And it has come to pass in that day, that He will turn aside his burden from upon your shoulder and his yoke from upon your neck, and will bind, make a pledge from My face oil, anointing.
Is.10:1 Alas, woe! To ha-khok’kiym the cutters, inscribers who decree wickedness and record amal wearisome mischief which they have kiteivu written. Is.10:2 Le’hatot To extend, perverted midiyn judgement against the poor and tear away mishpat justice from the humble afflicted of amiy my people, causing the widows to become their plunder so that they can rob the fatherless.
The first four verses of Isaiah 10 conclude the quadruple rebuking of the people begun in chapter 9. Isaiah rebukes the law makers who are passing wicked laws that are depriving the poor, the helpless, and the needy of justice, in order to gain riches for themselves.
The use of the Hebrew kiteivu meaning he has written, is an ironical counterpoint to the Ketvi Written Devar Word of God. The Writing of God brings mishpat justice, but the writings of wicked men produce injustice.
Notice that the prophet, speaking from the heart of HaShem says, “My people”.
Is.10:3 And what will you accomplish on the day of pekudah accounting, visitation and devastation from a far country entering upon you? To whom will you escape for help? And where will you leave your kevodechem glories, honours, abundance, and dignity? Is.10:4 Without Me they will bow beneath the prisoners and fall under the murderer. For all this His anger is not turned away but His hand is stretched out still.
The probing questions of the prophet illuminate the depths of Israel’s ignorance and wilful disobedience. A devastating invasion is about to come in the form of the expanding Assyrian Empire.
Tragically the prophet asks, “To whom will you escape for help”. In other words, “Your rejection of HaShem has left you without the basic common sense to call upon Him in the face of disaster. This is a picture of a nation scraping the very bottom of the barrel. Israel is so far from faith in Hashem that they seem unable to turn and be delivered. However, His hand is outstretched still.
Is.10:5 Alas, woe! Ashur (Assyrian), sheivet rod of my aphi flaring nostril umateh and he is a branch in the hand of my anger.
Before we go further we should seek to understand the Semitic blood line of Ashur. Ashur the nation is born of Ashur the first born son of Shem (Genesis 10:22). Ashur was the founder of Nineveh, Rehobot and Calah in the land of Shinar (Genesis 10:10-11). Ashur was situated on the banks of the upper Tigris and its tributaries, in ancient Northern Mesopotamia. It is important to note that the Assyrians were Semites, while the Babylonians with whom they shared their language, religion and history, were Hamites (Genesis 10:6-10). The Assyrians were warlike and merciless in their conquests, committing atrocities and relying on abject terror in order to subdue their enemies.
Some have suggested that the Assyrians were one of the first nations in history to use psychological warfare, approaching city walls and speaking to the defenders in their own tongue in order to provoke a response of fearful surrender. One such incident is described in Isaiah 36:4-12.
It is known that when the Assyrians had conquered a population they would march their captives before them with the defeated king or ruler at the forefront. The majority of the captives, men, women and children were killed in inhumane ways: burned alive as sacrifices to the chief Assyrian deity, blinded, flayed alive and decapitated, their heads being placed on sharp stakes. Those who survived the massacre were usually dragged into captivity, pulled along by hooks that were attached to their noses.
At first subject to the Babylonians, the Assyrians eventually carved out their own kingdom which, during the reign of Tiglat-Pileser I, reached from the valley of the Tigris to the Mediterranean Ocean (1115-1077 BCE). However, following the death of Tiglat-Pileser I the Assyrian Empire went into decline and became busy defending its territory from tribal rebels within. It was during this period that Israel under the reigns of David and Solomon, experienced its golden years of expansion and prosperity.
During the ninth century BCE under Ashurnasirpal (885-860 BCE) Assyria begin a resurgence. Her great ambition being to create a vast Empire that would encompass all the territories between the Persian Gulf and the Nile valley. Thus the tiny nations of Israel and Judah were caught between the warring Empires of Assyria and Egypt. The prophets Isaiah, Nahum, Micah and Jeremiah all reflect these events.
With the accession of Tiglat-Pileser III (745-727 BCE) the Assyrian conquest reached Samaria and Judah, aided by the foolish decision of Ahaz, who had invited Assyria to help him fight against the coalition of Damascus and Samaria. The messages of Isaiah convey a first-hand knowledge of the Assyrian invading force and reflect the observations of one who observed the panic of the people and the plight of Judah’s refugees who fled from plundered towns and villages to find shelter in Jerusalem. From his vantage point in Jerusalem Isaiah would have witnessed this tragedy as it began to unfold.
