THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 12
Conclusion of Part One: Prophecies of Condemnation
Conclusion of Isaiah's Oracles of Woe (33:1-24)
God's Vengeance Against the Nations and God's Salvation for the Redeemed (Chapters 34-35)

Holy Lord of Mercy and Justice,
When we trust You and are obedient to Your commandments and Mother Church's definition of righteousness behavior, we can face our struggles in life with confidence because we know that You are by our side. But without those boundaries and guidelines You have established for us as individuals and a society, we are cast adrift into a sea of sin. Help us to see that Isaiah's condemnation against the sins of the covenant people in the 8th century BC are not unlike the sins of men and women today. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in today's lesson as we study God's vengeance against the wicked and His promise of salvation for the people He will redeem. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Yahweh thwarts the plans of nations, frustrates the counsels of peoples; but Yahweh's own plan stands firm forever, his heart's counsel from age to age. How blessed the nation whose God is Yahweh, the people he has chosen as his heritage. From heaven Yahweh looks down, he sees all the children of Adam, from the place where he sits he watches all who dwell on the earth; he alone molds their hearts, he understands all they do.
Psalm 33:10-15

Isaiah began his book with a lawsuit against God's covenant people for abandoning their sworn covenant with Yahweh and therefore abandoning God Himself. But he also provided hope in the midst of judgment with prophecies concerning the coming of the future Davidic Redeemer-Messiah who would restore God's people and usher in an era of grace and salvation. In Chapters 13-23, Isaiah presented oracles against foreign nations, the main theme being that God was sovereign over these pagan nations whether they realized it or not. Then, Isaiah's vision of the Apocalypse in chapters 24-27 tied the oracles together in proclaiming God's sovereignty and dominion not just over earthly nations but over the entire universe that will reach its climax in the Final Judgment and the victory He will one day accomplish on behalf of Himself and His covenant people.

In chapters 28-33, Isaiah delivered oracles in six "woe" judgments: four against God's own people and two against foreign nations. The judgments against God's own people were for making their own plans instead of trusting God and submitting to His divine plan for them. This included the attempts to make alliances with foreign governments. Isaiah assured the people of the Kingdom of Judah that Yahweh was their only real hope for their present and their future, describing the righteous kingdom God would one day establish under the promised Davidic Redeemer-Messiah. Chapter 33 is the final woe judgment. Although Assyria is not named, it is clear from the historical context that it is Assyria that is the intended focus of God's wrath in 33:1-9.

Chapter 33: The Final Oracle Against Assyria and Judah's Salvation

Isaiah 33:1 ~ God's Woe against Assyria
1 Woe to you, destroying though not yourself destroyed, betraying though not yourself betrayed; when you have finished destroying, you will be destroyed, when you have stopped betraying, you will be betrayed.

This is Isaiah's 6th woe judgment. It is obvious that the judgment is against the Assyrians. God has used them as His instrument of judgment against the Northern Kingdom, but they have not behaved as a just people in destroying the focus of their aggression and betraying even their allies.
Question: What is the divine judgment that is pronounced against them?
Answer: They in turn will be destroyed and betrayed by their allies.

The Assyrians had not realized their role in Yahweh's divine plan, but they day will come when they will understand it was not by their might alone that they have conquered nations (see Is 10:5-7).

Isaiah 33:2-6 ~The People's Plea for God's Mercy and their Enemy's Destruction
2 Yahweh, show us your mercy, we hope in you. Be our arm every morning and our salvation in time of distress. 3 At the sound of tumult the peoples flee, when you stand up the nations scatter. 4 Your spoil is gathered in as a grasshopper gathers in, like a swarm of locusts people descend on it. 5 Yahweh is exalted, for he is enthroned above, he has filled Zion with fair judgment and saving justice. 6 You can count on this all your days: wisdom and knowledge are the riches that save, the fear of Yahweh is his treasure.

After the hopeful announcement in verse 1, the people now petition God to show them mercy and to be their protector (verse 2). They have confidence that God's power alone can scatter their enemies (verses 3-4).
Question: When the enemy is driven off, what will become of the spoil they left behind that is now rightfully Yahweh's?
Answer: It will be stripped from the ground like grasshoppers and locusts strip a grain field when the people enter the enemy camp and collect the spoils.

See the description of a similar event where God had routed the enemy and they had left behind their entire camp and all the spoils the army had collected were then taken by the people in 2 Kng 7:5-16.

