By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at https://justonesmallvoice.com/moab-isaiah-devotional-journal-52/
Summary of Isaiah 25
Isaiah 25 breaks easily into three sections.
- Praise and worship (verses 1-5) Journal 48, Journal 49
- A feast for all nations (verses 6-9) Journal 50, Journal 51
- Judgment upon Moab (verses 10-12)
Who Is Moab in Isaiah 25:10-12?
The last mention of Moab in Isaiah falls in this verse, Isaiah 25:10. Moab then disappears from Isaiah. Who is this Moab? In what is clearly an end times (messianic) passage, why bring in Moab?
Three Sections of Isaianic Prophecies Against Moab
- The prophet first mentions Isaiah in the messianic context of chapter 11. This mention receives one verse.
Isaiah 11:14 But they [a spiritually reunited Ephraim and Judah] shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. (ESV)
2. The second time Isaiah deals with Moab is lengthy. Two whole chapters describe its destruction.
Isaiah 15:1 An oracle concerning Moab. Because Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night, Moab is undone; because Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night, Moab is undone… 16:14 “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude, and those who remain will be very few and feeble.” (ESV)
3. The third mention is Isaiah 25:10-12, which is again, a messianic passage.
Isaiah 25:10 For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain, and Moab shall be trampled down in his place, as straw is trampled down in a dunghill.
11 And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim, but the LORD will lay low his pompous pride together with the skill of his hands.
12 And the high fortifications of his walls he will bring down, lay low, and cast to the ground, to the dust. (ESV)
After this, Isaiah remains quiet concerning Moab.
Two Thoughtful Questions
- When reading Isaiah 25, readers may ask a thoughtful question, “Why Moab?” Is Moab that important? Didn’t Israel have far worse and far stronger enemies than Moab? Enemies such as Assyria and Babylon? The answer would be yes. Babylon conquered Moab and led Israel into captivity. Moab never conquered Israel. So, why Moab?
- A second question also presents itself. Should a reader interpret these verses concretely or spiritually? In other words, does Isaiah speak of a physical Moab or Moab as a symbol?
The answer to question 1 will help find an answer to question 2.
Some Biblical History
Genesis records a sad history of Abraham’s nephew Lot. He chose the best land and wound up living in Sodom. Angels led Lot and his family out of there before God destroyed it. Genesis 19 then records how Lot’s firstborn daughter hatched a scheme of incest with her father. Genesis 19:37 states that she gave her son by her father the name Moab. Moab became the father of the nation of that name. The younger sister birthed Ammon by the same means. Ammon became father of the Ammonites.
Throughout a good portion of the book of Numbers and Deuteronomy, Moses and his people camped on the “plains of Moab.” These lie opposite Jericho, which lies on the other side of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea. The Israelites’ presence there worried Balak, king of Moab. Numbers 22-24 record how Balak hired Balaam, a prophet heavily influenced by God, to curse the Israelites present with Moses. That plan failed tremendously.
Afterwards, Balak chose a different way to weaken God’s people–the way of sexual sin. Sexual sin in Old Testament Scripture often symbolizes infidelity and idolatry toward God.
Numbers 25:1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. (ESV)
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (ESV)
See also 2 Peter 2:14-16.
Who Then Does Moab Represent?
1. First, Scripture identifies Moab as a people who consistently opposed God, his ways, and his people. Scripture does not record a turnaround, or repentance on their part. On the other hand, Isaiah prophesied that other Gentile nations would be saved, some of them former enemies. See, for example, Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 19:23-25; 24:15; 42:4-7; 49:6; 51:5; 65:1; and 66:18-19.
2. Second, Isaiah prophesied a nearly total destruction of Moab in the passage from Isaiah 15:1-16:14. Yet he never mentions a comeback. Further, Zephaniah records the last mention of Moab in all Scripture. He prophesies a complete destruction.
Zephaniah 2:9 Therefore, as I live,” declares the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever. The remnant of my people shall plunder them, and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.” (ESV)
3. Therefore, common sense concludes that national, physical Moab (a concrete Moab) would not have recovered sufficiently by the time of Messiah to be destroyed yet again.
4. This conclusion indicates that the Moab of Isaiah 25:10-14 represents symbolically all the enemies of God and his Christ (Messiah) that ever existed or will exist. Many commentators hold this opinion (Isaiah 25:10 – Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – StudyLight.org).
So Then, Is the Prophecy Concerning Moab Concrete or Spiritual?
