As we have throughout the last several studies, Isaiah 7-12 includes promises about two special children who were yet to be born. One of these promised sons was born to Isaiah 2700 years ago (7:14ff.; 8:1ff.), but the other promised child would be none other than the Messiah Himself (9:6-7). Chapters 10-12 continue as a literary unit that talks about the promised Messiah. The remainder of chapter 10 has much to say about God’s judgment on the nation of Assyria, but this chapter also includes some very rich messianic prophecies that tell us how the Messiah will bring redemption to God’s elect Jewish remnant during the tribulation period. Today’s blog comes out of the forthcoming Isaiah commentary.
Isaiah again makes a rapid shift of focus. The last section (9:8-10:4) gave repeated reasons why God’s wrath would continue coming on Israel, but now the focus shifts to His anger against Assyria. Assyria was indeed carrying out God’s purpose by punishing rebellious Israel, but they themselves were sinning as they did so. For this reason, Assyria will eventually get judged and Israel will have a gracious restoration.
The Bible shows us that God settles scores with sinners, for He is a God, “who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). Furthermore, we see that God’s eternal plan embraces and includes the sinful choices of men who will eventually be held accountable for their sin. Thus, writes Martin, “Even though God used the Assyrian Empire to punish Israel, He did not like the attitude Assyria displayed.” Assyria sinned by attacking Israel, and furthermore she was extremely arrogant about her own deeds, but still all of it was part of God’s plan. Assyria did not understand that it was, “not by its own human power, but by the sovereign action of God [that] Assyria attained power to chasten Israel and mete out God’s punitive displeasure upon the heathen nations.” God was using Assyria, but once this work was accomplished Assyria would pay the price for its own sin (cf. Hab. 1:6-11; 2:6-17).
Here in 10:5-34, Isaiah outlines three facets of God’s plan in settling the score with sinners. This reminds us that God’s plan includes everything that happens in all places and all times, a wonderful truth that reminds us we can always trust Him no matter what life may bring (cf. Gen. 45:1-8; 50:20; Rom. 8:28).
First facet of God’s plan in settling the score with sinners:
God’s punishment of Assyrian pride vv. 5-19
Assyria was a powerful, ruthless, and proud empire whom God was using for His purposes, but Assyria was completely ignorant of the reality that she was nothing but a tool in the hand of Yahweh. Isaiah makes it clear that none of their present crises were random chance, but actually an outworking of God’s plan. Indeed, this passage is one of the most-powerful texts that teaches about the absolute sovereignty of God. As Kidner explains it, this portion of Scripture is, “an important treatment of God’s control of history, in the world at large and among his chosen people.” Here in verses 5-11 Isaiah gives us the first of three rebukes to Assyria, three rebukes that serve as a comfort that there is nothing that falls outside of the sovereignty of God.
First rebuke to Assyria: Assyria is a tool in God’s hand (vv. 5-11)
God had a “woe” for His own people, but now the woe gets directed against Assyria. The reason is because God would soon be judging Assyria, just as He had Israel. Verses 5-11 show us both God’s view of Assyria (vv. 5-6) as well as Assyria’s view of itself (vv. 7-11).
God’s view of Assyria (vv. 5-6). Assyria saw itself as the one in control, but God says they were a mere instrument—a rod (shebet, such as a battle ax) and staff (matteh, a large stick) in God’s hand to punish His own people. God is the One who sent Assyria to punish and plunder Israel just as He would later use Babylon (cf. Jer. 50:23; 51:20; Nah. 2:9; Hab. 1:6).
God’s alone is sovereign, and God alone controls human history. This does not preclude the reality of creaturely freedom and human responsibility. The Bible shows us that God created man in His image as a moral creature with a capacity for making free choices, but it also shows us that every event that takes place (including man’s choices) falls under God’s eternal plan. This is not to say that God “manipulates people in a cynical way,” but that He is “bringing out of them that which will most effectively serve goodness and truth.” Young explains that, “they thought they were acting in their own strength. [But] all that we do has been foreordained of God, and to Him we are responsible.”
