Major Prophets – Isaiah 31-33

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
    who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
    and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
    or seek help from the Lord.
Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster;
    he does not take back his words.
He will rise up against that wicked nation,
    against those who help evildoers.
But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God;
    their horses are flesh and not spirit.
When the Lord stretches out his hand,
    those who help will stumble,
    those who are helped will fall;
    all will perish together.
This is what the Lord says to me:
“As a lion growls,
    a great lion over its prey—
and though a whole band of shepherds
    is called together against it,
it is not frightened by their shouts
    or disturbed by their clamor—
so the Lord Almighty will come down
    to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.
Like birds hovering overhead,
    the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem;
he will shield it and deliver it,
    he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it.”
Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against. For in that day every one of you will reject the idols of silver and gold your sinful hands have made.
“Assyria will fall by no human sword;
    a sword, not of mortals, will devour them.
They will flee before the sword
    and their young men will be put to forced labor.
Their stronghold will fall because of terror;
    at the sight of the battle standard their commanders will panic,”
declares the Lord,
    whose fire is in Zion,
    whose furnace is in Jerusalem.

  • Isaiah 31:1-9

See, a king will reign in righteousness
    and rulers will rule with justice.
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
    and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
    and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
    and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The fearful heart will know and understand,
    and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
No longer will the fool be called noble
    nor the scoundrel be highly respected.
For fools speak folly,
    their hearts are bent on evil:
They practice ungodliness
    and spread error concerning the Lord;
the hungry they leave empty
    and from the thirsty they withhold water.
Scoundrels use wicked methods,
    they make up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
    even when the plea of the needy is just.
But the noble make noble plans,
    and by noble deeds they stand.
You women who are so complacent,
    rise up and listen to me;
you daughters who feel secure,
    hear what I have to say!
In little more than a year
    you who feel secure will tremble;
the grape harvest will fail,
    and the harvest of fruit will not come.
Tremble, you complacent women;
    shudder, you daughters who feel secure!
Strip off your fine clothes
    and wrap yourselves in rags.
Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
    for the fruitful vines
and for the land of my people,
    a land overgrown with thorns and briers—
yes, mourn for all houses of merriment
    and for this city of revelry.
The fortress will be abandoned,
    the noisy city deserted;
citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever,
    the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,
till the Spirit is poured on us from on high,
    and the desert becomes a fertile field,
    and the fertile field seems like a forest.
The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,
    his righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
    its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
    in secure homes,
    in undisturbed places of rest.
Though hail flattens the forest
    and the city is leveled completely,
how blessed you will be,
    sowing your seed by every stream,
    and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

  • Isaiah 32:1-20

For a link to Isaiah 33:1-24, press HERE.

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Isaiah 31 ‘woe to those who look to Egypt’: Ch. 31 restates the message of ch. 30 and conveys the similar elements of (1) a warning against misplaced trust (vv.1-3), (2) the promise of God’s deliverance (vv.4-5), (3) an appeal to the people to return to God and cast away their idols (vv.6-7), and (4) a portrayal of the impending destruction of Assyria (vv.8-9).

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 31:1 ‘horses … chariots’: “Egypt’s horses and chariots were numerous (1 Kin. 10:28, 29). Its flat topography was well suited for chariotry. They would be useful to Israel against the Assyrian cavalry Nor seek the LORD. What made Israel’s turning to Egypt most despicable was her accompanying turning away from the Lord.”

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

Isaiah 31:2 ‘He also is wise’: “Sarcastically, Isaiah countered the unwise royal counselors who had advised dependence on Egypt. will not call back His words. The implied exception is, of course, when the sinful nation repented, as in the case of Nineveh (Jon. 3:5—10).”

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

Isaiah 31:7 ‘throw away his idols’: “The obvious helplessness of the idols to deliver rendered them completely useless.”

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

Isaiah 31:8-9 ‘Assyria shall fall’: “The defeat of Assyria by other-than-human means matched this prophecy well (see 37:36, 37), but other such foreign oppressors meet the same fate in the distant future of Israel, during the time of Jacob’s trouble (cf. Jer. 30:7).
fire is in Zion . . . furnace is in Jerusalem. Both in Isaiah’s near future and in the distant future, Jerusalem will be God’s headquarters for bringing judgment on foreign nations. God Himself is the fire, waiting for all the enemies who attack Jerusalem.”