So then, what do we make of Isaiah 25:10-12? Do these verses have a concrete, physical application or a spiritual? The preceding information indicates spiritual. This lines up well with the entire New Testament. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus said (John 18:36). By that he meant that his kingdom is not about nations, governments, boundaries, or ethnicities. The kingdom of Christ is about Spirit, life, and truth. Isaiah prophesied about the coming kingdom of Christ, Messiah.
From the very beginning of the book, Isaiah mixes concrete-physical prophesies with spiritual. Chapter 1, for example, is largely concrete-physical. Isaiah seemed to be addressing the physical people who lived in Israel at the same time he did. On the other hand, Isaiah 2:1-4 appears to contain a more spiritual application. Christ is he who said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). That is not a matter of hermeneutics. Christ said, ” …true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). In other words, Christ took no offense at spiritual meanings in Isaiah, and neither should we.
Simultaneously published at The Gospel Continues: Isaiah Devotional Journal 51 – justonesmallvoice.com
By Christina Wilson on
The Gospel Continues: Isaiah 25:6-9
The modern era gives us the blessing of many biblical translations. The (ICB) (1) provides a straightforward translation of Isaiah 25:6-9. I call it the Gospel of Isaiah.
6 The Lord of heaven’s armies will give us a feast. It will be on this mountain for all people. It will be a feast with the best food and wine. The meat and wine will be the finest. 7 On this mountain God will destroy the veil that covers all nations. This veil, called “death,” covers all peoples. 8 But God will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away every tear from every face. God will take away the shame of his people from the earth. The Lord has spoken. 9 At that time people will say, “Our God is doing this! We have trusted in him, and he has come to save us. We have been trusting our Lord. So we will rejoice and be happy when he saves us.”
How Is This Gospel?
I. God Is Spirit–Before Christ, People Were Not
Many of the people who followed and spoke to Jesus made the understandable mistake of living in a concrete-only world. That is, most people achieved only a physical understanding of God. They weren’t capable of more, being “dead” (spiritually) in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). They worshipped God in tangible ways only. For example, they sacrificed bleating sheep and flying birds (Luke 2:22-24). They weighed out a certain amount of cumin and other spices (Matthew 23:23). They traveled to specific locations (John 4:20) to worship. A famous teacher such as Nicodemus could only fathom being “born again” as climbing back into his mother’s womb (John 3:3-4). In the Old Testament, God intended his worshipers to express their devotion in concrete, material ways.
But Jesus inaugurated a new creation in a New Testament. He preached a spiritual gospel. We need to back up in order to understand this. God created humanity in his image. God is Spirit. But when Adam sinned, humanity suffered death and separation from God. God turned them out from his presence. Humanity lost its one link with God–living in his physical presence in the Garden. Separated from God, only material, touchable flesh remained. From that point forward, God taught his people with physical, material items. Abel’s sacrifice of an animal pleased God. Later, through Moses, God commanded that they build him a special tent (the tabernacle) and worship him with sacrificial animals. Only a few prophets heard from God directly.
II. Jesus Brings the Spirit and Life
But then, in God’s perfect timing (Galatians 4:4), Jesus upended the entire system. Jesus came to bring life, and to bring it abundantly (John 10:10). The “life” Jesus brings is his Spirit, God’s Spirit (John 6:63). Why did Paul always ask new believers whether they had received the Spirit when they believed? (Acts 19:2, 6). He asked, because the Spirit is so important. The Spirit is life. There is no other life (John 6:63).
Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (ESV)
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)
The word Gospel means in Greek “good news.” Yes, it definitely is good news that in Christ God forgave our sins and cleansed us. But good news gets even better. The best good news is God cleansed us for a reason. He forgave our sins so that he could send his Holy Spirit to live in us and among us. And, because we have the Spirit of God–because his Spirit makes us alive–now we can enter his presence again and have fellowship with him. That is the truly good news the Gospel brings.
1 John 1:3b …our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (ESV)
John 17:23a I in them and you in me… (ESV)
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (ESV)
III. How Do I Get the Spirit?
Nicodemus asked the same question. He wanted to know how someone could be born again (John 3:9). Jesus answers elsewhere. His answer is simple: just ask God.
Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (ESV)
IV. Back to Isaiah
Isaiah the Old Testament prophet saw Christ and predicted all these things (Isaiah 6:1; 1 Peter 1:10-12). When we overcome our fear of “spiritualizing” this Old Testament passage, we begin to see what Isaiah saw. He saw the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing with spiritual eyes is a good thing, not a bad thing, as some might teach (John 20:29; 1 Peter 1:8).