Assyria’s view of Assyria (vv. 7-11). Assyria had a different view. Assyria did not understand that were carrying out the will of God. Their only purpose was to destroy and plunder (v. 7). Assyria’s arrogance is reflected in the way they claimed that their princes were more powerful and glorious than the kings they were conquering (a statement that finds corroboration in various Assyrian inscriptions with the king of Assyria seeing himself as the “king of kings” as reflected in Ezekiel 27:7).
Perhaps Assyria’s most-serious sin was her failure to recognize that Yahweh is the true God (vv. 9-11). It is true that Assyria had completely overthrown a number of other pagan capitals so far (e.g., Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Samaria, Damascus; cf. 36:19), but her worst sin was in thinking that Yahweh was just like the other pagan gods and their idols (it is true that many idols of the ancient world were large and awe inspiring). Assyria’s great sin was in thinking that Yahweh was just another idol (Isa. 36; cf. 2 Kings 18:19-20, 22-23; 29-35). Assyria would soon realize how wrong she was.
Second rebuke to Assyria: Once God has finished using Assyria to punish Israel, He will turn His punishment against Assyria (vv. 12-14)
God had a two-fold plan for Assyria. Assyria will pay the price for its own sin, but not until God was finished using her.
First part of God’s plan for Assyria (v. 12a). The first part of God’s plan was to use Assyria to bring a humiliating devastation to rebellious Judah—the kingdom ruled from Mount Zion. The judgments against the northern kingdom would be irreversible, but such would not be the case with Judah, for in the end Yahweh would crush Assyria and deliver Judah from complete ruin (chs. 36-37).
Second part of God’s plan for Assyria (vv. 12b-14). Once God has finished using Assyria, His plan was to turn His anger against Assyria and “punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.” God hates pride (Isa. 2:11-17; 3:8-4:1; 5:15; cf. Prov. 6:16-17; 21:4).
Assyria reasoned that all of its victories were due to its own wisdom and power, not realizing that it was Yahweh who had raised her up. Assyria arrogantly compared her military activity to the plundering of a bird nest with eggs with not one bit of resistance (v. 14). Assyria was powerful and virtually unstoppable, but her time of punishment was about to come.
Third rebuke to Assyria: No one who raises itself up against Yahweh will prosper (vv. 15-19)
No one will ever raise himself up against God and prosper. Isaiah exposes the folly of pride (v. 15), then announces the penalty (vv. 16-19).
The folly of Assyria’s pride (v. 15). Isaiah asks two absurd, rhetorical questions of Assyria to expose their arrogance in thinking that it was their own innate abilities that had given them such superiority. Axes, saws, clubs and rods are only tools yielded by the one who uses them. So it was with Assyria. Young asks, “Shall finite, human Assyria move the mighty God? . . . Yet, so do sinners constantly act, perverting the true nature of things.”
The punishment for Assyria’s pride (vv. 16-19). Such pride cannot go unpunished, for no one can raise themselves up against Yahweh and prosper. Here in verses 16-19 Isaiah introduces two metaphorical pictures to describe the judgment God was about to bring upon Assyria.
The first picture: a wasting disease (v. 16a). Isaiah says, “The Lord, the God of hosts, will send a wasting disease among his stout warriors [mishman, lit. “fat ones”]” Though they are mighty according to the ranks of men, Yahweh of Hosts will strike down mighty Assyria by sending a “wasting disease” to bring them to the grave (Heb. razon: “emaciation, leanness, consumption”; cf. Ps. 106:15; Mic. 6:10). This would be the plague that struck 185,000 Assyrians in 701 B.C. (37:36) in the reign of Hezekiah.
