A. A rebuke to those in Judah who looked to Egypt for deliverance.
1. (1-2) God exposes the sin of those who put their trust in Egypt.
“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD,
“Who take counsel, but not of Me,
And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit,
That they may add sin to sin;
Who walk to go down to Egypt,
And have not asked My advice,
To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh,
And to trust in the shadow of Egypt!”
a. Who walk to go down to Egypt…. To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh: This prophecy was given at a time when the Assyrian army was attacking Israel and Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel would soon be conquered by Assyria, and the people of Israel would be taken into exile. The Assyrians would then come against the southern kingdom of Judah, and because of this threat the leaders of Judah looked to Egypt for protection against the Assyrian invasion.
b. Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit: In looking to Egypt, Judah forsook the LORD. In one sense, it was wise and good for Judah to understand that they needed help and were willing to look outside of themselves for help. In the larger sense, it was foolish and evil of Judah to look to others – especially Egypt – for help, instead of looking to the LORD.
i. You take counsel – but is it of the LORD? You devise plans – but are they of God’s Spirit? It is one sin to reject the LORD, and another sin altogether to trust in something else. Therefore, to do what Judah did in this situation is to add sin to sin.
2. (3-5) The folly of trusting in Egypt.
Therefore the strength of Pharaoh
Shall be your shame,
And trust in the shadow of Egypt
Shall be your humiliation.
For his princes were at Zoan,
And his ambassadors came to Hanes.
They were all ashamed of a people who could not benefit them,
Or be help or benefit,
But a shame and also a reproach.
a. Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation: From the perspective of heaven, the strength of Pharaoh was nothing. As the LORD saw it, Egypt was no substance, just a shadow.
b. They were all ashamed of a people who could not benefit them: The ambassadors of Egypt came to Judah and saw that Judah had nothing to “give” them. It was foolish for the leaders of Judah to trust in a nation that looked at them this way.
B. The burden against Judah for their trust in Egypt.
1. (6-7) Their trust in Egypt will gain them nothing.
The burden against the beasts of the South.
Through a land of trouble and anguish,
From which came the lioness and lion,
The viper and fiery flying serpent,
They will carry their riches on the backs of young donkeys,
And their treasures on the humps of camels,
To a people who shall not profit;
For the Egyptians shall help in vain and to no purpose.
Therefore I have called her
a. The burden against the beasts of the South: Isaiah proclaimed a burden against the pack animals of Judah, which would carry the riches of Judah down to Egypt, through the wilderness, in a foolish attempt to purchase protection against the Assyrians.
b. The Egyptians shall help in vain and to no purpose. No wonder Isaiah felt sorry for the donkeys that would carry the treasure of Judah down to Egypt. Despite the riches that the pack animals bring across the desert, Egypt would not help Judah at all, so one could call Egypt Rahab-Hem-Shebeth, which means “Rahab Sits Idle” or “Rahab the Do-Nothing.” Rahab is a name, but it is also the Hebrew word for pride, and is sometimes used as a title for Egypt (Psalm 87:4). Egypt would sit idly by as the Assyrians trouble Judah.
i. “It is all useless, bringing neither help nor advantage. ‘Well, of course!’ Isaiah might have said, for from the feared killer (Assyria) they were seeking help from the proved killer (Egypt)!” (Motyer)
2. (8-11) The LORD documents Judah’s rejection of His message.
Now go, write it before them on a tablet,
And note it on a scroll,
That it may be for time to come,
Forever and ever:
That this is a rebellious people,
Children who will not hear the law of the LORD;
Who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path,
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us.”
a. Now go, write it before them on a tablet…that it may be for a time to come, forever and ever: God told Judah this before it happened, and wanted it documented. This was so when it all unfolded exactly as the LORD had spoken, Judah could have greater trust in the LORD.
b. That this is a rebellious people, lying children…who say to the seers, “Do not see”: God wanted Judah’s rejection of His message, and His messengers, to be documented. Judah wanted to hear from the prophets and God’s messengers, but they did not want to hear the truth from them. They wanted religion, but they didn’t want the living God of heaven to have a real presence in their lives (Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us).
i. The problem God confronted in Judah didn’t end in the days of Judah. Paul describes the same kind of heart in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
3. (12-14) The judgment to come upon Judah for their trust in Egypt and for their rejection of His message.
Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
“Because you despise this word,
And trust in oppression and perversity,
And rely on them,
Therefore this iniquity shall be to you
Like a breach ready to fall,
A bulge in a high wall,
Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.
And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel,
Which is broken in pieces;
He shall not spare.
So there shall not be found among its fragments
A shard to take fire from the hearth,
Or to take water from the cistern.”
a. Because you despise this word…Therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach ready to fall: God promised that because Judah trusted in Egypt instead of Him, everything would be broken and collapsed. Judah would be like a collapsed wall, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant. Judah would be like a shattered clay pot, which is broken in pieces.
4. (15-17) Judah brought low because of their self-reliance and rejection of God’s message.
