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Go to Bible: Isaiah 33
|Isa 33:1||- (top)|
|Isa 33:2||- (top)|
|Isa 33:3||- (top)|
“Your spoil will be harvested.” The Assyrians had taken great spoil from the peoples they conquered. Now God tells them that there is a day coming when the spoil they have taken will be taken from them. It will be “harvested” (the Hebrew is more literally “gathered,” but it refers to being gathered in harvest) as if locusts had come and taken their spoil. People will leap upon it (or “rush to and fro on it”) like locusts. The two words for “locust” in the verse are different, but refer to different stages in the growth of the locust. So the REV uses “young locust” (which some versions translate as “caterpillar”) and “locust.”(top)
“he will fill.” The Hebrew uses the prophetic perfect idiom, and reads, “he has filled.” The prophetic perfect was a common way that a future event that was sure to come to pass was expressed in the Hebrew language—by saying it had already happened. [For more on the prophetic perfect idiom, see commentary on Ephesians 2:6].
“righteousness.” In this context, “righteousness” is doing what is right toward God and people, and in effect is “justice.” In Isaiah 33:5, “justice” means more like “judgment,” that is fair judgment, thus justice. The emphasis is the effect: justice. In contrast, “righteousness” has more emphasis on the action; doing what is right to God and to fellow humans. There is no justice on earth now, but there will be in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth. Christ will reign in righteousness, doing the right and just thing, and the effect of that will be peace, quietness, and confidence. [For more on “righteousness” having the meaning of doing what is right or just (“justice”), see commentary on Matt. 5:6. For more on Christ’s future Millennial Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
“And he will be.” The phrase refers to God. God is to be people’s stability.
“Zion.” The Hebrew is simply the masculine singular pronoun, “his.” In this case, Zion is being portrayed as a man, and the fear of God is to be “his” treasure, but the pronoun makes the English very unclear, so, like the ESV, the REV substituted the noun Zion for the pronoun.(top)
|Isa 33:7||- (top)|
|Isa 33:8||- (top)|
“the Arabah.” The Arabah is the Great Rift Valley that runs from Lebanon down into Africa, and it is the valley in which is the Sea of Galilee, most of the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.(top)
|Isa 33:10||- (top)|
“You.” We can see from Isaiah 33:12 that the “you” here in Isaiah 33:11 refers to the hostile nations that desire to destroy God’s people, but they will not succeed.
“your breath.” This is the reading of the Hebrew text, although there is a variant reading, “my breath,” which has been picked up by some of the English versions (cp. NAB; NASB). It seems certain that “your breath” is original. The enemy planned to consume God’s people, but their evil plan was self-destructive, and resulted in their own destruction. God is righteous, and He has set His laws and His judgment in such a way that on the Day of Judgment the wicked are destroyed as a consequence of the evil they have done. In a very real sense, their own “breath” destroys them. However, it is much more than just their “breath” that destroys the wicked. The Hebrew word translated “breath” is ruach (#07307 רוּחַ), and ruach can refer to a large number of things, including wind; spirit, and breath. It also refers to the natural life of our fleshly bodies that is sometimes referred to as “soul;” and it includes the activities of the mind such as people’s thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. Thus, the Hebrew text is saying that what the wicked do, what they “breathe out” if you will, their evil thoughts, attitudes and emotions, will result in their destruction. [For more on the usages of ruach, spirit, see Appendix 6, “Usages of ‘Spirit’”].(top)
“as if burned into lime.” This is a powerful simile in the text because the limestone that was quite common in Palestine was quarried into building stones of various sizes and used to build many things from small buildings to large Temples. But the limestone was also burned into lime and used to fertilize the fields. The analogy is that the enemy that might seem so large and imposing, like a huge building, will be burned into nothing just like limestone is burned into lime. But if the fire is too hot, some 900 degrees, even the lime decomposes.
“like thorns.” The thorns could seem like an impenetrable barrier and/or be a serious trouble, but they could be cut down and burned, and be no more. Some people think this section of Isaiah, especially Isaiah 33:14, refers to people burning forever in the Lake of Fire, but both the context and the wording of the text militates against that. For example, here in Isaiah 33:12, God is speaking of things that burn up, not things that burn forever. For example, limestone burns down to lime, but even lime itself decomposes at about 900 degrees. And thorns burn up completely in a fire. In the context, God is speaking of the destruction of His enemies and that they will come to nothing. In the future God’s enemies will not burn forever but like the thorns will be burned up in the Lake of Fire. [For more on the death of the wicked, see Appendix 5, Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].(top)
|Isa 33:13||- (top)|
“are afraid.” Wicked people and sinners have great bravado and boasting against God until they actually meet Him. We humans are weak and frail; we cannot even keep ourselves from getting sick, much less prevent ourselves from dying. We need God to give us life and everlasting life. Nevertheless, the wicked seem to ignore those things, and act as if they are strong and self-sufficient. But there is a day coming when the wicked will experience the judgment of God, and there will be fear and trembling in that day.
“devouring fire.” God is described as a “devouring fire” (some versions have “consuming fire”) in Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29. God’s tongue is referred to as a “devouring fire” in Isaiah 30:27 because it speaks the death sentence of the wicked, and God is also associated with a devouring fire in Isaiah 30:30. Here in Isaiah 33:14, God is again being described as a devouring fire as He was earlier in Scripture. Of course, God is described as a “devouring fire” because eventually, all His enemies are completely devoured and destroyed.
Although the orthodox teaching is that wicked people burn forever in “hell,” that is not the teaching of Scripture. The unsaved are thrown into the Lake of Fire where they burn up and are annihilated (Rev. 20:11-15). Many verses associate God or God’s wrath and judgment. For example, Malachi 4:3 speaks of the wicked being ashes under the feet of the righteous. Jesus compared the unsaved to trees that do not produce fruit and so are cut down and burned (Matt. 7:19); to weeds that are gathered and burned up (Matt. 13:40); and to vine branches that do not produce fruit and so are cut off and burned (John 15:6). All of those illustrations are comparing the wicked to things that burn up and are gone, not to things that go on burning. [For more on annihilation in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].
“the age-enduring hearth fire.” The consuming fire and age-enduing hearth fire both refer to God. Isaiah 33:14 is speaking about sinners who have rejected God and are now afraid and trembling. The last two sentences in the verse refer to sinners living with God. God is the consuming fire. God is the everlasting hearth fire. The sinners are asking themselves, “Who can live (literally, “sojourn”) with God, that consuming fire, that fire on the hearth that burns up what is on it and burns from age to age?
The wording of the Hebrew text in the last phrase is difficult because it is importing a word-picture that is unfamiliar and strange to most people. The Hebrew is ‘olam moqed. The Hebrew word ‘olam (#05769 עוֹלָם) is a quite common noun, and has a range of meanings that includes “of long duration; of unknown future duration, thus, an age,” as well as “old, ancient,” and also, “always, forever, everlasting.” The context determines the more exact meaning of ‘olam in any given verse. Since this phrase is speaking of God, “age-enduring” or “everlasting” is appropriate.
The Hebrew word moqed (#04168 מוֹקֵד) is also a noun, not a verb, and it is a very unusual noun that only occurs two or three times in the Bible. It means, “hearth” or fireplace (the HALOT; Holladay; NIDOT; and TWOT Hebrew-English lexicons), or a burning or burning mass (TWOT; BDB). The use of “hearth” paints the word picture of God, who is being represented by the altar in the Temple, with its perpetually burning fire—the fire was never to go out on God’s altar (Lev. 6:12). Then, by extension, moqed also points to God, who is that “age-enduring hearth fire,” that “never-dying blaze” on the altar (TNK), or “age-enduring burning thing.”
Isaiah 33:14 ends with two questions that are being asked by the sinners who are now frightened at the prospect of facing God, and who know Him to be a consuming fire. The sinners are saying, “Who among us can live with God, that holy and righteous One who is a devouring fire? Indeed, who among us sinners can live with God, that age-enduring hearth fire?” The answer, of course, is no sinner will be able to live with a holy God. In contrast, however, the very next verse, Isaiah 33:15, shows us who can live forever with God: the one who walks righteously before Him.
The fact that moqed is the noun “hearth,” “fireplace,” or “burning thing” should show us that “everlasting burning” is not an accurate translation, even though many English versions read that way. Furthermore, we should not then take that mistranslation and say that the “everlasting burning” refers to “hell” or the Lake of Fire. The translation “everlasting burning,” makes moqed into a verb or verbal, which it is not. It is a noun, and it refers to God.
In spite of the fact that moqed is a noun, some people think this section of Isaiah, especially Isaiah 33:14, refers to people burning forever in the Lake of Fire. That is a common Christian belief, but one that is not correct. Even if Isaiah 33:14 was speaking about an age-enduring fire and not an age-enduring God, the fire would not be an everlasting fire. Both the context and the wording of the verse militates against that. Ed Fudge writes: “Some traditionalists have interpreted verse 14 as referring to unending conscious torment, but the entire context argues otherwise. Verses 11-12 picture total destruction by fire. The fire consumes, which is why no wicked person can ‘dwell’ with it. Verse 14 describes the eternal holiness of God himself, who is a ‘consuming fire’” (The Fire that Consumes, 3rd Edition; Cascade Books, Eugene, OR, p. 74).
In the context, in Isaiah 33:12, God is speaking of things that burn up, not things that burn forever. Limestone burns down to lime, but even lime itself decomposes at about 900 degrees. And thorns burn up completely in a fire. In the context, God is speaking of the destruction of His enemies and that they will come to nothing. In the future God’s enemies will not burn forever; they will be burned up in the Lake of Fire.
People burning forever would also build a contradiction into the verse and context. Sinners cannot burn up like lime and thorns do, in a “consuming fire,” and at the same time not be burned up. Furthermore, sacrifices on the altar in the Temple do not burn forever, they are burned up and consumed—it is the fire on the altar that keeps burning. Sinners either burn up in the Lake of Fire or burn forever in it, but not both, and we assert that the Scripture is clear that sinners do not burn forever, but are consumed in the Lake of Fire. No sinner can live with a consuming God, they will be consumed. Moreover, Isaiah 33:14 is not speaking of an everlasting fire, but rather of God being an age-enduring hearth-fire. [For more about the wicked being annihilated in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].(top)
|Isa 33:15||- (top)|
|Isa 33:16||- (top)|
|Isa 33:17||- (top)|
|Isa 33:18||- (top)|
|Isa 33:19||- (top)|
|Isa 33:20||- (top)|
|Isa 33:21||- (top)|
|Isa 33:22||- (top)|
|Isa 33:23||- (top)|
“of Zion.” This is supplied for clarity from Isaiah 33:20. The more literal is simply, “No resident will say….” Isaiah is speaking of the Millennial Kingdom, when Christ rules the earth. [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”].(top)