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Friday, September 29th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 24

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Verses 1-3


The previous chapters give an account of the acts of God with the individual nations north, east, and south of Israel. This chapter describes God’s judgment on western nations, including Israel, at “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3). It is the time when He, to Whom “authority has been given … in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), will return to clear His kingdom (Matthew 13:41), after which He will establish His kingdom on earth.

The individual nations in Isaiah 13-23 show the different states in which the world as alienated from God has manifested itself. This happens under the influence of and guided by spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Thus Babylon represents the (Christian) religious system of corruption and oppression over the whole earth. The people of God are thereby imprisoned.
2. In Assyria we see the (islamic?) enmity against God’s people.
3. Philistia is the constant enemy not outside, but in the land. They stand for professing Christianity.
4. Moab stands for human proudness and pride.
5. Damascus is the enemy of God’s people, but united with the apostate part of this people against the faithful part.
6. In Dumah or Edom we see the self-confidence of man, his independence, who from that position mocks God’s people and deals with them.
7. Jerusalem stands for lip confession.
8. Tyre stands for the glory of the world.
9. Egypt is the world that boasts of its wisdom, but whose wisdom has been lost.

From all these enemies God’s people will be freed, as well as from all that is on earth and also from the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places and kings of the earth. But first the prophetic earth will be purified. By ‘prophetic earth’ is meant that part of the earth which is mentioned in the prophecies. The prophetic earth is the part of the earth that is most responsible before God because it is there that the light of the gospel has shone longest and brightest. In our time, however, it is becoming increasingly clear how this gospel is being rejected especially there (2 Thessalonians 2:10). It is the part of the earth that the Lord calls His (earthly) kingdom (Matthew 13:41), in which wheat and tares grow up together.

We recognize the Christian western world in this. This earthly kingdom is purified: all stumbling blocks are removed and the tares are gathered up and burned with fire (cf. Matthew 13:40-Mark :). In this way the prophetic earth will be purified in this chapter and room will be made for the establishment of God’s kingdom. All hostile powers will undergo Divine retribution on the day of the LORD as announced in this chapter.

Much of it is reminiscent of the judgments in the book of Revelation. That is why the part of Isaiah 24-27 is also called ‘the Revelation in miniature’ or ‘the Apocalypse of Isaiah’. There is also a clear connection with Jeremiah 4, where these judgments are also described (Jeremiah 4:23-Obadiah :).

Judgment Affects the Whole Earth

The explanation of this section depends on the translation of the Hebrew word eretz. It can be translated by ‘land’, i.e. the land of Israel. It can also be translated by ‘earth’. In the second case it is about the judgment on the earth. Because Matthew 24 (Matthew 24:38-Mark :) connects this part with the deluge, we choose as to the explanation for the translation by ‘earth’. The parallel between ‘earth’ and ‘world’ in Isaiah 24:4 of this chapter supports this choice.

However, we must bear in mind that this is the prophetic earth in contrast to the prophetic sea of the nations. We have to think of the prophetic earth in relation to those who have not accepted the love of truth, i.e. the western, (ex)Christian world, especially Europe. By the prophetic sea of nations we mean nations that have no connection with God, but turn against Him and His people.

Everything that characterizes the world will in the end time experience the judgment that is foretold in the opening verses of this chapter. Here the LORD does not use human instruments, but executes the judgment Himself (cf. Isaiah 13:9-2 Kings :; Jude 1:14-Ezra :) and by His angels (cf. Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:49). Everything is distorted (Isaiah 24:1).

We go back, as it were, to the beginning of creation, that the earth is formless and void (Genesis 1:2). The world again becomes waste and empty, now through the judgment of God. Because of this, just as in the beginning, a new heaven and a new earth can be created by Him (Isaiah 65:17). That is the realm of peace.

It is “the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world” (Revelation 3:10). What happened at the deluge (Genesis 6:7; Genesis 6:17) will happen again when the LORD judges the earth. People will not find support together to resist or endure God’s judgments. Everyone will be alone in his misery.

All earthlings will be judged. There will be no distinction in spiritual or social status (Isaiah 24:2; Romans 2:11), all layers of the population will be affected. The earth will be stripped of all its beauty. A mourning clothing, as it were, will be laid over it (Isaiah 24:3). That this judgment will surely affect the whole earth is confirmed with the words “the LORD has spoken this word”.

Verses 4-6

The Cause of Judgment

Then what is already true for the faith becomes visible, “that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together” (Isaiah 24:4; Romans 8:22). Also the people, and among them especially the exalted ones, will lose all their glory.

There is talk of “earth” and “world”. ‘Earth’ usually refers to the area where God’s government becomes visible. That terrain is also called the ‘prophetic earth’ because that is what the prophecies refer to. With ‘world’ the same terrain is meant here, but as the terrain where man reveals himself in his state of alienation from God.

In Isaiah 24:5 is the reason for the judgments. Man is the cause of it (Romans 8:20). God has subjected His creation to general laws and statutes that count as an eternal covenant between Him and His creation (Genesis 9:8-2 Samuel :; Genesis 9:16). Man can never ignore and change them with impunity (Daniel 7:23-Ezekiel :). Above all, this applies to Israel, God’s people, whom He has made clear in a special way how to receive His blessing. But Israel has transgressed His law and broken His covenant (Jeremiah 11:10; Deuteronomy 31:16; Deuteronomy 31:20).

Man is more concerned about soil and air pollution than about the much more tragic and profound pollution of his own morality. The latter pollution is at least as widespread and serious as it was in the eighth century BC, in the days of Isaiah. God’s general institutions for the co-existence of people are being broken down one by one (cf. Daniel 7:23-Lamentations :). The judgments of which the being “burned” is a picture (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 21:8), which follow all this forsaking of the LORD and His ordinances, will thin out the population of the earth (Isaiah 24:6; cf. Matthew 24:22).

Verses 7-13

All Joy Is Gone

“New wine” and “vine”, symbols of joy, do not yield fruit. There is no cause of joy, any joy is gone (Isaiah 24:7-1 Samuel :). The musical instruments expressing joy are silent (cf. Revelation 18:22). The city – probably Babylon – offers a sight of desolate desolation (Isaiah 24:10). When you walk through the streets you hear only wailing because joy and cheerfulness have perished because of the judgments (Isaiah 24:11).

What’s left is a ruin. The gate that used to be guarded is battered (Isaiah 24:12). The city no longer offers any protection. What applies to the city applies to the entire (prophetic) earth, the current western civilization. The judgments have brought in their lugubrious harvest (cf. Revelation 14:14-Proverbs :). The wine harvest corresponds with the final judgment. What remains is only a human being here and there, just as an olive or a grape is left here and there after a harvest (Isaiah 24:13; Isaiah 17:6).

Verses 14-16

Glory to the Righteous One

Amidst the intensely sad sight of the judgments that will strike the earth, Isaiah suddenly hears jubilation (Isaiah 24:14). It is the jubilation of the remnant of Isaiah 24:13. This is the remnant of the ten tribes returning to Israel from all nations. They have repented in that time and sing of the majesty of the LORD that can be seen in the judgments. He is the Righteous One in all that He does, also in the judgments. Everything He does is cause for praise.

The LORD is glorified “in the east [literally: region of light]”, which are the nations where the fire of His judgment lights up (Isaiah 24:15). By this is meant especially the east (of the prophetic earth), while by “the coastlands of the sea” is meant the west. His judgments are to be applauded for the cleansing work they do. This frees the earth from sinners and enables the Lord Jesus to establish His kingdom of peace.

In order to support his faith, Isaiah may look beyond the judgments to the wonderful end result. The whole earth to the extreme end will sing “glory to the Righteous One”, that is the Lord Jesus, with psalms (Isaiah 24:16; cf. Revelation 15:3-Numbers :). Not only are His judgments righteous, but also the realm of peace that follows is based on righteousness.

After the encouraging interlude, Isaiah is impressed again by the misery that will befall his people, yes, all the inhabitants of the earth, especially in the great tribulation under the rule of the antichrist. Isaiah grieves about this and is full of horror (Isaiah 24:16). He speaks on behalf of the faithful remnant of the two tribes that have been in the great tribulation: “Woe to me! Woe to me! Alas for me!”. That deep they are oppressed by the “treacherous”, that is, the antichrist and the apostate Jews.

