Second Messianic Passage: Isaiah Devotional Journal 47

Isaiah 24    Link to LXE Modernized

–continued from Part One Simultaneously published at

Second Messianic Passage (Give Allegiance to the King: Part 2)

RECAP: Isaiah 24 is an amazing chapter. He summarizes his entire message to this point. This chapter especially summarizes his judgments against the nations from chapter 13 forward. It also serves as an introduction to the more detailed messianic portions later in the book. The vista of Isaiah 24 is enormous. His vision stretches to the end of time. This is the first lengthy eschatological (end times) passage in the book. He also zooms in on the “church age.” The chapter is a call for all peoples to give their allegiance to the King who wins. Find the link to the first messianic passage HERE. This post covers the second messianic passage.

Second Messianic Passage: Verses 21-23

There is a very large break following verse 20 that is important not to miss. Verse 20 strikes the final hammer blow to the earth.

Isaiah 24:20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. (ESV)

Following this phrase, “The earth… shall not be able to rise,” (Septuagint) Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 24:21 And God shall bring His hand upon the host of heaven, and upon the kings of the earth. 22 And they shall gather the multitude thereof into prisons, and they shall shut them into a stronghold; after many generations they shall be visited. 23 And the brick shall decay, and the wall shall fall; for the Lord shall reign from out of Zion, and out of Jerusalem, and shall be glorified before His elders. (CAB, LXE)

This is the second messianic passage in Isaiah 24.

How Is This Verse Messianic?

At first glance, verse 21 may appear to belong with the previous judgment section. How can this be the first verse of a second messianic passage? Yes, it can seem like more of the same that went before. However, there are indicators that a new section has begun.

Isaiah writes abruptly

Isaiah’s main characters are: the rebellious and the submissive, the loyal and the disloyal, the people and the Lord. Just as in a movie or in the book of Revelation, Isaiah’s “camera” switches back and forth between his main characters.

  • In the Masoretic text tradition (nearly all of our major translations) the signal phrase is, “On [or in] that day…” (ESV). This phrase often refers to an event in a messianic timeframe. See Isaiah 2:11, 17; 11:10; Hosea 2:16; Amos 9:11; Micah 4:6; Zechariah 2:11; John 14:20 and 16:26.
  • In the Septuagint, which I follow in this blog, the signal word is a simple, “And.” There are two “ands” in Greek–a hard “and” and a soft “and.” The soft “and” is a transition word that has multiple uses. The hard “and” (καὶ) often signals a major section break. See, for example, Isaiah 24:12. For several prior verses in this example, Isaiah had been talking about people. In verse 12, he switches to speaking about cities.
  • In verse 24:21, Isaiah signals a change of topic with the introductory word, “And.”
Strong New Testament Parallels

Verses 21 and 22

Isaiah 24:21 And God shall bring His hand upon the host of heaven, and upon the kings of the earth. 22 And they shall gather the multitude thereof into prisons, and they shall shut them into a stronghold; after many generations they shall be visited.

Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. (ESV)

 Luke 10:18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (ESV)

We live in the missionary era. The Gospel goes forth largely unimpeded (yet often not without great sacrifice and suffering). People from many nations hear God’s Word. Lives are changed. Neither Satan, nor the kings of the earth, have power to prevent the Word of Jesus Christ from going forth. All three of the above passages describe this messianic period of time. We are currently living “in that day.” This is the day when we show our allegiance to Christ our King.

Isaiah describes different events

Notice the finality of Isaiah 24:20, “It [the earth] shall fall, and shall not be able to rise.” (LXE) The ESV reads, “It falls, and will not rise again.” Yet, this second messianic passage, verses 21-22, speaks of period of time when the host of heaven and kings are to be shut up in prison, only to be visited, or punished, “after many generations.” But, this would not be possible if the earth had already fallen, never to rise again. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that by using the word “And… “, Isaiah has changed subjects. He presents, as it were, certain material from a different camera angle. The entire chapter is eschatological, and there are different sections in it. The judgment sections refer to the very end, while the messianic passages refer to a time period the Masoretic texts describe as, “in that day.”

Similarity with Ephesians

Septuagint verse 23 meshes extremely well with the proposition that the passage from verse 21 forward is messianic. The time period is the Christian era following the resurrection of Christ, as presented above.

Isaiah 24:23. And the brick shall decay, and the wall shall fall; for the Lord shall reign from out of Zion, and out of Jerusalem, and shall be glorified before His elders.

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (ESV)

The Masoretic textual tradition differs greatly in the first portion of this verse. “Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed,… ” (Isaiah 24:23 ESV). Both traditions agree on the second portion of the verse.

The Main Point

Commentators present differing views in how they interpret the details of Isaiah 24. Translations do indeed make a difference. However, the main point is clear. Isaiah presents a vision far in the future from his point in time. The whole earth will go the way of the nations he presented in chapters 13-23. There is no hope apart from God, the Lord. There will be a remnant, a small number “left over.” These will not be judged, or condemned. For those who place their trust in the Lord who reigns out of Zion, Christ, there is hope. These will see his glory on full display.

A Time of Choice

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,… (Hebrews 3:7-8 ESV)

Give Allegiance to the King: Isaiah Devotional Journal 46

Simultaneously posted at:

Isaiah 24    Link to LXE Modernized

Give Allegiance to the King Who Wins

It’s easy to get lost in the details of Isaiah 24. But the main point is clear. The reason God gives this word to Isaiah is to give all people everywhere warning of the final outcome of everything. The chapter is a call for all peoples to give their allegiance to the King who wins.

An Amazing Chapter

Isaiah 24 is an amazing chapter. He summarizes his entire message to this point. This chapter especially summarizes his message from chapter 13 forward. It also serves as an introduction to the more detailed messianic portions later in the book. The vista of Isaiah 24 is enormous. His vision stretches to the end of time. This is the first lengthy eschatological (end times) passage in the book. He also zooms in on the “church age.”


Isaiah has already written against: the northern tribes of Israel (Isaiah 10), Babylon (13), Assyria (14), Philistia (14), Moab (15), Damascus (17), Cush (18), Egypt (19), Arabia (21), Jerusalem (22), and Tyre (23). If those to whom Isaiah prophesies are not yet certain of their loyalties, he speaks against the whole world in Isaiah 24.

Behold, the Lord is about to lay waste the world, and will make it desolate, and will lay bare its surface, and scatter them that dwell therein. (Isaiah 24:1, CAB*, LXE)

Further, the prophet foretells of Messiah the King.

14 The people shout for joy. From the west they praise the greatness of the Lord. 15 People in the east, praise the Lord. People in the islands of the sea, praise the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 16a We hear songs from every part of the earth. These songs praise God, the Righteous One… 23 The moon will be embarrassed. The sun will be ashamed. This will happen because the Lord of heaven’s armies will rule as king on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s leaders will see his greatness. (ICB**)

The prophet makes clear that there is no place other than the Lord for anyone to hide. Isaiah intends his listeners to make a choice. Will they look to themselves or their pagan neighbors for help? Because all these get destroyed. Or, will they turn and give their allegiance to the King who wins?

