Isaiah 2: A Day of Reckoning
Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment
Part 2: Historical Interlude
Part 3: Salvation
When this takes place:
Some commentators believe this chapter was written during the reign of Jotham or Ahaz because of the description of Judah in verses 6-8. But it may be better to consider King Uzziah’s reign, which was noted for its prosperity, power and pride. More specifically, Isaiah’s sermons in chapters 2-12 likely happened some time after the Syro-Ephraimite War in 734-32 B.C. In any case, this prophecy was given during the early years of Isaiah’s ministry.
Isa. 2:12: For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. (NASB)
The Lord will establish His kingdom on earth in “the last days,” and will executive judgment in a “day of reckoning.”
It’s clear that chapter 2 addresses the future, particularly the last days. Note how Isaiah identifies this time:
- “the last days” (v. 2)
- “on that day” (v. 11)
- “a day belonging to the Lord of Hosts is [coming]” (HCSB) / “the Lord of Hosts will have a day of reckoning” (NASB) (v. 12)
- “the Lord alone will be exalted on that day” (v. 17)
- “On that day” (v. 20)
- “when He rises to terrify the earth” (v. 21)
The city of peace (Isa. 2:1-4)
The first four verses of this chapter describe a future day in which a final and lasting peace comes to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. At least two things are clear: God is the One who establishes and maintains this lasting peace, and He does it in “the last days,” or, from a New Testament perspective, in the days encompassing the first and second comings of Christ.
The term “last days” is used at least 13 times in the Bible (HCSB) and describes the final period of the world as we know it. In the Old Testament, the last days are anticipated as the age of Messianic fulfillment (Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1), while the New Testament writers consider themselves living in the last days – the era of the gospel (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2). “The last days, then, are the days of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are preliminary to and preparatory for the last day of final judgment of unbelievers and the dawn of eternal glory for believers” (Tyndale Bible Dictionary, p. 800).
Gary V. Smith adds a cautionary note: “The phrase ‘in the last days’ cannot be associated with the millennium or with the church age in Isaiah’s thinking, because such concepts were not known to the prophet. He is simply talking about the last events in human history, when the kingdom of God would begin. New Testament readers must be careful not to read later NT information back into earlier texts and make them say things that God did not reveal to the prophets” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 129).
The plural use of “days” implies a sustained length of time. While those living in Old Testament times may have viewed the coming Messianic age as singular and continuous, New Testament revelation shows us that the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah are to be fulfilled in two stages. First, Messiah will come as the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), or Lamb of God (John 1:29). Then He will return one day as the Lion of Judah to defeat the wicked and establish His earthly kingdom (Rev. 19:11 – 20:6).
Isaiah’s reference to the “mountain of the Lord” (v. 2) points to His kingdom, authority or rule. One day the kingdoms of men will become the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:24). Isaiah also draws an analogy between the kingdom of God and the Temple on Mount Moriah, which towers above the countryside in Isaiah’s day. The kingdom of God will rise above, overshadow, and nullify the arrogant, warring and fleeting kingdoms of men. The prophet Daniel makes reference to these days when interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue, which symbolized earthly kingdoms: “Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35; emphasis mine).
The Lord Himself will settle disputes between nations. Ruling in majesty, power, justice and wisdom, He will so change the nature of worldly authority that people will “turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives” … “and they will never again train for war” (v. 4). These opening verses of chapter 2 are almost identical to Micah 4:1-5.
The Day of the Lord (Isa. 2:5-22)
Verse 12 warns that a day of reckoning is coming. Various translations describe it as:
- “a day belonging to the Lord of Hosts” (HCSB)
- “the day of the Lord” (KJV)
- “a day of reckoning” (NASB)
- “a day against all that is proud and lofty” (ESV)
- “a day in store” (NIV)
“The day of the Lord” is different from the previous reference to “the last days.” Specifically, it refers to God’s supernatural intervention in human history, usually with reference to events that will take place at the end of time. “Most often,” according to Wilmington’s Bible Handbook, “it relates to the Tribulation preceding the return of Christ” (Isa. 2:12).
Isaiah catalogues the reasons God has abandoned His people:
- They have adopted religious superstitions from their neighbors (v. 6).
- They have formed national alliances for strength rather than relying on God (v.6).
- They have accumulated wealth and built up huge armaments rather than trusting God for their provision (v. 7).
