Isaiah Chapter One
Isaiah 1 - 2
Introduction to the Prophecies of Isaiah
1. The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Verse 1: Isaiah makes Judah and Jerusalem that which will be central in his visions. The first chapters are an indictment of the Judeans for their abandonment of worship of God and their obsession with idolatry. But the main event in the lifetime of Isaiah is the loss of the "ten tribes" of Israel as a result of the rise of the Assyrian Empire which plays a principal part in the prophecies of the first portion of the book. The most important contemporaneous events in Isaiah's imminent future are the piecemeal dissolutions (in three stages described in chapters 7-12) of the northern kingdom of Israel, and its complete annihilation as a state. But in harmony with Isaiah's design, the interaction of Assyria with Israel is seen from a Judean stand point while Israel's demise and loss is the central theme from chapter seven to chapter twelve. In harmony with this verse, that is, that his visions are those concerning Judah and Jerusalem, Isaiah delivered his prophecies of the end of Israel to the house of David in Jerusalem and describes the imminence of their loss in graphic terms. He said the spoil of the nation is to be completed in a matter of a few years from a marked event recorded by witnesses, according to Isaiah 8. After chapter twelve, beginning in chapter thirteen, Isaiah then will predict the punishment of Judah for the same reasons which God allowed the Assyrians to punish Israel. But, not without reason does he predict the fall of Babylon first before outlining God's use of the Babylonians to take the Judeans into a purging captivity. This theme of the use of Assyria and Babylon which will not thwart the ultimate appearance of "Zion" in a restored remnant will echo repeatedly through the book. That is, Assyria is an agent of Immanuel to purify Israel. Babylon will be Immanuel's agent to do the same to Judah in the distant future. After God has used these nations as his agents of punishment Isaiah says they will disappear from the march of history but Israel and Judah will be restored to fulfill God's purposes for them and have a continuing history. Initially Isaiah gives this final great result in Chapter two, that is, that the word of God will go out from Jerusalem and all nations will learn about the true God from the center of a restored Judah and Jerusalem (Isa 2:2). After this assurance in chapter two he gives the reasons for impending punishment and exile through chapter 5 and then records his call to the prophetic office in chapter 6 and then for many chapters describes the details of the Assyrian and Babylonian punishments. Into these passages he will intermingle messianic references which give assurance that the whole house of Israel has a glorious future in spite of the horrors that Isaiah's generation will experience. This method continues until chapter forty when the main theme will give details of the physical restoration of the nation during which time the Messiah will appear and establish Zion. In that section the messianic details become extraordinarily clear about his person and his kingdom.
2. Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth: for the LORD has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel does not know, my people do not consider. 4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward. 5 Why should you be punished any more? you keep on rebelling: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and fresh sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, nor softened with oil.
Verses 2-6: Listen!: This introduces the conditions that will bring forth the punishments on both Israel and Judah. The reasons for the punishment are elaborated in chapter two particularly in the notes under verse 18 where idolatry is pointed out as the chief sin of the divided nation which must be purged.
7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land is devoured by strangers in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
Verse 7: The literal translation of the variant reading in the Qumran Isaiah scroll which contains one extra word is "and its desolation upon her is like the destruction by foreigners." The phrase in Hebrew has "destruction" as a noun in construct, therefore definite. The passage is prophetic although it had partially been fulfilled when this was written if, as is likely, this portion of Isaiah introduces the main theme which begins in chapter seven, that is, of the imminent destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. The tribes east of the Jordan were very likely in captivity by the time of this writing as will be explained in the comments below, particularly in chapters seven through twelve, and has also been noted in the introductory chapter on the interaction of Israeli and Assyrian kings. Some of the cities of Judah were to be overthrown by the Assyrians but they would not and did not capture Jerusalem nor did her cities remain "desolate" as did the cities of Israel. The cities of Israel became desolate for at least 200 years. Judah's desolation was not brought by the Assyrians, but by the Babylonians, 120 years later. In the design of the book of Isaiah he takes up the Assyrian destruction of Israel first in chapters 7-12 and then the future destruction and desolation of Judah by the Babylonians beginning in chapter 13. These two events then will be referred to randomly throughout the book and they will be mingled with extraordinary messianic prophecies as contrasts, to what the Assyrians and Babylonians (strangers) do to Israel, as opposed to what the Messiah will do in the restoration of the nation.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a shed in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
Verse 8: Zion: This is the first mention of the word "Zion" in the text. For the meaning of the word in various contexts see the note under 10:24.