An Eschatological Judgment Passage

How do we know this is an eschatological, or end times, passage?

I. The vocabulary (LXE, English Septuagint))

First, the vocabulary Isaiah chooses indicates totality of place–everywhere.

  • world –  2 times in 23 verses
  • earth –  17 times in 23 verses

Second, the vocabulary indicates totality of destruction–total.

  • verses 1-4 – lay waste, make desolate, lay bare the surface, completely laid waste, utterly spoiled, ruined
  • verse 20 – shall fall, not able to rise

Third, the vocabulary indicates totality of object–all people.

  • verse 2 – neither wealth nor position can save
  • verses 17-18 – fear, a pit, and a snare for everyone–no escape

Finally, the phrase “everlasting covenant” in Isaiah 24:5 most likely refers to a covenant God made with all humankind, rather than to one of those he made with Israel alone. An example of an everlasting covenant would be the one God made with Noah after the flood. Another example would be the law of God written in the hearts of all believers (Romans 2:14-16).

2. Forceful verses

1 Behold, the Lord is about to lay waste the world, and will make it desolate, and will lay bare its surface, and scatter them that dwell therein.

18b for windows have been opened in heaven, and the foundations of the earth shall be  shaken, 19 the earth shall be utterly confounded, and the earth shall be completely perplexed. 20 It reels as a drunkard and one oppressed with wine, and the earth shall be shaken as a storehouse of fruits; for iniquity has prevailed upon it, and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise.

An Eschatological Messianic Passage

Isaiah is always about Messiah. Mention of him is never very far away. There are two sets of messianic verses.

Verses 14b to 16a

14a these shall cry aloud; 14b and they that are left on the land shall rejoice together in the glory of the Lord; the water of the sea shall be troubled. 15 Therefore shall the glory of the Lord be in the isles of the sea; the name of the Lord shall be glorious. 16a O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly; 16b but they shall say, Woe to the despisers, that abhor the law.

First, a simple question: why switch subjects in the middle of a verse? The prior section (ending with verse 13) concerned judgment of the world, but this messianic passage begins with verse 14b? Why not 14a? A simple answer: verse numbers are a later addition. And Isaiah often switches topics suddenly, abruptly. 

Second, it’s not clear in verse 14 if the words, “these shall cry aloud,” refer backward, or forward. Should this phrase be interpreted as the painful cry of those who have been stripped away? Or, should it be interpreted as the joyful cry of the remnant? The lexical meaning of the word “cry aloud” could work either way.

The switch in verse 16 seems clearer. Notice, however, that the Masoretic text of Isaiah 24:16b reads first person “I” rather than “they” in the Septuagint. That’s not an important difference, however. Clearly, there are two groups referred to in this verse–the joyful godly and the desperate deniers of God’s law.

How is this passage messianic?

First, it speaks of a “remnant.” The remnant in Isaiah are the faithful few who cling to God no matter what. And eventually, Messiah is born to Israel. That is where the New Testament begins. Only a faithful few received him (John 1:11-12).

Second, the phrase in this context, “the glory of the Lord” is messianic. Old Testament Israel expected a glorious deliverer. The book of Isaiah is a main reason why this was so.

Next, the “isles of the sea” in Septuagint Isaiah is a phrase with special reference to Gentiles. This is its first occurrence. But we can look ahead and see several other times Septuagint Isaiah uses this phrase to refer to Gentiles. This mention of the Gentiles “nations” in Septuagint Isaiah is one reason I love it.

Isaiah 49:1 Hearken to Me, you islands; and attend, you Gentiles; after a long time it shall come to pass, says the Lord; from my mother’s womb He has called my name; (Septuagint)

Isaiah 51:4 Hear Me, hear Me, My people; and you kings, hearken to Me; for a law shall proceed from Me, and My judgment shall be for a light of the nations. 5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and My salvation shall go forth as light, and on My arm shall the Gentiles trust; the isles shall wait for Me, and on My arm shall they trust. (CAB, LXE)

19 And I will leave a sign upon them, and I will send forth them that have escaped of them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Mosoch, and to Tubal, and to Greece, and to the isles afar off, to those who have not heard of My name, nor seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. (CAB, LXE) [This verse describes the actions of the apostles and their missionary journeys, especially those of Paul.]

Finally, the phrase the “ends of the earth” makes reference to all nations on earth. 

Sidebar: a long shot interpretation

It’s tempting to read history back into Isaiah’s prophecies. In 70 CE, Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed by the Romans. The Christians there scattered, and took the gospel with them. The Jewish temple and its sacrifices were destroyed and haven’t been restored to this day. 

It may be possible that verse 13 refers to this very special moment in Israel’s history, its moment of “final” judgment. 

Isaiah 24:13 All this shall be in the land in the midst of the nations, as if one should strip an olive tree, so shall they strip them; but when the vintage is done, 14 these shall cry aloud; and they that are left on the land shall rejoice together in the glory of the Lord; the water of the sea shall be troubled. 15 Therefore shall the glory of the Lord be in the isles of the sea; the name of the Lord shall be glorious. 16 O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly;

First, Israel in Isaiah’s day certainly existed in “the midst of the nations.” Chapters 13-23 describe some of these. Second, Old Testament Scripture sometimes refers to Israel as an olive tree (Psalm 52:8; Isaiah 17:6; Jeremiah 11:16).

Second, many Christians believe and think of themselves as the “remnant.” In the Apostles’ day, the remnant was the small number of Jewish believers who received Christ as their Messiah. Paul speaks of such a remnant in Romans 9:27 and 11:5. This remnant certainly rejoiced in “the glory of the Lord.” They experienced his resurrection. And their joy did not diminish after Jerusalem was destroyed, as an olive tree that had been stripped of all its fruit. The first disciples went out as far west as Greece, Rome, and Spain spreading the name and glory of the Lord. The new Christian converts could certainly say with Isaiah in verse 16, “O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly;”

Finally, the phrase in verse 14, “the water of the sea shall be troubled,” may remind readers of the passage in which Jesus healed the paralyzed man beside the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-9. Verse 7 refers to the water being “stirred up.” This is the identical word in Greek as Isaiah uses in verse 16. In John’s gospel, the first person to enter the pool after the water had been stirred would be healed. This implies a divine presence moving the water. Could this be the case in verse 14? 

In verse 14, “the water of the sea shall be troubled.” The sea, as previously established, is where the “isles” are. They are the nations of the Gentiles. The first missionaries, the apostles and disciples, went out to these nations of the world after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit of God went with them, stirring the waters in preparation for the healing of spirit and new life. This would be the same Spirit that hovered over the dark waters before God created light. Such was the Spirit who hovered over the darkened souls of the Gentile nations, the isles, before the Word brought them light. 

A Second Messianic Passage: Verses 21-23

To Be Continued

* Complete Apostle’s Bible, a modernized version of Brenton’s Septuagint. 

