The Life, Times And Message Of Isaiah The Prophet PART XXIV
ISAIAH, CHAPTERS 24-27
THE APOCALYPSE OF ISAIAH
Chapter 24 THE FINAL JUDGMENT
1 Behold the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste,
He mars its face and scatters its inhabitants;
2 Priest and people all alike,
Servant and master,
Maid and mistress,
Buyer and seller,
Lender and borrower,
Creditor and debtor.
3 The earth shall be utterly emptied and utterly despoiled,
For God has spoken this word.
4 The earth mourns and pines away,
The haughty people of the earth wither away.
5 The earth is defiled under her inhabitants,
For they have transgressed the laws,
They have violated the eternal covenant.
6 Therefore a curse is devouring the earth,
And they that dwell therein are desolate.
This is why the inhabitants of the earth are burnt up,
And few are the men left.
7 The new wine is failing, the vine is withering,
All the merry-hearted groan.
8 Thet merry tambourines have ceased,
The noise of the revellers has stopped,
The merry fiddle has ceased.
9 They drink wine without a song,
Strong drink has become bitter to its drinkers.
10 Broken down is the city of chaos,
The entrance to every house is shut up.
11 There is crying in the streets amidst wine,
All the joy is darkened, mirth is banished from the land.
12 Desolation is left in the city
And the gate is smashed and destroyed
13 For thus shall it be in the midst of the earth,
In the midst of the peoples.
As at the shaking of an olive tree, as at the gleaning,
When the vintage is done.
14 They shall lift up their voices, they shall sing joyfully
For the majesty of the LORD, they shall shout from the sea.
15 Therefore glorify the LORD the sunlit places,
In the isles of the sea glorify the name of the LORD, the God of Israel
16 From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs:
“Glory to the righteous one.”
But I said: I am desolate, I am desolate, woe is me!
The traitors betray, the traitors treacherously betray.
17 Terror, the pit and the snare are upon thee,
O inhabitant of the earth.
18 And it shall come to pass that he who will escape the voice
of terror, shall fall into the pit.
And he who climbs out of the pit shall be taken by the snare.
For the windows from above shall open,
And the foundations of the earth shall shake.
19 The earth splitting will split,
The earth crumbling will crumble,
The earth tottering will totter.
20 The earth will reel like a drunk,
It will sway like a shack,
Its transgressions will weigh it down,
It will fall never to rise again.
21 And it shall come to pass on that day,
That the LORD will punish the hosts on high, that are on high,
And the kings of the earth on the earth.
22 And they shall be gathered together like prisoners in the pit,
And they shall be shut up in prison,
And after many days they shall be punished.
23 And the moon shall be confounded and the sun shall be ashamed,
For the LORD of Hosts shall reign on Mount Zion and Jerusalem,
And before His elders there shall be glory.
Isaiah Chapters 24-27 are frequently referred to as “the little apocalypse.” This section deals with the final judgment of all humanity and the universe itself, and is interspersed with hymns of supplication and praise.
It is a grand finale to Chapters 13-23, in which Isaiah prophesied concerning the ultimate destiny of the nations surrounding Israel.
1-5 Behold the Lord makes the earth empty
In language replete with assonances and alliterations, so typical of Isaiah but almost impossible to reproduce in translation, the prophet describes the terrors of God’s judgment which will come upon the world and its inhabitants. None will be spared, regardless of position. This judgment will come upon the earth because it has become defiled by her inhabitants, as once Sodom and Gomorrah were defiled and brought down upon themselves divine wrath.
Men have transgressed “the laws”—(toroth) the universal laws of moral conduct and the covenant which God once made with mankind after the flood. (Genesis 9:1-17)
Paul refers to these universal laws and to which they have failed to live up. (Romans 1:18-22)
6 Because of this a curse is devouring the earth (v. 6)
One of the themes of the Old and the New Testaments is the interrelationship between man’s spiritual condition and nature. Before his fall, man lived in a perfect environment, in paradise. But when he disobeyed God and sinned, a curse came upon the earth:
Cursed is the ground for thy sake. Genesis 3:17
The Apostle Paul declares:
For we know that the whole of creation
Groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Romans 8:22
This is why the inhabitants of the earth are burned up and few men are left.
The Hebrew verb “haru” translated in the KJV as “They are desolate„ means to be burned or charred. In our nuclear age, this term sounds frighteningly realistic and beyond the imagination of earlier commentators.
7 The merry-hearted groan. . . .
From verse 7-13 Isaiah describes in dramatic detail the effects of judgment upon men while they are preoccupied with senseless revelling and drinking.
14a They shall lift their voices, they shall sing joyfully
In verses 14-16a the prophecy of gloom and doom is interrupted by the sound of a distant song of praise by a redeemed remnant. It comes from the sea, that is from the west and “the sunlit places” (Hebrew – Urim)–poetic for “the east.”
“Glory to the Righteous”
Some understand “the righteous” as referring to God Himself. However since God is nowhere else called “Tsadik”—”the righteous one,” it therefore means “the righteous people of God,” or His faithful remnant.
16b But I said: I am desolate, I am desolate, woe is me
16b-23 In the midst of the songs of the redeemed, there is a sudden cry of deep distress which comes from the heart of the prophet, as if he suddenly realized that his vision is something that is still in the distant future, but at present he is confronted by wicked men and traitors who deal in an exceedingly treacherous manner . And so Isaiah continues with his description of the final judgment to come which will shake and sway the whole universe like a flimsy shack in a fruit garden. (v. 20)
The earth will fall under the weight of her iniquity. God will punish the heavenly host above and the kings of the earth. (v. 22) Divine judgment will extend both to the world of invisible powers on high, which exercise a pernicious influence on all the rulers of the earth. A passage which is closely related to our text is Ephesians 6:12, where Paul writes:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
23 In the face of all the wickedness which the judgment shall reveal, the moon itself shall be confounded—or blush, and the sun shall pale with shame.
In the end the LORD of hosts, that is the God who reigns supreme over all the powers of heaven and earth shall have His visible seat on Mount Zion, and before “His elders,” that is before His redeemed saints who have always trusted in Him, there shall be glory. (v. 23)
ISAIAH, Chapter 25 A HYMN OF PRAISE
1 O LORD, Thou art my God
I will extol Thee, I will praise Thy name,
For Thou hast done wonders,
Counsels of old in faithfulness and truth.
2 For Thou hast made of a city a heap,
Of a fortified bastion a ruin,
A castle of strangers to be no city,
It shall never be rebuilt.
3 Therefore shall the strong people glorify Thee,
The bastion of the violent nations shall fear Thee.
4 For Thou hast been a stronghold to the poor,
A stronghold to the needy in his distress,
A shelter from the storm, a shadow from the heat,
For the blast of the violent ones
Was like a storm against the wall.
5 Like the heat in a dry place Thou didst subdue
The uproar of the strangers,
Like the heat in a shadow of a cloud
The song of the strangers was brought low.
6 And the LORD of host shall make a feast in this mountain
A feast of fat things for all the peoples
A feast of clear wine,
Of fat things full of marrow, of clear wine well refined.
7 And He will destroy upon this mountain
The face of the covering which is cast upon all peoples.
And the veil which is spread over all the nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God shall wipe away tears from all faces;
And the reproach of His people will He take away from off all the earth,
For the LORD has spoken.
9 And it will be said in that day:
Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him,
And He will save us.
This is the LORD, for Whom we waited,
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation,
10 For in this mountain will the hand of the LORD rest,
And Moab will be trodden down under Him,
As the straw is trodden down in the dung-pit.1
And He will spread out His hands in the midst of it,
As the swimmer spread out his hands to swim
and his pride shall be brought down low
Together with the skill of his hands.
12 And the high fortress of thy walls
He will bring low, lay low,
And bring it down to the ground, to the dry dust. A.T.
Isaiah, chapters 1-12, the so called of book of Immanuel, ended with a hymn of praise, Chapters 13-23, which deal with the future destiny of the nations surrounding Israel and followed by the final judgment of all mankind (ch. 24) in a similar way ends with hymns of praise and prayer by redeemed Israel (25-26).
1 O LORD, Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee. . . .
Having witnessed the wonders (pele), which God has performed and His faithfulness in the fulfillment of His ancient plans, redeemed Israel now extols Jehovah as their God.
2 For thou hast made of a city a heap…
No specific city is mentioned by name. The prophet might have had in mind any of the great centers of the arrogant and oppressing powers, such as Nineveh or Babylon.
3 God has turned these proud cities into a heap of ruins with the result that they now must recognize the sovereignty of the Lord and worship Him.
4-5 The triumph of Jehovah over the pagan powers has brought deliverance to Israel, just as a shadow provides relief from the heat, or a wall protects against the storm.
6a And the Lord shall make in this mountain a feast. . . .
Isaiah sees God’s judgment upon mankind not as a mere penal measure but as a means of their conversion. Once the nations shall turn to Him in humble faith and obedience the LORD will receive them as His returning prodigals and prepare a feast for them. These are echoes of Isaiah’s grand vision of the nations streaming to Zion to worship the God of Israel and to walk in His ways (Isaiah 2:2-4). The theme of the Messianic feast to which Isaiah alludes here frequently occurs in later rabbinical literature.
7 The prophet sees the day coming when the veil of ignorance which blinds all nations and causes them to reject this rule will ultimately be removed from all faces.
8 He will swallow up death forever . . . and wipe away the tears from all faces and the reproach of His people from all the earth.
Here is one of the most glorious visions which the Scriptures hold out to men. Victory over death and cessation of all evil and injustice which dim the eyes of men with tears.
Just as the entrance of sin has brought death into the world, so victory over sin will bring triumph over death and an end to all the misery and suffering resulting from sin.
In I Corinthians 15:54-57 the apostle Paul quotes this text of Isaiah, which is also echoed in Revelation 21:6.
An integral part of the vision of God’s triumph over sin is the vindication of God’s people Israel, whose reproach will be removed forever. As long as the forces of evil are triumphant in this world, God’s people will always be despised and put to shame.
9 And it will be said in that day: LO, this is our God
The vision of divine victory over sin and wickedness and the vindication of His people fills the prophet’s heart with a song of praise. Verse 9 is like a shining pearl of a psalm, set within the center of a hymn.
10-12—In this mountain will the hand of the LORD rest upon Moab (V. 10)
In spite of the cataclysmic judgment which God shall visit upon the nations, not all of them will repent. Some will remain obdurate and unrepentant to the very end. Moab, the ancient enemy of God’s people, appears in this passage not only as a historic neighbor of Israel, and a thorn in her flesh, but also symbolizes that part of humanity which will remain God-defying to the very end. Their destiny is to end up on the dung-pit of history! No skills or craft will save them, even as a swimmer cannot swim in a dung-pit They and all their vaunted civilization will end up in dust and ruins.
1. Dung-hill or dung-pit, in Hebrew Madmmenah, is probably a play of words on the Moabitish city “Madmen,” mentioned in Jeremiah 48 :2.
CHAPTER 26 A SONG OF PRAISE
1 In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah
We have a strong city,
Salvation has He set for walls and bulwarks.
2 Open the gates, that a righteous nation,
Which keeps faith may enter in.
3 Thou shalt keep in perfect peace the mind which is steadfast,
Because he trusts in Thee.
4 Trust you in the LORD forever,
For in Jah, the LORD (is) an everlasting Rock.
5 For He has brought down them who dwell on high,
The lofty city he laid low, laying it low to the ground,
Bringing it down to the dust.
6 The foot shall tread it down,
The feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.
7 For the righteous the way is straight.
He makes plain the path of the righteous.
8 Verily in the way of Thy judgments,
Have we waited for Thee, O LORD,
The longing of our soul is toward Thy name and Thy remembrance.
9 With my soul have I desired Thee in the night,
And with my spirit within me have I sought Thee before dawn,
For only when Thy judgments are in the earth,
Shall the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10 Let favor be bestowed upon the wicked,
Yet will he not learn righteousness,
And will not perceive the majesty of the LORD.
LORD, when Thy hand was lifted up, they did not see it.
But they shall see and be ashamed, because of Thy zeal for Thy people.
Yea, a fire shall devour Thy enemies.
12 LORD, Thou wilt establish peace for us,
For Thou hast also wrought all our works for us
13 O LORD our God, (other) lords have had dominion over us,
But only by Thee do we make mention of Thy name.
14 They are dead, they shall not live,
They are shades, they shall not rise;
To this end dost Thou visit and destroy them,
And make their memory perish.
15 LORD, Thou has added to Thy nation,
Thou hast added to Thy nation, Thou art glorified,
Thou hast enlarged all the borders of the land.
16 LORD, in trouble they sought Thee,
Silently they poured out (their hearts)
When Thy chastening was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman about to give birth
Is in pain and cries out in her pangs,
So have we been before Thy Presence, O LORD.
18 We have been pregnant, we have been in pain,
We have, as it were, brought forth wind,
We have not wrought salvation in the land,
Neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.
19 Thy dead shall live, together with my corpse shall they rise,
Wake up and sing, you who dwell in the dust.
For thy dew is the dew of light, and the earth shall cast up her dead.
20 Come my people, enter thy chambers, and shut the door behind Thee,
Hide thyself for a brief moment,
Until the indignation shall pass.
For, behold, the LORD will go forth from this place
And the earth shall disclose her blood,
And shall no more cover her slain.
Isaiah Chapter 26 is a hymn of redeemed Israel. It alternates between praise, and prayerful reflection. Like Chapter 27 it begins with the Phrase “in that day,” a term which signifies the opening of a new dispensation in God’s dealing with His people, or with mankind.
1-6 A Song of praise for divine protection.
1 Israel, which has witnessed God’s judgment upon the proud and unrepentant nations, having experienced salvation, now sings a song of praise. Jerusalem shall be a strong city not because of her fortifications, that is, her walls and bulwarks (the outer walls of a fortress), but because of the salvation of her God
2 Jerusalem shall become an abode fit for a people faithful to God and to His word.
3-4 The mind which is completely stayed upon Jehovah experiences “perfect peace” (in Hebrew Shalom, shalom—peace, peace). Therefore let all the faithful trust in “Jah,” a poetic abbreviation for Jehovah, for He is the Eternal Rock, All else may give way and vanish, only the LORD remains everlasting.
5-6 The prophet sees “the proud city,” the symbol of God-defying arrogant power, vanquished and humbled to the dust, trodden down by the feet of God’s poor and needy. To this faith Christ gave expression in the Sermon on the Mount, in these words:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).
7-8 The just man finds God’s way straight and plain, for he longs to do the will of God, and craves for God and His presence.
10-11 But the wicked do not learn justice, nor see the hand of God, even when the Lord is good to them. They have no eye for the majesty of God, nor for His manifestation in history. Only as they become aware of the Lord’s zeal for His people, in preserving them from their wicked designs will they be covered with shame, that is, with intense embarrassment and confusion.
12 A humble prayer for establishment of God’s peace in view of all the acts of mercy and favor which He has performed on behalf of His people in the past.
13-15 A reflection upon the fact that so many “lords,” that is, tyrants and “gods” have claimed dominion over Israel, nevertheless, Israel has remained faithful only to His name. (v. 13)
All those enemies of God are now dead and gone, even their memory shall perish. (v. 14)
Yet in spite of persecution and trouble Israel has increased, has enlarged her borders and faithfully continues to honor her God (15).
16-18 In times of trouble the people of God have sought Him and silently poured out their hearts before Him. They were like a woman in pain about to give birth. They knew the pains and pangs of childbirth, yet without obtaining that salvation, for which they had hoped.
20-21 Come my people enter into thy chambers.
In view of God’s wrath, which is about to be poured out on the disobedient and rebellious nations, Isaiah counsels his people to wait patiently and in quiet seclusion for the wrath of God to pass. Then all the shed blood of the innocent victims will be vindicated and the identity of all those who were slain in secret or unknown to men, shall be revealed. Isaiah is saying,in essence: those who died in faith, even if they are unknown to men, are known to God.
GOD’S JUDGMENT UPON THE WORLD EMPIRES ISRAEL WILL BE PUNISHED IN MEASURE, THEN REDEEMED
1 In that day will the LORD with His heavy, great and strong sword punish the leviathan, the swift serpent, and leviathan the sinuous serpent, and He will slay the dragon which is in the sea.
2 In that day: A pleasant vineyard, sing you to it.
3 I the LORD guard it, I water it every moment,
Lest it be hurt, I watch over it night and day.
4 Wrath have I none,
Would that I had briers and thorns before me
I would step out and burn them altogether.
5 Or else let them take hold of my strength,
And make peace with me, let them make peace with me.
6 In days to come Jacob will take root,
He will blossom and bloom,
And fill the face of the earth with fruitage.
7 Has He smitten him as He smote those who smote him?
Or was he slain as they were slain who slew him?
8 When He cast him out,
This was the full measure of his punishment
He sifted him with His violent breath
In the day of the east wind.
9 Therefore by this shall the iniquity of Jacob be atoned:
When he will put away the stones of the altar,
Like chalkstones which are ground to pieces,
So that the images of Astarte and the sun
Shall rise no more.
10 For the fortified city has become solitary,
An abandoned habitation and a forsaken wilderness:
Where the calf feeds and where it lies down
And browses on the branches.
11 When the boughs are withered, they shall be broken,
Women shall come and use them for firewood.
For this is a people of no understanding,
Therefore will their Maker have no compassion on them,
And He who formed them will show them no favor.
12 In that day it shall come to pass,
That the LORD shall thresh from the River Euphrates
to the brook of Egypt
And you shall be gathered one by one, O sons of Israel.
13 And it shall come to pass in that day,
That a great trumpet shall be sounded,
And they shall come who were lost in the land of Assyria,
And they who were dispersed in the land of Egypt,
And they shall worship the LORD,
In the holy mount in Jerusalem.
1 Isaiah continues the theme of the last chapter which is the impending judgment of the nations, especially of the three world powers: Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt. Leviathan the “swift serpent,” an aquatic monster of mythical origin, represents Assyria, situated along the banks of the swift river Tigris. Babylon, the great empire along the winding Euphrates, is described as “the leviathan, the sinuous serpent,” and Egypt is called “the sea dragon.” Divine judgment upon these proud three nations is indicative of God’s judgment upon all the world powers. Their destiny is to be obliterated by His “heavy, great and strong sword.”
2-5 A song in praise of Jehovah, the keeper of His vineyard—Israel. It is reminiscent of a similar song of the vineyard, in Isaiah 5:1-6.
2 A pleasant vineyard, sing you unto it. The KJV following the commonly accepted Hebrew text “kerem herem” translates it ‘a vineyard of red wine.” However, the Septuagint and the Aramaic Targum follows a variant reading “kerem tsemed,” preserved in a number of Hebrew manuscripts, translates this as “a pleasant vineyard.” In our opinion this seems to be the better text and corresponds more closely to the song of the vineyard of. chapter 5:1-6.
3 Here also Isaiah expresses God’s disappointed love for His vineyard — Israel, in view of all the care and labor bestowed upon it.
4 Nevertheless the Lord does not deal with His people as if they were worthless briers and thorns which He would burn in one wrathful gesture.
5 Oh, if only Israel would repent and make her peace with God.
6 The day will come when she will do so.
At that time Jacob will take root and flourish and blossom and fill the earth with her fruit. Here is one of the most beautiful promises concerning Israel’s future to be found anywhere in the scriptures.
We are reminded of the apostle Paul’s prediction that Israel’s spiritual restoration will be “the riches of the Gentiles.” (Romans 11:12).
7-13 God’s dealing with Israel is basically different from the way He has dealt with other nations. He punishes His people in moderation.
7 Has He smitten Him, as He smote those who smote Him?
In this rhetorical question Isaiah draws the attention of his people to the fact that even in wrath God has shown mercy toward Israel.
8 The full measure of His punishment of Israel was only exile and dispersion, and not total extinction which was the destiny of many mighty nations.
9 . . . by this shall the iniquity of Jacob be atoned.
Israel must abandon her idolatry and destroy the idols devoted to the cult of the licentious goddess Astarte and to the worship of the sun. The altars of these idols must be ground to pieces, like soft chalkstones.
10-11 The fortified city shall be solitary. . . .
Isaiah dramatically depicts Jerusalem as destroyed and abandoned by her enemies, her streets overgrown with wilting leaves and branches, which women gather for firewood, and calves browsing in the midst of the destroyed city, which has become like a wilderness. All this will be the result of Israel’s lack of spiritual comprehension and insight into the ways of her God.
12-13 Israel looks beyond the punishment and sees the day of Israel’s restoration.
One by one the LORD will bring back the exiled from their dispersion. He will gather them like hand picked fruit, after the shaking of the trees is over (v. 12). The LORD will cause a great trumpet (shofar) to be sounded and.they shall come streaming back from their exile in Assyria and Egypt to Jerusalem, where they will worship their Lord.