The Last of the Afflictions Associated with the Assyrian Conquest1. Woe to them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; 2 To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! 3 And what will you do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will you flee for help? and where will you leave your glory? 4 Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Verses 1-4: The final woe no sustaining faith--no God: 10:1-4 This is the last of the series of descriptions of the conditions which add to the "dimness of anguish" wrought by the Assyrians. Here Israel is reminded of their own personal responsibility of abandoning God as a refuge which leaves their despair only deeper They have not lived the life of those privileged to know God. They have lived selfishly, oppressed the orphan and widow, followed unholy practices but worst of all they have no God and are absolutely alone in the day of terrible visitation that is imminent and which will utterly devastate their prosperous land of beauty and abundance. See 7:21,22 and the notes there for the description of overflowing abundance which required little investment for the fruitfulness of the region to make life a joy physically. There was nothing but hopelessness left when they lost the good land because they had no spiritual values to turn to and the devastation was therefore more overwhelming.
Isaiah says: It is God who Uses the Assyrians as the Instrument of Punishment He is bringing on His People5. Ah, Assyria is the rod of my anger, and the staff in their hand is my indignation. 6 I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath. I gave him charge to take spoil, and to take prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
Verse 5: "Ah": This word can be an expression of exclamation or it can be translated "Woe," as a warning as it is in 20 of the 22 times Isaiah uses the word.
7 But he does not plan to do this, neither did he think this in his heart; because it is in his heart to destroy and cut off many nations. 8 For he said, Are not my princes altogether kings? 9 Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? 10 As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, whose statues were more than those of Jerusalem or Samaria; 11 Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her idols?
Verses 8 - 11: It is valuable to see the differences that exist between the translation of the Masoretic text and the LXX. These verses mark well the loose and free use of thought that characterizes the LXX which often translates the gist of a sentence and not the exact word for word ideas. Sometimes the free exchanges do some damage to the integrity of the text as they may do here in the changes that are made in names and the extent of the Assyrian Empire that is suggested by the LXX translators. If the Masoretic text read as the LXX then there might be anachronistic ideas in the prophesy that might preclude Isaiah from being the author, because this is late, (285 B.C.) during the reign of the Greeks and the LXX looks back at the accomplishments that are boasted about by the Assyrians before the assault on Jerusalem. The LXX translators give us a good history lesson from their perspective and add to our knowledge of the expansion of the Assyrian Empire but the translation is not faithful to the original text here. The LXX beginning with verse 8 reads:
"And if they may say to him, 'You are not the only rulers,' 9. then he shall reply, 'Did I not take the regions beyond Babylonia and Calno where a fort was built? And I took Arabia and Damascus and Samaria. 10. Even as I have taken these by my hand I will also take their rulers. You bewailed [ta glupta Gr. the destruction?] in Jerusalem and in Samaria. 11. Even as I have done to Samaria and her handmade (gods) so I will do also to Jerusalem and her idols'."
If the LXX writers are correct in their commentary-like translation of this section, it would place Assyrian suzereignity beyond the Iranian Plateau, already on the way toward India, and the Arabian Peninsula under their control, with their intent to extend their sway beyond Samaria which according to this section had already fallen when the siege of Jerusalem was threatened and imminent. The point emphasized here is the freedom of expression and addition of elements not in the Hebrew Text inherent in the LXX.
Future Destruction of Assyria and the Return of Israel12 So, when the Lord has performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem then I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.
Verse 12: When the Assyrians complete their divine mission: The meaning here is "the whole work" that God has designed for using the Assyrians as his instrument for punishing Israel and Judah. When the Assyrians have completed their assigned task of scattering Israel and punishing Judah then God will turn his attention to the punishment of Assyria, which as the following text shows, will be similar in destructiveness to that suffered by the Kingdom of Israel. They will suffer extinction as a national state.
13 For he said, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the boundaries of peoples, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man:
Verse13: I have removed the boundaries of peoples: Here Isaiah has Assyria boasting of its actions which are historically verifiable. Whether or not the Assyrians invented the method of pacifying their conquests by forced resettling of the nations they conquered or not they were masters at the method. They passed on this behaviour to the Babylonians who also resettled conquered peoples to keep them from reorganizing and rebelling. It was Cyrus the Persian who took power circa 536 B.C. who reversed the process by returning conquered nations to their former lands.