Verse 8: Is left: In the literal Hebrew text the word "left" is a participle which is an adjective modifying the word daughter. Thus the translation should be "the remnant (or abandoned) daughter of Zion is like a hut etc." "The daughter of Zion" refers to the true believer who is the Zion of God but a minority who lives among those who are "earth bound" but outwardly appear to be the real physical nation. When seen in this way the naturalness of the Nazarene portion of this passage noted in the next note is that much clearer a reference to the prophetic nature of the true Nazarene Zion. Interestingly, the Septuagint translation (LXX) uses a future passive verb for "left" and reads: "The daughter of Zion shall have been abandoned etc...." Did the LXX translators, during the silent years of the restored nation (285 BC) imply that this abandonment by the Jewish nation of the true Zion was future to them? It seems so. These translators knew the same future abandonment of Zion with the natural nation joining the enemy was predicted by Zechariah. See Zechariah 12:2.
See also Zech 11:14 where the covenant between Judah and Israel is broken. Judah (the natural nation) is to be cut off from the covenant of Israel-Zion.
Verse 8: The word "natser" from which the words Nazareth and Nazarene are derived is here translated "besieged." The Morphologically tagged edition of the Hebrew Text in the Logos Bible program gives the root of this word as nazar rather than a passive participle of "tsur" which is assumed by the translation "besieged." We concur with the Morphologically tagged text. The word here is a passive participle of nazar or . This is the first of many passages in Isaiah where Nazarene prophesies are found in a play on words. This is a prediction of the true Zion being rejected by its inhabitants as a house of lesser importance, like a small watch tower or garden shed, not the main house or like a Nazarene or Christian city, not really Jewish. See the comment on this verse in the chapter called Excursus on the Nazarene.
9 Except the LORD of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like Gomorrah. 10. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah. 11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? says the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and I do not desire the fat of fed beasts, or the blood of bullocks, or of lambs or goats. 12 When you came to see my face, who sought this trampling of my courts from your hand? 13 Bring me no more empty oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot bear them; it is evil, even the solemn meeting. 14 My soul hates your new moons and your appointed feasts: they are a trouble to me; I am weary of bearing them.
Verse 14: The LXX says that God is satiated and "bored" with the abundance of empty religious observances
15 And when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you: when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away your evil habits from before my eyes; cease doing evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18 Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land: 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it. 21. How is the faithful city become a harlot! I had filled it with judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. 22 Your silver is tarnished, your wine mixed with water: 23 Your princes are rebellious and friends of thieves: they are all lovers of gifts and pursuers of bribes: they do not judge the fatherless, neither does the cause of the widow come before them. 24 Therefore says the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, I will ease myself of my adversaries, and avenge myself of my enemies:
Verse 24: This verse is a good example of Isaiah's use of play on words as a literary device. Here the words "ease" and "avenge" are homonyms, that is, they both have the phonetic sound: "na kahm" in Hebrew although spelled differently ['ennaqemah and 'ennachem] It does not, in this place, add anything to the meaning of the text but there are verses, particularly those in which the word from which Nazarene is derived where the meaning is governed by the play on words. For another good example of this literary device where it does make a difference in additional understanding see the last verse of chapter eight and the first verse of chapter nine (8:22-9:1) where "dimness and anguish" are found used in the same mechanism as used here and there they carry the sense of the passage forward.
25 And I will return my hand on you and as with lye melt away your backsliding, and take away all your divisiveness:
. Verse 25: This verse is a good example of Isaiah's use of double entendre. The words "dross and tin" used in the KJV are literal renditions of the Hebrew text but there are homonyms in Hebrew of those words which we use here. It is Isaiah's style to use these "play on words." There are important places in his prophecy where the use of "play on words" delivers unusual revelation. The use of the words for Nazarene and Nazareth is only one of the many uses of this mechanism which is also illustrated here.
