Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. “Isaiah 1-37, part D, “The Lord of History (28:1-37:38)” Loc. 6650-8381.
Motyer observes a change of focus at the start of Isaiah 28. At this point the text begins to show God’s sovereignty over world history (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6650). Chapters 28-29 show the principles of God’s dealings with Egypt and Assyria (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6663). Chapters 30-32 compare the Messianic kingdom with Assyria. Chapters 33-35 show how current events are a pattern for God’s eschatological work. Chapters 36-37 show a historical foundation for hope in God. The text of this portion of Isaiah is also punctuated by six statements of “woe” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6667).
Chapter 28 is a highly organized and rhythmic call to the leaders of Jerusalem not to refuse God’s call (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6693). In verses 1-6 Samaria is a reveller whose time has run out (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6713). God himself is going to bring the party to an end (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6737). The pride of Samaria is bringing its downfall. There is some hope to be found in verses 5-6 (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6742). In verses 7-22 Isaiah compares the leaders of Jerusalem to those of Samaria. The leaders of Jerusalem have scoffed and scorned God’s calls (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6759). The very simple teaching of the Lord has been rejected by those who seem overly sophisticated (Motyer 1993, Loc. 779). The straightforward work of the prophet, who makes incremental steps of teaching, becomes a mockery. In contrast to the sophistication of the leaders, God has given a simple truth which brings rest (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6800). Verses 14-19 show the result of rejecting God. Self-reliance is a covenant with death (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6811). On the other hand, it is God who has laid a foundation upon which his people can rest. This stone (v. 16) is sure and certain (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6842). The alternative is a bed which is not satisfactory (v. 20) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6868). The chapter closes with a question. Will Jerusalem fall like Samaria? (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6885). God is presented as the one with wisdom to know what is best.
Isaiah 29 opens with a scene of “chastisement and deliverance” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6929). Motyer thinks Isaiah is speaking here of Sennacherib and an assault in 701. Yet, as usual, it is the principle rather than the historic occasion which seems to move Isaiah. Verses 1-8 use a variety of words in repetition and deliberately leading from one concept to another step by step (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6939). God is the one who is in control of his creation. Verses 9-14 remind the reader of the human condition. Apart from divine help we are blind, foolish, and far from God (Motyer 1993, Loc. 6985). Despite all of man’s failure to look to God, in verse 14, God is the one who will rescue his people (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7025). Verses 15-24 show transformations of reason, the world in general, and Israel specifically (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7045). The mind of the people has turned reality upside down (v. 15). God’s plan is to right things which are disordered (v. 17). There will be an individual and spiritual aspect of God’s transformation (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7082). There will also be a social reformation (vv. 20-21). In particular, God will change the life and world of his people (vv. 22-24) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7109).
Chapter 30 moves from principle to application (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7141). The specific situation of the time is an appeal to Egypt for help. Regardless of the urgency or sincerity of the appeal for help, Egypt will not prove a safe refuge (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7168). In verse two Motyer reflects that if the people had asked the Lord he would have directed them. But they refused (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7195). The help of Egypt is worthless (v. 7) “Their promises will come to nothing (‘futile’) because they contain nothing (‘empty’)” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7222). Judah’s action, however, is described as a symptom of refusal of God’s word (30:8-17) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7228). There are both internal and external consequences. Verses 9-14 speak of the internal situation. The people have substituted something attractive and palatable for God’s actual word (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7256). Verses 15-17 continue with the external result of rejecting God’s word (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7290). Trusting in God gives strength for battles. Without God’s Word the people are easily frightened and overcome. Counter to this picture of hopeless fright, in verses 18-26 Isaiah speaks of God’s faithfulness. “He is such that his purposes cannot be frustrated by human faithlessness” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7306). these poetic lines move from temporal blessings to those which are eschatological in nature. God blesses his people both on earth and in eternity. After being hidden from people who fall into troubles, God reveals himself and brings comfort (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7337). Verses 27-33 close the section on God’s faithfulness. Motyer observes that the focus i s now on current events, with God’s judgment on Assyria (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7362). The Assyrians have threatened Judah. Judah has turned to Egypt for help. God causes the fall of Assyria, something Egypt could not accomplish. God’s people rejoice even as God destroys his Assyrian enemy (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7393).
