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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 10

 

 

Verses 1-4

Chapter Isaiah 10:1-4 The Fourth Chastisement. Bad Leadership, Rank Injustice, and Captivity (Isaiah 10:1-4).

Analysis.

· Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers who write trouble (Isaiah 10:1).

· To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right of the poor of my people (Isaiah 10:2 a).

· That widows may be their spoil, and that they might make the fatherless their prey (Isaiah 10:2 b).

· ‘And what will you do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which will come from far? (Isaiah 10:3 a).

· To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your glory? (Isaiah 10:3 b).

· ‘Nothing remains but that each has bowed down (cringed) under the prisoners, and they will fall under the slain. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still (Isaiah 10:4).

In ‘a’ the leaders make unrighteous decrees and their underlings write them in such a way as to cause trouble, and in the parallel they are humbled even below the prisoners, and fall as the slain. In ‘b’ they had betrayed the needy, but in the parallel they themselves will become needy with none to help. In ‘c’ they spoiled the widows and preyed on the fatherless, and in the parallel they themselves will become a prey and be spoiled’

Note that Isaiah 10:1-4 continues the theme of Isaiah 9:8-21, and of chapter 5.

Isaiah 10:1-2

‘Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees,

And to the writers who write trouble.

To turn aside the needy from judgment,

And to take away the right of the poor of my people,

That widows may be their spoil,

and that they might make the fatherless their prey.’

God’s woe is now threatened against the new leadership that has taken over and are worse than the old. They have no regard for justice or for the weak. They issue unfair decrees, and their administrators write them down in terms that will only cause trouble. And the purpose is so as to prevent the needy from obtaining justice, and to take away people’s rights, especially those of the defenceless. Thus the widows and fatherless, those with no strong arm to defend them, will be despoiled and become victims. Having been given power these leaders are determined to use it to wring as much out of people as possible, especially out of those who cannot defend themselves. The needy are here in deliberate contrast with those who make decrees, and the poor in deliberate contrast with those who articulate the decrees. It is a clear case of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Isaiah 10:3

‘And what will you do in the day of visitation,

And in the desolation which will come from far?

To whom will you flee for help?

And where will you leave your glory?’

But these very leaders need to consider the fact that God sees what they do and will pay them a visit. He will exact the justice that they have failed to deliver. And He will do it by bringing from afar one who will wreak desolation among them. This is clearly a reference to the king of Assyria and his forces.

‘Where then will you flee for help?’ They have made it impossible for the poor to find help, but now it will turn on their own heads. They too will find themselves with no one to go to, nowhere to go for help. They will be left to face their troubles alone.

‘Where will you leave your glory?’ Their ‘glory’ is what they have built up for themselves including wealth and status. All that they have will be lost, position, prestige, wealth, all their glory will be lost, they will have nowhere for it to be preserved and kept safely.

Isaiah 10:4

‘Nothing remains but that each has bowed down (cringed) under the prisoners,

And they will fall under the slain.’

The end result is that they, who fleeced others and paraded themselves over them, will be left with nowhere to go. They who paraded themselves will each bow down and cringe as the least of the prisoners, and many of them will fall among the slain. ‘Under’ seems to indicate humiliation and loss of status. There will be prisoners and there will be slain, and they will be the least among them.

Note the use of the two tenses. Each speaks of the future, but the perfect specifies the certainty and completeness of the humiliation of each one in the future, while the imperfect expresses the normal more general indefiniteness of what will happen and when. Not all will be slain.

Isaiah 10:4

‘For all this his anger is not turned away,

But his hand is stretched out still.’

Even yet God’s anger is still not assuaged. There remains the final judgment, the total cessation of Israel as a nation.

(Note. It is of interest that the ‘Woe’ here would fit with the ‘woes’ of chapter 5 to make a seventh woe, and that part of chapter 5 fits into the pattern here, with the repetition, ‘For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.’ If the transpositions did take place, and it is by no means certain, we have no reason to doubt that they were deliberate, and therefore the final message of the book is as we find it here. The Davidic promises have been set as a gleam of light within the woes. End of note).


Verses 5-15

1).God First Calls On His Selected Instrument To Act But Then Rebukes Him For Overreacting (Isaiah 10:5-15).

In this vivid illustration Assyria is depicted as being the rod of God’s anger. Assyria might think that they are acting under the instructions of their own gods, but the real truth is that they are being used by Yahweh to do His will.

Analysis.

a Ho, Assyria, the rod of My anger, in whose hand is the staff of My indignation. I will send him against a profane (godless) nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets (Isaiah 10:5-6).

b However he does not mean so, nor does his heart intend so, but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few (Isaiah 10:7).

c For he says, “Are not my princes all of them kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? (Isaiah 10:8-9).

d As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols whose graven images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria (Isaiah 10:10).

d Will I not, as I do (perfect tense) to Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? (Isaiah 10:11).

c For this reason it will come about that when the Lord has performed His whole work on mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish (visit on) the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks (Isaiah 10:12).

b For he has said, “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am so astute. And I have removed the bounds of the people, and have stolen their treasures, and I have brought down as a man of valour, those who sit on thrones. And my hand has found as a nest the riches of the people, and as one gathers eggs that are deserted, I have gathered all the earth, and there was none that moved wing, or that opened the mouth, or that chirped (Isaiah 10:13-14).

a Will the axe boast itself against the one who hews with it? Will the saw magnify itself against the one who saws (moves to and fro) with it? It is as if a rod should shake those who lift it up, or as if a pole should lift up one who is not wood (Isaiah 10:15).

In ‘a’ the king of Assyria is to be Yahweh’s instrument, but in the parallel he is not considered to have behaved like a true instrument of Yahweh. In ‘b’ his intention is to is to go beyond his remit and destroy and cut off nations and in the parallel his proud attitude towards them in doing so is described. In ‘c’ he boasts about his ability to destroy kings, and in the parallel Yahweh will punish him for the glory of his proud looks. In ‘d’ he boasts at having conquered kingdoms with greater gods than those of Israel and Judah, and in the parallel boasts of what he will do to what he sees as the gods of Judah.

Isaiah 10:5-6

‘Ho, Assyria, the rod of my anger,

In whose hand is the staff of my indignation.

I will send him against a profane (godless) nation,

And against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge,

To take the spoil, and to take the prey,

And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.’

‘Ho.’ A peremptory call to Assyria like that of a master to his beast. (Or ‘woe to’, either is a possible translation. But ‘ho’ fits the context better. He is calling on His instrument in carrying out the woes).

God now calls on Assyria to act as the rod of His anger against Samaria and against Judah and Jerusalem. The Assyrians hold in their hands the means of chastisement and punishment which will express the ‘snorting anger’ (‘aph) and wrath of Yahweh. So Assyria is ‘sent’ (intensive, indicating the authority of the sender) by Yahweh against the people who have rejected Him, and are given a charge against the people with whom God is angry. Their charge is to collect spoil, to take booty and to tread the people down as men tread down the mire in the streets. This was their God-given task. Note the limit to His purpose. It was that these people might be despoiled and punished, but not more than that. Assyria, however, would not be satisfied with that.

Note the reference to ‘spoil’ and ‘booty’, both included in the name of Maher-shalal-hash-baz. They are to fulfil God’s will as prophesied.

Isaiah 10:7

‘However he does not mean so,

Nor does his heart intend so,

But it is in his heart to destroy,

And to cut off nations not a few.’

Assyria, however, has far wider plans. It does not align itself with Yahweh’s plans but has plans against many nations. Here we have the conflict between sovereignty and free will. God is sovereign over the activities of Assyria, they come at His call, but He does not restrict them to that but allows them their freedom to reveal what they are by what they do, so that they will deserve the fate that will come on them. It is not that they openly disobey Him. They were not aware of the charge given to them. They are like a young stallion, controlled by its rider, but given freedom to express itself meanwhile, and that they do, revealing just how evil they are.

Isaiah 10:8-11

‘For he says, “Are not my princes all of them kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols whose graven images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria, will I not, as I do (perfect tense) to Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?” ’

The pride of the king of Assyria is laid bare. He declares that his princes are in fact nothing less than kings who have been subdued, and now obey their overlord’s will. King’s are nothing to him, and princes even less. (So much for Ahaz’s expectations). None can resist him. He has conquered cities galore. These are named in such a way as to indicate a slow progress towards Samaria and Jerusalem, although not to be taken literally as signifying the order in which they were captured. Carchemish, Calno, Arpad, Hamath, Damascus - and then Samaria next! Whatever their boasting they were all the same to him. And in each case their idols had been superior to those of Samaria and Jerusalem. Thus let Jerusalem consider. What chance do they have? Compare here Isaiah 36:19; Isaiah 37:12-13.

Note his proud assumption that Samaria was already in his hands (expressed in terms of the perfect tense, the tense which signifies something which is complete, sometimes called the ‘prophetic’ perfect because regularly used by the prophets), although the way he describes the situation suggests otherwise. He mentions Samaria in such a way in Isaiah 10:10 as to signify that it was not yet so taken. The word used for idols again signifies ‘worthless things, nonentities’ as in Isaiah 2:8.

Carchemish, was on the upper Euphrates, Calno, Arpad were in northern Syria. Hamath in central Syria. Damascus was further south and the capital city of Syria.

It is worth noting that his words actually bring home a significant message, especially in the light of the later deliverance of Jerusalem. The idols of these cities, with all their grandeur and proliferation, had been truly powerless to help them, nor therefore, he assumed, would any idols aid Samaria and Jerusalem. All were useless. And he was right. But unknown to the king of Assyria Jerusalem had a secret weapon, Yahweh, the living God. And that was a different matter.

Isaiah 10:12

‘For this reason it will come about that when the Lord has performed his whole work on mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish (visit on) the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.’

Assyria’s proud boasting is noted and because of it, once they have fulfilled God’s purpose, their boasting and their behaviour in the light of it will be visited on them.

‘When the Lord has performed His whole work on mount Zion and on Jerusalem.’ The mention of mount Zion is significant. Mount Zion was the site of Yahweh’s dwellingplace, a kind of meeting place between earth and heaven, and yet it too has a place in the work Yahweh has to do. For through its earthly connection it has been defiled by idolatry and needs to be cleansed once those who participate in the false worship have been removed. And the same applies to Jerusalem which is seen as a wider area than Mount Zion for this purpose. Both need to be purified.

‘I will punish (visit on) the fruit of the stout (arrogant) heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.’ Then, once he has fulfilled Yahweh’s will, the king of Assyria will be punished, both for his behaviour as a result of his arrogant heart, and because of the vainglory of his eyes which reveal his overweening pride. God had called him to administer punishment. He had not called on him to be cruel.

Isaiah 10:13-14

‘For he has said, “By the strength of my hand I have done it,

And by my wisdom, for I am so astute.

And I have removed the bounds of the people,

And have stolen their treasures,

And I have brought down as a man of valour,

Those who sit on thrones.

And my hand has found as a nest the riches of the people,

And as one gathers eggs that are deserted,

I have gathered all the earth.

And there was none that moved wing,

Or that opened the mouth, or that chirped.’

The king of Assyria saw what he had achieved as revealing that he was both mighty and supremely astute. He boasted that he had changed boundaries, setting up provinces as he would, and he had appropriated their treasures and resources, and like ‘a mighty man’ he had brought down those who sat on thrones. Like an egg collector he had come across the riches of the people, in the same way as a man who feels for a nest which he cannot see, in the hollow of a tree, and he had gathered all the earth like an egg collector gathers eggs from nests which have been deserted by their parents because of his presence. It was all so easy. And as with the parent birds no one had given any sign of protest, by either movement or words or chirp of protest. And all this was because he had gone beyond his remit.

Isaiah 10:15

‘Will the axe boast itself against the one who hews with it?

Will the saw magnify itself against the one who saws (moves to and fro) with it?

It is as if a rod should shake those who lift it up,

Or as if a pole should lift up one who is not wood.’

But there was One who raised a protest, One Who saw the Assyrian as but a tool, and an arrogant one at that. The One Who had given him his remit. Will an axe or a saw boast against the carpenter and make a big thing of themselves? Of course not. They have nothing to boast at because they are only instruments that the carpenter uses. The boast is his, not theirs. Nor would a rod shake the one who held it. It rather responds to the one who holds and flourishes it. Nor would a pole lift up the flesh-and-blood bearers of the pole. It would lift up the wooden gods that were placed on it by the bearers. Thus the bearers are more significant than the helpless wooden gods. The implication is that the pole would of course lift up its wooden gods, assisted by those bearers, such was the helplessness of those gods. So the answer is an unequivocal ‘no’. They are all but instruments in the carpenter’s hands. So why then does the king of Assyria boast against The One Who uses and directs him? It is totally illogical and ridiculous, and indeed arrogant and worthy of punishment.


Verses 5-34

Chapter Isaiah 10:5-34 Assyria Will Advance And Conquer As A Judgment On God’s People But Will Finally Be Brought Down, For Final Deliverance Is Certain.

In the remainder of this chapter is described God’s call on Assyria to fulfil His will and act as His punitive rod, and Assyria’s subsequent arrogance in doing so which will bring judgment rebounding on themselves. This is followed by assurance of final deliverance for God’s people. But before that they must experience the Assyrian advance,


Verses 16-19

2). Assyria Will Be Punished Because of Its Arrogance (Isaiah 10:16-19).

The punishment that Yahweh will bring on Assyria is now described. Yahweh will personally act to humble him.

Analysis.

a Therefore will the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, send among his sturdy (fat) ones, leanness, and under his glory (his pomp) there will be kindled, a burning like the burning of fire (Isaiah 10:16).

b And the light of Israel will be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briars in one day (Isaiah 10:17).

b And the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field, He will consume, both life principle and body (Isaiah 10:18 a).

a And it will be as when a standardbearer faints (or ‘a sick man wastes away’), and the remnant of the trees of his forest will be few, that a child may write them (Isaiah 10:18-19).

In ‘a’ Yahweh will send leanness to the strong and a burning fire, and in the parallel there will be fainting or wasting away, and the trees will become sparse. In ‘b’ the Light of Israel will be like a burning torch rapidly devouring briars and thorns, and in the parallel He will consume all his glory throughout.

Isaiah 10:16-19

‘Therefore will the Lord, Yahweh of hosts,

Send among his sturdy (fat) ones, leanness,

And under his glory (his pomp) there will be kindled,

A burning like the burning of fire,

And the light of Israel will be for a fire,

And his Holy One for a flame,

And it will burn and devour

His thorns and briars in one day.

And the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field,

He will consume, both life principle and body.

And it will be as when a standardbearer faints (or ‘a sick man wastes away’),

And the remnant of the trees of his forest will be few,

That a child may write them.’

‘Therefore will the Lord, Yahweh of hosts.’ There is deliberate emphasis on the great sovereign Lord, Yahweh of all the hosts of heaven and earth, in contrast with the crowing but soon to be humbled king of Assyria, who worshipped the hosts of heaven. ‘Yahweh of hosts’ will now put him firmly in his place.

‘Send among his sturdy (fat) ones, leanness.’ His mighty men will be turned into wimps, their health will go, they will waste away.

‘And under his glory (his pomp) there will be kindled, a burning like the burning of fire.’ All his pomp and his glory will be figuratively ‘burned up’ (it is ‘likethe burning of’), that is it will disappear as though consumed. This picture of the burning of fire is a favourite theme in Isaiah, but here the fire is probably the fire of Yahweh’s power and holiness which will render the glory of this upstart king anaemic as the next verse indicates.

Some however see the disease and fire as the inward and outward methods of destruction in the judgment of Assyria.

‘And the light of Israel will be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame.’ The burning up will be done by the Lord Himself. He it is Who is the light (fire) of Israel, at a time when all lights were the product of fire. ‘Light’ speaks of what God is and of His truth (Isaiah 2:5; Isaiah 5:20; Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 60:1-2; Isaiah 60:19; Psalms 27:1; Psalms 36:9; Psalms 43:3; Psalms 118:27; Psalms 119:30; Micah 7:8). And His holiness too is like a burning flame - compare the ‘burning ones’ of Isaiah 6:2-3 and their words. So His glory and His truth and His holiness will ‘burn up’ the ‘glory’ of the king of Assyria.

‘And it will burn and devour His thorns and briars in one day. And the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field, He will consume, both life principle and body.’ A very similar description was given of the fate of Israel (Isaiah 9:18) where first briars and thorns, and then forest and fruitful field, were consumed by fire. So the fate that Assyria inflicted on Israel would in the end be its own fate. ‘Forest and fruitful field’ covers all its territory, natural and cultivated. ‘Life principle and body’ reminds us that human beings were involved. ‘In one day’ reminds us of that day when during the night the angel went out into the camp of the Assyrians and slew a multitude (Isaiah 37:36). That dealt with the briars and thorns. His glory and pomp was ‘consumed’ later.

‘And it will be as when a standardbearer falls (‘faints’). And the remnant of the trees of his forest will be few, that a child may write them.’ The word translated ‘standardbearer’ (nases) is rare and may mean one who wastes away. When a standardbearer falls, morale is hit, and the tide of battle may change. It can mean disaster. The picture is vivid. But it should probably be translated ‘when the sick man wastes away’, compare Isaiah 10:16 where sickness is followed by fire. Here we have the contrary order as so often in Isaiah. This ties in with the deterioration in the previous phrases. So the decline of Assyrian power is likened to the tragic fall of a standard bearer or to the slow demise of a sick man.

And when God has finished with Assyria their trees will be so few that a child can number them and write it down. The destroyers of the trees of others (Isaiah 37:24) will themselves suffer the same fate. Whether the ‘trees’ represent people or real trees is open to interpretation, but the message is clear. The decimation of Assyria. For all their ‘trees’ will be able to be counted and written down by a schoolboy on his scholastic tablet. We should remember in this regard that a nation’s trees were indicators of its wealth.


Verses 20-23

3). Afterwards A Remnant of Israel the Northern Kingdom Will Turn Back to God (Isaiah 10:20-23).

At this time Isaiah’s vision is fixed on Assyria, the mighty power of the day. He sees everything in terms of Assyria as the ‘now’, and what follows as being ‘afterwards’. It is only later that he becomes aware of the shadow of the power of Babylon. Thus what is described here is the ‘afterwards’, without any indication of how long afterwards. It is possibly spoken in the light of the destruction of Samaria and the exile of the cream of the nation of Israel in 722 BC.

