Tagged: free download of Isaiah Bible study

Isaiah: Download the free commentary

Isaiah “was the greatest of the writing prophets,” according to The New Scofield Study Bible. “No other prophet has written with such majestic eloquence about the glory of God…. Of all the O.T. prophets, Isaiah is the most comprehensive in range. No prophet is more fully occupied with the redemptive work of Christ. In no other place, in the Scriptures written under the law, is there so clear a view of grace” (p. 924).

Isaiah’s messages hearken back to the eternal counsels of God and the creation of the universe (see 42:5) and gaze forward to God’s creation of new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22). While there are many important prophecies concerning Jerusalem, Israel and Judah, Isaiah’s predictions encompass all the nations of the earth (see 2:4; 5:26; 14:6, 26; 40:15, 17, 22; 66:18).

His writings have a strong Messianic focus. Isaiah foretells the Messiah’s birth (7:14; 9:6); His deity (9:6-7); His ministry (9:1-2; 42:1-7; 61:1-2); His death (52:1 – 53:12); and His future reign on earth (chaps 2; 11; 65).

The attached commentary on the Book of Isaiah is free and downloadable in pdf format. For accompanying work sheets and podcasts, click here. Please feel free to share these documents and links with others and use them any way you like as long as you do not charge for their use or alter their contents.
Isaiah Introduction and Chapters 1-35

Isaiah 36-66

Isaiah 27: Jacob’s Iniquity Will be Purged

Isaiah 27: Listen to an audio file

Isaiah 27: Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah form a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which this prophecy is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 27:9 – Therefore Jacob’s iniquity will be purged in this way, and the result of the removal of his sin will be this: when he makes all the altar stones like crushed bits of chalk, no Asherah poles or incense altars will remain standing.

Quick summary:

Isaiah looks ahead to the destiny of God’s ancient people. The Lord again will tend to His vineyard (see Isa. 5:1-5; 27:2-4), purge the people’s sins and return them to their land. Isaiah’s use of the ancestral name “Jacob” is a reference to all Jewish people.

Take note:

Isaiah refers to “leviathan” in verse 1 and calls him the “fleeing serpent … the twisting serpent … the monster that is in the sea.” The name means “twisting one” and is a mythological sea serpent or dragon associated with the chaos at creation. Sometimes the name is used of an animal such as the crocodile. “Leviathan” is referenced in other Old Testament passages – Job 3:8, 41:1; Ps. 74:14, 104:26 – and the context must help determine its meaning.

But why would Isaiah tell us God will “bring judgment” on this creature if he is only a mythological figure or an animal? In Ezek. 29:3, 32:2, Rev. 12:3 and elsewhere, wicked human leaders hostile to Israel are similarly described; “antitypically and ultimately Satan is intended (Rev 20:10)” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 27:1). If these earthly leaders personify Satan and his evil intent toward mankind in general and Israel in particular, then both the human leaders and Satan ultimately will experience the wrath of God.

John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck provide deeper insight into Isaiah’s use of this word:

In Ugaritic literature (of Ugarit, a city-state in North Syria) reference is made to a similar seven-headed creature. Isaiah, though not believing this ancient Semitic myth, simply referred to Leviathan to convey his point (cf. Job 3:8). Leviathan, the twisting monster of the sea, was viewed in Ugaritic literature as an enemy of order in Creation. But the Lord can stop this chaotic state and establish order on the earth and in people’s hearts. When God’s judgment comes in that day, when He slays the wicked at the end of the Tribulation, it will be like His slaying the chaotic dragon Leviathan. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1075).

The Song of the Vineyard (Isa. 27:2-6)

Isaiah employs the phrase “on that day” four times in this chapter to highlight the Lord’s future dealings with Israel and her enemies. Yahweh will “bring judgment on Leviathan” (v. 1; cf. Rev. 20:1-3, 10); cause Israel to “blossom and bloom” (v. 6); gather His people (v. 12); and enable them to worship Him in Jerusalem (v. 13).

