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Isaiah 10:28-34 pronounces judgment against various towns in the tribe of Benjamin north of Jerusalem that the king of Assyria would soon devastate. Recall that the Assyrians took 46 walled cities of Judah and Benjamin, according to their records, before failing to take Jerusalem itself. More than 200,000 survivors were deported to Assyria. No doubt these towns in Benjamin were among those conquered and deported.
Isaiah 10:28 begins,
28 He has come against Aiath; he has passed through Migron; at Michmash he deposited his baggage.
Aiath is the city of Ai that the Israelites conquered after the battle of Jericho (Joshua 8:28). The name means “heap of ruins.” This was probably the Israelite name for it after destroying the town. No doubt the Canaanites had called it something more pleasant.
Migron means “precipice,” as it was built on a ridge near Gibeah north of Michmash. The root word is magar, “to cast, throw,” as if to cast something or someone off the cliff. Isaiah says “he has passed through Migron.” This has a double meaning, indicating that he has thrown the town over the precipice.
Michmash means “hidden” (treasure). This was a town 10 miles north of Jerusalem. Isaiah says that “at Michmash he deposited his baggage.” Instead of the town being a hidden treasure, the Assyrians were to store their weapons and equipment there.
Isaiah 10:29 continues,
29 They have gone through the pass, saying, “Geba will be our lodging place.” Ramah is terrified, and Gibeah of Saul has fled away.
Geba was just east of Ramah and apparently was used as an Assyrian army camp. Both Geba and Ramah mean “hill,” though in different ways. Geba and Gibeah come from the word “bowl, cup,” which is a hill when turned upside down. Ramah is a high place, or lofty place, often used as a pagan place of worship.
Gibeah, of course, was the hometown of King Saul, while Ramah was the hometown of Samuel.
Isaiah 10:30 says,
30 Cry aloud with your voice, O daughter of Gallim! Pay attention, Laishah and wretched Anathoth!
Gallim means “springs,” which often seem to “cry aloud” as the waters flow. The prophet uses this to suggest that the place will cry out in fear of the Assyrians.
Laishah (NASB) is also Laish (KJV), but not the Laish that the Danites conquered in Judges 18:29). The Danite city was renamed Dan, and it was located far to the north at the base of Mount Hermon. The city Isaiah mentioned was in the territory of Benjamin north of Jerusalem. It was the home of a man named Laish (“lion”), the father of Paltiel, to whom King Saul gave his daughter Michael, even though she had already been given to David (2 Samuel 3:15).
Isaiah tells Laishah (or Laish) to “pay attention,” suggesting an underlying revelation in regard to its biblical history. After Saul had unjustly delivered David’s wife to Paltiel (“God delivers”), God later delivered her to David when he reclaimed her as his wife. If we are to “pay attention” to this story, and discern its prophetic application, it appears that the prophet intended to tell us that the town (clan) of Laish would be delivered forcibly into the hands of the Assyrians as a matter of justice.
Finally, Isaiah refers to Anathoth as being “wretched.” The Hebrew word aniy means “poor, humble, afflicted, wretched.” Yet Anathoth means “answered prayer.” The prophet’s wording suggests that the town’s prayers for deliverance were not answered, due to their lack of repentance.
Nonetheless, the Assyrian policy was to deport skilled labor (along with their families), so as to strengthen their own nation. So not all of the people were deported at that time. A century later, Jeremiah would come from Anathoth. Some of the townspeople hated him and plotted to kill him (Jeremiah 11:19, 21). Hence, it seems that the town was “wretched” for a long time and were well deserving of divine judgment.
Isaiah 10:31 says,
31 Madmenah has fled, the inhabitants of Gebim have sought refuge.
Madmenah means “dunghill” or “manure pile” (Isaiah 25:10). It is doubtful that this was the official name of the town. This is the only time the town is mentioned by name in Scripture. Most likely this was an epithet, showing the prophet’s low opinion of its moral condition.
The statement, “Madmenah has fled,” should be understood to mean the dunghill has moved, spread abroad, escaped its boundaries. This was a metaphor for its moral condition influencing other communities. Dung is idolatry in Ezekiel, particularly heart idolatry.
Gebim means “cisterns” or “locusts” (Isaiah 33:4). They have fled (uwz) for refuge. Hence, both Madmenah and Gebim have escaped, but in different ways.
Isaiah 10:32-34 says,
32 Yet he [the king of Assyria] will halt at Nob; he shakes his fist at the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. 33 Behold, the Lord, the God of hosts, will lop off the bough with a terrible crash; those also who are tall in stature will be cut down and those who are lofty will be abased. 34 He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.
Nob was a priestly city in Benjamin where the Ark was set up after Shiloh was destroyed (1 Samuel 21:1). The Ark was first taken to Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:1), but it was moved periodically to other locations, and by the time of David it was at Nob. Nob means “high place.” It was a hill not far north of Jerusalem and was destined to be an Assyrian army camp during the siege of Jerusalem.
Isaiah prophesied that “he shakes his fist” at Jerusalem, foreshadowing the threat to the city. But as we will see from Isaiah 37:36, God answered this threat by killing 185,000 Assyrian troops, forcing the king to return to Assyria in disgrace. God lopped off the bough with a terrible crash. The lofty ones were abased.
God “cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe.” Trees were symbolic of men, as we read in Deuteronomy 20:19 KJV, warriors in particular. In fact, the name Gideon means “feller,” which speaks of a man cutting down trees or a mighty warrior cutting down enemy soldiers.
Hence, when the prophet says “Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One” (NASB), the “mighty one” in this case is not God but the Assyrian king. In this case, Lebanon was not the nation but the wooded area surrounding the Lebanon Mountain on the north side of Israel.
All of these towns and areas were to be brought into divine judgment at the hand of the king of Assyria.