Day 197 (July 16): Isaiah prophecies for Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, Jerusalem, Shebna and Tyre

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 18:1-7

Isaiah 19:1-25

Isaiah 20:1-6

Isaiah 21:1-17

Isaiah 22:1-25

Isaiah 23:1-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 18:1-7): I’m not sure what is going on here.  Why was Ethiopia brought into the picture?

A. Back on June 30th, when we last looked at Isaiah, I mentioned that this is the “Jonah” section of Isaiah.  What I mean by that is it is the section where God commands Isaiah to prophecy to various nations in the area, and now the list includes the various nations and tribes we see here, Ethiopia (other translations call it Cush), Assyria, Tyre, Edom, etc.  God is calling these other nations to repentance just as He does with Israel.

Q. (19:1): Rob, I want to look back to your second answer on Day 195 about angels and demons.  You said that fallen angels may be some of the demonic influences in other nations.   Just to get this straight, can they be associated with some of the man-made gods that were created?  Or is it more like God, unseen, but a lesser power?  I’m just bringing this up because verse 1 says “The idols in Egypt tremble.”

A. The idols worshipped in these other nations are not God, but they may — we can’t be sure — be associated with other spiritual powers such as demons.  Certainly many of the actions required of these “gods” such as human sacrifice reflect a spirit that is certainly against what the true God desires.  So in that sense, these gods are acting in ways counter to what God desires.  But it remains a mystery how much influence these evil, demonic spirits have in the OT.  We only get glimpses: our focus is to be on God.  Regarding the “quaking idols,” I believe Isaiah is using metaphorical language.

Q. (19:3): Rob, can you comment about “spirits of the dead”?

A. It’s referring to a soul or other spirit of a person disconnected from a body by death.  The ancient world believed that consulting with such spirits was one way to control the future, so it is no surprise that we see this here.  Israel was strictly forbidden from doing it, but other nations were not.

Q. (19:23-25): God is just expanding His kingdom here?

A. Sort of.  This is once again a vision of life in the Kingdom of God after the great Day of Reckoning or Judgment.  In that day, Isaiah says, the former conflicts — like the rivalries between Egypt, Israel, and Assyria — will disappear and the people will be united in the worship of God.

Q. (20:1-6): What happened?  I thought Assyria and Egypt were allies.  It seems as the king of Assyria is always a thorn in someone’s side.  Poor Isaiah — naked and barefoot for three years!  That is some servant!  Now, the Philistines are thrown into the ring too.  I don’t know what’s going on here.

A. These various factions are constantly making and shifting alliances.  We see this in the story we are reading as well: sometimes Judah and Israel (before being destroyed) were allies, and sometimes they were bitter enemies.  Assyria and Egypt are the two most powerful nations of this era at this time, so it is no surprise that they both tried to gain the upper hand against each other, even if it meant betraying former alliances.

Q. (22:1-14): So, Jerusalem finally got hit.  Reading the account is strange.  It says they were destroyed by famine and disease.  Famine and disease usually occur over time.  This account sounds like it happened in one day.  Is there any reason to the order of destruction of these countries?  Israel was destroyed some time ago.

A.  Narratively speaking, this is a prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction, not the “event” itself if that makes sense.  The city will be under siege for several years before it falls — which we will read about in Jeremiah and 2 Kings — with plenty of time for the famine and disease aspects Isaiah talks about to take place.

Q. (22:15-25): The palace administrator was obviously corrupt, but we haven’t heard much about him, right?

A. No, we do not know much of anything about him, other than the fact that his name implies that he was not an Israelite: he was most likely an Egyptian.

Q. (23:17-18): So even the most proud place will convert to God?  Why is Tyre likened to a prostitute?

A. Tyre was a sea-faring nation, and they hired their ships out to whoever gave them the most money.  They didn’t care where it came from or what it was for.  God is saying that they have sold their soul and are “whoring” themselves out in ways that do not please Him.  In the Day of the Lord, all nations will see God’s glory and turn to Him, even the most proud.

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