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Isaiah is one of the major prophetic books, and many consider it a mini-Bible of its own. Though chapter/verse markings were not part of the early copies, it happens that the 1st 39 chapters are more about judgment just as the Old Testament’s 39 books are, while the last 27 chapters are more about consolation just as the New Testament’s 27 books are. Isaiah literally means, The Lord is Salvation, which summarizes the book. Isaiah’s focus was on Jerusalem and Judah, and his message was that they would be overrun by Gentiles for their sins. But though God’s judgment had to be harsh, he would never abandon the people of Israel forever. He deals with Israel as a nation, not necessarily as individuals, and the prophecies are not necessarily in chronological order.

Isaiah 1

Judah had forgotten God, in spite of all he had done for them. After a long description of their pathetic condition, the only reason they weren’t yet destroyed was because God prevented it in the hope they might come to their senses. It had sunk to the point where God was repulsed by their sacrifices and festivals. He kept pleading with them to clean themselves up and stop all the sinning, and in verse 18 he offers to sit down and discuss the matter rationally. The offer of washing away sins is the very thing the Messiah would come to do, but the people still had to choose their path. Then the text turns back to describing their miserable condition after having begun so well, which is the essence of what Jesus told the church at Ephesus in Rev. 2:1-5. But then God promises to clean them up and punish their enemies.

Isaiah 2

Ch. 2 is a prophetic message from God, and the descriptions all have to do with an earthly kingdom, which is as literal and physical as the pathetic kingdom that was just described. It includes the familiar phrase about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, which refers to the future Millennial kingdom since no such thing has happened yet. But it can’t refer to eternity, since it includes the settling of disputes between nations.

It goes on to describe the prosperous enemies of Israe, and promises their downfall in the day of judgment. But notice the part about them hiding in caves and holes in the ground. This is quoted in Rev. 6:15-17, so we know that Revelation is set during that future day of judgment— rather than gradually played out over centuries, as the Historicist prophecy theory asserts. There’s an interesting perspective in Constable’s Notes about the worthlessness of gold and idols, as symbolized in the plot of Lord of the Rings; the precious golden ring turned decent people into monsters, so it had to be given up and destroyed.

Isaiah 3

Ch. 3 begins by showing that dependence on people never lasts. It also says that putting the young or incompetent in charge of a nation is a judgment from God— as is putting new believers in positions of spiritual leadership in the Christian community. As 3:5 puts it, youths will defy the elderly, and the riffraff will show contempt for respectable people. Those who have lived long enough to remember the mistakes of the past are brushed aside as senile or regressive, so the same mistakes are repeated. People tend to choose as leaders in either secular or spiritual realms those who promise them what they want, instead of what they need.

3:9 goes on to describe the proud look of degenerates, yet promises reward to the innocent. But we see in verse 12 a statement most translations render disingenously as Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. It should read, as it does in the NET translation and the LXX, Oppressors treat my people cruelly; creditors rule over them (see Lesson 621, p. 222-223). Most commentaries get this completely wrong, as do those who use the bad translation to declare that women must never rule a nation. Rather, the judgment is that people have allowed themselves to go into debt, and as the Proverbs stated, the borrower is slave to the lender.

3:14-15 continues the theme of greed and oppression, and it sounds a lot like when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Mat. 21:33-45 and 23:4. 3:16 is the part that actually does talk about women, who like the proud men mentioned earlier, will be paid back for their sins. Then the focus returns to men primarily, and contnues through the next chapter.

Isaiah 4-5

Now the text turns to the future time when the Messiah will clean and purge Israel, leaving only a remnant. Ch. 5 seems to be an abrupt change of topic and style, but it’s really a scathing denunciation of what Israel had done to the blessings God had provided.

5:8 goes on to describe the judgments to come, but the people bury their heads in the sand and keep on partying, as if this will fend off the judgments. Such denial is rampant in the world today, even in the Christian community. Any who raise warnings are shouted down as being too negative and are blamed for preventing the good times from continuing. Christians especially should be the voice of alarm in these deceptive times.

Then in verse 20 comes the familiar judgment about those who reverse the meanings of good and evil, and following that is a list of other vices: being skilled at drinking, condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty, and ultimately rejecting their Creator. This brings judgment, which comes not only through natural disasters but also other nations against Israel.

Isaiah 6

This chapter marks a major shift in the book, which leads commentators to conclude that the first 5 chapters are more of an introduction or overview. Isaiah is being shown a vision of God on his throne, surrounded by a class of angelic beings known as seraphs. The word seems to mean beings of fire, but it only appears here in the whole Bible. Some commentators argue that these also were serpentine in form, but remember that fallen angels wouldn’t necessarily have changed form, such that we can’t equate the form with evil in all cases in scripture. But by description, they aren’t what we’d describe as serpents, and they hold the same place around God’s throne as the four living creatures in Rev. 4:6-8.

Isaiah is terrified at the sight of all this, but one of the seraphs makes a kind of temporary atonement so he can be in God’s presence. We see a very familiar phrase in verse 8: God asks who will go out on his behalf, and Isaiah’s response is, Here I am, send me! Too often we’re afraid to respond this way because of what God might put us through, but we must not be afraid.

The task was for Isaiah to give Israel another familiar message, one that’s quoted in John 12:38-41. So we know from that reference that Isaiah saw Jesus in his former glory, which he would put aside during his incarnation as explained in Phil. 2:5-11. But the blinding and deafening of Israel is not to end until the judgment is complete. So this is an instance where the prophecy long predated the fulfillment, and the people of Israel remain in unbelief to this day. Yet even a tree cut down to the roots can still revive with a tiny shoot, and so it will be with the nation of Israel.

Isaiah 7

This chapter begins a long section through ch. 12 focused on Assyria and the poor decisions made by King Ahaz during that time. Isaiah was to tell Ahaz not to fear the army coming against him, but to trust God instead. God even has Ahaz ask for a sign that God would really protect his people, but Ahaz refuses. So God gives the sign in verse 14, and it’s the core of the message of salvation for all: A woman would conceive and give birth to a son.

