God’s plans for Judah, Assyria and Egypt
God’s judgement against evil laws
v1 *Woe to those who make cruel and unfair laws. v2 And *woe to you judges who issue unfair judgements. You rob poor people of their *rights. And you *seize the property of widows and the property of children who have no parents. v3 You will not know what to do when fierce enemies from a distant land attack you. You will not know where to run for help. You will not know where to hide your wealth. v4 You will not avoid punishment and death. The *Lord is very angry. He lifts his hand. He is ready to strike you again.
‘He lifts his hand’: see my note on 9:12.
The king of Assyria is God’s tool
v5 *Woe to the *Assyrians! Their own terrible punishment will be coming. But just for now, they are like a heavy stick. For a short time, I am seizing that heavy stick because of my anger.v6 I shall use that heavy stick to punish Judah. And Judah is the nation that has made me angry. I am sending the *Assyrian army against them. This is because the people in Judah will not obey me. They have made me very angry. The *Assyrian army is to *seize all that nation’s possessions. And they will act as if other people are mere mud on the streets.
The *Assyrians do not recognise the *Lord as the one real God. But the *Lord is still going to use them against this ‘nation’. That is, against Judah. God had chosen Judah to be his special people. But the people in Judah have not obeyed their covenant (agreement) with the *Lord. They are now refusing to obey him.
The king of Assyria’s pride
v7 But the king of Assyria is thinking about his own cruel plans. He intends to destroy many nations. v8 He declares that every one of his commanders is like a prince. v9 His armies have *seized the cities called Calno and Carchemish. And the cities called Hamath and Arnad. And the cities called Damascus and Samaria. v10-11 The king of Assyria declares that all these places were very strong. Their gods were more powerful than all the images and gods in *Jerusalem. ‘I shall certainly do to *Jerusalem what I have already done to Samaria and its much stronger gods.’
The first four cities in this list were north-west of Damascus, which is the capital of Syria.
The order of the places in this list shows the progress of the *Assyrian army from the north. The *Assyrians are advancing nearer and nearer to Judah. Nobody can stop them.
The king of Assyria’s methods
v12 But the king of Assyria is merely carrying out God’s purpose against the people in *Jerusalem. As soon as that purpose is complete, the *Lord will punish the king of Assyria. This is because of the king’s proud words. v13 The king had been declaring that he had won all his battles by his own strength and wisdom. He had destroyed boundaries between nations. He had *seized their national treasures (precious objects). He had overcome the inhabitants. v14 Each of the nations was like a bird’s nest. ‘I gathered the wealth of the nations as easily as someone could gather eggs from a nest. Not a wing moved. Not a beak (bird’s mouth) opened to frighten me.’
The *Assyrians do not realise that they are merely a temporary tool in God’s hand. The *Lord, not people, controls history.
It was common to use a pile of stones to mark a boundary (see Deuteronomy 19:14). Someone who removed such a mark was claiming the land as their own (see Deuteronomy 27:17).
To *seize the wealth of the nations also means that they cannot buy more arms to defend themselves. The king is like someone who takes eggs from a nest. This picture in words means that the king prevents the possibility of new forces to oppose him.
God answers the king of Assyria
v15 An axe is not greater than the man who uses it. Nor is a saw more important than the man who saws. A heavy stick cannot raise either itself or the hand that holds it. v16 Therefore the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will send a disease that will make even the strongest *Assyrian soldier very weak. A terrible illness will seem like a fire in the body that burns constantly. v17 The God of Israel will act like a fire. Israel’s holy God will act like a flame. In one day that fire will burn everything that belongs to Assyria, even their bushes. v18 The fire will completely destroy the rich forests and fields, even as a final illness kills a man. v19 So few trees will remain that even a child will be able to count them on his fingers.
The king of Assyria has made a great mistake. Military arms may be the most modern and efficient. But unless the soldiers are able to use them, the arms have no value whatever.
This probably refers to the sudden fate of the *Assyrian army. In one night, 185 000 soldiers died (see 37:36-37).
A few people will return
v20 On that day the few people that remain in Israel and in Judah will never again have to depend on the *Assyrians for supplies. They will completely depend on the *Lord, the Holy God of Israel. v21 Only a few people will return to the All-Powerful God of Israel. v22 The people in Israel were once like the sand on the shore in number. But only a very few people will return. God has decided to destroy his people, as they deserve. v23 The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) has decided to punish everyone in the entire country.
The few people who returned could see a great promise from God in the name of Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub (see 7:4).
- ‘All-Powerful God’ is one of the titles of the *Messiah (see 9:6).
God will punish Assyria
v24 Now the *Lord, the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies), speaks to God’s people who still live in *Jerusalem. Do not be afraid of the *Assyrians when they hit you with heavy sticks. They behave as the *Egyptians did long ago.
v25 Very soon my anger will end. v26 Then the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will attack the *Assyrians. As once he did when he struck the *Midianite army at the Rock of Oreb. And the All-Powerful *Lord will make a path through the sea. As once he did against Egypt. v27 On that day the *Assyrians will not still rule your nation. It will feel as if a heavy weight has gone from your shoulders.
