Isaiah: God controls the nations

Isaiah declares how God’s people should be living

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Isaiah chapters 1 to 9

www.easyenglish.info

Norman Hillyer

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

Chapter 1

What this book is about

v1 Messages about Judah and *Jerusalem that God gave to Isaiah son of Amoz. This was during the period when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah were kings of Judah.

Verse 1

The name Isaiah means ‘God saves’. We do not know anything more about Isaiah’s father Amoz (not the same person as Amos).

·     Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah were kings of Judah. They all ruled during the second half of the 8th century before Jesus was born.

God accuses his guilty people

v2 Listen, heaven and earth! God is speaking. The children that I brought up have turned against me. v3 Even a farmer’s animals know who owns them. And they know who feeds them. But my special people called Israel do not recognise me. Nor do they appreciate me. v4 Oh, what a wicked nation you are! Your evil deeds are like a great weight upon your back. You learn to copy each other’s wicked actions. You have turned from God, the Holy God of Israel. v5 Do not continue to suffer any more punishment. Obey me! You are like somebody who has bruises all over his head. v6 From the top of your head to underneath your feet no part of you is healthy. There are only bruises and sore places that are bleeding.

Nobody has washed the injuries or used cream to cure them.

Verses 2-3

‘Heaven and earth’ (that is, everything that God created) are God’s witnesses. They know that God’s words are true. Nature obeys God’s instructions. Even a farmer’s animals are more intelligent than the people in Israel, who continue not to obey God’s instructions.

Verses 4-6

The people in Israel suffer punishment because they refuse to change their evil behaviour. Isaiah frequently uses the title ‘Holy God of Israel’. Because God himself is holy, he expects his people to live holy lives.

Enemies have destroyed the land

v7 Foreign enemies have ruined your country. They have burned your towns. They have *seized and emptied your fields. And you can only watch what is happening. v8 *Jerusalem has no defence. It looks like an empty hut alone in a field. Enemies are all round you. v9 But God has kept alive some people in *Jerusalem. Otherwise the city’s fate would have been like the end of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Verse 7

Chapter 36 describes this attack. It happened during the time when Hezekiah was king.

Verse 8

‘An empty hut alone in a field’ refers to a temporary shelter of branches. Such a shelter protected a *look-out as he guarded the crops. After the harvest, people would leave the shelter to fall into pieces.

Verse 9

The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were so evil that God destroyed their cities (see Genesis chapter 19).

Israel’s religion is not sincere

v10 Listen, you rulers of *Jerusalem! You are like the rulers of Sodom. Listen, you people in *Jerusalem! You are like the people in Gomorrah. Listen very carefully to what God is saying to you. v11 I have no use for the many animals that you kill to offer to me. I have had more than enough of their blood. It gives me no pleasure whatever. v12 Nobody asked you to bring all these gifts every time you come to *worship me. Keep back from my holy *Temple! v13-14 And stop bringing other gifts that really mean nothing to you. I hate the *incense that you burn for its sweet smell. You have special monthly meetings when the moon is new. You have special weekly meetings on the Sabbath (7th day). You have special meetings on many other occasions as well. But your religion is making no difference to your evil lives. I hate all these activities. They only make me angry. v15 So I shall not notice when you pray. Even if you pray many prayers, I shall not listen. It is as if your evil lives have stained you with blood. v16 Clean yourselves! Your wicked lives fill me with disgust. Stop your evil behaviour! v17 Learn to live good lives. Deal fairly with other people. Defend widows. Look after the rights of children who have no parents. Help poor people.

Verse 11

‘I have had more than enough of their blood.’ Leviticus 17:11 declares that blood was essential for a *sacrifice to be acceptable. That is, to have the result that God intended. But the people’s present *sacrifices in God’s holy *Temple had no value whatever. The *sacrifices meant nothing to the people who brought them. So their *sacrifices meant nothing to God.

Verses 12-15

All these activities in God’s holy *Temple were without any value to God. They were making no difference to the evil way that the people were living. So God said that he hated these activities.

Verse 16-17

People who continue to live evil lives cannot expect their *sacrifices in the *Temple to save them from God’s punishment.

God offers a new start

v18 Come, let us discuss this matter together. It is as if your evil life has stained you a deep red. But I can remove the stain completely. I can make you as clean as new snow. Even if your stain is of the deepest red, I can make you as white as wool. v19 Let me help you. If you are willing to obey me, you will eat all the crops of the land. v20 But if you refuse to obey me, your enemies will *destroy you. I am the *Lord. I have spoken.

Verse 18

It is almost impossible to remove a red stain completely by human effort. But God can do it perfectly.

Verses 19-20

Obey God, and all good gifts will be yours. Refuse to obey God, and nothing will go right. God will no longer care about you. He will no longer protect you. Enemies will attack and you will lose everything.

*Jerusalem’s fate

v21 People in *Jerusalem, you are like a wife who is no longer true to her husband. Once your judges gave fair judgements and your citizens lived good lives. Now you have a city whose inhabitants are cruel. v22 People in *Jerusalem, once you were like pure silver. Now you have no value. Your *wine was the very best. Now it has water in it. v23 Your rulers have turned against me. They prefer the company of thieves. Your rulers expect presents and secret gifts. They refuse to look after the rights of children who have lost both parents. They will not defend widows.

v24 Now listen to the judgement by the *Lord, Israel’s all-powerful God. I shall pour out my great anger on you, my enemies. You will cause me no more trouble. v25 I shall punish you severely. I shall burn with fierce fire all that makes you unholy. That is, all that makes you unfit to give me honour.