** International Children’s Bible, New Century Version.

Resurrection Drama: Psalm 18

“… a tsunami of destruction”

Resurrection Drama: Psalm 18 Paraphrased

* God the Son endangered, the ropes of death ensnared him, squeezed his breath away. A tsunami of destruction crashed upon his head. He couldn’t breathe. Hell’s net pulled him tighter, under. Death held its vise-like grip. There was no way for him to escape. In gasping anguish he cried out loud; he called to his Father for help.

“Papa! Help me! Save me! Death must not win forever!”

God in his holy temple heard his Son’s voice; the pleading cry of desperation reached the Father’s ear. Though his Son lay buried, three days in the grave, Almighty Papa roared and pierced the sky to save.

The earth reeled and rocked; foundations of mountains trembled. The royal Papa’s anger shook, an earth-quaking gush of love. Smoke rose from his nostrils; devouring fire consumed, glowing coals of flame no dragon ever produced.

God bowed the heavens descending, thick darkness under his feet. He rode a cherub and flew swiftly on wings of wind. Almighty Papa in darkness cloaked, a canopy surrounds him. Thick clouds dark with water cover his form from view. Bursting through this darkness, his brightness once concealed, with flashes of fire and brimstone, his golden light breaks through. He thunders in the heavens, blasting out his voice, hailstones and coals announcing–Papa on the move.

Photo by Christina Wilson

Scattering forth his arrows, flashing out his lightnings, God routed the enemy, death…(and here the Son breaks in…)

“The channels of the sea you exposed, the foundations of the world laid bare. You rebuked them, O Lord, my Father, when your nostrils blasted your breath.”

“Did you see all this, my people? Were you watching? Did you see? When he came from on high and took me and pulled me from the waves? He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated and surrounded. They were too mighty for me, confronting, that one single day. But he, the LORD my Papa came through. To this broad place he brought me. He heard my cry and rescued, because he delights in me.”

*This poem draws heavily from the English Standard Version of Psalm 18:4-19

Previously published with a different title at: Psalm 18: Original Paraphrase-Papa Roars and Rescues – and

Against Tyre: Isaiah Devotional Journal 45

Simultaneously posted at:…ional-journal-45/

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 23:1-18    Link to LXE Modernized

Tyre in Its Setting

Tyre in Isaiah’s day was a great port city. Located on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it traded as far west as Spain (Tarshish) and as far east as Babylon (Chaldea). Its ships touched Egypt and Carthage in Africa. Just offshore from this Phoenician trading city, Cyprus also became a home base. Isaiah’s prophesies “against the nations” began in Chapter 13, against Babylon. If Babylon had dominated by land, Tyre dominated by sea.

Why Does Isaiah Prophesy Against Tyre?

Isaiah 23:9 is the key verse of this chapter.

The Lord of hosts has purposed to bring down all the pride of the glorious ones, and to disgrace every glorious thing on the earth.


11 … the Lord of hosts has given a command concerning Canaan, to destroy the strength thereof.

But Why?

Isaiah 40:13 Who has known the mind of the Lord? And who has been His counselor, to instruct Him?

It’s easy enough to say that the Lord did such and such and for such and such a reason. But as Isaiah states later in his book, Who has know the mind of the Lord? All this writer’s small voice can

say with certainty is that the Lord wanted to destroy the strength of Canaan, where Israel and Judah were located. And he wanted to dislodge every glorious and prideful thing. He did not spare his own chosen people. Them, too, he dislocated and judged.

But why?

I can think of several examples when humans destroy. For one thing, a farmer destroys and turns under last year’s field. For another, city planners tear down buildings. Often dating couples, or even married couples, break up. An artist smashes her paintings, and a writer throws it all into the waste basket, yet again.

In each of the above examples, something is torn down in order to build something better in its place. For example, a farmer ploughs under last year’s crop in order to prepare the soil for a new crop. Old buildings get torn down, so that new ones can be built in the same space. Couples who break up often work things out and give it another go. Or, just as likely, the persons move on to better relationships.

God Has a New Way and a Better Plan

Humans are made in God’s image. Humans demonstrate their tremendous creativity by tearing down the old in order to build the new. God created, and it was good. But an enemy came in and destroyed God’s good work. So God destroyed it all in the Great Flood of Noah’s day. Then he built again.

He chose a special people to be his representatives on earth. They failed, rebelled, and disobeyed. So God used their neighbors to destroy them. But these neighbors were no better than God’s people. In fact, they often were worse. So God proposed to destroy them as well.

If readers quit reading Isaiah right after he prophesies the punishment of all the nations of the whole world in Chapter 24, they might think that God was a bad character who really disliked people. But this is not the case. God’s ways are always good. We are similar to God in some ways. Just as our destruction of something worn out, old, and dysfunctional is often the first step of our building something new and better, so in Isaiah’s prophesy, God first destroys in order to rebuild new and better. The second half of Isaiah explores details of what his new creation will be like.

The Second Portion of Chapter 23

The content of Isaiah 23 has two clear parts: first, destruction, and second, a comeback. Of the two, the first is the easier to understand. The metaphors in the second portion are more difficult.

Songs of a Harlot

First, verse 15 states that Tyre will be pushed off to the sidelines, abandoned, left behind, for seventy years, which is approximately one full generation. The prophet Daniel also discovered this number in Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2 and Jeremiah 25:11-12). Why seventy? It would seem that this number corresponds with the removal of the old and the birth of the new. Much can be lost and reformed in the span of one generation.

But the latter portion of this same verse is more difficult to understand. (This is a verse for which it profits to read as many translations as possible. Scroll down and click on “all versions”.)

15 … Tyre shall be as the song of a harlot. 16 Take a harp, go about, O city, you harlot that have been forgotten; play well on the harp, sing many songs, that you may be remembered. (Septuagint)

How can a city be like the song of a harlot?

Descriptive words come to mind applicable to both the ruined city of Tyre and an old harlot: wasted, discarded, abandoned, broken. Nevertheless, even an old harlot can be sung about and remembered for her past fame.

Isaiah 23:17 interprets verse 16.

17 And it shall come to pass after the seventy years, that God will visit Tyre, and she shall be again restored to her primitive state, and she shall be a mart for all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. (CAB, LXE)

17 At the end of seventy years, the LORD will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. (ESV, Masoretic)

A POINT TO NOTICE: Tyre itself does not repent. Its new condition appears similar to its old. Nevertheless…

Tyre to Be a Provision to God’s People

18 And her trade and her gain shall be holiness to the Lord; it shall not be gathered for them, but for those that dwell before the Lord, even all her trade, to eat and drink and be filled, and for a covenant and a memorial before the Lord. (CAB, LXE)

What can this verse mean? On the one hand, verses 15-18 give no indication that Tyre would repent and change its ways. New Tyre appears to be much the same as old Tyre (i.e., a prostitute). Nevertheless, God’s intention is that the sea trade of the new Tyre will somehow bless his people.