Long ago, the *Egyptians were very cruel to the *Israelites (see Exodus 1:11).
- Gideon and his little band of men attacked the great *Midianite army. They killed the *Midianite commander, Oreb. Afterwards, the place where he died was called the Rock of Oreb (see Judges 7:24-25).
- God acted so that Moses was able to lead the people to safety across the sea (see Exodus 14:29-31).
The enemy attacks
v28 *Assyrian soldiers are coming from Samaria. They have reached the town called Aiath. They have marched through Migram. They have left some of their supplies at Michmash. v29They have crossed the valley. They are spending the night at Geba. Terror has filled the people in Ramah. Everyone has run from Saul’s town called Gibeah. v30 The people in the towns called Gallim and Laisha are screaming. And poor Anathoth! Your fate is terrible! v31 People are running from Madmena and Gebim. v32 But the enemy stops at Nob for the rest of the day. The soldiers shake their fists at *Jerusalem. v33-34 Now the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will completely destroy the vast *Assyrian army. As a man with a powerful axe could destroy the greatest of trees in the forests of Lebanon.
Aiath is probably the same town as Ai (see Joshua chapter 7). Aiath and Micram are at the south end of the northern country called Samaria.
Geba is in the north of Judah. The *Assyrians are now over the border, as they advance towards *Jerusalem. Anathoth was where Jeremiah was born (see Jeremiah 1:1). All the places in these verses are towns and villages in the area. The inhabitants are in great fear.
The *Assyrians will be able to see *Jerusalem from the town called Nob. ‘Shake their fists’ means to threaten (warn) the inhabitants. The *Assyrian attack will be fierce.
The situation seems beyond human help. But often, that is when God acts to rescue his people (see Matthew 19:25-26).
The king who is coming
v1 Like a branch that grows from a *stump, somebody from Jesse’s family will one day become king of Israel. v2 The Spirit of the *Lord will rest (remain) upon him. The Spirit will give him wisdom, intelligence and strength. The Spirit will teach him to know what the *Lord desires. v3 This king’s greatest joy will be to obey the *Lord perfectly. The king will not make any decision only by what he sees with his eyes. Nor will he issue any judgement only by what he hears with his ears. v4 He will deal fairly with poor people. He will defend the *rights of people who have no helpers. He will punish wicked people who are cruel to poor people. v5 Because the king will rule his people rightly and with truth.
One of Jesse’s sons was David, who followed Saul as king of Israel. David overcame all of Israel’s enemies. He established national *worship. And he prepared for the construction of the *Temple in *Jerusalem (see 1 Chronicles chapters 11 to 29).
- ‘Son of David’ was a title of the *Messiah that the people in Judah and Israel were expecting.
David did many great things for his people. But his own life was not perfect (see 2 Samuel chapters 11 to 12).
- God’s Spirit will provide the king that is coming with special gifts (skills) and qualities. Other national leaders can only pretend to possess such qualities.
Peace at last
v6 Fierce animals will live calmly with young sheep and young goats. v7 Cows and bears will feed together. Lions will eat straw as the farmer’s animals do. And a little child will look after them. v8 Young children will play safely near the hole of a poisonous snake. They will even put their hands on its nest. v9 Nobody will hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. For the land will be as full of the knowledge about the *Lord as the waters fill the sea.
The *Messiah’s arrival will bring about perfect harmony (peace and calm) in all life. This includes the animals, especially those animals that are natural enemies. No person or animal will be afraid of another.
God’s people will return
v10 One day, this new king from the family of Jesse (David’s father) will come. His arrival will be the signal to all the nations to gather in the royal city (*Jerusalem) to give him honour. His own nation will become famous. v11 When that day comes, the *Lord will again use his power. He will bring back his people from foreign countries. They will come from Assyria and from Egypt. From Cush and from Elam. From Shinar and from Hamath. From the land along the coast. v12 The *Lord will raise a flag as a signal to nations all over the world. He will show the nations that he is bringing back his people from foreign lands. v13 Ephraim’s jealous attitudes will vanish. Judah will not still want to fight. Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah. Judah will not still want to fight Ephraim. v14 Together Ephraim and Judah will attack the *Philistines to the west. Together they will *seize the possessions of the nations to the east. They will overcome Edom and Moab. Ammon will obey their rule. v15 The *Lord will dry part of the Red Sea near Egypt. He will send a very hot wind to divide the river called Euphrates into seven streams. The streams will be shallow enough for people to cross. v16 So for God’s people who are returning, there will be a good road from Assyria. Just as when their families at the time of Moses escaped from Egypt.
Foreign nations will want to know more about Israel’s *Messiah.
‘Raise a flag’ is a picture in words. In a battle, the commander’s flag was flying high for all to see. In this way his forces kept together under his orders (control).
- In this verse the ‘flag’ was reminding the world that the *Lord really controls history. That is, he controls the nations and their activities. The nations will not be able to stop the return of God’s people to their own land. This is God’s plan, so the nations can do nothing to prevent it.