14 And my hand has found the riches of the nations as a nest: and just as one who gathers eggs that are left, I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing, or opened their mouth, or peeped. 15 Should the axe boast itself against him that hews with it? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that moves it? as if a rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if a staff should lift itself up, as if it were not wood.
Verse 15: Should the axe boast: Assyria is reminded that it is Immanuel who is in charge and that He YHWH has invited the Assyrians to merely be his instrument.
16 Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and in place of his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. 17 And the light of Israel shall be the fire, and his Holy One shall be the flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; 18 And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standard bearer faints. 19 And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may number them.
Verse 17: Burning fire: The LXX translation is consistent with the previously given pictures of fire being sanctifying enthusiasm to be brought by the Messiah. See notes under 4:4 and 6:12 - 13) The LXX rendering of this verse is: "And the light of Israel shall be for a fire and he shall sanctify them in burning fire and in that day he shall devour (them) as if (they were) briars and thorns."
The Future Return of Israel to Faith in God20. And it shall happen in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and the delivered of the house of Jacob, shall no longer rely upon him that injured them; but shall lean upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
Verse 20: And it shall happen in that day: The "day" spoken of here is not the Messianic "day" of chapter 11:11 where that return is called the "second time." Here in this "day" is the description of the first "return," so called in verses 21, 22 following. This return would not be accomplished until after the captivity of Judah had happened and then the nation was restored. As mentioned above Mt Ephraim would never be regained but the land of Zebulun and Naphtali were to be repeopled again by descendants of the same peoples who were deported form there by the Assyrians. The day spoken of here is in "the day" that includes the absent nation of Assyria. There will be no Assyria when the tribes are brought back from captivity according to Isaiah.
21 The remnant shall return to the mighty God, even the remnant of Jacob, 22 For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the completion decreed shall overflow with righteousness.
Verse 22: A remnant shall return: Remember 7:2,3 that this is the name of Isaiah's son. Shearyashuv. When the Apostle Paul referred to this passage he did not apply it to the "second return," that is, to the remnant of the Jews who became Christians and to the call of the Gentiles into the continuing Zion or Israel, the church of Christ. Rather he applied it correctly to the return of the tribes of Israel, all 12, to the second commonwealth after 536 B.C. which resulted in the "day" of the Messiah at the close of the period of the second commonwealth. Paul pointed out that just as Isaiah said the scattered tribes of Jacob had among them a "remnant" of those who believe in God who returned to the nation after the Babylonian captivity, so also "now," that is, in the time of Paul, there is also a remnant "according to the election of grace." He applied the verse here and this return to the gospel ingathering only by extension as a similar return to the remnant that became the second commonwealth. See This return, spoken of in verse 22 above, of this remnant refers to the return of the "lost tribes" to Israel or Zion in the second commonwealth which was then contained in the restored nation of Judah after 536 B.C. to 70 A.D. (The "second return" which includes the call of the Gentiles is mentioned in 11:11-- see note there.)
23 For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make an already determined full end, in the midst of all the land.
Verse 23: A Determined Full End: Isaiah predicts this over and over again in these pages. that is, that the Assyrians will overthrow the nation of Israel but that this is not the end of God's dealing with them. It is on this account that Isaiah encourages faith in the ultimate plan of God which is to include the destruction and disappearance of the Assyrian Empire after which the remnant of the faithful of the nation of Israel will be restored, but as explained in other places, not to statehood.
24. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, O my people who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall strike you with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against you, after the manner of Egypt
Verse 24: My people who dwell in Zion: Zion here does not refer to southwest Jerusalem but to the person who looks for the perfected condition that God will bring his people to under the Messiah. It is this faith in the future triumph of Zion that produces the assurance that the true believer has. The ultimate victory of God and his purpose for the nation of Israel which would come but was not yet fulfilled strengthens the "dweller in Zion." He knew that the Assyrian's temporary victory over the nation of Israel would not inhibit the final outcome and reward of those who look for "Zion." Because of these promises the believer was assured that Israel was not finished and would be used again by God to fulfill his purpose. Assyria would fall and never rise again. Not so Israel, her fall and dispersion was for the purpose of purging her from the idolatry of her neighbors as described in verse 20. Other phrases in Isaiah which describe the same condition as those who dwell in Zion, are: inhabitant of Zion, daughter of Zion, people who dwell in Zion, who dwells in mount Zion, every foundation of Mount Zion, he that is left in Zion.
25 But yet a very little while, and the indignation shall end, and my anger shall end in their destruction.
Verse 25: A very little while: The Assyrian Empire reached very great heights and it would tax the unbeliever beyond his patience (see Isaiah 22:15ff) to wait for God's "very little while." The Assyrian Empire soon after Isaiah would encompass the whole of the Near East. Egypt itself would be subject to the Assyrians in a few more decades. Their expansion would proceed unabated while they basked in the luxury of receiving tribute from all the rest of the nations. The end would come on them while they lived in the midst of luxury and it would come suddenly from rebelling provinces. About 112 years after the fall of Samaria and the deportation of the remaining tribes in Mount Ephraim the Babylonians allied with the Medes and Scythians overthrew Nineveh, Khorsabad and all the other great cities of Assyria and they disappeared as a national state just as Israel had and just as Isaiah prophesied would happen to them. God's "little while" is a little longer than ours, but not that much longer, and when the time is up the things promised are completed as in this section with "an already determined full end." This "already determined full end" includes not only the final destruction of Assyria, never to rise again, but unlike Assyria,, Israel is to be returned from captivity to the land. This happened after the Babylonian captivity of the Jews when remnants from all the tribes were added to the restored nation of Judah.
26 And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and like his rod was upon the sea when he lifted it up in the way from Egypt.
Verse 26: The Assyrian's "day of Midian:" The same figure of the extermination of the Midianites and of complete destruction and route of their armies by Gideon is used here to describe the overthrow of Assyria. This was used in 9:4 to describe Assyria's overthrow of Israel. The similarities between the extinction of Israel as a nation and the future extinction of Assyria who will suffer the same fate as Israel is continued here and below. In the same way that Israel was punished and fell so will Assyria fall, is Isaiah's prediction. See 9:4 where the same figure of "Midian" is used to describe the complete overthrow of Israel by Assyria.
Verse 26: Rock of Oreb: "And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan." Ju. 7:25
27 And it shall happen in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off your shoulder, and his yoke from off your neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.
Verse 27: "because of the anointing:" Hebrew is: mip-pney shemen, Lit. "from or because of the presence of the oil." Oil of anointing is implied and the Aramaic Targum, portions of which date from the fourth century B.C., paraphrases "Messiah" for this construction indicating that Jews who lived during the time of the second commonwealth thought this verse corresponds with the rest of what Isaiah said concerning the passing away completely of the Assyrian yoke (as well as the Babylonian yoke) before the Messiah's appearance. This same thought of the contrast between Assyria and Messiah's kingdom is recorded at length by Isaiah in all of chapters 7-12. Thus what is said here is that Assyria will have its own "day of Midian" mentioned in the preceding verse, and its power will disappear. This is then reassured, as in many other places, by the news that there is more for this nation yet to come in the age of "the anointing." Afterward, God will bring a glorious anointed age to a restored Israel through his Messiah, -- after the destruction of Assyrian and Babylonian Empires.
