Tagged: King Hezekiah

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 19: Egypt’s Heart will Melt

Listen to an audio file (3.1.09)

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 19 describes four different kings who are trying to control Egypt around 720 – 711 B.C., according to Gary V. Smith in The New American Commentary. If so, this would place Isaiah’s prophecy in the reigns of Judah’s kings Ahaz and Hezekiah.

Key verse:

Isa. 19:1 – Look, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. Egypt’s idols will tremble before Him, and Egypt’s heart will melt within it.

Quick summary:

D.A. Carson summarizes: “This oracle is a strong expression of the truth that God smites in order to heal (see v 22). The initial breakdown is followed by a renewal which goes beyond anything promised to a Gentile nation in the O.T. Perhaps Egypt is shown here in its two aspects: first, as the worldly power to which Israel was always looking (cf. 20:5) and secondly, as part of God’s world, for which he cares, with a place in his kingdom in which present ranks and races will be quite superseded” (New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, S. Is 18:1).

Take note:

While Egypt must suffer God’s judgment, Isaiah depicts a glorious day when the nation will be converted and worship Him. When the Egyptians are converted (vv. 18-22) they will openly honor the Lord with an altar in the center of the country and a pillar near the border (vv. 19-20). The Egyptians will offer sacrifices and gifts to the Lord (v. 21) and, along with the Assyrians and Israelites, joyfully serve Him (vv. 23-25). Other Old Testament prophets wrote of Egypt’s future as well (see Jer. 46; Ezek. 29-30).

The Lord’s Message to Egypt (Isa. 19:1-15)

Here and in other passages of Scripture the Lord is seen riding on a cloud (v. 1; see also Ps. 68:4, 33: 104:3). In Canaanite mythology, the same imagery is used of Baal, the god of rain and fertility. But the Lord, not Baal, is the true Giver of rain, something the Egyptians will sorely need (vv. 5-10). The Egyptians’ false gods will not be able to save them from approaching judgment. Forced to abandon their trust in idols that “tremble” before Yahweh, the Egyptians will be reduced to infighting, despair and defeat at the hands of “harsh masters” and “a strong king” (v. 4). Isaiah does not identify the strong king, but possibly it is the Ethiopian ruler Shabaka or the Assyrian king Sargon.

Matthew Henry writes: “Isis, Osiris, and Apis, those celebrated idols of Egypt, being found unable to relieve their worshippers, shall be disowned and rejected by them. Idolatry had got deeper rooting in Egypt than in any land besides, even the most absurd idolatries; and yet now the idols shall be moved and they shall be ashamed of them” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 19:1).

The Lord also will afflict the source of their livelihood, the Nile River, interrupting the annual flooding that brings water and mineral-rich silt to its banks. As a result, papyrus reeds, plants, and every cultivated crop will wilt. Fishermen using hooks or nets will fail to get their catch of fish in the receding, putrid waters. And those who derive their income from flax, or from linens made of flax or other materials, will lose their livelihood. The entire economy will come to a halt despite the feverish way they invoke their pantheon of gods.

Zoan and Memphis (vv. 11, 15) are the two largest cities in Lower (northern) Egypt in Isaiah’s time and serve as important administrative centers. Although many leaders in these cities profess themselves to be wise, steeped in the ways of their fathers, God has given them “a spirit of confusion” (v. 14) so that the princes are “complete fools” and Pharaoh’s wisest advisers offer “stupid advice” (v. 11). The nobles of Egypt boast of their antiquity, but even with thousands of years of accumulated wisdom, they are not able to see the calamity coming, or prevent it. “Without access to God’s wisdom and plan, people are left confused and misguided. Fearing God and depending on his wisdom is where every wise person must start (Prov. 1:7)” (Smith, p. 358).

Egypt Will Know the Lord (Isa. 19:16-25)

The six-fold refrain, “On that day …” (vv. 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24) points to the day of the Lord and features the conversion of the Gentiles – in this case, the conversion of Israel’s enemies, the Egyptians and Assyrians. This is a future promise of judgment followed by blessing.

