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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 10

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Verses 1-4

God’s Anger on Abuse of Power

Isaiah 10:1-Numbers : are a continuation of Isaiah 9. Again evil is clearly stated. This time it is the sins of those who have the power to enact laws (Isaiah 10:1). In the laws they enact, they constantly record unjust decisions. In an application for today, we see that it is legally established that the theory of evolution must be taught in schools and that education about homosexuality is made compulsory in schools.

Laws should serve to protect the subjects. But the makers of laws abuse their power to deprive the socially weak, “the needy … the poor … widows … the orphans”, of their rights and even to exploit and plunder them (Isaiah 10:2). The needy and the poor is the Lord Jesus. During His life on earth, the greatest injustice has been done to Him by people who make and apply laws.

The Lord speaks of “the scribes and the Pharisees”, who “have seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (Matthew 23:2), which indicates that they are taking the place of the legislator. He makes heavy reproaches to these people: “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4). He also says of them that they “devour widows’ houses” (Mark 12:40). He wipes the floor with the ruling class, as the LORD does here. The same goes for all religious lordship which enriches itself at the expense of defenseless people, which is found par excellence, but not exclusively, in roman catholicism.

But “the day of punishment” comes for them (Isaiah 10:3). “The devastation which will come from afar”, the armies of Assyria, will strike them. “To whom” will they be able to “flee for help”? When God’s judgment comes on these people, they will have no one to help them, just as they left the oppressed without help. They will not be able to protect their wealth, on which they boast – perhaps “your wealth” also means their offspring (Hosea 9:11) – when “the day of punishment” comes for them. Nothing but shame and imprisonment will be their fate, while many will also be killed (Isaiah 10:4).

Then for the fourth and last time the refrain sounds that the anger of the LORD does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out against them in judgment.

Verses 5-6

Assyria as the Disciplinary Rod of the LORD

After the LORD insisted on the sins of His people, here suddenly comes the judgment on the disciplinary rod used by Him. The king the LORD uses to chasten His people also has to deal with the judgmental God because he does not think he is just an instrument. Isaiah 10:5-Psalms : give a striking example of how the LORD used the heathen people as a discipling rod for His people. In doing so, He has given them a far-reaching authority over His people. The heathen peoples on their side do not think of God, however. They think to carry out their own plans and to accomplish them in their own strength. That is why God’s judgment also comes on them.

Isaiah pronounces the “woe” over Assyria at a time when Judah and Ahaz still expect everything from an alliance with Assyria. The LORD sent Assyria to His people “as the rod of My anger” (Isaiah 10:5). A rod serves to discipline. The anger of the LORD enables Assyria to attack Judah. It also depicts what will happen in the near future, in the period of God’s anger over Judah. Then the prophetic Assyria, the coming king of the North, will discipline Israel as the leader of the Arab allies.

The LORD sends this enemy to His people because they are “a godless nation” (Isaiah 10:6). They are a nation who honor Him with their lips, while their hearts are far away from Him. He is so angry with His people that He commands Assyria to make His people suffer greatly. Their sins are so terrible, that Assyria must plunder and trample His people. All their possessions are taken from them and all their lives are trampled “like mud in the streets”. This is a poignant description of the judgment God brings on His people. It shows how tormented God is by the sins of His people.

This does not mean that Assyria knows the anger of God towards His people. Assyria pursues its own interests and is only acts for its own benefit. He knows nothing of being an instrument in God’s hand. Thus, all unbelievers believe that they are free to do as they please, while God can use them in His sovereignty to fulfill His plans. In this way God turns the ‘woe’ over Israel into a ‘woe’ over the enemies of Israel.

Verses 7-11

The Motivations of Assyria

The king of Assyria has no connection whatsoever with God. He does not have the intention of God, but his own plans and acts accordingly (Isaiah 10:7). He does not think up the things of God in his heart, but very different things. That is why he also lives in enmity against God (Romans 8:5-Ruth :). Thus the prophet Nahum says about Assyria: “From you has gone forth One who plotted evil against the LORD, A wicked counselor” (Nahum 1:11). We see here that God knows the heart and thoughts of the wicked through and through. All things are open and laid bare to the eyes, even the deepest hidden thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12-1 Chronicles :; 1 Corinthians 4:5).

