Isaiah: New *Heavens and a New Earth

King Hezekiah

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Isaiah chapters 34 to 40

www.easyenglish.info

Gordon Churchyard

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.

 

Isaiah chapters 7 to 40: God’s king rules God’s people

We have seen that this main section of the Book of Isaiah contains 6 smaller sections.

 

Isaiah

chapters

7 to 12

Isaiah

chapters

13 to 23

Isaiah

chapters

24 to 27

Isaiah

chapters

28 to 33

Isaiah

chapters

34 to 35

Isaiah

chapters

36 to 40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little *apocalypse

The sad people

 

 

 

Countries near Judah

 

 

The centre of the book

 

King Ahaz

 

 

 

 

King Hezekiah

We have already studied the first four of these sections. So we shall now study the centre of the book, and then King Hezekiah.

 

Chapter 34

v1 Come near [to me], you nations, and listen [to me].

[All] you peoples, give [me] your attention.

Hear [me, all] the earth, and everything that is in it.

[Listen, all the] world, and all that comes from it.

v2 Yes! The *LORD has a [right to be] very terribly angry against all the nations.

And [he has a right to] be very, very angry against all their armies.

[The *LORD] will *destroy them.

He will send them to their deaths.

v3 Nobody will bury the dead bodies.

The dead bodies will fill the air with a very bad smell.

Their blood will *sink into the mountains.

v4 And every army in the skies will melt.

And the skies will roll up like a *scroll.

And all their armies will fall

like [dead] leaves that fall from a *vine.

[They will fall] like [dry] figs (sweet fruits) from a fig tree.

v5 When my sword [of judgement] has done its work in the skies,

it will come down on Edom. Look!

[It will fall] on the people that I have decided to *destroy.

v6 The *LORD [has a right] to a sword!

[He will] bathe it in blood. [He will] cover it with fat.

It is the blood of young sheep and goats.

It is the fat from male sheep’s kidneys (parts inside the body).

Yes! The *LORD [has a right] to a *sacrifice in Bozrah.

And many [people] will die in the [country called] Edom.

v7 And wild oxen (animals like cows) will fall (die) with them.

Young *bulls [will die] with old *bulls.

Blood will *sink into their land.

Fat will *sink into their earth.

v8 Look! The *LORD [has a right] to a day when he will punish [people].

It will be a year when [the *LORD] supports *Zion.

[It will be a year] when he *destroys [*Zion’s enemies].

v9 The desert streams [in Edom] will turn into [a sticky black substance called] pitch.

Its soil will turn into [a yellow substance called] sulphur that is burning.

Its land will become pitch (a sticky black substance) that is burning fiercely.

v10 Nobody will put out [the fire] in the day or in the night.

Smoke from [the fire] will rise up for a long time.

[The land] will be empty from one century to the next century.

Nobody will ever pass through it again.

v11 But [these *owls] will possess it: the desert *owl, the *owl that screams and the great *owl.

And the raven (a large black bird) will nest there.

And [the *LORD] will stretch a line over [Edom] to measure it. [The line will make it] lose its shape.

[He will stretch over it] a plumbline (string that hangs straight down)

[The plumbline will make it] empty.

v12 [Edom’s] leaders will have nothing there that they can call a *kingdom.

And all its princes will vanish.

v13 And *thorn bushes will cover its palaces.

Nettles (weeds that sting) and *briers [will cover] its castles.

Jackals (wild dogs) will occupy the land and ostriches (huge birds) will live in it.

v14 Wild animals and hyenas (animals like large wild dogs) will gather together.

And wild goats will call to each other.

Also, Lilith, the female devil of the night, will rest there.

And she will find for herself a place in which to stay.

v15 The *owl (a bird that hunts at night) will build a nest there.

And she will lay her eggs there and she will *hatch them.

And she will protect [her young birds] under the shadow [of her wings].

Vultures (large birds that hunt) will gather there too. Each [one will be] with her partner.

v16 Look in the *LORD’s *scroll and read this!

‘None of them will be missing.

None of them will be without her partner.

Because his mouth gave the order

and his breath will gather them together.

v17 He [the *LORD] will divide their shares [for them].

And his hand will distribute [these things] to them with the measuring line.

They will always possess it.

They will live in it from one century to the next century.’

Chapter 35

v1 The desert and the dry land will be glad.

The wild places will feel happy and [flowers] will grow there.

v2 Flowers will suddenly appear on the crocus (a kind of plant).

[The land] will be very happy; [its] joy will make it shout [aloud]!

It will gain the *glory of Lebanon.

[It will have] the splendid scenery of Carmel and Sharon.

[These places] will see the *glory of the *LORD.

[They will see] that our God is splendid!

v3 Make strong [your] weak hands.

Make the knees that will not support [you] firm.

v4 Say to the people whose hearts are afraid,

‘Be strong! Do not be afraid! Your God will come.

He will come to punish [his enemies]. He will give them what they deserve [because of] God’s [judgement].

He will come and he will make you safe.’

v5 Then [the *LORD will] open the eyes of blind [people].

And the ears of deaf [people] he will clear.

v6 Then people that cannot walk will jump like *deer.

And dumb people will shout because they are so happy.

Yes! Water will flood into the wild, dry places.

And streams [of water] will pour into the desert.

v7 Then the hot sand will become a pool [of water].

And water will spring from the ground [that was] without water.

In the places where jackals (wild dogs) once lived,

plants called *reeds and rushes will grow instead of grass.

v8 And there will be a highway (important road) there, [that is,] a way.

Its name will be The Holy Way.

People that are *unclean will not go on it.

It will be for those [people] that walk in the Way.

Wicked fools will not go on it.

v9 No lions will be there.

No fierce wild animals will walk on it.

Nobody will find these [animals] there.

Only people [that the *LORD has] bought back [from death] will walk there.

v10 And the people that the *LORD has bought back [from death] will return.

And they will sing as they enter *Zion.

And joy that will never end will show on their faces.

Happiness and joy will go ahead of them.

But [things that cause people] to be sad and to cry will disappear.

About chapters 34 and 35

These two chapters probably make one poem. Our notes will explain some of the techniques that Isaiah used in his poetry. They are not always clear in translations. Also, there is one thing that translations cannot do. Very often, the *Hebrew words that Isaiah wrote mean two things. One important example is the tense of the words. They can be present and future at the same time. So, in verse 1, ‘earth … now hear’ and ‘earth … will hear’ are both correct translations. Isaiah meant both. The notes mention this when it is important.

Although the two chapters make one poem, we can divide them like this.

·  Chapter 34:1-15 is a bad dream; in it, God punishes Edom.

·  Chapter 35:1-10 is a good dream; in it, God rewards his people.

·  Chapter 34:16-17 links the two parts of the dream together.

It is important to note this. The ‘bad dream’ refers to any bad country, not just Edom. God will punish them. The ‘good dream’ happened to Judah after the defeat of Sennacherib. It happened again after the *exile. But it happens every time that God helps his people. And when Jesus returns to the earth, it will happen again to the whole world. So these chapters are not only about Edom and Judah. They are like much of chapters 24 to 33. They refer to the time when Jesus will return to the earth.

Edom

Amos 1:11 says this. ‘I (the *LORD) will not cancel the punishment of Edom, because he chased his brother (Jacob) with a sword. He felt no pity (for Jacob). He felt angry inside himself. He has always enjoyed this anger.’ Edom was the nation that came from the family of Esau. Esau and Jacob were brothers and they were twins. ‘Twins’ means that they were born on the same day from the same mother. Esau was born first, so he was the older twin. Genesis 25:22 seems to show that they fought even before their births! Their mother sent Jacob away so that Esau could not kill him, Genesis 27:41-45. But Esau himself did not always fight with his brother Jacob, Genesis 33:4-16. However, their families did fight for hundreds of years! The family of Jacob became the countries called Judah and Israel, while the family of Esau became the country called Edom.

Here are some verses that tell us about the battles and the bad feelings between Israel (or Judah) and Edom.

·  Numbers 20:14-21: Moses had trouble with Edom.

·  1 Samuel 14:47: Saul fought a war against Edom.

·  2 Samuel 8:14: David defeated Edom and he made it part of Israel.

·  1 Kings 11:14-22: Solomon had trouble with Edom.

·  2 Kings 8:20: Jehoram had trouble with Edom.

·  2 Kings 14:7: Amaziah fought against Edom.

·  Obadiah 1:10-14 and Psalm 137:7: Edom helped Babylon, when Babylon defeated Judah in 586 *B.C. In fact, people from Edom even cheered and encouraged the soldiers from Babylon to do it.

In Isaiah 34:1-15, Isaiah used Edom as a picture in words. It was a picture of God’s punishment of those countries that did not obey his laws. So we must remember that Isaiah chapter 34 has three meanings:

·  God will punish the country called Edom;

·  God will punish any country that does not obey his laws at any time;

·  At the return of Jesus to the earth, God will punish every country that does not obey his laws.

The position of Edom was important. The main road from north to south went through Edom. Its name was The King’s Highway (main road). It went through Bozrah. Bozrah was the capital city of Edom. There were countries to the north of Edom that traded with countries to the south of Edom, and their traders usually travelled on the King’s Highway. Also, *Jews from the south who went to the *temple in Jerusalem had to go on this road through Edom. The people in Edom made it a dangerous journey for those *Jews. But when the *LORD had punished Edom (Isaiah 34:5-8), it would be safe for *Jews to travel on the King’s Highway (Isaiah 35:8-10). After the *exile, most *Jews came back from the north, from Babylon and Assyria. But some came up from Egypt in the south. They came ‘up’ for these reasons.

·  Bozrah and Jerusalem were about 1000 metres higher than the mouth of the River Nile in Egypt; and

·  The Bible sometimes used Egypt as a picture in words for death. So it was as if these *Jews had come ‘up’ from their ‘graves’. Read Isaiah 2:2-4.

Isaiah chapters 34 to 35 is the real centre of the Book of Isaiah. It looks back to chapters 1 to 23. In these, God promised to punish countries that did not obey him. It completes the section from chapters 24 to 33 that refers to Jesus’ return. It then looks forward to chapters 36 to 66. In those chapters, God makes many wonderful promises to his people. These people are the *Jews in and after Isaiah’s time. And they are also the people that believe these words of Jesus in Luke 4:21. ‘Isaiah said that certain things would happen. And today, those things have really happened’.

Notes on chapter 34:

Verse 1 Isaiah used a *chiasmus in the first two lines. He often used this technique. Sometimes he used it in one verse, sometimes in a group of verses. If we call ideas by the letters a, b and c, then lines 1 and 2 of verse 1 have the form a,b,c,b’,a’.

a

Come near [to me],

 

 

b

 

you nations,

 

c

 

 

and listen [to me].

b’

 

[All] you peoples,

 

a’

give [me] your attention.

 

 

This is a *chiasmus. a and a’ are similar; and b and b’ are similar. This is because ‘peoples’ here is another word for ‘nations’. ‘Come’ and ‘give attention’ are both commands. ‘Me’ means Isaiah as God’s agent. But God told Isaiah what to say. Many of the Psalms call the whole world to be God’s witness. Examples are Psalm 96:1-3; 97:1; and 98. ‘Everything that is in it’ and ‘all that comes from it’ mean men and women, plants, trees and animals of all kinds. Lines 3 and 4 contain another technique of *Hebrew poetry. The two lines say the same, but they use different words.

Hear [me, all] the earth,

and everything that is in it.

[Listen, all the] world,

and all that comes from it.

Verse 2 In the *Hebrew text, Isaiah wrote ‘very, very great anger FOR the *LORD’. (He did not write ‘the very, very great anger OF the *LORD’.) He used these words ‘FOR the *LORD’ in verse 6 (twice) and verse 8 also. Here in this translation we read what it probably means. That is, the *LORD ‘has a right to be very, very angry’. He has a right to punish *sinners. *Sinners are people that do not obey God’s laws.

Verse 3 The *Hebrew Bible says, ‘They will throw the dead bodies away’. This means that ‘they’ did not respect the dead bodies. So we have translated it ‘Nobody will bury the dead bodies.’ The *Hebrew Bible does not say who ‘they’ were. We do not know how these armies died. Here, Isaiah seems to say that there will be much blood. The *Hebrew Bible actually says that the blood will dissolve the mountains! It will make them slide and slip away. The important thing in this verse is this. People that do not obey God’s rules will die.

Verse 4 Here, ‘armies’ does not mean people, as in verse 2. It means ‘the stars’ in the skies. It is an example of how the same word can mean two different things. Isaiah tells us that people’s *sins have made even the stars *unclean. Paul wrote about this in Romans 8:19-22. ‘*Unclean’ here means that they cannot remain in front of God. The *vine and the fig tree were common plants in Judah. The ‘fig’ tree produced figs (sweet fruits with many seeds). The *vine produced *grapes. They both produced valuable fruits. In verses 1-4, Isaiah describes the time when Jesus will return to the Earth.

Verse 5 ‘Has done its work’ explains the idiom (special *Hebrew way to say something) in this verse. The *Hebrew Bible has, ‘My sword has drunk as much as it can.’ Verses like Exodus 17:13 and Joshua 6:21 in the *Hebrew Bible refer to ‘the mouth of the sword’. People were speaking as if the sword were a hungry wild animal or a greedy person. It wanted to eat or to drink! That is, it wanted to kill people! In our verse, the sword is ‘drinking’ people when it kills them. But it can drink no more. It is full up. So our translation says that it has ‘done its work’. ‘Come down on’ and ‘fall on’ mean the same thing. They mean that the sword will come down from the skies to kill people. For some of chapter 34, Isaiah used Edom as an example of people that God will punish. Edom was a country to the south-east of Judah. It was always an enemy of Israel and Judah. There are only 2 verses about Edom in the section Isaiah chapters 13 to 23. The verses are Isaiah 21:11-12. This is probably because Isaiah also wrote about the punishment of Edom here.

Verse 6 The *Hebrew has ‘a sword for the *LORD’. (Look at the note on verse 2.) This probably means that he has a right to use it. He uses it as a tool to carry out his judgement. He punishes people with it. Isaiah does not say who the *LORD’s agent is. The *Hebrew Bible spoke as if the sword had a mouth. (Look at the note on verse 5.) Here the sword has drunk enough blood and it has eaten enough fat! This was after the sword had destroyed (‘eaten and drunk’) Bozrah. Young sheep, goats and male sheep were animals that the priests burned to God in the *temple at Jerusalem (Numbers 7:88).

