose help is vain and futile; and so I call her "Rahab-the-collapsed".
This "woe" is directed against Judah, God's "rebellious children," for planning to make a treaty alliance with Egypt instead of trusting in God and in following His divine plan for them. They had already sent a royal embassy to Zoan, the Egyptian capital in the Delta (also called Avaris and Tanis) and also sent messengers to Hanes, another name for the Egyptian city of On, also called Heliopolis in the LXX (Anusis by Herodotus and Heracleopolis Magna by the Romans), a religious center dedicated to the sun god located in Northern Egypt not far from modern day Cairo.(2)
5 Everyone has
been disappointed by a people who cannot help, who bring neither aid nor
profit, only disappointment and confusion.
God is aware that the Egyptians had a history of making alliances and promising assistance to allies that they never fulfilled. It is a fact that would not be missed by the Assyrians (see Is 36:6).
Verses 6-7 contain a list of the various animals that inhabit the Negev, Judah's southern desert region that the embassy must pass through to reach Egypt. The animals witnessed the Judahite envoys' caravan on the journey to Egypt, carrying the treasures with which they hope to purchase Egyptian support and protection. "Rahab-the-collapsed" uses the imagery of the mythological beast Rahab as a pejorative name for Egypt (also see Ps 87:4).(3) But Rahab/Egypt isn't a fierce beast; it is an impotent and collapsed beast incapable of giving aid to Judah. Isaiah will revisit the topic of the Judahites putting their hope in Egypt instead of in God in 31:1-3.
Isaiah 30:8-11 ~ Isaiah's Written Testament of Judah's Failures
8 Now go, inscribe this on a tablet, write it on a scroll, so that it may serve for time to come forever and forever. 9 This is a rebellious people, they are lying children, children who will not listen to Yahweh's Law. 10 To the seers they say, "See nothing!" To the prophets, "Do not prophesy the truth to us; tell us flattering things; have illusory visions; 11 turn aside from the way, leave the path, rid us of the Holy One of Israel."
Yahweh commands Isaiah to draw up a formal covenant
indictment against the covenant people as a lasting witness. The purpose is
for future generations to read about the corruption of the times, God's
judgment against His people, and their future restoration as a lesson and an
encouragement to be obedient to God.
Question: What are the accusations against the children of Israel that Isaiah is to inscribe on a tablet/scroll as a formal document of their covenant failure?
Question: The last charge "that they refuse to
listen to God's Law and therefore refuse to obey God "is a direct violation of
what sworn oath taken by the children of Israel as a people? See Ex 24:3-8.
Answer: At the ratification of the Sinai Covenant the children of Israel twice swore to obey everything God told them.
They have not only turned away from God's Laws, but they have rejected God's visionaries and prophets by demanding only flattering visions and happy prophecies instead of the truth. And their greatest crime is that they have abandoned God.
Isaiah 30:12-17 ~ God's two-part Judgment
Judgment #1: 12 So the Holy one of Israel says this, "Since you have rejected this word and put your trust in fraud and disloyalty and rely on these, 13 for you this guilt will prove to be a breach opening up, a bulge at the top of a wall which suddenly and all at once comes crashing down. 14 He will shatter it like an earthenware pot, ruthlessly knocking it to pieces, so that of the fragments not one shard can be found with which to take up fire from the hearth or scoop water from the storage-well."
The consequence of their actions is that sudden
destruction was coming (30:12-17). The deceit the people had practiced would
prove fruitless and their wicked "house" would come crashing down on them,
bringing total devastation.
Question: What two symbolic images does God use in the first part of His judgment to describe the broken covenant?
Answer: He uses the images of a collapsed wall and a totally smashed clay pot.
Judgment #2: 15 For Lord Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, says this, "Your salvation lay in conversion and tranquility, your strength in serenity and trust and you would have none of it. 16 No," you said, "we shall flee on horses." And so flee you will! And again, We shall ride on swift ones.' And so your pursuers will be swift! 17 A thousand will quake at the threat of one and when five threaten you will flee, until what is left of you will be like a flagstaff on a mountain top, like a signal on a hill."
Question: How did God tell the people, through His
prophet, that they could be saved?
Answer: They could be saved through repentance that leads to conversion and peace with God. These actions would result in trusting God, which means living in obedience to God's divine plan and the commands and prohibitions of His laws.
