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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 2

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


B. The problem with Israel chs. 2-4

This second major segment of the introduction to the book (chs. 1-5) contrasts what God intended Israel to be (Isaiah 2:1-5), with what she was (Isaiah 2:6 to Isaiah 4:1), and what God will make of her in the future (Isaiah 4:2-6). Thus the progress of thought is from the ideal to the real and back to the ideal.

Verse 1

The presence of another superscription to the following prophecies (cf. Isaiah 1:1), the only other one in Isaiah, bears witness to the composite nature of the book; it consists of several different prophecies. Probably one appears here to set off the prophecies that follow (in chs. 2-4 or chs. 2-5) from what preceded (in ch. 1).

Verses 1-4

The glorious future of Israel presented here is in striking contrast to the condition of the nation in Isaiah’s day described in chapter 1. An almost identical prophecy appears in Micah 4:1-3 (cf. Psalms 2, 46). Perhaps Isaiah quoted Micah here, or Micah quoted Isaiah, or both of them quoted another prophet. [Note: See Delitzsch, 1:111.]

"The last days" is a phrase that describes a distant time from the perspective of the prophet. The Hebrews regarded history as a series of days, the days of their lives. The title of the Books of Chronicles means literally "the words of the days." When these days come to an end, in their last part, human history on this earth will end. New Testament Christians applied this term to the time following Messiah’s coming (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18). Here, it must mean after His second coming, since these conditions did not follow His first coming. [Note: See John H. Sailhamer, "Evidence from Isaiah 2," in A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus, pp. 79-102.]

"The expression ’the last days’ (acharith hayyamim, ’the end of the days’), which does not occur anywhere else in Isaiah, is always used in an eschatological sense. It never refers to the course of history immediately following the time being, but invariably indicates the furthest point in the history of this life-the point which lies on the outermost limits of the speaker’s horizon." [Note: Delitzsch, 1:113.]

The term "mountain" is sometimes a symbol of a kingdom, nation, authority, or rule elsewhere in the prophetic writings (e.g., Daniel 2:35; Daniel 2:44-45; Amos 4:1; Revelation 17:9-11). The ancients also regarded mountains as the homes of the gods. If Isaiah was using "mountain" as a figure of speech, he meant that Israel and her God would be the most highly exalted in the earth eventually. This will be the case during Messiah’s earthly reign. The reference to "the mountain of the house of Yahweh" (Isaiah 2:2), however, may indicate that the prophet had a more literal meaning in mind. He may have meant that the actual mountain on which the temple stood would be thrust higher in elevation. This may happen (cf. Ezekiel 40:2; Zechariah 14:4; Zechariah 14:10), but the primary implication seems to be that Israel and Yahweh will be exalted in the world.

"The analogy of streams is particularly apt, because the major traditional oppressors of Israel were associated with great rivers-the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates (cf. Isaiah 8:6-8)." [Note: Grogan, p. 35.]

Israel’s God would be recognized as the God, and she would be seen as the nation among nations. Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites made pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times a year, but in the future the entire world will go there. In that day, Yahweh’s instruction will go forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 2:3). Jerusalem will be Messiah’s capital city at this time. [Note: See John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy, p. 121.] He will judge everyone, and people will live in peace (Isaiah 2:4). There will be a rebellion against Messiah’s rule at the end of the Millennium (cf. Revelation 20:7-10), but this will involve unbelievers fighting against Him, not one another.

"The prophet saw the new Jerusalem of the last days on this side, and the new Jerusalem of the new earth on the other (Rev. xxi. 10), blended as it were together, and did not distinguish the one from the other." [Note: Delitzsch, 1:113.]

Isaiah’s description pictures a return to paradisiacal conditions (cf. Isaiah 11:6-9). The amillennial interpretation of this passage sees the church as fulfilling what Isaiah wrote of Jerusalem and Judah, and the gospel as going out to the whole world, as illustrated by the following quotation.

