Isaiah 9

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

9:1.  “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.”


Taylor translates this verse, “Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair shall not go on forever.  Though soon the land of Zebulon and Naphtali will be under God’s contempt and judgment, yet in the future these very lands - Galilee and Northern Trans-Jordan, where lies the road to the Sea, will be filled with glory.” 


The New English Bible renders it, “For there is no escape for an oppressed people.  For, while the first invader has dealt lightly with the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the second has dealt heavily with Galilee of the Nations on the road beyond Jordan to the sea.”


All the OT oppressors of Israel were but forerunners of Rome, who in AD 70, under Titus, sacked Jerusalem, and carried multitudes into captivity, the few who escaped being scattered among virtually all the other nations, where they remained until 1948, when they began returning under the British mandate which restored them Palestine as their homeland.


9:2.  “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”


The great light was the Lord Jesus Christ, He Himself declaring, “I am the light of the world,” John 8:12.


Though the prophet was speaking about 700 years before Christ, he used the prophetic perfect present tense because the fulfillment of his words was as certain as though already accomplished.


The “land of the shadow of death” was Palestine, but in a broader context it describes this world over which Death reigned until the Lord by His own vicarious death vanquished the power of death.


9:3.  “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.”


“not” is generally recognized as being a wrong translation, for the context, and virtually every other translation, make it clear that God had increased the joy.  He had multiplied the nation, and caused them to rejoice with the same joy as is exhibited when an abundant harvest is gathered in, or when victory in battle has yielded much spoil.


9:4, “For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.”


Taylor’s translation reads, “For God will break the chains that bind His people and the whip that scourges them, just as He did when He destroyed the vast host of the Midianites by Gideon’s little band.”


For details of Gideon’s victory, see Judges chapter 7, Gideon being a type of Christ, and his miraculous victory over the Midianites foreshadowing that of Christ over Satan and all his hosts at Calvary, the Lord’s victory being beautifully described by the hymnist,


In weakness and defeat

He won the mead and crown,

Trod all His foes beneath His feet

By being trodden down.


9:5.  “For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.”


The ASV renders this “For all the armor of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire,” and the NEB translates it, “All the boots of trampling soldiers and the garment fouled with blood shall become a burning mass, fuel for fire.”


This continues to point metaphorically to the Lord’s great victory at Calvary, which resulted in the utter defeat of Satan and the powers of darkness, their ultimate end being to be cast into the eternal torment of the awful lake of fire, see Revelation 20:10.


9:6.  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”


The child is Christ, His coming into the world as a child pointing not just to His incarnation, but to His complete identification with humanity.  A child is the link by which a parent’s life is continued through succeeding generations, and relative to believers our link with Christ ensures the eternal continuance of our life with Him in heaven.  And what vistas are opened to us in that one stupendous fact!  We are the children of Him Whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!  And because He will live for ever, so will we live with Him, being possessed of His life, and His nature, see Hebrews 2:13, “... Behold I and the children whom God hath given me,” and again 1 John 4:17, “... as He is so are we in this world.”


Wonderful describes His person and also His work.  Counselor speaks of His perfect wisdom as Governor, not just of the earth, but of the universe.  The mighty God declares His omnipotence.  The everlasting Father tells us of His eternal paternal care for those who become His children by trusting Him as Savior and Lord. The Prince of Peace describes Him as the One Who not only gives to believers present peace that passes all understanding, but Who will also bring eternal peace to all creation, "He, having made peace by the blood of His cross," Colossians 1:20.


9:7.  “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to  establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”


This looks on to the millennial reign of Christ which will follow the seven years of the now imminent Tribulation.  During that glorious thousand-year era a literal descendant of David will sit on the throne in Jerusalem as Christ’s regent, exercising dominion over the whole world, while the Lord Jesus Christ will be ruling from the heavenly Jerusalem.


That the king on the throne in Jerusalem during the Millennium will be Christ’s regent, and not the Lord himself, is made clear by the fact that that prince will offer sacrifices, see Ezekiel 46, something the Lord Jesus Christ, having offered himself without spot to God once, will never do again, see Hebrews 10:12-14, “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”


9:8.  “The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.”


The Amplified Bible renders this, “The Lord has sent a word against Jacob [the ten tribes] and it has lighted upon Israel [the ten tribes, the kingdom of Ephraim].


As has been discussed already, when the name Jacob is used the message relates to the flesh; but when the name Israel is used, it has reference to the spirit.  The present use of both names therefore, indicates that this message concerned believer and unbeliever alike, and reminds us that believers are sometimes called upon to share in the general suffering resulting from God’s chastisement of unbelievers; His correction being designed to bring the unconverted to repentant faith in Christ; and at the same time to test and strengthen the faith of believers, as it is written, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 1:6-7.


9:9.  “And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria (meaning guardianship), that say in the pride and stoutness (arrogance) of heart,”


9:10.  “The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”


In spite of the punishment with which they had been visited, the people boasted that they would build even more magnificent buildings than those that had been destroyed, using hewn stones instead of bricks; and cedarwood instead of cheaper timber.  Divine chastisement had been wasted, for they had failed to perceive God’s voice in what had befallen them.


