Isaiah 19-24       Assyria, Judah and Egypt November 26, 2018

We have only three weeks left for this fall session.  I would like to finish this first book of Isaiah that ends with chapter 39.  Therefore we will skip some of the chapters in-between.  They are fascinating reading, and you should read through them, but I will limit our discussions to certain sections.  The entire section from chapters 13 - 39 deals with the geopolitical events of the day.  Assyrian invades Egypt and by 650 BC will occupy the entire country for a short time.  This section deals with the period between 720 and 701 BC.    Hezekiah joins Ashdod and Aram in an unsuccessful rebellion against Assyria, encouraged by the Ethiopian Pharaoh ruling Egypt.   Because of that Judah loses 46 fortified cities in the land.  Only Jerusalem remains a safe harbor.   Jerusalem resubmits to Assyrian hegemony and pays tribute to the king.  The Assyrian kings are Sargon II (721-705 BC) and Sennacherib (705-681 BC).  As we read through these chapters we see that God is intimately involved in all the activities of the various kings and nations.  Much of this story is told in poetic terms, even as lines for various actors to read.  It is delivered in the vernacular so it can be presented and understood by the ordinary people of the day.

(I will place the skipped passages in very small print.)

An Oracle Concerning Egypt

19:1-8  An oracle concerning Egypt.

Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud

and comes to Egypt;

and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,

and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,

and they will fight, each against another

and each against his neighbor,

city against city, kingdom against kingdom;

  and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,

and I will confound their counsel;

and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers,

and the mediums and the necromancers;

and I will give over the Egyptians

into the hand of a hard master,

and a fierce king will rule over them,

declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

And the waters of the sea will be dried up,

and the river will be dry and parched,

and its canals will become foul,

and the branches of Egypt's Nile will diminish and dry up,

reeds and rushes will rot away.

There will be bare places by the Nile,

on the brink of the Nile,

and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched,

will be driven away, and will be no more.

The fishermen will mourn and lament,

all who cast a hook in the Nile;

and they will languish

who spread nets on the water.

19:9-15 The workers in combed flax will be in despair,

and the weavers of white cotton.

Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed,

and all who work for pay will be grieved.

The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish;

the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.

How can you say to Pharaoh,

“I am a son of the wise,

a son of ancient kings”?

Where then are your wise men?

Let them tell you

that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt.

The princes of Zoan have become fools,

and the princes of Memphis are deluded;

those who are the cornerstones of her tribes

have made Egypt stagger.

The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion,

and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds,

as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.

And there will be nothing for Egypt

that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.

Egypt, Assyria, Israel Blessed

19:16-25 In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the LORD of hosts shakes over them.  And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians.  Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the LORD of hosts has purposed against them.

In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.

In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border.  It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt.  When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them.  And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them.  And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”

A Sign Against Egypt and Cush

20:1-6 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it—  at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush,  so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.  Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast.  And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria!  And we, how shall we escape?’”

Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon

We will resume the study here today.  “Babylon plays an important role throughout the Bible.  It is the site of man’s attempt to challenge God’s rule with the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).  It is a thorn in the side of Assyria during this current period.  100 years later the Neo-Babylonian kingdom will level Jerusalem and destroy God’s Temple there (2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  Finally, in Revelation Babylon represents the city of man that will fall in single hour in God’s final judgment of the earth (Revelation 18:1-10).

21:1-5 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.

As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,

it comes from the wilderness,

from a terrible land.

A stern vision is told to me;

the traitor betrays,

and the destroyer destroys.

Go up, O Elam;

lay siege, O Media;

all the sighing she has caused

I bring to an end.

Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;

pangs have seized me,

like the pangs of a woman in labor;

I am bowed down so that I cannot hear;

I am dismayed so that I cannot see.

  My heart staggers; horror has appalled me;

the twilight I longed for

has been turned for me into trembling.

They prepare the table,

they spread the rugs,

they eat, they drink.

Arise, O princes;

oil the shield!

The ‘wilderness of the sea’ is a reference to Babylon.  Geographically it is locate near the delta of the Euphrates at the head of the Persian Gulf.  This passage calls for the Medes and Elamites to attack Assyria and drive her out of Babylon.

21:6-10 For thus the Lord said to me:

“Go, set a watchman;

let him announce what he sees.

When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,

riders on donkeys, riders on camels,

let him listen diligently,

very diligently.”

Then he who saw cried out:

“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,

continually by day,

and at my post I am stationed

whole nights.

  And behold, here come riders,

horsemen in pairs!”

 And he answered,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;

and all the carved images of her gods

he has shattered to the ground.”

O my threshed and winnowed one,

what I have heard from the LORD of hosts,

the God of Israel, I announce to you.

God is intimately involved in this war and witnesses the fall of Babylon.  The ubiquitous Merodach-Baladan is the Persian king who drove the Assyrians out of Babylon with the help of the Elamites.  He ruled there from 720-710 BC.  This was a sign to other nations that Assyria was vulnerable, and may have been the reason for the revolt by Ashdod and Judah.  That was a bad read as both Judah and the Philistines paid a high price for their rebellion.

21:11-12 The oracle concerning Dumah.

One is calling to me from Seir,

“Watchman, what time of the night?

Watchman, what time of the night?”

The watchman says:

“Morning comes, and also the night.

If you will inquire, inquire;

come back again.”

The people are frightened and wondering what is happening, but there is no answer from the night watchman.

21:13-15 The oracle concerning Arabia.

In the thickets in Arabia you will lodge,

O caravans of Dedanites.

To the thirsty bring water;

meet the fugitive with bread,

O inhabitants of the land of Tema.

  For they have fled from the swords,

from the drawn sword,

from the bent bow,

and from the press of battle.

21:16-17 For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.  And the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.”

The refugees from Judah and Ashdod flee southeast into the Arabian Desert, but even there they will find little relief.

An Oracle Concerning Jerusalem

22:1-4 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.

What do you mean that you have gone up,

all of you, to the housetops,

you who are full of shoutings,

tumultuous city, exultant town?

Your slain are not slain with the sword

or dead in battle.

All your leaders have fled together;

without the bow they were captured.

All of you who were found were captured,

though they had fled far away.

Therefore I said:

“Look away from me;

let me weep bitter tears;

do not labor to comfort me

concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”

The war descends on Jerusalem itself.  She will soon be surrounded by Assyrian troops.  The people are torn between rejoicing in their safety and dreading the consequences of defeat.

22:5-7 For the Lord GOD of hosts has a day

of tumult and trampling and confusion

in the valley of vision,

a battering down of walls

and a shouting to the mountains.

And Elam bore the quiver

with chariots and horsemen,

and Kir uncovered the shield.

Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,

and the horsemen took their stand at the gates.

Elam was successful against Assyria for a time, but Jerusalem does not have the manpower or armament to withstand Assyrian.

22:8-11 He has taken away the covering of Judah.

In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest,  and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many.  You collected the waters of the lower pool,  and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.  You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool.  But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.

Hezekiah did what he could to strengthen the walls of Jerusalem.  He built an amazing underground water tunnel for the city so it could withstand the impending siege.  The tunnel and waterway are still functioning today.  You might like to Google Hezekiah’s tunnel and find a video of it and of the remarkable engineering feat it was.  However, to this point in time Hezekiah did all the usual things required for war, but he neglected to call on God for help.  Isaiah will come to the rescue later in this story.

22:12-13 In that day the Lord GOD of hosts

called for weeping and mourning,

for baldness and wearing sackcloth;

  and behold, joy and gladness,

killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,

eating flesh and drinking wine.

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”

22:14 The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:

“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”

says the Lord GOD of hosts.

The people do not know that this is God’s war with the intent of calling them back to the faith.  Instead they fiddle with Nero as Rome burn.

22:15-25 Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock?  Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man.  He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land.  There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master's house.  I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station.  In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand.  And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David.  He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.  And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.  And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father's house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.  In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.”

Sheba was Hezekiah’s commander in chief.  He was watching out for himself and not for the country.  He is destined for very severe judgment and death, and he will be replaced by a man of God’s choosing.

An Oracle Concerning Tyre and Sidon

23:1 The oracle concerning Tyre.

Wail, O ships of Tarshish,

for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor!

From the land of Cyprus

it is revealed to them.

2 Be still, O inhabitants of the coast;

the merchants of Sidon, who cross the sea, have filled you.

3 And on many waters

your revenue was the grain of Shihor,

the harvest of the Nile;

you were the merchant of the nations.

4 Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken,

the stronghold of the sea, saying:

“I have neither labored nor given birth,

I have neither reared young men

nor brought up young women.”

5 When the report comes to Egypt,

they will be in anguish over the report about Tyre.

6 Cross over to Tarshish;

wail, O inhabitants of the coast!

7 Is this your exultant city

whose origin is from days of old,

whose feet carried her

to settle far away?

8 Who has purposed this

against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,

whose merchants were princes,

whose traders were the honored of the earth?

9 The LORD of hosts has purposed it,

to defile the pompous pride of all glory,

to dishonor all the honored of the earth.

10 Cross over your land like the Nile,

O daughter of Tarshish;

there is no restraint anymore.

11 He has stretched out his hand over the sea;

he has shaken the kingdoms;

the LORD has given command concerning Canaan

to destroy its strongholds.

12 And he said:

“You will no more exult,

O oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon;

arise, cross over to Cyprus,

even there you will have no rest.”

13 Behold the land of the Chaldeans! This is the people that was not; Assyria destined it for wild beasts. They erected their siege towers, they stripped her palaces bare, they made her a ruin.

14 Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your stronghold is laid waste.

15 In that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, like the days of one king. At the end of seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the prostitute:

16 “Take a harp;

go about the city,

O forgotten prostitute!

Make sweet melody;

sing many songs,

that you may be remembered.”

17 At the end of seventy years, the LORD will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. 18 Her merchandise and her wages will be holy to the LORD. It will not be stored or hoarded, but her merchandise will supply abundant food and fine clothing for those who dwell before the LORD.

Judgment on the Whole Earth

24:1-5  Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate,

and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.

And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;

as with the slave, so with his master;

as with the maid, so with her mistress;

as with the buyer, so with the seller;

as with the lender, so with the borrower;

as with the creditor, so with the debtor.

The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;

for the LORD has spoken this word.

The earth mourns and withers;

the world languishes and withers;

the highest people of the earth languish.

The earth lies defiled

under its inhabitants;

for they have transgressed the laws,

violated the statutes,

broken the everlasting covenant.

The earth, to the people of that day, meant the lands of Palestine-Syria, Mesopotamia and Egypt primarily.  The continents beyond the sea were not in their understanding yet.  The devastation is mostly due to the aggressive invasion by Assyria.  Cities, crops and animals are destroyed leaving the population impoverished.  The land, the world, and civilization can be considered synonymous.  Every class of people is affected.  This has the sound of the days of the flood.

24:6-12 Therefore a curse devours the earth,

and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;

therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,

and few men are left.

  The wine mourns,

the vine languishes,

all the merry-hearted sigh.

The mirth of the tambourines is stilled,

the noise of the jubilant has ceased,

the mirth of the lyre is stilled.

No more do they drink wine with singing;

strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.

The wasted city is broken down;

every house is shut up so that none can enter.

  There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;

all joy has grown dark;

the gladness of the earth is banished.

  Desolation is left in the city;

the gates are battered into ruins.

The curse is the result of a broken covenant.  Blood has polluted the land.  The joy of civilized living is gone.  The feasts and partying, along with the joys of wine are over.  The city walls are broken down and no one is safe anymore.

(See Deuteronomy 11:26-28, 28:15-68)

24:13-16 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations,

as when an olive tree is beaten,

as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

They lift up their voices, they sing for joy;

over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west.

Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD;

in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.

From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,

of glory to the Righteous One.

God’s plan was for bountiful harvests and joyous feasts.  (Deuteronomy 11:1-15; 28:1-14)

But I say, “I waste away,

I waste away. Woe is me!

For the traitors have betrayed,

with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.”

Everything has gone awry.  Assyria has wiped the land clean.  Not much is left standing.  The crops and orchards are destroyed.  The people that are left are wasting away.  But Yahweh is the prime cause of all the devastation.   Assyria is only his instrument for carrying it out.

24:17-20 Terror and the pit and the snare

are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!

He who flees at the sound of the terror

shall fall into the pit,

and he who climbs out of the pit

shall be caught in the snare.

For the windows of heaven are opened,

and the foundations of the earth tremble.

The earth is utterly broken,

the earth is split apart,

the earth is violently shaken.

The earth staggers like a drunken man;

it sways like a hut;

its transgression lies heavy upon it,

and it falls, and will not rise again.

24:21-23 On that day the LORD will punish

the host of heaven, in heaven,

and the kings of the earth, on the earth.

They will be gathered together

as prisoners in a pit;

they will be shut up in a prison,

and after many days they will be punished.

Then the moon will be confounded

and the sun ashamed,

for the LORD of hosts reigns

on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,

and his glory will be before his elders.

God determines the history of the nations, but also of groups and of individuals.  He has brought judgment on all the civilized nations in Assyria’s path.  Babylon has fallen and will fall again.  Syria with Damascus, Israel with Samaria, Phoenicia/Philistia, Tyre, much of Judah, the entire Levant and finally Egypt fall under the yoke of Assyria.  This is a world-changing event.  Judah will never again have the power it had under David and Solomon.  The era of world kingdoms has begun, with Neo-Babylon, Greece and Rome to follow.  However, in all of this turmoil God will guard his city, Jerusalem, and his Temple for another hundred years and beyond.  We are eagerly awaiting the New Jerusalem promised by the Messiah.