In the last two lines, the *Hebrew Bible has ‘a *sacrifice for the *LORD’. This is the third use of these strange words, two of them in this verse. A ‘*sacrifice’ is something that the priests put apart (or separated) for the *LORD. Usually it was an animal. They killed it and they burned it. Here, the *LORD (or his agent) will kill and burn the people in Bozrah city. Bozrah was the capital of Edom. It was at the southern end of the Dead Sea. In this verse, it probably means the whole country called Edom. This is because the last two lines of verse 6 contain another example of *Hebrew poetry: both lines mean the same. Therefore Bozrah means Edom.

Verse 7 ‘Them’ and ‘their’ probably mean the people in Edom and other countries. The *Hebrew Bible does not say who it is. ‘Will fall’ means ‘will die’. Note that lines 1 and 2 have similar meanings. So do lines 3 and 4. This again is part of Isaiah’s technique. The writer Victor Buksbazen, who is a *Jew, has an interesting idea about this verse. He thinks that the smaller animals (sheep, goats) mean smaller countries, like Edom and Moab. The larger animals (*bulls, and animals called oxen) mean larger countries, like Babylon, Egypt and Assyria. ‘Oxen’ (plural of ‘ox’) are animals like cows.

Verse 8 The *Hebrew says ‘a day of punishment for the *LORD’. (Read the notes on verses 2 and 6). The *Hebrew words for ‘punish’ and ‘*destroy’ both mean ‘have *vengeance on’ someone. ‘*Vengeance’ means ‘to do to people the bad things that they have done to other people’. The Bible calls it ‘an eye for an eye’, Exodus 21:24. This means that there is a proper punishment for every injury. So if someone destroys your eye, they should pay for that particular injury. Nothing more or less than that is enough.

There is a problem is this verse. The answer decides how we understand verses 8-17. An exact translation of lines 2 and 3 is this. ‘It will be a year when (the *LORD) will have *vengeance on the case of *Zion’. Bible students suggest two different meanings for ‘the case of *Zion’.

·  The case for *Zion. This means that God will support *Zion. He will punish *Zion’s enemies.

·  The case against *Zion. This means that God will punish *Zion as well as Edom.

In this translation, we believe that the first meaning is correct. Therefore the word Edom is in verse 9, although it is not in the *Hebrew Bible. But we must also remember the connection with the time when Jesus will return to the Earth. Isaiah could have meant any country that does not obey God. This would include *Zion, the capital city of Judah. When Jesus returns to the earth, that will be good news for some people, but bad news for other people. For some people, it will be like Isaiah’s good dream (35:1-10). But for other people, it will be like the bad dream in 34:1-15.

Verse 9 The *Hebrew Bible has ‘her streams will turn into a sticky black substance called pitch’. Cities are usually female in *Hebrew, so ‘her’ refers to a city. But it is not clear which city it refers to. Many Bible students think that ‘her’ means Edom. But perhaps ‘her’ does not refer to Edom or Bozrah. The city in the previous verse was not Bozrah. It was *Zion. Some people think that ‘her’ means *Zion, or even Babylon or Gomorrah. But we cannot be certain. Read the note on verse 8 again. ‘Pitch’ is a sticky, black substance. People find it in the ground with oil. Or it remains after oil boils away when people make petrol. Pitch burns easily. So does the yellow substance called sulphur. People also find that in the ground. It burns with a blue flame and it makes a nasty, poisonous smell. Farmers could not work if their water became pitch. And they could not work if their soil became sulphur.

It is interesting to know this fact. Today people have discovered oil in the regions near Bozrah, Babylon and Gomorrah.

Verse 10 Here is another of Isaiah’s poetry techniques. He used 4 ideas in one verse. They have similar meanings. The *Hebrew for ‘one century to the next century’ is ‘the people that live at one time to the people that live at a later time’. ‘Ever’ is ‘ever to evers’ in the *Hebrew Bible. This means a ‘very, very long time’. Notice the way that the fire becomes worse through the verse: day and night; a long time; century to century; a very, very long time. But none of these words means that it will never stop burning.

Verse 11 An ‘owl’ is a large bird that hunts for its food at night. Not all translations agree with the names of the birds. Some people suggest that the ‘*owl that screams’ is really a kind of wild pig (called a ‘wild hedge pig’). They were all *unclean animals to *Jews. They could not eat them, or offer them to God as a *sacrifice. Read the note on verse 6. Isaiah did not explain how the birds could live in the fires! Neither does he say which city ‘it’ is. Read the note on verse 9. A raven is a large black bird that eats dead animals. ‘The *owl’ and ‘the raven’ means ‘*owls’ and ‘ravens’, not just one of each.

Builders use a line to measure whether a wall is straight. A ‘plumbline’ is a string with a heavy object on its end. People usually make the object from a heavy metal called lead. So the string hangs straight down at 90 degrees to the ground. Therefore builders can compare the walls to the plumbline to make sure that the walls stand straight up. In that way, they can make good buildings. But here the *LORD does the opposite! He turns the country called Edom into something that is not good. It will become without shape and it will be empty. There will be nothing in it. These words are the same words in the *Hebrew Bible as those in Genesis 1:2: ‘And the earth was without shape and empty’.

Verse 12 A *kingdom is a country that a king rules over. In Edom, the leaders elected their king. But there is nothing for the king and his leaders to govern! Bible students do not agree on how to translate this verse. Some think that there are no leaders as well as no *kingdom. Both meanings agree with ‘without shape and empty’ in verse 11.

Verse 13 ‘*Thorn bushes’, ‘*briers’ and ‘nettles’ are plants that grow well in dry countries. They are weeds that have little or no use. Nettles sting people when they touch them. And *thorn bushes and *briers stick small points that are like needles (called ‘thorns’) into people. Isaiah often wrote that these weeds were in towns that enemies had ruined. Some verses are: Isaiah 5:6; 7:23-25; 9:18; 10:17; 32:18; 33:12. There will not only be wild birds, verse 11, and weeds. There will also be wild animals like jackals. ‘Jackals’ are wild dogs that hunt in groups. ‘Ostriches’ are huge birds that cannot fly. Bible students are not certain about the names for those animals, or the ones in verses 14-15.

Verse 14 ‘Hyenas’ are like very large wild dogs that hunt other animals for food. The *Hebrew word for ‘female devils of the night’ is ‘lilith’. The *Jews were afraid of such things. They thought that they lived in desert places. There, they did bad magic. Other translations have ‘*creatures of the night’ for ‘lilith’. Some people still use the word ‘lilith’. It describes a woman that does dangerous and evil magic. They say that the woman called Lilith eats young babies, even her own babies.

Verse 15 Isaiah only mentioned one *owl, but he meant all birds of that type. In order to ‘*hatch’ its eggs, the bird sits on them. It keeps them warm until the young birds come out from their eggs. Some Bible students think that the word ‘*owl’ should be ‘snake’. However, snakes do not *hatch their eggs. ‘Vultures’ are large birds that eat dead animals and dead birds.

Verses 16-17 Verse 16 puzzles Bible students. The first sentence is easy to translate. But in it there are three problems.

·  Who must look and read? Is it:

            (1) all the nations (verse 1)?

            (2) the *Jews?

            (3) perhaps even us?

·  What is the *scroll (or book)? Is it:

            (1) part, or all, of the Book of Isaiah?

            (2) a book that God keeps in heaven?

            (3) an agreement between Judah and Edom?

·  What does ‘*LORD’s book’ mean? Is it:

            (1) a book that God wrote?

            (2) a book that God owns?

For us, here are some useful answers. The *scroll is part, or all, of the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah wrote down God’s words for everybody, and that includes us, to read. Any other meaning is less important for us today.

There is another problem in the last part of verse 16 and in verse 17. Who are ‘them’? If these verses link Isaiah 34:1-15 with Isaiah 35:1-10, then there are two answers.

·  ‘Them’ means the animals. These animals live in the places that the *LORD destroyed, 34:15-16.

·  ‘Them’ means the people that will live in *Zion, 35:10.

Notice the way Isaiah describes God as like a human person. He has mouth, breath and hands. For ‘from one century to the next century’ read the note on Isaiah 34:10. Also, notice the measuring line again. The same word as in verse 11 has the opposite result when God uses it here! In verse 11 it *destroyed God’s enemies. Here it gives people a place to live in.

Notes on Chapter 35

Verse 1 Isaiah tells us that the land will feel happy. He means that it will not still be empty. Instead, it will be full of flowers. Of course, land itself cannot feel happy. It is a special *Hebrew way to say something. It was another of Isaiah’s poetry techniques. The deserts south of Jerusalem are full of flowers after the rain falls on them. ‘The land’ means the land in Judah and Israel. But when Jesus will return to the earth, the land will be the whole world! This is true in all chapter 35.

Verse 2 A crocus is a plant that flowers in Spring in England. There are similar plants that grow in many countries. It is not certain what plant Isaiah meant. The ‘*glory of Lebanon’ probably means the great forests of cedar trees (large, beautiful trees) that made that country famous. The *LORD will give this *glory to ‘it’. After the *exile, ‘to it’ means to Judah and to Israel. After Jesus has returned to the earth, ‘it’ will mean the whole world. ‘These places’ may be the countries round Judah and Israel. People in those countries will see what God has done. And then they may realise that he is wonderful. But ‘these places’ may mean Carmel and Sharon. Carmel is a hill in north-west Israel. The Plain of Sharon is in the west, next to the Mediterranean Sea.

Verse 3 Weak hands (arms), and knees (legs) that do not support people are evidence of fear. Notice the *chiasmus: strong – hands – knees – firm. This verse calls for courage among God’s people. The note on 34:1 explains what a *chiasmus is.

Verse 4 Isaiah tells the people to encourage each other. ‘Hearts are afraid’ is ‘hearts are quick’ in the *Hebrew Bible. When we are afraid, our hearts beat more quickly. Isaiah did not say whom they were afraid of. It was probably an enemy, perhaps Edom or Assyria. The *Jews believed that you thought in your heart. So really, the fear was in their minds. ‘Punish his enemies’ is ‘have *vengeance on his enemies’. Read the note on Isaiah 34:8 for an explanation of ‘*vengeance’. ‘Make you safe’ means ‘make you safe from your enemies’. This may mean the armies from Assyria that the writer mentions in chapters 36 and 37. It may mean the armies from Babylon that he mentions in chapters 39 and in later chapters. Or it may refer to the time when Jesus will return to the Earth. Then it would mean ‘any enemy of God’.

Verse 5 This verse changes what God said in Isaiah 6:9-10. This makes it a very important *prophecy. There is another *chiasmus in this verse. ‘Open the eyes of blind people’ means that they will see again. ‘Clear the ears of deaf people’ means that nothing will make them unable to hear.

Verse 6 A ‘deer’ is a wild animal like a small cow. It can run fast and it can jump over high walls. Here the *Hebrew word means ‘seems to jump as it runs’. ‘*Deer’ in English can mean one animal or several animals. This verse refers back to verse 1 when water makes the flowers grow again. Judges 15:19 and Psalm 74:15 tell us that God can even get water from rocks. There are often many rocks in wild places.

Verse 7 *Reeds and rushes are plants that grow in water or by water. And at a future time, there will be very much water. So those plants will grow in some places where once there was only grass.

Verse 8 A ‘highway’ is a main road. People called them highways because they were a bit higher than the fields near them. People could therefore see where they were. Isaiah did not say where this highway came from. And he does not say where it went to. It may be the one called the King’s Highway. (Read the note on Edom just before the notes on chapter 34.) It may be the road in Isaiah 40:3. That was the northern part of the King’s Highway. Isaiah just said it was ‘a highway, a way’. He then gave it another name: The *Holy Way. ‘*Holy’ means ‘very, very good’. Only God is really *holy. But *holy can also mean something that belongs to God. That is what it means here. The *temple in Jerusalem was *holy because it belonged to God. People met with God there.

People that were *unclean could not go to the *temple. People that were blind, deaf or dumb were *unclean in the *Jews’ religion. So were people that could not walk easily. But God had made them able to see again. They could hear and speak again. And they could walk again (verse 5). So they could now walk on The *Holy Way. They could visit the *temple in Jerusalem. It was not an actual road, as the King’s Highway was an actual road.

To Christians it is not an actual road. Perhaps it is the ‘road’ that Psalm 1 and Matthew 7:13-14 teach us about. That ‘road’ means our Christian lives. Therefore, Christians walk on The *Holy Way. Many Christians are still blind, deaf or dumb, and many Christians cannot walk easily. But they are not *unclean because Jesus has forgiven them for their *sins. To God they are clean, so they can walk on The *Holy Way.

Verses 9-10 It will be safe to walk on this road. So there is no need to be afraid, verse 4. When people traded they used the *Hebrew word for ‘bought back’. Common English translations are ‘*redeemed’ (verse 9) and ‘*ransomed’ (verse 10). Here, God ‘bought back’ his people from their enemies and from death. People often confuse the two words *ransomed and *redeemed. The following *table should help people to avoid this confusion. There are more notes on the two words in Isaiah 43:1.

word

meaning

*ransomed

*emphasis on the price when God *ransoms a person.

*redeemed

*emphasis on the relationship between the person who becomes free, and the redeemer. (The redeemer is the person who pays the price – that is, God.)

The phrase ‘joy will show on their faces’ is ‘joy will be on their heads’ in the *Hebrew Bible. This probably means that they poured oil on their heads. It was oil from fruits called *olives. They did this to show that they were very happy!

Something to do

1. Read about the punishment of Edom in Obadiah 1:1-21.

2. Make a list of poetry verses that contain some of Isaiah’s techniques. There is another poem in Isaiah 37:22-35.

Technique

Verses that contain this technique

Words that have two or more meanings (a technique called ‘polysemy’)

 

Unusual or strange words

 

Two (or more) lines that mean the same thing

 

To ask questions, or to make us ask ourselves questions

 

*Inclusios

 

3. If you can find a map, look for Judah, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Edom and Bozrah.

4. Read some other verses like Isaiah 34:11. They tell about *unclean wild birds and animals in general, where people used to live. Verses include: Leviticus 11:13-19; Isaiah 13:21-22; 14:23; 23:13; 32:14; Psalm 63:10; Jeremiah 9:11 and 10:22.

5. Learn to say Isaiah 35:3-4 by heart. Then you will not have to look at the words when you say it.

6. Study verses about roads that mean the Christian’s life: Psalm 1:1-6; Matthew 7:13-14.

7. Make sure that you are walking ‘in the Way’, Isaiah 35:8 and Acts 9:2. There are many verses in the *New Testament that describe a Christian’s life by this word picture. A Christian is someone who is walking ‘in the Way’.