- And they have embraced idolatry, worshiping the creature rather than Creator (v. 8; see also Rom. 1:25).
Since Israel has made itself look and act like the heathen nations around it, God will judge Israel in a manner appropriate for the heathen. It’s likely that Isaiah does not see the lengthy time frame of repeated judgment, stretching out more than two millennia into the future, yet he is clear that Judah has been sufficiently rebellious to attract God’s wrath now. “The Lord alone,” he proclaims, “will be exalted on that day” (v. 11). He will break down the arrogance of all people, specifically:
- “cedars” and “oaks” – a reference to haughty nobles and princes (v. 13; see also Amos 2:9; Zech. 11:2).
- “high mountains” and “lofty hills” – an image of government and society (v. 14).
- “every high tower” and “every fortified wall” – a picture of military might (v. 15).
- “every ship of Tarshish” and “every splendid sea vessel” – a reference to commerce (v. 16).
- “human pride” and “the loftiness of men” (v. 17).
- “idols” (v. 18).
While these appear to be figurative references, it’s probable that the people of Judah in Uzziah’s day literally took pride in their fortified cities, tall towers, large ships and beautiful trees.
There is a parallel in Rev. 6:15-17 to how the wicked are seen responding to God’s wrath in Isa. 2:19-21: “Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?'” Just as God will bring judgment on His people for their rebellion in Isaiah’s day – through the Assyrian and Babylonian empires – the Lord Himself will execute judgment directly on the whole earth on “the last day.”
There is hope for Judah in Isaiah’s day, as there is for us today. “Come and let us walk in the Lord’s light,” the prophet urges in verse 5, adding in verse 22, “Put no more trust in man, who has only the breath in his nostrils. What is he really worth?”
Gary V. Smith summarizes: “This sermon provides two unmistakable theological choices to any reader/listener. One can follow the path of proud leaders like Uzziah, or a person can ‘stop trusting in man’ now and exalt God alone. The theological choice is clear and presented as two opposite alternatives with two opposite consequences: life with God in his glorious kingdom (2:1-5), or frightful humiliation and destruction (2:6-22). There is no middle ground for people to hide” (Smith, p. 142).
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
An Introduction to Isaiah
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Isaiah means “salvation of the Lord.”
Isaiah prophesied in Judah during the reigns of four kings, a period of about 60-70 years during which Samaria was captured, Israel was carried away (722 – 721 B.C.), and Judah was invaded (701 B.C.). He was a contemporary of Hosea and Micah.
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 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).
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).
The kings of Judah
Chronologies for the Hebrew kings vary between one and 10 years depending on the source consulted. Here are the dates according to E.R. Thiele in The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983): Uzziah/Azariah – 792-740 B.C.; Jotham (co-regent until Uzziah’s death) – 750-732 B.C.; Ahaz – 735-716 B.C.; Hezekiah – 716-687 B.C.
Uzziah and Jotham
Isa. 1:1 tells us the prophet’s ministry began during the time of Uzziah and his son Jotham. It is likely that Isaiah began late in Uzziah’s reign, after he had attained substantial wealth and military success, perhaps between 750-740 B.C. At this time Jotham was coregent and running the country because Uzziah was leprous and therefore secluded. Uzziah’s success early in his kingship was due to his willingness to listen to the prophet Zechariah, who taught him God’s ways. As a result, Uzziah is listed as one of Judah’s kings who “did what was right in the Lord’s sight” (2 Chron. 26:4-5). But his legacy began a downward spiral when he arrogantly entered the temple in Jerusalem and burned incense to God, despite warnings from 80 priests. As a result, God struck Uzziah with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16-20) and his son Jotham ruled as coregent for about 10 years until Uzziah died around 740 B.C.
Religious life in Judah deteriorated significantly during the reign of Azah, who “did not do what was right in the Lord’s sight … he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and made cast images of the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of Hinnom and burned his children in the fire, imitating the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites” (2 Chron. 28:1-3). His lack of faith in God was illustrated graphically when he failed to trust God despite the promise of military victory (Isa. 7:1-9).
