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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 25

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 25 Exultation At The Triumph of Yahweh.

In contrast to the heavenly Jerusalem which has been established ‘the world city’, which represents man in rebellion against God will be destroyed. It will become a heap, a ruin, a ‘no city’. In contrast God’s people will be fully catered for with an abundance of good things, and for them death will be removed for ever. They will enjoy the final triumph, while those who like Moab rejected the opportunity of joining with the people of God, will be trodden down in the dungpit.


Verses 1-8

Yahweh Will Bring Down ‘The City’ With all Its Anti-God Significance And Will Uphold His People and Defeat Death So That They Rise Again (Isaiah 25:1-8).

Analysis.

a O Yahweh, you are my God, I will exalt you, I will give thankful praise to your name, for you have done wonderful things, counsels of old in faithfulness and truth (Isaiah 25:1)

b For you have made of a city a heap, of a defenced city a ruin, a palace of strangers to be no city, it will never be built. Therefore will the strong people glorify you, the city of the terrible nations will fear you (Isaiah 25:2-3).

c For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress (Isaiah 25:4 a).

c A refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against a wall (Isaiah 25:4 b).

b As the heat in a dry place, you will bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the terrible will be brought low, and in this mountain will Yahweh of hosts make to all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined (Isaiah 25:5-6).

a And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering (shroud) that is cast over all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He has swallowed up death for ever, and the Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from off all the earth, for Yahweh has said it (Isaiah 25:7-8).

In ‘a’ Yahweh is to be praised because He has done wonderful things, things declared from of old. and in the parallel He will do a new thing, an even greater wonder, for He will destroy death, removing tears and reproach and bring His people everlasting life. In ‘b’ the strong will glorify Him and the terrible will fear Him and all that belonged to the terrible will be a heap and a ruin, and in the parallel the song of the terrible will be brought low, but those who are Yahweh’s will feast with Him luxuriously. In ‘c’ and parallel all this is because Yahweh is the refuge and strength of His people.

Isaiah 25:1-3

‘O Yahweh, you are my God, I will exalt you,

I will give thankful praise to your name,

For you have done wonderful things,

Counsels of old in faithfulness and truth.

For you have made of a city a heap,

Of a defenced city a ruin.

A palace of strangers to be no city.

It will never be built.

Therefore will the strong people glorify you,

The city of the terrible nations will fear you.’

The song is a song of triumph at the victory of Yahweh as described in Isaiah 24:23, seen as looking back on His powerful activity in history and exulting in what He has done and giving Him thankful praise. He has done ‘wonderful things’, mighty wonders, carrying out His wise plans (counsel) which were from of old, faithfully and honourably.

Note the emphasis on His sovereignty throughout history. At the end it will be seen that He has carried through what He planned from the beginning, faithfully and truly fulfilling His covenant.

For He has brought down ‘the city’ which stood for all that was against God, the city of wastedness, of emptiness (Isaiah 24:10) (Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and so also are Nineveh, and Tyre, and Thebes, and Rome). It has been made a heap and a ruin. It is no more. Such is the palace of those who refuse to become one of God’s people, who remain strangers to Him and to them. They will be a ‘no city’. They will dwell among the ruins.

From the beginning the ‘city’, whether Cain’s city (a tent or cave encampment - Genesis 4:17) or Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), has been seen as in opposition to God. When men gather together it is usually to do mischief. They begin to exert themselves against their fellowmen, and to indulge themselves in idle luxury and engage in evil behaviour.

That is why after the building of Babel and the scattering of mankind God is seen as turning to one who had no continuing city, to Abraham the friend of God, a pilgrim and stranger in the earth (Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 13:14; James 2:23). Even Jerusalem, the concept of which was to build a city of God, turned bad (Isaiah 1:21), and has had to be replaced by a heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26).

