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Isaiah 1-4 Listen
An overview of Isaiah
We find our most helpful information about Isaiah right here in Isaiah 1:1, "The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah." So, here's what we know: Isaiah was God's prophet to the Southern Kingdom during the fall of the Northern Kingdom to the Assyrians and down through the reign of Hezekiah of the Southern Kingdom. You will recall that the Northern Kingdom never had a king that was right before God, and the Southern Kingdom sometimes did and sometimes did not. The Southern Kingdom (based in Jerusalem) survived until after Isaiah was dead. The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 721/722 B.C. during the reign of King Hoshea of Israel (II Kings 17, see notes), and Jerusalem of the Southern Kingdom ultimately fell to the Babylonians (who had already conquered the Assyrians) in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24-25, see notes).
Isaiah prophesied from about 740 B.C (the year King Uzziah died). until at least 701 B.C., the year of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib; it is likely that Isaiah's prophetic ministry stretched to as late as 680 B.C. or so. He warned Judah (Southern Kingdom) that they were facing impending downfall. Isaiah was an advisor to Hezekiah during his reign, and Hezekiah was responsive to his advice. Note: Except for Jerusalem itself, the Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians under Sennacherib, although their hold weakened in the years leading up to Assyria's demise at the hands of the Babylonians. More detail is available below with the notes on chapter 2.
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Isaiah prophesies against the wickedness of Judah in these verses and challenges them to put this wickedness behind them. Notice the reference to Deuteronomy 30:19 (see notes) in verse 2 when Isaiah says, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth:" Deuteronomy 30:19 (see notes) says, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:" Isaiah seems to be saying that the day about which Moses prophesied back in Deuteronomy 30 is just around the corner. Isaiah makes a sobering comparison between the wickedness of Judah and that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19, see notes) in verses 9-10. He does make a differentiation; a remnant of Judah will be left. However, verses 11-15 make it clear that there was no shortage of the appearance of worship, yet God despised this fake reverence toward God. He says in verse 16, "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;" God doesn't want religious looking people; he wants truly God-fearing committed people. No wonder prophets weren't popular back then. Isaiah is pleading with Judah in this passage to turn back to God or fall in verses 19-20. Zion (verse 8) is a reference to Jerusalem.
And then there's Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:21-31)
21 How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
22 Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:
23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
24 Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:
25 And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:
26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.
28 And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.
30 For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
31 And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.
Isaiah doesn't cut the "faithful city" (Jerusalem) itself any slack. Notice the language of verse 21, "How is the faithful city become an harlot!" God frequently described Israel's worship of other gods as spiritual harlotry. In these verses, he describes their wickedness and their fall. Then, however, Isaiah begins to describe their restoration as the center of all the world's worship. While the time frame for these events were hidden to his original readers, we now know that the prophesied final fall took place in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24-25, see notes). We further now know that there was no restoration as Isaiah prophesied up to the present time. This restoration will not be realized until the yet-future time we know as the millennium, which follows the seven years of tribulation. Click here to see a "Guide to Prophetic Scripture." We'll see in Isaiah's writings a description of nearly everything prophetic including the first advent of Christ the Messiah, as well as his second return which is yet future to us.
A glimpse of the future Messianic Kingdom (Isaiah 2:1-5)
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Chapter 2 starts out in a promising fashion with a description of life under Messianic rule (the millennium). We see the conditions of the Messianic rule here in Isaiah's prophecy, but it is also in the following passages:
Click on the references to read the notes on each passage.
Interestingly, Micah 4:1-3 (see notes) are nearly identical to verses 2-4 of this passage. The cessation of war during the millennium is seen in verse 4, "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
6 Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:
8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:
9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.
10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty.
11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
12 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
13 And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,
14 And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up,
15 And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall,
16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.
19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;
21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?
While chapter 2 begins with a Messianic promise, it quickly turns bad, however, when we get to verse 6 where we realize that Judah has rejected that rule, leaving those verses (1-5) to be fulfilled after the coming of the Messiah. First, however, Isaiah outlines the coming destruction of Israel. We know from history that this destruction came in two phases - the Assyrians first conquering everything except Jerusalem in 722/721 B.C. (II Kings 17, see notes), and Jerusalem itself falling to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24-25, see notes). Isaiah lumps both phases into his term for judgment ("the day of the LORD") in verse 12. We should not make the mistake of associating this with the second coming of Jesus in Revelation 19:11-16 (see notes). The fall being described took place in Isaiah's day upon the people who had turned their backs upon God.
Isaiah's prophecy here describes the fall of Israel as an event that takes place all at one time in history - not two phases. That might cause concern for some, but consider this: Isaiah did see the comprehensive fall of Israel at one time, but later God rewarded faithful King Hezekiah (II Kings 19:1-7; Isaiah 37:1-7 - see notes) and spares Jerusalem from the Assyrian onslaught for over 100 years beyond Israel's demise before they fall to the Babylonians. God was longsuffering because of the faithfulness of Hezekiah, but the prophecy was ultimately fulfilled anyway.
1 For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water,
2 The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,
3 The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.
4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
5 And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.
6 When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:
7 In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.
8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory.
9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
10 Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
13 The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
14 The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
16 Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.
Here Isaiah describes the ultimate fall of Judah and the capital city, Jerusalem. What did Isaiah see? Note verse 3:8, "For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen:" It didn't happen until after Isaiah's death, but this vivid description of their fall did indeed come to pass. Notice that the corruption of Judah had even extended to the women of Judah ("daughters of Zion," 3:16-17). Isaiah doesn't save any words in describing the condition and fall of Judah in these two chapters. That fall would be to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24-25, see notes).
A note of explanation is in order here. All of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Assyrians in 722/721 B.C. At that time, the walled city of Jerusalem was spared. As the Assyrian Empire weakened over the next few decades, they lost their stronghold on the land, and Judah's King Josiah was able to regain some authority over both kingdoms beginning around 620 B.C. until his death in 609 B.C. (II Kings 23:1-20; II Chronicles 34:29-33 - see notes). As a matter of fact, it would appear that he had actually reunited the two kingdoms for this brief time. After Josiah's death, a series of four weak and evil kings were not able to hold the line in Judah resulting in their fall to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24-25, see notes).
Jerusalem is in deep trouble (Isaiah 4:1)
1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.
This verse is really the last verse of the discussion of Jerusalem's capture by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The influential men of Judah and Jerusalem were deported to Babylon and pagans were brought in to replace them. There would naturally have been a shortage of Jewish men for the women at that point in time, thus bringing about the scenario seen in verse 1.
Jerusalem, your day is coming (Isaiah 4:2-6)
2 In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.
3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:
4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.
5 And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
There is considerable discussion among Bible scholars regarding these verses. To us, are they history or prophecy? In other words, are these verses looking toward the beginning of the millennium or some previous period in Israel's history? The problem with assigning these verses to some previous period is that there is not a point in time where these requirements were all fulfilled. While it is curious that verse 1 concludes with the destruction of Jerusalem and verse 2 proceeds with a subsequent restoration, I still prefer the millennium view of fulfillment here. Jerusalem finally collapsed completely to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24-25, see notes), and the exiled inhabitants did begin returning to Jerusalem in 535 B.C. (Ezra 1, see notes). However, these returning exiles were still under Persian rule with restricted freedom. That situation does not seem sufficient to fulfill the conditions we see in these 5 verses. The yet-future millennium is the only time when we see verses 4-6 fulfilled per se. Therefore, it seems more consistent that we should not take anything in chapter 4 to be a reference to the return of the exiles in the sixth century B.C., but rather to the future millennium.