Here Am I – Send Me

Isaiah Speaks During a Period of Decline (Chapters 19-39)

Isaiah 19:1-15, An oracle concerning Egypt
Isaiah 20:1-6, An acted-out warning to Egypt and Cush
Isaiah 20:2, Supplement – Reader Question
Isaiah 21:1-10, An oracle concerning Babylon
Isaiah 22:15-25, A message to Shebna, the king’s comptroller
Isaiah 23:1-18, An oracle concerning Tyre
Random Walk in Gallery of Religious Art, Step 75: Isaiah 23:1-18, Luke 6:12-19, Water Scenes
Isaiah 24:1-23, The Lord will judge and punish the earth
Isaiah 25:1-12, The Lord will deliver Judah
Isaiah 26:1-19, A song to be sung in Judah: the people sing to the Lord
Isaiah 26:20 – 27:13, ... and the Lord responds
Isaiah 28:1-22, Assyria, Israel, and Judah
Isaiah 29:1-24, Jerusalem
Isaiah 30:1-18, The fruits of rebellion
Isaiah 31:1-9, Against reliance on Egypt
Isaiah 32:9-20, Advice to complacent women
Isaiah 33:1-19, A prayer
Isaiah 34:1-17, The Lord will judge Edom...
Isaiah 35:1-10, ... and return his people to Jerusalem
Isaiah 36:1-22, Prose history of the era shortly before the Exile
Isaiah 37:1-21, 36-38, Prose history of the era shortly before the Exile, continued
Isaiah 38:1-8, 39:1-8, Prose history of the era shortly before the Exile, concluded

More of Here Am I – Send Me: Isaiah

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Isaiah 19:1-15, An oracle concerning Egypt (2/2/15)

The Jews had a long history with the Egyptians – both good times and bad times – so it’s not surprising that Isaiah delivers a message to them from God. Isaiah warns them against idolatry and poor political advice and says that civil war is coming (which happened). Civil war is bad for the economy, and it’s especially hard on farmers and fishermen.


Isaiah 20:1-6, An acted-out warning to Egypt and Cush (2/3/15)

Several of the prophets acted out their prophecies; we’ve talked before about Ezekiel and Hosea doing that. Jesus acted out a parable about readiness when he came to the fig tree that had no figs. Isaiah prophesied against Egypt and Cush by going around shoeless and “naked.” John Wesley says that he wouldn’t have been wholly naked, but only naked above the waist, representing slaves and prisoners.

Isaiah 21:1-10, An oracle concerning Babylon (2/4/15)

I hope that at some time in your life you were privileged to take a course in English Literature and read something by one of the great poets. (If you are one of our international readers, just substitute your own language.) You probably discovered that great poetry in your own language often has many meanings, and sometimes none of them are particularly easy to figure out.

OK, now imagine that you are reading a great poem translated from another language! That’s what we’re reading today. I suggest that you read it in the King James Version (which is fairly literal and poetic) and the Good News Bible (which is fairly clear).

Ultimately, the Medes and Persians attacked Babylon while the Babylonians were throwing a party in the middle of the war, so what Isaiah says in vss. 6-9 is pretty much what happened (Daniel 5).


Isaiah 22:15-25, A message to Shebna, the king’s comptroller (2/5/15)

Malfeasance and arrogance in high office is not new. In fact, it’s so old and so famous, and it so frequently leads to disgrace, that you have to wonder why any high official would dare to attempt it. Or any of us, for that matter.


Isaiah 23:1-18, An oracle concerning Tyre (2/6/15)

Most of the scriptures we can quote from Isaiah are his Messianic prophecies, “comfort ye my people..., “a virgin shall conceive...,” “his name shall be called wonderful...,” and so on. These are important, no question about that, and we’ll read them eventually.

However, what we’ve seen so far is that most of what God told Isaiah to tell people had to do with their personal behavior in their own lifetimes, and how it was going to affect them and their children. The other thing I’ve noticed is that a goodly portion of Isaiah’s prophecy is directed at nations other than Judah and Israel. We’ve seen oracles to Babylon, Egypt and Cush, Moab, and Damascus, and now we’re reading an oracle to Tyre, a Gentile city on the northern coast of Palestine. Sidon was another important city, not far away. Chaldeans was another name for the Babylonians.


Isaiah 24:1-23, The Lord will judge and punish the earth (2/9/15)

This morning in church one reader commented that Isaiah is gloomy. True. All the prophets are gloomy; the only reason we don’t remember that is that usually we only read the happy bits. Here’s the deal: if we, as the people of God, are obeying the laws, abiding by the statutes, and keeping the covenant, God doesn’t send us a prophet. God sends prophets in bad times, in the eternal hope (surely by now not the expectation) that we will change our ways and not fall into destruction.

Another reader commented that Isaiah is hard to understand. Also true. This chapter says that (vs. 1) things are going to get bad (vs. 2) for everybody. In fact, (vss. 3-6) things are going to be so bad that (vss. 7-12) even the inanimate objects are going to feel sorry for humanity. Nevertheless, (vss. 13-16) God is going to preserve a tiny remnant of the people from destruction, like the few olives or grapes that escape the gleaners, and those few will be happy. [Remember that “the return of the remnant” is a major theme of messianic prophecy.] But overall (vss. 17-23) things are going to be really bad.

By the way, John Wesley says that “earth” here means Canaan, and he’s probably right. That was the only part of the Earth that the Jews cared much about, and this message was addressed to them. The Hebrew word can mean anything from ground to world, just as in English.


Isaiah 25:1-12, The Lord will deliver Judah (2/10/15)

Isaiah has brought a message of war, invasion, destruction, and deportation, but his abiding faith in God convinces him that not all is lost. God will be a stronghold for his faithful people, a shelter from the storm, and shade in the heat. Vss. 6-9 particularly return to Messianic themes: the Messianic banquet, the defeat of death, and salvation for God’s faithful people.


Isaiah 26:1-19, A song to be sung in Judah: the people sing to the Lord (2/11/15)

In Chapter 25, Isaiah foretold that God would rescue a remnant of his people and be a stronghold for them. In that day, the people will sing this song in Judah. The place is important, because in itself it shows that the people will not only be rescued from their captors, but they will also be restored to their own land.


Isaiah 26:20 – 27:13, ... and the Lord responds (2/12/15)

A few weeks ago in Ch. 5, we read “The Song of the Vineyard.” In that song, a man lovingly tended his vines, only to have them produce bad grapes. Then at the end of the song we got the bad news: God was the vine keeper, and Israel was the bad vine. Yesterday we read a song for Judah to sing when its punishment is over and God rescues the remnant. Today we read God’s response. This time when the LORD tends the vineyard, his people will take root and flourish. They will produce enough fruit to fill the whole world, and the good fruit will be the destruction of their idols and their return to the LORD. The remnant will be gathered like grain at the time of threshing; not one will be lost.


Isaiah 28:1-22, Assyria, Israel, and Judah (2/13/15)

Ephraim was one of the leading tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and therefore represents the whole kingdom (vss. 1-2). The proud crown is Samaria, the capital city, but it’s going to be swallowed up by the Assyrians (vss. 3-4). The LORD will save the remnant (vss. 5-6), a portion of the southern kingdom of Judah, which was only two tribes to start with. Judah is just about as bad as Israel (vss. 7-8), but the LORD will be able to teach them, as long as he takes it real slow (vss. 9-13). Jerusalem (vs. 14) is the capital city of Judah, and the rulers there may think they are escaping Assyria (vs. 15); however, the LORD owns the whole place (vs. 16), and now they are going to have to deal with him (vss. 17-22).


Isaiah 29:1-24, Jerusalem (2/16/15)

“Ariel” means “lion of God,” and Isaiah uses it several times in this chapter to refer to the city of Jerusalem. (This is the only place in the Bible that uses this name for Jerusalem.) The gist of this chapter seems to be that just because the city has been the lion of God in the past, she can’t expect God to take care of her now that her so-called seers and prophets are ignorant and her worship is merely lip-service. Far from it! In fact God is going to use foreigners to instruct the inhabitants about the errors of their ways. Probably they will consider this to be unjust; however, they are God’s construction in the first place, so how can his correction of them be unjust? Eventually some of them will understand and be instructed.


Isaiah 30:1-18, The fruits of rebellion (2/17/15)

Judah could see Assyrians coming, so King Hezekiah figured that what he needed was a military alliance with Egypt (2 Kings 18). The LORD says, “What you need is an alliance with me; I guarantee that an alliance with Egypt is not going to work out for you.”


Isaiah 31:1-9, Against reliance on Egypt (2/18/15)

It’s important, although not necessarily easy, to read the books of the prophets in parallel with 1 and 2 Kings. A political alliance with Egypt was not going to protect Judah from the Assyrians, and Judah rebelled against God in asking Egypt for help.