From 31:1-32:20 Isaiah shows God again engaged in the work of rescuing his people and renewing society. Motyer comments, “The Lord never merely reacts to events as if sprung on him. He has prepared all beforehand and is totally master of the situation” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7427). In 31:1-5 the people of Judah are to consider the strength of Egypt and look to God instead. Motyer takes verse one to emphasize God’s character as reliable. He is trustworthy not for what He does, but for who He is (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7462). The Lord is the one who cannot ever be shaken by his enemies (31:4-5). Beginning at 31:6 the Lord transforms society (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7490). The day of the Lord is certain. Therefore we are called to return to God (31:6). Motyer points out that Assyria did decline and fall after 701, in accord with verse nine (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7514). In 32:1-8 the earthly king passes from the scene. He is replaced by a divine king (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7527). In this new realm the king is righteous. Everyone in government is good. Verses 9-14 call Judah to hear God’s Word (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7600). In the face of the historic events to come the people must continue trusting God rather than their pleasant circumstances (v. 9). Reversals will come, causing mourning. Verses 15-18 balance those reversals with a scene of a new, divinely ruled, world (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7627). In this realm there is perfect peace and rest. Verses 19-20 recapitulate the move. God’s people are rescued from destruction. They are promised tremendous blessing. The theme is that “Both judgment and glory lie ahead and now is the time to choose” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7644).
Motyer identifies chapters 33-35 as a narrative of “victory, proclamation and pilgrimage” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7663). Chapter 33 verses 1-6 describe salvation for Zion. This is depicted against the backdrop of Assyrian moral inconsistency (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7696). The people of Jerusalem turn to God in prayer, asking the Lord to rise up and protect them (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7711). God’s promise is to rise up and give his people his treasure (v. 6). Verses 7-12 describe surrounding peoples being judged (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7736). The people around udah who have lived by their own wits are going to come to the end of their strength. God’s judgment brings all the Assyrian plans to nothing (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7763). Zion, then, is to be renewed 33:13-24). God’s kingdom is recognized by his power to do his will. It is spread by the knowledge and recognition of that power (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7784). The individual is not free from responsibility. Verses 15 points to the demands of God’s law. Only after facing God’s demands can we repent and be forgiven (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7796). Verses 17-24 show the renewed kingdom with the king present (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7813). Verses 21-23 consider God as the ruler over not only land but also sea (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7841). “As a ‘ship of state’ Zion is crippled - rigging loose, mast unstepped, sails (or ‘flag’) unhoisted - yet this limping hulk takes the spoil” (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7856). There is comfort in verse 24. Sickness and sin are taken care of.
Motyer identifies in chapter 34 a proclamation of final overthrow (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7867). The relationship between Israel and Edom is as old as the people, Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom). The nations became hostile toward one another (Numbers 20:14-21) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7871). This continued for nearly a thousand years by the time of Isaiah. The universality of judgment is striking. The whole universe is to be overthrown by the Lord’s anger (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7909). His anger is against human sin and corruption (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7923). This is all according to God’s decision. He is the one who can determine the end (34:4). The normal practice of God in accepting sacrifice is replaced by God inflicting death (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7939). Verses 8-10 observe that God is acting within his right and for the sake of his people (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7949). Verses 16-17 emphasize the certainty of the coming judgment (Motyer 1993, Loc. 7969).
Chapter 35 describes God’s creation welcoming his redeemed people. The reception of God’s people takes place in a transformed world, a blooming desert (vv. 1-2, Motyer 1993, Loc. 8010). Despite all this beauty, the redeemed people will be captivated by God’s glory and splendor. Verses three and four describe the encouragement for those awaiting rescue. God will come (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8026). The central idea, found in verses five and six, is complete redemption. Motyer sees this embodied in receptive faculties (eyes and ears) and active ability (leaping and singing) (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8042). The roadway of holiness described in verse eight is made available to those trusting in God’s means of grace (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8059). These people are redeemed by God. They have been bought back from slavery or death to life.
Motyer groups chapters 37 and 38 together. He identifies the situation with 2 Kings 18:13-19:37 (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8081). Assyria is making demands on Judah despite a treaty. Motyer sees Isaiah’s purpose in this narrative as illustrating the fact that God keeps his promises. Chapter 36 verses 1-10 has the Assyrian commander proclaiming that Judah has no hope of safety (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8100). The people of Judah do not have military means to overcome Assyria. They have also alienated God. Egypt is also no longer a dependable ally. In a second speech, verses 11-21, the commander speaks to the people. He urges them not to trust Hezekiah or God (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8135). He speaks in Hebrew as opposed to the diplomatic language of Aramaic. The speech alludes to several elements of Isaiah’s teaching, suggesting careful analysis of information provided by spies (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8145). 36:22-37:7 describe the king’s reaction of repentance and belief (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8159). Though the king wishes to seek God and a new message, the word of the Lord is still that God will take care of the threat by himself. The second address of the Assyrians to Hezekiah indicates to Motyer that Hezekiah had confirmed his dependence on God by the time of 37:10 (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8194). By verse 14 Hezekiah is the one who prays. He had previously asked Isaiah to pray (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8208). Motyer observes that Hezekiah’s prayer is focused on the character of God. He does not pray for his situation. God spontaneously answers the need at hand in verses 21-35 (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8241). Counter to the blasphemy of earthly kings, God has planned to exalt himself regardless of man’s plans (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8280). 37:37-38 looks at a final overthrow of Assyria (Motyer 1993, Loc. 8312). Sennacherib no longer ruled over Judah by this time.