Countries near Judah
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Isaiah chapters 13 to 23
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.
The words in brackets, [ … ], are not in the *Hebrew Bible. They make the book easier to understand in English. Isaiah wrote his book in the *Hebrew language.
The earlier chapters of Isaiah contained these things:
· In chapters 1 to 5, Isaiah introduced the whole book to the reader.
· In chapter 6, God called Isaiah to serve him, in 736 *B.C.
· In chapters 7 to 12, Isaiah gave God’s messages when King Ahaz ruled in 736 to 721 *B.C.
Isaiah probably wrote chapters 13 to 23 when Hezekiah was king of Judah. That was in 721 to 694 *B.C. The dates are from a book called ‘The Oxford Bible Atlas’. Chapters 13 to 22 of Isaiah are about the countries round Judah. Those countries included Babylon, Assyria, Moab and Egypt. And they included a few other countries too. Chapter 23 is about Tyre, an important city in the area.
The Bible says that Hezekiah was a good king. We read this in 2 Kings 18:3. ‘He did what was right.’ But not everything that Hezekiah did was wise. He wanted to make an agreement with some nations, like Egypt and Babylon. He wanted them to support him in a war against Assyria’s army. It seems that one of Hezekiah’s ministers, Shebna, agreed with him. But Isaiah did not agree. Isaiah believed that God did not want Hezekiah to make such an agreement.
‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. From about 900 to about 600 B.C., Assyria was the most powerful nation in the world. But between 612 and 605 B.C., Babylon’s army defeated Assyria. Then Babylon became the most powerful nation in the world. Babylon’s power lasted for the next 70 years. But before that, Babylon’s army had tried several times to become more powerful than Assyria’s army. However, each time, Assyria’s army defeated Babylon’s army, as in 710 and 703 B.C. Some Bible students think that Isaiah chapters 13 to 14 and chapters 21 to 22 refer to those times. Other people think that Isaiah was prophesying (telling what God was saying) about the future. He was saying what would happen in 536 B.C. In that year, Persia’s King Cyrus defeated Babylon’s army and he allowed the *Jews to return to Judah. In the Bible, to ‘prophesy’ means to say what God says. And that often includes what will happen in the future.
We will probably never know which idea is correct. Perhaps Isaiah’s *prophecies came true on both occasions.
Some passages in this section are hard to understand. One way to understand some passages, like the one about Egypt, is this. The events will happen on the New Earth, when God recreates our world to make it new. And that will happen after Jesus returns to the Earth.
We can divide Isaiah 13 to 23 into 6 groups of chapters. We can read about many different countries in those groups:
· chapters 13 to 14 about Babylon, Assyria and Philistia
· chapters 15 to 16 about Moab
· chapters 17 to 18 about Syria, Israel, Judah and Cush
· chapters 19 to 20 about Egypt and Cush
· chapters 21 to 22 about Babylon, Edom, Arabia, Kedar and Judah
· chapter 23 about Tyre (a city).
Each of the 6 sections begins in this way. ‘[This is a] serious message [about]’ a certain place. The *Hebrew for that is one word, ‘massa’. There is no English word for ‘massa’. It means something heavy, something difficult to carry. Some translations have ‘burden’ (a heavy load). Other translations have ‘oracle’ (something very special that somebody, here Isaiah, has said). If we combine those two ideas, we get the true meaning of ‘massa’. It means ‘something that is difficult (heavy) to say’. But Isaiah obeyed God and he said it!
The word ‘saw’ here has this meaning. Isaiah ‘understood what God told him’. Isaiah was a prophet. A ‘prophet’ did two things:
· He told people what God was saying.
· He told people things that would happen in the future.
Isaiah’s father Amoz was not the *prophet Amos, who wrote a book of the Bible. Read the note about Isaiah 1:1.
Verse 2 If there was a flag on a bare hill, everyone could see it. It would call them to the battle. The *Hebrew Bible does not say who ‘them’ and ‘the princes’ are. But this is a sad message (like a heavy load) about Babylon. So ‘them’ probably means the army that will defeat Babylon. The princes are probably the leaders of that army. The gates will be the gates of the army’s camp.
Verse 3 Now God himself speaks. ‘Holy’ means ‘very, very good’. Only God is really holy. But the Bible also calls people whom he uses ‘holy’. It does not mean that they are good. It means that they are doing God’s work. So the holy ones and heroes here are probably the soldiers (‘them’) in verse 2.
Some Bible students think that these verses are about a meeting in heaven (the home of God). The meeting is between God and all his princes in heaven. They are his holy ones and heroes. Somehow they command nations on Earth to fight against Babylon’s army.
Verse 4 ‘LORD’ is a special word for God. It is the name that he calls himself in his covenant. A ‘covenant’ is when two people (or here, God and his people) make a special serious agreement. Here God agrees to help his people. They agree to love him and they agree to obey him. ‘Obey me … and I will be your God’ (Jeremiah 11:4). There is another note about ‘LORD’ at Isaiah 1:1. A ‘kingdom’ is a country that a king (or a queen) rules. ‘LORD of Many [Armies]’ is a name for God. Isaiah and Jeremiah often used it. The ‘Many Armies’ may be God’s armies in heaven, where he lives. But it also means the armies on Earth that he often uses.
Verse 5 Isaiah does not tell us where the distant country is. ‘The ends of the heavens (skies)’ probably means also ‘the ends of the Earth’. Or it may mean ‘a long distance away in the Earth’. The different ideas in the note about verse 3 may both be right. So this verse may link the heroes in heaven and the armies on Earth!
Our translation has ‘military arms [because he is] angry’. The *Hebrew words for that mean ‘arms of his anger’. It probably means soldiers with weapons (tools to fight with). The soldiers will defeat Babylon because God is angry with Babylon’s people.
There is also a message in this verse for King Hezekiah and his minister Shebna. It is this. ‘Do not fight together with Babylon’s army against Assyria. You should not do that, because God will destroy Babylon.’
This verse may also have another meaning. That meaning may have a connection with the time when Jesus returns to the Earth. (In the note below, there is an explanation of that future meaning.)
Many *prophecies are not only about things that happened already a long time ago. They are also about things that will happen in our future. They describe the time when the present world will end. That is also when Jesus will return to the Earth. Several passages in the Bible describe that time. Those passages include parts of Isaiah, Daniel, Zephaniah, Zechariah and Revelation. Isaiah 13:2-22 is an example of that. It meant something to Hezekiah, Shebna and the *Jews 2700 years ago. But it also has a second meaning about the end of time. God punished sinners (people that do wrong things) in Isaiah’s time. And similarly, he will do it when the present world ends. ‘Sinners’ are people that do not obey God’s rules. The Day of the *LORD is when God does something special. It happens often. But the most important Day of the *LORD will be when Jesus returns to the Earth. He will return as the King of Everything! Read verses 6-8 below. They mean the same for all these people:
· the people in Babylon when God destroyed it. That was so after the time when Isaiah was alive.
· the people that do not love and obey God. That will be so at the time when the present world ends. After the things in verses 6-8 have happened, then Jesus will be the King. He will be the King in Heaven. And he will be the King of his people on the New Earth.
Verse 6 ‘The day of the *LORD’ is when God does something special. This time, he is destroying Babylon. Isaiah tells the people there to weep because Shaddai will destroy them. ‘Shaddai’ is a name for God. In *Hebrew, the word ‘Shaddai’ and the word for ‘destroys’ sound similar. In that way, Isaiah is ‘playing with words’. He uses similar words that have different meanings.
Verses 7-8 People will hear that an army will attack them. Then, these things will happen:
· People’s hands will be so weak that they can do nothing.
· People’s hearts (minds) will be so weak that they have no courage.
· People will be terrified (very, very afraid). (Instead of ‘people’ (verse 7), the word in the *Greek Bible means ‘old men’.)
The *Hebrew text has ‘terror will grip them’. And it has ‘pain will seize them’. In other words, the pain will be sudden, like a woman’s pains when she is having a baby. The *Hebrew words for ‘their faces will [show] very great fear’ mean this. ‘Their faces will be on fire.’ Other people will see that they are afraid.
Verse 9 The ‘day of the *LORD’ is when God does something very special. That day is when God will destroy Babylon. And he will destroy all the people in it. But these verses also have another meaning. That meaning has a connection with the time when Jesus will return to the Earth. Look at the note above that mentions future meanings of *prophecies. For ‘fierce anger’, the *Hebrew text has ‘anger that burns’. ‘Sinners’ are people that do not obey God’s rules.
Verse 10 Many times in the Bible we read that the sun, moon and stars will give no light. Some verses like that are in the section ‘Something to do’. These verses help us to understand that this passage has a special meaning. That meaning has a connection with the time when Jesus will return to the Earth.
Verse 11 Here the *LORD is speaking (by means of Isaiah). He says that ‘very bad’ (or ‘evil’) things will happen. Usually, ‘evil’ means very bad, or wicked. It usually means not to obey God’s rules. But in the Old Testament (the first 39 books in the Bible), it does not always mean that. It often means something bad like a severe storm or a bad *earthquake. In an earthquake, the ground shakes and buildings fall down. Some translations have ‘I will punish the world for its evil [deeds]’. But here the *Hebrew words do not mean that. They do not mean that the world is wicked. They mean that only the people in it are wicked! So God punishes the people. While he does it, evil things happen to the world. The ‘world’ here first meant Babylon. But now some people study the time when Jesus will return. And they think that the ‘world’ also means the whole world. Proud people will become ashamed because of what they have done. ‘Sins’ are the wrong things that we do.
Verse 12 Gold is very difficult to find. But men and women will be more difficult to find than gold, when the day of the *LORD comes. Ophir was famous because the people there produced a lot of gold. Solomon, an earlier king of Israel, obtained his gold from Ophir (1 Kings 9:26-28). Also Psalm 45:9 mentions that. Ophir was in East Africa or South-West Arabia.
Verse 13 This is how poetry describes dramatic (impressive or terrible) events. We can imagine that the earth is trembling. It does that during an *earthquake. But it is hard to imagine that the heavens will shake! We may wonder whether ‘heavens’ means the sky or God’s home. Probably it means the sky with the sun, the moon, and all the stars. There is similar language in Psalm 18:7 and 2 Samuel 22:8. Again, there may be a meaning that we do not yet understand. It may have a connection with the time when Jesus returns to the Earth.
Verse 14 A ‘deer’ (plural also ‘deer’) is a wild animal. It is like a small cow, but it is more graceful. It runs fast when hunters chase it. The people in Babylon (verse 19) will run when the soldiers from Media (verse 17) chase them. When sheep have nobody to lead them, they soon lose their way.
Verse 15 The *Hebrew words for ‘kill with a sharp knife’ are very dramatic. They mean ‘run through with a sword’. That means to push a knife or a sword into somebody, so that it goes through them. So they die. The foreign army will be the army from Media in verse 17.
Verse 16 As the people in Babylon watch, Media’s soldiers will hit their children with rocks. At that time, it was quite usual for soldiers to kill their enemies’ small children in that way. It meant that those children would not grow up to become soldiers. And therefore they would not be able to fight against the soldiers from Media! Psalm 137:9 repeats Isaiah’s *prophecy about the children. Media’s soldiers will also rob the people in Babylon. And Media’s soldiers will have sex with the people’s wives, although the wives do not want it. That is a very cruel thing to do.