When the day of retribution comes, Yahweh will be exalted, and His people will be restored, receiving riches greater than material wealth.
Question: In what five ways does Isaiah promise they will receive the blessings of a restored people in verses 5-6?
Answer: They will experience righteousness and salvation, wisdom and knowledge, and fear of the Lord God.

That the people no longer feared offending God was what has led to their apostasy from the covenant and the abandonment of their one true God. Loss of "fear of the Lord" is the most serious single cause that leads to sin and loss of faith.

Isaiah 33:7-9 ~ The People Lament and wait for Redemption
7 Look, Ariel is lamenting in the streets, the ambassadors of peace are weeping bitterly. 8 The highways are deserted, no travelers any more on the roads. Agreements are broken, witnesses held in contempt, there is respect for no one. 9 The land pines away in mourning, the Lebanon is withering with shame, Sharon has become like the wasteland, Bashan and Carmel are shuddering.

In verse 9 Lebanon is in the north, the Plain of Sharon is the fertile coastal plain extending south of Mt. Carmel, and Bashan is the fertile plateau of south Syria extending across to the foothills of Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River. In Hebrew the word carmel means "garden" or "orchard," but the reference is probably to Mt. Carmel, a range of fertile forested hills on the western border of the land near the Mediterranean coast.

Question: In verses 2-6 the people petitioned God to rescue them. But in the meantime, what is the condition of the people and the land in verses 7-9?
Answer:

  1. The people are lamenting in the streets.
  2. The peace ambassadors are weeping over their failure to secure the aid of allies.
  3. People are afraid to travel.
  4. The justice system has completely broken down.
  5. The land suffers the devastation of the foreign army's invasion, from the north to the Holy Land's most fertile regions in the east and west.

Isaiah 33:10-24 ~ The Lord's Reply
10 "Now I shall stand up," says Yahweh, "now I shall rise, now draw myself up. 11 You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw: like fire, my breath will devour you. 12 The peoples will be burnt up as though by quicklime, like cut thorns they will be burnt on the fire. 13 You who are far away, listen to what I have done, and you who are near, realize my strength." 14 The sinners in Zion are panic-stricken and fear seizes on the godless, "Which of us can survive the devouring fire, which of us survive everlasting burning? 15 The one who acts uprightly and speaks honestly, who scorns to get rich by extortion, who rejects bribes out of hand, who refuses to listen to plans involving bloodshed and shuts his eyes rather than countenance crime: 16 such a man will live on the heights, the craggy rocks will be his refuge, he will be fed, he will not want for water.

Yahweh replies to the people's lament in verses 10-14.
Question: What does God tell His people? What groups of people will be affected? List the verses in your answer.
Answer: He is ready to act. They have been ineffective in defending themselves (verse 11), but He will demonstrate great works on their behalf (verse 12) to afflict the enemy (verse 13), and the sinners and godless of Jerusalem/Zion will be fearful and panic-stricken by the realization that divine judgment is upon them (verse 14).

In verse 14 the sinners and godless ask the question: "Which of us can survive the devouring fire, which of us survive everlasting burning? In verse 15 God answers that question and promises salvation to the righteous.

Question: How does God define those righteous individuals and what will be their future?
Answer: Those who lives' reflect their good inner character, who reject evil, and who fill their lives with qualities that honor God.

Those people will receive God's blessings and protection.

Isaiah 33:17-24 ~ Isaiah's Description of God's Day of Restoration
17 Your eyes will gaze on the king in his beauty, they will look on a country stretching far and wide. 18 Your heart will meditate on past terrors. "Where is the man who did the counting? Where is the man who did the weighing? Where is the man who counted off the towers?" 19 No more will you see that insolent people. That people of unintelligible speech, of barbarous and meaningless tongue. 20 Gaze on Zion, city of our feasts; your eyes will see Jerusalem as a home that is secure, a tent not to be moved, none of its tent-pegs ever to be pulled out, none of its guy-ropes ever to be broken. 21 There it is that Yahweh shows us his power, like a place of rivers and very wide canals on which will row no galley, over which will pass no majestic ship. 22 For Yahweh is our judge, Yahweh our lawgiver, Yahweh is our king and our Savior. 23 Your tackle has given way, it cannot support the mast, it cannot hoist the pennon. And so there is much booty to be shared out; the lame fall to plundering, 24 and no one living there will say, "I am sickly"; the people living there will find their guilt forgiven.