Hezekiah was a great religious reformer, a man of faith who led his armies to trust in God for deliverance (2 Chron. 32:6-8), and who did so himself when he asked God to deliver the Jews from the Assyrians (2 Chron. 32:20-21). In the first year of his reign, he repaired the temple, consecrated priests, renewed the nation’s covenant with God, removed pagan elements his father brought into the temple area, and restored worship (see 2 Chron. 29:3-11, 15-36). Although he later was puffed up with pride for a time, he quickly repented, and God blessed him with great riches (2 Chron. 32:27-29).
The prophet Isaiah
It’s difficult to get a full picture of the prophet because his writings reveal very little about his personal life. We do know that Isaiah identifies his father as Amoz, who may have been a scribe in the king’s court. Jewish tradition suggests that Amoz was the brother of King Amaziah, the father of Uzziah, but there is no way to substantiate this. Isaiah’s wife is called a prophetess (8:3), but there is no record of her prophetic messages, so it’s possible the term simply identifies her with Isaiah. Isaiah and his wife have at least two sons (7:3; 8:3), but little is known of them.
A high point in Isaiah’s ministry comes in chapter 6 when he meets with God. He despises his uncleanness and confesses his sinfulness as he catches a glimpse of the glory of God (6:1-4). He then confesses the sins of the people of Judah and responds to the divine call to take God’s message to the people (6:6-8). Gary V. Smith comments, “Isaiah did not know the nature of the mission God designed for the one being sent, the length of the responsibility, where this person must go, the message that must be spoken, or the difficulty of the task that must be accomplished. Nevertheless, Isaiah immediately volunteered. He did not make excuses or question God’s plan like Moses or Jeremiah (Exod. 3:11; 4:1, 10; Jer. 1:6) but gladly offered to serve God” (The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Isaiah 1-36, p. 36).
It is important to note that Isaiah is sent to bring hardness to the hearts of the people of Judah (6:9-10). The Lord states plainly that the future is dark for His people, but there is hope (6:11-13). This is illustrated in Isaiah’s encounter with Ahaz in chapter 7. God instructs Isaiah to bring the wicked and wildly outnumbered king hope of God’s deliverance in the upcoming Syro-Ephraimite War. Rather than trusting God, however, Ahaz hardens his heart and refuses to invite God to grant a sign (7:10-13).
Isaiah obediently serves the Lord even when the assignments seem bizarre. For example, he is told to go naked in public for parts of three years (20:2). This symbolizes what would happen to the inhabitants of Judah if taken captive in war; normally, war captives are stripped in shame. It isn’t known whether Isaiah explains his behavior to anyone in self defense, but the Lord calls Isaiah “my servant,” “a sign,” and “portent.” The impact of Isaiah’s ministry is felt far beyond the scope of his lifetime. He is quoted directly in the New Testament more than 65 times, far more than any other Old Testament prophet, and is mentioned by name more than 20 times.
Through a literary device known as “prophetic foreshortening,” Isaiah predicts future events without laying down exact sequences of the events or the time intervals separating them. For example, as John MacArthur writes, “nothing in Isaiah reveals the extended period separating the two comings of the Messiah (cf. Is. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:17-22). Also, he does not provide as clear a distinction between the future temporal kingdom and the eternal kingdom as John does in Revelation 20:1-10; 21:1-22:5. In God’s program of progressive revelation, details of these relationships awaited a prophetic spokesman in a later time” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 757).
In summary, Isaiah the person is known primarily through what he says, not what he does. His speeches focus on Judah’s wrong political policies as reflections of their lack of trust in God. In ways similar to Joel, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum and Zephaniah, Isaiah offers little biographical information about the prophet. Many of the Lord’s prophets seem intentionally to downplay themselves in order to lift of God and His message.
Tradition has it that Isaiah met his death under King Manasseh by being cut in two with a wooden saw (see Heb. 11:37).
An outline of study
Commentators approach the book of Isaiah in different ways, but generally we will pursue this simple outline:
- I. Judgment: Chapters 1-35
- II. Historical Interlude: Chapters 36-39
- III. Salvation: Chapters 40-66
Jesus in the Feasts of Israel: Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)
This is the fifth in a series of articles on Jesus in the feasts of Israel.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Trumpets||Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 10:10, 29:1-6||1st day of Tishri (September/October)||To usher in the seventh month and begin “The Days of Awe.”||The rapture of the church(1 Cor. 15:51-2; 1 Thess. 4:16-17)|
Download or listen to audio file (part 1)
In Scripture, Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Zikhron Teruah (“Memorial of Blowing [of trumpets],” Lev. 23:24) and Yom Teruah (“Day of Blowing [of trumpets],” Num. 29:1). Because of these biblical descriptions, Rosh Hashanah is often referred to as “the Feast of Trumpets.” It is a day of sounding trumpets in the Temple and throughout Israel. Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year.” This holiday marks the first day of the Jewish civil New Year. However, this designation only came to be after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Since there was no longer a central place of worship and an altar of sacrifice – the Temple in Jerusalem – the observance necessarily had to change. Today, the emphasis is on the Jewish New Year rather than the blowing of trumpets.