Analysis.

a And it will come about in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and those who are escaped of the house of Jacob, will no more again stay on him who smote them, but will stay on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

b A remnant will return, even the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God

b But (or ‘nevertheless’, or ‘for though’) your people Israel are as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them will return.

a A consumption (destruction, a coming to an end) is determined, overflowing with righteousness, for a consummation, and that determined, will the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, make in the midst of all the earth

In ‘a’ Israel will no longer stay on him who smote them but on Yahweh the Holy One of Israel ‘in truth’, while in the parallel this will be because the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, has determined to bring a consumption and consummation on the one who smote them, one that ‘overflows with righteousness’. In ‘b’ in both cases a remnant will return.

Isaiah 10:20-21

‘And it will come about in that day,

That the remnant of Israel,

And those who are escaped of the house of Jacob,

Will no more again stay on him who smote them,

But will stay on Yahweh,

The Holy One of Israel, in truth.

A remnant will return,

Even the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.’

In mind here is the northern kingdom, described as ‘Israel’ and ‘the house of Jacob’ as in Isaiah 9:8. The central thought here is of the return of a remnant of the people of the northern kingdom to God. They will no more rely on their smiter, presumably here Assyria, but on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, Who is also the light of Israel (Isaiah 10:17). When God’s rod has smitten them, a remnant of His rebuked people will return.

Note that it is ‘the remnant’ and ‘those who escape’ who are in mind. The vast majority of Israel will be lost. This remnant may represent some of the people who remained in the land, or some who escaped to Judah, as no doubt many did, especially the men of faith. But we need not doubt that there would be those who had been exiled who would also struggle to return to the land and may be included. But the main point is that God’s people as represented in the northern kingdom would not be totally cast off. A number of them will finally come back to God, fulfilling God’s promises to Abraham, and will be established as true worshippers of Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel (the One distinctive and pure God), in truth, or in steadiness of heart.

So after Israel was crushed and the cream of the nation was carried into exile in 722 BC, ‘a remnant would return’ to God (she’ar yashub - compare Shearjashub (Isaiah 7:3)). This brings out yet again the width of Isaiah’s vision. In Isaiah 9:1-2 the people of Galilee were in mind, now here the remnant of the northern kingdom. Along with Judah they are to enjoy God’s final mercy.

‘A remnant will return, even the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.’ ‘Mighty God’ (El-Gibor - God the Mighty One) is the same as in Isaiah 9:6, but compare Jeremiah 32:18 where the Great and Mighty God (God the Great the Mighty One) is Yahweh of hosts. The context here is stressing the return of the remnant to God, not to the house of David. Thus El-Gibor is seen as a full divine title. ‘God the Mighty Warrior’ is an apposite comparison with the warrior kings of Assyria.

Isaiah 10:22

‘But (or ‘nevertheless’, or ‘for though’) your people Israel are as the sand of the sea,

A remnant of them will return.

A consumption (destruction, a coming to an end) is determined,

Overflowing with righteousness.’

The people of Israel were described in Genesis 22:17 as being prospectively like the sand on the seashore. It is a term which means a large number. Here Isaiah is therefore saying, your people are truly like the sand of the sea, reminding them of God’s promise to Abraham, and adding that a remnant of that huge number will return. While it is a remnant, the remnant is a fairly large one and not a small one (although small proportionately).

‘A consumption (destruction, a coming to an end) is determined, overflowing with righteousness.’ The thought here may be that the consumption and destruction of Assyria is determined, which will bring about God’s righteous purposes for His people, or that there will be ‘a coming to an end’ of Israel’s judgment resulting in God’s overflowing righteousness to the remnant or that Yahweh’s very acts of judgment will be in accordance with what is just and right. The probable parallel with staying on Yahweh ‘in truth’ could be used to support any of these alternatives. The principle point that comes from it is that Yahweh acts in truth and righteousness.

Isaiah 10:23

‘For a consummation, and that determined,

Will the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, make in the midst of all the earth.’

For it is the Sovereign Lord, Yahweh of hosts, Who will bring all His purposes in the earth to their final end. He has determined it and it will be. All will finally be resolved, and neither Assyria nor anyone else can interfere. In the end God’s final purposes will be achieved. For God is over all.

In fact during the tumultuous history that followed, with empire following empire, it must be seen as quite probable that many of these exiles, a remnant, did make their way back to their homeland, especially under kings like Cyrus who encouraged people to return to their homeland. This is not therefore a prophecy awaiting fulfilment. Only too often modern prophetic preachers can ignore fulfilment that took place within the inter-testamental period.