As another example of his power, the *Lord will bring back unity between Ephraim and Judah (see my note at the beginning of Chapter 7).
As still another example of his power, the *Lord makes his people’s return easier by his control of nature.
A song to praise God
v1 On the day that you are free, you will sing. ‘I give you honour, *Lord! You have been very angry with your people. But your anger has ended. Now you have comforted me. v2 You will keep me safe. I shall not be afraid. My power and my strength come from you, *Lord. You have saved me.’
v3 It is as if your people have been desperate to find water to drink. Then somebody provides a wonderful fountain. The cool water saves your life. What joy is yours! v4 On that day you will offer grateful thanks to the *Lord. And you will give him great honour. You will tell other nations what a wonderful God he is. v5 Sing to the *Lord! He has done such wonderful things. Let all the world know! v6 The Holy God of Israel is great. And he lives among you. So shout aloud and sing with great joy, you people of God!
Israel’s punishment is now over. So God’s anger has ended, as he promised (see 10:25).
One of Isaiah’s important messages to his hearers is ‘Do not be afraid!’ (see 7:4; 8:12; 10:24; 37:6; 40:9; 44:8).
- Somebody who has known personally God’s rescue is confident. That person knows that he can trust God completely. There is no need whatever to be afraid.
To tell other people about one’s own experience of God is a great way to praise him.
The next major division of the Book of Isaiah is chapters 13 to 23. These 11 chapters are about the history of foreign countries that affect Judah in some way. Isaiah does not aim to give a complete history of these other countries. Instead, Isaiah explains how God controls the actions of these other nations. Isaiah’s intention is to show God’s constant care for his people.
God will punish Babylon
v1 *Woe to Babylon! God gave this special message to Isaiah son of Amoz. v2 From the top of a hill raise a flag as a signal. Shout aloud your orders! Raise your hand to order the attack! The soldiers are to break through the gates of Babylon’s proud rulers. v3 The *Lord has given orders to his very best soldiers. His proud heroes are to show how very angry he is.
v4 Listen to the noise on the mountains! Hear the sound of a vast crowd of people! Many nations are joining forces. The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) is bringing together his soldiers for battle. v5 Soldiers are coming from distant nations. The *Lord is so angry that he will ruin the whole country. v6 Cry and weep! The day is coming when the All-Powerful *Lord will make the whole land a bare (empty) desert. v7 Terror will fill everyone. Courage will vanish. v8 All the people will tremble with pain, like a mother when her child is being born. People will stare at each other with terror on their faces.
The ancient city of Babylon (see Genesis 10:10) was on the river called Euphrates (in modern Iraq). From the beginning the rulers of Babylon had proud ambitions that led to very serious results for many other people (see Genesis 11:1-9). Even in Isaiah’s day, Babylon was causing constant troubles to Assyria, which was the ruling power. God’s message helped Isaiah to realise that Babylon would soon be Judah’s real enemy (see Chapter 39).
‘Raise a flag’ (see my note on 11:12)
This is another example of God’s control over foreign nations, on behalf of his people. These nations will be his agents, who carry out his judgement.
‘The day is coming.’ On that day, people will see clearly what God is doing. His powerful deeds will impress everyone. The date is God’s secret.
God will punish proud people
v9 The day of the *Lord is near. ‘I shall not pity anyone when that time comes. Because I am so angry, I shall destroy the land. And I shall kill every wicked person in it. v10 The stars in the sky will not shine. The sun will be dark when it rises. The moon will give no light. v11 I shall severely punish the inhabitants of the world because of their evil actions. I shall punish all who are proud and selfish. v12 Few people will remain after I have finished my work. It will be easier to find pure gold than to find people that remain. v13 I shall make the skies tremble. I shall shake the foundations (the base) of the earth.’ These things will happen because the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) is so very angry.
‘The day of the *Lord’: see my note on verse 6.
Isaiah uses pictures in words to describe how total is the effect of God’s action. The darkness will be extraordinary because no light whatever reaches the world from the stars. Or from the sun, or from the moon. This does not mean that God removes them from the sky. But he covers them so completely that no light whatever reaches people on the earth.
The end of Babylon’s power
v14 Foreigners who were living in Babylon will rush home to their own land. Just as an animal runs from the hunter. Just as sheep scatter when nobody looks after them. v15-16 In Babylon, the soldiers will kill anyone that they catch. They will even kill children. They will rob houses of all valuable things. The soldiers will force women to have sex with them. v17 God declares that he is sending the *Medes to ruin Babylon. No amount of silver or gold will tempt them not to attack.
v18 The *Medes will kill the young men with bows and arrows. They will not pity babies or children. v19 Babylon is the most beautiful of cities. But I shall completely destroy it, just as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. v20 Nobody will ever live there again. No *Arab will erect a tent there. Nobody who looks after sheep will ever take them there.
v21 Only wild goats and other animals of the desert will live there. And birds will nest there. v22 The noise in Babylon’s castles and palaces will be the sound of wild dogs. Babylon’s end has come. Babylon will not continue to exist.
The *Medes came from the country that is today called Iran (Persia). They joined forces with the army from Persia in the attack that destroyed Babylon in the year 539 *BC.
