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Actually, the first four verses of this chapter could have been logically included with the previous chapter, since they form the fourth stanza, following the first three in Isa. 9, each stanza followed by the refrain: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is outstretched still."
Of course, it should be remembered that both chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are in many instances arbitrary and illogical; but long usage has made it a practical impossibility to change or correct them. "The present division into chapters was made by Cardinal Hugo in 1250 A.D.; and into verses, by Robert Stephens the famous printer of Paris, in 1551 A.D."F1
The stubbornness of Ephraim is almost unbelievable; for no matter what disasters overcame the nation they persisted in following their idolatrous, shameful rebellion against the Lord. The great difference between Ephraim and Judah was in the existence of a righteous remnant in the Southern Israel; whereas, in Northern Israel, the Lord said, "Everyone is profane and an evil-doer, and every mouth speaketh folly" (Isaiah 9:17). Their apostasy was thus complete, and there was nothing further that even God could have done for Ephraim except what he did, namely, destroy them, just as God had done long previously to practically the whole race of Adam on the occasion of the Great Deluge.
THE FOURTH AND FINAL STROPHE
A quick overview of these four stanzas, or strophes, will reveal the totality and dreadful finality of the prophecy:
THE DOOM OF EPHRAIM (ISA. 9:8--10:4)
Strophe One, Isa. 9:8-12
This is a judgment against Ephraim for laughing off the facts, for mocking reality, and for their egotistical bragging about how they would overcome God's punishments. If bricks and sycamores are destroyed, Ephraim will replace them with hewn stones and cedars!
Strophe Two, Isa. 9:13-17
Here is a judgment against permissiveness, error, and false leadership. The eloquent comparison of crooked priests to the tail of a dog shows that it was the departure from God's truth that caused their apostasy.
Strophe Three, Isa. 9:18-21
Here is a judgment against disunity, internal discord and strife. With even their former allies at last turning against Ephraim, and with the Ten Tribes fighting against each other, their final ruin would follow in the deportation of the heart of the nation to Assyria. This took place in 722 B.C.
Strophe Four, Isa. 10:1-4
This judgment is against the central government and the judiciary, against those who made and administered the laws. It has often been observed that when these arms of human society fail, there can remain little hope for that society. Although these prophecies against Ephraim were principally focused upon the Northern Israel, they also spilled over in their application to Judah also. God's anger at all of Israel's pride and wickedness was approaching the flash point.
Before leaving these first four verses, we wish to notice somewhat further the question:
WHERE WILL YE LEAVE YOUR GLORY?
This is the third in a series of questions regarding ultimate values as contrasted with that which is earthly, temporary, and ephemeral. Every mortal who gives his life to the amassing of treasures, the pursuit of power, or in chasing the butterflies of happiness supposed to lie at the foot of some fantasy rainbow -- every such mortal should ask himself, "What are you going to do with it?" What will it be worth to you in the Day of Judgment? and, how is it going to help you when calamity comes upon you?" our Lord raised the same soul-searching question when he addressed the rich fool of Luke 12:20: "Whose shall those things be?" (KJV) "You cannot save them. With whom will ye deposit your riches, your magnificence, your treasures, your grand apparel? Is there anyone to whom you can flee? anyone who can protect you from the wrath of God?"
Rawlinson, in his outline of Isaiah, made this the beginning of the division reaching through Isa. 23, but, following Robinson (See Introduction), we believe the close connection with the fate of Judah and Jerusalem indicate rather that it belongs with the first division, Isa. 1--12.
This paragraph prophecies the destruction of Assyria, and at the same time also identifies this evil power as The Rod of God with which Jehovah will punish his hypocritical and profane people Israel. Assyria is thus the instrument God will use for the accomplishment of his purpose to punish Israel. This metaphor of God's using wicked nations to achieve his purpose, and then turning upon those wicked powers in their ruin to punish them and destroy them is extensively mentioned in the Old Testament. Back in Isa. 7:20 Assyria was identified as God's razor, other examples of the recurrence of this metaphor identify such wicked powers as God's bows (Isaiah 13:17), God's battle-ax (Jeremiah 51:20), and God's arrows (Jeremiah 51:11).
The words "Ho Assyrian" actually mean, "Woe betide this Assyria" as in James Moffatt's translation of the Old Testament. Cheyne rendered it, "Woe is Asher."F2
A profane nation
According to Rawlinson, hypocritical or a corrupt nation would be preferable to profane in this verse.F3
However he meaneth not so
This means that Assyria had no intention or desire whatever to serve God's purpose in the destruction of Israel. Ah no! Assyria was motivated by blood-lust, insatiable greed and ambition, sadistic cruelty, and arrogant opposition to God himself, totally unaware, that when he had shortly fulfilled God's purpose, the Lord would also totally destroy Assyria. Rabshakeh's proud boast that he had Jehovah with him when he went up against Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:25) was more than likely nothing but a ploy to frighten the city. He had probably heard of the prophecies of the Judean prophets.F4
Isa. 10:8-11 carry the arrogant boasts of Assyria. They do not for an instant see that God is using them. No! All of their exploits are due to their own power and their own devices! Just look at the cities they have already destroyed! Look at the gods they have already defeated. "Insignificant little Judah with their puny gods (nothing to compare with the costly and excellent idols of cities already taken), they declared, would easily fall."F5
This paragraph raises a question regarding the date of this prophecy. Hailey quoted Young as giving the dates when the cities mentioned here were taken by the Assyrians: "Calno in 738 B.C.; Carchemesh on the Euphrates in 717 B.C.; Hamath on the Orontes in 720 B.C.; Arpad in 740, 720 B.C.; Samaria in 722 B.C.; and Damascus in 732 B.C."F6 Delitzsch believed the prophecy was written before these conquests took place, because Isaiah often spoke of future events as having already taken place.F7 Hailey believed it more probable that "This prophecy was written between the dates of the fall of Carchemesh (717 B.C.) and that of Sennacherib investiture of Jerusalem in (702-701 B.C.)."F8
It appears to us that there may be good reasons for accepting the position of Delitzsch on this. McGuiggan's warning that we should remember that, "Isaiah often speaks of things having been accomplished that are still in the future,"F9 most certainly should be heeded. We shall observe many examples of this use of the present or the past tense for speaking of future events in Isaiah. First, "Isa. 10:20-23 leave an impression that Ephraim has not fallen yet."F10
"The Assyrians' argument in Isa. 10:10,11 is: "How can Jerusalem, with fewer gods to protect it, hope to hold out successfully?."F11
The interesting change of persons in Isa. 10:12, from the second (the Lord) to the first (I will) is not at all unusual in the Old Testament.
