Isaiah 24

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

24:1.  “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.”


Taylor, taking this as being applicable to Judah, writes, “Look! The Lord is overturning the land of Judah and making it a vast wasteland of destruction.  See how He is emptying out all its people and scattering them over the face of the earth.”  Others see it as being descriptive of the judgments of the Great Tribulation, a view with which the present writer concurs.


24:2.  “And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.”


This declares the universality of the judgments of the Great Tribulation.  No one will escape them.


24:3.  “The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.”


The primary application is certainly to the land of Israel, but Scripture makes it clear that while Palestine will be the vortex of the judgments of the Great Tribulation, those cataclysms will affect the whole world, the certainty of the catastrophes being confirmed by the words, “the Lord hath spoken this word.”


24:4.  “The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.”


The primary idea here is of withering in scorching heat and drought, and in this connection it is instructive to note what is written relative to the judgments of the Great Tribulation, “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.  And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory,” Revelation 16:8-9.  Punishment designed to produce repentance simply intensifies the rebellion of the wicked.


The possible allusion to atomic weapons should not be dismissed. Consider, for example, Hiroshima.


This judgment is but the faint foreshadowing of the eternal torment to be endured by the unrepentant dead, first in hell, and eternally in the dreadful lake of fire.


24:5.  “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof: because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”


“... defiled” is also translated desecrated: polluted: profaned, the validity of this charge being confirmed today by the concern of scientists universally relative to the effects of greenhouse gases, and contamination of the world’s water; the slow decay of the vast jungles of the Amazon basin evoking dire warnings as to the adverse effects on  climate world-wide.


Transgression of the laws relates not only to the laws of nature, but to God’s moral law, the impunity with which man has flaunted both being too obvious to require comment.


“... ordinance” as used here concerns a decree of God relative to man’s conduct in general, and his worship in particular.  Man has changed both to suit his own evil inclinations.


The “everlasting covenant” may be summed up in the statement that obedience brings blessing: disobedience, chastisement; and if persisted in, death.


24:6.  “Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.”


Man’s time on earth had been but brief before his sin provoked God’s pronouncement of the curse, “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake .... thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee” Genesis 3:17-18.  The crown of thorns placed on the Lord’s head by the Roman soldiers was the symbolic announcement that He was willing to be made a curse so that those who would trust Him as Savior might be for ever blessed, as it is written, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” Galatians 3:13.


“... desolate” in the present context means suffering the just recompense of their sin.


“... the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left” describes what will be in the Great Tribulation, see comments on 24:4.  The terrible Tribulation judgments will decimate earth’s population.


24:7.  “The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merry-hearted do sigh.”


Wine is a biblical symbol of joy, see Psalm 104:15, “... wine that maketh glad the heart of man ....”  The terrible Tribulation judgments will transmute the world’s joy into mourning, the languishing vine speaking symbolically of the removal of all that makes life pleasant, and changing pleasure into sorrow.


24:8.  “The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.”


The mirth, rejoicing and joy were the expression of raucous revelry, not of the sanctified joy that proceeds from pursuit of what is pleasing to God.  It was in fact the OT counterpart of the sensual gratification pursued by today’s pleasure-crazed society.  But as that ancient hedonistic lifestyle was brought to an end, so will also that of today’s sophisticated civilization.


The terrible judgments of the impending Great Tribulation will see the refinements of today’s society destroyed by the ravages of war, famine, disease, and anarchy.  Merriment will give place to misery.


24:9.  “They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.”


Social drinking is the bane of society today, and was no less so in that distant day; and as God caused it to cease then, so will He again in the Great Tribulation, the horrors of which will be such that wine and liquor will be no panacea for the prevailing misery.


24:10.  “The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.”


Philip’s rendering of this verse is, “The city is in chaos, fallen and broken, every house is barred so that none can enter,” and that of Taylor is similar, “The city lies in chaos; every home and shop is locked up tight to keep out looters.”   The city represents the whole world, so the description is of prevailing world-wide lawlessness, and will be duplicated in the Great Tribulation.


24:11.  “There is crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.”


The description continues to be of Tribulation-age anarchy, the RSV rendering of this verse being, “There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine, all joy has reached its eventide,” while Taylor translates it, “Mobs form in the streets, crying for wine: joy has reached its lowest ebb; gladness has been banished from the land.”


24:12.  “In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.”


The NAB translation reads, “In the city nothing remains but ruin: its gates are battered and desolate,” and Phillips renders it, “The city is left desolate and its gates are battered ruins.”


24:13.  “When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.”


This is the dramatic description of famine.  The few olives left on the tree, and the grapes on the vine, after the harvest has been gathered, picture the scarcity of food.  People will die of hunger, the ultimate application being to conditions in the Great Tribulation.


Another view is that this describes the land emptied of its people in the Tribulation, and certainly such a view is also tenable.


24:14.  “They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord, they shall cry aloud from the sea.”


Here the focus switches abruptly from the lamentation that will be in the Tribulation, to the joyous worship that will ascend to God in the Millennium.


“... from the sea” is also translated “in the west,” and it is significant that the west is the direction which speaks of approach to God, while the sea represents unconverted humanity - see Isaiah 57:20, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”  In the Millennium obedience will be compelled, not optional, see Romans 14:11, “... As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”


24:15.  “Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires, even the name of the Lord God of Israel in the isles of the sea.”


“... in the fires” is also translated “where the sun rises, in the regions of light, in the east, in eastern lands,” and “isles of the sea” is rendered, “in the east, in eastern lands, on western shores.”  This seems to speak of worship in the Millennium when the whole world will possess the knowledge of God as declared in Psalm 50:1, “The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.”


24:16. “From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous.  But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously, yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.”


The first sentence seems to proclaim the universal worship of Jehovah in the Millennium; but the remainder of the verse appears to revert to describing what will be in the Great Tribulation, the “treacherous dealers” being the Beast and his adherents.


24:17. “Fear, and the pit, and the snare are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.” 


This continues to describe the ultimate misery that will be the lot of those who submit to the dominion of the Beast, and who render to him the worship that belongs only to God.


24:18.  “And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.”


Taylor’s translation of this verse reads, “When you flee in terror you will fall into a pit, and if you escape from the pit you will step into a trap, for destruction falls from the heavens upon you; the world is shaken beneath you;” and relative to the opening of “the windows from on high,” the Amplified translation is, “For the windows of heaven are opened [as in the deluge].”  The description is of the terrible judgments that will ravage the world in the Great Tribulation.


24:19.  “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.”


24:20.  “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.”


This may be the description of the world-wide destruction resulting from the Tribulation judgments, Matthew 24 being the corresponding NT account of that devastation, which foreshadows the final dissolution of this present world at the conclusion of the Millennium, and its replacement with a new heavens and earth, see 2 Peter 3:10-13.


“... the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it” is also rendered, “Its rebellion lies heavily upon it, and it will fall, to rise no more,” AAT; “... its rebellion will weight it down, until it falls, never to rise again,” NAB.


24:21.  “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high; and the kings of the earth upon the earth.”


Taylor has translated this verse, “On that day the Lord will punish the fallen angels in the heavens, and the proud rulers of the nations on earth.”


24:22.  “And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.”


The “pit” refers to the grave where the bodies of unbelievers will lie until the resurrection of death or damnation; and “the prison” is hell in which their souls will be confined in torment until the judgment of the great white throne, from which they will be banished, body, soul, and spirit into eternal torment in the lake of fire.  The mention of “pit” is also the reminder that Satan will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit during the Millennium, an imprisonment that will be no small factor in the universal peace during that glorious era.


24:23.  “The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.”


Taylor’s translation of this verse reads, “Then the Lord of heaven’s armies will mount His throne in Zion and rule gloriously in Jerusalem, in the sight of all the elders of His people.  Such glory there will be that all the brightness of the sun and moon will seem to fade away.”  The reference is to Christ’s millennial reign. [It is to be noted in connection with His reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, that in the Millennium, Christ will be reigning from the throne in heaven, while a literal descendant of David will occupy the earthly throne in Jerusalem as His regent.]

[Lord willing, next week, Isaiah 25]

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