Pay attention to two levels of prophecy here, and also take a look at this article regarding the proper meaning of the word translated woman. The Hebrew word is alma, which some claim means young woman rather than virgin. But remember that this is the Masoretic text, which went out of its way to obscure Messianic prophecies. The Greek word here is parthenos which means any male or female virgin who is old enough to be married. It’s the Greek that Mat. 1:23 quotes here, and that context clearly indicates Mary’s virginity. This concept will be a thread running through the coming chapters. But on the other hand, an ambiguous term might better fit the dual prophecy.

Of course, no virgin birth happened in this immediate context, so now we see the other layer of the prophecy: that before the child to be born to this woman is old enough to know right from wrong, something will happen. This is where we get the concept of age of accountability, which means that before this age (which may vary from one child to the next), a child is innocent and not charged with sin against God. Also, the diet the child would have seems to indicate poverty.

Now what’s the something that will happen? There are two ways to interpret the text here: (1) that the two kings coming against Israel would be defeated, or (2) that the two kingdoms Ahaz was tearing apart (meaning Israel and Judah) would be destroyed. This seems a better fit with verse 17, which speaks of disaster to come upon Ahaz and his people.

Isaiah 8

The text continues here with the prophecy of disaster, and God repeats the reasons for it. Though the child was to be named Immanuel per 7:14, the contextual description seems to indicate that the child named in 8:1 is the one the immediate fulfillment of the prophecy was about. In both cases, it is God who names the child, in spite of the biased Constable’s Notes’ claim that the woman named him Immanuel but God overrode her choice. It’s quite remarkable that a commentator of this quality would make such an obvious blunder without prejudice blinding him.

Verse 11 turns back to warnings for people to repent before disaster strikes, and verses 14-15 are quoted in passages such as Rom. 9:33 as pertaining to Jesus, the rock that would make them stumble. Verses 17-18 are quoted in Heb. 2:13 as also being ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.

The next warning is about enticement to seek out oracles and conjurers. The solution is to remember God’s words, which we can’t do if we’ve never read them. The last part of ch. 8 begins a very familiar passage to Christians, and it continues into ch. 9.

Isaiah 9

This is quoted in Mat. 4:15-16 as being fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, but there will be an ultimate fulfilment in the Millennial Kingdom. And of course, verse 6 is one of the best-known Messianic verses, but pay attention to all the Son’s titles, including the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father. No clearer statement can be found in scripture that this Messiah, Jesus, is God in the flesh. As it’s put in Col. 1:15-20, the entirety of God is contained in Jesus, who is the visible appearance of the invisible God, and the maker and sustainer of all creation. He will rule on the throne of David for a thousand years, and then in the New Jerusalem for eternity.

Now notice also that this obviously future event from the time of the prophecy is written in the past tense (”has been born, given”). When a prophecy cannot be changed for any reason, the Hebrew prophets wrote them as if they had already happened. Keep this in mind when reading Revelation to avoid some confusion and wild speculation.

9:8 through 10:4 focus on the northern kingdom of Israel, whose enemy will be God Himself because of Israel’s pride and self-reliance. The judgments would come in waves, much the way the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls of Revelation come in sequence. The phrase in verse 20 about eating their own arm is a euphemism for turning on their own brothers and sisters— a habit often employed by Christians today as well.

Isaiah 10

Here the focus is on injustice and oppression, to the point of robbing orphans and widows, as also stated in Luke 20:47. Now that God has told Israel what to expect from Assyria, he then tells Assyria what to expect from God. As with Pharaoh, God often uses the already-hardened to punish Israel, then the punishers themselves get their judgments too. They arrogantly believed their success against Israel was by their own power and gods, so now they too need a lesson in humility.

As God goes on to explain, Assyria was but a tool in his hand, and the tool can’t boast of wielding itself. Then, finally, in verse 20, the few remaining of Israel will come to their senses and trust God instead of other nations, and then God will restore and heal them. Notice that Jacob/Israel is named; this means that the entire twelve tribes will be restored, not only two as many assert so they can invent a story of ten lost tribes that can be anyone from the western world to sub-Saharan Africa.

Verse 27 describes details of the punishment preceding this restoration, and though Assyria was decimated by God in 605 BC according to ch. 37, there remains an ultimate fulfillment of the Millennial Kingdom of Israel.

Isaiah 11

The Millennial Kingdom is described here as regarding a clear Messianic prophecy. The Son mentioned earlier becomes the adult wise ruler, and his kingdom even enjoys rest from deadly animals. But we have to pause at verse 6 to address a grievous false teaching that has arisen in recent years. It’s called the Mandela Effect, and it’s basically a superstitious belief in some dark magic that can change the past, including the words on Bibles sitting on your shelf at home. They remember the phrase lion will lie down with the lamb, then look at verse 6 and cite it as proof that scripture has been changed. But it’s a simple case of imperfect memory, since both lion and lamb are mentioned, just not immediately together. Yet the believers in this theory insist they have perfect memory, so it must be the scriptures that were changed. This is one of the results of Christians neglecting both rationality and Bible study, and by that I don’t mean a light devotional reading. A Christian ignorant of the Bible is ripe for deception.

The focus on the root of Jesse continues with the centrality of earthly Israel in the Millennium, when God will give to Israel the land formerly occupied by their enemies.

Isaiah 12-13

Israel finally praises God for delivering them. But then in ch. 13 the focus turns to the nation of Babylon. There’s a chart in Constable’s Notes of the various nations to be addressed, but this prophecy came about 100 years before Babylon had risen from a subset of Assyria to an empire of its own. Yet the prophecy itself doesn’t give a clear sequence or timeline of the events to come. This is typical of all Bible prophecy, with the exception of the clear sequence of Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls in Revelation.

Speaking of those judgments, verses 9-11 match up with Isaiah 34:4, Ezek. 32:7, Joel 2:10, 30-31, 3:15, Zech. 14:6-7, Matt. 24:29, and Rev. 8:12 regarding the cosmic disasters that will accompany God’s wrath. These are clear indictments of those who worship the sun, moon, and stars. And as in Rev. 6:8 and 9:15, the population of the world will be severely reduced. Notice also that the earth itself will be shaken from its foundations, and the description of Babylon’s grisly end is similar to what the future Babylon will do to Israel in Zechariah 14:2. But it is God who will destroy Babylon, and when this is finally fulfilled no people will live there again, as shown in Rev. 18. So again, there is the typical soon and in the distant future fulfillment of prophecy.

