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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 33

Verses 1-4

The Enemy Is Paid Back

In Isaiah 28-32 a “woe” is pronounced five times to Israel and Judah (Isa 28:1; Isa 29:1; 15; Isa 30:1; Isa 31:1). The sixth “woe” is now pronounced to the “destroyer”, which is Assyria, and “he who is treacherous”, which is the antichrist (Isa 33:1; Isa 33:13). These are the two enemies the remnant faces in the end time, one enemy from the outside and the other enemy from the inside.

Again the prophecy from the time of Isaiah also looks forward to the future and eventual overthrow of the anti-Christian powers and to the day of Zion’s deliverance. The judgment on Assyria and the antichrist is based on the principle that a man reaps what he has sown (Gal 6:7-8). This is as true for nations as it is for individuals.

The final reckoning by the LORD with Assyria and the antichrist is preceded by a time when these enemies will bring God’s people in great distress. In view of their threat, the people will pray and beg for salvation (Isa 33:2). Isaiah expresses in the first and last line of Isa 33:2 the voice of the remnant in the great tribulation, the “time of distress”. He makes himself one with them and feels their need as his own. That is why he speaks about “us” and “we” and “our” in those lines. They have not always waited for the LORD, but when they have converted, they wait for Him. Then they live out of grace.

In the middle line of Isa 33:2 Isaiah begs the LORD to be “their arm every morning”. There he is their intercessor and asks the LORD for what they need every day. He asks for His daily support for them, for in that time of great need they are dependent on His power. Without His power they are powerless. The prayer “give us this day our daily bread” (Mt 6:11), will then be actual. The praying attitude of Isaiah is a foreshadowing of the attitude of the believing remnant.

The LORD has promised to protect Israel (Isa 31:4-5). Therefore, the outcome is certain, not only in the days of Hezekiah, but also in the end time. The hostile nations, the heathen nations, that have gone up against Israel will be scattered by the LORD Who lifts up Himself (Isa 33:3). The spoil these nations have conquered will be taken away by others (Isa 33:4).

Verses 5-6

The Treasure of Judah

These verses are an interlude in which it is about the establishment of the millennial realm of peace. This is still the future, because nowhere in the history of Israel has what is written here ever been fulfilled. The LORD will then be exalted and take His rightful place in the midst of His people. Zion will be filled “with justice and righteousness”. The LORD Himself will be the steadfastness of the times of His people and will teach them through those times with “wisdom and knowledge” the contents of their salvation. This will be their true wealth. Wisdom and knowledge are features we also read of the Messiah, that is the Lord Jesus (Isa 11:2; 1Cor 1:30).

The treasure of Judah will be “the fear of the LORD” as opposed to the actions of Hezekiah (2Kgs 18:13-16). That treasure, “the fear of the LORD”, is the principle of wisdom and the principle of knowledge (Pro 1:7; Pro 9:10). This fear of the LORD is found among believers for whom Christ is the greatest treasure, for in Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).

Verses 7-9

If the Enemy Has Passed Through

The prophet then describes the wretched state of Israel. The messengers who at the time went to Assyria on behalf of Hezekiah with a proposal for peace came out ashamed (Isa 33:7; 2Kgs 18:14; 17). They were deceived by Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. The prophet sees that Assyria did not care about his promises and broke the covenant (Isa 33:8).

Because of the presence of hostile Assyrian bands, no one dares to go in the streets anymore (cf. Jdg 5:6). Isaiah also sees in the spirit how terrible this destroyer (Isa 33:1) will rage against cities and people. Also the land will have to deal with the invading enemy (Isa 33:9). Not only the nature of Judah and Israel, but also that of other areas will groan under the Assyrian violence.

Verses 10-13

The LORD Arises

The prayer of Hezekiah and the prayer of the faithful remnant in the future will be answered. The betrayal of the king of Assyria is reason for the LORD to intervene in the coming verses, also in the future. The time has come when the LORD will “arise” and “be exalted” and “be lifted up” (Isa 33:10; cf. Isa 52:13). These are three descriptions of His proceeding to act.

While speaking He performs and assures in a threefold manner that He “now” – three times in this verse! – will intervene. The Hebrew word for now, attah, sounds enormously powerful, almost explosive. Sound and meaning belong together here in an impressive way. He will arise from His throne to judge His enemies. He, that is the Lord Jesus, will show Himself in His full size, in all His majesty.

Then the nullity of everything Assyria has planned will become apparent. What they carry with them, their plans, turn out to be nothing more than “chaff” and “stubble”, food for the fire of God’s judgment (Isa 33:11). By His breath, the LORD will set the chaff and the stubble on fire. Not only their plans will come to nothing, but they themselves also will be judged as a result of what they had planned. They will fall into the pit they themselves have dug for others (Pro 26:27).