Question: How does Isaiah describe the day Jerusalem will witness God's restoration?
Answer:

The major theme in chapters 7-33 has been the sovereignty of God over Judah and other nations. The question for Judah has been whether the covenant people will trust God and allow Him to be their king or whether they will deny His sovereignty over them in trusting to their own plans and in accepting the help of foreign nations. Verse 22 is the climax of that theme in a spiritual reawakening of Judah to the real nature of their relationship with Yahweh as King, lawgiver and Savior.

23 Your tackle has given way, it cannot support the mast, it cannot hoist the pennon. And so there is much booty to be shared out; the lame fall to plundering, 24 and no one living there will say, "I am sickly"; the people living there will find their guilt forgiven.
Isaiah uses the poetic imagery of a ship that has lost its ability to sail to describe how impotent Judah is without God's help. It is God who has given them the booty of their enemy and who has, in His love and grace, restored the people physically and spiritually by forgiving their sin of rebellion.

Chapter 34: Eschatological Condemnation of the Nations

Chapters 34-35 serve a similar purpose as chapters 24-27 (Isaiah's Apocalypse) in that these chapters are an eschatological summation of the previous section in chapters 28-33. Some scholars refer to chapters 34-35 as Isaiah's "Little Apocalypse." Biblical scholars have even suggested that chapters 34-39 form a literary bridge between chapters 1-33 and 40-66 (Brevard Childs, Isaiah: A Commentary, page 255). In this chapter Isaiah answers the people's questions: Is Yahweh really the people's only hope for their salvation, and can they count on Him to establish His kingdom among them?

Isaiah's description of God's wrath against the nations is revealed in three sections:

  1. Isaiah calls the nations to experience God's wrath (verses 1-4).
  2. Isaiah announces that Edom is singled out as representative of hostile foreign nations who will receive God's judgment (verses 5-15).
  3. Isaiah gives God's assurance that He will accomplish all that He has spoken through His prophet (16-17).

Isaiah 34:1-4 ~ A Call to the Nations
1 Come near and listen, you nations, pay attention, you peoples. Let the earth and its contents listen, the world and its entire population. 2 For Yahweh is angry with all the nations, enraged with all their hordes. He has vowed them to destruction [herem], handed them over to slaughter. 3 Their dead will be thrown away, the stench will rise from their corpses, the mountains will run with their blood, the entire array of heaven will fall apart. 4 The heavens will be rolled up like a scroll and all their array will fade away, as fade the leaves falling from the vine, as fade those falling from the fig tree.

Judah has responded to God's judgment in sending the Assyrians as His instrument of judgment by repenting and once again acknowledging God's sovereignty over them, but the foreign nations have not. Now God declares war against those nations who interfere with His covenant people and His divine plans for them (verse 1).

2 For Yahweh is angry with all the nations, enraged with all their hordes. He has vowed them to destruction [herem], handed them over to slaughter.
The Hebrew word herem means both the "curse of total destruction" and "consecration;" in both cases the deaths become a sacrifice to Yahweh. The wicked are utterly destroyed while the innocent who perish because of the wickedness of their people become a consecration to God who loves the innocent who are free of guilt, as in the case of the conquest of Canaan when the Canaanites were judged with herem for their sins against humanity in the sacrificial murders of children. In that case, the Israelites were God's instrument of judgment.

God will avenge Himself against the wicked of the nations, and Isaiah's words function as a prediction of events to come (verses 2-3). The gruesome language in verse 3 speaks of devastation so total that no one will be left to bury the dead.

4 The heavens will be rolled up like a scroll and all their array will fade away, as fade the leaves falling from the vine, as fade those falling from the fig tree.
The apocalyptic language Isaiah uses expresses that the fury of God's "day of wrath" has universal implications with the Heavens being "rolled up like a scroll," causing the stars to fall from Heaven. Isaiah used similar imagery in 13:13 and he will again in 51:6. Other Biblical writers also used similar images to describe the events preceding the coming of the Kingdom of God, including the prophet Ezekiel, Jesus, and St. John in the Book of Revelation:

Isaiah 34:5-15 ~ Judgment against Edom
5 For my sword has drunk deep in the heavens: see how it now falls on Edom, on the people vowed to destruction [herem], to punish them. 6 Yahweh's sword is gorged with blood, it is greasy with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For Yahweh has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. 7 The wild oxen will fall with them, the bullocks with the bulls; their land will be drenched with blood and their dust will be greasy with fat. 8 For this will be Yahweh's day of vengeance, the year of retribution in Zion's lawsuit [riv]. 9 Its streams will turn into pitch, its dust into brimstone, its country will turn into blazing pitch. 10 Never quenched night or day, its smoke rising forever, it will lie waste age after age, no one will travel through it forever and ever. 11 It will be the haunt of pelican and hedgehog, the owl and the raven will live there; over it Yahweh will stretch the measuring line of chaos [tohu] and the plumb-line of emptiness [bohu]. 12 There will be no more nobles to proclaim the royal authority; there will be an end of all its princes. 13 Brambles will grow in its bastions, nettles and thorn-bushes in its fortresses, it will be the lair of jackals, an enclosure for ostriches. 14 Wild cats will meet hyenas there, satyr will call to satyr; there Lilith too will lurk and find somewhere to rest. 15 The snake will nest and lay eggs there, will hatch and gather its young into the shade, and there the vultures will assemble, each one with its mate.

The nation of Edom, located at the south end of the Dead Sea, had a long history with the Israelites. They were the descendants of Esau the son of Isaac and Rebekah who was the twin brother of Jacob-Israel, the physical father of the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen 36:1). There was an earlier judgment against the Edomites in Isaiah 21:11-16, but in this case the destruction of Edom represents God's general judgment on foreign nations, like the judgment against Moab in Isaiah 15:1-9. There is a historical reason for this hostility. When the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem in 587/6 BC, the Edomites took advantage of the misfortune of the citizens of Judah, and later prophets took a severe view of the Edomites for this reason (see Ps 137:7; Lam 4:21-22; Ex 25:12; 35:15; Oba 10-16). Both the Moabites and the Edomites had the opportunity to remain a part of God's covenant people "Lot, the father of the Moabites with Abraham and Esau with Isaac with whom the Abrahamic covenant with Yahweh continued. Both groups of peoples separated from the covenant people and went the way of paganism. Therefore, that their judgment will representing all nations that turn away from Yahweh is fitting.

6 Yahweh's sword is gorged with blood, it is greasy with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For Yahweh has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. 7 The wild oxen will fall with them, the bullocks with the bulls; their land will be drenched with blood and their dust will be greasy with fat.
Isaiah's vision presents God as a warrior in 34:6-7. His judgment sword sliced through Edom as he prepared a sacrifice for Himself from Edom's livestock. The animals named in verse 6 are animals of sacrifice (as in communal and individual whole burnt offerings) and parts of animals (as in communion and sin sacrifices) that were offered in sacrifice to Yahweh on His sacred altar at the Jerusalem Temple. Bozrah was the capital city of Edom located in the north of the nation. The name of the city means "fortress/enclosure" and the city symbolized in the prophetic oracles the whole of Edom (Is 34:6; Jer 49:13, 22 Amos 1:12). The mention of the sacrifice of bulls and bull caves may refer to Edom's leaders. A bull was usually a sacrifice of kings and leaders.

8 For this will be Yahweh's day of vengeance, the year of retribution [shillumim] in Zion's lawsuit [riv].
The Hebrew word translated as "vengeance" does not mean revenge; it means "balancing the scales" of justice in making all things right. This interpretation is supported by the Hebrew words shillumim, meaning "making complete" and riv, which literally means "cause" and has the legal connotation denoting a court case (also see Is 1:23; 41:21;Jer 11:20; Hos 4:1). Riv, translated as "lawsuit," is "cause" of means of making things right through a lawsuit being called for violating Yahweh's covenant treaty at Sinai.

In verses 9-15 Isaiah gives the details of Edom's destruction. The wild animals in verses 11-15 are almost the same "unclean" animals as named by Isaiah in 13:20-22 "just as the Edomites were an "unclean" people and unfit to worship Yahweh. The growth of thorns and brambles reminds us of Adam's curse in Genesis 3:18 and has been used by Isaiah as a sign of judgment eleven times (Is 5:6; 7:19, 23, 24, 25; 9:18; 10:17; 27:4; 32:13; 33:12; 34:13). Edom's destruction and desolation will be accompanied by the growth of thorns and brambles and its former inhabited regions by unclean creatures.

