Isaiah 30 - 32
One Year Before the Siege of Jerusalem
Introduction to Chapters 30-35Chapter 30 can hardly be understood with out the historical context being well in mind. The great historical event of the defeat of the Assyrian army recorded in Isaiah 36-37 is predicted in these chapters in great detail. The historical background or chapter thirty needs to be well in mind, while reading it to understand the words of the chapter.
The following outline of historical events leading up to and including the siege and the final results are gleaned from: (1) historical portions of the scripture, (2) Classical historians who record the events: Josephus and Herodutus and others, (3) Isaiah's prophecies about the invasion of Judah and the siege of Jerusalem recorded in Isa; 10:28ff; 20:1ff; 22:15ff, and Isa 29-33. (4) historical events associated with the period recorded by Isaiah (Isa 36-39.) The documentation for each event outlined here will be found in the notes on these cited passages.
That the defeat of the Assyrian forces is what is spoken of in Isa 30 is seen in verse 31 (and in 31:8) which associates the descriptions of this chapter with the overwhelming defeat of the besieging Assyrian army under Sennacherib. There it says, "The Assyrian shall be beaten down." This chapter then , introduces all the prophecies contained in chapters 30 to 34 which were given immediately before Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem. (Only a little over a year before. See notes on 32:10 for the time of the prophecy.)
The historical context is this: Sennacherib's armies had taken most of the fenced cities of Judah and preparations were under way to begin the siege of Jerusalem if Hezekiah did not surrender. Shebna (see Isa 22:15ff) the former mayordomo or head of the king's household which would correspond to Prime Minister, was the major leader in getting the nobles to disregard the prophecies and advice of Isaiah; which advice was to remain calm and quiet within the city and to await YHWH's deliverance of the faithful. Hezekiah, in contrast to the rest of the nobles, believed the prophet and urged the people to trust in YHWH. Shebna and the nobles negotiated with the Egyptians to send military help and they sent large amounts of wealth to the Egyptians as a bribe but received only empty promises in return. Sennacherib, after capturing the rest of the cities of Judah around Lachish invaded Egypt after having first sent Rab-Shakah and Tartan with a large armed contingent to besiege Jerusalem. Sennacherib began his assault on Egypt and settled into a siege of the city of Pelusium on the eastern most delta of the Nile. The Egyptians while receiving the bribes from the Nobles in Jerusalem entered into lengthy negotiations with Sennacherib sending ambassadors from Zoan and Hanes, cities further up the Nile which incidentally had large Jewish settlements. After these conditions had gone on for some time Sennacherib's armies suffered from a plague of mice that swept through their encampments at Pelusium. One of the stunning results was that the mice ate the bow strings of the Assyrian soldiers making their weapons useless and forcing Sennacherib's withdrawal from Egypt.
In the meantime the siege of Jerusalem wore on and the news that no help was coming from Egypt moved Shebna to lead the unfaithful nobles to abandon their compatriots by a treacherous flight from the besieged city in order to save themselves. They were soon caught by the Assyrians and ironically were the only inhabitants of Jerusalem to go into Assyrian captivity as a result of this siege.
YHWH, through his prophets, had told the faithful to wait and that He Himself would deliver the city "not with the sword of man." (31:8) Sennacherib was not present when the "visitation" took place but arrived just afterward to see the results of a decimated army with the majority dead. The "visitation" that he missed was associated with eerie natural and supernatural phenomena,--pulsating, rhythmic vibrations, lights and sounds swept repeatedly back and forth in waves through the Assyrian camps and the result was a morning that dawned on 185,000 dead Assyrians. Sennacherib arrived as this juncture and gathered the remains of his army and returned to Assyria. A hiatus of more than 20 years free from the threat of Assyrian invasion resulted. A hugh funeral pyre of the 185,000 corpses was gathered into the Valley of Hinom where they were burned amid the jubilation of Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem who took the spoil of the Assyrian's goods. This is an outline of the predictions found in chapter 30.
Thus four chapters (30 to 33) are filled with predictions and poetic descriptions of events that came immediately before the siege and culminated in the end of the siege brought on by the mighty deliverance by direct intervention of YHWH. Chapters 34 and 35 which follow are flights into the future when Edom will have disappeared and the purpose for the Jewish nation will have been completed when the Messiah will come to complete the mission of the nation, which Isaiah has said is after the Babylonian captivity. He has already and will still make clear mention of the Babylonian captivity by further intricate and detailed predictions. Following that in chapters 36 and 37 Isaiah adds the actual history of the events here predicted so as to confirm them by comparing them with what these chapters presage. For further details please read the introduction to chapter 36.
1. Woe to the rebellious children, says the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: 2 That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. 4 For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.
Verse 4: Zoan and Hanes: These are both locations in Egypt connected with Pharaoh's forces. Zoan was a fortress not far from Pelusium in the eastern part of the Nile Delta where Herodotus says that Sennacherib was attempting to invade Egypt but was thwarted by a plague of mice which ate the bowstrings of his archers. See notes in the introduction to chapter 36.
5 They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach. 6 The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them. 7 For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
Verses 5-7: Fruitless dependence of Israeli nobles on the Egyptian alliance: The nobles of Jerusalem are described in very unflattering terms and the delivery of their wealth to Egypt and its uselessness is described in these verses. Egypt entered into negotiations with Sennacherib until his withdrawal from Egypt and did not draw battle lines with him nor pursue him on his way out of Egypt when he hoped to finish the siege of Jerusalem in his favor. That this did not materialize was in no way related to the uselessness of the hope the nobles placed on Egyptian salvation. "Their strength was to sit still" just as Isaiah predicted and warned. The Egyptians did not even send a relieving force to help the citizens of Pelusium who were being besieged. If the Egyptians were not going to save their own people when attacked, what hope was there that they would come to the aid of Jerusalem.
Verse 7: "Their strength was to sit still" The word "strength" in Hebrew is Rahab which is a synonym for Egyption pride and arrogance. Isaiah's use of "play on words" is well illustrated here. See other places where Rahab refers to Egypt under Isa 51:9.
8. Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
Verse 8: Write it in a book: so that there will be confirmation when the time comes to those who have lived through the period that YHWH had known the things that were to come to pass and that placing hope in the unrighteous was foolish indeed. With hindsight we can always see that it is best to put ones trust in YHWH and not in human deliverance but how weak we humans are is seen in the temptations that we still do not overcome and we put our trust in alliances and missiles which will surely be used as instruments of destruction against us at some point especially since our generation so perfectly matches the decline in prevailing morality and since our leaders produce the moral decline of the general population in the same way, by setting the examples for it. (See the comments on 32:1-9)
9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: 10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not to us right things, speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits: 11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. 12 Wherefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and are supported by them: 13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking comes suddenly at an instant. 14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water with it out of the pit.
Verses 10-14: Punishment of complete destruction will come on the unfaithful: Some commentators see this and similar warnings as unfulfilled because Jerusalem was delivered. But it was the faithful who were delivered and the unfaithful were eliminated. Their destruction was completed when they fled the city at the beginning of the siege. The next verses confirm this.
15 For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and you would not.
Verse 15: Wait and trust quietly in YHWH: Hezekiah believed this message and repeated the same instructions to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This was well known to the Assyrians who warned the population not to listen to the "foolish talk" of Hezekiah. The faith of Hezekiah, even though supported by a miracle of healing and the regression of the shadow on the sun dial, should not be minimized. He was a great example of faith even in the light of the signs he had already witnessed. (See notes on chapter 38 for the chronology of the healing events.)
16 But you said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall you flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
Verse 16: We will flee: The unfaithful rulers of the city fled and abandoned the people of Jerusalem when they were needed most in order to save themselves at the beginning of the siege. They were soon pursued by the Assyrians and easily captured and were taken to Assyria as captives. Ironically those who treacherously and traitorously fled were the only inhabitants of Jerusalem to suffer captivity during this siege. Those who followed Hezekiah's and Isaiah's instructions to "quietly wait" were delivered with a mighty hand.
17 One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall you flee: till you be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill. 18. And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious to you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy on you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. 19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: you shall weep no more: he will be very gracious to you at the voice of your cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not your teachers be removed into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your teachers:
Verses 17-20: Adversity is the teacher: Isaiah here gives the reasons for the delay in YHWH's intervention. After all He could have destroyed the Assyrians before the siege had reduced the city and its inhabitants to such distress and destruction. But the false teachers and unfaithful were exposed by the distress and their disloyalty was demonstrated which also demonstrated and confirmed the faithfulness of the faithful. They endured even in the face of what looked like certain death. Isaiah promised the deliverance and the result, that is, a revival of trust and in YHWH and consequent growth of righteousness and prosperity for the city for a long period, that is, most of the lifetime of those who had seen the siege. Incidentally Manasseh was born after this and did not himself experience the miracle. He just heard of it and obviously did not believe.
21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left. 22 You shall defile also the covering of your graven images of silver, and the ornament of your molten images of gold: you shall cast them away as a menstruous cloth; you shall say to it, Get out of here. 23 Then shall he give the rain of your seed, that you shall sow the ground with it; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall your cattle feed in large pastures. 24 The oxen likewise and the young asses that serve the ground shall eat clean provender, which has been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan. 25 And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the breach of his people, and heals the stroke of their wound.
Verses 21-26 Prosperity: These verses describe the prosperity due to the ones who endure this great trial and remain faithful. What follows for the rest of the chapter is a description of the actual events of the night of the plague that left 185,000 dead Assyrians and caused the departure of the Assyrian armies, never to return again for a generation.
27. Behold, the name of the LORD comes from far, burning with his anger, and the burden of it is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire: 28 And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err. 29 You shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goes with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel. 30 And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the coming down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.
Verse 30: hailstones: Hail is mentioned in 32:19 as an element in the destruction of Assyrian troops described in these verses.
31 For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, who struck with a rod.
Verse 31: The Voice of YHWH is to Strike: The LXX says here "the voice of the Lord will bring the Assyrians low by the plague with which he will beat them." Bringing them "low" or into humiliation of fear is mentioned again in verse 8 of the next chapter.
32 And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.
Verse 32: Grounded: Or rather "founded."The ASV has "appointed" and the Hebrew is from the word for foundation, (musadah, ) thus appointed staff is accurate. The staff of the LORD is "appointed" to strike the Assyrians and corresponds to the punishment that will leave 185,000 dead in their tents in one night. This "stroke" of the "rod" of punishment is described like a reverberation here as "passing over" the ones being punished and being laid on them by God. The recurring passing over is seen in the word tenuphah () which is the word for waving or wave offering. Do the musical instruments mentioned describe an eerie accompaniment of the angelic forces who visited Sennacherib's troops that night? There is also an apparent play on words in the text, the words for "tabret" and "Tophet" are the same. (See next verse.) As in most places where this literary mechanism is used the play on words affords difficulty in seeing the meaning in the literal translation. It is in these contexts that the LXX translators used the greatest latitude in translating and they do not disappoint us here. Their rendition of this verse is not remotely related to the literal translation of the verse in literal Hebrew.
"And he from whom was expected the hope of rescue shall be surrounded, by which (hope) he himself had been persuaded, and they themselves shall fight him in a revolution with tabrets and harps."
It is Herodotus who says that Sennacherib was not present when the plague struck, having sent his army under Rab Shakah to Jerusalem while he himself went on to Egypt and fought at Pelusium (see introductory notes for chapter 36) He returned from there due to a misfortune and the news that the Ethiopians were on the move. This may indicate that the news of his coming was some hope to those caught in this mystical calamity described in these verses.
33 For Tophet is ordained of old; yes, it is prepared for the king; he has made it deep and large: the pile of it is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it.
Verse 35: Tophet is prepared: Tophet is the valley near Jerusalem where idolaters burned their victims to Moloch. It takes little thought to realize that some one had to dispose of the 185,000 corpses which were in the proximity of the walls of Jerusalem. It would appear from this poetic verse that there was a huge pyre of death that filled the valley of Tophet and the bodies of the Assyrian army were burned there. Thus does Isaiah fill out the details that are not in the historical narratives. (See notes on 10:28-34 for another example of supplementing the historical record through the visions of Isaiah.)
Isaiah 311. Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and hope in horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!
Verse 1: The siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib is still the topic at the heart of these predictions as will be noted in verse 8 below where the fall of the "Assyrian" is mentioned again having been introduced in the last chapter . Thus the warning to avoid looking for help from Egypt is to be seen in this historical context. It may also be that Egypt was the straw on which Shebna was placing his trust. He may have tried to defect to the Egyptians and seek their help at this time when he was captured by the Assyrians instead, to his own and his family's disgrace. See chapter 22.
2 Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.
Verse 2: house of evil doers: The house of evil doers are those nobles who seek political answers by seeking an alliance with Egypt. The Egyptians who have accepted bribes are those who offer help.
3 Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helps shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.
Verse 3: He that helps and he that is helped: He that helps is Egypt who has been invited to fight against Assyria and save Jerusalem by the unfaithful leaders who are the ones helped by the flawed succorer. Both fail together.
4 For thus has the LORD spoken to me, as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds are called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion and its hill.
Verse 4: Come down....Zion: This is not a prophecy of a future event in our time as some myopic seers conclude. Zion is not only a symbol of the perfected state to which the nation should arrive when the Messiah has appeared, it is also a the name of a literal place. Here is described what the whole context has been referring to, that is, the tenacity of YHWH who is to deliver the city from what appears to be certain destruction by superior forces by direct intervention. YHWH will not be "run off" in the same way that a lion will not be run off from his kill by the noise of a crowd of people.
5 As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; in defending he will also deliver it; and in passing over he will preserve it.
Verse 5: Pass over: [pasoach] from "Pesach" meaning "The Passover" not the ordinary word for "passing over" which is ['a-vor]. "'A-vor" is used in verse 9 as "pass over" to describe the Assyrian retreat and return to their own land. The word "pesach" confers the same action by God that was carried out with the Israelites during the 10th plague of Egypt when the plague struck the Egyptians but the same plague which visited the whole area "passed over" the Hebrews. This word for "Passover" carries with it a pretermission of guilt and punishment, that is, a forgiveness before the transgression. The punishment is deserved but the "death angel" passed over. All the same eerie things accompanying the Egyptian Passover were experienced by the Israelites but not the plague which came with them. Thus, in the same way, the city would have seen and heard the miraculous visitation from heaven vividly described in the last few verses of chapter 30, which describes the visitation as being visible and audible.
6. Turn you to him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted. 7 For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made to you for a sin. 8 Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be enslaved.
Verses 8 and 9: There is a play on words here between this word translated "flee" (nas) in this verse and the word "ensign" (naes) in the next verse. As in verses like this where there is a play on words we expect to find the LXX to be at great variance with the Hebrew text because they properly understood that the "play on words" is mystical and contains more revelation than "meets the eye." The LXX translation of verse 9 is as follows: "They shall be captured with a stone or as with a pointed stick and they will be dismayed. The ones fleeing will be captured. Blessed is He who has a seed in Zion and a dwelling in Jerusalem." ("He" is YHWH) The translation does not correspond to the Hebrew text at all. Some had written me from a Hebrew forum in which I posted verses in Isaiah in which a "play on words" in the Hebrew text provided the "raison d'etre" for LXX translators to use great latitude in their translation in those verses containing this alliteration. I had proposed this, that is, that there is a mystical content in the use of Isaiah's "play on words" that can not be transmitted in translation which the LXX translators used as a license to vary greatly from the Hebrew text and give a broad interpretive translation rather than follow the text, to which if one were true to, would not render the IDEAS in the text if a word for word rendering were followed. In Isaiah 31:8 and 9 the play on words is on a homonym of n-s or nun samech translated "flee" in verse 8 and "ensign" in verse 9. Also because verse 9 is an obvious "Shekina" passage that adds even more to the mystical aspect of this particular passage. The subject of the discussion is the Assyrian king and his army who are to flee in humiliated fear. The KJV is very true to the Hebrew text and other versions (NASV, NIV, ASV, NIV, etc.) (although having great variety in 9a) are identical with the KJV in the rendering of 9b in spite of the fact that the Hebrew text could be seen differently: the word ordinarily translated "light" as in "let there be light" is translated consistently by all the aforementioned "fire." And in spite of the fact that 8 and 9 in the LXX could not remotely be seen to come from the Hebrew text. I have proposed that it is Isaiah's use of "play on words" that prompts the wide latitude of LXX translator because they properly considered them "mystical" and containing "more than meets the eye." I propose this as one reason (among several) that accounts for variation and latitude in the LXX rather than the simplistic assumption that the LXX is translated from a different text than the one we and the Qumran community used and are using. A similar example can be seen in verses 32 - 35 of the last chapter. A further comment: The LXX is said to have originated about 285 BC but at least a few are aware that there was a re-editing of the LXX by Jewish scholars about 100 years after Christ because some of the translation, particularly the book of Daniel was so faulty and far from the original text, that the revision of the text into Greek was necessary. It is this historical revision of the LXX that also adds weight to the arguments above since it is a text which was not pre-Qumran which Daniel and other portions which needed revision were being compared to.
9 And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, says the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.
Verse 9: Afraid of the ensign: The banner or ensign is a visible sign held aloft to which a force can rally. The ensign of Jerusalem in this case is the visible appearance of pulsating light that was associated with the plague that visited the Assyrian camp. it is similar to the "Shekina" glory of self enfolding fire described by Ezekiel.
Isaiah 32Introduction to Chapter 32:
Introduction to Chapter 32: This chapter opens with a contrast between the prevailing ethics that accompany a society when they have good in contrast to evil rulers. When the portion here was written the King, Hezekiah and a minority of citizens were deemed righteous but the majority of citizens were led by a ruling class that was not faithful to YHWH and they were self serving. The contrast is made between the prevailing good, which was to be the result from the visit of YHWH in the coming trouble when he delivered the city from the Assyrians by a miraculous intervention, and the current evil ethic that prevailed at the time of the prophecy. The description is made between what kind of a society is naturally produced when the ruling class is totally committed to godliness. Goodness filters down to the lowest citizen who becomes himself a bastion of righteousness. On the other hand when the ruling class is sinful and self serving the results also filter down to those who are ruled and there is a break down in society. This is described in the first 8 verses and then the women of Jerusalem are invited to a period of lamentation because all the blessings of a good society are lost. In this event however there is a removal of the evil ones and a revival of faith for at least a period (in the lifetime of the first hearers) which is to follow the miraculous deliverance to come.1. Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.
Verse 1: A king shall reign: It is all too obvious that a kingshall reign. But "how" is what is described. Almost all commentators make this a messianic allusion in Isaiah. It is quite possible therefore that the first part of this chapter to verse 8 is a messianic prophecy but I have doubts that that is so. The main reason is that this is introductory to the lamentation for coming hardship and loss of blessings which also contains a promise of a restoration of spiritual blessings for the faithful who will endure the period of extreme hardship. The idea that this is messianic makes the chapter and total section too fragmentary. It is more likely a description in contrasts and explanation of what is expected of the rulers in Zion and, if a prediction, is a forecast of the conditions which will accompany the revival of faith and the preeminence of blessings because of renewed faith in YHWH for a brief period of time for the "minority' who put their complete confidence in YHWH. The siege is still the major focus of the section and a return to this major theme of chapters 30 to 33, picturing the events preceding and during the siege, begins again in earnest in verses 9 and 10. This section (vss 1-8) describes the conditions as they ought to be. A king (ought to) reign in righteousness. the second part of the sentence (as a metered parallelism, i.e. poetry rather than prose) is grammatically supportive of this idea in that the original says "it is for rulers to rule with judgement." In other words A king should reign in righteousness and rulers ought to be just. The whole of chapter 35 is a preview of messianic times but probably not this section.
To support this view Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (#109) says: The jussive is used "to express a desire that something should or should not happen...its form frequently coincides with that of the ordinary imperfect." The verbs in this verse, "reign and rule" could easily be jussives here. Especially since according to Genesius (#48,f) "very frequently the form does not admit any alteration" from ordinary imperfects. The jussive expresses a "wish." Thus: "It is (proper) for a king to reign in righteousness and it is (proper) for rulers to rule with justice."
2 And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land.
Verse 2: a covert...a hiding place: This verse should carry on the subjunctive idea of the preceding verse of what ought to be, or might be, if the conditions of verse one are met; that is, that a climate of right and justice is the prevailing ethic. In that climate ordinary men will shelter (as concealing) the word of truth and it will prevail. The Hebrew word for a "covert" carries the idea of a secreted shelter from a storm or other raging elements. The word for "hiding place" has a construction that should be looked at because it does not seem to be properly translated. It may be possible to arrive at the word "from" as in "hiding place from the wind." But that is not the ordinary idiom connected with the construction. ke-machava' ruach (in construct) means literally "as a hiding place of the Spirit" or "a spiritual shelter." The next phrase (ve-sether zarem) "and a storm shelter" precedes the rest of the description of ordinary people when the king is righteous and rulers are just. They are as a river of water in Zion and as a shelter of a mighty rock in a thirsty land. In the LXX this verse is rendered "The man sheltering his words shall himself be sheltered as from mighty waters and he shall shine in Zion as a river bearing glory in a thirsty land." From the Hebrew these verses mean "When the king is righteous and the rulers just, an ordinary person is a spiritual haven and storm shelter and like a river of waters in Zion and as the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land."
3 And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall listen. 4 The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. 5 The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. 6 For the vile person will speak villainy, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. 7 The instruments also of the selfish are evil: he proposes wicked plans to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaks right. 8 But the generous man proposes noble things; and by generous things shall he stand. 9. Rise up, you women that are at ease; hear my voice, you careless daughters; give ear to my speech. 10 Within a year and a few days you shall be troubled, you careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.
Verse 10: Within a year and a few days: This dates the entire section of prophecy from at least chapter 30 to 35 and may also include chapters 28 and 29. These predictions came a year before the loss of all blessings, which would be seen when Rab-Shakah and Tartan arrived with Sennacherib's army to begin the siege of Jerusalem and introduce the activities described beginning in the next verse and continuing on to the end of the chapter.
11 Tremble, you women that are at ease; be troubled, you who are without care: strip yourself, and make yourself bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins.
Verses 10 - 11: A little more than a year ...will be carefree: Verse 10 is not translated properly in the KJV and the rest of the modern translations have showed the idea present here. That is, that Isaiah was predicting the end of the life of ease for Jerusalem to begin in a little more than a year. Thus these prophecies from chapter 30 to 35 were uttered just a year before the beginning of the siege.
Verse 11: "Make yourself bare" Lit. nude" See comments in qumran scroll on a different reading for "nude"
12 They shall lament for the breasts, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.
Verses 11-14: Lamenting Breasts: 'Al shadayim sophdiym The phrase is a noun modified by a participle used as an adjective, not verbally. Thus it gives a picture of breasts being beaten upon. The train of thought begun in verse 11 where women are addressed in particular continues through verse 14. Throughout as with the use of " 'al" in 'al shadayim above. The use of the particle ('al) is used to introduce each successive element that is to be debased in spite of it then being taken for granted. by women at ease and with not a care in the world. Also Isaiah uses present participles to picture conditions in a realm of continuous action in the current time of his hearers. These conditions or elements are: the well dressed bodies to be stripped to the sackcloth-girdled loins, the breasts filled with remorse, the fruitful fields filled with thorns and weeds, the now languid vineyards, festive houses and a jubilant city to be bedimmed, and unkempt by the same thorns and weeds, the palaces of lesser rulers are desolate because of the flight of the rulers, and the places of assembly are empty.. The scene describes the city of Jerusalem just before and during the arrival of Sennacherib's army and the decline into despair which followed their appearance.
13 Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yes, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: 14 Because the palaces shall be abandoned; the crowds of the city shall be forsaken; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;
Verses 10-14: This ends the description of the despair and chaos accompanying the siege and what follows is the result of the miraculous victory due to the intervention of YHWH.
15 Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. 16 Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. 17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. 18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
Verses 15-18: Return to Righteousness: With the destruction of the Assyrian forces and the elimination of the self serving ruling class who had abandoned the citizenry in the time of their greatest need there was a revival of the faithful in the city described as a pouring out of the Holy Spirit which sounds very much like a New Testament motif. It is surprising to see this here in Isaiah and although it needs no explanation to a "trinitarian" it should pose a problem for the Jewish mind. The Spirit being poured from on high refers to revival and not to the miraculous visitation which decimated the Assyrian armies. The removal of the unfaithful rulers was marked by a return to righteousness as the prevailing social ethic for at least the rest of the reign of Hezekiah and into the reign of Hezekiah's son Manasseh. Due to the "fallout" of the righteousness of Hezekiah's reign and even though Manasseh's reign is marked with a return to idolatry and evil the return of the Assyrian invader was not experienced again until the latter part of his 52 year reign. Essarhaddon took him captive to Assyria but he was returned and repentant at the end of his life but the damage he inflicted on the nation during the period of his sinfulness was never removed until the purging of the Babylonian captivity.
19 In the midst of extreme hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.
Verse 19: Hail....forest: This verse deserves a comment of its own even though falling into this section describing the revival of faith in the city after the destruction of the Assyrian army. As it is in this section it refers also to the destruction of Assyrian troops. The "hail" coming down has already been described (30:30,31) as part of the natural phenomena coupled with the pulsating, vibrating, reciprocating lights and eerie musical sounds that were present at the time of the Assyrian destruction. The location is given here. That is, their tents were in the forests that surrounded Jerusalem and the lightning and hail were a part of the elements of destruction.
20 Blessed are you that sow beside all waters, that send forth there the feet of the ox and the ass
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