A Priest, a Torah scribe and an historian go out to parley with the leader of a vast army carrying nothing more than some styli and parchment…
Compare 2 Kings 18:13-37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-16
Chapters 36 -39 are an historical supplement to the prophecies of 1 – 35. Beginning at the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, these chapters record the literal fulfillment of many of the prophecies of the first 35 chapters and act as a link between the first and second prophetic themes.
The events of chapter 36 are also recorded in 2 Kings 18:13-37 with some minor additions and textual variations. This period of history is also discussed in 2 Chronicles 32:1-16. Each of these records illuminates the other.
It is impossible to know whether the Isaiah account predates the 2 Kings account. However, the prophet’s habit of inserting historical information into his proclamations (e.g. 7:1-6; 8:1-4; 20:1; 22:15) along with the style of Hebrew used and the references in Chronicles 26:22 and 32:32 to Isaiah’s historical and geographical activities, suggest that the present record (perhaps written by Asaph the recorder [v3]) is the original and or was recorded at the same time as the slightly more detailed 2 Kings account. Regardless, the multiple accounts only serve to affirm the historical accuracy of these events which are also attested to by ancient Assyrian records of the invasion of Judea in 701 BCE. Some will say that because the 2 Kings account is slightly more detailed that it must be the original, however, In the example of the repetitious accounts of Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 24:18-25:30, we have a proof that the text of a passage may be more faithfully preserved in a second location than it is in its original form. Therefore, as I stated previously, it is impossible to know without doubt which of the texts is the original.
One of the strongest themes of this chapter is the arrogance and ignorance of the Assyrian king. This is faced in stark contrast by the vulnerable and frightened religious leaders and the historian sent to parley with the Rav-Shakeih (Great Cupbearer). Verse 3 almost sounds like the beginning of a bad joke “A Priest, a Torah scribe and an historian go out to parley with the leader of a vast army carrying nothing more than some styli and parchment…”
Isa 36:1 And it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH), that Sancheiriyv (Sennacherib: Sin (Moon god) send many brothers) king of Ashur (Assyria: a step) came up against all the fortified cities of Yehudah (Judah: praise), and took them.
2 Kings 18:13 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them.
2 Kings 18:14 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended you; turn away from me: that which you have put on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
2 Kings 18:15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house.
2 Kings 18:16 At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
As mentioned in the introduction, Assyrian records detail the invasion of Judea in 701 BCE and the conquest of forty six cities but not Jerusalem.
It is no coincidence that these things began to happen in Hezekiah’s 14th year. 14 is 2 x 7 which is a number for completion. Thus, twice complete, the prophecies of the former chapters, being firmly established begin to manifest themselves literally before the eyes of all Israel.
Prior to the threats of Sennacherib via his messenger the Rav-Shakeih, we are blessed with the promise revealed in the meaning of Hezekiah’s name. “Chizki My strength Yahu He is YHVH Mercy”. Judah has sinned and is worthy of discipline, king Hezekiah, as we will soon see, is no perfect chassid (saint): however, Judah’s deliverance is not reliant on her righteousness but on the righteous strength of Hashem.
Against this Jewish king’s wonderful name we have Sancheiriyv, meaning “The moon god sends many brothers”. The Islamic world would do well to heed the warning inferred in this ancient narrative. Allah (feminine moon deity symbolized by the crescent moon) will send many brothers against Jerusalem (The Temple mount, Israel, the Jewish people) but the fate of those who despise the God of Israel and his people will be like that of the Assyrian Empire, they will cease to exist.
It is important to note that the additional events given in the 2 Kings account occurred prior to the events of verse 2. It is Hezekiah’s faithlessness toward God that precedes the encounter that follows. Hezekiah had clearly lacked trust in God and or disbelieved the prophecies of Isaiah to some degree until it was almost too late. By giving Sennacherib the silver from the Temple of God Hezekiah would have been seen to be symbolically submitting the God of Israel to the moon deity (and or other gods) of Assyria. By giving the treasures of his own house to Sennacherib he would have been seen to be symbolically submitting the kingship of Judah (and Israel) to Sennacherib, who boasted that he was the “Great King”. Hezekiah even went as far as removing the gold plating from the Temple doors and the pillars, gold that he himself had installed in an act of worship to God.
We have much to learn from Hezekiah’s actions. In many ways he was a devoted follower of Hashem but in many other ways he showed that he was prone to focus on temporal things and take his eyes off God’s eternal purposes. We are fools to take back those things that have previously been given over to God in worship and give them to the enemy of our faith. This happens when we take our eyes off eternal Mercy (HaShem) and instead submit our gaze to temporal fear. This is why Yochanan writes:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” -1 John 4:18
Isa 36:2 And the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step) sent Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) from Lachiysh (invincible: south of Jerusalem in the territory of Judah) to Yerushalayim (Flood of peace: Jerusalem) unto king Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper ha-bereichah pool (from barak: bless, kneel) by the highway near the field of choveis those who clean clothes by treading them down in water (a fuller).
2 Kings 18:17 And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan (General) and the Rab-saris (Great Eunich) and the Rab-shakeh (Great Cupbearer) from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller's field.
The 2 Kings account adds two officials to the Rab-shakeh’s visit. This creates a balance between parties and sets the scene more thoroughly in order to give a greater sense of the pride of Assyria and the vulnerability of Judah. The plurality of the Assyrian party is presupposed by Isaiah 37:6, 24.
We notice that among the representatives of Judah there is no general or men of arms of any kind. As is often the case throughout Jewish history we Jews turn up to war with our Torah and history in hand. It is no wonder then that we are called people of the Book by some. While we don’t necessarily prove the adage “the pen is mightier than the sword”, it is true to say that in the end we trust in the Word that the pen engraves and that along with David the righteous among us proclaim “My heart is stirred with a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.”
“Rav-shakeih” is a title rather than a proper noun. It translates literally as great drink giver or great irrigator, which is an idiomatic way of saying that this man is Sennacherib’s wine taster, his cup bearer, a man trusted to ensure that the king is not poisoned by a usurper or an enemy of the state. Thus Sennacherib puts his own words in the mouth of his most trusted subordinate. It is possible, due to his familiarity with the Hebrew language, that Rav-shakeih was an apostate Jew who was now in the service of Sennacherib.
“Lachish” is a city within the territory of Judah (Joshua 15:39) 12 hours walk south-west of Jerusalem. It’s known today by the tel (mound/hill) that adorns the landscape, thus Tel Lachish. It was the gateway city to the main trade route south toward Egypt and was thus an extremely important strategic location. Sennacherib was in the midst of besieging Lachish when he sent the Rav-shakeih to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:9).
The pool mentioned is obviously close to the city walls given the fact that those on the walls could hear Rav-sakeih’s message spoken in Hebrew. Ben Melekh describes the pool, conduit, and highway:
“the pool is a ditch, built with stone and lime, where rainwater was collected, or where they drew water from the fountain, and the waters were gathered into this pool; and there was in this pool a hole, which they stopped, until the time they pleased to fetch water, out of the pool: and the conduit was a ditch near to the pool, and they brought water out of the pool into the conduit, when they chose to drink, or wash garments: the highway was a way paved with stones, so that they could walk upon it in rainy days; and here they stood and washed their garments in the waters of the conduit, and in the field they spread them to the sun.”
Isa 36:3 Then came out toward him Eleyakiym (God raises, arises), son of Chilkiyahu (My portion, territory, is YHVH), which was over ha-bayt the house, and Shevna (vigour, tender youth) ha-sofeir the scribe, and Yoach (YHVH a brother), son of Asaph (gatherer), ha-mazekiyr the recorder (from zakar: remember).
2 Kings 18:18 And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.
“Came out to him” means that they were sent out by Hezekiah. The Rav-Shakeih’s insolent words tell us that he would not have been above breaking protocol and calling the king of Judah out had he not been met promptly by Hezekiah’s officials.
It is interesting to note that the corresponding account in 2 Kings has a Deuteronomic tone, while the account in 2 Chronicles has a more historical sound. It is possible that Shevna was responsible for the 2 Kings account, being a scribe (Theological), while Yoach recorded the 2 Chronicle account in the historical style commonly employed by a recorder, chronicler, historian.
“Ha-Bayt” The House, is a title for the Temple. Thus, Eleyakiym was Priest of Hashem.
“Ha-Sofeir” The Scribe, is a title given to the chief scribe responsible for maintaining the accurate transmission of the Torah. Thus, Shevna was the keeper of the Torah.
“Ha-mazekiyr” The recorder, is a title given to the chronicler of historical events. Thus, Yoach was responsible for the accurate transmission of Israel’s history at the time of Hezekiah.
With the titles and roles of these three men in mind we’re able to see a certain prophetic continuity in their names:
· Eleyakiym, God raises up Mount Zion (The House, Har Bayt) above all other mountains (Micah 4:1).
· Shevna, vigorous and tender the Torah of the Lord goes out from Mount Zion (Micah 4:2).
· Yoach, Adonai a brother through Yeshua the King Messiah Immanuel [with us God](Hebrews 2:11; Luke 8:21), the living Word Who goes out from Jerusalem (Micah 4:2).
Therefore, it isn’t against men that Rav-Shevna (On behalf of Sennacherib) of Assyria has come to speak but against The House of God, The Torah of HaShem, and the promised King Messiah of Israel.
Note also the names of the fathers of these men:
· Chilkiyahu, HaShem is my portion and territory, He secures His territory.
· Asaph, gatherer of Israel.
During this season (See the following chapters) Hezekiah chooses to humble himself and place his trust in God as his portion, hoping that God will secure the territory of Judah. In addition, those of the tribe of Judah who have fled their ransacked cities and towns are gathered together in Jerusalem so that Hashem might deliver them from Sennacherib.
Isa 36:4 And Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) said to them, “Say you now to Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH), Thus says ha-gadol melek the great king, the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step), ‘What is ha-bitachon the trust ha-zeh the thing you’re batachta trusting?
2 Kings 18:19 And Rabshakeh said unto them, “Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this you trust in?”
A portion of the Rav-Sakeih’s address on behalf of Sennacherib is also recorded in 2 Chronicles 32:10-12.
In a very real sense king Sennacherib is speaking directly to the three emissaries of Hezekiah as a sort of antithesis to God’s speaking to Israel through His prophet Isaiah.
“Ha-gadol Melek” The great king, is another way of saying “King of kings”, a title for God (Psalm 95:3) and thus, blasphemous. “The great king” is the standing royal title attributed to the names of Sargon and Sennacherib upon the Assyrian monuments.
“The thing” Rav-shakeih is referring to is Egypt, who he later calls a “broken reed” (v.6).
The form of trust referred to is batach, meaning a continued choice.
Isa 36:5 I say, ach surely, with devar-sefatayim a word of binding language I have counselled ugevurah and strengthened for war: now on whom do you batachta trust, that you rebel against me?
2 Kings 18:20 “You say, (but they are vain words,) ‘I have counsel and strength for the war.’ Now on whom do You trust, that you rebel against me?”
Kimchi suggests that the first section is intended to be understood as the mocked words of Hezekiah and the latter part Rav-shakeih’s commentary on them. In other words, Hezekiah says “But I’ve been strengthened by wise counsel and have prepared for war” and Rav-Shakeih mocks saying “Now on whom do you place your trust?”
2 Chronicles 32:3 tells us that Hezekiah had taken counsel from his princes and mighty men and had stopped up the water supplies that surrounded the city in preparation for the coming invasion.
Isa 36:6 Hinei Now, behold, pay attention, you batachta trust in the staff of this broken reed, on Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress); which if a man lean on it, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: this is what Pharaoh (great house) king of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress) does to all that trust in him.
2 Kings 18:21 “Now, behold, you trust upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust on him.”
It is worth reminding ourselves at this point that Lachish, from where Sennacherib’s emissary had come, was the key city in securing access to the main trading route between Judah and Egypt.
The reed is an appropriate figure for Egypt given the rich Nile delta and the prolific number of reeds and other water born vegetation. The Hebrew ratztutz does not mean bruised or fragile but broken. Egypt’s royal family had been literally broken by both the Ethiopians (Isaiah 18:1-7) and by Sargon (Isaiah 20:1-6).
Isa 36:7 But if you say to me, “We trust in Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) Eloheiynu our God”: is it not He, whose high places and whose altars Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) has turned aside, and said to Yehudah (Judah: praise) and to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Flood of peace), “lifnei before the face of ha-mizbeiach the altar, ha-zeh this one You will worship”?
2 Kings 18:22 “But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God’: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?’”
The wording of the 2 Kings account clarifies the fact that the altar that Judah is using is the altar of the Temple mount in Jerusalem by adding the simple phrase “in Jerusalem”.
“Ha-mizbeiach” The Altar, is a reference to the altar of HaShem on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Hezekiah had restricted the worship of HaShem to Jerusalem by removing the syncretistic and idolatrous altars elsewhere.
“He (Hezekiah) removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the occult groves, and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for in those days the children of Israel burned incense to it: and he called it Nechushtan (literally bronze thing from nachash: to practice divination).” -2 Kings 18:4
The Rav-shakeih’s words show his ignorance concerning HaShem and the true worship practices of Israel’s righteous ones. He mistakenly links the high places to the worship of HaShem as if HaShem were a local cult deity limited by His attachment to the land. In fact, Hezekiah had done well to tear down the high places and their heathen altars.
Hezekiah had even gone so far as to break into pieces the sacred relic of the staff and bronze snake which Moses had used as a call sign in the healing of the nation. Hezekiah did this in order to make a clear distinction between the worship of God (Israel’s healer) and the idolatry of worshipping a symbol used in His healing work. We too are deluded if we think idolatry is confined to the statues and beliefs of foreign religions. To place anyone or anything above God is idolatry.
Ironically, by reminding Hezekiah and his officials of their righteous action he was in fact directing them back into the arms of the only One who could truly save them from Sennacherib and his armies.
Isa 36:8 Now therefore come and make an exchange with adoniy my lord ha-melek the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step), and I will give you two thousand horses, if you’re able for your part to set riders on them.
2 Kings 18:23 “Now therefore, I plead with you, give a pledge to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver you two thousand horses, if you be able on your part to set riders upon them.”
This is no more than a taunt. Rav-shakeih knows that Judah doesn’t have the numbers of riders needed to man two thousand horses.
The “exchange” was the sending of Judeans to live among the Assyrians and become part of their empire, often meaning that they would become indentured servants, soldiers etc. This was common practice for both the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
Isa 36:9 How then will you turn away the face of even one commander of the least of adoniy my lord's servants, va-tivtach lecha and put your trust on Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress) for chariots and horsemen?
2 Kings 18:24 “How then will you turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put you trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?”
This verse is self-explanatory. Neither Egypt nor Judah had the numbers to man their respective horses and chariots. Therefore, trusting in chariots and horsemen was at best laughable and at worst futile. Both Hezekiah and Judah will do well to place their trust in Hashem instead:
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” -Psalm 20:7
Isa 36:10 And am I now come up without Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) against ha-aretz the land to destroy it? Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) said to me, “Go up against ha-aretz the land, and destroy it.”