The Biblical Observance
The Scripture references to the Feast of Trumpets are simple and straightforward:
- Israel is commanded to memorialize the day by blowing trumpets and by keeping the day as a Sabbath of rest (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1).
- A special burnt offering, consisting of a young bull, a ram, and seven lambs, is offered. A kid goat also is sacrificed as a sin offering. These offerings are in addition to the required daily sacrifices (Num. 28:1-8), and those for the new moon, which also are offered on that day (Num. 28:11-15).
Rosh Hashanah is the only Jewish holiday occurring on the first day of the month, when the moon appears as a thin crescent. Just as the seventh day and the seventh year are holy according to Mosaic law (Ex. 20:8-10; Lev. 25:4), so is the seventh month, Tishri, the Sabbath of months. Jews in ancient Israel announced the new moon with short blasts of a trumpet, but the new moon of Tishri was announced with long blasts, setting it apart.
The type of horn used for the Feast of Trumpets is the shofar, a curved trumpet made from a ram’s horn. This is different from the hatzotzerah, the silver trumpets priests blew to announce the beginning and ending of the Sabbath, and with the sacrifices. During the Feast of Trumpets, a priest is chosen to sound the shofar. He stands in a row of priests with silver trumpets facing the altar. The shofar sounds long blasts while the silver trumpets sound short blasts over the sacrifices of the day.
Besides the sacrificial ceremony, the trumpet had many uses for Israel:
- To gather an assembly before the Lord (Num. 10:2-4).
- To sound a battle alarm (Num. 10:9).
- To announce the coronation of a new king in the cases of Solomon (1 Kings 1:34, 39), Jehu (2 Kings 9:13), Joash (2 Kings 11:12-14), and Absalom (2 Sam. 15:10).
The Modern Observance
The observance of Rosh Hashanah today bears little resemblance to the biblical Feast of Trumpets.
The Days of Awe. Jewish tradition holds that the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are the “Days of Awe.” It is believed that God reviews the books of judgment on Rosh Hashanah and delivers final judgment on Yom Kippur. These 10 days are considered the last chance for a person to repent before God’s judgment falls, possibly resulting in the death of the disobedient in the coming year. It is believed that three books are opened and every person’s name is entered into one of the books:
- The Book of Life for the wicked. If a person’s name is entered here, judgment is final and that person’s life will be cut short in the coming year.
- The Book of Life for the righteous. Those whose names are entered here are granted another year of life and prosperity.
- The Book of Life for the in-between. Those whose names are written here have their lives hanging in the balance. If they sincerely repent during the Days of Awe, tradition holds that God will grant them life until the following Yom Kippur.
There is a Biblical origin of this tradition (Ex. 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28), but Jewish tradition has greatly embellished it. The Days of Awe are so solemn, weddings and other festive occasions are postponed until after Yom Kippur.
Prayers of repentance. Faithful Jews recite penitent prayers called selihot (“forgiveness”) throughout the week leading up to Rosh Hashanah.
The casting ceremony. On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, observant Jews gather near a body of water to recite the Tashlikh (“cast off”) prayer. In Israel, this may take place on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea or at the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. Several Hebrew Scriptures make up the prayer – Micah 7:18-20; Psalm 118:5-9; Psalm 33; Psalm 130; and often Isaiah 11:9. After the prayer, worshipers may shake their pockets, or throw bread crumbs or stones into the water, symbolically ridding themselves of sins.
The sounding of the shofar. Jewish tradition holds that on Rosh Hashanah, Satan appears before God to accuse Israel as God opens the books for judgment. The Jews blast the shofar on this day to confuse Satan, so he might believe Messiah has come and ended Satan’s reign on earth. It is customary to sound 100 shofar blasts on each day of the Rosh Hashanah synagogue services.
