79. The Sevenfold Spirit of God? (Isaiah 11:2)

“The Spirit of Yahweh will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and heroic might, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” Isaiah 11:2

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Isaiah 48:16 tells us that Christ came at the behest of Yahweh and His Spirit. Luke 1:35 tells us Jesus was conceived of the Spirit of God. We know that the Gospel’s tell us that the Spirit descended and remained upon the Son of God. Here we have Isaiah’s statement that the Spirit of God would rest on Him. Isaiah 61:1-4 tells us that the Spirit was resting upon Him in order to set people free and bring a manifestation of the good news that Christ was proclaiming.

 

This verse is Isaiah’s comprehensive statement as to the definition of the source of the characteristics of the life of Christ from the moment He arose out of the Jordan after John’s baptism and after the Baptist saw in dove-like form the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and remain on Him. Ministry wise it all started here! The entire ministry of the savior who was fully human and fully God, was energized, empowered and led by the anointing of the Spirit of Yahweh that rested upon Him.

 

To our knowledge and firm conviction Jesus did not preach one sermon prior to his baptism in the Jordan. Neither did He perform any miracle. We have the sure statement concerning His personal knowledge and wisdom at the age of 12, and we also have the detail of Him being subject to His parents saying, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and with man” (Luke 2:52). I have to add a personal conviction; my understanding is that being conceived by the Holy Spirit I take it for granted that He was filled with the same Spirit throughout His life. But the activity and presence of the Spirit was “within” Him during those first 30 years. At the Jordan, at the age of 30, the Spirit descended and came “upon” Him. The “coming upon” is as oil is poured out in the anointing of priests, kings or prophets.

 

The oil that Samuel poured upon Saul, and later upon David the lad, was symbolic – yes!  It was also the same moment as the substance that the symbol signified was given. It was as if Samuel was saying, “Here Saul,” or “Here David; I am pouring this oil on your head as a symbol of the Spirit of God being poured out upon your life,” and the reality of that symbol manifested immediately on both Israeli monarchs as the oil was still running down them and dripping on their clothes. The scripture states that Saul turned to leave Samuel with the oil still running through his beard and garments and was immediately changed and “had another heart.” The substance and the evidence of that substance came upon the son of Kish simultaneous to the symbolic anointing with oil. It was exactly the same immediately after David’s anointing when the scripture informs us that, “from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13). Symbol and substance was poured out in unison on the first two kings of Israel. It probably happened that way because of the intensity of the anointing on Samuel.

 

It was a similar transaction at the baptism of Jesus.  John’s hands literally took hold of the Saviour in order to immerse Him in water, but no human hand or prayer could have imparted the Spirit of God upon Him who was to baptize Christians in the Holy Spirit. It was a similar situation to that in which Albert Einstein was asked why he had no doctorate amongst all of his academic achievements. The answer he gave was curt and simple. “There is nobody qualified to give me one!” is what he said. Einstein’s statement at that moment was a tiny and infinitesimal parallel to the thought of anybody ministering the Holy Spirit to the Lord Jesus. There was nobody qualified to make such ministry, not even the mighty John the Baptist.

 

The very moment the Holy Spirit had descended on Jesus and remained with Him there was a complete difference in Jesus’ life-style and demeanour. The Spirit of Yahweh had rested upon Him.

 

A tree may have several bows and branches, yet it will only have one single trunk. Or, to change the analogy, a Jewish Minora has a main trunk candle stick in the middle of the utility, and three branch candle-sticks on either side. This is how I would like to envisage the seven fold spirit of God that Isaiah predicted would descend, remain and rest upon Messiah. The minora was constituted of one single piece of Gold, yet comprised of seven branches. To elucidate and interpret my symbology the main trunk of Isaiah’s revelation in Isaiah 11:2-3 is that the Spirit of Yahweh would rest upon Messiah, the branches I am likening to the six explained manifestations of the Spirit in the life of Christ that Isaiah describes in Isaiah 11:2-3..

 

There is only one Holy Spirit. But here in the plainest of terms, Isaiah refers to the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit at work in Messiah’s life and ministry, as He would be similarly active when He comes upon, rests on and manifests Himself through Christians in general. The Holy Spirit when resting on a person’s life would bring forth several manifestations in that life that would be so varied that Isaiah refers to it as seven different spirits.

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SPIRIT OF YAHWEH

So the main vertebrae of all the statements is that the Holy Spirit will be at peace while resting on Messiah. The Spirit of Yahweh would upon Him. “Christ” is Greek, and “Messiah” is Hebrew for the word “Anointed One.” The anointing that the title refers to is this resting of the Holy Spirit upon the body and person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Spirit descended in the visible form of a dove and settled and remained upon him. This is the first glorious example of the absolute will of God taking place in the life of a human being; a total oneness to God, and a total submission to His Spirit.  This anointing was the air through which Christ breathed.  It was a kind of second nature response of Christ to suddenly go where the Holy Spirit led Him. To our knowledge there was no redirecting, or “strange” leading throughout his life for His first thirty years, yet as soon as the Spirit had descended upon Him, He was led out into the wilderness. I do not use the word “strange” as a euphemism for eccentric or deranged, quite the opposite. Christ’s reception of the Holy Spirit was simply an entrance into a new kind of living, a new lifestyle that even Jesus had not known before. It was exactly the same syndrome when the apostles received the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2. They suddenly exploded into deeply powerful activity and purpose in a manner they had not even experienced in the days of Christ’s flesh.

 

Having been led out into the wilderness by the presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and having conquered the tempter through almost 6 weeks of fasting and temptation, the victory strengthened the assimilation and marination of that anointing into His personality and life of Jesus and he thus returned to civilisation and people 40 days later “in the power of the Spirit.”  The ministry of Messiah as seen and perceived by Isaiah had begun.

 

We see the main thrust of the Spirit resting on Jesus, but in what manner did the Holy Spirit show Himself in the life of Christ while He actually rested on Him? Isaiah gives us six manifestations that are so crystal clear in their parameters that he calls each one “a spirit.” All these following six “spirits” are commentaries on everything we know of Messiah.

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SPIRIT OF WISDOM

The first expression of the Holy Spirit whilst resting on Christ was “the Spirit of Wisdom.” “Ruach Chokmah” as the Hebrew has it!  Supernatural wisdom oozed from the lips of Jesus continually, especially when the scribes and Pharisees were struggling to catch Him out. Chokmah is the faculty, the power and the capacity to make correct judgements together with deep insights into the repercussions and the serendipities of those decisions made. The Spirit of wisdom also implicitly suggests the executive freedom and power to act on those wise decisions made in the mind of the Saviour. In all the books, lexicons and Hebrew talking people I have consulted in order to understand this word, I read in two separate volumes and was told once that, “Sceptics are by nature incapable of operating within the freedom of this wisdom.” This is divine wisdom. Because wisdom is an internal attribute when it is activated, scepticism is also an inner attribute made such by habitual choices of a certain calibre which block out the entrance of divine wisdom. It is the Spirit of wisdom that sharpened Christ’s decisiveness and prophetic insight. All the life choices of Jesus were wise in the most extreme parameters of wisdom’s definition. Yes, having read the gospel’s and seen for ourselves the white’s of Jesus’ eyes as He was harangued by the Jewish antagonists and as He met their hellish logic with wisdom that silenced them and caused them to retire bloody and bruised, we can confidently say “Amen!” Jesus truly had the “Ruach Chokmah,” resting upon Him constantly.

 

SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING

If the Spirit of Yahweh fully revealed Himself upon Christ as the Spirit of Wisdom, Isaiah notes that He also manifested Himself as the Spirit of Understanding. In the Hebrew text, these first two aspects of Wisdom and Understanding  are twinned, as the other four are also in couplets.  The Spirit of Understanding is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus that gave Him insight to decide properly on the imponderables of life and the universe. The word is bynah (Some transliterate the word as Binah.). The books give lengthy lists of words to describe the meaning of this word: Insight, prudence, intelligence, skill, and discern, amongst many others. In all the questions  of wisdom (Chokmah) and understanding (bynah) that Nebuchadnezzar asked of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the four young men had a grasp of it all, in fact they were ten times better in wisdom (Chokmah) and understanding (Bynah) than any of the others trained by the Babylonian king (Daniel 1:19-20). Solomon instructs us definitely NOT to lean upon our own understanding (bynah) (Proverbs 3:5). Understanding is yet another aspect of those spiritual faculties that facilitated Jesus’ right choices at all times. Not only did He speak words of great wisdom, but He fully understood the great depths of what He was saying.

 

SPIRIT OF COUNSEL

The next couple of aspects of the anointing that rested on Christ begins with the Spirit of Counsel; that is the seemingly ease and simplicity of ability to devise the best plans for a person’s future, and with similar ease and simplicity to share the plan with a view to its implementation.  We are referring to the absolute peak and perfection of advice and/or consultation. Jesus was filled with a purpose, a project and a plan. One of the wisest men David had at his side was a man who went by the name of Ahitophel.  However having turned against David and plighted his “craft” of counsel against David and God, he lost all he had. In the end he committed suicide because he failed to hear from God concerning counsel and advice.  The counsel of the Holy Spirit cannot ever be anything but wise, generous and a root cause for all round prosperity. Jesus carried this anointing with infinite authority and power. Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies informs me that the word translated Counsel includes both deliberation and purpose of doing a certain thing (as already stated above) and implies wisdom, reflection and an overall skill on the issues that required counsel. In the case of Christ Himself, the Spirit of counsel was on the complete issues of conception, gestation, birth, life, death and resurrection under the Lordship of Heavenly Father and His Son, submitted to in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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SPIRIT OF MIGHT

Counsel and Might are conjoined here. The word is not so much “sheer might and power,” as “heroic action and deeds.”  I have not read in any lexicon or word study, but I believe the word is referring to authority and mastery over thins. In Jesus’ case we are talking of mastery and authority over all things that are not commonly mastered in the natural. The mastery, might and heroism in the life of Christ was a supernatural gift of the anointing of the Spirit of God. We are here referring to heroic, masterful and victorious action extrapolated from one’s own counsel and understanding. This heroism was clearly manifested in the face of antagonism from people whom Jesus knew by the Spirit were contemplating murdering Him.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive of more masterful answers to the issues of life than the one’s He gave that are quoted in scripture. The ultimate in heroism was what Jesus Christ was all about. The ultimate hero! It is the practical side of giving counsel, namely having the courage, bravery and heroism to get one’s hands dirty and implement the results of the counsel one has given. The word that is commonly translated as “might” strongly implies a particular form of might that is appropriate to the counsel given. It is used of a person who is strenuous in all his undertakings, strong in his own conscious integrity, utterly without pretence and hypocrisy. That self knowledge and awareness of integrity makes the person bold and mighty. A more comprehensive description of the spiritual and moral perfections of Jesus Christ would be difficult to define.

 

SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE

The last twosome of related spirits that were to rest on Messiah were the Spirit of knowledge (ruach da’ath),and the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh. Some believe it should be translated as, “the Spirit of the knowledge of Yahweh and the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh.  As far as “knowing Yahweh,” is concerned we need to compare both Matthew 11:27 (Neither knows any man the Father save the Son.) and John 1:18 (No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him). This kind of knowing Yahweh refers to that total embracing love directed towards the Father and not ever letting Him go in the knowledge of Him whom a person loves. The word is Da’ath and it means; knowledge, insight, intelligence wisdom and cunning as well as understanding. It is the tap-root of knowing God – a deep and intimate relationship between the human being and His Heavenly Father.  It is a knowing that God teaches to man  as in Psalm 94:10.  Psalm 119:66. Proverbs 2:6. This is the contemplatively earned perception of a wise and intelligent man. This knowledge of God is the same as the word in Isaiah 11:9. By the anointing of the Spirit of God Jesus had access to the very fount of all knowledge in Yahweh and the knowledge and deep understanding of all people. Yet again it is a definitive statement of yet another characteristic of the person of Christ.

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SPIRIT OF THE FEAR OF YAHWEH

We now engage with the deepest and most nutritious water from the bottom of the divine well with the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh. This is indeed the most informative and enabling taproot when it comes to the matter of understanding how Christ related both to God and to man. It is truly the ultimate answer to the engine room of all Christ said and did. By the anointing of the Spirit and the maintenance of the relationship with the “Dove” that rested upon Him, Christ saw everything His Father did, and heard everything the Father said. By this means He manifested the love and power of His heavenly Father to mankind. This was a consistent and continuous attitude that Christ lived with. His delight was in the fear of the Lord. The Hebrew word carries the sense that the fear of Yahweh was indeed the very air that Messiah breathed. He delighted in doing the will of God, and by the strength of that delight feared to do anything that was His own will wherever it was different to the Father’s.

 

The word “yirat” is translated variously as: fear; terror; awe; reverence; pleasurable aroma. It tells us plainly that it was the very delight of the Lord Jesus to have no will of His own, but was constrained within His will to know and understand the will of the Father as well as to absorb and do that will. This was the air He breathed. And His delight, his breathing air, was in the ambience and atmosphere of the fear of Yahweh. What was Christ’s first concern is supposedly the first concern of every true Christian soul. The plumb line of the call to be a Christian is to love a life wherein is the passion and delight to do nought but the will of God. The nearer the plumb line our lives get, the more like Jesus we become. Christ’s complete delight and His every thought and action came from His fear of Yahweh. The very Holy Spirit that brought every Christian to their second birth is the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh. The same Spirit with which millions across the world are baptised with is the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh. As it was with Christ, so it is with every believer. It is a yielding of one’s own will in subjection to Heavenly Father’s commands. This was the very air that Christ breathed. May, “Ruach yirat Yahweh” also rest on all who read these lines.

 

In the resting of the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh on a person’s life, one cannot be passive. It is truly the Spirit Himself who achieves the manifestation of power, the healing and the deliverance, but there needs to be the active participation of the believer in order for the Spirit of God to be released to do “His thing.” The human walks where the Spirit of Yahweh leads him, speaks what the Spirit of Yahweh says to Him, interacts with any instruction that the Spirit delivers to the one anointed. It is the same Spirit of the fear of the Lord that prods and suggests the delight and desire to fear and obey God. It is God’s desire that all believers own and interact with the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord.

 

It is the complete and total obedience to this anointing of the seven-fold spirit of God that revealed the Father to the world. May God give us the grace to walk as Jesus walked in submission to the word of the Holy Spirit.

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78. Messiah’s Secret Unseen Resource (Isaiah 11:2a)

“And the Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon Him…”

 

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Oh the secrets of Messiah!  Oh the wonder that Messiah was to give to us exactly what the Father gave Him. Messiah’s secret can be – should be – our secret too. Isaiah possibly did not fully grasp what he was talking about. Who knows? Perhaps he did. The secret was that the Holy Spirit would be resting upon Him, sitting upon His life, manifesting Himself through the consciousness of Jesus of Nazareth. Messiah was to be divinely equipped in the most stupendous manner.

Whether Isaiah knew it or not, we know the absolute truth when we examine his words through the glasses of the New Testament. For the first thirty years of Christ’s life, the days of His flesh, He who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, who lived a perfectly sinless thirty years without doing any miracle or preaching any sermon, He who lived with the Spirit of God indwelling Him from conception and with that same Holy Spirit keeping Him from the day of His birth until the day of His baptism was silent. Apart from the episode of Him asking the elders in the Temple adult and insightful questions about scripture when He was twelve years old, nothing else of spiritual significance could happen in His life until the Holy Spirit was to come upon Him. All we know of those years is that, “He went down with them (His parents), and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Other than that it is 18 years of total shtumm!

“The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon Him” (Isaiah 11:2). We of the other side of the resurrection of Christ, have the privilege of knowing that the Spirit of God came upon Him and rested upon Him at the Jordan River while being immersed in water (Matthew 3:13-17. Mark 1:9-11. Luke 3:21-23). John the Baptist said, “He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptises with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33). The Baptist was told that he would see it take place and that he would know what had happened. The dove like manifestation came down and perched, landed and nested on Christ and remained. The advent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus of Nazareth was a permanent fixture of His Being and consciousness thereafter. The Holy Spirit literally abode on Him. John said so (John 1:32). We are certain that in essence, what happened to Christ at the Jordan River happened to the one hundred and twenty people in the upper room in Acts 2 and needs to happen to every believer in every generation. The Holy Spirit within is glorious enough. Every true Christian is born again of the Spirit. If any man has not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His. Jesus then told them to wait until they had the Holy Spirit resting upon them as well.

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We are not talking of the Spirit “with” or even “within.” We are talking of the Spirit being completely at home “upon” Christ.   Like oil being plentifully poured over a person and that oil running down to the collar and hem of their robes. Christ could not and would not do anything that constituted any part of His redemptive ministry life, until the Holy Spirit had come upon Him. This is a serious observation! If Christ Himself did not dare enter into ministry without the enduement of power which came upon Him by being clothed upon by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, what sort of comedians are we to even imagine that we could minister as He did without the very same enduement of power and the very same Holy Spirit coming upon us in a similar manner. I am talking of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of Yahweh was to sit, live and abide with Christ. Once upon Him, the Spirit would immediately lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. From the moment the Holy Spirit came upon Him, Christ responded differently and immediately to the leading of the Spirit of God. Christ obeyed all that the Holy Spirit required of Him. After a silent 30 years, Jesus now burst into an incredible amount of activity, all at the leading of the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus seeing what His Heavenly Father was doing and hearing what He was saying. After conquering Satan in the realm of temptation alone in the desert, Messiah returned to more sociable circles in the essential power of the Spirit.

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John 13:3 informs us that Christ came from heaven. 1 Peter 1:12 tells us that the Holy Spirit was “sent from heaven.” The Holy Spirit that descended from heaven for the purpose of equipping Christ, was also sent by Christ in exactly the same way to function on earth amongst Christians in the same way as He functioned in the life of Christ.  Notice that Jesus did not withdraw from people having had the Spirit come to rest upon Him, but engaged with humanity all the more because He had the Spirit upon Him.

The Spirit descended upon Jesus. Rested on Him and remained on Him. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. After that He returned in the very power of the Spirit. Jesus Christ is our model.

My mentor used to often say, “The Jesus I know is Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.” To talk of Christ’s life without the explanation and qualification of the Spirit coming upon Him in baptism, with the accompanying explanation of how John said that Christ was He who would baptise in the Holy Spirit, delivers a false picture. “The Holy Spirit shall rest upon Him,” said Isaiah. The question today is: “Does the Holy Spirit rest upon us?”

It is God’s plan to become intimately acquainted with us in a warm relationship of love and power by His Holy Spirit. That is the way it has been since He breathed upon Adam and gave Him life. It is the intention of God that the Holy Spirit would be the air we breathe, the environment that we live in, and the abiding cloak of blessing that throughout life should be enshrouding us with the blessing of Yahweh. In such a living environment, surely we are condemned to a life of victory, freedom and joy.

