Isaiah is a very interesting book of the Bible. It’s most known for its prophetic statements of Christ. But with a good, down-to-earth commentary, you can see the book for all that it is. For instance, this Bible Speaks Today excerpt gives a fantastic overview of human schemes and God’s plans in Isaiah.

Looking at the Big Picture: Isaiah 28–35

This is a Bible Speaks Today excerpt.

Who Will We Rely On?

The key issue in chapters 28–35 is whether Judah, and in particular its leaders, will rely on Egypt or on the Lord in the face of the growing threat posed by the ever-increasing power of Assyria. Chapters 30 and 31, which stand more or less centrally within the unit, are wholly taken up with this issue. Specifically, 31:1 provides perhaps the most pointed and succinct statement of it:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots …
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.

This is not a new issue, of course. We have already met it in passing, so to speak, in chapters 18–20 of Part 2. But it is appropriate that it should surface again here as a central issue because of the position of chapters 28–35. They land immediately before the account of Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in chapters 36–37.

Human Schemes: Relying on Egypt

As we saw in the Introduction, that invasion was a punitive action taken by Sennacherib. It was in response to a revolt led by Hezekiah. He refused to pay any further tribute to Assyria and annexed all the Philistine cities as far south as Gaza. These cities were like Judah, a part of the Assyrian empire.

It was a foolhardy move. And it was one which he would almost certainly never have taken without the assurance of military backing from Egypt. When the inevitable showdown came, the Egyptians did in fact take to the field against Sennacherib, but were defeated, leaving Judah to bear the full brunt of Sennacherib’s wrath (37:9). Much of Judah was devastated and it was only by a miracle that Jerusalem itself escaped (36:1; 37:36).

Hezekiah almost destroyed Judah by listening to those at court who counseled him to rely on Egypt. Chapters 28–35 show how strongly and consistently Isaiah had opposed this foolish counsel in the deepening crisis that led up to the events recorded in chapters 36 and 37.

Transitioning from Human Schemes to God’s Plan

But how is this third part of the book constructed? We will first observe some particulars and then try to grasp the broader picture.

First, Weeping

A series of woes spans chapters 28–31, in which the leaders of the nation are denounced for their faithlessness. One further woe appears in 33:1, but its import is different because it is directed against the ‘destroyer’ (Assyria) rather than against Judah itself. It signifies a shift from judgment to salvation as the focus of the message as the unit unfolds and begins to move towards its climax.

Second, A Joyful Return

That climax comes in chapter 35 with the joyful return of the Lord’s redeemed people to Zion (see especially verse 10). As they go on their way the wilderness blossoms into a garden about them (1–2). But chapter 35 is really paired, in terms of its imagery, with chapter 34, for there a contrasting picture has been presented.

Judgement for the Wicked

The lands of those nations which have set themselves against the Lord are reduced to a sterile desert under his judgment (1–4, 8–10). So chapters 34 and 35 together present, in a climactic way, the twin themes of judgment and salvation which have run through the unit as a whole. The overall structure can be neatly summarized as follows:

  1. The crisis: foolish leaders and false counsel. — Chapters 28–29
  2. False solution: dependence on Egypt. — Chapters 30–31
  3. True solution: the reign of the Lord as king in the midst of his people. — Chapters 32–33
  4. The ‘desert’ which will result from trusting the nations. — Chapter 34
  5. The ‘garden’ which will result from trusting God. — Chapter 35

We are now in a position to explore the message of this major unit in more detail by looking at each of its parts in turn.

Keep Learning More About Isaiah with the Bible Speaks Today Series

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