Chapter 36

v1 King Hezekiah had ruled [Judah] for nearly 14 years. Then, King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked all the cities in Judah that had high, strong walls. He defeated them and they became his.

v2 And the King of Assyria sent the chief commander [of his soldiers] from Lachish to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The [commander brought] a large army with him. He stopped at the water *channel [that led] from the upper pool. It was on the road, near the place where people wash clothes.

v3 And these people came out to [meet] him.

·  Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah; [he was] the chief [official] in the [king’s] palace.

·  Shebna, [the king’s] minister.

·  Joah, the son of Asaph; he kept [the king’s] records.

v4-5 And the commander [from Assyria] said this to them. ‘Now [please] say [this] to Hezekiah. This is what the Great King, the King of Assyria, asks.

·  “What is the reason for your confidence?

·  Can mere words give you the advice and power [that you need] for war?             [v5]

·  Who will help you to fight against me?

v6 Look! [I know that] you are depending on Egypt. [Egypt is like] a stick that people use to help them to walk. But it will break! If you lean on it, it will stick into your hand like a sharp piece of *reed. And it will hurt you. That happens to everybody that depends on Pharaoh, the King of Egypt.

v7 But you might say to me: ‘We are depending on the *LORD our God.’ [Then I will answer this:] He is the [God] whose high places and *altars Hezekiah removed! [Hezekiah] said to [the people in] Judah and Jerusalem: ‘You must *worship [God] only at this [one] *altar.’ “

v8 And now, make an agreement today with my master, [who is] the King of Assyria,’ the commander from Assyria said. ‘I will give you 2000 horses, if you can put [2000] riders on them!

v9 How can you turn away [my offer? I am] the least important of my master’s officers. But you are [still] depending on Egypt for *chariots and horsemen.

v10 And [here is] something else. I have not come to attack and to destroy this country without help from the *LORD. The *LORD told me, “March against this country and destroy it.’

v11 Then Eliakim, Shebna and Joah spoke to the commander. [They said], ‘Please, speak to your servants in *Aramaic, because we do understand it. Do not speak to us in *Hebrew. If you do, the people on the [city] wall may hear [you].’

v12 But the commander said this. ‘My master did not send me to say these things only to you and to your master. He also sent me to say them about the people that are sitting on the [city] wall. Like you, they will have to eat their own *dung and they will have to drink their own *urine.’

v13 Then the commander stood up. He shouted in a loud voice in *Hebrew. ‘Hear the words of the king. [They are what] the Great King of Assyria [is telling you].

v14 This is what the king [of Assyria] says [to you]. “Do not let Hezekiah *deceive you. Hezekiah cannot save you.

v15 And do not let Hezekiah persuade you. [He wants you] to trust in the *LORD. He tells you that the *LORD really will free you [from Assyria]. [He says that the *LORD] will not hand over this city to the king of Assyria.

v16 Do not hear [and obey] Hezekiah!” Because this is what the King of Assyria says [to you]. “Be at peace with me. Come out [of your city] to me. Then you will all eat [the *grapes] from your own *vines and [you will eat the figs (sweet fruits)] from your own fig trees. And you will all drink the water from your own wells.

v17 [Do that] until I come [to you]. Then I will take you away to a country that is like your own country. [It is] a country [that produces] grain and new wine. [It is] a country [where you will be able to bake your] bread and [to cultivate] *vineyards.

v18 Do not [hear and obey] Hezekiah. He will lead you the wrong [way]. He says that the *LORD will save you. No other nation’s god has saved his country from the power of the king of Assyria.

v19 Where are the gods of [the cities called] Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of [the city called] Sepharvaim? Did any [god] save Samaria from my power?

v20 Which of all of these national gods has saved his country from my power? Can the *LORD save Jerusalem from my power?” ‘

v21 But the people remained silent and they did not answer him [with even] one word. [They did this] because King [Hezekiah] had said, ‘Do not answer him’.

v22 Then [these officials] came to [King] Hezekiah. Eliakim the son of Hilkiah [was] the chief [official] in the [king’s] palace. And Shebna was the [king’s] minister. And Joah the son of Asaph kept the [king’s] records. They tore their clothes. And they told [King Hezekiah] all the words that the commander [had said].

Notes

Verse 1 Sennacherib was king of Assyria from 705 to 681 *B.C. *B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’. His army landed at the port called Tyre. Tyre was by the Mediterranean Sea. They moved about 200 kilometres south along the coast as far as Lachish. They defeated and probably destroyed many towns and cities on the way to Lachish.

Verse 2 Lachish was about 40 kilometres south-west of Jerusalem. It was an important city. From Lachish, Sennacherib could easily attack many of the cities in Judah. This would include Jerusalem itself. Sennacherib sent one of his chief commanders to Jerusalem. The *Hebrew for ‘chief commander’ is *Rav Shakeh. It was not a personal name; it was his rank. Bible students are not sure what Shakeh really means. Many Bible students think that it means ‘the king’s winetaster’. That is, the palace official who tasted the king’s wine. He did this to make sure that there was no poison in the wine. So he was a man that the king really trusted. *Rav Shakeh met Eliakim, Shebna and Joah near the place where Isaiah had met Ahaz. Isaiah 7:3 reads: Then the *LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out and meet Ahaz. You and Shearjashub your son will meet him at the end of the *channel. [It is the *channel] that flows from the upper pool. [It flows] down to where people wash clothes.’ ‘*Channel’ here means the route by which the water went.

Verse 3 For ‘chief in the palace’ the *Hebrew Bible has ‘over the household’. The ‘household’ means ‘all the people and things in the house’. The house was the king’s house, that is, the palace. Eliakim had done that job since Isaiah 22:20-21. There we read, ‘And this is what will happen on that day. I will send for my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah. And I will put on him your (Shebna’s) special clothes on him and I will tie your *sash (long piece of material) round him. And I will give your authority to him. Then he (Eliakim) will become a father to everyone that lives in Jerusalem. And he will become a father to the [royal] family in Judah.’ So it seems that Eliakim was the most important minister (called the ‘prime minister’) in Jerusalem. So in that way he was like Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 41:40). Shebna had been the first minister, but he had lost his authority. He was now less important than Hilkiah. The *sash was a piece of material that he wore. It showed to everybody that he had authority.

Verse 4 *Rav Shakeh made a polite request. But he gave the King of Assyria his official rank: the Great King. *Rav Shakeh repeats several questions that Sennacherib had asked. The first was about confidence. He wants to know whom Hezekiah trusted. Was it Egypt, Isaiah or God?

Verse 5 Whose words gave Hezekiah the advice and strength that he needed? Again, was it Egypt, Isaiah or God? When he said ‘mere words’, Sennacherib really meant ‘words that are useless’. ‘Useless’ means that they would not help Hezekiah. The third question is much clearer: who is it? Is it Egypt, Isaiah or God? And in verse 6, Sennacherib answers it himself! Egypt. His three questions really mean this:

1)         You have no reason for your confidence.

2)            Nobody can give you the advice and strength that you need for a war.

3)         If you expect help from Egypt, you will not get it.

Verses 6-7 Sennacherib says ‘look!’ in order to attract the people’s attention. Verses 6-7 contain an important part of his message to Hezekiah. Verse 6 says that Hezekiah will not get help from Egypt. Egypt is like a stick or *reed that will break. People depend on such a stick to support them as they walk. But its sharp points will damage the people that lean on it. Verse 7 says that God will not help either. This is because Hezekiah had closed some of God’s high places and *altars. The high places were probably in villages where people *worshipped the *LORD. The problem was that they *worshipped other false gods there as well. ‘*Worship the *LORD’ means ‘love the *LORD because he is wonderful’. The *altars were places where people burnt animals as gifts for the *LORD. But they probably did it for false gods also. Read the verses in something to do number 2. In verse 10, there is a third reason why Hezekiah will lose the war. Sennacherib said that God told him to defeat Judah. All these reasons seem impressive. But none of these was a good enough reason not to trust the *LORD.

Verse 8 The message from Sennacherib is over. *Rav Shakeh now speaks his own words. Bible students do not agree about what he said. Some students believe that *Rav Shakeh was laughing at Hezekiah’s officials. They could never find 2000 riders. Soon, Assyria would defeat Judah. Other students think that this was a genuine offer of peace. If they could find 2000 riders, Hezekiah and his men could join Sennacherib’s army. 1 Kings 4:26 tells us that Solomon had many horses in his army. After that, Judah and Israel had used horses in war. So perhaps Hezekiah did have 2000 horsemen. We do not know.

Verse 9 *Rav Shakeh thought that Hezekiah did not have many horsemen. This was why Hezekiah was depending on Egypt for help. A chariot was a cart that soldiers rode in. Horses pulled these *chariots. The first sentence is a question; it is difficult to understand. In the *Hebrew Bible, it says this. ‘How can you turn away the least of my master’s officers?’ The *table shows two ways to interpret this into English.

Type of Bible Student

What it means

One who believes that *Rav Shakeh was laughing at Hezekiah.

You cannot even fight and defeat the least important of the *Assyrian officers.

One who believes that *Rav Shakeh was making a genuine offer of peace.

You should not refuse my offer. It is the offer of a humble servant of the Great King.

This translation agrees with the second type of Bible student, but we cannot be certain. Perhaps it is possible for both to be true. If so, this is typical of the double meanings in many places in the Bible. Sometimes, we are not certain which meaning is the right one. It is important to know both meanings, because both can teach us something.

Verse 10 Sennacherib said that he had authority from the *LORD to destroy Judah. We are not sure whether he really believed that. But clearly, Isaiah believed that it could be true. Here are some words from Isaiah chapter 10:

v5 ‘There will be a sad [time] for [the people in] Assyria. [I will use them] as a stick because I am angry. They [will hit Israel] with a heavy stick, because of my very great anger.

v6 I will send [Assyria’s army] against [Israel, because the people in Israel] do not obey God. I will tell [Assyria’s army to attack Israel]. I am angry with the people [in Israel. The soldiers from Assyria] will take [those people’s] goods and [they (the soldiers) will] rob them of their things. Then they will walk all over them, as [if Israel’s people were] mud in the streets.

v7 But that is not what [Assyria’s king] intends. His plans are different. He wants to defeat very many countries and [he wants to] destroy [them].

v8 [The king of Assyria] proudly says, “All the leaders of my armies are kings!

v9 [The city called] Calno is like Carchemish [city]. Hamath [town] is like Arpad [town]. And Samaria [city] is like Damascus [city].

v10 My hand (my strong army) seized those places and [my hand seized] their *idols. They had more images than Jerusalem and Samaria [have].

v11 So, I will do [something] to Jerusalem and [I will do something to] its images. [It will be] what I did to Samaria and its *idols.” ’

The word list at the end explains the words with a star (*) by them. We do not know what the King of Assyria did with the *idols and images in verse 11. Perhaps he destroyed them, or perhaps he took them to his capital city, Nineveh. This may also be the answer to the questions in verse 19.

Verse 11 *Aramaic was the language that government officials used in Isaiah’s time. They spoke to the officials from other governments in *Aramaic. It was the official language of Syria. Later, in Assyria, Babylon and Persia, everybody spoke *Aramaic. After the return from the *exile, it became the official language of the *Jews. The *exile was between 586 and 538 *B.C., when the *Jews were in Babylon.

*Aramaic was a similar language to *Hebrew, but not the same. Hezekiah’s officials spoke *Aramaic, but the people probably did not. The officials did not want the people to understand *Rav Shakeh’s words. The people were sitting on the wall that went round the city. City walls were often very thick. They sometimes had rooms in them. People could easily walk or sit on top of them. Soldiers could defend a city from the walls.

Verse 12 *Rav Shakeh was speaking to Jerusalem’s chief officials. But *Rav Shakeh’s words were about all the people in Jerusalem. So *Rav Shakeh did not care that the people were listening. He wanted them to know that soon there would be no food or drink in the city. ‘*Dung’ is solid waste from the body. ‘*Urine’ is liquid waste from the body. The words that *Rav Shakeh used were not nice words. Today, some people use them to swear! *Rav Shakeh wanted to give Hezekiah and the people a shock. He wanted Hezekiah to hand over Jerusalem to Sennacherib.

Verse 13 Perhaps until now *Rav Shakeh had spoken quietly to the officials. The people had heard some of what he said. But now he stood up. He spoke in a loud voice. And he spoke *Hebrew, so that everybody could understand him. The *Hebrew word for ‘hear’ really means ‘hear and obey’. It does this also in verses 16 and 18. It means more than just ‘listen’.

Verse 14 ‘*Deceive you’ means: ‘to make you think that he is honest. But in fact he is not honest.’ This is the first among 4 messages to warn people about danger. The other 3 messages are in verses 15, 16 and 18.

Verse 15 In the *Hebrew Bible, ‘really will free you’ is ‘freeing you will free you’. In other words, *Rav Shakeh repeats the word ‘free’. It is how the *Jews emphasised their words. ‘Hand over this city’ is ‘give this city into the hand of’ in the *Hebrew Bible. ‘The hand of’ means ‘the power of’. That is a special *Hebrew way to say it. Our translation keeps the word ‘hand’ in the text because ‘hand’ is an important Bible word. In the *Old Testament, ‘the hand of the *LORD’ is often a name for God’s Holy Spirit. So here, ‘the hand’ is a picture of a battle between Sennacherib and God’s Holy Spirit. Chapter 37 will tell us which was the stronger! ‘This city’ is, of course, Jerusalem.

Verse 16 The usual word for peace in *Hebrew is ‘shalom’. *Jews still use it as a greeting. It means more than ‘no war’. It means that you have a good attitude to the people round you. They also have a good attitude to you. But *Rav Shakeh did not say ‘shalom’. He used a word that means ‘*blessings’. This word in *Hebrew meant ‘plenty’. For example, your plants had ‘plenty’ of fruits. Your animals had ‘plenty’ of young animals. And you had ‘plenty’ of children. ‘*Blessings’ means ‘plenty of material things’. It has nothing to do with attitudes. The *table helps us to see the difference in the *Old Testament:

peace (shalom)

a good attitude to other people (and to God) in our spirit

*blessings (berachah)

plenty of crops, animals and children

A grape was a fruit. From *grapes, people made wine. *Grapes grow on plants that are called ‘*vines’. A *vine farm is called a ‘vineyard’ (verse 17). A fig is also a fruit. It has many seeds. Notice the uses of the words ‘eat … drink’. Compare them with the same words in verse 12. This tells us what *Rav Shakeh was doing! He offered a good life (for a period of time; read verse 17!) instead of a very bad life.

