An ongoing chapter-by-chapter commentary on the prophecy of Isaiah
The most recent articles now appear at the top of the page, while the Article Index displays the oldest articles in descending order
An ongoing chapter-by-chapter commentary on the prophecy of Isaiah
The most recent articles now appear at the top of the page, while the Article Index displays the oldest articles in descending order
Jehovah first demonstrated that he was a God of judgment back in the Garden of Eden, not only when he sentenced the trespassing Adam and Eve to death, but he also foretold the long-running enmity that would develop between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, culminating with the crushing of the serpent and its brood.
Although Almighty God is fully capable and determined to ultimately accomplish his originally stated purpose to have mankind dwell in peace and perfection on this beautiful planet, since our fruit-pilfering parents were ousted from Eden God has had to patiently deal with a degenerating race of sinners. And fortunately for us the Grand Instructor is up to the task.
It was an entirely different world on the outside of Eden. By disobeying Jehovah humanity unwittingly subjected itself to the rebel angel who cunningly used a lowly reptile to deceive Eve and who has subsequently become known as Satan, the Devil.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on earth. The first mention of it in the Holy Bible is in the book of Genesis, in connection with Melchizedek – a type of Christ, a priest, who was also the king of Salem. The 76th Psalm, which states: “God is known in Judah; in Israel his name is great. And his covert proves to be in Salem itself, and his dwelling place in Zion” – makes it plain that Salem is Jerusalem.
(Salem means “two-fold peace.” Ironically, though, according to Wikipedia during its storied history “Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.”)
Jerusalem, though, has many names – the city of Jehovah, the holy city, Zion and so on. Isaiah 29:1-2 refers to Jerusalem as “Ariel,” saying of it: “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the town where David encamped! Add year upon year, you people; let the festivals run the round. And I have to make things tight for Ariel, and there must come to be mourning and lamentation, and she must become to me as the altar hearth of God.”
When the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan they did not then dispossess the Jebusites of their stronghold. It was not until David became king many centuries later, when he brought his encampment against it, that Jerusalem was captured and eventually became the capitol city of Jehovah’s earthly kingdom. And David’s son, Solomon, erected a magnificent temple on the highest hill within the city called Zion. All the Israelite males were required to attend the annual festivals there.
The 28th chapter of Isaiah begins with Jehovah’s denunciation of the leaders of the nation of Israel and a declaration of the means by which God would deal with them: “Woe to the eminent crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and the fading blossom of its decoration of beauty that is upon the head of the fertile valley of those overpowered by wine! Look! Jehovah has someone strong and vigorous. Like a thunderous storm of hail, a destructive storm, like a thunderous storm of powerful, flooding waters, he will certainly do a casting down to the earth with force. With the feet the eminent crowns of the drunkards of Ephraim will be trampled down. And the fading flower of its decoration of beauty that is upon the head of the fertile valley must become like the early fig before summer, that, when the seer sees it, while it is yet in his palm, he swallows it down.”
When Joshua brought the Israelites into the so-called promised land it was described as a place just flowing with milk and honey. But after the Hebrews had lived in the land of Canaan for several centuries it was as if the beautifully decorated land had faded from its former glory, like a wilting bouquet of flowers. This was because the leaders of the people became corrupt. They stopped worshiping Jehovah in the way he had prescribed in the covenant, and so they lost their spiritual beauty. Eventually, God was obligated to take drastic measures – completely destroying the nation, as a means of effecting needed discipline in order that some might be restored.
“Is it really so that God has said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?”
With that seemingly innocuous question the father of the lie – the original manslayer – slyly implied that mankind’s Creator was untrustworthy. Ever since then the slanderer has heaped up a mountain of lies to cause mankind to distrust God. However, on the very day the Devil tricked Eve into tempting her husbandly head into disobeying God, Jehovah announced his far-reaching purpose to provide a forthcoming seed of the woman who would be bruised in the heel and ultimately crush the skull of the serpent.
In furtherance of that purpose God organized the nation of Israel, which ultimately produced the promised messianic seed. The tribe of Judah was specifically selected for that privilege.