Verse 17 The foreign army was acting as God’s tool to punish Babylon’s people. He was using that army to defeat them. So God had to attract the foreign soldiers to carry out that task! And they cared more about the battle than they cared about silver or gold. We do not know how God persuaded them to fight. But the answer may be in the note about verse 3! Media was a country that was east from Babylon. There is a note about the army from Media below. It is below the note about verses 21-22.
Verse 18 The young men were probably the young soldiers in Babylon. It was the arrows from the bows that actually killed people. It was not the bows themselves. The soldiers from Media were so cruel that they killed babies and children.
Verse 19 We read how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:23-29. People from other kingdoms (countries that a king rules) think that Babylon is beautiful. And the people from Chaldea (Babylon) themselves are proud of their city. But God will destroy Babylon, although those things are true. ‘Chaldea’ is another name for Babylon.
Verse 20 The army from Media will destroy Babylon so completely that nobody will ever live there again. ‘Its children’ are the children, grandchildren and so on, of the people that live in Babylon. No visitor will put a tent there and no shepherd (person that looks after sheep) will take his sheep there. Babylon will be a city that Media’s army has ruined.
Verses 21-22 Only wild birds and animals will be in Babylon. Bible students are not sure what some birds and animals here are. This translation contains some ideas that they have. An ‘owl’ is a bird that finds its food at night. Some owls make a loud scream that often frightens people. An ostrich is a huge bird with long legs. It cannot fly. The animals called hyenas and jackals kill other animals and then they eat them.
2500 to 3000 years ago, there were several powerful nations. They defeated the weaker nations round them and they ruled over those nations. Those powerful nations included the ones called Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia. An army from Assyria defeated Israel in 721 *B.C. But then Babylon’s army defeated Assyria’s army. Later, another army from Babylon defeated Judah, in 587 *B.C. But in 537 *B.C., an army from Persia defeated Babylon. In that, Persia’s army had help from Media’s army. Both Persia and Media were near Babylon, on its east side.
Isaiah probably wrote these words before 694 *B.C. He said that Media’s army would destroy Babylon. And he said it more than 150 years before it happened! However, some Bible students think that the *prophecy may be about an earlier battle. For more about this idea, see the notes before chapter 13, and the notes on chapter 21. But the important things to realise are these:
(1) God knows what will happen in the future!
(2) It is God who controls the affairs of all nations. He is the God of the whole world, not just Judah and Israel!
Verse 1 Isaiah 13:1 to 14:23 is nearly all about Babylon. But here there are just two verses about Israel’s people. That probably means all the *Jews, from both the southern country called Judah and the northern country called Israel. They were God’s people. ‘*LORD’ is a special name for God. There is a note about it at Isaiah 1:1. ‘Jacob’ is another name for Israel’s people, the nation that came from Jacob’s family. In verse 1, ‘he’ means ‘the *LORD’ each time.
Verse 2 The words ‘they’ and ‘them’ appear many times in verses 1 and 2. The words in brackets, (…), help us to identify who ‘they’ all are. Those words are not in the *Hebrew Bible. The people from Israel lived as prisoners in Assyria and Babylon. They lived in ordinary houses, but they could not go home to Israel and Judah. The people from Assyria and Babylon were very cruel to them. But Isaiah says that all that will finish. One day, the people in Babylon will send the *Jews home. So will people from other countries. Then those foreign people will serve the *Jews. The foreigners will unite with them (verse 1). They will do that to be part of what the *LORD is doing.
Verse 3 The word ‘rest’ links verse 3 with verse 1. ‘Those days’ will be when the *LORD ‘chooses Israel’s people again’ (verse 1).
Verse 4 This verse starts something that the *Jews would say. They would laugh at the king of Babylon. And they would laugh at his people that were with them. The *Jews lived in Judah and Israel.
Verse 6 The soldiers from Babylon were so cruel that they were always ‘hitting’ people. But they did not hit people with sticks. They fought them with swords. They defeated people.
Verse 7 Again, the word ‘rest’ links back to verses 1 and 3. This is what will happen ‘in those days’.
Verse 8 Pine trees and cedar trees both have leaves all the year. People use the wood of those trees to build things. There were great forests in Lebanon. But the builders in Babylon would not cut down Lebanon’s trees again, and the trees seem to know it! The trees speak directly to the men of Babylon.
Verse 9 The description now changes from events on the earth. It changes to events under the earth. The *Jews used to say that dead people went to Sheol. ‘Sheol’ was a dark place under the ground. When people arrived there from Babylon, that excited the spirits in Sheol! Sheol caused the Rephaim (wicked spirits) to greet the people from Babylon. The ‘Rephaim’ were wicked spirits in Sheol. They were the spirits of the people’s leaders. And they were the spirits of the nations’ kings. The *Hebrew word for ‘leader’ here really means ‘strong goat’. This part of the chapter is a description that a poet would write. Isaiah was a great poet.
Verse 10 Isaiah probably meant that the Rephaim (wicked spirits in *Sheol) will laugh at the people from Babylon. The *Jews would also do that, in verse 4.
Verse 11 The people were proud in a bad way. ‘Harps’ are musical instruments with strings. The noise that the harps made meant the music at parties. The people would not lie in comfortable beds any more. Instead, they would be in the ground. They would lie on maggots, and worms would cover them. A maggot is a soft animal like a very tiny snake. It changes into a fly. It often lives in dead bodies. And a worm is also a small soft animal, like a tiny snake. But it lives in the soil. One old *Hebrew copy of the Book of Isaiah has words that mean ‘dead bodies’ instead of ‘harps’. That copy was among the collection of ancient books that people discovered in caves near the Dead Sea.
Verses 12-15 Many Bible students think that here Isaiah is repeating an old story or poem. It is in dark letters. The poem is about someone that tried to make himself more important than God. But he could not do that. He finished his life in the deepest hole in *Sheol. Some Bible students think that these are the meanings of some words here:
· ‘One that Shines’ and ‘Son of the Dawn’ are stars’ names. The early translation in Latin (the language that people in ancient Rome spoke) had ‘Lucifer’ instead of ‘One that Shines’. In Latin, ‘Lucifer’ means ‘someone that brings light’. It is a name for Venus. Venus is a planet (a round object that shines like a bright star). It is also called the Morning Star, because one can see it early in the morning.
· The ‘mountain where there are meetings in the distant north’ was a special place. Some people believed that all the gods met together there. The *Hebrew word for ‘distant north’ is ‘Zaphon’. It is also in Psalm 48:2, where it describes Jerusalem. Here it is somewhere where the gods met. But it may not actually be in the north, if ‘Zaphon’ is the name of a place!
· ‘The Most High’ is a name for God.
· The deepest hole in *Sheol was the worst place in Sheol. People that went into that very deep hole never came out. It was in a corner of Sheol.
If Isaiah did not write these words himself, then he probably used an old poem or story. Isaiah used it to describe the king of Babylon. The king of Babylon wanted to be the most important king on Earth. However, he finished in the worst part of *Sheol!
Some Christians think that this old poem is also a description of something else. It describes what had happened to the devil a long time ago. Afterwards, the devil wanted to persuade Adam and Eve not to obey God. They were in God’s special garden in the area called Eden. They obeyed the devil instead of God. And that is the cause of the *sins and troubles in the world today. The account about that is in Genesis chapter 3. The devil is also called Satan or Lucifer. (Read about the name ‘Lucifer’ in the note above.)
Verses 16-17 The people that stare are those people from verse 9. They cannot believe that Babylon’s king is there in that bad place with them!
Verses 18-20 People usually bury kings in graves with much honour. But that will not happen to the king of Babylon. They will throw his body away like a bit of dead wood. They will throw it away like dirty clothes.
Verse 21 People would kill the king’s children to punish them as criminals. So then the children would not be able to behave as their ancestors did. ‘Ancestors’ are relatives that lived before you. In other words, they are your father, your grandfathers, their fathers and grandfathers, and so on.
Verses 22-23 The *LORD will make sure that not much remains in Babylon. There will only be such birds as owls and there will be pools of dirty water. ‘Owls’ are birds that eat small animals. Those birds hunt for their food by night. God will sweep everything else away ‘with the brush that destroys’. That is the actual meaning of the *Hebrew words. Here we have translated them as ‘completely, [as if I am sweeping it] with a brush’. In other words, God will remove everything from Babylon, like someone who uses a brush to sweep a room clean. The *LORD of Everything is a name for God. Some translations have ‘*LORD of Armies of Angels’. An ‘angel’ is a servant of God in heaven (the place where God lives).
Verses 24-27 This is a short section about Assyria. In verses 26 and 27, ‘lifted up the hand’ means ‘did something’. When God has a plan, nobody can stop it. This plan will not only happen in Assyria, but it will also happen everywhere on the whole Earth. As we see in Psalm 2, God rules OK! (See the EasyEnglish Psalms by Gordon Churchyard.)
Verses 28-32 This short section is about Philistia, a country that was west from Judah. The people called Philistines lived there. King Ahaz of Judah died in 716 B.C. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. The passage means that God will destroy Philistia completely. And he will rescue his poor people from the Philistines’ cruelty. But Bible students do not agree about everything in this passage. There are different ideas about the meaning of ‘the stick that struck you’. It might mean Assyria, or the northern part of Israel.
Here is one possible idea:
‘The stick that struck you’ means King David, an earlier king. And it also means the other kings in Jerusalem until Ahaz. Isaiah remembers the time when the *Jews went out from Egypt. Moses led them away from there to the country called Canaan. Here, Isaiah uses these ideas from that account:
· sticks that become snakes (Exodus 7:8-13);
· the first baby that a human mother or an animal has (Exodus 12:12).
King Ahaz was dead. So now the Philistines thought that there would be no more ‘stick to strike’ them! Because from now, Assyria’s king would rule over Jerusalem’s kings. The kings in Jerusalem would not be free to ‘strike’ the Philistines with the stick. But the stick would turn into a snake. Therefore it would be more dangerous to Philistia. The ‘snake’ meant an army that would come from the north (verse 31). It would probably be the army from Assyria itself. People would see from a distance the smoke that the army made. That army would come all together. Nobody in it would come a long way behind the other soldiers. They would all arrive at once in Philistia. They would break in through the gates of all Philistia’s cities. Then they would destroy the cities themselves. The Philistines would disappear because of their fear! The people would cry very loudly, because they were angry or afraid. And they would also cry because of the pain that they suffered.
We may wonder who the poor people were in verses 30 and 32. They were probably the people that lived between Jerusalem and Philistia. The Philistines (people from Philistia) were often cruel to them. But that would stop. The poor people would sleep calmly and their animals would feed in safety. God would make the ‘root’ of the people called Philistines die. It means that God would destroy their entire nation. It is like when someone destroys an entire tree. And not one root lives to grow again. The speaker at the end of verse 30 is the *LORD (God). ‘Zion’ in verse 32 means Jerusalem and the country round it. Isaiah does not say where the people with messages come from.
Isaiah chapters 15 and 16 are both about the country called Moab. Read them as one chapter! They contain these sections:
· 15:1-4 The people in Moab are very, very sad.
· 15:5-9 God (and/or Isaiah) is also very, very sad.
· 16:1-5 The people in Moab ask Judah’s people for help.
· 16:6-8 Because Moab’s people are proud, armies destroy Moab.
· 16:9-12 God is very, very sad about Moab.
· 16:13-14 All this will have happened in three years.
Verse 1 Isaiah wrote in the *Hebrew language. The *Hebrew word for ‘serious message’ means ‘burden’ (a heavy load that someone has to carry). Read the end of the note before Isaiah chapter 13. We do not know who the enemy was. It may have been the soldiers from Assyria. They came from the north. Or perhaps it was the people that lived east from Moab. They lived in the desert. They destroyed the city called Ar, which perhaps was the capital of Moab. And they also destroyed Kir city. Ar was south from the Arnon river, and Kir was 40 kilometres south from Ar. The Arnon river flowed into the Dead Sea on its east side, about half-way down. Moab was mostly on the south side of the river. But a few cities on the river’s north side were in Moab. ‘Moab’s [people] are silent.’ That might sound as if the people were completely quiet. But they did make a lot of noise. In verses 2, 3 and 4 we learn that the people in Moab cried. They wept aloud. ‘Silent’ here means that they had nothing to say to their enemy. Their enemy had ruined them.
Verse 2 Dibon was 7 kilometres north from the Arnon river. The *temple was probably on a hill (‘high places’) near Dibon. Here the *temple was a special house where the people prayed to their god. Their god’s name was Chemosh. Nebo and Medeba were towns north from Dibon. The people in Nebo and Medeba had cut off their hair and beards. They did that to show that they were sad. They were also ashamed.
Verse 3 The people also wore hairy clothes, which were very rough and ugly. Those clothes were not comfortable to wear. That also showed that the people were sad and ashamed.
Verse 4 Heshbon and Elealah were further north than Nebo. But the people in Heshbon and Elealah towns made so much noise that other people heard it a long distance away. Even the people in Jahaz, a town over 30 kilometres away, could hear the sound! The *Hebrew words at the end of the verse mean this. ‘His heart trembles in him.’ It could mean that the soldiers are afraid. Or it could refer to the whole nation called Moab. It probably means both! The *Jews believed that people thought in their hearts.
Verse 5 We may wonder who cries aloud in his heart because of Moab. Many Bible students say that it means Isaiah. But in verse 9, we learn that God himself is the speaker in this section. Because it is God who will make more bad things happen. God will punish the people in Moab because they are proud (Isaiah 16:6). But that makes God sad. So God ‘cries aloud in his heart because of Moab’. This is a special type of sad poem. It starts with ‘it is true’. The first section of this chapter also starts like that (verse 1). The people of Moab are now refugees. ‘Refugees’ are people that are running away from their own home. They are running away from danger to somewhere safer. Zoar is south from the Dead Sea, so probably the other three places were there too. The enemy was probably near the Arnon river. That was in the north of the country.
Verse 6 Nimrim was in the south. It was near the southern end of the Dead Sea. We do not know whether the enemy destroyed the crops in the fields. Perhaps bad weather destroyed them.
Verse 7 The Wadi Arabim was a stream. It divided Moab from the country called Edom. Edom was on the south side of Moab. The *refugees took the little food that they found in their fields. They also took their savings. Then they went to Edom. It was probably safer there. Some *refugees went to Judah (Isaiah 16:1-5). Arabim was a type of tree. Bible students are not sure what type of tree it was.
Verse 8 Bible students do not know where Eglayim and Beer Elim were. This whole chapter is Isaiah’s sad poem to show how unhappy he is about Moab. ‘It is true’ appears 9 times in 9 verses. Those words are very important in this chapter.
Verse 9 Perhaps people threw dead bodies into the water at Dimon. That would explain why ‘blood fills the waters’. Then they could not drink the water. Many Bible students think that Dimon is the same place as Dibon in verse 2. The ‘lion’ is a special description of the soldiers that will kill the *refugees from Moab. But we may ask what will happen to those people that remain in Moab. Bible students do not agree about how to translate this part. The *Hebrew words mean ‘and for those that remain land’. Some Bible students say that it means this: ‘Those people that remain will get land.’ Other Bible students say that it means this: ‘The lion waits for those people that remain in that country.’ We cannot say now who is right! The same *Hebrew word can mean either ‘land’ or ‘country’.
Verse 1 Moab was famous because of its sheep. In 2 Kings 3:4 we read this. ‘Mesha, the king of Moab, had many sheep. He sent 100 000 young sheep and the wool from 100 000 adult male sheep to the king of Israel [every year].’ Those young sheep and that wool were a tax that Moab’s people had to pay to Israel. However, many years before Isaiah lived, Moab’s people had stopped paying that tax. But now the people in Moab said, ‘Send young sheep.’ That means ‘start to pay the tax again’. They thought that they would then receive help from Judah. The country called Judah included ‘the mountain [where] the *Daughter of Zion (Jerusalem) [is]’. ‘The country’s ruler’ means the present king of Moab. However, some Bible students think that it is the king of Judah. Therefore they translate that sentence like this. ‘Send young sheep to the ruler of the country.’ Sela city was the capital of Edom. (Look at 2 Kings 14:7.) But Bible students think that this was another place called Sela, in Moab. ‘Sela’ means ‘rock’. So perhaps it was just a place with a big rock in it.
Verse 2 The message to ask for help starts with this verse. The women, probably young women, are coming from the north. In the north, the enemy has destroyed many towns (Isaiah 15:2-4). So the women are crossing the Arnon river to go to the south, where it is safer (Isaiah 15:5-7). They cross at special places where the river is shallow. So it is easy to cross there. There is a special description of a bird that is learning to fly. It refers to someone that is young. And perhaps the person is afraid. In this situation, the people are desperate.
Verse 3 Here is the appeal for help. The people from Moab ask the *Jews for two things:
· advice and a fair decision
· protection from enemies.
Moab’s people probably asked those things because Judah’s people had a relationship with them. The nation called Judah had come from Abraham’s family over 1000 years before. And the nation called Moab had come from the family of Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19:37). Moab’s people hoped that there would be a shadow in the middle of the day. It meant that the enemies would not see Moab’s people. *Refugees are people that are running away from danger. They are running away to somewhere that is safer.
Verses 4-5 The request for help still continues. But it seems to finish in the middle of verse 4. The end of verse 4 and also verse 5 are about Judah’s future. It may be a prayer that the people from Moab said. But it may be words that Isaiah said. In this chapter, ‘It is true!’ appears three times. That links chapter 16 with chapter 15. They are both part of the same ‘burden’ (heavy load), which means a serious message. But Isaiah wrote these chapters as a poem. ‘Someone from David’s family’ (verse 5) means a king like David. ‘Establish a kingdom (country that a king rules)’ means ‘become king’. Instead of cruelty, there will be complete goodness. ‘Goodness’ here means that everything is fair. If there is complete goodness, there is no cruelty. Only God is really very, very good like that. Perhaps that situation will only happen when Jesus returns to the Earth. He will return as King!
Verse 6 This starts another sad poem about Moab. It is like the one in Isaiah 15:5-9. In both those poems, it is probably God who is speaking. Many Bible students say that it is Isaiah. However, Isaiah merely says the words. It is God that is speaking by means of him. The bad things that men do make God very, very sad. But God still punishes people for the bad things that they do.
Verse 7 The cakes that people made from raisins (dried *grapes) are a puzzle for Bible students. Probably Kir was famous because of them. But when there were no *vines (verse 8), there would be no *grapes. So then people could not dry *grapes to make raisins. Kir Hareseth is probably the same Kir as the one in Isaiah 15:1.
Verses 8-9 The ‘vine’ is a plant. Fruits called ‘grapes’ grow on it. People make wine from the grapes. But they also dry them to make raisins. They use the raisins when they cook things. But in the Bible, the vine is often a special description of a country. Usually the country is Judah or Israel, but here it is Moab. Remember that the people in the region called Moab were relatives of the *Jews. That was because Abraham was Lot’s uncle. Look at the note about verse 3. If you can find a map of this area, look at it. Then you will see that ‘the vine’ reaches beyond Moab. Jazer was in the country called Ammon, and perhaps Elealah, Heshbon and Sibmah were there too. Across the Dead Sea, there was Judah.
Verse 10 A ‘vineyard’ is a field where *vines grow. When the *grapes were ripe, people put them into a winepress. A ‘winepress’ was a special place where people squeezed out the juice from *grapes to make wine. They squeezed the juice out with their feet! They probably sang happy songs while they did it. But now there is no happy noise at the time when people harvest the *grapes. God says, ‘I have caused the noise to end.’ God is speaking here, although Isaiah is writing down God’s words. So it is God who weeps like Jazer’s people (verse 9).
Verse 11 Here God explains how he feels. He feels things as if he is human! Here he cries inside himself, and his body aches. Everyone that does not obey God makes him feel like that. That is why he sent Jesus to the Earth (John 3:16).
Verse 12 The people’s high place (Isaiah 15:2) was their *temple in Dibon. Their *temple was the house of their god. They went there to pray. But their god, Chemosh, was a false god. He did not really exist, so he could do nothing! They could pray to him until they were tired. But there would be no answer. Because their god could not help them in their difficult situation, they became *refugees. They crossed the Arnon river to run away to the south (verse 2).
Verses 13-14 We do not know exactly when Isaiah wrote Isaiah 15:1 to 16:12. It was just after Ahaz died (Isaiah 14:28), in 715 B.C. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. But now Isaiah adds a note. Everything that he had written here would happen in the next three years. ‘Like the years for [which] a hired worker [works]’ probably means this. The three years would be exact. Hired workers would work only for the time that was necessary. They would not work for a longer time! So the enemy started to destroy Moab in 715 or 716 B.C. And three years later, they had finished. Only a few people in Moab remained after the attack. It was the enemy who attacked them. But the real problem of Moab’s people was that they were proud. That was what actually destroyed them! (Look at verse 6.)
Read chapters 17 and 18 together as one poem. Do not read them just as two separate chapters.
Verse 1 Read the note before Isaiah 13:1 about the words ‘serious message’. Damascus city was the capital of the country called Syria. The nation that lived in Syria was an enemy of Judah’s people. The nation in Israel was also an enemy of Judah’s people. (Read the note about Isaiah 7:1.) Part of this message here is also about Israel (verses 3-11). ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. Some Bible students think that Isaiah wrote this poem before 732 B.C. That was the year when God sent an army from Assyria to destroy Syria. And later, in 722 B.C., God sent Assyria’s army to destroy Israel. So in those students’ opinion, Isaiah was telling people what would happen in the future. However, other Bible students think that Isaiah wrote the poem between 716 and 714 B.C. So in that case, he was reminding people what had already happened. This translation describes these events in the past, as if the enemy had already defeated Syria’s and Israel’s people. But we cannot be sure about the time! However, we do know who the enemy was. It was an army from Assyria.