Both Egypt and Judah will see their roles reversed in the days ahead. In contrast with Isaiah’s day, when Judah thinks about appealing to Egypt for help, a time will come when Egypt is in terror as she recognizes that Judah is the stronger nation, held firmly in the uplifted hand of the Lord Almighty.

The “five cities” (or “several cities”) of verse 18 are unknown but could represent the rest of the nation. The “City of the Sun,” however, likely is Heliopolis, a major city in the south of the Nile Delta dedicated to the worship of the sun god Re. The dramatic change in this city – where the Lord is exalted above all Egyptian gods – will demonstrate to the world that Egypt has repented of idolatry and placed its trust in the one true and living God.

Some commentators suggest that the cities mentioned here are near the Egyptian border and engaged in commerce with Israel. If so, the cities could be Heliopolis, Leontopolis, Migdol, Daphne (Tahpanes), and Memphis. Isaiah’s prophecy that the Egyptians will speak the “language of Canaan” (v. 18) likely means they will embrace the Jewish religion and desire to study God’s Word in its original language. When will all this take place? After the Messiah comes and sits on the throne of David (Zech. 14:9; John 17:21).

An interesting side note about verse 19: In about 170 B.C. a temple was built at Leontopolis by Onias IV, an ousted Egyptian priest who appealed to this verse as justification. But the intention of this passage, it seems, is to point out that this once profane land one day will become holy ground.

Verses 23-25 give us a magnificent foretaste of the Gentiles’ full inclusion in God’s kingdom. “Israel will have only an equal part (a third, 24; but not third place), and her distinctive titles will be shared out with her cruelest enemies” (D.A. Carson, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 19:16). This must be an unbelievable prophecy for the listeners in Isaiah’s day. The nation’s sworn enemies, and pagans as well, one day will be God’s people, sharing in Israel’s covenant blessings, having their prayers heard and answered, offering sacrifices to the Lord, and receiving spiritual healing. It will happen, and from our New Testament perspective we may anticipate this day just as the faithful in Judah did 2,700 years ago.

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith writes: “Knowing how the radical Muslims control much of Egypt, Iraq, and Iran today, this prophecy still seems an amazing promise of the miraculous transforming power of God’s presence and grace. The prayer of every believer should be that the people in their own nation would respond as the Egyptians will and consequently join the many nations that will worship at God’s throne some day in the future” (p. 364).

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

Isaiah 15: The Waters are Full of Blood

Listen to an audio file (2.1.09)

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:

Chapter 15 likely takes place during the reign of Hezekiah when the Assyrians are trying to gain control of the countries around Judah.

Key verse:

Isa. 15:9:  The waters of Dibon are full of blood, but I will bring on Dibon  even more than this – a lion for those who escape from Moab, and for the survivors in the land.

Quick summary:

God raised up nations like Moab to be the instruments of His judgment against His people (see Isa. 5:26-30; 7:18-20). Now, in chapters 13-24 Isaiah identifies these nations and exposes their sin. They have gone beyond God’s boundaries in punishing Israel. Therefore, God will bring them down.

Take note:

Israel’s neighbor Moab will be invaded and her people will become refugees (Isa. 15:5-7). Because of the depths of their sin, God will bring additional suffering upon the refugees (Isa. 15:9). We will see in chapter 16 that Israel offers them asylum, but in their pride they refuse the offer and ultimately fall.

Judgment on Moab (Isa. 15:1-9)

The Moabites are the product of Lot’s incestuous union with his daughter (Gen. 19:30-38). Their pagan practices corrupted Israel and they became the sworn enemies of the Jews (see Num. 25; Deut. 23:3).