Synagogue services for Rosh Hashanah are lengthy, lasting five or more hours, and are focused on God’s kingship. The prayers and readings emphasize God’s majesty, His remembrance of His everlasting covenant with Israel, and the key role of the shofar in the history of the nation. The benediction speaks of the end of days, in which God will reveal Himself, sounding the shofar and sending the promised Messiah (Zech. 9:14).
The Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah has its festive moments as well. Since it is identified as the start of the civil New Year, Jews often send festive cards to family and friends, wishing them Shanah tovah, “a good year.” They also dress in new clothing and eat special foods, like apples dipped in honey and oval loaves of hallah bread; the round loaves of bread remind them of crowns and God’s kingship.
The Talmud, the ancient rabbinical commentary, suggests the world was created in the month of Tishri. Other rabbinic authorities say Rosh Hashanah was the day on which man was created.
Israel’s four springtime feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost – were fulfilled in the first coming of the Messiah. The three fall festivals – Rosh Hashanah, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles – will be fulfilled at the Messiah’s second coming.
For Israel, the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets will be a dark day. Just as Rosh Hashanah occurs at the new moon, when the sky is darkest, Israel’s prophets warn of a coming day of judgment for the nation. For example, Amos 5:18-20, Zeph. 1:14-16, and Joel 2:31 all speak of the day in which the Lord will turn off the heavenly lights, pour out His wrath on the wicked, and bring Israel to repentance and into the new covenant.
Ancient Jewish tradition held that the resurrection of the dead would occur on Rosh Hashanah. As a result, many Jewish grave markers feature a shofar.
God’s last trump and the resurrection of the dead are tied to the rapture of the church in the New Testament. Consider these key passages:
- 1 Cor. 15:51-52 – “Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”
- 1 Thess. 4:16-17 – “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Remember the reasons for trumpet blasts in the Old Testament? They will be the same in the days to come:
- To gather an assembly before the Lord (the rapture of the church).
- To sound a battle alarm (God will defeat Satan’s rebellious followers throughout the tribulation and at Christ’s return).
- To announce the coronation of a new king (Jesus the Messiah will sit on the throne of David as King of kings and Lord of lords).
Next: The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
* While several sources were used in preparing these notes, I drew heavily from The Feasts of the Lord: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal.
Sound reasons to trust the Scriptures (part 4)
This is the fourth in a nine-part series of articles offering sound reasons to believe the Bible is the Word of God.
In Systematic Theology (Vol. I), Dr. Norman Geisler presents many lines of evidence supporting claims for the Bible as the Word of God. In unique fashion, he labels each line of evidence with a word beginning with the letter “S,” making his arguments relatively easy to follow and remember. This article borrows his headings and then incorporates some of Geisler’s research with numerous other sources, which are cited.
Reason 4: The testimony of the supernatural
The Bible features nearly 300 prophecies of the Messiah, the latest of which dates to more than 200 years before the birth of Jesus. Every prophecy has been fulfilled, with the exception of those pertaining to His glorious return. Many are clear and specific, including:
† His virgin birth (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:21).
† His being “cut off” or killed 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct the temple in 444 B.C. (Dan. 9:24-26).
† His birthplace in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:1; Luke 2:4-7).
† His miracle-working authority (Isa. 35:5-6; Matt. 9:35).
† His rejection by the Jews (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 53:3; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7)
† His suffering and death (Ps. 22; Isa. 53; Matt. 27:27ff).
† His resurrection (Ps. 2:7; 16:10; Mark 16:6; Acts 2:31; 1 Cor. 15:3-8).
† His ascension into heaven (Ps. 68:18; Acts 1:9).
† His place today at the Father’s right hand (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 1:3).
Contrast these specific predictions and their fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth with the predictions of psychics today who, according to The People’s Almanac, 1976, are wrong 92 percent of the time. Even the highly reputed visions of Nostradamus are suspect. He often was wrong, especially when being specific, and his predictions were usually so vague as to be practically useless.
The bible gives us many supernatural confirmations of its divine origin. For example, Moses, Elijah and other prophets were given the authority to perform miracles to confirm God’s sovereign power and divine message. Jesus, we are told by Luke, was “a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22).
Next — Reason 5: The testimony of structure