Verses 24-27

And While Zion Will Also Come Under Assyria’s Rod They Too Will Be Finally Delivered (Isaiah 10:24-27).

Zion too will come under Assyria’s rod. But they are not to be dismayed. For eventually God will remove the yoke from off their necks.

Analysis.

a Therefore thus says the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, “O My people who dwell in Zion, do not be afraid of Assyria” (Isaiah 10:24 a).

b “Though he smite you with the rod, and lift up his staff against you after the manner of Egypt” (Isaiah 10:24 b).

c “For yet a very little while and the indignation will be accomplished, and My anger in their destruction” (Isaiah 10:25).

c And Yahweh of hosts will stir up against him a scourge, as in the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb (Isaiah 10:26 a).

b And His rod will be over the sea, and He will lift it up after the manner of Egypt (Isaiah 10:26 b)

a And it will come about in that day, that his burden will go from your shoulder, and his yoke from off your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of oil (Isaiah 10:27).

In ‘a’ the people of the Lord, Yahweh of hosts do not need to be afraid of Assyria, and in the parallel this is because Assyria’s yoke will be broken from their necks because they are the anointed of Yahweh. In ‘b’ Assyria might smite them with a rod and lift up their staff against them as the Egyptians did, but in the parallel Yahweh will use His rod against them as He did at the Reed sea, and will lift it up as He did against the Egyptians. In ‘c’ Yahweh’s anger will be vented on Assyria while in the parallel it can be compared to how He stirred up a scourge to slaughter Midian.

Isaiah 10:24

‘Therefore thus says the Lord, Yahweh of hosts,

“O my people who dwell in Zion,

Do not be afraid of Assyria.

Though he smite you with the rod,

And lift up his staff against you after the manner of Egypt,

For yet a very little while and the indignation will be accomplished,

And my anger in their destruction,

And Yahweh of hosts will stir up against him a scourge,

As in the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb,

And his rod will be over the sea,

And he will lift it up after the manner of Egypt.’

Here Isaiah under inspiration compares Judah and Jerusalem’s present state to that of their bondage under the Egyptians (Exodus 1:13-14; Exodus 2:23) and their miserable state under the Midianites in the time of Gideon (Judges 6:1-6), from both of which they were finally delivered after much suffering. And their sufferings under Assyria were indeed a distressing time. For although it is true that Jerusalem was (or would be, depending on when the prophecy was given) finally delivered, the nation as a whole would have been crushed and its cities destroyed, and the boot of Assyria would lay heavily on them. So in their extremity and their groaning he lifts their eyes to God.

They must first remember that He is the Sovereign Lord, Yahweh, over the hosts of heaven and earth. Then they must remember again that they are His people within the covenant, and dwell in Zion, the city of both David and the Davidic promises, in which is mount Zion where from an earthly point of view Yahweh dwells. Thus they need not finally be afraid of Assyria. Although they are being chastened they are not forgotten by God. (Indeed as he had said earlier, had they trusted in Yahweh from the beginning none of this need have happened).

Like Egypt (and Midian) Assyria has been permitted to smite them with the rod, and raise his staff against them (the rod and staff of God’s indignation - Isaiah 10:5), but in a short while God’s anger against His people will be assuaged and that anger revealed in His destruction of Assyria. God will Himself be another Gideon and another Moses. God will lift up a scourge and scourge Assyria as Egypt had scourged Israel, and He will slaughter them as He slaughtered Midian at Oreb (as symbolised by their slain prince - Judges 7:25), He will raise His rod over the sea (whatever instrument He chooses to destroy Assyria) and the hosts of Assyria will be destroyed, as had happened to the Egyptians long before.

Note the contrasts. Assyria came with a rod and a staff, so God will deal with them with a scourge and a rod. The slaughter of the first of the princes of the Midianites at Oreb is seen as depicting the defeat of the whole, and what followed (Judges 7:25). In the same way the assassination of Sennacherib by his sons is seen as symbolising the total defeat of Assyria by Yahweh at Jerusalem, and what followed - Isaiah 37:38.

Isaiah 10:27

‘And it will come about in that day ,

That his burden will go from your shoulder,

And his yoke from off your neck,

And the yoke will be destroyed because of oil.’

Finally Isaiah assures Judah and Jerusalem that their burden will be removed and the yoke will be taken off them. Assyria will no more burden them, neither by demanding tribute or other services, nor by controlling and driving them at their will.

‘The yoke will be destroyed because of oil.’ Oil refers in Isaiah 5:1 to fertility, as ‘a son of oil’. It often represents joy and gladness and it can represent fatness. But none of these really fit here. (Although some have suggested that God’s goodness so fattens them that the yoke breaks).

There are various other ways in which we can see this reference to oil.