For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel:
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
But you would not,
And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”—
Therefore you shall flee!
And, “We will ride on swift horses” —
Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!
One thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
At the threat of five you shall flee,
Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain
And as a banner on a hill.
a. In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength: God offered to Judah the promise of protection from Assyria. They didn’t need to look to Egypt to help at all. They could have trusted God for His promise.
i. Trusting God’s promise means returning. If there is conspicuous disobedience in our lives, we must return to the LORD’s ways. Outright disobedience is never consistent with real trust in God’s promise. Returning also has the idea of drawing close to the LORD.
ii. Trusting God’s promise means rest. When we trust God, we don’t have to strive for ourselves. We don’t have to run all about trying to protect or guard ourselves. We have the best Protector, the best Guard in God. We can rest in Him, and when we do, it shows we are really trusting in God’s promise.
iii. Trusting God’s promise means quietness. You don’t need to argue for your side when God is on your side. Be quiet before Him and before others. It shows that you really trust Him.
iv. Trusting God’s promise means confidence. You aren’t given to despair or fear because you trust God’s promise. You know He can and will come through, and you have a profound confidence in the God who loves you.
v. All of these things together mean a real trust in God’s promise, and it means that we shall be saved, and it means that we will find strength. There is no person walking this earth more powerful than a child of God boldly and properly trusting the promise of the living God.
b. But you would not, and you said, “No, for we will flee on horses” – Therefore you shall flee: Because Judah rejected God’s promise, and trusted in horses and other such things instead, they would need to flee! If they would have trusted God’s promise instead, they would never have had reason to flee, and would have seen the LORD’s salvation and strength instead.
c. One thousand shall flee at the threat of one: This is a reversal of the promise of Leviticus 26:8, and a fulfillment of the curse promised in Leviticus 26:17: I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.
C. The blessing of restoration for Judah.
1. (18) A call to trust in God’s timing.
Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
a. Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you: We often wonder why the LORD waits to do things in our lives. Isaiah tells us plainly that it is so He may be gracious to you. Whenever the LORD waits or seems to delay, it always has a loving purpose behind it. We can trust that even when we don’t understand it.
b. And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you: When God has mercy on us, it exalts Him. Mercy does nothing to exalt the person who receives it; mercy recognizes the guilt of the one who deserves the punishment. But mercy exalts the goodness of the person who gives it. It shows them to be loving, generous, and full of mercy.
c. For the LORD is a God of justice: On the surface, mercy and justice seem to oppose each other. If some guilty criminal stands before the judge, he has the choice to show either mercy or justice. But God is so great, He can show both at the same time.
i. This was shown at the cross, where Jesus took the punishment we deserve and God’s justice was satisfied. At the same time, God shows mercy by extending the work of Jesus to us as payment for our sins. Only God can reconcile mercy and justice, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
d. Blessed are all those who wait for Him: Because God is so great, there is a built-in blessing for those who wait for Him. Isaiah doesn’t mean wait just in the sense of passing time but in the sense of patiently waiting for and trusting God’s promise.
i. “Certain of God’s people are in trouble and distress, and they are eager for immediate rescue. They cannot wait God’s time, nor exercise submission to his will. He will surely deliver them in due season; but they cannot tarry till the hour cometh; like children, they snatch at unripe fruit. ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’; but their one season is the present; they cannot, they will not wait. They must have their desire instantaneously fulfilled, or else they are ready to take wrong means of attaining it. If in poverty, they are in haste to be rich; and they shall not long be innocent. If under reproach, their heart ferments towards revenge. They would sooner rush under the guidance of Satan into some questionable policy, than in childlike simplicity trust in the Lord and do good. It must not be so with you, my brethren, you must learn a better way.” (Spurgeon)
2. (19) God promises to bless His people by responding to their cry.
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem;
You shall weep no more.
He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry;
When He hears it, He will answer you.
a. You shall weep no more…. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry: When God’s people wait on Him and patiently trust His promise, God pours out His grace at the cry of their heart. Even if it feels God is distant, He hears and promises to answer.
3. (20-21) God promises to bless His people with guidance.
And though the Lord gives you
The bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore,
But your eyes shall see your teachers.
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left.
a. Though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction…your eyes shall see your teachers: When Judah was prosperous and comfortable, they wouldn’t listen to God. Now, God gave them the bread of adversity and water of affliction, but they could hear God and be guided by Him again. It’s always better to be uncomfortable and in tune with the Lord than to be comfortable and out of step with God.
4. (22) God promises to bless His people with the desire for purity.
You will also defile the covering of your images of silver,
And the ornament of your molded images of gold.
You will throw them away as an unclean thing;
You will say to them, “Get away!”
a. You will also defile the covering of your images of silver: The people of Judah kept household idols that they used to honor or worship other gods. The LORD promises a day when they will defile those images and throw them away as an unclean thing. What a wonderful thing it is when God’s people say to wicked and idolatrous things, “Get away!”
b. You will throw them away as an unclean thing: The literal Hebrew for unclean thing is literally a menstrual cloth. The people of God would come to hate their idols so much that they would throw them away as readily as they would throw away a used menstrual cloth. Interestingly, the King James Version and the New International Version both translate these words as menstrual cloth, but the New King James Version uses the euphemistic unclean thing.