2 Kings 18:25 “Am I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it.’”
While it is true that in a more general sense God did send Assyria against Israel and Judah in order to discipline His chosen people, it is not true that either Rav-shakeih or Sennacherib had any relationship with the God of Israel that might afford them a direct commandment from the mouth of HaShem. This is a blasphemous lie spoken without fear in the name of a God Who will make Himself fearfully known to the Assyrians in due course.
Isa 36:11 Then said Eleyakiym (God raises, arises) and Shevna (vigour, tender youth) and Yoach (YHVH a brother) to Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer), “Daber Speak, I plead with you, to your servants in Aramiyt Aramaic (the Assyrian language); for we understand it: and don’t speak to us Yehudiyt (in the Jews' language), in the ears (in the hearing) of the people that are on the wall.”
2 Kings 18:26 Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna, and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, “Speak, I beg you, to your servants in Aramaic; for we understand it: and talk not with us in the Jews' language in the ears of the people that are on the wall.”
It is likely that Eleyakim spoke on behalf of the others seeing that he was the priest and was responding to what was effectively a blasphemous tirade.
The Lingua franca (trading language) of the day was Aramiyt. However, in order to cause panic among the people of Jerusalem Rav-shakeih was intentionally speaking Yehudiyt, another way of saying Ivriyt (Hebrew), the language of the Jews. This was what passed for psychological warfare at the turn of the sixth century BCE.
Isa 36:12 But Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) said, “Has adoniy my lord sent me to Adoneycha your Lord and to you to speak these words? Has he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own excrement, and drink their own piss with you?”
2 Kings 18:27 But the Rab-shakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me to your master, and to you, to speak these words? has he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?”
The graphic language concerning excrement and piss is both mocking and tactical. This idiom infers that the city will run out of food and water and become so desperate that the residents will eat their own excrement and drink their own urine.
Isa 36:13 Then Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer) stood, and cried with a loud voice in Yehudiyt (the Jews' language), and said, “Hear you the words of ha-gadol melek the great king, the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step).
2 Kings 18:28 Then the Rab-shakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and spoke, saying, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria:”
Rav-shakeih intends this as a blatant slight against the request of Eleyakim and the Jews. However, unbeknownst to him he has sealed the fate of Assyria with a blasphemous challenge to the Authority and Kingship of the One true King of the universe Hashem YHVH. Sennacherib is not simply claiming dominion over Israel, he is claiming all dominion. This has been the great mistake of all who throughout history have sought to destroy the Jewish people. They have neglected to pay attention to the fact that God has placed his Name on Israel (Yisra Overcome El in God). Over 360 times in the Tanakh God is referred to either directly or indirectly as El-Elohaiy-YisraEl, “God the God of Israel”.
Isa 36:14 Thus says the king, ‘Let not Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) deceive you: for he will not be able to deliver you.
2 Kings 18:29 “Thus says the king, ‘Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand:’”
It is of course true that the man Hezekiah will not be able to save Judah. However, HaShem will deliver her.
Isa 36:15 Neither let Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) yabetach make you trust in Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), saying, ‘Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will surely deliver us: this city will not be delivered into the hand of the king of Ashur (Assyria: a step).’
2 Kings 18:30 “Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.’”
Hezekiah may well have been encouraging the people of Jerusalem with the words already spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“As birds afoot hovering (lighting upon), so will HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Goes warring) of hosts be upon Yerushalayim to defend and deliver her, pasakh He will pass over and affect her escape.” -Isaiah 31:5
Isa 36:16 Don’t listen to Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH): for thus says the king of Ashur (Assyria), ‘Make an agreement with me by berachah a blessing, and come out to me: and eat you every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink you every one the waters of his own cistern;
2 Kings 18:31 “Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus says the king of Assyria, ‘Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat you every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern:’”
While the p’shat plain meaning denotes a peace accord based on Judah’s surrender, there is a rather obvious remez (hint) in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew “berachah” is literally “blessing”. This means that the text can be understood to mean both agreement in a secular sense and blessing in the sense of spiritual approval. Thus Sennacherib is asking the Jews to make an agreement that denies both their ethnic and spiritual identities. The sad reality is that if Judah had accepted this proposal they would soon have discovered that many of them would not benefit in the ways promised.
The final clause may also infer an offer of protection from sexual defilement at the hands of the invading army. This due to the fact that drinking from one’s own cistern is a Hebrew euphemism for a man having sexual relations with his wife.
“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” -Proverbs 5:15
Isa 36:17 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread (food) and vineyards.
2 Kings 18:32 “Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that you may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuades you, saying, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’”
Rav-shakeih employs language similar to that of Deuteronomy 8:8, affirming the adage that “the Devil puts a little truth in every lie”.
Isa 36:18 lest Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) persuade you, saying, “Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will deliver us.” Have any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Ashur (Assyria)?
2 Kings 18:33 “Has any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?”
Once again Rav-shakeih and by proxy Sennacherib make the mistake of impugning the character of God, likening Him to the gods of other lands. The Assyrians might just have well cut their own throats.
“Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” -Exodus 15:11
“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.” -Exodus 18:11
“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods.” –1 Chronicles 16:35
“And the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods.” -2 Chronicles 2:5
Isa 36:19 Where are the gods of Chamat (Fortress) and Arphad (I will be supported)? where are the gods of Sepharvayim (Two booktowns)? and have they delivered Shomron (Samaria: watch mountain) out of my hand?
2 Kings 18:34 “Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?”
The 2 Kings account adds two cities to the list of places whose gods have failed to defeat the king of Assyria: Hena, meaning troubling, a city once located in what is now modern day Iraq; and Ivah, meaning ruin, another city conquered by the Assyrians which was located on the Euphrates river between Sepharvaim and Hena.
Isa 36:20 Who are there among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) could deliver Yerushalayim (Jerusalem: Flood of peace) out of my hand?”
2 Kings 18:35 “Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?”
Rav-shakeih hammers the final nail into the Assyrian coffin, claiming in Sennacherib’s name that YHVH cannot deliver Judah out of the Assyrian’s hand.
Isa 36:21 vayachariyshu But they were ploughed, silent, speechless, and they didn’t answer a word: for the king's had commanded them, saying, “Don’t answer him.”
2 Kings 18:36 But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, “Answer him not.”
The officials’ obedience to Hezekiah’s instruction shows their righteous character. They have clearly been unsettled by the words of Rav-shakeih, however, they remain committed to the king of Judah and to their God. After all, not all in Judah had been guilty of idolatry, and during Hezekiah’s reign it follows that righteous men were given position in the priesthood and in the court of Hezekiah.
By keeping silent in the face of the blasphemous challenge of Sennacherib, the leaders of Judah left room for God’s answer to pervade.
“Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.” -Deuteronomy 32:35
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” -Romans 12:19
Isa 36:22 Then Eleyakiym (God raises, arises), son of Chilkiyahu (My portion, territory, is YHVH), which was over ha-bayt the house, and Shevna (vigour, tender youth) ha-sofeir the scribe, and Yoach (YHVH a brother), son of Asaph (gatherer), ha-mazekiyr the recorder (from zakar: remember), went to Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah: my strength is YHVH) with their clothes torn, and told him the words of Rav-shakeih (Rav Great shakah drink giver: Chief Cupbearer).
2 Kings 18:37 Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
The tearing of garments was done only at times of great grief. It is also done as a sign of repentance along with the donning of sackcloth and throwing dust on ones’ self. The officials were obviously terrified by what they had heard and returned to Hezekiah looking like men who had just looked death in the face. This is the catalyst for Hezekiah’s response in the following chapter.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
We are first speaking of ethnic Israel and then speaking of both ethnic Israel and the redeemed among the nations. To neglect the former negates the latter.