No, God had not accepted the wickedness of a kingdom like Assyria. The rod of divine punishment was already laid up against that evil nation; and the reason was stated here. This arrogant and boastful power had bragged that they knew all of the answers. They thought they had the ability to destroy any nation on earth as handily as one could rob a bird nest and with no more opposition than a helpless little bird would be able to provide against such a catastrophe. There was not even the flutter of a wing, or the chirping of a bird. The rapacious cruelty and blood-lust of Assyria reached a pinnacle of such behavior in ancient history.
The rebuke here is against Assyria. How ignorant and how stupid they were not to see that God was merely using them, that all of their exploits would have been impossible without his permission; and that all the while they were hastening to the day when they also would be severely punished by the Lord. The words here have the force of saying, "How can Assyria, being but an instrument of God, exalt himself against Jehovah?"F12
Like the burning of fire
This is thought by scholars to refer to a terrible sickness such as a very high fever. Peake called it a wasting disease;F13 and Kidner identified the two metaphors here as, fever, and a forest fire.F14 The big point in the prophecy, however, is not what will cause the disaster, whether a disease or a forest fire, but the suddenness with which it will fall. In one day ... Isaiah anticipates a sudden catastrophe for the Assyrians.F15 Without a doubt, this is a prophecy of the destruction of Sennacherib army to terminate his siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 19 and Isa. 36). The mysterious death of so many of his army seems to have resulted from some sudden and fatal illness.
It should be remembered that the name of Isaiah's first son Shear-jashub has the meaning of, "A remnant shall return," thus certifying the authenticity and early date of Isaiah's receiving these great prophecies of the wholesale destruction of Israel, the deportation of the nation as a whole, and the return of a small remnant.
It is significant that here the prophet takes one of the titles of the Messianic Prince given in Isa. 9 and applies it to Almighty God himself.
There is a prophecy in these verses that Israel "in that day" will no longer rely upon alliances with foreign powers as Ahaz had done in the case of Assyria; and Cheyne pointed out that indeed all of this came to pass during the Babylonian captivity. "`The remnant' of Israel was weaned from its false confidences and returned to God."F16 After the return of the "remnant," there were never any more examples of Israel lapsing into idolatry.
As Archer observed, "No matter how small a fraction `that remnant' might prove to be, after the judgments of God had fallen on the apostate nation, the future would lie with them."F17
The last clause of Isa. 10:27 here is said by some scholars to be difficult because of imperfections in the text; and that may very well be, because the metaphor of Israel getting so fat that they can throw off the yoke of Assyria simply does not fit. We like the suggestion of Jamieson that there is a reference to the Messiah here. The alternate reading for "fatness" in the Cross-Reference Bible is "oil,"F18 evidently meaning the anointing oil. "Just as in Isa. 9:4-6 the breaking of the yoke of the enemies is attributed to Messiah, so it is here."F19 Dummelow also honored this understanding of the place thus:
"Because of the anointing, i.e., because of the anointed king of David's house, to which God has promised a lasting kingdom."F20
His rod will be over the sea
This is a promise that Jehovah will lift up his rod for the protection of his people and the destruction of their enemies, just like God through Moses had done so long ago when that action rescued Israel and destroyed Egypt at the Red Sea.F21
"These verses are a prophecy of Sennacherib's army's approach of Jerusalem in order to invest it."F22
Here is another reason for our preferring the view that all of these verses are prophecy, not history. Note that Isaiah here represented Assyria's approach as being from the north; but actually, as Kidner pointed out the final approach was probably from Lachish which is southwest of Jerusalem;F23 but in a prophecy, Lachish would most surely have been grouped with all of the nearby cities lying in the vicinity of Jerusalem, nearly all of which were indeed north of the city. This lone city lying somewhat to the southwest does not compromise the language of the prophecy in any manner.
These verses pause with the great Assyrian army poised to strike; but at the very last moment, when it seemed that all was lost, God intervened and put his hook in the nose of the invader and hauled him back to Nineveh. Isaiah will elaborate this event more fully in Isa. 36.
"Lebanon is here a metaphor, because of their (Assyria's) forests of cedars."F24 The only hint provided in this chapter of just how such a mighty deliverance is to come about is found in Isa. 10:26 where it is revealed that it would resemble in some way the slaughter of Midian and of the Egyptians. This is a pledge that the deliverance will not come by an army, or by any human device, but that the deliverance shall be of God and of him only. The mighty one who is depicted here as cutting down the forest of Lebanon (a metaphor for Assyria) is, of course, God himself.
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.