WARNING: A reader’s presuppositions can influence the conclusions she draws from a text. For example, NET notes indicate that Isaiah is making reference to Israel in verse 18. “Tyre will become a subject of Israel and her God.” However, even the NET translation does not use the word “Israel”. The text states, “Her profits and earnings will be set apart for the Lord. … her profits will be given to those who live in the Lord’s presence” (Isaiah 23 | NET Bible). In the book of Isaiah, “those who live in the Lord’s presence” does not equate with national “Israel”. Isaiah–in what we have seen so far, and especially in what we will see in later chapters–prophesies the message of hope and redemption to all the world, even to Israel’s enemies (Isaiah 2:225:6-740:5). History bears out that the Christian message bore fruit in Tyre (Matthew 11:21-22 and Acts 21:4).

I much prefer the commentary of Robert Hawker:

Who shall calculate to what extent in the present hour the Lord is accomplishing his purpose, in the commotions of the earth, among kingdoms and people, in order to gather his dispersed to himself, from all the varieties of the earth? (Hawker,

But How Does This Work?

We have parallels in a specific, material sense that can help us to understand how God will bless his people with provision supplied by a sinful city and commerce. For example, this country in which I live was founded on godly principals. In its former days, it acknowledged God publicly and officially. Who would say that many people, including “those that dwell before the Lord,” have not been blessed simply by living here?

Jeremiah provides a biblical example of the teaching that the Lord’s people benefit through the prosperity of the ungodly:

Jeremiah 29:7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (ESV)

Looking Ahead

There is one more chapter of God’s judgment, even judgment against the whole world. After that, Isaiah breaks into peals of praise in chapter 25.

Eliakim or Shebna? Isaiah Devotional Journal 44

Simultaneously posted by Christina Wilson on  at Eliakim or Shebna? Isaiah Devotional Journal 44 –

Isaiah 22:15-25     Link to LXE Modernized

Does Isaiah 22:25 Refer to Eliakim or Shebna?

Eliakim or Shebna? Today’s readers have a habit of reading chronologically, in a string. We are used to statements that flow sequentially. Latter statements attach to statements made immediately prior. Read this way, Isaiah 22:25 would naturally appear to belong with the immediately prior passage concerning Eliakim, the Lord’s servant. But Isaiah, embedded in the traditions of Hebrew written literature, did not necessarily, nor even by preference, write sequentially, in a string. It is possible that verse 25 refers to Shebna, rather than Eliakim.

An Analogy with “Power Paragraphs”

Can we think back to our early school days here in America? Many school districts required graduating high school students to successfully write an essay on a given topic. The most commonly accepted format was based on a series of “power paragraphs.” The multi-paragraph essay needed to contain a clearly identifiable topic sentence. Near the end of the essay, judges of the paper looked for a conclusion. The conclusion would most often refer back to the topic sentence.

In some disciplines, college students write many papers. These, too, must have a “thesis” statement near the beginning. Near the end of the paper, teachers required a conclusion. The conclusion would often repeat the thesis, but in somewhat different words.

It is possible to outline the structure of Isaiah 22:15-25 (Septuagint) as a “power paragraph.”

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

The beginning phrase is nearly the same as the final phrase. A fancy word for this structure is inclusio.  Everything that lies between the beginning and ending statements is included in the passage. The beginning and ending statements are like bookends on a book shelf. What makes the argument convincing that such is the case here in this Isaiah passage is the fact that the phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” or, “for the Lord has spoken,” occurs nowhere in-between. So, the entire passage is a packet that opens and closes with the claim that what lies between was spoken directly by the Lord. It’s roughly analogous to an introduction and conclusion, a topic and conclusion, or a thesis and conclusion. Isaiah used a specific structure in his writing.

A Second Inclusio

The entire passage from Isaiah 22:15 to Isaiah 22:25 has two main topics. First, Isaiah prophesies concerning the wickedly prideful Shebna, who is to be deposed. Second, Isaiah prophesies concerning the Lord’s highly favored choice, the one whom he calls, “my servant,” Eliakim. Our outline now looks like this:

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

A. Prophecy concerning Shebna (15-19)

B. Prophecy concerning Eliakim (20-24)

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

But, the question still remains, does the content of verse 25 belong with Section A concerning Shebna, or Section B concerning Eliakim? Note that as Christian readers, we are most likely cheering for Eliakim. That makes us potentially biased in our analysis. For example, in verse 25, we don’t want to read that Eliakim, a type of Messiah, “shall be removed… be taken away… shall fall…” and that his “glory… shall be utterly destroyed.” On the other hand, the way we normally tend to read in English appears to make this interpretation possible. We begin to make “excuses” and find reason for this decidedly gloomy portion.

First, perhaps Isaiah is prophesying that the human Eliakim, rather than the future Messiah, is the only one to whom these events will occur? In other words, perhaps this verse alone ceases to be messianic and refers only to a time frame closer to Isaiah’s own day?

Second, perhaps Isaiah is prophesying that Messiah will be cut off during his crucifixion? That would be true. He was. But then, where is his joyful resurrection? And isn’t his glory and kingdom eternal?

So, let’s look at the linguistic structure of sections A and B. Perhaps that will shed some light.

A New Beginning and Ending Phrase

I. 15 Thus says the Lord of hosts, …

A. Prophecy concerning Shebna (15-19)

B. Prophecy concerning Eliakim (20-24)

1. 20 And it shall come to pass in that day,…

2. 24 …they shall depend upon him in that day.

II. 25 … for the Lord has spoken [it].

The section concerning Eliakim, the type of Messiah, both opens and closes with the phrase, “in that day.”  This phrase serves as the bookends for another inclusio. Since the phrase in vs 24, “in that day,” is a bookend, it belongs with the metaphorical books on the shelf. These concern Eliakim, the Messiah. In other words, the opening and closing statements of an inclusio belong with the material included in-between.

A Grammatical Difficulty

When the reader compares several of the biblical translations available today, she will realize that most translators place the period before the phrase, “in that day.” Others place it after. So what? Simply this, if the period falls before “in that day,” then the phrase introduces and refers to verse 25. But if the period falls after the phrase “in that day,” then the phrase closes out the prior section and definitely connects with Eliakim and Messiah in verse 24. Grammatically, it could go either way. It makes sense both ways.

Translations which place, “In that day,” as the introductory words of verse 25 are the KJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, and NET. In other words, seemingly all the versions based on the Masoretic textual tradition read something like, “In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 22:25 ESV)

It is important to point out that the “peg that was fastened in a secure place” could conceivably refer to Shebna in any event, period or no period. However, the manner in which we normally read language in strings causes many readers to place the reference upon Eliakim and Messiah.

The Greek text Brenton used places the period after “in that day.” Rahlfs’s Greek text places it before. NETS, the New English Translation of the Septuagint, by Moíses Silva, places the period after “on that day.” He translates the phrase as part of the prior clause, although it falls at the beginning of verse 25.

Where Do I Stand?

