Notes on Isaiah 29

Isaiah 29  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
As the present chapter was to some extent anticipated in the remarks on the preceding one, one may speak the more briefly now. It opens with the final siege of Jerusalem by “the Assyrian,” so familiar in the prophecies. “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow; and it shall be unto me as Ariel.” By Ariel, the lion of God, is meant Jerusalem, which the proud stranger menaces with destruction. Spite of great names and associations of the past, it is actually brought down into deep distress. Delay should not hinder its humiliation. Feasts or sacrifices should not avert the storm. God's indignation is in question, and not yet ended: still it abides to Him as Ariel, His lion. “And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.” That is, agony of terror would produce effects similar to the tone or language affected by those who dealt with spirits. “But the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly. Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.” (Ver. 1-6.)
It must be plain, I think, how entirely all this falls in with and confirms the reference to the great king of the north in the time of the end. Sennacherib was but a type. Hence the commentators, not seeing this, stumble in hopeless perplexity. Some, applying it to the typical enemy, cannot get over the fact that Isaiah himself expressly predicts (as was the fact, of course,) that Sennacherib should not come into the city of Jerusalem, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with a shield, nor cast a bank against it. (Chap. 37: 33.) Others, again, suppose the Roman siege to be intended; but this, it is evident, is still more flatly contradicted by Jehovah's intervention at the last gasp, to the deliverance of Jerusalem and the utter overthrow of their enemies. In fact, it is the future siege at the close of this age, when the great confederacy of the north-eastern nations shall be broken after a previous success against the Jews. The reader can compare Zech. 12-14., which bear on the same events; also Psa. 83; 110:2, 6; Mic. 4:11; 5:4-1511Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. (Micah 4:11)
4And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. 5And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. 6And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders. 7And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. 8And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. 9Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. 10And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: 11And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: 12And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: 13Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. 14And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities. 15And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard. (Micah 5:4‑15)
. The next verses, 7, 8, strengthen this conclusion: “And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations, that fight against mount Zion.” Calvin's notion that they were the various garrisons which the Jews brought in from elsewhere to defend their capital, and that they are threatened with being useless refuse, is quite unworthy of his reputation. It is a clear prediction of the destruction of their foes at the last, led on by him who was prefigured by the, Assyrian. They shall be as disappointed of their prey, as a hungry or thirsty man who wakes up from his imaginary feast.
The prophet then turns (ver. 9-12) to describe the moral condition of the Jews themselves: for such a trial as God thus brought on them will have its ground in their evil state, whatever may be His mercy and its rejoicing against judgment in the end. “Stay yourselves, and wonder: cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine: they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the Lord hath poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.” Israel were spiritually blind to God's lessons. Judicial sleep oppressed all: learned or simple made no difference.
Alas! they were formalists, hypocrites, taught by the precept of men as certainly as they avowed their ignorance of God's word. Therefore by God's sentence their wisdom should perish. (Ver. 13, 14.) In vain their efforts to hide from the Lord or be independent of Him. God, after all, remains God, and man is but as clay in the hand of the potter. (Ver. 15, 16.) If this is solemnly true, it is full of blessed comfort. For “Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the terrible one is brought to naught, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off, that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught.” (Ver. 17-21.) Soon all will be reversed: not only the lofty Assyrian abased and humbled, Israel exalted, but the culpable insensibility of the people gives place to spiritual understanding and earnestness. Sweet traits of the Spirit should find increase of blessing and joy: violence, scorn, and iniquity be judged and vanish. “Therefore thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” (Ver. 22-24.)