9 Its streams will turn into pitch, its dust into brimstone, its country will turn into blazing pitch. 10 Never quenched night or day, its smoke rising forever, it will lie waste age after age, no one will travel through it forever and ever. 11 It will be the haunt of pelican and hedgehog, the owl and the raven will live there; over it Yahweh will stretch the measuring line of chaos [tohu] and the plumb-line of emptiness [bohu].
Verse 9 reminds us of God's judgment and devastation of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis chapter 19.

The Hebrew words tohu and bohu only occur together three times in Scripture. They are found in this passage and occur in the same order in Genesis 1:2 ~ In beginning God created heaven and earth and the earth was a formless void [tohu wa bohu] (IBHE, vol. I page 1; Beyer, Encountering the Book of Isaiah, page 136). And the same phrase from Genesis 1:2 is repeated in Jeremiah 4:23 (IBHE, vol. III, page). These words in Genesis and Jeremiah describe the condition of the earth prior to God bringing about His order out of chaos in the Creation event.

Question: What do these same words suggest about God's judgment on Edom, representative of all nations to stand in opposition to His divine plan for His covenant people? Is there another example of such a de-creation in the Old Testament?
Answer: To use of the same words suggests that God will bring about a "de-creating" of Edom or any nation that threatens God's divine plan. It is reminiscent of the de-creation of the flood judgment.

A similar vision of "de-creation" is described by Jesus in Matthew 24:29 and witnessed by St. John in the Book of Revelation in 6:13-14, using the same imagery: there was a violent earthquake and the sun went as black as coarse sackcloth; the moon turned red as blood all over, and the stars of the sky fell onto the earth like figs dropping from a fig tree when a high wind shakes it; the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up and all the mountains and islands were shaken from their places. And also see Revelation 14:10-11 and 2 Peter 3:12.

Question: How does God's judgment for Edom's capital city compare with what God said in Isaiah 28:17 concerning the New Jerusalem?
Answer: In 28:17 God said He would build the New Jerusalem with justice as its measuring line and righteousness as its plumb line, but in Edom He will stretch out the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation.

13 Brambles will grow in its bastions, nettles and thorn-bushes in its fortresses, it will be the lair of jackals, an enclosure for ostriches. 14 Wild cats will meet hyenas there, satyr will call to satyr; there Lilith too will lurk and find somewhere to rest. 15 The snake will nest and lay eggs there, will hatch and gather its young into the shade, and there the vultures will assemble, each one with its mate.
The mention of brambles and thorns again reminds us of Adam's judgment in his sin of rebellion in Genesis 3:18. This is the 11th time Isaiah has made this connection using the same words and will use "thorns" one final time in 55:13. The lands of the nation(s) the oppose Yahweh and His people will only be fit for unclean beasts and demons.(1)

Verse 14 is the only time the word "Lilith" appears in Scripture, and the connection with satyrs identifies Lilith also as a demon spirit. Jewish myths were written that named Lilith as Adam's first wife prior to Eve, but this myth is to be rejected as simple folklore that is an affront to the truth of the divine word to mislead people into error.

Isaiah 34:16-17 ~ Summary Statement
16 Search in Yahweh's book, and read, not one of these will be missing, not one of them lacking a mate; for thus his mouth has ordained it, and his spirit has brought them together. 17 He has thrown the lot for each, his hand has measured out their share; they will possess it forever, and live there age after age.

Yahweh's book in verse 16 might refer to the record of Isaiah's visions that he was told to write down (30:8) or perhaps to the whole of Sacred Scripture up to the time of Isaiah as in, for example, God's creation of the animals, each with its mate (Gen 1:25; 2:18-20).

17 He has thrown the lot for each, his hand has measured out their share; they will possess it forever, and live there age after age.
The wild animals of verses 11-15 will inherit the land of Edom, just as the Promised Land was the inheritance that was allotted to the Israelites (Josh chapters 13-19).

Chapter 35: The Redeemed will see God's Salvation

Isaiah 35 is a hymn celebrating God's promised restoration of Jerusalem in the era of the Messiah. The Church uses Isaiah 35:1-10 in the Advent liturgy of the 3rd Sunday, Cycle A, to encourage the faithful in the joyous hope that God will come again to complete His mission in bringing salvation to His people.