‘Young men’ often means ‘men old enough to fight as soldiers’. That is also why ‘bows and arrows’ appear in this verse.
- Attackers usually pitied babies and children. But even they would not escape death. The cruel actions of the *Medes will be against everyone, of whatever age.
God totally destroyed the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis chapter 19). The city called Babylon was immensely larger than Sodom and Gomorrah. And Babylon was famous for its wonderful buildings. But now Babylon’s fate is certain.
Today what remains of Babylon’s beautiful buildings and impressive avenues lies underneath many feet of sand.
The *Lord’s people will come home
v1 The *Lord will pity the people from Israel. He will again choose them to be his special people. He will bring them back to their own country. And now foreigners will want to join them as part of the *Lord’s special people. v2 Foreigners will lead the people back home to Israel. And the people from Israel will use the foreigners as male and female slaves in the *Lord’s country. The people from Israel will now have authority over those who once ruled them so cruelly.
The people from Israel had suffered because they did not obey the *Lord. But now their punishment is complete. So now the *Lord will again choose the people from Israel to have a special relationship with him. The *Lord will arrange for their return home to their own land. Babylon had merely been God’s agent to punish Israel. Babylon’s end will mean freedom for God’s people.
Former slaves (the people from Israel) will exchange roles with their former masters (the people from Babylon).
The fate of the king of Babylon
v3 The *Lord will bring relief from pain to his people. He will bring them relief from what they suffered as slaves. v4 Then they will laugh at the powerful king of Babylon when they sing this song:
‘See how that cruel criminal has come to his end!
He will never attack us again.’
v5-6 The *Lord has broken the power of the evil rulers. They struck whole nations with angry blows. They never stopped their cruelty to the inhabitants. v7 Everywhere there is now peace. All nations are singing with joy. v8 Even the great trees in Lebanon seem to be glad. Since the king died, nobody has chopped them.
v9 *Sheol is very excited. The spirits of dead rulers know that the spirit of the dead king of Babylon is coming to join them. v10 They will say to him, ‘Now you are just as weak as any of us!v11 Your proud power and your music have ended here in *Sheol. You lie on a bed of *worms. And *worms cover you like a blanket. v12 How you have fallen from the sky, you bright Morning Star! In the past you overcame other nations. Now you have suffered the same fate. God has chopped you to the ground, just as men cut down a tree.
v13 You proudly said to yourself, “I shall climb up to heaven. I shall place my royal seat above the highest stars. I shall sit with the gods, far away in the north. v14 I shall be above the clouds, just like God Most High.”
v15 But instead, God has sent you to the deepest part of *Sheol.’
v16 Those who see you will stare at you. This is the man who made the world tremble. This is the man who shook countries. v17 He overcame cities. He made the earth a desert. He is the cruel king who refused to let prisoners go home.
v18 When kings die, men bury them with honour in a splendid royal grave. v19 But nobody will bury you. You will be just another dead body, like a dead branch on the ground. You will be like dead soldiers after a battle. People throw the bodies into a hole, one on top of another. v20 Men will not bury you with honour, as they have buried other kings. Because it was your own land that you ruined. It was your own people that you murdered. No son of yours will ever be king. v21 We shall kill your sons. We shall make them pay for the crimes of their father. Your sons will never *seize the world. They will not build new cities everywhere, as you did. v22-23 The *Lord will ruin the city called Babylon, so that it is merely a home for wild animals. And he will flood the country that surrounds the city.
The evil rulers had been using masses of wood for fuel and when they attacked the walls of cities. They had no consideration for the future. Trees need years to grow.
The ‘music’ of those who had been wicked rulers refers to their former comfortable life of luxury. Instead of magnificent meals, the body of the king will himself become food for *worms.
Many readers have seen in these verses a reference to the future punishment of Satan (the devil).
The ‘Morning Star’ is far brighter than anything else in the sky at dawn. This impressive description shows the proud ambition of the king of Babylon. He wanted to be as great as God in heaven.
‘Far away in the north’ refers to the sacred mountain called Zephon in northern Syria. The former inhabitants of *Canaan believed that all the gods met there. The proud king of Babylon thought that he was as great as any god. He supposed himself to be a god because he was the most important king in the world.
The king of Babylon’s determination to *seize complete power made him act madly. He even stole the property of his own people. And he killed anyone who tried to oppose him.
The king’s own sons would suffer because of their father’s wicked behaviour (see Exodus 34:7).
God will also punish Assyria
v24 The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) makes a serious promise. ‘All will happen, *exactly as I have arranged. What I have decided to do, I shall certainly carry out. v25 I shall break up the *Assyrians who have been occupying my special land. They shall become like dirt upon my mountains. And my people shall never again be their slaves. v26 This is the plan that I have decided for the whole earth. I have raised my hand against all nations.’ v27 The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) has prepared his plan. Nobody can stop it. He lifts his hand. He is ready to strike. Nobody can oppose him.
This probably refers to the intention of the *Assyrian army to attack Judah in 701 *BC (see 2 Kings chapter 19).
