The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 29

Isa 29:1

ARIEL, THE CITY WHERE DAVID SETTLED: (1) Jerusalem is called "Ariel", the "Lion of God". The tribe of Judah, in whose territory Jerusalem is located, has always been associated with the lion -- especially the "couching" or reclining lion (Gen 49:9; cp Num 23:24; 24:9; 1Ki 10:19,20; Rev 5:5). The original city of David was built on the long narrow promontory of Zion -- a ridge which is highest on the northeast, at Moriah, where the Temple was built. The whole ridge, with its distinctive color and shape, would resemble a lion; with Moriah (highest on the northeast), the lion's head [BS 12:133-136]. (2) Or, "Ariel" = "hearth" (Isa 29:2), or altar -- ref the altar of burnt offering (as Isa 28:16; Eze 43:15,16).

SETTLED: Or perhaps "encamped", or "besieged" -- ie, when he captured Jebus (2Sa 5).

ADD YEAR TO YEAR: Thus the beginning of the year, pointing to Passover (as in many other Isaiah passages: cp Isa 26:20,21; 30:29; 31:5).

Isa 29:2

I WILL BESIEGE ARIEL: So this prophecy was given perhaps a year before Sennacherib's final siege of Jerusalem.

SHE WILL BE TO ME LIKE AN ALTAR HEARTH: Jerusalem will become the center of a mighty conflagration.

Isa 29:3

All this was done by Sennacherib's army, but the attack was never pressed (Isa 37:33). Cp Sennacherib's own inscriptions: 'Hezekiah himself I shut up like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem his royal city. I raised forts about him..." But he does not say that he TOOK         the city!

(NT) The siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, predicted in Luk 19:43,44.

Isa 29:4

FROM THE GROUND... OUT OF THE DUST... GHOSTLIKE... WHISPER: Echoing the hocus-pocus of spiritualism, against which Isaiah warned (Isa 8:19). In their desperation did the princes of Judah seek guidance from mediums?

Isa 29:5

Vv 5,6: Destruction as an awe-inspiring phenomenon, including: (a) Thunder (Isa 30:30); (b) Earthquake; (c) Great noise (Isa 30:30); (d) Storm and flood (Isa 17:13; 30:27); (e) Tempest and wind (Isa 17:13; Isa 30:30); and (f) Devouring fire (Isa 10:16,17; 30:27,30-33; 33:14). Like the glory of God when His Angel came down on mt Sinai (Exo 19:18,19).

Isa 29:8

"A more vivid representation of utter disenchantment than this v gives can scarcely be conceived" (Skinner, WIsa 298). Instead of the "man" (ie, Sennacherib) enjoying a wonderful meal (ie Jerusalem), he wakes to find that he along with his army IS the meal!

Isa 29:9

Vv 9,10: Now back to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: they (along with their godless leaders) are "blind drunks" (an allusion to Isa 22:13; cp 2Th 2:11) -- not recognizing how the hand of God will be acting on behalf of Jerusalem.

Isa 29:10

DEEP SLEEP... SEALED YOUR EYES... COVERED YOUR HEADS: "It is the figure once again of a man curled up in bed (Isa 28:20; 30:1) and heedless of all the serious action that goes on in the world around him (Mic 2:11; 3:6,7). The spiritual stupor Isaiah sees as a penalty now imposed by Almighty God for earlier unwillingness to receive the warnings of heaven. This is the inspiration you have from God... the spirit of deep sleep! What a ct with the clear incisiveness of Isaiah's own inspiration, specially claimed by him (Isa 28:14,29; 29:13)" (WIsa 299).

Isa 29:11

WORDS SEALED IN A SCROLL: Isaiah's message, bound up and sealed (Isa 8:16). Quite simply, it had been explained to those who wished to hear, but to the educated leaders of Israel it remained a "sealed" book (its being sealed up used as their excuse) because they did not want to hear its words!

IT IS SEALED: Perhaps meaning "sealed until the time of the end, when it will be unsealed again" (as in Dan 12:9,10).

Isa 29:12

Or (2nd excuse), spoken by those who were "uneducated": 'It's no good to us; we are not educated!' Thus both learned and unlearned find excuses not to pay attention.

Isa 29:13

Quoted in Mat 15:8, as a searing indictment of the Jews of his day -- who professed righteousness but refused to hear the simple words of God. Quoted by Paul in Rom 11:8, in a sorrowing lament about the hardness of heart of his countrymen.

Isa 29:14

THE WISDOM OF THE WISE WILL PERISH...: Also quoted by Paul in 1Co 1:18,19 -- describing the hair-splitting "righteousness" of the Jewish rabbis, which kept them from accepting Jesus as Messiah.

Isa 29:15

THOSE WHO GO TO GREAT DEPTHS TO HIDE THEIR PLANS: The court party who did not believe in God nor his prophet Isaiah, but rather put their trust in political alliances and intrigue (as with Egypt: Isa 30; 31).

AND THINK: The KJV has: "and they say", but this is not something which hypocritical worshipers would ever SAY -- they would only THINK it in their hearts! (Cp general idea: Psa 10:11; 14:1/53:1.)

Isa 29:16

AS IF THE POTTER WERE THOUGHT TO BE LIKE THE CLAY: "It is the universal philosophy, for there is no human being who does not like to think of himself as a potter rather than as what he actually is -- a mere lump of clay, to be shaped and fashioned by God" (WIsa 302). Same idea in Isa 45:9, and quoted by Paul in Rom 9:20,21.

Isa 29:17

Vv 17-19: "Lebanon, wild rough country, a wilderness (Isa 32:15), He will turn into a fruitful field, and what has been esteemed a fruitful field, He will turn into a forest. (It is true that in one or two places Lebanon's cedars are used as a sym of grandeur and dignity; eg Isa 35:2. But that is not the emphasis here.)... The part of the nation hitherto deemed uncultured and therefore unimportant [esp the poor and illiterate of the north] (cp Isa 28:11) would become the most acceptable segment of God's people -- whereas those who deemed themselves to be the elite of the holy nation [esp priests and princes of Judah] would find themselves written off as almost valueless" (WIsa 302). In NT and beyond, a role reversal: Jews are reprobated, but Gentiles are grafted in (cp Rom 11).

Isa 29:18

THE DEAF WILL HEAR... THE BLIND WILL SEE: The poor and uncultured and despised of the nation would be the first to hear the message of Isaiah.

Isa 29:20

THE RUTHLESS: Sennacherib.

MOCKERS: The proud of Judah.

ALL WHO HAVE AN EYE FOR EVIL: "It comes out the worst when a man is half conscious of having a weak case and is making desperate efforts to convince himself that he does well to be angry. If he believes in the Bible he needs then to remember that all who watch for iniquity and make a man an offender for a word shall be cut off (Isa 29 : 20). It is usually an easy matter to collect reports derogatory to any man or any body of men. There is quite a temptation to use these "make weights" in time of controversy, especially if the original cause of dispute is slight. One on the defensive can be kept busy chasing the false reports and unfair interpretations, but never succeeding in catching one before the next is on the wing.

"In a court of law a litigant is tied down to the actual charge. It is useless for him to try to fatten out his suit by all sorts of complaints remote from the original accusation. We are free from any such legal restrictions now, but it is well to remember that we have to go before a judgment seat far more searching than any ever set up by man, and for "every idle word" that we have spoken we shall have to give account. Do not let us watch for iniquity, then, either in those we accuse of specific errors or in those who accuse us. Such watching inevitably leads to countless idle and evil words" (PrPr).

Isa 29:21

Men who through their willful mishandling of the Word of God cause others to sin (vv 11,12,18). In Christ's day, the Pharisees who plotted to entangle him in his words: Mat 22:15; Luk 11:53,54.

Isa 29:23

Vv 23,24: "Now, in Isaiah's day, the great rounding up of captives by Sennacherib, to march them off the Babylon, and also the mass flight of others to Egypt to escape the invasion, were experiences which the providence of God would correct. From both far-off lands the wretched people would return with joy and thanksgiving. They would be in truth 'the work of God's hands', given more than adequate reason to sanctify His name as the God of Abraham and the Holy One of Israel. And the outcome of this astonishing unlooked-for deliverance would be that a great many others who had been indifferent to their high religious privileges would 'come to understand' and would 'learn doctrine' " (WIsa 303). LD: "There will come also an open deliverance from the third and last of three frightful overturnings. The last and worst deportation of Jewish captives will be reversed by divine mandate (Joel 3:1-7; Isa 27:12,13; 19:22-25, etc). It will be a return not only to the Land but also to the God of their fathers and the truth of His Messiah" (WIsa 304).

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