The fact that God is in control of both good and evil is an assurance that He will silence evil forever and that the goodness of this present life will one day be eclipsed by the all surpassing goodness of God’s character. Evil is subject to God but God is not subject to evil!
Isa 31:1 Oy Grief, hope, heart wrenching woe, to hayrediym those descending to Mitzrayim (Egypt: double distress) for help, relying on horses for support, vayivtechu and trusting in rechev chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they look not unto the Kedosh Holy One of Yisrael (Overcomes in God), neither do they darashu seek, enquire of, resort to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy)!
“but they stay not themselves upon the Word of the Holy One of Israel, neither seek instruction from the Lord.” -Targum Yonatan Isaiah 31:1b (2nd Century CE/AD)
Rashi interprets this verse of Hoshea and the ten tribes, who sent emissaries down to Egypt (2 Kings 17). However, this doesn’t fit with the context and geographical language of the prophet’s rebuke, which is focused on Judah and the Holy Mountain in Zion.
The main theme of this chapter is a continuation of the previous one, and emphasizes the folly of Judah’s trusting in human strength rather than in God.
The phrase “those descending” finds its counterpart in God’s descent upon mount Zion (v.4). Judah descends into distress and God descends to deliver her.
The prophet warns of the natural outcome of trusting in fallible human beings and the strength of the fallen world rather than in God Who is infallible and all sufficient (Shadday). The horse and chariot were the armoured vehicles and tanks of their time. The Biblical Hebrew word rechev meaning chariot is also the modern Hebrew word for an armoured vehicle. Not only has Judah put her trust in armament, she has also relied on the great numbers of chariots, and has mis-concluded that numbers equate to true strength.
The heartbreak of God for His wayward people comes through strongly in the latter part of the first verse, “but they look not unto the Kedosh Holy One of Yisrael, neither do they darashu seek, enquire of, resort to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy)!” We could read, “They don’t look to the holiness of Israel, neither do they diligently seek Mercy.” Israel’s set apart status, her holiness, her very identity is in God (El).
Isa 31:2 And also He is chacham wise, skilful, and will bring ra injury (evil), and will not call back His devarrayu words, things, essence, but will arise against the house of the mereiiym (from ra: evil) evil-ones, and against the help of those who make trouble.
The understatement, “And also He is wise” which refers to HaShem, is intended as a stark contrast to the wisdom of the wise ones of Egypt.
HaShem is in control of all things, He directs the forces of evil and allows the consequences of fallen actions to unfold. We read elsewhere that God “sent an evil spirit to torment Saul” (1 Sam. 16:14-15 see also Judges 9:23 re: the men of Shechem and Avimelekh). Therefore, it is unwise to presume that the enemy (Ha-Satan) has independent power to do evil. If evil is not under God’s control the alternative is a dualistic view of good and evil that offers only a fifty fifty chance of good overcoming evil. The fact that God is in control of both good and evil is an assurance that He will silence evil forever and that the goodness of this present life will one day be eclipsed by the all surpassing goodness of God’s character. Evil is subject to God but God is not subject to evil!
Deuteronomy 28:58-68 details the consequences for Israel if she fails to obey the Torah. The end to those consequences is the promise that she will return again to Egypt and bondage. These words of the Torah are not “called back”, to the contrary, Judah has in fact pursued the very punishment promised her in the Torah. All this as a result of refusing to listen to and obey the “words, essence, things” of God. In terms of both remez (hint) and sod (mystery) this equates to a refusal to accept God’s Davar Word (Messiah: John 1).
Notice that God brings evil against evil-ones. This is another way of saying He has given them over to the consequences of their own sinful actions.
Isa 31:3 Now the Mitzrayim (Egypt: double distress) are adam human, and not El God (a god); and their horses are bashar flesh, and not ruach spirit, wind: and HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) will stretch out His hand, and he that helps will stumble, and he that is helped will fall, and they will all be consumed together.
The Egyptian culture was saturated with spiritual views that allowed for the deification of human beings. In particular the ancient belief that their Pharaohs were gods. Thus, the reminder to Israel that she had already seen the defeat of these so called gods when she was delivered from them during Pesach (Passover). The Egyptians were human, of the fallen sin affected creation and not gods: their horses were flesh, vulnerable to death and not spirit (eternal).
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” -Yeshua (John 4:24 NASB)
With an ironic turn of phrase Isaiah drives home the message, “God (Who is spirit) will stretch out His hand”. Both Judah and those in whom she has sought security will fall together. Historically this came about when the king of Assyria destroyed Egypt as part of his larger campaign which included his unsuccessful besieging of Jerusalem. Thus, Ben Melekh interprets “spirit” to refer to the Angel of The Lord (Who decimated the Assyrian army overnight as they camped against Jerusalem [2 Kings 19:35]).