Isaiah 14-16

Contrast that with how God will restore Israel as his chosen people and cause them to prosper in their land. Here again, the Christian community has no land, and appeal to allegory cannot make us Israel. But notice that as part of this resoration, Israel will taunt the king of Babylon. The wicked kings of the past stand up to wait for mighty Babylon to be brought down to their level in weakness and misery, and this is the immediate context of the controversial passage starting in verse 12.

In the midst of a description of the underworld is that of the realm of heaven, and many have taken this section as referring to Satan. The Latin Vulgate translated shining one as lucifer since that’s the Latin equivalent, rather than a proper name. But why would a human king be described in such terms? The concensus of scholars seems to be that these were terms Babylonian rulers used for themselves, claiming to be like God. So the prophecy is mocking their claims by contrasting their boasting with the fate that awaits them.

Yet at the same time, Ezekiel 28:11-19 is a prophecy against another earthly king, the King of Tyre, and the language there seems clearly about more than that king. But there is no such term as lucifer in that passage, and it doesn’t seem to address earthly boasting. So there are enough differences of context to consider the passage here in ch. 14 to be solely about the human king of Babylon. Though Jesus uses the term bright morning star for himself in Rev. 22:16, the critics’ claim that Satan is Jesus by virtue of both being described as light or shining is refuted by 2 Cor. 11:14, which says that Satan can only pretend to be an angel of light. The overall point is that while pretenders to the heavenly realm of God try to rise up to get it, the real God steps down to our level to give it.

The harsh sentence upon Babylon’s king is not wickedness, as the critics charge God, but justice, paying the wicked the wages they’ve earned. God gives life, and he has the right to take it away.

The next nation to be judged is the Philistines, arch enemies of Israel. After driving out Israel from Judea late in the first century a.d., the Romans named the area Palestine after the Philistines to humiliate the Jews, and that name stuck. So the original Palestinians were actually Jews and then Philistines, and they had no more right to the land of Israel than today’s so-called Palestinians, who are more genetically-related to the people of Jordan than any other ancient line. The Philistines in this context had become overconfident at the demise of their enemies, but God assures them that their turn would soon come.

Next it’s Moab’s turn, and their devastation is so harsh that Isaiah, likely also God, is moved by grief. After all, we know from Ezk. 18:23 and 2 Peter 3:9 that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But by the end of ch. 16 we see that a precise time is given for the prophecy to be fulfilled, so there will be no averting it.

Isaiah 17

map showing Damascus

Damascus, the capital of Syria, is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, going back to at least 3000 BC. But the prophecy centers more on Israel than Damascus, which is only addressed in the first three verses. The area will only be good for grazing animals, rather than for people to live. So as devastated as Damascus is today, people still live there, and it’s still considered a city. Some commentaries take it as having been fulfilled around 732 BC, but the LXX uses the word forever, and if that’s the correct rendering, this has not been fulfilled on that account either. For more on the future view see this article. But I disagree with Constable’s Notes that this is a hodge-podge of Isaiah’s prophecies, and that the course of events is less important than the problems they’re meant to address.

All commentaries seem to take verse 3 onward as fulfilled in the past, yet there would be a few survivors in Syria, though none are mentioned for Damascus. Jacob and Ephraim, representing the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital Samaria, are described as being skin and bones. This referred to its ruling class being deported to Assyria, leaving only the poor to work the land, as was the custom in ancient times when a nation was conquered. It was the mix of survivors from Israel and Assyria who became the despised Samaritans of Jesus’ day. Here’s a quote from the Damascus article linked earlier, which destroys the lost tribes theory:

A quick reading of 2 Chronicles 11:16 shows that all the faithful from the 10 northern tribes moved south at the time of the civil war that divided the nation after King Solomon’s death 150 years earlier. From then on, all 12 tribes were represented in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, so the 10 tribes from the North weren’t totally lost. The Lord has always preserved a believing remnant from all the Tribes of Israel.

Verse 7 then shifts to a more distant future (”in that day” or at that time), when people (not just Israelites) give up their idols and false gods to turn to the God of Israel. Verse 9 gives the reason as because of the Israelites, who at the time of the Assyrian conquest were as decimated as anyone else, so this can’t refer to that former time.

Verse ten says that the people had forgotten God, so their plans all come to nothing. God himself would destroy the Assyrian army, as we’ll see in ch. 37. But the distant future fulfillment can’t be easily dismissed, since Assyria was only one nation, while verse 12 speaks of many, and since those lands still persist in rebellion against God and hostility toward Israel. Some take verse 14 as applying to the destruction of Damascus, but this is in the context of the many nations. Anti-Israeli sentiment has been growing louder in the last few decades, which makes perfect sense as preparation for this prophecy’s final fulfillment.

Isaiah 18

Now who is the nation being described here? The various commentaries agree that we can’t be precise, but the impression I get from them and also the Greek translation is that it refers to the people of Cush/Ethiopia at the southern end of the Red Sea, and those living along the Nile river. It was common for small, lightweight, papyrus boats to be used in waters too narrow or shallow for normal ships, and Nubians, who live in Sudan on the western side of the Red Sea, can be described as tall and smooth-skinned.

But the text and the commentaries are somewhat confusing, since it seems that both the messengers and the tall people are the same, yet one is to bring the message to the other. Were they to bring the message to themselves? And does verse 3 mean only the world as Israel knew it, or the whole world as we understand it? Also consider that after God waits, a trumpet is blown, and in verse 7 tribute is brought to Mount Zion. This has not happened, so it refers to the Millennium.

Isaiah 19

Now God’s attention turns toward Egypt, whose history was filled with upheaval and whose existence depended entirely on the Nile River. By taking advantage of their disunity and attacking the river, God would show them how little power they actually had.

The prophecy in verse 16 looks to the distant future (”in that day” or at that time), when Judah will be feared and the Egyptians will bring them tribute and speak the Hebrew language. Also, per verse 19, the Egyptians will build an altar/temple in their land, as well as a pillar at their border honoring the God of Israel. Once again, if this were all an allegory about eternal bliss, there would be no designations of nations or borders, nor any need for a highway between Egypt and Assyria. God specifies his blessing on Israel, Egypt, and Assyria because they will be literal, physical nations during the Millennium.

Isaiah 20-22

Then there is a brief prophecy with a more immediate fulfillment in Isaiah’s day, regarding the fact that Assyria would conquer and humiliate Egypt and Cush. This was a clear object lesson to Israel about either fearing or trusting Egypt, as stated in verse 6.

Then in ch. 21 it’s back to Babylon, the desert by the sea. Like the historical hot desert winds from the Negev, God’s judgment would devastate the land. Here again, the land to be devastated cannot be an allegory of judgment, since the desert wind is the symbol of literal, physical judgment from God against a literal, phyisical land. The reason for the judgment is specific to those people, for all their deception and destruction of others.

Verse 9 is quoted in Rev. 14:8 and 18:2, and though Babylon has fallen before, one final fall still remains. The lesson once again is that Israel should never trust in powerful nations instead of God. Verses 11-12 seem strange and cryptic, but according to commentators they refer to the people of Edom asking the prophet how long their punishment was to last. The reply was that they would get relief, but only for a brief time, and then they could ask again.

Now in verse 13 we see a judgment against Arabia, and it’s short, blunt, and given a time. In one year it would be reduced to a handful of warriors, and there’s no stopping it.

Ch. 22 is against Jerusalem and Judah, the southern kingdom. Though at the time of the prophecy they were happy and content, this valley of vision had no vision at all for what was coming. Nebuchadnezzar and his allies would soon lay seige to the city and defeat it by starvation. The people had forgotten and abandoned God because of their self-reliance, so their celebration was foolhardy, to the point of that familiar phrase in verse 13, Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

An individual named Shebna is singled out for doom for his arrogance, and another named Eliakim would be Shebna’s replacement. Both of these people will be mentioned again in chapters 36-37, so this fulfillment takes place after that. Notice in verse 22 a phrase quoted in Rev. 3:7-8 for the Congregation at Philadelphia; it means that Jesus holds the ultimate position which for now would be held by Eliakim, the steward who protects the house. And unlike overconfident Jerusalem, this faithful Congregation would be kept safe from the calamities to come. Even so, verse 25 says that Eliakim would falter at the end.

Isaiah 23-24

Now we turn to the prophecy against Tyre, a major port on the Mediterranean Sea west of Damascus. While Babylon had become powerful on land by conquest, Tyre became powerful on the sea by peaceful trade, though it too had corrupted God’s people. And like Babylon, Tyre is also compared to a harlot. So the earlier phrase about Babylon being in the desert by the sea may refer to its connection here with Tyre, and together they symbolzed the entire world from east to west. The lament of seafaring people matches up with the fall of Babylon in Rev. 18:17-20.

Tarshish (”refinery”) is believed to have been in what is modern Spain, but ships of Tarshish was the term for the largest ships of the day, so Tyre’s downfall would impact all major shipping in the region. Verse 10 calls Tarshish daughter, and it’s believed that the mother was the sea itself. So we could connect Tarshish and Babylon again on this account, since we’ll see the name daughter Babylon in ch. 47, which has even more descriptions quoted in Revelation. The same name appears also in Ps. 137:8, Jeremiah 50:42 and 51:33, and Zech. 2:7.

In verse 11 we see Sidon, also called a virgin daughter, another city whose prosperity depended on sea trade. All the people who would flee the devastation would find no rest or refuge. But in verse 15 it gives the duration for Tyre’s demise: seventy years, which as it says in the text was the average lifespan of a king. Then to rebuild its former glory, Tyre would advertise itself like a prostitute. But, surprisingly, it would use its profits to serve God. Clearly a gap of time is indicated here, between the selfishness of motive for the wealth and its eventual use for service in God’s temple. Like Egypt, Tyre will also give tribute to Jerusalem during the Millennium. One wonders how the allegorical interpretation would explain these other nations.

In ch. 24 the prophecy turns to the world as a whole and continues through ch. 27. Constable’s Notes shows that it takes the form of a chiastic message centering on Mount Zion, and it shows a sequence from the Tribulation, to the 2nd Coming, to the Millennium, and then to eternity. God stands poised to strike the world with suffering and destruction, with no preference given for anyone’s social status. And the reason is given in verse 5: People have defiled the earth and must be repaid for their guilt. The phrase the inhabitants of the earth is seen in Rev. chs. 6-17 to describe unbelievers, but then in verse 14 the few survivors shout praises to God.

Then it’s back to the lament of the wicked, and in verse 20 we see a curious statement: The earth will stagger like a drunkard and sway like a hut in a windstorm. These analogies just don’t fit modern cosmology. Verses 21-22 show that this is the time when even wicked supernatural beings will be thrown into a pit and only released to be punished after a long time. This is what 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6, and passages in Revelation refer to. Verse 23 matches up with the cosmic disturbances of many other passages, such as Joel 2:30-32, Rev. 6:12-17, and Rev. 21:23.

Isaiah 25-26

Now we approach the centerpiece of the prophecy, the return of the Messiah at the end of the Tribulation. The banquet mentioned in verse 6 is referenced in Rev. 19:9 as the wedding supper of the Lamb, which happens at the beginning of the Millennium, though Death won’t be eliminated till the end of that time per Rev. 20:14 and 21:4. The description of celebration continues into 26:1, focusing on the people of the land of Judah.

But what about verse 13-14, which seem to say that the wicked will never rise again? Look carefully, and you’ll notice that it leaves out the crucial part about when and where their spirits don’t rise. We can’t read into it that their spirits were destroyed, because it doesn’t say that. Instead, the context speaks of the masters who had oppressed God’s people not rising again in this world. In contrast, verse 19 says that the godly will rise in this life, since it mentions their formerly dead bodies coming back to life, but certainly in immortal form. This is what happens when all the righteous dead awaken, not from soul sleep but from body sleep. The passage could also be referring to nations rather than individuals, though individuals seem more in view here.