Assyria wants to wipe out and exterminate as many peoples as possible in order to enlarge its territory and expand its rule. That’s why he now wants to annex Judah as well. He imagines himself to be superior. His princes are all kings, he brags (Isaiah 10:8). Proudly he points to earlier successes (Isaiah 10:9). Also the kingdom of ten tribes, Samaria, is already in his hands.

In his delusion of grandeur he now thinks he can incorporate Jerusalem. For him it is a city like any other. For him, the God of Israel is also no more than an idol, yes, even less than the idols of other countries (Isaiah 10:10; cf. Isaiah 36:19-Proverbs :). Therefore, he believes he can conquer Jerusalem even more easily than the other cities he has conquered (Isaiah 10:11). This is also what Jerusalem has caused by its behavior. Instead of being a testimony to God’s Name, they have replaced God with idols.

The king of Assyria doesn’t even speak about his gods who would have given him the victory. He boasts that he owes everything to himself, that he did it himself, “as I have done”, thus declaring himself a god.

Verses 12-15

The Arrogance of Assyria

The LORD already knows the proud thoughts of the king of Assyria, who will be as successful as it fits for the fulfillment of God’s plan. When Assyria has performed the work of the Lord (Adonai), He will deal with the king of Assyria (Isaiah 10:12). The purpose of his work is for a remnant of His people to be converted to Him and for the wicked masses to be judged. The retaliatory judgment of the disciplinary rod comes not so much on the person of the king of Assyria, but on “the fruit of the arrogant heart … and the pomp of his haughtiness”. His arrogance drives him and the pomp of his haughtiness shows the total absence of the acknowledgment of God.

We often see in the Old Testament prophecies that there is a direct pre-fulfillment in the days of the prophet, or shortly afterwards, and a fulfillment in the end time, the final fulfillment. This is also the case here. Assyria will want to take Jerusalem, but will be judged by God when He has done His work through this enemy by using him as a disciplining rod for His people. The direct fulfillment we see in the days of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:35-Haggai :). The final fulfillment we see in the future in the advance and destruction of the king of the North (Daniel 11:45). This will take place when he and his armies return from Egypt (Daniel 11:40-Acts :).

The king of Assyria is full of himself. He speaks of “the power of my hand” and “my wisdom” as the means by which he has achieved his successes (Isaiah 10:13). Strength and wisdom are indispensable for a ruler. The Messiah possesses these features as well (Isaiah 11:2; 1 Corinthians 1:24). He uses His power in wisdom. Someone who boasts of these qualities as something of himself and in whom power takes precedence over wisdom, is a foolish braggart and a ruthless dictator.

He boasts that he has taken away the boundaries established by God between the nations (Deuteronomy 32:8; cf. Job 24:2) and plundered the nations with the greatest ease. He also feels and presents himself as God when he says that he “like a mighty man … brought down [their] inhabitants”. This is also evident from the words “I” and “my” of which Isaiah 10:13-2 Chronicles : are full (cf. Habakkuk 1:11). It is the language also used by “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-Numbers :), which is the antichrist.

He continues to describe himself as the undisputed ruler against whom no one dares to resist. He accentuates his exaltation by making a comparison with someone who takes eggs from a bird’s nest (Isaiah 10:14). The bird on the nest is chased away and has to watch helplessly as the hand takes the eggs from the nest. In this way Assyria has taken away the power of the nations and gathered the whole world. Nobody dared to resist or even protest against his actions.

The LORD puts an end to all that bragging. He shows in the picture of “axe”, “saw”, “club” and “rod” that the king of Assyria is no more than a tool in His hand, doing what His outstretched hand wants (Isaiah 10:15). Just as these tools do not have any say with him by whom they are handled, neither does the king of Assyria have any say with the LORD.

