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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 3

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

Isaiah 14b: Oracle Against Assyria and Philistia

Chapter 12: Oracle Against Assyria

It is remarkable that Isaiah would prophesy at great length about Babylon more than a century before it was destined to become a world empire and a threat either to Israel or Judah. Yet the prophet had not forgotten Assyria, which was the more immediate threat. Isaiah 14:24, 25 says,

24 The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended, so it has happened, and just as I have planned, so it will stand, 25 to break Assyria in My land, and I will trample him on My mountains. Then his yoke will be removed from them and his burden removed from their shoulder.”

The Law of Imputation

As we often see, God speaks of future things in the past tense. The principle is based on the law of imputation, where God calls what is not as though it were (Rom. 4:17). God’s word (the logos) causes all things to exist, whether seen or unseen. When God prophesies something, it immediately comes into existence, though it may not appear historically for thousands of years.

For this reason, God can truthfully speak of future things as if they had occurred already in the past. Paul uses this spiritual law to show that God made Abraham a father of many nations long before he had any children at all. It was a reality in the spirit long before it worked out in earth’s history. He then applies it to those believers who, by the same faith that Abraham exhibited, are pronounced righteous even though they yet fall far short of the stature of Christ.

In fact, all prophesied events are treated in the same way in Scripture. This is the power of the logos and the very definition of existence. Obviously, those without faith do not share God’s definition of existence, for to them, “seeing is believing.” They walk by sight, rather than by faith. But those who are of the household of faith define existence as that which God has spoken by His logos. Paul says, therefore, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

Even so, we must respect the existence of time and history, for God has created time by the same logos and continues to manifest spiritual things in earth’s history at His appointed times. To ignore time is to disrespect what God has created. At the same time, to walk by sight is equally to disrespect what God has called into existence by His logos.

In our personal lives, it is not hard to see who understands the law of imputation and who does not. Those who do not know this law often expect to be made perfect (mature) as soon as they are justified by faith. When they discover that they still fall short of the glory of God, they may wallow in guilt for many years, doubting their salvation. Such people still walk by sight, rather than by faith, not understanding that God has already imputed perfection to those who are yet imperfect. Knowing the law of imputation has the power to change one’s life and perspective.

The Fall of Assyria

Isaiah heard God say that He would “break Assyria” in His land and on His mountains. Assyria had not yet taken Samaria, for this prophecy appears to have been given in the year that King Ahaz died (Isaiah 14:28). Hezekiah had just come to the throne in Judah. Samaria was taken in the 6th year of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:10). Eight years later, Assyria attempted to take Jerusalem but failed when the Assyrian army was destroyed by the angel of the Lord (2 Kings 19:35). Assyria never again tried to take Jerusalem.

When God said that He would “break Assyria” in His land, the word was partially fulfilled when the Assyrian army was destroyed outside of Jerusalem. Yet this did not exhaust the prophecy, because Assyria had indeed succeeded in placing a yoke of bondage upon the Israelites and most of the Judahites as well. Only Jerusalem and its refugees were spared.

The prophet appears to link the breaking of Assyria with the removal of this yoke. We know, however, that the yoke of Assyria remained on the shoulders of the vast majority of Israelites for more than a century. And even then, after Babylon conquered Assyria, their yoke shifted to new masters. After Babylon fell, Judah came under the yoke of Persia, then Greece, and finally Rome and its extensions.

The point is that the captivity was long—a period of “seven times,” as I have shown in many other studies, a period of 360 x 7 years. We are now living in the time when the yoke of “Assyria” has been broken. The yoke began with Assyria and Babylon. When those empires fell, the yoke passed to other empires in history, but these were all just prophetic extensions of Assyria and/or Babylon. The entire prophecy of Nahum against Assyria and Nineveh should be understood in the same way. (See Nahum 2:8; 3:7; 3:18.)

World Empires

Isaiah 14:26, 27 says,

26 This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. 27 For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?

The prophet gives us an overall glimpse of the divine plan in history in regard to the nations. The plan was not merely about Israel and Judah but “against the whole earth” and “against all the nations.” From today’s perspective, we can see the divine plan to overthrow all the nations of the earth and to incorporate them into His Kingdom. In the end, “every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23). Rev. 11:15 agrees, saying,

15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” [literally, for the ages of the ages].

Isaiah declares the sovereignty of God, for this is His plan and purpose for the earth, and none can withstand it. Though they fight God for thousands of years, they only succeed until the time appointed by the Father Himself. The kings of the earth are deluded into thinking that they can rule forever, but their success is limited by the specific time of divine judgment upon Israel and Judah. That judgment is limited to “seven times,” and then the kingdoms of this world discover how vulnerable they are to “His out-stretched hand.”

Those who walk by sight think that the unjust rule of the “beast” nations must continue forever or until the earth itself is destroyed; but those who walk by faith in God’s word (logos) know that Christ’s victory is already written in the heavens and will surely come to pass. The heavenly model of the Kingdom already exists, and it will be established in the earth at the appointed time.

While unbelievers may remain in suspense to see who will win in the end, believers already know the plan and the outcome. Those who know the times and seasons have even greater awareness of the times in which they live. We today are encouraged by knowing that we are at the end of the “seven times” of divine judgment. We do not look for a future tribulation but for the end (and climax) of the long tribulation that has been ongoing since 604 B.C.

Dating the Oracle

Isaiah 14:28 says,

28 In the year that King Ahaz died this oracle came:

It is unclear if “this oracle” is the oracle against Assyria in the previous verses, or if it is the oracle against Philistia in the next verses. The NASB puts a colon at the end of the sentence, implying that “this oracle” is in the next verses. However, the KJV puts a period at the end of the sentence, implying that “this oracle” was the one directed at Assyria. It is a matter of interpretation.

Whichever oracle the prophet was dating, it was given “in the year that King Ahaz died.” In other words, it came shortly after Ahaz died and in the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. In other words, it is dated 727 B.C.

The sixth year of Hezekiah was the year that Samaria fell (721 B.C.). Therefore, the first year of Hezekiah was 726 B.C. The previous year (727 B.C.) was when Ahaz died and was also the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. In ancient times, in order to keep their calendars accurate, when a king died during the year, they attributed the entire year to his reign. The first year of his successor was the following year, even though he had already begun to rule in the previous year.

Hence, “the beginning” of a king’s reign (Jer. 26:1; 27:1) was not the first year of his reign but was in the remaining months of the reign of the previous king.

The oracle in Isaiah 14:28 is thus dated in the early months of Hezekiah’s reign, and it must have come to the prophet shortly after his vision of the throne of God (Isaiah 6:1). Isaiah’s prophecies are not necessarily in chronological order but are often arranged by topic. In this case, the oracle against Assyria or Philistia was grouped with other prophecies that concerned foreign nations.

The only other prophecy in this grouping is the prophecy about Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia), which is dated in Isaiah 20:1. The prophecy was given in the year that the Assyrian commander (Tartan, “commander-in-chief”) was sent by Sargon, king of Assyria. He “fought against Ashdod and captured it.”

We will have more to say about that at the appropriate time.