The vineyard in verses 2-6 symbolizes Israel, and there is an interesting contrast between the songs of the vineyard in Isa. 5:1-7 and Isa. 27:2-6. In the first song, Isaiah laments the destruction of the vineyard for its unfruitfulness. The second song, however, rejoices over the prospect of God’s protection and the vineyard’s ultimate abundance. Isaiah makes the point that the covenant-keeping Lord will do whatever is necessary to make Israel the nation through which He will bless the world (see Gen. 12:3). If the nation produces “thorns and briers” He will “burn it to the ground” (v. 4); surely His judgments against the northern kingdom at the hands of Assyria and the southern kingdom at the hands of Babylon are clear examples of the vineyard owner’s pruning capabilities. On the other hand, if His people “take hold of My strength” and “make peace with Me” (v. 5), He will cause Israel to “fill the whole world with fruit” (v. 6).

Warren Wiersbe offers this insight: “In Isaiah’s day, the vineyard was producing wild grapes; but in the future kingdom, Israel will be fruitful and flourishing…. The Bible speaks of three vines: the people of Israel (Isa. 5; 27), Christ and His church (John 15), and godless Gentile society, “the vine of the earth” (Rev. 14:18). The vineyard of Israel is not bearing fruit, the “vine of the earth” is filling the world with poisonous fruit, and God’s people must be faithful branches in the Vine and produce fruit that glorifies God’s name” (Be Comforted, S. Is 26:1).

Looking at this passage from a New Testament perspective, we can see how Jesus the Messiah blessed the whole world through His work on the cross (John 3:16-18; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 John 2:2), and how, in His second coming, He will judge His enemies and gather before Him redeemed people of “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

The Coming Judgment (Isa. 27:7-11)

Because the Lord loves His people He will punish them and purify them so they are fruitful. While judgment is about to fall on Judah, the Lord promises not to deal as harshly with her as he does with her enemies. He will use warfare and exile (Isa. 27:8) – certainly warfare with Assyria, and later warfare with and exile to Babylon. But if the result is that Judah relinquishes her idolatry, her hardship is not in vain. The terms “His severe storm” and “the east wind” (Isa. 27:8) may refer figuratively to Babylon, which lay to the east and would destroy Jerusalem in 586 B.C. “The Exile would help purify Judah so that she would not worship foreign gods and goddesses” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1076).

Israel would be driven out of her land because of her disobedience to the Law (Deut. 28:15-16, 25, 49-52). Evidence of her repentance would be the pulverizing of altar stones dedicated to false gods, and the removal of Asherah poles, wooden symbols of the Canaanite goddess of fertility. None of these pagan gods would be able to spare God’s people from seeing their nation defeated, their capital city ruined, and their land left desolate. Hungry calves would graze among Jerusalem’s rubble, stripping bark off trees for food. Women would cut off tree branches and use them to build fires. All of these are to be signs that the Lord is judging His people by temporarily withdrawing His compassion (v. 11).

The Regathering of Israel (Isa. 27:12-13)

But God’s anger will not burn forever against His people. He promises “on that day” to regather the Jews in their homeland. He will “thresh grain from the Euphrates River as far as the Wadi of Egypt” (v. 12). This probably means he will bring judgment upon these far-flung regions – Assyria, Babylon and Egypt – and draw His people back to Jerusalem and its surroundings. Verse 13 also may include Gentiles among the “lost” and “dispersed.” Certainly within a few generations of this prophecy, the Jews are released from captivity in Babylon. And in our generation we have witnessed the birth of the modern state of Israel. But the ultimate promise is that when Messiah returns to sit on the throne of David, Israel’s borders will be widened and all believers will dwell in the land God promised Abraham.

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “This prophecy describes how God can make something beautiful and productive (the vineyard in 27:2-6) out of something that was quite hopeless (the vineyard in 5:1-7). The credit goes to God who cares and protects his vineyard, but the choice to produce good or sour grapes was the choice of the vines, the people of Israel. This second song reminds the reader that God has the ability to transform people into beautiful blossoming plants in spits of their former rebellion. He does not give up on rebellious people but loves them and by his grace gathers them to worship together at his temple (27:12-13). His wonderful grace is still available to those who remain in rebellion against him” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, pp. 465-66).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 22: What’s the Matter with You?