Isa 31:4 For thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) to me, “As the lion and the young lion growling over his prey, if a multitude of shepherds are called against him, he will not be afraid at their voices, nor be occupied with the noise of them: descending HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Goes warring) of hosts litzbo will go to war upon Har-Tziyon mount Zion, and upon her hill.
God is likened to both a seasoned older lion and a young lion that growls over its prey. The shepherds are the wicked leaders of both the Judeans and the Egyptians, and further, the Assyrian invaders. God will go to war on, not against (as some foolish Christian scholars suggest) mount Zion in order to destroy the wicked and protect the holy remnant among the ethnic-religious children of Israel. HaShem descends to deliver the righteous from the descent of the wicked.
Isa 31:5 As birds afot 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.
First like a roaring lion HaShem fiercely consumes the wicked, and now as a constant guardian He looks down upon, rests upon and keeps lookout over His people (ethnic-religious Israel) for her defence and security. He has purposed to deliver her and will once again pasakh pass over her in protection. That same passing over will be terror to Israel’s enemies just as it was to the Egyptians in the past. Thus, the destruction of the Assyrians by the Angel of The Lord almost certainly occurred during Pesach Passover (2 Kings 19:35).
Isa 31:6 Shuvu Turn to Him from Whom you have deeply sarah withdrawn, b’nei children of Yisrael (Overcome in God).
In the familiar pattern of his scroll Isaiah speaks an opportunity for returning, deliverance, and reconciliation. Judah and Israel have deeply withdrawn from right relationship with God, in Whom they find their identity. The message is simple, “Return!”
Isa 31:7 For bayom in the day hahu that one (the he) they will cast away everyone his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made bringing you guilt.
This speaks of that yet future day when Israel will cast away her idolatry and return to HaShem (Isaiah 30:22; 27:9; 17:8; 2:20).
Isa 31:8 And cast down will be the Ashur Assyrian becherev by the sword, lo isyh not of a man; vecherev lo adam and the sword, not of a human, will tochalenu devour him (Assyria), burn him up; and he will flee mipeneiy from the face of a cherev sword, and his young men shall become forced labourers.
Only a short time (historically speaking) after Isaiah prophesied these words they literally came to pass (2 Kings 19:35).
HaShem did not use a sword of human origin but a sword of the spirit, a sword wielded by His Angel.
Sennacherib king of Assyria fled from the face of the sword of the Angel of Hashem and was himself cut down by Adrammelech and Sharezer in Nineveh in the temple of his god Nisroch (2 Kings 19:37).
Isa 31:9 vesaleo And his rock mimagor from terror will pass away, and his princes will be shattered mineis by the miracle, sign, banner,” says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), Whose Or Light (fire) betziyon is in Zion, vetanur and His furnace (stove, cooking pot) is in Yerushalayim (Down pour of Peace).
“His rock” means that the strength of Assyria and of all subsequent enemies of God and Israel, will pass away before the terror of Hashem. We note that the princes of Assyria and therefore, symbolically, all future enemies of God and His people, will be shattered by the “neis” miracle whose light is in Zion (Isaiah 30:17).
Translating “Or” as fire is more figurative than literal. In fact this same word is used to describe the light of the beginning that issues from the mouth of God prior to the existence of the sun and moon (Genesis 1:3). This light is distinguished as being set apart and is intrinsically connected to our Messiah, Who is the Davar (word essence) of God (John 1). It is no coincidence that the city Ur, the origin of Abram, is spelled with the same Hebrew characters and means “Light”. Thus, figuratively speaking, Abram is born again as Abraham through the same Light that was present at the beginning of creation.
Therefore, both the Neis miracle and the Or Light are the manifest work of Messiah Yeshua, Who through the miraculous redeeming work of His death and resurrection, has become a beacon, a standard, a miracle of Israel’s deliverance, not only from physical enemies (yet to be fully filled) but more importantly from the enemy of our souls, Ha-Satan. This miracle of Yeshua has shattered the princes of darkness and has illuminated to all who have walked in darkness the reality that the Or Light of Messiah Yeshua, God with us, has been in Zion all along.
The heat of the furnace of God’s wrath is fearful punishment to the enemies of God but it is the warmth of deliverance to His children, purchased with the blood of His Son, our King Yeshua the Messiah. As a result, we receive the Downpour of Peace, the unification of both the Heavenly and earthly Jerusalem. Echad ve’echad asah echad ad olam, one and one made one until forever.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.