However, Isaiah was also given insight from HaShem regarding the downfall of the Assyrians. In 612 BCE Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Assyria’s destruction was fulfilled. The Babylonians, Medes and Scythians captured Nineveh, the Assyrian capitol, causing it to become a desolate ruin just as Israel’s prophets had said it would long before it came to pass.
Three years later in 609 BCE the Babylonians and Medes attacked what was left of the once mighty Assyrian Empire and divided it up among themselves. The prophet Nahum, a contemporary of Isaiah writes of Assyria’s demise (Nahum 2:12-13; 3:1, 7). In less than a century the prophecies of Israel’s prophets concerning Assyria were completely fulfilled and by 609 BCE Assyria was no more.
Is.10:6 Be-goy Against the nation of hypocrites he will be sent and upon am a people evratiy of my overflowing fury, I will give him charge, to take prey and to seize plunder, and to appoint them for trampling like chomer cement, clay, mire, khutzot going outward, outside, on the street.
The prophet describes Israel as a nation of hypocrites and Ashur as nothing more than a disciplining rod wielded in the hand of God in order to redeem His people.
Is.10:7 And he doesn’t consider what he is doing in his levavu inner person, nor therefore does he think at all because to destroy, exterminate, is bi’levavu in his inner person, and to cut off, kill, (cut covenants with) goyim nations: not just a few.
The arrogant Assyrian invader is unaware that he is a tool in the hand of God. His core being is full of hatred and destruction. His only desire to kill, steal, humiliate and destroy. And for a time, God will allow him to do this to many smaller nations, Israel and Judah included.
Is.10:8 Because he says “Are not sa’ariy my princes yachdav together melakhiym kings?”
During this period in history the kings of Assyria are known to have given themselves the title “King of kings”.
“I am powerful, I am all powerful, I am gigantic, I am colossal, I am honoured, I am magnificent, I am without an equal among all the kings.”
–Esarhaddon ruler of Assyria (681-669)
By claiming to be a King of kings, the Assyrian ruler was prefiguring the anti-Messiah. Anyone who sets himself up on earth as the King of kings is spitting in the face of God’s Messiah.
Is.10:9 “Is not Kecharkemiysh (fortress of chemosh) as Calnu (Fortress of Anu)? Is not Khamat (fortress: city upper Syria) as Arpad (Spread out: city in northern Syria)? Is not Shomeron (Samaria: watch mountain) as Damesek (Damascus: silent sackcloth weaver)?”
The cities mention in this verse help us establish an approximate date for Isaiah’s message. Damascus fell to Assyria in 732 BCE, Samaria in 722, and Carchemish was captured by Sargon in 717 BCE. Since Isaiah delivered his message prior to Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 BCE (v.28-34), this must have occurred sometime between 717-701 BCE. Probably at the end of the reign of Ahaz (735-715 BCE).
Is.10:10 “As my hand has attained the kingdoms ha-eliyl and nothing gods, worthless u’pesileiyhem idols from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and from Shomeron (Samaria).” Is.10:11 “Shall I not do as I have done to Shomeron (Samaria: watch mountain) and her eliyleyah nothing gods, to Yerushalayim and her image, idol?”
By comparing the pagan idols and none gods of the other kingdoms with the God of Israel, the Assyrian blasphemed the living God. He lumps YHVH in with the gods of other nations which he calls Eliliym (none entities) and Pesiliym (graven images). In fact this was exactly the reasoning Sennacherib used when he demanded that the inhabitants of Jerusalem surrender to him (2 Kings 19:8-13; 2 Chronicles 32:17-19; Isaiah 36:14-21).
Is.10:12 And it has come to pass, Adonai finished all His work be-har Tziyon in the mountain of Zion (parched land), ube’yerushalayim and in Jerusalem (Pouring out of Peace), epekod He will visit, reckon, bring punishment upon periy the fruit of godel great pride from the levav inner person of the king of Ashur (Assyria), and upon the splendour of his rum haughty, elevated eiynayv eye.
HaShem will only allow the wicked Assyrian nation to succeed for as long as the disciplining of Israel and Judah is necessary. There will be a reckoning for the vile Empire of the Assyrians. Their arrogant scoffing against HaShem will be silenced.
Is.10:13 Because he said, “By the strength of my hand have I done this, and by my own wisdom, for I am discerning: and I have removed the borders of amiym peoples and have stolen their treasures, and have descended as a Kabiyr mighty, valiant man to dwell.” Is.10:14 “And attaining a nest my hand is strengthened, ha-amiym the peoples: and I have gathered the eggs that are left in all ha-atretz the land. I have gathered and none has lifted a wing or set free a mouth to chirp.”
The Assyrian king arrogantly presumes he has been successful in conquest due to his own efforts and the might of his army. As always, HaShem brings down the proud and lifts up the humble. God is just and no injustice will go unpunished.