"Such instruments [as swords, plowshares, spears, and pruning hooks] are mentioned only as symbols" [Note: Young, 1:109.]

"From whence comes peace? From the recognition that God is the source of all good, that our needs and our destiny can be submitted to his judgment, and from the knowledge that he does all things well. . . . Until persons and nations have come to God to learn his ways and walk in them, peace is an illusion." [Note: Oswalt, p. 118.]

Disarmament now is suicide because of man’s greed and aggression. Nevertheless, modern people should trust in the Lord more than in their military power, as the next section emphasizes.

2. God’s discipline of Israel 2:5-4:1

In contrast to the hopeful tone of the sections that precede and follow it, this one is hopeless. In contrast to the dignity of humanity there, Isaiah presented its folly here.

Verses 5-22

The results of trusting in people 2:5-22

This emphasis is a major one in Isaiah 1-39, and the prophet introduced it at this point. Many in his day-and this is still true today-preferred to trust in strong people, especially nations, rather than in the Lord.

The prophet’s first exhortation 2:5

In view of what the nations will do eventually, Isaiah appealed to the house of Jacob (Israel) to do the same thing immediately, namely: walk in the Lord’s light (presence and truth). Commit to following the Lord. This motivation is also applicable to present-day Christians (cf. Ephesians 5:8-20). Virtually all the commentators recognized that this verse is transitional. Some make it the end of the previous section and others the beginning of the next.

Verse 6

Israel must walk in Yahweh’s light because God had forsaken her in her present condition for departing from Him. Contrast the nations that will seek the Lord in the future (Isaiah 2:2). Israel had stopped living as a distinct people in the world, had adopted the ways of other nations, and had relied on them rather than on the Lord. She had looked to the east (first Assyria and then Babylonia) for light rather than to the Lord, and had become like her despised enemies, the uncircumcised Philistines.

Verses 6-9

The cause of the problem: self-sufficiency 2:6-9

Several facets of Israel’s national life, all evidences of self-sufficiency rather than trust in Yahweh, invited judgment (cf. Micah 5:10-14).

Verses 7-8

Specifically, Israel had filled herself with the wealth, armaments, and idols of the pagan nations (cf. Deuteronomy 17:16-17; 1 Kings 10:26 to 1 Kings 11:8). King Uzziah’s successful reign brought material prosperity to Judah, but this wealth had only encouraged Jewish materialism and neglect of God. Judah had accumulated these things to make herself secure, but she was only trusting in what she herself had made. Contrast the nations that will seek spiritual benefits (Isaiah 2:3), enjoy peace (Isaiah 2:4), and follow the Lord (Isaiah 2:4).

Verse 9

Glorifying created things rather than the Creator results in the humiliation and abasement of those who do these things (cf. Romans 1). Forgiveness is unthinkable when people do these things (Isaiah 2:9; cf. Exodus 34:7). "Do not forgive them" is an idiom meaning "for sure you will not forgive them." [Note: Motyer, p. 56.] Isaiah was not asking God to refrain from forgiving His people.

"A major motif in OT theology is here (and in Isaiah 2:11-22): pride and ambition are humanity’s besetting and most devastating sins. Idolatry is seen as an expression of this drive by which man seeks to exalt himself." [Note: Watts, Isaiah 1-33, p. 35.]

Verses 10-11

The proud and lofty people would eventually try to hide from God’s judgment of them when He exalts Himself in the day of His reckoning (see Isaiah 2:12). Having boasted in earthly resources (Isaiah 2:6-8), they now have only the earth to turn to (cf. Isaiah 1:24). Contrast the nations that the Lord will accept in the future (Isaiah 2:4).

"In preaching as he does here, Isaiah is going contrary to modern psychological theories which assert that it is unwise and even wrong to use fear as a motif in preaching and teaching. How different God’s appraisal of preaching! . . . The only way to run from God is to run to Him." [Note: Young, 1:122.]