Personally, I like Brenton’s translation and the great sense it makes structurally. Further, I like the Greek text upon which his translation is based. It highly favors the presence of Messiah in the books of Isaiah and the Psalms. My eye of faith prefers his edition.

Other Reasons to Find an Inclusio

1. The major reason, of course, to place “in that day” as the concluding phrase of verses 20-24 is that it forms a beautiful inclusio, as outlined above, for verses 20-24.

2. A second reason to interpret “in that day” as descriptive of Eliakim, rather than Shebna, concerns vocabulary. Isaiah says of the wicked Shebna, “Behold now, the Lord of hosts casts forth and will utterly destroy such a man, and will take away your robe and your glorious crown,” ( Isiah 22:17 LXE, CAB). Isaiah calls Shebna “a man.” On the other hand, he speaks honorably of Eliakim/Messiah, “My servant,” (vs 20), “a father,” (vs 21), and “ruler,” (v23). In verses 20-24, Isaiah never refers to Eliakim/Messiah as “man.” However, verse 25 prophesies against “the man” that is “fastened in the sure place,” (Septuagint). (The Septuagint text never uses the word “peg.” That word appears only in the Masoretic.) The use of “man” in verse 25 (LXE) seems to refer back to Shebna, rather than Eliakim.

3. A third reason to place verse 25 back with verses 15-19, rather than with the embedded inclusio of verses 20-24, are the verb tenses. When Isaiah prophesies, who at that time, strictly according to this passage, is in the “priestly chamber” (Silva, NETS)? It is Shebna. The verbs the Septuagint uses throughout verses 15-19, about Shebna, indicate that he is presently in the priestly chamber and will be removed. Contrasting with this, the verbs in the portion about Eliakim/Messiah, verses 20-24, are every one future tense: “will” or “shall.” Verse 25, however, abruptly switches back to present tense, “The man that is fastened in the sure place…” Notice the less-than-admirable subject, “man,” and the present tense, “is.” These combined give strong evidence that the text in verse 25 refers to Shebna, rather than Eliakim/Messiah.

4. Finally, the vocabulary of verse 25 best matches the vocabulary used of Shebna, rather than that used of Eliakim/Messiah. For example, Isaiah writes that this “man” shall be “removed” and “taken away,” and that his glory shall be “utterly destroyed.” Correspondingly, Isaiah writes in verses 17-19, concerning the wicked Shebna, that the Lord will “cast(s) forth and will utterly destroy,” will “take away” his robe and crown, will “cast [throw]” him into “a great and unmeasured land,” where he “shall die.” The Lord will bring his “fair chariot to shame” and the house of his prince would be “trodden down.” He would be “removed” from his stewardship and from his place. Verse 25 fairly sums up and repeats the entire passage from verses 17-19, concerning Shebna.

25 The man that is fastened in the sure place shall be removed and be taken away, and shall fall; and the glory that is upon him shall be utterly destroyed;

5. In conclusion, it appears far more likely that for the reasons of structure and language just given, verse 25 should be applied to Shebna, rather than to Eliakim/Messiah.


Isaiah 22:15-25 presents an inclusio with a second inclusio embedded within. Verses 15 and 25, introduce and conclude the passage. Both of these verses, set off by the phrases, “Thus says the Lord… ” and “for the Lord has spoken,” refer to the wickedly proud Shebna, here a type of Satan.

The second inclusio embedded within the first is Isaiah 22:20-24. The phrase, “in that day,” (beginning of verse 20 and end of verse 24) sets off the boundaries of this inclusio. The first inclusio is about the wicked Shebna. The second refers to Eliakim, a type of Messiah, Christ.


Isaiah, up until now, at least, has given predominantly bad news. The section popularly called the prophecies, judgments, or oracles “against the nations” is particularly painful to read. On many levels and for many reasons, this portion of Isaiah will relieve and gladden the hearts of tender readers. He predicts the good news of a better priest/ruler to come.

First, he is God’s special servant, the whom God approves and sets in place. His authority will be great and his majesty glorious. He will be a father to many, and everyone, from least to greatest, will trust in him.

Second, because Isaiah prophesied of him a good 600 years before his appearance, those who hear know that he was indeed chosen in advance by God. His credentials are real. That Isaiah speaks of a good, faithful, humble, and wise servant/ruler is good news for the whole world.

Messiah the Servant: Isaiah Devotional Journal 43

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 22:15-25     Link to LXE Modernized

I. A Messianic Announcement

Isaiah 22:15-25 is a key passage in Isaiah. At first glance, it may appear to be an ancient detail about the inner workings of King Hezekiah’s court, one without much relevance today. A deeper dive, however, reveals another of Isaiah’s many messianic prophecies. The technical term for Isaiah’s making a double prophecy in two entirely different time frames is “synchronicity.” This section is a “synchronous” prophesy. Isaiah really does mean the human person Eliakim. And, he also really does mean Messiah.

A Brief Side Note Concerning the Historical Time Frame

First, however, how is it that Isaiah sets the prophecy in King Hezekiah’s Day, before the Assyrian invasion? The prior section, Isaiah 22:1-14, made reference to the Babylonian invasion and resultant captivity (see in particular verses 3-4, 8-11, 13; see also Isaiah-Journal 42). That invasion occurred over a century after the Assyrian. Yes, Isaiah has mixed his time periods. He hasn’t written in chronological order. He does that frequently.

The primary indication that the prophecy in the second division of chapter 22 occurs before the Assyrian invasion is the fact of the names. Isaiah specifically mentions Shebna (Somnas in the Septuagint) in verse 15 and Eliakim in verse 20. These two names occur together in 2 Kings 18:37 and 19:2. During the account of the Assyrian invasion, Eliakim was “over the household” of Hezekiah, and Shebna was the secretary.

The story that Isaiah relates in 22:15-25 teaches many lessons concerning the pitfalls of pride and the virtues of humble service. A more exciting message Isaiah packed into the passage, however, is the messianic prophecy he makes.

How Do We Know This Passage Is Messianic?

1. The foremost evidence is verse 22:

Isaiah 22:22 And I will give him the glory of David; and he shall rule, and there shall be none to speak against him; and I will give him the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. And he shall open, and there shall be none to shut; and he shall shut, and there shall be none to open. (CAB, LXE) 

NOTE: The first portion of verse 22, “And I will give him the glory of David; and he shall rule, and there shall be none to speak against him;” is from the Septuagint. The Masoretic textual tradition does not contain these sentences.

Revelation 3:7 and its context indicate that Jesus Christ is the one “who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (ESV). And, the New Testament is the best Christian commentary we have concerning the Old Testament.

2. The overall tone of Isaiah 22:15-24 is highly positive. God himself speaks (verses 15 and 25). He uses first person (“I”) when he bestows his favor upon his servant. Other than Isaiah himself (Isaiah 20:3), only Messiah has received favor in this biblical book so far.

3. Isaiah 9:1-7 is a prior messianic passage accepted by all. The word choices in that passage and this one show significant similarities. For example, consider the following.

