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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Isaiah 9



Verses 1-7

Isaiah 5:1-30 begins with what we may call, The Song of Isaiah. If we turn back to Deuteronomy 32:1-52, we may read the song of Moses, which is partly retrospective and partly prophetic. Moses uttered his song at the start of Israel's national history; Isaiah uttered his towards its close. The testimony of both is the same. The failure of the people was complete.

Israel had been Jehovah's vineyard, and He had ordered everything in their favour. A very fruitful spot had been their location with all necessary equipment. The law, given through Moses, had fenced them about, so as to protect them from contamination from outside, if they had observed it. Moreover they were a "choicest vine," for they had descended from Abraham, one of God's choicest saints. Thus everything had been in their favour. What had been the result?

Result there was, but of a wholly worthless and evil sort. Where judgment should have been oppression was found: where righteousness, only a cry of distress. Once again we have to notice that the charge against them concerns moral depravity rather than lack of ceremonial observances.

When the Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as "the true Vine," (John 15:1), the minds of His disciples may well have turned back to this scripture, as ours also may do. Israel was the picked sample of humanity in which the trial of the whole race took place. The condemnation of Israel is the condemnation of all of us; but it was in the cross of Christ that the condemnation was formally and finally pronounced. The first man and his race condemned and rejected. The Second Man, and those who are of Him and in Him, accepted and established for ever.

The song of Isaiah ended, the prophet dropped figurative language for the hard, plain facts of Israel's sin. Six times over does he utter a "Woe" upon them in verses Isaiah 5:8-25, and again we notice that it was their moral evils that stirred the Divine wrath. The first woe is flung at the men of grasping covetousness, who aimed at monopolizing houses and lands for themselves. Judgment in the form of desolation for both houses and lands would fall upon them.

The second woe is against the drunkard and pleasure-seeker. The judgment awaiting them is described down to verse Isaiah 5:17. We may observe that similar catastrophe ever follows a people given over to pleasure and debauchery. The great Roman Empire did it in her later years, and then crashed. If Britain and other nations of today do it — what then?

The third woe (verse Isaiah 5:18) is uttered against those who sin openly, violently, in defiance of God. The fourth is against men of a subtler type, who overturn all the foundations of right and wrong. Accepting their ideas and teachings the multitude become confused and perverted, condemning what is good and applauding what is evil; truly a terrible state of things.

This leads, no doubt, to what is denounced in the fifth woe. The men who do thus pervert the mental outlook of their fellows, pose as being the wise and prudent leaders of others. At least they consider themselves to be such. And the effect of their teachings — new and progressive, as they would call them — upon those who imbibe them, leads to the denunciation of the sixth woe. They go back to their drink and debauchery, and pervert everything that is right in their dealings with others. If they accept the teaching, indicated in verse Isaiah 5:20, that is what they will do.

After the second woe no details of what would be involved are given till we reach verse Isaiah 5:24. Then the pent-up wrath, merited by the last four woes, is made plain. And in verses Isaiah 5:26-30, there is revealed how all six woes would bring upon them chastisement from without. The nations that soon would descend upon them like a roaring lion, and were doubtless headed up in the mighty Assyrian of those days, whom the Lord called, "The rod of Mine anger" (Isaiah 10:5).

Having been used to pronounce this six-fold woe, Isaiah was given a vision of the glory of Jehovah on His throne, attended by the angelic seraphim. Of their six wings only two were used for flight. First came the covering of the face in the presence of inscrutable glory; then the covering of their own way from their eyes; lastly their activity in the service of their God; a suitable lesson for ourselves. A Spirit of worship and self-forgetfulness precedes service. The very door of the temple was moved at the Divine presence and this was followed by a spiritual movement in Isaiah. It wrought deep conviction of sin and uncleanness, so that having just pronounced in the name of the Lord six woes upon others, he now called for a woe upon himself.

Here we see exemplified the statement, "Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Psalms 39:5). This happened to Isaiah in the year that King Uzziah died, who was one of the better kings, but ended his days a leper because he dared to push his way into the temple of God. Here Isaiah found himself before God in His temple, and he instinctively used the language of a leper (see, Leviticus 13:45) realising that sin is leprosy of a spiritual sort. No sooner had his confession been made than the way of cleansing was revealed. Live coal, that had been in contact with the sacrifice was applied to his lips and the sin and uncleanness removed. Only sacrifice can cleanse sin; a foreshadowing of the death of Christ.