Verses 10-21

The effect of the problem: humiliation 2:10-21

Isaiah 2:10-21 are a poem on the nature and results of divine judgment. Note the repetition of key words and phrases at the beginnings and ends of the sections and subsections. This section breaks down as follows:

The Lord is exalted over man and the world (Isaiah 2:10-17)

The fact that the Lord is exalted and man is humbled (Isaiah 2:10-11)

The demonstration that the Lord is exalted over every exalted thing (Isaiah 2:12-17)

The Lord is exalted over idols (Isaiah 2:18-21)

The fact that the Lord is exalted and idols and man vanish (Isaiah 2:18-19)

The demonstration that the Lord is exalted and idols are exposed (Isaiah 2:20-21) [Note: Adapted from ibid., p. 57.]

Verses 12-17

Everyone, not just the Israelites, who exalts himself against the Lord will suffer humiliation. The Lord’s day of reckoning (Isaiah 2:12) is any day in which He humbles the haughty, but it is particularly the Tribulation-in which He will humble haughty unbelievers. Isaiah used nature and the works of man to symbolize people (cf. Isaiah 1:30; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 9:10; Isaiah 10:33 to Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 44:14; Isaiah 60:16). Here several of these symbols represent the spiritual pride of Israel (cf. Romans 12:3; Ephesians 4:2).

"Throughout this section (Isaiah 2:6 to Isaiah 4:1) and many others in the Book of Isaiah, there is an interesting interplay between the judgment which the Lord will inflict on the nation by the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities and the judgment which will come on Israel and the whole world in the ’last days’ just before the Millennium. Probably Isaiah and the other prophets had no idea of the lengthy time span that would intervene between those exiles and this later time of judgment. Though many of the predictions in Isaiah 2:10-21 happened when Assyria and Babylon attacked Israel and Judah, the passage looks ahead to a cataclysmic judgment on the whole world (’when He rises to shake the earth,’ Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21)." [Note: John A. Martin, "Isaiah," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament," p. 1039.]

Verses 18-21

Even more explicit figures of speech picture Yahweh’s humiliation of the self-aggrandizing. Here the similarity of Isaiah’s description of the eschatological judgment is very close to the apostle John’s in the Book of Revelation (cf. Revelation 6:12-17). When God acts in judgment, all attempts to glorify the creation over the Creator will appear vain. Valuable idols will be cast aside to the bats and mice and consigned to the dark, unattractive places where those creatures live.

"Idols are precious. They are always our hard-won silver and gold. That’s why we prize them. They are beautiful, but also contemptible. J. R. R. Tolkien portrayed this in The Lord of the Rings. Everyone who wears the golden ring of power morphs into something weirdly subhuman, like Gollum, who cherishes it as ’My Precious.’ So for Middle-earth to be saved, the ring must be thrown into the fire of Mount Doom and destroyed forever. Tolkien understood that the key to life is not only what we lay hold of but also what we throw away." [Note: Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Isaiah, p. 54.]

"This portrayal of the Lord’s day contains several parallels with ancient Near Eastern accounts of the exploits of mighty warrior kings and deities. First, the very concept of the Lord’s ’day’ derives ultimately from the ancient Near East, where conquering kings would sometimes boast that they were able to consummate a campaign in a single day. [Note: See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:36.] Ancient Near Eastern texts also sometimes associate cosmic disturbances and widespread panic with the king’s/god’s approach (cf. Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19-21)." [Note: Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," pp. 309-10.]

Verse 22

The prophet’s second exhortation 2:22

This section (Isaiah 2:5-22) closes as it opened, with an exhortation, this one being negative. Isaiah called on his hearers to stop trusting in man. His life, after all, comes from God, who should be trusted (cf. Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22; Psalms 146:4). Human beings have no real value as objects of trust. Idolatry is but a result of man’s self-glorification, not its cause. Human beings will never bring about Israel’s glorious destiny. Only God can and will do that. This verse, like Isaiah 2:5, is transitional, and bridges the preceding proclamation of universal judgment with the following more specific judgment.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/isaiah-2.html. 2012.
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