Notes on Isaiah 9:8 Ė 10:34

David H. Linden

 

Isaiah moves suddenly from the future glory of the reign of the Lord Jesus to judgment on unrepentant Israel. Samaria (v.9) was the capital city of Israel. ďYet for all this, His anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised.ĒThat phrase in 5:25 introduced Isaiahís first mention of the Assyrian invasion. It was Isaiahís way of saying more judgment was coming. In chapter 10 the wrath of God came through Assyria. The phrase appears again at the end of each the four stanzas from 9:8 Ė 10:4 . The word ďfallĒ serves as an inclusio. What the message of judgment was from the Lord would indeed fall on Israel (9:8).In the day of reckoning, the people of Israel will either be captives or those who fall among the slain.

 

 

Stanza 1, 9:8-12:†† Israel did not see her danger and showed self confidence as if she could reverse her trouble by her own efforts. Note we will rebuild; we will replace. Her policy of not trusting in the Lord was a dominating sin. To the end she neither repented nor trusted. Israel refused to believe, though the Lord had sent detailed warnings through His prophets. Rezin (the king of Aram) was Israelís worldly strategy and hope. But God strengthened Assyria so that it would defeat Aram. He frustrated Israelís confidence. That left Israel to fend for herself against powerful Assyria, and she could not do so. They devised a strategy, and God made sure that it was thwarted (8:10). Perhaps v.12 means the devouring came to them as a result of her alliance with Aram. So long after the time of David we are surprised to read in v.12 of Philistines still harassing Israel.

 

Stanza 2, ††9:13-17: Like chapter 3, we read of judgment on their society.The rulers are the head; the prophets are the tail who say whatever the leaders want to hear, as in 30:9-11.(Liberal theology has always been a parrot saying back to society whatever people want to hear, the very opposite of Isaiahís kind of ministry in 6:9,10.) The wickedness is pervasive Ė everyone is ungodly. It is not just the leaders, therefore the judgment of God will be pervasive upon the entire population. [We notice in this paragraph how the Hebrew languages likes opposites: head and tail, palm branch, which is high, and reed, which is low.For more see Psalm 139.] They did not return to the Lord Who was punishing them, and so they did not repent before it was too late.Repentance is more than being sorry. Had they repented they would have sought the Lord. The call to turn and seek the Lord in 55:6,7 is the language of great mercy.

 

 

Stanza 3, ††9:18-21:†† Two burnings are in view. Wickedness burns, but so does the wrath of the Lord. One is the idea of consequences; the other is the Lord who ensures that His justice is carried out. This is yet another example of fire being a prominent way to express Godís wrath. But what is burned?It is the people who are burned up like wood. As fire consumes, so the people consumed each other. (Note Galatians 5:13-15.) The sad thing about Ephraim and Manasseh is that they were brothers; both were sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:1). Even they were feeding on each other, a graphic picture of the destructiveness of intense selfishness. They then unite to consume another tribe of the original twelve, Judah. The nation was being torn apart, yet, as in 8:21,22, nothing they did brought them satisfaction. †††

 

 

And this is the people God said would be His people, and He would be their God! This is the offspring of Abraham through whom the Lord would bless all nations! Amazing! God prefers to show His power in most unlikely settings and unworthy people. God has chosen to work out of a scene of national weakness, disunity, idolatry, moral corruption, covenant breaking, and Gentile nations which constantly threatened the very existence of Israel. Their survival is a divine miracle of powerful intervention and the covenant-keeping tenacity of the Lord.

 

 

Stanza 4, ††10:1-4:†† Obviously this stanza should be in the same chapter with the other three. We should not grow tired of reading of the poor, the widow and the fatherless (see 1:17,23). How the weak are treated is a barometer that reveals what kind of people we are. This is especially pertinent to courts which must function with justice. God had given them good civil laws, but they invented cruel ones. For this evil, a day of reckoning in the supreme court was coming, Godís court! Godís just decision was to bring on the Assyrian army from far away. There will be no other refuge, for prior to Israelís day of reckoning, Aram had fallen. Israel will not be able to retain the glory they had. Finally, the oppressors who oppressed the poor would be oppressed. They would have either captivity or death.

 

Sovereign Actions of God by means of the Free Actions of Men†††† In each of these four stanzas, there is the explanation of the action of the Lord. This is the unseen cause, one discernable only by means of the Word of God. When an Assyrian arrow fell on an Israelite or a spear went through his chest, nothing would appear to the eye but those visible motions. The camera can see the physical happenings, but only the eye of faith can see the hand of God in judgment. In stanza 1, the Lord has strengthened enemies. In stanza 2, by the wrath of the LORD Almighty the land will be scorched. In stanza 3, the Lord will cut off from Israel their leaders. In stanza 4, the day of reckoning was Godís day of reckoning. We should observe what is so common in the Bible, that acts of God may be conducted through the acts of men unaware that they are Godís instruments.

