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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 30

This chapter gives a retrospective of the period of God’s indignation by the Assyrians. There are two reasons for this discipline of God:
1. Israel’s trust in the power of Egypt by making a covenant with it (Isa 30:1-7; cf. Isa 28:15).
2. Their rejection of God (Isa 30:8-12), a picture of the rejection of Christ.

About their trust in the power of Egypt we read in Isa 30:2 of this chapter: “Without consulting Me.” If they had, they would have known that it is forbidden to return to Egypt (Exo 13:17; Deu 17:16). In addition to the sin of rebellion because of which God must discipline them through the Assyrians, they sin by returning to Egypt to make a covenant. By this they show that they do not trust the LORD (Isa 7:9). We also see here the flight of the wicked Jews to Egypt during the Assyrian invasion. That will not help, because the Assyrians will push on to Egypt and still get them there.

Verses 1-5

Against the Covenant with Egypt

A “woe” (the fourth) is now pronounced against Judah because of a plan to seek help from Egypt to protect itself against Assyria (Isa 30:1; 2Kgs 18:21). It is the plan of “rebellious children,” of those who claim to be God’s people but have no faith in Him. It is a self-conceived plan, it is not inspired by God’s Spirit. We see here that Isaiah represents the LORD and the Spirit as unity. What the LORD does, the Spirit does.

With the execution of their plan they make the pile of sins that is already there even bigger. As they set out for Egypt to carry out their plan, they show their perseverance in their rebellion against the LORD (Isa 30:2). They prefer the protection of Pharaoh and Egypt, the small and deceptive “shadow,” over reliance on the protection of Him, “the shadow of the Almighty” (Psa 91:1).

This reliance on Egypt will become shame and humiliation (Isa 30:3). Their diplomats sent to Egypt to negotiate in the cities of Zoan and Hanes will not gain any advantage, but scorn (Isa 30:4-5). Possibly we can also think of the trust the apostate Jews will place in their covenant with Europe in the near future, which is the restored Roman Empire.

That Israel does not trust God sounds like a refrain in this book. They trust Assyria (Isaiah 7), Egypt (Isaiah 30) and Babylon, a type of Europe (Isaiah 40-48). Egypt will also be a refuge for the unbelieving Jews, but in vain, because Egypt as the king of the south will also suffer from the invasion of the Assyrians, the king of the North (Dan 11:40-43).

All the plans that we too make without consulting the Lord may well have the same character as the plans of Israel. What is our trust based on?

Verses 6-7

Burden of the Beasts of the Negev

“The burden of the beasts of the Negev” concerns the beasts that live in the Negev wilderness (Isa 30:6). Through this wild landscape they have to travel with their pack animals on their journey to Egypt. They have to do so because the ordinary paths are in the hands of the Assyrians. The desperate Judah is willing to undertake a dangerous journey and invest great treasures in search of help that will turn out to be vain. As dangerous and unreliable as the beasts are they may encounter along the way, “lioness and lion, viper and flying serpent”, as dangerous and unreliable the leaders of Egypt will prove to be.

The treasures which they carry on donkeys and camels in order to secure the help of a land from which the LORD liberated them long ago, will not bring them the desired help. It will all turn out to be in vain with only loss (Isa 30:7). The language here is faltering, literally it says: ‘Egypt? Vain and empty, they help …’.

“Rahab” is a poetic name for Egypt (Isa 51:9; Psa 87:4; Psa 89:10). Originally it is a kind of monster (Isa 27:1) – probably referred to as the Behemoth (Job 40:15-24) –, a figurative name for satan, a demonic power. The name Rahab means ‘arrogant’ and typifies the essence of satan. In spite of his pride, Egypt will remain silent in powerlessness and will not be able to extend a hand to help Judah. It is what we call ‘a paper tiger’. Literally you can translate: ´Rahab (the terrible monster)? She does nothing … ´

Verses 8-11

Rejection of the Word

After the prophet condemned their reliance on Egypt, he now speaks about the cause. It lies in their mind. For they have not put their trust in the LORD. This is now being uncovered by the LORD.

Prophecy has two forms: the spoken form and the written form. Spoken prophecy is meant for those who are present at that moment and can hear it. Written prophecy reaches many more people, not only at that moment, but also in future generations.

