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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 33

 

 

Verses 1-6

The Great Deliverance At Jerusalem (Isaiah 33:1-6).

Assyria is chided for its greed and treachery, and Yahweh’s people plead for deliverance. But the invasion is going forward and the spoil is being gathered rapaciously. However, they are assured that Yahweh, Who dwells on high, will be exalted, and will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and the promise is therefore that at that time peace will prevail, and there will be stability and deliverance.

But it does not appear that way immediately. Those who have sought to establish peace are in despair because of Assyria’s treachery, and the land mourns and languishes, but then Yahweh declares that He will arise and lift Himself up and be exalted, and the result will be that Assyria conceives chaff and brings forth stubble and brings forth judgment on itself.

Analysis.

a Woe to you who spoil, and you were not spoiled, and deal treacherously, and they did not deal treacherously with you. When you have ceased to spoil, you will be spoiled, and when you have finished dealing treacherously, they will deal treacherously with you (Isaiah 33:1).

b O Yahweh, be gracious to us. We have waited for you. May you be their arm every morning, our deliverance also in the time of trouble (Isaiah 33:2).

c At the noise of the tumult, the peoples are fled, at the lifting up of yourself, the nations are scattered, (Isaiah 33:3).

d And your spoil will be gathered as the caterpillar gathers, as locusts leap men will leap on it (Isaiah 33:4).

e Yahweh is exalted, for He dwells on high, He has filled Zion with judgment and righteousness (Isaiah 33:5).

e And there will be stability in your times, abundance of deliverance, wisdom and knowledge. The fear of Yahweh is his treasure (Isaiah 33:6).

d Behold their valiant ones cry outside, the ambassadors of peace weep bitterly. The highways lie waste, the traveller ceases, he has broken the covenant, he has despised the cities, he does not regard man (Isaiah 33:7-8).

c The land mourns and languishes. Lebanon is ashamed and withers away. Sharon is like a desert, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves (Isaiah 33:9).

b “Now will I arise,” says Yahweh, “Now will I lift myself up, now will I be exalted” (Isaiah 33:10).

a You will conceive chaff, you will bring forth stubble, your breath is a fire that will devour you. And the peoples will be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut down that are burned in the fire (Isaiah 33:11-12).

In ‘a’ Assyria is chided with its greed and treachery and is warned that it will come back on its own head, and in the parallel that they will conceive chaff and produce stubble and they will be devoured by their own breath. In ‘b’ Yahweh’s people call on Him and Isaiah adds his plea to theirs, and in the parallel Yahweh will arise and act in a way by which He will be exalted. In ‘c’ the people flee at the noise of tumult and the nations are scattered by one who lifts himself up, while in the parallel the land mourns and languishes. In ‘d’ the spoil is gathered with the rapacity of caterpillars and locusts, and in the parallel those who have sued for peace weep because of what is being done to the land through treachery. In ‘e’ Yahweh is seen as exalted, dwelling on high, and filling Zion with justice and righteousness, while in the parallel the result will be stability in their times, and abundance of deliverance, wisdom and knowledge because the fear of Yahweh has become his treasure.

Isaiah 33:1

‘Woe to you who spoil, and you were not spoiled,

And deal treacherously, and they did not deal treacherously with you.

When you have ceased to spoil, you will be spoiled,

And when you have finished dealing treacherously, they will deal treacherously with you.’

The point behind this woe is that Assyria have gone beyond their remit. God had summoned them to chastise His people, but they are now bent on going further. They have despoliation of the temple treasury, captivity and exile for the people in mind (Isaiah 36:17). They have no excuse for this. No one has done it to them. But they are greedy and treacherous. Thus their greed and treachery will rebound on their own heads. They in turn will be despoiled by others and they will experience treachery at first hand, just as they have been treacherous. What a man sows he will reap. This is a principle that God has built into creation.

Isaiah 33:2

‘O Yahweh, be gracious to us.

We have waited for you.

May you be their arm every morning,

Our deliverance also in the time of trouble.’

The plea now goes up to Yahweh for help. His people seek His compassion and undeserved love. They point out that they are trusting Him at last, they have at last ‘waited for Him’. So Isaiah prays that Yahweh will indeed be their arm every morning, their strength and uplifter. Then he includes himself and prays for deliverance for them all in the trouble that they now face, which may well have been the sight of the siege army of Sennacherib surrounding Jerusalem, and the words of the army commander calling on them to surrender (36-37).

Isaiah 33:3-4

‘At the noise of the tumult, the peoples are fled,

At the lifting up of yourself, the nations are scattered.

And your spoil will be gathered as the caterpillar gathers,

As locusts leap men will leap on it.’

It is not always easy to discern the detailed trend in Isaiah’s prophecies, and some see this as portraying Yahweh’s deliverance and the partial fulfilment of the woe, with Yahweh devastating the camp of the Assyrian international army (Isaiah 37:36). The tumult that arose as a result of the mysterious deaths is then seen as resulting in speedy departure, for at His lifting up of Himself the nations are scattered, as they were at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Then the people of Judah are seen as emerging from the city of Jerusalem like caterpillars and locusts, spoiling what remained of the camp, with all the goods and provisions which have been left behind. This results from seeing ‘yourself’ and ‘your’ as signifying the Yahweh of Isaiah 33:2. The story is then seen as repeated in Isaiah 33:7-12.

But in Isaiah 33:11-12 ‘you’ is Assyria and our analysis above suggests that what is rather being described in these verses is the spoliation resulting from the Assyrian’s advance towards Jerusalem and laying siege to Lachish, during which they gather spoil like caterpillars and locusts (compare Joel 1:4). All the peoples who have been in alliance against them have previously fled, all the nations have been scattered, and now Jerusalem is in Sennacherib’s sights. But what he has overlooked is that Yahweh is exalted and dwells on high.

Isaiah 33:5-6

‘Yahweh is exalted, for he dwells on high.

He has filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.

And there will be stability in your times,

Abundance of deliverance, wisdom and knowledge.

The fear of Yahweh is his treasure.’

Assurance of the coming victory is now described. His people need not fear. Yahweh is exalted for He dwells on high. And as a result of His action and His deliverance which is about to take place there will be a great renewal of the covenant in Zion, with the result that it will be filled with right judgments and righteousness. And the result will be stability in Hezekiah’s day (compare Isaiah 39:8). Wisdom and knowledge will grow as men again look to Yahweh. And while Hezekiah’s treasure house has been emptied (2 Kings 18:15-16), it will be replaced by a greater treasure, the fear of Yahweh, which is the true treasure which Yahweh gives to His own.

The future therefore would seem bright, but it would not be long before the strains underneath were detected and the people returned to their old ways under Manasseh, and even while Hezekiah was still alive. It would not be long before Isaiah detected the crumbling of the revival.

Yet one importance of this incident for us is not only that it reveals the power of God, but also that it assures us that God does see the treachery against His own people of their enemies and will Himself in His own way deal with it, often in ways that are unexpected, even if not quite so spectacular as at this time. For in all these prophecies Isaiah is not only detailing events, he is enunciating great principles which are true in every age. This is one reason why he keeps so much of it general rather than specific.


Verses 1-24

Chapter 33 The Sixth Woe Against Those Who Despoil Others and Who Are Treacherous.

The sixth woe seems in context to be directed against Assyria for some treacherous act. We can compare and contrast how the previous list of woes ended with a ‘ho’ (or ‘woe’) towards Assyria (Isaiah 10:5), but now Assyria has gone beyond the pale and receives ‘woe’ instead. The treacherous act may be seen as occurring in 2 Kings 18:13-18 when Sennacherib accepted peace terms and tribute from Hezekiah but then later advanced and besieged Jerusalem. Behind his change of heart may have been news of the gathering of the Egyptian army, possibly supplemented by auxiliaries from Judah. No doubt he persuaded himself that he was justified because of this, but Jerusalem and Isaiah saw it as treachery, for they had had no part in the rebellion since the surrender.

Here the chapter then proceeds with a prayer to Yahweh, followed by a declaration of the victory He achieved, which resulted in an at least temporary transformation in Jerusalem as we would anticipate (Isaiah 33:2-6). But it would not last for long as the previous chapter has made clear. This is followed by further mourning over the act of treachery, and Yahweh’s promise to respond to it, resulting in a description, as so often in Isaiah, of the triumph of God and the time of final blessing.


Verses 7-12

Bewailing The Treachery of the Enemy (Isaiah 33:7-12).

Meanwhile the Assyrian advance continued. Yahweh had promised action, but had not yet acted. He was waiting above for the right time to arrive. All was in suspense.

Isaiah 33:7-8

‘Behold their valiant ones cry outside,

The ambassadors of peace weep bitterly.

The highways lie waste, the traveller ceases,

He has broken the covenant, he has despised the cities,

He does not regard man.’

Humanly speaking great hopes had been placed in the surrender treaty made with Sennacherib, but those great hopes had come to nought, and here we see those who had sought to establish the treaty in tears. The further interference of Egypt had probably devastated them, and had demonstrated yet again that it is never wise to trust in man. Thus the commanders and mighty men (the valiant ones) in the field are ‘crying outside’, and the ambassadors who had achieved the treaty wept bitterly. Both thought that they had succeeded, the one in holding off Sennacherib long enough for the treaty to be signed, the other in actually formulating a treaty which at least seemed to give some hope, even if it was at great cost. But it had all been in vain. For Sennacherib’s advance now continued, men were shut up for protection in their cities, the roads and highways were wasted, no one travelled on them in peace, for Sennacherib had rejected the treaty and torn it up, and his warlike attentions were again turned on the cities of Judah. He had no regard for men nor for what they thought. His aim was destruction and despoliation. And this is a picture of the world and its ways continually. It will ever be thus.

Isaiah 33:9

‘The land mourns and languishes.

Lebanon is ashamed and withers away.

Sharon is like a desert.

And Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves.’

‘The land mourns and languishes’ (compare Isaiah 24:4). The names chosen all indicate plenty and prosperity, Lebanon with its great cedars, Sharon with its fertility, Bashan with its great oaks, Carmel (‘garden land’) for its luxurious growth and scrubland pasture (compare Isaiah 35:2). But now all is in mourning and is failing. None can stand against the enemy. The cedars of Lebanon have been cut down (Isaiah 37:24), the fields have been devastated, the pasturage despoiled. Even the leaves have fallen from the trees because of the fear of the enemy. Indeed we might see Lebanon as northward, Sharon as southward, Carmel as eastward and Bashan as westward. Nothing escapes his hand.

Isaiah 33:10

“Now will I arise,” says Yahweh,

“Now will I lift myself up, now will I be exalted.”

It is often in the hour of greatest darkness, when His people’s faith has been tested to the limit, that God arises to act. And here there is a great emphasis on ‘now’, thrice repeated. The time had ‘now’ come. God had waited but He will stand by no longer. Note the progression, He will arise, His first movement; He will lift Himself up, His divine action; He will be exalted, the final result. From beginning to end He will be effective. Once begun His work will not cease until its final triumph and His subsequent exaltation. Sennacherib has done his worst, and now God will do His best.

Isaiah 33:11-12

‘You will conceive chaff, you will bring forth stubble,

Your breath is a fire that will devour you.

And the peoples will be as the burnings of lime,

As thorns cut down that are burned in the fire.’

And the result will be this which delineates His sentence on the Assyrians, and on all who oppose Him. Sennacherib’s achievements, and all the achievements of great kings through the ages, are depicted here. All their efforts will bring to birth nothing but chaff and stubble, they breathe out fire but they will be burned up by their own breath. And those who follow them will be so thoroughly burned up that it will be as though they were burned in a limepit. They will be as thorns cut down and consumed in the bonfire. Indeed the description covers all men’s achievements without God. So does God confirm that He will step into the situation and reveal the truth about man’s accomplishments by means of their destinies. As He will also in the final judgment.


Verses 13-16

God Is So Holy, Who Can Know Him? (Isaiah 33:13-16).

What Yahweh has done in defeating Assyria and delivering Jerusalem leads on to His depiction of His holiness and power. He is above all and will bring about His will and none but those whom He has chosen and made fit may dwell with Him in His glory, amid the everlasting burnings.