But Before Assyria is Thus Judged Israel and the Towns North of Jerusalem Will Fall and Jerusalem Itself Will be Under Siege28 He is come to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he has deposited his equipment:
Verses 28 - 34.: Aiath etc. Almost all the villages mentionedhere are located in Benjamin north of Mount Scopus but not very far north. They range from 3 to 10 miles north from the center of Jerusalem. From there to Laish (former name of Dan the northern most city in Israel) the description of the flight of everyone from their cities just north of Jerusalem is described. The Assyrians under Sargon completed their destruction of Mount Ephraim in 722 B.C. Sennacherib followed him as the Assyrian ruler in a few years and passed through Judah and besieged Jerusalem. All the outskirts of Jerusalem and her outpost-fortress cities had fallen to Sennacherib but he was halted at the environs of Jerusalem. All the locations mentioned here would be on higher ground than Jerusalem and would overlook it. This describes the Assyrian activity and the locations of their armies when encamped against Jerusalem. The events here are described in a vision that is remarkable. This vision is the first of two. The other vision which details the events going on inside the city while this one describes the approach of the Assyrian Armies toward the city and the limited results of the siege including the destruction of the armies of Sennacherib. Chapter 22 describes the terror inside the city also in a vision. Thus the chapter is called "The valley of the vision." See the further notes there and the notes in chapters 36-38 for the complete picture of this marvelous precognition of Isaiah.
Verse 28: Deposited his equipment: Sennacherib had completed the taking of most of the cities of southwest Judah. The great city of Lachish had been besieged, captured and burned after which Sennacherib went on to Libnah. There his messengers whom he had sent to terrorize Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem had returned to find him also engaged. At this time according to Isa. 37:7,8 a rumor reached the Assyrians that the king of the Ethiopians had set out on a campaign to fight the Assyrian army. This hastened the decision of Sennacherib to raise the assault on Jerusalem. The easiest route, that would be easiest to defend, was to regroup and march to Samaria and approach Jerusalem from the north, from Samaria, which was for several years already in Assyrian hands. Thus this chapter describes the march on Jerusalem from the north through the central highlands. Herodotus gives other details of Sennacherib's activities which are condensed in the scripture. See notes under 30:4 and the introduction to chapter 36 where Josephus's more extensive detailed account is mentioned as well.
29 They have come over the pass: Geba has become their lodging place; Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul has fled. 30 Lift up your voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard to Laish, O poor Anathoth.
Verse 30: Daughter of Gallim "Daughter of Captivities" Laish is the old name for Dan and Anathoth is very close and just north of Jerusalem, a city where the priests lived and commuted to temple service. Thus the announcement is to send these lamentable words from just north of Jerusalem to Dan, the northern most city. The one addressed is "Daughter of Gallim." The unpointed Hebrew form [galiym, ] is the same as the participle of the word "captivities." It is translated "with the first captives" in Amos 6:7 [berosh goliym ] This simile for the whole nation (Judah and Israel) is in the context of the captivity, seen as actually under way but in a vision of the future. Isaiah's description here, although prophetically uttered before it happened, is of it actually going on with events in progress rather than the usual warnings that it would come. Here "Gallim" plural of "Galah" should have its meaning translated rather than refer it as a name to an unknown location. "Galah" means captive or captivity and "gallim" captives or captivities. Thus "Daughter of Gallim" is "Daughter of Captivities" It refers to all those going into captivity including the towns mentioned, but noticeably excludes Jerusalem which was besieged but not captured at this time.
31 Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. 32 As yet shall he remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.
Verse 32: Nob: The location is on Mount Scopus which in today's larger Jerusalem would be inside the city limits. It was very close and overlooked the city, perhaps only three miles from the Temple. Sennacherib's armies would have been well in view and would have struck terror in the hearts of the inhabitants. The whole scene is described in detail historically in Isaiah chapters 36, 37 which took place in the 27th or 28th year of Hezekiah. Samaria had fallen in the sixth year of his reign.
Verse 32: Shake his Hand: Jerusalem was threatened by Sennacherib but not taken.
33 Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. 34 And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.
Verse 33: Lop with terror: This is a reference to the plague that God brought on the Assyrian armies when 185,000 died in one night. It terrorized the remnant of Sennacherib's armies as well as himself and caused his hasty retreat to Nineveh where he retired from military life. He shook his hand against Jerusalem but did not assault the city. His death at the hands of his sons was about 20 years later. See Isaiah 37:36 and 2 Kings 19:35. And for details about the siege see the introduction to chapter 36. See also introduction to chapter 18 for a similar poetic description of "lopping the boughs."
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