‘Lifts his hand’: see my note on 9:12.
God will also punish the *Philistines
v28 A special message from God came to Isaiah in the year when Ahaz king of Judah died. v29 Do not be glad, all you *Philistines! Once it seemed as if a heavy stick was striking you. You are glad because now that heavy stick has broken. But that heavy stick will become like a poisonous snake. And that snake will turn into something *fiery that flies. v30 The very poorest of my people will live in safety. And they will be able to feed their sheep in my green fields. But you *Philistines will starve. And I shall kill any that remain. v31 Cry aloud in the city! Shout for help! All the *Philistines tremble with fear! A cloud of dust is coming from the north. Another powerful army is approaching. Every enemy soldier is ready to attack. v32 What shall we say to *messengers that come to us from the *Philistines? Tell them that *Jerusalem is the *Lord’s foundation. Even the poorest of his people will find safety and security there.
Ahaz died in 716 *BC.
The ‘heavy stick’ is a picture in words of an enemy’s attack. God warns the *Philistines that something even worse than the *Assyrian attack is coming.
People will never find real safety in great armies. They will only find real safety in the great *Lord God.
God will punish Moab
v1 God gave Isaiah this special message about Moab. Enemies will suddenly attack Moab. They will completely destroy the important towns called Ar and Kir in one night. The shock will cause all the people in Moab to be silent. v2 The people in Dibon will go to the high place to weep. The people in Moab will cry because of the fate of Nebo and Medeba. People will shave the hair from their heads. Men will cut their beards. v3 People will wear *sackcloth in the streets. On roofs and in public places, people cry bitterly. Tears are pouring down their cheeks. v4 The inhabitants of Heshbon and Elealeh shout because of their pain. The sound of their voices reaches even as far as Jahaz. Moab’s soldiers are very afraid. Terror fills them.
v5 I feel so sorry for the people from Moab. Some of them have reached Zoar and Eglath as they try to escape from the enemy. They are crying as they climb the road to Luhith. They are in tears because of what has happened. v6 The wells at Nimrim are dry. The grass is brown. No new grass is growing. Nothing remains. v7 Therefore the people from Moab carry what they can across the little Stream of the Trees. v8 People are weeping across the whole country called Moab, from one end to the other end. v9 God declares that the stream near Dibon will run red because of the blood. But he has not finished yet! Lions will hunt the people who are escaping. And lions will also hunt the people who remain.
Isaiah mentions many places in this short chapter. So he shows how completely enemies had ruined the whole country called Moab.
For people to shave the head was a sign that they were very sad.
The enemy attacked from the north. The people from Moab ran away from them to the south. Like all *refugees in times of war, they tried to carry a few possessions with them.
- The ‘Stream of the Trees’ was probably the little river called Zered. It marked Moab’s southern border with Edom.
Moab asks for help
v1 From the town called Sela in the desert, Moab’s people send a gift of young sheep to the king of Judah in *Jerusalem. v2 At a shallow point in the river Arnon, the worried young women from Moab are desperate for news. They wander about like anxious birds. They seem like young birds that have lost their nest. v3 The *messengers who brought the gift to *Jerusalem ask the king of Judah for advice and for help. v4 ‘Please give us a safe place in your country. Please protect us. Please do not hand us over to our enemies.’
The present terror will come to an end. Moab’s enemy will disappear. v5 Then in love God will establish a man from David’s family to be Judah’s king. That king will give judgement fairly. He will not hesitate to do what is right.
Lambs (young sheep) were a traditional gift among the people in Moab (see 2 Kings 3:4).
Young women are the *refugees in greatest danger during times of war.
There was always a close relation between the people from Judah and the people from Moab, especially during times of trouble (see Ruth 1:1).
The end of Moab’s pride
v6 It is common knowledge that the people in Moab are so very proud. We all know about their silly excess of pride. That pride has no *foundation whatever. v7 The people in Moab will soon be weeping. The whole nation will cry bitterly because of the fate of Kir-hareseth. Enemies have completely ruined the splendid fields of *vines in that district. v8 Enemies have destroyed the farms and the fields in Heshbon and the *vines in Sibmah. Alcohol in the famous red *wine of these places was very powerful. It caused the rulers of nations to become drunks. The *vines once reached as far as Jazer and the Dead Sea. v9 Therefore I shall weep for the people in Sibmah and in Jazer. I shall cry bitterly for the inhabitants of Heshbon and Elealeh. There is no harvest to make the people glad. v10 There will be no more joy and happiness in the fields. They will never again make *wine from *grapes. Nobody will hear the songs and the cheerful shouts of the workers as they collect the harvest. v11 I am so very sorry for the people in Moab and the people in Kir-hareseth. v12 When the people in Moab go to pray at their special place, they are wasting their time and effort. They will receive no answer from their gods.
v13 All these events are what the *Lord said about Moab long ago. v14 And now the *Lord declares that in *exactly three years from now, other nations will joke about Moab’s splendid past. Very few people will remain in Moab. And they will be weak. Other nations will consider them to be of little value.
