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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
Isaiah 27:7, 8 says,
7 Like the striking of Him who has struck them, has He struck them? Or like the slaughter of His slain, have they been slain? 8 You contended with them by banishing them, by driving them away. With His fierce wind He has expelled them on the day of the east wind.
The prophet’s questions in verse 7 are rhetorical. The answer is no. God has not struck them in the normal manner, nor has He slaughtered them as one would normally do to an enemy in battle. Obviously, God did send the Assyrians to make war on Israel, and many Israelites were certainly killed in battle. But instead of killing most of the people, the Assyrians deported them in order to increase their own population and thus strengthen themselves.
This deportation, “banishing them by driving them away,” was pictured as “the east wind,” which was very hot and dry, coming off the deserts east of Israel. Assyria, too, came from the east (north-east).
Isaiah 27:9 continues,
9 Therefore, through this Jacob’s iniquity will be forgiven; and this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin: when he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones; when Asherim and incense altars will not stand.
The laws of tribulation in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 tell us that if Israel persists in its lawlessness, God vowed to remove them from the land and exile them into foreign lands. We read in Deut. 28:63 and 64,
63 … you will be torn from the land [Canaan] where you are entering to possess it. 64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.
Part of the judgment was that they would serve false gods during their captivity.
Leviticus 26:44 adds,
44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God.
Though men’s vows can be broken, God’s vows cannot fail, regardless of the works of men. God’s vows are the basis of the New Covenant; men’s vows are the basis of the Old Covenant. God exiled Israel for breaking its Old Covenant vow at the base of Mount Horeb, but this judgment could not be permanent without seeing God break His own vow to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For this reason, the judgments of God are limited by His own vows. All judgment is real but also temporary. There is no such thing as “everlasting” punishment. The Hebrew word is olam, which refers to an indefinite period of time—not “everlasting.” The root word alam means “to hide, obscure.” The word olam means “hidden,” because the time frame is hidden or unknown.
The exile has turned out to be measured in terms of “seven times” (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28). The meaning remained obscure until Daniel 7:25, which defined it in terms of a specific time cycle. But it was only when the Apostle John defined 3½ “times” as “forty-two months” in Rev. 13:5 that Bible students were able to pinpoint a “time” as 360 days/years.
Israel’s exile, of course, lasted far longer than seven years, so we are compelled to interpret it as 7 x 360 years, or 2,520 years. Likewise, 3½ “times” (or 42 months) is 1,260 years.
These time cycles were very long from our individual perspective. Yet they were not “everlasting.” They would have to end at some point so that God could fulfill His own vows, not only to Israel but to the entire earth, as God vowed in Num. 14:21,
21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.
This promise is repeated in another way in Isaiah 27:6, where Israel was to “fill the whole world with fruit.” In other words, not only has God sworn by His own life to bring Israel into the Promised Land, but He will also fill the entire earth with His glory and fruit, so that the earth will fulfill the purpose for which it was created.
The promise of God is to save the entire earth and to fill it with His glory, but the only way to do this in a lawful manner (in accordance with His nature) is to eliminate all false gods and idolatry. Their exile was to be characterized by their worship of false gods, as we saw in the laws of tribulation. Hence, it requires an outpouring of the Spirit—divine intervention—to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the promise of His glory.
So Isaiah 27:9 says that “the full price of the pardoning of his sin” will be seen when the idols are cast down and “pulverized.” We who have faith in Jesus Christ have already experienced this on a personal level, but Isaiah was referring to the collective body of people in the generation living at that future time.
Note also that the prophet refers to this as the end of “Jacob’s iniquity.” Israel’s forefather (Jacob) set the prophetic pattern for the nation itself. Jacob had obtained the blessing by fraud, that is, by identity theft, and because of this, he had to flee to Haran (Syria/Assyria), where he remained twenty years in hard labor. This prophesied of Israel’s exile to Assyria as well.
Prior to the wrestling match with the angel on his return to Canaan, Jacob’s “faith” was carnal, for he thought that God needed help from the flesh to fulfill the promise that had been given before he was born (Gen. 25:23). Only after wrestling with the angel did he understand the sovereignty of God, and for this reason he was renamed Israel, “God rules.”
This is the pattern that Isaiah drew upon to show the overthrow of Israel’s idols (or heart idolatry) and with it, the end of “Jacob’s iniquity.” It prophesied of the people receiving the same revelation that Jacob did, so that they could truly become Israelites.