4. Isaiah uses the word “servant” (verse 20) in other messianic passages. This is the first use with reference to Christ. Just a few of the other passages are: Isaiah 42:1-749:5-6, and 52:13-15. In chapter 9 Messiah is called “son” and here “servant.” Jesus Christ was both.

5. The fate of Shebna, the evil, prideful servant, is similar to the fate of Satan.

Isaiah 22:17 Behold now, the Lord of hosts casts forth and will utterly destroy such a man, and will take away your robe and your glorious crown, 18 and will cast you into a great and unmeasured land, and there you shall die; and He will bring your fair chariot to shame, and the house of your prince to be trodden down. (CAB, LXE)

When Jesus, God’s true servant, ministered on earth, he said he saw Satan fall from his position in heaven as the chief and most glorious of God’s created angels. (See also Isaiah 14:2).

Luke 10:18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

The Glories of Messiah

Eliakim, the human servant, performed well, according to the biblical record in 2 Kings. The glories of the servant Messiah, however, far outweigh the glories of  the human. What does this passage reveal about him?

  • God is the one who calls his Messiah (Isaiah 22:20). Messiah did not appoint himself. God names him “my servant.” As servant, he represents God fully. He serves God, not himself. The servant is clothed in God’s authority.
  • He ministers first to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah, as a father–one who cares. All the characteristics and behaviors packed into the role of an ideal human father are packed into Messiah, as well.
  • Messiah is David’s heir (verse 22). God gives him David’s glory and authority. No one is higher than he. The power to “open” and “shut” is awesome in scope and majesty.
  • God appointed his servant with certainty (verse 23). His position was secure, not to be changed. God backed him fully, gave him his full support. God intended his servant to bear the glory of his own throne. God is his father. Everyone in the Father’s house, from the least to greatest, will trust in God’s servant-Messiah and be responsible to him (verse 24).

What About Verse 25?

Yes, Isaiah 22:25 appears to dash cold water on everything the prior verses proclaim. But who is verse 25 about? Is it about Messiah? Eliakim the man? Or, could it possibly refer to Shebna, the deposed steward? By way of forewarning, the discussion concerning verse 25 may be considered technical.


Fall of Jerusalem and Judea: Isaiah Devotional Journal 42

Posted simultaneously at: Fall of Jerusalem and Judea: Isaiah Devotional Journal 42 –

Isaiah 22     Link to LXE Modernized

Chapter Divisions

Isaiah 22 divides best into two parts: Isaiah 22:1-14 and Isaiah 22:15-25. Both parts concern Jerusalem and Judea, but the time frames are different. The first division occurs just over one hundred years after the second

I. Fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and Exile

CLUES that Reveal Isaiah’s Prophecy Concerns Babylon

Isaiah 22:2 … your slain are not slain with swords, nor are your dead those who have died in battle. All your princes have fled, and your captives are tightly bound, and the mighty men in you have fled far away.  (CAB, LXE)

  • 2 Kings 25 describes the fall of Jerusalem. Verse 4 describes how the “whole army ran away at night…Zedekiah [the king] and his men ran toward the Jordan Valley.” There, abandoned by his scattered army, the hostile forces captured the king and took him bound to Babylon. He spent the remainder of his life a prisoner there. Nebuzaradan (Nebuchadnezzar’s commander) took captive nearly everyone else, as well. A few years later, 2 Kings 25:26 describes how “all the people [who were left behind after the first wave of captivity], from the least important to the most important, ran away to Egypt. The army leaders also went. This was because they were afraid of the Babylonians.” (ICB)

Isaiah 22:6 And the Elamites took their quivers, and there were men mounted on horses, and there was a gathering for battle.

By File:Near East topographic map-blank.svg: SémhurFile:Elam-map-PL.svg: Wkotwicaderivative work: Morningstar1814 – File:Elam-map-PL.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,
  • The World History Encyclopedia tells how Elam cooperated with the Medes and the Babylonians to dismantle the former Assyrian Empire (Elam – World History Encyclopedia ( This occurred during the approximate time period when Babylon conquered Judea.

Isaiah 22:4 Therefore I said: “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.” (ESV)

  • The Babylonian invasion was the first successful invasion of Jerusalem since King David established the city and Solomon built the temple. The Assyrians, a century before, turned back at the outer wall and were miraculously destroyed (2 Kings 19:35-36). This passage does not describe that event.
  • The phrase “daughter of my people” also reveals the time frame toward which Isaiah’s prophecy was aimed: that is, the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. The reasoning follows. First, this phrase occurs 13 times in all of Scripture. We see it once in Isaiah 22:4, seven times in Jeremiah, and five times in Lamentations (also written by Jeremiah). Second, each and every occurrence refers to the wounding, chastisement, or destruction of this daughter. Finally, Jeremiah 1:1-3 defines the time during which Jeremiah prophesied to be a good 80 years after Isaiah and up until the captivity of Jerusalem. This use of language supports the reckoning that Isaiah 22:1-14 refers to the Babylonian invasion, rather than the Assyrian.


Isaiah’s text reveals how greatly God loved Jerusalem and Judea. While Jeremiah claims the title, “The Weeping Prophet,” Isaiah, and God through him, weeps in this portion.

First, in verse 4 above, Isaiah cries out, “Let me alone, I will weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me for the breach of the daughter of my people.” (Brenton, LXE). This is the only place in all of Isaiah in which the prophet refers to Jerusalem as “the daughter of my people.” The word “daughter” is used several times in the phrase “daughter of Zion,” but never, except here, the “daughter of my people.” This is very personal to Isaiah and to God. This is his child.

Second, having just spoken of Jerusalem as the daughter of his people, Isaiah twice uses the word “uncover.” In verse 8 of the Septuagint he writes, “they shall uncover the gates of Juda, and they shall look in that day on the choice houses of the city.” Again in verse 9, he says, “And they shall uncover the secret places of the houses of the citadel of David.” In good times, these things ought not to be. There is great shame here. Neither Isaiah nor God are exulting in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem the city, its people, and its temple, once the house of worship of God Almighty.

In Isaiah 22:11, God uncovers his own heart, and the ears of faith can hear the anguish in the voice that cries out–

And ye procured to yourselves water between the two walls within the ancient pool: but ye looked not to him that made it from the beginning, and regarded not him that created it. (Isaiah 22:11 LXE)

This verse needs some explaining. Approximately 100 years earlier, Assyria came very close to overwhelming Jerusalem. 2 Kings 20:20 records how King Hezekiah had altered the water conduits that fed the city. He had blocked off the spring located outside the city wall. He dug a tunnel through rock and channeled this water into the city. He did this to withstand the privation a prolonged siege would cause. The tunnel is accessible in Jerusalem to this day. Isaiah 22:9 also mentions Hezekiah’s tunnel, “… one had turned the water of the old pool into the city;” This had been an amazing feat of engineering and a wonderful thing to do.

King Hezekiah was one of Judah’s few good kings. He followed the Lord’s commands diligently and loved him. He did turn to the Lord. He himself prayed, and he also called upon Isaiah, as the Lord’s prophet, for help.