Verse 17 The *Assyrian army was 40 kilometres away, at Lachish. But when it reached Jerusalem, it would take the *Jews away into *exile. ‘*Exile’ means ‘away from your own country’. The *Assyrians and the *Babylonians always did that. They took people from place A to place B. And they took some other people from B to C. Then they took still other people from C to A. So, in the end, all the people were living in different countries from the ones where their families had lived. And because they were living abroad, they could not still fight to defend their own countries. The result was that those people did not still continue to fight against Assyria, or Babylon. Sennacherib promised that there would still be ‘*blessings’ in another country. He said that there would still be plenty of food and wine. Again, notice that he emphasised material things, not things of the spirit.

Verse 18 This story is also in 2 Kings 18:17-37. But in that story, we can find a phrase that does not appear in Isaiah 36:18. It is ‘hear and obey’ (2 Kings 18:32). ‘Lead you the wrong way’ means ‘make you do the wrong thing’. The *Hebrew word for ‘nations’ does not mean ‘countries’ here. It means ‘*ethnic groups’. This means that they all come from the same family origin.

Verse 19 What are the answers to these questions? This *table may help us to find them:

Question

Answer

 

Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad (both cities in Northern Syria)?

Perhaps Sargon the Second (Sennacherib’s father) destroyed the gods  when he defeated Hamath. Perhaps he took them back to Assyria.

 

Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? (We do not know where this city was)

Perhaps Tiglath-Pileser the Third (Sargon’s father) destroyed the gods when he defeated both Arpad and Sepharvaim in 740 *B.C. Perhaps he took them back to Assyria.

 

 

Did any god save Samaria?

Assyria defeated Samaria in 721 *B.C. Samaria was the capital city of the Northern *Kingdom of Israel.

The answer to the question therefore was ‘No!’

Although Samaria’s people *worshipped the *LORD God, the people there also *worshipped false gods, 2 Kings 18:11-12.

Verse 20 Sennacherib’s mistake was this. He thought that Judah’s God ‘Yahweh’ (or YHWH, which we translate ‘*LORD’) was the same as all the other (false) gods. ‘Can the *LORD save Jerusalem from my power?’ is a way to say ‘The *LORD can NOT save Jerusalem from my power.’ But if we read chapter 37, we find this. Yahweh did save Jerusalem! ‘My power’ each time is ‘my hand’ in the *Hebrew Bible. Again, as in verse 15, the *Hebrew word is important. It tells us that Sennacherib was saying, ‘I am stronger than Yahweh’.

Verse 21 ‘The people’ may be the people on the city wall, verses 11-12. But they are more likely to be the officials, Eliakim, Shebna and Joah.

Verse 22 The officials ‘tore their clothes’. People used to do this to show that they were very, very sad.

About the questions in this chapter

In verses 4, 5, 9, 10, 19 and 20 there are questions. Isaiah wrote them in this way for a special reason. The reason was this. A question of this type emphasises what the *questioner asks. Here is an example. In verse 4 we read, ‘What is the reason for your confidence?’ This means ‘there is really no reason for your confidence.’ Some of the questions may have two answers. Here is an example. In verse 19 we read, ‘Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?’ The answer may be ‘They are now in Assyria’, or ‘the *Assyrian army destroyed them’. We do not know which answer is correct. But both answers mean this. The gods of Sepharvaim could not save themselves or their city. So, questions were an important part of Isaiah’s technique. He used them to emphasise his words.

Chapter 37

v1 When King Hezekiah heard [the report of his officials], he tore his clothes. Then he put on rough, hairy cloth and he went into the *temple of the *LORD [in Jerusalem].

v2 And he sent Eliakim and Shebna and the leaders of the priests to Isaiah the *prophet. [Isaiah] was the son of Amoz. [Eliakim was] the chief official in the [king’s] palace. [Shebna was] the [king’s] minister. And [Eliakim, Shebna and the priests] all wore rough, hairy cloth.

v3 And they told [Isaiah], ‘This is what Hezekiah says. “This is a time when people worry. And someone gives a *rebuke to them. And they are ashamed. It is like [the time when] a child is ready to be born. But [its mother] has no strength to give birth to it.

v4 Perhaps the *LORD, [who is] your God, will do something about the commander’s words. The commander’s master is the king of Assyria. [The king] sent the commander to laugh at the God who is really alive. Maybe the *LORD your God will *rebuke the commander for the words that [God] has heard. Therefore, pray for the people that remain [in Jerusalem].” ’

v5 So King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah.

v6 Isaiah said to them, ‘Tell your master that the *LORD says this. “Do not be afraid of the words that you have heard. The unimportant servants of the king of Assyria have said evil things about me.

v7 Listen [to me]! I will put a spirit into [the king of Assyria]. Then, he will hear a certain report. When [he hears it], he will return to his own country. And there, I will make [someone] kill him with a sword”.’

v8 Then, the commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish. So the commander left [Jerusalem] and found that the king [of Assyria] was fighting against Libnah.

v9 Now [the king of Assyria] heard [this report] about Tirhakah. [Tirhakah] was the king of Ethiopia. [The report] said, ‘He has started to travel [from Ethiopia] to fight against you.’ And when [the king of Assyria] heard this, he sent people [to Jerusalem] with a message. They had this message for [King] Hezekiah.

v10 ‘Say this to King Hezekiah of Judah. Say, “You are depending on your God. But do not let him *deceive you. [Your God] says that the king of Assyria will not defeat Jerusalem.

v11 But you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the [other] countries. They destroyed them completely. And will [your God] save you? [No!]

v12 Did the gods of [these other] nations save them? [No!] My fathers (the previous kings of Assyria) destroyed Gozan and Haran, Rezeph and the people from Eden [that lived] in Tel Assar.

v13 Where are the kings of Hamath and Arpad? Where is the king of the city called Sepharvaim? Where are the kings of the [places called] Hena and Ivvah?

v14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the people that brought the message. And he read it and then he went up to the *LORD’s *temple. He spread the letter out, in front of the *LORD.

v15 And Hezekiah prayed to the *LORD. He said,

v16 ‘*LORD of Everything, [you are] the God of Israel. You sit on a throne (king’s seat) above the cherubim (special *angels with wings). You alone are the God of all the countries in the world. You have made the *heavens and the earth.

v17 *LORD, turn your ears to me and hear [my prayer]. *LORD, open your eyes and look [at this letter]. Listen to all the words of Sennacherib (the king of Assyria). He sent them to laugh at the God who really is alive.

v18 It is true, *LORD, that the kings of Assyria have [defeated] the people in many countries. And they have made waste places of their lands.

v19 They have thrown their gods into the fire. They have destroyed them because they were not real gods. Human hands made them from wood and stone.

v20 So now, our *LORD and our God, rescue us from the power of [the King of Assyria]! Then all the *kingdoms in the world will know that you alone are the *LORD.’

v21 Then Isaiah, (who was) the son of Amoz, sent a message to Hezekiah. ‘This is what the *LORD, (who is) the God of Israel, says. “You have prayed to me about Sennacherib, (who is) the king of Assyria.” Therefore,

v22 this is what the *LORD says about him.

          “[The] *Virgin Daughter of *Zion (Jerusalem’s people)

          hates you and she laughs at you.

           [The] Daughter of Jerusalem

          shakes her head after you.

v23   Who is it that you have insulted? Who have you told lies about?

          Who is it that you have shouted at?

          Who is it that you have looked at proudly?

           [The answer is] the *Holy [God] of Israel!

v24   You have used your servants to insult the *Lord.

          You have said: ‘With many of my *chariots

                    I have gone up very high mountains,

                    the highest [mountains] in Lebanon.

                    I have cut down its tallest cedar trees,

                    and I have cut down its best pine trees.

                    I went to its highest places and to its finest forests.

v25             I dug wells and I drank [the] water [from them].

                    I dried up all the rivers in Egypt with the *soles of my feet.’

v26  Have you not heard [this]?

          I made my plans a long time ago!

          I decided what to do in the distant past!

          Now it has happened.

          You have made strong cities become heaps of stones.

          v27 The people in them have no strength.

          They are unhappy and ashamed.

          They are like plants in a field.

                    [They are like] the new parts of young green plants.

                    [They are like] grass on the roof [of a house].

                    [The hot winds burn them] before they can grow.

          v28 I know [everything about you].

           [I know] when you sit down.

          And [I know] when you go out.

          And [I know] when you come in.

          And [I know] when you shout proudly at me.

          v29 You have shouted proudly at me.

          You have insulted me and I have heard it.

          Therefore I will put my *hook in your nose

          and my *bit in your mouth.

          And I will make you return home by the same way that you came.”

v30   And this will be a sign for you, [Hezekiah].

           “This year, you will eat what grows from its own [seeds].

          And in the second year, [you will eat] what grows from [the first year’s seeds].

          But in the third year, you will sow [seed] and you will harvest [crops].

          And you will replant the *vineyards and you will enjoy their fruit.

v31   And this will happen also to the people that remain in Judah.

           [Like plants], they will put roots down below [the ground] and they will grow fruit above [it].

v32    [This will happen] because a *remnant will come out from Jerusalem.

          And the people that remain will come out from the hill [called] *Zion.

          The great care that the *LORD of Everything has [for his people] will make this happen!”

v33           Therefore, this is what the *LORD says about the king of Assyria.

           “He will not come into this city,

          and he will not shoot an arrow here.

          He will not stand in front of it with a *shield,

          and he will not build heaps of earth against it.

v34   He will return [to Assyria] by the way that he came.

          And he will not enter into this city.”

           [This is] the promise of the *LORD.

v35    “So I will defend this city and I will save it.

           [I will do this to protect] my honour.

           [And I will do it because] I promised my servant David [that I would do it].” ’

v36 Then an *angel of the *LORD went out. And the *angel killed 185 000 men in the camp of Assyria’s [army]. When people got up in the morning, they saw all these dead bodies!

v37 So Sennacherib, [who was] the king of Assyria, packed his camp away. He returned to [Assyria] and he stayed there in Nineveh.

v38 [Afterwards] he was praising his god Nisroch in the *temple [of Nisroch]. [Two of] his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, killed him with [their] swords. Then, they escaped into the country called Ararat. [So] Esarhaddon, [who was another of] his sons, ruled instead of [Sennacherib].

Notes

Verse 1 The report was what Hezekiah’s officials heard in chapter 36:13-20. Sackcloth is a rough material. People make sacks from it. Hezekiah wore sackcloth to show that he was desperate. He felt great despair. The *temple was God’s house in Jerusalem. It was on a hill called *Zion.

Verse 2 Hezekiah did not ask Isaiah to come to him. Instead, he sent a group of important people to Isaiah. This shows us that he respected Isaiah.

Verse 3 ‘Rebuke’ means this: ‘words to say that someone has done something wrong’. The *rebuke was the words of *Rav Shakeh in Isaiah 36:13-20. Actually, Hezekiah had done nothing wrong. But *Rav Shakeh said that Hezekiah was wrong to trust in the *LORD. *Rav Shakeh is probably *Hebrew for ‘chief army commander’. He was a commander of the *Assyrian Army. The words about birth are probably traditional. They mean here that the nation could not fight against Assyria. A woman ‘gives birth’ when her baby is born. But if a woman is too weak to give birth, either she or her baby, or both, will die. So what would be a happy occasion becomes very sad.

Verse 4 ‘Will do something’ is the *Hebrew word that means ‘hear and obey’ (see our note on Isaiah 36:13). The *Assyrians laughed at the *LORD because they did not respect him. So Hezekiah hopes that God will *rebuke the *Assyrians. This is the same *Hebrew word as in verse 3. But here it may mean more than ‘to say that somebody did something wrong’. It may also mean ‘punish’. It is not clear whether this is Hezekiah’s hope or his prayer. The last part of the verse is a prayer. It is for the people who were still alive in Jerusalem. Many people in the towns round Jerusalem like Lachish were already dead, or they were already in another country.

Verse 6 ‘Do not be afraid’ are words that Isaiah often said. Read something to do number 4. The chief commander said these things, but God refers to him by the words ‘unimportant servants’! God is already *rebuking *Rav Shakeh, and the other servants with him.

Verse 7 We can translate ‘I will put a spirit into’ several other ways. Here are some of them.

·  I will send a wind against him.

·  I will send a spirit against him.

·  I will make him think about something.

Whatever it means, this is clear. God was saying that he would do something to Sennacherib, king of Assyria. It would make him go back to Assyria. When he was there, someone would kill him with a sword.

Verse 8 Bible students are not sure where Libnah was. Most of them think that it was near Lachish. We could translate the word ‘found’ as ‘met’. *Rav Shakeh met the king of Assyria, who was fighting against Libnah.

Verse 9 Tirhakah became king of Upper and Lower Egypt in 689 *B.C. *B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’. But this verse is about things that happened in 701 *B.C. This was about 12 years earlier than 689 *B.C. In 701 *B.C., Tirhakah was an army commander. His father was king, or Pharaoh, of Egypt. At this time, Ethiopia was a part of Egypt. *Assyrian records tell us that there was a battle between Tirhakah’s army and Sennacherib’s army in 701 *B.C. It was at Eltekeh, which was a town west of Jerusalem. Assyria defeated Egypt in this battle. Verse 14 probably means that the message was in a letter.

Verse 10 There is an important difference between this verse and what *Rav Shakeh said in Isaiah 36:13-20. *Rav Shakeh told the *Jews not to let Hezekiah *deceive them. Now Sennacherib says, ‘Do not let God *deceive you.’ ‘*Deceive’ means ‘to say things that are not honest and true’. Actually, Sennacherib said ‘a god’, not ‘God’. To Sennacherib, the gods of all countries were similar.

Verse 11 Notice the way that the *Hebrew Bible uses a question. ‘Will God save you?’ does not mean the same as ‘God will not save you!’ It expects an answer. It expects a very, very loud ‘No!’ It emphasises the answer in a special way. The same is true in many other verses in Isaiah chapters 36 and 37. We will see the same technique in Isaiah 37:12.

Verse 12 ‘Fathers’ here means previous kings of Assyria. These kings defeated:

·  Gozan. When Assyria defeated Samaria, they took the prisoners to Gozan, 2 Kings 17:6.