IV. The Feast: What Food Does the Lord Provide?
What kind of feast is it (Isaiah 25:6)?
FIRST, God invites everyone. He invites people from all nations.
SECOND, he spreads his feast on a mountain that is large enough for the whole world to see (Proverbs 1:20-21; Matthew 22:9). Jesus himself “spiritualized” the mountain (John 4:20-24). Daniel saw it (Daniel 2:44-45). The mountain is the mountain of the Lord (Psalm 48:1-2; 99:9), the kingdom of Christ (Matthew 16:18).
THIRD, what food will God serve? The food upon which all Christians feast is the Lord Christ himself.
John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
48 I am the bread of life.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:32-66 ESV)
An evangelistic appeal–
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, on the day of testing in the wilderness, (ESV)
FOURTH, when will God serve this feast? He serves it right now, already, to all who believe. The message of John the Apostle is that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah (John 20:30-31) and that all who believe in him feast on joyful fellowship with God right now (1 John 1:2-4). There is also a “not yet” aspect to God’s feast, namely the marriage supper of the Lamb. That feast will be served at the moment when God destroys death and dying forever (Isaiah 25:7-8; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55) and wipes away every tear from every face (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4).
FINALLY, what should our response be? Verse 9 tells it all.
Isaiah 25:9 At that time they will say, “Look, here is our God! We waited for him and he delivered us. Here is the LORD! We waited for him. Let’s rejoice and celebrate his deliverance!” (NET)
The Holy Spirit packed Isaiah 25:6-9 with a tremendously powerful message. My prayer is that those who read the good news God presents here will believe, investigate, and share it with others. We want the message of hope in Christ to spread throughout this fallen world. The end of the ages will come. Christ draws near. Let’s help bring as many people as possible to his wonderful wedding feast.
Isaiah 25:1 O Lord God, I will glorify You, I will sing to Your name; for You have done wonderful things, even an ancient and faithful counsel. Amen. (CAB, LXE)
So be it, Lord. Come quickly (Revelation 22:20). Amen (2)
1 “Scriptures quoted from the International Children’s Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1986, 1988 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.”
2 Those wishing to read what scholars have written concerning this passage may find the following link quite useful: Studylight.org
Published also by Christina Wilson at JustOneSmallVoice.com on 2021-04-20
Isaiah 25 Septuagint Modernized
A Gospel Passage: Isaiah 25
Isaiah 25 is an end times passage. It is also a very gospel passage. Most people alive today likely will not experience the second coming before they die. However, the truths of this gospel passage apply to all believers now.
Recap: What Are the Signs?
There are several signs that indicate Isaiah 25, especially in the Septuagint, is an end times passage and a gospel passage. By “end times,” I mean the very end. I do not see any indications that this chapter is millennial.
- First, we saw that Isaiah 24:1-20 describes the final shaking of the whole earth. Isaiah 24:20 is definitive, “…and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise.” (See Devotional Journal 46 for more details on this section.) A proposed, though not proven, millennium would need to occur before the final judgment.
- Second, Isaiah 24:21-23, especially in the Septuagint, describes the church age. Isaiah 24:21-22 (LXE) corresponds to Revelation 20:1-3. (See Devotional Journal 47.) This jumping back to a prior time frame is characteristic of Isaiah.
- Third, the vocabulary throughout Isaiah 24 indicates a “whole world” event. (See again Devotional Journal 46.)
- Next, Isaiah 25:1 opens in celebration of the events of chapter 24, the messianic and end times chapter.
- We saw that the “ancient and faithful counsel” goes back to the very beginning, before creation. Then, after creation, in the garden, God gave Eve the promise of a Savior for the whole world. (See prior post Devotional Journal 49.) When Isaiah speaks his “Amen!” he’s agreeing with a counsel that reaches far wider that the main characters of a proposed millennium.
Why the Celebration?
Isaiah 25 continues in a smooth connection from chapter 24. We see the prophet in Isaiah 25:1, as spokesperson for the people, celebrating God’s victory. The remainder of this short chapter expands on the causes of their celebration.
City? What City?