Question: What was their response to God's
invitation to trust Him and to accept His salvation?
Answer: The people insisted on being responsible for their own salvation, as in the Egyptian alliance, and all their efforts will fail.
Through Isaiah, God urged the people to trust Him (as in 7:9 and 28:16), but the people preferred their own plans (30:15-16). In the end they were doomed because turning against God caused God to turn against them.
God's Promised Mercy in the Restoration and Deliverance of Jerusalem (30:18-33)
God's pronouncements against Jerusalem through Isaiah in 30:15-17 sound harsh, but it was a judgment they brought upon themselves and it was a judgment that was intended to call the people to repentance and restoration of fellowship. No matter what our sins, we are never beyond God's grace. Even in our sins, God continues to love us and will forgive us when we cry out in repentance. In 30:18-33 Isaiah tells the people that God is planning a great day of restoration that would feature three aspects:
Isaiah 30:18-22 ~ God is ready to Forgive and will
Teach His People
18 But Yahweh is waiting to be gracious to you, the Exalted One, to take pity on you, for Yahweh is a God of fair judgment; blessed are all who hope in him. 19 Yes, people of Zion living in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious to you when your cry for help rings out; as soon as he hears it, he will answer you. 20 When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21 Your ears will hear these words behind you, "This is the way, keep to it," whether you turn to right or left. 22 You will hold unclean the silver-plating of your idols and the gold plating of your images. You will throw them away like the polluted things they are, shouting after them, "Good riddance!"
Question: What three hopeful promised does Isaiah
make to the covenant people in verses 18-22?
Isaiah 30:23-26 ~ God will bring Great Blessings
23 He will send rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the bread that the ground provided will be rich and nourishing. That day, your cattle will graze in wide pastures. 24 Oxen and donkeys that work the land will eat for fodder wild sorrel, spread by the shovel-load and fork-load. 25 On every lofty mountain, on every high hill there will be streams and water-courses, on the day of the great slaughter when the strongholds fall. 26 Then moonlight will be bright as sunlight and sunlight itself be seven times brighter "like the light of seven days in one "on the day Yahweh dresses his people's wound and heals the scars of the blows they have received.
The second aspect of God's restoration of His people is
the blessings He intends to bring to them.
Question: How does Isaiah describe God bringing great blessings to His people in verses 23-25a?
Answer: God will give rain for the crops that will yield an abundant harvest. There will be more than enough food for the domesticated animals and an abundant supply of water so herdsmen will not have to search for enough water for their animals.
on the day of the great slaughter when the strongholds
This is probably a reference to Judah's enemies who have ravaged the land and whose strongholds/military camps God has now destroyed.
26 Then moonlight
will be bright as sunlight and sunlight itself be seven times brighter "like the
light of seven days in one "on the day Yahweh dresses his people's wound and
heals the scars of the blows they have received.
Isaiah's description of the intense brightness is in contrast to the darkness that consumed the people when they were trapped in their sins and separated from Him. Now Yahweh gives the people the light of His presence and spiritually heals their wounds.
Isaiah 30:27-33 ~ God will Defend His People "showing His Power to the Nations
27See, the name of Yahweh comes from afar, blazing his anger, heavy his threat. His lips are brimming over with fury, his tongue is like a devouring fire. 28 His breath is like a river in spate coming up to the neck, to shift the nations with the sieve of destruction, to harness the peoples in a bridle, that will lead them astray. 29 Your song will be like that on a festal night, and there will be joy in your hearts as when to the sound of the flute people make a pilgrimage to the mountain of Yahweh, the Rock of Israel. 30 Yahweh will make his majestic voice ring out, he will show the weight of his arm in the heat of his anger, with a devouring fire, with thunderbolt, downpour and hailstones. 31 Yes, at Yahweh's voice Assyria will be terrified, he will strike him with his rod; 32 each time he goes by, will fall the punishing rod that Yahweh will lay on him, to the sound of tambourines and harps, in the battles which he will wage against him with uplifted hand. 33 Yes, Topheth has been ready for a long time now, that too is ready for the king, deep and wide his pyre, fire and wood in plenty. Yahweh's breath, like a stream of brimstone, will set fire to it.
The third aspect of God's restoration is God's promise to
defend His people against foreign nations.
Question: How will God display His wrath against Judah's enemy, Assyria?