With the appearance of Jesus, “the lion of the tribe of Judah,” the first aspect of the edenic prophecy was fulfilled when Satan maneuvered to have Jesus executed. Jesus’ trust in God was tested to the limit when he submitted himself to the torturous death the original serpent inflicted upon him. But his trust was not misplaced. As promised, God resurrected Jesus from the grave. Hence, the wound the serpent had inflicted upon Jesus proved to be temporary – as if a mere bruise upon his heel.
One of the underlying sub-themes of the book of Isaiah is the intractable blindness of the leaders of God’s people as regards the meaning of the prophecy of Isaiah itself. The Watchtower’s inability to comprehend the judgments of Jehovah – as contained in Isaiah – and all the prophets for that matter, is on full display in the volumes of commentary the Watchtower Society has published over the decades. Even outsiders who parrot the accusation that the Watchtower is a “false prophet” do not realize the full extent of Bethel’s error. But, of course, neither do outsiders (nor Jehovah's Witnesses) understand the judgments of Jehovah.
Happily for all, though, understanding prophecy is not a requirement for salvation – at least not now anyway.
Consider the contrast between the apostles and the Pharisees. Both groups were blind, to an extent. The apostles and other disciples simply could not comprehend the fact that Jesus was going to die and be taken from them. Jesus told them repeatedly the fate that awaited him, yet they simply could not grasp it. In fact, the scripture says it was hidden from them that they might not see through it. (Luke 9:45) But at least the apostles accepted Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. That was crucial. They had faith.
ehovah’s counsel against Tyre in the 23rd chapter of Isaiah is immediately followed by the execution of his judgments against his own people and the very city where Jehovah had placed his holy name. The prophecy of Ezekiel follows the very same pattern, in that, Jehovah’s appointed watchman first decrees the downfall of Tyre and Egypt and then he is commanded to speak God’s judgments against the shepherds of Israel. And in that setting the prophet also situates the coming of “David” – a prophetic reference to the Christ.
As has been already been detailed in Jehovah Himself Has Become King, Tyre and Egypt foreshadow the London-centered global empire and the United States of America, respectively. What, though, does the doomed city of Jerusalem foreshadow in the grand fulfillment? And to be certain, the prophecy in the 24th chapter of Isaiah speaks to a much grander event than merely the fall of Jerusalem 2,500 centuries ago. That is apparent from the obvious cryptic, pre-Revelation reference to the judgment of the demonic kings and their earthly counterparts, and their being locked in a prison for 1,000 years and the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purpose to rule in the midst of 144,000 kings upon heavenly Mount Zion.
One of the great cities of the ancient world was Tyre. It is believed to have been in existence as far back as the time when Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt in the great exodus, approximately 3,500 years ago. Several Hebrew prophets wrote about Tyre – including Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah and Ezekiel most extensively. This article will primarily focus on Isaiah.
Situated on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea in what is now Lebanon, Tyre became the most prominent of a confederation of Phoenician cities, not the least of which was Sidon. But unlike the great plundering powers, Tyre did not set out to conquer other peoples militarily. It became dominant through commerce and by serving as an international port and terminal for overland trades routes. And because its seacoast craftsmen mastered the science of shipbuilding and navigation, Tyre was able to establish trading posts and colonies throughout the Mediterranean. It is believed the Phoenicians may have circumnavigated the continent of Africa and even crossed the Atlantic in their galleys. Because of her renowned seafaring prowess and business acumen over the centuries the city-kingdom of Tyre became fabulously wealthy. It could be said that the Tyrians were the first globalists.
Over the centuries there have been countless demon-inspired deceptions perpetrated in the name of God and Christ. The nonsensical doctrine of the Trinity is undoubtedly the most common and pervasive. But surely the Watchtower Society’s 1914 parousia doctrine will eventually be accounted as one of the greatest hoaxes of recent times. That so many could be so thoroughly hoodwinked is all the more astounding in view of the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses are generally the most biblically literate, studious and truth loving. (For a thorough consideration of the doctrine of the parousia see the chapter The Parousia.)
But Jehovah’s Witnesses can hardly be faulted for believing that the First World War and the horrific Spanish Flu pandemic that swiftly swept the globe in 1918 was a result of the opening of the seals of the Apocalypse. After all, no Christian wants to be grouped with those who would ridicule the presence of Christ.
But on the other hand, neither should we allow ourselves to be quickly shaken from our reason and believe proclamations regarding the presence of Christ and the arrival of the day of Jehovah that are untrue. Did not the apostle Paul specifically warn Christians to be on guard against unreasoningly accepting apostolic-like official announcements and writings that would falsely proclaim that the parousia and day of Jehovah is here?
Most disconcerting, Paul indicated that this fraud would emanate from Satan’s man of lawlessness within the spiritual temple of God and would be directed specifically at the chosen ones and would immediately precede the actual manifestation of Christ. Paul indicated that God would allow an operation of error to go to those who know the truth in order to test their love of the truth at the genuine manifestation of Christ. (See blog entry: Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Man of Lawlessness)
The 22nd chapter of Isaiah is entitled: “the pronouncement of the valley of the vision.”
As the Watchtower’s commentary on Isaiah notes, although Jerusalem was situated on a hill it was also surrounded by higher hills, making the city itself a valley in comparison. And because Jerusalem is the focus of prophecy, much of which was originally conveyed to the prophets by means of inspired visions, the city of Jerusalem is “the valley of the vision.”
The underlying theme of Bible prophecy is the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem, which in former times was known as the city where Jehovah exclusively caused his name to reside. Because of Jerusalem’s prominence as the center of true worship and the capitol of Jehovah’s earthly kingdom it also has prophetic significance in the Christian arrangement, relative to the coming of Christ. That is made all the more apparent when we consider, for example, the Christian prophets wrote of a heavenly Jerusalem and a New Jerusalem.
Not coincidentally, Jerusalem was where Christ terminated his earthly mission after having inspected his Father’s temple for the final time. It is also where Christianity originated – the holy spirit having been poured out upon the original disciples in an upper room in the heart of the holy city. And it appears that the even though the apostles were all from the area of Galilee north of Judea, after Jesus returned to heaven they permanently relocated to Jerusalem – making the city the unofficial earthly headquarters of Christ’s congregation.
The overthrow of tyrannical Babylon is the subject of the 21st chapter of Isaiah. God assured his prophet that the treacherous destroyer of nations and the persecutor of his people was going to be violently thrown down. The fall of ancient Babylon must have shocked the world back then.
How could this incredible event come about? The city of Babylon was considered to be an impregnable fortress. The prophecy continues: ‘“Go, post a lookout that he may tell just what he sees.’ And he saw a war chariot with a span of steeds, a war chariot of asses, a war chariot of camels. And he paid strict attention, with much attentiveness. And he proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights. And here, now, there is coming a war chariot of men, with a span of steeds!”’
History reveals that Babylon fell on one night without much of a fight. King Cyrus had somehow managed to temporarily dry up the Euphrates River, perhaps by opening floodgates upstream to divert the waters into flood detention ponds, sufficiently lowering the water level so that his army could wade across the river in the dead of the night. The prophet, though, does not see a vast army. From his watchtower vantage point the watchman sees only three war chariots – and ultimately a single war chariot with a span of steeds – reminiscent of the horsemen of the Apocalypse, led by the warrior Christ.
After foretelling the subjugation of Egypt and Ethiopia the brief 20th chapter of Isaiah relates an event that occurred during Isaiah’s ministry – the Assyrian military juggernaut swept down and conquered the strategically important Phoenician city of Ashdod. That conquest was a harbinger of things to come for Egypt. It was on that occasion that Jehovah issued a warning to his people that their looked-for hope and helper, Egypt, was doomed and they were left to ponder the unsettling question: “And how shall we ourselves escape?”
In previous articles of this Isaiah series, as well as other writings appearing on e-watchman, the case has been made that America is the Greater Egypt, as well as the king of the south during the time of the end. And both the Assyrian and Babylonian empires of antiquity foreshadow the world conquering eighth king of Revelation and the king fierce countenance, as well as the king of the north during the time of the end.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses do not vote or take part in the political system, nor do Jehovah’s Witnesses enroll in the military, that does not necessarily mean that the leadership of the Watchtower Society does not look to the powerful institutions of the world for assistance. For example, for ten years the Watchtower was officially involved in a political partnership with the United Nations. In return for their propagandizing in behalf of the UN, the UN assisted the Watchtower Society in humanitarian relief efforts in Africa – the details of which are presented in the article, Strange Bedfellows.
Even after the Watchtower dissolved its NGO relationship with the UN in the decade since then it has created a half dozen European NGO organizations that are deeply involved with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
Here is what the Watchtower wrote in the commentary on this section of Isaiah:
“Some might be impressed by today’s financial wizards, politicians, and scientists, who talk of solving man’s problems using man’s ingenuity and technology.”
Apparently some of the leading men of the Watchtower Society are “impressed by today’s financial wizards” – evidenced by their sending representatives to attend hedge fund conferences the past two years hosted by the wizards of the City of London. (Watchtower Society Hedge Fund)
Jehovah is certain to give attention to the organization’s brazen hypocrisy in the near future, which is largely what the prophecy of Isaiah is all about.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus led an expedition made up of three wooden sailing ships across the vast Atlantic Ocean in search of a way to the land of the East by sailing in the direction of the setting sun. But instead of the Orient Columbus “discovered” a new world, so-called. At least it was new from the perspective of the centuries-old European civilization. (The Vikings did not make permanent settlements.) Columbus’ initial discovery of Hispaniola launched the age of global exploration. In a short time newly discovered lands began to be colonized by the Spanish, French, English, Irish and others.
Other than Israel and Judah no other nation is featured so prominently in the Bible as Egypt. Before God even founded Israel Egypt existed as a great nation.
The father of all those with faith, Abram, along with Sari his beautiful wife, once sought relief from the famine in Canaan by going down to Egypt. Abraham’s offspring did too. In fact, Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph, was appointed by Jehovah to be food administrator for all of Egypt, which of course, ultimately led to the Israelites becoming a multitudinous people while in slavery in Egypt over the course of four centuries. Over the hundreds of years after the great exodus the Israelites at times faithlessly looked to Egypt for security. And even the infant Jesus was taken to Egypt after Jehovah’s angel ordered Joseph to hide the family there until the murderous Herod died, this in fulfillment of prophecy.
So, Egypt served both as a benefactor and a snare for God’s people.
Because Egypt is an integral part of the history of the development of God’s purpose in connection with the children of Abraham, for that reason Egypt is also a prominent piece of the prophetic puzzle as well.
The 18th chapter of Isaiah opens with these words: “Ha for the land of the whirring insects with wings, which is in the region of the rivers of Ethiopia! It is the one sending forth envoys by means of the sea, and by means of vessels of papyrus upon the surface of the waters, saying: ‘Go, you swift messengers, to a nation drawn out and scoured, to a people fear-inspiring everywhere, a nation of tensile strength and of treading down, whose land the rivers have washed away.’”
What is the land of the whirring insects with wings and what is the message of the envoys God commands them to send forth? And who are the fear-inspiring people and the nation of tensile strength to whom the messengers are sent?
Over the years that I have studied prophecy I have revisited the 18th chapter of Isaiah many times to ponder it’s possible meaning. It remains maddeningly inscrutable. What seems clear, though, is that, the prophecy is intended to apply to the ultimate success of God’s purpose at the conclusion of the present system of things.
And what is God’s purpose?
As all of Jehovah’s Witnesses know, God’s grand, over-arching purpose is to bring forth a new creation composed of 144,001 humans that will ultimately be reborn into immortal, incorruptible spirits. Jesus is, of course, “the firstborn among many brothers,” as Paul described the Christ.
The 17th chapter of Isaiah is the denunciation of Damascus and Israel. But like most prophecies, although the setting is in ancient times the prophetic message pertains to the time of the end.
