Tagged: 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 30: Lips Full of Fury

Isaiah 30: Listen to the audio

Isaiah 30: 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:

Isaiah 30 likely takes place early in King Hezekiah’s reign and is part of a series of woes in chapters 28-33 against those who oppose God’s word.

Key verses:

Isa. 30:27-28 – Look, Yahweh comes from far away, His anger burning and heavy with smoke. His lips are full of fury, and His tongue is like a consuming fire. His breath is like an overflowing torrent that rises to the neck. [He comes] to sift the nations in a sieve of destruction and to put a bridle on the jaws of the peoples to lead [them] astray.

Quick summary:

Isaiah summarizes what Israel has done to God and what God will do to Israel. The people make their plans without consulting God; they demand that the prophets stop preaching against sin; and they ask for more comforting messages. As a result, the Lord’s judgment will fall on them like a bulging wall and they will be smashed like pieces of pottery. Even so, God calls His people to repent and return to the Lord, and He promises a day in which He will bring salvation to Israel. In that day He will comfort His people and hear their prayers; teach and guide them; give them abundant crops; defeat their enemies; and fill their hearts with joy.

Take note:

Isaiah’s words in verse 10 have echoed through the ages. They are as much an indictment of the church today as a harsh rebuke of the Israelites in Isaiah’s time: “Do not prophesy the truth to us. Tell us flattering things.” The apostle Paul warns the Romans against divisive people in their congregation: “Now I implore you, brothers, watch out for those who cause dissensions and pitfalls contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them; for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Rom. 16:18). He goes on to warn the young pastor Timothy of those who neglect the truth in favor of having their ears tickled: “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The Egyptian Alliance (Isa. 30:1-17)

The chapter begins bleakly, with Isaiah comparing the citizens of Judah to obstinate children. The Lord already has made it clear that He will use Assyria to destroy Israel and to punish Judah, yet the leaders of the southern kingdom travel to Egypt, seeking an alliance against the Assyrian invaders. This is an act of rebellion against God and it will lead to Judah’s shame since Egypt does not have the ability to protect Judah from the Assyrian invaders (vv. 3, 5).

In verses 6-7, Isaiah describes the envoys from Judah who load their donkeys and camels with great treasures for the Egyptians and brave the dangerous Negev, where wild animals like lions and poisonous snakes lie in wait. But Isaiah calls feckless Egypt “Rahab Who Just Sits” (v. 7). “In Ugaritic literature Rahab was the name of a female sea monster associated with Leviathan (cf. Job 9:13; 26:12). Perhaps the hippopotamus, an animal that often sits in the water of the Nile doing nothing, represents that mythical water beast. Understandably Rahab came to be a poetic synonym for Egypt (and also for a demon behind Egypt) when God overpowered the Egyptian soldiers in the sea at the Exodus (cf. Isa. 51:9; Pss. 87:4; 89:10). So Egypt, Isaiah wrote, was good for nothing; she could not assist Judah in any way” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1080).

The Lord then tells Isaiah to write this message on a scroll, which will serve as testimony against the “deceptive children” who may later claim they never heard God’s warning. They are “rebellious people … children who do not obey the Lord’s instruction” (v. 9). They are unwilling to listen to the Lord and do not want the prophets to tell them the truth. In fact, they go so far as to shout, “Rid us of the Holy One of Israel” (v. 11).

Nevertheless, Isaiah confronts them with a stark message from the Lord. By rejecting God’s call to repent of their sin and trust Him, by relying on their own plans and by engaging the deceitful Egyptians, they would bring down judgment upon their heads. Isaiah likens this judgment to a cracked wall that suddenly collapses, and to shattered pottery whose pieces are so small they are no longer of value. They would be alarmed by the approaching enemy, and though they would flee on horses, the Assyrian horses would be faster and overtake them. In their crushing defeat, the survivors would stand like a banner on a hill – a warning to others not to trust in military might or political alliances.

The Lord’s Mercy (Isa. 30:18-26)

These verses anticipate the coming of the Messiah and the spiritual and material blessings that will result from His reign. Although the inhabitants of Judah have turned away from the Lord, they are still His covenant people whom He desires to grant mercy, compassion and justice. Isaiah implores them to wait patiently on Yahweh. During times of calamity they will suffer hardship and survive on bread and water, but the day is coming when they will dwell securely on Mt. Zion and “never cry again” (v. 19). The Israelites will eagerly learn from their Teacher – the Messiah – and embrace the instruction of the prophets and priests. They will be sensitive to God’s Word, as if He were speaking softly to them, “This is the way. Walk in it” (v. 21). The people they will see their idolatry as God sees it and be repulsed. They will throw away their silver-plated idols and gold-plated images “like menstrual cloths, and call them filth” (v. 22).