 

 

Wrath not turned away and wrath turned away††††† Five times we read, Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.Godís frank and unapologetic repetition of the reality and exercise of wrath should demonstrate that wrath against sin is essential to the nature of God. His wrath is active, and so it results in dreadful actions. For Isaiah there was atonement (6:6,7) and the Lordís wrath was turned away (12:1,2). An innocent substitute died on that altar. Later for Godís people the goblet of Godís wrath was removed (51:22) and the Lord was pleased to crush His servant, Christ (53:10). When there is sin, wrath does not disappear. It falls on the sinner or the Substitute Who endured it for them.

 

10:5-15Judgment on Assyria††† Assyria had no idea that it was Godís tool. Its wrath against other nations was all the eye of man could see. Assyria acted in sinful wrath, but God acted in holy wrath using Assyria to do a work against Jerusalem.This section emphasizes that:

         Assyria was Godís tool used by God for Godís purpose.

         Assyriaís actions were wicked.

         Assyria did not realize it was Godís tool

         Assyria did not know its success was from God.

         Assyria thought Jerusalem would fall like other cities.

         Assyria thought Jerusalemís ďgodĒ was like other gods.

         Assyria would be punished for its pride and blasphemy.

 

Divine Secrets Revealed††† ††Here is a text where the Lord opens up something of His sovereign governing of the world. Godís motives and means can be known only by prophetic revelation. He says, ďI send himĒ (v.6), so it did not just happen. The world could see the Assyrian invasion but no more. Godís secret wisdom is something the eye of man cannot see (1 Corinthians 2:6-16), something God has revealed by His Spirit. The believer has access by the Word of God to an explanation of Godís actions, limited to actions explained in Scripture (John 15:15; Deuteronomy 29:29). The world can see what happens; to His own God has revealed why. The Lord opens in Scripture His workings in this world, sometimes in general terms (Psalm 103:7). In some cases, like Isaiah 10, an insight into history is provided that goes far beyond general principles when Godís unveils a specific purpose. The Assyrian being a club in Godís hand is a prime example. This makes Isaiah 10 a very valuable part of the Bible. It illustrates and asserts Godís sovereignty.

 

It is amazing that these things sit here on earth in the book that is the most translated and distributed book in all the world, giving in plain language some of the secrets of God, yet the world is ignorant of it and willfully so. To hear by faith (Matthew 11:15) of Godís intentions and deeds is to be given the insight to say, ďThe whole earth is full of His gloryĒ (6:3).

 

10:5-7†† Assyria was the rod of Godís anger.God sent him (vv. 5,6).To do what?To plunder, trample, and destroy (vv.6,7). (Note seize and plunderin the childís name in 8:3,4.) The Assyrian had no conscious intention of his warfare being a service to the Lord, (v.7). He and God had different purposes that came together in the same action. Assyria intended to put an end to many nations including Israel. God had no such intention, so Assyria failed in its purpose. God, when finished with His Assyrian club (v.12), preserved His remnant (vv.20-23). Israel did not come to a total end and never will.

 

10:8-11 A long section shows Assyrian boasting. The six places named in v.9 are all in the direction from Assyria to Israel. The boast was that Jerusalem will be just like the other conquests. The assumption was that the God of Israel is just another little god who cannot save his people! In 36:4-15 the Assyrian spokesman used the Name of the LORD. Then naming Him again, he argued that the LORD was unable to save them (36:18-20).

 

Godís people had fallen into images to represent false gods and even had images for the LORD contrary to His commandment. This would lead their neighbors to assume that Israelís God was like other gods, and so the King of Assyria spoke that way. Had Israel obeyed the second commandment, the nations would have had a witness that there must be something very different about a God Who allowed no physical representation of Himself.It would be far better for them to say, ďYou have no imagesĒ than to say, ďYour images are not as good as ours.Ē

 

10:12-14†† V.12 injects the divine perspective. It changes the subject from what the King of Assyria was doing to what God was doing in His work. Then the text returns to the boasting of the king who knew not the LORD. When God finished using him, He would punish the king of Assyria. The boast was: a) that the gods of other nations were not able to stop him, so the gods of Samaria and Jerusalem will do no better. (In this way he insulted the Lord directly; see Isaiah 36,37 to see how specific his blasphemy was.) Then b) he boasted of his shrewd strategies and the ease of his military victories (vv.13,14).

 

10:15†† Verses 5-15 are a unit. It opens with rod and club and closes with rod and club. V.15 adds the ax and saw, but then tool metaphors in Assyrian hands cease. The obvious is emphasized. The man uses the tools; the tools do not move the man. So what was observed was the tools in action. What was explained was the divine user. In such ways the Bible fuses together historical events and doctrinal explanations.

 

10:16-19 ††The analogy changes. Now the punishment of v.12 is spelled out in more detail with the metaphor of fire. The Lord himself will burn against Assyria. His boasting and glory will go up in flames with the angel of the Lord acting against the Assyrian hordes without using any intermediaries (37:36). V.17 is the only place in the Bible where God is called the Light of Israel.The context is of the Lord as a torch! Little will be left when the Lord is done consuming Assyria. A child, who cannot count very high, will be able to number the remaining trees.This should be contrasted with the remnant of Israel eventually filling the earth (54:1-3). Some think the wasting disease was the plague that devastated that army. Once it was healthy and vigorous (5:26-30), yet 185,000 died in a single day.(Archaeologists found images of mice or rats associated with the Assyrian army.)

 

A single day††††† In one day, even in very few minutes, the Egyptian army perished. In one day, Israel lost its leaders (9:14). In one day, Assyria (10:17) was consumed (i.e. brought down to such sudden weakness that it wasted away). So it was with Babylon (47:1-9), a fact stressed in Revelation 18:8. All of this prepares us for the future climax of human history: In one day the Lord Jesus Christ will return.

 

10:20-23 Concerning Israel (not Judah)††††† The northern kingdom of Israel will also have a remnant. For many years they had Aram as an enemy, but facing the threat of Assyria, they trusted Aram as their Savior. Instead of this folly, in some unspecified day (in that day) they will truly rely on the Lord. Rely on, or rest upon, is another very helpful analogy for faith. Note that to rely on another is the exact opposite of self-reliance.

 

10:21†† The Mighty God of v.21 is one of the titles of Christ in 9:6. Here in chapter 10, Mighty God can only refer to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.

 

10:22,23†† In Genesis 22:17, God promised Abraham descendents as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Many were cut down in Godís judgment to a fraction of what they had been. This is similar to the analogy of the fallen tree and the living stump in 6:13. A surviving remnant is certain. (See the Appendix in my notes on Isaiah 4.) When destruction is decreed, it is certain; when it is overwhelming, it means the precise word from God in 8:6-8 is unchanged. When it is righteous, it means Godís justice has not been compromised. Judgment on Israel was well-deserved. The Lord carried out the destruction decreed in Noahís day. His threats are not manipulation or exaggeration. They are carried out fully by God in good conscience. Yet the promise to Abraham stands eternally. God made certain that there was a remnant who were objects of His mercy (Romans 9:23; note that Romans 9 quotes this part of Isaiah 10).

 

10:24-34 Concerning Judah (not Israel)††††† Now those who live in Zion are addressed. Israel was overwhelmed completely, but Jerusalem would be spared. Do not fear the Assyrians; fear the Lord (8:12,13) Who will deal with them as He did with Egypt. The deliverance of Jerusalem would be from the commitment of God to rescue them just as He did from the Midianites in Judges 6-8, and as He did at the Red Sea. (Note that Egypt is mentioned twice.) The oppression of the superpower of that day would be lifted. Because you have grown fat (NIV) is an attempt to give the meaning of a difficult expression. The Assyrian would waste away (10:16). In English we say a person losing much weight is skin and bone, so possibly ďfatĒ is meant as the opposite, a way to contrast Assyria being wiped out and Jerusalem surviving.

 

10:28-32†† Here is geographical progression is toward Jerusalem. They threaten Jerusalem, but the King of Assyrian will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. (37:33). ††††

 

10:23-34 The Assyrian Advance†† They are still coming, but the remnant has this word of the Lord in advance.They bind up the testimony (8:16,17).They fear the Lord, not the Assyrians.The Assyrian flood will come to Jerusalem, but Isaiah and the children the Lord had given him put their trust in the Lord, and so are not afraid of the Assyrians (v.24). Just as God delivered from Egypt and the Midianites, he will spare Jerusalem Ė this time.The yoke of hostile powers will be broken.Salvation always includes God breaking domination whether of Satan or sin (Genesis 3:15; Romans 6:5-14). The chastening anger of God against His people will end, v. 25, just as in 40:1,2. In the gospel we proclaim that Godís anger endured by Christ is no longer against those in Christ, because of Him. Godís dealings with Israel show that while judgment truly begins with the house of God, it is far more dreadful for those who obey not the gospel (1 Peter 4:17-19).

 

10:33,34†† The Lord will use His whip (v.26), but now He uses His ax to bring down or humble the proud Assyrian. (Note how similar this is to 2:11-18.) Instead of Assyria cutting down Jerusalem, God will cut down Assyria. By removing the Assyrian forest as in 10:18,19, we are prepared to return to the stump from which will come the Branch, Christ. The Lord did not use another nation to do it. At the gates of Jerusalem, the angel of the Lord Himself, with no other means, defended and saved the city (37:33-37). He can use means as He wishes or work without them.

 

Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.God in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure. †††(Westminster Confession of Faith V:2,3)