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The Book of Isaiah 17-20


         Is 17:1ff:

The burden against Damascus.

         Is 18 – Is 20:

The message to Ethiopia/Egypt

         Is 19:1ff:

The burden against Egypt.

         Is 20:1ff:

A sign against Egypt and Ethiopia.

I.       Chap 17:1ff:

The burden against Damascus.

A.     Historical background:

Damascus, the capital Syria, has a close historical relationship with Israel.

Damascus was a dominant trading and transportation center. Standing 2300 feet above sea level, it lay northeast of Mount Hermon and about 60 miles east of Sidon. Both major international highways ran through Damascus.

         The Via Maris from Mesopotamia in the east through Damascus and the Jezreel Valley to the Plain of Sharon and the Mediterranean coast, then south to Egypt

         The King’s Highway from Damascus south through Ashtaroth, Rabbath-ammon, and Bozrah to Elath on the Red Sea and to Arabia.

The Bible’s recording/history concerning this city is as follows:

1.        Abraham chased invading kings north of Damascus to recover Lot, whom they had taken captive. (Gen 14:15)

2.        Soldiers of Damascus attempted to help Hadadezer, king of Zobath – another Syrian city, against David. David won and took over Damascus (2 Sam 8:5ff). The weakness of Zobah encouraged Rezon to organize a renegade band. Rezon became the leader of Syria headquartered in Damascus (1 Kgs 11: 23-25). God used him to harass Solomon after Solomon sinned against God.

3.        Ben-Hadad strengthened Damascus to the point that Asa, king of Judah (910-869), paid him tribute to attack Baasha, king of Israel, and relieve pressure on Judah (1 Kgs 15:16-23)

4.        Ben-Hadad means Son of Hadad. Hadad was another name for the god Baal. Ben-Hadad, the Syrian king, attacked Samaria under King Ahab. A prophet revealed the way to victory for Ahab over a drunken Ben-Hadad. The Syrian king decided Israel’s God controlled the hills but not the plains, so he attacked at Aphek (1 Kgs 20:26). Again a prophet pointed the way to Israel’s victory. Ahab agreed to a covenant treaty with the defeated Syrian king, for which he met a prophet’s strong judgment. (1 Kgs 20:35-43) (Compare with the story of Elisha releasing the soldiers of Syria)

5.        Elisha had done much with this country.

 a.      Naaman, a Syrian officer, sought Elisha’s help in curing his skin disease but decided Abana and Pharphar, the great rivers of Damascus, offered greater help than did the Jordan. (2 Kgs 5:12) These rivers made Damascus an oasis in the midst of the desert.

 b.      Elisha helped deliver Samaria when Ben-Hadad besieged it. (2 Kgs 6).

 c.      Elisha prophesied a change of dynasty in Damascus, naming Hazael its king (2 Kgs 8:7-15) It is to fulfill the prophecy of God when God told Elijah that Hazael would punish Israel.

 d.      Ahaziah, king of Judah, joined Joram (Ahaziah’s uncle), king of Israel, in battle against Hazael with Joram being wounded. Jehu took advantage of the wounded king and killed him (2 Kgs 8:25-9:26). This is to fulfill the prophecy of God to Elijah.

6.        Shalmaneser III fought against Damascus and severely weakened Damascus. After this, Hazael of Damascus exercised strong influence in Israel, Judah, and Philistia (2 Kgs 10:32-33). His son Ben-Hadad maintained Damascus’ strength (2 Kgs 13:3-25). Finally, Jehoash, king of Israel (798-782), regained some cities from Damascus (2 Kgs 13:25)

7.        Jeroboam II, king of Israel (793-753), expanded Israelite influence and gained control of Damascus (2 Kgs 14:28). This was possible because Assyria threatened Syria again. King Assyria invaded Syria from 805-802 and again in 796. About 760 BC, Amos the prophet condemned Damascus and its kings Hazael and Ben-Hadad. (Amos 1:3-5)

