Isaiah 10 – Assyria Judged
Since Isaiah 10:1-4 connects with Isaiah 9, it is examined in the previous chapter.
A. God’s judgment on arrogant Assyria.
1. (5-7) Assyria, the unintentional instrument in the hand of the LORD.
“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
I will send him against an ungodly nation,
And against the people of My wrath
I will give him charge,
To seize the spoil, to take the prey,
And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
Yet he does not mean so,
Nor does his heart think so;
But it is in his heart to destroy,
And cut off not a few nations.
a. Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger: In the previous section (Isaiah 7:1 through 10:4), the LORD revealed that He would use Assyria as an instrument of judgment against Syria, Israel, and Judah. But what about Assyria? Weren’t they even more wicked than Syria, Israel, or Judah? Yes, the Assyrians were wicked; yet the LORD could use them as the rod of My anger. At the same time, none of this excused Assyria, so the LORD says, “woe to Assyria.”
i. “A similar shift in the object of divine judgment occurred in the case of the Babylonians. God raised up the Babylonian armies between 605 and 686 B.C. to punish Judah (Habakkuk 1:6-11), and then He announced judgment on Babylon (Habakkuk 2:6-17; Isaiah 14:5).” (Wolf)
b. The rod of My anger…the staff in whose hand is My indignation: The rod and the staff were sticks used by shepherds to guide and correct their sheep. God is saying that Assyria was like a stick in His hand, used to correct Syria, Israel, and Judah.
c. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath: In this sense, Assyria was on a mission from God. They were doing the LORD’s will, running His errands when they came against Syria, Israel, and Judah. God gave them permission (I will give them charge) to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
d. Yet he does not mean so, nor does his heart think so: Since Assyria was an instrument in God’s hand, since they were doing the will of the LORD, does this excuse their attack on Syria, Israel, and Judah? Not at all! Though they were instruments in God’s hand, they did not mean so, nor does his heart think so. They didn’t care at all about God’s will or glory in the matter. Instead, it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off not a few nations. Assyria didn’t care about the will or glory of God; they wanted to destroy and cut off many nations.
i. Psalm 76:10 says Surely the wrath of man shall praise You. God can use the wickedness and carnality of man to further His will, without ever approving of the wickedness or carnality. In fact, God is totally justified in judging the very wickedness and carnality that He used.
ii. The pattern is repeated over and over through the Scriptures. Joseph’s brothers sinned against Joseph, but God used it for His purpose, and disciplined Joseph’s brothers. Saul sinned against David, but God used it for His purpose, and judged Saul. Judas sinned against Jesus, but God used it for His purpose, and judged Judas.
iii. This should help with questions that trouble many people. The first question is “How can God bring any good through an evil thing that was done to me?” We can’t often know in advance exactly how God will bring the good, but we can trust that He will as we continue to yield to Him and seek Him. The second question is “Doesn’t God care about what they did to me?” He does care, and God will bring His correction or judgment according to His perfect will and timing.
2. (8-14) The arrogance of Assyria.
“For he says,
‘Are not my princes altogether kings?
Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
As I have done to Samaria and her idols,
Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?’”
Therefore it shall come to pass, when the LORD has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”
For he says:
“By the strength of my hand I have done it,
And by my wisdom, for I am prudent;
Also I have removed the boundaries of the people,
And have robbed their treasuries;
So I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man.
My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people,
And as one gathers eggs that are left,
I have gathered all the earth;
And there was no one who moved his wing,
Nor opened his mouth with even a peep.”
a. Are not my princes altogether kings: Assyria had such an inflated view of themselves that they regarded their princes to be on the level of the kings of other nations.
b. As I have done to Samaria and her idols, shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols? Here, the LORD described the proud, arrogant heart of the Assyrians. Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, which was given over to gross idolatry. Jerusalem was the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah, which still maintained some worship of the Lord GOD. In their pride, the Assyrians thought the Lord GOD nothing more than one of the idols that they had conquered in Samaria or in many other cities. The Assyrians were in for a rude wake-up call.
i. “The cities mentioned in verses 9 and 10 came under Assyrian control between 740 and 721 B.C., and none of the gods of these areas had provided the slightest help. It was assumed that the ‘idols’ (v.10) of Jerusalem were equally impotent.” (Wolf)
c. I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks: The pride of Assyria and her king was found in his arrogant heart and exposed by his haughty looks. How much pride can be revealed by a haughty look.