Chapters 34 and 35 detail the doom of Edom and the return to the land of the redeemed people of Israel. These chapters are act as an epilogue of what some call the “Book of Wows”.
In these chapters the prophet looks beyond the punishing of Assyria and its judgement and eventual destruction to the judgement of all the ungodly nations of the world. Edom, a brother to Israel, had acted in an unbrotherly way toward Israel during her distress. Edom, while a literal ethnic title, is also used as a personification of all those who have come against God and His people. Edom is seen as a representation of that which is evil within the human race and is prophesied to share the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Chapter 34 details the fate of Edom which is almost identical to that of Babylon. Some critiques mistakenly presume that this is proof of a post exilic dating for this text, however, it is more reasonable to conclude that the similar themes in Zechariah and Ezekiel are simply proof that Isaiah’s prophecies were well known to the latter prophets and that it was Isaiah’s scroll that influenced the latter prophets and not the other way around.
Chapter 35 is an exceptional poetic picture of the future redemption and return of Israel both spiritual and physical. It provides a stark contrast to the judgement, punishment and desolation of Edom, the evil nations of world who have sought come against God and His redemptive purpose for humanity.
Isa 35:1 Ye’susum Rejoice midbar wilderness (from the Word) and tziyah dryness (dry place) vetageil and be glad aravah desert plain; ve’tifrach and blossom kachavatztzalet as the rose, meadow saffron, crocus.
The previous chapter ends with Edom’s (Enemies of God and Israel) land being turned into a place of perpetual desolation, dryness. Whereas this chapter begins and ends with Israel’s desert and wilderness being transformed into well-watered blossoming pasture land.
The Hebrew word midbar (Wilderness), as previously discussed in my commentary on Isaiah 32, is a contraction meaning “from the Word, essence, thing”. Thus, rejoicing comes from the Word (John 1), and from within Zion.
The Hebrew tziyah “dryness”, is the root for the noun Tziyon (Zion: parched land). Therefore, the dry land of the desert is a personification of Tziyon. Zion is to rejoice and be glad from her interaction with the Word (The Messiah Yeshua). As a result she will blossom like the rose or meadow saffron, both beautiful and fragrant blooms.
The wilderness is a place of nourishment for the people of Israel. Her journey through the wilderness after escaping her captivity in Egypt resulted in her spiritual formation, and prepared her for what was ahead of her in the promised land. Revelation 12:14 describes Israel’s original exodus retrospectively and leaves open the possibility that the future may yet hold a wilderness experience for the ethnic people of Israel.
As a remez (hint) from the Hebrew text we can read “Rejoice from the Word in your wilderness experience, and you dry ones (Tziyah: residents of Zion) be glad even as far as the arabah (the desert parts of your God given land), behold, God is making you blossom and prosper.”
Rav Moses Hakkohen writes that there are two opinions as to the specific nature of this prophecy. One opinion suggests that this describes the state of Israel in the time of the Messiah’s reign, and the other suggests that it refers to the peaceful state of Judah following the Assyrian withdrawal in 704 BCE. In fact both interpretations are valid. The perpetual nature of Hebrew prophecy allows for both.
Isa 35:2 Paroach buding, sprouting, tifrach bud, sprout, (abundantly), vetageil and be glad with giylat joy veranein and overcome, shout: Kevod the glory of ha-levanon the Lebanon (witness) nitan-lah will be given to her, hadar the splendour of ha-Carmel the Carmel (Garden land) and ha-Sharon the Sharon (plain north of Jaffa between the central mountains of Israel and the Mediterranean Sea), they will see Khevod-YHVH the glory of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), the splendour of Eloheiynu our God (Judge).
We note that the “budding, sprouting” from the root parach, is doubled at the beginning of this verse and infers abundance while also reminding the reader that the future blossoming and rejoicing of Israel has been firmly established by God.
Ibn Ezra is right in saying that this text refers to the land of Israel or Jerusalem itself, and that the “They” of the final clause refers to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This is affirmed by the 2nd century Targum Yonatan which reads;
“the house of Israel, to whom these things are said, they shall see,''
We further observe that while the favoured English translation is “With great joy and singing”, the Hebrew root ranan literally means to overcome and can mean to shout or cry out but at best can only be rendered as singing in a figurative sense. Therefore, I have chosen to translate the Hebrew as an “overcoming shout” rather than as “singing”.
“The Lebanon (witness)” in this context probably refers to a specific mountain in Judea famous for its tall cedars and green appearance rather than to Israel’s northern neighbours. It alludes to both the physical appearance of the mountain and perhaps also to the future physical appearance of the “witness” who will precede the Messiah, that is Elijah. The kevod glory is associated with the Lebanon, whereas hadar beauty, which infers a more earthly affiliation, is connected to the Carmel and the Sharon (two locations within the territory of Judah famous for their fruitful pasture land).
In using all three locations to refer to the coming redemption of the land, the prophet is showing that this redemption will cover the entire land of Israel.
The kevod (heavenly glory) and the hadar (earthly beauty) will be united and as a result the people will see the Khevod HaShem the glory of Mercy and the Hadar Elohiym the beauty of His judgement. The couplets within the Hebrew poetic-prophetic text are intended to give a sense of something established outside of time and space that is to take place within time and space.
Isa 35:3 Chazeku Strengthen you yadiym the hands of rafot the weak, uvirkayim and the knees of koshelot the stumbling ones ameitzu make strong, alert, courageous, brave, bold, solid, secure.
By far the majority of Jewish commentators attribute this verse to the Messianic age. These things did not occur during the reign of Hezekiah, it is therefore intellectually dishonest to suggest that they did.
Strength and courage are the result of the coming King’s (Isaiah 32) redeeming work. Hashem Himself will hold firm the shaking hands of the weak and give courage and stability to the stumbling ones. This applies both to the weakness of the body and that of the spirit, mind, and soul being. Hashem and His Mashiyach King will affect this transformation and regenerate the people of Israel and her land.
The hands symbolize human action and the legs represent the way we walk or live in a moral sense. Thus the coming Redeemer will replace the shaky and morally dubious actions of His people with the firm right action of His Spirit and will give His people the courage to walk rightly before Him in the presence of the Messianic King.
Isa 35:4 Say lenimhareiy to them that have an anxious, hurried, fearful lev core being (heart), “Chizku Be strong, al-tiyrau don’t fear (be afraid): hinei behold, Eloheiychem your God (Judge) nakam with vengeance will come, with a recompense Elohiym God (Judge); Hu yavo veyosha’achem He will come and save you (plural).
Ibn Ezra suggests that this verse is spoken to those who don’t believe this miracle could happen.
This wonderful message of assurance spoken to the ethnic people of Israel then and now is also available to all who would put their trust in Israel’s Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). What a wonderful encouragement it is to hear these words from the mouth of the Messiah:
“You who are anxious, hurried, fearful within your core being, be strong, don’t fear, listen to Me, your God is coming with vengeance against your enemies and His: your God, the Judge of the universe is coming to repay the wicked in justice; He will come and save you!”
I’m reminded of the comforting words chanted as we complete each book of the Torah and at the end of the Torah cycle:
“Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik.” Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened!”
Some shy away from talking about the vengeance of the Lord because they are under the delusion that this somehow impugns God’s character, it does not. God is just and His vengeance is just. There is security in knowing that the God in Whom we have placed our trust will be fierce in His administration of justice and in His protection over us His children, both redeemed ethnic Israel and Messiah following Gentiles. The Scriptures speak of the vengeance of God on many occasions and often in conjunction with His deliverance of ethnic religious Israel: Isaiah 61:2; Luke 21:22; Revelation 18:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
Recompense is reward to the righteous and punishment to the wicked (Rev. 11:18).
“He will come and save you”. The King Messiah came for the first time to perform the redeeming act of death and resurrection in order to make eternal deliverance possible for ethnic Israel and all humanity. And, although it is true that He has come to save you, it is also true that “He will come and save you”! In this context the prophet is speaking specifically to the ethnic people of Israel His chosen people. Yeshua the King Messiah has come to deliver us from sin and is coming again with vengeance and in order to bring judgement and recompense.
Notice that verse 4 uses only the Name of God that denotes judgement. Mercy (YHVH) and Judgement (Elohiym) begin this redemptive process (v. 2), but it is God as Judge Who saves (Yeshua) in the present verse. The King Messiah is coming again as a warrior, a fierce King, with judgement and recompense He will bring about the salvation of His brothers and sisters ethnic Israel. Make no mistake, God will keep His promises to ethnic Israel, not because of our righteousness but because of His. The Prince of Peace will again come to save us but this time He will be wearing the garments of war.
Isa 35:5 Then opened will be the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
These words taken literally refer to the physical events that directly correlate to this prophecy, those being the healing miracles of the King Messiah at His first coming, recorded in the Brit-Chadashah (New Testament): Matthew 9:27; John 9:1; Matthew 11:5.
We must however, go a step further, for this verse is also speaking of a time when this will happen in a general sense. Meaning that the eyes of all who are blind in Israel will be opened along with the unstopping of the ears of all in Israel who have been deaf. This refers without doubt to a spiritual blindness and a spiritual rebellion. These events, while having occurred in part in both the physical and spiritual due to Messiah’s saving work at His first coming, are yet to be fully filled. This yet future event is described in Romans 11 and will bring about the redemption of all of ethnic Israel.
Isa 35:6 Then yedaleig leaping like a deer piseiach a lame man, ve’taron and overcoming, shouting, leshon the tongue of ileim the dumb, silent, mute: ciy-nivkeu for breaking open, tearing, bamidbar in the wilderness (in and from the Word), mayim waters: unechaliym and a torrent ba’aravah in the steppe desert.
Once again the physical healing of the lame within Israel saw its fulfilment in the days of Yeshua the King Messiah’s first coming (Matthew 15:30; Acts 3:1). Likewise the healing of those unable to speak (Matthew 9:32; Matthew 12:22). However, the Targum rightly understands this as referring not only to physical healing but also to the spiritual redemption that the Messiah was to bring to ethnic Israel and the nations:
"then shall the eyes of the house of Israel be opened, who were as blind men as to the law; and the ears of them that are as deaf men, to attend to the words of the prophets shall hear; then when they shall see the captives of Israel gathered to go up to their own land as the swift harts, and not tarry,'' -Targum Yonatan (2 century BCE)
The lame man is symbolic of one whose purpose has been hindered by the sin affected world. His healing brings him into a place that exceeds all hope and causes him not just to walk but to leap. The one unable to speak has an impaired tongue or language. This is representative of a restriction that has been imposed upon his ability to communicate. Thus, the loosing of his tongue or language sets him free to communicate the righteousness of God to others. In one sense we might say that the Hebrew language had itself been restricted during the Hellenistic period and parts of later history but has now been loosed once more, this time as an everlasting language.
The Hebrew nechaliym (torrent) is from the root nachal “inherit, possess”.
The wording of the latter clause is beautiful and revealing:
“for breaking open, tearing, out of the wilderness ( from the Word), waters: and a torrent in the steppe desert.”
The waters will of course literally break forth to water crops and bring flowers into blossom, but the prophet intends much more and the prophetic meta-narrative of God demands it. Water is life and that life is born of God, poured out to us through His Messiah Yeshua Who said:
“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!” -Yochanan (John) 4:13-14 TLV
Notice that this water comes from our wilderness experience, from that time when we dwelt alongside the Mishkhan (Tent of the Presence). Wilderness life is hard but intimate, a trial that binds us together out of necessity. It is mi-from davar-the Word Himself, He Who bore our wilderness and suffered as we have, that the living water comes forth.
Look closely at the language. It is dishonest to translate nechaliym as streams: nachlah is a tearing, a torrent, a bursting forth. This is not a description of a trickling stream or otherwise, rather it is a an image of a gushing, bursting, fierce, unrelenting rush of waters that will forever silence the thirst of the desert and satisfy the thirst of the soul. Isaiah is prophesying a torrent of eternal life, something that we inherit nachal through Messiah.
Isa 35:7 And it has come to pass ha-sharav the burning (scorched) ground, mirage, will become la’agam a troubled pool, and the thirsty ground springs of mayim water: binveh in the habitation (shepherds hut) of taniym serpents/dragons, where each lay, shall be chatziyr grass, Leeks, herbs with reeds and rushes.
The plain meaning indicates that while once the scorching heat of the desert produced the illusion of an oasis within a mirage, now there will really be a place of refreshing waters and palm trees, and where there was once nothing but dry thirsty ground there would now be springs of water. The environment that had been ideal for snakes will now be too wet for them and will become a green well-watered land, lush with leeks, rushes and herbs.
On the other hand the symbolic language also conveys some deeper spiritual truths. The mirage produced by the conditions of Israel’s desert experience had become their focus so that they had chosen to pursue the mirage of unsatisfying water offered by false gods, waters that weren’t really there. Now, in the Messianic age they will behold the real living waters of God and His Messiah.
The regeneration of the land will make it impossible for the serpent to make his home there. The shepherd housing, once occupied by the false shepherd, symbolized by the serpent, will now be occupied by the righteous and rightful shepherd of Israel, the King Messiah Yeshua. Thus, the serpent Satan and his minions will be removed from the land completely and forever.
Isa 35:8 And it has come to pass sham there maslul a highway vaderekh and a way, vederekh and the way of ha-Kodesh the holiness, she (lah) will be called; and no tame unclean, impure thing will pass over it; but it (he) will be for those choleich going forth, derekh a way ve’eviliym that fools (despise wisdom) will not err in, wander from.
“There” means through the once barren lands of the southern and parts of the eastern borders of the land of Israel. A maslul highway will be made to carry and return the redeemed of ethnic Israel, both physically and spiritually. A highway is a wide main road that is unmistakably clear to all who seek it.
This “Highway” will be vaderekh “the Way”. The Hebrew text repeats the phrase “vaderekh vederekh ha-kodesh” literally “and a way and the way of Holiness”. The text explains that the second phrase is a title for this “way”. In other words, while this is a literal highway it is also a spiritual path, one that has a name “Vederekh Ha-Kodesh” The Way of Holiness. It is therefore, no coincidence that the spiritual path pursued by the Jewish followers of the King Messiah Yeshua became known as “The Way” a Jewish sect (Acts 19:9-23). Thus, this “Way of Holiness” refers to ethnic Israel’s path to salvation through the King Messiah Yeshua and his blood atoning sacrifice and resurrection.
“No unclean thing” refers not only to ritual uncleanness but to moral uncleanness. This way will be only for those who have returned to God through the Redeemer and Messiah Yeshua. In historical context this must first be understood to refer specifically to the Jewish people, however, it will also become true of those among the nations who accept Israel’s Messiah Yeshua. He is of course “Ha-derekh, ha-emet ve’chayim” The way, the truth, and the life.
Such is the clarity of the highway and its “way” that even the one who was once foolish, who now chooses “The Way”, will no longer be able to walk in error due to the transformative work of God through the Messiah.
Isa 35:9 There will not come there any aryeih lion, nor any ravenous chaiyot animal shall go up there, it shall not be found sham there vehalechu and walking geuliym the redeemed:
The lion and ravenous beast are symbolic of harm that comes against travellers, especially in a land that has become unruly and left desolate. Thus, the text is conveying the idea that all the previous threats which resulted from sin and lawlessness will be removed from Tziyon (Parched land) and that only the redeemed (Through Messiah) will walk in this place.
Isa 35:10 Upeduyeiy And the ransomed of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) yeshuvun will return, and come to Tziyon (Zion: parched land) berinah with shrill ringing cries (overcoming) vesimchat and joy olam everlasting al rosham upon their heads: sason gladness vesimchah and joy yasigu they will obtain, take hold of, venasu and flee yagon grief, sorrow, anguish va’anachah and sighing, groaning.
Notice that it is only the ransomed of Hashem who will return. No one will return unless his ransom has been paid. Thank God, Yeshua gave of Himself to be that ransom for all ethnic Israel and for the nations. Here though we are first speaking of a physical return and then a spiritual one. Therefore, we are first speaking of ethnic Israel and then speaking of both ethnic Israel and the redeemed among the nations. To neglect the former negates the latter.
We see that this chapter ends by referring to God’s ethnic chosen people using the designation it began with, “Tziyon” from tziyah (Parched Land). He was there in the wilderness, He is here in the regenerated land.
“Berinah” is more akin to the shrill wailing of middle eastern women than it is to singing. Mizrachi Jewish women still make this shrill cry at weddings and festivals in celebration of the goodness of God.
This returning to Zion is one of the greatest of joys. The prophet says that ethnic Israel will be filled with everlasting joy, and that joy will rest upon our heads. The rosh (head) is the ruler of the body. Thus the joy that is everlasting will rule us both individually and corporately. We will obtain this through the King Messiah from God the Father and what’s more, all that once resulted in sadness, sorrow and suffering will flee away.
This will begin as a complete restoration of the ethnic people of Israel, God’s chosen, and culminate with the resurrection of the righteous from every ethnicity of humanity and the unification of the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem, and the regeneration of all things through Messiah Yeshua our King and Redeemer unto the Glory of HaShem the Merciful King of the universe.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Until naked, uncovered, poured out emptied on us; spirit, wind, breath, from on high, and it comes to pass that from the Word will be a fruitful field, and the Carmel (fruitful field) will be a forest of esteem and value. -Yishayahu (Isaiah) 32:15
Isa 32:1 Behold, letzedek for righteousness yimelakh will reign melekh a king, ulesariym and princes lemishpat will justly rule.
Some of our sages (Rashi, Ibn Ezra) suggest that this verse refers to the coming reign of Hezekiah, who would be a more righteous king than his father Ahaz. However, although Hezekiah was indeed more righteous than his father, he was by no means a king who’s reign was epitomized by righteousness, nor did just princes reign with him. In fact the council of his subordinate rulers was often opposed to that of the Lord. At best Hezekiah might be considered a type for the righteous king to come but neither he nor any subsequent king of Israel has ever qualified to meet the plan meaning of this text. At least not until the first century CE/AD when the greater son of David (Yeshua) was born of Judah and into the kingdom of Israel.
This text, when read plainly names the king “Tzedek” righteousness. “Behold! For righteousness will reign a king.” The writer of the book of Hebrews names the righteous king of Salem (Jerusalem, Peace) as a type for the Messiah (Heb. 7). There is a correlation here between the prophetic type Melkhi-tzedek (My king of righteousness) and the coming King Messiah (Gen. 14).
Some will say that Yeshua did not reign, and while He has always reigned with HaShem outside of time and space, it is true that at His first coming he did not literally take on the physical throne of David and defeat Israel’s enemies. However, Scripture clearly teaches of a second coming of the King Messiah. When He returns He will reign meta-physically over all creation upon the throne of David and in deference to HaShem.
Who are the princes that are qualified by their just rule? Yeshua the King of Righteousness told us who they would be:
“Then Kefa (Peter) said to Him (Yeshua), ‘Look, we’ve left everything to follow You! So what will we have?” And Yeshua said to them, “Amen, certainly, I tell you, when the Ben Adam Son of Man sits on His glorious throne in the regeneration, you (Talmidiym) who have followed Me shall also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’” -Matthew 19:27-28 [Luke 22:28-30].
The princes of Isaiah 32:1 are Jews who dispense justice according to the will of the King of Righteousness. The talmidiym of Yeshua alone qualify for this role. Thus, Yeshua affirms the prophecy of Isaiah in His promise to His disciples.
This description of the King of Righteousness is a further illumination of Isaiah’s previous prophecy recorded in chapter 11:1-10.
Isa 32:2 And it has come to pass, iysh a man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a shelter from the rain; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great cliff face in a weary land.
The man of the present verse is the Righteous King of the first verse. Verses 1 and 2 give as a beautiful insight into the character of the King Messiah. In verse 1 He is called “Righteousness” and His reign is “Just”. In the present verse He is described as “A man”. He is also poetically referred to as “A hiding place”, “A shelter”, “Streams of water”, and “A shadow”. Each of these similes conveys an aspect of the King Messiah’s character and person.
By naming Him “A man” the prophet puts to flight any gnostic or post-modern esoteric view of the Messiah. The King Messiah is literally a man while at the same time being Righteousness Himself, a title that only God qualifies for.
He is “A hiding place”. That is an intimate description. Those who hide in Him have drawn near to seek refuge and protection from the harsh winds of life.
He is “A shelter”. A hiding place denotes a surrounding protection while a shelter more specifically alludes to covering which is above and protects from that which falls. In this case the rain is seen as a threat that the King Messiah will shelter Israel from. The counterpoint to this is seen in the second to last verse where the raining hail destroys Assyria, Israel’s enemy.
He is “Rivers of water in a dry place”. With verse 19 in mind we might consider the rain from above as a symbol of water falling in judgement. The counterpoint is the rivers of water that bring life to the desperately dry land and her people. Israel will quench her desperate thirst with the living waters of the King of Righteousness.
He is “A shadow of a great cliff face”. This simile conveys a sense of the immutable and immovable nature of the King’s protection over His people and the relief that it brings. Travellers in the middle east often endure harsh conditions as they journey through arid places. Thus, when they come across a cliff face that shelters, cools and protects them they are filled with a sense of relief and security. The shadow of the righteous brings relief from the hot sun, whereas the shadow of the wicked makes the shivering one colder still.
Isa 32:3 And the eyes of roiym seeing ones will not look away, veazneiy and the ears of shomei’iym hearing ones will tiksavenah hear, heed, be attentive.
“And the eyes of the righteous shall not be shut, and the ears of those who receive instruction shall hear.” -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE/AD)
This is the counterpoint to Isaiah’s earlier prophecy concerning Judah’s inability to see or hear the sound teaching and warnings of Hashem.
This seeing and hearing will be upon the entire nation of Israel. The curse of blindness and wilful resistance will be removed by the Righteous King and the renewed nation will be judged with justice, tribe by tribe.
Isa 32:4 ulevav And the core being (heart) of nimhariym the hurried (anxious) will understand lada’at knowledge, uleshon and the tongue of those who speak nonsense will hurry to speak clearly.
For the Hebrew the lev/levav (heart) is not the seat of emotion. The heart is the point of convergence for all aspects of the human existence, while it manifests emotion it is not the sole domain of emotion. Therefore, we understand “heart” to mean “core being”. Thus when the Scripture says “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) it does not mean “The emotion of man (alone) is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”, rather it means “Humanity now has a fallen nature that is manifested within the core of its existence”. In terms of rabbinical nomenclature we would call this sin affected aspect of our nature “Yetzer ha-ra” inclination of the evil.