·  Haran. Abraham stopped here when he went from Chaldea to Canaan, Genesis 11:31.

·  Rezeph was in what is now Iraq.

·  Eden was probably in the middle of the Euphrates Valley.

All these places were probably between the Tigris river and the Euphrates river.

Verse 13 The answers to these questions may be one of these.

·  The soldiers from Assyria killed them.

·  The soldiers from Assyria took them as prisoners into *exile.

·  The kings escaped to far countries.

We do not know the answer, so the question must remain. It tells us that nobody really knows where they are!

Hezekiah’s Prayer

Verse 14 The letter was probably in a *scroll. This was a very long piece of paper. People wound the paper onto a short stick. Hezekiah went up to the *temple, which was the house of the *LORD. It was on a hill called *Zion. ‘Spread the letter’ means that he unwound the *scroll.

Verse 16 Hezekiah said 4 things about God. They were:

·  God is the King of everything. He sits on a throne, in other words, a special seat that a king sits on. The cherubim are very special *angels. They have wings. Isaiah saw them in his *vision in chapter 6. They guarded the entrance to the *temple. Hezekiah believed that they would protect Jerusalem from Sennacherib.

·  God is unique. That means that there is nobody else like him. There are no other real gods. He is the only God. There is only one God. The gods of the other countries, verses 11-13, did not really exist.

·  God is omnipresent. That means that he is everywhere at the same time! He is not only God of Judah. He is God of every country in the world.

·  God is the Creator. That means that he made (created) everything. This includes everything in the skies and everything on the earth. ‘*Heavens’ may mean ‘skies’ or ‘the places where God and his *angels live’.

What Hezekiah said was important. Sennacherib laughed at Hezekiah’s god, as if the *LORD was just another false god. But Hezekiah really believed that the *LORD is God.

Verse 17 ‘Turn your ears’ is an *Hebrew way to say ‘listen!’ The *Hebrew Bible just says ‘hear’ and ‘look’. Our translation decided that ‘hear’ means ‘hear my prayer’. And it decided that ‘look’ means ‘look at this letter’. But Hezekiah may have meant something else. We do not know.

Verse 18 ‘Made waste places of’ means ‘destroyed completely’. They left nothing of the original country: their palaces, their great buildings, their houses, their farms, their cottages and their roads. Everything had gone.

Verse 19 The *Assyrians had burnt the gods that should have protected these countries. This was because they were not real gods. They were just images that people had made from wood or stone.

Verse 20 The ‘power’ of the King of Assyria is his ‘hand’ in the *Hebrew Bible. It means more than political power and authority. It means a cruel attack. The King of Assyria said that his army would make such an attack against Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s prayer is simple. He asked the *LORD to rescue him and his people. Then the people in every *kingdom in the world would know how strong the *LORD really was. The word ‘*kingdom’ means ‘a country which has a king’.

God’s answer by Isaiah

Isaiah’s answer is in the form of a poem. It is full of word-pictures, so it is not easy to understand. All the words in the poem are the words of God except those that are in this sort of print. The poem divides into two parts.

·  Verses 22-29 are about Sennacherib. In these verses, the word ‘you’ always means Sennacherib.

·  Verses 30-35 contain God’s promises to Hezekiah.

Verse 22 The *Hebrew Bible puts the words in this order:

            She hates you, she laughs at you,

            *Virgin Daughter of *Zion (Jerusalem’s people).

            She shakes her head after you,

            Daughter of Jerusalem (Jerusalem’s people).

So we could think that ‘you’ means ‘Daughter’. But, in verses 22-29, ‘you’ always means Sennacherib. So Isaiah makes us ask ourselves, ‘Who is she?’ before he gives us the answer. This is another part of his technique. (Look in the section ‘Something to do’ after chapter 35.) Isaiah uses the words ‘*Virgin Daughter’ for several reasons:

·  The phrase contains more information than he could otherwise get into two words of a poem.

·  ‘Daughter of *Zion’ is a special *Hebrew way to say ‘the people that live in *Zion (Jerusalem)’.

·  It refers to only some people there; it does not refer to them all.

·  It refers to those people that trust God to save them from Sennacherib.

A ‘*virgin’ is a woman that has not had sex with a man. Here it is a special description of religion. It means people that have not served false gods. Or, if they have, they are sorry. They have asked God to forgive them. In many Bible books, marriage is a special description of true religion. Jeremiah, Hosea and Revelation are good examples.

Notice that ‘she shakes her head after you’. This means that Sennacherib has gone.

Verse 23 We could translate this verse:

            You have insulted the *Holy (God) of Israel.

            You have told lies about him.

            You have shouted at him.

            You have looked at him in a proud manner.

This translation gives us the facts. But it loses the poetry. The poetry makes you wait for the answer.

But when it comes, the answer emphasises the meaning so much more! ‘*Holy’ means two things.

·  Very, very good.

·  Separate from what is bad.

Verse 24 ‘*Lord’ in this verse is another name for God. ‘*Lord’ means ‘master’ or ‘someone with authority’. It does not translate the same *Hebrew word as *LORD does. ‘*LORD’ is the *covenant name for God. A ‘*covenant’ is an agreement. In this agreement, God agrees to help and to protect his people. His people agree to love and to serve God.

Then God reminds Sennacherib of what Sennacherib has said.

What Sennacherib said

What does it mean? Is it true?

with many of my *chariots

with many of my carts in which my soldiers rode

I have gone up very high mountains

It is very difficult to drive a *chariot up a mountain so it is probably not true.

the highest (mountains) in Lebanon

 

I have cut down its tallest cedar trees

Lebanon was famous for its cedar trees. They were very beautiful. Their wood was a good material to build houses with. But Sennacherib had cut them down.

I have cut down its best pine trees

Sennacherib had cut these large, beautiful trees down also. He probably took the wood from the trees called cedars and pines home to Nineveh. So then his builders could use this wood.

I went to its highest places and to its finest forests

This says the same as the first 5 lines, but with less details.

When Sennacherib says ‘I’ in verses 24 and 25, he means ‘my army’. He was praising himself for what he had done.

Verse 25 In verse 25b (the second part of verse 25) Sennacherib says that he is better than the *LORD! The *LORD only dried up the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21). But Sennacherib says that he dried up every river in Egypt. He only used the sole (the part underneath) of his foot to do it. This insults God more than anything else that Sennacherib said.

Verse 26 The question here, to Sennacherib, shows what God thinks of Sennacherib. Sennacherib is only doing what God wanted him to do! But Sennacherib does not know! He has not heard that God made his plans even before Sennacherib’s birth. Now God’s plans have actually happened. ‘Strong cities’ probably means ‘cities with walls that were their defences’. The cities had no walls or buildings that remained.

Verse 27 The people in the cities were sad and confused. They were like plants that had started to grow. But a fierce, hot wind burnt them. Bible students are not sure what the *Hebrew word for ‘hot winds burn them’ really means. ‘Hot winds burn them’ is a guess rather than a translation. This is the only place that we find this *Hebrew word in the *Hebrew Bible.

Verse 28 ‘Shout proudly’ refers to Sennacherib’s words that he, Sennacherib, did all these things (verses 24-25). Really, he was only carrying out God’s plans. ‘Shout proudly’ means that Sennacherib was praising himself.

Verse 29 A ‘*hook’ is a piece of metal with a bend in it. People use a hook to catch fish. Here, God is using it to catch Sennacherib! The ‘*bit’ is what people put in a horse’s mouth. They use it to control the horse. Here, God is controlling Sennacherib. Sennacherib has behaved like an animal to the people that he attacked so cruelly. Now God will deal with Sennacherib as if Sennacherib was an animal.

A Sign for Hezekiah

Verse 30 ‘You’ in this verse is not Sennacherib, as it was in verses 22-29. ‘You’ is Hezekiah in this verse. Verses 30-35 contain special promises for Hezekiah and his people.

To understand this verse, we must add several words to each line of the poem. Notice that :

·  There are only 3 or 4 *Hebrew words in each line of the poem. There is a lot of meaning in each word! The explanations in the boxes below should help us.

·  Here is an example of Isaiah’s technique. He often said 4 things in a verse of poetry. ‘This will be a sign’ is not part of the poem.

Translation of words in *Hebrew Bible

Probable English meaning (but NOT a translation)

(to eat) (the year) (seed that fell)

(3 *Hebrew words)

This year you and your people will eat food. It will come from plants that will grow from seeds. These seeds fell from last year’s plants. Farmers did not sow them. Wind, birds and animals spread the seeds.

(and in the year) (the second) (what grows after)

(3 *Hebrew words)

Next year, the *LORD will again provide food. It will come from plants that grow from the first year’s seeds. Again, wind, birds and animals will spread the seeds.

(but in the year) (the third) (sow) (and harvest)

(4 *Hebrew words)

Only in the third year will your farmers need to sow seeds and to harvest the crops. This is the sign to Hezekiah and to his people. You will have enough food for two years even when you have not sown seeds!

(and plant) (*vineyards) (and eat) (fruit of them)

(4 *Hebrew words)

Also in the third year, replant the *vineyards. After a few more years, you will harvest the *grapes from them. You will make wine from the *grapes that grow on the *vine bushes in the *vineyards.

Verse 31 Here is another part of the sign. As the crops grow, so will the people! That means that the number of people in Judah will increase. Or, that they will be successful. The *LORD uses the plants as a picture of his people.

Verse 32 A ‘*remnant’ is ‘a bit that remains’. In the Bible, it is often a technical word for ‘people that remain’. Here, they are the people that remain alive after the war. They will come out from Jerusalem where perhaps they had hidden from Sennacherib. As the plants grew in verse 31, so their families will grow. *Zion was the name of a hill in Jerusalem. The Bible often uses it as another name for the city called Jerusalem. This verse is a good example of *Hebrew poetry. Both lines really mean the same thing. The last line of the verse is not part of the poem. The ‘great care’ of the *LORD shows itself in the energy that he uses to protect his people.

Verse 33 As in verse 30, the first line is not part of the poem. Again, Isaiah says 4 things in one verse of a poem, as he does in verse 30. ‘He’ in this verse and the next is ‘Sennacherib’. But really, it means Sennacherib and his army. Soldiers used *shields to protect themselves. They also built heaps of earth outside city walls. The earth was in a slope. Then they could climb up on the earth and get over the walls!

Verses 34-35 The *LORD explains why he will send Sennacherib back to Assyria. There are two reasons.

·  To protect his (the *LORD’s) own honour. He did not want Sennacherib to think that he had defeated God!

·  Because of his promises to King David. These are in 2 Samuel 7:8-16.

Verse 36 Isaiah chapters 36 and 37 are also in 2 Kings 18:17 to 19:37. 2 Kings 19:35 is similar to Isaiah 37:36. But it starts, ‘That night the *angel of the *LORD’. The *Hebrew word that we translate ‘*angel’ actually means ‘someone who carries a message’. *Angels are special servants of God. Usually, we cannot see them. This *angel killed 185 000 soldiers, a huge number. We do not know how they died.

Verse 37 Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. It was near the River Tigris in the north of the country.

Verse 38 The events in this verse happened about 20 years after the events in verses 36-37.

Sennacherib’s god, Nisroch, could not save Sennacherib from .his sons. They killed Sennacherib in Nisroch’s *temple! *Assyrian records from the time agree that his sons murdered Sennacherib. Ararat was north-west of Nineveh, in what is now Turkey. Esarhaddon started to rule over Assyria in 681 *B.C. *B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’. Esarhaddon took many different people to the country called Israel, that is, the area north of Judah. They were later called ‘the Samaritans’.

Something to do

1. If you can find a map of the area, look for: The Mediterranean Sea, Tyre, Lachish, Libnah, Nineveh and Jerusalem. Also, look for the rivers called Tigris and Euphrates.

2. Read 2 Kings 18:3-7. It is the story of how Hezekiah removed high places and *altars outside Jerusalem. Also, read Deuteronomy 12:2-7 for more information about why Hezekiah did this.

3. Pray for the leaders of your country. Pray that they will find God’s plan for them.

4. Read some other verses where Isaiah says, ‘Do not be afraid’. He says it in Isaiah 7:4; 35:4; 41:10-14; 43:1; 43:5; 44:2; 44:8; and 54:4.

5. Add more examples of Isaiah’s poetry technique to the list in something to do after chapter 35.

6. Read God’s promises to David in 2 Samuel 7:8-16.

Chapter 38

v1 At that time, Hezekiah was very ill. He nearly died. And Isaiah the *prophet, [who was] the son of Amoz, went to [Hezekiah]. And [Isaiah] said to [Hezekiah], ‘This is what the *LORD says. “Put your affairs in order because you are going to die. You will not recover.” ’

v2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and he prayed to the *LORD.

v3 And he said, ‘Please remember, *LORD, that I have served you [well]. [I have been] loyal to you and [I have been] completely sincere. I have done what you consider to be good’. And Hezekiah wept bitter tears.

v4 Then the *LORD told Isaiah [again what] to say.

v5 ‘Go and say this to Hezekiah. “This is what the *LORD says. [The *LORD] is the God of your *ancestor David. I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. So, I will add 15 years to your life.

v6 I will save you from the power of the King of Assyria and I will defend this city, this city [of Jerusalem”.’

v7 And [Isaiah said], ‘The *LORD will do what he has promised [to do]. And so the *LORD [will give] you this sign.

v8 You can see the shadow of the sun as it sets on the staircase. [This is the staircase] that [King] Ahaz built. I will make the shadow go back ten steps [on this staircase].’ And the shadow did go back ten steps!

v9 [This is] a poem that Hezekiah, the king of Judah, wrote. He wrote it after he had recovered from his illness.

v10 I said:

          ‘Must I really go through the gates of *Sheol during the best days of my life?

          Will [death] rob me of the rest of my years?’

v11 I said:

          ‘I will not see the *LORD [again].

          [I will not] live on this earth and [see] the *LORD.

          I will never [again] see the people.

          I will never be with the people that are [still] living in this world.

v12   [The *LORD] has pulled down my house and he has taken it from me.

          [He did it] as [easily as someone packs away] a *shepherd’s tent.

          I have rolled up my life as a *weaver rolls up [a carpet].

          [God] has cut me off from the *loom (machine to make carpets).

          [In a] day and [in a] night [God] brings me to my end.

v13   With patience I waited until the dawn.

          But, like a lion [does], [God] broke all my bones.

          [In a] day and [in a] night [God] brings me to my end.

v14   I cried like a small bird, [perhaps] a thrush (a kind of bird).