8.        Tiglath-pileser III, king of Assyria (744-727), threatened Damascus again. King Rezin of Damascus joined with Pekah, king of Israel, in an effort to stop the Assyrians. They marched on Jerusalem, trying to force Ahaz of Judah to join them in fighting Assyria (2 Kgs 16:5). The prophet Isaiah warned Ahaz not to participate with Syria and Israel (Isa 7). He also said that Assyria would destroy Damascus (Isa 8:4) Rezin of Damascus had some military success (2 Kgs 16:6), but he could not get Ahaz of Judah to cooperate. Instead, Ahaz sent money to Tiglath-pileser, asking him to rescue Judah from Israel and Damascus. The Assyrians responded readily and captured Damascus in 732BC, exiling its leading people (2 Kgs 16:7-9)

9.        Damascus had one last influence on Judah; for when Ahaz went to Damascus to pay tribute to Tiglath-pileseer, he liked the altar he saw there and had a copy made for the Jerusalem temple. (2 Kgs 16:10-16). Damascus sought to gain independence from Assyria in 727 and 720 but without success. Thus Damascus became a captive state of first the Assyrians, then Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Ptolemies, and Seleucids. Finally, Rome gained control under Pompey in 64BC. Jews began to migrate to Damascus and establish synagogues there.

10.     Saul went to Damascus to determine if any Christian believers were attached to the synagogues there so that he might persecute them (Acts 9). Thus the

Damascus Road
became the sight of Saul’s conversion experience. Paul had to escape from Damascus in a basket to begin his ministry (2 Cor 11:32).

11.     Damascus gained importance, eventually becoming a Roman colony. It also gained importance as a Christian city, with a bishop stationed there prior to 400AD. The Arabs captured it in 636 and made it a capital city for the Moslem world, which it continues to be.

B.     Outline:

1.        1-3: 

Prophecy of the fall of Syria.

 a.      V1: Tiglath-pileser III, king of Assyria (744-727), indeed destroyed Syria in 733.

 b.      V2: Jehu’s sins brought God’s punishment on Israel, including the loss of Aroer to Hazael of Damascus (2 Kgs 10:33)

 c.      V3: Is7:8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.

2.        4-6:  

Prophecy of the fall of Israel.

 a.      Under the rule of Jeroboam II, Israel was a strong country. It almost restored the territory of King Solomon. But like a physical body, its richness and power would have faded away.

 b.      Israel was destroyed by Assyria in 722BC.

 c.      “Reapers gathering the standing grain and harvests the grain with his arm…” The reaper and the harvests refer to judgment (Mt 13:30-39).  “As when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of RephaimRephaim, residents of Sheol, is often translated as “Hades” or the “dead” (Prov 9:18; Isa 14:9)

 d.      “Yet some gleaning will remain…” There will be few left in the country. God have mercy to spare the remedy.

3.        7-11

The awakening of Israel.

 a.      In suffering and difficulties, man will look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. This is a repeated lesson in the book of Judges. Ex. An elder mentioned that it is hard to preach nowadays. When the suffering and tribulation comes, all will look to his Maker for salvation.

 b.      The failure of all human beings is: “Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge…” (v10) Paul mentioned that the Rock is the spiritual rock that follows the Israelites in their journey in the wilderness for 40 years. The spiritual rock yielded the spiritual water to quench their thirst.

 c.      though you plant pleasant plants and set out slips of an alien god, morning that you sow; yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain” (v10f). The pleasant plants could refer to Hosea 4:13 “They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks, poplars, and terebinths, Because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, And your brides commit adultery.”

 d.      We have to acknowledge that sometimes Satan has power to help people. Or a strong country has power to help us in our need. V10 and v11 used Rock to talk about God and plants to talk about human reliance. The growth can be seen more easily in the plants rather than in the Rock. The rock is not moved. But we can see that the Rock lasts forever and plants got cut away. The flowers fly away in time of distress.

4.        12-14

God is our reliance.

 a.      “Nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but He will rebuke them, and they will flee far away” (v13). This verse reminds us of the time when Jesus calmed the sea and the storm. “At evening time, behold, terror! Before morning, there are no more.” The terror lasted for a short time.

 b.      The enemy of Judah included Syria, Israel, and Assyria. Even though they might attack Judah like roaring water, but God will make them run away (Ref 2 Kgs 18-19). The King of Assyria failed to take over Jerusalem.

II.    Chap 18:

The message to Ethiopia.

