The Sad People
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Isaiah chapters 28 to 33
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.
Verse 1 ‘There will be a very sad day’ is just one word in the *Hebrew Bible. It is ‘*hoy’. By means of that word, Isaiah asks us to give our attention to Ephraim. This is because something bad will happen to Ephraim. Ephraim is another name for Israel, the country that was north from Judah. ‘A crown of [which its people are] proud’ is poetry. It describes Ephraim’s capital, which was Samaria city. The city was on a hill, and it had many valleys round it. They all produced good crops of food. But Isaiah said that Samaria’s *glory would not last. It would be like a flower that dies. He was right! ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’. In 722 *B.C., armies from Assyria destroyed Samaria. And they took the people away from their own country, Israel. ‘Glory’ here is something wonderful that makes people proud. The people in the city are proud because that city is so great. ‘Wine makes its people fall over’ is poetry. It means ‘its people are drunk’. Those words show that their behaviour disgusts Isaiah. It also disgusted Amos. (Look in Amos 4:1 and 6:6.) He wrote his book a few years before Isaiah.
Verses 2-3 The *Hebrew word for ‘lord’ means ‘master’. Here, with a capital letter L, it is a name for God. It is not the same *Hebrew word that we translate ‘*LORD’, with 4 capital letters. Here Isaiah does not say who ‘somebody’ is. But we know this. ‘He’ here refers to Assyria. Here is a description of the damage that a storm does. To destroy Ephraim (Israel), the soldiers from Assyria will use both their hands (verse 2) and their feet (verse 3). The idea ‘hands and feet’ here means that they will use ‘everything’. ‘The crown of [which they are] proud’ means Ephraim’s (Israel’s) capital city, Samaria (verse 1).
Verse 4 Here is another description. A ‘fig’ is a fairly small sweet fruit with many small seeds in it. When someone swallows a fig, it disappears completely. And that will happen to Israel’s leaders too. They will disappear! Some poor people will remain (verse 5).
Verse 5 After the message about punishment, here is another message. It is a message about hope. The *LORD will always give help to the people that obey him. He will be like a crown for them. Samaria city, the capital of Israel, will not be their crown. The people that remain will not go into *exile. The ‘*LORD of Everything’ is a special name for God. Isaiah often uses it. The *Hebrew word that we translate as ‘*LORD’ probably means ‘always alive’.
Verse 6 The ‘good decision’ is one that is always right. The *Hebrew words for ‘defend their city’ are ‘the battle at their gate’. The gate of the city was the place where the judges made their decisions.
Verse 7 The leaders are drunks. Alcohol makes them fall over when they walk. It confuses their minds when they make decisions. Some Bible students translate the last sentence as ‘drink flowed out of them’. That would link well with verse 8, because this is a drink of alcohol. But we may wonder who the leaders are. Some Bible students link verses 7-13 with verses 1-6, which are about Ephraim (Israel). Other Bible students link verses 7-13 with verses 14-22, which are about Judah and Jerusalem. This translation follows the second choice. The ‘decisions’ would then mean the agreement with the leaders of Egypt. ‘*Prophets’ told people what God was saying. But here, the *prophets were not true *prophets like Isaiah. They were false prophets, who had not listened to God. In *Hebrew, ‘listen’ also means ‘obey’!
Verse 8 ‘Vomit’ comes out of our stomachs through our mouths. It comes when we are sick. Often, people that have drunk too much alcohol are sick. Some Bible students think that Isaiah is describing a great, special meal with much food and drink. The leaders of Judah were happy, because Egypt’s leaders had agreed to help them. But Isaiah thought that it was not a good idea. He told them that it was wrong. However, the leaders had eaten too much food and they had drunk too much wine. So they laughed at Isaiah (verses 9 and 10). Then, they were sick all over the table where they sat.
Verse 9 ‘He’ here is Isaiah. He tried to tell Judah’s leaders that they were wrong to agree with Egypt’s leaders. In the *Hebrew text, Judah’s leaders actually asked four questions. ‘To whom is he teaching knowledge? To whom is he explaining his message? [In his opinion, are we babies] that do not drink milk any more? Have we just come from [our mother’s] breast?’ All four questions in this verse mean ‘To whom is Isaiah telling this?’ Clearly, the answer is the leaders of Judah, who are in Jerusalem. But Isaiah’s words sounded like nonsense to them. It was as if he was talking to very small children (verse 10). So they wondered whether he could really be talking to them.
Verse 10 The drunks that lead Judah are saying this. ‘Isaiah is like someone that is teaching the alphabet to a child.’ ‘Tsaw’ and ‘qaw’ are old names for two letters in the *Hebrew alphabet. ‘La’ is the *Hebrew word for ‘no’. Bible students do not agree about whether we should translate this verse or not. One possible translation is this.
Do this. Do not do that. Do this. Do not do that.
Rules and no rules. Rules and no rules.
A little here, a little there.
Verse 11 Now Isaiah answers the leaders like this. ‘You think that my words are nonsense. But God himself will speak to you what sounds like nonsense!’ Here ‘he’ is the *LORD, who gives the promises in verse 12. There are similar promises in Deuteronomy 12:10. The foreign language is probably Assyrian (the language that people spoke in the country called Assyria). Assyria’s people became more powerful between 750 and 700 B.C. (‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’.) In 732 to 721 B.C. armies from Assyria defeated Israel’s army. In 701 B.C. they attacked Jerusalem, but they did not defeat its people. However, the people could hear the strange language that the soldiers from Assyria spoke.
Verse 12 Some Bible students think that Isaiah meant ‘rest’ from politics. In other words, he meant this. ‘Do not agree with Egypt to oppose Assyria. Only the *LORD can make you really safe.’ The word ‘listen’ in *Hebrew means this. ‘Hear and obey.’
Verse 13 Isaiah’s words sounded like nonsense to Jerusalem’s leaders. In the future, the same would happen with God’s words. His words would also sound like nonsense to them. ‘Go’ probably means this. ‘Go to Egypt so that you can get help to fight against Assyria.’ But the leaders would ‘fall over’. That is, their plan would finally fail.
Verse 14 Again, as in verse 12, ‘listen’ means this: ‘Hear and obey.’ ‘Laugh’ refers to what the leaders said in verse 10.
Verse 15 ‘Covenant’ means a special serious agreement. The people that lived in Judah and Israel were called *Jews. They thought that people went to *Sheol after death. But ‘death’ was also the name of a false god. The Jews had made an agreement with the leaders of Egypt. But Isaiah was saying that the result of the agreement would be the nation’s death. That is, the end of the nation. The leaders in Jerusalem thought that the flood would pass by them. So then they would not drown. The ‘flood’ meant the many soldiers in the army from Assyria. Some translations have ‘whip’ instead of ‘flood’. They imagine Assyria’s army as a whip that God would use to punish Judah.
Verse 16 The leaders are really saying, ‘We put our trust in lies’ (verse 15). So here is God’s answer to that. God says that he has already given Zion (Jerusalem) to them. He has given it as a shelter from the enemy. The first stone that people lay in a building is a stone in the foundation (base for the building). Usually, people cannot see it. It is below the ground. You cannot see God, but he is there. You can build on his promises. Bible students suggest three meanings for this stone:
· It means Jerusalem city itself, called Zion here.
· It means all the kings of Judah, who are called the ‘royal line’.
· It means Jesus, the last king in Judah’s royal line.
For people when Isaiah was alive, the first two meanings were important. For Christians, the first and third meanings are important. That is because Jerusalem is still important in God’s plans. Also, read what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:4-10.
Verse 17 This verse begins with ‘I have made’. That links with ‘we have made’ in verse 15. It is God’s answer to what people have done. Builders use a line to measure whether a wall is straight. A ‘plumbline’ is a string with a heavy object on its end. People have made the object from a heavy metal called lead. So the string hangs straight down at 90 degrees to the ground. Therefore builders can compare walls with the plumbline (string) to make sure that the walls stand straight up. In that way, they can make good buildings. So in verse 16, God describes himself as a builder. Here he uses a builder’s tools in his description. People are like a wall. They must be ‘straight’. (In other words, they must be fair.) And they must be ‘at 90 degrees to the ground’. (In other words, their behaviour must be right.) Then God uses a special description of a storm with ice and rain. The ice and rain will destroy the ‘shelter’, the safe place, in verse 15. The storm is probably a description of an angry enemy. God will use that enemy to punish the bad leaders.
Verse 18 Again, God gives an answer to what the leaders had decided in verse 15. They had agreed that Egypt’s army would help them. But there would be no help. The army from Assyria would not pass by. It would beat Judah’s people down. In other words, it would defeat Judah. Again, instead of ‘the flood will drown you’, some translations have this. ‘The whip will beat you down.’ The meaning is the same. An enemy will defeat Judah. Actually, Assyria’s army did much damage to Judah, but it did not destroy Jerusalem. It was Babylon’s army that defeated Judah and Jerusalem, over 100 years later. Then Babylon’s army took the people into *exile. But during those 100 years, Jerusalem was under Assyria’s control.
Verse 19 Notice the words ‘flow over’ in verses 18 and 19. The *Hebrew words for that mean ‘pass over’. They would remind people of what God did to take his people from Egypt (Exodus 12:12). But here God uses those words against his own people. Look also at Amos 8:2. Also there, God uses a special description to speak against his own people.
Verse 20 This message is not comfortable. It is like a bed that gives no comfort. The agreement with Egypt will not cover (or protect) Judah’s people. It is like a blanket that is too small! Isaiah probably used those words to describe his message because everybody knew them. The bed reminds us of the place in which to rest (verse 12).
Verse 21 The *Hebrew words for the first sentence mean this. ‘The *LORD will rise up as the hill called Perazim [rises].’ Isaiah was probably saying that King David won a battle at the hill called Perazim. That had happened several centuries earlier. The story about it is in 2 Samuel 5:17-21. Now, similarly, the *LORD will win the battle against Assyria. Or he will win against the leaders in Jerusalem. Next, the *Hebrew Bible has this. ‘He will tremble as the valley at Gibeon [trembled]’. It probably means this. As Joshua won the battle in Gibeon (Joshua 10:6-11), so the *LORD will win this battle. Or perhaps that text refers to another battle that David won with the *LORD’s help. That battle was in a valley near Gibeon (2 Samuel 5:22-25). Then we read in this verse that the *LORD will do something. It is something that his people do not expect.
Verse 23 These words start a new part of the chapter. This part is a special description. It is an example of a farmer’s work. But it also refers back to these previous verses:
· verse 21 – What the *LORD does may seem strange.
· verses 14 and 22 – Do not laugh at the *LORD’s *prophet.
As the farmer knows what to do on his farm, so the *LORD knows what to do in his world. This part is another parable, as in Isaiah chapter 5. A ‘parable’ is a special story to teach us about God and ourselves. The teacher has hidden inside the story what he really means.
Verse 24 In the *Hebrew text, there are actually two questions. ‘Does he plough every day? Does he always break up his soil into small pieces?’ But we know that the answer to both questions is ‘No!’
Verse 25 Caraway and cummin are plants. Their seeds give flavour to food.
Verse 26 This verse is very short. In the *Hebrew Bible, it is just 4 words. ‘The right [thing] to do’ probably means ‘what is right in the circumstances’. Read Exodus 31:1-6, where there is something similar. In this verse, we learn that skill is a gift from God. It reminds us about a traditional idea that God told farmers what to do.
Verse 27 The special machine in the *Hebrew Bible is something big and unsuitable. The *Hebrew text has two different words for a stick. A ‘rod’ is another word for a stick. It was the right tool to use in order to get the seeds from the plants called caraway and cummin. The big special tool was not right for that job.
Verse 28 The special machine is something heavy that animals pull over the wheat and other corn. It is too heavy to use for the plants called caraway and cummin (verse 27). But it is not too heavy for wheat and other corn. However, the farmer must not use it too much, otherwise it will damage the grain. He does not let his horses walk on the grain either.
Verse 29 God always has good plans. Those plans include what he will do with Israel and Judah. ‘His advice is wonderful.’ That reminds us of the ‘wonderful adviser’ in Isaiah 9:6. The words ‘wonderful’ and ‘magnificent’ show that it is very good advice. It is better advice than any human leader can give.
Verse 1 The *Hebrew word ‘ariel’ appears 5 times in verses 1-8. It means a ‘place where people burn things in a *temple’. It is also the ‘place where God (called ‘El’ in *Hebrew) has his fire’. But at the end of verse 2, the word has its normal meaning. That is, a place with a fire. Verse 8 shows to us that Isaiah used the word ‘Ariel’ to mean Zion, a name for Jerusalem. But here in verse 1, that is not yet clear to us. That is because David camped with his army near many cities. But David did camp outside Jerusalem. The story about that is in 2 Samuel 5:6-10.
‘Add year to year’ could mean that something will happen one year from now. Or it could mean that it will happen every year. A ‘festival’ was a special event in the *Jews’ religion. It was a time when people had big public parties. The usual annual festivals included the ones called Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. At those times, people remembered particular events from the past. Those were also the three times when the people harvested crops:
1) People started to harvest *barley at the time when they had the festival called Passover, in April. They used *barley to make bread.
2) People harvested wheat at the time when they had the festival called Pentecost, in May. They used wheat to make bread.
3) People harvested *grapes at the time when they had the festival called Tabernacles, in October. They used the *grapes to make wine.
Perhaps the trouble that Isaiah mentions in verse 2 came in 701 B.C. (‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth.) Isaiah chapters 36 and 37 describe what happened at that time. So perhaps Isaiah wrote chapter 29 in 703 or 702 B.C. Where we read ‘very sad [day]’, the *Hebrew has ‘hoy’. It is a word that people use to ask for other people’s attention. It is like ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ in English. But soon after he uses the word ‘hoy’, Isaiah tells the people this. There will be trouble. Therefore, most people translate ‘hoy’ as a word that the writer uses to warn about danger.
Verse 2 Although the people would continue to have their usual festivals (verse 1), it would not prevent trouble. In the Bible, fire is a special description of God’s anger. And ‘ariel’ means a place where God has a fire. So the word ‘ariel’ is a good description of Jerusalem. That is because God’s anger against the people there will burn like a fire. That will make them very, very sad.
Verse 3 The old *Greek Bible and several English translations have this sentence. ‘I will camp against you like David.’ That is because the words for ‘circle’ and ‘David’ are similar in *Hebrew. And the word ‘David’ links with verse 1. Here we have translated a certain *Hebrew word as ‘an army’. But Bible students are not sure about what the word means. It may mean ‘a tall building’. Isaiah does not say whom God will use as his agent. Isaiah probably thought that it would be an army from Assyria. But Assyria is a secondary cause. As in all things, God is the primary cause. He says, ‘I will do these things.’ And then the *Hebrew words that mean ‘against you’ appear three times in this verse.
Verse 4 It is typical that Isaiah puts three or four things together with similar meanings. In the first two statements, he says that Ariel (Jerusalem city) will be less important. In the other two, he says that Ariel will be weaker. Christians do not believe that a dead person’s spirit can speak to us. But at the time when Isaiah was alive, some people did believe it. This verse has the phrases ‘from the ground’ and ‘from the dust’. They could give the idea to us that the people were dead. In that case, other people had buried them.
Verse 5 Bible students suggest two possible meanings for this verse:
· A heap of dust contains very many small bits of dust. Similarly, there will be a very great number of soldiers that are enemies of Judah’s people.
· Someone will turn the enemy’s soldiers into dust. That means to defeat them. And it means to destroy their army.
Quite probably, Isaiah meant that the enemy was King Sennacherib of Assyria. He attacked Jerusalem in 701 *B.C. Then both those possibilities are true. The word ‘chaff’ describes small dead bits of a corn plant from which people have taken the grain. The wind blows the bits everywhere. And similarly, God will remove the enemy’s soldiers.
The word ‘suddenly’ really starts the first sentence of verse 6.
Verse 6 ‘Visit’ is a special word in the Bible. It means more than ‘come to see’. When the *LORD visits, he does something. He does one out of these two things:
· He punishes the people whom he visits.
· Or, he *blesses (does good things to) the people whom he visits.
In Zechariah 10:3 the *Hebrew word for ‘visit’ appears twice. Once it has the first meaning and once it has the second meaning! Here the word only comes once, but it still has both meanings! It means that God will punish the enemies. He will destroy their army. But it also means that he will save his people in Ariel (Jerusalem city).
The *LORD of Everything is a special name for God. Isaiah often uses it.
Isaiah does not say that there will be *thunder (and all those other things). He says that the situation will be like them. They are descriptions of things that frighten people. Those things happen during great storms:
· Thunder is the loud noise that comes after lightning.
· An earthquake is when the ground shakes (not always in a storm).
· The great strong wind is one that goes round and round.
· The great storm probably also includes a great wind.
The flame of fire is lightning. It burns up everything that it strikes. The *Hebrew word for ‘burns up’ here means ‘eats’. That is because nothing seems to satisfy fire. And it destroys things completely. When God visits people to punish them, they become very frightened. It is as if they are in a very great storm.
Verse 7 Soldiers stand in very strong buildings when they defend their cities. Here the ‘strong building’ is probably a special description of God himself. King Sennacherib’s attack will be like a bad dream. In the morning, Sennacherib’s soldiers will have gone! In the morning, they will all be dead men (Isaiah 37:36 and 2 Kings 19:35).
Verse 8 Dreams are not real. The enemy’s army was real. But it would seem as if it was not! So when the people in Ariel city wake up, the enemy will have gone! Isaiah now identifies Ariel as Zion. Zion was a mountain in Jerusalem. People had built the *temple on that mountain. And people often used the name Zion to mean all Jerusalem city.
Verse 9 When the *LORD destroyed Sennacherib’s army (Isaiah 37:36), he (God) gave another chance to the leaders of Judah. After that event, the leaders of Judah should start to serve God again. But perhaps they would not listen to the *LORD. They may delay and hesitate. If so, Isaiah says that they will never make a sensible decision. Read Matthew 15:14 to discover what Jesus said about ‘blind’ leaders. Those leaders were not really blind. But they pretended not to see what God had done. And perhaps they were not drunks. But their decisions were stupid anyway.
Verse 10 A ‘seer’ is another word for a *prophet. He ‘sees’ (understands) what God is saying. That is what a *prophet does. When someone covers a person’s head, the person cannot see anything. Some Bible students translate the end of the verse like this. ‘He has covered your leaders and your seers.’ That is because ‘head’ can mean ‘leader’. In Isaiah 6:9-10, the *LORD told Isaiah that those things would happen.
Verses 11-12 The people will not read what the *prophet wrote. Perhaps they cannot read it. A ‘scroll’ was a very long piece of paper. It was perhaps 30 metres long. People wrote on the paper. They rolled it up when they wanted to shut it. They attached a substance called wax to its end if the contents were private. Then only the proper person would unroll it to read it. Other people who could read would refuse to open it. And someone who could not read would not understand it anyway. People used scrolls before someone invented our type of book.
Verse 13 Here we have ‘pray to me’. The *Hebrew words for that mean ‘come near to me’. The same word for ‘come near’ is also in Exodus 28:43. The people do everything that they have to do in their religion. But they do not really mean what they are doing. We read ‘[these people’s] hearts are a long way from me’. The *Jews believed that people thought with their hearts. Therefore that sentence means ‘[these people] are not thinking about me’. ‘Lord’ is a word that means ‘master’. Here, God is the Master. ‘Worship’ means ‘to praise someone very much’. It also means ‘to love someone greatly’. The *Jews were God’s people, who lived in Judah and Israel.
Verse 14 Paul uses this verse in 1 Corinthians 1:19. God does not say in verse 14 what he will do to ‘astonish’ the people (to make them wonder). But in verses 15-24, God does say what will happen. Bad things will happen to bad leaders and good things will happen to poor people.
Verse 15 As in verse 1, the *Hebrew words mean ‘*Hoy for those people’. Isaiah uses the word ‘*Hoy’ to warn about danger. The people think that they can hide their deeds from the *LORD. But that is impossible! ‘In darkness’ does not mean ‘at night’. Here, it means ‘in secret’. In the *Hebrew Bible, the people ask questions. They say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows who we are?’ They hope that the answer is ‘Nobody’, as in our translation. But they have no wisdom or intelligence (verse 14). God knows everything, and nobody can change that. We have added ‘to the king’ in square brackets, [ ]. It is for this reason. Some Bible students think that those people were advising the king of Judah. They were telling him to support Egypt’s leaders. They were advising him to do that rather than to support Assyria’s leaders. But Isaiah thought that it was wrong advice. The *Hebrew Bible does not have the words ‘to the king’.
Verse 16 A ‘potter’ is a person that makes pots. He makes the pots from a material called ‘clay’. It is a type of earth. The people here turn things the wrong way up. In other words, they think that the top is the lowest part. And they think that the lowest part is the top! They seem to think that the clay made the potter. But the potter used the clay to make the pot. And then there is something worse. Those people think that the maker knows nothing. That is even worse! Here again, as in verse 15, there are two questions in the *Hebrew Bible. The questions are these. ‘Can the pot say [this] to the potter (person that made it)?’ ‘Can the thing say [this] to its maker?’ The answer to both questions is ‘No!’ The *Hebrew word for ‘made’ is the one in Genesis 2:7. There we read this. ‘The *LORD God made a man from the dust of the ground.’ ‘God created man in his own image’ (Genesis 1:27). Man did not create God. The *Hebrew word for ‘created’ (Genesis 1:27) is a different *Hebrew word from ‘made’ (Genesis 2:7).
Isaiah is saying that these people imagine themselves to be greater than God. They are very wrong, because God made them!
Verse 17 Now it is the *LORD who will turn things round the other way up! On the mountains in Lebanon, forests grow. But God will change them into trees that give fruit. And at Carmel, fruit trees grow. But God will change them into forests. Carmel is a hill on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The hill is south from Lebanon. The *Hebrew word ‘carmel’ means ‘garden of fruit trees’. But we are not sure whether there were any fruit trees on the hill itself.
Verse 18 In this verse, there are personal changes. The *scroll (book) in verse 11 is now open and people can read it. And more importantly, deaf people will hear it, when somebody reads it aloud! And blind people will be able to see! Paul refers to similar changes in Ephesians 5:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5. When God turns things round, then people change!
Verse 19 The humble and poor people here are people to whom the leaders have been cruel. The leaders have not only been cruel and unkind to them. The leaders have also made the poor people work very hard. Then the leaders have taken nearly everything that the poor people have earned. But God will change all that! Again, he will turn things round so that the lowest part is on the top. ‘Holy’ is a word that means ‘very, very good’. So God is a Holy God. Some translations say that he is the ‘Holy One of Israel’. ‘Holy’ also means ‘separate’. God is separate from man.
Notice that the English language has a word ‘underdog’. It means someone that is a servant to everybody. Everybody thinks that an underdog is worse than themselves. A good translation of this verse is, ‘And the *LORD will make the underdogs happy again’!
Verse 20 Here is the cause of all the changes in verses 17-19. The *LORD will *destroy three groups of people:
· the cruel people. They use their power to help themselves.
· the people that laugh at God. They do not believe in a moral law.
· the people that have evil plans. They make trouble for other people.
Verse 21 The phrase ‘with [just] a word’ means ‘by something that they say’. At the time when Isaiah was alive, the gate of the city (or town) was a special place. Today ‘the gate of the city’ would be ‘a court of law’. It was where the judge made his decisions. The trap made the judge decide wrongly. The trap was probably lies that the witness said. The result was that an innocent person did not get a fair decision.
Verse 22 There are two strange things in this verse:
· Isaiah refers to Abraham. Usually, the *prophets in the Bible do not do that. But Isaiah does it four times. The other three places are Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 51:2 and Isaiah 63:16. The *Hebrew word for ‘rescued’ really means ‘redeemed’ (bought back). But Bible students are not sure when God redeemed (bought back) Abraham. It refers to a time when God rescued Abraham from trouble. The story about that may not be in the Bible.
· ‘His (his family’s) face will never become pale.’ People’s faces become pale when they have trouble. Perhaps that is what it means here. The *Hebrew words for ‘Jacob’s family’ mean ‘the house of Jacob’. They were God’s people, who lived in Judah and Israel. Jacob’s family will never be ashamed again. Some translations have ‘Jacob will never lose face’. That is a special way to say the same thing.
Verse 23 ‘Children’ probably means ‘grandchildren and their children, for many years’. Some Bible students translate it like this. ‘Their children see what God has done. Then they will keep my name holy.’ ‘My name’ means ‘God himself’. Here we read the name ‘Holy [God] of Jacob’. This is the only place where that name appears in the Bible.
Verse 24 The *Hebrew words for ‘minds are confused’ mean ‘spirits wander about’. Something has confused those people. They do not understand what is happening. But God will change things completely. So then those people will become the opposite of what they were before (verses 18-20). Then everything will become clear. We read here about ‘people that complain’. It probably means ‘people that do not understand’. Therefore they say stupid things. But they will become happy to learn what is right.
Verse 1 ‘Very sad [day]’ is ‘*hoy’ in the *Hebrew Bible. There is a note about that for Isaiah 29:1. The father here is God. When God is called ‘father’ in the *Old Testament, he is usually the father of the king and nation. There he is not the father of separate *Jews, as he is in John 5:18. In Isaiah 30:1, ‘children’ means the Jews. The ‘Jews’ were God’s people, who lived in Judah. They wanted help to fight against Assyria’s army. But in this chapter, God warns the Jews that it is dangerous to ask Egypt’s leaders for help. He says that the Jews should have asked God for help. A ‘sin’ means when people do not obey God. *LORD is a special word for God. There is a note about it for Isaiah 1:1.
Verse 2 At the end of the verse, the *Hebrew Bible has this. ‘They look for shelter in Egypt’s shadow.’ That is poetry. It means this. ‘They look for help from Egypt’s leaders. Because they hope that it will protect them.’ ‘Pharaoh’ was the special name that Egypt’s people gave to their kings.
Verse 3 In the Bible, the name ‘Egypt’ often refers to death (Exodus 1:22). Egypt was not a place in which to look for life! Notice that in verses 1 and 2 Isaiah used the word ‘they’. But here it changes to ‘you’, although it means the same people. That often happens in Isaiah’s book.
Verse 4 Zoan and Hanes were places in Egypt. The princes and officials were probably from Pharaoh Shabako of Egypt. He was Egypt’s king from 716 to 702 B.C. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. Shabako united Egypt and he made it strong. King Hezekiah of Judah probably sent people to meet those princes and officials. Hezekiah probably thought that the strong king of Egypt would defeat Assyria’s army.
But perhaps the princes and officials were not from Egypt, but from Judah. Perhaps they were the men whom Hezekiah sent. Then they would be the same men who travelled through the Negev in verse 6. And they met Egypt’s rulers at Zoan and Hanes.
Verse 5 Egypt’s army will not be able to make Judah safe from attack by Assyria’s army. If Assyria’s soldiers attack Judah, then the people in Judah will only be ashamed. And they will lose honour.
Verse 6 For ‘serious [words]’, the *Hebrew Bible has a word that actually means ‘something heavy’. Isaiah uses that word several times in this main section of his book. It has a special meaning in this section. The note before Isaiah 13:1 explains that special meaning. Verses 1-5 emphasised this. Those who made Judah’s plans were only men. They did not ask God for advice. Verses 6-7 are about the cost of those plans. The leaders of Judah sent many valuable things to Egypt to pay for Egypt’s help against Assyria. They took so many things that they needed donkeys and camels to carry them! ‘Donkeys’ are animals like small horses. Camels are animals with either one or two humps on their backs. ‘Humps’ are higher parts that stick up on some animals’ backs. Also, the journey was dangerous. The people that took the valuable things to Egypt did not go by the safe road. That was next to the Mediterranean Sea. Those people went by a secret, dangerous road through the Negev desert. Therefore, not many people knew what the leaders were doing. But Isaiah said that God knew!
So, the donkeys and camels went through the Negev, which was south from Jerusalem. The Negev was partly wild country, and it was partly desert. There were male and female lions there. And there were dangerous snakes. There were also some poisonous snakes that seemed to fly! We do not know what those were. King Esarhaddon of Assyria said that he saw yellow snakes. And he said that they were flying! Some modern books call the Negev by the name ‘Negeb’. That is because the *Hebrew letters ‘B’ and ‘V’ can be the same.
Verse 7 In Psalm 87:4, the writer calls Egypt by the name ‘Rahab’. But the word ‘Rahab’ means this. ‘She roars while she sits still.’ That is like a special description of an animal. An animal may make a lot of noise. Then people would think that it is fierce. But if it sits still, it will do nothing. So the description means that Rahab (Egypt) is doing nothing! Egypt will not send help.
Verses 8-9 A ‘tablet’ was a flat piece of stone that people wrote on. They used sharp points to write on it. A ‘scroll’ was a very long piece of paper that people wrote on. They rolled it up. Isaiah wrote the messages down on both a tablet and a scroll. Therefore, later those things would be certain proof to people that he had said those messages! The tablet was a public proof, and the scroll was a private proof. There are two messages here:
· Verses 9-14 People that will not listen to God’s message will have trouble.
· Verses 15-17 An enemy will *destroy people that will not listen to God.
Verses 10-11 These words show to us what kind of attitude the *Jewish leaders have. Those leaders do not want a message that tells them to obey God. It is often difficult to obey God. So they ask for something easier. Often, that thing is not what God wants them to do. The ‘path’ and the ‘road’ mean the right ways to live. A ‘*prophet’ told the people what God was saying. ‘Seer’ is actually another word for ‘*prophet’. ‘Holy’ means ‘very, very good’. Only God is really holy.
Verse 12 Isaiah uses the same name for God that the leaders did in verse 11. Isaiah does not mention Egypt again in these verses. But he refers to what God said about Egypt (verses 1-7). Bible students are not sure what ‘cruelty’ refers to here. It may mean Egypt’s leaders, who perhaps were cruel to the people. They made the people work for only a little money. Or it may mean that Judah’s leaders were cruel to the people in Judah.
Verses 13-14 ‘He’ in verse 14 is God. These two descriptions show that God will completely *destroy the leaders of the *Jews. Isaiah does not say whom God will use as his own agent. Actually it was not an army from Assyria, which the leaders were worrying about then. It was an army from Babylon 100 years later.
Verse 15 ‘Lord’ means ‘master’. Here it is a name for God. But it is not the same word in *Hebrew as ‘*LORD’. Isaiah tells the leaders what God has said. They must stop all their activity in Egypt. They must return home and they must rest. The leaders must trust in God, who will make them strong. Armies from Egypt cannot make them strong. But the leaders have not listened to God’s message. For us today, the ‘return’ is not a return from Egypt. It is a return from when we do wrong things. It is not enough to be sorry because we have done wrong things. We must stop doing (return from) what is wrong. With God’s help, we can stop our wrong behaviour. And we can start to serve him and to trust him. We could translate part of this verse as ‘Your strength will be in quiet confidence.’ We can always have confidence in God.
Verse 16 However, the *Jews preferred action. They preferred a military answer to their problem rather than God’s help. Egypt was famous because of its horses. The *Jews probably thought that Egypt’s leaders would give horses to them. Then the *Jews could fight against the army from Assyria. But God said, by means of his *prophet Isaiah, that the enemy would ride as fast as the *Jews.
Verse 17 The *Jews may seem brave on their horses, but even a small army from Assyria will beat them. They will not be able to go far, even on their fast horses. Everybody will see Assyria’s army defeat them. It will be as easy as when they see a flagpole or banner on a hill. The mountain is probably one near Jerusalem. A ‘flagpole’ is a pole that can carry a flag. A ‘banner’ is a large piece of material and it has words or pictures on it. Two poles usually hold it up high. Armies have flags and banners. But after Assyria’s army defeats Judah, then Judah will have no army. There will only be flagpoles and banners.
Verses 18-19 The word ‘therefore’ appears two times in verse 18. That links with verse 16, where ‘therefore’ also appeared two times. In verse 16, those words have a connection with judgement and punishment. But after that, God will give to his people kindness and love (verse 18). Verses 18 and 19 start a new section about God’s love for his people. The word ‘kind’ in these verses really means ‘kind when he does not have to be kind’. Christians call that sort of kindness ‘grace’. And because the *LORD gives grace, they describe him as ‘gracious’. These verses are probably about the *LORD’s return to the Earth. They are a promise for the future!
Verse 20 We need bread and water every day. So, in the past, the *Jews needed trouble and pain every day as a punishment. But things will be different! Their Teacher (a name for God) will not hide. He will answer their prayers (verse 19). Some Bible students think that the word teacher should be plural, ‘teachers’. Then it would not be a name for God, but it would be a name for his *prophets. Other Bible students think that the *Hebrew word actually means ‘early rain’. We cannot be certain who is right. Here we read ‘you will see him’. The note about verse 26 explains when that may happen.
Verse 21 The *LORD will be close enough so that people can see him with their eyes (verse 20). And he will be close enough so that they can hear him with their ears. The word ‘message’ here links with ‘message’ in verse 12. The people did not listen to it then. But in the future, they will listen. Here we read, ‘This is the way.’ It links with the first part of verse 11.
Verse 22 The people cut some images into shape with a knife. Then they put silver onto them. To make some other images, they melted an ordinary metal. Then they made it into a shape and they covered it with gold. The images represented false gods. ‘Throw away’ is a translation of the same *Hebrew word as ‘scatter’ is in verse 24.
Verse 23 Here is a link with the bread and water in verse 20. There, the *Hebrew word for ‘bread’ is the same as the word for ‘food’ here. Here the people’s punishment is over. Read again the note about verses 18-19. Also, the curse that God declared in Genesis 3:17-19 is over. (A ‘curse’ here means a special bad situation that God sends to somebody.) Therefore, the situation here will quite probably be after Jesus will return to the Earth. Paul wrote about the curse in Romans 8:21-22.
Verse 24 ‘Oxen’ (plural of ‘ox’) are like cows, and ‘donkeys’ are like small horses. Their work is to pull ploughs. The danger to those animals in verses 6-7 is now over. They can wander in wide fields and they can be safe (verse 23). And they will have the best food. Again, read Romans 8:21-22.
Verse 25 The streams are permanent. They will not just appear when it rains. We read here about the ‘day when tall buildings fall’. But Bible students do not know what that refers to. Perhaps an enemy destroyed the tall buildings, and in that way they killed many people. Those words may refer to Isaiah 2:12-17 and Isaiah 25:1-5. Again, like verse 23, the words would then describe the situation after Jesus will return to the Earth.
Verse 26 Notice the parallel between verses 25 and 26:
Something will happen
When it will happen
Verse 25 Water will flow on hills and mountains
When someone (perhaps the *LORD) destroys armies and tall buildings
Verse 26 Bright light will come from the sun and moon
When the *LORD cures his people
When we show the parallel between the verses, it helps us to understand them. Here, we get the idea that maybe the *LORD will destroy the armies and tall buildings. That makes it clearer that perhaps Isaiah was referring to Isaiah 2:12-17 and Isaiah 25:1-5. In that case, it will happen after the *LORD returns to the Earth. Then, ‘you will see him’ (verse 20). Revelation 19:11-18 also describes a great battle when Jesus returns to the Earth. And that is when Jesus says, ‘People will see me’ (Mark 13:26).
Verses 27-28 At the beginning, the *Hebrew words mean ‘the name of the *LORD is coming’. ‘The name’ means ‘the person himself’. Then there is a list of different parts of his head. It is in verse 27 and the first sentence of verse 28. These verses contain special descriptions of fire and water, which can destroy people and things. ‘His nose burns’ means this. It means that God is very angry. A ‘bit’ is what people put in horses’ mouths. People are then able to guide the horse.
Verse 29 In verses 27-28 the *LORD is punishing his enemies. That makes his people very happy. The ‘Rock of Israel’ is a name for God. A ‘flute’ is an instrument like a tube with holes. People blow on it to make music.
Verses 30-32 Isaiah does not say who the ‘people’ are until verse 31. These verses contain some more descriptions of how *LORD will punish his enemies. Here his anger is like a terrible fire or it is like a great storm. In verse 31 ‘the voice’ links with the noisy storm (verse 30). And ‘beat them down’ is like heavy rain. It beats things down as it falls. Because God has complete authority, he can use nature to punish his enemies. Notice Isaiah’s special technique again here. It starts in verse 31. And it continues in the first part of verse 32. In the *Hebrew verses too he says the same thing several times, but he uses different words each time. God would punish the enemies. But to Isaiah’s listeners, that would be like wonderful music. Harps (for harmony) and tambourines (for rhythm) are musical instruments. So are flutes, which people blow. Perhaps this music has a connection with the people’s happiness in verse 29. Flutes, harps and tambourines together provide a small orchestra to play music.
Verse 33 ‘Topheth’ is a *Hebrew word. It probably means ‘a place in which to burn things, where there is shame’. The soldiers from Assyria would march to Zion (Jerusalem) (Isaiah 10:8-11). But they did not know that their journey would lead to their own funeral! A ‘pit’ is a large hole in the ground. Perhaps Isaiah meant the Pit, the very deep hole in the ground in *Sheol. People said that really bad people went there. Sulphur is a yellow substance that burns with a blue flame. We have put ‘Great King’ here instead of ‘*LORD’ to show that God is greater than Assyria’s king.
We must study chapters 31 and 32 together. Isaiah 31:1-5 shows the subject of these chapters. It deals with this problem. The leaders of Judah’s government wanted to ask for help from Egypt’s army. But that was not a good idea. Isaiah 31:6-9 deals with the problem about Assyria’s army. Then in chapter 32, Isaiah talks about the future ideal king. The ideal king will be the *Messiah.
Verse 1 The word for ‘sad’ here is ‘hoy’ in the *Hebrew Bible. The note about Isaiah 29:1 explains that. The ‘people that go down to Egypt’ are the leaders of Judah. King Hezekiah was the ruler of Judah. Egypt was famous for its horses. Horses bring power and chariots bring military strength. ‘Chariots’ were special carts that horses pulled. Soldiers rode in the chariots. Hezekiah wanted to benefit from that power and military strength. So Hezekiah preferred to trust in Egypt’s army. He preferred to do that rather than to trust in the *LORD. Notice that this verse has the words ‘go down’. And verse 4 has ‘come down’. Those words link verses 1-5 together.
Verse 2 Judah’s leaders thought that they were wise to ask Egypt for help. But the *LORD is wise also. He is wiser than men! He has his plans, and he does not ‘call back his words’. That means that he will not change his plans. The ‘people that help’ means Egypt’s people. The ‘people that do evil things’ means the people in Judah. Actually, the *Hebrew words for that mean ‘the house that does evil things’. There is a *Hebrew word for ‘family’ which actually means ‘house’. So ‘the people’ here may mean just the leaders from the royal ‘house’ (family). Here we read that God would ‘do something’ against the people. The actual *Hebrew words mean ‘rise up’ against the people.
Verse 3 Here Isaiah is emphasising that Judah’s people should have asked God for help. They should not have asked Egypt’s leaders for help. They are acting as if Egypt’s leaders are ‘God’. Here the *Hebrew word for God is ‘El’. It means ‘most powerful and wonderful king’.
Verse 4 Here is a special description of the *LORD as if he was a lion. He catches Zion (Jerusalem)! Nobody can take it from him. A ‘shepherd’ is someone that looks after sheep. But the ‘shepherds’ here mean the helpers from Egypt. They can do nothing! This is a special description of the *LORD when he fights for Jerusalem. He fights to defend what belongs to him. And so he helps the people that obey him.
Verse 5 The *LORD will do everything to help the people that obey him. He will fly round them to protect them. He will do that like a bird that protects its nest. In this verse, the *Hebrew Bible has 4 actions in the same sentence. When that happens, it often means ‘on all sides’. Here God would fight for his people ‘on all sides’. The important *Hebrew word here means ‘pass over’. It is the same word as in Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:23 and Exodus 12:27. It became the word that the *Jews used for the *Passover. God will *destroy his enemies. However, the people that trust in God will live!
Verse 6 Isaiah tells his people that they must start to trust the *LORD again. They must be sorry for what they have done. Then, they must obey the *LORD in the future. They must not do bad things again.
Verse 7 People had made images out of gold and silver. The note for Isaiah 30:22 explains about such images. They represented false gods. But there must be no false gods after the people start to trust the *LORD again. Those were gods that people had made with their own hands. Even as Egypt’s army was not God, so those images were not God.
Verse 8 In this note, ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’. After Assyria’s army suffered defeat in 701 B.C., it became weaker and weaker. In 612 B.C., Babylon’s army defeated Assyria’s army. In Isaiah chapters 36 to 37, we read how Assyria’s leaders wanted to take control of Jerusalem. But in Isaiah 37:36, we learn that the *LORD’s angel killed 185 000 soldiers from Assyria’s army. An ‘angel’ is a servant of God from heaven. The ‘young men’ were the men from Assyria’s army whom the angel did not kill. They would have to work as slaves.
Verse 9 ‘The rock [of Assyria’s people]’ means the king of Assyria. God is the ‘Rock of Israel’ (Isaiah 30:29). For ‘die’, the *Hebrew Bible has ‘pass away’. That is another way to say ‘die’ in English. Here it means that the king will pass away from this Earth. Nobody will see him again. It is possible to translate the next part of the verse like this. ‘His officers will run away from their flag [that they have raised for] battle. [They will run away] because they are afraid.’ A ‘furnace’ is like a huge box with a very hot fire inside. Read the note for Isaiah 29:1 about ‘Ariel’ (a special name for Jerusalem city that means a place with a fire).
Verses 1-2 ‘Listen’ is a translation of the *Hebrew word that means ‘see!’ We have translated it ‘listen’ because these things have not happened yet. Isaiah is describing what will happen in the future. That is the time when the *Messiah will become King. When there are good rulers, then the people will feel safe. They will do well.
No king on Earth has ever had a perfect government. Here Isaiah describes the *Messiah, as he does also in Isaiah 11:1-10. And he describes the *Messiah in Isaiah chapters 41 to 55 too. The princes are probably officials in the government. In verse 1, notice the way that Isaiah puts the description first. In that way, he emphasises the words ‘very good’ and ‘fair’, rather than ‘rule’ and ‘govern’. That is important. There will always be a government. But it is not usual that it is always good and fair. ‘Each ruler’ really means ‘the king and his government’.
Verses 3-4 People should use their eyes, ears, minds (‘hearts’ in *Hebrew) and tongues. If they use them well, then it will be good for the whole country. Here is another passage that emphasises the idea ‘on four sides’. Because it mentions four different things, it is like Isaiah 31:5. When people are in a hurry, they have no time to make a decision.
Verse 5 The words ‘not again’ give this idea about fools. And they give this same idea about people that dealt with other people unfairly. It seems that such people were important people. So they were often called ‘noble’ and ‘honourable’. That was at the time when Isaiah was alive. He often said that people did not use their eyes, ears and minds with regard to God. There are examples of that in Isaiah 1:3; Isaiah 6:9 and many other places. But now Isaiah suggests that the people should use those things with regard to their political leaders. Bible students call some books of the Bible ‘Wisdom Books’. Those include Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. This chapter is similar to some chapters in the Wisdom Books. In those books, a ‘fool’ is someone who does not fear (respect) God. He does not obey God. And he does not respect his parents. Read Proverbs 1:2-19 to discover more.
Verses 6-8 Here Isaiah describes what fools do. And he also describes what noble people do. There is one *Hebrew word here for ‘someone that deals with people unfairly’. It means ‘a fool that can think’. Notice these things:
· The fool does not respect God and he is cruel to people.
· The person that deals unfairly with other people hurts poor people. He probably does that for his own advantage.
· The noble person does the noble, good things that he promises to do.
Isaiah has given a description of the ideal king, the *Messiah. But after that, Isaiah continues to describe Judah’s actual situation again. The army from Assyria will attack the country and the crops will not produce a good harvest. But the ideal king will come, if people wait long enough. This section mixes together both our future and our past. That makes it difficult for us to understand. But at each verse, ask yourself this. Would this happen soon afterwards (in our past)? Or would it happen after a very long time (in our future)?
Verse 9 Notice that in verses 9-12 there is no word ‘and’. The word ‘and’ hardly appears in the *Hebrew for this passage, too. It is common everywhere else in Isaiah. But it is not here, because Isaiah wants his words to sound urgent. Isaiah speaks to the women. However, many Bible students say that ‘women’ here refers to towns. They also say that ‘ladies’ is a special description of cities. The *Hebrew word for ‘ladies’ means daughters. The people have nothing to worry about, so they feel safe. Therefore they become lazy. And they do nothing to prepare against attack by Assyria’s army. They expect that Egypt’s army will defend them.
Verse 10 Here we read ‘in less than a year’. The *Hebrew words for it mean ‘days upon year’. Bible students have many explanations about the meaning of that. A likely one is ‘before the next harvest’. So our translation has ‘in less than a year’. But another possible translation is ‘in a year and a few days’. Then there will be no harvests, because the soldiers from Assyria will destroy the crops.
Verse 11 That will make the people (women, or people in cities) tremble with terror. They will not wear fine clothes, as they did in Isaiah 3:16-24. They will only have pieces of cloth round the middles of their bodies. Those bits of cloth will just hide the parts of the body that people use for sex. That often happened to people whose enemies took them into exile. ‘Exile’ here means when someone is a prisoner in another country. When people wore such pieces of cloth, it showed something. It showed to everyone that those people were slaves.
Verses 12-13 ‘Beat your breasts’ appears at the beginning of verse 12. But maybe it ought to follow directly ‘about the middle of your body’. Then the end of verse 11 would be like this. ‘Put a cloth about the middle of your body. Beat your breasts.’ That was how people showed two things. They were very sad and they were slaves. The *Hebrew word for ‘cloth’ means what slaves wore. Isaiah gives 4 reasons why the people are so sad. The pleasant fields have gone and there is no crop of fruit. Instead, the ground only produces weeds like *thorn bushes and *briers. There are no homes in which to be happy. Assyria’s army will destroy the towns and villages outside Jerusalem.
Verse 14 The army from Assyria did not destroy Jerusalem itself. But an army from Babylon did destroy it, about 100 years later. So everything in verses 9-14 happened between 701 B.C. and 586 B.C. ‘B.C.’ means ‘years Before Christ came to the Earth’.
Verse 15 However, the defeat in verses 9-14 will not be the end! There will be:
· a new Earth (verse 15)
· a new society (verses 16-17) and
· a new safety (verse 18).
That will happen when God ‘sends out his Spirit’ from above. The *Hebrew text actually means ‘pours his Spirit’. ‘From above’ probably means from heaven, God’s home. Christians see ‘his Spirit’ as God’s Holy Spirit. But 2700 years ago, a better translation would perhaps be ‘power on us from above’. ‘The wild places’ refers to the region between Jerusalem and the Jordan river. The river was on the east side. Good crops did not grow there. But when God acted, that area would become a garden. It would become a field that produced good fruit. And gardens would produce even bigger plants!
Verse 16 In this verse we have ‘fields that produce plenty of fruit’. They are the same as ‘gardens’ in verse 15. Both are translations of the *Hebrew word ‘carmel’. The ‘wild places’ and the ‘fields’ together mean the whole country. Fair and good decisions will be everywhere!
Verse 17 The *Hebrew word for ‘peace’ is ‘shalom’. It means more than ‘no war’. It means this. Everybody will work well together and they will live well together. People will not argue. There will be ‘harmony’ among them. As harmony in music produces pleasant sounds, so harmony among people produces a pleasant society!
Verse 18 ‘My people’ does not just mean the people that live in Isaiah’s country. It means the people that have trusted in the *LORD. They are the people who are really ‘his people’. They have started to trust in him again (Isaiah 31:6).
Verses 19-20 This security will last, even if there is bad weather. The life of the farmer will go on without change. The crops and the animals will do well. However, some Bible students think these things:
· The ‘trees in the forest’ means Assyria.
· The ‘city’ means Jerusalem in the situation that the writer described in verses 12-14.
People that trust God will have his help. That will happen even when bad things happen round them.
Here Isaiah describes a crisis. It is probably the one that the writer describes in 2 Kings 18:13-37. An enemy will *deceive Judah’s people and the enemy’s army will attack Judah (verse 1). Then the people in Judah pray to the *LORD (verse 2). As a result, the enemy scatters (verse 3). After the battle, people gather goods. It is not certain whether those people are the enemy or the *Jews (verse 4). After the war, the *LORD will give safety to his people (verses 5-6).
Verse 1 Isaiah uses the *Hebrew word ‘hoy’ to warn people about danger. There is an explanation of that word in the note about Isaiah 29:1. It is like the phrase ‘Look out!’ in English. The *LORD, by means of Isaiah, is speaking to either Assyria’s or Babylon’s people. Or perhaps he is speaking to them both. ‘Deceive’ means when someone pretends to be good and honest. But that person is not good and honest. He makes other people believe something that is not true. Read the note about verse 7. Isaiah does not name the other countries.
Verse 2 The people are waiting for God to help them. Here in English we read ‘be our strength every day’. The *Hebrew words for that actually mean ‘be our arm every morning’. In difficult circumstances, we need God’s help every morning. And we need it through every day. We could translate ‘be our strength’ like this. ‘Be the arm [of the *LORD] to us.’
Verse 3 Notice the parallel ideas in this verse, which is typical *Hebrew poetry:
sound of a voice
people run away
you rise up
‘People’ here is another word for ‘nations’. There are two different words for it here in *Hebrew, too. ‘Rise up’ means that God will do something. It means that he will act powerfully. In a pair of sentences like this one, both sentences mean the same in *Hebrew poetry. Therefore the voice is God’s voice. Near the beginning of the verse, some translations have this. They have ‘sound of your thunder’. ‘Thunder’ is the noise in the sky that follows lightning. Many people thought that it was the voice of God. There is an example of that in John 12:28-29. And Psalm 29 is all about ‘the *LORD’s voice’ in a storm.
Verse 4 After wars, people took anything that they could find. They took money and slaves. And they took anything that they wanted. A ‘grasshopper’ is an insect. It jumps round in the grass. It is 2-3 centimetres long. A locust is a kind of big grasshopper. It eats all the green parts of plants that it can find. This verse is an ‘inclusio’. That means that the first and fourth phrases are similar to each other. And the second and third phrases are similar to each other. That again is an example of *Hebrew poetry:
people gather together goods
as a grasshopper (insect that jumps) gathers [food]
as locusts (insects that destroy plants) rush [to their food]
people rush [to the goods]
That helps us to translate what the verse means. The words in square brackets, [ … ], are not in the *Hebrew Bible. In Joel 2:1-11, the writer describes an attack by an enemy. He describes it as if it was an attack by locusts (insects that destroy plants).
Verse 5 ‘High above’ means in heaven, the home of God. It is usual to describe heaven as if it is above the sky. Zion is another name for Jerusalem. Actually, Zion is a hill inside Jerusalem city.
Verse 6 The very valuable things here are not silver and gold, but they are wisdom and other valuable qualities like that. This verse is very difficult to translate from *Hebrew into English. The meaning is not certain. Some Bible students translate it like this:
‘He will give safety to your lives.
Your wealth will be safe, [as will your] wisdom and knowledge.
The fear of the *LORD is the very valuable thing [that he gives to you].
In the *Hebrew Bible:
· ‘lives’ means the time when people are alive.
· a ‘safe’ place is ‘a good place on which to build’. Isaiah writes about people that are building a house on a strong base. It is a special description of people who have chosen a strong base for their lives. That base is what God teaches us in the Bible. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 7:24-27.
These verses continue the description of the crisis in verses 1-6.
Verse 7 This verse probably refers to 2 Kings 18:13-37. There, King Hezekiah sent officials to ask King Sennacherib of Assyria for peace. Sennacherib seemed to accept their appeal. But he *deceived the officials, as we read in verse 1. That caused pain to them, so they cried bitter (painful) tears. The ‘brave men’ are the leaders of Judah. The *Hebrew word for ‘brave men’ is similar to ‘Ariel’. ‘Ariel’ is a name for Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:1-7). So that sentence may mean ‘Jerusalem’s [people] weep in the streets’.
Verse 8 Because the enemy was in their country, the people did not use the roads. There was no agreement with the enemy. Isaiah does not say here who the enemy was. He just writes ‘he stopped the agreement’. Many Bible students think that the word ‘cities’ should be ‘witnesses’. Those two words are very similar in *Hebrew. Also, the Dead Sea *Scroll that contains Isaiah’s book does have ‘witnesses’. That Dead Sea *Scroll is probably the earliest copy of Isaiah’s book that Bible students have in *Hebrew. But it is probably best to keep the word ‘cities’.
Verse 9 Isaiah imagines that not only the people are sad (verses 7-8). The land itself seems to be sad. It dries up so that nothing can grow on it. ‘Lebanon’ here actually means the cedar trees (large, beautiful trees) that grow in the country called Lebanon. They are dying. Sharon was a place where great trees grew. Now it is like a desert. Nothing will grow there! Sharon is a plain, which is south from Carmel. Carmel is a hill in the north-west of Israel. The area called Bashan was east from the Jordan river. There was good grass there for cows and sheep. But now the leaves are dropping off the trees in both places. Again, that is probably because there is no water. These are only descriptions of Lebanon, Sharon, Carmel and Bashan. But Isaiah uses the descriptions to tell a story. They show that the enemy, an army from Assyria, was there. Isaiah imagines that even the plants are in an unhappy state. Even as the people are unhappy, so are the plants.
Verse 10 Here the *LORD says the same thing in three different ways. That emphasises the importance of what he says. He definitely intends to get up, because he intends to do something. And he intends to do it NOW!
Verse 11 These words are probably what the *LORD said. The *Hebrew word here for ‘make’ means ‘conceive’. That means the act by which a man and woman start a baby. The *Hebrew word for ‘produce’ describes the birth of a baby. Again, as in verse 9, those are only descriptions to show what happens. So is ‘breath’. Sometimes when people start to make a fire, they blow with their breath. They blow on something so that it will start to burn. Here, the fire makes people burn.
Verse 12 Lime is a white powder. Chemists can make it in these ways. They can burn a substance called calcium in oxygen. Or they can heat chalk or bones. *Thorn bushes burn very easily.
Verse 13 Isaiah continues the *LORD’s words from verses 11-12. God appeals to the whole world. He does not just appeal to Judah. Isaiah makes that clear in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Isaiah chapter 34.
Verse 14 People that do evil things are not clean. That is, God does not consider them as clean. The reason why God considers them unclean is their *sin. The evil things that they have done disgust him. ‘A fire that burns’ means this. It is one that burns for a short time. So the first question probably means fire before people die. And the second one means fire after people die. The answer to both questions seems to be ‘nobody’. But then verse 15 describes the people that will live through the fire! There we read a list of the qualities that they will have.
What the *Hebrew words mean
What it means
He is very good.
He walks in very good ways.
(‘Very good’ is plural.)
He lives in such a manner that he obeys all God’s laws.
He speaks what is right.
He speaks straight.
(It may mean no bad language.)
He speaks honestly.
He gains nothing from cruelty.
He hates to gain something from cruelties.
(‘Cruelties’ is plural again.)
He is not someone who likes to be cruel to people in order to gain something.
He does not accept a *bribe in his hands, which are shaking.
He shakes his hands so they cannot hold a *bribe.
People may try to give him money in order to persuade him to do something wrong. But he waves his hands to show that he refuses.
He closes his ears against plans to murder [people].
He closes his ears so that he does not hear about bloods.
(‘Bloods’ is the plural of ‘blood’.)
He will not listen to plans to murder someone.
He shuts his eyes so that he does not think about evil [things].
He shuts his eyes so that they do not look on evil [things].
He will not help someone to do anything that is evil.
Verse 16 In verse 5, Isaiah tells us that the *LORD lives ‘high above [the Earth]’. And the people that verse 15 describes will also live ‘on high places’. Here, ‘on high places’ probably means ‘with God’. Those people obey God’s laws. They are righteous people. The word ‘righteous’ means ‘very good’, but ‘very good’ is rather difficult to explain exactly. Only God is really very, very good. But God calls the people that trust in him very good also. They try to do everything that is in verse 15. The words ‘the rocks’ probably mean the rocks on the hill called Zion. That hill was where King Solomon built the temple (God’s house in Jerusalem).
Verse 17 Bible students are not sure whom the words ‘the king’ refer to. The words may mean:
· the king of Judah in Jerusalem, or
· the *LORD himself.
‘The king’ may actually mean both of those. That is because the king in Jerusalem ruled on behalf of the *LORD. Read verses 21-22. The words ‘a country that reaches a long distance away’ probably mean this. When the army from Assyria has gone, the whole country called Judah will belong to the *Jews again. So then Judah will reach as far as its own proper borders again.
Verse 18 The *Hebrew Bible has these questions that people will ask themselves. ‘Where is the [enemy’s] official that counted [things]? [Where is the one that] weighed [everything]? And [where is the one that] counted high buildings? The writer does not say what the first official was counting. And he does not say what the second official was weighing. Both were probably collecting money to pay taxes. We do not know. And we do not know the meaning of the words ‘counted high buildings’. However, the verse means this. People will think about the enemy officials that used to cause them terror. But now those officials have gone! A writer called Alec Motyer thinks that probably 2 Kings chapter 24 explains this verse. In his book called ‘The *Prophecy of Isaiah’, he says this.
counted the people that Assyria’s leaders would send into *exile
weighed the goods that Assyria’s soldiers would take away to Assyria
counted high buildings
counted the buildings that the army from Assyria would destroy
‘Exile’ means this. People are away from their own home or country, because an enemy has taken them away.
Verse 19 The enemy (verse 18) has gone. Isaiah says, ‘You will never see those cruel people again.’ We read that they are ‘cruel’. But the *Hebrew word that Isaiah uses here may mean ‘barbaric’. Originally, the word ‘barbaric’ described people that spoke a strange language. But nowadays it describes people that do very bad things. And they do very cruel things.
Verse 20 Because the enemy has gone, Jerusalem will be peaceful again. The people will have their festivals. A ‘festival’ is a time when people have special public parties. The religion of the *Jews had many festivals, such as the ones called Passover and Pentecost. During the festivals, they *worshipped God and they had great, splendid meals. During the festivals, they would not have to leave the city. Isaiah used a tent as a description of the people’s home. They would not have to move it again! They would not cut its ropes (very thick strings). And they would not pull out its pegs. ‘Pegs’ were pieces of metal that had a bend at the end. People used the pegs to fix the ropes to the ground, and that held the tent up.
Verse 21 There were no rivers in Jerusalem, and there were no wide rivers anywhere in Judah. So Jerusalem is like a place with wide rivers. Ships that enemies use in war will not go there. There will be peace.
Verse 22 God is powerful (verse 21). But he is also his people’s judge, ruler and king. He will make his people safe.
Verse 23 Bible students are not certain what the first half of this verse means. It may not be about ships. That is because the *Hebrew words for ‘ropes (very thick strings) on your ship’ may mean something else. All these other meanings are also possible:
· the pain when a woman is having a baby
· a promise
· a sailor
· what someone destroys.
There are many other possible meanings. The only thing that we can decide is this. The army of the enemy cannot win the battle. Its equipment is not good enough. So the people will carry away goods from the battle. Even people who cannot walk easily will get something. Isaiah does not say exactly who the ‘people’ are here. They are probably the people that live in Jerusalem. But we cannot be sure.
Verse 24 Here we read ‘I am ill’. The *Hebrew word for it can also mean ‘I am sad’. People do not feel ill (or sad) because Jerusalem’s troubles are over. The attack by the soldiers from Assyria has ended. And God has forgiven his people’s *sin.
the arm of the *LORD
the hand of the *LORD
BC ~ years Before Christ came to the earth.
banner ~ a piece of material with words or pictures on it. Two poles usually hold it up high.
barley ~ a type of plant. People make bread from the seeds (called ‘grain’).
bit ~ a piece of metal that people put in a horse’s mouth. People fix long narrow pieces of leather to the metal. When people pull the leather, the metal presses the inside of the horse’s mouth. So in that way people can make the horse go where they want it to go.
bless ~ to do good things to someone; to be very good to people; or, to declare that something good will happen to someone.
bribe ~ a present to persuade someone to do what may be wrong.
briers ~ bushes with sharp points that grow out of their branches.
covenant ~ usually in the Bible, what God and his people agreed to do. But also, what the leaders in Jerusalem and *Sheol agreed to do (Isaiah 28:15 and Isaiah 28:18); or, what the leaders of Assyria agreed to do (Isaiah 33:8).
deceive ~ to speak what is not true to another person.
destroy ~ to punish in a severe manner, usually by death or *exile.
earthquake ~ when the ground moves.
exile ~ people that an enemy takes to another country are ‘in exile’. They are away from home. We also call these people ‘exiles’. They have gone ‘into exile’.
glory ~ great beauty and honour.
grape ~ the fruit that people use to make wine.
Greek ~ the language that people spoke in Greece.
heavens ~ another word for ‘skies’. It can also mean where God lives and the skies above us.
Hebrew ~ the language that Isaiah spoke.
hoy ~ a *Hebrew word that asks for attention. Isaiah uses this word to warn about danger.
Jews ~ God’s people that lived in Judah and Israel.
lord ~ someone with authority. With a capital L, it is a name for God.
LORD ~ a special name for God that only his servants should use. It is not a translation. It represents the *Hebrew word YHWH. It probably means that God is always alive.
messiah ~ a leader such as a king. With a capital M, it means Jesus for Christians.
Old Testament ~ the first 39 books in the Bible.
Passover ~ annual ceremony to remember God’s rescue of the *Jews from Egypt.
peace ~ a pleasant society; one where there is no war.
peg ~ something that holds things in the right place.
prophecy ~ a *prophet’s message.
prophet ~ a prophet told people what God had said to him. Sometimes the prophet told people what would happen in future times.
Rock ~ a name for God. This name emphasises that God makes his people safe.
scroll ~ a very long piece of paper. This was the ancient form of a book.
Sheol ~ where people go when they die. In the *Old Testament, people used this word to describe death.
sin ~ not to obey God; or, what you do when you do not obey God.
temple ~ God’s house in Jerusalem. False gods also had temples.
thorn ~ a bush with sharp points on its branches. The sharp points are called thorns.
thunder ~ noise in the sky during a storm. The sound of thunder follows lightning.
vine ~ *grapes grow on vines. People make wine from *grapes.
vision ~ what somebody sees, perhaps in their imagination. God sometimes gave messages to the *prophets by means of visions.
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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