Then came the challenge as to service, and Isaiah's response; and as a result he was specially sent as the messenger to Israel. As often pointed out, the unvarying order is:- first, conviction; second, cleansing; third, commission in the service of God. Isaiah said, "Here am I send me." When God was about to commission Moses, He had the response, in effect, "Here am I send somebody else," as we see in Exodus 4:13; though He overruled it and Moses was sent. Let us all — especially the young Christian — give Isaiah's response and not that of Moses, lest the Lord pass us by, to our loss at the judgment seat of Christ.

It is instructive to note New Testament references to this scene. In John 12:4, the blind rejection of Jesus is the theme, and we discover that Isaiah "saw His glory, and spake of Him." Then in Acts 28:26, Paul refers to our chapter and says, "Well spake the Holy Ghost..." So here is one of those allusions to the Trinity, which are embedded in the Old Testament. In verse Isaiah 5:3 we have "Holy," repeated, not twice nor four times but three; and Jehovah of hosts is before us. In verse Isaiah 5:5, "the King, the Lord of hosts," whom we find to be the Lord Jesus. In verse Isaiah 5:8, "the voice of the Lord," which is claimed as the voice of the Holy Ghost. God is One and yet Three: Three and yet One. Hence, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?"

Verses Isaiah 5:9-15, give us the message that Isaiah was commissioned to give. It was indeed of great solemnity. Things had reached such a state that hardening and blindness was to fall on the people, so that conversion and healing would not be theirs, and they would be driven out of their land. The only gleam of hope as to themselves would be found in the fact that God would have His tenth in a holy seed: in other words, He would preserve for Himself a godly remnant. The position was the same among the Jews in Paul's day, as Romans 11:1-36 shows, and it is exactly the same today. The national blindness still persists and there is still a believing remnant, but now incorporated in the church.

With Isaiah 7:1-25 we pass into some historical details of the reign of Ahaz, which are recorded in 2 Kings 15:1-38; 2 Kings 16:1-20. He wrought much evil and was now threatened by an alliance against him of Pekah, the usurper on the throne of the ten tribes, and Rezin of Syria. If they had slain or removed Ahaz, they would have broken the line of descent, by which, according to the flesh, Christ came, as indicated in Matthew 1:9. This God was not going to allow, so Isaiah was instructed to take his young son, Shear-Jashub, which means, "The remnant shall return," and intercept Ahaz, telling him their scheme should not succeed, and that within 65 years the northern kingdom should be destroyed.

Invited to ask for a sign that should confirm this prophecy, Ahaz declined, not because he had implicit faith in the word of the Lord but because swayed by his idols he was indifferent. Nevertheless the great sign was given — Immanuel, born of a virgin — which was indeed valid, both "in the depth," and "in the height above." Notice the order of these two expressions, and then read Ephesians 4:9, where it is emphasized that the descent comes before the ascent on high.

After this prophecy had been fulfilled in the coming of Christ the Jews made great efforts to avoid giving the Hebrew word the force of virgin, treating it as meaning merely a young woman; and to this day unbelievers have followed in their train. The Septuagint version, made by Jews long before the prejudice arose, translated the word by the Greek word which without any question means virgin. This one fact effectively destroys the effort to destroy the prophecy.

Verse Isaiah 5:15 is admittedly obscure, but we believe it signifies that the coming One, though "GOD with us," is yet, as born of the virgin, to grow up both physically and mentally according to the laws governing human life. This we see to be the case in Luke 2:40-52.

Verse Isaiah 5:16 appears to allude to Shear-jashub, who was with Isaiah, for the word translated "child" is not the one so translated in chapter Isaiah 9:6, but one meaning "lad" or "youth." The prediction of that verse came to pass through the power and rapacity of the Assyrian kings, as the closing verses of this chapter state. The desolations that would follow are then described.

In all this there is only one hope for Israel, or indeed for any of us, and that is, God himself stepping into the scene by way of the virgin birth. Thus was fulfilled the earliest prophecy of all, that "the Seed of the woman" should be He, who would bruise the head of the serpent, the originator of all the sin and sorrow. The virgin birth of Christ is not just a mere detail, an insignificant side issue in the Divine plan. It is fundamental and essential. By it the entail of sin and death, inherent in the race of Adam, was broken. Christ was not "of the earth, earthy," but "the Second Man... the Lord from heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:47). In Him, risen from the dead, a new race of man is begun.