          I made the sort of sad noise that a dove (another kind of bird) makes.

          My eyes grew weak [as I looked] to heaven.

          *Lord, rescue me from my trouble!

v15   What can I say? Because [the *LORD] has spoken to me

          and [the *LORD] has done [all this to me].

          I will live quietly, because I felt so bitter [inside me].

v16   *Lord, by these things, [people] have life.

          By all these things, my spirit has life.

          You gave me back my health and you have let me live.

v17           Really, it was good for me to have such trouble.

          Your love did not allow the very deep hole to destroy me,

          because you threw all my *sins behind your back.

v18    [People that are in] *Sheol cannot thank you.

          Dead [people] cannot sing and praise you.

          People that go down to the very deep hole cannot enjoy your loyal [kindness].

v19           People that are alive and not dead can thank you.

          I am doing it today.

          A father tells his children about your loyal [kindness].

v20   The *LORD will save me [from death].

          Then we will sing in the *temple of the *LORD every day of our lives.

           [We will sing with music. The music will come from] instruments with strings.’

v21 Now Isaiah said [this earlier]. ‘Make a hot cake from figs (sweet fruits) and put it on [Hezekiah’s] boil (hard place under the skin). He will then recover [from his illness].’

v22 So Hezekiah asked, ‘What sign will I have that I will [be able to] go up to the *temple of the *LORD?’

Notes

Hezekiah died in 687 *B.C. (*B.C. means ‘years Before Christ was born’.) This means that the date of chapter 38 was about 703 *B.C. We know this because of the *LORD’s words in verse 5. There, the *LORD said that Hezekiah would live for another 15 years. Also, Sennacherib defeated Merodach-Baladan in 703 *B.C., so the date of chapter 39 was also 703 *B.C. This is because Merodach-Baladan sent gifts to Hezekiah in Isaiah 39:1. This means that the events in Isaiah chapters 36 and 37 may have happened after those in chapters 38 and 39.

Isaiah chapters 38 and 39 have a special pattern. This is part of Isaiah’s technique. Here is the pattern:

            A1  Hezekiah thinks about his death, 38:1a.

                        B1  Isaiah and the words from the *LORD. Isaiah went and he said this:

                         ‘This is what the *LORD says’, 38:1b.

                                    C1  Hezekiah promises to serve the *LORD, 38:8-22.

                                    C2  Hezekiah is not loyal to the *LORD, 39:1-2.

                        B2  Isaiah and the words from the *LORD. Isaiah went and he said this:

                         ‘Hear what the *LORD says’, 39:3-7.

            A2  Hezekiah thinks about the rest of his life, 39:8.

This pattern is called a ‘*chiasmus’. A1 contrasts with A2. B1 contrasts with B2. And C1 contrasts with C2. Isaiah often used a *chiasmus. Sometimes he did it in chapters, as here. Sometimes he did it in groups of verses, as in Isaiah 38:10-20. Read the notes on Hezekiah’s poem, Isaiah 38:10. Sometimes he did it in single verses, as in Isaiah 34:1. Read the note on Isaiah 34:1.

Some English translations put Isaiah 38:21-22 between verses 6 and 7. Our translation leaves those verses in the traditional place.

Verse 1 Isaiah does not say here what Hezekiah’s illness was. In verse 21, he says that it was a boil. A boil is a disease on a small part of the skin. Bad stuff from the body gathers under it and pushes the skin up. Soon, the boil bursts and the bad matter comes out. Boils do not usually kill people, so perhaps Hezekiah had something else wrong with him. People try to put their affairs ‘in order’ before they die. It means this. They arrange it so that there will no problems after their death. Then other people will know what to do with the dead person’s things. Actually, the *Hebrew Bible has ‘order your house’, for ‘put your affairs in order’. It probably means, ‘Tell people who will become king after your death’.

Verse 3 Hezekiah asks God to remember what he, Hezekiah, has done. 2 Chronicles chapters 29 to 31 tell us of the great work that Hezekiah did. He put the *Jewish religion right again after many years of errors. He probably hoped that the *LORD would help him because of this work.

Verse 4 God quickly answered Hezekiah’s prayer. 2 Kings 20:4 tells us when God spoke to Isaiah again. Isaiah had only just begun to go home!

Verse 5 But God did not cure Hezekiah because of the good things that Hezekiah had done. God did it because of what God had promised to David. God did it to keep his own honour. An *ancestor is a member of a family who lived many years before.

Verse 6 The word in the *Hebrew Bible for ‘power’ is actually ‘hand’. This was a special *Hebrew way to say the word ‘power’. Notice that the *LORD says ‘this city’ twice. This shows us how much he cares about Jerusalem.

Verses 7-8 Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, built the staircase. Isaiah told Ahaz to ask God for a sign ‘as high as the heaven’. Ahaz refused to ask. (Isaiah 7:11-12) Hezekiah did ask for a sign, 2 Kings 20:8. God used a shadow on Hezekiah’s father’s staircase for a sign. God made the shadow go back 10 steps!

Verse 9 The *Hebrew word for ‘poem’ here is ‘miktav’. Some of the psalms are called by a similar word, ‘miktam’. Examples include Psalms 56 to 60. Bible students are not sure what the words mean.

Verse 10 Notice the pattern in verses 10-20:

            A1  The gates of *Sheol: Hezekiah is sad because he has not many days to live, verse 10.

                        B1  The country where people are dead instead of the country where people are alive (verse 11).

                                    C1  God as an enemy of Hezekiah: Hezekiah is full of despair, verses 12-14.

                                    C2  God as a friend of Hezekiah: Hezekiah promises to serve God, verses 15-17.

                        B2  The country where people are alive instead of the country where people are dead (verses 18-19).

            A2  The house of God: Hezekiah is happy because he has many days to live, verse 20.

For the *Jews,*Sheol was a word picture for death. They described *Sheol as a dark place that was under the ground. The grave was the way into *Sheol, so Hezekiah called the grave ‘the gates of *Sheol’. Some Bible students think that ‘best days’ should be ‘the end of’. However, Hezekiah was still a young man, so ‘best days’ is probably right. The *Hebrew word for ‘best days’ actually means ‘noon’. 2 Kings 18:2 seems to show that Hezekiah was 39 years old in 703 *B.C. (That is, he was about 54 when he died. And this illness happened 15 years before that.) Hezekiah felt as if death was cheating him! Notice how Hezekiah used questions. The answer to both questions was definitely ‘yes’!

We could translate this verse:

            I really MUST go through the gates of *Sheol during the best years of my life.

             (Death) WILL rob me of the rest of my years.

Verse 11 Hezekiah does not say that he will never see the *LORD or people again. He says that he will not see them ‘in this world’. Actually, he never really saw God. He meant that he would not praise God in the *temple in Jerusalem. The ‘*temple’ was the house of God. It was on the hill called *Zion in Jerusalem. Some Bible students think that ‘world’ should be ‘the place where everything stops’. The last line of the verse would then be:

            I will never see people (in this world. I will be in) in the place where everything stops.

‘The place where everything stops’ describes *Sheol.

Verses 12-14 In these verses there are 4 word-pictures. They tell us about Hezekiah’s despair.

A ‘*shepherd’ is someone that looks after sheep. In Judah, *shepherds moved from place to place. The *shepherd slept in a tent. Tents were easy to pack away and move to another place. Hezekiah thought his life was like such a home. God could easily pack it away and move it to *Sheol. This picture tells us that our lives are delicate. We can easily lose them.

A ‘weaver’ is someone that makes cloth or carpets. He does it on a machine called a ‘*loom’. When he has finished his work to make the cloth, the *weaver cuts it from the *loom. This word-picture tells us that our lives can end suddenly and completely. There may be nothing to warn us. It may happen ‘in a day and in a night’. That is a special *Hebrew way to say ‘before the day and night finish’. It means ‘suddenly’.

In verse 13, the word-picture is that God is like a lion. A lion is not friendly! It is one of the most fierce animals. Hezekiah waited quietly for God. He hoped that God would be kind to him. But God was like an enemy. He was more like a lion. This word-picture tells us that God is our judge. We cannot escape punishment.

Hezekiah’s prayers seemed to him like the weak noises that birds made. Bible students think that the *Hebrew words mean small birds like thrushes. But they are not certain. A thrush is a bird that is about 20 centimetres long. A dove is another kind of bird. It makes a noise that sounds like ‘cooo…’. But heaven (which means God) did not seem to hear Hezekiah’s prayers. This word-picture tells us that often there seems to be no answer to our prayers. But there is a sudden change in verses 15-17!

Verse 15 Now everything changes suddenly! Hezekiah’s prayers may have seemed like bird’s songs to him, but God did answer! We could translate ‘what can I say?’ as ‘I do not know what to say!’ God has cured him. He decides to live a quiet life from now on. But then, in verses 16-20, he changes what he thinks. New life (verse 16) leads to *praise in the *temple (verse 20).

Verse 16 But then Hezekiah realises that God has done all ‘these things’. What are ‘these things?’

·  God cured Hezekiah.

·  God gave Hezekiah a new life.

·  God put a new spirit into Hezekiah.

·  Hezekiah had hope for the future.

Notice that ‘these things’ are also what other people could see. They could see that he was better. And they could see that he had hope for the future. The word ‘*Lord’ is a name for God. It means ‘master, someone with authority’. It is not the same *Hebrew word as the one that we translate *LORD.

Verse 17 The *Hebrew word for ‘good’ here is ‘shalom’. This really means ‘peace and safety’. ‘Peace’ means to be calm and content. The Pit (very deep hole) was a part of *Sheol. It was a hole in the ground there. Anyone who went into the Pit would never come out. Only the worst people went into that deep hole when they died. That was what people believed about the Pit. The *Hebrew Bible for the second line of this verse says,

            ‘You loved my life back from the very deep hole.’

‘*Sin’ is our thoughts, words and actions when we do not obey God’s laws. Here Hezekiah seems to think that his *sin caused his illness. Jesus taught us that this is not always so, John 9:1-5.

Verse 18 This is what Hezekiah thought would happen. Several *Old Testament writers thought the same as Hezekiah. Read Psalm 6:5, 30:9, 88:12; Ecclesiastes 9:4-5 and Ecclesiastes 9:10. But the *New Testament teaches us something new. Read Revelation 7:9-17. This is what happens when God does forgive our *sin.

Verse 19 The *Hebrew word for ‘loyal (kindness)’ means that God will keep his promises. In other words, what he promised will really happen. It is true! Therefore, some translations have ‘truth’ instead of ‘loyal (kindness)’. Hezekiah is probably one father who will tell his children about God’s truth.

Verse 20 The ‘*temple’ was God’s house in Jerusalem. Psalm 118:19-20 shows that the gates into the *temple are ‘the gates of *praise’. This contrasts with the gates of *Sheol, where there is no *praise, verse 10. People use instruments with strings to make music. Examples of such instruments are the ones called the harp and the lyre.

Verse 21 Many translations put verses 21-22 after verse 7. ‘Figs’ are fruits that grow in hot countries. We do not know why a hot cake of figs would cure boils (things like hard lumps under the skin). The note on verse 1 explains what boils are.

Verse 22 The *temple of the *LORD was the house of God. It was on a hill. That was why Hezekiah had to go up to it.

Something to do

1. Read another account of the same story in 2 Kings chapter 20.

2. Add some more examples of Isaiah’s technique to your list in something to do after chapter 35.

3. When God does not seem to answer your prayers, continue to pray. Make a list of what God has done for you (the ‘these things’ of verse 16). Wait for more answers to your prayers. Learn to say verse 16 by heart (in other words, ‘from your memory’). Each time you say it, put what God has done for you instead of ‘these things’.

4. Read this chapter 38 again, but change the order of the verses. Put verses 21-22 between verses 7 and 8. You can leave out the word ‘earlier’ in verse 21 when you do this.

Chapters 39 and 40

Chapter 39v1 When this happened, Merodach-Baladan was the king of Babylon. He was the son of Baladan. [Merodach-Baladan] sent Hezekiah letters and a gift. He had heard about [Hezekiah’s] illness. But [now he heard] that Hezekiah had recovered.

v2 Hezekiah gladly received the officials that [the King of Babylon] had sent. [Hezekiah] showed them the places where he stored [his valuable things]. He showed them what was there. [He showed them] silver and gold, *spices and fine oil, all his *weapons and everything else that was valuable. There was nothing in his palace or in his whole country that Hezekiah did not show them.

v3 Then Isaiah the *prophet went to King Hezekiah and [Isaiah] said this to him. ‘What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?’ Then Hezekiah said, ‘They came to me from the distant country called Babylon’.

v4 And [Isaiah] asked, ‘What did they see in your palace?’ So Hezekiah said, ‘They saw everything [that is] in my palace. There is nothing among my valuable possessions that I did not show to them’.

v5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear what the *LORD of Everything says to you.

v6 “This is what will certainly happen. [Soldiers from Babylon] will take everything [that is] in your palace to Babylon. They will take everything that your *ancestors have stored here until now. They will leave nothing [here]”, says the *LORD.

v7 “And some of your own sons, your grandsons [and their sons, too], will go [to Babylon]. [Soldiers from Babylon] will force them to go there. And they will become *eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” ’

v8 And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The words that you said from the *LORD are good.’ But what he really thought was this. ‘There will be peace and security while I am alive.’

Chapter 40v1 ‘ “Comfort my people, comfort [them]”, says your God.

v2 “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. And tell this to the people [that belong there].

·  ‘[Your] military service is over.

·  [God has] forgiven [you for your] *sins.

·  And [you] have received from the *LORD’s hand double [punishment] for all [your] *sins.” ’

v3 A voice is calling, ‘Prepare a road for the *LORD in the desert. Make a straight highway (high road) for our God in the Arabah (dry valley of the Jordan river).

v4 [God’s servants will] raise up [the lower parts of] every valley and [they will] make every mountain and hill lower. [They will] make the rough ground smooth and [they will make] the places that are not level flat.

v5 Then, [people will] see the *glory of the *LORD. Everybody that lives on the earth will see it together. [This will happen] because the *LORD himself has spoken these words.’

v6 A voice is saying, ‘Call [something] out aloud!’ But I say, ‘What shall I call out?’ [The voice answered], ‘All people are like grass and all their *glory is like a flower in the field.

v7 Grass will die and a flower will fall [to the ground]. [This will happen] because the breath of the *LORD will blow on them. Certainly, all people [are like] grass.

v8 Grass will die and a flower will fall [to the ground]. But a word that our God [speaks] will last for all time.’

v9 ‘You, [the servant that is] bringing good news to *Zion, go up onto a high mountain. You, [the servant that is] bringing good news to Jerusalem, shout loudly with your voice. [Shout] aloud, do not be afraid. Say to the towns in Judah, “Here is your God!

v10 Look! Your master, the *LORD, is coming with power. And his arm will rule [the people] for him. Look [again]! He [is bringing] his reward with him. And his payments will come with him.

v11 He will take care of his flock (group of sheep) like a *shepherd [does]. He will gather the young sheep in his arm. And he will carry them close to his heart. Gently he will lead [the sheep] that have young [sheep].” ’

v12 [He is the God] who has [done these things].