The second picture: a fire will be kindled like a burning flame (vv. 16b-19). Some hold that the expressions “light of Israel” and “Holy One of Israel may be references to the Messiah since similar language is used of God’s Servant (Isa. 42:6; 49:6; cf. Ezek. 39:7-8; Luke 1:35; 4:34; John 6:69; 8:12; 9:5; Acts 3:14). In any case, God is going to utterly destroy Assyria (cf. 1:29-31; 2:13; 6:13; 9:18; 37:24).
How did this violent overthrow take place? One of the ways was a direct intervention from God with a disease that took the lives of 185,000 soldiers in one night. Then, between the years of 629 and 605 God used the armies of Media and Babylon to take Assyria down to utter ruin. Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. as predicted by Nahum, and the Medes and Babylonians brought final death blow to Assyria at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. In the section that follows we see that God’s punishment of the Jews will not include an utter annihilation. God’s covenant with Abraham is an eternal covenant, so there will be an ultimate restoration of God’s elect remnant and a restoration of the apostate nation.
Second facet of God’s plan in settling the score with sinners: The restoration of Israel with salvation to an elect remnant (vv. 20-27
Over the first ten chapters, Isaiah made it abundantly clear that God will settle the sin score with both Israel and Judah. The good news for the Jews, though, is that their sin will not bring a permanent ruin. The day is coming when God will restore His fallen nation. Here in verses 20-27 we see (1) the promise of salvation to an elect remnant (vv. 20-23), as well as the implications of this promise (vv. 24-27).
The promise of salvation to God’s elect remnant (vv. 20-23)
Assyria was in the process of ravaging Israel and Judah, and within 100 years Babylon would overthrow Judah and take them into exile. Many Jews wrongly believed that there was no hope for restoration. God has sworn that even though His people might break the Sinaitic Covenant and go into exile (Deut. 28:15-68), His promise is that is that one day He will fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant and bring a final, eschatological restoration (Deut. 30:1-10). The consequences to unbelieving Israel have been horrific: (1) invasion by Babylon with the destruction of Solomon’s temple and death to hundreds of thousands, (2) exile under Babylon for 70 years, (3) continual oppression by pagan nations for at least the next 2,500 years, (4) the destruction of Jerusalem and a second temple by the Romans in A.D. 70 with the death of over one million Jews, (5) another scattering of the Jews to every corner of the earth, (6) the ongoing hatred simply for being a Jew, (7) the murder of over six million Jews during World War II, and (8) the ongoing attempts by Islam to annihilate Israel. Satan’s efforts to annihilate Israel have been relentless, but they will never for succeed, for God has sworn to bless the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 35:9-12). Verses 20-23 remind us of two, very-special restoration promises.
First promise: The people will abandon every false hope (v. 20). The people of Israel (both the northern and southern kingdoms) had an ongoing problem of not trusting Yahweh. At the present time, Judah had made the foolish decision to trust Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-9). As time would show, that would be a disastrous decision. God’s promise here is that the day is coming when His people will never again make the foolish decision of putting their trust in anyone but Him.
Contextually speaking, there is good reason for treating the expression “in that day” (bayom hahu’) as referring to events that take place after the rapture of the church during the tribulation period, in particular the last three and a half years (Isa. 2:11, 17, 20; 4:1-2; 10:20; 11:10, 16; 12:4; 19:16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24; 22:20, 25; 24:21; 25:9; 26:1; 27:1, 2, 12, 13; 30:23; 52:6). Thus, “that day” refers to the day of restoration when God brings Israel back to Himself and brings His kingdom to this earth. When that day of restoration comes, His people will never again put a false hope in earthly powers. Isaiah explains, “the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (cf. 10:17). That is, Israel will never again put their hope in someone like (1) the King of Assyria (immediate context) or (2) the Antichrist at the end of the age (Dan. 9:27; Zech. 11:15-17; 1 Thess. 5:1-2)—pagan leaders who promised help Israel, but turned against them and struck them down. From this time on, their trust will only be in the Lord, i.e., Jesus Christ.