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Why didn’t God give us a “Systematic Theology Book,” so that we would know exactly what to believe? Why wasn’t Christ born in a heavenly explosion of glory revealing who the baby was to the whole earth? Why doesn’t He just step out of heaven to speak to us or write a note in the sky? Why doesn’t He make a few announcements to the world on a Heavenly Sound System so that everybody on the planet could hear what He is saying in their own language? Why doesn’t He do things the way we like them to be done?  Answer: We are bordering on the stupid to expect God’s deepest revelation to happen just as we like it. If everything God did was just the way people like it, why on earth would God need to reveal anything about Himself to us?

The Holy Spirit that wrote the scriptures is the same Person who will reveal to us all we can carry. We need to note that when John cried, “I am baptising you with water, but when He comes He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit,” whether or not John realised what He was saying or not, Jesus did not baptise a single person in the Holy Spirit while He was on earth, either before or after His passion. He has now returned to heaven and since Acts chapter two on the day of Pentecost it is one of His heavenly roles in His divine office. As well as our Great High Priest Jesus Christ is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit. This writer was converted under the declaration of “Jesus Christ, the Saviour, Healer, Baptiser in the Holy Spirit, and the Coming King.”

From the moment that Jesus was “baptised” in the Holy Spirit at the Jordan He was walking in the all saturating power of the Spirit and was the first human being to do so. No one else had entered into such a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Even when Jesus sent out the twelve, and then afterwards sent out the seventy, it states that He gave them their power and authority. Before the crucifixion the disciples cum apostles did not heal or preach under their own anointing of the Spirit or on the basis of their own holy character. They operated under the auspices of Christ’s own anointing, not their own. The power that they operated under was nothing to do with their own godliness or character. How do I know that? How can I be sure of that? I know that simply because Judas Iscariot was amongst them. Judas, the son of perdition, when given by Christ the power and authority to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and raise the dead, operated in just the same manner as Peter, James and John at that time.

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There was something strikingly different than all the Old Testament people who operated with the Holy Spirit “upon them.”  Moses wrote scripture moved upon by the Holy Spirit.  Elijah and Elisha had anointings of the Spirit of God to do all sorts of signs and wonders. Micah the prophet even wrote, “I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord” (Micah 3:8).  Even the Judges experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon them. In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, the book of Judges tells us that the Holy Spirit “pounced” upon some of the Judges, using the same word used in Acts 3:8 when the man at the beautiful gate jumped to his feet and was dancing and “leaping” after being healed. Kings Saul and David were both “instantly” different people once Samuel had poured the anointing oil of kingship upon them respectively.  Along with the symbolic oil being dropped on their heads, the reality of the power of the Holy Spirit dropped on them too. David wrote in the Spirit when he wrote many of the Psalms. Yet, even with all those accounts, what happened with Christ was unique and different, but was to be common and widespread when the church, the body of Christ was later to commence where Christ Himself had left off.

What Jesus was walking in was historically unique; we know this because John wrote in his gospel (7:39) that, “He said about the Spirit who was about to be given to the believers, but was not yet given because Jesus had not been glorified.” What Christ had, had never been seen on the earth before, but was to be common as He would pour out the Spirit upon the church, starting in Acts chapter 2.

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All Christians require the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had been baptised in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Spirit is an act performed by God Himself. Christ is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit. In Christ’s baptism, human hands cannot be employed because it is wholly divine.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the highest and sublimest evidence of Christ’s power and goodness that is exercised towards us. It shows the greatness of His power given to us, the believers – the church. Are those persons today who claim such an experience as the Holy Spirit baptism, also willing to claim its results? (Acts 19:6) Before Heaven can be present within you, you must pass through and into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit baptism is a critical must for practicing Christians. The Holy Spirit within us is a divine person we obtain upon repentance and baptism.  The Holy Spirit upon us is a gift from God we receive direct from heaven. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about power. An important reason for Baptism in the Holy Spirit is power for witnessing for the living and resurrected Christ.

It is this writer’s conviction that when Jesus said “Among those that have been born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11), the only thing He could have been referring to that changes the goal posts for His definitions was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. John was filled within. Paul and Peter had the Spirit upon them.

It was the manifestation of the anointing of the Holy Spirit (ie: external to Him, yet upon His body and person) that led to Christ’s all glorious ministry.

Isaiah wrote:

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The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;   To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2).

Isaiah was referring to an external anointing, and was suggesting in its wider context that this is what Messiah would be qualified to say.

700+ years later in a Synagogue in Capernaum in the Galilee, Doctor Like writes:

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? (Luke 4:17-22)

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Yes indeed! Christ owned the words that Isaiah had written as His own. The anointing He refers to cannot be anything else other than the anointing that alighted on Him and remained under the understanding and discerning eye of John the Baptist.

Several years after the incident in Luke 4, one of the men who was with Jesus at that point of time, a man whose name was Simon Peter, on one certain occasion stood up to preach, and we have a transcript that records:

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:  But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted by him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, you know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;  How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:34 -38)

It was the anointing and the power that was given at the baptism in the Jordan that Peter was referring to.

Isaiah was absolutely correct when he said , “The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon Him.”

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77. The Forest of Assyria that was made a Plain of Stumps and the Stump of the Tree of Jesse made Glorious

(Isaiah 10:33-11:1)

 

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Large arrogant proud forests shall be cut down until they are nothing but a plain full of stumps.   And A humble, insignificant little stump of tree that had died and shrivelled  after the greatness of David’s day shall be glorified when it sprouts to be a mighty tree of salvation for the world. That is something of an extravagantly free paraphrase of mine, and to add to the clarification, there is no way I am even suggesting that Isaiah knew exactly what he was talking about. In fact, First Peter tells us that they definitely did not know the full parameters of the characters and facts of which the prophesied so clearly.

 

Isaiah 10:33 talks about the Lord Yahweh lopping off the crown of the branches, the trees falling and diminishing to a stump with a loud crashing sound. The forest analogy is referring to Assyria.  It sounds like a very lucid and poetic way of referring to 185,000 soldiers, the pride and joy of Assyria, who went to bed one night anticipating taking Jerusalem by force in a day or few afterwards, and never waking up. Or, as the King James Bible humorously says it, “Behold when they awoke, they were dead.”

 

It isn’t only the tall trees of the military force of Sennacharib that were to be torn down in 701 BC (circa 20-25 years after Isaiah prophesied these things), but the thickets also were to be put to the axe. I take it that the thickets are referring to the politicians and their families in Assyria who were commonly conspiring against the Assyrian royal family.  I do find it strange how all the language of battles, armies, blood and fighting that was used in the paragraphs prior to these last two verses of Isaiah’s tenth chapter, are radically altered to that of a forest gamekeeper, or nature reserve manager. The axe of God will, in one single night, whittle down Assyria’s army by nearly 200,000 men. The point in the analogy change is that trees do not fight back.  The 185,000 will go to bed, wishing each other “Goodnight!”  and just not wake up!  No blood!  No screams of battle!  No war whoops! There is no scream from the trees apart from the “Thwack!” of them hitting the floor. The axe fells both the trees and the thickets. The Majestic One referred to must point to the pre-existent Messiah.

 

So with a huge expanse of tree stumps being all that was to be left of Assyria’s might (remember that for Isaiah’s first mention of all this it was somewhere around 725-722 BC), Isaiah’s prophetic eye catches yet another stump, just a few miles south of where the dead bodies of the Assyrian army were to be strewn around the walls of Jerusalem. This stump, unlike the masses of them from Assyria, is an isolated and a lone broken down tree that abode in Bethlehem. This stump also was at one point of Jewish history a high and mighty giant tree of great significance.

 

The scenario is clearly pictured.

 

Isaiah 11:1 starts with the expanding and aspiring lone tree stump of Jesse’s household, to be contrasted with the fall of Assyria’s army and politics. This family tree stump had slumped into such a bad force of decay that it was not even referred to as the tree of David, but the insignificant backroom ancestor of mighty king David, his own father: Jesse.

 

“There shall go forth a shoot out of the stump of Jesse, and a sprout from its roots shall bear fruit.” From what follows immediately after verse 1,  I would say that the person about to be described, the fruit bearing sprout out of Jesse, can be absolutely nobody else but Jesus Christ Himself.

 

Always remember the rich tapestry of history we have that assists us to note who Isaiah was referring to when he wrote his volume. That remark does not only refer to these opening 3 verses of Isaiah 11 but right throughout Isaiah’s 66 chapters.  Come to think of it, that principle applies to all the writing prophets too.

 

Messiah is the deep subject of Isaiah 11; that point is unquestionable. We of the twenty first century can clearly see Christ in Isaiah 11, as well as being the child born with the four glorious names of Isaiah 9:6-7, whose government will forever increase. We see Him also as the child born of a virgin in Isaiah 7:14. But the question is; did Isaiah know he was talking of the same person when he made these differing aspects of prophecy?

 

Because of our known explanation, given by Christ Himself, that He is the central figure of all the Old Testament scriptures (Luke 24:13-32), we also know very well that when Isaiah 2:2-5 talks of people saying, “Come let us go to the house of the Lord that He (i.e. Yahweh Himself) may teach us concerning His ways,”  that this takes place in a far distant future day after  Christ’s second coming where Isaiah is indeed referring to Christ the King when enthroned on David’s throne in Jerusalem. The heavenly cloud that canopies Jerusalem in Isaiah 4:2-6 is obviously referring to the same time span that includes Isaiah 2:2-5. We can see Christ, and therefore we can piece the jig-saw together as to who and what Isaiah was talking of. But did Isaiah see exactly what we see?  John 12:40-41 even tells us that when Isaiah saw Yahweh upon the throne in Isaiah 6, it was indeed the glory of Jesus Christ that he saw.

 

This sort of biblical reasoning means that even the most cynical, and dare I say unbelieving heart, that could even question us when we declare that Isaiah 11:1-3 is talking about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and nobody else at all should be silenced.  It is as straight forward to this writer as anything could be.

 

Is it possible that Isaiah was completely in the dark concerning his written insights of the coming Messiah. Or did his spiritual sight keep returning to the same face, and the same eyes, keeping him informed that it was the same person that he was referring to, howbeit  in different contexts.

 

So the opening statement of Isaiah 11:1 is that Messiah comes from the stock of Jesse.  Because it is referring to the line of King David, and because the descendants of David’s in the life of Isaiah were hardly exemplary followers of David’s example, by the Holy Spirit Isaiah goes beyond David to the long dead and forgotten sire of David, Jesse of Bethlehem.

 

Because of God’s promises to David in 2 Samuel 7, it could be argued that the information that Isaiah is here giving us refers to what was already known by scripture students of Isaiah’s time. Verses 2 and 3 however take Isaiah into a sort of cosmic insight into the life and work and character of Messiah. And it is all to do with Messiah’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.  That is to come later.

 

In terms of the Old Testament build up of the picture painted by prophecy of the coming Christ, these two verses are a blinding flash of light that in their brevity and consistency of utility in terms of explaining New Testament truth, give us secrets of Christ, revelation, the Kingdom of God, the powers of the world to come and even the faintest of glimpses into the gentile call of the gospel to know God. Oh Isaiah! Isaiah! I pray for a tiny whisp of the prophetic spirit he owned. Oh that we could see as far ahead of where we are as Isaiah did in his day!

76. The Full and Total Message of Shearjashub and Maher-shalal-hashbaz! (Isaiah 10:12, 17, 20-28)

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Having come to some strong conclusions concerning Assyria, as explained in Isaiah 10: 5-19, and as noted in our previous page, we now want to see what chapter 10 says concerning the Hebrew people in the midst of the seismic changes amongst the kings, the nations and the empires of the Middle East. Let’s say it before we start, that the facts are this: Kingdoms, kings and the extent of their rule and empires rise and fall continually, but the Jews, the Hebrews – Israel are here forever.

This is a big one! So, I am suggesting “bullet points” for every mention of Israel, Judah, the Jews or Jerusalem throughout the whole of chapter 10.

JUDAH WOULD BE FULLY DEALT WITH BEFORE THE SLIDE OF ASSYRIA COMMENCES (10:12)

  • Yahweh had a job to do in and with the hearts of the people of Judah, or to be more literal and specific Jerusalem and Zion. I believe this is referring to the historical event that is encapsulated in the account that is given us in Isaiah 36,37 and 38.
  • I cannot accept the suggestion that it solely refers to some point of time that is still future to us in the twenty-first century, and that Isaiah was referring to the dastardly final manifestation of the Antichrist as seen immediately prior to Christ’s return to earth (as in the Dake’s annotated Bible). As I believe that those last few days before the Second Advent will indeed be summed up in an attack that surrounds Jerusalem I cannot just discount it offhand. 701 BC however, and Sennacharib’s failed attempt to take Jerusalem are described here so perfectly as to hold me fast in my opinions.
  • Hezekiah, Jerusalem, Zion and the undoubted thousands that had fled their towns and cities to hide behind Jerusalem’s walls obviously were dealt with in the event and came to a general faith in the midst of adversity thanks to Isaiah’s strong words of assurance. It was thereafter that Assyria commenced their slide from power.

ASSYRIA’S JUDGEMENT WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED BY THE LIGHT OF ISRAEL (10:17-18)

  • The Light of Israel is clearly differentiated from the Holy One of Israel. The Holy One of Israel is the pre-existent Word of God, who was to appear later as Messiah. It would therefore seem that the Light of Israel is Yahweh the Father who is in heaven.
  • God Himself is the fire and flame that shall burn and devour Assyria in one day. The people of Assyria are classified into two categories; “Thorns and Briers” and those who are the glory their forests and their fruitful land.” Every nation has these two categories of population.”
  • The fact that the fire of God will consume them is the major reason why it consumes “soul and body, that is: the whole person. Utter destruction and desolation is on the way.
  • The wasting sickness could probably be referring to whatever caused the 185,000 soldiers to die in one night.

 

SHEARJASHUB WAS ISRAEL’S PROMISE (10:20 – 23)

  • Isaiah had declared this almost from the earliest days of his ministry. “Shearjashub.” In plain English (or rather what it meant in plain Hebrew when translated into English; “A Remnant Shall Return.” Some of the returning remnant shall even be escapees. And when they return they will definitely not be leaning on any other nation to help them. The remnant will be men and women of faith, sincerely leaning on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. Assyria will be no more. Syria in essence will not be in existence. Egypt will be so significant as to not be sought after.  Babylon will not be desired (10:20).
  • It is not only that these nations will not be sought after because the nation will discover that its strength has always been from God Himself, but the realization will surely hit home when reflection was made that every gift of gold and substance that was paid to hire the military help of these nations, was rubbished when their hired aids each had turned against them. Oh the evil of international relationships between countries. Is it any different in this day and age? (10:20)
  • 10:21 is merely emphasizing the point that the remnant will be meager and few. The famous 42,360 was as small as that after the Babylonian exile.
  • Repentance (ie: a sincere faith) and a meager remnant back in the Promised Land is what we are hearing here clearly).
  • Verse 22 gives translators a problem. I understand it to mean that the destruction of the Hebrew nation, culture and population that was particularly “appointed” to fall on the Jews will lead at first to a catastrophic fall in numbers of the race, but also lead directly to a revival of faith and faithfulness among the sons of Abraham also.
  • A flood of righteousness shall overwhelm the returned remnant.
  • 10:23 tells us that the Lord’s judgement will be seen to be wonderfully good and righteous. God does nothing indiscriminately.
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JERUSALEM WILL BE DELIVERED BEFORE THE DECLINE OF ASSYRIA COMMENCES (10: 24-27)

  • God constantly and consistently wants to reassure people of faith that they are safe in His hands. No matter how dangerous things look on the outside in the temporal issues, when the inside and the eternal issues are resolved through the means of faith in the Almighty Ever-living God, perfect peace is in the atmosphere. God is always at work and in the process of actively saving the person of faith in Christ. (10:24)
  • Isaiah’s prophecy here is the epitome of the normally perceived function of an Old Testament prophet. He predicted not only an acute crisis of one nation challenging another before it was on anybody’s earthly agenda, but he then foresaw the final outcome of the challenge and the crisis, all of which was verified and vindicated within the space of about 25 years. Assyria, who at the moment of Isaiah speaking these words were not even considering attacking Judah and/or Jerusalem, were not to be feared if and when they did get their mind to it.  In 701 BC when anxiety levels were so high that there must have been an outbreak of depression or panic attacks amongst the majority of Jerusalem’s population, these words of Isaiah’s must have contributed to the positive outcome and the confidence of King Hezekiah. (10:24)
  • We simply have to also include a mandatory aspect of God’s dealings with Israel that is easily by-passed by the New Testament concept of people being the home of God rather than a specific geographic location. “My people who dwell in Zion” is God’s strict parameter. I am not in any way suggesting anything to do with the modern pseudo religious and/or political terminology in the word, “Zionism.” I am referring to the Old Testament perspective of Jerusalem being the God-registered home of Israel. It is as if any Hebrew outside of Jerusalem was not included in the promise. In 701 BC when Sennacharib’s forces of Assyria came sweeping down what we refer to Israel, Canaan or Palestine, the entire nation of Judah outside of Jerusalem were either killed where they lived, or they fled to be safe in Jerusalem. When the Assyrian forces surrounded Jerusalem (Zion) the entire population of Hezekiah’s kingdom would have been trembling in their sandals and cloaks within the Holy City.

This is an illustration of God’s own understanding of the importance of Israel within the context of Jerusalem. This writer believes it would be error to simply write off what I am saying here as a concept not referred to in the apostolic teaching of the New Testament. To explain how and why I think it is definitely a concept made within the pages of the New Testament is an issue for another day. Suffice to conclude here, that God loves Israel, and God loves Israel in Zion especially. (10:24)

  • Note Isaiah predicts the exact motives of Assyria a quarter of a century before it takes place.
  • I understand from quite a number of volumes and commentaries that Isaiah 10:25 is particularly difficult to translate. Adhering to the mantra that when the experts have diametrically opposed views the layman is free to choose which authority he leans on, I take the view that Isaiah is repeating the fact that one day soon (701 BC) God’s anger will reach its limit at the complete random exercise of Assyria and its power over and beyond the parameters that God had set them for their international frenzy of conquests. Assyria will be smitten by God Himself and the process of their decline would be initiated at the very gates of Jerusalem. (10:25) I believe verse 26 adds force to my view of 10:25.
  • Verse 26 suggests that no matter from who or where or what, God would smite Assyria from something within their ranks as He did when the Midianites panicked and were slaying themselves in Gideon’s day (Judges 7:22-25). What we now know in retrospect is that the Angel of the Lord walked among the Assyrians and slew 185,000 men in a single night. (10:26)
  • And now for the much debated Isaiah10:27. These words in verse much used and loved by Pentecostals and Charismatics alike has been a rallying call to seek the fullness of that multi faceted anointing that issues from a life spent cultivating the impartation of power that issues from the mighty Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
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The rallying call I refer to issues from the translation of the King James Authorised Version:  “And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.” (Emphasis is all mine).

One does not have to be a Hebrew teacher or a doctor of Theology to know that if you have any modern translation there is a different meaning to the word that in 1611 was interpreted as “anointing.” Nearly all the translations of recent years use the word “fatness.”  It seems that in the Hebrew the words “anointing” and “fatness” come from the same root. The true meaning of the verse is that  even though the people of Jerusalem were in bondage to an Assyrian yoke they would become so fat in the knowledge of God that the bondage of the yoke would be broken.

So it still has the same message of deliverance even with the more up to date and understandable meaning. To this writer’s mind, the analogy of obesity breaking a wooden yoke that is around one’s neck is still relevant and true as a parable of what the anointing does.

Please do not misunderstand or misquote me. To say “The anointing breaks the yoke,” is an absolute truth and one of the plumb line truths of the New Testament teaching. But Isaiah 10:27 does not refer to the anointing per se, even if the true meaning is parallel to it.

Jesus announced in His hometown synagogue in Nazareth, the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him because the Lord had anointed Him to “proclaim good news to the poor … to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18, ESV). I am sure readers will agree with me when I say that if Jesus needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to minister we surely need the same.

To transliterate the Hebrew word, Isaiah wrote that “The yoke shall be destroyed because of shamen” (pronounced as Sharr-men). The Authorised Version translators understood it to be the equivalent of “shemen,” which is Hebrew for oil. Apparently this led to the extrapolation of oil for anointing, and so they translated it as “the anointing.”

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NEWS BULLETINS OF AN ONCOMING ATTACK ON JERUSALEM – 25 YEARS BEFORE IT HAPPENS(10: 28-32)

  • The glorious deliverance that will come to Jerusalem and set the people’s heart a dancing will not come lightly.  Assyria will come so incredibly close that it will take a deep confidence and a rugged faith to hold on to Yahweh’s loving mercy that will undoubtedly come. Assyria will quite literally be stood a few feet away from the gates and walls of Jerusalem throwing insults and blasphemies at the entire nation of Judah that would be sheltering in Zion at the time.
  • It is normally assumed that the route explained in these verses is not the route used by the Rabshakeh and his commissioned troops sent by Sennacharib who was at Lachish at the time. But to have 185,00 troops at Lachish and then send them across to Jerusalem seems to this writer to be an incorrect assumption.
  • The description of the route taken from the north of Judah down to Jerusalem seems to suggest that towns and villages were clearing out before the Assyrians got there. The last one that is mentioned (Nob) is actually a place that has Jerusalem in view from its highspot.
    • Ayath – 10 miles north of Jerusalem
    • Migron -
    • Michmash –  north of Jerusalem
    • Through “the pass.”
    • Geba
    • Ramah – Samuel’s home
    • Gibeah – King Saul’s domicile
    • Gallim – unknown at present
    • Laisha -  unknown at present
    • Anathoth – North East of Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s home.
    • Madmenah
    • Gebim
    • Nob
  • It seems that the population of these places, as well as the rest of Judah, fled to Jerusalem for shelter. It must have been a time a great terror. The huge force marched down towards Jerusalem, and each time a group of people arrived within the city Hezekiah (and Isaiah of course) would have updates on the oncoming tsunami.
  • They were to arrive at the gates. Terrify the people within. Threaten all sorts of horrors letting all of Jerusalem know that their time had come to meet their maker.

But!  The final blow never happened. Yahweh saw to that directly.

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Jerusalem was built on four hills. Only two of which are biblical. Here is the view before any city was built. Right click the picture to see its full size.

75. Isaiah Calls what is Alive “Dead” all because of Pride and Arrogance (Isaiah 10:5-19)

THE DOWNFALL OF A MIGHTY EMPIRE

MAHER-SHALAL-HASHBAZ WAS ASSYRIA’S COMMISSION

00001. assyrian_empire1“He may rob the spoil and take the plunder” (Isaiah 10:6). Here we see the full intelligence of Isaiah’s son’s name, “Maher-shalal-Hash-baz,” as applying to the Assyrians ( The name means hasten to the spoil, speed to the prey).  Notwithstanding my opinion of Jonah’s visit to Nineveh, speaking to Assyria’s king and advising Assyria of God’s intention for Assyria in what was then their near future, Isaiah here refers to the commission of Yahweh to the monarchy of Assyria. The same words are here used to explain what Isaiah was saying about God’s direction for whoever was on the throne of Assyria.  In answer to the question; “How, when and by whom did Assyria know that they were called to be tha hand of God in international judgements, I can only refer my readers to the previous pages referring to the book of Jonah.

My personal understanding of prophecy is such, and it is an understanding accentuated when I hear an inspired Old Testament prophet speak as he does in Isaiah 10, that when, by the Spirit of God, a person, people or nation are blessed or cursed by a prophet of God, that blessing or curse will definitely and clearly take place. A pronounced word direct from God is an event, an occurrence, a historical happening pronounced beforehand. The only issue that could involve variance is the amount of time between the prediction being made, and the point of time when that blessing or curse actually bites and takes place.  If the prophet doesn’t speak, the blessing or curse or whatever will never take place. That is how important a true prophet is.

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Sargon II

Isaiah 10:5 says, “Woe to Assyria.” My response is to cringe at the words spoken and rejoice that I am not an Assyrian of Isaiah’s day. Rest assured the woe is on its way!  Assyria had better watch out! But wherever Isaiah was when he first made the pronunciation concerning Assyria’s woe, he then made it clear as to the whys and wherefores of this woe being promised to overcome the Assyrian nation.

 

A COMMISSION WAS GIVEN

The commission, “speed to the prey and hasten to the booty,” was dispatched to Assyria.  Isaiah 10:6 tells us plainly that Assyria’s role was to spoil and plunder the nations around the Middle East that were godless. Frankly, it has to be conceded that this order included every single nation in the Middle East and beyond. Sadly it also had included both Israel and Judah. They were to spoil the nations and take the plunder and nothing more.  No matter how godless we may perceive Assyria to have been we need to remember their response to Jonah. God firmly had his hand on Assyria at the start of their rise to imperialistic power. Nations were to be trampled down because of their godless ways, and Assyria was chosen by Yahweh Himself to be the one to do the trampling.   The spoil and the booty was Assyria’s. They were not to go any further than what was therein expressed in the commission.

God had a disciplinary rod and that rod was Assyria. Assyria was not only God’s staff, but they too were given a rod with which to discipline Israel, Judah and the other nations around them. Their rod was the anger of God towards them all for being idolaters and indulging in godless and evil lifestyles (10:5).

THE COMMISSION WAS EXCEEDED

Assyria went beyond what God had commissioned them to do.  Even if I am incorrect when I hypothesize about Jonah’s input to the Assyrian king in the visitation that takes place in the biblical volume that bears his name, somehow, somewhere God had spoken to Assyria and told them how to conduct themselves in their violent conduct of disciplining the godless world in which they lived. If this were not true, and/or they were not holding that information in their national Chronicles and archives, then Isaiah would not be able to say what he says here in 10:5-6. They were aware of their God given mission.

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Sennacharib

Assyrian kings had always believed, as was the general Middle Eastern conviction of nearly all monarchs in those days, that the real secret behind winning any battle, or defeating any other nation, was the battle between the gods of the nations that were engaged in combat. Asshur, the god of Assyria was obviously much greater than the god’s of the other nations!  Why could they hold such a presupposition? Simple! Because Assyria had risen over the previous 30 years or so by conquest and torturous treatment of those that they had beaten.  This “proved,” as far as they were concerned, that their god was better than any other. Unfortunately other nations and their kings also believed this to be true of themselves.  Without any shadow of any doubt, in the days of Tiglath Pileser III Assyria were the most fearful people to confront. They were mighty, they were aggressively imperialistic, and they were sickeningly cruel.

With this religious philosophy solidly embedded into their mindset and culture, Assyria ridiculed and maligned any god named by the nations they fought, and even mocked them prior to meeting them on the battlefield, or besieging their cities. “Our god is better than your god! So you had better give in!” All the nations of the Middle East had idolatrous religions. Israel and Judah, however, howbeit centuries earlier, had willfully entered into a covenant with Yahweh – God Almighty – that they would never take up idols. But they did not stay true to that commitment. For that reason, even though the historical stories of Yahweh, Moses, and various Judges along with King David and Solomon were widely known by all, Assyria were given to understand that Israel had two main idols at Bethel and Dan whom the Hebrews of the Northern Kingdom declared had brought them out of Egypt centuries earlier. On top of that horror, even though Judah had a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, they too had idols in every town, city and hilltop. From the Assyrian perspective there seemed to be no difference between the two Hebrew nations and the rest of the world.  They too would have known of the stories of Moses and the plagues of Egypt and the basic conquering of Canaan.  But then, as they confront the two Hebrew nations, it must have been a great sigh of relief to discover that Yahweh was only another idol.  This is exactly how Rabshakeh understands things when he taunted the people in Jerusalem in the account given in Isaiah 36-38.   “How can you Hebrews stand against us when your king has pulled down all the shrines and high places, and you have no idols left?” is Lannon’s true paraphrase of how he was thinking (Isaiah 36:4-10). Oh dear! That was a catastrophic mistake on their part.  They were looking into the whites of Yahweh’s eyes and mocking Him.

THE PARAMETERS OF THE COMMISSION WERE EXCEEDED BECAUSE OF ARROGANCE

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Esarhaddon

Everything was fine and within the parameters of God’s order,  until Assyria became a little too full of themselves and were plotting and planning to do more than what God’s commission had set them to do. God had sent Assyria to humble the nations, and that was particularly needful for the two Hebrew nations. Assyria, however, were changing the names of nations, the borders of states and peoples, and even exiling the leaders and aristocracy of nations in order to break the spirit of tribal and national cohesiveness with the aim of killing off the threat of future rebellion against the Assyrian “master race.”  It sounds familiar to recent European history books to a certain extent. In short, to use street language, they were “playing God.”  They were suffering from “delusions of grandeur.”  Assyria had lost the plot that had been mapped out for them by Yahweh Himself. Having been sent by God and obeyed Him, in the passing of three or four decades the divine commission had been forgotten and Assyria had degenerated in a cesspit of megalomania.

Isaiah 10:7 actually states what the kings of Assyria were thinking.  Just as Elisha had known all that the king of Syria was whispering in his bedroom in 2 Kings 6, so Isaiah was given insight into how the kings of Assyria were thinking and planning. Assyria’s intention was not now Yahweh’s intention. The biblical text says exactly that. Isaiah sees that the kings of Assyria now intended to wipe nations off the map like some wipe food off a plate, and then to exile the population to other parts of the world to relocate them with broken hearts and spirits. These were the actions of pure haughtiness, self importance and egotism. They had crossed a line with God. They had disqualified themselves from being the rod of God’s anger. His anger was now pointed at them, and another empire was to rise and dismiss them as they had dismissed so many others.

 

The pride and arrogance of Assyrians kings, as well as their people was an offence to God as they continued to extend themselves in squashing and annihalating nation after nation around the Middle East. Syria was annihilated, as was Israel. To mock Yahweh in the face of the Judahites would be truly a bridge too far. By blaspheming and mocking Yahweh, they would be inviting the true and living God into the battle, the result of which did not bear thinking about  by the Assyrians. Yahweh had his prophet (perhaps prophets) behind the walls of Jerusalem, and Yahweh would be quick to speak to his man on site if and when Assyria ever came knocking on Jerusalem’s front door. To say that the Rabshakeh and king Sennacharib were walking on thin ice in Isaiah 36-37 would be a huge understatement.

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Asshurbanipal

Isaiah saw them approaching something like 22 years prior to Assyria besieging Jerusalem. Isaiah hears God, and is even told exactly what the king of Assyria would be  thinking when he arrives (howbeit 22 years into the future) in the same way that he lets his readers into what the king was thinking at that very moment in time. It was clearly going to be a huge  “Woe to Assyria.”

The pride of the Assyrian kings led them to believe that even the princes that they surrounded themselves with were bigger, braver and better than many of the kings that ruled over the Middle Eastern kingdoms at that moment. “ Are not my captains all of them kings?” (Isaiah 10:8).  Later, it is exactly this sentiment that Rabshakeh garbled out to the population of Jerusalem, trembling behind the city walls (see Isaiah 36-38). But by reading Isaiah we know what Rabshakeh did not know. Yahweh had Assyria’s case file open on His desk and was about to resolve the “Assyrian crisis” that was growing.

THE COMMISSION WAS ALLOWED IN ISRAEL’S CASE, YET WITHDRAWN FOR JUDAH’S SAKE.

Assyria did their business exceeding the divine permit with Israel.  God allowed Assyria to take Israel.  But Isaiah spoke to stop the empire’s illegal rampage. They would not be the rod of God that was to deal with Judah. That mammoth and tragic act of correction would be left for another world empire that at the time Isaiah was speaking had a long ascension to make before they would have the power to address themselves to Assyria.

The Assyrian monarch is here shown to be comparing campaigns accomplished with campaigns planned. Is not Calno in Northern Syria (a city not yet taken) like Carchemish on the Euphrates (a city they had already taken)? Is not Arpad, the key centre of Syria not yet taken, the same as Hamath on the Orontes River (a city they had taken already)? Is not Samaria like Damascus? Damascus fell in 732 BC, Samaria fell in 722 BC, informing us that this oracle was originally spoken, or written between those two dates, and that Samaria was still standing at the moment the message was delivered. The order in which Isaiah mentions the cities also suggests that at the time of Isaiah speaking, Samaria was Assyria’s main focus of attention. It may have been close to 722 BC, and it could even have been only a couple of years prior to the siege.

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The Palace of Asshur Izi pal

Isaiah 10:10 reveals a lot concerning Assyrian monarchs and their mindsets. “Just as my hand found the kingdoms of idols,” reveals his total arrogance as to the privilege of his conquests and imperial expansion. He gives not even a tip of his arrogant hat to Yahweh who instructed him to do what he was doing.  He did not even mention the Assyrian deity Asshur.  He found the idolatrous nations and conquered them.  It was all a matter of “I, Me, Mine.” Next, the Assyrian king makes a statement that was a bold faced affrontary to all Hebrews everywhere. He refers to the nations that he had already conquered as having idols and graven images that were better than those that he had seen from Jerusalem and Samaria.  In response to his remark here, we give a thumbs down and shout at Judah and Israel, “Shame on you!”

I am sure that the monarchs over the Middle East knew the intimate relationship that the nation of Israel had with Judah. They were all aware that there was something different about the Hebrew religion and the God that they adhered to, yet I feel sure that they had not grasped the fundamental reality of Yahweh when compared to the tin pot invented gods invented by the other nations.

This remark makes it absolutely clear, like a blinding flash, that in a time to come (701 BC) the ultimate goal of Assyria would be Jerusalem.

The logic that the king of Assyria worked on was incredibly proud and arrogant. Little did he know – or even guess- that these basic attitudes towards the national achievements and their imperial stature were the very things that would cause their downfall, and that this downfall would come much quicker than they could imagine. Woe to Assyria.

THE COMMISSION WAS RESCINDED BY THE GOD WHO GAVE IT

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The Palace of Sargon II

Isaiah then continued that at this later date, when Assyria would be marching down to do away with Judah and Jerusalem, as they had done to other nations and capital cities,  God was to “visit judgment on the fruit of the pride of the heart of the king of Assyria and upon the haughty spirit of his eyes” (Isaiah 10:12).  If I understand the time and direction of Isaiah’s words aright, Isaiah was her addressing himself to Tiglath Pileser III the ingenious expansionist ruler of Assyria that was ruling at this time, as well as the pride of heart that was to dominate his successors.

Isaiah’s words reveal that it was Tiglath Pileser’s deliberate intention to change borders and to plunder the wealth of nations (2 Kings 17:24 onwards). It was his intention to bring down mighty rulers of other nations. He claims that he found these nations as somebody could find neglected eggs in a birds nest. He could freely pick the eggs of a nations population, and there was no parent, or mother bird to chirp and flap their wings to stop him. He calls himself clever, and to be like a “mighty one” (better translated as a “Bull colossus”). This supreme peak of arrogance and pride is indeed the same spirit that one can so easily discern in the steles and stones of remembrance that many of the Assyrian kings raised within the Middle East and are to be found in many of the world’s museums.

The extreme braggadocio of Assyria’s monarch would in the end kill Tiglath Pileser III, as well as Sargon II and Sennacharib, and crucially debilitate Assyria in the first steps that would lead to their complete and utter removal from the map. “Woe to Assyria,” is what the prophet said in Isaiah 10:5, and woes do not get any worse than what happened to Assyria.

THOSE COMMISSIONED WERE DEPLETED

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Assyrian soldiers, tha masters of massacre and the Titans of torture.

Isaiah explains how the king of Assyria had lost the plot of his purpose in life (Isaiah 10:15). He was merely the axe  that God was using to bring judgment to others. The moment he, as the axe, started to delude himself that he was greater than He who was wielding the axe, he was in dire and eternal trouble himself, and had placed his entire nation into the hands of the grim reaper. Woe to Assyria!

For that reason Yahweh was to send a wasting sickness upon the soldiers of Assyria (Isaiah 10:16). It cannot really be argued against that this aspect of Isaiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in 701 BC when 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died overnight whilst camped at the very gates of Jerusalem. The fire under the “glory” of Assyria was probably the fire of the infighting and deep rifts that filled the Assyrian royal family and palaces over several decades. Kings were assassinated by their own sons and families in order to gain the Assyrian throne. The once mighty empire of Assyria was clearly on the slide into oblivion.

THOSE COMMISSIONED WERE TOTALLY DISSIPATED

If I understand the complexity of the Hebrew phraseology correctly, when Isaiah writes in Isaiah 10:19 that, “what is left of the trees of their forest will be so few that any lad will be able to count the number and write them down,”  it is a prophetic prediction of Assyria finally going down into the plughole of history.  The empire diminished and diminished while Babylon was beginning to expand and expand. In 612 BC,  Babylon finally conquered Assyria. That was a moment that left the remains of Assyria still breathing, but hardly so. The critically ill invalid of the nation of Assyria finally became a Cadaver in 609 BC. I read in one volume that the number of survivors could be counted on several hands. How true that was I have not the slightest idea, but from then on,  Assyria as a nation was a thing of the past. There is today a small population who still refer to themselves as Assyrians. They are clearly Semitic, but neither Jew nor Arab.

And according to Isaiah, the fall of the once great nation was nothing to do with their nation’s god, the strength of their armies, or the battle skill of their kings. It was all to do with something we refer to as pride. Woe to Assyria! Woe to those who are dominated by pride.

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The phenomenal populated city of Ancient Erbil in North Eastern Iraq

74. The Prophet Jonah Releases Assyria into Ministry (Jonah)

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The nation state of Assyria before any expansion.

Isaiah 10:6 tells the world in as clear a use of language possible, that not only was Assyria sent by God to correct Israel and Judah, but they were also commanded what to do and how far to go in their actions. I want to know how Assyria were spoken to by God, and how were they instructed  how far to go. It has been a question I have been ruminating over for years. Was the Assyrian Rabshakeh joking in Isaiah 36:10 when he said that Yahweh had said to the Assyrian king to go and destroy Judah. Isaiah 10 tells us that he was told to go, but not to destroy Jerusalem and Judah. How did Assyria hear from God?

My answer is: Jonah.

Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is a significant account in scripture, and one that Christ Himself refers to plainly assuming its authenticity. But for what I want to refer to in the book of Jonah, the giant fish, or whale is a bit of a red herring (sorry about the pun!). What I am about to share I have read nowhere, heard nowhere and have not been clued in by the wisdom of any biblical authority. This is a pure and revelatory piece of Lannonism I am about to share. In short, I would like to suggest that Jonah released Assyria into their Middle Eastern crusade to bring as many nations as possible into serfdom under their jackboot,…eh …sandals, making them pay tribute money to the coffers of Assyria. In fact if I was particularly bold, I would even suggest that their imperialistic war machine like philosophy was only a practice run for the majority of Middle Eastern nations, and under God, was merely number of training runs until Assyria had taken Israel and Judah. Follow the history and the biblical references as we go.

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Jonah preaching the shortest sermon ever to Nineveh.

My reference to Jonah in this narrative is greatly related to Isaiah, especially Isaiah 10:5-34, which is a prophecy made shortly before 722 BC about a miraculous occurrence that took place in 701 BC in the fields and grasslands that surrounded Jerusalem. It was a miracle that closed Assyria down for a brief period.

2 Kings 14:25 explains how Jonah was alive in the days of Jeroboam II of Israel. Jonah came from Gath-Hepher a town in the beautiful countryside of the Galilee. Jeroboam II reigned the longest of any of the kings of the northern kingdom for 41 years, namely 793 BC through to 753 BC. The eighth century BC was one of the most incredibly tumultuous periods of Middle Eastern history.  Through the rising and falling of many different kings and nations, and the ebb and flow of empires, as the middle East time line moved into the seventh century BC the map was almost unrecognizable to what it had been a century before.

It has to be said for Jeroboam (known as Jeroboam II because of Jeroboam the son of Nebat who was the first monarch of the Northern Hebrew Kingdom of Israel) that his four decade ”plus” reign was, economically, the most prosperous period of  the ten tribe states history. Spiritually, however, Jeroboam like the rest of the northern kings was an utter write-off. Idolatry was rampant. For a crystal clear perspective on what was going on read Hosea, Amos and Micah. It was a seriously wicked period to have lived in. The poor weren’t safe at all, and the lack of anything that even sniffed of a welfare state made it hell on earth for the downtrodden oppressed masses.

One important observation has to be made here, namely that for the first two or three decades of Jeroboam’s reign, Assyria as a nation was not to be feared by the Hebrew people. Assyria had a long and chilling history, and was undoubtedly a cruel kingdom with a long line of bloodthirsty kings with bloodcurdling philosophies of how to handle prisoners of war. However at this point of biblical history only its very closest neighbours had any grounds to fear oppression. The wickedness at this point of time and its parochial vision of local conquests only, made Assyria merely a foreign sounding kingdom in the life of the two Hebrew kingdoms. Nothing to write home about! Just a nation of violence and nastiness with a long history, and thankfully, were a long way distant from Israel and Judah.

Assyria, however, was to rise in a matter of 30 to 40 years into the eighth century into what was then, the biggest empire that had ever been known in the middle East.  Yet, when Jeroboam took the throne and when Jonah was in harness as a prophet – Assyria  was holding nothing like that gravitas or kudos that time was to give them.

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Almighty Yahweh called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Something is often missed with this call of God. This is huge. I have heard preachers expound and teach from the book of Jobah, but have hardly ever heard Nineveh being noted as one of the capital cities of Assyria. I say “one of the capital cities,” not because Assyria ever had more than one capital city at any one time, but Nineveh was one of those cities which at one period of time was indeed designated as Assyria’s capital centre. Different kings appointed different cities as their capitals. From my reading and research nobody seems to know for certain at which particular point of time Nineveh was the capital. If it was not capital at the time of Jonah’s visit, it would make the account all the more God-inspired that Jonah should visit Nineveh when it was not the capital city at the very same time that the king was in residence there.

So, the comparatively mediocre Assyria that was to burgeon into the most feared and belligerent fighting force in the world in the 730’s, 720’s and 710’s BC, round about the days of the 770’s and 760’s was hardly on the agenda for political debate or discussion, even though they were infamous for their cruelty and arrogance and Jonah was commissioned to send them a message from Yahweh.  It must have been problematic for any of Jonah’s friends or family. Why should God send Jonah to what would have been generally perceived as a comparative non-entity of a nation. But the book of Jonah lets us know that Jonah knew exactly what God wanted and what Assyria’s response would be. That is the very reason he did not want to go.

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I am convinced that Jonah was a contemporary of Isaiah, even if it was only in the early days of Isaiah’s life. It’s only conjecture and ultimately open for free discussion, but there is also a vague and strained possibility that he could have been contemporary with Amos, Hosea, and Micah.

I am also of the opinion that when Jonah, both scarred and maimed by the acid of the whale’s stomach in which he had spent circa 72 hours, came preaching into the great Assyrian city of Nineveh, the buck of Assyrian accountability and responsibility landed on the desk of the king who, at that point of time would have been Ashur-Dan III. He reigned from 773 through to 756 BC.

During the reign of Ashur-Dan there was little activity. The general behavior of most Middle Eastern autocrats like the Assyrian kings was to write, record and leave Stele’s and Menhirs for generations to read, explaining how many battles they had won and how much tribute money had been paid to them. However, in periods of decline and defeat, they generally kept their mouths shut. Ashur-Dan III and his period of kingship was indeed one of this latter kind of reign. Externally it was a difficult period for Ashur-Dan because a nation known as Urartu was diminishing Assyrian strength and confidence on the battle field. The borders of the land under Assyria’s rule had considerably diminished during his years on the throne. Having lost face to Urartu in 773 he also was whipped by the kingdom of Damascus.

Internally, we have records that the Assyrian aristocracy and court dignitaries were limiting Ashur-Dan’s freedom to reign as he wished. It seems it was similar to King John’s rule in England. The wealthy princes of Assyria didn’t seem to think Ashur-Dan III was charactered enough for the position he held. He had succeeded Shalmaneser IV and was to be succeeded  Ashur-Nirari V for 9 years before the mighty dictator like Tiglath Pileser III strutted his stuff on the international scene and entered into the annals of one of the greats of Assyrian history. To add to Ashur-Dan’s pressures, there was a great plague throughout Assyria in 765 BC, and for several years on from 763 BC there were public revolts against the regime that ruled.

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There are two unarguable items that took place in Ashur-Dan’s reign that enable us to know exactly when he was on Assyria’s throne.  First: On June 15 763 BC there was a solar eclipse. His Chronicles record this event, and modern scientists can vouch for the exact date. This eclipse is an anchor for historians to date all sorts ow world events. Secondly, there was a very severe earthquake in his reign. I ask the question; Was this not the same earthquake that took place in the reign of Uzziah? The same rift that runs through Africa, into and through Israel continues up into the vicinity of Assyria and Nineveh’s geographic location.

Finally, there is one more strange fact of Ashur-Dan III’s reign, some may think that this is the strangest thing of all. In 764 BC, uniquely in the annals of all the Assyrian rulers, Ashur-Dan III never left home for a warring campaign. If one is aware of the warmongering, swashbuckling, raping and pillaging culture of Assyria’s long history this assumes some kind of mammoth significance. If it had never occurred before, what circumstances precipitated its occurrence in 764 BC.  This is a very strange and bizarre fact of history.

When wondering how? What? Why? And where the source of this inactivity and ceased warfare came from, I suggest to my readers that the entire root and fruit of this non-warring sabbatical year of Assyria’s horrific history of violence should be laid at the feet of a certain Hebrew fellow who went by the name of Jonah, son of Ammittai, a prophet of Yahweh that came from Gath-Hepher in the Galilee in Israel.

After the scandal of “Fishgate,” which left Jonah looking more than embarrassed, the prophet finally ran through the streets of Nineveh with, as far as the Bible tells us, the shortest sermon ever recorded. It was much shorter even than Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, and one that changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the vast city which, by the way, excavations have proved that it would genuinely have taken three days to walk around.

“In forty days Time, Nineveh shall be overthrown!” We have no other rationale given to us in the Bible concerning Assyria’s dealings with Yahweh.  Whatever else was said, however he said it, even if the scars of stomach acid had mutated any of his features, the result was an absolute direct act of God on the hearts of the people. The entire city repented. The king ordered fasting and the wearing of sackcloth which was, in Old Testament times, even for gentile heathen nation’s it seems, an expression of total remorse and repentance. Even the animals were not to be fed and were to be blanketed with sackcloth. Now that is bizarre.

2 Jonah 2I suggest, by logical extrapolation of the history of  Assyria at that time that Jonah hit downtown Nineveh in 764, possibly, late 765 BC.

I have several thoughts to substantiate my hypothesis concerning all this.

  • The people repented before the God in whose name Jonah had spoken. And they repented big time. Repentance towards God brings relationship with God. Relationship with God brings some sense of peace and a consciousness of the Almighty. Even without a deep biblical understanding of the nature and character of Yahweh, the Assyrians simply must have had some kind of inward character and attitudinal change.
  • Surely it is logical and rational to assume that both the people and their king MUST have sought a more in depth dialogue with Jonah in the midst of their repentance. “In forty days Nineveh will fall,” is hardly a full theological treatise about who Yahweh is, and how they were to maintain their new found relationship with Him.
  • If Assyria’s sins, thus far in their incredibly long history, had “filled up” in God’s view, making them ready for Judgement, surely there must have been a reason in the eternal purposes of God for the saving of Assyria, who, according to the book of Jonah, were only forty days away from predestined national annihilation. They were NOT world conquerors prior to Jonah’s ministry visit, and it was a decade or so later that Tiglath Pileser III was raised up. That is when Assyrian imperialism really took off.
  • A prolonged period of, for want of a better term, “national Yahwehistic reflection,” after Jonah’s prophetic ministry seems logically to have been the cause of having stopped Assyria in their warmongering tracks for a year or so at least – possibly a little longer.