A proud attitude is not merely stupid. It always disappoints. And it ends in tears.
‘*Exactly three years’ This is the sort of language that a hired workman uses. He will frequently calculate the number of days that still remain on his contract. People can completely trust what God says. So these words emphasise this principle. It is as sure as a legal contract.
God will punish Damascus and Israel
v1 God gave Isaiah this special message about Damascus (capital of Syria). *Woe to Damascus! It will become merely a heap of stones. v2 The villages round Aroer will be empty of people. Only sheep will live there and nobody will disturb them. v3 Attackers will destroy Syria. The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) has promised that Syria’s fate will be the same as the fate of Israel.
That is, enemies will destroy the city completely. They will knock down all the stone buildings.
Both Syria and Israel will lose their defences.
v4 When the time comes for God to act, Israel will lose its greatness. v5 The land of Israel will be as empty as a field after workers have collected the harvest. Only a few grains of corn remain. v6 The people in Israel will be like the few *olives that remain on the top branch of a tree after harvest. The *Lord God of Israel has spoken. v7 (Only then will the people from Israel again turn back to the God who created them. Only then will they again obey the Holy God of Israel.) v8 They had made *altars to images of false gods. And they had set up sacred places where they burned *incense to give honour to Asherah. They had also erected special poles in her honour. But now the people from Israel will not join in these activities. v9 On that day your strong cities will be empty of people. Like the cities of the Hittites and Amorites long ago when the army of Israel approached. These cities will again be empty. Weeds and bushes will cover them. v10 Because you forgot the God who saved you. You did not remember that God is your strong Rock (your security). So plant your gardens that are sacred to Baal, that foreign god.v11 Protect your gardens with a fence on the day that you plant them. Next morning your seeds will begin to grow. But then disease will strike them and they will all die.
‘Israel’s greatness’ refers to all that makes the people so proud.
The word ‘harvest’ refers to the happiest time in the year. People feel great satisfaction because food is plentiful. But attention here is on the bare fields immediately after harvest. The crops and fruit are not still there. Hardly anything remains.
In the end, the people will realise why God is punishing them. And then they will return to God. In other words, they will obey him again.
Asherah was the female god that the local inhabitants of *Canaan *worshipped.
The Hittites and the Amorites were living in *Canaan before the arrival of the *Israelites from Egypt (see Joshua 24:11).
‘Your strong Rock’ is a picture in words of Israel’s God. He offers security. He is like a great mountain. If only his people would run to him, they would be safe from their enemies.
God will defend his people
v12 The loud noise of great armies! Their loud noise is like the loud noise of the sea! The roar of nations! Their roar is like the roar of powerful waters! v13 But when God merely shouts at those great armies, they run! They disappear like leaves on the hills before a wild storm. v14 In the evening, they are causing terror. By the morning, they have all gone. Such is the fate of any enemies that would rob us of our possessions.
When God acts to defend his people, the result is immediate and total. It is God who is the real ruler of the nations of the world. He will act for the benefit of his people.
God will punish Cush
v1 *Woe to the country called Cush where clouds of insects fly across the rivers. v2 The people in Cush have sent *messengers across the sea. The *messengers have travelled in fast boats over the water.
Return home, fast *messengers. Go back to your nation of tall people with smooth skins. To your cruel nation that spreads fear everywhere. To your powerful nation of strange speech, to your land of many rivers. v3 Watch, all you people of the world! Listen, you who live on the earth! When a sign appears on the top of the mountains, you will see it. And when the alarm sounds, you will hear it.
v4 The *Lord said to me, ‘I shall simply watch from where I am. I shall be as quiet as warmth that comes from the sun. I shall be as quiet as the early mist when it lifts in the summer of harvest.’
v5 Before the new *grapes appear, an enemy will have destroyed the great army of Cush. It will happen as easily as a sharp knife cuts branches from a tree. v6 All the soldiers will be dead. Their bodies will be food for vultures (birds that eat dead bodies) all the summer and for wild animals all the winter. v7 The time is coming when the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will accept gifts from the fierce inhabitants of the land of many rivers. And the tall people with smooth skins, who once frightened everyone, will give honour to the *Lord in *Jerusalem.
Cush was a country that today forms part of southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
- ‘Clouds of insects’ is one possible translation of a very rare Hebrew form of words. Or the words may refer to the sails of small boats on the rivers. Either translation could correctly refer to the land of Cush.
The people in Cush have sent *messengers to invite Judah to join in a force against Assyria. But Isaiah’s message told them to return home. Military unions will never be sufficient. God’s people should trust the *Lord alone for success.
‘Smooth skins’ refers to the fact that the men of Cush shaved their faces. Many other people from the east did not shave (see Genesis 41:14).
People used high places, for example the tops of mountains, to send important news quickly and over vast distances. But in this verse ‘sign’ and ‘alarm’ give a picture in words. The meaning is ‘a clear message that everybody can understand’.
The *Lord remains calm. What is about to happen between nations does not affect him in any way. But when he sees that the time is right, he will suddenly act. Then nothing can stop him. Nobody can stop him.