But what of the curious statement in verses 20-21? While on its own it could refer to the Rapture of the Church, in context it clearly points to Israel. Rev. 12 depicts a woman representative of Israel, and in verse 14 there she’s taken to a place of safety for the final 3-1/2 years of the Tribulation, during which time Judea will be overrun. This is also what Jesus referred to in Mat. 24:15.

Isaiah 27-28

Ch. 27 begins with at that time, which is further support for this being the future Tribulation. But what is Leviathan the sea monster doing here, which was seen first in Job and also the Psalms? Though Constable’s Notes calls the creature a Caananite myth, from the passages in Job it seems to have been a real creature, very much like what we’re told about ancient dragons. Here of course, it’s being used as a symbol of fearsome nations and/or the spiritual entities behind them.

Then after more descriptions of the restoration of Israel in the Millennium, verse 12 speaks of their being gathered from all over the world at the sound of a trumpet, to worship God in Jerusalem. The trumpet seems to be a reference to the Feast of Trumpets or Day of Atonement, which is fulfilled in this ingathering of Israel rather than the Rapture of the Church. Unlike Israel’s many enemies over the centuries, Israel itself will survive and reach the ideal level of prosperity and blessing promised so long ago.

Chapters 28-35 were given during the reign of King Hezekiah, when Judah was tempted to trust in Egypt. The leaders are being foolish to do so, and there will be dire consequences. But in the end, when only a remant exists, the people will be restored and blessed. The frequent reference to drunkenness describes the leaders’ stupor and lack of vision.

Verse 10 is a likely reference used in 2 Thes. 2:11 regarding the strong delusion God will send to those who hate truth, only next time it will be to the unbelieving world, whereas here it’s to Judah’s leadership. Though the foolish mock, and though they boast of making a pact with death and the grave in a pathetic attempt to cheat them both, God will not be denied his judgment on them. This passage is (or should be) very familiar to Christians, and along with Psalm 118:22 it is quoted in passages such as Mat. 21:42 as a Messianic prophecy. The rest of the chapter describes the principle that though judgment comes for a time, it will fit the crime, and then God will restore Israel and establish it firmly.

Isaiah 29-32

Judah thought it could go on performing religious rites while also living in rebellion in every other way, but God despises such hypocrisy. Christians, pay attention! In verse 9 we see again that God will harden the hearts of those who have persisted too long in rebellion, so they get the full measure of consequences for their sin. Then in verse 16 we see what was quoted in Rom. 9:20, about the clay pot presuming to tell the potter he has no skill. This is the essense of the anti-Christian attitude; the degree of arrogance it takes to judge our Creator is extreme. Yet only God can turn a desert into an orchard and make the deaf hear.

Now in ch. 30 the prophecy gives more specific details about Judah choosing Egypt as an untrustworthy substitute for God. Verse 10 could be said of many Christians today: Don’t tell us what we need to hear, tell us what we want to hear. We see this as well in 2 Tim. 4:3. Yet in spite of Judah’s folly and punishment, God promises not to allow them to be completely wiped out forever, and again the Millennial Kingdom is described.

Ch. 31 returns to describing the demise of those who look to Egypt for help and protection, but again God promises to keep a remnant preserved.

Ch. 32 goes back to the ideal life that will characterize the Millennium, then back to a lament about disasters to come within a year of the prophecy, then back to the Millennium.

Isaiah 33-35

Now the text turns from Judah to its destroyers, who will see not only their own destruction but the restoration of their former victims. Ch. 34 is where God calls out to the rest of the world, to warn them about defying the one true God. Verse 4 is quoted in Rev. 6:12-14, which is the literal, physical fulfillment of the symbolism here describing the fate of the ungodly nations.

Verse 5 turns to focus on Edom on the southern border of Judah, which scripture sometimes uses to represent all the enemies of Israel. But though the details of destruction are certainly symbolic, they are just as certainly literal and physical, as also were Sodom and Gomorrah. Since the description starting in verse 9 has not yet happened, it must refer to the duration of the Millennium. Though earth will be restored after the Tribulation, there will be reminders of the past, and ch. 35 gives more descriptions of the Millennium.

Isaiah 36-37

Here the text looks back at when the Assyrian king invaded Judah during the reign of Hezekiah. The names Eliakim and Shebna should sound familiar from ch. 22, and they are sent to speak to Sennacherib’s envoys, who offer a pleasant life in another land if the people will surrender peacefully. But they also mock Israel’s God and tell them their king is misleading them. And notice that the envoys claim (but not truthfully, as we see in verse 20) that Israel’s own God had sent them there. But though they presumed this meant they were guaranteed victory, it was really a test of Hezekiah’s faith in and loyalty to God.

But Hezekiah’s officials took the ultimatum to him, and after expressing deep grief and anguish, we see in ch. 37 that Hezekiah went to the Temple to ask God’s help. Then he had a message sent to Isaiah to find out God’s answer. Isaiah’s answer in verse 5 was that God would whisper in Sennacherib’s ear and cause him to chase a false rumor back to his home country, where he would be murdered. After another round of taunts, in verse 21 Isaiah gives God’s retort to Sennacherib and taunts him back, including the ominous phrase in verse 28, I know where you live! Then we see a phrase that will be repeated in Ezekiel 38:4 concerning a different situation, about God putting hooks and bridals on a nation to make it go where he chooses.

Verse 30 turns to focus on the blessings Judah will enjoy a couple of seasons from then. Not a shot will be fired in Jerusalem, because God himself would drive away the invaders, as happened in verse 36. The Angel of the Lord (a possible preincarnation of Jesus) cut down 185,000 troops during the night, and when the survivors woke up, they took off back to their homeland. But Sennacharib was murdered by his own sons as he worshiped his god.