Listen to an audio file (3.29.09)

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

This oracle against Jerusalem is offered during the reign of Hezekiah and speaks both to the imminent invasion by the Assyrians and the future destruction by the Babylonians more than 100 years in the future.

Key verses:

Isa. 22:12-13 – On that day the Lord God of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth. But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine — “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

Quick summary:

Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “The people of Judah were behaving like their pagan neighbors, so it was only right that Isaiah should include them in the list of nations God would judge. Yes, in His mercy, the Lord would deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army; but He would not deliver them from Babylon. Isaiah pointed out two particular sins that would cause Judah to decline and ultimately go into Captivity in Babylon … [t]he unbelief of the people … [and] the unfaithfulness of the leaders” (Be Comforted, An Old Testament Study, S. Is 22:1).

Take note:

The “Valley of Vision” is a reference to Jerusalem, which even though located on Mt. Moriah is situated in a valley surrounded by higher hills (Ps. 125:2; Isa. 2:3; Jer. 21:13). The Valley of Kidron runs between two hills east of Jerusalem, the seat of divine revelation. Jerome calls it “the nursery of prophets.” From this city God reveals Himself to, and through, the prophet Isaiah. “The point seems to be that Jerusalem has received message after message (i.e., ‘vision’) from God and yet failed to really hear” (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 422).

The Valley of Vision (Isa. 22:1-14)

While some portions of this passage refer to the Assyrian invasion in Hezekiah’s day (see Isa. 36-37; 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron. 32), the primary emphasis is on the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Isaiah provides a stark contrast between Jerusalem’s gaiety and its grim future (vv. 2a, 13). Possibly, the prophet refers to the celebration that will take place when Assyria’s Sennacherib retreats (see Isa. 37:37); to Judah’s overconfidence in Jerusalem’s defenses; or to the escapism that reveals the moral bankruptcy of Jerusalem’s citizens as they face inevitable destruction. In any case, their philosophy is, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (v. 13b; cf. 1 Cor. 15:32).

Rather than partake in the revelry on the rooftops, Isaiah descends into the valley, where he sees people dying, not from battle wounds, but from starvation and disease (v. 2). He sees the nation’s leaders running for their lives as the invading hoards descend on the capital city (vv. 3-7; 2 Kings 25:1-10). The people do what they can to brace themselves for a long siege, collecting armor, fortifying the walls, and securing a supply of water, but their efforts will come to naught as the Lord “remove[s] the defenses of Judah” (vv. 8-11). Longer term, many will find themselves mired in an entitlement mentality, thinking, “Just as God delivered us from the Assyrians, He must also save us from the Babylonians. After all, we’re His chosen people.” Quite the contrary, the Lord will use the pagan Babylonians as His rod of judgment against the eat-drink-and-be-merry citizens of Judah.

“The people did everything but trust the Lord,” writes Warren Wiersbe. “Instead of feasting, they should have been fasting, weeping, putting on sackcloth, and pulling out their hair in grief (v. 12; Ezra 9:3; James 4:8-10). God had sent the nation many prophets to warn them, but the people would not listen. Now it was too late; their sins could not be forgiven because their hearts were hard. Judah would go into captivity, and God’s word to Isaiah would be fulfilled (Isa. 6:9-13)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 22:1).

A Warning to Shebna (Isa. 22:15-25)

There might be hope for Judah if the leaders would call the people to repentance, but too many leaders like Shebna have only themselves in mind. Shebna is identified as a steward in charge of the king’s palace. He may be Hezekiah’s chief administrator or prime minister who carries out the will of the king; if so, he is second in command and deeply involved in mounting defenses against Sennacherib’s military forces.