The judgment on the Assyrians symbolizes the judgment on all peoples (Isa 33:12). The peoples that “are far away”, that are not actually gathered with Assyria, are the heathen peoples that are left after the worldwide judgments on the day of God’s anger (Isa 33:13). They are told to hear what He has done. Those “who are near”, Judah, are called upon to acknowledge the might of the LORD.

Verses 14-19

Dwell With the LORD

Not only the peoples far away are bewildered. Also in the midst of those who return to Israel there are still sinners (Isa 33:14). They must be purged (Eze 20:38). These rebellious Israelites will not escape judgment either (Eze 20:34-38), for there is no acceptance of persons by God.

Next Isaiah asks some questions of conscience. Now that through the judgments the nearness of the LORD is almost tangible, the Israelites – just like Isaiah himself in Isaiah 6 – see themselves in the light of God. Outward confession is not enough. Just as with John the baptist, who had to prepare the way before God, the hearts are now purified.

The result is a God-fearing remnant. They will be able to live “with continual burning” (cf. Heb 12:29), which is in the presence of the Holy One of Israel, because there is nothing to consume in them. With them are present the characteristics mentioned in Isa 33:15 (cf. Psa 15:1-3). This should also characterize us. We should think about this when we watch a movie in which sometimes things are shown and said that conflict with this.

They will dwell on the heights, they will be protected and nourished (Isa 33:16). They will see their King-Messiah in His beauty when He returns to fulfill all promises (Isa 33:17). They will see the great, vast Israel as promised to Abraham (Gen 15:18). That is their reward because they have shut their eyes from looking upon evil (Isa 33:15).

They will meditate on the terror they have gone through (Isa 33:18). All the representatives of the reign of terror under which they have sighed will no longer be there. They are over, forever. The political secretary who notes the tax levied (“he who counts”), the tax inspector who checks the weight of gold and silver (“he who weighs”) and the military commander who checks the fortifications (“he who counts the towers”) will no longer appear.

Yes, the entire oppressive people will have disappeared from their eyes (Isa 33:19). Also their ears will no longer be tormented by hearing a foreign language, because that means that the enemy is in power with them and they are slaves. The enemy is no longer there and also that unintelligible speech and stammering tongue have disappeared.

Paul quotes this verse in modified form in a comparison between the liberating power of the cross and the power of the world (1Cor 1:21). He shows that all the power of the world has not been able to free man from his sins, but only keeps him in bondage. The wisdom of God made that deliverance possible through the work of Christ on the cross. This enables the believer to say with boldness: ‘Where have all those enemies gone?’ By the way, this should not make us careless in our life with the Lord, because then such an enemy can just re-emerge.

Verses 20-24

The Glory of Zion

Zion will be seen in glory (Psa 48:1-14). It will be a peaceful dwelling place with a lasting security that will never again be endangered (Isa 33:20). It will be a city where the feasts of the LORD will be held again. The reason for this is that the LORD Himself dwells there (Isa 33:21). The glory of the city is enhanced by the abundance of waters. However, no hostile warships will sail on those rivers.

The LORD is their “judge”, He shall exercise the right over the enemies. He is their “lawgiver”, He gives His law in their hearts. He is their “king”, the Anointed One over Zion Who rules with a fulness of blessing. Finally, He is also their Savior, Who created this glorious state by saving His people from their sins and their enemies (Isa 33:22). He is their perfect strength. In Him Israel will have his Divine King, Who will grant everything His people need to these people. It is based on a complete redemption.

In themselves, the people are weak and incapable of keeping the state of Israel, as if it were a ship, afloat (Isa 33:23). Yet it will be given to them to divide the spoil of the enemy and the crippled will receive the strength to gather robbery. Physical and mental illnesses belong to the past (Isa 33:24). No inhabitant of Jerusalem will have to deal with them. This is closely related to the forgiveness of their iniquities (Psa 103:3).

This state is not yet present. God wants to teach us, as He will teach Israel, that it is impossible to free ourselves in our own strength. He sends us weakness, that we may learn to be strong in weakness. Jacob had to learn this. When he was made physically powerless (Gen 32:25), he learned to rely more than ever on the omnipotent power of the LORD.

Paul learned to boast in his weaknesses, “so that the power of Christ” could dwell in him (2Cor 12:9). The word ‘dwell’ means ‘spread over like a tabernacle’ or ‘overshadow’. It refers here to the peace and protection that Christ gives to those who know they have no strength of their own to go through trials and therefore seek strength with Him. In our trials and tribulations we learn to know the love of Christ in a way that is impossible without these exercises. Then we will be able to say from experience: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:35-37).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 33". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.