Isaiah Chapter 29: Woe to Jerusalem, Armegeddon

Oct 16th, 2009 | By | Category: Isaiah, Psalm 83 and Gog & Magog, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Isaiah Chapter 29: Woe to Jerusalem, Armegeddon

Isa. 29:1 Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.

“Ariel, the city where David dwelt” is Jerusalem. (Bethlehem was the “city of David” at the time Jesus was born.) Depending on the Hebrew pronunciation, “Ariel” means “lion of God” or “mount of God” (Ar is “mount”; El is “God”). The Hebrew word for the altar of Ezekiel’s Temple is ariel in Ezekiel 43:15, “So the altar shall be four cubits; and from the altar and upward shall be four horns.” The lion pictures Justice, one of the four attributes of God. The sacrifices are made acceptable on the altar, the hearth of which represents Justice. The wrath of God is pictured as a lion that devours those who transgress. In the throne of Solomon were lions, which were symbolic of executing judgment. The cover of the Ark of the Covenant was called the “Mercy Seat,” and the seat of mercy is Justice. In other words, Justice is the foundation of God’s throne (Psa. 89:14; 97:2). The seat of justice and judgment was Jerusalem, which was both the “lion [Justice] of God” and the “mount of God.” In the context of verse 1, Jerusalem represents Israel, the entire nation.

“Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.” One thought is that the message of doom was being pronounced, but more years had to pass before the execution. Another thought is that the clock was running out. While the people perfunctorily performed the sacrifices on the feast days of Passover, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles in the capital of Jerusalem, yet it was just a matter of time until judgment would come. The people were rendering mere duty worship, and the date of judgment was coming nearer and nearer.

Isa. 29:2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.

Even though the people went through the motions and dutifully traveled to Jerusalem for the three feasts, the fact that they did not sacrifice from the heart and were careless meant their sacrifices were not acceptable to God, and “distress” (trouble) and “heaviness and sorrow” would come.

“Woe to Ariel…. Yet I will distress Ariel, … and it shall be unto me as Ariel.” This strange phrasing of verses 1 and 2 is a play on words. While “Ariel” was a known name for Jerusalem, here the Lord was using that title to say the very name implied impending judgment. Judgment would be upon Jerusalem—upon itself.

Isa. 29:3 And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.

God was behind this experience of the city of Jerusalem. “I will camp against thee round about [I will put Jerusalem under siege].” “I … will lay siege against thee with a mount [I will make a ramp or an incline of debris to scale the city wall and/or build a siege tower for observation and battering rams].” “I will raise forts against thee.”

Isa. 29:4 And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.

Like a person being humbled, Jerusalem would be brought down to the ground and speak from a humbled condition—“as of one that hath a familiar spirit.” The voices of fallen angels sound very low, as if they are coming off the floor.

Isa. 29:5 Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.

This very strange verse sandwiched in here has several meanings depending on how it is read: an application in Isaiah’s day, a later application, and a prophetic undertone.

Regarding Isaiah’s day: Rab-shakeh threatened to destroy Jerusalem and taunted the people and their God. He suggested that they submit, for their God would not help them. In distress, the king consulted the Prophet Isaiah. As a result, the destroying angel killed the enemy host in one night. The point is that the threat seemed overwhelming to Israel, but the Lord fought and won the battle for them. The multitude of foes vanished, as it were.

Regarding the later application: Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC as a judgment from God. Hence there was a double lesson that Ariel needed judgment. Judgment was necessary.

Regarding the future: Although the multitude of Israel’s foes (Gog) will seem invincible in Jacob’s Trouble, they will be as the chaff that blows away in the wind. Verse 5 describes the sudden fighting of God for Israel—after Israel has been momentarily defeated in Jacob’s Trouble.

Chapter 29 could have started with verse 26 of the preceding chapter about the seed. How does God instruct? With one type of seed, He uses one instrument. With another type of seed, He uses another instrument. His wisdom sees what kind of discipline is beneficial and constructive for a particular individual or nation. With this background information, God then says that He will distress Ariel and that the experience is necessary.

Isa. 29:6 Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.

Although Israel will be threatened with annihilation and defeated, God will eventually deliver the Holy Remnant with a severe judgment. Israel needs these checkered bitter-sweet experiences—miraculous deliverances, humiliating defeats, deliverance, trouble, deliverance, trouble, etc. Jacob’s Trouble will be a severe experience, but it will be the final trouble.