So in this cry of triumph is a recognition that all cities oppose God and His people and are therefore doomed (Isaiah 26:5). The city is ever a symbol of man’s opposition to God. It includes Nineveh, and Tyre, and eventually Rome. But especially Babylon with all that it stood for. It will be destroyed, never to be rebuilt.

This will cause strong nations to stand in awe of Him and give Him full credit, the city of terrible nations will fear Him. These strong and terrible nations are the peoples powerful enough to establish empires, and to conquer nations. They too will have their city which will also be destroyed. By this they will recognise His mighty power, and fear. For they too will be doomed.

It should be noted here that this is not referring to a specific city. It is referring to all cities, the places to which men looked for refuge. In that day there will be nothing for poeple to look to who have not looked to Yahweh..

Isaiah 25:4

‘For you have been a stronghold to the poor,

A stronghold to the needy in his distress,

A refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat,

When the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against a wall.’

In contrast to thos other cities, to His own, God is not just a city, but an enduring and impregnable stronghold. This is another reason for Isaiah’s exultation, because of what Yahweh has been and is for those who trust in Him, for the poor and the needy. ‘The poor’ is often a description indicating those who are faithful to God. They see earthly things as of no value. They have nothing else to trust in but God (Zephaniah 3:12; Psalms 72:13; Psalms 82:4; Matthew 5:3). But He will be seen to have been their stronghold, somewhere where they could enter and be safe. He will be to them as a refuge from the storm, as a shadow where they can shelter from the burning heat, when the great trials of life come on them (compare ‘the Man’ in Isaiah 32:2). The picture of the storm wind, picking up the sand and battering a wall like a sand blaster, is a vivid one, and illustrates the effect of invading ‘terrible’ enemies on those who are their victims. But in it all God will be a protection to His own, and they can find strength and comfort in Him (even against the great Enemy).

Isaiah 25:5

‘As the heat in a dry place,

You will bring down the noise of strangers,

As the heat by the shadow of a cloud,

The song of the terrible will be brought low.’

Yahweh will be a protection to His own, but to others He will be like a searing heat. The first picture is of those who are ‘strangers’ to God’s people, aliens, wilting in the burning, exhausting heat in an arid land, so that their commotion and activity against His people subsides as they struggle with the impact of the Yahweh produced heat. But when cloud cover comes they are no better off, for the second picture is of the heat being reduced (brought low) by the effect of a cloud, but this but points to the song of prospective invaders being similarly reduced because they are left with nothing to sing about. There will be a cloud over their lives.

Isaiah 25:6

‘And in this mountain will Yahweh of hosts make to all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.’

And finally, ‘in this mountain’. This is the mountain of Yahweh’s people, in earthly terms the hill country stretching from north to south (regularly called ‘the mountain’), His ‘holy mountain’ (Isaiah 11:9), God’s land, the picture of His eternal inheritance, with its focal point in Mount Zion (Isaiah 2:2-3; Isaiah 24:23). In this mountain, in contrast to the searing heat of Isaiah 25:5, Yahweh will provide a great and luxurious feast for His own from among all peoples (compare Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23 and see Exodus 24:11 which was a symbol of what was to come). Wine on the lees is when the wine has settled down, with the sediment, ‘the lees’, falling to the bottom. This is wine ready for consumption. The fat things full of marrow represent all that is good to eat. The whole idealistic picture is often called ‘the Messianic banquet’, the time of good things for God’s people.

And when Christ came He did provide for man the perfect feast in the hill country of Israel, firstly in the feeding of the crowds and then by the feast of Himself, a feast which replaced the manna and was sufficient for all (John 6:32-35). He provided the good wine (John 2:1-11), which pointed to what He was and what He had come to do. Indeed He often likened the Kingly Rule of God to a feast in His parables (e.g. Luke 14:15-24). And His own will finally feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), when the final everlasting feast will begin in the new Jerusalem, Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22). They will drink of the water of life freely (Revelation 21:6). The whole idea is brought out again in Revelation 21:1-7.