Isaiah 38-39

King Hezekiah, who had done the right thing and sought God’s will against the Assyrian king Sennacharib, was nonetheless striken with a terminal illness before God delivered Jerusalem from the Assyrians. From our perspective it looks like following God didn’t pay off after all. But the answer is given in 2 Chron. 32:24-26: Hezekiah had become proud and ungrateful. But he repented, and God gave not only the specific number of years he’d live, but also a sign: The shadow of the sun, on steps whose purpose was to mark the hours, would go backwards, just as God would give back years to his life.

Constable’s Notes makes a feeble attempt to explain this miracle while keeping the earth a spinning ball, but what kind of miracle would it be to merely move a local shadow, and how would that symbolize the giving back of time to Hezekiah? Per 2 Chron. 32:31, this miracle was recorded by the Babylonians, who had come to ask about it, which means it wasn’t merely a local phenomenon. Verse 9 records the prayer Hezekiah had prayed.

Ch. 39 shows that an official in Babylon sent gifts to him to celebrate his recovery. But this flattering gesture, which was a test from God per 2 Chron. 32:31, caused him to do something incredibly stupid: show off all his wealth, his armory, and the loot to be had from his kingdom, instead of crediting God. So Isaiah went to confirm from Hezekiah what he had done, but God’s response was that everything he showed the Babylonians would be hauled away as plunder, including his own descendants. But all Hezekiah cared is that this wouldn’t happen in his lifetime! So we should learn from this example that God’s tests aren’t always simple or obvious, and that consistently honoring God is a wise path to follow.

Isaiah 40-41

Now begins the New Testament portion of Isaiah, which some compare also to the Trinity: 40-48 focus on the Father, 49-57 on the Son, and 58-66 on the Spirit. In this chapter, God has finished paying Jerusalem for their sins, and verse 3 is very familiar because it’s quoted in the Gospels as pertaining to John the Baptist preparing Israel to receive the Messiah. And of course, verse 8 is the well-known phrase about the permanence of the decrees of God.

Verse 12 begins a section extoling the greatness of God above all, but notice once again the cosmological descriptions in verse 22. The circle or ring or curve (LXX) of the earth is the visible horizon, which has more to do with the physics of light than the shape of the earth. Many argue that scripture only describes our world in terms the ancients used for what they could see. Yet this argument collapses when similar terminology is used for what is not seen, such as the abode of the dead, the deep, and the earth’s pillars and foundation beneath the waters.

But what does it mean that God sits on (really, above) the horizon? The LXX says controlling rather than sitting, because to sit there means to have sovereignty over it. The sky above has been stretched the way one might stretch a curtain, meaning something thin and flat, though in another context this same word clearly refers to something very strong and forged. Also, the purpose of the sky is to provide a tent or dwelling place, obviously for us, who should remember that in comparison to God, we’re no more than tiny insects. So in verse 25 we should ask who could possibly be compared to this great God? Not only has he created all this, he even calls the stars by name— all gazillion of them, and they dare not leave their places. Some speculate that these are actually sentient beings, and that the planets (wanderers) are fallen angels since they disobeyed and left their assigned places.

At any rate, the point of the passage is that this great Creator, lofty as he is, cares about us, to the point that, as Jesus said in Mat. 10:30, even the hairs on our heads are numbered. So God is both transcendent and personal, separate from creation yet in absolute control over it. Then we see another favorite memory verse in 31.

We see in ch. 41 that the coastlands were the ends of the earth from the perspective of Israel, but we should check context carefully to see whether the world then is in view, or the world now, or possibly both. Here, the point is that God is not just the God of Israel but of the whole world, and the proud nations shouldn’t think they can defy him.

Then the text focuses on Israel, who is to be summoned from around the world to return to the land. No other ancient people who have been destroyed and scattered have returned, more than once the way Israel has, and it’s because of God alone.

Verse 18 begins a familiar passage some apply to modern-day Israel, which actually did turn a wasteland into a thriving agricultural region. But the context seems more about the overalll condition of blessing, which of course will have a literal, physical fulfillment in the Millennium as well. We can at least say that verse 20 is not yet fulfilled, since Israel is still in rejection of the Messiah, as they were in the 1st century a.d.

Now God taunts the nations by demanding evidence that their gods and magic arts have successfully predicted anything of importance. Again, this highlights the fact that fulfilled prophecy is the fingerprint of God on only the Bible, and that Christians are negligent if they ignore it, especially since nearly 1/3 of the Bible is prophecy.

In contrast, God gives examples of his fulfilled prophecies, and the one starting in verse 25 is believed to have been fulfilled by Cyrus the Persian about 150 years after this prophecy was given. The text says Cyrus would call on God’s name, but Constable’s Notes claims that this only means God used him for his purposes. Other commentaries put this as a question, Will he call on God?, and Ezra 1:2 quotes Cyrus as saying that the God of heaven had given him the kingdoms of the world. The best solution would seem to be that he would simply invoke the name of God as he might invoke the name of any other so-called god, not that he actually served and worshiped the one true God, since there’s no evidence that he did so.

Isaiah 42-43

This is a clear Messianic prophecy, since this one of all the servants of God would accomplish his mission without any fault or flaw of his own. He would not come as a violent conquerer but a gentle lamb, yet one whose spirit could not be crushed by the violent. Verses 6 and 7 are what Jesus read in the synagogue per Luke 4:18-19, along with several other references in Isaiah.

But what does it mean in vs. 8 that the Lord is God’s name? The Hebrew has YHWH, but the Greek (LXX) translated that always as kurios. Some claim that the LXX was corrupt, but the New Testament quotes of it also use kurios for YHWH and theos for Elohim. So since it’s undeniable that God allows name changes between languages, the sacred name of God is who is meant, not the syllables in our human languages. The name in any language is made sacred by its owner. But whatever the language, the honor and glory due to God must not be reduced or shared with anyone else. This is why saying we all worship the same God is a filthy lie. God is identified by his character and deeds, which is what fulfilled prophecy is all about.

Verse 10 reminds people that God will one day make all the suffering end, and that only the one true God will accomplish this. Per verse 14, all this waiting hasn’t been easy for God either, who has to hold himself back for a greater purpose. But when the time finally comes, nothing will stop him.