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

Isaiah 32:1-8 ‘Reign of the Righteous King’: “In this chapter, Isaiah reveals more details about the messianic kingdom. Verses 1-8 anticipate a good king and government. This government will consist of a righteous king who will reign in righteousness—the Messiah Himself (verse 1). This affirms the prophecies in Isaiah 9:6-7 and Jeremiah 23:5-6. The ‘princes’ mentioned in this verse are members of the messianic kingdom who will rule in justice. For Israel to have a righteous king and righteous princes will be quite different from the nation’s past experiences with kings and rulers who were not just or righteous. Isaiah goes on to mention three results of this righteous reign: People will become a source of security rather than danger (verse 2); the hardening and blindness of Israel will end, and instead of hearing stammering tongues, the people will hear clear communication of spiritual truth (verses 3-4); and the people will have a proper valuation of humanity (verses 5-8), in which fools will no longer be called noble but instead, will be removed from the land.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Isaiah 32:1-2 ‘Hezekiah or Jesus?’: “The historical context oi this passage refers to Hezekiah and to other good kings who were the means of great blessings to the declining kingdom of Judah. We can scarcely be thankful enough for a righteous government. If for a few years we could feel the yoke of despotism, we would better appreciate the joys of freedom. This passage praises a king who will reign in righteousness and rulers who will reign in judgment. Such rulers are the protectors of the nation, enriching it by commerce and blessing it with peace. They deserve honor, and the Word of God renders it to them.
“But these expressions have a higher reference.  They appear to me to be far too full of meaning to be primarily or solely intended for Hezekiah or any other mere man. These words can scarcely be limited only to Hezekiah and his princes. Surely the words are also applicable to Jesus Christ; they can never be fully understood until they are applied to his ever blessed and adorable person. At any rate, if a king who rules in righteousness brings so much blessing on his people, then Jesus, who is peculiarly the King of righteousness, must bring these blessings in the highest conceivable degree. Therefore, these expressions are, beyond all possibility of exaggeration, applicable in their widest sense to him, to the one this day we delight to hail as Lord of all. When we apply the language of the whole verse to the Lord Jesus Christ, we are struck with a number of the metaphors, especially that Jesus Christ is a flowing stream of abounding grace. But he is more so to those who are the most dry. The poor seek alms, the sick seek the physician, and the one who is drowning seeks a lifeboat. Similarly, Christ will be dearer to you in the proportion that you have less and less esteem of yourself.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 32:5 ‘foolish person … generous … miser … beautiful’: “In the future earthly kingdom envisioned by Isaiah, false appraisals of leadership qualities will be impossible, because everyone will see and speak clearly.”

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

Isaiah 32:6-8 ‘foolish person … generous man’: “An unwillingness to care for the needy reflects the character of a fool, but the generous person in dependence on God provides for the poor. These qualities will be evident to everyone in the age to come.”

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

Isaiah 32:9-14 ‘complacent women’: Before the messianic vision can be fulfilled there must first come judgment (vv.9-14). For some reason, Isaiah singles out complacent women as recipients of God’s judgment, as he did in 3:16-4:1. Surely, they, in their unrecognized vulnerability, are fulfilling a representative role. The impending disaster and devastation will destroy the land, terminate the merriment, and cause great mourning.
“But this portrayal of destruction is interrupted by a return to the messianic vision of the opening verses of this chapter. Peace and security will come at last to the people.

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 32:9 ‘at ease … complacent’: “At ease translates the word rendered “quiet” and “complacent,” the word rendered “secure” in verse 18. The difference between the bad senses here and the good senses in verse 18 is the object of trust, Egypt or God. Quiet and security in God are proper.”

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

Isaiah 33:1-6 ‘The Coming Assyrian Invasion’: “While some commentators claim Isaiah 33 was fulfilled in the Assyrian invasion, literal interpretation shows that the invasion did not do all that the passage requires. Thus, the passage suggests one of the biblical names for the Antichrist—the Assyrian, upon whom a woe was pronounced. While the first five woes of this segment were against Judah and Jerusalem, this one is against a Gentile leader and nation. The treacherous Assyrian who made covenants that he did not intend to keep will now himself be betrayed and destroyed. Verse 2 describes the prayer of the remnant asking God to be gracious unto them; they realize they are asking an unmerited favor. They are praying for their salvation in the time of trouble and asking to be delivered from physical endangerment. God’s answer comes in verses 3-6, promising a dispersion of the invading army (verse 3), a plundering of the enemy (verse 4), and the coming of the messianic kingdom (verses 5-6).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Isaiah 33:6, 7-9 ‘fear of the Lord’: “The same Spirit-imparted qualification possessed by the Messiah (11:2) will belong to His people when He returns.
“From the vision of future glory, Isaiah returns to the disastrous present. Jerusalem’s situation was hopeless when, in 701 B.C., the Assyrian army had the city surrounded and was ready to move in.”

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

Isaiah 33:10 ‘Now I will rise’: “When the oppressor’s power had reached its zenith, the time had arrived for the Lord to assert Himself in judging the plunderer; in Isaiah’s case, it was the Assyrian troops.”

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

Isaiah 33:14-15 ‘the devouring fire’: “Go to the book of Isaiah: ‘Above [the throne] stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly’ (6:2). There wasn’t any of the flippancy that we see now. There wasn’t any tendency to try to be funnier than a clown. There was a sense of Presence, and the holy creatures covered their feet. Why? They covered their feet in modesty, and they covered their face in worship, and they used their other wings to fly. These were the seraphim; they’re called ‘fiery burners.’ Then there is Ezekiel, chapter 1, where the creatures come out of a fire.
“God speaks of Himself often as fire. ‘Our God is a consuming fire,’ it says in Hebrews 12:29. And in Isaiah 33:14: ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’
“People sometimes use this text to ask, ‘Who of you is going to go to hell?’ but if you will read it in its context this does not describe hell. Almost all commentators agree on this, because the next verse says that it is ‘He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil’ (33:15).
“What is this devouring fire? It is not hell, but the presence of God. Who among us shall dwell in the fiery burnings? Do you not know that fire can dwell with fire? You can put the iron into the fire and the iron can learn to live with the fire by absorbing the fire and beginning to glow in incandescent brightness in the fire. So we will dwell in the fire; these creatures in Ezekiel came out of the fire, and they let down their wings to worship. At the Word of God’s command they leap to do His will, these awesome holy creatures about which we know so little and about which we ought to know more.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God I

Isaiah 33:17-24 ‘God will deliver His people’: As we have seen frequently in Isaiah, the prophetic word, while rooted in history and spoken in a particular historical situation, inexorably pushes its vision onward to the very limit of history, toward a messianic age of blessing and shalom where righteousness and justice reign. With vv.17-24, the prophet’s gaze is directed into the future once again, where he sees a divine king ruling in beauty (cf. 4:2; 6:5). At that time Sennacherib and his chief officers, the Assyrian rulers with their difficult language, will be a distant memory (vv.18-19). Jerusalem will be transformed into a place of peace and wholeness (vv.20-24). Compare similar Isaianic visions: 2:2-5; 4:2-6; 9:2-7; 11:1-9; 32:1-4, 15-20.

  • Eugene E. Carpenter, Asbury Bible Commentary

Isaiah 33:17 ‘King in his beauty’: “The prophecy moves beyond Hezekiah in his sackcloth, oppressed by his enemy, to Messiah in His beauty. Seeing Him in glory is another reward of the righteous. The near-future deliverance from Sennacherib anticipates a more distant wonder when the Messiah will sit on His throne.”

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

Isaiah 33:17 ‘A king who humbled himself’: “These words originally had a timely and strictly literal meaning for the people of Jerusalem. When Sennacherib besieged the city of Jerusalem, the inhabitants saw King Hezekiah in garb of mourning. He tore his clothes in sorrow. But the day would come, according to the word of the Lord through Isaiah, when Sennacherib must fall. Those who counted the resources and estimated the strength or the weakness of the city would be far away, and then there would be times of liberty. The people would be able to travel to the utmost ends of the promised land, so they would see the land that is far off. King Hezekiah himself would come out in his robes of excellence and majesty on a joyful occasion to praise the Lord, and thus the eyes of the people would see the king in his beauty The passage, however, has been frequently used with another import, and that properly enough if it is thoroughly understood that it is by way of accommodation we take it. Have we not by faith seen our King in his robes of mourning? Have we not seen Jesus in the sorrowful weeds of affliction and humiliation while here below? Our faith has gazed on him in the torn garments of his passion. We have beheld him in his agony and bloody sweat, in his crucifixion and his death. But now another and a brighter view awaits us. Our eyes will one day see the King in a more glorious array. We will behold him as John saw him on Patmos. We will behold the King in his beauty, and then we will enter and enjoy the land that is at present far off.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes


My Thoughts

As the scholarly quotes note, this is in some ways a repeat of Isaiah 30 with different details regarding the foolish trust in Egypt.  Isaiah makes a plain statement.  The Egyptian army and the horses that pull the chariots are mortal.  They are not God.

The lion growling and the army of shepherds being helpless in chasing it off reminds me of the bear story at the campgrounds near Cades’ Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee.  I slept through it, but everyone else was shouting and banging pots together.  The bear was in the trailer.  He had ripped the lid off the ice chest and was eating either 5 or 10 pounds of raw bacon, our breakfast for the next couple of days.  The bear then went for the lunchmeat which was our lunch for those days.  Finally, my Dad had enough.  He walked up to the bear and swung a broom handle, hitting the bear squarely across the nose.  The bear then ran into the woods, but all the food was gone by then.  The camp ranger said the next day that my Dad was lucky to be alive.  The bear probably realized that the food was all gone, or he would have swatted my Dad in return.

But you can visualize how impotent the shepherds were in Isaiah’s illustration.

As for the Egyptian army, they will panic.

Rev. Spurgeon’s comments about the parallel with Hezekiah and then, almost as an afterthought, Jesus’ millennial reign seems odd to me.  In most of Rev. Spurgeon’s teachings, the first thing is how this relates to Jesus.

As for the complacent women, some of the scholars ask why there is this focus on the women at this point.  Having lived in West Germany during the Cold War, I know precisely why.  Or at least, I can relate.  When the men have all left to fight a war that they cannot win, the women are left alone and in peril.  But even then, Isaiah adds a couple of verses about a day that will come when the livestock can run free, similar to most of David’s lament psalms.  David laments about how bad conditions are for almost the entire psalm and then adds praises to God and how wonderful and powerful God is.  While we are still breathing, even in our darkest hour, God is still there.

Then in Isaiah 33, God makes it plain to all future destroyers and betrayers.  They will get theirs as they had done to others.  God will arise and everyone with be humbled before Him.

And then as Isaiah drifts in and out of End Times prophecies, he says that God will be judge, lawgiver and king.  Note that God did not desire for the Israelites to be a kingdom, but they asked for it.  God will reign as their king.

And the last verse is a wonderful look at Heaven: no sickness and all sins forgiven.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“Isaiah 31: 1. What pressures have you felt lately? In practical terms, does relying on God in such times mean not involving the help of anyone else? How can you tell when it is wise and right to rely on others, or when that shows independence from God?
“2. God intended to deliver Judah even while she persisted in rebellion. What hope does that offer you (see Ro 5:8)?
“3. When have you actually lived as though God didn’t matter? What did matter at that time? What difference does it make to you to realize that even in those times God is protecting you as a lion or a mother bird? What other images of God help you to embrace him?
32:1-8, The Kingdom of Righteousness: 1. When you need someone to be a shelter for you, to whom do you turn? Why? How is Jesus presented in this passage?
“2. For whom could you be like a shelter or a stream of water today? How? What example can you think of where a person’s power has been mistaken for true greatness? ls your culture more influenced by a leader‘s style, or by substance? Why do you think so?
“3. What marks of true greatness (vv.5-8) do you want to see growing in you? How can you cultivate that fruit (see Mt 6:33)?
32:9-20, The Women of Jerusalem: 1. What is the difference between ‘security’ in God’s love and ‘complacency’ that you are on the right side?
“2. How does Isaiah understand what the outpouring of the Spirit will be like on God’s people? How does that compare to the disciples’ question in Acts 1:5-6?
“3. Which is closer to your own view of what it means to be filled with the Spirit? ls it more an individual or corporate experience? How so?
“4. Are you experiencing the fullness and the fulfillment of the Spirit in your life? Ln your church’s life’? How so?
“5. What does Isaiah say about God’s ultimate desire for you?
33: 1. When was one time God’s power was so evident to you that by contrast your weakness was highlighted? ln your experience of God now, does he seem more like a ‘consuming fire’ or a fading candle? How can you keep on experiencing the fire?
“2. If you had to answer the question of verse 14, how would you relate faith in Jesus to the lifestyle commanded in verses 15-16?
“3. From what ‘former terror’ has God delivered you’? How? What effect has that had upon your view of God? On the way you worship or live?
“4. Of the kingdom traits described in verses 17-24, which ones do you most yearn to see with your own eyes? Which one do you desire to see take root in your life more and more?
“5. What does it mean to you that the Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of verse 22? What aspects of his earthly and future ministry come to mind when you picture Jesus as Judge? Lawgiver? King? Savior?”

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

There is one set of questions for Isaiah 31 and 33.  Isaiah 32 is divided into two sets of questions as noted.

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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