Tagged: Philistines

Isaiah 14: The Lord’s Outstretched Hand

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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

Isaiah 9: Prince of Peace, and Scorched Earth

Listen to the audio file

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 9 takes place during the reign of Ahaz, Judah’s wicked king. While Isaiah’s ministry focuses on the southern kingdom, this chapter speaks to the northern kingdom of Israel as well. Even though the Israelites will face the darkness of military defeat, the day is coming when they will see “great light” as the Messiah lives and ministers in Galilee.

Key verse:

Isa. 9:6:  For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Quick summary:

This chapter highlights God’s Son and God’s sovereignty. Verses 1-7 give us additional information about Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), who will be a gift from heaven, God incarnate, and a light to all people. Verses 8-21 describe the punishment God is about to inflict on His own people, even though their defeat at the hands of the Arameans and Philistines will not lead to repentance.

Take note:

Verse 6 is one of the clearest Old Testament passages affirming the deity and the humanity of the Messiah. He will be born a male child, yet is from age to age Mighty God and Eternal Father.

The Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:1-7)

The devastation of Israel at the hands of Assyria eventually will give way to an age of universal peace. In fact, the very lands about to experience darkness and death will be the first to see the light of a new day with the coming of the Messiah. As Matthew’s gospel makes clear, the region of Israel referred to in Isa. 9:1 is the first to rejoice in the light brought by Christ’s preaching (Matt. 4:12-17).

While Isa. 7:14 focuses on Messiah’s birth and 11:1-16 on His kingdom, verses 6-7 of chapter 9 lay great emphasis on His person. The first three titles imply deity:

  • The word “wonderful” as in “Wonderful Counselor” regularly means “supernatural” in scripture. See, for example, Judges 13:18. In addition, Isa. 28:29 describes Yahweh as “wonderful in counsel” (KJV).
  • “Mighty God” is a term ascribed to “the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” in Isa. 10:20-21.
  • “Everlasting Father” has no exact parallel but is significant. “Father signifies the paternal benevolence of the perfect Ruler over a people whom he loves as his children. Peace in Hebrew implies prosperity as well as tranquility” (D.A. Carson, New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, S. Is 9:1). While Messiah is a distinct person from God the Father, Jesus clearly claims to be both Messiah and co-equal with the Father (John 10:30). “Father of Eternity” is a better translation, according to Warren Wiersbe. “Among the Jews, the word ‘father’ means ‘originator’ or ‘source.’ For example, Satan is the ‘father [originator] of lies’ (John 8:44, NIV). If you want anything eternal, you must get it from Jesus Christ; He is the ‘Father of eternity'” (Be Comforted, S. Is 9:1).

The fourth title, “Prince of Peace,” speaks to Messiah’s character. Luke 2:14, John 14:27, Acts 10:36, Rom. 5:1-10, and Eph. 2:14-18 are a few of the New Testament passages that point to Jesus as the One who brings peace to human hearts and to a sin-sick world. Matthew Henry comments: “As a King, he preserves the peace, commands peace, nay, he creates peace, in his kingdom. He is our peace, and it is his peace that both keeps the hearts of his people and rules in them” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 9:1).

Finally, verse 7 emphasizes the scope of Messiah’s kingdom. It will be vast and never-ending (see Dan. 7:14, 27; Micah 4:7; Luke 1:32-33; Rev. 11:15). He will maintain righteousness as His rule conforms to God’s holy character. “This will all be accomplished by the zeal of the Lord Almighty. The coming of the millennial kingdom depends on God, not Israel. The Messiah will rule because God promised it and will zealously see that the kingdom comes. Without His sovereign intervention there would be no kingdom for Israel” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1053).

God’s anger, Israel’s arrogance (Isa. 9:8-21)

The rest of the chapter warns that God is about to punish Israel at the hands of the Arameans and Philistines. Even though Israel will be destroyed, she will not repent and turn to the Lord. Lawrence O. Richards writes, “Isa. 9:6-7 describes the universal reign of the Messiah. Then the rest of the chapter suddenly shifts to describe the judgment about to be visited on the Northern Kingdom, Israel (vv. 8-21). How are these linked? Jesus’ reign is marked by universal allegiance to God. Israel’s tragic history was marked from the beginning by rebellion against Him (1 Kings 12). Those who will not submit to the Lord will surely experience not the blessing of messianic times, but the havoc and ruination that crushed Israel” (The Bible Readers Companion, Electronic edition, S. 417).

Verses 9-10 describe the arrogance with which the northern kingdom regards God’s wrath. Though their sun-dried bricks will not stand, the people plan to rebuild with more expensive and durable cut stones. And though sycamores are abundant and used for their antiseptic qualities, which induced the Egyptians to use sycamore to encase their mummies, the northern tribes boast that they will rebuild with the aromatic, knot-free, and more valuable cedar.

Verses 11-12 describe what is about to happen. The foes of Rezin, king of Aram and an ally of Israel, will consume the northern kingdom. Specifically, the foes are other Arameans and the Philistines. While this is the Lord’s doing, it does not bring Israel to repentance and therefore does not quench the wrath of God. Verse 12 ends with a refrain that is repeated three more times in the following verses: “In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised to strike” (see Isa. 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4).

The words in verse 14 – “So the Lord cut off Israel’s head and tail, palm branch and reed” – comprise a merism, a figure of speech using opposite extremes to include the whole spectrum.  Verses 15-17 provide the needed detail. The elders (the head) and the false prophets (the tail), the leaders and those who are misled – even the fatherless and widows will reap judgment because “everyone is a godless evildoer” (v. 17).

Verses 18-21 describe the wickedness of God’s people as a consuming fire, with the people themselves as fuel. As God directs punishment against them, they are destroyed by enemies from without and rivals from within. “Ephraim’s own wickedness was destroying the nation, the way a fire destroys a forest or a field,” writes Warren W. Wiersbe. “But the sinners would become fuel for the fire God could kindle! In their greed, the people of the Northern Kingdom were devouring one another (v. 20) and battling one another (v. 21); but they would soon be devoured and defeated by Assyria” (Be Comforted, S. Is 9:1).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes: “The reason why the judgments of God are prolonged is because the point is not gained, sinners are not brought to repentance by them. The people turn not to him that smites them, and therefore he continues to smite them; for when God judges he will overcome, and the proudest stoutest sinner shall either bend or break” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 9:8).

 Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips