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Isaiah 1 and  Introduction 

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ch. 1:1-31

My Commentary On The Book Of Isaiah





My commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  Chapter titles in this commentary correspond to the chapter titles in the NIV. 


The name "Isaiah" means "Yahweh is salvation" .


It is commonly understood that Isaiah lived somewhere from around 765 to 686 BC.  He lived in the Southern Kingdom of Israel, in Jerusalem.  He had access to both the king and priests.  He was a well connected man.  He was also well educated.  All Hebrew scholars agree that his writing style is the best quality of writing in all of the Old Testament.  He has been known as the Shakespeare of the Bible.  He uses pretty well every form of writing and rhetorical style known to Hebrew writing in his day.  Isaiah was married and had two sons.  


It is commonly understood that Isaiah wrote his account in and around 750 to 740 BC.


Some Hebrew and Christian tradition states that Isaiah was sawn in half with a wooden saw by king  Manasseh around 646 B. C.. Justin Martyr in 150 A.D. records this to be a fact.  Hebrews 11:37 tells us that some of the Old Testament men and women of faith were "sawn in two".  This might possibly be a reference to Isaiah.     


The time in which Isaiah prophesied to Israel was not much different than the day we live in.  The southern kingdom of Israel was wealthy, militarily powerful, addicted to self and the accumulation of wealth and materialism.  In the long run, this, and their forsaking of their God is what brought them down.       


Liberal scholars believe there were actually two Isaiahs. One Isaiah wrote chapters 1 through 39, and the other who wrote chapter 40 through 66.  The New Testament refutes this.  If you read John 12:37 to 40, you will come to the conclusion that the same guy wrote both parts of Isaiah because John quotes from both halves of Isaiah and attributes both halves to the same writer.  


Liberal scholars also late date parts of Isaiah, as they do the book of Daniel.  They do this because of the specific prophecies concerning King Cyrus that Isaiah prophesied long before there was a King Cyrus and long before the kingdom he ruled was ever in existence. 


In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Part of the discovery included a whole copy of the book of Isaiah.  On a 10.2 inch by 24 foot scroll, we have the whole book that differs little from what we have today. 


Obviously the book of Isaiah is a book of prophecy.  If we can understand Isaiah's prophecy, we will better understand the book of Revelation.  The best way to understand Revelation is to first understand Old testament prophecy.  It has been said that there are 357 quotes in Revelation from the Old Testament, many from Isaiah. 


A Rebellious Nation (ch. 1:1 - 31)    


In verse 1 we note that all that Isaiah writes was given to him via a vision. 


The list of kings we see in verse 1 tell us just when Isaiah was prophesying.  Some tradition states that he prophesied right up to 686 B. C. when he was sawn in half by king Manasseh.


Note that Isaiah is specifically prophesying to the southern kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem, the very locality in which he lived.


You might say that from verse 2, to the end of this chapter is a heavenly court scene, where Judah is on trial.


The heavenly court room scene is portrayed in verse 2 where it says, "Hear, O heavens, listen, O earth".  The Lord is about to speak, and both those in heaven and those on earth are two be witnesses to what the Lord is about to say. 


The Lord says that He "has reared children", but they have become rebellious.  The children spoken of here is the southern kingdom of Israel.  God viewed both the southern kingdom and the northern kingdom as children.  Many view this as anthropomorphic terminology.  That is to say, God speaks to us in terms we can understand.  So to describe the relationship Israel has with their God, God speaks in terms of being a Father to His children.  He also uses other types of anthropomorphic terminology.  In Hosea and elsewhere God views Israel as His wife. Again, it's picture language that is meant to help portray the relationship that God wants with Israel.


The Hebrew grammar tells us that the rebellion of Israel against her God was not something they just sort of slipped into.  It was a thought out rebellion.  They knew what they were doing, and verse 3 implies this. 


Verse 3 relates Israel to an ox and a donkey who knows their master; the one who feeds and looks after them.  Israel knew their God.  Israel knew the one who fed and looked after her, but she still chose to rebel.  She bit the hand of the one who feeds her, so to speak.


The southern kingdom came to the place, after making the choice to leave her God, that they had no knowledge and no understanding  In the eyes of God, and it should be in our eyes as well, knowledge is vitally important.  Then, once having the knowledge, the understanding we gain from the knowledge is equally important.  As a matter of fact, Hosea 4:6 goes as far to say that without knowledge, God's people are destroyed.   That was true for Israel in Old Testament times and it is true for Christians and the church in New Testament times.


Note that in verse 3 God calls Israel, and n this case the southern kingdom of Judah, "my people".  This term is a covenantal term.  It speaks to the Abrahamic Covenant where God took Abraham and promised to make him into a people who belonged to Him.  It is important to know that nothing has changed the promises found in the Abrahamic Covenant.  God has not rejected national Israel as His people.  He has also not redefined His people to be the church as Replacement Theology teaches.


God calls Israel "His people" in verse 3, but in verse 4 He call Israel "a sinful nation".  First of all, the Hebrew "gowy" is translated as "nation" in this verse.  More often than not, the word "gowy" in the Old Testament is in reference to Gentile nations.  "Gowy" is often translated as "Gentile".  For Go to use a word that Israelis would use fro Gentiles, should be very disturbing to them.  Then, to add the word "sinful" in front of "gowy", well, this would be doubly disturbing. 


The text says, "a people loaded down with guilt".  This is how God viewed Judah.  They might not have viewed themselves as being loaded down with anything.   Many were enjoying the good life, but the good life without serving God, is a life of guilt, where one realizes it or not.


We need to understand that guilt is not a feeling.  We may say, "I feel guilty". But again, guilt is not a feeling.  Guilt is a position in which we stand before the Lord, whether we have any feelings associated with guilt or not.  When a judge pronounces someone guilty, he is guilty, whether he feels guilty or not.  Many are pronounced guilty in a court of law and don't feel guilty. Whether those in Judah felt guilty or not, does not matter.  They were guilty, and they were loaded down with guilt.


In verse 3 God says that the southern kingdom is a "brood of evildoers".  Like a brood of satanic snake, thee people were evil through and through. They were born into evil as the next phrase suggests.  "Children given to corruption".  They were born into corruption and corruption is all they knew. 


When God says that they "have forsaken the Lord", the verb tense here suggests that these people have "willingly and knowingly" forsaken their God.


The term "Holy One of Israel" is a term mostly used by Isaiah in the Bible for Yahweh.


In verses 5 and 6 God portrays Judah as a very sick man.  Judah's head is injured and his heart is afflicted,  From the sole of his foot to his head there are open sores, wounds, whelps, and on it goes.  This paints a very sickly picture of Judah.  This is what a nation looks like when it leaves the God of the Bible out of its national consensus.  So, to begin verse 5, God simply asks "why".  In the midst of this grave illness, why do you persist in rebelling against God.  I believe you can ask the same question of today's western world, and really, the whole world.                      


In verses 7 and 8 God speaks in plain language to these people.  He is not speaking figuratively as He did in the last two verses. He is describing their present conditions.  Judah is now on the decline.  They are falling from their height of success.  Their fields and cities are being destroyed in multiple ways.  Both their economy and the military defense is rotting away.  The fields are being stripped by foreigners. Their cities are being invaded.  It seems like military losses and economic losses go hand in hand when a nation falls in judgment to God.  Both the military and economic losses are clearly seen in verses 7 and 8.


Note in Verse 8 the term "Daughter of Zion".  This term is often used in the Old Testament for Jerusalem.   The Hebrew word "tslyown" that is transliterated into English as "Zion" means "sunny"  Judah was to be a sunny happy place to live, but is far from that.  The use of " Zion" is more a matter of irony than anything else.  It is contrasted by the use of Judah being compared to Sodom and Gomorrah in verse 9.  I would imagine any resident of the southern kingdom who heard Isaiah call them Sodomites as he does in verse 10, would be pretty upset. 


Here is an example of how Isaiah helps you understand the book of Revelation.  In Revelation 11:8, the text calls Jerusalem "Sodom".  You might just wonder why this is so.  Well, right here in Isaiah, God compares Judah , which would include its capital Jerusalem to Sodom.  He even calls Judah "Sodom" in verse 10.


Note in verse 8 the words "shelter" and "huts".  Israelis would build little flimsy huts to protect them from the elements while working in the fields.  Once the season was over, they'd leave most of these huts and the wind would blow them over and they'd soon fall apart.   


Verse 9 speaks of survivors.  This is the idea of the "remnant of Israel".  There will always be a remnant of Israel who will follow their Lord.  This is a theme that runs through the Bible.  The apostle Paul speaks of this remnant in Romans 9 through 11.  It is my thinking that just as there is a remnant of Israel, there is a remnant of the church.  Just as Paul spoke of not all Israel being Israel, so I believe that not all who are church are church.  That is, not all people under the umbrella of what we call church is actually in the true church of God.  God has a remnant, a group of people among a larger group of people, in both Israel and the church.


In verse 10 the rulers of Jerusalem are called the rulers of Sodom.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem are called the people of Gomorrah.  They are to listen to the word of God.  Again, we see how sinful Jerusalem had become, and I suggest that due to the fact that God calls Jerusalem Sodom and Gomorrah , there must be homosexuality in Jerusalem, in the city that God loves.


In Revelation 11:8 God calls Jerusalem Sodom.  Without knowing this verse, you might wonder why God would call the city He loves Sodom.  Here we see why God call Jerusalem Sodom in Revelation 11:8.  This tells me that the best way to understand the book of Revelation is to understand the Old Testament.    


Verse 11 shows us just how upset God is over the situation in Judah and Jerusalem.  He was the one who instituted the animal sacrifices as seen in the Law of Moses, but here is says that He is fed up with their sacrifices.  The verb phrase in verse 11, "I have more than enough" is translated from the Hebrew words meaning, "bloated, or sick to the stomach".  In other words, God is sick to the stomach, ready to vomit, because of the hypocritical sacrifices Israelis are making.  They're caught in tradition, but have forsaken the Lord in the midst of their tradition.  It's just empty hollow tradition.  It's meaningless.


Verse 12 says that "when you come to meet with me…"  When Israel, and the church today, meet together, the point is that we are not to meet just with each other.  We are to meet with the Lord.  Israelis no longer had fellowship with their God, just like many Christians no longer have fellowship with God in their gatherings. 


In verse 14 God went as far to say, "stop bringing your sacrifices".  This is the same God that commanded Israelis to bring sacrifices to Him.  Sacrifices without faith, trust, and holy living, meant nothing to God.  He'd refer both the sacrifices and the holy living, but if there was no holy living, He'd rather not have the rituals or the meetings.  This is one very relevant passage for today's church who in many cases are no different than the southern kingdom in Isaiah's day.


Judah's religiosity as seen in verse 14 is actually a burden to the Lord.  It makes Him weary.  Even when Judah prays, no matter how many prayers she utters, God will hide His eyes.  It's like Israelis lift their hands in prayer and God covers His eyes with His hands.


Verse 15 ends with "your hands are full of blood".  In some cases this is literal murder.  In other cases this would be symbolic.  Hands raised in prayer should be hands used in serving the needy.     


Verses 16 and 17 are all about repentance.  Judah was used to living the good life.  They thought little about the poor, the widows, and the fatherless.  True repentance would be seen in the fact that Israelis would give heart felt attention to the needs of these people.


Verse 18 is a well known Evangelical verse.  "Come let us reason together …"  God is not saying, "let's get together and sit down and work out some kind of mutual agreement".  He is asking Israelis to come To come and make His understanding of things their understanding of things.


The rest of verse 18 is predictive of the gospel of Christ.  Right here in the midst of all the condemnation that God is heaping on Judah, comes the possibility of salvation for the condemned.  How wonderful this is.  There is hope in the midst of sin. Our sins that are red, will become white as snow.  Our sinned will be wiped out of the records of the Lord.  Again, this was accomplished on the cross of Christ, some 700 years after Isaiah spoke these words.