However, during the days of the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem, no one remained who called upon the Lord’s name. Verse 11 makes reference to how they gladly relied upon the water from the ancient pool (King Hezekiah’s conduit). But they failed to call upon the eternal God. God had helped Hezekiah mightily. And more than that, God is he who exists from the beginning. He created the water. God does not begrudge them their water. But, the people should not have neglected to call upon God. God made the water in the first place and helped King Hezekiah build the conduit that carried it. It’s about gladly using the blessings of God but failing even to acknowledge the giver.

This verse mostly emphasizes how God desires relationship with his people. Isaiah describes Israel as God’s beloved vineyard and his people God’s choice vines (Isaiah 5:1-4). He refers to Israel as his God’s wife (Isaiah 54:6; see also Jeremiah 3:20). It’s the heart of faith, not imagination, that hears the anguished cries of a spurned lover in Isaiah 22:11. The verses following expound the depth of disappointment in God’s heart concerning his people.

Isaiah 22:12 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!” 14 The LORD Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: “Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,” says the Lord, the LORD Almighty. (NIV)

It wasn’t just anyone whom Judah had spurned. It was the Lord, the Lord of hosts (LXE), the Lord Almighty. He greatly desired that they would recognize their tragedy and call upon him in repentance and for help. But they would not. Instead, they pretended that God did not even exist.

This is the end. God’s patience has run out. “‘Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 22:14; See also 2 Kings 24:20a“… he finally threw them out of his presence.” NET).

This is the fall of Jerusalem. The Babylonians killed many, but spared those taken into captivity (Revelation 13:10).

Closing Thoughts

… for this sin shall not be forgiven you, until you die. (Isaiah 22:14 CAB, LXE)

  1. The first division ends with the words above. They speak of lack of forgiveness and death. Although God had exercised extreme and extended patience with his people, it was time to move on. The next division is considered by many to be a messianic passage. What Israel failed to do for itself, God will do for them.
  2. God initially called his people through Abraham, Israel’s first father. Abraham was born in Ur (Genesis 15:7). The map shows that Ur lies to the southeast of Babylon. Haran, where Abraham’s father had settled on his way to Canaan, lies to the northwest (Genesis 11:31). Babylon lies in the middle.

    Notice how God sent his people back to their point of origin. It’s as though he were saying, “Let’s start this all over again.”

  3. The captivity marks God’s second great judgmental destruction.  The first was the flood in Noah’s day. That flood took humanity back to its beginnings. By choosing a special people, God limited the scope of his second judgment. But he took those people back to the beginning, as well.
  4. Isaiah prophesies a third and final judgment (Isaiah 24). This last judgment will be the final judgment of the entire world.
  5. Between the record of the second and third judgments, that of Israel God’s special people (Isaiah 22:1-14) and the judgment of the whole world (Isaiah 24), God speaks of his answer to the sinfulness of all people. He shall appoint the one who holds “the key to the house of David,” (Isaiah 22:22).

II. Shebna and Eliakim during Hezekiah’s Reign–To Be Continued

Idumea and Kedar: Isaiah Devotional Journal 41

Simultaneously posted at: Idumea and Kedar: Isaiah Devotional Journal 41 –

Isaiah 21     Link to LXE Modernized

The Vision of Idumea and God’s Message to Arabia: Isaiah 21:11-17

Idumea was located to the south of Judea, south of the Dead Sea. It had been established by the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau (Genesis 32:8). It is also known as Seir, founded by the sons of Hor before Esau (Genesis 36:20-21).

All these place names refer to the same geographical area. Mt Hor is not identical to Mt Seir; these are distinct place names in Edom, or Idumea (LXX). Masoretic translations use the name Dumah for this same area. (Confused?)

This map shows the interesting feature of Judea’s location in the center of the area of interest to the Assyrian’s invading armies. Assyria attacked Damascus and Samaria from the north and Idumea (Edom) from the south. 2 Kings 18-19 records how God spared Jerusalem from the Assyrians, while nations surrounding them fell.

The details of Isaiah 21 continue to be difficult to decipher. One question from Isaiah 21:11-12 is: Does Idumea actually fall? Isaiah warns of trouble in Idumea, but the two verses are not historically specific. God’s “Oracle Concerning Arabia” is very specific.

“For thus the Lord said to me, ‘Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.'” (Isaiah 21:16 ESV)

Kedar is located in the Arabian desert. The sons of Ishamel (Isaac’s brother from Abraham’s concubine) established it (Genesis 25:13).

Difficulties: The map of the Assyrian Empire reveals that the Assyrians did not conquer the Arabian Peninsula. Many maps I located show the same finding. However, the neo-Babylonian Empire did include Kedar, according to maps. Remember, it was the neo-Babylonians who led Judea into captivity.

However, Isaiah 21:16 states that Kedar would be overrun within a year of Isaiah’s prophesying. (Or, could it be one year from the time of fulfillment of the previous prophecies?) The difficulty with this is that neo-Babylonia became a superpower about 100 years after Isaiah.

Another possibility is that locations and maps are approximate. Perhaps Assyria did attack and overcome Kedar and Tema after all.

Main Point: The main point of Isaiah 21 is that God is not pleased. Babylon will fall, Idumea is in grave danger, and Kedar will endure great suffering and death. But God is always eager for people everywhere to repent and trust in him who is able to keep them safe.

Your Neighbors Can’t Help 21:1-10: Isaiah Devotional Journal 40

By Christina Wilson on 

Your Neighbors Can’t Help You

The Bible records Israel’s attempts at making alliances with various neighbors from time to time (Isaiah 7:1-917:3). These neighbors also made alliances among themselves (Isaiah 19:4-6). Even the southern kingdom of Judah made an ill-fated alliance with Egypt for help when the Assyrians arrived with ill intent at their doorstep (Isaiah 30:1-72 Kings 18:20-21). But Judah had previously allied itself with that same Assyria, when the empire was in its infancy (2 Kings 16:7-9). The point of Isaiah 21-23 is that your neighbors can’t help you; only God can.

The one thing God has always been after in creation is relationship with his people. We see this when he walked in the cool of the garden where he had placed the first man and woman (Genesis 3:8). We see God’s desire for fellowship again in Christ’s action of opening the veil (Hebrews 10:19-22). Isaiah also develops this theme explicitly in Isaiah 31:1. But in these oracles against the nations (13-23), as they are called, Isaiah demonstrates, rather than explain, the futility of looking anywhere but to the Lord.

And, if anyone doubts this, Isaiah continues in chapter 24 to prophesy the destruction of the whole world. In other words, there will be nowhere to hide. The choices will narrow to two: God or nothing; God or destruction.

One of the defining characteristics about the modern world, especially in America during my lifetime, is the growing irrelevance of God in the popular expressions of our culture, such as schools, government, and media. There are countless places in today’s world to hide  from the face of God. There are countless avenues of seeming help that do not involve a confrontation with God. We have many “neighbors” we can turn to. However, these chapters of Isaiah bring out the futility of this approach.

