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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
Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-18,
15 Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
Jesus might have been thinking of Isaiah’s “Book of the Lord” (Isaiah 34:16), where the prophet had cited its teaching on the idea that like begets like. Every animal has its mate and produces “everyone with its kind” (Isaiah 34:15). Trees, too, produce fruit according to its kind. Grapevines produce grapes, not thorn bushes. There are even distinctions between fig trees, for one may produce bad figs and another good figs.
Jeremiah was shown two baskets of figs that men had brought to the temple as first fruits offerings. Jer. 24:2 says,
2 One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten due to rottenness.
The lesson is that we will know men by their fruit. Isaiah’s prophecy suggested that Edom’s fruit was evil and for this reason Edom is not qualified to hold the birthright and to rule the Kingdom. God’s “lot” was cast (Isaiah 34:17), dividing Jacob from Esau and (more broadly) dividing the vessels of honor from the vessels of dishonor.
The prophet then describes the fruit of the good trees in Isaiah 35.
Isaiah 35:1, 2 begins,
1 The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2 it will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
This is a metaphorical picture of the righteous who flourish in the Kingdom of God. The Arabah was the land south of Judah, where the Edomites lived. It is presently part of the Israeli state, which is fitting, since that state represents both the remnant of Judah and Edom.
The removal of the Edomites is pictured by the removal of the evil beasts in Isaiah 34:11-15. In other words, once the Edomites are removed, the Kingdom brings forth fruit, comparable to that of Mount Carmel. We should also see it as the removal of the fig tree that has brought forth bad fruit—or, worse yet, no fruit at all (Matt. 21:19).
Once the controversy between Jacob and Esau has been fully resolved, and once Esau has been stripped of the birthright in a lawful manner, the true Israelites will fulfill the fruitfulness mandate. Isaiah 27:6 says,
6 In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.
Hence, the true inheritors of the birthright will be known to all by their fruit, because they will fulfill the original mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Likewise, their example of faithfulness and righteousness will be emulated throughout the earth during the Age to come, resulting in an exponential growth of “fruit” throughout the whole world.
The Israeli state represents both Edom and the remnant of Judah (“fig tree”). The fig tree was devoid of fruit, having only leaves, and so Jesus cursed it, forbidding it to bear fruit ever again (Matt. 21:19). Later, Jesus qualified His prophecy, saying that the tree would come back to life and bear more “leaves” (Matt. 24:32). Yet it was to remain fruitless. If it should ever bear fruit, then Jesus prophesied falsely.
The fig tree came back to life in 1948 and has indeed borne many leaves, having a great show of righteousness. But in the end, it is incapable of bringing forth fruit, for that was the nature of Jesus’ curse. Hence, prophecy given to the remnant of Judah aligns with the prophecy given to Edom, for both are carnal and neither will bring forth fruit to fulfill Isaiah 27:6.
In other words, neither Edom nor the remnant of Judah are truly Israelites, yet both pretend to be Israel during this present season. This is why God blinded the church today, even as Isaac was blind, allowing Jacob to steal Esau’s identity.
Isaiah 35:3, 4 says,
3 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. 4 Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.”
“Vengeance” (naqam) and “recompense” (gemuwl) are legal terms, having to do with justice in the divine court. God’s vengeance is not based on emotion or upon grudges. Neither does God recompense unjustly or without mercy when applicable. Men’s vengeance is unjust, because men’s emotions usually get involved. For this reason, we are commanded not to carry out vengeance ourselves but to leave it to God (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19).
The idea of God coming is probably based on the practice of traveling judges in those days. Cases had to wait the coming of the judge as he traveled the circuit from town to town. So we read in 1 Samuel 7:15-17,
15 Now Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 He used to go annually on a circuit to Bethel and Gilgal and Mizpah, and he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then his return was to Ramah, for his house was there, and there he judged Israel; and he built there an altar to the Lord.
The judges were supposed to represent God in establishing justice. So the judges are referred to as elohim in Exodus 22:28, KJV,
22 Thou shalt not revile the gods [elohim, “God, gods, or judges, rulers”], nor curse the ruler of thy people.
An elohim, when applied to a man, is one of God’s agents who acts in the name of God. In particular, Jesus Christ was the Agent of God, who was entrusted with all judgment (John 5:27, 30). So when Isaiah 35:4 says, “Behold, your God will come with vengeance,” it is a prophecy of the second coming of Christ, when He comes as the Judge to render justice and put all things right—especially adjudicating the case between Jacob and Esau.
Isaiah 35:5 continues,
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
This implies that the Israelites were to be blind up to the time that Christ comes to judge. We may easily relate this to the blindness of Isaac, which had allowed Jacob to treat Esau with injustice in the past. That injustice is matched in our own time by the blindness in the church, which has allowed Esau to steal Jacob’s identity as recompense for Jacob’s unjust act against Esau.
Likewise, whenever Jesus healed the blind and the deaf in His first appearance, it proved that He had the ability to fulfill Isaiah 35:5 in His second appearance. But whereas Jesus only healed a few individuals in His first appearance, He will heal the entire world of much deeper blindness in His second appearance.
Isaiah 35:6, 7 continues,
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah. 7 The scorched land [burning, shining, as in a mirage] will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, its resting place, grass becomes reeds and rushes.
The picture Isaiah paints is of a mirage in the desert heat, which gives the appearance of a pool of water but is deceptive. That will end, and there will indeed be real water in the desert.
Isaiah 35:8 says,
8 A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.
This is the King’s Highway, a metaphorical road for the righteous alone. The path of righteousness is clearly set forth in Scripture. On a deeper level, we know that righteousness is a matter of faith, for “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3).
Likewise, only “clean” people walk this path, for “the unclean will not travel on it.” Whereas under the Old Covenant, men were cleansed by water and purification rites, Jesus said we are clean through the water of the word (John 15:3). Believing the word, that is, the promises of God, is what cleanses us under the New Covenant.
Isaiah 35:9, 10 concludes,
9 No lion will be there, nor will any vicious beast go up on it; these will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, 10 and the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Lions can mean more than one thing, but in this case the lion is classed with “any vicious beast.” Hence, it refers to Satan as “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). Nothing satanic can walk on this Highway of Holiness. Only “the redeemed will walk there.” The type and shadow was Israel under Moses, which was redeemed from bondage in Egypt according to the laws of redemption.
They ultimately came to “Zion,” the seat of government in Jerusalem. But as we have seen already, there are two Jerusalems, one earthly and the other heavenly. Likewise, there are two Zions, one called Zion and the other Sion (Heb. 12:22, KJV). Because God forsook the earthly Jerusalem even as He had forsaken Shiloh (Jer. 7:12, 14), the glory of God has moved to Mount Sion, where Jesus was transfigured. The Highway of Holiness now leads to Mount Sion, where the Sons of God are gathered around the true Shiloh, Jesus Christ.
This is the end of Isaiah’s prophecies in the first half of his book. What follows is a short historical section (Isaiah 36-39) before we come to the second half of Isaiah. The first half focuses primarily on the judgments of God; the second focuses on the restoration of the nations in the Kingdom of God.