1) Oil can signify anointing of either king or priest to a holy purpose, compare ‘the sons of oil’ in Zechariah 4:14. The thought would then be that Assyria would be destroyed because they were ill treating those under God’s protection, once, of course, those people had rededicated themselves to Yahweh..

2) In Hosea 12:1, in parallel with making a covenant with Assyria, ‘oil was carried into Egypt’. There it would seem to represent the sealing of a treaty or covenant, (or to be tribute or a gift offered for that purpose, but even then it is connected with a covenant). Olive oil was produced in Palestine in abundance and was sought after by the nations. The thought might be that oil would buy friends. But it is not likely that Isaiah would look favourably on that idea. He was constantly declaring against it.

3) Oil was also used as an offering where it was poured out on a pillar which symbolised the presence of God, probably also with a dedicatory purpose (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 35:14), and it was often used as a part of offerings. Thus the thought might be that when Israel rededicated themselves to God, He would deliver them from Assyria. Indeed the demise of Assyria did begin during the life of the good king Josiah.

4) Furthermore oil was used in the lamp that burned perpetually in the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:1-4). Perhaps God was saying that He could see the light of Israel in His temple and would not allow it finally to die.

Thus we may see ‘because of oil’ either as indicating an offering of dedicatory worship, or as a ‘sanctifying’ act, setting apart for a holy purpose (Leviticus 8:10; Leviticus 8:12; Leviticus 8:30), or as symbolisng the sealing of a covenant with God, or as looking to the anointing of the son of David to the purposes of God (Isaiah 11:1; Psalms 45:7; Psalms 89:20), or as an offering of oil to God in prayer for deliverance, or as representing the light of Israel which burned perpetually before God, or even possibly as an indication that Judah owes its deliverance to the fact that it was itself seen as anointed by Yahweh through the anointing of the high priest who represented the people before God.

In some way or other therefore the oil symbolises a dedicatory act of the people, and/or a symbol of their position before God, which brings about the activity and deliverance of God and destroys the yoke in response to His people’s approach to Him. It probably also signifies the fact that they were therefore seen as sanctified to Him and that their light burned continually before Him. These were reasons why He delivered them.

The bare usage here does not fit with any usage in this way found elsewhere. It is in that sense unique. But Isaiah knew that his hearers would read into it all that oil symbolised to the Israelites mentioned above. Oil represented God’s ways of blessing His people.


Verses 28-32

Assyria’s Advance on Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:28-32).

We now have a very vivid representation of the onward march of Assyria towards Jerusalem as he approached Hezekiah’s Jerusalem.

Analysis.

a He has come to Aiath, he has passed through Migron, at Michmash he lays up his baggage (Isaiah 10:28).

b They are gone over the pass, they have taken up their lodging at Geba, Ramah trembles, Gibeah of Saul is fled (Isaiah 10:29).

c Cry aloud with your voice, O daughter of Gallim (Isaiah 10:30 a).

c Listen, O Laisha, O you poor Anathoth (Isaiah 10:30 b).

b Madmenah is a fugitive, the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves together to flee (Isaiah 10:31).

a This very day will he stop at Nob. He is shaking his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, at the hill of Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:32 b).

In ‘a’ we have the description of the establishment of his base camp, and in the parallel his establishment at Nob and his shaking of his head over Jerusalem. In ‘b’ fleeing is mentioned and reference made to Geba, and Gibeah associated with Saul, and in the parallel again a description of fleeing, and reference made to Gebim. In ‘c’ certain towns are addressed and exhorted.

Isaiah 10:28-32

‘He has come to Aiath,

He has passed through Migron,

At Michmash he lays up his baggage,

They are gone over the pass,

They have taken up their lodging at Geba,

Ramah trembles,

Gibeah of Saul is fled.

Cry aloud with your voice, O daughter of Gallim,

Listen, O Laisha, O you poor Anathoth.

Madmenah is a fugitive,

The inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves together to flee,

This very day will he stop at Nob.

He is shaking his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion,

At the hill of Jerusalem.’

The slow, merciless advance of the king of Assyria, God’s rod of chastisement is now described. Every name mentioned represents a tragedy of slaying and destruction. The people quail at his advance, and they are cruelly brushed aside, crushed and slaughtered. He has come to Aiath, (only fifteen miles to go), more slaughter. He has passed through Mignon, he establishes his supply centre at Michmash. (indicating that his presence is to be permanent). He makes his way through the pass there, probably with much fierce fighting, and then descends into the valley, and then up the slope to settle his camp at Geba in order to pacify the surrounding area. (Now only six miles to go). The nearby fortress town of Ramah trembles - and waits in terror. Gibeah, another fortress town, has been evacuated. The Assyrians fan out. Those at Gallim cry out in terror, at Laisha they listen in fear for his approach, at Madmenah they become fugitives who are hunted down, and from Gebim they stream as refugees to the mountains. Judah is in turmoil and is being devastated. That very day he stops at Nob. And from there the next step is Jerusalem, which he can look down on and survey from the heights. So Judah is not getting off lightly.