He talks twice about “treacherous” actions. The first treacherous act is that Israel turns away from the LORD and accepts the antichrist (John 5:43). The second treacherous act is when the antichrist casts off his mask and tries to wipe out the remnant, the believing Jews. Thus they fill the measure of their sins (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:16).

Verses 17-20

Nowhere Protection or Hold

In Isaiah 24:17-Song of Solomon : Isaiah describes the woes of the end time and compares them with pitfalls in which animals end up. The final judgments are foretold about the nations that are under the satanic rule of the beast and the false prophet (Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:11). The judgment comes on the “inhabitants of the earth”. In God’s Word these are always non-believers (Revelation 3:10), especially those of the prophetic earth, the Christian West. They are people who consider the earth as their home, who feel at home on earth, who stick to the earth as it were because they have all their interests there. There is no thought whatsoever about heaven or God.

There is nowhere any safety. Man will be like hunted game. In his wild flee he will fall into a pit. If he succeeds in freeing himself from that pit, a new terror awaits him, the snare (Isaiah 24:17-Job :; cf. Amos 5:19; Amos 9:1-Numbers :). As with the deluge, the heavens break open so that awesome masses of water fall to the earth (Genesis 7:11). The heavens above him breathe with menace and nothing on earth offers any hold (Isaiah 24:19-Proverbs :).

The earth is in tremendous turmoil and will totter dangerously. We can think of a huge earthquake (Revelation 16:17-Psalms :), but also of the political situation, which will become enormously unstable. All certainty and order will have disappeared. This is the result of the transgression of mankind, as a result of which the heavy burden of the curse has been placed on creation (Romans 8:20). Isaiah 24:20 makes it clear that in the realm of peace the Christian West will never be restored.

Verses 21-22

Judgment on Heavenly and Earthly Inhabitants

In Isaiah 24:21 two groups are mentioned that the LORD will punish. One group is “on high”, which is heaven (cf. Job 16:19; Psalms 68:18). The other group is “on earth”. The first group consists of the evil powers in the heavenly places, the fallen angels (cf. Luke 10:18; Ephesians 6:12). They have incited the nations to rebel against God. They are thrown out of heaven (Revelation 12:7-2 Samuel :).

The second group are the leaders of the rebellious peoples. They are all kings of the earth under the leadership of the beast of the sea, which is the leader of the restored Roman Empire, and the beast of the earth, which is the antichrist, the false king of Israel (Revelation 13:1-2 Samuel :; Revelation 13:11-Job :). They have allowed themselves to be deceived by them and are fully responsible for this. They enter the “prison”, which for the demons is the abyss (Revelation 20:1-Leviticus :) and for the kings of the earth, the rulers now in control, the realm of the dead.

They will be confronted with that responsibility. “After many days they [will be] punished” that is, after a thousand years, they will stand before the great white throne (Isaiah 24:22; Revelation 20:11-2 Kings :). The demons will be thrown into hell without any form of trial. We see this distinction in judgment in Revelation 19 (Revelation 19:20-Ecclesiastes :).

Verse 23

The LORD Reigns in Jerusalem

All the judgments described above are carried out by Christ at His second coming. After all, the Father “gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is [the] Son of Man” (John 5:27). After the judgments He will establish His kingdom (Isaiah 24:23). He will reign for all eternity from the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10), where the sun and moon will no longer be needed (Revelation 21:23-Jeremiah :). He Himself, Who is the “Sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2), will make the sun and moon created by Him fade (Matthew 24:29).

The “elders” are the earthly counterparts of the elders we encounter so often in the book of Revelation, the twenty-four elders. They are in Revelation a symbolic representation of the believers of the Old and New Testament. They will share in the glory of the Lord Jesus and reign with Him (Revelation 4:4).

It may also be that the expression “glory will be before His elders” means that the elders will see the glory of the Lord Jesus, because He is standing before them (Revelation 5:11-2 Chronicles :). In that case they are witnesses of His glory, when He stands as the Lamb “on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand” who have been “purchased from the earth” (Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:3).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 24". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-24.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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