Isaiah 25:7-8

‘And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering (shroud) that is cast over all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He has swallowed up death for ever, and the Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from off all the earth, for Yahweh has said it.’

This too will be ‘in this mountain’. That these verses can in the end only refer to the everlasting kingdom comes out here in this remarkable revelation. He Who has done wonderful things will now perform His greatest wonder. Death will be defeated! But that destruction of the veil of death was indeed accomplished ‘in this mountain’ when Jesus Christ was offered up as a sacrifice and raised again in newness of life, defeating death for ever and taking away from His true people the very fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). But the prime meaning of the sentence lies in what that accomplished in the everlasting kingdom.

Death is seen to be like a shroud cast over the peoples, like a mourning veil spread over the nations, a dark shadow over all men, but in the mountain of Yahweh, the place where Yahweh’s people will finally be gathered, there will be no more death. Death will have been swallowed up for ever. Mourning will be a thing of the past. All tears will have been removed by the sovereign Lord, Yahweh. Their reproach will be taken away. For death is the wages of sin, therefore no more death reveals that they have become sinless in God’s eyes, and no more a reproach. The sentence of Eden has been reversed. This is Yahweh’s promise. He has given His word, and His word will bring it about.

The background to the seed thought may be the Canaanite myth of the death of Moth (‘Death’), the killer of Baal (‘Lord’), which results in Baal living again, but it is only used as illustration. But this is not myth. Here there is no thought of yearly repetition or connection with fertility. It rises far above that. Death as a reality is seen as defeated by the Lord Yahweh once for all, and swallowed up, an event never needing to be repeated.

This too found partial fulfilment in the first coming of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, Who gave men eternal life as something they could enjoy in the present (John 5:24-25), and will receive in its final fulfilment at His second coming (John 5:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). For He came as the resurrection and the life so that men may live and not die (John 11:25-26). And it will come to completeness when those who hear His voice come alive again, both immediately in experience, and then by the resurrection at the last day (John 5:24-25; John 5:28-29; 1 John 5:13; 1 Corinthians 15:42-49), when they will rise again with spiritual bodies. Death will be swallowed up for ever.


Verse 9

The Certainty of Yahweh’s Salvation and the Humiliation of Moab (Isaiah 25:9 to Isaiah 26:2).

In that day when death is defeated His people will be glad and rejoice in His salvation, and sing of Him Who is their strong city in which they can be safe, while Moab and all who are like them will be trodden down in the dung. For Moab is the picture of all that is low, it is Yahweh’s washpot (Psalms 60:8).

Analysis.

a And each will say in that day, “See, this is our God, we have waited for Him and He will save us. This is Yahweh, we have waited for Him. We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).

b For in this mountain will the hand of Yahweh rest. And Moab will be trodden down in his place, even as straw is trodden down in the water of the dungpit (Isaiah 25:10).

c And he will spread out his hands in its midst, as the swimmer spreads out his hands to swim

c And He will lay low his pride, together with the craft of his hands (Isaiah 25:11).

b And the fortress of the fort of your high walls has He brought down, laid low and brought to the ground, even to the dust (Isaiah 25:12).

a In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah, “We have a strong city, He will appoint salvation for its walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps truth may enter in. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in Yahweh for ever, for in Yah Yahweh, is an everlasting rock (literally ‘a rock of ages’)” (Isaiah 26:1-4)

In ‘a’ ‘in that day’, the day that death is swallowed up for ever, will His people rejoice in Yahweh’s salvation, and in the parallel ‘in that day’ they will glory in the strong City which is their salvation. In ‘b’ Moab is trodden down in all his dirt, and in the parallel his fortress is laid low even to the dust. In ‘c’ he will try to swim in his dirt, and in the parallel Yahweh will bring him low.

Isaiah 25:9

‘And each will say in that day,

“See, this is our God.

We have waited for him and he will save us.