That ought to be evident from the concluding part of the prophecy, which says: “Ha for the commotion of many peoples, who are boisterous as with the boisterousness of the seas! And for the noise of national groups, who make a din just like the noise of mighty waters! The national groups themselves will make a din just like the noise of many waters. And He will certainly rebuke it, and it must flee far away and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before a wind and like a thistle whirl before a storm wind.”
The 15th and 16th chapters of Isaiah are devoted exclusively to the denunciation of Moab. Moab, along with Ammon, were the nations that descended from Abraham’s nephew, Lot – the sons born by his daughters after their mother had been turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the angel of Jehovah.
As the Watchtower’s commentary on Isaiah points out, although closely related to the children of Abraham, having a similar language and customs, the Moabites and Hebrews were long-time enemies. The Jews, of course, were bound by the law covenant to exclusively worship Jehovah. The Moabites were not under any such covenant. Nevertheless, that did not mean they were not accountable to Jehovah.
As explained in numerous articles on this site, both the Assyrian and Babylonian military campaigns picture various aspects of the world conquest of the 8th king.
From the latter part of the 14th chapter of Isaiah through the 19th chapter, are conveyed Jehovah’s judgments against numerous nations surrounding Israel. However, it is noteworthy that Jehovah entered into judgment with his own nation first. This is in keeping with the axiom that judgment begins with the house of God.
Although the 13th and 14th chapters relate the end of the executioners, namely Babylon and Assyria, the prophecy of Isaiah is not presented chronologically. Babylon went on to overthrow many other nations before God finally disposed of it.
So, after Jerusalem and Judah were crushed by Babylon, the tempest from out of the north, as described by Jeremiah, God next called Philistia to account: “And with famine I will put your root to death, and what remains over of you will be killed. Howl, O gate! Cry out, O city! All of you must become disheartened, O Philistia! For out of the north a smoke is coming, and there is no one getting isolated from his ranks.”
The Philistines were the implacable enemies of Israel dating back to the days of the judges, most notably Samson, whose inspired final performance before the Philistine nobles brought the house down – literally! (Perhaps prefiguring the killing of the last anointed witnesses as the trigger for the destruction of the harlot)
“O how you have fallen from heaven, you shining one, son of the dawn! How you have been cut down to the earth, you who were disabling the nations!"
The fall of mighty Babylon vindicated Jehovah as the true God. Not only had he foretold that Babylon would serve as his punishing agent, wrecking all the earth, but God foretold the name of the man who would bring Babylon down, nearly two centuries before he was even born - naming Cyrus as the anointed of Jehovah, the liberator of God’s oppressed people; obviously, a type of Christ.
In conjunction with that, in the latter chapters of the same prophecy of Isaiah the repatriated Jews and company were said to have been ushered into a new heavens and new earth. To be sure, that expression is also used in the 2nd letter of Peter and in Revelation, both in reference to the system to come.
That being the case, the prophetic account of the fall of ancient Babylon did not merely vindicate God as a foreteller of future events, it led to the complete accomplishment of God’s overall purpose.
The sudden overthrow of Babylon stunned the ancient world. The event is one of the centerpieces of Bible prophecy, having been foretold by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel - the reason being, Babylon had been an unwitting instrument in the hand of Jehovah to smash all the nations surrounding, including the kingdom of Judah and the very city where Jehovah had placed his name - Jerusalem. For that reason - to humble Babylon and her gods - Jehovah was also obligated to order mighty Babylon’s overthrow by King Cyrus and the Medes and Persians.
The entire13th chapter of Isaiah relates God’s judgment against Babylon - or does it?
A cursory reading of the prophecy might lead one to that conclusion - as the Watchtower Society has concluded - but, a comparison of this portion of Isaiah with the prophecies of Joel and Habakkuk ought to lead to a different conclusion.
For certain, the opening words of the prophecy say: “The pronouncement against Babylon that Isaiah the son of Amos saw in vision.”
However, verse three states: “I myself have issued the command to my sanctified ones. I have also called my mighty ones for expressing my anger, my eminently exultant ones.”