i. The Bible describes God’s opinion of haughty looks: A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin. (Proverbs 21:4) The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure (Psalm 101:5). For You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks (Psalm 18:27).
d. By the strength of my hand I have done it: Again, the LORD revealed the heart of Assyria. They gloried in their own strength and wisdom (by my wisdom, for I am prudent). They exaggerated their power (I have gathered all the earth).
i. Julius Caesar had this heart of pride when he said of his military conquests: Veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”). Charles V had a better heart when he said of his military conquests, Veni, vidi, sed Christus vicit (“I came, I saw, but Christ conquered”).
3. (15-19) God assesses the arrogance of Assyria.
Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it?
Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it?
As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up,
Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood!
Therefore the Lord, the Lord of hosts,
Will send leanness among his fat ones;
And under his glory
He will kindle a burning
Like the burning of a fire.
So the Light of Israel will be for a fire,
And his Holy One for a flame;
It will burn and devour
His thorns and his briers in one day.
And it will consume the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field,
Both soul and body;
And they will be as when a sick man wastes away.
Then the rest of the trees of his forest
Will be so few in number
That a child may write them.
a. Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? The LORD uses the pictures of an ax, a saw, a rod, and a staff to make the point that the instrument should never take credit for what the worker does with the instrument. The scalpel can’t take credit for what the surgeon does; the strength and the skill are in the user, not in the instrument.
i. If it is easy for an unknowing instrument of God to become proud, it is also easy for a willing instrument of God to become proud. Jesus said we should have a different attitude: So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10) As wonderful as it is to be an instrument in the hand of God, the instrument deserves no special glory.
b. Therefore the Lord…will send leanness among his fat ones: Assyria sat “fat and sassy” at the time, but God would send leanness to them. His judgment will be like the burning of a fire among them, and it will consume the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field. The Lord will leave Assyria just a shadow of its former self.
i. Bultema on both soul and body: “Calvin warned against inferring from this that the soul is not immortal. What is meant, according to this keen expositor, is that the soul of this tyrant will have to pay for his wicked deeds on earth after the destruction of His body.”
B. Despite the coming attack of the Assyrians, God will preserve a remnant of Israel.
1. (20-27) God tells His people: Do not be afraid of the Assyrian.
And it shall come to pass in that day
That the remnant of Israel,
And such as have escaped of the house of Jacob,
Will never again depend on him who defeated them,
But will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob,
To the Mighty God.
For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea,
A remnant of them will return;
The destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness.
For the Lord GOD of hosts
Will make a determined end
In the midst of all the land.
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O My people, who dwell in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrian. He shall strike you with a rod and lift up his staff against you, in the manner of Egypt. For yet a very little while and the indignation will cease, as will My anger in their destruction.” And the LORD of hosts will stir up a scourge for him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; as His rod was on the sea, so will He lift it up in the manner of Egypt.
It shall come to pass in that day
That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder,
And his yoke from your neck,
And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil.
a. It shall come to pass in that day: The LORD told Judah to not trust in Assyria as their deliverer when the threat from Syria and Israel came (Isaiah 7). The LORD promised that He would deliver them from Syria and Israel and that they did not have to trust in Assyria. But Ahaz, king of Judah, did not take God’s counsel and trusted in Assyria. The LORD would then use Assyria to defeat Syria and Israel as He had promised, but He would also use Assyria to judge Judah. Now, the LORD wants to prepare Judah for the attack from Assyria, reminding them that He is still in charge and they can still trust Him.
i. This shows the remarkable grace and longsuffering of God. We would not criticize the LORD if He said, “You want to trust in the Assyrians and not in Me? Fine. You are now on your own. Good luck.” But even in the midst of the judgment they deserved, brought through the Assyrians, God wants to comfort His people and bring them hope.
b. The remnant of Israel…will never again depend on him who defeated them, but will depend on the LORD. The LORD promises His people, “You are going through this now because you will not trust Me. But I am going to change you so that you trust Me again, and you will once again depend on the LORD.”
c. A remnant of them will return: The suffering of God’s people at the hands of the Assyrians and others would make them feel as if they would certainly be destroyed. God assures them that this is not the case. He will always preserve His remnant.