With the word "snow" in mind, those of us who live in climates where it snows in the winter know all about snow.  A fresh covering of snow is a beautiful sight to see, but, and especially in the city, when dirt, road salt, and mud, appear along with the snow, that which was beautiful looking becomes pretty ugly looking.  This reminds me of back sliding Christians.  Once one's sin is covered over and then one begins to repeat the sins that are covered over, he is a pretty ugly sight.   


Verse 19 says that "if you are willing and obedient, you will eat the fat of the land".  God's blessings depends on our willingness to obey, and, when it comes to the gospel of Christ this passage is now dealing with, obedience is seen in faith.  Obedience is not merely seen in works, but works done from a pure heart of faith and a life that has been given in trust to Jesus.    


There's a big "but' in verse 20.  If Judah is not willing to obey, "she will be devoured by the sword", and that she was.  Nations today have the same choice. Either be willing to obey the Lord Jesus Christ or fall by the sword.  Western nations are about to fall by the sword today because they are turning from God.


At this point I simply want to remind you that God doesn't just deal with individuals.  He deals with nations, with political jurisdictions.  This is often overlooked in many Christian circles. 


The "faithful city" in verse 21 is Jerusalem, but she is no longer faithful.  She has become a harlot.  This would be both a literal and a symbolic harlot.   Israelis were committing spiritual fornication and adultery by uniting pagan religion with Judaism.  They were also committing indecent sexual acts among themselves, thus the reason for God calling Jerusalem Sodom.


Judah, once was rule by justice, but no more.  This too looks more and more like western society.  We have our laws, but there are more murders in western society these days than ever before. 


Verses 22 and 23 speak of the collapse of the southern kingdom's economy.  For example, their silver becomes worthless.  Bribes are the norm.   Neglect of the real poor is everywhere.  Again, it sounds like our western nations today.


In verse 24 God actually calls Judah His enemy.  Israel is to be God's holy people, and now, she has become His unholy enemy.


Verse 25 says that God will turn His hand against Judah, He will get rid of their dross and remove their impurities.  This verse is not speaking of the cross of Christ.  It is speaking about national judgment on Israel.  The cross does do all of the above if one is willing to embrace the cross, but if not, judgment is meant to bring  both individuals and nations to their knees.  This is what verse 25 means. 


Verse 26 begins with "I will restore …"  Judgment is for a reason.  Judgment is meant to produce repentance.  Repentance then brings restoration, as we see here.


The first thing restored, and we're talking specifically about Jerusalem here, is justice to the city.  God actually calls Jerusalem "the City of Righteousness"  here.  How interesting.  In one chapter, Jerusalem turns from being Sodom to the City of Righteousness. 


Zion in verse 27 refers to Jerusalem, and she will experience redemption.  She will be purchased back for the reason she came into existence.


Has any of these things happened to Jerusalem.  No. Not as yet.  This is yet to be fulfilled at the end of this age.


When verse 27 speaks of Zion being redeemed with justice, this is speaking of God's justice towards Judah.  Justice demands judgment when a nation refuses to repent.  The judgment is meant to bring that nation to its knees in repentance, and if that happens, then, redemption is possible.  This will be the eventual outcome with Judah at the return of Jesus to earth.  It is important to understand that this redemption is only possible because of the cross of Christ. 


Verse 28 speaks of the rebelliousness of Judah being broken.  Verse 29 speaks of Israelis being ashamed of their sinful past.  Again, this will come about at the end of this age.


Verses 30 and 31 end this chapter.  It gives a picture of a glorious and victorious Jerusalem, standing strong and tall in the ways of the Lord.  This is a prophecy of how Jerusalem will be at some point in the future.  It was meant to be an encouragement for Judah to repent.  But Judah didn't repent, and they would fall to the Babylonians.  That being said, God's predictive words will come true.  You can count on that.        


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