For You have made cities a heap, even cities made strong that their foundations should not fall; the city of ungodly men shall not be built forever. (Isaiah 25:2, Modernized Septuagint)
The Septuagint and Masoretic texts fairly match in verse two. (There is a difference in plurals and singulars.) But what cities are these? Scripture often uses symbols. Because Isaiah speaks of the judgment of the end times, the city (or cities) represent all the evil and wickedness of the fallen human heart gathered in one place. Moab, in verse 10, is a similar symbol. We are reminded of how John the Apostle uses Babylon as a symbol for evil in Revelation 18:1-24. The phrase, “shall not be built forever,” (“it will never be rebuilt” ESV) is another indicator of the end times finality of this passage. This symbol represents the final destruction of evil. It will never again gather together in one place.
Septuagint: 3 Therefore shall the poor people bless You, and cities of injured men shall bless You. (CAB)
Masoretic: 3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. (ESV)
The two versions just quoted appear at first glance to be nearly opposite each other. However, in their own contexts, the overall flow of each brings them into agreement in light of the whole passage. The Septuagint here does seem to better continue the thought of verses 1-2.
Isaiah 25:2-5 flows smoothly in the Septuagint. The sense of the verses holds together with no sudden jerks. Verses 3-5 describe the weakness of the poor people, as contrasted with the strength of the evil. The prophet points out in verse 4 how the Lord God will deliver the poor from wicked men. Interestingly, however, verse 5 indicates that God had given them over to the wicked in the first place. Prior chapters in Isaiah developed this theme. God uses the wicked to discipline his own people. Then he delivers them. (See, for example, Isaiah chapters 3-5. See also Habakkuk’s complete explanation in three chapters.)
The Feast and the Mountain…Already, Not Yet
6 And the Lord of hosts shall make a feast for all the nations; on this mount they shall drink gladness, they shall drink wine; 7 they shall anoint themselves with ointment in this mountain. Impart all these things to the nations; for this is God’s counsel upon all the nations.
The phrase “already…not yet” has circulated for some time. It refers to Old Testament prophecies, such as the one we are considering here in Isaiah 25. Christians in the current era since Christ’s ascension experience the fulfillment of the prophecies “already.” They experience now the spiritual truths which Isaiah describes. And yet, Christ promised that he would return and gather his flock to live with him forever. At that time, he will permanently destroy all evil. “Not yet” describes that period of time.
I. Christians now the world over celebrate a feast in Christ’s kingdom. They truly do “drink gladness” (vs 6) and the “wine” of joy and of Holy Communion (John 17:13, et al). The wine of communion anticipates the Lord’s return (Luke 22:18-20).
II. What is “this mount”? The mountain right now is the spiritual, symbolic seat of Christ’s kingdom. (Please take time to read the following verses: Daniel 2:35, 44; Isaiah 30:29; Micah 4:2; and Zechariah 8:3.) In the “already,” the mountain of the Lord is not a literal mountain. Scripture is not opposed to symbolism. For example, Paul used symbolism freely in Galatians 4:35-31 when speaking of mountains. Further, the mountain in Hebrews 12:22-24 is a spiritual mountain. The mountain of Christ’s kingdom is where Christians live and worship now.
III. The “ointment” of anointing is the Holy Spirit. God forgave sins through Jesus’s offering of himself upon the cross. His death and resurrection accomplished purification for humankind. But the purpose of purification stretched beyond cleanliness itself. The purification of Christ’s offering prepared the way for a return of fellowship with the great God Almighty. The BIG CHANGE recorded in the New Testament is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers is the means of fellowship with God.
- The Apostle John first explained the transition from dead materialism to living Spirit to Nicodemus (John 3:1-8). Next, he explained the same transition in different words to the woman at the well (John 4:13-14, 20-26). He explained it again in the parable of the wineskins in Mark 2:22. The gospel of John contains many references to the coming Spirit (John 7:39; 14:16-18, 23, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15).
- In John 17:13 and 23 Jesus prays for the fellowship between humankind and God that the offering of his death will accomplish.
- The book of Acts records the importance of the gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers (Acts 1:8; 2:38; 8:14-17).
- The Apostle Paul expressed great concern that worshipers of Christ receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6; Romans 8:5-17; Galatians 3:2-3, 13-14).
- Finally, near the end of Scripture, John again relates the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, the “anointing” of Isaiah 25:7 (1 John 3:24; 4:13; 5:6-8).
IV. “Impart all these things to the nations; for this is God’s counsel upon all the nations” (Isaiah 25:7b)
Verse 7b strongly indicates that Isaiah is not speaking of a special “millennial” period of time in this passage. The so-named “millennium” supposes itself to be a time period of special favor to the Jewish nation in particular, above all others. But the joy of Christ includes all believers of every nation, tribe, family, people, and tongue. The joy of Christ for all peoples began with his resurrection and will continue to his Second Coming, the end of the age. The New Testament is entirely clear on this point.