Isaiah is sent to Shebna, who is more concerned with building a monumental tomb for himself and acquiring chariots than he is with honoring the king and serving his country. Likely, he sides with the pro-Egypt party in Judah. Isaiah’s question cuts to chase: “What are you doing here?” (the construction site of his tomb). The young steward’s actions belie his wicked heart, and Isaiah informs him that the Lord is about to shake him violently (v. 17). “God judged Shebna by demoting him (he became ‘secretary’ according to 36:3, NIV), disgracing him, and deporting him. Eventually he was thrown ‘like a ball’ (22:18) into a far country (Assyria?), where he died. He could not have an expensive funeral and be buried in his elaborate tomb” (Be Comforted, S. Is 22:1).

Isaiah predicts that Eliakim will replace Shebna, and apparently Isa. 36:3 shows the fulfillment of this prophecy. Eliakim will be like a father to the people, “a throne of honor for his father’s house” (v. 23). The “key” in verse 22 is a symbol of authority that a steward has over the house. Jesus makes reference to this when he tells Peter He will give him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19). The New Manners and Customs of the Bible provides some interesting insight into the references to keys by Isaiah and Jesus:

The idea contained in both these passages is expressed in Isaiah 9:6, where it is said of the Messiah: “the government will be on his shoulders.” The word keys is used figuratively again when Jesus says to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19)…. Matthew 16:18 has caused considerable controversy, but verse 19 has been even more fiercely debated. Nothing in either verse, however, suggests the possibility that Peter or any of the apostles were given authority to forgive sins. The words bind and loose are rabbinic terms meaning to forbid and to permit. Keys were the symbol of knowledge or the fruit of the scribal or teaching office…. The use of those keys-knowledge of the gospel-would build the church. Peter did precisely this at Pentecost (Acts 2:14), at Samaria (Acts 8:14), and for Cornelius the Gentile (Acts 10). Phillip did it at Samaria (Acts 8:5), and Paul did it throughout all of Asia (Acts 19:10). To say that only Peter had the keys to heaven would give the power of salvation to Peter and not to the gospel: “the gospel … is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16) (S. 355).

Another illustration is given to us in the “peg” in verse 23. This is not, as some might think, a reference to a wooden tent peg that is driven into the ground. Rather, Isaiah compares Eliakim to a peg that is driven into the wall to hold up kitchen utensils or other items. However, if the people trust wholly in Eliakim, rather than in God, they will be disappointed, for the weight of their burdens will shear off the peg and all that hangs upon it will fall. Some commentators believe Eliakim’s advancement results in corruption of his family, eventually leading to a fall, while others see Eliakim as a type of Christ, the latter of which would take all mankind’s burdens upon Himself (see Isa. 53:4-6). In any case, Isaiah’s message is consistently clear: Trust God.

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “Leaders who fail to lead people to depend on God will not last; instead, God will raise up true servants (22:20) who care for others, like a father cares for his children (22:21). God will firmly establish them and give them great opportunities for service and influence (22:22). Nevertheless, people are not the basis for a secure future in any organization; God is the only truly dependable resource for hope” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 394).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 17: Partners in Crime

Listen to an audio file (2.15.09)

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

The oracle in chapter 17 describes the fall of Damascus and the fortified cities of Ephraim (the northern kingdom of Israel). The events described in this chapter belong to the period of the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.), when Judah’s king Ahaz asks the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III to rescue him from the attacks of Syria and Ephraim.

Key verse:

Isa. 17:10a For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and you have failed to remember the rock of your strength.

Quick summary:

J. Vernon McGee writes: “Because of the confederacy between Syria and Israel (often for the purpose of coming against Judah), Israel is linked with the judgments pronounced on Syria. Partners in crime means partners in judgment” (Isaiah Volume 1, p.137).

Take note:

Despite harsh words and a bleak outlook for Israel, the Lord reminds His people of His purpose in judgment – so they will “look to their Maker and will turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars they made with their hands or to the Asherahs and incense alters they made with their fingers” (Isa. 17:7b-8).

