|The Book of Isaiah|
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Go to Bible: Isaiah 1
“in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.” God raised up a number of prophets during Isaiah’s time, which was a tumultuous time for Israel and Judah, including when the northern kingdom of Israel was carried away by Assyria and its citizens replaced by foreigners, who became the hated Samaritans of the New Testament. Prophets who were contemporaries of Isaiah include Hosea (Hos. 1:1), Micah (cp. Micah 1:1). Amos likely was (Amos 1:1), as was Jonah and Nahum.(top)
“but they have rebelled.” This verse, and many like it, highlight the fact that people have free will and can make the choice to serve God or not. God is not in control of what we do. God writes this verse with a tone of surprise and disgust. He had done so much for Israel and they had remained unthankful. Thankfulness comes from the heart and is something that we can control if we want to, which is why God can command us to be thankful (Col. 3:15).(top)
“Israel does not know.” The Hebrew text of Isaiah 1:3 does not supply an object to the word “know,” and thus answer the question, “does not know what?” Instead it simply states that Israel “does not know.” From the first phrase, that the ox knows “its owner,” an implied object is “does not know ‘their God.’” However, Israel is ignorant of more than just their God. They do not understand the things of God or their dire situation, so the simple phrase “does not know” is appropriate because it includes all the things that Israel does not know. Furthermore, the word “know” can also have the meaning of “consider,” and that is true also. Not only does Israel not know their God, He does not come into their minds in a meaningful way—they do not consider Him. Furthermore, Israel is a microcosm of the world, because most people do not give serious thought to God and the things of God.
It is a fact that most people are not hostile towards God, but instead they are indifferent towards Him; they ignore Him. It is as if God does not exist. In that, humans are not as wise as the animals that God created. “The ox knows his owner.” The ox knows where his food and shelter come from, and he obeys the owner and receives his desired reward. Humans, on the other hand, though so much greater in intellectual capacity than an ox, strangely ignore what should be the most important and profound questions in life: “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” And, “Where am I going.”
We came from God, who created us for His good pleasure to fellowship with Him and with each other. We are here to love and serve God and each other, and in doing that we will find true fulfillment in life. The last question, “Where am I going,” totally depends on one’s own choices. Those people who are prideful and will not obey God or live in a godly way with other humans end up rejecting God and His offer of everlasting life, and so they will end up being annihilated in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15). But for those people who obey God and get saved, the question, “Where am I going” is answered by, “To a wonderful place with wonderful people who will enjoy everlasting life together.”
No one needs to, or should, miss everlasting life. God, in His love and mercy, has made it available for every person to be saved through Jesus Christ. However, because natural people tend to ignore God and their future life, those people who have found salvation in Christ should do what they can to keep people who are not saved from staying at a level of awareness that is lower than the dumb ox that God created. As ambassadors for Christ, Christians must help people awaken from their lackadaisical state of mind and overcome their natural pride and rebellion and humbly come to Christ and get saved so they too can enjoy everlasting life in a wonderful place. [For more on the wonderful future kingdom of Christ on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on the unsaved being annihilated in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].
“feeding trough.” The place where the food is placed. Also called a crib or manger.(top)
“a seed.” “Seed” in this context means “offspring,” “descendants.” It is what the mature plant produces.(top)
|Isa 1:5||- (top)|
“cleansed.” The Hebrew is literally, “pressed out.” When a person is wounded or sick, often there is foreign matter in the wound that needs to be flushed out.(top)
|Isa 1:7||- (top)|
“Daughter Zion.” The Hebrew is literally, “the daughter of Zion,” but that is idiomatic for Zion itself, i.e., Jerusalem. The Hebrew is simply two words, “daughter” and “Zion” (בַּת־צִיּֽוֹן) but they are in construct so it gets translated into English as “daughter of Zion.” The problem with the translation “daughter of Zion” is that in English a “daughter of Zion” is not Zion itself, but the female child of Zion. But that is not what the Hebrew means, and this is an example where a strictly literal English translation of a Hebrew idiomatic phrase can cause confusion. The Hebrew means “Daughter Zion.” Sometimes “Daughter Zion” is paired with “Daughter Jerusalem,” two phrases that refer to the same thing, for example, “The virgin Daughter Zion has despised you and ridiculed you. Daughter Jerusalem has shaken her head at you” (Isa. 37:22; cp. 2 Kings 19:21; Lam. 2:13; Micah 4:8; Zeph. 3:14; Zech. 9:9).