Isaiah is commanded to write down his words “before them” i.e. in their presence (Isa 30:8). It is in the first place an important warning for them. He has to write down his message “on a tablet” and inscribe it “on a scroll”. A ‘tablet’ means a clay tablet or stone tablet and a ‘scroll’ means papyrus rolls. Writing down his message emphasizes that this warning not to go to Egypt for help is not only meant for God’s people in the days of Isaiah. It is also meant for God’s people in all times and especially the people of Israel in the near future.

God’s Word is for all times. In the future, Israel should not place its trust in the military power of the restored Roman Empire, but in the LORD (Psa 121:1-2). We have no other yardstick. Trust in God is based on the written Word of God (Lk 6:47-49).

Seeking help from Egypt – for us: from the world – can only end in disaster. Recording the warning is necessary because the people are “a rebellious people” (Isa 30:9). The peoples of the world also record their victories and outstanding qualities. But those peoples do not usually write negative things about themselves. The Word of God also records the negative attributes of the people of God, for the Word of God is the truth.

The people are made up of “false sons”, who do not want to listen to the teaching of the LORD. ‘False’ here does not mean in the first place that they ‘lie’, but that they ‘disappoint’. Their reluctant resistance to hear comes back again and again. It is the root cause of their apostasy. The prophet should not come to them with the truth (Isa 30:10; Amos 2:12b). They do not like it. The truth brings them into the light of the Holy One of Israel. They do not want that. If they are willing to hear something, then it must be a message adapted to their wishes (2Tim 4:3-4; Mic 2:11).

They want prophets like Isaiah and his contemporary Micah to change direction. “The Holy One of Israel” must not be brought before them and therefore He must disappear from their eyes (Isa 30:11). They use that Name because Isaiah often uses it in his preaching to them. They say, as it were: ‘Now stop your whining about that Holy One of Israel.’ They do not want to be reminded of that Name or to be confronted with it. This is a dramatic rejection of the LORD.

Freely translated, they say to the prophet and to LORD: ‘Out of the way, move! Step aside!’ Thus will be the spiritual state of the great mass in Israel during the great tribulation. Their guilt is great. They will accept the antichrist after they have rejected Christ (Jn 5:43). For this they are warned by God’s Word in the next section.

Verses 12-17

If the Word Is Rejected

Then they hear from the mouth of “the Holy One of Israel”, Whom they wanted to keep far away from them, the judgment on all their rebellion, of their wicked will to live without Him (Isa 30:12). They reject “this word”, that is, the instruction of the LORD. At the same time they rely on “oppression and guile”, i.e. the way in which they try to secure the friendship of Egypt. With this way of acting, they work their own downfall. This is how it was before that time, when they put their trust in Assyria, and this is how it will be in the future, when they will put their trust in the restored Roman Empire, Europe (Isa 28:15).

They believe they have the protection of a wall, but the wall is about to fall and they will be buried under its fall (Isa 30:13). The collapse will not only come “suddenly in an instant”, but also total. Israel will so ruthlessly be shattered like pottery that not even a piece of sherd will remain for its most mundane use (Isa 30:14). The terrorist attack on the ‘Twin Towers’ in New York (11-09-2001) and its consequences may be a good illustration of these verses.

This is due to their refusal to obtain salvation through “repentance and rest”. “Repentance and rest” means that they return from their own chosen path and turn to God (= repentance) and stop trusting in, or resting on, their own strength (Isa 30:15). Then their strength lies in “quietness and trust” and they do not walk the way in their own strength. This gives the LORD the opportunity to show His strength, for God’s power is perfected in – our – weakness (2Cor 12:9). “Trust” means that they no longer put their trust in Egypt, but go to the LORD and trust in Him.

Isaiah reproaches them: “But you have not willed” (cf. Mt 23:37). They have shown their unwillingness. Then all effort is in vain and the LORD must confront them with the consequences of their evil will and judge them. His judgment is that they get their way. Their plan will turn against them. Do they think they can flee quickly? They will, but their enemies will be faster (Isa 30:16; 2Kgs 25:4-5).

Horses are ‘modern’ in those days, they are the means to victory. Nowadays we would say: ‘They rely on their ‘Iron Dome’ and nuclear weapons, instead of on the LORD.’ But then the LORD speaks: ‘Will they put an end to the Holy One of Israel (Isa 30:11)? The Holy of Israel will put an end to them (Isa 30:14)’!