Isaiah makes it clear, however, that the promises he is talking about do not refer to every physical Jew, but only to those who have turned to Him in saving faith, the ones he describes as (1) “the remnant of Israel” and (2) “those of the house of Jacob who have escaped.” Here is the promise: God has His chosen remnant (she’ar), and these are the ones who will come to faith in the Messiah and escape (the peleytah) the ruin of the tribulation period (Isa. 4:2; cf. Joel 2:32). Those days are going to be the worst that Israel has ever experienced (Matt. 24:15-31), but God is going to save His remnant (Matt. 24:31; cf. Isa. 11:11-16; 27:12-13).
Second promise: The remnant will find restoration (vv. 21-23). The true Jew, i.e., the one who is not merely a physical descendant of Israel, but the one who also has saving faith in the Messiah, is the one who will inherit these kingdom promises.
What about the eschatological Jew who does not repent? The Bible says that their Jewish blood will avail them nothing, for when the tribulation period comes God will “purge” every rebel (Ezek. 20:36-38), and two-thirds of the nation will die in disbelief (Zech. 13:8-9). Unbelievers will be cut off from the kingdom, but by His grace (cf. Zech. 12:10) God will save His elect remnant—every one of them (Ezek. 39:25-29; Hos. 1:10-12; 3:5; Mic. 2:12-13). This is the promise we see in verse 21: “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”
This rich language calls for further comment. First of all, we must make comment on the statement “a remnant shall return.” The expression itself comes from the Hebrew she’ar and, as we remember, this was the name of Isaiah’s first son (Isa. 7:3). Isaiah’s first son had the prophetically significant name that one day “a remnant shall return.”
Secondly, we must make note of the One to whom this remnant shall return. Isaiah says this remnant of Jacob shall return to “the Mighty God” (’El Gibbor). The attentive reader will immediately recall that ’El Gibbor is the name of the promised child in 9:6-7—the child who will deliver Israel from enemy oppression (9:1-5) and rule eternally on the throne of David (9:6-7). Unger comments on this connection: “That is the name by which Messiah was called in 9:6 and is parallel to the Holy One of Israel [bold original], which is an implied identification of the Messiah with God, since both God and Messiah are referred to as El Gibbor and the Holy One of Israel.” At the present time, most Jews hate Him, but by God’s grace one day they will turn to Him in faith and find restoration.
The nation Israel may multiply at an external physical level, but in the end, it is only the believing remnant that obtains forgiveness and participation in the kingdom (vv. 20-23). One day they will become a mighty nation (Isa. 10:22a; cf. Gen. 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; 32:12), but only “a remnant will return” (she’ar ) and find forgiveness (Rom. 9:27-28).
What about those who will not turn to Christ? Their fate is described in 22b-23. God will judge them severely: “a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.” A “destruction” (killayon, i.e., “decrease,” “annihilation”) has been decreed for the rebels (charuts, Qal Pass. Pt.).
God has a plan to deal with this sinful world, in particular with His rebellious people Israel, and in this plan He will not only bring ruin to those who refuse to repent, but also salvation to those who open their hearts to His Son (Paul quoted this in Rom. 9:27-28 as proof of the future restoration of Israel). Like Isaiah 10:22-23, Daniel also described this period of judgment as “a complete destruction, one that is decreed” (Dan. 9:27; 11:36), the time of three-and-a-half years when “they finish shattering the power of the holy people” (Dan. 12:7 cf. Jer. 30:5-7). Thus, God will punish, but He will also bring salvation to His remnant (Isa. 10:20-23). God’s covenant love assures this final restoration. Pfeiffer explains,
While pagan empires would have their day and pass away, the Lord declared, the weak and despised people of God were to live on down through history. By the divine discipline they would be taught to trust in the Lord alone for their salvation.
The implications of God’s promise (vv. 24-27)
God’s promise is that He will preserve the nation by saving His elect remnant. Therefore (laken) says the Lord God of Hosts, “O, My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod and lifts up his staff against you, the way Egypt did” (v. 24). God continues this assurance in verses 25-27.
The promise: God will turn His anger to Assyria (vv. 25-26). The “indignation” God speaks of in verse 25 (za‘am) is the indignation He has toward His own covenant breaking people (Isa. 10:5; 26:20; cf. Dan. 8:19; 11:36), but once God has finished executing His indignation against His own people, He will then turn His anger (’aph) against the Assyrians and bring destruction (tabliyth, biblical hapax) upon them. God compares the destruction of Assyria to two decisive victories in the history of Israel, Gideon’s overthrow of Midian at the rock of Oreb (Judg. 7:25) and the overthrow of Egypt at the Red Sea (Exod. 14).
The result: Assyria’s oppression will be gone forever (v. 27). Assyria took delight in enslaving other nations, but very soon God would break that oppressive yoke (Isa. 9:4; Jer. 30:8-9). The statement “because of fatness” could potentially refer (1) to the pride of Assyria or (2) to a fatness that God supplies to Israel in strengthening them to stand and resist (cf. Zech. 12:1-9). The certainty is that all that Israel has and all that she accomplishes will be through the undeserved grace of God.
Third facet of God’s plan in settling the score with sinners: Though Assyria was a terror to all, God will bring them to ruin vv. 28-34
Here we get reminded of the truth that ultimate salvation does not preclude the reality of temporal afflictions—especially for the disobedient nation of Israel. In this final portion of chapter 10 we see both the present terror of Assyria as well as the promise of divine ruin.
The terror of Assyria (vv. 28-32)
Assyria was a terror, but none of this is too much for God. God’s command to His people is that they were to trust Him no matter what. Pfeiffer explains, “They were to trust in these promises of God and not fear the ruthless conquerors.” Verses 28-32 show us a list of 13 places in the kingdom of Judah that would become subject to Assyrian terror. One cannot be certain of the timing of when these towns were invaded but clearly they all got attacked (most evidence indicates Sennacherib attacked from the southwest from Lachish, but these might very well be earlier attacks that came after Sargon after he overthrew Samaria).
Thirteen cities of Judah were about to be invaded (vv. 28-32). Aiath is the first town mentioned (v. 28). This is probably the town of Ai located northeast of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin, the second town invaded by Joshua (Josh. 7:2; cf. Neh. 11:31). The second town Migron would include a slight deviation from the main route. Michmash (third) is about seven miles northeast of Jerusalem and was separated from Gibeah (fourth) by the deep Wadi Suwenit. The armies stopped in the bottom before going up the hill to set up camp and leave off some of their equipment and hit the fifth city of Geba about six miles from Jerusalem (v. 29). Ramah is just to the west of Geba, only five miles north of Jerusalem. The seventh city named is Gibeah about three miles north of the capital. Isaiah tells the Daughter of Gallim to cry aloud for she is next (v. 30). The ninth city is Laish. Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth is then told to pay attention, and Madmeneh (the eleventh city) is said to have fled, and the inhabitants of Gebim have also fled for refuge (v. 31). The twelfth stop is Nob, the town from which the King of Assyria will stop, look down on the slopes of Olivet at what is called Scopus, and shake his fists at Jerusalem, the thirteenth and final city named (v. 32).
From a human standpoint, it is hopeless. Judah is being overrun by the most powerful nation on the face of the earth and the situation is hopeless (at a human level). The good news, however, is that Yahweh has promised that Judah will not fall to Assyria.