Prophecy Against Damascus (Isa. 17:1-3)

The northern kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim) and Damascus, the capital of Syria (or Aram), have joined forces against Judah. For this they will suffer together. Both will be besieged and deported by Assyria (see 2 Kings 15:29; 17:6). The Assyrians conquer Aram in 732 B.C. and, according to their custom, deport many of the citizens, leaving the cities deserted and the land untended. They also likely burn the houses and demolish the fortifications, leaving the capital city a “ruined heap” (v. 1).

Isaiah also says the cities of Aroer, a Syrian province, are forsaken. “God is righteous in causing those cities to spue out their inhabitants, who by their wickedness had made themselves vile; it is better that flocks should lie down there than that they should harbour such as are in open rebellion against God and virtue” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 17:1).

The Syrians are the ringleaders in the confederacy against Judah, so they are punished first and most harshly. The glory of Israel will be no comfort to the Syrian survivors.

Judgment Against Israel (Isa. 17:4-11)

Now Isaiah turns his attention to Syria’s ally, Ephraim. He uses several graphic images to describe the northern kingdom’s imminent downfall: the fading splendor of Jacob (v. 4a); the emaciation of a sick person (v. 4b); the gleaning of a small harvest (vv. 5-6); the abandonment of woods and mountain peaks (v. 9); and the sudden decay of a garden (v. 11). On that day the people will come to their senses and realize that their idols cannot save them. They will turn to their Maker, but it will be too late (v. 7; see also Prov. 1:20-33). In 722 B.C., Assyria sweeps into the northern kingdom, and she is no more.

Warren Wiersbe comments:

The emphasis in this section is on the God of Israel. He is the Lord of hosts (the Lord Almighty), who controls the armies of heaven and earth (Isa. 17:3). He is the Lord God of Israel (v. 6), who called and blessed Israel and warned her of her sins. He is our Maker, the Holy One of Israel (v. 7); He is the God of our salvation and our Rock (v. 10). How foolish of the Israelites to trust their man-made idols instead of trusting the living God (v. 8; 1 Kings 12:25-33). But like Israel of old, people today trust the gods they have made, instead of the God who made them; these include the false gods of pleasure, wealth, military might, scientific achievement, and even “religious experience” (Be Comforted, S. Is 17:1).

Isaiah’s words are echoed in Paul’s letter to the Romans more than 700 years later. Though the Asherah poles used to worship the Canaanite fertility goddess are no longer standing, the first-century world still clung to idols: “For though they knew God, they did not glorify

Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles” (Rom. 1:21-23).

Judgment Against the Nations (Isa. 17:12-14)

These verses spell out the consequences for those who plunder the people of God. Even though God uses surrounding nations to judge Israel, he holds them accountable for their actions and brings them to justice. This passage seems especially to take aim at Assyria, which, after aligning itself with Judah, invades it unsuccessfully. As Matthew Henry writes, “If the Assyrians and Israelites invade and plunder Judah, if the Assyrian army take God’s people captive and lay their country waste, let them know that ruin will be their lot and portion” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, S. Is 17:12).

The Assyrian army is diverse, made up of many nations. What’s more, its soldiers are noisy and boastful, “like the roaring of the seas … like the raging of mighty waters” (v. 12). They make boisterous threats in order to frighten their enemies into submission and prevent surrounding nations from coming to their enemies’ defense. But God will punish them, scattering them “like chaff on the hills, and like dead thistles before a gale” (v. 13). “How appropriate that though Assyria brought terror in the evening, the enemy would be gone before morning, for such was the case with the Assyrian army (37:36-37). Though the Assyrian soldiers had plundered many cities of Judah, 185,000 soldiers were slaughtered over night” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1065).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry comments: “It was in the night that the angel routed the Assyrian army. God can in a moment break the power of his church’s enemies, even when it appears most formidable; and this is written for the encouragement of the people of God in all ages, when they find themselves an unequal match for their enemies; for this is the portion of those that spoil us, they shall themselves be spoiled. God will plead his church’s cause, and those that meddle do it to their own hurt” (S. Is 17:12).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips