Isaiah 30

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

30:1.  “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:”


The reference here is to Israel’s seeking an alliance with a declining Egypt, the “covering” having reference to the imagined security they expected to enjoy as a result of that treaty.  What they didn’t know was that Assyria would defeat Egypt, thus leaving foolish Israel defenseless, and stigmatized as the friend of Assyria’s enemy.  We duplicate her folly when we seek the world’s help, or apply the world’s wisdom to the resolution of our problems, instead of taking them to God in prayer, forgetting that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God,” 1 Corinthians 3:19.


To “cover with a covering” refers to seeking shelter or security, but when that safety isn’t the result of following the Holy Spirit’s leading as revealed in the written Word, it is not only useless but sinful, and therefore harmful, for it will incur the chastisement of God.


30:2.  “That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!”


The warning continues to be against being guided by the wisdom of this world, for as noted already that “wisdom” is foolishness with God.  To ask “at my (God’s) mouth,” is to seek His guidance as revealed in His Word, for Scripture is simply the record of what God has said.


It is instructive to note that Pharaoh means his nakedness, a condition that speaks of shame and weakness, and here declares the worthlessness of mere worldly wisdom.


30:3.  “Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.”


The deeper spiritual significance of this will be grasped only as we understand that Egypt represents the world of business and pleasure living in defiant independence of God; Pharaoh representing Satan the god of this evil world.  Does not honesty compel us to confess that all too often we have trusted in that world’s wealth and ways rather than in God, and in money rather then in the omnipotence of the Creator, forgetting that He has demonstrated His love for us by giving His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die in our guilty stead for the expiation of our sins?


And must we not confess that all such dalliance has invariably been to our shame and confusion?  “... know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God,” James 4:4.


30:4.  “For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.”


Zoan, means removal; and Hanes grace has fled.  Both were Egyptian cities, but since Egypt represents the world estranged from God, the meanings have peculiar relevance to today’s world. It too has removed itself far from God, and grace has fled, not voluntarily, but by compulsion of the men of the world who have rejected it.


30:5.  “They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help or profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.”


Foolish Israel would be put to shame by going to seek help from Egypt which was already slipping from the place of prominence she had once enjoyed among the nations, and now herself needed to be delivered from the power of Assyria.  She was in no position to help Israel or any other nation.  Man’s only place of security is to be in a right relationship with God.


30:6.  “The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.”


This describes the barren desert Israel’s messengers would have to traverse on their way to Egypt, whose aid they hoped to buy with the treasure piled on the backs of asses and camels.  The typological picture is of the men of this world seeking security and peace by means of earthly alliances, when the only enduring peace is that which is secured by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Nor can we find a more apt typological picture of this poor troubled world than that which is presented in the words “... land of trouble and anguish” inhabited by “lions, vipers, and fiery flying serpents.”


“... to a people that shall not profit them,” continues to declare the impossibility of finding peace anywhere in this troubled world, except through faith in Christ as Savior.


30:7.  “For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.”


Other translations of this verse read, “Vain and worthless is the help of Egypt; therefore have I given her this name, Rahab quelled,” NEB; “... to Egypt who will prove futile and empty to them; and so I call her Rahab-do-nothing,” Jerusalem Bible; “For Egypt’s promises are worthless! ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ I call her,” Taylor.


Since Egypt represents the world of business and pleasure, the truth being declared here is that that same evil world is powerless to help men relative to their spiritual needs.


Scholars disagree as to the meaning of “Their strength is to sit still,” Rotherham rendering it, “Therefore have I proclaimed concerning this, Insolent! They sit still.”  “Therefore have I called her, Rahab that sitteth still,” ASV.  “So I called her, Rahab-do-nothing,” Jerusalem Bible; “For Egypt’s promises are worthless! ‘The Reluctant Dragon,” I call her,” Taylor.


It may be that the truth being declared is that expressed in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”


30:8.  “Now go, write it before them in a table (tablet), and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:”


Taylor’s translation reads, “Now go and write down this word of Mine concerning Egypt, so that it will stand until the end of time, forever and forever, as an indictment of Israel’s unbelief.”  It is easy to criticize their trust in powerless Egypt, and their distrust of their omnipotent God, but how many times have we not been guilty of similar folly!


30:9.  “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:”


The need of committing the instruction to writing lay in the fact that the people were lying rebels who wouldn’t hesitate to deny that God had ever given them such a command.  Today’s counterpart of their chicanery is not to read the Bible, and thus remain wilfully ignorant of what God wants us to do.


30:10.  “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:”


A seer was one to whom God revealed truth by giving him visions of future events, whereas a prophet was one to whom He revealed the future by telling him what was going to happen.  Rebel Israel however, wanted to be shown or told of only such coming events as were pleasant.  They would rather be told pleasant lies than have to listen to unpalatable truth; nor has the passage of more that twenty-five hundred years changed anything: modern unconverted man abhors spiritual truth with the same intensity as did his Old Testament counterpart.


30:11.  “Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”


In blatant defiance of God they forbade the seers and prophets to proclaim truth, demanding that they cease to present Jehovah as being angered by Israel’s sinfulness.  Their present-day counterparts - professing but unbelieving Christians - are no less adamantly opposed to the idea of a God Who is “... of purer eyes than to behold evil, and (who) canst not look on iniquity,” Habakkuk 1:13.


30:12.  “Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:”


Phillips has translated this verse, “Because you have spurned this warning and put your faith in force and intrigue and have come to rely on them,” and Moffatt’s rendering is, “Well, here is the reply of Israel’s Majesty: Since you despise my warning and trust in wile and guile, and lean on your own policy,”


30:13.  “Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.”


The judgment about to fall upon the rebellious nation is likened here to a high wall upon which a bulge has begun to appear, presaging the imminent collapse of the whole structure; and only the spiritually blind will fail to see in this the foreshadowing of the impending Tribulation judgments that will bring the complete collapse of the present world order, social and economic, leaving the world a shattered ruin.


Some see in this a reference to Egypt, she being the bulging wall about to collapse; and still others, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary e.g., see it as a symbol of the national self-will.


30:14.  “And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.”


The destruction would be utter, leaving not one piece large enough to carry fire from the hearth, or water from the cistern.


30:15.  “For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”


Israel’s salvation lay in their repentant return to God, putting their trust in Him, and not in alliances with other nations; and so is it with all who would know the peace of God “which passeth all understanding,” Philippians 4:7, for “vain is the help of man,” Psalm 108:12; but God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” Ephesians 3:20.  Salvation rests in knowing that God is omnipotent, and that His desire is to bless “with all spiritual blessings” Ephesians 1:3, all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  “... in quietness and in confidence” speaks of the peaceful assurance possessed by every obedient believer, that “all things work together for good to them that love God,” Romans 8:28.


The rebellious character of that mutinous generation however, is declared in the words “ye would not.”  And so will it be relative to all who die in unbelief.  Those who suffer eternal torment in the lake of fire will be they who refused to confess themselves sinners and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, in spite of His having died to save them from such a dreadful fate.


30:16.  “But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee; and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift (swifter).”


Scholars differ as to whether Israel’s fleeing upon swift horses refers to their charging into battle with their Egyptian allies, against the Assyrians, or to their successful flight from the enemy on horses provided by Egypt, though the former seems the more probable.


This is the symbolic depiction of the fact that men will seek salvation in humanly contrived schemes such as moral living, church membership, generous giving, etc., anything, in fact, other than in God’s simple, easy, artless plan of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work perfectly completed at Calvary.


30:17.  “One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.”


Instead of the glorious victory foretold by their false advisers, Israel would be put to ignominious flight, the few survivors of the slaughter being likened to a beacon, a pole, an abandoned flagstaff, a lone tree on a distant mountain top.  Such will be all who seek salvation by any means other than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  They will be eternal monuments to the madness of seeking justification by self-effort (good works), instead of by faith in Christ.


30:18.  “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.”


The Lord is of very great patience so that He may be gracious, i.e., that He may bestow pardon, and His priceless gift of eternal life, upon all who will confess themselves sinners, and trust in Christ as Savior; but woe betide the man who exhausts that patience, and ignores the warning, “My spirit shall not always strive with man,” Genesis 6:3, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Proverbs 29:1, and again, “Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee,” Job 36:18; see also Genesis 4:13 which records Cain’s unavailing cry of remorse, “My punishment is greater than I can bear,” and Hebrews 12:17 relative to Esau, “For ye know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”  The writer of Hebrews adds the further warning, “It is a fearful thing to fall (unsaved) into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10:31.


The Lord’s being “a God of judgment” is the reminder that His standard is inflexible: His perfect law decrees the death of the transgressor, but His equally perfect justice enables Him to extend mercy to the penitent sinner on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death, He having borne at Calvary the sentence of death incurred by man’s transgression.  Justice is ennobled, not denigrated, by mercy extended on such a basis.


“... they that wait for Him” are they whose hope is in Him, i.e., those who look to Him for help in every time of need.


30:19.  “For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.”


Zion is another name for Jerusalem, the distinction being that Zion focuses on the fact that the city is the center of Israel’s religious life, while the name Jerusalem is associated with it as the God-ordained center of government, both being universal in the Millennium.


“... thou shalt weep no more” speaks of the peace and joy that will not only be enjoyed in Zion/Jerusalem,, but that will emanate to every corner of the millennial earth.  God will hear her every cry, and respond immediately.


30:20.  “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:”


“... the bread of adversity,” and “the water of affliction” are synonyms for the means by which God exercises the discipline of a Father over the household of faith.  He uses various circumstances to chastise our disobedience and to strengthen our faith, we in our myopia often mistaking them for needless adversity and affliction.


“... yet will not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more ... thine eyes shall see thy teachers,” means that as a result of God’s chastisement  the people would no longer disparage their God-given teachers or leaders, but would recognize them as those He had given for their instruction and spiritual development.  It is hardly necessary to say that the malaise mentioned here is endemic in Christendom today.  Those who would preach a clear Biblical gospel, or teach sound doctrine, are ignored, despised, or denied a hearing in many a so-called Christian church.  Such was the state of Israel in the days of Isaiah.


30:21.  “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”


God’s chastisement was designed to teach the people to recognize the truth, and to walk in it.  The King James translation here is ambiguous.  It means that when they tended to depart to the right or left from the proper way, the Word of God would show them their error, and direct them back on to the path of obedience.


30:22.  “Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.”


They would learn the wickedness of idolatry, so that the gold- or silver-plated images they worshiped would be seen for the spiritually unclean, worthless, and revolting things they were, and would be cast away in disgust.  The spiritually blind eyes of today’s Christendom fail to see that its worship of this world’s wealth is no less repugnant to God than was Israel’s literal idolatry.


30:23.  “Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.”


Genuine repentance - evidenced not just in words, but in deeds - would secure God’s blessing in the form of abundant crops and corresponding wealth; and in this connection it is necessary to note that increased temporal riches are not the evidence of His blessing during this present age of grace.  Some of His choicest saints are poor in this world’s goods, their enrichment being not in this world’s wealth, but in that which is heavenly, see Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”


30:24.  “The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear (till) the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.”


Even their domestic animals would feed on the same sifted grain as would the people themselves.  (To winnow with shovel and fan was to toss shovelfuls of grain into the air where the wind blew away the chaff while the sifted grain kernels fell back on to the threshing floor).


30:25.  “And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.”


The “day of the great slaughter” seems to refer to the Great Tribulation during which millions will die by war, famine, disease, and natural disasters; and in this context the rivers and streams pouring down every hill and mountain appear to speak, not of abundant blessing, but of phenomenal destruction by the natural elements such as storm and flood.


The falling towers are understood by some to refer to the toppling of governments, which would contribute to the misery caused by the unleashed forces of nature.


30:26.  “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.”


If the preceding verse describes the judgments of the Great Tribulation, then obviously this verse describes Millennial conditions, though it seems that the language is hyperbolic, for if moonlight were magnified to the intensity of sunlight there would obviously be no night, yet Scripture assures us that day and night will continue till the end of this present world, see Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”


Since the moon is symbolic of testimony - as the moon reflects the light of the sun so is the Church to reflect the light of the knowledge of Christ - the reference here may be to the enlargement of that testimony in the Millennium.


“... the breach of His people” is also translated “the wound from His inflicted stroke,” Spurrell; “the wounds He gave them,” Taylor


30:27.  “Behold the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: His lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire:”


“... far” indicates the vast immeasurable distance between earth and “the heavens of heavens” Psalm 68:33, God’s dwelling place.  What a difference there is between the God described here, and God the Son Who came as God’s Lamb to expiate man’s sin!  How can Christ-rejecting sinners expect mercy after rejecting salvation procured at such cost!  Having spurned His gracious invitation, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” they will have no choice but to obey His command, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  What shrieks of terror will accompany their descent into that awful place of torment in the midst of unquenchable flames!


30:28.  “And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.”


Taylor has translated this verse, “His wrath pours out like floods upon them all, to sweep them all away.  He will sift out the proud nations and bridle them and lead them off to their doom.”


What indescribable madness leads men to choose this fate, and reject the gracious invitation of the Savior, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28!  It is Satan, the arch enemy of God and man, who places that bridle in the jaws of the unthinking multitudes he leads down the broad and crowded way to hell.


30:29.  “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty One of Israel.”


Were our minds more filled with thoughts of heaven and the prospect of seeing our Savior, there would be more singing and less sighing during the night of our pilgrimage through this vale of tears.  We should note too that He is described here not as the lowly Lamb of God Who came to die to expiate all our sin, but as the mighty One of Israel Who will execute judgment for the glory of the Father and the blessing of men.


30:30.  “And the Lord shall cause his glorious (majestic) voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.”


“... the lighting down of His arm” is also translated, “the bringing down of His arm in destroying anger,” shattering everything it falls upon.  The description is probably of the judgments that will devastate the earth in the Great Tribulation, though it may include also those that will attend the judgment of the great white throne.


30:31.  “For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.”


The “which smote with a rod,” of the KJ translation implies that it is the Assyrian who smote with a rod, but better translations make it clear that the Smiter is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Assyrian being the one smitten.


30:32.  “And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.”


The “grounded staff” is the staff of punishment wielded by the Lord; and relative to “battles of shaking,” the RSV translation reads, “And every stroke of the staff of punishment which the Lord lays upon them will be to the sound of timbrels and lyres; battling with brandished arm he will fight with them,” and the NEB rendering reads, “Tambourines and harps and shaking sistrums (ancient Egyptian musical instruments) shall keep time with every stroke of His rod, of the chastisement which the Lord inflicts on her.”


30:33.  “For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.”


Tophet, meaning “a spitting (as an object of contempt),” was another name for Moloch, the Assyrian god.  It is also considered to be a symbol of hell.  The “deep and large” pile refers to the mound of wood piled up for the burning of this Assyrian idol, the heap being ignited by the breath of the Lord.  This destruction of Tophet points to the abolition of idolatry in the Millennium, during which Jehovah alone will be worshiped.

[Isaiah 31]

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