The Psalmist reminds us:
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the HaShem YHVH: Mercy our Elohim (God, Judge).” –Psalm 20:7
“Through You we push back our enemies. Through Your Name we trample those rising up against us. For I do not trust in my bow, nor can my sword save me. For You saved us from our oppressors and put to shame those who hated us.” –Psalm 44:6-8
Is.10:15 Will an axe boast of itself against He Who swings it? Or will a saw magnify itself against He Who uses it? As if sheivet a rod would raise itself to threaten the One Who welds it, or as if the mateh branch would rise up, as if it were not eitz part of a tree.
The rhetorical questions of the prophet have a clear meaning. The Assyrian is nothing more than an axe in the hand of God. The pride of Assyria is as ludicrous as the idea of a tool speaking against the one who uses it, or of a branch severed from a tree being able to sustain itself.
Is.10:16 Therefore, sending out, ha-Adonai the lord HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot of heavens armies, goes to war, into fatness, wasting, and instead of kevodo glory yeikad kindled, yekod kindling kiykod burning eish fire.
The “Therefore” returns the reader to the plight of Israel in her disciplining.
The phrase “Yeikad, yekod kiykod” emulates the sound of crackling fire. This crackling of fire will find its ultimate fulfillment in the fire unleashed by the Messiah.
Is.10:17 And it has come to pass Or Light of Yisrael (Overcome in God) le’eish for fire ukedosho and his holiness le-lehavah for a flame that will burn ve-achlah and devour his thorns and his briers be’yom echad in one day.
The fire born of the Light of Israel (The Messiah), will burn up the thorns and briers, meaning the wicked who cause her to sin. “In one day” refers to a major event that will result in the purging of the nation.
Is.10:18 U’kevod And the glory of the forest and plantation from nephesh soul and as far as basar flesh, consumed, and it has come to pass it is melted in sickness.
All the glory derived from plantations of trees and the souls of the inhabitants of those forests will be consumed by this fire.
Is.10:19 And the shear remnant eitz branch (of a tree) of his forest, will be few, so that a child might record them.
Sadly the remnant branch of Israel will be few. So few that a young child could record their number. This is a heart breaking message that weighs down the heart of the prophet with grief and mourning over his people.
Is.10:20 And it has come to pass be’yom in that day ha-hu that he not yosef added to: od a perpetual shear remnant of Yisrael Israel will escape, beit Yaakov the house of Jacob will no longer trust on the one striking him and will trust on HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) kedosh holy One of Yisrael Israel be-emet in the truth.
In this section from verse 20-22 the Hebrew shear (Remnant) is used four times, either in combination with Israel (v.20) or with Jacob (v.21), and once in regard to the survivors of the house of Jacob: emphasizing the physical nature of her survival.
Isaiah uses the term Shear-yashub (Remnant returns) twice: this is the name of Isaiah’s first born son.
What is clear from the use of Israel and Jacob, is that the remnant will be of the fullness of Israel and not of Judah alone.
Is.10:21 The shear remnant will shuva return, the remnant of Yaakov Jacob (All Israel) to El Gibor God Almighty.
El Gibor is the name which the Messiah is called in Isaiah 9:6. The corresponding name Kadosh Yisrael (Holy One of Israel) is used in verse 20.
The remnant shall return to El Gibor the Father and through El Gibor the Son, Who is also called Kadosh Yisrael.
Is.10:22 For having become Your people Yisrael Israel, like the sand of the sea, a shear remnant will yashuv return, the destruction that cut will be rinsed, washed, overflowing with tzedakah righteousness.
Sadly, though Israel had become like the sand of the sea, only a remnant would return. It is this remnant that Rav Shaul refers to in Romans 11:26.
The nation that was once disciplined harshly will be washed clean with overflowing righteousness. This is a description of the shed blood of the Mashiyach (Messiah) and its cleansing and restorative power. Israel’s remnant will be tevilah immersed and cleansed in the mikveh gathering waters of her Messiah King.
Is.10:23 For the full end and decree of Adonai HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot of heavens armies will be accomplished in the midst of all ha-aretz the land.
It is true that all the earth will hear of these things, however, it is the Land of Israel that is being referred to here. Israel is the subject of both the disciplining and redemption prophesied. Thus it is in Eretz Yisrael (The land of Israel) that these events will be seen, and it is from the land of Israel that this redemptive message will go out into all the earth.
Is.10:24 Therefore says Adonai HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot of heavens armies “Don’t be afraid amiy My people dwelling in Tziyon Zion (Parched land), of Ashur (a step) be’sheivet in his rod striking and his staff lifted up against you in like manner to Mitzrayim (double distress) Egypt.
