This is the first four chapters of warning to Judah. Their main theme is the folly of seeking help from Egypt. Warnings of terrible judgment (observe the recurrence of the word ‘woe’, see 28:1, 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1) intermingle with assurances of God’s intervention in mercy. The divisions of chapter 28 are as follows: verses 1-4, judgment upon Samaria; verses 5, 6, after the judgment; verses 7-13, the drunken rulers of Judah rebuked; verses 14-23, the coming storm of God’s judgment will sweep away all man-made policies; verses 23-29, if the farmer acts with wisdom, how much more God?
- How many consequences of intemperance can you discern in verses 1-4, 7 and 8? What was God’s message to his intemperate people, and why would they not listen (verses 9-15)?
- What do verses 16-29 teach us about the inevitable triumph of God’s will in human affairs, and the futility of unbelief and rebellion? How does the parable in verses 23-29 encourage us to see that God has foreseen and arranged all?
- What foreshadowing of Christ is there in the final fulfillment of God’s plans? Cf. verse 16; 1 Pet. 2:6, 7; Acts 4:11; Matt. 21:42.
Verses 15, 18 Isaiah calls the proposed alliance with Egypt ‘a covenant with death’. ‘The overwhelming scourge’ is Assyria.
- 29:9-16. What were the reasons for the people’s spiritual blindness and lack of spiritual discernment, and in what ways did they show this? What causes the spiritual transformation of verses 17-22? See verses 18, 24.
- On what various grounds does Isaiah urge his hearers that they should rely on God rather then on Egypt? Trace out in 30:8-17 the respective issues of the two ways.
- Observe the contrast between the extreme distress of Jerusalem in 29:2-4, and her complete triumph in 29:5-8. How can this encourage us in times of severe trial?
- 29:1-8. ‘Ariel’ is a name for Jerusalem. It may mean ‘lion of God’ or, as is more probable here, ‘hearth of God’ (RV and NIV mg.). Jerusalem will become an altar hearth soaked with the blood of many victims.
- What blessings does God promise to his people after their trials? Cf. 30:18-29; 32:1-8, 15-20. How has the promise of a Teacher been fulfilled to us in Christ? Look up John 14:26; 16:13, in this connection. Are we sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit (30:21)?
- Many trusted in Egypt because she seemed strong (31:1). How does Isaiah here show the folly of this, as compared with trusting the Lord?
- 30:25, 26. A poetic description of the blessings of the new age, to be interpreted symbolically as showing the abundance of God’s provision. For the phrase ‘when the towers fall’, cf. 2:11-17.
2. 30:27-33. Notice the wealth of imaginative metaphor – the storm, the flood, the ‘bit’ or bridle. The meaning of verse 32 is not fully clear. Moffatt renders ‘He clubs them down to peals of merry music’. ‘Topheth’ (verse 33, RSV mg.) was the name given to the valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, where the foul rites of human sacrifice were practiced in honor of the god Molech. Its original meaning seems to have been ‘fire place’, and Isaiah declares that God has prepared such a place for a great holocaust in honor of the king (of Assyria). There is a play on words in the Hebrew, for the word for ‘king’ is melek (Molech).