This is Yahweh,

We have waited for him. We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” ’

‘Each will say in that day’, that is in the day when death is in process of defeat. In that day each of God’s people will declare and proclaim their confidence in Him. They will declare that this is the work of their God, Yahweh, for Whom they have waited for so long. And they will declare their confidence and faith in the fact that they will share in His deliverance, and find gladness and rejoicing in it. Note the emphasis on God’s sovereignty in salvation. He has done it and they have waited on Him for it. Note the emphasis on ‘waiting’. It is a work of God and therefore has to be waited for, and not a work of man which can be accomplished by man. It is something that is received from Him as a gift.

Isaiah 25:10-12

‘For in this mountain will the hand of Yahweh rest. And Moab will be trodden down in his place, even as straw is trodden down in the water of the dungpit. And he will spread out his hands in its midst, as the swimmer spreads out his hands to swim, and he will lay low his pride, together with the craft of his hands. And the fortress of the fort of your high walls has he brought down, laid low and brought to the ground, even to the dust.’

‘For in this mountain will the hand of Yahweh rest.’ There is a good case for tacking this on to the previous verse. Certainly it goes there in thought. It is confirming that in the mountain where God gave to His people the good things of Isaiah 25:6, and in the mountain where He defeated death so that it was swallowed up for ever (Isaiah 25:7-8), there the hand of Yahweh will rest. His work will have been done and His hand will no longer need to be active to save, just as at the end of His work of creation He rested on the seventh day with no further need to create (Exodus 20:11). It is the end of all things as a new heaven and earth open up in which dwell righteousness. The resting of the hand of Yahweh may also be seen as a resting on His land and on His people in love and protection.

But in contrast is Moab. Whereas God’s hand is on His people, His feet are on Moab. They too will be put in their place. They who refused the opportunity of uniting with the people of God and with the Davidic house (chapters 15-16), will be trodden down where they have remained, in the dungpit (the pit where men relieve themselves, the outside toilet). The picture is deliberately unpleasant. ‘Like straw trodden down in the water of the dungpit.’ The straw would be put down to cover the contents of the dungpit, but it soon gets trodden down and then fails in its purpose, becoming soiled with the contents of the dungpit. So will it be with Moab. Indeed their state will be such that they will try to swim in that water, becoming themselves also soiled by it. This is the pathetic lot of those who reject Yahweh and His offer of salvation. They finish up swimming in the dungpit!

We can compare how in the Psalms Moab is seen as Yahweh’s washpot (Psalms 60:8; Psalms 108:9). Perhaps Moab were particularly noted for behaviour seen as disgusting by others. The idea is the same. They receive the dirt and waste which is dispensed by others. They are the equivalent of the refuse pit.

Note the sudden move from the general to the particular. Since Isaiah 24:1 all has been anonymous, but now Moab has been singled out. Isaiah wishes us to recognise that we are here dealing with real people, including Israel’s neighbours. But they have been selected because their behaviour in chapter 16 has illustrated what Isaiah is trying to say. It may also be because of their strength at this time and their resulting pride and belligerence against Judah.

‘And he will lay low his pride, together with the craft of his hands.’ Compare ‘we have heard of the pride of Moab’ (Isaiah 16:6) whereby they were too proud to accept God’s offer to unite with His people. Now that pride will be laid low in the dungpit, along with their hand-made gods, the craft of their hands.

How this will happen is then described more literally, ‘and the fortress of the high fort of your walls has He brought down, laid low and brought to the ground, even to the dust.’ Even their topmost towers, the strongpoint of their defences, will be brought down, made to collapse and finish up in the dust in the day when Yahweh acts. All will be levelled to the ground.

So Moab are here selected as an example because of their behaviour in chapter 16, and possibly because of their strong opposition to Judah, but in essence they represent all who have refused God’s offer of mercy. The whole rebellious world will be laid low, together with their hand-made gods.

Note the regular triplication, ‘brought down’, ‘laid low’ and ‘brought to the ground’ so typical of Isaiah.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 25:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/isaiah-25.html. 2013.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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