Verses 21-23

True religion is a relationship of love with God. That love for God will affect all people’s relationships with each other. Water that someone adds to *wine affects all the *wine. So lack of love for God must cause a lack of love for other people. And poor people and weak people will be the first to suffer.

Verses 24-25

God is angry because the leaders of his people are guilty of moral failure. God wants men who will loyally carry out his wishes. He now considers Israel and Judah to be his enemies. That is why he will punish them.

God will save *Jerusalem

v26 I shall give you fair judges and wise advisers, like those that you had in former days. *Jerusalem will be called ‘the city that takes care of its citizens’. And ‘the city where you can trust people’. v27 The *Lord is true and fair. So he will save *Jerusalem and everyone there who turns back to him.

v28 But he will *destroy all who have turned against him. And those who continue with their evil practices. v29 You will be ashamed because you considered sacred trees and sacred gardens to be your gods. v30 You will become like a dead tree and like a garden without water. v31 The strongest among you will disappear like straw in a fire. Your evil deeds started that fire. And nobody will be able to put it out.

Verses 26-27

Now God will appoint other leaders, as he did long ago. That happened when David made *Jerusalem his capital (see 2 Samuel 5:9). He appointed true men of God as leaders (see 2 Samuel 8:17-18).

Verses 28-31

But God will *destroy all who continue to oppose him. False gods (‘sacred trees and sacred gardens’) have no life in them to give to people who *worship them.

Chapter 2

God’s ideal plan for Israel

v1 A special message about Judah and *Jerusalem that God gave to Isaiah. v2 God’s *Temple stands on a mountain now. But the day is coming when that mountain will be the greatest of all mountains. And the *Temple will attract every nation to come to it. v3 Many peoples will come. Everyone will be saying, ‘Let us go to the *Lord’s mountain and *worship in his *Temple there. And we will obey his instructions.’ In those days God will rule all the nations from *Jerusalem. v4 The *Lord will settle arguments between nations. People will change swords into ploughs, and all tools for war into tools for peace. Nations will not attack each other any more. Nor will they train for war. v5 People in Israel, let us live in the way that the *Lord shows us.

Verses 1-5

All nations used to believe that gods lived on mountains. The *Lord’s mountain (Mount Zion) is ‘the greatest of all mountains’. That is, the *Lord is greater than any god.

·     The ‘day is coming’ refers to the ‘Day of the *Lord’. That is when God will be the judge of all nations (see Isaiah 2:12-21). And he will establish peace among them (see Isaiah 9:1-7).

·     People respect each other if their society respects God.

Israel prefers false gods

v6 But the *Lord no longer wants his special people. This is because they gladly accept foreigners from the east who practise magic like the *Philistines. v7 The people in Israel own masses of silver and gold. Nobody can count the number of horses and carriages for war. v8 Everywhere there are images of false gods. People have made them with their own hands. But then they persuade themselves that their images are their gods! v9 The people in Israel are so proud of themselves. Their *Lord can never forgive such an attitude.

Verses 6-7

God has given up his special people. They have refused to live the life that he requires of them. They want to copy all the other nations. They want to follow foreign customs and interests. They aim to heap up more and more money (for provisions) and *weapons of war (for protection).

Verse 8

One cannot count all the gods that the *Lord’s people have shaped out of dead blocks of wood.

Verse 9

And the people in Israel are so proud that they are self-sufficient. They think that they have no need of the *Lord. They have completely forgotten God’s purpose for them to be his witnesses to other nations. But God has not forgotten.

Day of judgement

v10 People will be in terror. They will hide themselves in caves or in holes in the ground. They will try to escape from the *Lord’s anger. They will be desperate to hide from God’s terrible power and fierce light. v11 A day is coming when all who are proud will suffer complete shame. The *Lord alone will have the right to the highest honour. v12 On that day the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will attack all that are proud. He will bring them to the dust. v13 The huge and famous trees in Lebanon and in Bashan will fall with a great crash. v14-16 The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will reduce to dust every high mountain and hill. He will cause every high *tower and every high wall to fall. And every proud ship will sink. v17 All who are proud will suffer complete shame. The *Lord alone will have the right to the highest honour. v18 And all images of false gods will completely disappear.

v19 People will be in terror. They will run to caves or to holes in the ground. They will be desperate to hide from the *Lord’s terrible power and fierce light when he rises to shake the earth. v20 In that day everybody will throw their images of gold and silver to the wild animals. v21 When the *Lord shakes the earth powerfully, people will be in terror. They will run to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground. They will be desperate to escape from the *Lord’s anger. They will try to hide from his terrible power and fierce light. v22 Put no more trust in weak human beings (people)! They are of no use.

Verse 10

There is no way to escape from God. The darkest caves and the deepest holes cannot hide anyone or anything from him.

Verses 11-13

Proud people may think that they do not need God. Then suddenly they will see that God is *Lord of all. And he demands that all must obey him. Nothing in nature, not even vast forests and huge mountains, can compare with the *Lord’s greatness. In fact, it was he who created them!

Verses 14-16

People build strong *towers and great walls to protect their cities. But such structures are weak and unsatisfactory, when one compares them with the powers of God’s Spirit.