A second child of Isaiah is mentioned in chapter 8. His long name was significant of the approaching conquest by Assyria of the two powers that were at that moment threatening Judah. Like a flood from the river the king of Assyria would overflow even through Judah, though he was not allowed to take Jerusalem in Hezekiah's time. Assyria did not know then, and the nations have not known since, that the land belongs primarily to Immanuel and only secondarily to the Jew.

Verses Isaiah 5:9-10 doubtless had an application to the day when Isaiah wrote, but their force abides. Palestine holds a very central position and it is becoming more and more evident that its potential riches are great. The peoples may associate themselves in contending leagues in order to lay hands on it but they will be broken in pieces, "for God is with us;" literally "for Immanuel." Christ is God and when He is manifested in His glory, the nations will be as nothing before Him — only "as a drop of a bucket," as presently Isaiah tells us. Among the nations today the idea of a confederacy is strong but this will be the end of it.

Isaiah, however, was warned against the idea of a confederacy for himself and his people. It would be doubly wrong in their case, inasmuch as they had been given the knowledge of God, and He was to be their trust. This we see in verses Isaiah 5:11-18. Ahaz in his day was keen on a confederacy, and in the last days there will be strong confederacy between the man, who will become the wilful king and false prophet in Jerusalem, and the predicted head of the revived Roman empire; and this instead of the fear of the Lord.

The reason of this is revealed in verse Isaiah 5:15. Immanuel is truly the sanctuary of His people but He would become "a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence," by the fact of His rejection. This is made quite plain in 1 Peter 2:8. This He is to "both the houses of Israel," though He was rejected mainly at the hands of the house of Judah.

In these striking verses the godly are owned as Immanuel's "disciples." Though the mass of the people fall and are broken, as the Lord said in Matthew 21:44, the testimony and the law will not fail, but will be bound up among those who really fear the Lord. Such will wait upon the Lord instead of turning to confederacies with men, and they will look for the appearing of Immanuel. When He appears in His glory those given to Him, and carried through the time of tribulation, will be for a sign and a wonder. This applies also today, as we see by the quotation in Hebrews 2:13. The saints given to Him today will be manifested with Him in glory. And what a sign and wonder it will be when He thus displays the "exceeding riches of His grace," (Ephesians 2:7).

Verse Isaiah 5:19 returns to what was then taking place in Israel. They were turning to the spiritist practices of the heathen with necromancers and soothsayers, trying to get guidance for the living from those who were dead, when the law and testimony was available for them, in which light from God was shining. If they did not speak according to that, there would be "no light in them;" or, "for them there is no daybreak." The principle of all this is more abundantly true for us today, inasmuch as the coming of Christ has so greatly amplified the word and testimony of God, enshrined in the New Testament Scriptures. If men turn from that to the illusive sparks, generated by man's wisdom and achievements, there will be no light in them, and no daybreak for them when Christ returns.

Instead of daybreak there will be darkness and gloom, so graphically described in the two verses that close this chapter and the opening verse of Isaiah 9:1-21. There was this darkness in the days of Ahaz. It existed in the day when Christ came, and it will doubtless be very pronounced at the end of the age. The way in which this prophecy is applied to the Lord Jesus and His early ministry, when we turn to Matthew 4:13-16, is very striking. What wonderful spiritual light streamed forth from Him, both in His words and His miracles, for the blessing of those who had been sitting in darkness, whether they had eyes to see it or not.

The opening verses of Isaiah 9:1-21 follow one another in a very instructive and delightful sequence. Verse Isaiah 5:1 continues the picture of great darkness and affliction that closed chapter 8. Verse Isaiah 5:2 tells of the great light that burst in upon the darkness. Verse Isaiah 5:3, of the great joy that follows; for translation authorities tell us that the word, "not," should be deleted. Verse Isaiah 5:4 speaks of the great deliverance that will be granted: verse Isaiah 5:5, of the removal by burning of all that speaks of warfare, so that great peace is established.

