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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
Having given his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, Isaiah then turns his attention to the foreign nations that God will use to destroy the city. Isaiah 29:7, 8 says,
7 And the multitude of all the nations who wage war against Ariel, even all who wage war against her and her stronghold, and who distress her, will be like a dream, a vision of the night. 8 It will be as when a hungry man dreams—and behold, he is eating, but when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied. Or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking, but when he awakens, behold, he is faint and his thirst is not quenched. Thus the multitude of all the nations will be who wage war against Mount Zion.
Is that all??? The only result of their attack upon Jerusalem is that they will remain unsatisfied and still thirsty? Is there no mass destruction from an angry God who would destroy those who would dare to attack Jerusalem? The prophet’s words are vastly different from what many Christians envision today.
First, “the multitude of all the nations” are said to “distress” Jerusalem. Earlier, in verse 2, God takes the credit for this, saying, “I will bring distress to Ariel.” The Hebrew word (tsuwq) is the same in both cases. Since God Himself is the one distressing Jerusalem, how could He judge the nations that He uses to accomplish His will? The soldiers were only following the commands of their great Commander-in-Chief—God Himself.
The prophet says that “it will be like a dream, a vision of the night.” It will be like a man who dreams that he is eating and drinking, but when he awakens, he is still hungry and thirsty. In other words, the nations destroying Jerusalem are hungry in the sense that their desire is to “eat” the land—but in the end, they are unable to possess the land or the city of Jerusalem. Why? Because the land is so full of nuclear fallout that NO ONE is able to live there!
There is a Hebrew idiom about eating or consuming that we find in Num. 13:32, where the ten spies described Canaan as “a land that devours its inhabitants.” They were saying that the Canaanites would defeat the Israelites and devour them. Joshua’s response in Num. 14:9 KJV is that “they are bread for us.” In other words, with God on our side, we will devour them.
In the case of Isaiah 29:8, the prophet used this idiom in the context of a dream. The nations dreamed of devouring (or occupying) the land of Judah. God helped them to destroy Jerusalem, but in the end, their dream remained unfulfilled, for they awoke still hungry and disappointed that they could not possess the land for themselves.
That is all.
Isaiah does not confirm the understanding of many prophecy teachers who claim that Christ will come at the last minute to destroy the attackers, save the day for the Jews, and prevent the utter destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, no one is able to live there, as the prophet implies.
It cannot be said that the earthly Jerusalem (which Paul calls “Hagar”) will be the mother of the Kingdom. The children of the earthly Jerusalem will not inherit the Kingdom. There will be no physical temple in Jerusalem for Jesus to live in as He rules the earth. There will be no Levitical priests offering sacrifices on a brazen altar in the temple. The place will be uninhabitable.
The prophecy above was spoken to the people of Judah, telling them the fate of the nations that were to destroy Jerusalem in the end. Isaiah 29:9, 10 then concludes,
9 Be delayed [mahah, “tarry, linger, wait”] and wait [tamah, “marvel, wonder, be amazed”], blind yourselves and be blind; they become drunk, but not with wine, they stagger, but not with strong drink. 10 For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep. He has shut your eyes, the prophets, and He has covered your heads, the seers.
The prophet tells Judah to wait and be amazed. Today we might say, “Wait and see; you will be amazed,” not only because of the destruction of Jerusalem, but also because the prophets were to be blinded and drunk with the wine of Babylon. The eyes of the prophets were to be shut; the seers were to have a bag over their heads.
In other words, most of the prophets were to prophesy by the power of the wrong “wine,” and the seers were to be prevented from seeing the truth. What truth? Specifically, the truth of the fall of Jerusalem and the fact that no one will get the land in the end.
This is the condition of the church today, which has many gifted prophets and seers and yet very few of them see and understand Isaiah 29:1-8. When God says, “Be blind,” they are indeed blind. When God shuts their eyes, it literally takes an act of God to restore their sight.
This He will do at the appropriate time. Exodus 4:11 says,
11 The Lord said to him [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
What God has done to the church as a whole is the same as what He did with the church in the wilderness under Moses. Moses knew the situation by revelation, for he told Israel in Deut. 29:4, 5,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. 5 I have led you forty years in the wilderness…
It is the same today. There are many gifted prophets, seers, along with the people themselves who have remained blind without realizing it. Hence, they treat the Israeli state as if it were the Kingdom of God. They defend Hagar and her children as if they were chosen.
Isaiah 29:11, 12 concludes,
11 The entire vision [of Isaiah 29:1-8] will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, “Please read this,” he will say, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, “Please read this.” And he will say, “I cannot read.”
Messages from kings were often sealed with wax that were imprinted with the king’s seal. No one was allowed to break the seal and read the message except the one to whom the scroll was sent. If anyone else read it, he could be convicted of treason.
So Isaiah says that the prophets will not be able to read Isaiah 29 with understanding. The literate ones will not be able to read (i.e., understand) the message because the book is sealed. The illiterate ones simply do not know how to read. In each case, no real understanding can be given to the people about the plan of God contained in the scroll. God put the seal on the book so that few would understand the fate of Jerusalem, even though it is written plainly for those with eyes to see.
That is why few prophets, few seers, and few people have understood the divine plan to destroy the earthly Jerusalem and to restore creation as a whole. Few know that God intends to destroy Jerusalem to set people free from the bondage of Hagar-Jerusalem.
Few know that God intends to reconcile His entire creation back to Himself. Many know that Isaiah is the Prophet of Salvation, but few know the full extent of that salvation, for they do not understand His sovereignty and its result, where every tongue swears allegiance to Christ (Isaiah 45:23).
The Apostle Paul knew this (Phil. 2:9-11). Most people, however, remain blind until God opens their eyes.
Blindness is caused by rejecting the word of God. When anyone rejects some portion of the word of God, he becomes blind to that particular word. He is blinded by his own assumptions which become idols in his heart. Unless God intervenes, those idols remain hidden. It is only the mercy of God that can set us free.
Ultimately, the whole world suffers some level of blindness. We ought to pray earnestly to be healed of blindness, so that we may be released early from this judgment that has been decreed upon all flesh.
Isaiah had some revelation about blindness, particularly upon the people of Judah to whom he ministered. Recall that as early as his commission he wrote in Isaiah 6:9, 10,
9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”
This is reinforced later in Isaiah 44:18,
18 They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend.
God took credit for blinding their eyes, as this was His judgment for their refusal to hear the word of Isaiah—and even further back when they refused to hear the rest of the law at the base of Mount Horeb (Exodus 20:18-20). Ultimately, blindness can be traced back to Adam, who first rejected the word of God.
Whatever level of blindness a person has, the solution is always Jesus Himself. Every time He healed the blind, He showed His ability to heal spiritual blindness as well. But Jesus also knew that the divine plan was to heal blindness only in a few at first, for the plan called for blindness to reign over most of the earth until the end. For this reason, He spoke in parables. Matt. 13:13 says,
13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Jesus then quoted Isaiah 6:9, 10, and then concluded in Matthew 13:16, 17,
16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Blindness is not just the condition of the unrighteous. Even “many prophets and righteous men” remained blind. We are fortunate, however, to be living in the days when God is revealing more truth and removing more blindness. In our case, we are able to understand Isaiah 29:1-8 in spite of almost universal blindness.
This is the end of Book 4 in our study of Isaiah, regarding the nations.