They will be bitterly disappointed. The fear will be so deep that seeing a single hostile soldier makes a thousand of them flee (Isa 30:17; cf. Deu 32:30; Jos 23:10). And if the enemies come in five, the whole people will run away. If they had been obedient, the reverse would have been the case (Lev 26:8). Now in the depopulated land there will be only a few left here and there. It is the paragon of desolation. It is also a warning for us not to rely on people.

Verses 18-22

Grace for God’s People

It is precisely the desolation of Isa 30:17 that brings the LORD to express the desire to be gracious to them, while being gracious is still being postponed (Isa 30:18). The Hebrew word haka means waiting with desire, a waiting until the judgment is fully executed. Therefore the LORD does not intervene during the siege by the Assyrians, the king of the North. He always shows His grace to a helpless remnant who has no right to it in himself and is aware of that.

The link between the chastisements presented above as necessary because of their rejection of Him and His Word and the announced compassion is that “the LORD is a God of justice”. Judgment is exercised; His righteousness is fulfilled. Then comes the second ‘therefore’. “Therefore” He can then have compassion.

We can summarize it as follows. Since they refuse to wait for the LORD, the LORD must wait for them, until through the judgments on their foolishness they return to Him like the prodigal son. To their cry for help: ‘How long Yahweh?’ His answer is: ‘As soon as you are ready and converted.’

Because God’s holy demands were met when He brought the full judgment on sin down upon Christ, He can show grace to anyone who appeals to that grace with repentance for his sins. The people still have to wait for that grace to be shown. They may already know that this grace is present. The time to accept them as His people in grace has not yet come. However, when they confidently “long for Him”, He calls them “blessed”.

The prophet gives more substance to this “blessedness” by promising them God’s comfort and hearing for the time of the great tribulation (Isa 30:19). Babylon will never be rebuilt and Nineveh will be destroyed and will no longer be a city (Isa 13:19-21; Nah 1:14), but the Jews will have an eternal dwelling place in Zion, in Jerusalem. Dwelling in Zion indicates God’s grace.

If the people ask Him and not any other people for help, He will answer by giving them this dwelling place of rest. The destiny of Israel, like ours, will be a home of rest. In Jerusalem they will find that peace after all their wanderings through countless foreign lands. There they will receive the proofs of Divine love that are waiting for them.

For a brief period of time they will undergo tribulation, namely at the time of the great tribulation. Then they will feed on the bread of privation and drink the water of oppression (Isa 30:20). But after that time will come a blessed time, the realm of peace, in which He will provide them with guidance and education by skilled teachers He will give. Their teacher par excellence will be the Lord Jesus, Who is also called the “Teacher for righteousness” (Joel 2:23 footnote; Job 36:22; Mt 23:10; Jn 3:2; Psa 32:8).

The Hebrew word translated here with “Teacher” can be translated in singular or plural, but the verb “hide” is singular. The latter reinforces the idea that here we may think of God – in Hebrew, God is plural – as the Teacher.

He will be behind them and make them go the right way, keeping them from deviations (Isa 30:21). This Teacher is constantly with them. “A word behind you” indicates that He is close by and that small instructions are sufficient to guide them in the right direction. “To the right or to the left” is an expression that indicates the choices to be made in life.

It is the same for us. The Lord Jesus is always with us and constantly wants to show us the right way through His Word. Listening to the teaching of God’s Word keeps us on the right path. If we want to deviate to the right or to the left, we hear His voice that keeps us on His way.

All these provisions of the LORD, together with the spirit of repentance that is in them, will have a cleansing effect on them (Isa 30:22). Healthy teaching from God’s Word and the Spirit of grace in God’s people are the basis for healthy spiritual growth. It reveals in life what is contrary to this. Everything that is contrary to God’s Word will be thrown away like an impure cloth. If God’s Word has its authority over our lives and we listen to it, we will also with a resolute “be gone!” remove everything from our lives that prevents us from receiving God’s blessing to the fullest.

Verses 23-26

The Full Blessing of the LORD

In these verses Isaiah presents this blessing to the people. They are earthly blessings that belong to a people who have promises that all relate to life on earth. Their entire national existence takes place on earth. This blessing comes when the Lord Jesus will reign on earth as the Prince of peace. After the “bread of privation and water of oppression” that was present in scarcity (Isa 30:20), there will be water in abundance through the rain of heaven that will also provide a yield of the ground that will be “rich and plenteous” (Isa 30:23). The cattle will also be richly blessed and provided with the best nourishment, a compound and fermented animal food that is a treat for the livestock. Everything will then be abundant and of the best quality (Isa 30:24).