Referring this to the first advent of the Lord Jesus, as Matthew does, we recognize that these great things have been the result in a spiritual way. They are just what the Gospel brings, whether to Jew or Gentile. They will be achieved for Israel, and indeed for the saved nations, in the coming day when the Lord appears in His glory. Then every oppressor will be completely destroyed and peace will descend upon the earth.

Verse Isaiah 5:6 begins with, "For;" that is, it supplies the basic reason or ground on which the prophecy rests. The meaning and implications of the great name, Immanuel, are unfolded to us. He is truly the "Child" born to the virgin but He is also the "Son" given. In the fuller light of the New Testament we can see how fitting is the word "given" here rather than "born." He who was "Son" became "seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3); that is, by His birth of the virgin. Hence His Sonship preceded His birth, and, as the fruit of inspiration, the prophecy was so worded as to be in harmony with the truth later to be revealed.

The government is to rest on the shoulder of Immanuel, and the full import of the name is now given to us under five headings. The first is "Wonderful;" that is, Singular and beyond all powers of human scrutiny. Then He is "Counsellor;" One involved in the counselling which precedes Divine acts, as for instance, "Let Us make man..." (Genesis 1:26). This must be so inasmuch as He is "Mighty God." Again, being so, when He takes flesh and blood, His name of course must be, "God with us." Moreover, He is "Father of eternity," as more literally the words read. Eternity has its origin in Him. The ascription of Deity to the Child born could not be more distinct.

Lastly, being all this, He is "Prince of peace," the only One who, in this rebellious world, can establish it upon a permanent basis. This He will do by the warrior judgments, predicted in verses Isaiah 5:4-5. Becoming "Seed of David," as we have seen, He will sit upon the throne of David, and having crushed man's rebellion and evil, He will govern with judgment and justice to the glory of God and the blessing of men. The Second Advent of our Lord will see these great predictions fulfilled to the letter.

The epoch in which we live is not the day of God's government upon the earth but the day of His grace, when government is still in the hands of the Gentiles and God is gathering out of the nations a people for His name. The time of grace may soon end, and then God will arise to deal with the world problems created by the sin of man. To bring the whole earth into subjection will indeed be a colossal task, but as our scripture says, "The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this." We may well rejoice that so it will be.

Verses 8-32

At this point the prophet resumed the denunciation of the people and their sins, which had been suspended that he might relate his vision of Jehovah of Hosts and give the prediction concerning Immanuel. We now learn how God's hand was stretched out upon them in anger and discipline. In Isaiah 5:1-30, woe was pronounced upon them six times, and now we get the hand of God stretched out in wrath four times over — verses Isaiah 9:12, Isaiah 9:17, Isaiah 9:21, and Isaiah 10:4. There seems to be an increase of severity as we proceed.

The ten tribes had been chastised with much destruction, but in their pride they declared that it gave them the opportunity to rebuild on a much improved scale. They spoke then just as men are speaking today as they view the destruction wrought in the recent war. The Lord warned them that their ally, Rezin of Syria, would be overthrown, a token of the overthrow coming upon themselves.

But again the people did not accept the discipline and turn to God who sent it. Consequently they would be deceived by prophecy that was false, and from the highest to the lowest face a cuffing off and disaster. But this too would fail of any true effect.

Hence further miseries would come upon them and inter-tribal strife. The wrath of the Lord would darken the land and yet be as a fire and the people as fuel. And still His anger would remain.

They would still practice deceit and treachery and oppression, and bring upon themselves what is described as "the day of visitation." Having forsaken their God, He would be no refuge for them in that hour of distress, and His hand would still be against them. This brings us to the Assyrian, in verse Isaiah 9:5.

But we pause a moment to remark that, as so often in Old Testament prophecy, there is an ultimate fulfilment as well as a more immediate one, and this surely is the case here. For instance, there were prophets speaking falsely in Isaiah's day, but the very special "prophet that speaketh lies," who is "the tail" is a reference to the antichrist of the last days; just as "the day of visitation" looks on to that special day of trial that is yet to come. Similarly "the Assyrian," that now we are to consider, has this double application — the then existing great power centred in Nineveh, and also that "king of the North," which was Assyria, that we read of in the last days.