Then the text returns to Israel’s present condition, at the time the prophecy was given. But though God himself had handed them over to their chosen fate, ch. 43 turns back to the future hope, because these were still his chosen people in spite of all they had done. God, who in verse 3 calls himself Lord (YHWH/kurios), God (Elohim/theos), and the Holy One of Israel, will gather them from all over the world.

The text turns back again to Israel at that time, and God calls the surrounding nations as witnesses in his case against them. The passage goes on to remind them of the miracles God performed in Egypt. But instead of turning water to dry ground, God promises to turn the dry, parched ground into streams of water for their deliverance from exile in Babylon. But for the time being, Israel was still deaf and blind and had forgotten all that God had done for them.

Isaiah 44-45

Ch. 44 returns to the future of refreshing, both physically and spiritually. Remember that the future outpouring of the Spirit is directed at the people of Israel, and this will not be fulfilled to completion until the Millennium. Then it returns to God demanding evidence for the claims of false gods to be his equal, and of course the description I am the first and last is quoted as pertaining to Jesus in Rev .1:17, 2:8, 21:6, and 22:13. Then God shows the pathetic imitation idols as the mere work of human hands.

Verse 15 shows the insanity of someone taking some of the same wood he uses to cook or warm himself to make an idol, then bowing down to it. Then after pleading with Israel to come to its senses and return to the one true God, the text turns back to Cyrus as the tool in God’s hand that would be used to accomplish his plans. This continues into ch. 45, and in verse. 4 we see that Cyrus was to enjoy some of God’s blessings in spite of the fact that he didn’t submit to him as God. But what does it mean in verse 7 that God creates evil? The fact is that the word there means calamity rather than wickedness, because it’s contrasted with peace, but critics love to use archaic translations to twist the Bible.

Then in verse 9 comes another reminder that it’s just plain stupid to argue with our Creator, and this is quoted in Rom. 9:20-21. Likewise, in the following verses it’s equally stupid for children to disrespect their parents and demand to know why they brought them into the world.

Verse 14 looks again to the Millennium, when the nations will respect both God and his people Israel, and verse 23 is quoted in Rom. 14:11 and Phil. 2:10-11 as pertaining to that time as well.

Isaiah 46-47

Bel and Nebo were the two primary gods of Babylon. Bel is the Caananite equivalent of lord, which senseless critics think means that the God of the Bible is merely a heathen deity. But this was a title, and the actual name was Enlil. You may hear these names among amateur theologians as part of a fiction they’ve developed from a hodgepodge of false religions, largely based on the poor translation skills of someone named Zechariah Sitchin who is promoted by David Icke. Many are being deceived by these people and their stories, and Christians who don’t study scripture are easy prey. You can read more about the Babylonian gods in Constable’s Notes. But the point is that all of these so-called gods will bow down to the one true God.

So in verse 5 God asks once again why anyone thinks they compare to him, and 9-10 put an excalmation point on who the real God is. Prophecy is his fingerprint on the Bible as his Word. By the way, the eagle from a distant land describes Cyrus, not the USA.

Ch. 47 turns to Babylon, whose description is quoted in Rev. 18. This virgin daughter, called such because it had not yet been conquered, would be brought lower than dirt instead remaining exalted on a throne. She would be exposed for what she really is: pathetic, weak, and evil. Per verse 9, none of her sorceries and incantations will be able to save her, and her overconfident arrogance will be her undoing. She will not be able to conjure away her fate, no matter how faithful she had been all her life to her false gods and dark arts. Many today have returned to such things, thinking they’ll overcome the Creator, but they’re deluded.

Isaiah 48-49

Now it’s back to unfaithful Israel, who were only preserved because of God honoring his promises, and ch. 49 turns again to the other nations who had been part of their punishment. The Servant in this passage and others is clearly the Messiah, though the Talmudists try to claim it’s Israel, even though the two are undeniably different entities as per vs. 6 for example.

Verse 14 is another familiar passage, where God again promises never to forget or abandon the people of Israel as a nation, and to restore them in a land that will soon become too small to hold all the people. But for the time being, God had divorced Israel per Jer. 3:8, which violated the covenant of Moses as you can see in the chart referenced in the description.

Isaiah 50-51

Now God asks to see the certificate of divorce. Some presume this is similar to what Jesus said in John 8:10-11 to the woman caught in adultery, when he asked her where her accusers were and said he didn’t condemn her. But it speaks of God divorcing her mother, and since verse 14 identified the daughter as Zion, the mother must be the northern kingdom. So what God is saying here is that the certificate of divorce must be presented to show the grounds upon which the divorce was granted, which was rebellion and unfaithfulness.

Verse 4 turns back to the Messiah who would do what Israel had refused to do, and verse 6 was literally and physically fulfilled when Jesus was being tormented even before he was put on the cross. There’s a good comparison of the two opposite servants here.

Ch. 51 continues to remind Israel of what God had done, which should assure them that his promises of eventual restoration are trustworthy. It goes beyond the Millennium to the time when God finally destroys the present world and replaces it with a new one— unlike the promises of God, which will never fail to come to pass. Now skipping down to verse 14 we see another description of the suffering Messiah. Some erroneously think it means Jesus was ugly or deformed at birth, but not only does it say he became disfigured by torture, he could not have qualified as the sacrificial Lamb had he been born with any defect.

All of these Servant passages are showing the Messiah to be both the one who suffered unjustly, and the one who will rule with absolute justice. In hindsight we know that these two conflicting attributes were to be resolved by two separate comings, but this couldn’t be known beforehand by anyone but God. In the same way, when we see conflicting prophecies about Jesus’ return in the New Testament (see this source), we should realize that two separate events are being described.

Isaiah 53

We’ll end this lesson with a look at one of the clearest and best known Messianic passages in the Old Testament. Some call it the holy of holies, since it depicts the sacrificial Lamb in the temple. According to Constable’s Notes, most of the approximately 80 New Testament references to Isaiah come from this passage alone.

It begins with an expression that today would be, Who could have made this up? The sheer magnitude of God’s plan was unimaginable, unforseen, unprecedented— and to too many people, especially Israel— unbelievable and unacceptable. The righteous Servant, the Messiah, would come first as a tender child of a poor family. Verse 2 is another one where people get the idea that Jesus was not pleasant to look at, but again, it refers to his lowly social standing, not his physical form. Verse 3 continues to describe him as an outcast, and his own people Israel would come to hate him beyond all reason. The fact that he experienced the trials and illnesses of life made them dismiss him as ordinary at best.

In fact it was not his own faults he suffered for, but Israel’s, and of course the world’s. People in general are always quick to blame the victim— unless it’s someone they like. Though everyone had ignored and rejected him, God laid the sin of the world on this righteous Servant. Jesus did speak at times during his trial, but he never tried to get out of it beyond praying to the Father that there would be some other way. This is Jesus in his humanity, showing us to the last how we should relate to God. As stated in the Gospels, Jesus resolutely marched toward his own demise because of the greater good beyond it, per Heb. 12:2. He was not murdered by his Father as the senseless critics claim.

His trial by the Jews was illegal and unjust, but it had to be so, per 1 Cor. 2:8. Even his burial in a rich man’s tomb was fulfilled literally and physically and could not have been prearranged by Jesus or any of his poor, cowardly disciples. But in spite of it all, restitution was made for the sin of the world per John 1:29, which is why Jesus shouted Paid in full! on the cross, per John 19:30. The children are all adopted, per Rom. 8:15, 23, 9:4, Gal. 4:5, and Eph. 1:5, but children nonetheless. And because of all this, he will return as the conquering king, per Phil. 2:5-11.

Isaiah 54-57

Ch. 54 begins with a familiar passage quoted in Gal. 4:27, whose context is the difference between faithful and unfaithful Israel. Here, the prophecy speaks of ultimate future blessings to come upon faithful Israel. The women in ancient Israel were in charge of putting up the family tent, so it is to the wife of God that such a happy command is given.

The blessing is a large nation with plenty of land, and verse 5 continues the wife theme by identifying the husband as the Lord of Armies. But be careful with analogies; too many leap to the conclusion that this means a wife must treat her husband as God, but that would be idolatry. Rather, this symbolizes the care and nurturing of God toward his people.

In ch. 54 the symbolism continues and explains that God had indeed rejected Israel in anger, but it was temporary. Ch. 55 begins with another familiar passage quoted in the Gospels by Jesus. By doing so, Jesus was offering to Israel the consumation of the earthly kingdom, but they rejected him so it was delayed. Verses 8-11 are yet another familiar passage, which should remind us to trust God, whose promises will be fulfilled.

Ch. 56 continues, but some read about keeping the sabbaths as applying to the church, when in fact it applies only to the people of Israel during the future Millennium. Then the text turns back to the present condition of Israel, the result of which is seen in Ch. 57: the famine of justice and compassion. This is also what happens when churches bring the world into our midst instead of going out to the world to evangelize, which makes decent believers leave the congregation. And when only apostates are in the churches, the churches become the centers of disgusting acts and teachings, such as what’s described in this chapter.

Isaiah 58-66

Ch. 58 reminds us that sin must be faced and confronted, not hidden and denied. When we don’t, yet we continue religious practices, we have the audacity to ask why God seems so far away. Then God tells us what a real fast is: to renounce sin, to free the oppressed, and to lift burdens. James 1:27 and 2:16 adds that true religion is to care for the helpless and needy, and strive for holiness. For Israel under the law of Moses, they also needed to do everything in that law.

In ch. 59 God assures Israel that he’s quite capable of restoring and blessing them, but quite unwilling as long as they persist in rebellion. But then we see that God won’t wait forever, but will have pity and intervene, out of shock that none among them would rise up and stand against evil. Do Christians today stand up and show any backbone while such grievous sins as abortion and the corruption of our youth continue? Do we stand for the truth of the Word of God against all other religions? It’s no wonder that in Luke 18:8 Jesus asked if he’d find faith on the earth when he returns.

Ch. 60, as also Jesus taught in Mat. 5:16, reminds us that we’re not here to hide ourselves away but to be light in a dark world. That was Israel’s mandate, and for the most part it was never achieved, though it will be in the future Millennium. You can read details of that, and notice in verse 19 it moves beyond the Millennium to the time described also in Rev. 21:23,25 after the new heavens and earth are created. Notice also in verse 22 that it switches back to the Millennium, since people will still be mortal and having children.

Ch. 61 begins another passage quoted in Luke 4:18, but Jesus stopped short of the part where God was to bring vengeance, since it was not yet time for that. Here again we see an undeniable gap in prophecy, even within a sentence. Then there are more descriptions of the Millennium, continuing into ch. 62, and in ch. 63 is a passage referenced in Rev. 14:19 and 19:13 as applying to Jesus, who will indeed bring vengeance and wrath.

Ch. 63 and 64 turns to remind Israel of God’s great deeds once again. Then in ch. 65 is a passage quoted in Rom. 10:19-20 which is applied to the Gentiles. Israel had failed in its mission to make the Gentiles jealous for God, and the church for the most part has failed to do the same for Israel, per Rom. 11:14. Then we see that during the Millennium only the rebellious will die young; since there’s still mortality, it can’t refer to eternity, and an allegory about good and evil makes no sense at all when it comes to dying young.

Ch. 66 begins with God calling heaven his throne and earth his footstool, in the context of showing that whatever puny humans do is no match for their Creator. No amount of temples or sacrifices could ever compensate for the people’s rebellion. But notice verse 7 and forward; this seems to be an accurate description of how modern Israel, in unbelief though it is, literally became a nation at the stroke of a pen. Yet in context it certainly also means the future restoration of Israel after the Tribulation. Just as scripture prophesies both a secular and a spiritual Babylon, so also there is and will be both a secular and a spiritual Israel.

Verse 20 says that the nations will literally carry Jews back to their homeland, not in revulsion but in joy and love for God. Then God tells again of the new heavens and earth that will be made, awaiting the end of the Millennium, during which time people can still see the disgusting sight of the dead bodies of the wicked. There are some helpful maps of the names in this passage in Constable’s Notes.

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