Nor has anything changed.  Today’s world refuses to see His hand, or hear His voice, in natural disasters, for example; and with the same arrogant pride that motivated His rebellious earthly people long ago, they simply erect more magnificent structures than those He has destroyed.  For example, the small minority that has dared to suggest that the appalling destruction of The World Trade Center, and the virtual destruction of New Orleans, might be God’s judgment upon the wickedness of today’s society, has been ridiculed and scorned.


He who sees in these catastrophes foreshadowings of those that will devastate the world in the now imminent Great Tribulation, is much more likely to be judging rightly than are those who refuse to even consider such a possibility.


9:11.  “Therefore God shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;”


9:12.  “The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth.  For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”


Israel’s folly in looking to Rezin for aid is declared in the fact that God was going to destroy Rezin by bringing against him the Syrians and the Philistines who would then swallow up Israel.  Nor would even this appease Jehovah’s anger.  The provocation offered by Israel’s alliances with heathen nations warranted still greater punishment.  The lesson being taught in all of this is that which is declared explicitly in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”


9:13.  “For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts.”


In spite of the chastisement that was meant to turn them back repentantly to God for blessing, they stiffened their necks and hardened their hearts all the more.  And so is it still: the more God chastises an unbelieving world, the more it rebels against Him.  And regrettably multitudes of those who profess to be believers present the same rebellious response to His chastisement.


9:14.  “Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.”


9:15. “The ancient and honorable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.”


The “head” represents those in government, from the highest to the lowest, while “branch and rush” describes the greatest to the least of the ordinary citizens.  (A rush is a small worthless reed that grows in poor damp soil). In one day God would cut off the whole nation; and as has been discussed already, all the past near-complete destructions of Israel point to the one which is still future, but very near: that of the coming Great Tribulation, relative to which it is written, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened,” Matthew 24:21-22.


Today’s equivalent of the OT false prophets are the false teachers with which apostate Christendom swarms.


9:16.  “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.”


The NT counterparts of the OT leaders who misguided the people, are

the elders and teachers who carry on the same iniquitous work in the churches of Christendom; and only he who is spiritually blind will   fail to comprehend the extent to which, under their guidance, the great apostate church has become a travesty of the true Church, and with the same fatal results: their blinded dupes who think they are on the narrow way to heaven, are instead on the broad and crowded road to destruction: hell and the lake of fire.


9:17.  “Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for everyone is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly.  For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”


This description of Israel’s hypocrisy and evildoing is exactly the same as that which applies to present-day apostate Christendom; and as the evildoing of OT Israel provoked God’s wrath, so does that of today’s professing, but apostate church.


“... his hand is stretched out still” means not that He was extending mercy, but that His hand was raised ready to strike in anger.


9:18.  “For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.”


As a fire in a thicket of briers spreads quickly setting ablaze the whole forest, and sending up huge clouds of smoke that blot out the sun, so had Israel’s sin also spread, overshadowing the land with a pall of evil that obscured the light of the knowledge of God.  Only spiritually blind eyes will fail to see that the same symbolic picture portrays today’s Christendom.


9:19.  “Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.”


The portrait continues to be of Israel’s deeper descent into the darkness of an immoral abyss; and the same symbolic picture might well be labeled, “Today’s apostate Christendom.”


“... the people shall be as the fuel of the fire,” declares the truth that the people’s wickedness had made them the objects of Divine wrath; and who will deny that the people of this present age are to be charged with the same folly!


“... no man shall spare his brother,” describes a hardhearted selfishness virtually void of personal pity.  The description fits today’s society, nor should anyone be misled by the activity of the social welfare organizations which minister to the needs of the destitute.  The activity is as impersonal as that of a machine.  There is no personal pity.  It is simply a tool for the prevention of the lawlessness to which some are driven by want.


9:20.  “And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied; they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm.”


This continues the picture of society in rebellion against God, and therefore callously indifferent to the state of others, with the result that misery hangs like a pall over everything.  Every man’s eating the flesh of his own arm is a dramatic metaphor

emphasizing the absence of filial affection; and while the ultimate application is to conditions in the coming Great Tribulation, there is abundant evidence that that same baleful blight is already working in society, and indicating the imminence of the Great Tribulation.


9:21.  “Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah.  For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”


The literal internecine tribal warfare that existed in Israel, points not only to that which has existed between the nations even to the present: it speaks also of that which has ravaged the Church through the two thousand years of her existence, and which continues today, to God’s displeasure and dishonor, His desire being expressed in the words, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,” Psalm 133:1, His exhortation being, “I ... beseech you that ye walk worth of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Ephesians 4:1-3.


It is instructive to note also that the warfare of Manasseh and Ephraim was against Judah, which means praise, i.e., worship.  The divisions within the Church have destroyed the spirit and form of scriptural worship, with the result that the travesty which now passes for worship is as far from the Divine ideal as is night from day.  All of the divisions within the Church have provoked God’s anger; and “his hand ... stretched out still” means not that it is extended in blessing, but in wrath because of the schisms which have rent the professing church into a thousand warring factions.

[Isaiah 10]

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