Several cities and towns are mentioned in the first four verses of this chapter. Ar and Kir, possibly located near the southern end of the Dead Sea, are destroyed before Isaiah records this oracle. Dibon is one of Moab’s key cities. The city of Nebo is located near a mountain close to the northern shore of the Dead Sea; it is here that the Moabites worship the god Chemosh. Heshbon and Elealeh are in northern Moab. Shaved heads and cut beards are signs of humiliation (see Job 1:20; Isa. 7:20; Jer. 47:5, 48:37; Ezek. 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16). Wearing sackcloth pictures one’s dejected state of mourning. The Moabites are lamenting the fall of their cities. Even the soldiers are wailing because of their inability to protect their homeland.

The tenderness of Isaiah’s heart is exposed in verse 5 as he grieves over Moab’s plight (compare with Isa. 21:3-4). Fleeing the invading Assyrians, the Moabites move south to Zoar, the northernmost city of Edom. The waters of Nimrim (v. 6) probably refer to a wadi in southern Moab. Because it is dry, the refugees, clutching their personal belongings, press farther south, to the Wadi of the Willows (v. 7). Reaching Dibon, the Moabites find the water supply to be bloody, indicated a great deal of death and destruction. They find no rest here, however. Isaiah describes their plight like one being constantly stalked by a lion. 

Final Thought

It is difficult for some to believe the depths of sorrow Isaiah expresses over the destruction of Moab’s cities and the suffering of her people. In fact, some commentators conclude that Isaiah is actually mocking the Moabites. Yet it may be better to see Isaiah’s lament as a reflection of God’s genuine grief over human sin and suffering. As God expressed through the prophet Ezekiel, “As I live” – the declaration of the Lord God – “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live” (Ez. 33:11).

In the New Testament, Jesus weeps at the news of Lazarus’ death and is moved in His spirit by the tyranny of death as a consequence of sin (John 11:34-5). He also weeps over Jerusalem because of its pending judgment for rejecting Him as Messiah (Luke 19:41-4). It’s good to remind ourselves that while vengeance belongs to the Lord, He strongly prefers mankind’s repentance and restoration to divine judgment. The apostle Paul tells us it is the goodness of God, not His vengeance, which leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 14: The Lord’s Outstretched Hand

Listen to an audio file (1.25.09)

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:

Chapter 14 likely takes place at the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign.

Key verse:

Isa. 14:27:  The Lord of Hosts Himself has planned it; therefore, who can stand in its way? It is His hand that is outstretched, so who can turn it back?

Quick summary:

Chapters 13-24 feature a series of divine oracles, or declarations, against the nations surrounding Israel. The great powers of Isaiah’s day, and days to come, that set themselves against the Lord of Hosts will be brought low; only the coming kingdom of the Messiah will endure the test of time.

Take note:

Many Bible commentators point with fascination to verses 12-15. Do these verses speak of a Babylonian king, or of Satan? Perhaps both. In what is known as the “law of double reference,” Isaiah may be showing us Satanic qualities in evil earthly leaders, just as other Old Testament prophets use godly leaders to foreshadow the coming Messiah. In any case, both Satan and evil rulers will be brought low.

Israel’s Return (Isa. 14:1-2)

Although judgment will fall on God’s rebellious people, the Lord will “choose Israel again” (v. 1). Their restoration is grounded in their election as God’s chosen people (see Ps. 102:13-22). God’s choosing of Israel – as well as Judah, Jerusalem, David and Solomon – is an important Old Testament theme, especially in 1 and 2 Chronicles and the Psalms.

The fact that non-Israelites (“the nations”) will join Israel also is an important teaching in Scripture (see, for example, Isa. 56:6; 60:10; 61:5). Israel’s role will be reversed. Rather than captives, they will be captors. And rather than exiles, they will reside safely in their homeland, a nation restored to international prominence as in the days of King David.

Israel’s Taunt against Babylon (Isa. 14:3-23)

Verses 3-21 record a song, or a taunt, that will be sung by people freed from the clutches of the king of Babylon. “The song’s overall message is that people will be amazed that this great king is cast down like the monarchs of other cities. People will rejoice in his demise for they had lived in fear of him” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1061).

