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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 2

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-5


Isaiah 2:1—12:6

In these chapters, provided by an editor with a new superscription (2:1), most of the prophecies appear to come from an early period in Isaiah’s ministry. One section (6:1—9:7) is largely in prose and contains biography (7:1-3) and autobiography (6: 1 -8), and its background appears to be the events of 734 B.c. (6:1; 7:1-6). This small booklet seems to have been inserted into the midst of a group of prophecies arranged in 2:6—5:30 and continuing in 9:8—10:4. That these groups were once continuous is suggested by the refrain in 5:25 which is repeated in 9:12, 17, 21, and 10:4. The beautiful portrayal of world peace in 2:2-4 is quoted from another source; it appears also in Micah 4:1-4, where the final lines of the poem, omitted in Isaiah, are preserved in verse 4. Chapter 12 also quotes from ancient hymns of praise, the dates of which are unknown. The prophecies of judgment in 9:8—10:34 are followed by passages in chapter 11 which declare God’s marvelous purpose of salvation and restoration following the judgment. It seemed to an editor that the proper place for the hymnic fragments in chapter 12 with their assurance and joy in the Lord was at this place, before the prophecies against foreign nations which begin in chapter 13.

World Peace in the Kingdom of God (2:1-5)

For singular beauty of thought and word, for profundity of theological understanding and simple grace of expression, the eschatological passage in 2:2-4 is unsurpassed in Scripture. At this point Jerusalem as the capital of a political state in the eighth century b.c. is left aside, and in its stead there is the vision of the New Jerusalem which is the spiritual capital of the whole world. This is an eschatological passage in that it presents the picture of God’s intention, that is, of the direction of history toward the Kingdom of God. “Kingdom” in this sense means, as it does generally throughout Scripture, world order established through universal acknowledgment of the rule and sovereignty of the God who chose Jerusalem as the place where he revealed his nature and intention in history.

The passage begins by saying that in the great days to come the hill on which the Temple in Jerusalem rests will be raised to become the highest of mountains, and people from all over the world will stream toward this central point. They will do so because there God has chosen to make his will and way known for all mankind. In the bitter disputes between nations and peoples, and in the selfishness of the human lust for power, God out of Zion has made known his Word and his Law. When all people acknowledge this fact, and when God becomes the Judge who decides the issues between nations, then will come peace— and only then. Then the weapons of war will be turned into agricultural tools, and none shall learn war any more. (For a concluding verse to the hymn, see Micah 4:4.) A world without war and without fear—this is a world in which all men acknowledge the sovereignty of God, his will as made known in Jerusalem, and in which the lust for power is disciplined in the commitment to the universal Sovereign of all men and nations.

In the past most interpreters have tended to think of this beautiful passage as dating later than both Isaiah and Micah. Being anonymous, it was inserted by the disciples of Isaiah and by those of Micah along with the prophecies of their masters. In terms of contemporary research, however, it is just as likely that the passage could be older than both prophets and was quoted by them in their own work, or included in their work by disciples. One small hint that this may be the case is the interesting phrase “none shall make them afraid” which is contained in the last verse, preserved only in Micah. The earliest datable occurrence of this phrase is in Isaiah 17:2, a passage that dates before the destruction of Damascus by the Assyrians in 733-32 b.c. In the other occurrences of this phrase, and in the way that it is used, one can reasonably assume that its original context was in the hymn, meaning that it is earlier than 733 b.c. An argument based upon this phrase alone is insufficient to prove an early date of the hymn, but it is indeed suggestive. In any case, the hymn comes out of the liturgies concerned with Jerusalem as used in the worship in the Jerusalem Temple. Verse 5 and Micah 4:5 are exhortations which adapt the quoted hymn to the context of each prophet’s own proclamation. Since what is said about the way of the future is God’s own promise, the meaning of it for God’s people in the present world is well expressed in the words of verse 5: “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” The direction of the future is clear; the issue now is the question of God’s sovereignty.

Verses 6-22

The Day of the Lord (2:6-22)

The prophet here speaks in his own words, explaining why God has rejected his people (vs. 6) and is determined on punishing them. Verses 6-9 depict the situation in the nation. The people have adopted such a variety of foreign manners and customs that there is no health in them: magic and divination, playing the game of militarism, and worshiping what their own hands have made. By this means they have been “brought low” (vs. 9). By this rejection of the very purpose of their being, Israel can look forward not to prosperity but to terror (vss. 10-17). “For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty ... and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (vss. 12, 17). At that time the idols of men will be cast forth as of no value because they cannot save (vss. 18-21). Then at the end of the section, in verse 22, an epigrammatic saying has been appended containing a pessimistic appraisal of human beings generally.

Israel, caught within the imperialism of great powers, is here called upon to look within herself for the cause. The nation is to be torn asunder, and he who would grasp the meaning of the terror must look to the righteousness of God, to “the terror of the Lord.” The same Lord who will in his own time establish world order and peace without fear (vss. 2-4) is also the one before whom the haughty worshipers of themselves, the proud who have created their own gods, must now stand in fear, “for the Lord of hosts has a day ...” (vs. 12)! The language and thoughtforms are derived from the old conception in Israel of God the Sovereign in his role as commander-in-chief of the armies of the universe. In the time of Moses and Joshua he used Israel as his agent against evil powers. But now he will use foreign powers to carry out the sentence against his own peculiar people. “The day of the Lord” was in Israel an old expression for the day of the Lord’s victory in battle against his foes. In Amos 5:18 we have the first use of the expression in prophecy. There, as here in Isaiah, God’s victorious day will not be victory for Israel. It will instead be a day of terror, for God’s own people have become his enemy, and therefore are the object of his punishing action.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 2". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/isaiah-2.html.
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