Here in Isaiah 1:8, Jerusalem (and by extension, Judah), is referred to as the daughter of God, a use of the figure of speech hypocatastasis that brings a lot of meaning and emotion to the verse. As a daughter, God would have loved to have tenderly cared for her, but she refused His help and advice. Also as a daughter, she had cultural obligations to obey her Father and follow His ways, but she spurned her father and did whatever she wanted, which resulted in her ruin. [For more on the figure of speech hypocatastasis, see commentary on Rev. 20:2. For more on “Daughter Zion” and the Israel as the Bride, see Appendix 13, “The Bride of Christ”].
“booth...watchman’s hut.” This refers to the biblical custom of guarding the crops. Between the planting season and the harvest, farmers put up temporary shelters in their fields so they could guard their crops from thieves and pests. The booth or hut sheltered the watchman from the heat and wind. Family members would take turns manning these shelters, even spending the night there if the situation warranted it. The shelters were temporary, and after the harvest they were abandoned and soon fell into ruin, eventually even simply falling down and falling apart. Here in Isaiah 1:8, God compares Zion to one of those huts—Zion is in a state of ruin. Sometimes the watchtowers in the fields and vinyards were built to last; they were much more permanent and sturdy, and that is the kind of watchtower that is mentioned in Isaiah 5:2.
Amos prophesied about the same time as Isaiah (likely started before Isaiah started and ended before Isaiah ended), and Amos also spoke of David’s fallen “booth” (Amos 9:11), using the same word for “booth” (Hebrew: sukkah #05521 סֻכָּה) as Isaiah does. Judah was in ruins, but God says it will be restored. [For more on the Messianic Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
|Isa 1:9||- (top)|
“Sodom...Gomorrah.” Isaiah employs the figure of speech antonomasia (“name change”) to graphically describe how evil the people of Judah were—they were as bad as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who God destroyed by fire from heaven (Gen. 19:4-29). [For more on the figure antonomasia, see commentary on Matthew 17:10].(top)
|Isa 1:11||- (top)|
|Isa 1:12||- (top)|
“worthless offerings.” The priests and people were wicked and unrepentant, so their offerings were worthless. Offerings and sacrifices were never designed to make a person with an evil heart acceptable in the sight of God. Isaiah 1:10-19 is all about what God wants and what He doesn’t want from Israel. [For more information about the sacrifices of wicked people being of no value, see commentary on Amos 5:22.]
“New moons.” The beginning of each month, the new moon, was celebrated by special offerings and blowing of trumpets (Num. 10:10, 28:11-15; see commentary on Num. 28:11). In time, the Jews turned the new moon into a feast day (1 Sam. 20:5).(top)
|Isa 1:14||- (top)|
“I will not listen.” It is very important that God’s people realize that God does not hear prayers simply because people pray. Everyone sins, but some people are stubborn and unrepentant about their sin. A person’s heart must be right in the sight of God for the prayer to be effective. For example, if a man treats his wife badly it will hinder his prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). It is the prayer of a righteous person that accomplishes much (James 5:16). There are a number of verses that say God does not answer the prayers of the wicked (cp.Job 35:12-13; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 1:15; 59:1-2; Ezek. 8:17-18; Micah 3:4; Zech. 7:12-13; and James 4:3). [For more on God not hearing the prayers of the wicked or honoring their sacrifices, see commentary on Amos 5:22].
“Your hands are full of blood.” The people’s actions in their day-to-day life showed that their supposed worship of God was insincere and hypocritical.(top)
|Isa 1:16||- (top)|
|Isa 1:17||- (top)|
|Isa 1:18||- (top)|
|Isa 1:19||- (top)|
|Isa 1:20||- (top)|
|Isa 1:21||- (top)|
|Isa 1:22||- (top)|
“nor does the cause of the widow come before them.” The wealthy and powerful bureaucrats that ran the society in the time of Isaiah, and through most of history, were greedy, evil, and not interested in justice or what was right. As the bureaucracies grew in both Israel and Judah, the leadership was often associated with the royal family, or the military, or the priestly system, and ended up supporting one another in their evil endeavors. Over time the leaders acquired more and more land and gradually controlled the economy and legal system. As we see here in Isaiah 1:23, bribery and various other ways of getting “rewards” became commonplace. The result of the system was that the common people in the kingdom were terribly exploited. Widows and orphans, mentioned here in Isaiah, were especially vulnerable. Through excessive taxation, unfair treatment in the courts, and just plain bullying they eventually lost any land their family had and with it their rights as citizens. The covenant faithfulness and care for the poor and weak set forth in the Law of Moses was ignored and life would have been a drudgery for a large part of the population.
Evil leaders such as those mentioned here may seem to be doing well, but there will come a day when they are punished for their evil, as Isaiah 1:24 says. People who do not “fear the Lord” will discover to their dismay that for evil people, God’s justice was a thing to be feared (cp. Matt. 10:28).
“get relief.” Or, “console myself.” God will get relief from His adversaries by taking vengeance on them.(top)
“slag.” Slag is the mixed and impure residue that is left when metal is smelted and the pure metal is poured off. Here in Isaiah God uses the metaphor of purifying metals to describe that He will purify Israel and remove the impurities from her, the “impurities” being evil people and evil practices.(top)
“I will restore your judges as at the first.” Isaiah 1:26 refers to the Millennial Kingdom, Christ’s future kingdom on earth. At that time, and sadly not before then, Jerusalem, and by extension Judah and Israel, will be governed by righteous people who love God. Verses such as Isaiah 1:26 show us that when Christ sets up his kingdom on earth, he will be assisted in governing the earth by people who have been faithful to him (see commentary on Jer. 23:4). The phrase, “as at the first” seems to refer to the early reign of David when the Davidic reign was considered ideal and the judges David set up were righteous men.
Here in Isaiah we see how the hope for Christ’s Kingdom on earth was not just a vague idea, but a living hope that burned in the souls of people like Isaiah, and so verses about the hope would pop up seemingly without warning or introduction in all kinds of different contexts. Isaiah himself had wonderful revelations about our hope, the future kingdom of Christ, and because of that, as we see here, he can quickly insert one aspect of it into the text and expect people to understand it. Prophecies of the Millennial Kingdom when Christ rules the earth as king appear throughout Isaiah, sometimes taking up a large number of verses at a time.
[For more verses in Isaiah that speak of the Millennial Kingdom, see commentary on Isaiah 2:2. For more on Christ’s future kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
“After that.” Jerusalem had been mostly run by ungodly kings and priests (although not all of them were), and that made life hard on the people. In the Messianic Kingdom, Jesus Christ will be king and reign in righteousness (Isa. 11:3-5), and he will restore godly judges and leaders. Then even the people will call Jerusalem, “City of Righteousness; Faithful Town” (which can also be translated: “City of the Righteous, Community of Faithfulness”). Thus this verse is a testimony to the fact that if a society is going to be godly, the leaders must be godly, and in the Messianic Kingdom of Christ they will be.
“Righteousness.” In this context, “righteousness” is doing what is right to God and others. In the Millennial Kingdom, Jerusalem will be called the “City of Righteousness” (or City of Justice) because people will do what is right to God and each other, and Jesus Christ will reign as king over the earth and the Law will go out from Jerusalem all over the world. [For more on “righteousness” having the meaning of doing what is right, see commentary on Matt. 5:6].(top)
“by righteousness.” In this context, “righteousness” is doing what is right to God and others. People who repent will be redeemed by God’s righteous actions. [For more on “righteousness” having the meaning of doing what is right, see commentary on Matt. 5:6].(top)
“will come to an end.” This English phrase is the translation of the one Hebrew word, kalah (#03615 כָּלָה), which has a large range of meanings that include “to stop, be at an end, be finished, be used up, vanish, perish, be destroyed, be consumed.” In this context of the Assyrian conquest, with the final future judgment in the background, “come to an end” refers to the destruction and then the extinction of evil people, which will ultimately occur in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15). Although English translations such as “come to an end” (NASV) and perish” (CSB; NET; NIV), are certainly understandable, many English versions translate kalah as “be consumed” (ASV; CJB; ESV; GNV; JPS; KJV; NAB; NLT; NRSV; RSV; YLT). This seems to be the specific meaning in the text because the context includes the wicked burning with no one to quench the fire (Isa. 1:31).(top)
|Isa 1:29||- (top)|
|Isa 1:30||- (top)|
“The strong man will be like tinder.” At the time of God’s judgment, human strength will not prevail against the power of God. The unsaved, whether strong or weak, rich or poor, or master or servant, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and burn up. In this context, the strong man is strong but unsaved.
“They will both burn together, and no one will quench them.” At the Resurrection of the Unrighteous, the wicked people who are not saved will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and will burn until they are annihilated and exist no more. When the text says that “no one will quench them,” it does not mean they will burn forever, it means that no one will put out the fire until they are totally consumed (see commentary on Mark 9:48).
[For more information on the unsaved being totally annihilated in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.” For more information on dead people being dead until they are raised at a resurrection, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead.” For more on the different resurrections, see commentary on Acts 24:15. For more information on Christ’s future Millennial Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)