Isaiah 35:1-3 ~ God will show His Salvation in the Messianic Age
1 Let the desert [midbar] and the dry lands be glad, let the wasteland [arabah] rejoice and bloom; like the asphodel, let it burst into flower, 2 let it rejoice and sing for joy. The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; then they will see the glory of Yahweh, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and 4 say to the faint-hearted, "Be strong! Do not be afraid. Here is your God, vengeance is coming, divine retribution; he is coming to save you." 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; 6 then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert [midbar], and rivers in the steppe [arabah]. 7 The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsting ground, springs of water; the lairs where the jackals used to live will become plots of reed and papyrus. 8 And through it will run a road for them and a highway which will be called the Sacred Way; the unclean will not be allowed to use it; he will be the one to use this road, the fool will not stray along it. 9 No lion will be there, no ferocious beast set foot on it, nothing of the sort be found; it will be used by the redeemed. 10 For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight.

The "asphodel" in verse 2 is a plant of the lily family.

The focus of Isaiah's message shifts abruptly from judgment that awaits everyone who opposes God's divine plan for the nations in chapter 34 to the announcement of the joy of the redeemed as they witness and experience the salvation God will bring to His people in chapter 35. God's redemption features three elements:

  1. God will show His salvation in nature (35:1-2).
  2. God will encourage the weary and downtrodden (35:3-6a).
  3. God will renovate the land (35:6b-10).

In verses 1-2, Isaiah announces that Yahweh will first show the coming of salvation in nature. Growth would spring up in formerly unproductive desert areas. He compares those areas with the fertility of Lebanon and the Plain of Sharon near Mt. Carmel.

Question: What are the commands Isaiah gives to encourage the weary in verses 3-6a?
Answer: They are to strengthen their hands, steady their shaking knees, and make their fearful hearts to be unafraid in preparation for God's great works.

Question: What are the miracles that Isaiah says will accompany God's salvation in verses 5-6?
Answer: The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap for joy, and the tongues of the mute will sing, praising God.

Question: What is the connection between these messianic prophecies and Deuteronomy 28:15-36?
Answer: Deuteronomy 28:15 forward contains the curse judgments for failure to keep the covenant with Yahweh. Isaiah's prophecies announce a lifting of those curse judgments.

Question: How exactly will those curse judgments be lifted in the Messianic Age? See Dt 21:22-23; Jn 19:31 and Gal 3:13.
Answer: Jesus took those curse judgments upon Himself on the altar of the Cross!

After describing the miracles of the Messianic Age, Isaiah returns to the theme he began in verses 1-2: the Lord's renovation of the land in a miraculous way (35:6b-7). He uses the same terms he used in 35:1 in verse 6 and in the same order: midbar and arabah, meaning respectively "desert" and "wilderness." "Springs of water" (verse 7) bring life "Isaiah is saying that God's renewal of the land will bring not just a physical renewal as in verses 1-2 but a spiritual renewal.

In this spiritual renewal God will prepare a highway for the people and its name will be "the Sacred Way" (verse 8). The holiness of the path describes the people who travel on it more than the road itself. Those who walk on that path are those whose lives reflect God's sacred character.
Question: What promises are made concerning the Sacred Way in verses 8-9?
Answer:

Question: Read Matthew 7:14; John 14:6; Acts 9:2; 22:4; 24:14 and 22. What is significance of the "Sacred Way" as it is expressed by Jesus and members of the New Covenant Kingdom of the Christ?
Answer: Jesus announced that He is "the Way" and the "Narrow Path" to salvation. There was no other way for men and women to receive the gift of eternal salvation except through Him. Before members of Jesus' Kingdom of the Church called themselves "Christians," they identified themselves as members of "the Way."

10 For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight.
The end of the "Sacred Way" is Zion, the Holy City of the redeemed. This same verse is quoted in Isaiah 51:11 from a passage that speaks of God's reign of saving justice and the return of those God has ransomed (Is 51:1-11). Many commentators interpret this verse as referring to the historical return of the citizens of Judah from the Babylonian exile in 539/8 BC, joyfully carrying their possessions on their heads as they made their way back to Jerusalem.

However, there was no "ransom" for that return. The covenant people atoned for their sins in seventy years of exile and God raised up Cyrus of Persia to order His people's return to the Promised Land (Is 45:1; 2 Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). There is also another interpretation and it is possible this passage has a two-fold fulfillment "historically and spiritually.

This Isaiah passage has an eschatological focus, referring to the end times and the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah. "Zion" is not only a physical site in Jerusalem, but can be understood as a symbolic name for the community of the redeemed who will experience eternal bliss in the Kingdom of Heaven. This same imagery is found in Revelation 2:10 and 3:11 in the redeemed who will wear the crown of life, and in 21:4 where there is no pain and only joy for the redeemed in the presence of God in the new, heavenly Jerusalem.

