Isaiah describes a Jerusalem that is surrounded by world peace. He exhorts the people to abandon idolatry and speaks of a day when the tall things will be brought down to size.
Isaiah predicts the end of war: “And [the nations] shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war.” (v. 4)
III. Important Verses
2-4: In the days to come, The Mount of the LORD’s House Shall stand firm above the mountains And tower above the hills; And all the nations Shall gaze on it with joy. And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the LORD, To the House of the God of Jacob; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Thus He will judge among the nations And arbitrate for the many peoples, And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war.
11-17: Man’s haughty look shall be brought low, And the pride of mortals shall be humbled. None but the LORD shall be Exalted in that day. For the LORD of Hosts has ready a day Against all that is proud and arrogant, Against all that is lofty — so that it is brought low: Against all the cedars of Lebanon, Tall and stately, And all the oaks of Bashan; Against all the high mountains And all the lofty hills; Against every soaring tower And every mighty wall; Against all the ships of Tarshish And all the gallant barks. Then man’s haughtiness shall be humbled And the pride of man brought low. None but the LORD shall be Exalted in that day.
20-21: On that day, men shall fling away, To the flying foxes and the bats, The idols of silver And the idols of gold Which they made for worshiping. And they shall enter the clefts in the rocks And the crevices in the cliffs, Before the terror of the LORD And His dread majesty, When He comes forth to overawe the earth.
1. Introduction 2-4. Jerusalem’s role as a universal city 2. Jerusalem as the highest mountain 3. The nations will turn to Jerusalem for advice 4. The end of war 5-22. The futility of haughty man 5. Exhorting the Israelites to follow God 6. Foreign practices 7-8. Lands of riches and idol-worship 9. Man will be humbled 10-17. A day when all high-things will be brought low 18-21. People will rid themselves of their idols 22. Exhortation to stop worshiping man
Chapter 2 has two basic units, a description of Jerusalem surrounded by world peace (vv. 2-4) and a description of the fall of tall things and idols (vv. 5-22). The chapter begins with a prediction about the aharit hayyamim “end of days”: “In the days to come, The Mount of the LORD’s House Shall stand firm above the mountains And tower above the hills; And all the nations Shall gaze on it with joy.” (v. 2) What is the aharit hayamim? Sweeney writes: “The passage is frequently described as eschatological because of the opening statement, wehaya be’aharit hayyamim, ‘and it shall come to pass in the latter days,’… But as semantic studies of the phrase have shown particularly in relation to the Akkadian ina ahrat umi, ‘in future days,’ it refers merely to a time in the future, not to the eschatological end of time… The historical setting of this passage in the reign of King Cyrus is particularly important because of Cyrus’s lenient treatment of the Jews, including his permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (2 Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-5; cf. ANET, 316). Although this policy was selectively applied… its application to Judah and the Judean exiles prompted great optimism for the reestablishment of Jerusalem and an ensuing era of peace.” (99)
Verse 10ff describes a time when all tall things will be brought low: “For the LORD of Hosts has ready a day Against all that is proud and arrogant, Against all that is lofty — so that it is brought low: Against all the cedars of Lebanon, Tall and stately, And all the oaks of Bashan…” (vv. 12-13) Man’s haughtiness is a particular target: “Man’s haughty look shall be brought low, And the pride of mortals shall be humbled. None but the LORD shall be Exalted in that day.” (v. 11) A similar theme (i.e. the fall of pride) can be found in the book of Proverbs. For example, see 16:11: “Pride goes before ruin, Arrogance, before failure.” Similar verses are 11:2, “When arrogance appears, disgrace follows, But wisdom is with those who are unassuming,” and 18:12, “Before ruin a man’s heart is proud; Humility goes before honor.”
The chapter ends with a description of the futility of idolatry: “As for idols, they shall vanish completely… On that day, men shall fling away, To the flying foxes and the bats, The idols of silver And the idols of gold Which they made for worshiping…. Oh, cease to glorify man, Who has only a breath in his nostrils! For by what does he merit esteem?” (vv. 18, 20, 22) As Blenkinsopp points out, this is a theme that will be picked up later in the book. For examples, see 40:18-19: “To whom, then, can you liken God, What form compare to Him? The idol? A woodworker shaped it, And a smith overlaid it with gold, Forging links of silver.” Also see 44:17, “Of the rest he makes a god — his own carving! He bows down to it, worships it; He prays to it and cries, ‘Save me, for you are my god!’” and 45:20, “Come, gather together, Draw nigh, you remnants of the nations! No foreknowledge had they who carry their wooden images and pray to a god who cannot give success.”
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Isaiah 1-39” The Anchor Bible vol. 19 (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Sweeney, Marvin A. “Isaiah 1-39 with an Introduction to Prophetic Literature” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 16 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1996).
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