Verse 2 Some Bible students think that ‘Aroer’ is not a place. The word may mean ‘always’. The *Greek Bible has this. ‘Nobody will live in the cities at any time.’ The *Jews translated their Bible into *Greek about 200 *B.C. If there was a place called Aroer in Syria, we do not know its position. There was a town called Aroer in Moab. Therefore, some Bible students think that part of verse 2 should be in chapters 15 or 16. After the enemy had ruined the cities, they were then safe places for animals!
Verse 3 Ephraim is another name for the country called Israel. Damascus city is the capital of Syria. Aram is another name for Syria. Assyria’s army destroyed Israel and Syria. So then they had no strong cities or kings! Now Isaiah is laughing at Syria. He is using a special type of humour. He is saying the opposite of what he really means. He is saying that Syria is now as great as Israel! But Isaiah does not really mean ‘great’. He means the opposite of great! Really, Assyria’s army destroyed both Syria and Israel. ‘*LORD’ is a special name for God that his servants use. ‘Everything’ includes people on Earth. And it also includes those with God in heaven. Some people translate ‘*LORD of Everything’ in another way. That is, ‘*LORD of Armies of Angels’. An ‘angel’ is a special servant of God in heaven (God’s home).
Verse 4 ‘Jacob’ is another word for the nation called Israel, which grew from Jacob’s family. Israel is not great now. (Look at the note about verse 3.) God has removed the things that made Israel great. ‘Fat’ is a description of Israel when it had a lot of good things. And then ‘thin’ describes it when it had only a little.
Verse 5 The enemy, Assyria’s army, gathered the people in Syria and Israel. And then the army took them away to Assyria. So the enemy was like a farmer that gathered a crop from a field! ‘With his arm’ means this. It means ‘with the knife in his hand’. An ‘ear of corn’ is the part that contains all the grains. People use the grains to make bread. After the first harvest, farmers allowed poor people to take anything that still remained in the fields. To ‘glean’ means to gather those bits that remained. All this is a special description of Assyria’s soldiers as they took everything away from Syria and Israel. The Rephaim valley was a good area to grow grain. But the army from Assyria left nothing. They did not even leave anything to glean after the first harvest!
Verse 6 ‘Olives’ are small fruits. People eat them. They also use them to make an oil that they cook with. To harvest the olives in those days, the *Jews hit the trees with sticks. That made the olives fall off. Only a few olives remained on the tree. The farmers let poor people *glean those few fruits. It was the same with other fruit trees. The farmers harvested and poor people *gleaned. After that, not much remained. Similarly, the enemy took almost everything from Israel. It did not leave much there.
Verses 7-8 These words are always true. ‘Maker’ and ‘Holy [God] of Israel’ are names for God. An ‘altar’ is a special table where people burn things to give honour to a god (here, false gods). Among those things is ‘incense’, which has a special smell. ‘Asherah’ was a female false god. However, when there is trouble, people should not pray to false gods. They should pray to the real God. In Jerusalem, there was an *altar to give honour to the real God.
Verse 9 This starts another small section about what happened to Israel. Again, some people translate it as what will happen in the future. When the *Jews came to their country, it was called Canaan. People called Canaanites lived there. Israel’s soldiers attacked the country and they destroyed the Canaanites’ cities. The towns and woods where those people lived became empty. This happened when the *Jews came to Canaan. And it happened again when Assyria’s army came to Israel.
Verse 10 ‘Forgot’ and ‘did not remember’ mean the same. They mean that the *Jews did not trust God. They did not ask him for help (verse 7). ‘Rock’ is a name for the *LORD. David used it in some Psalms (songs to praise God). Look at Psalm 18:2. A ‘vine’ is a plant on which the fruits called ‘grapes’ grow. From the juice of the grapes, people make wine. These people used to pour wine out on the ground for their false gods. That is how they offered it to their gods.
Verse 11 Everything started well, but it ended badly.
Verses 12-14 This is another section of the poem that is in chapters 17 to 18. This section is about the many nations in King Sennacherib’s army. He was the king of Assyria, and his army destroyed Syria and Israel. An important word in these verses is ‘us’ (verse 14). Isaiah did not live in Syria or Israel. He lived in Judah. Therefore ‘us’ at the end of verse 14 means Judah’s people. Sennacherib tried to defeat Judah’s people. But 185 000 men in his army died in one night. That is why ‘in the morning nobody is there!’ As a result, Sennacherib did not attack Jerusalem. The story about that is in Isaiah chapter 37 and 2 Kings chapter 19. ‘Chaff’ is dead material from plants that produce grain. It blows away when people prepare grain in order to store it.
Verse 1 ‘Ships have wings’ is one possible translation. The ‘wings’ of a ship are its sails. Other Bible students translate it like this. ‘Insects make a noise with their wings.’ Such insects could be flies, like the fly called the ‘tsetse’. A bite from a tsetse fly gives to people a dangerous disease called ‘sleeping sickness’. The *Hebrew word for ‘insects make a noise’ (or ‘ships’) is ‘tsiltsal’. Some people think that it is like the word ‘tsetse’. 2700 years ago there were two places called Cush. One was near Ethiopia and the other one was near Iraq. Most Bible students think that here it is the one near Ethiopia. But we cannot be certain about that.
Verse 2 ‘Papyrus’ is the name of a plant. It grows in water or it grows near water. People at that time used it to make paper. They also made boats from papyrus. Those boats were strong enough to sail on the Nile river in Egypt. Some Bible students translate ‘surface of the waters’ like this. They translate it as ‘on the Sea (Mediterranean Sea)’. That is the sea between Egypt and Judah. Egypt is in Africa and Judah is in Asia. The people that carry the messages are probably going to Jerusalem. Jerusalem city was the capital of Judah. Isaiah does not say where those people are going. But when they arrive, he tells them to go to a strong nation. We do not know whether he meant:
· Go back home to Cush, or
· Go further to Assyria, or
· Go somewhere else.
We do not even know to whom Isaiah is speaking. Perhaps it is the people from Cush (Ethiopia or Iraq) that brought messages. Perhaps it is some people that live in Jerusalem.
Isaiah chapter 18 may be part of the poem in Isaiah chapter 17. If so, the army from Assyria has already destroyed Israel and Syria. Then, Isaiah is saying that Judah’s soldiers must not go together with Cush’s army to fight against Assyria’s army. The people with messages must go home to Cush. Or they must go to Assyria, to complain directly to Assyria. However, some Bible students think that Isaiah chapter 18 links instead with Isaiah chapter 19. Isaiah chapter 19 is about Egypt. But in both those cases, what Isaiah says is the same (verses 3-6). It is this. ‘Wait until God himself does something. Do not help each other to fight against Assyria.’
Verse 3 Isaiah’s message to the people from Cush was this. Wait until you see a signal on the mountains. Wait until you hear the sound of the trumpet (instrument). Those things will tell you that war has started. For us, a ‘trumpet’ is a musical instrument. At the time when Isaiah lived, it was the horn of an animal. A ‘horn’ grows on the head of some animals. Examples of animals with horns are cows and goats. People cut the horn off the animal. They blew into the horn to make a loud noise. The noise called people to war, or it warned them about danger.
Verse 4 See the note about Isaiah 17:3 for ‘*LORD’. Both heat and water (mist) make plants grow until people harvest them. The *LORD was watching quietly for the signals that would show war (verse 3). Then he would do something, as in verse 5. By means of this description, Isaiah suggests that everyone should do the same. They should wait for God to do something!
Verse 5 The new ‘shoots’ are small new branches at the point where the plant is growing further. The knife is a special knife that people used to ‘prune’ (cut off parts of) a bush or tree. God will do this to the strong nation that fights against other nations. He will cut off their branches. That is, he will destroy (defeat) them. But he will wait for the right time to do it.
Verse 6 ‘Prey’ means smaller birds (and animals) that the bird catches to eat. Some such birds eat dead bodies. The description changes from harvest to wild animals and birds. Those wild animals and birds will eat the bodies of the dead soldiers.
Verse 7 The *LORD of Everything is a special name for God. Isaiah uses it often. ‘Everything’ means everything on Earth and everything in heaven. ‘At that time’ may mean when the people brought messages to Jerusalem from Cush (verse 2). But we translate verse 7 like this. ‘At that time [people] will bring gifts to the *LORD of Everything.’ So this shows to us what will happen in the future. People from other countries will bring gifts to God. They will bring them to the place where his name is. That place is Jerusalem, which is also called Zion. In many Bible students’ opinion, it will happen when Jesus returns to the Earth. It means that Isaiah chapter 18 does not just describe something that happened in the past. It also describes something that will happen in the future.
This is a chapter that is difficult to understand. There are two (or even more) possible stories in it.
· People from Cush send a message to Judah. They ask for help to fight against Assyria’s army. Isaiah sends them home. He says, ‘Wait until God destroys Assyria.’
· People from Cush send a message to Judah. They ask for help to fight against Egypt’s people. Isaiah sends them to Assyria to ask Assyria’s people for help. (We do know this. In about 712 *B.C., Ethiopia’s army did defeat Egypt’s army. But that would not matter if Cush here was the one near Iraq.)
Verse 7 may mean that the people from Cush brought gifts with them. They were gifts for the *LORD. But it may be about the future. In other words, they will bring gifts for the *LORD when Jesus returns to the Earth.
Read chapters 19 and 20 together. Some Bible students say that we should read chapters 18, 19 and 20 together. That is because chapter 18 is also about a place called Cush. It may have been the same place as in chapter 19 and 20. But there were two places called Cush at that time. Here Cush was a country near to Egypt. Cush’s people ruled Egypt for a time when Isaiah was alive.
There are five messages in these two chapters:
1) 19:1-4 – There will be internal war in Egypt. It means that the people in Egypt will fight against each other.
2) 19:5-10 – The Nile river will become dry. It means that there will be no work, food or clothes in Egypt. Today we call that economic failure.
3) 19:11-15 – The wise men in Egypt will become stupid. Or they already are stupid.
4) 19:16-25 – The people in Egypt and Assyria will serve Judah’s *LORD.
5) 20:1-6 – Assyria’s army will defeat the armies of Egypt and Cush.
In these chapters, Isaiah warns Judah’s people. This is what he warns them: ‘Assyria’s army will defeat Egypt. So do not go together with Egypt’s army to fight against Assyria.’ But Bible students are not sure about Isaiah 19:16-25. They wonder whether it has already happened. Or maybe it is still in the future.
Verse 1 Read the note before Isaiah 13:1. And read the note about Isaiah 15:1. They explain more about the words ‘serious message’. ‘LORD’ is the name that God calls himself in his covenant. ‘Covenant’ means a special serious agreement that people (or here, God and people) make with each other. In God’s covenant with his people, God’s people agree to serve him. He agrees to be their God and he agrees to protect them. Isaiah says that the *LORD will come to Egypt. That will make the idols in Egypt tremble. That is, it will make them afraid. An ‘idol’ is a false god. The *Hebrew word for ‘idols’ here really means ‘something that is worth nothing’. Isaiah wrote his book in the *Hebrew language. In this chapter, he uses the *Hebrew word for ‘Egypt’ many times. It usually means ‘the people that live in Egypt’. Here, the *Hebrew words mean ‘the heart of Egypt’. But that actually refers to ‘the hearts of Egypt’s people’. We read that ‘the hearts of Egypt’s [people] will melt’. It is another way to say that they will ‘tremble with fear’. People will ‘be very afraid’. Some other verses in the Bible describe God when he rides on a cloud. They are in Deuteronomy 33:26, Psalm 18:10-12, Psalm 68:4,33 and Psalm 104:3.
Verse 2 At that time, each city in Egypt had its own leader called a king. So cities were called ‘kingdoms’ (places that had a king). Isaiah said that people in different cities would not agree with each other. So, they would fight each other. That made it easy for enemies to defeat Egypt. Two such enemies were the nations called Assyria and Cush. Assyria’s army defeated Egypt in 720 B.C. and Cush’s army defeated Egypt in 712 B.C. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. Cush was a country that was south from Egypt. The nation called Cush ruled Egypt from 712 to 666 B.C.
The *LORD is speaking here. He says that he will make Egypt’s people fight against each other. When people in the same country fight each other, there is internal war. We call it ‘civil war’, because it is ‘war in a civilisation’.
Verse 3 ‘Pour out the spirit’ means this. People will become so sad that they will not fight anybody. It means the same as the end of verse 1. That has ‘the heart of Egypt’s [people] will melt’. A usual way to say that in English is ‘the people in Egypt will lose heart’. When someone confuses a plan, it will not work. The *Hebrew text actually has this. ‘[I will] pour out the spirit of Egypt from inside him. And I will confuse his plans.’ However, ‘him’ and ‘his’ here refer to the people in Egypt. Then there is a list to explain whom Egypt’s people will ask to help them. The list includes their *idols (false gods) and it includes the spirits of dead people. To ask those would be a bad thing to do. In the Bible, God says that we must not talk to dead people’s spirits (Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14). ‘Mediums’ speak messages that they consider to be from dead people. The mediums say that dead people’s spirits speak those messages by means of them. So what the mediums do is bad. A ‘wizard’ is someone that does bad magic.
Verse 4 Bible students do not know who the cruel master was. ‘The power of’ a cruel master means this. The cruel master can do what he wants to do with the people. ‘The Lord, the *LORD of Everything’ is a name for God. It is in Isaiah 3:1. And it is also in many other places in the Book of Isaiah. ‘Lord’ means ‘master’. It is not a translation of the same *Hebrew word that we print as ‘*LORD’. There is a note about ‘*LORD’ under Isaiah 1:1. We could translate ‘the *LORD of Everything’ as ‘the *LORD of Many [Armies]’. The *Hebrew word for ‘many’ here means ‘a large number (usually of soldiers or angels)’. ‘Angels’ are God’s special servants in heaven.
Verses 5-7 The main river in Egypt was the Nile river. It flowed into the Mediterranean Sea. Canals took the water from the Nile river into the fields. Many smaller rivers and streams flowed with water there. Isaiah says that all those will become dry. There will be no water in any rivers or streams in Egypt. As a result, the plants that grow in the water will die. And the ones that grow near the water will die. Those plants include the ones called reeds and rushes. ‘Reeds’ are like tall grasses and their leaves may have sharp points at the end. ‘Rushes’ are quite similar, but they usually have larger green or brown flowers. The ‘mouth’ of a river is where it enters the sea.
Verses 8-9 But not only the wild plants, like reeds (tall grasses that grow in water), will die. The crops that people use for food and clothes will also die. When the river dries up, the people will suffer loss. They depend on the river. Those people include:
· farmers (verse 7)
· fishermen (men that catch fish) (verse 8)
· people that make cloth from the plants called flax (and cotton), which grow by the water (verse 9).
A hook and line, and also nets, are what fishermen use in order to catch fish. The ‘hook’ is a sharp object that holds the fish by its mouth. People put it on the end of a line. The fishermen will become sad. They will cry and then they will become very ill. Then they will die. The women made thread (a special thin string) from the flax plants, and the men made the thread into cloth.
Verse 10 This may refer only to the workers in verse 9. But it is also true about the farmers and fishermen (men that catch fish). What happens will ‘destroy their spirit’. In other words, it will make them ‘very unhappy in their hearts’. Those two phrases mean the same thing, which is this. What happens will depress them greatly. It will make them very, very sad.
Verse 11 Zoan was an important city in Egypt. It was near the border with Judah. The king of Egypt, called Pharaoh, often went there, especially in the summer. His princes, the people that gave him advice, went with him. But they gave bad advice. In *Hebrew, Isaiah asks them a question. He asks, ‘How can you say that you are a son of a wise man?’ ‘Son of a wise man’ probably means this. A wise man had been king Pharaoh’s adviser. But when the wise man died, his son became Pharaoh’s adviser instead of him. However, it may mean that someone had trained him to be a wise man. And then other people called him ‘the son’ of his wise teacher. However, the answer to the question is clearly, ‘You cannot say that! You cannot say that you are wise yourself!’
Verse 12 Now Isaiah speaks directly to Pharaoh. In *Hebrew, he asks this question. ‘Then where, [Pharaoh,] are your wise men?’ And by means of the other words in this verse, he is also asking this. ‘Can Pharaoh’s wise men tell him what the *LORD will do against Egypt?’ But the clear answer is that they cannot tell him (verses 13-15).
Verse 13 The note about verse 11 explains Zoan. Noph was the capital of ancient Egypt. Its other name was Memphis. It was 10 kilometres south from where Cairo is today.
Verse 14 The phrase ‘mixed up’ has a special meaning here. It means ‘confused’. The *LORD did something to the people in Egypt. And that made them confused.
Verse 15 ‘The head or the tail’ here means ‘important or not important’. The ‘palm’ is a tree whose branches are high up. They are all at the top of the tree. So its branches are like the head. But ‘reeds’ (another type of plant) grow down below, by the water. So they are like the tail. So this verse means this. Nobody, whether they are important or not, could save Egypt then.
Here are six things that will happen ‘in those days’:
· The people in Egypt will be afraid (verses 16-17).
· People in five cities in Egypt will speak Canaan’s language (verse 18).
· There will be an *altar to give honour to the *LORD in Egypt (verse 19).
· The people in Egypt will know the *LORD (verse 21).
· There will be a road from Egypt to Assyria (verse 23).
· Israel, Egypt and Assyria will agree together (verse 24).
We do not know when ‘those days’ were. Those words probably refer to several different occasions. But perhaps we can translate ‘in those days’ better as ‘one day’ (a future day). The only time when some things here will happen is after Jesus’ return to the Earth. They will happen on the New Earth!
Verse 16 The Old Testament contains the first 39 books in the Bible. But this is the only place where it has ‘tremble like women’. Usually the writers say ‘have pain, like a woman that is having a baby’. There is an example of that in Psalm 48:6. ‘Then they were afraid. And they had pain, like a woman that is having a baby.’ Not only the women will tremble with fear, but the men will tremble also. Above, there is a explanation about ‘the *LORD of Everything’. It is in the note about verse 4.
Here we read ‘lifts his hand against them’. However, the *Hebrew words for that are actually more complex. The *Hebrew word for ‘lift’ really means ‘wave’. So the sentences are like this. ‘And he (Egypt’s people) will be afraid, when the *LORD of Everything waves his hand. He (the *LORD) will wave [his hand] against him (Egypt’s people).’ The word ‘hand’ here shows that the *LORD intends to do something. Perhaps the *LORD will wave his hand to remind Egypt’s people about the bad things called plagues. Those bad things happened to Egypt’s people before Moses took the *Jews away from Egypt. The *Jews were God’s people. Later they lived in Israel and Judah. (We pronounce Judah as ‘JEWdah’.)
Verse 17 Bible students do not know why the ‘(name of the) country called Judah’ will frighten Egypt’s people. Here are two possible reasons:
1) It would remind them about Judah’s God. And it would remind them what that God would do to Egypt.
2) It would remind them about the army of Judah. In 667 *B.C., Judah’s army helped Assyria to defeat Egypt. And such a thing may have happened more than once.
Verse 18 The language that people spoke in Canaan was probably *Hebrew or *Aramaic. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. Some *Jews probably started to live in Egypt about 950 B.C. At that time Solomon was king of Judah. And he ruled as far as the border of Egypt (2 Chronicles 9:26). Probably some people in Egypt started to obey the *LORD then. They changed their religion to the *Jews’ religion. A little later, Egypt’s King Shishak took control of cities in Judah (2 Chronicles 12:1-9). Jeremiah 44:1 has the names of three towns where many *Jews lived in Egypt. And the writer also mentions another area where *Jews lived in Egypt. That was about 600 B.C. Bible students are not sure about ‘Sun City’. There was a city in Egypt called Heliopolis. That name means ‘Sun City’. But the *Hebrew word here may also mean a city that someone would soon destroy. And it could also mean a city whose people were very, very good.
Verses 19-20 An ‘altar’ was a kind of table. There was an altar outside the temple (God’s special house) in Jerusalem. God’s special servants, called priests, offered things to God on it. On the altar, they burned animals that they had killed. And they burned grain on it. God had said in the Book of Leviticus that his people should do these things in order to *worship him.
An ancient writer called Josephus wrote a history of the *Jews. He wrote that there was a temple (holy building) to *worship the *LORD at Leontopolis in Egypt. That temple probably had an altar. The column was at the border of Egypt. Perhaps it was on the road from Judah to Egypt. It reminded people that God would be with them in Egypt.
Verses 21-22 However, it is not only the *Jews in Egypt who will *worship the *LORD. Egypt’s people themselves will ‘*worship the *LORD and they will offer gifts to him’. They will probably offer those gifts on the *altar in verse 19. But we may ask when this would happen. Bible students suggest three answers:
(a) It happened at some past time that we do not know about.
(b) It will happen at some time in the future.
(c) It will never happen, because Judah’s people did not obey the *LORD.
Answers (a) and (b) may both be correct. Answer (c) is probably not correct, because the *Jews will obey God completely in the future (Romans 11:26). God has wonderful plans for Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah chapter 62).
The note about verse 16 explains the word ‘*plague’. ‘*Worship the *LORD’ means ‘love the *LORD’. It means also ‘serve the *LORD’. And it means ‘obey him’.
Verse 23 There was always a road between Egypt and Assyria. So here, ‘road’ probably means political and economic agreement. But clearly, the two nations will also agree about religion. People from both nations will *worship the *LORD together.
Verses 24-25 We may ask when this will happen. The answer is the same as for verses 21-22. If it is in the future, then this is an important promise. Egypt, Israel and Assyria were in the middle of Isaiah’s world. And they are still in the middle of our world. If God blesses those nations, then he will also bless the rest of the world! We must pray for that to happen. To ‘bless’ people means to ‘do good things to’ them.
Verse 1 ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. The Tartan was the leader of the army from Assyria. King Sargon, who sent him, wrote a record of this war. That record still exists. It includes these words. ‘I marched to Ashdod. I fought against it. I defeated it.’ Sargon was king of Assyria from 722 until 705 B.C. Ashdod was a city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was about 50 kilometres west from Jerusalem. It was in the country called Philistia.
Verse 2 This verse starts with an extraordinary statement. ‘The *LORD spoke. [He spoke] by the hand of Isaiah.’ So probably, Isaiah wrote with his hand the words that the *LORD spoke. *Jews wore hairy clothes when they were very sad. They made the hairy clothes from very rough cloth. Prophets probably wore those rough hairy clothes. The prophets were the men who told God’s messages to people. In Matthew 3:4 we can read about John the Baptist. He is called ‘the Baptist’ because of a ceremony called baptism, which he carried out. Matthew tells us an interesting fact about John’s clothes. John wore clothes that someone had made from camels’ hair. That was a similar rough cloth. But at this time, Isaiah wore no clothes and he wore no shoes.
Verse 3 ‘Walked’ means what Isaiah did for those three years. He never wore clothes or shoes! This was the only time when Isaiah acted a prophecy. ‘Prophecy’ here means a message about something that will happen. Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea also acted some prophecies.
Verse 4 The people cannot escape. An ‘exile’ is someone that is away from his own country. He is away because an enemy has taken him away. It made people very ashamed if other people could see their bottoms. But armies that defeated people often made those people naked.
Verse 5 We may ask who ‘they’ are here. Look back to the note before Isaiah 19:1. In that note, we read this. Judah’s army must not go together with Egypt’s army to fight against Assyria’s army. So ‘they’ means the people in Judah, and perhaps it means also the people in Philistia (called Philistines). The Philistines lived on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. That was about 50 kilometres west from Jerusalem. Soldiers from Cush will not help those people. Nor will soldiers from Egypt help. Then there will be nothing to talk about in a proud manner.
Verse 6 ‘This coast’ means the coast near Ashdod in Philistia. ‘The people that live along this coast’ probably means the people in Philistia. It probably means also the *Jews that lived near them. ‘In those days’ probably means the time when Assyria’s soldiers will defeat the armies of Egypt and Cush. If Egypt’s and Cush’s armies cannot escape from Assyria’s army, then nobody can! In *Hebrew, the people ask this question. ‘And now, how shall we escape [from him]?’ The answer to the people’s question is probably ‘No way’! ‘There is no way to escape!’
In these two chapters, Isaiah says this to the *Jews. ‘Do not go together with Egypt’s or Cush’s army to fight against Assyria. Assyria will defeat them both.’
Verse 1 The note before Isaiah 13:1 explains the words ‘serious message’. So does the note about Isaiah 15:1. ‘The wild country near the sea’ is a puzzle to Bible students. A few old *Hebrew and *Greek Bibles do not have the words that mean ‘near the sea’. Some Bible students think that ‘near the sea’ should be ‘a loud noise’. That would describe the storm from the Negev desert that the writer mentions later in the verse. But suppose that ‘near the sea’ is correct. Then we may ask where the sea is. This message is about Babylon (verse 9), so the sea will be south from Babylon. Today we call that sea the Persian Gulf. The storms that come from the Negev desert frighten many people. The *Hebrew Bible does not make clear what ‘it’ is. Some Bible students say that it is ‘a loud noise’. Such noises come in storms. For Isaiah, the serious message is like a loud noise. And it comes from the wild country near the Persian Gulf!
Verse 2 Isaiah wrote his book in the *Hebrew language. The *Hebrew word that he used for the message here means ‘vision’. A ‘vision’ is something very special that someone sees. Usually, nobody else sees it. It usually has a special meaning. The note about Isaiah 1:1 explains what ‘see’ (or ‘saw’) often means in Isaiah’s book. The vision was ‘hard’ because people would not want to hear it.
It is not easy for us today to understand the history of the events that Isaiah describes here. But some Bible students have given this explanation. The king of Judah was King Hezekiah. And an important minister in his government was called Shebna (Isaiah 22:15). We know that Isaiah spoke severe words against Shebna (Isaiah 22:17-19). Hezekiah’s government wanted good relations with the government of Babylon. Isaiah spoke severe words against that, too (Isaiah chapter 39).
So perhaps there is a connection between these facts. Perhaps Hezekiah’s minister, Shebna, did not want to hear Isaiah’s message about Babylon. Shebna told Hezekiah to support the army of Babylon against Assyria’s army. But soon the ‘thief’ (which may mean Assyria’s army) would destroy Babylon! So those Bible students think that this *prophecy is about that battle.
We know from history, however, that Babylon became strong again after that defeat. In fact, Babylon became the most powerful country in the world. And it defeated both Assyria and Judah. But then armies from Media and Persia overcame Babylon again. And that terrible defeat was the end of Babylon’s power. But let us return to Isaiah’s *prophecy.
In the message, Isaiah tells the armies of Elam and Media to go to Babylon. That really means, ‘Attack Babylon. Stay there until you have won the battle.’ Elam and Media are both in Iran now.
Then the *LORD says, ‘I will stop [Babylon’s] tears.’ In some Bible students’ opinion, it means the tears of the people in Babylon. Babylon’s people are crying because the armies from Elam and Media are attacking Babylon. And in some other Bible students’ opinion, the people whom Babylon’s army has hurt are crying. The note after Isaiah 1:1 explains ‘*LORD’. It is a special name for God.
Verse 3 The pain is in the middle of the person’s body. It is like a woman’s pain when she is having a baby. It is like the pain when someone hits a person in the stomach. One *Hebrew word means both ‘hear’ and ‘listen’, as in this translation. And one *Hebrew word means both ‘see’ and ‘look’. But we may wonder whose body feels the pain. Many Bible students say that it is Isaiah. But some students say that it is Shebna, Hezekiah’s minister. In other words, Shebna will feel awful when his plans do not work! Maybe God felt the pain, too. Isaiah 22:15-19 contains part of the story about Shebna.
Verse 4 Even in the quiet evenings, all this makes Isaiah (or Shebna) very afraid. The *Hebrew word for ‘mind’ means ‘heart’. This translation has ‘mind’. The *Jews believed that people thought in their hearts. The *Jews spoke the *Hebrew language. They lived in Israel and Judah.
Verse 5 This verse describes how the people in Babylon were enjoying a big, splendid meal. There was a lot of food and drink. They did not have chairs, but they sat on carpets or rugs (small carpets). While they ate, someone told their officers to get ready urgently for an attack. The *Hebrew word for ‘officers’ means ‘princes’. The princes were the leaders of the people. Soldiers used *shields to protect themselves in battle. And the soldiers rubbed oil on their *shields to make them ready for battle. The *Hebrew word for ‘make ready’ here actually means ‘put oil on’. Below, ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth. Bible students are not sure which battle against Babylon Isaiah describes here. Assyria’s army defeated Babylon’s army several times:
· in 710 B.C., when Sargon the Second was king of Assyria.
· in 702 and 689 B.C., when Sennacherib was king.
· in 648 B.C., when Asshurbanipal was king.
Or the battle may have been in 537 B.C. In that year, Cyrus led an army from Media to Babylon to fight Babylon’s army. The battle happened while the people in Babylon were enjoying their big, special meal. (See Daniel chapter 5.)
But we do not know which of these battles Isaiah was describing in his *prophecy. People that study history suggest this. They say that it was probably the battle in 689 B.C. That is because King Sennacherib did much damage in that battle. We can get that idea from verses 2-3. Cyrus did not do much damage in his battle, because Babylon’s army did not fight against him.
Verse 6 ‘Lord’ is a word that means ‘master, someone with authority’. It is not the same *Hebrew word as ‘*LORD’. The person (‘somebody’) that stood had to watch. He had to report to Judah’s people what he saw. And those people would include Shebna and the king.
Verse 7 In this verse, two *Hebrew words each appear three times. The words are ‘rider’ and ‘watch’. The actual *Hebrew word for ‘rider’ here means ‘chariot’. A ‘chariot’ was a special cart in which soldiers rode. Horses pulled the chariot. But the *Greek translation of Isaiah’s book has ‘rider’. And so do the Dead Sea *Scrolls. The words for ‘rider’ and ‘chariot’ are nearly the same in *Hebrew. A ‘donkey’ is like a small horse. As donkeys and camels do not normally pull chariots, this translation has ‘riders’, not ‘chariots’. The Dead Sea *Scrolls are a very ancient collection of *scrolls. Someone found the Dead Sea *Scrolls 50 years ago near the Dead Sea in Israel. They include copies of the complete Book of Isaiah, in the *Hebrew language.
Verse 8 The *Hebrew word for ‘the man that watched’ means ‘the lion’! But the Dead Sea *Scrolls have ‘the man that watched’. That makes more sense. (The note about verse 7 explains about the Dead Sea *Scrolls.) But some Bible students believe that ‘lion’ is correct. They say that ‘the lion’ could mean this. ‘The man that watched was as strong and brave as a lion.’ The man watched from a tall building. From there, he could see easily what was happening. In verse 9, we learn what he saw.
Verse 9 The man saw a rider. The rider came with this message. In the *Hebrew text, it means ‘Babylon has fallen! She has fallen!’ In the Bible, cities are often called ‘she’ or ‘her’. And that includes Babylon. Babylon ‘has fallen’ means this. Someone (probably Assyria’s army) has defeated Babylon’s people and that army has destroyed the city. This is the message ‘from the wild country’ (verse 1). The people in Judah, especially leaders like Shebna, would not like it. Because they supported Babylon, Elam and Media when those countries’ armies fought against Assyria.
Verse 10 ‘Thresh’ and ‘winnow’ are what farmers do to their corn. This is what ‘thresh’ means. The farmers hit the plants with sticks so that the grain falls out. Then they ‘winnow’ the plants. It means that they throw the grain into the air. When they do that, the wind blows the rubbish away. Then people can make flour and bread from the grain. Here it is a special description that means this. Assyria’s and Babylon’s armies made Judah’s people suffer very much. So there was much pain in Judah. ‘*LORD’ is a special name for God that his servants use. ‘The *LORD of Everything’ is also a name for God. It means that he has very many servants. We sometimes translate it as ‘*LORD of Many [Armies]’.
Verse 11 The word ‘Dumah’ means ‘silence’. It was probably the name of a town in Edom. Edom was a country next to Judah. It was on the south and east side of Judah. Some old *Hebrew and *Greek Bibles have ‘Edom’ instead of ‘Dumah’. Seir was an important town in Edom. Isaiah said that he had a message from someone in Seir. That ‘someone’ called Isaiah a ‘watchman’. A watchman ‘watched the time’. He told people what time it was. And a watchman also watched for danger. It was the watchman who guarded an ancient city, especially by night. The question was, ‘How much of the night remains?’ That probably means, ‘For how much longer time will there be danger?’
Verse 12 The answer seems to mean this. ‘The danger will go, but it will come back again.’
Verse 13 Some translations have ‘wild country’ instead of ‘Arabia’, because the *Hebrew word for ‘wild country’ is ‘arabia’. The groups of camels carried goods from one place to another. These people were from a town called Dedan. They found protection in the bushes in the wild country. They found a place to hide there from an enemy on their journeys. But that enemy was not the enemy of the people from Dedan. It was the enemy of the people (the *refugees) in verse 14.
Verse 14 The enemy had made some people into *refugees. It meant that those people were running away from their own country. They were looking for a safe place where they could live. Here Isaiah told the people from Dedan town to give water to the *refugees. And he told the people from Tema (another town) to give bread to them. The *Hebrew word for ‘bread’ also means ‘food’. The *Hebrew words for ‘give bread (food)’ mean ‘meet them with bread (food)’. Both Dedan (verse 13) and Seir (verse 11) were south from Judah. We do not know where the *refugees came from.
Verse 15 The *refugees are running away from where the battle is most dangerous. The swords and bows were ready to kill people. A bow that someone has bent is ready to shoot an arrow.
Verses 16-17 ‘Lord’ in verse 16 is not the same *Hebrew word as ‘*LORD’ is in verses 10 and 17. ‘Lord’ is a word for ‘master, someone with authority’. Here it is another name for God. When someone hires a servant for a year, the servant counts that year very carefully. Because he does not want to work for a longer time than it is necessary! He is a hired servant for that time only. Kedar was a region in the desert called Arabia. That was east from Judah. The two towns called Dedan and Seir were south from Kedar. The men from Kedar shot arrows from their bows. So the people whom they attacked went to Dedan and Seir. But God told Isaiah that someone would defeat Kedar. And that would happen in less than a year. (Some *Hebrew Bibles have ‘three years’ here instead of ‘a year’.) Sennacherib, king of Assyria, defeated Kedar in 689 B.C. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’.
A number with the letter ‘a’ means the first part of that verse. A number with the letter ‘b’ means the last part of that verse.
Verse 1a People had built Jerusalem on several hills. There were valleys between those hills. Isaiah ‘saw’ what would happen to one valley. The word ‘saw’ here means ‘understood’. A ‘vision’ is something very special that a person sees. It may really be there. Or it may be something that the person imagines. Here, it is something that God told to Isaiah. We do not know which valley Isaiah meant. It could be inside the city, or it could be the Hinnom valley west from the city. Or it could be the Kidron valley east from the city. Some Bible students say that Isaiah was thinking about the valley in Psalm 23:4. It was called ‘the valley of the shadow of death’.
Verses 1b-2a The *Hebrew text has a question here. Isaiah asks, ‘Why have you all gone up onto the roofs of your houses?’ The *Hebrew word for ‘why’ means ‘what to you?’ Some Bible students translate it, ‘What is the matter (or trouble) with you?’ ‘You’ here means ‘everyone in the city’. The houses in Jerusalem had flat roofs. There were stairs on the outside that led to the roofs. Isaiah asked why the people had gone onto their roofs for a party. Bible students have several answers to that. We do not know which is the right one. Here are two possible reasons for the party:
· because Hezekiah had finished his work with Jerusalem’s reserve of water (2 Kings 20:20);
· because Sennacherib had taken his soldiers away from Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35-36).
Those two possible reasons happened at different times. Perhaps the first reason is more likely. That is because the writer mentions ‘pools’ of water a lot in this chapter. But ‘leaders’ in verse 3 may mean ‘leaders of an army’. That would make the second reason more likely! However, the note about verse 20 makes us think that the second reason is probably not correct. When Isaiah asks ‘why’, he wants to say this. ‘You should not have a party, because something bad has happened.’
Verses 2b-3 The bad thing that happened was this. The enemy’s soldiers took the people’s leaders into their possession. Perhaps those ‘leaders’ were leaders of Judah’s army. The enemy killed them. But they did not die in a battle. They died in prison.
Verse 4 So Isaiah cries on behalf of his people, because he is very sad. Jesus did the same (Matthew 23:37). ‘The daughter of my people’ is a special way to say ‘all my people’.
Verse 5 ‘Lord’ means ‘master’. Here it is a name for God. ‘*LORD of Everything’ is also a name for God. Sometimes we translate it ‘*LORD of Armies of Angels’. ‘Angels’ are God’s special servants in heaven, which is the home of God. Here we read again about the ‘Valley of *Vision’. The note about verse 1a explains that. The *Hebrew words for ‘noise’, ‘confusion’ and ‘feet that are running’ sound rather similar. They are ‘mehumah’, ‘mebusah’ and ‘mebukah’. That is a special type of poetry. The sounds of the words make people feel what the writer feels.
Verse 6 Elam was a country that was east from Babylon. We do not know where Kir was. It was not the same Kir as in Isaiah 15:1. A ‘chariot’ was a special cart that horses pulled. Soldiers rode in chariots. ‘Shields’ were hard, flat objects that soldiers used to protect themselves from an enemy’s sword.
Verse 8 ‘Cover’ means ‘somewhere to hide’. The *Hebrew word for ‘cover’ can mean several things, for example:
· the lid of a well (2 Samuel 17:19).
· a cloud that hid the *Jews from Egypt’s soldiers (Psalm 105:39).
· the screen in the temple in Jerusalem. The ‘screen’ here means a cover to hide part of a building. The ‘temple’ was God’s special house in Jerusalem. The ‘screen’ hid the front part from the back.
In this verse, the word ‘cover’ may mean three things:
· the cities round Jerusalem. They were like a cover that protected it from its enemies.
· the ‘cover’ that covered the ‘eyes’ of the people in Jerusalem. We do not mean an actual object here. Here, ‘cover’ is a word picture for something that causes people not to understand the truth. It is as if the people cannot ‘see’ the reality of the situation.
· the fact that God himself protected Jerusalem, as if he had put a cover over it. So ‘take away the cover’ might mean that God would not continue to protect Jerusalem.
The House of the Forest was the place where the soldiers kept their arms. Where we read ‘in those days’, the *Hebrew text has ‘on that day’. When Isaiah uses those words, it always means a time in the future.
Verse 9 ‘David’s City’ is a name for Jerusalem. When the people see the gaps in the walls, they will try to repair them. Also, they will store water in ‘the Lower Pool’. King Hezekiah built an underground passage. It brought water from a well outside Jerusalem. It brought that water into the Lower Pool in the city. Perhaps Hezekiah finished what Ahaz had started. Therefore some Bible students think that the people in verses 1b-2a were having a party for that reason. It was because the passage was complete. So when the enemy attacked, the people would have plenty of water!
Verse 10 People would use the stones from the houses that they pulled down. They would use those stones to make the walls of the city stronger.
Verse 11 The water went to the Old Pool before Hezekiah built his new Lower Pool inside the city. ‘Maker’ is another name for God. It reminds us that he made everything. And he is also ‘the person that decided what to do’. This verse has the words ‘looked towards’. And it has the word ‘see’. Those words do not just refer to people that are watching God. They refer to people that are obeying God.
Verses 12-13 Where we read ‘those days’, the *Hebrew text has ‘that day’. In this passage, ‘those days’ or ‘that day’ means when the people finished the underground passage. (Look at the notes about verses 9 and 11.) The people were so happy (verse 2a) that they wanted to have a party. For that party, they killed cows and sheep. Isaiah told the people that the enemy would defeat them (verses 6-10). So they said this. ‘We will eat. Then we will drink, because tomorrow we will die.’
But God did not want the people to have a party. He wanted them to look towards him. ‘Look’ here means ‘obey’. (Look at the note about verse 11.) And to show that they will obey God, the people must be sorry about their wrong behaviour in the past. So they will weep. They will shave their heads and they will wear rough hairy clothes. People often did that when they were sorry for their *sins. By such actions, they showed that they were sad.
The enemy may have left the city now (see the note about verses 1b-2a). But the enemy will attack again in the future. In Isaiah’s book, ‘those days’ (‘that day’) always means some time in the future. So, before the enemy attacks again, Israel must be sorry. They must show to God that they are sad. They must show to God that they want to obey him.
Verse 14 The *Hebrew words for ‘told me’ really mean this. They mean ‘showed me in my ear’. So it was a private message to Isaiah. But the word ‘you’ is plural. God used it to mean all the people in Jerusalem that did not weep. Neither did they shave their heads, and neither did they wear rough hairy clothes. Isaiah did weep, of course (verse 4). A ‘sin’ is when we do not obey God’s rules. In the New Testament (later part of the Bible), Jesus taught his friends about a special sin. It is ‘the sin that God cannot forgive’. Look in the section ‘Something to do’. There you can find where Jesus taught about it. The people in Jerusalem did not obey God’s rules. And they did not do what he asked them to do. Therefore he could not forgive them! That is ‘the sin that God cannot forgive’ in the Old Testament (earlier part of the Bible).
Verse 15 The first 14 verses were about the people in Jerusalem. Now Isaiah talks about two leaders in Jerusalem. The first one is Shebna. That is not a name that *Jews used. So Shebna was probably a foreigner. He was a minister in King Hezekiah’s government. Perhaps he was the chief minister. Or maybe he was the minister that dealt with foreign affairs. He did deal with people from Assyria (Isaiah 36:11). Also in Isaiah 36:11, we read that he spoke Aramaic, the language of Syria’s people. That is evidence that maybe he was a foreigner. Perhaps, because Shebna was a foreigner, he wanted Hezekiah’s army to help foreign countries in a war against Assyria’s army. But in chapters 13 to 23, Isaiah tells us that God did not want that. It was a bad plan to go together with those other countries’ armies to fight. Because an enemy would destroy them all!
Verse 16 The first 6 *Hebrew words in this verse mean ‘(1)What (2)to-you (3)here (4)and-who (5)to-you (6)here?’ The numbers show the different *Hebrew words. Those words are actually in the form of a question. In English translations, the writers usually add words that help us to understand the meaning. So we could translate the question like this. ‘What [are] you [doing] here? And who [said] that you [could be] here?’ The important question is where Shebna was. He was making a tomb for himself in a hill. A ‘tomb’ is a special grave. People cut a hole in a rock in order to make it. This tomb was in the side of a hill. Only important people had tombs like this one. So, Shebna was making himself important! When he died, his body would rest in a special tomb!
Verse 17 The word ‘throw’ here has a special meaning. It means ‘swing you round and round, and then let you go’. The words ‘Strong Man’ are ones that the speaker says with humour. The speaker means the opposite of what he says. We have shown those words with capital letters because they are like a name. Shebna thinks that he is a strong man. But in God’s hands, he is weak!
Verse 18 The ‘wide country’ was probably Assyria. Shebna will die abroad. People will not bury him in the fine tomb (special grave) that he was building. The shameful thing was that he used his job to get wonderful chariots (special carts that important people rode in). And he used his job to get a fine tomb! Or, the verse may mean that soldiers from Assyria would take away Shebna’s chariots. And people in Jerusalem would be ashamed of Shebna when he died in Assyria.
Verse 19 ‘Important employment’ can include government ministers. ‘I’ and ‘he’ both mean the *LORD God. Isaiah often changes ‘I’ to ‘he’ when he means the same person.
Verse 20 ‘That day’ was in the future. It was the day when God would remove Shebna from his job. In his place, God would appoint Eliakim. In 701 *B.C. Assyria’s King Sennacherib sent his officials to Jerusalem. They had an army with them. At that time, Eliakim was doing the job that Shebna had done before. (Look at Isaiah 36:1-3.) Read the note above about verses 1b-2a of chapter 22. The first reason there for the party is probably correct, if we refer to Isaiah 36:1-3. Shebna had already lost his job at that future time, but Sennacherib had not taken his army away from Jerusalem yet. So that event anyway would not be the reason for a party yet. We do not know who Hilkiah was.
Verse 21 The special clothes (long coats) showed that Shebna and then Eliakim were important officials. A ‘sash’ is a long piece of material. Some people tied sashes round their bodies. It showed the authority that they had. The *Hebrew words for ‘give authority to him’ mean this. They mean ‘put authority into his hand’. ‘Become a father’ means that Eliakim will do good things for the people. It will be as if he is a good father to his family. He will not be like Shebna. Shebna built for himself a fine tomb (place for a dead body). And he drove about in wonderful chariots (special carts that important people rode in). Perhaps he should have been ‘a father to everyone’. Shebna was ‘a father’ to himself only! The *Hebrew text has ‘house of Judah’. It means the royal family in Judah.
Verse 22 ‘David’s house’ was the palace where the royal family lived. People had built it for King David, as we can read in 2 Samuel 5:11. The key was probably so large that Eliakim carried it on his shoulder. The *Hebrew words for the second sentence mean this. ‘What he opens with his key, nobody will shut. And what he shuts, nobody will open with a key.’ That was the authority ‘in his hand’ (verse 21). Apart from Judges 3:25, this is the only key in the Old Testament (first 39 books in the Bible). Look in the section ‘Something to do’. It has a list of ‘keys’ in the New Testament (last 27 books in the Bible).
Verse 23 ‘Pegs’ are strong sticks of wood or metal. The pegs of a tent keep the tent firm, so that it will not blow away in the wind. People fix those pegs into the ground. Eliakim would be firm, like a strong peg, when there was difficulty and danger. He would not be like something weak that ‘blows away’. The *Hebrew words for ‘he will bring honour’ mean ‘he will be a seat of honour’. Here and in the next verse, the *Hebrew text has ‘his father’s house’. It means all Eliakim’s family.
Verse 24 The trouble was that Eliakim’s family wanted him to do too much for them! They were like a heavy load that hung on a *peg. In this verse, the peg was on the wall. People hung things on it. ‘Cups and bottles’ are probably special descriptions of his family. They all wanted something to fill them! Nothing satisfied them! And they all wanted Eliakim to support them!
Verse 25 Although Eliakim was better than Shebna, God removed Eliakim too. We do not know why. Perhaps he had too many problems in his family.
In this chapter, Isaiah says what will happen to the city called Tyre. He is certain that it will happen. Therefore, he describes it as if its enemies had already destroyed it! However, some Bible students think that it may have happened already.
Verse 1 The ships that went to Tarshish were the biggest ships. They went on long journeys from Tyre. Perhaps they went as far as Tarshish in Spain. That journey is more than 2000 kilometres. Some Bible students think that Tarshish was another city, in North Africa. The poem starts with ‘cry aloud’. Isaiah does not say which city the enemy destroyed. He just says ‘it’. Isaiah expects the people to work it out for themselves! They could do that, because Tyre was a great commercial city. It had an excellent harbour. The ships stopped at Cyprus on the way home. But there they heard that there remained no home for them. (Perhaps it means that there was no harbour any more.) Cyprus is an island that is west from Tyre.
Verse 2 Tyre city was actually an island near the coast of Phoenicia. Some translations have ‘be silent’ instead of ‘weep’. The old *Greek Bible has ‘Phoenicia’ instead of ‘Sidon’. Sidon was another port in Phoenicia. It was 40 kilometres north from Tyre. All the merchants had become rich, because they had traded all round the Mediterranean Sea in their ships. But then they cried aloud, or they were silent. That was because they could not trade any more. King Esarhaddon of Assyria destroyed Sidon. And he started to rule over Tyre in 677 B.C. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’.
Verse 3 ‘Sihor’ is another name for the Nile river in Egypt. The *Hebrew word for ‘market’ means ‘a place where traders gain money’.
Verse 4 Isaiah imagines that the sea is speaking. The sea is a special description that means Tyre and Sidon. Those towns were by the sea and they were strong for that reason. But now their ‘children’ are dead. Now they feel as if they never had ‘children’. The ‘children’ are a word picture for the inhabitants of the two cities. Isaiah compares the cities to a woman that has never had a baby.
Verse 5 The sea is still speaking in this verse. Some Bible students think that we should translate the end of the verse to mean this. ‘The people in Egypt will have as much pain as the people in Tyre have.’
Verse 6 In the past, people went to Tarshish to sell things. Now they are going as refugees! A ‘refugee’ means someone that is going away from the danger in his or her own country. Tyre was an island, but some people translate the word ‘island’ as ‘coast’. It would then mean all the coast from Tyre up to Sidon. The people were weeping because an enemy destroyed their cities (verses 1-3). It was also because an enemy killed many people there (verses 4-5).
Verse 7 The people from Tyre and Sidon are going to a distant country. They are *refugees. They must leave the city where they had many happy parties. Or, the verse may mean that in the past, traders from Tyre used to travel to distant countries.
Verse 8 Now someone asks a question. We do not know whether the speaker is Isaiah. Or it may be the sea, as in verse 4. Or it may mean people that see the terrible events in Tyre. We do not know. But someone asks who is doing this to Tyre. They ask it because Tyre is important. The leaders of Tyre give crowns to people. So then those people become kings. Tyre’s own merchants seem like princes. Its traders are famous in all the world. So nobody would want to be the enemy of people in such an important place.
Verse 9 The answer to the question above is ‘the *LORD of Everything’! He did not want the people in Tyre to think that they were more important than God!
Verse 10 Bible students do not agree about how to translate this verse. They do not know the true meaning of some *Hebrew words here. Isaiah wrote his book in the *Hebrew language. Our translation means that the people in Tarshish are now free to travel. They can travel through their own country now. Because the people from Tyre will not stop them. Another possible translation is this. ‘Dig on your land, because the ships from Tarshish do not have a harbour now.’ It means that people must become farmers now. They cannot be traders any more. Those people may be from Tyre. Or they may be from Tarshish.
Verse 11 The *Hebrew text here has the word ‘Canaan’ instead of ‘Phoenicia’. But most Bible students say that it refers to ‘Phoenicia’. Phoenicia was by the sea and it was a part of Canaan. The kingdoms (places that a king rules) were probably Tyre and Sidon. Each city probably had its own king. We do not know who the armies were. Perhaps they were the angels (God’s servants from heaven). Or maybe they were human soldiers from an enemy of Phoenicia.
Verse 12 The *Hebrew text has ‘Virgin Daughter of Sidon’. That is Isaiah’s special way to describe all the people that live in Sidon. ‘Virgin’ means a woman that has never had sex. But it does not mean that all those people are women or virgins!
Verse 13 The people in Tyre think that bad things cannot happen to them. But Isaiah tells them to remember what happened to Babylon. The army from Assyria ruined it. King Sennacherib of Assyria did not take Tyre itself into his possession. But he ruined all Phoenicia, the country round Tyre, in 701 *B.C. Tyre’s people did not regain their own rule until 630 *B.C., as we read in verses 15-18.
Verse 14 In this verse, the writer repeats some things from verse 1.
These verses end the section about foreign countries and cities (chapters 13 to 23). We do not know whether people in the foreign countries heard Isaiah’s words. But his own people, the *Jews, probably did. It is to the *Jews that Isaiah gives comfort in verse 18.
Verses 15-16 A ‘prostitute’ means a woman that has sex with men for money. Isaiah repeats words from a song. The song was popular at the time when he was alive. There are two important things to notice here:
· At that time, it was a bad thing if people forgot someone.
· Isaiah does not say that Tyre is a *prostitute. He says that Tyre, like a *prostitute, makes money.
Verse 17 ‘Hire itself out as a *prostitute again’ is a special description. It means that Tyre will start to trade again. That happened about 630 *B.C. A kingdom is a country that has a king (or a queen) to rule it.
Verse 18 This is good news for the *Jews! The ‘people that live near the *LORD’ probably live in Jerusalem. Perhaps they are the priests that serve God in his *temple there. The last 4 verses show this to us. When God does something, then his people will benefit.
altar ~ a special table where priests burned animals for God.
Aramaic ~ the language that the people in Syria spoke. People also used that language for communications between governments.
BC ~ years Before Christ came to the earth.
bless ~ to do good things to someone; to be very good to people, so that they have many children, animals and fruits; or, to say that something good will happen to someone.
Daughter of Zion ~ in Isaiah 16:1, the city called Jerusalem.
deer ~ an animal like a small cow.
destroy ~ to punish people in the most severe manner possible, usually by death or in *exile. Also, to ruin their cities and their land.
ears of corn ~ the fruit of the plant that grows corn.
earthquake ~ when the ground shakes.
exile ~ an exile is a person who lives away from his home and country. We say that he or she is ‘in exile’.
fisherman ~ a man who catches fish.
glean ~ to collect fruit that the farmer did not take on purpose.
grape ~ a fruit that people use to make wine.
Greek ~ the language that people spoke in Greece.
Heaven ~ the home of God.
heavens ~ either the home of God or the skies.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke.
holy ~ very, very good. Only God is really holy. He is so holy that he is separate from everybody else.
hook and line ~ what a *fisherman uses to catch fish. The hook is a sharp object, which holds a fish by its mouth.
idol ~ a picture or an image of a false god.
incense ~ a substance that gives a special smell when people burn it.
Jews ~ people that lived in Judah (which sounds like ‘Jew-dah’) and Israel.
lord ~ master. With a capital L, it can be a name for God.
LORD ~ LORD is a special name of God. In the *Hebrew language it is YAHWEH. It may mean ‘always alive’. So LORD is a sign that the *Hebrew word is YAHWEH.
LORD of Everything ~ a special name for God that Isaiah often used. Sometimes we translate it as ‘LORD of Angel Armies’. An angel is a servant of God that usually we cannot see.
medium ~ someone that says that they can talk to dead people.
olive ~ a fruit. People make oil from olives. They use this oil as food; or they burn it in a lamp.
peg ~ something that holds things in the right place.
plague ~ when many bad things happen to a country. These can include illnesses.
plan ~ to make an arrangement to do something.
prophecy ~ the words of a *prophet.
prophet ~ someone who tells people what God is saying.
prostitute ~ a woman whom men pay in order to have sex. But in Isaiah chapter 23, it is a special description of a city that made money by trade.
prune ~ to cut off part of a plant in order to make the plant grow better.
refugee ~ someone who has had to run away from his or her own country.
scroll ~ a very long piece of paper. People wrote on it and then they rolled it up. In order to read it, they unrolled it.
Sheol ~ where people go when they die. In the Old Testament (the first 39 books in the Bible), people used this word to describe death.
shield ~ what a soldier uses to protect his body against an enemy’s sword.
sin ~ not to obey God; or, what you do when you do not obey God.
temple ~ the house of God in Jerusalem; or the house of a false god.
thresh ~ to beat corn. This prepares the corn so that people can store it.
trumpet ~ a musical instrument. People blow into it to make a loud sound.
vine ~ a plant that grows fruits called *grapes.
vineyard ~ a garden where people produce *grapes.
vision ~ what somebody sees, perhaps in their imagination. God gave visions to *prophets, so that they could see (understand) the reality of things.
winnow ~ to throw plants into the air, so that the wind blows away the rubbish.
worship ~ to tell God (or a false god) that he is wonderful; and also, to tell him that you love him.
© 2011, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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