d. The destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness: When God allows destruction – whether in outright judgment or loving correction – it is always righteous, and never unfair. In fact, His judgment overflows with righteousness.
e. For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a determined end: An end of what? An end of Judah’s trust in nations like Assyria. They will never again depend on him who defeated him.
f. Therefore…do not be afraid of the Assyrian: The LORD is telling His people, “Judgment and correction are coming, and it will hurt. But I have a plan, so don’t be afraid.” This is a hard word to believe because judgment and correction, by their very nature, hurt! Yet we can decide to not be afraid and trust in the LORD, even when it hurts.
i. He shall strike you with a rod, yet do not be afraid. He will lift up his staff against you, but do not be afraid. Why shouldn’t they fear? Because the Assyrians are not in charge, the LORD is. In a very little while…the indignation will cease, as will My anger. We can always be comforted by the fact that God will never leave His people to the mercy of their enemies. Even when He uses the Assyrians to bring judgment and correction, He is still in charge.
g. And the LORD of hosts will stir up a scourge for him like the slaughter of Midian: Judah should trust the LORD because He will indeed take care of the Assyrians. He will take care of them like He took care of Midian at the rock of Oreb. The LORD will strike Assyria as His rod was upon the sea.
i. Judges 7:25 describes Gideon’s victory over the Midianites at the rock of Oreb. As miraculous and complete as Gideon’s victory was, that is how miraculous and complete God’s judgment on Assyria would be. As it happened, this was exactly the case. 2 Kings 19:35 describes how God simply sent the angel of the LORD and killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. When the people woke up, there were 185,000 dead Assyrian soldiers.
ii. Exodus 14:16 describes how the LORD used the rod of Moses to divide the Red Sea. In the same way, He would do something totally miraculous against Assyria.
iii. The LORD even took care of the king of the Assyrians according to His justice. 2 Kings 19:36-37 describes that when the king of the Assyrians returned home after attacking Judah, he was murdered by his own sons as he worshipped in the temple of Nisroch his god.
h. It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck: Assyria would indeed trouble and oppress Judah, but not forever. Instead, the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. Because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit among Judah (represented by the anointing oil), the yoke of bondage would be destroyed.
i. Bultema thinks that because of the anointing oil should really be seen as because of the Anointed One, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is the source of our victory and freedom from the yoke of bondage.
2. (28-32) A prophetic description of the arrival of the army of the Assyrians.
He has come to Aiath,
He has passed Migron;
At Michmash he has attended to his equipment.
They have gone along the ridge,
They have taken up lodging at Geba.
Ramah is afraid,
Gibeah of Saul has fled.
Lift up your voice,
O daughter of Gallim!
Cause it to be heard as far as Laish—
O poor Anathoth!
Madmenah has fled,
The inhabitants of Gebim seek refuge.
As yet he will remain at Nob that day;
He will shake his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion,
The hill of Jerusalem.
a. He has come to Aiath: Because of the word of comfort and encouragement in the previous section, Judah might think that God wouldn’t send judgment among them at all. This section, with the specific mention of many cities of Judah, is meant to show that God will indeed allow the invasion of the Assyrians, even though He will restore after the attack.
b. Aiath…Migron…Michmash…. Geba…. Nob: The listing of cities flows from the north to the south, describing the course of the Assyrian invasion. Nob is right on the outskirts of Jerusalem. This is as far as the army of the Assyrians came against Judah. They were stopped here when the LORD killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night.
i. “With a deft poetic touch, Isaiah told how the enemy moved through twelve different locations, coming ever closer to the capital.” (Wolf)
3. (33-34) The LORD humbles the proud among the people of Judah.
Behold, the Lord,
The LORD of hosts,
Will lop off the bough with terror;
Those of high stature will be hewn down,
And the haughty will be humbled.
He will cut down the thickets of the forest with iron,
And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.
a. Those of high stature will be hewn down: The LORD promises that His judgment will extend even against those of high stature. A mighty forest seems invincible and seems as if it will stand forever, but the LORD can cut it down. Even so, the LORD will cut down the proud and those of high stature among Judah. All that will be left in a once-mighty forest will be stumps.
b. And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One: The forests of Lebanon were known for their large, mighty cedar trees. God will judge the proud among Judah – and all the nations for that matter – and leave a once mighty forest of those of high stature as if they were just stumps. The bigger they are, the harder they fall down.
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org