Isaiah 29


‘Woe to you, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David settled! Add year to year and let your cycle of festivals go on. Yet I will besiege Ariel; she will mourn and lament, she will be to me like an altar hearth. I will encamp against you on all sides; I will encircle you with towers and set up my siege works against you. Brought low, you will speak from the ground; your speech will mumble out of the dust. Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth; out of the dust your speech will whisper.’ Isaiah 29:1-4

Woe To David’s City

In this chapter, we read about the oppression and deliverance of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is warned of man-made invasion but God will deliver them from complete destruction.

The word ‘Ariel’ means hearth of God. This is a symbolic name for Jerusalem Isaiah 29:1-2 / Isaiah 29:7, as ‘victorious under God’, and in Ezekiel 43:15-16 for the altar of burnt offerings, the secret of Israel’s lion-like strength, 2 Samuel 23:20.

God says He will encamp against them, He will encircle them with cities. In other words, God will cause an army to pitch their tents there for a siege and they are under His control, Isaiah 10:5.

As the altar was surrounded by its victims, so Jerusalem would be surrounded by the dead bodies of those who had rebelled against God. Its ruins and dust would say that there was a great city here, but now it is deserted.

As one whispers a sound in the last moments before death, so Jerusalem would whisper its existence to mankind before being destroyed. No one would hear and come to her rescue.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The fulfilment of this came in Sennacherib’s insulting taunts of Hezekiah when his siege began, even offering Hezekiah two thousand horsemen, provided that Hezekiah would supply two thousand men who could ride them! 2 Kings 18:23. All of these Assyrian taunts were heard by the citizens and not by the king only. The humiliation must indeed have been acute.’

‘But your many enemies will become like fine dust, the ruthless hordes like blown chaff. Suddenly, in an instant, the LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night—as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion.’ Isaiah 29:5-8

Here we read that a mighty deliverance is promised. Assyria won’t succeed and God won’t let them. This probably refers to the sudden disappearance of Sennacherib’s army when 185,000 troops died in one night, 2 Kings 19:35-37 / Isaiah 37:35-38.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The image of thunder, earthquakes, and lightning, is an impressive representation of sudden and awful judgment in any manner. The sense is that they should be suddenly destroyed by the direct visitation of God, Isaiah 9:5 / Isaiah 26:11.’

God has plenty of time and unlimited power to do whatever He wants to do, Assyria will be stopped suddenly, Isaiah 17:14. Who is dreaming? Could be Assyria, they think they have conquered Jerusalem but they haven’t.

‘Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer. The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers). For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed.” Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I don’t know how to read.” Isaiah 29:9-12

Isaiah’s mission of hardening the hearts was being accomplished.

They stagger from their own sins which is the cause of God’s judgement upon them, Habakkuk 1:5. They were blind as far as their condition was concerned. Their lack of understanding was like an illiterate man who could not read.

What God would do to the Assyrians couldn’t have been predicted. It could only have been prophesied by the inspiration of God’s true prophet, Deuteronomy 24:1 / Deuteronomy 24:3 / Jeremiah 32:11 / Daniel 1:4. They were false prophets who couldn’t read the signs of the times, for they were spiritually illiterate.

‘The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Isaiah 29:13-14

Their spiritual condition prevented them from believing, they were going through the procedures, and their hearts are far away from God, Matthew 15:7-9 / Mark 7:1-9.

What God stated through Isaiah was contrary to what everyone expected, Isaiah 28:21 / Deuteronomy 28:58-59. It was an awesome event that was beyond the ability of men to predict. Their false preachers and seers proclaimed to be able to foretell the future, but what would happen would identify them to be fake prophets who preached only for gain.

‘Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest? In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—those who with a word make someone out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice. Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob: “No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale. When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.” Isaiah 29:15-24

The hypocritical leaders would be punished according to God’s universal law, Psalm 18:25-27 / Galatians 6:7-8. God’s judgement would soon come which would produce right in the land.

These people thought that God hadn’t noticed, their thoughts couldn’t be hidden from God. They thought they were cleverer than God. How can the clay know better than the Potter? Isaiah 45:9 / Isaiah 64:8 / Romans 9:20.

Rawlinson, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the ‘ensnaring the defender in court’.

‘The gate was the place where assemblies were held and judgments were given. If one stood up and boldly accused the oppressor in the gate, they instantly set to work to lay a trap for him and to bring him to ruin.’

The land of Lebanon that had been cultivated and cared for was turned into wilderness while land which had been barren became fruitful. This possibly has reference to the rejection of the Jews and the sending of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following concerning ‘the humble’.

‘The word ‘meek’ usually refers to those who are patient in the reception of injuries, but the Hebrew word used here means properly the oppressed, the afflicted, the unhappy, Psalm 9:13 / Psalm 10:12 / Psalm 10:17 / Proverbs 3:34 / Isaiah 11:4. It involves usually the idea of humility or ‘virtuous suffering’, Psalm 25:9 / Psalm 37:11 / Psalm 69:33. Here it may denote the pious of the land who were oppressed, and subjected to trials.’

The righteous would have no cause to fear. God redeemed, Exodus 13:13 / Exodus 34:20, Abraham, that is, He brought him out of a land of idolaters, and rescued him from the abominations of idolatry.

If God redeemed Abraham, He will also save Israel, that is, the remnant. Abraham separated when he responded to God’s call, so with Israel. Faith which doesn’t lead to action has never secured any kind of blessing, James 2:14-25.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following, concerning ‘those who will gain understanding’.

‘When this would occur the prophet does not state. It ‘may’ be intended to denote the times of Hezekiah or the times subsequent to the captivity or possibly it may refer to the times under the Messiah. All that the prophet teaches is, that at some future period in the history of the Jews, there would be such a reform that they should be regarded as the worthy descendants of the pious patriarch Jacob.’

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