In the present text the core being of the hasty and anxious person will be set free to receive and understand the knowledge that comes from Hashem. In addition, the one who is undecided and speaks nonsense will be set free to speak clearly and relay the righteous paths of Hashem. All this is the fruit of the reign of the King of Righteousness mentioned in verse 1.
Isa 32:5 lenaval The vile fool will no longer be called nadiyv generous, nor the scoundrel (withholder) said to be shoa noble, free.
"the wicked man shall be no more called just, and they that transgress His word shall not be called mighty.'' – Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE/AD)
The Hebrew naval denotes villainy and foolishness. The fool Nabal is famous for his mistreatment of David and his men (1 Sam. 25). The Hebrew text of verse 5 is a transliterated word play “lo yikarei od naval nadiyv”.
This verse is saying that the truth will no longer be made a lie by the upside down nature of the wicked tongue. The vile will be known for who they are and the scoundrel will no longer be seen as noble.
Isa 32:6 For naval a vile fool will speak vile, foolish words, ve’libo and his core being (heart) will make wickedness, to practice godless hypocrisy, and to speak error against HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), to make empty nefesh the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the irrigation of the thirsty to fail.
This is a vehement denunciation of the ruling class of Jerusalem that explicitly calls out their vile behaviour and hypocrisy. The King of verse 1 will illuminate the truth of their actions and evil will be seen for what it is. It is often true that a soft heart that has been deluded by lies is quick to repent when faced with the realization of evil’s true nature.
We note that those being exposed are speaking error against God (YHVH: Mercy) and that the result is hunger of the soul (nefesh) and not the stomach (beten). In other words the wickedness of Jerusalem’s rulers and priests has produced a spiritual hunger in the unlearned classes and has meant that the irrigation of Biblical teaching has been stopped up, preventing the people from receiving the streams of water that would otherwise have flowed forth to them.
However, verse 1 pre-empts this with the promise of the King of Righteousness, Who will come as streams of life giving water.
The Targum of Yonatan supports this understanding:
"to make the soul of the righteous weary, who desire doctrine, as a hungry man bread; and the words of the law, which are as water to him that is thirsty, they think to cause to cease.''
Isa 32:7 Vecheilay And a scoundrel’s (withholder) keilayn instruments, vessels, utensils, are raiym evil, injurious: hu he zimot plans to counsel le’chabeil to bind aniyiym the humble, afflicted, poor beimreiy with speech of deception, uvdabeir when the words evyon of the needy seek justice.
The instruments of the withholder are those of the false shepherd (Zechariah 11:15), sent against Israel by Adonay Himself. These false shepherds, like those of Zechariah’s time, have claimed to worship Adonay but have instead syncretised the faith of Israel and birthed the idolatry of compromise. Their deceptive teaching has severely afflicted those who most needed their care and their words had denied the needy justice. This in complete opposition to the coming King and His just princes.
Isa 32:8 venadiyv And the generous one counsels nediyvot generous things; vehu and he, al upon nediyvot generosity yakum arises.
Once again Ibn Ezra and others claim that this refers to Hezekiah. Once again, if it does, it is only so in the sense that Hezekiah is a type for the Messiah. However, there is no explicit evidence of Hezekiah acting in this way toward the people of Jerusalem and Judea during his reign. In fact, this verse is referring back to the Righteous King of verse 1 Who’s generous counsel will produce generous outcomes as He arises in Israel and reveals His character to those being redeemed through Him. We note that He arises upon generosity meaning that generosity is an attribute of His character.
Isa 32:9 Women of leisure; komenah arise shemanah listen, hear, receive, understand koli my voice, banot daughters botchot trusting; hazeinah give ear to imratiy my speech.
From the very beginning of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry he has pointed out that the fruit of moral decay is often made manifest in a care free, flirtatious and selfish lifestyle (Isa. 3:16-26). This had continued to be the case in the lives of Judah’s leading women. Thus, he once again warns those same women of their need to listen to Hashem and repent of their self-idolatry.
Isaiah uses a formula that is familiar to the writings of the prophets Moses and Amos (A contemporary of Isaiah).
“And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech:” -Genesis 4:23
“Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria…” -Amos 6:1
Notice the use of the Hebrew “botchot” trusting, a feminine plural from the root batach. The point is, “What are you trusting in?”
So we see that it is not trust that is important so much as who or what we place our trust in.
Ibn Ezra sees these women as allegorical of the towns of Samaria.
Isa 32:10 Yamiym Days upon shanah a year will tirgaznah agitate, trouble, perturb you, botechot trusting ones: for the vintage will cease, the gathering will be worn out and be brought in.
Ibn Ezra suggests that “yamiym al shanah” equates to “shanah al shanah” year after year. However, this is unlikely given the similar use of shanah elsewhere in Scripture as alluded to by the Scholars Keil & Delitzch:
“Shanah is the current year. In an undefined number of days, at the most a year from the present time (which is sometimes the meaning of yamiym).” -Keil & Delitzch
Therefore, what seems to be meant here is that “Within the days of the current year, you trusting daughters will be troubled, for the vintage will cease and before you get even a small amount of the harvest collected you will find it to be devoid of any real value.”
This is most likely in reference to the invasion of Sennacherib the Assyrian ruler, who invaded Judea in 704 BCE/BC and brought devastation and ruin to the land causing the harvest to cease and the ingathering to fail. This means that Isaiah prophesied these words approximately 702-703, a year or so prior to the Assyrian invasion of Judea.
Isa 32:11 Chirdu Tremble, be afraid, women of leisure; regazah quake, rage, be agitated, botechot trusting ones: veorah make yourself bare, and gird your loins.
This is both a warning of the natural outcome of invasion and at the same time a call to repentance. The phrase “veorah” is often linked to the donning of sackcloth and is a symbol and practice of repentance and genuine sorrow for sin as well as a sign of mourning.
These words are reminiscent of the words of the prophet Joel:
“Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withheld from the house of your God.” -Joel 1:13
“Gird your loins” means prepare to flee.
Isa 32:12 Upon your shadayim breasts, wail, mourn, upon the shedeiy-chemed field of delight, upon the fruitful vine.
Like sackcloth, the beating of the breast is a sign of mourning and repentance. Here it will be done in response to the failing fields of Judea at the coming invasion of the Assyrian army. There is a word play here that links the Hebrew shadayim (breasts) to the shedeiy (field).
Isa 32:13 Upon adamat the land ami of my people thorns and sharp stones will come up; for, upon all the houses of masos exaltation in the village jubilant:
The sharp stones and thorns are both literal and allegorical. The stones and thorns that burden the soil of the middle east are the bane of the farmers existence. They must be removed constantly or they will cause the crop to fail and the feet of the workers to become bruised and cut. Spiritually speaking Israel’s failure to remove the stones and thorns of idolatry and sin will result in the failing of the spiritual crop, even in that city that has been exalted as holy and celebrated with pilgrimage.
“The village Jubilant” is most likely a poetic title for Jerusalem.
Both God and the prophet continue to call Israel, and in particular Judah, “My people”. God and the prophet Isaiah are suffering the grief and heartbreak of the suffering of Israel, even when that suffering is the result of the sin choices of the people. Israel, ethnic-religious is always God’s people. Her identity is not measured by her actions.
Isa 32:14 Because a palace will be forsaken; a multitude in anguish will leave a ofel vebachan hill fort, and a watch tower will become surrounded by dens ad-olam perpetually forever (in the world), an exaltation of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;
“Armon” palace is singular, "the palace", meaning the royal palace. Thus, Iben Ezra and Yarchi interpret it of the king's palace in Jerusalem. The Targum of Yonatan paraphrases armon as “the house of the sanctuary”, or the temple, which was eventually left desolate. Messiah foretold this in Matthew 23:38.