Analysis.

a Hear, you who are far off, what I have done, and you who are near acknowledge my might (Isaiah 33:13).

b The sinners in Zion are afraid, trembling has surprised the godless ones, “Who among us will dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us will dwell with the everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14).

b He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly. He who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hand from the holding of bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of blood, and shuts his eyes from looking on evil (Isaiah 33:15).

a He will dwell on high. His place of defence will be the strong places of the cliffs. His bread will be given to him. His waters will be sure (Isaiah 33:16).

In ‘a’ the call is by Yahweh to all who are for off or near, to consider what He has done and acknowledge His might, and in the parallel the one who responds rightly will dwell on high and be placed in a fully defensible position, protected from all enemies. In ‘b’ the question is put as to who can dwell with the awesome holiness of God, and in the parallel the reply is that it is the one whose life is pure, who walks righteously, speaks uprightly, despises dishonest gain, rejects bribes, shuns violence and closes his eye to evil.

Isaiah 33:13-14

‘Hear, you who are far off, what I have done.

And you who are near acknowledge my might.

The sinners in Zion are afraid.

Trembling has surprised the godless ones.

Who among us will dwell with the devouring fire?

Who among us will dwell with the everlasting burnings?’

The effect of His destruction of the army of Assyria now causes God to challenge the nations. Let all both far and near consider what He has done and acknowledge His power. For what He has done has even awakened the sinners and the godless in Zion to consider their position. It has made them aware of His holiness and power, and of what He essentially is, so that they cry out and ask who can possibly hope to dwell with One Who is so holy that He is like a devouring fire, One Who is like an everlastingly burning flame (compare Deuteronomy 4:11-12; Deuteronomy 4:33; Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 5:24-25).

The word for dwell means ‘to dwell as an outsider, an alien’. They have therefore rightfully recognised that those who are strangers to Yahweh and what He is cannot hope to reside in His presence. And they compare themselves with those strangers. For they know that He is a consuming fire of holiness, that He is glorious in holiness, that He is the Holy One of Israel, and can only be truly known by those who have been made holy (compare Isaiah 4:3-4).

The experience described here is similar to that of Isaiah in chapter 6. There Isaiah himself had drawn back in shame and anguish in His awareness of the glory of God, and now the sinners in Zion and the godless ones, which in this context signifies God’s people as they are made aware of their extreme sinfulness, do the same.

But the reply comes that there are those who can survive and enjoy His presence, and live with His holiness, and of those we now learn. Compare for this Psalms 15.

Isaiah 33:15-16

‘He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly.

He who despises the gain of oppressions,

Who shakes his hand from the holding of bribes,

Who stops his ears from hearing of blood,

And shuts his eyes from looking on evil.

He will dwell on high.

His place of defence will be the strong places of the cliffs.

His bread will be given to him. His waters will be sure.’

This is the description of the one who can dwell with God’s holiness. It is the one who has responded to God and to His covenant, who walks in accordance with God’s requirements, and whose word is totally true, honest and reliable. He does not seek to obtain gain by the wrong use of power or influence. When any seek to bribe him, pushing something quietly into his hand, he shakes his hand free. If there is talk of injuring others he stops up his ears from involvement. He closes his eyes against all evil sights and refuses even to look at them.

Such a man can dwell on high spiritually with God (compare Isaiah 57:15), where he will be situated far out of reach of men in a place where he cannot be harmed. He will receive from God all the sustenance he needs, both spiritual bread and water. He will eat of the bread of life, and drink of the water of life (compare Psalms 1). The thought is of him being safe in an impregnable fortress, fully provisioned in every way with a totally safe water supply. He need fear nothing. Here we have the Old Testament equivalent of Paul’s ‘heavenly places’, the spiritual realm in which His people can live in close contact with Him (see Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6).


Verses 17-20

The Glory That Is Coming (Isaiah 33:17-20).

In stark contrast with all that has gone before is the destiny of God’s true people. For them the future holds the promise of a permanent existence in the presence of God, of a permanent beholding of His glory, of a permanent experience of His presence, when all that is of the past will have been done away, and He has become all in all.

Analysis.

· a Your eyes will see the king in his beauty. They will behold a spacious land (a land of far distances) (Isaiah 33:17).

· b Your heart will muse on the terror. Where is he who assessed? Where is he who weighed? Where is he who counted the towers? (Isaiah 33:18).

· b You will not see the fierce people, a people of a deep speech which you cannot interpret, of a gibberish tongue that you cannot understand (Isaiah 33:19).

· a Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities. Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, a tent that will not be removed, the pegs of which will never be plucked up, nor will any of its guy ropes be broken (Isaiah 33:20).

In ‘a’ their eyes will see the King in His beauty, and in the parallel they will see Jerusalem a quiet habitation which is perfectly safe and secure. In ‘b’ they will recognise that they have nothing to fear from anyone any more, and in the parallel this includes strange foreign invaders.

Isaiah 33:17-19

‘Your eyes will see the king in his beauty.

They will behold a spacious land (a land of far distances).

Your heart will muse on the terror. Where is he who assessed?

Where is he who weighed? Where is he who counted the towers?

You will not see the fierce people,

A people of a deep speech which you cannot interpret,

Of a gibberish tongue that you cannot understand.’

This promise to the godly man sums up the future for the godly remnant. They will see the coming King in the splendour of His glorious beauty (compare Psalms 45:2), the king of Isaiah 32:1-2. They will behold a land spacious and free (in contrast with the tiny area then ruled from Jerusalem). They will look back and muse without fear on those of whom men were in terror, wondering how they could ever have been afraid of them, such as those fearsome men who assessed men to take them into captivity, those who weighed the tribute and decided what each would pay, making the burden heavy, those who elected which buildings should be destroyed, for to the godly man none of this will matter any more. He will be beyond it. To him these things will have become a thing of the past. For His trust is in God. And he will then have no involvement with foreign invaders and masters in exile and tribute collectors, who speak a gibberish tongue. He will finally be delivered from it all.

Intrinsically this looks first to the coming of the King and the deliverance He would bring. As they take His yoke on them and learn of Him, they will find rest to their souls (Matthew 11:28-30), but in the final analysis it looks to the coming to the everlasting kingdom, to the complete salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messianic king, and the glorious spaciousness of the new heaven and the new earth. While not stating so, this assumes the heavenly kingdom, and the resurrection of the dead in Isaiah 26:19, for Isaiah knew that all this could only be when Assyria had been destroyed and Babylon itself had been defeated and finally destroyed, and yet he promised it to the godly of his day who walked righteously and spoke uprightly. Thus it had to be after the resurrection he had described.

Isaiah 33:20

‘Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities.

Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation,

A tent that will not be removed, the pegs of which will never be plucked up,

Nor will any of its guy ropes be broken.

This further description confirms that we are speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem. Ezekiel thought in terms of a heavenly temple set on ‘a very high mountain’ well away from Jerusalem, reaching up to heaven, with the city itself on the very outskirts of a ‘holy area’ (40-48, see especially Isaiah 45:1-6). Isaiah has not quite reached that depth of vision but his wording suggests something similar, in as far as it was possible for someone with no real conception of a Heaven above to which men could go. Somehow he knew that this could be no earthly city. So Jerusalem has here gone back to being the Tent in the wilderness, but as having a heavenly permanence. It is the eternal dwellingplace of Yahweh.

And this was Zion/Jerusalem. ‘The city of our solemnities’ connects it in thought with the earthly Jerusalem, for he is in these words speaking of the city where they celebrated their sacred feasts, the city of worship, but it has become something other than itself. Instead of a place of buildings it will have become a quiet dwellingplace, away from a tumultuous world, an everlasting tent, a new tabernacle where those who are holy meet with God (compare Isaiah 4:3-6). It will be a place apart from the earth as the tabernacle was apart from the camp, and yet a tent so permanent that its guy ropes will never break. It will be a permanent tabernacle which never moves from its site, for its pegs will never be uprooted. Once they see it they will have passed through the wilderness of history and have reached their final home.

The thought is not so much that of a return to the ‘ideal’ time in the wilderness, when Israel was holiness to Yahweh (Jeremiah 2:2-3), although it includes that, but more that of a going on to something better and more permanent. Yet it is certainly not thinking of earthly permanence (compare Revelation 21:3). The very nature of a tent is against earthly permanence. It is a rejection of the idea of ‘the city’. It is calling men apart to God to a purity of relationship that rejects ‘civilisation’. And there they will see Yahweh in the fullness of His majesty and will be with Him. The writer to the Hebrews described it as ‘the true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not men’ (Hebrews 8:2).

We may see in it a twofold future reference. Firstly the entering in of those who come to believe in Jesus Christ the king, who thus come under the Kingly Rule of God (Isaiah 33:22) and enjoy His personal presence with them, for they become His tabernacle, His dwellingplace; no longer of ‘the city’; in the world but not of the world; temporary on earth and yet with a permanence in Heaven, for they are even now citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). And secondly the full fulfilment in the heavenly kingdom, the new heaven and the new earth, when they are with Him for ever and enjoy the full glory of His majesty and presence (Revelation 21:3).


Verses 21-24

The Perfect Paradise (Isaiah 33:21-24).

In this chapter His people are to mount level by level into the presence of the Holy One. Firstly it has happened by their response to an awareness of God’s holiness which draws them to obedient and holy living, and results in their mounting into the heavenly places with Him where they are safe and fully supplied with all they need (Isaiah 33:13-16). Secondly by their recognising and responding to the King in His beauty, so that they see and enter the Jerusalem which is above, the eternal Tabernacle, which is permanent and everlasting, freed from all the terrors of the world (Isaiah 33:17-20). And now thirdly by recognising that they are to enjoy Paradise itself. This is described as the place where Yahweh is in His majesty, a place of broad rivers and streams (compare Revelation 22:1-5), but free from all earthly contamination. And there Yahweh will be their Judge, their Lawgiver, and their King. He will be their Saviour.

But none of this will be because of their deserving. They have in themselves no means of mobility. Rather it is as the lame that they will take the prey. And there the inhabitants will know nothing of sickness. Those who dwell there have been forgiven all their iniquity.

Analysis.

a But there Yahweh will be with us in majesty, a place of broad rivers and streams, in which no galley with oars will go, nor will any gallant ship pass by it.

b For Yahweh is our judge, Yahweh is our lawgiver, Yahweh is our king, He will save us.

b Your tackle is loosed, it could not strengthen the foot of your mast, it could not spread the sail. Then was the prey of a great spoil divided, the lame took the prey.

a And the inhabitant will not say, “I am sick”. The people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity

In ‘a’ they will be with Yahweh in His majesty in great rivers unsullied by man’s enterprises, and in the parallel they will be there as those who have been made whole, as forgiven sinners, which alone has fitted them for this place. In ‘b’ Yahweh is their Judge, their Lawgiver, and their King, providing all that is necessary for good governance, and in the parallel their own insufficiency is brought out. They are like loose tackle which is unable to launch the ship or drive it along. But they need not be concerned. For they will share between them a great spoil as their prey, and it is the lame who will take the prey. Thus is the goodness and grace of Yahweh made clear to His own.

Isaiah 33:21

But there Yahweh will be with us in majesty,

A place of broad rivers and streams,

In which no galley with oars will go,

Nor will any gallant ship pass by it.’

There in the new Zion, the heavenly Tabernacle, Yahweh will be with them in majesty. The place is pictured as a place of broad rivers and streams, the agriculturalist’s ideal, for it is self-sufficient in water whose sole purpose is to provide for their needs. No ships will pass along them, for there will be no trafficking, no laborious rowing, no trading, nothing to spoil its calm and serenity.

‘A place of broad rivers and streams, in which no galley with oars will go, nor will any gallant ship pass by it.’ Its heavenly nature is confirmed by this description. No earthly river could lack ships and boats, but this is in a different realm of thought and existence. The streams and rivers are waters of life, symbols of overflowing life, (compare Psalms 45:4-5; Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 55:1-3; Ezekiel 47:1-12), not vehicles for carrying people about and hubs of world trade. They provide for the sustenance and life of the people (compare Revelation 22:1-5). Man’s glory, as revealed in his great ships, will have no place there. All will be of God. We should remember here that Israel did not like the sea, and would see ships as an indication of what was unwelcome. They were not into deep sea sailing.

Note the final implication behind all this. All that man glories in, both by land, his great cities, and by sea, his great ships and galleys, will have gone. The glory of man will be replaced by the glory of God. God will be all sufficient.

Isaiah 33:22

‘For Yahweh is our judge, Yahweh is our lawgiver,

Yahweh is our king, He will save us.’

And in that place they will be under the perfect rule of Yahweh. They will be able to declare in truth, ‘Yahweh reigns’. The threefold phrases emphasise the completeness of His rule. All the righteous are here seen as having entered under the Kingly Rule of God and therefore as confident of final salvation. Note that Yahweh is all that they need, He passes judgment, He proclaims the Instruction (Law), He rules in might. No other authority is needed when Yahweh rules. He is all in all. He is the final Deliverer, the final Saviour of His own.

Isaiah 33:23

‘Your tackle is loosed, it could not strengthen the foot of your mast,

It could not spread the sail.

Then was the prey of a great spoil divided,

The lame took the prey.

And the inhabitant will not say, “I am sick”.

The people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity.’

But Isaiah is aware of what God’s people are like, even those who are His true people. In contrast with Yahweh they were not glorious in holiness, rather they were like a stranded ship, and when we consider that there would be no ships there we can see that this reveals them as very much connected with earth. So Isaiah completes his description of the heavenly city and the coming salvation by reminding the earthly people of God of their own present true condition. The splendid vision has only brought home their sinful state. They are like a ship with loose tackle. The tackle neither holds the mast steady, nor manoeuvres the sail adequately. They are like a lame and limping ship striving to reach harbour, floating helplessly and seemingly with none to help. But those who are His true people need not fear, for when the prey consisting of a great spoil is divided up it is the lame, not the mighty, who will take the prey. That is the result of God’s grace. Weak and helpless they may be, but all that God has for them will be theirs. And they will not need then to say, “I am sick”. For those who dwell in the new Jerusalem will be forgiven sinners, made right in Him, never to be sick again in any way, for they have partaken of the Tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2).

Note. It is an interesting fact that the major Isaianic scroll (Is.a) discovered at Qumran contains at this point a short break of three lines, prior to chapter 34 (there is no break prior to Isaiah 40:1, even though the opening of that verse is on the last line of a column). It is of especial interest because the appeal in Isaiah 34:1, ‘Come near you nations to hear and hearken, let the earth hear, and its fullness, the world and all things that come forth from it’, (speaking about the nations), can easily be seen as paralleled with the appeal in Isaiah 1:2, ‘Hear O heavens, and give ear O earth, for Yahweh has spoken’, (speaking concerning the situation of Israel/Judah). Thus it might appear that Isaiah’s prophecy may not only have split into two at this point so as to fit onto two equal scrolls, but have been designed to do so, with each section having its own emphasis. This would then tend to confirm that Isaiah 1:1 was to be seen as opening the whole prophecy in its two sections.

The first section 1-33 might then be seen as very much describing Yahweh’s appeal concerning Israel and Judah, resulting in the coming of their everlasting King (Isaiah 33:7-11) and judgment on the nations who have failed her (Isaiah 33:13-23), and ending in the picture of final fulfilment in chapter 33, with the everlasting Tabernacle of Jerusalem being established in a place of broad rivers and streams (Isaiah 33:20-21), with the people healed and forgiven (Isaiah 33:24; contrast Isaiah 1:4-9). While the second section, commencing with chapter 34 onwards, might then be seen as Yahweh’s appeal concerning the nations, resulting in the coming of the Servant of Yahweh on behalf of the nations, and judgment on Babylon (46-47) and Edom (Isaiah 63:1-4), (as representing all that is worst in the nations), and ending with the picture of final fulfilment described in 65-66, with the ideal Jerusalem being established (Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 66:10) in a place where peace is extended to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an ever-flowing stream (Isaiah 66:12), with all nations restored and worshipping Yahweh. If that is so then chapter 34 can be seen as introductory to all that follows, in the same way as chapters 1-2 were to the first section.

End of note.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 33:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/isaiah-33.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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