29 Your song will
be like that on a festal night, and there will be joy in your hearts as when to
the sound of the flute people make a pilgrimage to the mountain of Yahweh, the
Rock of Israel.
As God displayed His fury against Judah's enemy, those who love Him will rejoice and celebrate like on a feast day when pilgrims sing as they travel to the Jerusalem Temple on Mt. Moriah.
33 Yes, Topheth
has been ready for a long time now, that too is ready for the king, deep and
wide his pyre, fire and wood in plenty. Yahweh's breath, like a stream of
brimstone, will set fire to it.
The place of Judah's enemy's destruction has been prepared. Topheth is a reference to the ceremonial cemetery of children sacrificed to Baal/Molech by being passed alive through fire. One such place of horror existed just south of Jerusalem, and now a similar destruction is planned for the wicked (cf Jer 19:6 and Jeremiah's reference to the same site at the time of the Babylonian conquest).
Chapter 31: Woe and Restoration Restated
Isaiah 31:1-3 ~ The People put their Trust in Egypt and not in God
1 Woe to those going down to Egypt for help, who put their trust in horses, who rely on the quantity of chariots, and on great strength of cavalrymen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult Yahweh. 2 Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster and he will not go back on his word; he will rise against the breed of evil-doers and against those who protect wrong-doers. 3 The Egyptians is human, not divine, his horses are flesh, not spirit; Yahweh will stretch out his hand: the protector will stumble, the protected will fall and all will perish together.
Question: What argument does Isaiah make against
trusting the Egyptians instead of God?
Question: What is the point of this passage?
Answer: The point is that it is not the will of God to deliver Judah through the Egyptians; in fact, and He will not allow it!
Isaiah 31:4-9 ~ God's Deliverance will lead to Redemption
4 Yes, this is what Yahweh has said to me: As a lion or lion cub growls over its prey, when scores of shepherds are summoned to drive it off, without being frightened by their shouting or cowed by the noise they make, just so will Yahweh Sabaoth descend to fight for Mount Zion and for its hill. 5 Like hovering birds, so will Yahweh Sabaoth protect Jerusalem; by protecting it, he will save it, by supporting it, he will deliver it. 6 Come back to the one whom the Israelites have so deeply betrayed! 7 For, that day, each of you will throw away the false gods of silver and the false gods of gold which your own sinful hands have made. 8 Assyria will fall by the sword, not that of a man, will be devoured by the sword, of no human being, he will flee before the sword and his young warriors will be enslaved. 9 In his terror he will abandon his rock, and his panic-stricken officers desert the standard "declares Yahweh, whose fire is in Zion, whose furnace, in Jerusalem.
Isaiah describes the day when Yahweh will deliver His people by doing battle with her enemy, the Assyrian army besieging Jerusalem. He uses the imagery of a lion and hovering birds to describe Yahweh shielding Jerusalem as He fights for them.
Question: What does Isaiah call the people to do in verses 6-7?
Answer: He calls them to repent their sin of abandoning their God and to discard and disavow their idols now that they have heard the promise of God's deliverance.
Isaiah tells the people that the Assyrians will not be destroyed by any human warrior yielding a sword. It is Yahweh who will save His people by causing the Assyrian army to flee in terror, and it is God who will save the covenant community, symbolized as Zion, and His holy city of Jerusalem
Chapter 32: Hope and Woe: A Description of the Righteous Kingdom
Isaiah 32:1-8 ~ Characteristics of the Righteous Nation
1 There will be a king who reigns uprightly and princes who rule with fair judgment; 2 each will be like a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the storm, like streams on arid ground, like the shade of a solid rock in a desolate land. 3 The eyes of seers will no longer be closed, the ears of hearers will be alert, 4 the heart of the hasty will learn to think things over, and the tongue of stammerers will speak promptly and clearly. 5 The fool will no longer be called generous, nor he rascal be styled bountiful. 6 For the fool speaks folly and his heart is set on villainy; he is godless in his actions and his words ascribe error to Yahweh; he starves the hungry of their food and refuses drink to the thirsty. 7 Everything to do with the rascal is evil, he devises infamous plans to ruin the poor with lying words even when the needy has right on his side; 8 but the noble person plans only noble things, noble his every move.
Question: In this passage, Isaiah mentions two
characteristic of a righteous nation; what are they?