Isaiah then describes what life will be like when the Messiah comes and their hearts are in tune with Him. The Lord will send rain and the earth will produce rich and bountiful crops. “Physical prosperity accompanies national piety; especially under the Old Testament. The early rain fell soon after the seed was sown in October or November; the latter rain in the spring, before the ripening of the corn. Both were needed for a good harvest” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 30:23). In addition, the cattle will graze in open pastures and the beasts of burden will have plenty to eat. There will be ample fresh water flowing from the streams and fountains on every hill and mountain. Even the natural light will be increased. The moon will shine as brightly as the sun, which will glow seven times more brightly. Perhaps this is figurative language to illustrate God’s presence among and provision for His people (see Isa. 60:19-20; Rev. 21:23-24; 22:5). In any case, the same Lord who chastens His people with a rod of iron will bless them with His very presence as He “bandages His people’s injuries and heals the wounds He inflicted” (v. 26).

Yahweh’s Burning Anger (Isa. 30:27-33)

Isaiah now returns to the present situation, prophesying that the Assyrian army, which surrounds Jerusalem, would be defeated. This is fulfilled in 701 B.C. as the Lord strikes dead 185,000 soldiers in a single night (Isa. 37:36). Notice how Isaiah contrasts the Lord’s mercy toward Israel in the previous section with his fiery anger toward Assyria: His anger is burning and heavy with smoke; His lips are full of fury; His tongue is like a consuming fire; and His breath is like an overflowing torrent that rises to the neck; He sifts the nations like a farmer shaking his grain to clear it of the smallest pebbles; and He puts a bridle in the jaws of the people to lead them astray (vv. 27-28).

This graphic imagery, depicting God’s defeat of Assyria, is continued elsewhere in Scripture to describe the Lord’s wrath on the day of judgment. For example, the apostle Paul says that when Christ returns He will take “vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God” (2 Thess. 1:8). And the apostle John describes the returning Christ as having eyes like “a fiery flame,” a “robe stained with blood,” striking the nations with a sharp sword coming from His mouth, and “trampling the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:12-15).

God’s miraculous work on behalf of His people will cause them to break out in celebration, rejoicing as in the days of the three annual festivals in which they made their way to the temple on Mt. Zion. Meanwhile, the sulfurous breath of God will ignite a fire that consumes Judah’s enemies. The Assyrian army will be destroyed like a pile of wood or a sacrifice in Topheth (v. 33), an area in the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem where children are sometimes sacrificed to the Ammonite god Molech (2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 7:31). In Jesus’ day the valley was a burning trash dump, which He used to illustrate the never-ending fires of gehenna – a transliteration from the Aramaic form of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, “Valley of Hinnom.” The apostle John continues this imagery of hell in Rev. 19:20; 20:10; 21:8.

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “Trust in God in such dire circumstances is a risk that is not easy to accept. It puts everything on the line for what often appears to be a nebulous hope that God will act. What does one have to do to truly trust God? Isaiah indicates the people need to (a) repent of their present rebellious acts; (b) rest securely in God’s salvation; (c) be calm rather than fearful; (d) rely on God’s heroic strength; and (e) stop trusting in human power (30:15-16)…. Faith is not blind acceptance of something totally unknown; it is a confident relational walk based on spiritual knowledge that directs the will to act in reliance on the character and promises of someone who sovereignly controls this world” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, pp. 528-29).

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 20: Naked and Barefoot

Listen to an audio file (3.8.09)

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:

God speaks through Isaiah in “the year that the commander-in-chief, sent by Sargon king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and attacked and captured it” (v. 1), which would be 711 B.C., during the reign of Judah’s King Hezekiah.

Key verse:

Isa. 20:5 – Those who made Cush their hope and Egypt their boast will be dismayed and ashamed.

Quick summary:

The Lord commands Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot among the Jews for three years as a warning not make the same mistake Ashdod made in trusting the Egyptians for protection against the invading Assyrians. If they do, they will be defeated and marched naked and barefoot into captivity.

Take note:

A “sign act,” such as walking naked and barefoot for three years, “can communicate a difficult message that some people might otherwise ignore,” writes Gary V. Smith, “but the sign can teach the central point of the message in an interesting, attention getting, shocking, or somewhat mysterious way” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 367).

“How Shall We Escape?” (Isa. 20:1-6)

Isaiah inserts a narrative passage here to punctuate his message about Cush (Ethiopia) in chapter 18 and Egypt in chapter 19. Some in Judah want to form alliances with Cush and Egypt to stave off the expansionist threats of the Assyrians, but Isaiah’s graphic “sign act” in chapter 20 illustrates the folly of relying on anyone but the Lord.

Here is some background: Tartan, the commander-in-chief of the Assyrian army under Sargon II, captures the Philistine city of Ashdod in 712-711 B.C. The city’s anti-Assyrian king, Yamani, who had rebelliously replaced an Assyrian puppet king, now flees to Egypt. But when the Assyrian army threatens the Egyptians, they hand Yamani over to Assyria. This all happens about the same time that King Hezekiah of Judah decides not to pay tribute money to the Assyrians, and Shabaka the Ethiopian solidifies his rule over a weakening Egypt. It is against this historic backdrop that God instructs Isaiah to walk “naked and barefoot” throughout Judah. The message is clear: If the people of Judah follow the example of Ashdod by trusting in Egypt for help, they will be defeated, shamed, and taken captive.