Verses 17-20

The *Lord will not share his honour with any person or with any gods that mere men have manufactured.

Verse 21

The nation long remembered the power of that great *earthquake (see Amos 1:1 and Zechariah 14:5).

Verse 22

The only sure *foundation for any human life is God himself.

Chapter 3

Despair in *Jerusalem

v1 See what the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will do to *Jerusalem and to Judah. He will cut off supplies of food and water. v2-3 He will take away every sort of leader in authority – military officers, judges, ministers and officials in government, and wise advisers. And even people who say that they can see the future. v4 Mere youths without experience will become officials and leaders. v5 Families will quarrel. Neighbours will fight each other. Youths will insult old people. And nobody will respect those who deserve honour. v6 A man will seize one of his brothers and say to him: ‘You still have a coat. You be our leader. Take up responsibility for this heap of stones.’ v7 But the brother will refuse. ‘I have no solution to our troubles. I have no food or clothes at home. Do not make me the leader.’

v8 Both national and local government have completely broken down. This is because people’s evil words and actions have made the *Lord their enemy. v9 But they talk proudly about their wicked lives, as the inhabitants of Sodom used to do. Such people bring great trouble upon themselves. v10 Some people obey God and live good lives. Tell those people that God will reward them. v11 But some people do not obey God. Tell those people that they will suffer. What they have done to other people, other people will do to them. v12 My people! Your leaders are fools. They are as weak as women. They are as silly as children. Your leaders are taking you away from God.

Verses 1-7

True religion will produce a true society (see Isaiah 2:1-5). But Isaiah saw that actual affairs in *Jerusalem were the opposite.

·     God’s judgement often happens by means of society’s circumstances. Luxury changes into lack. Human relationships break down. Able people are unwilling to be leaders.

Verses 8-12

Proud behaviour (verse 9) causes moral failures in words and deeds. Such failures must affect both personal life and national life. That is God’s law.

God’s judgement

v13 As if he were standing in court, the *Lord is ready to accuse his people. v14 He declares that the leaders are worse than thieves. The leaders have filled their own houses with the property of poor people.

v15 You have no authority whatever to take unfair advantage of those who are unable to defend themselves. That is the *Lord’s message.

Verses 13-15

God warns the leaders in particular that he is well aware of their wicked practices.

God warns women in *Jerusalem

v16 Look at those women in *Jerusalem! They walk about so proudly. In the street they try to attract men to have sex with them. The women have no shame. They wear tiny bells on their ankles to attract attention as they walk. v17 But I will make their heads sore and make their bodies naked. v18-23 I will strip these women of all their dresses and the precious things that they wear. From every part of their body they will lose everything, from ear-rings to ankle chains. Every one of their aids to beauty will disappear. So will every luxury. v24 Instead of sweet cream, a bad smell. Instead of a lovely belt, a *rope. Instead of beautiful hair, a bald head. Instead of the latest fashion, rough cloth. Instead of beauty, shame. v25 The women will even lose their husbands, because the men will die in battle. v26 The entrances to *Jerusalem will be mere holes in the wall. The gates will be missing. The women will sit on the ground and cry in despair.

Verses 16-26

At that time, enemies will attack and destroy *Jerusalem. God’s judgement will show itself in all that the people suffer.

·     ‘Women’ is more accurately ‘daughters’ and so probably means all the inhabitants of *Jerusalem. ‘Jerusalem’ in the Hebrew language is a feminine (female) noun (a word that names a person or a thing).

Chapter 4

v1 In that day, seven women will seize some man who remains. The women will promise to get their own food and clothes. ‘Marry us and take away our shame!’

Verse 1

Marriage is an important *foundation for human society. People in those days considered that it was a disgrace (shame) for a woman not to have family relations.

Future hope

v2 The day will come when the *Lord’s judgement is complete. Then what he causes to grow will be beautiful and plentiful. What the land produces will be the delight of the few remaining people in Israel. v3 God has chosen those few people to remain alive in *Jerusalem. Because God has chosen them, they will be called ‘holy’. v4 The *Lord’s *fiery judgement will have completely removed the effects of the evil lives of *Jerusalem’s former inhabitants. v5-6 God’s glory (magnificent appearance) will be over all who gather in *Jerusalem to give him honour. The *Lord will create a thick cloud during the day and a bright fire by night. The cloud will be like a tent that will provide shade from the sun’s heat and a shelter from storm and rain.

Verse 2

God’s judgement will remove people who have been living wicked lives (see Isaiah 3:1-3). Now, instead of judgement and death, God will cause many beautiful plants to grow. They will astonish the few inhabitants that remain.

Verses 5-6

The cloud and fire that God creates will remind people of his protection in the days of Moses (see Exodus 13:21-22).

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 begins with a parable (a story with a double meaning).

A story about a *vineyard

v1 I shall sing a song about my friend’s *vineyard. My friend had a *vineyard on a hill where plants grew extremely well. v2 My friend dug the soil and he cleared out the stones. Then he planted the ground with the best *vines. He created a *look-out for a guard. He made a *winepress in the rock. He expected a harvest of good *grapes. But it produced bad *grapes.

v3 Now, inhabitants of *Jerusalem and people in Judah, give judgement between me and my *vineyard. v4 I did all that I could to benefit my *vineyard. I expected a harvest of good *grapes. But it has produced only bad *grapes. v5 I shall tell you what I shall do to my *vineyard. I shall remove its hedges. I shall break up its wall. I shall let animals walk upon the *vineyard and ruin it. v6 I shall make my *vineyard waste ground. Nobody will look after it. It will be full of weeds. I shall command the clouds not to rain on it.

v7 The nation called Israel is like the *vineyard of the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies). The people in Judah are like the *vines that he looked after. The *Lord expected right behaviour. Instead there was murder. He expected his people to deal fairly. Instead there were cries of poor people who suffered.