5. (23-26) God promises to bless nature with abundance.
Then He will give the rain for your seed
With which you sow the ground,
And bread of the increase of the earth;
It will be fat and plentiful.
In that day your cattle will feed
In large pastures.
Likewise the oxen and the young donkeys that work the ground
Will eat cured fodder,
Which has been winnowed with the shovel and fan.
There will be on every high mountain
And on every high hill
Rivers and streams of waters,
In the day of the great slaughter,
When the towers fall.
Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun,
And the light of the sun will be sevenfold,
As the light of seven days,
In the day that the LORD binds up the bruise of His people
And heals the stroke of their wound.
a. Then He will give the rain for your seed: When Judah puts away their idols, boldly trusting God’s promise, then God will send material blessings on Judah. For a nation of farmers, it was a wonderful promise to make them fat and plentiful. In a naturally dry land, it was a wonderful promise to give abundant rivers and streams of waters.
b. In the day that the LORD binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound: Better than the material blessing of the LORD is His loving care.
6. (27-29) God promises His people will have gladness in the day of judgment.
Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar,
Burning with His anger,
And His burden is heavy;
His lips are full of indignation,
And His tongue like a devouring fire.
His breath is like an overflowing stream,
Which reaches up to the neck,
To sift the nations with the sieve of futility;
And there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people,
Causing them to err.
You shall have a song
As in the night when a holy festival is kept,
And gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute,
To come into the mountain of the LORD,
To the Mighty One of Israel.
a. Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with His anger: Isaiah sees the judgment of the LORD quickly coming, to sift the nations with the sieve of futility. However, God’s people do not need to fear: You shall have a song…and gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, to come into the mountain of the LORD. What a contrast!
i. “The truth is that God’s people are here portrayed rejoicing at his judgment on sin because they must take his point of view on everything, and because this judgment is at the same time their salvation.” (Grogan)
b. You shall have a song: 1 John 4:17 expresses the same idea: Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. Boldness and joy in the day of judgment are precious gifts from God.
7. (30-33) The glory of the judgment of the LORD.
The LORD will cause His glorious voice to be heard,
And show the descent of His arm,
With the indignation of His anger
And the flame of a devouring fire,
With scattering, tempest, and hailstones.
For through the voice of the LORD
Assyria will be beaten down,
As He strikes with the rod.
And in every place where the staff of punishment passes,
Which the LORD lays on him,
It will be with tambourines and harps;
And in battles of brandishing He will fight with it.
For Tophet was established of old,
Yes, for the king it is prepared.
He has made it deep and large;
Its pyre is fire with much wood;
The breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone,
a. The LORD will cause His glorious voice to be heard: Isaiah wanted God’s people to see the glory of God’s judgments. When we understand how God’s perfect judgment exalts His justice and His righteousness, we see the glory of the judgment of the LORD.
b. Assyria will be beaten down: In the near view, Isaiah saw the judgment of the LORD against Assyria. Judah had no business trusting in Egypt for help against the Assyrians, but they should have trusted the LORD instead, because the LORD would take care of the Assyrians
i. As it happened, this was exactly the case. 2 Kings 19:35 describes how God 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.
c. For Tophet was established of old, yes for the king it is prepared: Tophet was a place in the Valley of Hinnom, just outside of Jerusalem’s walls (Jeremiah 7:31). The Valley of Hinnom served as Jerusalem’s garbage dump, and the combination of disgusting rubbish and smoldering fires made it a picture of hell. The Hebrew word for hell (gehenna) comes from the word for the Valley of Hinnom. Therefore, God says He has a special place in hell for the Assyrian king.
i. Trapp on Tophet: “Hence it is here used for hell, together with that eternity of extremity which the damned there endure; and this the Assyrians are here threatened with, yea, their very king, whose preservation from the stroke of the angel was but a reservation to a worse mischief here and hereafter.”
ii. God had an eternal place for the Assyrian king who attacked Judah and Jerusalem (He has made it deep and large; its pyre is fire with much wood). But God also had a special judgment for that king on earth. 2 Kings 19:36-37 describes how when the king of the Assyrians returned home after attacking Judah, his own sons murdered him as he worshipped in the temple of Nisroch his god. “Great men, if not good, shall be greatly tormented; and the more they have of the fat of the earth, the more they are sure to fry in hell.” (Trapp)
iii. “Isaiah starts with the ‘real’ day of the Lord. He is Lord over all the nations. (By implication, what is Assyria, compared with such a God!) The Lord’s people will be safe in his Day: their part will be to sing amid the judgments of God. So then, regarding Assyria in the here and now, they will be shattered, Judah will sing, the funeral pyre is ready and so is the fire.” (Motyer)
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org