“Ofel vebachan” are said by some to be the names of two towers in Jerusalem. “Ofel” is located on the south-eastern fortified slope of the temple mountain (2 Chronicles 27:3).
The “watch tower” is translated by some (Rashi) to refer to the ramparts or citadel (Ibn Ezra) of Jerusalem but may also be understood to be the same as the “Tower of the flock” mentioned in Micah 4:8. Migdal Eder (Tower of Eder [flock]), which is located in Bethlehem.
The Hebrew “ad-olam” must be understood relative to the “olam” world it refers to. There are essentially two worlds: the olam hazeh, literally “world this one”, and olam haba “world the coming” or “the world to come”, meaning eternity. Thus, in the present passage the context of “ad” perpetually going round “olam” forever, or in the world, refers to the olam hazeh (present world) rather than the olam haba (world to come).
Therefore, the desolation being spoken of is repeated over and again throughout Israel’s history until the Righteous King of Isaiah 32:1 returns to deliver Jerusalem and unite it to the heavenly Jerusalem which will exist in the olam haba ad-olam “In the world to come perpetually forever”.
Isa 32:15 Ad Until yeiareh naked, uncovered, poured out emptied aleiynu on us ruach spirit, wind, breath, from on high, and it comes to pass that midbar the wilderness will be a fruitful field, vehacarmel and the Carmel (fruitful field) be a forest yeichasheiv of esteem, value, (countless).
The theme of verses 15 to 20 is one of restoration, which will come to a repentant Jerusalem. The city being defined by its inhabitants.
The plain meaning is that the desolation decreed against Jerusalem will continue throughout history until Israel receives the unveiled Spirit of God and repents of her sin. As a result she will experience fruitfulness both physical and spiritual, even in the barren wilderness.
“Ad” until, means, the desolation described in the previous verses will continue to come against Jerusalem, Judah and all Israel until the unveiled Spirit is poured out upon the Jewish people (Israel ethnic, religious) from above. That is until the Spirit of God is poured out upon the repentant Jewish people.
The Hebrew “yeiareh” means naked, uncovered, emptied and figuratively, poured out. This is a description of intimacy and relational force. The Spirit is to be revealed unveiled to the people of Israel. We know that this work of redemptive revelation was begun in Jerusalem (Judah, Israel) in the first century CE/AD (Acts 2). Ethnic Jews from throughout the world received the Spirit of God at the aliyot festival celebration of Sukkot (Pentecost) [approximately 33 to 39 CE/AD]. The account of Acts 2 details the Spirit descending like fire, another symbol of naked, unveiled power, and recalls the Jewish tradition that says fire descended upon the elders of Israel at the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
We note that this was the inception, the beginning of the full filling of this prophesied promise of Isaiah. While the salvation of the Jewish people has begun and continues as each one turns to God through Yeshua the Messiah (Righteous King of verse 1), it will not be complete until the fullness of the nations have come to Messiah, at which time those Messianic Jews who have already received the Spirit from above will be joined by the remnant of ethnic religious Israel (Romans 11:25-26). When Shaul (Paul) says “a partial hardening has come to Israel” it means that part of ethnic Israel continues to resist Messiah while other ethnic Jews accept Him. When Shaul (Paul) says “in this way all Israel will be saved” it means that following the salvation of the fullness of the nations the remnant of Israel (ethnic) who remain in disbelief will receive Messiah and be joined to those who are already Messianic Jews (ethnic), thus, all Israel (ethnic) will be saved and reunited in Messiah.
The Hebrew “midbar” meaning wilderness, pasture, uninhabited land, comes from the root dabar meaning essence, thing, word etc. In fact midbar seems to be a contraction of the Hebrew “me” meaning from, and “davar” meaning word, essence. Therefore, as a remez we can read “from the word will come fruitfulness.” The Word is Messiah, the fruit is right action born of Messiah in us.
Isa 32:16 Veshakhan And dwelling bamidbar in the wilderness (ba-in, & mi-from the, d’bar-word), mishpat judgment utzedakah and righteousness bacarmel in the Carmel (fruitful land) teishev will dwell, remain, abide.
“And dwelling in and from the Word, right judgements and righteousness we will abide in the fruit of right action.”
“shakhan” is the root from which we get “Mishkhan” The Tent of Meeting where the Kadosh HaShem (Glory of YHVH) would presence Himself while Israel camped in the desert.
Isa 32:17 And the work of righteousness will be peace; va’avodat and the service (effect) of ha-tzadakah the righteousness, ha-shekheit the shut it (quietness) vavetach and security (trust) ad-olam perpetually forever (in the world).
This verse begins with a powerful and timeless statement. “The work of righteousness will be peace”. Peace is not the result of military power or political alliances but of right action. That is, righteous faith that bears right action.
In fact the Scripture says “For no one is righteous, not even one” (Psalm 51:4) and “No one living is righteous before You” (Psalm 143:2) and “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Daniel 9:11; Romans 3:23) and still further, “Our righteousness is like menstrual rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, only God and His Messiah are truly righteous. Thus verse 17 draws the reader’s attention back to the first verse of this chapter and the righteousness of the King. Thus, we can read “The work of Righteousness Himself will bring peace.” Not temporal but lasting peace.
Yeshua illuminates this truth further:
“Then they asked Him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Yeshua answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” -Yochanan (John) 6:28-29
This work of righteousness continues within the present world until it meets the world to come.
It is utter nonsense to claim as Iben Ezra does, that the peace born of righteousness described here happened during Hezekiah’s reign. The Scripture itself testifies against this interpretation. Israel did not enjoy any lasting peace during the reign of Hezekiah. One might best describe Hezekiah’s reign as a temporary reprieve, almost ruined completely by Hezekiah’s own compromised faith journey.
Isa 32:18 Veyashav And dwelling ami My people in an binevah abode (shepherd shelter) of peace, uvmishkenot and in dwellings, mivtachiym of trusting, refuge, confidence, uvimnuchot and in resting places shaananot secure, quiet, at ease;
Under the reign of the Righteous King Messiah “My people” will dwell in the abode of The Shepherd (God, Yeshua), and in dwellings of trust and refuge. Resting secure.
This is a picture of the Mishkhan (Tent of Meeting) and the sukkot (dwellings) of Israel while she wondered the desert. Uvmishkenot uses the feminine plural form of Mishkhan. This poetic image is transferred to the Messianic reign and the city of the New Jerusalem, where there will be no Temple, but God Himself and the Lamb will be its Temple (Revelation 21:22).
Isa 32:19 Uvarad And it will hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.
Having concluded the prophecy concerning the redemption and peace of Israel the prophet now turns back to the coming destruction of Israel’s enemies. Specifically the hail coming against the forest, which is connected to Assyria’s army in Isaiah 10:34, and against the prosperity and pride of Nineveh the capital of Assyria, which is figuratively called a low place and is ironically made lower still.
Isa 32:20 Ashreiychem Happily Blessed are you that scatter seed upon all mayim waters, meshalesheiy that send forth the feet of the ox and the ass.
As quickly as the prophet had digressed, he now returns to the subject at hand, that of Israel’s future redemption and the conditions she will enjoy under the reign of the King of Righteousness. Seed scattered on many waters is an idiom that conveys fruitfulness and life born of living and abundant water supply. The sending forth of the feet of the ox and ass is a picture of the shore footed path of livestock, from the strong animals used for ploughing and threshing to the domestic animals of burden, all will be readily available to Israel in the Messianic Kingdom. This kingdom will begin in the olam hazeh (present world) and converge with the olam haba (world to come).
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.