The Known Isaiah: Isaiah 28-35

Isaiah 28‑35  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
How does rationalism fare when the next or third division of the prophecy is seriously examined? We have a series of chapters, about not Jerusalem only but all Israel on earth (28- 35.), that have the common character of dealing with the final judgments which usher in more and more brightly the everlasting deliverance and blessing. Hence any past historic circumstances appear but little, so as soon to bring into relief the grand ways of God with and for the Jews at the end of the age. In this group of “Woes” the Holy Spirit with the utmost moral propriety begins, not with the Assyrian, but with Ephraim or Samaria in chap. 28., and with Jerusalem, or Ariel the lion of God, in chap. 29. The Lord cannot overlook but must judge the evil of His own people, if He is about to put down their enemies unsparingly. The crown of pride shall be trodden down under a destroying tempest; and so it was. But even the remnant erred, priest and prophet; and self-indulgence indisposes to the word of Jehovah, let Him meet His people as Ηe may. Whereon the prophet turns to the scornful rulers in Jerusalem who boasted of their prudent policy to escape the overflowing scourge. “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol have we made agreement” (15). But Messiah is the sole and sure foundation-stone which the Lord Jehovah lays in Zion. As he that trusteth shall not make haste, lies and falsehood will but ensure judgment, and the overflowing scourge tread those down who sought shelter in the power of darkness. How can any Christian doubt that the prophecy on the side of both good and evil looks far beyond whatever partial application it had in Isaiah's day? Nor does the N. T. (Rom. 9; 10, 1 Peter 2) intimate that all was fulfilled, because the only Man was come Who could be without impiety an object of trust. It cites what was accomplished, but leaves for a day still future Jehovah's rising up for His strange work and His unwonted task, a consumption that is determined for the whole land or earth. Even men are taught a variety of dealings for a desired end: how much more God teaches? If men were not pre-occupied, they must have perceived that this chapter implies a successful attack on Jerusalem, as well as the downfall of Samaria. What has hindered is the fatal mistake of looking only at the past, or the yet more daring result of imputing an exaggeration or error to the prophet when he predicted far more. Isaiah distinctly tells the scornful rulers of Jerusalem that the Assyrian scourge should tread them down; and the believer is sure that, as this never was the fact in the past, it must be in the future. “Scripture cannot be broken."
But the interest increases when we understand chap. 29., which unveils a subsequent picture, a second attack on Jerusalem; and when they are reduced to the lowest, instead of being trodden down, “The multitude of thine enemies shall be like fine dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones as chaff that passeth away; and it shall be in an instant suddenly. Thou shalt be visited by Jehovah of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest and the flame of devouring fire” (ver. 4-6). Now this goes far beyond even the blow which an angel of Jehovah dealt on the Assyrian camp of old. For two considerations distinguish the future from the past. First, scripture does not speak of more than 185,000 warriors then left dead; here it menaces with sudden destruction the multitude of all the nations that fight against mount Zion. Next, it declares that in that day the deaf shall hear and the blind see, and the meek increase their joy in Jehovah, and Jacob shall not now be ashamed; it is what these critics call the “ideal future.” When it comes, it will be a deep and plain reality. For “so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11). Never yet has “the altered character and temper” manifested itself in the nation, because the time is not come, though it be as sure as the prophecy is inspired. Chap. 30. is no less unmanageable on the neocritical hypothesis, with “the ideal future,” its necessary, though vague, misleading, and irreverent resource. For, if real and certain, however distant, the hypothesis falls. Read it in faith, not as a skeptic, and its entire fulfillment in the consummation of the age is in accord with the general bearing of prophecy; as “the glorification of external nature” corresponds to the new age no less than a “transformed” Israel, henceforth blessed and a blessing in Jehovah Messiah. The punishment of the Assyrian (“for the king also,” ver. 33) wholly differs from that which befell Sennacherib or his mighty men, and it awaits a corresponding foe of Israel in that day. Compare Dan. 8:23-25; 11:44, 4523And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. 24And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. 25And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. (Daniel 8:23‑25)
44But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. 45And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. (Daniel 11:44‑45)
, Joel 3:9-179Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. 11Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. 12Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. 13Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. 15The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 16The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. 17So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. (Joel 3:9‑17), Mic. 5:5-95And 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. (Micah 5:5‑9), Zeph. 3:8-158Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. 9For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. 10From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering. 11In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. 12I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. 13The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. 14Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. 15The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. (Zephaniah 3:8‑15), Zech. 12:9; 14:1-49And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. (Zechariah 12:9)
1Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:1‑4)
. Chaps. 31. 32. confirm the believing conclusion manifestly; for Jehovah's instruction in that day (4, 5) exceeds all yet experienced, as also does Israel's renewal (6, 7). Of course chap. 32:1-8 is once more characterized as “the ideal future;” not a word about Christ and His reign, swamped under a phrase which may mean all or nothing. The truth is that this scripture, after the fall of the Assyrian, reveals the consolation of Israel in Messiah's reign, and the latter rain, or the outpouring of the Spirit, when the wilderness shall become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted a forest. How can a rationalist face such revelations, and retain his unhallowed brief that the prophet never abandons his own historical position, but speaks from it? How God is left out is plain enough in another's words: “We will not say that prediction is impossible, or necessarily limited to vague generalities"! Could such language come from such as tremble at Jehovah's word? Their a priori principle is false and unbelieving; their arguments are not founded on a holy interrogation of the document, but a misuse of the historical starting-point, to ignore or contradict the evidence it affords that the Spirit of prophecy embraces the judgment of the quick, in part or as a whole, in order to the establishment of Messiah's kingdom on earth.
Quite in its true prophetic place, whatever the date of separate delivery, stands chap. 33. which appears to be the invasion of Gog (cf. Ezek. 38, 39.) rather than the Assyrian: the mighty ruler still farther north, who will have strengthened in vain the king of the north of Daniel (i.e. the last Assyrian of the other prophets). It is therefore as easy to confound these two (for both express the same policy), as most also identify in error the last ruler of the Roman beast with his political vassal but religious chief, the Antichrist who reigns over the apostate Jews in Palestine. “At the noise of the tumult tire peoples are fled; at the lifting of Thyself the nations are scattered. And your spoil shall be gathered as the caterpillar gathereth: as locusts leap, shall they leap upon it. Jehovah is exalted, for He dwelleth on high; He hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.” It is likely, if not certain, that Sennacherib furnished the historic occasion for this as for the previous enemy; for as of old, so at the close both are beyond measure haughty, ambitious, all-exacting, and truce-breakers. The question is, To what, as his aim, does the Holy Spirit direct our faith? Those whose system it is to see little but the shell, cannot be expected to taste the fruit. They cannot learn God's mind who hear only an Isaiah, or a deutero-Isaiah. But it is a judgment of hypocrites in Zion (14) as well as of the last proud enemy that invades the land; and no wonder, for “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty.” Jehovah is judge, lawgiver, and king; He is unto Israel glorious and will save them. “Then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven iniquity.” It is a divine forecast of Messianic deliverance and blessing here below.
In solemn contrast with this prospect is the closing call (chap. 34.) on nations and peoples, the earth and all its fullness, the world and all that comes forth of it, to that immense judgment of the nations and their armies in Bozrah and the land of Edom; with which chap. 63. may be compared. Dr. Driver ventures to tax it with “glow of passion,” recalling that which animates the prophecies against Babylon in ch. 13. and Jer. 50. 51. He too cannot rise above man smarting from some recent provocation. This, with its style, disproves Isaiah's authorship, and points to the period of the exile! God is not in the thoughts of this school, many of whom far exceed their English protégés, and are as scornful as the unbelieving rulers of chap. 28. as blind toward scripture as the deep sleepers of chap. 29., and as trustful in man's strength and wisdom as the rebellious children of chap. 30. What is this but paving the way for the apostasy that will surely come, before the Lord Jesus appears in judgment of living man? Part of that judgment is the scene here predicted in Idumea, followed immediately, and purposely without a break or a preface, by the reconciliation, not of believers only as now, but of all creation in the day of the Lord, Zion being His earthly center. Compare Rom. 8:18-2318For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:18‑23), Eph. 1:1010That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10), Col. 1:2020And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20), Heb. 2:55For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. (Hebrews 2:5), Rev. 20; 21 Our Lord, in Matt. 19:2828And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28), spoke of it as “the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory” (being now seated on His Father's throne, Rev. 3:2121To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21)); also the apostle Peter as “times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:2121Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:21)). There is an age to come before the judgment of the dead which ushers in the eternal day; and Christians are apt to think of the judgment of the living, when the Lord returns in glory, as little as the Jews did of the judgment of the dead. Both are revealed with full light in scripture; and they are distinct, though the Lord Jesus will execute both (John 5:2222For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: (John 5:22)).