Verses 1-2

The ‘friend’ means God. The *vineyard means God’s special people, whom he chose. The *vineyard should have produced wonderful red *grapes. The soil was very good. God had made all possible preparations for a rich harvest.

Verses 4-7

Like the *vineyard in the story, God’s special people have been a bitter disappointment to him. God now removes all his protection and care. The result is terrible.

*Self-centred people

v8 *Woe to you who build more and more houses and buy more and more fields! No room will remain for anybody else because you will possess the whole land for yourselves. v9 Then Isaiah heard the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) make a serious promise. He will ruin many houses and he will empty large and beautiful homes. v10 Ten fields of *vines will yield only one barrel of juice. And whatever quantity of seed that the farmer sows will produce only one tenth of the quantity of grain. v11 *Woe to those who get up early in the morning in a hurry to drink beer! And then they continue to drink until late at night. By then they have become drunks. v12 They are so concentrating on their drinks and musical entertainment that their understanding (mind) is dull (unaware). They do not care about the *Lord. So they do not realise what he is doing.

Verse 8

God created the land. So it really belongs to him (see Leviticus 25:23).

Verse 10

God controls nature. He uses it to express his judgement.

Verses 11-12

People’s self-interest totally fills their lives. Their conscience no longer warns them about the result of their behaviour. No thought about God enters their minds.

God’s judgement

v13 Therefore, enemies will take away many of my people to be prisoners in a foreign country. This is because my people have no knowledge of God. Their leaders will die because they have no food. Crowds will die because they have no water. v14 *Sheol is like an animal that opens wide its mouth. It is eagerly waiting to swallow the noble leaders of *Jerusalem and its noisy crowds. v15 Human beings (people) will discover that they have no strength. Noble and powerful men will suddenly become unimportant. Proud men and women will know shame. v16 The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will show how truly great and holy he is by his perfectly fair judgements. v17 Young sheep and young goats will continue to find food to eat in their fields of grass. But also in the towns that enemies have ruined.

Verse 15

The result of God’s judgement is the collapse (total end) of society as people knew it.

Verse 17

Nobody remains to look after the farmer’s animals.

People who refuse a moral life

v18 People are unable to free themselves from their wicked practices. v19 They even insult the Holy God of Israel and invite him to punish them. ‘Be quick and punish us! We want to see what you can do!’ v20 *Woe to those people! They say that evil things are good. And they say that good things are evil. They say that black is white. And they say that white is black. They say that bitter things are sweet. And they say that sweet things are bitter. v21 *Woe to people who consider that they themselves are so wise. They believe themselves to be so clever. v22 *Woe to people who are so great – so great to be able to drink much alcohol. And so brave – so brave to mix strong drinks. v23 They free a guilty man because of a secret gift. But they send an innocent man to prison.

Verse 18

People continue to behave wickedly until their own evil habits control them. Then they become like prisoners. They cannot even change their attitudes in order to do the right things.

Verse 19

Such people decide that God has no place in their lives.

Verse 20

Their behaviour becomes the exact opposite of God’s standards for his people.

Verse 23

And they even consider that they are above the laws of their country.

God’s judgement

v24 Therefore wicked people will disappear like straw on fire. They will vanish like flowers that die. Dead flowers will turn into dust that the wind carries off. This is because such people have refused to obey the instruction of the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies). And they do not respect the word of the Holy God of Israel. v25 That is why the *Lord became extremely angry. He struck his people with great force. Even the mountains shook. Dead bodies lay in the streets like so much rubbish. But the *Lord’s great anger is still ready to strike again. v26 God will signal to a distant nation and he will call it from the ends of the earth. Its army will arrive with great speed. v27 Not a soldier tires or trips. None rests or sleeps. Not a belt or shoe needs attention. v28 Their arrows are sharp. Their bows are ready. Their horses’ feet are like iron. The wheels of their carriages for war spin like the wind. v29 Their soldiers roar like lions. The soldiers *seize God’s people and carry them off. And nobody can save them. v30 When that day comes, enemies will roar over God’s people. The sound will be like the roar of the sea. Look at Israel’s land! Despair is everywhere. Black clouds even cover the sky.

Verse 24

God’s judgement upon people who will not obey him will be sudden and total. His judgement is not mere words.

Verse 25

He uses nature. This includes a great *earthquake (see Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5). Bodies that nobody has buried are a common sight after a major *earthquake.

Verses 26-29

And God uses nations. He will send powerful enemies, first the *Assyrians, and then the *Babylonians.

Verse 30

In all directions, people see nothing but trouble. Their future is without hope.

Chapter 6

God calls Isaiah

v1 In the year when King Uzziah died, I saw the *Lord. He was sitting on a royal seat. His robe (royal dress) filled the *Temple. v2 Above the *Lord were two *fiery *angels. They were ready to serve him. Each *fiery *angel had six wings. Two wings covered their faces. Two wings covered their feet. With two wings they flew. v3 The *fiery *angels were calling to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies)! The whole earth is full of his *glory!’ v4 The sound of the *fiery *angels’ voices shook the *Temple. And the building filled with smoke.

v5 Then I cried, ‘I shall die! Every word that I speak is wicked. So are the words of all the people round me. But I have looked on the King, the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies)!’ v6 Then one of the *fiery *angels flew to me. He was holding a hot coal that he had taken off the *altar. v7 He touched my mouth with the hot coal. And he said, ‘This has touched your lips. You are no longer a guilty man. God has forgiven you.’

Verse 1

Uzziah was king of Judah for over 50 years. But his last years were unhappy (see 2 Chronicles 26:16-21). Human kings must die. But the *Lord is King of Heaven. He will never die. In a *vision, Isaiah sees something of the *Lord’s great glory (magnificent appearance).

Verse 2

Wings cover the faces of the *fiery *angels, but not their ears, which are ready to hear God’s instructions. Wings also cover the *angels’ feet. That seems to mean that the *angels will obey God. They will go only where the *Lord sends them.

Verse 3

‘Holy’ three times emphasises God’s absolutely pure nature.

Verse 5

To know now what *holiness truly means, causes Isaiah to realise his own wicked nature.

Verses 6-7

But God has work for Isaiah to do. The action of a *fiery *angel convinces Isaiah that God has forgiven him. So Isaiah is now able to do what God asks.

God’s hard task for Isaiah

v8 Then I heard the *Lord ask, ‘Is there anybody that I can send? Will someone go for us?’ ‘I will go’, I answered. ‘Send me.’ v9 Then the *Lord gave me this message to speak to the people: ‘You will listen constantly, but you will never understand. You will look constantly, but you will never see. v10 Make this people unable to understand. Make their ears deaf and close their eyes. So that they may not see or hear or understand. Otherwise they may confess their wicked ways and then I would cure them.’

v11-12 Then I said, ‘For how long, *Lord?’ God said, ‘Until enemies have broken up cities. Until houses have no inhabitants. Until enemies have ruined the entire country. Until the *Lord has removed the people to a distant country. Until the people’s own land is empty. v13 Even if a tenth of the people remain, enemies will burn their land too. The land will be like a great tree that men have cut down. Only a small part of the tree remains in the ground. But that small part is a sign of a new beginning for Israel.’

Verse 8

Isaiah is now fit to answer the call of our God, who is so holy.

Verses 9-10

The strange message that Isaiah is to declare will not help his listeners to understand. In fact, God’s message will act like a blanket that covers the people’s ears and eyes and minds.

Verses 11-12

To know the purpose of God’s message gives a great shock to Isaiah. Even worse news follows. Enemies will destroy the land. They will carry off nearly all the inhabitants to a foreign country.

Verse 13

Very few people will remain. But God will use those few to give Israel a new beginning.

Chapter 7

From now on in the Book of Isaiah, the names Israel and Ephraim and Samaria all refer to the northern half of the land that God promised to his special people. The southern half of the land is called Judah, and includes *Jerusalem, David’s capital. The nation split into these two separate nations after the death of Solomon (see 1 Kings 10:1-16).

·     Chapters 7 to 12 all refer to the need to trust in God, and not in politics. That is, not to make agreements with other countries against a common enemy. It is far safer for the people of God to trust God for their protection.

God’s message to Ahaz

v1 Ahaz was the son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah. While Ahaz was king of Judah, Rezin and Pekah attacked *Jerusalem. But they could not overcome it. Rezin was the king of Syria. Pekah (the son of Remaliah) was the king of Israel. v2 Syria and Israel had agreed to attack Judah together. When the king of Judah and his people heard the news, they all trembled. They trembled like the trees of the forest shake in the wind. v3 Then the *Lord said to Isaiah, ‘Go with your son, called Shear-jashub, to meet Ahaz. The king will be at the end of the ditch. That ditch brings water from the upper pool on the road. And it continues to the Laundry Field. v4 Tell Ahaz to keep calm. He is not to be afraid of Rezin and Pekah. They are very angry. But they are both only like a fire that is nearly out. v5 Syria and Ephraim (Israel) have made an evil plot against you. v6 They are saying, “Let us march against Judah and overcome it. Let us *seize it and make the son of Tabeal the king there.” v7 The *Lord declares that the plot will not succeed. It will not happen. v8-9 Damascus is just the capital of Syria. King Rezin rules only in Syria. Samaria is just the capital of Israel. King Pekah rules only in Samaria. But in less than 65 years, Israel will no longer exist. And if Ahaz and his officials do not believe me, they too will suffer defeat.’

Verses 1-2

About this time, Assyria (northern Iraq today) was growing more and more powerful. The rulers of Syria and Israel were worried that the *Assyrians would soon attack them. So they tried to force Judah to support them. When Syria and Israel began a united attack on Judah, king Ahaz and his people were greatly afraid. But *Jerusalem did not fall.

Verse 3

The name Shear-jashub means ‘a remnant (only a few) will return’.

Verse 4

Then the *Lord gave Isaiah a message for the king. Isaiah was to tell Ahaz to stay very calm. He was not to do anything.

Verse 5

Ephraim is another name for Israel.

Verse 7

The plots of Rezin and Pekah would fail completely.

The sign of Immanuel

v10-11 The *Lord again spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask me to prove my promise. Ask for something to happen deep in the world of dead people. Or something to happen high in heaven above.’ v12 But Ahaz refused. ‘I will not ask for any sign. I will not test the *Lord like that.’ v13 Isaiah said, ‘Then listen, you king of David’s family! It is bad enough that you wear out the patience of human beings (people). Now you are wearing out my God’s patience also. v14 Since you refuse to ask, the *Lord himself will give you a sign anyway. A young woman, who is not married, will have a baby. The baby will be a boy and she will name him Immanuel. v15-16 Before the boy is old enough to know how to choose between right and wrong behaviour, he will eat curds (sour milk) and honey. By then, enemies will have destroyed the countries of the two kings that are causing you terror. v17 The *Lord will bring about days of terrible trouble for you and for your people and for your family. It will be far worse than when Ephraim (Israel) broke away from Judah. The *Lord will command the king of Assyria to attack Judah.’

Verse 12

Ahaz refuses the *Lord’s offer. And he pretends to be very holy (see Deuteronomy 6:16). In fact, Ahaz has already decided what he will do. He prefers to trust the *Assyrians for help against Syria and Israel. He can see soldiers and *weapons. He cannot see God.

Verse 14

The name Immanuel means ‘God is with us’. The immediate meaning was that God was with Judah. So God would save Judah from the nations that opposed it. And this would happen while Isaiah’s own son was still a child.

The writers of the *New Testament saw another meaning in this verse. The Christ (*Messiah) was ‘God with us’. And Christ would rescue his people from all that opposed them. That is, from all human enemies and from all evil powers.

Verses 15-16

‘Curds and honey’ were poor foods for hard times. During the next 3 years, Damascus (capital of Syria) would fall to the *Assyrian army. So did Samaria (capital of Israel), 13 years later.

Enemies will *seize Judah

v18 When the time comes for God to act, he will give a signal. Then armies will arrive from Egypt, like so many flies. And from Assyria, like so many bees (insects that make honey). The armies will come in immense numbers. v19 They will spread everywhere, like insects – in deep valleys, among rocks, on all bushes, and wherever there is water. They will occupy the whole land. v20 When the time comes for God to act, he will hire the king of Assyria. And the king will behave like a barber. The king will shave all the hair from your heads and bodies. And he will cut off your beards. Both you and your land will be naked. You will lose all *self-respect. v21-22 At that time, a man will do well to possess just a young cow and a couple of sheep. At least they will provide milk. So he will have curds (sour milk) and wild honey to eat, like the other few people who remain in the land. v23 At that time, every place that used to have 1000 *vines, worth 1000 silver pieces, will be full of *thorn-bushes and weeds. v24 The whole land will be full of *thorn-bushes. So men will take bows and arrows when they go there. v25 You will not walk on any of the hills that farmers used to cultivate, because of the *thorn-bushes. Cows and sheep will wander there for food.

Verse 24

Farmers will no longer be able to cultivate what was good land. Men will go there now just to hunt wild animals for food.

Verse 25

There are so many *thorn-bushes that the land is now only suitable for cows and sheep.

Chapter 8

 

Isaiah’s son will be a sign to the people

v1 The *Lord sent me another message. He told me to take a large board and to write on it in large capital letters

FOR MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ

v2 Then I appointed two honest men to be my witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah. v3 Some time later, my wife and I had a son. The *Lord told me to name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz. v4 Before the child can say Daddy or Mummy, the king of Assyria will carry off the wealth of Damascus and the rich possessions of Samaria.

Verse 2

There was a law about ‘witnesses’, see Deuteronomy 19:15.

Verses 3-4

Isaiah called his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz. The name Maher-shalal-hash-baz means ‘quick-riches-fast-wealth’. Every time people see the boy, his name will remind them about the *Lord’s message. Then, they would know what to expect when the cruel enemy arrives. The attackers will *seize everything of value.

The king of Assyria is coming

v5-6 The *Lord again spoke to me to tell me this message. This nation is proposing to refuse the water that flows gently from Shiloah. The people expect that they will get much more help from the forces of Rezin and Pekah. v7-8 But the huge army of the king of Assyria will be like the vast waters of the river Euphrates. The *Assyrians will attack. Then it will seem as if the Euphrates itself is flooding the whole land of Judah. The waters will cover everything, up to people’s necks. Immanuel, the streams of water will spread over the whole of your land! v9 Even if you people in Israel make a military agreement with the king of Syria, you will still suffer defeat. Listen, all you distant countries. Collect your arms, but you will suffer defeat. v10 Form plans, but they will fail. Have discussions, but good decisions will be out of reach. This is because God is with us and not with you.

Verses 5-6

The ‘water that flows gently from Shiloah’ is a beautiful description. It describes the quiet peace that trust in God would have provided.

·     Shiloah was the original name of Siloam (see John 9:7). This was the *aqueduct by which water from the Gihon spring flowed gently into east *Jerusalem. Unlike other capital cities, *Jerusalem does not stand by a river. That fact alone emphasises the need for God’s people to trust God to provide for them.

·     Rezin was king of Syria. Pekah was king of Israel.

Verse 7-8

The Euphrates is a very large river (see Genesis 2:14).

For the name ‘Immanuel’, see my note on Isaiah 7:14.

Verse 10

The God who is with us is the *Lord. It is he who commands heaven’s armies. There can be no greater power.

In the original language, ‘God is with us’ is the one word ‘Immanuel’ (see my note on Isaiah 7:14).

God warns Isaiah

v11 The *Lord spoke with his strong hand upon me: ‘Do not under any circumstances agree to Judah’s plans to give in to Syria and Israel. v12 Do not join in the schemes of the peoples. Do not be afraid of the things that frighten them. v13 It is the most holy *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) who should frighten you. If you greatly respect him, you need have no fear of anything or anybody. v14 The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) is like a place to hide in. But Israel and Judah have refused his care. So the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will be like a stone that causes Israel and Judah to trip. v15 Many will trip and fall. They will hurt themselves. A trap will seize them.’

Verse 11

‘With his strong hand upon me’ means that the *Lord gave Isaiah the inner strength to obey him. That is, Isaiah had a calm and content attitude, although other people were extremely afraid (see 7:2).

God forbids communication with dead people

v16 You, my disciples (pupils), are to guard and to preserve the messages that God has given to me. v17 I shall wait for the *Lord, who intends to hide himself from his people. I shall wait for him with patience and with hope. v18 I and the children that the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) has given me have special names. The names are signs to warn his people about the future. The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) governs the affairs of the world from *Jerusalem, where his *Temple is.

v19 Somebody may tell you to get messages from people who make strange noises. Such people claim to be able to see future events. Or they claim to get messages from persons who have died. No! Ask God! You are not to ask dead people on behalf of people who are still alive. v20 You are to tell people who want messages that they must turn to God. Listen to what the *Lord is teaching you. Do not listen to these people. They imagine that they have secret knowledge. Such people will bring no benefit whatever to you.

Verse 18

The names of Isaiah’s children were Shear-jashub (see my note on 7:3) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (see my note on 8:3-4). Isaiah’s own name means ‘the *Lord is the one who saves’.

·     If king Ahaz trusts the *Lord, only a few of the enemy will remain alive to return to Assyria.

·     If Ahaz refuses to trust the *Lord, only a few of the people in Judah will remain alive.

A time of great trouble

v21-22 People will wander about the land. They are hopeless and hungry. Because they are so hungry, they will curse (insult) their king and their God. The people will stare at the sky. They will stare at the ground. They will see nothing anywhere except great trouble ahead. It is as if terrible darkness surrounds them. They are greatly afraid.

Verses 21-22

Ahaz failed the test. So now his people are prisoners of a powerful enemy in a foreign country. Because they have left God out of their situation, their future is completely without hope. It is as if nothing but thick darkness surrounds them.

Chapter 9

The future king

v1 But soon, those who have suffered so greatly will have no more pain. Earlier, God had caused other people not to respect the inhabitants of the territories called Zebulun and Naphtali in Galilee. But the day will come when God will bring special honour to all the inhabitants of these places. And he will give honour to foreigners along the coast and across the river Jordan. v2 The people had been feeling so miserable and hopeless. It was as if they were in deep darkness. Then something happened. It was then as if they had suddenly seen a bright light.

v3 *Lord, you have made your people so very glad. You have filled them with great joy. They are like happy workers who collect the harvest. Or like soldiers when they share the goods that they have *seized from their enemies. v4 *Lord, you have broken the power of those who made your people to be slaves. Just as you once saved your people from Midian. v5 You have thrown the enemy’s boots and uniforms into the fire.

v6 A child has been born for us. God has given a son to us and this son will be our ruler. His names will be ‘Wonderful Adviser’ and ‘All-Powerful God’. And ‘Father Always’ and ‘Commander-Who-Brings-Peace’. v7 His authority will be great. And the peace that he establishes will never end. He will rule David’s land for always on the principles of honesty and fair practice. The *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies) will cause all this to happen.

Verse 1

Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the 12 *tribes of Israel. The territory of Zebulun was west of the Sea of Galilee (see Joshua 19:10-16). The territory of Naphtali was north of Zebulun (see Joshua 19:32-39). These two areas were the first to fall when the *Assyrian army attacked. A vast number of the inhabitants became prisoners in Assyria.

·     The ‘foreigners along the coast’ refers to the former Zebulun. The country ‘across the river Jordan’ refers to the former Naphtali. The region north of Naphtali became international Galilee. In the very area where the *Assyrians first attacked, God promises to cause a complete change of the situation. The inhabitants will have done nothing to deserve this change. It is God’s free gift.

Verse 2

‘In deep darkness’ is a powerful description. It describes the feelings of people who had long been prisoners in a foreign land. They could see no possible hope ever again.

Verse 4

The people’s enormous relief felt as if a very heavy weight had gone from their shoulders.

·     Centuries earlier, God’s people had been slaves of another enemy called Midian, for 7 years. But then God appointed Gideon, a most unlikely hero, to free them (see Judges 7:15-25). It was such a wonderful surprise that the nation long remembered the story. Isaiah himself mentions it twice more (see 10:26 and 60:6).

Verses 6-7

God allows Isaiah to glimpse what the arrival of the *Messiah (Christ) will mean. The *Messiah will be born as a child. That is, he is human.

But he is also the holy Son of God. And he will be our ruler, that is, our King. His names cover the whole of our lives:

·     as ‘Wonderful Adviser’, he is all Wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:30);

·     as ‘All-Powerful God’, he is all Power (see Philippians 4:13);

·     as ‘Father Always’, he is all Love (see John 14:21);

·     as ‘Commander-Who-Brings-Peace’, he is all Calm (see Philippians 4:7).

The *Lord will punish Israel

v8 The *Lord has pronounced judgement against Israel, that is, against the family of Jacob. v9 All the people in Israel, and all the inhabitants of Samaria the capital, know what the *Lord has done. But they are not worried. They are much too proud. v10 They declare, ‘If houses of bricks of mud fall down, we will rebuild them with stones. If enemies destroy our forests, we will plant even better trees.’

v11 So the *Lord called enemies to attack Israel. v12 *Syrians arrived from the east and *Philistines arrived from the west. They soon overcame Israel. But the *Lord was still very angry. He decided to punish the people even more severely. He lifted his hand. He was ready to strike again.

v13 But the people still refused to obey God. They still would not return to the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies). v14 Therefore, in a single day the *Lord will punish all Israel’s leaders and other well-known men. He will remove them, head and tail. v15 The head means the old and honourable men. The tail means those who have been teaching lies. v16 Those *liars have led people away from God, because *liars completely confuse people. v17 Therefore the *Lord will let none of the young men escape. He will not pity the widows and the children who have no parents. None of them cares about God. They are all wicked. And all that they say is evil. But the *Lord is still very angry. He has decided to punish the people even more severely. He lifts his hand. He is ready to strike again. v18 The wicked character of the people acts like a fierce fire that destroys *thorn-bushes. And even the great trees in a forest are soon only a column of smoke. v19 Because of the great anger of the *Lord (commander of heaven’s armies), the whole land is on fire. The wicked people themselves have become fuel for the fire. Nobody has pity for anyone else, not even for his own brother. Every man looks after himself. v20 Everywhere in the country people seize any bit of food that they can find. They even eat their own children! But they are still hungry. v21 The people from Manasseh and the people from Ephraim attack each other. Then together they attack Judah. Even so, the *Lord is still very angry. He lifts his hand. He is ready to strike again.

Verse 8

But the present situation in Israel is not happy. The *Lord is very angry because the evil behaviour of the inhabitants goes on.

Verses 9-10

Samaria is another name for the northern part of the country (see my note at the beginning of Chapter 7). Its capital is also called Samaria.

Verse 12

‘He lifted his hand’ is a common expression (form of words). Its origin goes back to ancient Egypt. The words suggest a king who lifts his royal mace (heavy stick) to strike down his enemies (see also verses 17 and 21; see also Isaiah 10:4 and 14:26-27).

Verse 21

Manasseh and Ephraim were the names of two sons of Joseph. Their later families formed *tribes and were called by the same names.

Word List

altar ~ special table where priests burned animals as gifts to God.

angels ~ God’s servants in heaven.

aqueduct ~ channel that men make to carry water.

Assyrian ~ a person from the country called Assyria; or anything that has a relationship with the country called Assyria.

Babylonian ~ a person from the country called Babylon, or anything that has a relationship with the country called Babylon.

destroy ~ to kill or to punish completely.

earthquake ~ when the earth shakes powerfully.

fiery ~ something that seems like fire.

foundation ~ something strong that you can trust in order to establish something else firmly.

glory ~ the splendid beauty and wonderful light of God’s most holy character.

grapes ~ small sweet fruit of *vines; the juice makes *wine.

holiness ~ a holy and perfect state.

idol ~ home-made image of a god.

incense ~ substance to burn for its sweet smell to give honour to God.

Jerusalem ~ at the time of David and Solomon, the capital of the country called Israel. During the time of Isaiah, Jerusalem was the capital of the country called Judah.

Jews ~ people who belong to the countries called Judah and Israel; people who belong to the 12 *tribes of Israel.

liar ~ a person who tells lies.

look-out ~ a person whose job is to watch for anything that may cause trouble; or a special building for use by that person.

Lord ~ God’s name in the Bible. In the original language, God’s names mean ‘head over all’ and ‘God always’.

Messiah ~ *Old Testament title for Christ.

New Testament ~ the final part of the Bible. It contains 27 books from the time of the first Christians.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible. It contains 39 books, all from the time before Jesus was born.

Philistines ~ people from Philistia, which was a nation near Judah and a frequent enemy of God’s people.

rope ~ string that a workman has bound together, in order to increase its strength.

sacrifice ~ a gift of value to give honour to God.

seize ~ to take a person’s possessions away from that person, either by law, or in a war. Or, to overcome a city or nation in order to rule it. Or, to take a person as a prisoner or a slave. Or, to hold something or someone firmly.

self-centred ~ a description of someone who cares only about himself.

self-respect ~ the value or honour that a person gives to himself. Without any self-respect, a person feels a complete sense of shame.

Sheol ~ the place where *Jews thought that dead people went.

Syrians ~ people from Syria.

Temple ~ special building in *Jerusalem where *Jews praised God and offered him prayers and gifts.

thorn-bush ~ a bush with sharp points.

tower ~ a tall building that is very strong, like a castle.

tribe ~ a group of the later family of one father.

vine ~ plant that produces *grapes.

vineyard ~ field where *vines grow.

vision ~ a mental picture from God to show something that only you can see.

weapons ~ the equipment that soldiers use to fight the enemy.

wine ~ drink that people make from *grapes.

winepress ~ hole to collect juice of *grapes.

woe ~ a very sad cry because much pain is to come.

worship ~ to praise God and to pray to him.

 

© 2007, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

February 2007

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