Verses 16-19

The LORD Judges Assyria

Because the king of Assyria has expressed and acted so arrogantly, “the Lord, the GOD [or LORD] of hosts” (Isaiah 10:16) will punish his arrogance. Those who feast and look stout will suffer a wasting disease. Nothing remains of their fat. They will look lean and skimpy. The scorching glory of the appearance of the LORD which will burn his riches is aptly represented in His names “light of Israel” and “his Holy One”, which is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 10:17). On the other hand, Assyria will be nothing more than “thorns” and “briars” that are food for the fire of the LORD.

His armed force, “the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden”, will also be consumed by the LORD (Isaiah 10:18). Everything that lives will fade away just as someone who is sick fades away. Thus all the glory of Assyria will be destroyed. What is left of the army is so small that you don’t even have to count to ten, so to speak, to determine its number (Isaiah 10:19). This residue makes no impression at all.

Historically Assyria has been destroyed by the Babylonians. Prophetically Assyria will be destroyed by the LORD Himself in a supernatural way, just like in the time of King Hezekiah. Later the Medes and Persians will become the ‘saw’ and the ‘axe’ for the Babylonians. It continues like this until the moment comes when the Lord Jesus will establish His kingdom. That kingdom will not be destroyed and will not be succeeded by the next kingdom (Daniel 2:44).

Verses 20-23

A Remnant Will Return

Defeating the Assyrians is a picture of defeating the assembled armies that will advance against Jerusalem in the end times. “In that day” (Isaiah 10:20) points to that. “That day” is not a day of twenty-four hours, but a period. It is the period from the moment the Lord Jesus rises to claim His rights on the earth – His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives in that day (Zechariah 14:4) – up to and including His reign in the millennial realm of peace.

It begins with the return of the remnant, “the remnant of Israel”. When the king of the North is destroyed by the appearance of the Lord Jesus, the remnant of the ten tribes realm still in scattering is also gathered together (Matthew 24:31). Israel will then no longer rely on the heathen power Assyria that struck him, but on “the LORD the Holy One of Israel”.

That weak remnant, meaningfully called “the remnant of Jacob,” no longer counts on his own strength and returns to “the mighty God” (Isaiah 10:21; cf. 2 Chronicles 30:6). And Who is “the mighty God”? No one but the born Child and the given Son, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, Whose name is “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). Remarkably, the first words of Isaiah 10:21, “a remnant will return”, are the translation of the Hebrew Shear-jashub, the name of a son of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:3).

That this part not only relates to the invasion of Assyria that will take place soon, but also looks forward to the end time, is also clearly shown in Isaiah 10:22-:. At the end of the great tribulation comes the “destruction”. In that destruction both the unbelieving masses of Israel (Zechariah 13:8) and the Assyrians perish. The number of the people will have decreased so much that only a handful of the once numerous people will remain (Isaiah 10:22; Zechariah 13:8-1 Samuel :). But this remnant is at the beginning of the kingdom of peace the nucleus from which again a multitude of people will grow.

The righteousness of God will flood the land. Everything will come under His righteous judgment. It is a destructive judgment on all wickedness (Isaiah 10:23). It is decreed (Daniel 9:26-:), no one can stop it. “The Lord, the LORD of hosts” Himself will do it. He will do it “in the midst of the whole land”, which is the land of Judah.

The apostle Paul applies Isaiah 10:22-: to the remnant of the election of God’s grace in his days (Romans 9:27-Hosea :). This remnant is part of the Christian church at this time, which consists of believers from Jews and Gentiles who merge into the one body that is the church (Ephesians 2:13-Nehemiah :).

Verses 24-27

The Remnant Is Liberated

The Lord, the LORD of hosts, tells His people not to fear the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:24). They will come and beat them, but after “a very little while” the indignation of the LORD against them will come to an end (cf. Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17Isaiah 9:21; Isaiah 10:4) and then His anger will turn against the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:25). After all, that is how it was with the Egyptians, isn’t it? They were oppressed at first, but then God’s hand turned against this enemy of His people (cf. Is 52:4). This is how it will be with Assyria.

Isaiah also recalls how Midian was beaten (Isaiah 10:26; Judges 7:25; cf. Isaiah 9:4). He also reminds us of the liberation of the people when they stand before the Red Sea. The Israelites have no way to go. The sea is before them and pharaoh with his army behind them. Then Moses lifts up his staff, which is here the staff of the LORD, and a path comes into the sea. The Israelites pass through it, while pharaoh and his army perish in the sea.