Verses 24 and 25: The Qumran text is substantially the same as the Masoretic (received text) in this verse but the LXX reading is so different that the present received Hebrew text could not support its rendition of these verses. Even though the LXX is more of an interpretive translation than it is a word for word translation, (much like the "dynamic parallelism" of the NASV and the NIV), the LXX is expected to add only what is implied. Perhaps it is the use of "play on words" in both verses, which, as explained above contains more than meets the eye, that gave liberty to the LXX translators to embellish the text. What ever the reason, the LXX reading of verses 24 and 25 are added to show this freedom they used here: "Therefore thus says the despotic LORD of hosts, Woe to the strong ones of Israel: who will not stop my wrath upon the opposers or judgement upon those hated of me which I will do. I will turn my hand on you and I will burn you into purity, indeed I will destroy the doubters and effeminate and all the lawless ones from you and I will humble the arrogant ones."
26 And I will restore your judges as they were at first, and your counselors as at the beginning: afterward you shall be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. 27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her captives with righteousness.
Verse 27: "Zion" is a word like "Israel" which can have different meanings depending on the context in which it is found. As "Israel" may be: the name of a man, a label for Jacob's sons, the whole of the twelve tribes, or just the ten tribe kingdom of Israel, or it can mean the true church of all ages. So Zion can mean: a place in Jerusalem, physical Jerusalem itself, the restored remnant nation, or the perfected condition (not a place at all) to which God's people will come under the Messiah. Isaiah uses "Zion" in all these meanings and the context will determine which is meant. See notes under 10:24. Click Back Button to return to this place.
Verse 27: Captives: The KJV has "converts" but this is not supported by any reading. "Captives" or "returnees" is the reading of both the Hebrew and the LXX texts. The verse therefore is a portent of further predictions of the predicted captivity of first Israel and then Judah which Isaiah is to describe in this book. It is the design of prophecy to introduce the themes to be developed obscurely, as here, and then to add to the information until a crescendo of information overwhelms the mind. Such overwhelming predictions and descriptions of the destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, the captivity, and the restoration of the tribes (all twelve) into one nation at the command of Cyrus the Persian have caused skeptics to brand the book of Isaiah as a compilation of at least two writers, one at the time of the Assyrian Invasions (circa 720 BC) and another "Deutero-Isaiah" at the time of the completion of the second temple (circa 450 B.C.). See notes under 63:3; 63:18; and 64:11 for further discussion of verses criticized by skeptics as well as a discussion of Chaldean forms in Isaiah which are anachronisms and seem to support skeptical critics.
28 And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed. 29 For they shall be ashamed of the oak idols which they have desired, and they shall be confounded by the gardens that they have chosen.
Verse 29: They shall be ashamed. There is no doubt about the person and number in the Hebrew participle and third plural suffix in the received text. The Qumran Isaiah text confirms the same reading (third person masculine plural) of "they." The LXX is consistent with the use or third person plural in all the verbs in this verse using Greek "ontai," "onto," or "san" third plural endings. The NIV chooses "you" but the reference is not to those being addressed in the days of Isaiah. It is either to inhabitants of a cleansed Zion who will abandon idolatry as ashamed of the past or to those who in the day of vengeance (the period of attack by the Assyrians and later the Babylonians) still forsake the Lord looking for earthly answers and who will be ashamed in the day when they, to no avail, seek for help from helpless images made of oak.
30 For you shall be like an oak with falling leaves, and as a garden that has no water. 31 And the strong shall be as lint, and the maker of the idol as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and no one shall quench them.
Verse 31: Strong and maker: The LXX makes the two classes to be the laborer and the businessman. The one who struggles to make the idol and the one involved in the business for profit from the selling the product. Both are to burn together; and LXX adds "the lawless and the sinners."
It is also Isaiah's style to give the positive elements in the future of Israel-Zion before the trials that the nation will endure, which are to be before the Glory of Zion has arrived.
