Isaiah 33

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

Home Gospel Tracts Bible Studies Jim Melough Contact


A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

33:1.  “Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee!  When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.”


It is generally agreed that the reference here is to the pronouncement of God’s anger against Assyria for having invaded Judah in Hezekiah’s day, and for her unprovoked attacks on other nations, frequently in treacherous violation of peace agreements, see 2 Kings 18:14-36; but a day was coming when she would become the victim of similar treachery.  God was about to weaken her so that she could no longer spoil other nations or violate peace treaties, or be able to retaliate when she herself became the victim of similar perfidy.


Few will have difficulty seeing in this a foreshadowing of God’s response to the activity of the Beast in the Great Tribulation.


Since however, Satan is the unseen evil power operating in opposition to God behind every earthly government, the ultimate assurance is that in a day now imminent, the Millennium, he, Satan, will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit, and denied any activity, hence the universal felicity of that glorious era.


33:2.  “O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.”


This is the cry of the believing remnant. 


To be gracious is to extend undeserved blessing, so that this plea is also the tacit acknowledgement of Israel’s unworthiness to receive the blessing sought.  If they were to be blessed, it must be because God is gracious.


The context indicates that “their arm” would be better rendered “our arm every morning.”  The plea is for God to use His omnipotence on their behalf.


“... we have waited for thee” implies acknowledgment of their own weakness, and confidence in God’s omnipotence.  We would enjoy a fuller measure of peace were we to emulate their conduct, and trust in our Father’s infinite power to deliver us in every time of trouble.


33:3.  “At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered.”


The thunder of God’s voice was once so terrible that it caused the people to flee in panic.  How much greater is the need of penitent reverential fear when His voice is followed by the stroke of His anger!  But man has long since ceased to stand in awe of God, so that the conduct of a rebel world confirms the truth declared in Job 33:14, “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.”  He is a wise man whose ear is attuned to hear and obey “the still small voice” of God directing his steps, for that man will be blessed; but he who ignores it will be compelled to obey when that same God thunders the rebel’s condemnation, and banishes him to hell and the eternal torment of the lake of fire.


33:4.  “And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpillar: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them.”


The Amplified Bible’s rendering of this verse is, “And the spoil [of the Assyrians] shall be gathered [by the inhabitants of Jerusalem] as the caterpillar gathers: as locusts leap and run to and fro shall the Jews [spoil the Assyrians’ forsaken camp as they] leap upon it,” and Taylor’s translation reads, “Just as locusts strip the fields and vines, so Jerusalem will strip the fallen arm of Assyria.”


33:5.  “The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.”


This is translated in The Jerusalem Bible as, “Yahweh is exalted, for he is enthroned above, and fills Zion with justice and integrity,” while Taylor translates it, “The Lord is very great, and lives in heaven.  He will make Jerusalem the home of justice and goodness and righteousness.”


33:6.  “And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.”


The American Standard Version reads, “And there shall be stability in thy times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge: the fear of Jehovah is thy treasure,” while The Jerusalem Bible translates it, “Your continuance is assured; wisdom and knowledge are riches that save, the fear of Yahweh is his treasure,” the last two words meaning “His treasure which He gives to you in response to believing faith,” the “treasure” being His gift of eternal life.


33:7.  “Behold their valiant ones (heroes) shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.”


Taylor’s translation of this verse reads, “But now your ambassadors weep in bitter disappointment, for Assyria has refused their cry for peace.”


This was the result of Israel’s folly in having made an ally of helpless Egypt instead of relying upon Jehovah to deliver them out of the hand of Assyria which was now about to exact vengeance.  The lesson being taught is that it is futile to place trust in anyone or anything except God, but rather, in every seeming adverse circumstance of life, to obey the injunction of 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you.”


33:8.  “The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man.”


So perilous had the times become that the highways had fallen into disrepair from lack of use because Assyria had broken its peace promises, and no one dared to travel except for dire necessity.


33:9.  “The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.”


The cessation of commerce had brought desolation in its wake, the once cultivated fields and orchards having reverted to their original wild state from lack of cultivation.


All of this foreshadows what will be during the coming Great Tribulation.


33:10.  “Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.”


It is tragic when men’s wickedness forfeits God’s blessing, and compels Him to vindicate Himself in judgment, and display His power in the ultimate consignment of unbelievers to the eternal torment of the lake of fire.


33:11.  “Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.”


This is true not only of the Assyrian to whom it was first addressed, but of all who rebel against God.  All their schemes to enrich themselves will prove to be as worthless as chaff and stubble when death translates them from time into eternity.


In the present context “breath” means “your own spirit of anger.”


Breath is essential to speech, and where there has never been confession of faith in Christ as Savior that lack will result in God’s casting every unbeliever into eternal torment, see Romans 10:9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”


There is no such thing as a genuine believer who has never confessed his faith verbally.


33:12.  “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.”


The “burnings of lime” refers to the ashy waste that remains after the calcining of limestone, the description continuing to be of the Assyrians after God has dealt with them for their wickedness.


33:13.  “Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.”


God here commands nations far and near to learn the lesson of His destruction of the Assyrians: all who refuse to acknowledge His lordship will also be destroyed, the warning being as applicable to today’s world as to the people of that distant day.


33:14.  “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites.  Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”


Zion is a synonym for Jerusalem, see 31:9, and here it represents sinning believers, but the hypocrites are mere false professors. Only born-again believers, i.e., those who possess God’s life and nature are endowed with the ability to dwell in His presence.


33:15.  “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands, from holding bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;”


This describes the character of the genuine believer: his life is marked by integrity; his speech, by sincerity; he will not seek gain by oppression; he cannot be bribed; he will have no part in the plotting of murder, nor will he be enticed to do, or even acquiesce in wrong.


33:16.  “He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him: his waters shall be sure.”


His dwelling on high doesn’t refer to his eternal dwelling in heaven, but to his present life of separation from this evil world: he dwells spiritually on a higher plain. 


“Munitions” means heights, fortress, stronghold, citadel, eyrie, and speaks of the security in which the godly man dwells: even death can’t hurt him: it simply transports his soul into the eternal bliss of heaven.  God will supply his “bread and water,” i.e., his food and drink, right to the end of his earthly life, see Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”


33:17.  “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.”


“Thine eyes” are the eyes of every believer; and the promise is that they shall look, not on the splendor of an earthly king, but eternally on the glory of the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, the far off land being not the earth to its farthest extent, but heaven.


33:18.  “Thine heart shall meditate terror.  Where is the scribe?  Where is the receiver?  Where is he that counted the towers?”


Taylor’s translation of this verse is, “Your mind will think back to this time of terror when the Assyrian officers outside your walls are counting your towers and estimating how much they will get from your fallen city.”


33:19.  “Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.


The AAT rendering of this verse reads, “You will see no more the savage people, the people of obscure speech, which you cannot grasp, of barbaric tongue, which you cannot understand;” and Taylor translates it, “But soon they will all be gone.  These fierce, violent people, with a strange jabbering language you can’t understand, will disappear.”  This was God’s assurance that He Himself would remove the invading Assyrian, Israel’s joy at that event foreshadowing the joy that will be the portion of every believer in heaven.


33:20.  “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.”


As discussed already Zion is the name connected with the city’s feasts of worship, as Jerusalem is with her governmental activity.  The reference here is clearly to Millennial conditions, for the city has been sacked more than once in the past, and will be attacked again in the Tribulation.


33:21.  “But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.”


In the Millennium the Lord will cause the land to abound with fructifying rivers and streams upon which no hostile vessel will ever sail, see Zechariah 14:8 “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.”


33:22.  “For the Lord is our judge (governor), the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.”


No part of Israel’s life was exempt from the government of God, nor should any part of our lives be, for as another has well said, “If He isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all.”


33:23.  “Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.”


This describes the inability of anyone to use those waterways for Israel’s harm; and any who might dare to make such an attempt would, by God’s intervention, become prey for His people.  Even the physically handicapped Israelites would be enabled to take their share of the spoil.  Since God was for them, none could successfully oppose them; and so is it with us: we enjoy the same Divine protection.


33:24.  “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.”


In a general sense sickness is the result of sin in the world, but this may not be taken to mean that every case of sickness is the result of some particular sin in the life of the afflicted individual.  Consider for example the case of Lazarus, relative to which the Lord declared, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby,” John 11:4, “


At the beginning of the Millennium the population will be those who will have survived the terrible Tribulation judgments: they will all be believers; but the children born in the Millennium will be sinners just as is everyone born into this world, and they will need to be born again to fit them for heaven.

[Isaiah 34]

Home Gospel Tracts Bible Studies Jim Melough Contact

     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
Portions of this website are copyrighted by the authors, and
all permissions and title to copyrights have been granted to Boundless Partners, Inc.

© 2000-2007 James Melough, ©2008 Boundless Partners