‘He is shaking his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, at the hill of Jerusalem.’ At last he has reached his objective. All the killing, and the murder, and the mayhem has had this purpose in mind. Jerusalem is at last within his grasp. He shakes his fist at her. He is convinced that like all before her she will soon capitulate. This is the very hill of Jerusalem on which he has set his sights. But he does not realise that he is shaking his fist at Yahweh’s daughter, Zion (Isaiah 1:8), and that within Jerusalem is Mount Zion. He will soon learn that his battle with Yahweh has just begun.


Verse 33

The Final Result (Isaiah 10:33 to Isaiah 11:10).

And now the scene suddenly changes. After the detail of the march the final result is dismissed in two sentences as a new prophecy opens up. Assyria is by now almost irrelevant. In mind now are all the enemies who come from the north in their proud and arrogant presumption against God’s people, all the enemies of Israel. They will be hewn down like a condemned forest and fall before the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, preparing the way for the new growth of the Spirit endued King. And then will arise God’s solution for the world, the anointed son of David, and He will establish everlasting righteousness.

All The Enemies of the Lord, Yahweh of Hosts Will Be Severely Dealt With And His King Will Reign In Righteousness (Isaiah 10:33 to Isaiah 11:4).

The destruction of the high and mighty ones, and the raising up of His righteous king go together. It is as though from the felled forest grows up the shoot and branch of Jesse. Out of seeming disaster God will bring triumph.

Analysis of Isaiah 10:33 to Isaiah 11:4.

a Behold the Lord, Yahweh of hosts, will lop the boughs with terror, and the high ones of stature will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low. And He will cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One (Isaiah 10:33-34).

b And there will come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1).

c And the Spirit of Yahweh will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh (Isaiah 11:2).

c And His delight will be in the fear of Yahweh, and He will not judge after the sight of His eyes, nor reprove after the hearing of His ears (Isaiah 10:3).

b But with righteousness will He judge the poor, and reprove with equity on behalf of the meek of the earth (Isaiah 10:4 a).

a And He will smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked (Isaiah 10:4 b).

In ‘a’ the Lord Yahweh of hosts will reveal His righteousness (compare Isaiah 10:22) by bringing down the high ones and the lofty ones, cutting down the forests as the Mighty One and in the parallel His chosen One will smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and slay the wicked with the breath of His lips. In ‘b’ a shoot will come forth from the stock of Jesse and a branch from his roots (in contrast with the high and lofty forests), and in the parallel He will judge the poor with righteousness and reprove the meek with equity, this in complete contrast with the king of Assyria. In ‘c’ The ‘Spirit of Yahweh’ will rest on Him, and He will be just and right, and in the parallel His delight will be in the ‘fear of Yahweh’ and He will judge fairly and honestly.

Isaiah 10:33

‘Behold the Lord, Yahweh of hosts,

Will lop the boughs with terror,

And the high ones of stature will be hewn down,

And the lofty will be brought low.

And he will cut down the thickets of the forest with iron,

And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.’

All who oppose God are in mind here, all the proud foes from the north. This includes Assyria and its attack on God’s people, but it also includes all others who come through Lebanon from the north. This prophecy is placed here, not only to emphasise Assyria’s defeat, but also to demonstrate God’s final victory on all who come from the north. It is the ultimate victory against the ultimate enemy. It was from the forests of Lebanon that the enemy continually emerged. But now the forests of Lebanon will be no more, with all that they represent of the foes from the north. They will be laid bare. All God’s enemies will be cut down and destroyed to prepare the way for the son of David, and it is inevitable, for they are in opposition to the sovereign Lord, Yahweh, Lord of all the hosts of heaven and earth.

The vivid picture brings home the direct action of God. No longer the indirect forest fire (Isaiah 10:16-19), but the direct action of the woodcutter which will be on all that is against God and His people. Note that the action takes place outside the land. His people will now be safe under their King. (It is the geography of parable, not to be taken literally).

The emphasis is on the humbling of proud man before the terror of Yahweh. The boughs are lopped. The huge giants of the forest are hewn down, the tallest of the trees are brought low. The impenetrable thickets are chopped down with iron. The whole of Lebanon will fall at the hands of the Mighty One. For a similar world picture see Isaiah 2:10-21. We know Who has done it, but how it will come about is not described.

And then, in contrast, from the stump of a tree will blossom the One Who will change the world.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/isaiah-10.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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