Question: By this standard, how would you judge your nation's actions and judgments today?
Question: Isaiah used what four similes to
describe the blessings of righteous leadership in 32:2?
A rejuvenated society is Isaiah's second important feature of the righteous kingdom God will bring about. The former negative aspects of society will be replaced by right judgment.
Question: What four parallels or contrasts does
Isaiah use in verses 3-4?
5 The fool will
no longer be called generous, nor he rascal be styled bountiful. 6 For the fool speaks folly and his heart is
set on villainy; he is godless in his actions and his words ascribe error to
Yahweh; he starves the hungry of their food and refuses drink to the thirsty. 7 Everything to do with the rascal is evil, he
devises infamous plans to ruin the poor with lying words even when the needy
has right on his side; 8 but the
noble person plans only noble things, noble his every move.
Where value judgments in the past were hopelessly perverse, these assessments are now righted. People will see the fools and the wicked for what they really are. The rejuvenated society will promote positive aspects and will also root out the negative ones.
Isaiah 32:9-20 ~ Prelude to the Kingdom: Judgment,
Mourning, and the Outpouring of God's Spirit
9 Stand up, you haughty women, listen to my words; you over-confident daughters, pay attention to what I say. 10 Within one year and a few days you will tremble, you over-confident women; grape-harvesting will be finished, gathering will never happen again. 11 Shudder, you haughty women, tremble, you over-confident women; strip, undress, put sackcloth round your waists. 12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine, 13 for my people's soil where the bramble-bush will be growing and for all the happy houses, for the rejoicing city. 14 For the citadel will be abandoned and the thronged city deserted, Ophel and the Keep will be denuded forever, the playground of wild donkeys and the pasture of flocks, 15 until the spirit is poured out on us from above, and the desert becomes productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest. 16 Fair judgment will fix its home in the desert, and uprightness live in the productive ground, 17 and the product of uprightness will be peace, the effect of uprightness being quiet and security forever. 18 My people will live in a peaceful home, in peaceful houses, tranquil dwellings. 19 And should the forest be totally destroyed and the city gravely humiliated, 20 you will be happy to sow wherever there is water and to let the ox an donkey roam free.
Question: What does Isaiah call the complacent
women of Jerusalem to do and why?
Answer: He calls them to mourn because within a year hard times were coming.
The Ophel and the Keep in verse 14 refer to the oldest inhabited part of the city of Jerusalem where David established his palace in the residence of the former Jebusite rulers.
Isaiah is probably referring to the Assyrian advance
through Judah and their siege of the city in 701 BC. But there is hope because
God's spirit will bring restoration to the land and the people.
Question: In what four ways does Isaiah say God's spirit will bring restoration at all levels in 32:15-18?
The restoration Isaiah foretold would come as a result of the working of God's divine will for His covenant people. It is the same work of God in Isaiah's time that is active today in the lives of individuals and nations "in blessings for the good for the righteous and in judgment for the wicked.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
God denounced His people for the shallowness of their religious worship. They worshiped according to the traditions that had been passed down to them, but they made no attempt to understand why they worshipped as they did and failed to study and understand God's written word recorded by God's prophets like Moses, Samuel, etc. For the faithful today, how does the same problem exist? Do you understand the reason behind the rituals of your faith or the meaning of the words you utter in the liturgy of worship? Take this short test and evaluate your understanding of the rituals of your faith (answers to follow):
You should ask your children these same questions to be sure that they are being properly catechized to understand the rituals of their faith.
1. "Ariel" is also used as a proper name in Ezra 8:16.
2. Hanes was the Egyptians city of On, called Heliopolis in the LXX. It was religious center for the worship of the Egyptian sun god, Re also called Atum/Aten. On was also the home of Joseph's father-in-law, Potiphar, priest of the Egyptian sun god (Gen 41:45, 50; 46:20), and perhaps the chief priest since Joseph's marriage to his daughter was arranged by the Egyptian Pharaoh. According to the LXX, On was one of the cities built by the Israleites when they were in Egypt (Ex 1:11).
3. Rahab is a mythological dragon that God killed in battle (see Ps 89:10; Is 51:9). It is also a proper name as in the woman from Jericho who assisted the Israelite spies and was an ancestress of Jesus (Josh 2:1-21; 6:22-25; Mt 1:5).
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