Isaiah 33


‘Woe to you, destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you, betrayer, you who have not been betrayed! When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed; when you stop betraying, you will be betrayed. LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. At the uproar of your army, the peoples flee; when you rise up, the nations scatter. Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts; like a swarm of locusts people pounce on it. The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.’ Isaiah 33:1-6

Distress And Help

This chapter speaks of the end of the invading Assyrians is announced, and the desolation will be followed by restoration.

This is in the 14th year of Hezekiah. The threats of the first year had been delayed by repentance on the part of the people, but are now reiterated. The Assyrians are already in Judah, have laid the land waste, and are now threatening Jerusalem itself, 2 Kings 18.

The chapter begins with a series of woes upon the Assyrians, this is a prayer for deliverance and a prophecy about Assyria telling them they will be destroyed. The prophet addresses himself to Sennacherib and the injustice of his ambitious plan to conquer the people. The one who came to spoil, shall find himself spoiled, 2 Kings 19:36-37 / Isaiah 29:7-8 / Isaiah 37:11.

God gives His people assurance by telling them that God will be with them, this is seen in Zion being filled with justice and righteousness, Isaiah 30:22-26 / Isaiah 30:29 / Isaiah 31:6.

In other words, Isaiah’s prayer is that God will rise up, for when God rises up, other nations will flee and scatter. Since the treasure of Zion is righteousness, God will spare her.

‘Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travellers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, and no one is respected. The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves. “Now will I arise,” says the LORD. “Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.” You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my power!’ Isaiah 33:7-13

Here we read of the pitiful condition brought on by false trusts. Judah’s ambassadors of peace cried out in sorrow and disappointment because the Assyrians broke the covenant which they had made. Sennacherib took their tribute, and then demanded the surrender of the city, his army was spoiling cities and ravaging the countryside.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘When Sennacherib invaded the land, and had advanced as far as to Lachish, Hezekiah sent messengers to him with a rich present, having stripped the temple of its gold, and sent him all the silver which was in his treasury, for the purpose of propitiating his favour, and of inducing him to return to his own land, 2 Kings 18:14-16. But it was all in vain. Sennacherib sent his generals with a great host against Jerusalem, and was unmoved by all the treasures which Hezekiah had sent to him, and by his solicitations for peace, 2 Kings 18:17. It was to the failure of this embassy that Isaiah refers in the passage before us.’

After Hezekiah and his officials had exhausted all their abilities to negotiate peace, it was time for God to take action. God will not allow evil men to keep on oppressing His people. They will be brought to judgement. The Assyrians had ravaged the land, destroying one city after another but now it was time for them to reap what they had sown.

‘The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them.’ Isaiah 33:14-16

Distant nations would hear of the destruction of those who attacked Jerusalem.

Here we find the answer to the question, who can stand? a. He who walks uprightly. b. He that speaks uprightly. c. He who does not only participate in sin actively but he who inwardly hates sin. d. He who diligently guards against moral pollution.

Because the righteous had committed themselves to the fear of the Lord, their defence was the Lord. Their food was guaranteed because they lived under the protection of the Lord.

‘Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar. In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: “Where is that chief officer? Where is the one who took the revenue? Where is the officer in charge of the towers?” You will see those arrogant people no more, people whose speech is obscure, whose language is strange and incomprehensible. Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the LORD will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them, no mighty ship will sail them. For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us. Your rigging hangs loose: The mast is not held secure, the sail is not spread. Then an abundance of spoils will be divided and even the lame will carry off plunder. No one living in Zion will say, “I am ill”; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven.’ Isaiah 33:17-24

These verses picture a vanquished conqueror. The land was emptied of the Assyrians, they are to forget the past and look to the future and God was the deliverer of the city. This was a time to rejoice, it was a time of peace.

As the Assyrians insulted the people, those who had counted out tribute, 300 talents of silver and the 30 talents of gold, to the Assyrians had failed.

Those who depended on their defence by counting the towers of the wall would also fail. The people were delivered from those who spoke a strange language, Isaiah 36:11, and God swept through the Assyrian army, killing 185,000 in one night, 2 Kings 19:35 / Isaiah 37:36.

Notice a fourfold glory is given to God.

a. Judge.

b. Lawgiver.

c. King.

d. Saviour.

Some commentators suggest that the ‘the king in his beauty’, refers to God, other suggest it refers to Hezekiah and others suggest it’s referring to the Messiah.

Coffman, in his commentary, gives the following reasons, concerning ‘the king in his beauty’, as to why he believes it is referring to the Messiah.

1. The Jerusalem of this passage is the capital of a worldwide land, Isaiah 33:17, Palestine is not so.

2. She is a quiet habitation and inviolable, Isaiah 33:20.

3. God is the acknowledged ruler there, not so of the literal Jerusalem who officially declared that ‘we have no king but Caesar’, John 19:15.

4. The Jerusalem of this passage was situated in a land of broad rivers and streams, Isaiah 33:21, which was never true of the literal Jerusalem.

5. The Jerusalem-Zion here spoken of was inviolable. Spoken of like a tent whose stakes could never be plucked up nor have any of its cords broken, the literal Jerusalem would last little more than a century before it would be utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and its peoples made captive for seventy years.

6. Finally, the citizens of the Jerusalem-Zion in view here would even have their sins forgiven, Isaiah 33:24, a blessing which is limited, absolutely, to the New Covenant.

Judah’s present condition is pretty poor and Jerusalem was at one time like a broken ship but not so anymore. No sailing boat, that is, no enemy of Judah will be allowed to launch against Jerusalem, for the Lord is its ruler and king.

Though old and ragged, there will be better days for Zion, instead of being plundered, the lame Zion would eventually plunder from those who sought to plunder the city.

Henry, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the last verse.

‘Sickness is taken away in mercy when the fruit of it is the taking away of sin. If iniquity is taken away, we have little reason to complain of outward affliction. This last verse leads our thoughts, not only to the most glorious state of the gospel church on earth but to heaven, where no sickness or trouble can enter. He that blots out our transgressions will heal our souls.’

Go To Isaiah 34