The *Lord will use some nation’s army to destroy the huge forces of Cush. He, and not some political leader, is in control of the events of history.
See Isaiah 60:10-14.
God will punish Egypt
v1 God gave this special message to Isaiah son of Amoz. The *Lord is coming to Egypt. He is riding on a cloud that moves quickly. The false gods of Egypt will tremble. The courage of the inhabitants of Egypt will disappear because of their fear. v2 I shall make the people in Egypt fight each other. Brothers against brothers. Neighbours against neighbours. Citizens against citizens. People in one region against people in another region. v3 The inhabitants of Egypt will lose their courage completely. I shall confuse their thoughts. The *Egyptians will try to get advice from their false gods and from the spirits of dead persons. v4 I shall hand over the inhabitants of Egypt to a fierce foreign king. He will rule them cruelly. The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) has spoken.
‘Riding on a cloud’ describes the power of God, who controls storms (see Psalm 18:10-15). As clouds race across the sky in a storm, so God is racing to rescue his people. That was also David’s experience (see Psalm 18:16-19).
God is causing these quarrels to happen. He will greatly upset all kinds of relations. So the *Egyptians will be even less able to oppose any attack by an enemy.
Because of the *Lord’s immense power, false gods and people alike are unable to do anything. To expect *idols or dead persons to tell them what to do is hopeless. In any case, God has forbidden such activity.
God does not mention the name of the cruel enemy.
Trouble on the Nile
v5 The waters of the river Nile will fail to flow. v6 The channels of the river will get smaller and smaller. v7 The plants that grew in the water will become dry. They will die. Then the wind will carry off the dried plants. No trace of them will remain. v8 People who fish in the river Nile will weep bitterly. People who throw a net into the water will be so very sad. There are no fish to catch. No fish to sell. No income. v9 People who grow plants for material to make cloth will not know what to do. v10 All who work in the trade will be in despair. All who were earning wages by this work will now receive no money.
The Nile has always been vital for the inhabitants of Egypt. The river provides food and trade. Boats carry passengers and goods up and down the river.
- Winter rains flow into the Nile from the high hills of central Africa. Summer rains flow into the Nile from the high hills of Ethiopia. All this water causes the Nile to flood large areas of Egypt regularly. The floods leave behind good soil on the plains for farmers to use.
- But if the waters fail for some reason, the people in Egypt are soon in very serious trouble.
As the level of the water drops, plants die. The wind carries away not only the dead plants but also the valuable soil, which is now dry dust.
Such a terrible trouble must affect the whole life of the people in Egypt.
Unwise leaders in Egypt
v11 The leaders of the government in Zoan are fools. The wisest of the king’s advisers are stupid. Yet they tell the king that they come from a family of wise princes. v12 King, you have such very wise advisers. So these very wise men should tell the king about the plan that the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) has made against Egypt. v13 The royal officials in Zoan and in Memphis are all fools. Egypt’s great men have led the people in Egypt in the wrong direction. v14 The *Lord has completely confused the officials. They are leading the nation away from the right direction. They are making their people walk like drunks. v15 There will be nothing that anybody in Egypt can do. Both important and unimportant people can do nothing. v16On the day when the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) acts, the inhabitants of Egypt will be like weak women. They will tremble with fear. v17 The people from Judah will put terror into the *Egyptians. If someone only mentions Judah’s name, everybody in Egypt will be greatly afraid. They feel such great fear because of the things that the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) has decided to do.
The previous verses described God’s control over nature. Now he shows his control over people, over even the most important officials. They may think that they have political power. But God still carries out his purposes.
Memphis was the capital of Egypt before Zoan.
How foolish then for God’s people even to imagine that Egypt could help them against an enemy.
The people in Egypt will even be afraid to hear the name ‘Judah’. That name will remind the people in Egypt about Judah’s all-powerful God.
God will bless Egypt and Assyria as well as Israel
v18 The time is coming when the inhabitants of five cities in the country called Egypt will speak Hebrew (the language of the people from Judah). And they will make promises to the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies). One of the cities will be called City of the Sun.
v19 On that day there will be an *altar of stone in the country called Egypt to give honour to the *Lord. And a sacred column near the border to give honour to the *Lord. v20 The *altar and the column will be evidence that the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) is present in the country called Egypt. If the people suffer because of an enemy, they will be able to cry to the *Lord for help. And he will send them a strong defender to rescue them. v21 The *Lord will make himself known to the *Egyptians. From that day the *Egyptians will know the *Lord. And they will show him honour. They will give him valuable gifts. They will make promises to the *Lord and they will carry them out. v22 After the *Lord has punished the *Egyptians, they will turn to him. And he will cure them when they pray to him.
v23 When that time comes, a good road will link Egypt and Assyria. The *Egyptians and the *Assyrians will travel along that road in both directions. And people from both nations will give honour to the *Lord together. v24 When that time comes, Israel will be a great nation like Egypt and Assyria. And these three nations will be of great benefit to all the world.
v25 The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) declares, ‘I will say and do good things to Egypt, my people. And to Assyria, whom I created. And to Israel, my special people.’