Verse 5 says that this judgment will occur “at an instant suddenly.” Just as in the past, God will use the elements of nature as weaponry to defeat Gog: storm, earthquake, hail, etc. It will seem as if all is lost when Jerusalem is taken, but THEN God will go forth and fight for His people as in the day of battle. Fire will come down from heaven, disease will occur, the enemy will slaughter one another in confusion, etc., to leave only one sixth of Gog as survivors.

What is the difference between thunder and “great noise”? Both are elements of nature, as are the other phenomena of verse 6. The God of NATURE will vent His wrath. Thunder is of the heavens and will be related to a deluge, but the “great noise” will be associated with the earthquake. In Jacob’s Trouble, there will be both the shaking and the roar of the quake, as well as the great sounds and explosion of volcanic eruptions of fire. Thunder, torrential rain, huge hailstones, earthquake, great noise, storm, tempest, fire, and brimstone—all will be manifestations of God’s power in bringing Jacob’s Trouble to a conclusion and in convincing the people, Jew and Gentile, that Israel’s God is the God.

Isa. 29:7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.

“The multitude of all the nations … [will] fight against Ariel”; that is, God will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle. Jacob’s Trouble will be “as a dream of a night vision”; in other words, it will be a terrible nightmare experience. The Holy Remnant will awaken with the dawn of deliverance, a morning of joy. The manifestation of God’s power will be SUDDEN.

There are stages of development, but when God acts, He will act suddenly!

Isa. 29:8 It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.

The foe will have this experience. Their plan or dream will be to obtain plunder and booty.

When they defeat Israel, they will prepare to reap the benefits when suddenly God will oppose them. The enemy will be SHOCKED!

Also, when the dead awaken, they will not be conscious of the length of time they spent in the grave. Hence their resuscitation will be like awaking from a dream, and they will awake in the condition they were in when they died. Their first thoughts will be their last conscious thoughts before death. Imagine those who die in Jacob’s Trouble having these thoughts when they first come forth from the tomb!

Therefore, with both the survivors who are in shock and those who literally die in Jacob’s Trouble, the expectation of these Gentiles will be completely turned around.

Isa. 29:9 Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.

Isa. 29:10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

Isa. 29:11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

Isa. 29:12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

Neither the learned nor the unlearned can explain this experience. God caused a deep sleep in which prophet, priest, king, seers, and common people are unable to understand the vision.

What is the “vision”? What is the “sealed book”? Verses 9-12 can pertain to the blind leaders of Christendom who try to understand the Bible but cannot because they are too steeped in false doctrine and error. Natural-minded theologians cannot understand spiritual matters.

These verses might also have a special dispensational application at the end of the age to rulers, both civil and spiritual, who will not understand what is happening. They will stagger in their drunkenness and confusion over the meaning of events taking place. In principle, saying that the book is sealed has been the history of the unconsecrated spiritual leaders of the nominal Church all down the Gospel Age. If one who wanted to advance in the knowledge of Scripture went to the priesthood, the standard answer was, “That doctrine is a mystery you are not supposed to understand. Accept it by faith.”

In addition to this principle, there seems to be another special dispensational fulfillment at the end of the age. People are not now interested in prophecy, but a time will come when world events are such that the people will want information on Bible prophecy because they will not know where their next meal is coming from. The people will want answers, but who will explain the Bible to them? The Lord will set the stage for those with a present-truth background to explain.

Isa. 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Isa. 29:14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

Isa. 29:15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

Isa. 29:16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

Although the context of this chapter is Ariel (Jerusalem), there is a lesson for everyone, Jew and Gentile. Consider the philosophy of verses 13-16. In the midst of the coming confusion, can man say there is no God? When Armageddon comes, it will persist for a few years in a worldwide capacity. At the end of that period of trouble will come Jacob’s Trouble. The world, as well as Israel, will wonder at the Lord’s “marvellous work.”

What is the “marvellous work” and “wonder” that God will do “among this people [Israel]”? It is His deliverance of the Holy Remnant of Israel and the manner in which He delivers them. We accept by faith past miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua’s long day, Gideon’s slaughter of the Midianites, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but such miracles have not happened recently. What is unique about the end of the age is that startling sample demonstrations of past miracles will occur more or less simultaneously—not piecemeal as down through Israel’s history. Phenomenal natural and supernatural occurrences all happening within a very short period of time (say, within one week or one month) will be momentous revelations of God’s glory, authority, and power.

God’s “marvellous work,” then, is the manner in which He will establish His Kingdom with AUTHORITY and POWER—He will rescue Israel, defeat Gog and Magog, and cleanse and purge the Jews, sparing a handpicked contrite Holy Remnant and weeding out the element not fit to be the nucleus of the Kingdom. This will be God’s “marvellous work,” His “wonder,” His “strange work,” and His “strange act” (Isa. 28:21; 29:14). When people look back at God’s “strange work,” they will be even more startled than when it actually occurred because hindsight is better than foresight. In the midst of the deliverance and the accompanying confusion, the human minds of the Holy Remnant and the Gentile eyewitnesses will be able to absorb only so much.

In times of great confusion and chaos, it is hard to reason and see a God of order, an intelligent Creator who has all things under control. It is similar to a drunk person who cannot reason.

The problem is with the world of mankind, for God’s will is done in heaven. Only on earth are there sin, darkness, and disobedience; earth is like the one lost sheep of the 99. And so, with this world being full of confusion and sin, if one on earth looks up to God through a lens, the picture is very distorted. But for the 99 other sheep in heaven, who are whole and pure, everything is orderly and harmonious. From the present perspective of earth, it is hard to judge God and His character. Shall man, who is framed down here, judge God through his distorted lens? Only FAITH can reach up and trust the invisible God that all things are under His control.

Isa. 29:17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?

Lebanon will become a “fruitful field” and a “forest” as in days of old with the cedars of Lebanon, a symbol of everlasting life. Mankind will get everlasting life in the Kingdom—if obedient. Verse 17 is saying that earth’s devastation will be turned into prosperity.

Isa. 29:18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

When the Kingdom is established, all will see and hear, from the least unto the greatest. The eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf will be opened.

Isa. 29:19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Isa. 29:20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:

Isa. 29:21 That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.

Verses 17-21 are a general picture of all mankind. The Kingdom will be centered and established in Israel—that is where God will reveal Himself and take authority—but the message in regard to the deaf, the blind, the meek, and the poor is to the whole world.

“That make a man an offender for a word.” What a terrible condition! The reprover in the gate was approved of God as an instructor. He was trying to do that which was right, but he was falsely accused. In the past, the people went to the gate for judgment and answers to difficult questions on the moral code and legal matters. Right-hearted individuals who served in this capacity were often thrust aside, and the office of judgment was given to evil men. That is the situation today. The accusers, in finding fault with one who tries to render righteous judgment and follow a righteous course, weigh every word to try to trap him. What false witnesses say is often partially true, but a truth can be taken out of context and given a completely wrong connotation. For example, Jesus was accused of saying the Temple would be destroyed in three days, the suggestion being that he was a dangerous radical destructive of society.

A “snare” is a loop covered with leaves. When an unwary animal steps on it, the noose hangs the animal in the tree—sometimes for days—until the trapper comes around to remove and kill it for the pelt. Hence a snare is an unseen trap. Sometimes people set traps, spiritually speaking, to “turn aside the just for a thing of nought”; that is, they blow up something way out of proportion.

Isa. 29:22 Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

Isa. 29:23 But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.

“Jacob shall not now be ashamed … when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him.” When the Kingdom is set up, the nation of Israel will not be ashamed. Of course Jacob himself will be resurrected immediately as an Ancient Worthy.

Isa. 29:24 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

The Jews’ understanding of God’s plan and doctrine (particularly that pertaining to Christ) and also the world of mankind’s understanding will become clear. An example of murmuring would be, “Why does [or doesn’t] God do such and such?”

Q: Can much of this chapter be applied spiritually as well, with “Ariel” being Christendom?

A: Part of the chapter, yes. The primary burden is on natural Israel, “the city where David dwelt” (verse 1), but we could have a general review of the chapter from a spiritual standpoint.

Comment: The word “suddenly” in verse 5 is interesting with both applications. The fall of Babylon will be sudden and so will God’s manifestation of the deliverance of natural Israel.

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