In verse 7, Isaiah repeats what he had spoken in verse 1, concerning God’s “ancient and faithful counsel.” Here, he bluntly states that this counsel is to and upon “all the nations.” Surely that includes more than a supposed “millennial” Israel? The reader can find more on the “ancient and faithful counsel” in Isaiah Devotional Journal 48 and Journal 49.
To Be Continued
Isaiah 25 Septuagint Modernized
Celebratory Songs for “In That Day” (Part Two): An “Ancient and Faithful Counsel”
Isaiah 25:1 O Lord God, I will glorify You, I will sing to Your name; for You have done wonderful things, even an ancient and faithful counsel. Amen. 2 For You have made cities a heap, even cities made strong that their foundations should not fall; the city of ungodly men shall not be built forever. 3 Therefore shall the poor people bless You, and cities of injured men shall bless You. 4 For You have been a helper to every lowly city, and a shelter to them that were disheartened by reason of poverty; You shall deliver them from wicked men; You have been a shelter for them that thirst, and a refreshing air to injured men.
“An Ancient and Faithful Counsel”
In Isaiah’s prophecy he will sing and glorify the Lord. The Lord has done wonderful things. They are his “ancient and true (faithful) counsel.” How ancient? This counsel goes back even before time began. Later, God spoke it to Eve, concerning her sacred offspring. He would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Yes, Isaiah 25, the entire chapter, is messianic. Its scope and grandeur travel to the very end of history where time ends and eternity begins. All humankind who favor God and hope in his Christ will receive the blessings described.
The theme of God’s “ancient and faithful counsel” abounds in Scripture.
Isaiah 4:2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel. (LXE, CAB)
Isaiah 9:6 For a Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, whose government is upon His shoulder; and His name is called the Messenger of great counsel; for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to Him. (LXE, CAB)
Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (ESV)
Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages (ESV)
1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (ESV)
Ephesians 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (ESV)
Colossians 1:25-27 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (ESV)
We Shouldn’t Mourn
We should not mourn that Isaiah 25 is not a millennial prophecy. Clearly, I believe that all of Scripture teaches that God, in his most basic promise in Christ, always intended to include the whole world. Yes, God most definitely used Israel greatly (in spite of themselves) for a long period of time. Praise God and bless Israel. When God’s purpose through this people reached his intermediate goal (the birth of Messiah), he moved on to his final goal. God always intended to save all humankind, irregardless of race (Galatians 3:28; Revelation 7:9). This most certainly includes descendants of Israel (Romans 9-11). But God created humans as one race. He introduced ethnicity at Babel, when the one people sinned (Genesis 11:1-9).
Why should it disappoint us that Old Testament Israel is no longer “special” in New Testament days? That it is no longer the only child? (See the parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32). Isaiah rejoiced when he learned that God’s purpose primarily includes all people.
Isaiah 54:2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. (ESV)
Who are these offspring? Paul tells us.
Galatians 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (ESV)
Isaiah Didn’t Mourn
Paul knew his Bible well. He knew that God’s greater promise brought joy to his prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 56:3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. 6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant– 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (ESV)
Chapters 25-27 in Isaiah contain such celebratory songs. They are for joy and gladness, not mourning.
A Personal Analogy
When I taught second grade for many years, I sometimes taught the students to dance. I learned quickly not to attempt to teach the whole class of two dozen students all at once, even though that was my primary goal–that everyone should learn the dance.
And so I began with one student. All could watch and see. When that student had learned the steps, I brought in another student, then a third, then two more, and so forth. Eventually, the entire class learned the dance. I had achieved my goal. I achieved it in an orderly fashion, not chaotically.
I envision God’s calling of Abraham to be analogous to the method I just described. How would God know when he had achieved the first portion of his ultimate goal? He would know it was time to move on when history saw Messiah born, verified, crucified, risen, and ascended into heaven. At that point, it was time for him to draw in the whole class, the whole world. God will never exclude Israel. It’s just that God’s purpose has always been so much larger and grander than this one single ethnicity. And aren’t we glad for that?
