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Deeper Commentary

Isaiah 32:1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice- This king in the context of the Assyrian destruction spoken of in Is. 31 would have been Hezekiah. But he failed to do this, as did his sons, his "princes". And so these things are reinterpreted and reapplied to the Lord Jesus.

Isaiah 32:2 A man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the storm, as streams of water in a dry place, as the shade of a large rock in a weary land-
We noted on Is. 31:9 that the situation of Is. 4:5,6 could potentially have come about in Isaiah's time, but Judah's general impenitence meant that it was deferred to the last days and is meanwhile reinterpreted  with reference to the Lord Jesus, the "man" who is a covert from the storm of Divine judgment. All the "coverts" of human strength would be destroyed (Is. 28:17 s.w.) leaving only "a man" as a place of defence. That "man" was to be the "king" of :1; and it now clearly refers to the Lord Jesus. To trust in an invisible Man rather than visible human strength is a big challenge to us today. In the future application, we have here the picture of the entire eretz being turned into a desolate wilderness with the heat of Divine judgment making it unbearable (see on Is. 24), and with the rock which will represent the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 10:4) alone offering shade. LXX "and shall appear in Sion as a rushing river, glorious in a thirsty land" confirms that this is the scene which could have developed in the redeemed Zion, but which has currently been reinterpreted to the gushing streams of the Spirit coming out of the smitten rock of the Lord Jesus.


Isaiah 32:3 The eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those who hear will listen-
LXX "And they shall no more trust in men" would continue the theme of Is. 31, of not trusting any more in Egypt nor in idols, but in Yahweh alone. The blind in Is. 29:9 were those mentally and spiritually blinded by God because they didn't want to see. But that psychological work of God will now work in reverse, through the work of the Holy Spirit which is part of the gift of the new covenant. This was what God envisioned His repentant people accepting at Isaiah's time, and then again on their return from Babylon- and part of that covenant was that God would work on their hearts to give them spiritual vision. We are confirmed mentally and spiritually, by the Spirit's operation directly on our hearts, in the way we wish to go.

Isaiah 32:4 The heart of the rash will understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly-
The GNB interpretation is worth considering: "They will not be impatient any longer, but they will act with understanding and will say what they mean". But these rash stammerers are those of :3 who once had blinded eyes and deaf ears, who now have them opened by the Spirit. And with those opened eyes and ears they will "understand". The "rash" or impatient were those who wished God to "make speed" His work and because of His apparent silence turned to Egypt (Is. 5:19 s.w.). So this prophecy of the Kingdom situation could have come about in Isaiah's time; those hardened disbelievers in Judah could have been converted from their blindness and superficial judgments. Such is the power of the Spirit; those who appear totally unspiritual and short termist in their judgments can be converted by the Spirit. See on Is. 35:4. The stammerers are likewise those who spoke for God unclearly, in bursts of enthusiasm, but not in full communicative relationship with Him. His Spirit would change even those.

Isaiah 32:5 The fool will no longer be called noble, nor the scoundrel be highly respected-
The LXX would refer to the way that Isaiah and the prophets had been told to cease prophesying by the fools who were in power: "And they shall no more at all tell a fool to rule, and thy servants shall no more at all say, Be silent". The same word is used of the foolishness of the false prophets (Ez. 13:3). Perhaps there was one particular Judas like figure amongst the Jerusalem leadership who was the singular "vile person" (AV). I suggested on Is. 22:15-20 that this individual in the immediate context may have been Shebna, who is described here as "noble" in that he pretended to the royal family although he was an Egyptian (see on Is. 22:15,16). He had obtained 'high respect' within the Jerusalem leadership. He was apparently "liberal" (:8 AV) offering material gifts to those who supported him, whilst advocating the evil policy of trust in Egypt (:7). But he was a "scoundrel".

Isaiah 32:6 For the fool will speak folly, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice profanity, and to utter error against Yahweh, to make empty the soul of the hungry and to cause the drink of the thirsty to fail-
If Shebna's counsel was followed, he would lead to the destruction of the people. His pretension to the royal family when he was an Egyptian agent (see on :5) was profanity and folly. His pro-Egypt policy was effectively an anti-Yahweh policy. The blasphemy of Rabshakeh may also be in view. Perhaps this figure will have an equivalent in the last days within Jewish society.

Isaiah 32:7 The ways of the scoundrel are evil-
LXX "For the counsel of the wicked will devise iniquity" would connect with the immediate context of condemning the Jews for trusting in the counsel of the false prophets to seek help from Egypt, resulting in huge sin against God (see on Is. 30:1). I suggested on :5 that the work of Shebna is in view.


He devises wicked devices to destroy the humble with lying words, even when the needy speaks right- Shebna's work (see on :5; Is. 22:15-18) involved lies and destroying the humble faithful who spoke against his pro-Egypt policies. 