Practical Considerations

The word most often used to describe Isaiah 21 is “obscure.” Why is Isaiah 21 considered to be obscure?

First, who was the big superpower in Isaiah’s lifetime? Remember he lived during the reign of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. During the reign of Ahaz, Syria was the threat (Isaiah 7:1-9). But Hezekiah ruled for thirty years. During his days, Assyria became the hostile superpower of the entire region.

God used Assyria to punish the wickedness of Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations. Assyria is the mighty army so often described throughout these chapters (for example, Isaiah 8:7-8).

But second, Babylon appears to be the subject of Isaiah 21:1-10. Verse 2 indicates that it will be the Medes and the Persians who attack and overcome Babylon, as in Isaiah 13. However, Isaiah 20 and then again Isaiah 21:11-17 appear to be describing  the Assyrian invasion again. In other words, Isaiah’s prophesies appear to be out of order.

Further Complications

Complicating this is the long history of this area. At times Babylon had ascendancy over Assyria; at other times it was the other way round. Isaiah prophesied from 742 BCE to 686 BCE. The Babylonian captivity of Judah began in 586BCE. Although Isaiah mentions the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians (Isaiah 39:6-7), the bulk of his message concerned an earlier time. The Medo-Persians overcame Babylon while the Israelites were in captivity there. Therefore, if Isaiah 21:1-10 concerns this time frame, it would appear to be sorely out of context, not chronologically grouped.

However, even though the Neo-Babylonians devoured the Assyrian empire along with Jerusalem, prior to this event, the Assyrians overcame Babylon in 729 BCE. This fell within the earlier period of Isaiah’s prophecies.

Therefore, Isaiah 21:1-10 could possibly be predicting this earlier fall of Babylon to the Assyrians, rather than the later fall to the Persians. But then, what do we make of Isaiah 21:2, which mentions the Elamites and Persians? These areas were not part of the Assyrian empire.

To complicate matters even further, how does Isaiah 21:10 fit in? It doesn’t seem to belong with the section beginning in verse 11 about Edom. But neither does it seem to fit in with the prior section, verses 1-9.

Therefore, biblical scholars label this chapter “obscure.” Some argue for the later time period. Others argue for the earlier.

So What Is the Everyday Devotional Reader to Do?

The devotional reader heads straight for the gold. God’s message is clear: Babylon is fallen.

… 9 Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all her images and her idols have been crushed to the ground. 10 Hear, you that are left, and you that are in pain, hear what things I have heard of the Lord of hosts, which the God of Israel has declared to us. (CAB, LXE)

If ever anyone even thought of relying upon Babylon for anything, they had better not. Babylon is not worthy of trust–only the Lord is.


This post also appears at: Devotional for Chapters 21-23: ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL JOURNAL 39 –

By Christina Wilson on 

Isaiah 21-23     Link to LXE Modernized


Is God a bully? Does he say, “Do it my way, or else I will beat you up?” In a sense, that is correct. If all one had of Isaiah were chapters 21-23, a casual reader might think God was a bully insisting on his own way.

Yes, indeed, God is sovereign. He will have his way. He insists that come the end, he alone will be exalted. As for being a bully, does a bully bend over backward calling people to change their allegiance from worshiping the enemy to following him? Does a bully incarnate and die on a cross to pay the cost of allegiance owed by all people? Do tyrants sacrifice themselves to bring blessing to others?

To the unsaved, God’s ways make no sense at all. In the Old Testament, God sends (or allows) calamity after calamity from mightier empires to fall upon Israel itself and the nations surrounding Israel. These devastations terrify. How can this possibly be a God of love?

Calling for Repentance

But God’s purpose has always been to call forth repentance. Even the mostly calamitous chapters from 21-24 provide this key.

Isaiah 22:11 And you procured to yourselves water between the two walls within the ancient pool; but you looked not to Him that made it from the beginning, and regarded not Him that created it. 12 And the Lord, the Lord of hosts, called in that day for weeping, and lamentation, and baldness, and for girding with sackcloth; 13 but they engaged in joy and gladness, slaying calves, and killing sheep, so as to eat flesh, and drink wine; saying, Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. 14 And these things are revealed in the ears of the Lord of hosts; for this sin shall not be forgiven you, until you die. (CAB)

More Than Isaiah

Many who lived in Isaiah’s time perhaps heard no other prophet. We today have the entire Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Fortunately, some passages explicitly explain God’s ways. One example is Psalm 107.

Psalm 107:Then they cried to the Lord in their affliction, and He delivered them out of their distresses… For He satisfies the empty soul, and fills the hungry soul with good things… 11 because they rebelled against the words of God, and provoked the counsel of the Most High. 12 So their heart was brought low with troubles; they were weak, and there was no helper. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their affliction, and He saved them out of their distresses. 14 And He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces… 28 Then they cry to the Lord in their affliction, and He brings them out of their distresses… 43 Who is wise, and will observe these things, and understand the mercies of the Lord? (CAB)

Lessons to Learn from the Evil That God Allows

I. Yes, God allows evil.

The human suffering predicted in chapters 21 to 23 are difficult to read. Unsaved people hold this seeming harshness of God against him. A saved person–that is, one who has repented, received God’s mercy, and switched their allegiance–takes time to prayerfully pause and consider these chapters in the light of God’s larger plan of hope and salvation for the whole world.

II. Why does God allow evil?

First, the evil that will befall the nations comes from another nation. God did not create Assyria’s evil, murderous heart. He just didn’t stop them.

Second, and more importantly, God allows evil and human suffering in order to bring people to repentance to himself. He is calling people to change their allegiance and return to him.

Isaiah prophesied that these things would occur before they occurred. He did this in order to allow Israel and the nations time to repent. Another portion of Scripture enlarges upon this. That book is Jonah. In it, God explains the “Why?” behind prophesy. God sent Jonah to warn the Assyrian city of Nineveh that they were about to be punished. They listened, repented, and God spared them. (A century later, however, Nineveh did fall to the Medes.) God’s motive always is to bring people to repentance (1 Kings 8:47-51Job 42:6Psalm 78:34).

III. What’s the Big Deal About Repentance?

1. First, God is good. No matter how harsh God’s ways may seem, the ways of the wicked are far, far harsher. To understand God’s goodness, read, for example, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). If all the world practiced these, how few would our collective troubles be!

2. On the other hand, the ways of God’s enemy, Satan, are twisted and foul. He covets his own power (Luke 4:5-7), lies, deceives, and seeks to kill (John 8:44). God will destroy Satan in the end (Isaiah 27:1Revelation 20:210). Unfortunately, those who have given their allegiance to Satan will go down with him. This is why God wants people to repent. He desires that no one should perish (Ezekiel 18:23).

3. In short, God blesses those who give their allegiance to him (Psalm 1:1-62:12). God wants everyone to repent in order to receive his blessing (1 Timothy 2:42 Peter 3:9; and Matthew 23:37).

To Be Continued: Summary of Chapters 21-23
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