But who is this king of Babylon? Many commentators believe he is Satan, especially based on the description in verses 12-14. Tertullian (A.D. 160-230) and Gregory the Great (A.D. 540-604) were the first to offer this view, which is now widely accepted. In the New Testament, Jesus uses language similar to that of Isaiah’s to describe Satan (Luke 10:18). However, while verses 12-14, along with Ezek. 28:12-19, could describe Satan’s pride and subsequent downfall, the context of Isaiah 14 points squarely to an earthly king. It’s possible that Isaiah is employing the “law of double reference” in this passage, showing us Satanic qualities in evil earthly leaders, just as other Old Testament prophets use godly leaders to foreshadow the coming Messiah. In support of this view, let’s consider King Sennacherib.

Sennacherib rules Assyria from 705-681 B.C. By this time in history, Babylon is a vassal state under the authority of the Assyrian empire. For example, Tiglath-Pileser III, a predecessor of Sennacherib, crushes a Babylonian revolt and is crowned king of Babylon in 728 B.C. Though Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, Babylon becomes its cultural center and the Babylonian god Marduk is widely worshiped throughout the Assyrian empire. Assyria’s Sargon II (B.C. 722-705) and Sennacherib also call themselves kings of Babylon.

After Sargon dies in 705 B.C. and Sennacherib becomes king, there is much rebellion throughout the Assyrian empire, including Babylon. In 689 B.C., Sennacherib marches on Babylon to subdue the rebellion. He destroys the city and floods the ruins, although it is rebuilt years later. Sennacherib’s assassination in 681 B.C. (2 Kings 19:37) is welcome news to the surrounding nations, especially Judah.

The song-taunt of verses 3-23 features two dominant themes, according to D.A. Carson. “The broken oppressor is the first theme [vv. 4b-11]; his real epitaph is the unspeakable relief the world feels at his passing. God’s name for such thrusters is not ‘men of destiny’ but ‘he-goats’ (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word translated leaders [in verse] 9), a description almost as deflating as the pathetic state to which they are all seen to come…. The fallen morning star is the second theme [vv. 12-21], i.e. the tyrant’s fatal ambition rather than his oppression…. The idea of storming heaven … was certainly connected with Babylon (i.e. Babel; Gn. 11). One of its ironies is the idea that to be like the Most High (14) is to be self-exalted, whereas it is to be self-giving (cf. Phil. 2:5-11.). The ugliness as well as the brevity of the false glory is powerfully shown in vs 16-21″ (The New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, Is 14:3).

Judgment on Assyria (Isa. 14:24-27)

Though Assyria ultimately would fall to Babylon in 605 B.C., this prophecy refers to the kingdom’s defeat on the “mountains” of Israel (v. 25), a reference to the work of the Angel of the Lord who destroys 185,000 Assyrians in 701 B.C. (see 2 Kings 19; Isa. 37:36-38).

Judgment on Philistia (Isa. 14:28-32)

These verses tell of a critical test of faith for Hezekiah. Judah’s King Ahaz, who was pro-Assyrian, is now dead. The Philistines approach his successor, Hezekiah, and propose an allied rebellion against the weakened Assyria. Such a plot is tempting to Hezekiah, and even if it weren’t, the Philistines are not a people to be offended at this time (see 2 Chron. 28:18-19). What should the king do? The Lord provides a three-fold response. First, the Assyrians are not finished (v. 29). Second, the Philistines are a doomed people (vv. 30b-31). And third, true warfare is in the hands of God (vv. 30a, 32). The bottom line: trust God, not human alliances or intrigue.

Final Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “Every generation of leaders is called to acts of faith, to choose a path of utter dependence on God rather than alternatives that initially look more defensible. People are challenged not to do what may seem the most reasonable thing from a human perspective, but to do what God instructs them to do…. The circumstances may be a health crisis, the loss of a job, or an international political crisis, but the answer is always the same: trust in God for refuge. Most of the time people know what God would want them to do. The really difficult question is: Are they willing to follow God’s direction?” (New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 326)

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips