Major Prophets – Isaiah 2-4

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.
You, Lord, have abandoned your people,
    the descendants of Jacob.
They are full of superstitions from the East;
    they practice divination like the Philistines
    and embrace pagan customs.
Their land is full of silver and gold;
    there is no end to their treasures.
Their land is full of horses;
    there is no end to their chariots.
Their land is full of idols;
    they bow down to the work of their hands,
    to what their fingers have made.
So people will be brought low
    and everyone humbled—
    do not forgive them.
Go into the rocks, hide in the ground
    from the fearful presence of the Lord
    and the splendor of his majesty!
The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled
    and human pride brought low;
the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
The Lord Almighty has a day in store
    for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted
    (and they will be humbled),
for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty,
    and all the oaks of Bashan,
for all the towering mountains
    and all the high hills,
for every lofty tower
    and every fortified wall,
for every trading ship
    and every stately vessel.
The arrogance of man will be brought low
    and human pride humbled;
the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
    and the idols will totally disappear.
People will flee to caves in the rocks
    and to holes in the ground
from the fearful presence of the Lord
    and the splendor of his majesty,
    when he rises to shake the earth.
In that day people will throw away
    to the moles and bats
their idols of silver and idols of gold,
    which they made to worship.
They will flee to caverns in the rocks
    and to the overhanging crags
from the fearful presence of the Lord
    and the splendor of his majesty,
    when he rises to shake the earth.
Stop trusting in mere humans,
    who have but a breath in their nostrils.
    Why hold them in esteem?

  • Isaiah 2:1-22

See now, the Lord,
    the Lord Almighty,
is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah
    both supply and support:
all supplies of food and all supplies of water,
    the hero and the warrior,
the judge and the prophet,
    the diviner and the elder,
the captain of fifty and the man of rank,
    the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.
“I will make mere youths their officials;
    children will rule over them.”
People will oppress each other—
    man against man, neighbor against neighbor.
The young will rise up against the old,
    the nobody against the honored.
A man will seize one of his brothers
    in his father’s house, and say,
“You have a cloak, you be our leader;
    take charge of this heap of ruins!”
But in that day he will cry out,
    “I have no remedy.
I have no food or clothing in my house;
    do not make me the leader of the people.”
Jerusalem staggers,
    Judah is falling;
their words and deeds are against the Lord,
    defying his glorious presence.
The look on their faces testifies against them;
    they parade their sin like Sodom;
    they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
    They have brought disaster upon themselves.
Tell the righteous it will be well with them,
    for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.
Woe to the wicked!
    Disaster is upon them!
They will be paid back
    for what their hands have done.
Youths oppress my people,
    women rule over them.
My people, your guides lead you astray;
    they turn you from the path.
The Lord takes his place in court;
    he rises to judge the people.
The Lord enters into judgment
    against the elders and leaders of his people:
“It is you who have ruined my vineyard;
    the plunder from the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people
    and grinding the faces of the poor?”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
The Lord says,
    “The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
    flirting with their eyes,
strutting along with swaying hips,
    with ornaments jingling on their ankles.
Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion;
    the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.
Instead of fragrance there will be a stench;
    instead of a sash, a rope;
instead of well-dressed hair, baldness;
    instead of fine clothing, sackcloth;
    instead of beauty, branding.
Your men will fall by the sword,
    your warriors in battle.
The gates of Zion will lament and mourn;
    destitute, she will sit on the ground.

  • Isaiah 3:1-26

In that day seven women
    will take hold of one man
and say, “We will eat our own food
    and provide our own clothes;
only let us be called by your name.
    Take away our disgrace!”
In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

  • Isaiah 4:1-6

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Isaiah 2:1-5 ‘in the last days’: “The phrase ‘in the last days’ is an expression used by the prophets to refer to an unspecified future time. While some commentators suggest that it is an apocalyptic phrase referring to the new age at the end of history, it seems for Isaiah to refer to a time within history. As we shall see, throughout this book the prophet is consistent in seeing God’s activity as occurring within history. His vision of the future is eschatological rather than apocalyptic in tone.
“The Hebrew people were a people of irrepressible hope. In the midst of devastation the prophet is able to see a day when God’s design for his people will indeed come to pass. These verses find their parallel in Mic 4:1-3. The mountain of God, that is, Mount Zion, the place of Jerusalem and the temple, will be exalted, and the peoples of the earth will be drawn to it. God’s law will reign supreme, and there will be an era of peace. He ends the vision with a call to his people to walk in the light of the Lord.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 2:6-22 ‘imminent judgment’: “Alas, while the call was to walk in the light, the people of Judah have abandoned the light of God. Instead of relying on Yahweh, they have looked to foreign powers for their aid. With the aid has come the corresponding superstitions and religious practices of those countries.
“In this chapter we see a dramatic and powerful display of the literary prowess of the prophet. Note how he plays on the theme of elevation and being brought low to the ground and even below the ground (v.10). This alternating relationship is summarized in v.11: ‘The pride of men [will be] brought low; [and] the Lord alone will be exalted.’
“The Lord’s Day of Judgment will be the great reversal. All that is currently exalted through pride will be humbled, and God alone will be lifted up. The artist conveys his image with particular force by references to the lofty cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan, towering mountains, lofty towers, and trading ships (vv.13-16). Then again, the refrain is repeated: Man in his arrogant pride will be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted.
“When God comes forth in judgment, arrogant men will simply be disposed of (vv.19-22). Therefore, the prophet concludes, why trust these foreign powers who are ever so transitory when you can trust in Almighty God? (This is the heart of Isaiah’s contention with Ahaz in ch. 7.)”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 2:12 ‘The day of the Lord.’: “The uncontested phrase ‘Day of the LORD’ appears nineteen times in the OT (Obad. 15; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Is. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Zeph. 1:7, 14; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5) and four times in the NT (Acts 2:20; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:10) to express the time of God’s extreme wrath. The Day of the Lord can refer to a near, future judgment (Ezek. 13:5; 30:3) or a far, future judgment (Zech. 14:1; 2 Thess. 2:2). Two Day of the Lord expressions yet remain to be fulfilled: (1) at the end of Daniel’s seventieth week (see Joel 3:14; Mal. 4:5; 1 Thess. 5:2) and (2) at the end of the Millennium (see 2 Pet. 3:10). The Day of the Lord can occur through providential means (Ezek. 30:3) or directly at the hand of God (2 Pet. 3:10). At times, the near fulfillment (Joel 1:15) prefigures the far fulfillment (Joel 3:14); on other occasions, both kinds of fulfillment are included in one passage (13:6, 9; Zeph. 1:7, 14). Here, Isaiah looks to the far fulfillment at the end of the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 2:13 ‘cedars of Lebanon … oaks of Bashan’: “The cedars and oaks were objects of great admiration to people of OT times (Pss. 92:12; 104:16; Ezek. 27:6; 31:3). Yet, even these impressive created objects would face destruction because of human rebellion.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 2:17 ‘be humble or be humbled’: “This is a case of when God visits a nation with terrible judgments. When the Jews were led away captive into Babylon, the great men of the land were bound in chains and treated as common slaves. And as they marched across the weary wilderness, the iron entered into their souls. Then was the loftiness of their spirit bowed down; and the pride of the king, who laughed at the prophet, was laid low. God has wondrous ways of making people feel they are but dust, but when nothing else can serve his turn, he will sweep away whole dynasties, as one removes an anthill when it has become a nuisance. One of the greatest works of grace in the heart is to humble our pride.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 2:19 ‘holes of the rocks … caves of the earth.’: “Revelation 6:12, 15, 16 uses this passage and 2:21 to describe man’s flight from the terrors of Tribulation during the period before Christ’s personal return to earth. This shows that the final fulfillment of this prophecy will be during Daniel’s seventieth week.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 2:22 ‘sever yourselves’: “This calls readers to stop depending on other humans and to trust only in God, who alone is worthy.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 3:1-4:1 ‘The future day of judgment is now.’: “Starvation and social anarchy rule. This section seems to reflect the actual state of affairs that existed in 701 b.c. during Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem. Indeed there was little food and water left in Jerusalem during the siege (v.1). It was a time of panic, terror, and related social chaos. Society has dissolved to the point where only children are willing to govern (v.4). In reality, the situation was so horrendous that no one wanted to govern (vv.5-7).
“Like the composer of a great symphony, the prophet/poet returns to earlier themes to present them in a slightly different light. He reminds the people of Judah that the current judgment is a result of their sins against Yahweh (vv.8-15). Again the parallel with Sodom is drawn. As in 1:18-19, the contrasting features of the righteous and the wicked are indicated (vv.10-11).
V.12 is difficult. It may be, as some have suggested, that it refers to a child king and queen mother. One suspects, rather, because of the context, that the references are intended to be derogatory terms suggesting that the current leaders were in fact weaklings.
“Indeed, subsequent verses demonstrate that the reason the Lord rises to judge his people is because the leaders and rulers have not acted in good faith. Rather, they have ruined God’s people (vineyard is a term often employed to refer to Judah/Israel; see below on 5:1-7). They have exploited the poor. In short, they have failed to seek justice. (1:17).
“The haughtiness of the women of Jerusalem is excoriated (3:16-4:1). In stark contrast to the crushed and helpless poor are the overbearing, wealthy women of Jerusalem. God’s judgment will surely come to them. Note the striking contrast of v.24:
Instead of fragrance, there will be stench;
Instead of a sash, a rope;
Instead of well-dressed hair, baldness;
Instead of fine clothing, sackcloth;
Instead of beauty, branding.
“These are the terms of exile, an exile that would one day come.
“Then the prophet combines, as it were, the tragic sorrow of these devastated individual women into one symbolic whole with the reference to a feminized Zion, who, destitute, sits on the ground and mourns (v.26).
In that day of devastation, so many of the men of Judah will be killed that there will be only one man for every seven women. And they, who once exhibited such arrogant pride will beg of that man simply to let them be called by his name and take away their disgrace.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 3:8 ‘Jerusalem … Judah’: “The fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. was only a partial fulfillment of this prophecy. The final fulfillment awaits the times just prior to Christ’s Second Coming. against the LORD. The root of Zion’s problem surfaces—overt rebellion against the Lord. The people sinned shamelessly; they made no effort to conceal it (3:9).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 3:10-11 ‘righteous and wicked’: “Two classes are mentioned here, the righteous and the wicked. Into these two orders the Scriptures are accustomed to divide the whole population of the globe. It speaks but little of upper and lower classes; it says but little concerning the various ranks into which civil and political institutions have divided the human race; but from its first page to its last, it is taken up with this grand division: the righteous and the wicked. Early in human history we find the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. We also meet with Cain, who was of that wicked one and killed his brother because his own works were evil and his brother’s were righteous. While the deluge destroys the ungodly, Noah floats in the ark in security as the representative of the righteous; and when the destroying angel kills the rebellious Egyptians, Israel feasts in safety on the Passover. The two divisions of the human race have always been in existence and at enmity. Israel was oppressed in Egypt, attacked by Amalekites in the wilderness, set back by foes in Canaan, and carried away captive into Assyria or Babylon. In the nation of Israel itself the heart of the people was depraved by an idolatrous seed and at length eaten out by the hypocrisy of a generation of vipers who were of Israel but were not the Lord’s chosen. In our own age, when the church of God is found among the Gentiles, we see still the broad mark of distinction between those who fear the Lord and those who do not. The line of nature and the line of divine grace run on the same as ever; the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent still contend with each other.
“And it is not the intent of God in his providence that the line of demarcation should be withdrawn. He would not have his people enter into alliance with the camp of evil but to come out from among them and be separate. Nonconformity, in its spiritual sense, is the duty of every Christian. ‘Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rm 12:2). The flood came on the world when the sons of God were united with the daughters of men, and unholy alliances between the church and the world provoked God to the highest possible degree. He will have the distinction maintained between the precious and the vile till time will be no more. God of old divided light from darkness; the light he called day, and the darkness he called night; and he will not have us call light darkness or darkness light.
“A crimson line runs between the righteous and the wicked, the line of the atoning sacrifice. Faith crosses that line, but nothing else can. Faith in the precious blood is the great distinction at the root, and all those divine graces that spring out of faith go to make the righteous more and more separate from the ungodly world, who not having the root, do not have the fruit.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 3:14 ‘vineyard’: “The spoiling of the vineyard by the leaders amounts to their inequities in ruling the nation. Isaiah gave a more detailed comparison of God’s people to a vineyard in 5:1-7.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 3:16 ‘daughters of Zion’: “When women cultivate beauty for beauty’s sake, they thereby reflect the moral decay of the nations and detract from the glory of God. Rather than emphasizing outward apparel and activities (vv. 16-24), women should cultivate the beauty of the inner person (1 Tim. 2:9, 10; 1 Pet. 3:3, 4). Mincing as they go. Ornamental chains about the ankles necessitated shorter steps and produced tinkling sounds to attract attention.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 4:2-6 ‘The purging leads to blessing.’: “We saw in ch. 2 that the prophet established a contrapuntal relationship between the themes of elevation and demotion on a grand scale throughout the book. The same is true of the themes of judgment and blessing. The book begins on a note of judgment, but ch. 2 opens with a vision of blessing (vv.1-5). This is followed by a graphic depiction of judgment (2:6-4:1). But once again the prophet reiterates the theme of blessing. Similar themes of blessing appear in 9:1-7 and 11:1-12:6.
“Most critical scholars consider these portions that refer to future blessing to be later postexilic additions. Little evidence is available to support this, and it destroys Isaiah’s intention. He has carefully woven the two themes together to show that even though Yahweh’s judgment must surely come because of their disobedience, just as surely Yahweh will never forsake them but will restore and rescue them. Always in the midst of devastation there remained a vision of hope. This legacy Isaiah gave to his people and to all of us who are his spiritual descendants.
“In this specific text Isaiah looks beyond the imminent devastation to a beautiful and glorious future. He mentions a remnant, that is, those who are left (shear, v.3). This is the first reference in Isaiah to the holy remnant or righteous remnant.
“Note in vv.5 and 6 the allusions to the Exodus/Sinai experience when the children of Israel were led by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night and when God’s presence was symbolized by the presence of the cloud that covered the Tent of Meeting.”

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 4:1 ‘seven women … one man’: “In the day of the Lord (see note on 2:12), He will judge wicked women indirectly by allowing a slaughtering of males, thereby producing a shortage of husbands.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 4:2 ‘Branch’: “This messianic title occurs also in Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12. The thought behind the title relates to 2 Samuel 23:5, that of growth. The life of the Branch will bear spiritual fruit (cf. John 15:4, 5).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 4:3 ‘he who is left … holy’: “Holy or ‘set apart’ is another way of describing the remnant who will inherit God’s prosperity in that day (cf. 1:9, 27; 3:10).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 4:5-6 ‘covering … tabernacle’: “The future inhabitants of Jerusalem will enjoy the Lord’s protective covering over the glory on Mt. Zion. This recalls Ezekiel’s prophecy of the return of the Shekinah to the temple (Ezek. 43:2-5).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)


My Thoughts

Isaiah starts Isaiah 2 with a prophecy of the millennium reign of Jesus, as it seems this could not be the case in any other context.  Nations will come to the mountain of the Lord to worship.  There will be no war, yet there will be one last battle.  When Satan is released from the Abyss, Satan will deceive many and attack.  When he loses that battle, he and his followers will be cast into the lake of fire.

And the discussion of the Day of the Lord focuses on the arrogant being judged.  The proud will be brought low.  People will hide from God in caves.  And Isaiah 2:22 is a profound summary and an indictment upon the secular world today.  There is no human being, except Jesus Christ who is also fully God, that we could ever trust, yet, we zealously go to the voting booth thinking that the person we vote for can be trusted.  At the same time, we hear that wars can only be resolved by government structures.   Climate change is a global thing, yet no one suggests going to the Creator of the World.  No, people have the answer for something that they do not fully understand, what little “science” that is applied is wishy-washy, and the solutions are the latest frantic guesses.  Yet, WE TRUST THEM??!?!?!?!

And when they talk of youth taking over and women ruling, this is not specifically a male-centric comment, but it shows a total distrust of the status quo and the people in charge.  There is no honor at this stage of the End Times.  But are we not already there?  The shining, and borderline crazy, stars among the Socialists are the young ones.  The very word “parent” is being expunged from many vocabularies as outdated and part of the “old system.”  In many ways, we are seeing the prophecy of Isaiah 3 in the world now.  Even to the point of many women shaving their heads and going “bald.”

Then an odd poem starts Isaiah 4.  Seven women will beg one man to give them a last name?  I like Rev. MacArthur’s explanation of that.  Odd that the men are dead, other than after a global war.  In China, their failed attempt in population control was for each family to have only one child, but the concept of a firstborn son was so strong, female children, yet unborn, were aborted.  A fresh do-over until they were about to have a boy.  But then, with most people doing that, where are the women for these men to marry?  In the End Times, it is reversed, either by a global war or a disease that targets men.

And Isaiah 4, a very short chapter, ends with the discussion of a “branch.”  As Rev. MacArthur discusses, this could be Messianic, but the “Branch” looks more like the remnant of Israel during the millennium reign.  The true “Branch” is the shoot from the root of Jesse.  Only Jesus is to be praised.  Only Jesus can resolve the issues of the day, as the Isaiah 2 discussion of the mountain of the Lord suggests.

Jesus as the mediator and ruler tends to provide bookends to these three chapters.  Isaiah starts off strong, before he ever writes about how he was called by God to be a prophet.

-Some Serendipitous Reflections

“Isaiah 2:1-5, the mountain of the Lord: 1. Which of your swords and spears (mean streak? angry outbursts? cutting tongue?) has God transformed into tools for peace?
“2. What does the New Testament make of Isaiah’s vision? Did, or will, Jesus inaugurate this era of peace? If so, when will it be consummated? Why do you think so?
“3. How might this vision of God’s kingdom shape your hope? Prayers? Values? Your group’s agenda?”
2:6-22, the Day of the Lord: 1. Despite the rise of the ‘New Age movement’, (occultism, witchcraft, etc.), what should be a Christian’s response to these things? Why does God consider them so dangerous for us?
“2. Some live as if ‘the one with the most toys in the end wins.’ What would Isaiah say to that pop slogan? In the conflict between serving God or money (v.7;see Mt 6:24), which seems to be winning in your life this week? Why?
“3. The proud, arrogant people are condemned in powerful images relevant to Isaiah’s day (vv.13-16). If Isaiah wrote this prophecy today, what symbols would he use? How do we ‘trust in man’ today?
“4. Isaiah anticipated that God’s judgment would come via Assyria and, later, Babylon. John (in Rev 6:15-16) alludes to Isaiah‘s imagery as an apt description of the coming worldwide judgment of God. What do you need to change, so that you will not be one who is trying to hide from the Lord ‘in that day’?

“Isaiah 3-4, judgment: 1. What examples come to mind of how poor people in your world are oppressed by ‘legal’ means? For example, is it fair that inner city schools are generally inferior to suburban schools? ls busing the answer? Why or why not’?
“2. How do you see the haughty, self-centered attitudes (vv.16ff) reflected in men and women around you? How does their idea of beauty compare with that of 1 Peter 3:3-4? Do you think such inner beauty applies to men, as well?
“3. How have you tried to develop this inner beauty on your own? How has God’s discipline of you led to growth and purity?
“4. The ‘Branch of the Lord’ theme used by Jesus (see Jn 15:1-5), as well as by other prophets (see Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12). How does Jesus‘ use of it differ from the way Isaiah uses it here? What does that say about who the true Branch of the Lord is? How do we become part of the branch?

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There are three sets of questions for these three chapters as stated above.

Note: These questions cover both literal and allegorical interpretations.  And some of the answers may be tough to say out loud in a small group unless you trust each other completely.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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