Also on the higher places like mountains and hills water is abundant present (Isa 30:25). In the last battles that will also be at the beginning of the realm of peace, no precautions are needed to secure the water supply as in the days of Hezekiah. In “the great slaughter, when the towers fall”, we can think of the destruction of the armies coming from the far north, that is from Russia, to God’s land (Eze 38:14-23).

Also the celestial bodies will emit a multiple of their light now still tempered by sin (Isa 30:26). Literally, it says: “The light of the ‘white’ will be like the light of the ‘hot’, and the light of the ‘hot’ will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days. It is a (figurative) sun that will be a joy for people, not tempered by sorrow and sorrow. This will be the result of the restorative work of the LORD, when He has delivered His people from sorrow and suffering. The sun is above all the Lord Jesus Himself, “the sun of righteousness” (Mal 4:2). Although the enemies have not all been destroyed yet, the prospect given here is a great encouragement for the believing remnant.

Verses 27-32

Judgment and Festival

After the promises of the redemption of Judah we find in Isa 30:27-33 a prediction of the judgment of God on the alliance of enemies. Not Egypt, but God Himself will destroy Assyria. While as in so many other places Assyria is the direct enemy, the prophet points forward to Assyria in the future. It is remarkable that often, after the judgment on Assyria has been discussed, the blessing of the realm of peace follows.

The LORD, that is, His Name – that is all He is in His connection with Israel – comes to judge (Isa 30:27). The fact that His Name comes “from a remote place” means that He is far away from the nations who want to wipe out His people from the face of the earth. This concerns both Assyria in the days of Isaiah and Assyria, the king of the North, in the future.

His coming to judge is connected with fire. We read that “His anger” is burning and “His tongue is like a consuming fire” (cf. Mal 3:2-3). Fire frightens and consumes (cf. 2Thes 1:7-8). God is also to us “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). In Isa 30:28, Isaiah changes the picture of judgment by fire into the picture of judgment by water, and replaces “His tongue” with “His breath”. The LORD will judge the gathered nations with “His breath” (cf. 2Thes 2:8), which will be like “an overflowing torrent” (cf. Isa 8:7-8). An overflowing torrent is a dry wadi, a dry river bed in the wilderness. Normally it is dry, but in the event of a downpour in the mountains it can become an all-destroying, flooding brook in a matter of minutes. Likewise, God’s judgment will be sudden and devastating.

When the LORD comes in the night to judge the enemies of His people, the remnant of God’s people will sing songs (Isa 30:29). It is reminiscent of the night of the exodus from Egypt when the judgment comes on the oppressors of God’s people (Exo 12:42) and the song of salvation they sing after their deliverance (Exo 15:1). They sing songs in view of the coming day. It is a song that sings the ascent to Jerusalem even before the advance there has begun.

If “the Rock of Israel”, which is the LORD in His unshakeable stability, stands before their attention, this song can be sung in faith. We see a similar thing with Jehoshaphat, who during his war placed the choir at the front (2Chr 20:21). We also see it in Paul and Silas singing songs of praise before the earthquake and deliverance happen (Acts 16:25-26).

In Isa 30:30 Isaiah continues his description of the coming of the LORD. In an impressive way he describes the majesty of His coming. It will frighten Assyria (Isa 30:31; cf. 1Sam 7:10). Assyria, once used by God as a rod to discipline His people (Isa 10:5), while Assyria himself used a rod and staff for it (Isa 10:24), will now be struck by the LORD with the rod. Every blow with God’s rod will be a hit. The striking will happen as it were to the beat of the songs of deliverance that the remnant will sing accompanied by musical instruments (Isa 30:32).

Verse 33

The Burning Place

“The burning place” or “Tophet” (cf. Jer 19:6), is connected with God’s judgment on the Assyrians. The prophetic meaning reaches further. It is the place in the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem where cruel and horrible child sacrifices were made to Molech (2Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:31-32). Tophet is not only the destination of the Assyrians, but also the destination of “the king” or the antichrist (cf. Dan 11:36).

In that place the breath of the LORD will ignite the fire of His anger to consume the antichrist and also the enemy armies (2Thes 2:8). The antichrist is the cause of the chastisement of the LORD through His rod, the Assyrians. Now that the LORD is finished with the chastisement, finally both the rod and the antichrist are brought to Tophet.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 30". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.