Isaiah introduced that style here. The nation is to endure calamities of exile. -- for the northern kingdom the punishment is imminent. For Judah the exile is more than a generation or two ahead and described in several places in his book,-- including chapters 41-49. But the nation had a divinely appointed future to bless mankind. According to these previews of future glory, God is not through with them: as is seen here in the first few verses of chapter 2. They will rise again and they wiil reach the establishment of Zion
Isaiah continues this style in chapter 8 of Isaiah. He had named his son Shearyashuv (7:2) which means "a remnant will return". He predicted the return of the ten tribes before they were exiled. He named his son long before he warned Ahaz of the Assyrian advance before the Assyrians attacked Galilee and before he gave the prediction of the exile of Israel. The remnant did return in the silent years. For which see See my material on Zechariah
Isaiah used the same style in Isaiah 40 giving the picture of the coming of the Baptist and the Messiah who would bring comfort to the captive exiles, He then describes the exile and deliverance in the next 8-9 chapters. The "comfort ye" is written to the future Babylonian captives to assure them God is not through with them. First the assurance of future glory and then predict the afflixion. That is the style.
1. The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall happen in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it.
Verse 2: established: For the importance of this word (verb = nakon and noun = makon) see notes under Isa 4:5.
Verse 2: "The last days:" be'acharith hayyamiym. This Hebrew construction is found 13 times in the Old Testament. It is translated " last days, latter times, latter days, days to come (NIV)." It refers to the last portions of various and different eras. For instance Genesis 49:1 refers to the mature tribal existence of the sons of Jacob after the bondage in Egypt and their wandering and conquest of the land and finally their settling down to statehood. Jacob calls that time the "last days," if the same construction as found in Isaiah 2:2 is followed.
In Numbers 24:14 the "last days" describes the final days of the people of Midian who were destroyed in the over throw by Gideon.
Deut 4:30 and 31:29 describe the period of maturity of the twelve states of Israel during the Kingdom Period as the "latter days." While Jeremiah 23:20; and 30:24; and Dan. 10:14; and Hosea 3:5; and Micah 4:1 and Jer. 48:47; and 49:39 all describe events that take place during the second commonwealth or the Persian and Greek and Roman periods of what we call Ancient History. That would mean that the "last days" refer more times than any other to the last period of Jewish history. In Jer. 48:47 and 49:39 the return from captivity of the Elamites and Moabites (one in S.W. Persia and the other east of Sinai) is said to be "in the latter or last days." This was fulfilled when both nations (led into captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians) were restored to their land areas when Cyrus The Persian decreed the return of captive nations. The cuneiform steele describing the different captive nations is in the library of Yale University where I was able to view it in its perfect undamaged completely readable condition. Thus these two passages also speak in prophecy of the "last days" as the era of the second commonwealth. Jeremiah also calls the same period "in those days and at that time." This is more likely what is meant in Isaiah 2:2. That is, the "latter days" or time of the final Jewish commonwealth which ended in 70 A.D.
Micah 4:1 makes the identical prophesy as Isaiah 2:2-4 and is more certain about placing its fulfillment after the return from Babylonian captivity and states that Jerusalem would be overthrown but not to fear because, there will be a return of the remnant and out of Bethlehem will come forth the deliverer. Thus Micah makes the "last days" be the days of the return from Babylon when the Messiah will come out of Bethlehem and the Word of God goes forth from Jerusalem. This means that Isaiah 2:2 refers to the ministry of Jesus and the day of Pentecost where the Gospel was preached for the first time on mount Zion in Jerusalem. Ezekiel 38:16, using the same construction as all these just noted above, is alone in referring the period of the "latter days" to the "latter years" of verse 38:8 when the Prince of Rosh would arise and lead the nations against God and his people. He refers, no doubt, to the rise and demise of Communism led by the USSR
Thus it is seen that the phrase "last days" refers variously to the end of the nation of Midian, the Kingdom Period of Israel and Judah, the period after the Babylonian captivity, and the latter time of the Christian era. Thus the phrase "the last days" is not used once in the scripture of the end of the world but refers to the end of a particular era which the context will explain. Its most common reference is to the last epoch of the Jewish national state, and of the law of Moses and of the Temple and of the Old Testament Covenant. Which is what is meant here in Isaiah and will be elaborated upon in the unfolding of his book. He will give great detail as to how the true Zion will reach maturity in the "last days."
The time of the end.