In comforting His people (amiy: My people) Hashem reminds them that the Egyptians were equally fierce and oppressive, however, HaShem silenced them and freed His chosen people Israel. He would also do the same for them before the face of the Assyrian army.
Is.10:25 For continuing only a small amount, will cease all My anger and the aphiy flaring of My nostril on their destruction.
With regard to the greater passage of time HaShem’s anger and disciplining against Israel will be for only a short period.
Is.10:26 And awakening upon him, HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot of heavens armies will bring a scourge for him like that of the slaughter of Midiyan (strife) at the cliff of Oreiv (raven), umateihu and His staff upon ha-yam the sea, so He will lift it up as be-derek in the path of Mitzrayim (double distress) Egypt.
This is now the second time that the prophet has referenced the defeat of Midian at the hand of God through Gideon and his three hundred men (Judges 7:16-25). This places emphasis on the fact that the 300 men of Gideon were like the remnant of Israel: completely reliant on God in order to have victory over their enemies and become reunited as a nation drawn together through the fire born of God’s Light.
Added to this is an allusion to Egypt’s demise at the Red Sea. Where by God’s hand Moses performed a great miracle of deliverance as a pre-figure of the coming Messiah. Thus Assyria is to be doubly defeated, a two stage path to utter desolation 1.) 612 BCE 2.) 609 BCE.
The Assyrian rod of oppression will be silence with the staff of God’s redemption.
Is.10:27 And it has come to pass in that day, that He will turn aside his burden from upon your shoulder and his yoke from upon your neck, ve-chubal and will bind, make a pledge mip’neiy from My face shamen oil, anointing.
The burden of God’s discipline will be lifted at the appropriate time and in its place an easy binding (marriage) and pledge will produce an intimate relationship between God and Israel. Thus it will be from the countenance of God’s face that the oil of His Spirit will be poured out on a redeemed people.
Is.10:28 He is come upon Ayat (heap of ruins), to pass over in Migron (precipice), to Mikhmash (hidden) to muster the keilayv implement (for war, hunting). Is.10:29 They have passed over the ford to Geva (Gibeah, hill) for lodging: trembling ha-Ramah (height), Givat (hill) of Shaul (inquirer, desire) has fled. Is.10:30 Lift up your voice daughter of Galeem (springs) cause it to be heard in Layish (lion), poor, afflicted Anatot (answers). Is.10:31 Madmenah (dung hill) is removed, those dwelling in Gebiym (cisterns) take refuge.
The prophet now speaks of the progression of conquest in a figurative way that denotes the conquest of the entire land of Judah beginning with the uppermost city Ayat. In reality Sennacherib approached Jerusalem from the south in 701 BCE having taken the fortress of Lachish and numerous other fortified locals. None the less, the prophet’s intention here is to show the all-encompassing nature of the Lord’s disciplining of Judah and not the literal progression of the invading force.
Ayat was about 68 kilometers northeast of Jerusalem and was the first city within Judah’s borders.
Is.10:32 Od going round perpetually, ha-yom the day at Nob (fruit, a high place): he will shake his hand against the mountain of the daughter of Tziyon Zion (parched land), gevat (hill) of Yerushalayim (Flood of peace).
Nob, a hillside town north of Jerusalem, within sight of the holy city is the final stop on the approach to Jerusalem. It’s at this point of impending doom that HaShem Tzevaot intervenes to deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army that shakes its fist against the Holy Mountain of God. It is for the sake of His own great Name that HaShem allows the Assyrian to go no further.
Is.10:33 Hineh Behold, now, see! Ha-Adon the lord HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot of heavens armies going to war, shall cut the purah ornamental branch with awful terror: and high ones of stature shall be chopped down, and the haughty shall be brought low.
The Hebrew Hineh calls the reader to pay careful attention. The threefold title Ha-Adon HaShem Tzevaot denotes absolute sovereignty over all things.
The Hebrew text utterly renounces the pride of the Assyrian blasphemer. He is nothing more than an ornamental branch and in recompense for the vile cutting he has perpetuated against the people of God he will receive a cutting of terror, being chopped down and brought so low as to be completely annihilated.
Is.10:34 He will strike the thicket of the forest with iron: ve-ha-levanon and the Lebanon (witness) before a majestic one, will be cast down.
The Lebanon, known for its mighty cedars is used figuratively to describe the Assyrian army. Just as cedars are cut down, so too the Assyrian army.
Some Jewish commentators understand the phrase “a majestic One” to refer to the Malakh YHVH (Angel of HaShem) Who destroyed the armies of Sennacherib at the walls of Jerusalem.
“Then the Malakh HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Messenger of the LORD went forth, and struck a hundred and eighty five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, all the corpses of the slain.”
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.