Isaiah 32:8 But the noble devises noble things; and he will continue in noble things-
I suggested on :5 that the work of Shebna is in view; he was not truly noble nor liberal / generous (AV) although he pretended to be this. He was giving gifts to buy favours. But only the genuinely liberal or generous would finally stand: "
“The liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand” (Is. 32:8 AV) may suggest that the generous will “stand” in the last day because of their generous spirit. Indeed, being in covenant with God may even depend upon our recognition of the fact that all human wealth is from God: “Thou shalt remember… it is [God] that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant” (Dt. 8:18).

Isaiah 32:9 Rise up, you women who are at ease!-
In society of that time, women weren't considered the significant decision makers, and were never seen as guilty or praiseworthy for any political decisions or outcomes. But the prophets, Jeremiah particularly, focus upon the guilt of the women of the times. They perceived the value of all persons, and how the women were as much ultimately a part of the decision making as the men because of the significant background factor played by wives in the behaviour of their husbands and sons. And so here Isaiah appeals to them over several verses. The request to hear him was effectively an appeal for their repentance- at a time when religion and politics were the sphere of men and not women. The same word for "at ease" is used about the future, restored Kingdom (:18; Is. 33:20). This was the true "ease" or quietness. But this 'quietness' of the restored Kingdom was claimed to be experienced by the disbelieving wealthy women of Jerusalem who lived "at ease" (:9,11 s.w.). They believed their false prophets, imaging they had their Kingdom right then in their luxurious lives.    

Hear My voice, you careless daughters, give ear to My speech!- "Careless" or 'confident' is the word used of 'trusting' in Egypt (Is. 31:1; 36:4-6,9); 'trusting' in the idols of Egypt too (Is. 42:17 s.w.). The political decisions of the men were equally those of the women in their society. That they were "careless" or confidently trusting in Egypt is three times mentioned here (:9-11).  

Isaiah 32:10 For days beyond a year you will be troubled, you careless women; for the vintage shall fail. The harvest won’t come-
LXX "Remember for a full year in pain, yet with hope: the vintage has been cut off; it has ceased, it shall by no means come again". This would be another of those passages in Isaiah which suggest that the tribulation of Judah was going to last for a short period, here "a full year", and conclude with the Lord's coming in judgment and thereby redemption of Zion. But these short term possibilities were precluded  by the lack of repentance in Judah and so the prophecies have been given other and longer term references.


Isaiah 32:11 Tremble, you women who are at ease! Be troubled, you careless ones!-
See on :9. This is a twice repeated appeal.

Strip yourselves, make yourselves naked and put sackcloth on your waist- This was to happen to them anyway in their captivity. They were to act as if they realized they were worthy of such condemnation. Likewise if we condemn ourselves in our self-examination, we will not be condemned (1 Cor. 11:31). There’s something alive and passionate to the words of the prophets. They’re not just droning on. Although they largely wrote in poetry, let not this delude us from feeling the cutting edge of their passion. Their poetry wasn’t what Wordsworth thought poetry is- “emotion recollected in tranquility”. The attack on complacency and passionlessness was full frontal: “Tremble, you women who are at ease [as you stroll the supermarkets of today], shudder, you complacent ones [as you hang out with your friends, lost in small talk]; strip and make yourselves bare” (Is. 32:11 RSV- the RSV seems to me to capture the passion of the prophetic words best of all the English translations).

Isaiah 32:12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine-
The beating of breasts suggests this is still addressed to the women of the previous verses. But "beat" can also be translated "pluck off". And the only other two occurrences of "fruitful vine" refer to a woman and her children (Ps. 128:3; Ez. 19:10). Ez. 23:34 speaks of the women of rejected Judah plucking off their own breasts in their mental agony of condemnation. I suggest we have a similar idea here. All that they stood for as women, their deepest self-identity, they wished to destroy. The mental agony of the condemned is the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" which the Lord speaks of.

Isaiah 32:13 Thorns and briers will come up on My people’s land-
This was because their potentially fruitful vineyard of :12 had not brought forth fruit and so it was to be left desolate and bring forth the curse of Genesis, thorns and briers (Is. 5:9). This and the similar prophecy of desolation in Is. 5:6 didn't happen at the Assyrian invasion; it was reapplied to the situation after the Babylonian invasion, when the land was intended to rest (Lev. 26:34,43) until Judah repented. But even that program didn't work out, and so the Lord's parable of the vineyard explained that therefore the vineyard was given to a new Israel. Briers and thorns is an allusion to the curse upon the garden of Eden- another reason for understanding Eden as eretz Israel, from whom likewise Israel were to be exiled to the east. Yet "briers and thorns" is a term used by Isaiah about the aggressive, thorny nature of Judah (Is. 9:18; 10:17). Their whole land was to become like them; and so their judgment was but an extension of their own behaviour.

Yes, on all the houses of joy in the joyous city- Isaiah is complaining that the people were feasting instead of fasting in repentance (as in Is. 22:2), and he juxtaposes their present feasting with the desolation threatened. But it seems there was repentance amongst a minority and so the threatened destruction of Zion's population at the hands of the Assyrians was averted; but it was actually only deferred to the time of the Babylonians.

Isaiah 32:14 For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city will be deserted-
The palace wasn't forsaken in that Hezekiah and his descendants continued to reign; Jerusalem wasn't deserted, and the hill of Zion didn't become grazing for donkeys. This however was the Divine intention; and we can conclude that for all his bursts of external goodness, there were problems with Hezekiah, or at least with the ruling family- and they came to full term in his loss of faith in Is. 39.

The hill and the watchtower will be for dens forever, a delight for wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks- The hill and watchtower may allude to the figure of the vineyard discussed on :13. The Hebrew and Greek phrases which are translated “for ever” mean strictly, “for the age”. Sometimes this refers to literal infinity, for example the age of the kingdom, but not always. Here we have an example: “The forts and towers will become lairs for ever... until the spirit is poured upon us” (:15). This is one way of understanding the ‘eternity’ of ‘eternal fire’.

Isaiah 32:15 Until the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is considered a forest-
Seeing as noted on :14 that Zion wasn't totally destroyed at the time, this promise of the Spirit will ultimately apply to the last days when Jerusalem falls to her enemies, and the Lord's return to redeem her will be associated with the pouring out of the Spirit.
Is. 32:14-16 RV has a similar scenario to that in Joel 2:20 and the pouring out of the Spirit on Israel in Zech. 12- Jerusalem was to be depopulated, wild animals would live there, Ophel [i.e. Zion, the temple mount] would be desolate- and then the Holy Spirit would be poured out and the Kingdom conditions established in Israel. But these things didn’t happen at the restoration, because Israel didn’t want the Spirit “to be poured upon us from on high”. Even though the gift of the Spirit, a new heart, was part of the new covenant offered to them in Ez. 20,36 and Jer. 30,31. 

Isaiah 32:16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness; and righteousness will remain in the fruitful field-
"Fruitful field" is literally "Carmel" here and in :15, as in LXX. The focus upon Carmel may be to recall Elijah's triumph there over the idolatry of Israel, and God's manifestation in fire. These things point forward to the latter day work of Elijah and the final repentance of Israel; but unlike then, the justice and righteousness would "remain" eternally.

Isaiah 32:17 The work of righteousness will be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever-
This alludes to how Ahaz had been called upon to repent of his faithlessness, and to find "calm", s.w. "quietness" (see on Is. 7:4); but he had "refused" (Is. 30:15), madly trusting upon Egyptian horses for salvation (Is. 30:16). But the appeal to repent was still there, for a later generation. The work of righteousness was therefore repentance. It is this alone which gives peace with God.

Isaiah 32:18 My people will live in a peaceful habitation, in safe dwellings and in quiet resting places-
LXX "And his people shall inhabit a city of peace", a reference to 'Jerusalem'. The 'quietness' of the restored Kingdom was claimed to be experienced by the disbelieving wealthy women of Jerusalem who lived "at ease" (:9,11 s.w.). They believed their false prophets, imaging they had their Kingdom right then in their luxurious lives.

Isaiah 32:19 Though for now hail flattens the forest, and the city is levelled completely-
The LXX alludes to how hail came on the Egyptians but not on Israel; because the narrative of the exodus deliverance is always to be found in Isaiah as the template for their latter day deliverance: "And if the hail should come down, it shall not come upon you". But if we read with the Hebrew text, the flattening of the forest is parallel to the levelling of the city of Jerusalem; and there is the implication in Zech. 11:1 that we are to understand the temple as the forest, perhaps because of the extensive usage of cedars of Lebanon and other wood within it. As explained on :15, Jerusalem was not levelled completely, at least not at the time of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions which were primarily in view here. In Jeremiah's time, Israelites still came to offer offerings on the site of the temple. Nor really was this the case after AD70. It looks forward therefore to the last days, when it seems a new and blasphemous entity will be built in Jerusalem, to be soon destroyed by the Lord's return and the new Jerusalem coming down from Heaven upon whatever is built there.

Isaiah 32:20 Blessed are you who sow beside all waters, who send out the feet of the ox and the donkey
- Maybe the sense is as in GNB "How happy everyone will be with plenty of water for the crops and safe pasture everywhere for the donkeys and cattle". But earlier the Assyrian / Babylonian invasion has been likened to a flood of waters coming upon the land. Now this has receded, seed is to be sown on the rich flood plain left behind; and ox and donkey used to cultivate it. But oxen and donkeys were not to be used together under the law of Moses. Perhaps this is a hint at a change in that law; that old covenant had been broken by Israel, and they were to now be under a new covenant which didn't have this regulation.