A similarly misused phrase found only in Daniel is "the time of the end." Daniel uses it 5 times. It never refers to the end of the world. It is more precise than "last days" which speaks of a period of time, since it refers to the finality or completion of an event. In Daniel 8:17 it refers to the cleansing of the Temple under the Maccabees; in Dan 11:35 and Dan 11:40 the phrase refers to the completion of wars between the Selucid and Ptolemaic Empires which affected Israel; in Dan 12:4 and Dan 12:9 it refers to the general completion or fulfillment of the visions of Daniel. What is meant is that they can not be understood until they are viewed after their completion. The phrase "end time" or "end times" is not in the Bible. For a more elaborate explanation of "the time of the end" in Daniel 12 see
Revelation A Panorama of the Gospel Age: by Fred P Miller, pub Moellerhaus, 1992.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Verse 4: Compare Isaiah 2:2-4 with Micah 4:1-4 which follows:But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make [them] afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
5 O house of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the LORD. 6. You have cast off your people the house of Jacob, because they have filled themselves with eastern religions, and are fortunetellers like the Philistines, and they applaud the ways of the children of strangers.
Verse 6: Philistines: See note under 9:12 for the LXX use of this name and why the LXX translators never use the name "Philistine" in translation. The text here in the LXX has "'allophulon" which means "foreigners" for Philistines.
7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:
Verse 7: The description of Israel as a prosperous nation which was rich in resources and produced wealth for a large number of inhabitants is repeated in a number of places. The presence of military might is also stressed here and other places (seen before the destruction of the nation by the Assyrians. See notes on prosperity under 7:21 - 23 for further description of the agricultural blessings that the Galileans took for granted. See Isaiah 28:1,2 where the nation is proud of their "glorious beauty" and "glorious beauty above fruitful fields" Implied is the fact that Israel was a prosperous and politically strong nation, enjoying power among nations and "the good life" when it was overthrown. They were not in decline but lost their exalted position in the midst of pride and power and plenty.
8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 9 And humanity bows down, and mankind humbles itself: therefore do not forgive them.
Verse 9: See 5:15 for same construction. Humanity from "adam" and man from "ish." Humanity and mankind might be a better rendering.
Verse 9: Therefore do not forgive them. This phrase and all of verse 10 following this phrase is omitted from the Qumran Isaiah scroll.
10. Enter into the rock, and hide you in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty.
Verse 10 is not in the Qumran Isaiah Scroll. The LXX adds after majesty: "when he arises to terribly shake the earth" to this verse making it identical to the last part of verse 19 below.
11 Humanity's lofty looks shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of mankind shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. 12 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and haughty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: 13 And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, 14 And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up,
Vss 12 - 14: Cedars, Oaks, Mountains and Hills God is not against trees and topography. But these trees, cedar and oak, were the materials of which idols were made and the mountains and hills were where they were placed. The word for "idol" in Hebrew is derived from the word for "oak."
15 And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, 16 And upon all the ships of Carthage, and upon all pleasant pictures.
Verse 16: Carthage: See notes under chapter 23 1 for why we choose Carthage in North Africa, the major Phoenician colony of Tyre for the Hebrew Tarshish, instead of Tartesus, the remote outpost of Carthaginian trade in southwestern Spain beyond the "Gates of Hercules."
17 And the loftiness of humanity shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of mankind shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. 18 And he shall utterly abolish the idols. 19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he arises to terribly shake the earth. 20 In that day a man shall cast, to the moles and to the bats, his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which each one made for himself to worship; 21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he arises to terribly shake the earth. 22 Therefore stop trusting human nature whose life force is in his nostrils: for of what account is he?
Verse 18: Abolish the Idols: This announcement is the major reason for the impending doom to be brought on the divided nation of Israel. The northern kingdom is to receive punishment first and idolatry is therefore to be purged from that nation which will lose its political identity. The first portions of Isaiah's predictions after his call begin in chapter seven. The northern kingdom of Israel is to be purged, scattered among the nations and later a remnant will return, purged from idolatry. Judah shall suffer a similar fate later under the Babylonians and be taken into captivity. The captivity of Judah and its purging punishment begins in chapter 13. Chapter forty begins the section that describes in detail the tribal return, having been purged from idolatry, to the land and the rebuilding the true religion of YHWH following the release from captivity by Cyrus, whom Isaiah names. The rebuilding according to Isaiah is the precursor to the advent of the Messiah who will come in those days after the return and after idolatry has been purged from the nation.
Return to Commentary Directory
Go Back to Moellerhaus Homepage