In Isaiah's day the power of Assyria was threatening all the nations. God had taken that people up as the rod of His anger to chastise many a nation that was far from Him — and Israel among them. Later God used the Chaldeans in the same way, and this it was that disturbed the mind of Habakkuk, and led him to protest that, bad as Israel might be, the Chaldeans, whom God was going to use against them for their discipline, were worse. We see here what we see also in Habakkuk; that God may use an evil nation to chastise His faithless people, but only under His strict supervision and control. God was now sending him, as verse Isaiah 9:6 says, against an hypocritical nation — evidently the ten tribes and Samaria.

But the Assyrian himself did not realize this, and therefore, "he meaneth not so," but intended to ravage Jerusalem as well as Samaria, doing to them what he had already done to many of the surrounding peoples. As we know from the historical Scriptures, though he distressed and threatened Jerusalem he did not take it. As verse Isaiah 9:12 intimates, he would be used to perform on Jerusalem that which God intended and then he himself would be punished and humbled. He was only like an axe or a rod in the hand of the Lord and could not dictate to the One who wielded him. The Holy One of Israel would consume him and bring down his pride and importance.

We know how all this was fulfilled in the days of Hezekiah. Samaria was led captive, but when Sennacherib attempted with proud boasts to take Jerusalem his forces received a conclusive blow directly from the hand of God, and he himself was shortly after slain by two of his sons, as we read in 2 Kings 19:37.

The double application of the latter part of Isaiah 10:1-34 is, we think, quite evident. In verses 20-23, God pledges Himself to preserve a remnant though He was to permit a great consuming in the land, according to His holy government. This promise of a remnant covers the whole "house of Jacob," for it must have been given some years before the ten tribes were taken into captivity. God did preserve a remnant in those far-off days when the prophecy was given, and He will yet do so in the coming days at the end of this age.

So again, in verses 24-34, there was the plain assurance to the inhabitants of Jerusalem that they need not fear the Assyrian. He would afflict them as with a rod, yet God would destroy him eventually. This came to pass, as we have seen, though he would come to the very gates of the city and, "shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem." His progress through the towns, as he approached, is very graphically described. He would seem to be like a great cedar of Lebanon, stretching his mighty bough over the city, but Jehovah of hosts would lop his bough with terror.

All this also has an application to the last days, as is manifest when we commence reading Isaiah 11:1-16, for there is really no break between the two chapters. The Lord Jesus is the "Rod [or, Shoot] out of the stem of Jesse," and the "Branch," and the chapter presents Him in the power and glory of His second coming. That the Spirit of the Lord, in seven-fold fulness, rested upon Him at His first coming is very true, and when we read of our Lord that, "God giveth not the Spirit by measure (John 3:34), there may be a reference to what is stated here, as also there is in "the seven Spirits," mentioned in Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6; and in this last reference they are "sent forth into all the earth," as will be the case when the Shoot of Jesse comes forth endowed with this seven-fold fulness.

We are reminded also of the candlestick in the Tabernacle with its six branches springing from the main stem. The oil, typical of the Holy Spirit, fed its seven lamps. The "Branch" is to grow or more accurately, "be fruitful," and when Christ in the plenitude of the Spirit fills the earth, fruit will abound for there will not only be wisdom, but the might to enforce its dictates, and all controlled by the fear of the Lord.

Moreover He will not be dependent, as are human judges, on external things; on what He sees or hears; since He will possess that "quick understanding," which will give Him that intuitive knowledge, which springs from His Divine nature, so that His actions, whether in favour of the poor and meek or against the wicked, will be marked by absolute righteousness. At last an age of righteousness will have dawned.

As the result of this, peace will descend upon the earth, so much so that all antagonism and ferocity will depart, even from the animal creation. The creature was made subject to vanity, not of its own will but by reason of the sin of Adam, and it is to be "delivered from the bondage of corruption" (Romans 8:20, Romans 8:21); but the Apostle gives us a detail not made known to Isaiah, for it will be the time when not only the Shoot of Jesse will be manifested, but also the manifestation and glory of the sons of God.

The picture of millennial blessedness, presented to us in verses Isaiah 9:6-9, is a very delightful one. Missionaries would tell us, we believe, that to slay and eat a kid of the goats is a special attraction for the leopard, just as the wolf naturally slaughters the lambs. All creation shall be at peace, all ferocity abolished; even the poisonous serpent deprived of its venom and its desire to bite. The earth in that day, instead of being full of the confusion and the conflicts created by the fall of man, will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. How do the waters cover the sea-bed? They do so completely, without one crevice being unfilled. Such is the lovely picture that is presented to us here.

