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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
After proclaiming six woes to Jerusalem for its lack of good fruit, Isaiah continued by giving the divine indictment. In Isaiah 5:24 he decreed “a tongue of fire” that would burn the city and the nation as “stubble and dry grass.” This is similar to the “chaff” that the fire of the Holy Spirit was to burn, described by John the Baptist in Matt. 3:12.
Isaiah 5:25 says,
25 On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people, and He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down. And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets. For all this His anger is not spent, but His hand is still stretched out.
God’s anger burning against His people is literally said in Hebrew metaphoric language to be His nostrils getting hot. The Hebrew word for patience is long-nosed, so when He finally loses patience, His nose is said to become hot.
The mountains quake when God’s nose is hot, because mountains represent kingdoms, which are overthrown when God’s anger burns. In this case, the prophet was speaking of Judah, but no doubt he also had Israel in mind. In this metaphorical earthquake, the destruction of the city brings many casualties, people lying in the streets “like refuse,” or trash.
This is either a prophecy of the earthquake which was soon to come (Amos 1:1), or perhaps Isaiah was mentioning an earlier quake. We are not told, but as I explained in my commentary on Amos, the quake’s epicenter was just north of Israel and destroyed its defenses. That quake prepared the way for the Assyrians to conquer Israel.
Judah too was devastated, but not nearly as badly as Israel. We do not know the precise timing of this prophecy, but Isaiah also lived through this earthquake.
Isaiah 5:26 continues,
26 He will also lift up a standard [as a signal] to the distant nation and will whistle [sharaq, “whistle, hiss, or pipe”] for it from the ends of the earth; and behold, it will come with speed swiftly.
For thousands of years, armies have used flags to signal orders for troop movements. In this case, God Himself sends the signal to Assyria, instructing them to “come with speed swiftly” to destroy Israel and Judah. Military signals are also sent by pipe instruments, most notably trumpets, so God is again pictured as sending out such orders to attack Judah and Israel.
Isaiah 5:27, 28 says,
27 No one in it [the coming army] is weary or stumbles. None slumbers or sleeps; nor is the belt at its waist broken. 28 Its arrows are sharp, and all its bows are bent; the hoofs of its horses seem like flint, and its chariot wheels like a whirlwind.
It is a well-prepared and well-rested army, and the prophet treats it as if it were God’s army, trained and fully equipped by God Himself. The idea that an enemy army is commanded by God is seen again in Joel 2:11 and again in Matt. 22:7.
The unbelievers, of course, failed to recognize this and, instead of repenting for their lawlessness, they rose up to defend themselves against God’s army. They did not believe the words of the prophets that God’s verdict had gone against them, so they did the carnal thing by trying to defend themselves.
Isaiah 5:29, 30 concludes,
29 Its roaring is like a lioness, and it roars like young lions; it growls as it seizes the prey and carries it off with no one to deliver it. 30 And it will growl over it in that day like the roaring [nahamah, “growling, snarling”] of the sea. If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress; even the light is darkened by its clouds.
Daniel, too, would later describe these empires as beasts, describing Babylon as a winged lion (Dan. 7:4), Persia as a bear, Greece as a leopard, and Rome as a cyborg—a beast with some body parts made of iron. In the time of Isaiah, Babylon was just a province of the Assyrian empire. When God gave the signal for Assyria to attack, Israel was taken, Samaria destroyed, and the Israelites were dragged off as prey to a foreign land with no one to deliver them.
The Assyrians then growled over their prey, much like lions and dogs growl as a warning to other animals to stay away. They do not want to share their prey. The growls, however, are “like the roaring of the sea.” The Hebrew language speaks of the roar of the waves hitting the shore in terms of a growling or snarling beast.
Isaiah 57:20, 21 also tells us,
20 But the wicked are like the troubled [garash] sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah pictured the sea as a growling beast, but he also says it is “troubled.” The Hebrew word garash means “drive out, thrust out, drive out, cast out, exile”). In the case of the sea, the waves cast out “refuse and mud” upon the land. The word garash is used also of a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7, 14), like the bondwoman who was “cast out” (Gen. 21:10, KJV).
Isaiah’s terminology suggests that the Assyrian empire was the Garash Sea, not only because it was tossing up “refuse and mud,” but also because of its call to remove God’s wife, Israel, from the house when she was being divorced (Jer. 3:8). Isaiah will have more to say about that topic in Isaiah 50:1 and 54:6-8.
This ends the introductory section of Isaiah’s prophecy, leading to Isaiah’s vision and call as a prophet. It also is the end of the first book of my commentary on Isaiah.