The ruin of Assyria (vv. 33-34)
God will bring arrogant Assyria to ruin and teach them that He alone is God. The certainty and imminency of God’s intervention are highlighted by both the expression “Behold” (Hinneh) and the expression “lop off” (a Piel participle of sa‘aph, stressing the idea of certainty and imminency). The King of Assyria and his mighty armies might be likened to giant trees (Ezek. 17:22-24; Dan. 4), but Yahweh was about to chop them down (v. 33), for “The Mighty One” (‘Addiyr, Isa. 33:21; Pss. 76:5; 93:4) will bring down every enemy power (See fulfillment in Isa. 37:24, 36-38; 2 Kings 19:35-37; 2 Chron. 32:21). Martin explains, “Even Lebanon, known for its thick forests of cedar trees, would fall before God. Certainly, then, Assyria should not think it could escape.”
Summary and application Judah was in trouble, but there was hope. There are at least three major principles we can observe and apply to life today. The first is that God is perfect in holiness and He will judge unrepentant sinners. The second is that God is faithful to His promises. Despite the fact that Judah was filled with unbelievers, God’s promise was that He would not let them be destroyed. The third principle is that God is approachable, but only through sincere faith. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Let each one of us who hears this truth respond by drawing (Heb. 10:19-25).
 Martin, “Isaiah,” 1055.
 Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: Old Testament.
 Kidner, “Isaiah,” 641.
 Concerning this term “indignation” (za‘am), it is interesting to trace the usage of this term in various contexts as God speaks about His severe anger against covenant breaking Israel (Isa. 10:5, 25; 13:5; 26:20; 30:30; 34:2; 66:14; Dan. 8:19; 9:27; 11:36; Zech. 1:12).
 Theologians describe this relationship as “Compatibilism,” i.e., the belief that God has given men a capacity to make free choices, but that God has an eternal purpose that He has planned and determined at the same time, i.e., the concept of “Determinism” (Isaiah 46:8-11 illustrates this truth very vividly).
 Carchemish is the farthest north on the bend of the Euphrates about 350 miles from Jerusalem (fell 717 B.C.). Calno is 50 miles from Carchemish and fell in 738 (cf. Amos 6:2). Arpad is not far away and fell in 740. Hamath is on the Orontes River 100 miles south of Arpad and fell in 738 and 720. Damascus is northeast of Israel and fell in 732 and Samaria in central Israel fell in 722 to Shalmaneser and Sargon (2 Kings 17:3-6).
 Several terms are used for these false gods: vv. 10-11: “idols” (’eliyl, with a root meaning “worthless” or “good for nothing”), v. 10: “graven images” (pasiyl, carved stones to reflect divine images), v. 11: “images” (‘atsab, effigy of a god).
 The term punish (phaqad) has a root idea “to visit.” Sometimes this is visiting with a blessing (cf. Ruth 1:6), but often it is the idea of visiting with punishment.
 Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1209–1210.
 Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 101.
 Furthermore, the Lord of v. 16 (Ha’Adon) may find connection with the Lord of Isaiah 6:1-4 and John’s identification of this being the Messiah in John 12:41.
 Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: Old Testament.
 Similar OT expressions also refer to the eschaton: e.g., “in the last days” (Isa. 2:2) or “in those days” (Jer. 3:16, 18; 5:18; 31:29; 33:15, 16; 50:4, 20) or “at that time” (Jer. 3:17; 30:7; 31:1; 33:15; 50:4, 20).
 For the “remnant” concept, see Isa. 1:9; 4:2; 6:13; 7:3; 10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 37:4, 31; 46:3; 49:6.
 The same message of The Baptist (Matt. 3:7-10).
 Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 479.
 Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: Old Testament, Is 10:20.
 Take note how He now calls them “My people” in contrast to “this people” earlier in 6:9; 8:11, 12. Their rebellion to the Mosaic Covenant can never annul the unbreakable promises God made in the Abrahamic Covenant (Rom. 11:29).
 This is an indignation that is not fully spent until the end of the future tribulation period when Israel comes to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
 Young explains, “Against Israel Assyria had been a rod, but against Assyria a scourge is to be raised up” (, 372).
 Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Is 10:20.
 Martin, “Isaiah,” 1056.