And how can such wonderful things, not only for Israel but for all creation, be brought about? Verse Isaiah 9:10, we think, sheds light on this, for there we discover that the Lord Jesus is predicted as the "Root of Jesse," as well as a "Shoot" out of his stem. We are reminded at once that in the last chapter of the Bible the Lord presents Himself to us as "the root and offspring of David;" an allusion doubtless to our chapter. Here "Jesse" is used we believe, to heighten the contrast, for David had become a name of great renown, whereas Jesse only reminds us of the otherwise unknown farmer from whom David sprang. From one small and unknown the great Messiah was to spring, and yet to be the Root from which Jesse sprang.

So, if as the Shoot we think of Christ in His holy Manhood, as the Root we have to think of Him in His Deity. In His Manhood He sprang out of Israel, and had special links with that people. Introduce His Godhead, and all men come at once into view. So it is, as often noticed, in the Gospel of John, where the word "world" occurs with great frequency; and so it is here for the word "people" in our version should be "peoples;" that is, the nations generally, to whom the Root will stand as an "ensign" or "banner," and to Him will the Gentiles seek: and "His rest will be glory," as the margin reads. Greed will go out and glory will come in. What a day for the earth that will be!

This wonderful prophetic strain continues to the end of Isaiah 12:1-6, and four times do we get the expression, "in that day." The first we have glanced at in verse Isaiah 9:10, when the promised Messiah shall be manifested in His Godhead glory, and bring blessing to the remotest peoples. The second is in verse Isaiah 9:11, for in that day there will be a re-gathering of Israel, and the predictions concerning this continue to the end of the chapter. We must not mistake the present migration of Jews to Palestine for this, since verse Isaiah 9:11 speaks of what will be accomplished in the day of Christ's manifestation, and it will be an act of God and doubtless accomplished through Christ; for "Lord" in verse Isaiah 9:11 is not "Jehovah" but "Adonai," the title used for instance in Psalms 110:1, when David by the Spirit spoke of the coming Messiah as "my Lord."

Moreover, when that re-gathering is brought to pass, the division between the ten tribes and the two will have disappeared, and the nations that surround Israel will have been subdued, and there will be an alteration in geographical conditions both as to Egypt and Assyria. None of these things have yet come to pass.

But these things will come to pass, and "in that day," when they do, there will burst forth from Israel a song of praise far deeper and more sincere than that which was sung in Exodus 15:1-27. But let us recapitulate for a moment. In verse Isaiah 9:10, Messiah appears in His Deity and glory as the rallying centre for all mankind. He draws all to Himself, according to John 12:32. But this means, as the rest of the chapter shows, that Israel will get redemption blessing, far more wonderful than their past redemption from Egypt. Then follows, as Isaiah 12:1-6 opens, the triumph song of this new redemption. Jehovah had been angry with them, and rightly so in view of their past of tragic wickedness, but now He has become their Comforter, their Strength and their Salvation.

If verses Isaiah 9:1-2 remind us of Exodus 14:1-31; Exodus 15:1-27, verse Isaiah 9:3 is reminiscent of Elim, which is mentioned in the last verse of chapter 15. The Elim wells were very welcome and refreshing but here is something far more wonderful, of which Elim was only a faint type, since the salvation that Israel will then receive will be not only of a temporal sort but also spiritual and eternal.

Our short chapter ends with praise in view of that which will be the very climax of their blessing — the "Holy One of Israel" in the midst of them. This was foreshadowed when, redeemed from Egypt, the Tabernacle was erected in their midst with the cloud of glory resting on it. This which will be brought to pass "in that day" will far exceed what was accomplished under Moses; With this striking prophecy a definite division of the book reaches its close.

What we have seen we might almost call, the burden of Jacob. Judgment has to "begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17). Israel was that of old time, but though their heavy guilt brings on them heavy judgment, a bright future waits for them at the end. The judgment having begun at them, we now find the surrounding nations judged. A burden lay upon them from the hand of God and as the prophet uttered the burden it lay also doubtless on his own spirit. Isaiah 13:1-22 begins the "burden of Babylon." The Spirit of God foresaw that this city would become the chief oppressor, and the original seat of Gentile. power when the "times of the Gentiles" should set in.