Jacob was a believer all his life, but he was not an overcomer until he received the revelation of God’s sovereignty and understood that God is able to fulfill His promises without help from the flesh. So also is it today. The church (believers) must upgrade their faith in order to become Israelites. They must upgrade from Old Covenant (fleshly) faith to New Covenant faith, believing that God is able to do all that He has promised (Rom. 4:21).
Isaiah 27:10, 11 says,
10 The fortified city is isolated, a homestead forlorn and forsaken like the desert; there the calf will graze, and there it will lie down and feed on its branches. 11 When its limbs are dry, they are broken off; women come and make a fire with them, for they are not a people of discernment [biynah, “understanding, wisdom, insight, discernment”]; therefore, their Maker will not have compassion on them, and their Creator will not be gracious to them.
Some say this “fortified city” refers to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Others say that it is Jerusalem. In my view it is most likely Samaria, the capital of Israel, since the prophet has been focusing on Israel throughout this chapter. Yet the prophet does not tell us specifically.
Isaiah paints a picture of a once strong and fortified city now desolate and “isolated, a homestead forlorn and forsaken.” The city is compared to a dried-up tree, where women use its dead branches as firewood. The reason, the prophet says, is “they are not a people of discernment.” In other words, they do not discern and understand the mind of God. This is the cause of the city’s destruction.
Obviously, the people of Nineveh had no such understanding either, for God told Jonah that they “do not know the difference between their right and left hand” (Jonah 4:11). But Isaiah seems to be speaking about his own people. If he was referring specifically to Samaria, he certainly was also including Jerusalem, which had the same lack of discernment.
Because of this lack of biynah, the prophet says that God “will not have compassion on them.” This sounds very much like the earlier prophet Hosea, who named his daughter Lo-ruhamah, “no compassion, or no pity” in order to illustrate how God would judge the House of Israel (Hosea 1:6). Nonetheless, this condition was to be temporary, because at the end of Israel’s exile, we read in Hosea 2:23,
23 I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, “You are My people!” And they will say, “You are my God!”
Hence, we should not take Isaiah 27:11 to be a permanent condition, as if Israel’s judgment was “everlasting.” When the prophet says, “their Maker will not have compassion on them, and their Creator will not be gracious to them,” it was not meant to contradict the promise of God that Israel “will fill the whole world with fruit” (Isaiah 27:6).
Isaiah 27:12, 13 concludes with a promise of deliverance:
12 In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. 13 It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.
“In that day” refers to the time when God begins the process of delivering Israel. His “threshing” begins at the Euphrates—that is, Assyria—and moves from there to “the brook of Egypt,” that is, the Nile. Threshing, of course, was a Hebrew metaphor for tribulation. God uses the same metaphor in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:12). Hence, it refers to the judgment upon the flesh, pictured as chaff that is separated from the wheat.
In that way, God’s threshing is not bad but good. It only appears to be bad when viewed through fleshly eyes, because the flesh does not want to be threshed. But the result of this threshing is that “you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel.” John the Baptist put it this way: “He will gather His wheat into the barn” (Matt. 3:12). Each kernel of wheat represents an Israelite in this metaphor.
Isaiah 27:13 then speaks of “a great trumpet” that was to signal the regathering of “those who were perishing in the land of Assyria” to worship God “in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.” This is a prophetic reference to the feast of Trumpets, the first day of the seventh month, which signals the resurrection of the dead.
This feast has been fulfilled partially in us as believers, for we have put to death the old man and have been raised to “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Yet this “life” is only imputed at this time, along with our imputed righteousness. It is a legal position without actual immortality.
For this reason, Paul yearned to be clothed upon with immortality in 2 Cor. 5:4. Though he had already crucified the old man of flesh and had come into “newness of life,” he knew that he had not experienced the fullness of that which had been given to him as a promise.
Those who are raised from the dead are those who come to worship the Lord in “the holy mountain.” From the standpoint of the feast days, the resurrection on the feast of Trumpets is the start of a prophetic sequence leading to the feast of Tabernacles. The living overcomers will be “changed” on the first day of Tabernacles (the 15th day of the 7th month), and then presented to God in His holy mountain on the eighth day of Tabernacles, as the law prescribes.
The “holy mountain at Jerusalem” is not the earthly city. Rather, it is the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, and the spiritual place of gathering—“Mount Sion”—where the saints rally around their King (Heb. 12:22, KJV). Their worship will be at the true altar, represented by the constellation Ara, “Altar,” which, as we have shown, is one of the three Decans of Sagittarius, along with Lyra and Draco.