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Isaiah 33:1 Woe to you who destroy, but you weren’t destroyed; and who betray, but nobody betrayed you- This could imply that God understands that abusers abuse because they were abused. And He factors this in to His final judgment of them. And we marvel at such sensitivity, and assurance of righteous judgment at the end. But Assyria was not able to claim that as an excuse; this was bloodlust.  


When you have finished destroying, you will be destroyed; and when you have made an end of betrayal, you will be betrayed- AV "they shall deal treacherously with thee". The idea was that Assyria would be destroyed by those she had destroyed and deceived, i.e. Judah. But this didn't happen; Sennacherib lived many years after the destruction of his army at Jerusalem, and it was an Angel and not Judah who destroyed his army. The Divinely set up potentials weren't realized at the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah. "Betrayal" is a word often used about Judah (s.w. "treachery"). This was how they had treated Yahweh, and so they were treated the same way by the Assyrians. And yet from this God still intended to save them, by such great grace. "Destroy" is the word for "spoil" and what initially was in view was the spoiling of the tents of the destroyed Assyrians by the people of Jerusalem (:4).

Isaiah 33:2 Yahweh, be gracious to us-
The faithful remnant centered around Isaiah realized that Judah in general had not repented, and the salvation from Assyria was to be by Divine grace alone.


We have waited for You- In the final glory of salvation revealed to Zion, they exult that they "have waited for Him" (Is. 25:9), and this was exactly the position of Isaiah's family and school of prophets (s.w. Is. 8:17). That righteous remnant would finally have their faith and expectation rewarded.  

Be our strength every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble- The time of Jacob's trouble of Jeremiah and Daniel refers to the last days; it could have come at the time of the Assyrian invasion, but Judah weren't spiritually ready for this. So Isaiah prays that God would be the strength of His people "every morning" and not just that morning when they awoke to find the Assyrian army destroyed. We too are to daily live in the same spirit of total trust which we show in extreme situations.

Isaiah 33:3 At the noise of the thunder, the peoples have fled. When You lift Yourself up, the nations are scattered-
"The nations" in the first instance were the various nations represented in the Assyrian army which was destroyed by an Angel, perhaps with "the noise of thunder". They were to be scattered as they had intended to scatter Judah (Is. 11:12; Dan. 12:7 s.w.). The same words for God lifting Himself up are used of the cherubim mounting up (Ez. 10:15,17,19), and in Hezekiah's time it was an Angel (associated with the cherubim) who slew the Assyrians.

Isaiah 33:4 Your spoil will be gathered as the caterpillar gathers. Men will leap on it as locusts leap-
See on :1. This envisages the people of Jerusalem crawling back and forth from the city to the scene of the destruction of the Assyrians by the Angel, gathering their spoil. Caterpillars and locusts are used as symbols of Israel's invaders in Joel. They were doing to others as had been done to them. But Hezekiah wrongly boasted of this spoil, and therefore the Kingdom potential envisaged here didn't fully come about.

Isaiah 33:5 Yahweh is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness-
Zion wasn't full of righteousness of itself; God saved Zion because He imputed righteousness to them on the basis of the faith of the righteous remnant within it. This was the day when Zion could have been redeemed by "justice and righteousness" (s.w. Is. 1:27). And by doing such things to us He likewise is exalted and seen to dwell on high, as He was at the exodus in Ps. 68:18, thereby dwelling even amongst "the rebellious". The day of Yahweh's exaltation was to be the day of His Kingdom, when Judah were humbled (s.w. Is. 2:11,17; 12:4); this could potentially have come when the Assyrians were destroyed. But Judah's pride and impenitence precluded it.

Isaiah 33:6 There will be stability in your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of Yahweh is your treasure-
This was what could have happened; but instead, Hezekiah made material treasures his wealth, rather than having fear of Yahweh as his greatest treasure. Hezekiah had "peace and truth" in his days or times (Is. 39:8). But that was but a surface level fulfilment of the far greater reality that was then possible. "Wisdom and knowledge" are associated with the Messiah figure which could then have arisen, associated with "salvation" (Is. 11:2 s.w.); and "Jesus" means 'Yah's salvation'. But Eliakim, Hezekiah and other potential such figures all failed, and so these words are reapplied to the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus.

Isaiah 33:7 Behold, their valiant ones cry outside; the ambassadors of peace weep bitterly-
As GNB "The brave are calling for help. The ambassadors who tried to bring about peace are crying bitterly". Verses 7-9 appear to be Isaiah reflecting how things were to be at the time of the Assyrian invasion. The ambassadors of peace were perhaps those sent from him to the Assyrians begging for peace in return for paying tribute. They now realized their work was in vain because the agreed covenant with Assyria had been broken by the Assyrian invasion (:8).


Isaiah 33:8 The highways are desolate, the travelling man ceases-
Now the road toward Assyria is deserted; nobody any longer is travelling there seeking peace deals.

The covenant is broken; He has despised the cities- Judah had made a covenant with Assyria, paying tribute and accepting Assyrian idols in return for a promise they wouldn't be attacked. But Assyria broke the covenant and now the cities of Judah were in ruins. All had fallen apart from Jerusalem. This was an appropriate response to the way they had "despised" their covenant with Yahweh (s.w. Lev. 26:15,43; Is. 5:24; 30:12).

He doesn’t respect man- “There is no regard for man” was the complaint of Is. 33:8- the value and meaning of the human person was disregarded. Perhaps we could say that the prophets are characterized by taking the individual seriously. We seem to have a hard enough job maintaining a sense of the value of persons ourselves, quite apart from weeping that others don’t have such values. This level of sensitivity to human sin is quite something; and yet this is the spirit of prophecy. In the ancient world it was felt that , as Cicero put it, “the gods attend to great matters; they neglect small ones” (De Natura Deorum Vol. 2, 167). The God of Israel was and is quite different; for as the prophets show, what men may regard as small issues are to Him all and vitally important. That slightly unkind communication, that less than truthful passing comment on a brother, that exaggeration… these aren’t trivialities to God. What to us are trivialities are crucial to Him; that’s the message of the prophets. The spirit of the prophets cried out in pain and anguish because of that kind of thing; and their spirit is to be ours.

Isaiah 33:9 The land mourns and languishes, Lebanon is confounded and withers away, Sharon is like a desert, and Bashan and Carmel are stripped bare-
The initial reference would be to the scorched earth policy of Assyria in northern Palestine. The 'little apocalypse' of Is. 24:4 (see note there) had used the same words "mourns and languishes" for the situation in the land immediately preceding the establishing of God's Kingdom there. Joel 1:10 likewise. So the situation with the Assyrians could have given rise to the coming of the Kingdom and a Messianic figure. But such great spiritual potentials were wasted by Judah and Hezekiah. The potential could again have come true at the time of the Babylonian desolation (s.w. Jer. 14:2; Lam. 2:8). But again it was precluded by Judah's refusal to truly hear the prophetic call for repentance. And so it is all reapplied to the last days.

Isaiah 33:10 Now I will arise, says Yahweh-
This is the rising up of Yahweh at the last day when Babylon / Assyria would fall and all the land be judged (Is. 2:21; 14:22; 28:21 s.w.). This is what could have happened at the time of Hezekiah; but although the Assyrian army was destroyed, Assyria continued at the time, and a Messianic Kingdom wasn't established.

Now I will lift Myself up. Now I will be exalted- This is the language of the cherubim being lifted up (Ez. 1:19,20 s.w.). Clearly we have in view here the potential visible manifestation of Yahweh in His Kingdom at the time of the Assyrian invasion; and this didn't happen. It is deferred and reapplied. "Lift up" is the same word translated "forgiven" in :24. The lifting up of Yahweh in all His glory is through His forgiveness of His sinful people. This is what He exalts in; our humble repentance is His exaltation. And this will be particularly true at the last day. But Judah didn't really repent, and so His exaltation couldn't happen at the time of the Assyrian crisis as was potentially possible.

Isaiah 33:11 You will conceive chaff, you will bring forth stubble-
There is a theme in Isaiah of conceiving, suffering pain in labour- but bringing forth in vain (Is. 26:18; 33:11; 59:4).  And so did Hezekiah, in that he and his children turned away from true faith (Is. 39:7). In Isaiah's immediate context, the application would have been to the sense that the remnant had come to the birth but there was not strength to bring forth (Is. 37:3); apart from a few individuals, there was no bringing forth of a significant repentant remnant who would be the basis for the restored Kingdom. It felt like they were still under the curse of bringing forth in pain but in vain. The pain in vain at the time of the Assyrian invasion led to Micah offering a reworked version of all this; they were to be in pain at the hands of the Babylonians, but would bring forth in Babylon in that they would there repent, and the spiritually reborn remnant would emerge and their captors therefore judged (Mic. 4:10). But that possibility also didn't work out.  And so this idea of bringing forth but not in vain, but rather finding meaning in the resurrection of Messiah and all in Him, came to be reapplied to the birth of the Lord Jesus from the grave in resurrection; and it would characterize the establishment of the Kingdom age in Zion (Is. 65:24).

Your breath is a fire that will devour you- Wrongly gained wealth is the fire that will burn those who have it at the last day (James 5:3). James is picking up a figure from Is. 33:11, again concerning the final judgment: “Your [own] breath [i.e. words], as fire, shall devour you”. Their breath, their words, were as fire which would in the end be the basis of their condemnation. Nadab and Abihu kindled strange fire, and it was with that fire that God burnt them up, in symbol of His destruction of all the wicked at judgment day (Lev. 10:2). The "sinners in Zion" (:14) would realize too late that they had destroyed themselves; hence LXX "Now shall ye see, now shall ye perceive; the strength of your breath, shall be vain; fire shall devour you".

Isaiah 33:12 The peoples will be like the burning of lime, like thorns that are cut down and burned in the fire-
Land bearing thorns speaks of the condemnation of the last day; the same process of destruction was to destroy "the peoples" and also the "thorns" brought forth within the land, the "sinners in Zion" of :14. This didn't happen at the time; the "sinners in Zion" weren't consumed at the same time as the Assyrian army, and there is no evidence that they were "burnt". This destruction by fire of both Israel's enemies and the "sinners in Zion" has been reapplied to the last days. So much potential was missed, partly because of God's grace to the "sinners in Zion" at the time.

Isaiah 33:13 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and, you who are near, acknowledge My might-
LXX "they that draw nigh shall know my strength". This is the picture presented throughout the prophets;
the Jews, those who are near, repent and acknowledge Yahweh's might instead of trusting in their own might or that of "Egypt". And at the same time, a repentant remnant of the Gentile attackers "who are far off" will also repent. On the basis of this common experience of conviction of sin, repentance and forgiveness they will then form a new, multiethnic people of God in His restored Kingdom. There was the potential for this to happen at the time, but there was not the required repentance.

Isaiah 33:14 The sinners in Zion are afraid. Trembling has seized the godless ones. Who among us can live with the devouring fire? Who among us can live with everlasting burning?-
Isaiah prophesied of the fire of Divine judgment. But it was that fire which touched his lips and purged him (Is. 6:7). The message was that contact with that fire was not necessarily destructive even to man. It is possible to “dwell with devouring fire”; that is part of relationship with God. Perhaps what is in view is the burning fire of the Divine presence prophesied in Is. 4:5. The spiritual will be able to dwell with this, but it will consume the sinners.

In the Hezekiah context, the sinners in Zion did indeed tremble but were not destroyed. There is no evidence that fire literally appeared to judge them, nor that it remained as the visible symbol of Yahweh's presence as foreseen in Is. 4:5. All this is reapplied to the future destruction of a latter day Assyrian and the "sinners in Zion". At the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ the responsible will be gathered to judgement at Jerusalem. The plain Biblical evidence for this is too hard to go against. With Hezekiah in Jerusalem were "the sinners in Zion", who would equate with the unworthy who are also gathered into Jerusalem. It is largely through the Angels that the judgement is ministered; and so it was in Hezekiah's time. In the  context of describing the punishment of these "sinners in Zion" we read: "The Lord will come with fire, and with His (Angel) chariots like a whirlwind (Angelic language), to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire". This is alluded to (quoted?) in 2 Thess. 1:7,8 concerning the Angelic punishment of the unworthy at the judgement: "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty Angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance... ". That those punished are renegade saints who "know not God (any longer), and that obey not the Gospel" is evident from the fact that they are punished "from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power". In common with much of Thessalonians, Paul is alluding back to Matthew 24 and 25, here to the passage in Mt. 25:31-34 regarding the responsible being gathered to the judgement before "the throne of His glory". Only the responsible come into the  personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. The description of the judgement in Jude  24 chimes in too: "The presence of His glory".


Isaiah 33:15 He who walks righteously, and speaks blamelessly; he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands-
Literally, 'shakes his hands' on refusing to take bribes. The same word is used in :9 of Carmel shaking off her fruits (AV). The ways of the righteous and the wicked are opposite and cannot be compromised.

Refusing to take a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of blood, and shuts his eyes from looking at evil- The righteous don't even want to hear plans to shed blood. We get the impression that despite all the pressure from Assyria, their consciences weren't exercised; the leadership continued plotting against others and taking bribes.

Isaiah 33:16 he will dwell on high. His place of defence will be the fortress of rocks. His bread will be supplied, his waters will be sure-
The same words are used of Yahweh dwelling on high in :5. The righteous will be identified with Him. GNB "you will be as secure as if in a strong fortress". Isaiah foresees lack of bread and water as a result of the Assyrian siege. He doesn't see Hezekiah's conduit as solving the water problem within Jerusalem under siege, as elsewhere he has presented this as a work of dependence upon the flesh. But the righteous are to survive this. But by grace, all Jerusalem did at that time, including "the sinners in Zion" (:14).

Isaiah 33:17 Your eyes will see the king in His beauty, they will see the land that is distant-
The idea may be that they would see to the full distant extent of the land; the entire promised land from Nile to Euphrates would now be reigned over by the new Messianic king. Hence GNB "Once again you will see a king ruling in splendor over a land that stretches in all directions". But that didn't happen in Hezekiah's time; he was content to live in Jerusalem with a few years of peace. He refused the wider vision and potential that was possible.

Our eyes too shall “behold the land that is [currently] very far off” just as Moses had been given the vision of the promised land far off. See on Jn. 3:3,5. You and me personally will be in God’s Kingdom, with our arms around each other in the rubble of Jerusalem. We will personally be there. We will see Abraham there (Lk. 13:28); as Job says, with our own eyes we will behold our Lord, and not through anyone else’s eyes (Job 19:27). Our eyes shall behold the King in the beauty which we personally perceive in Him.

Isaiah 33:18 Your heart will meditate on the terror-
The idea is that the righteous remnant would look back on the trauma of the Assyrian siege and perceive God's hand.

Where is he who counted? Where is he who weighed? Where is he who counted the towers?- Assyrian inscriptions and bas reliefs show men counting and weighing the spoil and carefully counting the towers of cities under attack. Those men would be out of work or destroyed themselves. Or we could go with GNB "Your old fears of foreign tax collectors and spies will be only a memory".

Isaiah 33:19 You will no longer see the fierce people, a people of a deep speech that you can’t comprehend, with a strange language that you can’t understand-
The language difference is made apparent by Rabshakeh speaking unexpectedly in Hebrew, implying that this was unusual as the Assyrian language or dialect couldn't be understood by ordinary Jewish people. The description of the Assyrians, and other future invaders to whom this prophecy was reapplied, is framed in terms of the curses for breaking the covenant in Dt. 28:49. The results of their covenant breaking would be removed. But historically, Judah did see the Assyrians again; Manasseh was "taken with hooks by the captains of the King of Assyria, and carried to Babylon" (2 Chron. 33:11). This was avoidable, for the victory implied here sounds to be permanent. But it only applied to that generation, because the potential victory and establishment of Yahweh's Kingdom was precluded by Hezekiah's weakness and Judah's lack of repentance.

Isaiah 33:20 Look toward Zion, the city of our appointed festivals! Your eyes will see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tent that won’t be removed; her stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of her cords be broken-
It must have seemed impossible to believe that the eyes of Isaiah's generation would ever see this, as Zion was surrounded and besieged and the rest of Judah in ruins. But the Assyrians were destroyed in a moment and they did see this. The implication was that again the people of Judah would look to Jerusalem as the place where they could keep the feasts.

The same word for "at ease" or "quiet" is used about the future, restored Kingdom (also Is. 32:18) as about the "ease" or quietness of the disbelieving wealthy women of Jerusalem who lived "at ease" (Is. 32:9,11 s.w.). They believed their false prophets, imaging they had their Kingdom 'ease' right then in their luxurious lives. But this was not the true "ease" or quietness. Luxurious living is but a fake Kingdom of God. And the stakes and tent ropes ("cords") of Zion were removed. Again, the potential didn't come about; see on :19.

Isaiah 33:21 But there Yahweh will be with us in majesty- Here as in Is. 4:5,6 there is the implication that Yahweh Himself would be "with us", perhaps literally coming to dwell in Zion so that the name of the city would be called "Yahweh is there" (Ez. 48:35). Or perhaps the earlier prophecy of Is. 7:14; 8:8 is in view, where the Messiah who would appear at the time of salvation from Assyria would be called "God with us". These possibilities were all precluded and therefore transferred to events of the last days concerning the Lord Jesus.

A place of broad rivers and streams, in which no galley with oars will go, neither will any gallant ship pass by there- The reference is to military vessels propelled by oarsmen as well as sails. Although there is no protective river around Jerusalem as there was around Nineveh and Babylon, yet Yahweh would be the equivalent of that defensive river; and no aggressive military boats of any enemy would be able to cross it.

Isaiah 33:22 For Yahweh is our judge, Yahweh is our lawgiver, Yahweh is our king; He will save us-
As in :21, again the earlier prophecy of Is. 7:14; 8:8 is in view, where the Messiah who would appear at the time of salvation from Assyria would be called "God with us". These possibilities were all precluded and therefore transferred to events of the last days concerning the Lord Jesus, whose name means "Yah will save us". That great salvation would be predicated upon Yahweh being the judge and lawgiver. His salvation is by grace but as explained in Rom. 1-8, it is still given justly, with righteousness imputed rather than Divine law being winked at or injustice shown by God in achieving the salvation of sinners.

Isaiah 33:23 Your rigging is untied; they couldn’t strengthen the foot of their mast, they failed to spread the sail. Then the prey of a great spoil was divided, the lame took the prey-
This continues the analogy in :21 to the invaders as using military warships. They arrived as it were on the waters of the great invasion predicted in Is. 8 which would smother Judah but leave Jerusalem. The idea was that the Assyrians would be slain and the people go out of Jerusalem to gather it, even the lame. But all Judah are likened to the lame, repentant Jacob, hobbling into salvation by grace at the last day (Jer. 31:8). There is no record of the spoil of the Assyrians being taken in Is. 37:36. And we doubt whether the Assyrian soldiers had huge amounts of valuables with them whilst outside Jerusalem. Clearly these things look forward to the day when Judah shall indeed be the repentant Jacob.

Isaiah 33:24 The inhabitant won’t say, I am sick because the people who dwell therein will be forgiven their iniquity
- In the immediate context, the sick inhabitant of Jerusalem was Hezekiah who was cured. The implication would therefore be that he was sick because he had sinned- and his sin was clearly in ripping off the gold of the temple to try to buy off the Assyrians rather than trusting in Yahweh. But the application may also be to Gentiles: "And the people dwelling among them" (LXX), "No one who lives in our land" (GNB); these proselytes, the repentant remnant of the attackers, would be forgiven and healed of all sickness.

"Forgiven" is the same word translated "lift up" in :10. The lifting up of Yahweh in all His glory is through His forgiveness of His sinful people. This is what He exalts in; our humble repentance is His exaltation. And this will be particularly true at the last day. But Judah didn't really repent, and so His exaltation couldn't happen at the time of the Assyrian crisis as was potentially possible.