It is good to remember how God has saved us from distress in the past. That gives courage to trust Him also in view of an upcoming situation of distress. In that trust Isaiah mentions the outcome. The burden will be removed from the shoulder, the yoke will be broken (Isaiah 10:27). The burdened heart relieves, captivity and bondage are over. Inwardly there is peace, outwardly there is freedom, “because of fatness”. ‘Fatness’ literally is ‘oil’, used to anoint. Therefore others translate “because of the anointing” that is, because of Christ, the Anointed, Who will then reign in Jerusalem.

The Assyria of the end times is the same as the king of the North (Daniel 11:1-Habakkuk :) with behind it the great empire of Gog (Russia). He invades the land and floods everything. The king of the North is the leader of a coalition of ten countries (Psalms 83:5-Ruth :) north of Israel, all Islamic (Shiite?) and with a great hatred of Israel. After the destruction of the king of the North on the mountains of Israel, his place is taken by Gog – Russia and its allies. But there need be no fear, because the Lord Jesus will also completely destroy that last enemy of His people (Ezekiel 38-39).

Verses 28-32

The March of Assyria

In Isaiah 10:28-Nahum :, first the march and then the humiliation of Assyria in his fight against Judah are presented in a vivid manner. First the unstoppable march of the enemy from the north to Jerusalem is vividly described. In the spirit the prophet sees that he invaded the realm of Judah via Ephraim.

“Aiath”, “Migron” and “Michmash” are conquered (Isaiah 10:28). Aiath (Ai mentioned in Joshua 7:2 and Aija in Nehemiah 11:31) is the northernmost of the places in Isaiah 10:28-Jonah :. Aiath lies on the border between Ephraim and Benjamin, about fifteen kilometers north of Jerusalem. Migron and Michmash are located a few kilometers south of Aiath. To cross the mountain pass – a very steep wadi – the “baggage” (the luggage) is deposited at Michmash. In “Gibeah”, directly on the other side of the wadi, they spend the night (Isaiah 10:29). The news of their advance causes panic throughout the area north of Jerusalem.

The prophet is so involved in this scene that he calls on one place to cry aloud and warns another place with the exclamation: “Pay attention! (Isaiah 10:30). About yet another place, which may already have been overrun, he can only express a deep pity: “Wretched Anathoth! He sees how the inhabitants of yet other places try to seek refuge (Isaiah 10:31).

The same day the Assyrian armies reach “Nob” (Isaiah 10:32). There they lie down in position. Nob is probably the present mountain Scopus, a few kilometers northeast of Jerusalem, directly north of the Mount of Olives. From here the enemy “shakes his fist”. The whole campaign went smoothly. All that remains is its completion: the capture of Jerusalem. He is about to give “the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem” the deadly blow. But the army of Assyria does not take into account the LORD Who returns to Jerusalem. We see that in the following verses.

Verses 33-34

The Armies of Assyria Exterminated

Just before the king of Assyria thinks he is captivating Jerusalem, Someone appears on stage Who he did not take into account. He also shakes his hand and knocks him down (Isaiah 10:33). Again the prophet presents the Assyrian world power as a mountain forest with tall trees (Isaiah 10:18) and sets this world power against “the Lord, the LORD of hosts” Who cuts down those “who are tall in stature” with dreadful force.

First He used Assyria as His axe to strike His people (Isaiah 10:15). Now He Himself uses the axe to smite Assyria. Under the mighty blows of Divine power this proud kingdom, which has exalted itself as the cedars of Lebanon, collapses (Isaiah 10:34). He has called himself “a mighty one” (Isaiah 10:13). Now he falls under the blows of Him Who alone and rightly can be called “the Mighty One”.

The first fulfillment takes place in the days of Hezekiah (Isaiah 37:36). The final fulfillment takes place at the end of time (Daniel 11:45). In both cases the prophecy means to suggest that by God’s power man’s highness is humiliated and his kingdom is ended. This opens the way for the kingdom of God. That is the subject of the next chapter.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-10.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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