·  [He] measured the waters in [one of] his hand[s].

·  [He] marked out the *heavens with a width of his hand.

·  [He] put the dust of the earth into a barrel.

·  [He] weighed the mountains on the scales (machine to weigh things).

·  [He weighed] the hills in a balance (another machine to weigh things).

v13-14 [There is nobody] who has [done these things].

·  [Nobody] understood the mind of the *LORD.

·  [Nobody] told him what to do as his adviser.

·  [Nobody] told [God] what to do when the *LORD asked him. [v14]

·  [Nobody] taught him the proper way to do things.

·  [Nobody] taught him knowledge.

·  [Nobody] showed him the way to understand things.

v15 Certainly, the nations are like a tiny amount [of water] in a bucket. They are like small bits of dust on the scales (machine to weigh things). [The *LORD] weighs the islands as if they were tiny pieces of dust.

v16 The trees in Lebanon are not sufficient to make an *altar fire. Neither are its animals enough to burn on the *altars [to satisfy God].

v17 All the nations are like nothing in front of [the *LORD]. He considers them to be without any value. [They seem] less than nothing.

v18 Is it true?

·  You cannot compare God with anybody else.

·  You cannot compare him with any image.

v19 A skilful man makes an image. A skilled gold worker covers it with gold. He also makes silver chains for it.

v20 Some people are too poor to give such a gift. They choose a wood that will not fall apart. They look for a skilful man that will make an image. [But that image] cannot move.

v21 Is it true?

·  You do not know [this].

·  You have not heard [this].

·  [Somebody] has not told you [this] from the beginning.

·  You have not understood [this] since [God] made the earth.

v22 [God] sits on a throne (king’s seat) above the earth’s horizon. And the people [on the earth look] like grasshoppers (insects that jump) [to him]. He stretches out the skies like a curtain. And he spreads them out like a tent [that he can] live in.

v23 He is the [God] that makes princes into nothing. He takes away [the power] from world leaders, so that they have none.

v24 As soon as [somebody] plants them, [God] will blow on them. And as soon as [somebody] sows them, they will die. As soon as they put roots into the ground, a strong wind will blow them away like *chaff.

v25 Is it true that *Holy [God] says [these things]?

·  ‘[There is nobody] to whom you can compare me.

·  [There is nobody] who is as good as [or better than] me.’

v26 Turn your eyes upwards and look at the skies. [He is the God] who created them. [God] made the huge number [of stars] and he gave each one of them a name. Every one among them is there, because of great power and great strength.

v27 Why do you people from Jacob’s [families] say, ’The *LORD has forgotten what I am doing’? And why do you *Israelites complain, ’My God is not fair to me’?

v28 Is this true?

·  You do not know [this].

·  You have not heard [this].

The *LORD is the God that will always be alive. He created [even] the furthest parts of the earth. He will never become tired or wear himself out. Nobody will ever understand his mind.

v29 He gives strength to tired people and he increases the power of weak people.

v30 Even youths get tired and they wear themselves out. And young men will trip over [something] and they will fall [to the ground].

v31 But people whose hope is in the *LORD will regain [their] strength. They will fly high on wings like [birds called] eagles. They will run and they will not become tired. They will walk and they will not fall over.

Notes on chapter 39

Verse 1 ‘This’ refers back to chapter 38. Babylon was to the east of Assyria. Babylon was often a nuisance to Assyria, because Babylon frequently fought against Assyria. In 612 *B.C., Babylon defeated Assyria. But in about 703 *B.C., when the events in chapters 38 and 39 happened, Assyria ruled over Babylon. (*B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.) Merodach-Baladan was king in the years 722 to 711 *B.C., and again from 705 to 703 *B.C. Perhaps Merodach-Baladan thought that Hezekiah would join him to fight against Assyria.

Verse 2 ‘*Spices’ have pleasant smells or tastes. People use them to make things smell nice, or to add flavour to food. ‘*Weapons’ are the tools that soldiers use to fight. When Hezekiah was king, they included bows and arrows and swords. Hezekiah showed the *weapons to the people that brought Merodach-Baladan’s message. The reason why he showed them was probably this. Merodach-Baladan wanted Hezekiah to join him to fight Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. Hezekiah showed the *weapons to them to prove that he could give help. Hezekiah was now going to depend on Merodach-Baladan to save him from Sennacherib, not God! Read Isaiah 38:6 and 38:15-20 again.

Verse 3 A ‘*prophet’ told people what God was saying about the present time and about the future. Isaiah suspected that Merodach-Baladan was trying to get Hezekiah to join his fight against Assyria. Isaiah knew that God did not approve of this. God had promised to help Hezekiah himself, without Merodach-Baladan’s help. But now Isaiah suspected (and God knew!) that Hezekiah might trust Babylon and not God.

Verses 4-7 So God, by Isaiah, said that Judah’s people would go into *exile in Babylon. Notice this: it was not because Hezekiah showed his *weapons to the *Babylonians. It was because he had decided to accept their help rather than God’s promise of help in Isaiah 38:6. ‘*Exile’ means ‘to live away from your own country as a prisoner’. It did not happen for 100 years, but it did happen! Nebuchadnezzar took many of the *Jews into *exile in Babylon in 598 and again in 587 *B.C. Some of Hezekiah’s grandchildren’s grandchildren went into Babylon then. The word for them is ‘*descendants’. ‘Sons’ and words like it also mean the *descendants of the people that lived in Jerusalem. They, too, would go into *exile. 100 years later they did! But long before they did, Hezekiah’s own son, Manasseh, was in *exile there (2 Chronicles 33:11).

‘*Ancestors’ are members of your family that died before your birth. For example, your grandparents, and their parents and grandparents, for hundreds of years before you. A *eunuch is a man who cannot have sex, because somebody has cut off that part of his body. *Eunuchs were the officials that guarded the wives of the kings of Assyria and Babylon. Also, *eunuchs could not have children, so there would be no more princes to become kings in Jerusalem!

Verse 8 What happened to his *descendants did not worry Hezekiah. He only wanted to have peace and security while he was alive.

Notes on chapter 40

Many Bible students imagine that Isaiah 40:1-11 is a picture of a court in heaven. Heaven is the home of God. In this court, God is the judge. After the *Jews had *sinned, God had punished them. Their *sins included those in Isaiah 39:1-2 and 39:8. The punishment was *exile. ‘*Exile’ means ‘when someone is in a foreign country as a prisoner’. Some *Jews went to Egypt, but most of them went to Babylon. But now God, the judge, talks about the time when the punishment would be over. And when it was over, God’s *glory would return to Jerusalem. God’s *glory is what makes him greater than anyone else. Isaiah 40:12-31 describes how God is greater than anybody else. There is nothing in Isaiah 40:1-11 about the events when the *Jews returned to Jerusalem. The passage is about how the *LORD would return there.

The structure of verses 1-11 is:

 

God tells his servants to comfort  Jerusalem. They must tell its people the news that their punishment is over.

(verses 1-2)

 

The First Servant says that God’s *glory will return to Jerusalem from the Arabah (valley of the Jordan river).

(verses 3-5)

The Second Servant says that people will die like plants. But what God says will last for all time.

(verses 6-8)

The Third Servant says that Jerusalem must tell this to the other cities in Judah.

(verses 9-11)

The notes on verses 3 and 5 explain the words ‘Arabah’ and ‘*glory’. These servants are not those in chapters 42, 49, 50 and 53. There, the Servant is God’s special leader, *Messiah.

Verse 1 Isaiah 39:6-7 was bad news for the people in Jerusalem and Judah. But immediately, God, by his *prophet Isaiah, gave them good news. After the *exile in Babylon, there would be words of comfort. The actual word ‘comfort’ is in the form that orders someone to do something. So, here God was ordering someone to ‘comfort my people’. The ‘someone’ was God’s servant or servants. In the court picture, the servants were probably *angels. *Angels are God’s servants in heaven. We cannot see them. But other servants were God’s *prophets on the earth. Jeremiah was one, before the *Jews went into *exile. He said that the *exile would only last 70 years, Jeremiah 29:10. Haggai and Zechariah probably came back with their people from *exile. There were probably other *prophets whose names we do not know. Also, God may have meant the people to comfort each other.

The important point to notice is this. Isaiah 39:7 is about departure into *exile in Babylon. Isaiah 40:1 starts a section about return from *exile in Babylon. Just as a coin has a different picture on each side, so we can see events in history in two different ways. Before 538 *B.C., everything made the *Jews sad. After 538 *B.C., when they started to return from *exile in Babylon, the *Jews were glad again.

Verse 2 ‘Jerusalem’ here means the city and the families of people that used to live there. Perhaps some of those families were still alive, Haggai 2:3. The *Jews believed that you thought in your heart. So ‘the heart of Jerusalem’ is a special *Jewish way to say ‘the minds of the people from Jerusalem’. In modern English, ‘the heart’ often means ‘the feelings’. It does not mean feelings here, but minds. However, God’s words also comfort our feelings, John 14:1.

‘Your military service is over’ means that Jeremiah’s 70 years were over. The *Jews could go home again. Now they were not like soldiers on military service. Soldiers have to go wherever their officers send them. So now the *Jews were free to return to Jerusalem. God had forgiven them for their *sins, including the *sins of leaders like Hezekiah. In fact, they had received double punishment for their *sins. God sent Babylon to punish them, but Babylon punished them too much, Zechariah 1:15. ‘*Sins’ are people’s actions when they do not obey God’s laws.

Verse 3 The Arabah was a desert that was east from Jerusalem. It was a dry valley of the Jordan river. It went from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. So, the road in this verse was not for the *Jews to come home on from *exile. That would need roads from Babylon to the north-east and from Egypt to the south-west. Rather, this is God who is returning to Jerusalem. Ezekiel chapters 9 to 11 describe the *LORD’s departure from Jerusalem before the *exile. He went to the east. Ezekiel chapter 43 describes his return. He came from the east. He came along a ‘highway (high road) for our God’. A ‘highway’ was exactly that, a ‘high way’. This road was higher than the land round it. Here, it was not a main road! The authors of the Gospels (books about Jesus’ life) repeat this verse in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3 and Luke 3:4. They refer to another time when God came (as Jesus) to Jerusalem. Again, ‘Jerusalem’ means the people as well as the city. Zechariah 14:4 describes another occasion when the *LORD  will come to Jerusalem. Many Bible students think that it is about Jesus’ return to this earth. And that verse may mean that he will come through the Arabah (dry valley).

Verse 4 These are all ways for God’s servants to build a ‘highway’ (high road). The road will go through or over anything in front of it! The servants could be:

·  God’s *angels in heaven, who prepared a way for his *glory to return to Jerusalem.

·  God’s servants the *prophets, who prepared people for Jesus. They included John the *Baptist. He actually saw Jesus. And he showed people who Jesus was.

·  God’s servants in the Church, who are preparing people for Jesus’ return to the earth.

This verse is a good example of how Isaiah’s words sometimes mean more than one thing.

Verse 5 ‘*Glory’ is something that shines very, very much. It makes someone seem important. Here, the verse is about the time when the *LORD returns to Jerusalem. And then God’s glory will show the people that he is there. They will recognise his power. ‘Together’ probably has a double meaning:

·  at the same time; and

·  in the same place.

The *Hebrew Bible says, ‘The mouth of the *LORD has spoken’, rather than ‘the *LORD himself’. It emphasises that God really did speak these words.

Verses 6-8 Men and women have a certain kind of ‘*glory’. It includes their beauty, their strength, their honour and many other things. These verses compare people’s *glory with the beauty of a flower. The beauty of a flower will disappear when the flower dies. And people’s glory will disappear when they die. But the promises of God will never die. A word from God will last for all time. This is part of his *glory. In verse 8, the grass and the flower are probably word-pictures for people.

Verse 9 As in verse 2, ‘Jerusalem’ means the people that live there. *Zion was another name for Jerusalem. ‘The towns in Judah’ also mean the people that live in them. The message in verses 1-2 will now reach all the people in the country. This is good news. The *Hebrew word here for ‘good news’ translates into the word for ‘gospel’ in the Greek language. ‘Gospel’ means good news, especially the good news about Jesus Christ in the *New Testament. Perhaps that is why some Christians call the Book of Isaiah by the name ‘the Fifth Gospel’!

Verse 10 The servant speaks as if he can see God’s arrival! Actually, it is all in the future. But the servant is sure that it will happen. So he says that he can see it now! Notice the word ‘arm’. It is a word-picture for the strength of God. It also can be a word-picture for Jesus. It appears more often in Isaiah than in any other book that a *prophet has written. The verses are in something to do number 3.

Verse 11 The special description suddenly changes to a description of a *shepherd. A *shepherd is someone that looks after sheep. He has a flock (group) of sheep. This word-picture of God as a *shepherd makes Bible students think about:

·  King David, the *shepherd (1 Samuel 16:1)

·  Jesus, the Good *Shepherd (John 10:11).

Verse 12 In the *Hebrew language, there are several questions in verse 12. If you do not read the words in square brackets, [ … ], you will find the questions as in *Hebrew. They ask about the God that created everything. So, in this verse, the 5 questions ask who did these things:

·  ‘measured the waters’ means ‘decided how much water to put into the seas, lakes and rivers.

·  ‘marked out the *heavens’ means ‘decided how big the skies should be’.

·  ‘put the dust into a barrel’ means ‘decided how much solid ground there should be’.

·  ‘weighed the mountains and hills’ means ‘decided how big they should be. ‘Scales’ and ‘balances’ are both a kind of machine that people weigh things on.

So, in the sky, or on the earth, nothing exists by an accident. Everything was in God’s plan! If you ask these 5 questions, the answer is GOD!