Although the text says Isaiah went about “naked” for three years, a better translation is “uncovered.” Isaiah merely “put off the outer sackcloth, retaining still the tunic or inner vest (1Sa 19:24; Am 2:16; Jn 21:7); an emblem to show that Egypt should be stripped of its possessions; the very dress of Isaiah was a silent exhortation to repentance” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,  S. Is 20:2). Further, some commentators say Isaiah dresses this way only at intervals rather than full time, emphasizing three years of calamity that would fall upon Egypt and Ethiopia. In any case, this is the only strictly symbolic act of Isaiah’s ministry. With later prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, these types of acts are more common.

When Egypt and Ethiopia fall to the Assyrians, the Jews who hope for an alliance with these defeated nations will be “dismayed and ashamed” (v. 5). Rather than deliverance from a common enemy, the Jews will lament that they have no escape (v. 6). “Judah, then, should trust in the Lord for protection rather than in the foreign alliance they were contemplating” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1067).

Closing Thought

God’s message to the Jews in Isaiah 20, graphically illustrated by the prophet’s “sign act” of walking naked and barefoot, exhorts His people to trust fully in Him. This message is echoed some 2,700 years later, when the writer of Hebrews urges Jewish Christians not to return to Old Covenant practices but to trust fully in Christ and His finished work on the cross. Just as the Jews of Isaiah’s day would watch the Egyptians and Ethiopians be taken captive by the Assyrians and ask, “How shall we escape?” so the writer of Hebrews tells first-century Christians to remain faithful to Christ or face His divine discipline. “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 18: Left for the Birds of Prey

Listen to an audio file (2.22.09)

Download two worksheets for further study: Worksheet No. 1; Worksheet No. 2

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 18 likely occurs during the reign of Judah’s king Ahaz, or perhaps during the reign of his son Hezekiah. In any case, the oracle is given prior to Assyria’s invasion of Judah in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 18:7 – At that time a gift will be brought to the Lord of Hosts from a people tall and smooth-skinned, a people feared near and far, a powerful nation with a strange language, whose land is divided by rivers-to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts.

Quick summary:

The land of Cush is told not to move frantically by boat or other means to secure alliances against Assyria, for the Lord will deal directly with the Assyrians and leave their corpses to the birds of prey.

Take note:

Cush, or Ethiopia in many translations, consists of modern-day southern Egypt, the Sudan and northern Ethiopia. Isaiah calls it the “land of buzzing insect wings” (v. 1), not only because of the locusts and other insects that infest the land (like the tsetse fly and winged beetle), but because of the frantic diplomatic activity taking place as envoys from Cush seek alliances to protect them from Assyria. Cush rules Egypt from 715 – 663 B.C.

The Lord’s Message to Cush (Isa. 18:1-7)

In verse 2, Isaiah depicts the ambassadors of Cush making haste in their light, swift boats to seek alliances against Assyria. “Papyrus was used on the Nile for making boats,” according to Manners and Customs of the Bible. “Sometimes bundles of the plant were rudely bound together in the form of a raft. At other times the leaves were plaited like a basket and then coated with bitumen and tar after the boat was constructed. Similar boats were used on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The boats were circular in shape, and sometimes covered with leather instead of bitumen” (James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, S. 352).

Some commentators believe that at the time of this prophecy, envoys from Cush are in Jerusalem, seeking an alliance for mutual protection from Assyria. If so, Isaiah tells the diplomats to go home, and He invites the whole world to witness what God is about to do. No alliances among nations are sufficient to defeat the terrifying Assyrians, and none are needed, for the Lord is about to cut them down like ripened vines (v. 5).

The birds and wild beasts will feast on the corpses of the Assyrian soldiers for an extended period of time (v. 6). Keep in mind that the Assyrians first are used of God to punish the northern kingdom of Israel by taking the people captive. But once that is accomplished (in 722 B.C.), God turns His chastening rod against the proud Assyrians. On the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and about to sweep victoriously into the southern kingdom’s capital city, 185,000 Assyrians are struck down by God in a single night (Isa. 37:36). No army, and no alliance of nations, may take credit for this stunning turn of events; it is exclusively the work of the Lord of Hosts. See Rev. 19:17-21, where a similar image is used of end-time judgment.

After the Assyrian defeat, the Lord will prompt the people of Cush to bring gifts to the Lord on Mount Zion, where His name dwells (see Deut. 12:5). Whether this is immediately after the Assyrian defeat, or simply a preview of what will occur during the millennium, is not clear (see Zech. 14:16), but certainly the nations will stream to Mount Zion after Messiah establishes His kingdom on earth (Isa. 2:1-4).

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith writes in The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39 that this chapter features two theological principles that apply to every nation: “First, people should not allow their attention to be sidetracked to focus on human accomplishments, religious ritual, or man-made theological idols, for that will bring God’s judgment. Second, people should pay attention to God their Creator, remember that he is holy, is able to save them, and can protect them in times of trouble. No one today should repeat the mistakes of Israel and Judah, unless they want to suffer the same fate” (p. 352).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips