Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Isaiah 11: 14-16

14 But [with united forces Ephraim and Judah] will swoop down 
upon the shoulders of the Philistines’ [land sloping] toward the west; 
together they will strip the people on the east [the Arabs]. 
They will lay their hands upon Edom and Moab, 
and the Ammonites will obey them.
15 And the Lord will utterly destroy (doom and dry up) 
the tongue of the Egyptian sea [the west fork of the Red Sea]; 
and with His [mighty] scorching wind He will wave His hand 
over the river [Nile] and will smite it into seven channels 
and will cause men to cross over dry-shod.
16 And there shall be a highway from Assyria 
for the remnant left of His people, 
as there was for Israel when they came up out of the land of Egypt.

I pulled our text from this last passage of Isaiah 11 from the Amplified Bible because I appreciated the clarity, at least initially. In the NASB, verse 14 begins, "They will swoop down...." We need a flashback to last week's post regardless, but at least the Amplified tells you who the "They" is.

Recall that Isaiah is writing of the time of perfect peace, when Christ returns for His people and restores once and for all the broken relationship between Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Now, the combined nation is fortified and standing tall, ready to deal with its enemies. 

"...and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms."
--Ezekiel 37: 22
A mere two chapters ago (Isaiah 9:12), Isaiah spoke of Israel's fall with "...the Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west; and they devour Israel with gaping jaws." There's a 180 in progress with this new prophecy, as God's people "swoop down" and "strip" their old foes, as well as the nations of Edom, Moab and Ammon. The more literal translation of the second part of verse 14 is that "Edom and Moab will be the outstretching of their hand." (from my study Bible)

Edom--Edom was the nation named for and lived in by Esau. After Jacob secured his brother's birthright in the red ('edom' means red) stew incident as well as his father Isaac's blessing, Jacob "wrestled with God" and received the new name, Israel. Esau gained a happy reunion with his brother and some possessions, but not the blessing of God. He left his brother and retreated to this land which then took the name Edom and whose people became the Edomites. It was not a land or a people blessed by God either, as the book of the prophet Obadiah speaks.

"'Then the house of Jacob will be a fire
And the house of Joseph a flame;
But the house of Esau will be as stubble.
And they will set them on fire and consume them,
So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,'
For the Lord has spoken."
--Obadiah 1: 18

Moab--Commonly remembered as the country of origin for Orpah and Ruth, from the Book of Ruth. Ruth would leave Moab with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to start a new life in Judah (where she would meet and marry Boaz, father of Obed, father of Jesse--yes, that Jesse, as in "the stem of Jesse"--father of David). Moab bordered Edom.

Ammon--The Ammonites were the descendants of Lot (husband to a pillar of salt) who settled in territory north of Moab and directly east of Gad (Northern Kingdom). There are quite a few battle stories involving the Ammonites in the Old Testament, and they were particularly hostile to both Israel and Judah, often attacking through alliances with the kingdoms' enemies. ( For Isaiah to prophesy that the Ammonites would obey the kingdoms is truly a change of events.

God's actions in verse 15 are clear--"utterly destroy" and "smite" two areas with the intent to change them over completely. What's confusing is to what areas are being referred. There is no Egyptian Sea. But, Egypt has seas on two sides, the Mediterranean to the North and the Red to the East. The Hebrew for 'sea' can translate into either of these places or the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea, or even the Nile or Euphrates rivers! As you can see above, the Amplified Bible chose the "west fork of the Red Sea" for its descriptor. It's not completely clear to me, but both the Mediterranean and the Red are in the same general vicinity, which is good enough for now. Even more curious is the river in question. It's "the Nile" in the Amplified while the NASB suggests it is the Euphrates. The cross-referenced verse is in Revelation:  

"The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east....."
--Revelation 16:12

Although knowing the specifics would fill in some gaps, the overall concept of the message remains key--God is turning these mighty waters into a "highway" of land on which people will travel by foot ("dry-shod," meaning in sandals). A turnpike will be created, from Egypt to Assyria, for the purpose of allowing the safe return of the remnant of God's people. (vs. 16) Isaiah evokes images of the past as he compares the road home with the one created from the parting of--perhaps--the same Red Sea, by Moses, as a means of escape from Pharaoh and Egyptian slavery. (Exodus 14: 26-29) That should have been a timeless image of provision, peace, hope and grace for both Judah and Israel.
"Note, When God’s time has come for the bringing of nations, or particular persons, home to himself, divine grace will be victorious over all opposition. At the presence of the Lord the sea shall flee and Jordan be driven back; and those who set their faces heavenward will find there are not such difficulties in the way as they thought there were, for there is a highway thither...."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

And with that welcome comes a cry of Thanksgiving. Chapter 12 begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 12: 1-3

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).