Verses 13-14 The questions continue. Again, leave out the words that are in square brackets, […], and you will find the questions in the *Hebrew Bible. The questions refer to what the people in Babylon believed. They believed that their god, called Marduk, made everything. But they thought that he had to ask advice. He asked this from another god called Ea, who was very wise. But Isaiah says that nobody had to advise the *LORD. God is the greatest!

Verses 15-18 These verses start from how great God is. Then they go on to show how small the world is. In other words, it is small when we compare it with God. It is God who created the world (verses 12-14). So clearly, he is much greater than the world is! Even all our seas can fit into God’s hand (verse 12)! An *altar is the fire on which people burn dead animals to please God. But even all the trees in the forest of Lebanon would not make a big enough fire! If you burned all its animals on that fire, that gift would not be sufficient to give honour to God!

Verses 18-20 Isaiah says that there is only one God. People make images that cannot even move! Rich people make images out of silver and gold; poor people make images out of wood. The images are like people, they are not like God. There are two questions in verse 18. The words in italics (letters with a slope like this) are in the *Hebrew Bible. But we can leave them out if we only want to give the answer to the question.

Verse 21 Here are 4 more questions. Again, the words in italics (letters with a slope like this) are in the *Hebrew Bible. If we leave them out, we only get the answers. Perhaps the questions mean:

Question: Is it true?

Possible Meaning

1. You do not know [this]?

You know nothing.

2. You have not heard [this]?

You have heard nothing.

3. [Somebody] has not told you [this] from the beginning?

Nobody has told you anything from the beginning.

4. You have not understood [this] since [God] made the earth?

You have understood nothing since God made the earth.

Notice again Isaiah’s use of *inclusio. Questions 1 and 4 are about knowledge and about the things that people can understand. Questions 2 and 3 are about what we hear, or they are about what people tell us. Again, notice Isaiah’s technique:

·  He puts 4 things together in a verse.

·  Also, notice Isaiah’s special type of humour. He says the opposite of what he really means! Of course they do know. They have heard. Somebody has told them and they have understood.

·  Finally, notice that lines 3 and 4 have similar meanings, as do lines 1 and 2. This helps us to know what ‘beginning’ means in line 3. It means ‘when God made the earth’.

Verses 22-24 A ‘throne’ is a special seat that a king sits on. A ‘grasshopper’ is an insect that can jump quite high. It is 2 or 3 centimetres long. ‘Chaff’ means the dead bits of a plant after people have removed the grain. The answers to the questions in verses 12-14 tell us that God is very powerful. In verse 24, princes and world leaders are like plants. God can remove power from them as easily as he can blow a plant away.

Verse 25 ‘*Holy’ here has no ‘the’ in front of it in the *Hebrew Bible. So here, ‘*Holy’ is God’s name! It is a word that really means ‘separate’. Here are some ways in which God is ‘separate’ or ‘*holy’.

·  God is more powerful than anybody else, verse 12.

·  God is wiser than anybody else, verses 13-14.

·  God is nobler than anybody else, verses 15-17.

·  God is alive, but false gods are dead, verses 19-20.

·  God is more like a king than anybody else, verses 22-23.

·  God has more authority than anybody else, verse 24.

But most of all, God is perfect. Only God is really *Holy. So the answer to both questions is the same: nobody! We can compare God with nobody else. He is similar to other people in nothing, but different in everything. Nobody is as good as God, and certainly nobody is better.

Again, as in verses 18 and 21, the words in italic letters are in the *Hebrew Bible. If we leave them out, we get the answers to the questions.

Verse 26 In Deuteronomy 4:19, ‘turn your eyes upwards’ are words that describe star-worship. (Star-worship is the religion of people who *worship the stars.) But Isaiah tells us to ask who created the stars. Actually, the word ‘stars’ does not appear in this verse in the *Hebrew Bible. It just says, ‘huge numbers’. The *prophet is telling people not to *worship something that God made. It is better to *worship God himself. It is silly not to *worship him, but instead to *worship something that he has made. ‘*Worship’ means ‘to love and to praise’ somebody. The rest of the verse links with verse 27. There the *Jews say that God has forgotten them. Here, we read that God remembers everything, even the names of each star. Notice that Isaiah only says, ‘great power and great strength’. He does not say whose power and strength. It is another question, but he does not ask it: the answer is God’s power and strength!

Verse 27 It is silly to *worship false gods like the stars. Also, it is silly to think that God can forget you! The people from Jacob’s families and the *Israelites are names here for God’s people, the *Jews. Again, the words in italic letters (letters with a slope like this) are in the *Hebrew Bible. If we leave them out, we get the answers to the questions.

Verse 28 These questions are from verse 21. There, the answers in verses 22-23 tell us that God is greater than any other king. Here, the answers tell us that God will never become tired. Also, he is so great that we will never understand his mind. Again, the words in italic letters (letters with a slope like this) are in the *Hebrew Bible. If we leave them out, we get the answers to the questions.

Verses 29-31 Here are some of the best promises in the Bible. They do not only mean when our bodies are tired. They also mean when our minds and spirits are tired! An ‘eagle’ is a great bird that flies high in the sky. Its wings measure about 6 feet (2 metres) from one end to the other.

Something to do

1. Study these dates. They will help you to understand how:

·  Isaiah chapter 39 links with Isaiah chapter 40.

·  Isaiah chapter 39 does not come before Isaiah chapters 37 and 38.

Dates *B.C.

Events in
Judah

Events in
Israel

Events in Assyria

Events in Babylonia

 

·  (Capital city of Judah: Jerusalem)

·  (Capital city of Israel: Samaria)

·  (Capital city of Assyria: Nineveh)

·  (Capital city of Babylonia: Babylon)

722

Ahaz is ruling Judah

Assyria destroys Israel. Many people become prisoners (*exiles) in Assyria. End of Israel as a separate country.

Shalmaneser is ruling Assyria

Merodach-Baladan becomes king of Babylon for the first time.

721

Ahaz dies and Hezekiah becomes king.

 

Shalmaneser dies and Sargon the Second becomes king.

 

711

 

 

 

Assyria defeats Merodach-Baladan.

705

 

 

 

Merodach-Baladan becomes king again.

704

 

 

Sennacherib becomes king of Assyria.

 

703

Hezekiah is ill, but he recovers.

 

 

Merodach-Baladan sends gift to Hezekiah; Assyria defeats Merodach-Baladan again.

701

God defends Jerusalem.

 

Sennacherib attacks Judah.

 

694 or 687

Hezekiah dies and Manasseh becomes king.

 

 

 

681

 

 

Two of his sons murder Sennacherib.

 

Period of about 50 years

612

Josiah is ruling Judah.

 

Babylon defeats Nineveh.

 

609

Josiah dies and first Jehoahaz and then Jehoiakim become kings.

 

End of Assyria as a major world power.

 

604

 

 

 

Nebuchadnezzar becomes king.

598

Johoiachin becomes king but Nebuchadnezzar soon takes him to Babylon. He also takes all the valuable things from the *temple.

 

 

 

597

Nebuchadnezzar makes Zedekiah king.

 

 

 

586

Babylon destroys Judah. Zedekiah and many of his people become prisoners (*exiles) in Babylon.

 

 

 

Period of about 70 years

539

 

 

 

King Cyrus from Persia defeats Nabonidus;
it is the end of Babylon as a major world power.

538

Cyrus starts to send *Jews in *exile back to Judea.

 

 

 

These dates come from ‘The Oxford Bible Atlas’, third edition, 1995. Other history books may give slightly different dates.

2. Read some other chapters which imagine that God is a judge in a court: Psalm 50 and Zechariah chapter 3.

3. Study the verses in Isaiah which refer to the *LORD’s ‘arm’. They are: Isaiah 30:30; 33:2; 48:14; 51:5; 51:9; 52:10; 53:1; 59:16; 62:8; 63:5; and 63:12. Read them again, and put ‘Jesus’ for ‘the *LORD’s arm’. Do they still make sense?

4. Find all the questions in Isaiah chapter 40. Remember, the Bible wants you to answer them. Can you answer them all? Do you believe the answers? The questions are in verses 12, 13, 14, 18, 21, 25, 27 and 28.

5. Read John 13:36 to 14:1. Remember that the ‘you’ in 13:38 means just Peter, but the word ‘your’ in 14:1 means everybody that was listening. Also, remember that verse 14:1 followed 13:38 without a pause. Now read Isaiah 39:5 to 40:2. Again, remember that ‘your’ in 39:6 means just Hezekiah, but ‘your’ in 40:2 means all the *Jews.

Word List

altar ~ a special metal table where people burnt animals and corn to please God (or false gods).

ancestor ~ a past member of your family, perhaps in previous centuries.

angel ~ a special servant of God in *heaven.

Apocalypse ~ another name for the last book in the Bible, called Revelation. The Little Apocalypse (Isaiah chapters 24 to 27) is similar to the Book of Revelation. It is about the end of time. In other words, it is about the time when Jesus returns to the Earth.

Aramaic ~ the official language in Syria. It was the language that government officials used.

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

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

Baptist ~ the title that people gave to John because of his special work for God. He ‘baptised’ them. In other words, he used water in a ceremony when they turned from *sin.

BC ~ years Before Christ came to the earth. Some books have B.C.E. instead. This means Before Common Era. The common era means the last 2000 years.

bit ~ what people put in a horse’s mouth. They use it to control the horse.

blessings ~ plenty of material things.

briers ~ bushes that have sharp *thorns on their branches.

bull ~ a male animal of the same kind as a cow.

chaff ~ the dead bits of a plant after people have taken the grain from it.

channel ~ a route by which the water flows.

chariot ~ a cart that soldiers rode in.

chiasmus ~ a technique that a poet may use. The poet repeats his ideas in the opposite order. For example, we may call ideas by the letters a, b and c. If the poet uses a chiasmus, he may use the form a,b,c,b’,a’. That is, a and a’ are similar; and b and b’ are similar.

covenant ~ the agreement between God and his people. In this agreement, God agrees to help and to protect his people. His people agree to love and to serve God.

creatures ~ animals.

deceive ~ to make you think that someone is honest. But in fact that person is not honest.

deer ~ a wild animal like a small cow. It can run fast and it can jump over high walls.

descendants ~ future members of a family.

destroy ~ to punish very severely, often by means of death.

dung ~ solid waste from the body.

emphasis ~ importance; something that someone wants to emphasise.

ethnic ~ from the same family origin.

eunuch ~ a man who cannot have sex. This is because somebody has cut off a certain part of his body. And that part is necessary in order to have sex.

exile ~ a person whom enemies force to live away from his own home or country. Or, the place where that person has to live.

glory ~ something that shines and is wonderful. Especially, it is God’s splendid beauty.

grape ~ a fruit that grows on a *vine.

hatch ~ how a bird keeps eggs warm, until the young birds leave the eggs.

Heaven ~ the home of God.

heavens ~ another word for ‘skies’. It can also mean the place where God lives and the skies above us.

Hebrew ~ the language that Isaiah spoke.

Holy (God) ~ a special name for God that Isaiah used.

holy ~ very, very good. Only God is really holy. He is so holy that he is separate from everybody else.

idol ~ a false god that people made.

inclusio ~ ‘something to do’ after Isaiah chapter 1 explains this word.

Israelites ~ people from Israel. Sometimes this word means just the northern part of the country called Israel. But sometimes it means the people from Judah too.

Jewish ~ a description of something that has a relationship to the *Jews.

Jews ~ the people that lived in Judah (which sounds like ‘Jew-dah’) and Israel.

kingdom ~ a country that a king rules.

loom ~ a machine that people use to make carpets.

LORD ~ LORD is a special name of God. In the *Hebrew language it is YHWH. It may mean ‘always alive’. So LORD is a sign that the *Hebrew word is YHWH.

lord ~ master. When it has a capital L (that is, ‘Lord’) it is a name for God.

LORD of Everything ~ a name for God. Some people translate it ‘LORD of *Angel Armies’.

messiah ~ a leader such as a king. With a capital M (that is, ‘Messiah’), it means Jesus for Christians.

New Testament ~ the later part of the Bible.

Old Testament ~ the earlier part of the Bible.

olive ~ a fruit that gives *oil.

owl ~ a large bird that hunts for its food by night.

praise ~ *worship of God.

prophecy ~ the words of a *prophet.

prophet ~ someone who says what God is saying.

questioner ~ a person who asks questions.

ransom ~ to give money or goods in order to rescue someone. The word emphasises the price in order to free that person.

Rav Shakeh ~ the chief commander of Assyria’s army.

rebuke ~ to say that someone has done something wrong; or the words that say this.

redeem ~ a member of your family buys you from an enemy.

reed ~ plants that grow in water or by water.

remnant ~ a small part of something that is larger. In Isaiah, it often means the few people that still obeyed God.

sacrifice ~ something that the priests put apart (or separated) for the *LORD. Usually it was an animal. They killed it and then they burned it.

sash ~ a long wide piece of material that people tie round their bodies.

scroll ~ a very long piece of paper.

Sheol ~ death. Many people thought that your spirit went to a place called Sheol after the death of your body.

shepherd ~ a person who looks after sheep.

shield ~ a board that a soldier used to protect himself during a battle.

sin ~ not to obey God. Or, what you do when you do not obey God.

sink ~ to go down.

sin ~ Sin is the wrong things that we do. To sin is to do wrong, bad or evil deeds and not to obey God. People are called sinners because they are guilty of sin.

sole ~ the underneath part of the foot.

spices ~ vegetable substances with a sweet flavour or a strong smell. People use spices in food or to make things smell pleasant.

table ~ a way to set out information in a series of boxes.

temple ~ God’s house in Jerusalem. False gods also had temples.

thorn ~ a bush with sharp points on its branches. The sharp points are also called thorns.

unclean ~ not acceptable for the purposes of religion; unable to *worship God in his *temple; foods that God did not allow the *Jews to eat.

urine ~ liquid waste from the body.

vengeance ~ when someone does to people the bad things that they have done to other people.

vine ~ *grapes grow on vines. People make wine from *grapes.

vineyard ~ a field where *vines grow.

virgin ~ a woman that has not had sex.

vision ~ something that a person sees, maybe only in their mind.

weapons ~ military arms; the tools that a soldier uses during a battle (for example, swords).

weaver ~ someone that makes cloth or carpets.

worship ~ to tell God (or a false god) that he is wonderful; and also, to tell him that you love him.

Zion ~ a name for Jerusalem.

 

© 2011, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

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

August 2011

Visit our website: www.easyenglish.info