The Assyrians, however, were arrogant and foolish enough to challenge God, and not just Judah. “Do not listen to (King) Hezekiah (of Judah) when he misleads you by saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us,’” the Assyrian ambassador says to the people. “Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” (2 Kings 18:32-35).

King Hezekiah prayed for deliverance, saying, “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. ... Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone” 2 Kings 19:15-19). God sends Isaiah with a message he, the LORD, will defeat the Assyrians without the swords of Judah or Egypt (vss. 8-9 below).

“And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place (2 Kings 19:35-37).


Isaiah 32:9-20, Advice to complacent women (2/19/15)

Isaiah was an equal-opportunity prophet. He prophesied to Israel, Judah, and several foreign nations. He prophesied to Kings Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah and to particular kings of Babylon and Tyre. He prophesied specifically to Shebna, the king’s comptroller. Today Isaiah has a special word for women.


Isaiah 33:1-19, A prayer (2/20/15)

Verse 1 addresses Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. King Hezekiah of Judah had paid him a substantial tribute to go away (2 Kings 18:14), but then, as we saw the day before yesterday, he besieged Jerusalem anyway. Sennacherib was a destroyer and traitor.

Isaiah prays for the people in vss. 2-9, pointing out the problems they are having, but confident that God can save them from the Assyrians, who before God would be no more than grass beneath a horde of locusts.

God answers in vss. 10-19, saying not only that he will save them from their enemy, but also that he will save them for himself. God also takes the opportunity to point out what kind of behavior he expects from his sinful people from here on out: walk righteously and speak uprightly, despise the gain of oppressions, shake your hands lest they hold a bribe, and stop your ears from hearing of bloodshed and shut your eyes from looking on evil. Be told.


Isaiah 34:1-17, The Lord will judge Edom... (2/23/15)

I warned you that prophets are gloomy. Although today’s passage is the kind of thing that gives God a bad name among superficial readers of the Old Testament, I think we need to remember that what goes around, comes around in the historical process. Nations that commit atrocities – against God’s people or against anybody else – will come to a bad end. God uses that historical process to punish those nations by guiding their own evil actions to rebound on them. In everything, he will rescue those who are faithful to him, on earth if possible and in heaven whatever happens.


Isaiah 35:1-10, ... and return his people to Jerusalem (2/24/15)

God’s people may have some hard times ahead of them as a result of their present sins, but God promises that they ultimately will be restored to him. This passage is normally taken to be one of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies, particularly since Jesus refers to vss. 5-6 in Luke 7:22, when John the Baptist has sent to him to ask if he, Jesus, is the Messiah. The Messianic theme of vss. 5b-10 is the restoration of paradise.


Isaiah 36:1-22, Prose history of the era shortly before the Exile (2/25/15)

Not all of the book of Isaiah is poetry or prophecy. Some of it is just plain old history. This section is parallel to 2 Kings 18, and in fact most of it is exactly the same. You remember that I quoted from 2 Kings 18 a few days ago; here’s the entire section from Isaiah.


Isaiah 37:1-21, 36-38, Prose history of the era shortly before the Exile, continued (2/26/15)

My very favorite part of the presidency of George H. W. Bush was when he said, “I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” Preach it, Brother!

My very favorite part of the reign of King Hezekiah is when he takes the snotty letter from the king of Assyria to the Temple and spreads it out before God. “Do you see this?!” he says to God. “Did you hear what he said about you?? He compared you to other gods, who of course couldn’t help their people because they aren’t real! I think you ought to come down here and show Sennacherib that you are real!” Apparently God thought so, too.


Isaiah 38:1-8, 39:1-8, Prose history of the era shortly before the Exile, concluded (2/27/15)

A number of American tribal nations have traditionally considered the effect of major decisions on the next seven generations, but King Hezekiah was satisfied with peace and security in his own time. He died about 687 BC; the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem roughly 90 years later, about 597, and the trouble had started at least a decade or so before that. Ninety years is about three generations; who knows whether Hezekiah could have changed history by taking a longer view?

This ends “first Isaiah.”


More of Here Am I – Send Me: Isaiah
Isaiah Speaks During a Period of Decline (Chapters 1-17)
Isaiah Speaks During a Period of Decline (Chapters 19-39)
Isaiah Consoles the Returning Exiles (Chapters 40-66)

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