These last verses of Chapter 19 look ahead to some time still in the future.
The five cities probably include Migdol, Tahpanhes, Memphis and Pathros, where *Jews were living (see Jeremiah 44:1). These four cities were near the border with Judah. The ‘City of the Sun’ is a translation of the name of the city called Heliopolis.
The *worship of the *Lord in Egypt will be public and official.
Again Isaiah is emphasising that international events are under God’s control. The benefit will come from the *Lord, but by means of these three nations.
Centuries earlier, God had promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would one day come to know Abraham’s God and Abraham’s people (see Genesis 12:1-3).
Isaiah himself will be a sign to Egypt and Cush
v1 Sargon, *emperor of Assyria, ordered the commander of his army to attack the *Philistine town called Ashdod.
v2 Three years earlier the *Lord had told Isaiah son of Amoz to take off his clothes and his shoes. Isaiah obeyed and he went about naked and without shoes on his feet.
v3 After the *Assyrians had *seized Ashdod, the *Lord said, ‘My servant Isaiah has been going about naked and without shoes for three years. This is a sign of the terrible troubles that will happen to Egypt and to Cush. v4 The king of Assyria will *seize the people in Egypt and the people in Cush as prisoners. He will *seize them whether they are young or old. He will make them walk naked and without shoes on their feet. They will be greatly ashamed. v5 The other nations thought that Cush and Egypt would be strong enough to support them against Assyria. But then they will be in despair. v6 People who live along the coast will see these events. And those people will say, “We had hoped that Cush and Egypt would protect us against the *Assyrian army. But now we realise that we cannot hope to escape.” ’
Ashdod was one of the five major towns of the *Philistines.
Sargon was *emperor of Assyria. His *empire included the country of the *Philistines. But in 711 *BC the king of Ashdod tried to fight for freedom.
He also tried to get Judah and other states to join him. So Sargon ordered his army commander to attack Ashdod.
Instead of words, God sometimes told his servants to use actions (see Jeremiah chapter 13). This is the only occasion when Isaiah used actions to give God’s message.
Cush was a country that today forms part of southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
God’s people can now see for themselves that to depend on political agreements is hopeless. Only the *Lord can save them.
altar ~ special stone where priests burned animals as gifts to God, or to a false god.
Arab ~ a person from a country called Arabia. This may not mean the same people as Arabs today.
Assyrian ~ a person from the country called Assyria; or anything that has a relationship with the country called Assyria.
BC ~ ‘Before Christ’ (for dates before the birth of Jesus Christ).
bless ~ to say and to do good things for someone.
Canaan ~ original name of the country that God gave to his people.
Egyptian ~ a person from the country called Egypt, or anything that has a relationship with the country called Egypt.
emperor ~ royal ruler over an *empire.
empire ~ group of many countries that a powerful king had *seized.
exact, exactly ~ we use these words to emphasise that something is accurate.
fiery ~ something that seems like fire.
foundation ~ something strong that you can trust in order to establish something else firmly.
grapes ~ small sweet fruit of the *vine. The juice of grapes makes *wine.
idol ~ home-made image of a god.
incense ~ substance to burn for its sweet smell to give honour to God.
Israelites ~ Jacob had 12 sons. In later centuries, their large families would grow into a nation, called the Israelites. For a long time, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. But God freed them by means of Moses. God gave them the country called *Canaan. And there, long afterwards, the Israelites formed two nations, called Judah and Israel.
Jerusalem ~ at the time of David and Solomon, the capital of the country called Israel. During the time of Isaiah, Jerusalem was the capital of the country called Judah.
Jews ~ people who belong to the countries called Judah and Israel; people who belong to the 12 *tribes of Israel.
Lord ~ God’s name in the Bible. In the original language, God’s names mean ‘head over all’ and ‘God always’.
Mede ~ a person from the country called Media.
messenger ~ a person who carries a message.
Messiah ~ *Old Testament title for Christ.
Midianite ~ a person from the country called Midian, or anything that had a relationship with the country called Midian.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible. It contains 39 books, all from the time before Jesus was born.
olives ~ fruit of a tree that people use to make oil.
Philistine ~ a person from the country called Philistia, or anything that had a relationship with the country called Philistia.
refugees ~ people who have had to leave their homes, especially during war.
rights ~ the rules that protect weaker people in a country with good government.
sackcloth ~ dress of rough material that people wore to show that they were very sad.
seize ~ to take a person’s possessions away from that person, either by law, or in a war. Or, to overcome a city or nation in order to rule it. Or, to take a person as a prisoner or a slave.
Sheol ~ the place where *Jews thought that dead persons went.
stump ~ short lower piece of a tree that remains in the ground after the rest of the tree has gone.
Temple ~ special building in *Jerusalem where *Jews praised God and offered him prayers and gifts.
tribe ~ a group of the later family of one father.
vine ~ plant that produces *grapes.
wine ~ drink that people make from *grapes.
woe ~ a very sad cry because there is much pain to come.
worm ~ tiny thin animal that lives in the ground.
worship ~ to praise God and to pray to him.
© 2006-2007, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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