A.     Historical background:

The biblical Ethiopia should not be confused with the modern nation of the same name somewhat further to the southeast. In biblical times, Ethiopia was equivalent to Nubia, the region beyond the first cataract of the Nile south, or upstream, of Egypt. This region, with an abundance of natural resources, was known to the Egyptians as Cush and was occupied by them during periods of Egyptian strength. During the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), Ethiopia was totally incorporated into the Egyptian Empire and ruled through an official called the “viceroy of Cush

When Egyptian power waned, Nubia became independent under a line of rulers who imitated Egyptian culture. When Egypt fell into a period of chaos about 725 BC, Nubian kings extended their influence northward in 715 BC… They succeeded in establishing control over all of Egypt and ruled as pharaohs of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. The most influential of these Ethiopian pharaohs was Taharqa (biblical Tirhakah), who rendered aid to Hezekiah of Judah during the Assyrian invasion of Sennacherib in 701BC (2 Kgs 19:9; Isa 37:9)

The Assyrian Empire invaded Egypt in 671 BC, driving the Ethiopian pharaohs southward and eventually sacking the Egyptian capital Thebes. (biblical No-Amon, Nah 3:8) in 664 BC. Thereafter, the realm of Ethiopian kings was confined to Nubia, which they ruled from Napata. Sometime after 300 BC, Napata was abandoned and the capital moved further south to Meroe, where the kingdom continued for another six hundred years.

This chapter is a message from Isaiah to the messenger of Cush. King of Cush intended to unite with Hezekiah of Judah to go against  Assyria. Isaiah prophesied that God would destroy Assyria. When God sees the right time, He will do it.

B.     Outline

1.        V1-v2:

Describe the people of Cush. They were strong and swift people. The Nile river, and its branches, divided the land. Land of whirring wings referred to three kinds of people in the bible. 1st: the fly of Egypt. 2nd: the bee of Assyria. 3rd: the eagle of Rome. (According to Pr Lin’s book). Vessels of papyrus: there was less wood in the land of Egypt. So the boat was made of papyrus.

2.        V3:

Yet Cush shall listen to the horn of God. God will for sure avenge at the right time.

3.        V4:

I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”

 a.      Sunshine and dew are two necessities for the harvest. All plants will grow toward sunshine. Dew will make plants grow stronger. Good harvest depends on these two resources. Harvest refers to God’s judgment time. (Mt 13:30)

(a)     Ex. God did not punish the land of Canaan during Abraham’s time. God commented that the evil was not fulfilled. After 400 years, God exercised His judgment.

(b)     Ex. Even though men are evil, God still helps man with His grace. God makes the sun shine on the evil and the good. This is to show the righteousness of God.

 b.      God will remain quiet and will look from His dwelling place.

(a)     “Vengeance is Mine” says the Lord. (Heb 10:30)

(b)     We will not be disappointed by God’s righteousness. (Ps 73)

4.        V5f:

“…He will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches. They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals.”

 a.      God will cut down Assyria after the blossoming time. At the time of the maturing of grapes, God will cut them off.

 b.      God always gives a grace period for a person to repent. God gave Adam a grace period. God gave Achan a grace period. When the graceful period has passed, man cannot escape the judgment of God.

 c.      When the judgment of God comes upon us, it will be very serious. (Heb 12:29) For God is a consuming fire.

5.        V7:

At that time, gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.

 a.      This verse echoes the V1-3. Eventually, Cush would know that God is almighty.

 b.      In New Testament times, an Ethiopian eunuch, to whom Philip explained the gospel, was a minister of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. (Acts 8:27). We can see from history that the Ethiopians knew to worship the Lord.

III. Chap 19:

The burden against Egypt.

A.     Outline:

1.        The punishment of Egypt (v1-v15)

 a.      v1-v4: Bankrupt of Religion.

(a)     V1.

(i)       “… the Lord rides on a swift cloud…”  It refers to the speed of God’s judgment.

(ii)     idols of Egypt tremble before him” Idols cannot stand still in front of God. The ark of God was carried to the Philistine temple and all idols fell before the mighty God.

(iii)    and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.” God punished the people of Philistine and they send the ark back to Israel.

(b)     V2: “God stirs up … and they will fight, every man against his brother and …his neighbors…”

(i)       God controls the hearts of man and the king. God controls history.

(ii)     Therefore humans fighting against one another is another form of God’s judgment.

(c)     V3: “The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the wizards.”  

(i)       We can see that no matter if it is in Egypt or in Taiwan, where there is idol worship, there is consultation of idols and of the dead and of the occult.

(ii)     Even though Egypt was famous for its plans, God brought its plans to nothing. When God wants to judge, man cannot finish his plan. Ex. Saul wanting to kill David. Ex. Absalom seeking for kingship.

(d)     V4: “give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master, and a fierce king will rule over them.”

(i)       This may refer to the invasion of Assyria in 672. (Isa 20:4; Jer 46:26)

 b.      v5-v10: Ruin of Land.

(a)     V5-v7: “the waters of the Nile will be dried up…The canals will stink; the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up. The reeds and rushes will wither, also the plants along the Nile, at the mouth of the river.”

(i)       There was a drought in the land. The Nile dried up because there was no rain on the mountain. Therefore, there was no rain in Egypt for sure.

(ii)     The canals will stink: This refers to there being war besides the drought. So we can see famine, war, death, and plague in the land of Egypt.

(b)     V8-10: The fishermen will groan for there are no fish in the rivers. There is no cotton due to the lack of water, so the weavers of fine linen will lose hope. The high-class people and law class people will suffer together. “The pillars of the Land” refers to the industrious leaders. “work for hire” refers to the employees.

 c.      v11-v15: The disabling of leaders.  

(a)     V11: “ The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wise counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, ‘I am a son of the wise, a son of the ancient kings’?”

(i)       Zoan was a city in the north of Delta area. Zoan was once a capital. Two pharaohs came from this city. Memphis later became the capital.

(ii)     According to some ancient writing, the priests of Egypt were famous for their wisdom. Many Pharaohs came from the family of priests. (Priests did not have to pay taxes in Joseph’s time.)

(b)     The spirit of confusion would come to the Egypt  and make it do the wrong thing. Ex The ill spirit came between Shechem and Abimelech, then there was guile in among the people. Those spirits were allowed by the Lord to attack the people.

(c)     Palm branch refers to the Royal people. The reed refers to the low status people. All kinds of people cannot finish their job.

(d)     Leaders/wise men are great asset in a country. King David’s kingdom was very strong because there were mighty men serving in his country. Let us pray that God can raise more mighty men to serve God in the future.

2.        v16-25: Prophecy that Egyptians will return back to the Lord.

 a.      V16-17: Egypt fears God.

 b.      V18:5: Cities learn new language.

 c.      V19-22: Egypt learns to worship God.

 d.      V23: Egypt and Assyria worship God.

 e.      V24-25: Countries worship God.

 f.       Even though God struck Egypt, God would save Egypt in the future. There are 5 paragraphs starting with “In that day.” In that day could refer to the last day.

(a)     In that day, Egypt will be scared like a woman. How do women react to worms? God’s hand will make Egypt feel scared.

(b)     There will be five cities in the Land of Egypt that will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts.

(c)     One of the cities is called “City of Sun” because the city worships the sun. Other translation calls it “City of destruction”. This name is to show that Jews despised the city.

(d)     In the last day, God will punish and then heal Egypt (v22). A pillar was used to mark a place of worshiping (Gen 28:18). 12 pillars were set up by Moses when he built an altar for the Lord and offered sacrifice (Ex 24:4). In the future, Egypt will set up pillars and altars to worship the Lord. Egypt will know God and pray to God. This country will become God’s people.

(e)     In the last day, there shall be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria and vice versa. There will be peace in these two countries. This highway refers to Christ (Jn 14:6) Christ tears down the wall between man and man. The mystery revealed to Paul is that the Gentiles shall receive salvation through Jesus Christ (Eph 3:6-8)

(f)      In that day, God will bless three countries. Salvation shall be for all nations. “And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.”(Zech 2:11)

IV.  Chap 20

A.     Is 20:1ff:

A sign against Egypt and Ethiopia.

Background: A northern city in Philistine, Ashdod, rebelled against Assyria in 713BC. Ashdod was conquered by Assyria in 711 BC.

B.     V1:

Tartan: it is not a man's name. It is a title like “Chief Officer”

C.     V2-6:

Prophet Isaiah served as a sign to tell people that in the future, Assyria will destroy Egypt. The purpose is so that Israel does not rely on the power of Egypt.

Publisher: True Jesus Church