By Christina Wilson on
Celebratory Songs for “In That Day” (Part One)
Isaiah 26:1 In that day they shall sing this song in the land of Judea; Behold a strong city; and he shall make salvation its wall and bulwark. (Septuagint)
The celebratory songs for “in that day” begin with Isaiah 25:1, even though the prophet doesn’t use that exact phrase until chapter 26. Imagine the scene in the movie, Harry Potter, when the dark lord is finally, totally, and forever banished. Isaiah’s celebration is much greater than that. Or, think of any city when the favored troops have completely vanquished the oppressive enemy. Isaiah’s songs for “in that day” are that kind of celebration.
I think it’s fair to say that Isaiah had never heard of a period of time called the “millennium.” In Isaiah, there are three basic time zones: 1) his day, including everything up to the incarnation, 2) the day of Christ, including his incarnation and up to and including everything before his second coming, and 3) the final day when Christ comes again and the enemy is forever, finally, totally, destroyed.
Unfortunately for us, as readers, Isaiah doesn’t clearly label his time frames. Nor are they always exactly discernible. Consider for example Isaiah 22:20-25.
Isaiah 22:20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (ESV)
We know from Revelation 3:7 that this passage is about Christ.
Revelation 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (ESV)
But what is the time frame in the Revelation passage? Wasn’t it true of Christ during his incarnation? And after his ascension? And into his glorious eternity? Similarly, none of these time frames are ruled out in Isaiah 22:20-25.
Already, Not Yet
There is a phrase to describe prophecy’s fulfillment that is making its rounds in Christian circles. This phrase is “already, not yet.” The idea is that much Old Testament prophecy, including Isaiah, has already been fulfilled in Christ. He is already crucified, buried, risen, and ascended into heaven. There he sits at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31). But the very end of the ages, when the eternal kingdom is ushered in, is “not yet.”
Scripture is not clear on the exact timing of the transition from “already”, that is–right now– to “not yet.”
Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (ESV)
And, in the days of Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets, that timing was even less clear. Peter bluntly states how much was revealed to them.
1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (ESV)
The Timing Not Clear
An honest evaluation of Peter’s words reveals that the timing revealed to the Old Testament prophets was general, not specific. For them, it was plenty exciting just to know that the Christ would come!
While I am not endorsing a particular faith tradition, I often like The Orthodox Study Bible (1). This is because its translation is based on the Septuagint (Old Greek translation). And, I like the Septuagint, because it is often easier to find Christ in its pages than in translations based on the Masoretic textual tradition (2). Here is what The Orthodox Study Bible writes for Revelation 20:2.
20:2 Though most did not, a few early Fathers and writers believed in a literal thousand year binding of Satan and reign of Christ and the saints on earth (vv. 2-7). The Church, however, authoritatively rejected this teaching (called chiliasm) at the Second Ecumenical Council. In apocalyptic literature, numbers have symbolic significance. “Thousand” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a long period time, a great quantity, completion, perfection, thoroughness (Job 9:3; 2Pt 3:8). Here, a thousand years (vv. 2-7) is interpreted as the Church age, when Jesus reigns on earth in those who believe. It is that era between the first and second comings of Christ, also called the “last times,” when Satan’s effectiveness at deceit is restricted through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and the saints share in Christ’s earthly reign through the Church. For these persecuted Christians threatened by martyrdom, this is a consoling hope.
Therefore, anyone who points to Isaiah chapters 25-27 and states that this is the “millennium,” is reading into Scripture. This is because the “millennium” is a word that Scripture never uses. And, if such a distinct period is not clear in Revelation, then it certainly wouldn’t be clear in Isaiah. But, good news! Chapters 25-27 in Isaiah are definitely about the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
1 Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.
2 A brief introductory post concerning my use of the Septuagint is available here: Which Bible Should I Use? – justonesmallvoice.com
Songs for “In That Day” To Be Continued
Isaiah 24 Link to LXE Modernized
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)
Simultaneously posted at: justonesmallvoice.com
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.
Verse 19, just quoted, sounds the death knell for all the wickedness of the world. The words, “and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise,” are definitively final. One day there will be an end. The waves of the sea will cease crashing, and God will usher in the restful salvation of eternity. The old, wicked, sinful earth will never rise again.
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 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.
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 – justonesmallvoice.com and https://onesmallvoice.net/2019/12/09/psalm-18-papa-roars-and-rescues/
Simultaneously posted at: https://justonesmallvoice.com/against-tyre-isa…ional-journal-45/
By Christina Wilson on
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.
9 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.
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.
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 2:2, 25:6-7, 40:5). 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, Studylight.org).
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)
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.