The predicted destruction will arrive when "the day of the Lord" sets in, as verses Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 9:9 show; hence the terrible overthrow, detailed in verses Isaiah 9:1-10, will be witnessed in the last days, and be executed upon the proud Gentile power of which Babylon was the head and front, as we see in Daniel 2:1-49 and Daniel 7:1-28. Verse Isaiah 9:11 speaks of punishing "the world" for their iniquity, and of convulsions in the heavens as well as the earth, such as the Lord also predicted in His prophetic discourse. But in verse Isaiah 9:17 the prophecy does descend to a judgment more immediate, which was executed by the Medes, as the book of Daniel records. It is in this connection that the statement is made that the destruction of Babylon should be complete and irremediable. The prediction has been fulfilled unto this day and still stands. Anything that might appear to be to the contrary applies, we judge, to the dominant Gentile power, which does still exist, and of which Babylon was the beginning, or to that "mystery" Babylon of Revelation 17:1-18, which represents the false professing church, left for judgment when the Lord comes for His true saints.

The first three verses of Isaiah 14:1-32 show that the judgment of Babylon clears the way for mercy to flow to Israel. This had a partial fulfilment in the days of Cyrus, as the opening verses of Ezra record. It will have a far greater and more complete one when the times of the Gentiles come to an end. Then, not only will Israel be established once more in their own land but they will be the supreme nation, ruling over the others who formerly oppressed them, and completely at rest themselves. In that day they will take up the proverb against the king of Babylon, that fills verses 4-23 of the chapter.

When Isaiah uttered this prophecy Babylon was still dominated by the Assyrian power. A century or so later it became "the golden city" under the great king Nebuchadnezzar, spoken of as the "head of gold" in Daniel 2:38. With him the times of the Gentiles began, and they will close under the potentate, called "the beast" in Revelation 13:1-18, who is to be raised up and inspired by Satan, who is called "the dragon." All the world will worship the beast and the dragon who, though unseen, lies behind him.

Isaiah's prophecy in these verses applies first to the visible king — verses Isaiah 9:4-11. The Lord will break his sceptre and cast him into hell as is more fully explained in Revelation 19:1-21. But in verses Isaiah 9:12-15, we seem to pass from the visible king to Satan, whose nominee he is to be. Satan, whose original sin was an attempt at self-exaltation unto equality with God, is to be "brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit," as we also see in Revelation 20:1-15.

Verses Isaiah 9:13-14 are most striking. Notice the five-fold repetition of "I will." The very essence of sin is the assertion of the will of the creature against the Creator. In Genesis 2:1-25, God said to Adam, "Thou shalt not;" but in Genesis 3:1-24, tempted by Satan, Adam virtually said "I will." The complete contrast to this is found in Philippians 2:1-30, where the One who was "the Most High," whose throne was "above the stars of God," who could not "ascend," since there was no place higher than the one He occupied, descended and took the form of a Servant. Satan sought to exalt himself and is to be abased. Christ humbled Himself, and He is, and shall yet be, exalted.

In the succeeding verses we seem to come back to the judgment of the visible king, of his city, and of all those that follow him. It will be no partial or provisional dealing of God but a final judgment that will make a clean sweep of his power and kingdom, a judgment more severe than that which has fallen upon others.

At verse 24 we pass back again to the more immediate judgment of Assyria. Upon the mountains of Israel, which the Lord calls "My mountains," he should be broken. This had not been accomplished in the year that king Ahaz died, for that was the third year of king Hoshea of the ten tribes, and Samaria was carried captive by the Assyrian in Hoshea's ninth year. In verses 29 and 31 "Palestina" means apparently, "Philistia" the country to the south west of Jerusalem. At that moment all might seem peaceful, but their judgment was coming, and their only hope and trust was to be reposing in Zion.

Now Zion does not mean simply Jerusalem, for that city too would ultimately fall under God's judgment. Zion was founded by the Lord in His mercy when He intervened and raised up David, so that it has become a symbol of the mercy and grace of God. This we see in such a scripture as Hebrews 12:22. In that grace, which Zion represents, the godly poor amongst the people will trust. They did so in days that are past. They will do so in days that are to come.

They are doing so today. Are we amongst them?


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Isaiah 9:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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