The miracles that will be the signs of the Messiah's salvation in verses 5-10 were all miracles of Jesus during His three year ministry. His works of healing the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb, and raising the dead were signs of His divine authority, as He told the disciples of St. John the Baptist (Mt 11:2-6). And the "springs of water" God promised in Isaiah 35:7 recall Jesus' declaration on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles to the faithful assembled in the Temple in John 7:37 b-38 when He said: "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: rivers of living water will flow from within him'"; this is an allusion to Isaiah 35:7a (also see Is 55:1; Ez 47:1; Zec 14:8 and the promise of Christian baptism). And Jesus told the Samaritan woman He could give her "living water" and He told her whoever drinks "the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water, walling up for eternal life" (Jn 4:11-12). All of the signs performed by Jesus were proof to the people of the Sinai Covenant that the time of redemption foreseen by Isaiah and the other prophets had come to pass.

In His testimony to a Jewish man named Tryphon that the works of the Christ fulfilled the words of the prophets, St. Justin Martyr wrote in c. 150 AD: "Christ is the stream of living water that flows from God; he sprang up in the desert wastes of ignorance of God: that is, in the parched earth of all the nations. He, who was born among your people, cured those who were blind from birth, and the deaf and the lame: by his word alone, they leapt and heard and saws once more. He raised the dead and gave them new life, and by all his good works prompted men to see him for who he is. [...] He did all these things to convince those who were to believe in him, whatever bodily defects they might have, that if they obeyed the teachings that he gave them, he would raise them up again at his Second Coming and make them whole and perfect and immortal as he is" (Dialogus cum Tryphone, 69.6).

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
How will God pay the ransom for the people to return to "Zion," a symbolic name for the Church of the redeemed, in Isaiah 35:10? Also see the reference to the ransom paid by the Messiah in Isaiah 53:11. Read the passages from Matthew 20:28 (also Mk 10:45) and 1 Timothy 2:5-6, where both Jesus and St. Paul spoke about the "ransom" God paid for our salvation. What was that ransom that God provided in order to redeem mankind and from what was mankind redeemed? Also see Jn 3:17; Rom 8:3-4; 1 Cor 15:56; 2 Cor 3:7, 9; Gal 3:13 and 4:5. What do these verses tell us about Jesus' mission in light of the promise in Isaiah 35:10?
Answer: Jesus said: "... the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28) St. Paul wrote, For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and humanity, himself a human being. Christ Jesus, who offered himself as a ransom for all ... (1 Tim 2:5-6). It took a human life to ransom humanity. God offered His only Son who was fully man and fully God as the ransom for the sins of mankind to save humanity from the bonds of eternal death so that redeemed man could enter the gates of Heaven to join the community of Zion "those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ Jesus.

Jesus' mission was to suffer for human salvation (Jn 3:17). By sin human beings incur a debt to divine justice the punishment of death demanded by the Law (Rom 8:3-4; 1 Cor 15:56; 2 Cor 3:7, 9; Gal 3:13). To ransom humanity from the debt of slavery to sin and death, Jesus paid the ransom for the debt in His suffering and the sacrifice of His life's blood on the Cross (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; Gal 3:13; 4:5). By dying in place of the guilty, Jesus fulfills the prophesied "ransom" God promised to pay to redeem the righteous who will experience unending rejoicing in Heaven.

Endnote:
1. In Hebrew lilith or lilit is a name for a demon spirit and much later became a figure in Jewish mythology developed in the Babylonian Talmud. The "myth of Lilith" is thought to be derived from a class of female demons from Mesopotamian pagan religions found in texts of Sumer, Akkah, Assyria, and Babylonia called the lilitu. In the Hebrew of Isaiah 34:14 the term lilith or lilit, translated as "night creatures", or "night monsters", or "night hag" or "screech owl", is written in either the singular or the plural depending on the variations in the earliest manuscripts. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, "Songs of the Sage", the term occurs in a list of demon-like monsters.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references:

Is 33:24 (CCC 1502)

Is 35:10 (CCC 64, 579, 601, 623, 1502)

Mt 20:28 (CCC 440, 601, 605, 622, 786)

Gal 3:13 (CCC 580); 4:5-7 (CCC 1265)

1 Tim 2:5-6 (CCC 618, 1544, 2634, 2574)