I know that King David was a warmonger on God’s behalf for the chosen people of Israel  and the purposes of God in the midst of Old Testament revelation, so I would not like to press this point too far. However the evil cruelty of Assyria must have been highlighted in sermons or prophecies that we are not privy to in Jonah’s time in Nineveh. The murderous cruelty of Assyria was infamous in Jonah’s day, and is still the main plank of Assyria’s infamy today.  All I am suggesting is that with the reality of repentance, and the clear conviction of the Spirit of God that pervaded the minds and hearts of the population of Nineveh after Jonah’s ministry, the year’s break in warfare seems a logical conclusion to the result of Jonah’s supernaturally successful “Billy Graham Crusade.” And 764 BC was the only year I have read of when an Assyrian king stayed home and allowed the rest of the world to get on without them.

  • The fact that one of the later Assyrian kings actually claims that God had sent him (Isaiah 36:10) to chastise Israel and Samaria as well as Judah and Jerusalem, suggests to me that by some prophetic encouragement from Jonah, the repentant kingdom of Assyria was informed, instructed – or even possibly commanded to deal with Israel and Judah for the reason that they were not as Godly as Ashur-Dan III had been in their deep expressions of repentance to the words of one of His prophets..
  • In Isaiah 10:5-34, we have it clearly stated by Isaiah that God had purposed Assyria to be the axe of God’s judgement on the Hebrew people, and that certain clear parameters had been set for them in their execution of the divinely ordained judgement. Isaiah insists that the king of Assyria, no matter who he was, knew God’s rules of engagement.
  • In essence I am saying that it was Jonah’s visit to Nineveh and his harsh and severe message to the Assyrians that brought Assyria into “God’s vineyard” as it were, fulfilling God’s purpose for Israel and Judah. This means that the big fish is really a small red herring that distracts readers from the mighty purpose that was contained in Jonah’s visit to Nineveh.

During the days of Ashur-Dan’s and Assyria’s weakness, Syria became free to attack Israel, and then later befriend the northern kingdom after they had refused to pay more tribute to Assyria. They even tried to get King Ahaz of Judah to stand with them and fight Assyria once the great Tiglath Pileser III had assumed the Assyrian throne. Isaiah had something strong to say about that (Isaiah 7). The problem was that Syria and Israel must have clearly believed that they were going to defend themselves against another weak king like Ashur-Dan III, and even his successor Ashur-Nirari V. Little did they know of the animalistic fighting skills of Tiglath Pileser III. Both Syria and Israel bit off much more than they could get in their mouths, never mind chew.

Assyria’s breath taking rise to world power was so quickly achieved that the empire could not be governed properly. The governmental ruling base was far too small for such an incredibly widespread number of conquests and reluctant tributaries. Having swollen to mammoth proportions the Assyrian Empire declined quicker than it had exploded on the world.

In 732 BC, Syria was wiped out by Assyria and the people were exiled to a place called Kir. The years from 727 BC to 722 BC saw Shalmaneser V, Tiglath Pileser’s successor, wipe Israel and Samaria off the map. Shalmaneser died just as the siege broke through at Samaria and Sargon his successor finished the job by razing Samaria to the ground, exposing the cities foundations in a few fields that were used for agriculture just as Micah and Amos had prophesied.

By 687 BC Assyria, under Esarhaddon, was at their widest stretch as an empire. Their domain was so huge that Assyria’s military might could not contain or sustain it, and thus, many of its subject states learned how to break free. In 650 AD both Egypt and Media broke away from Assyria’s grip and stood independently. In 625 tiny little Babylon also broke free of Assyrian oppression, became independent and ultimately became the force to rid the world of Assyria once and for all. Finally, in 612 AD, 153 years after my hypothesis that Jonah had brought salvation to Nineveh and Assyria, the great city was razed to the ground by the Babylonians.  It would seem that in those 150 years or so since Jonah’s visit to Nineveh, Assyria had filled up their sinfulness before Yahweh and no prophet was sent to save them. Nahum prophesied of Nineveh’s fall. But did he write after it had fallen?  In 609 BC the Assyrian nation state was totally dissipated and vanished from the map by Babylon’s final battle with Assyria.

Assyria itself, in its own national border, without its conquered serfdom covered what is now North Eastern Syria, South Eastern Turkey, and the western corners of Iraq and Iran. Assyrians, ethnically talking, are still in existence though in small populations. Assyrians are Semitic in origin and have only ever been based in what was ancient Mesopotamia. They are neither Jew nor Arab.

Our next page will exhibit fully how Assyria mishandled their divine mandate to bring judgement to the Hebrew people’s idolatry.  If I am correct, Jonah brought imperialistic aggression out of Assyria around 764 BC. Isaiah announce how they were going to fall at the gates of Jerusalem for simply stepping continually far beyond God’s parameters. The situation that Isaiah foresaw in Isaiah 10 took place in 701 BC when Sennacharib besieged Jerusalem.

Jonah was therefore, clearly a prophet with a major world impacting ministry.

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73. Isaiah’s Lesser Brother?

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Isaiah’s burden has sixty-six chapters, while Micah’s writings have seven. By that criteria Micah wrote for us slightly more than 10.5% of the volume that Isaiah left us with. If we count the words only, Micah gave us only 8.5 % of Isaiah’s output. If we look at the number of sentences in their respective volumes, Micah is lower still and down to just 8.1% of Isaiah’s epic. Why do I venture my ship out on such a shallow pond of water? I just want to make the point that the quantity of output is the sole reason why Christian Scholars throughout the centuries have noted men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel as “Major” prophets, and the other twelve as “Minor” Prophets. It is nothing to do with the stature of the prophet concerned or their importance to Israel and the purposes of God. In that respect each one of the writing prophets was a “Major Prophet.” I say this because deep in my heart I personally esteem Micah as a major character among all the writing prophets.

When I read Micah, somehow I hear the resonance of the authority of Isaiah. Whether they ever met or not, whether either of them ever knew what the other one was writing and saying or not – and we literally have no idea as to an authoritative statement on that issue – to me they are like friends or brothers. When I read Micah out loud, it sounds to my ear like I am reading another version of Isaiah. I apologize if that sounds like a bit of a strange statement, but that is where my inner man takes me with the man from Moresheth Gath ( Now referred to as Tell Goded). I feel like Micah has the intellect, the breadth of vision, the knowledge of world events, and the intimacy with God that is similar to that of Isaiah, even though he does not address other nations beyond Judah and Israel, like Isaiah does. To be sure he mentions Assyria and startlingly, he refers to Babylon, but that is only in reference to the final actions of those two empires towards the twin Hebrew nations. Isaiah had a worldwide outlook and spoke to quite a few nations in the light of their relationship to Israel, Judah and the kingdom of God.

Micah is nowhere as cryptic as Isaiah is in some places. He writes plainly. Yet there are many complementary aspects of each other’s writings that need to be noted.

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Aerial Shot of Morosheth Gath today.

Isaiah saw the Messiah king as coming from Jesse (Isaiah 11:10). Micah saw the one that would rule Israel as coming from Bethlehem, where Jesse lived nearly all his life (Micah 5:2). Isaiah tells us where Christ worked initially (Isaiah 9:1-3). Micah tells us where Christ was born.  Isaiah tells us of Judah and Israel’s spiritual and moral plight in the light of what is exterior to them, i.e. all the local nations and Assyria. Micah discusses nothing at all but the state of Judah and Israel and all that is internal to them, meaning the leaders, the priests and the lying prophets. Micah talks us through a law suit where Yahweh is the plaintiff and the Hebrew nations are the accused. Isaiah sees Yahweh seated, high and lifted up. Micah sees Yahweh getting up off His throne and marching over the mountains, striding towards Jerusalem, the earth melting as wax before fire in order for Him to pronounce judgement at the gates of Judah’s capital. Isaiah was naked for 3 years (literally or otherwise) in an attempt to explain how the people of Egypt and Ethiopia would be transported to exile. Micah also went au naturelle in grief of the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem. Picture the mighty prophet naked and howling like a wolf with grief (Micah 1:8). How similar these two prophetic characters were, and yet how different.

Isaiah, as far as we can tell, conducted all his ministry within the precincts of Jerusalem. Micah had to address both Samaria and Jerusalem in the same way that Amos addressed the northern kingdom; that is as an outsider. Moresheth (or Moresheth Gath) was about 25 miles South West of Jerusalem; 17 miles due west of Tekoa, where Amos lived.

Isaiah prophetically saw the downfall of both capital cities of Judah and Samaria. Micah also saw 722 BC and 587 BC with his prophetic eye, but saw the occurrences in more detail.  Micah saw that Samaria would be so razed to the ground that all the foundations would be displayed to the world; as if the very substance of the city would be stripped naked and exposed (Micah 1:6). The man from Moresheth saw the land on which the temple was built in Jerusalem literally being turned into a ploughed field. More than a century later, the false prophets, the priests and the princes of Judah were about to murder the prophet Jeremiah for saying exactly the same thing. They were only stopped in their tracks when the would be murderers were informed that Micah had predicted the same coming circumstances on Mount Moriah.

Micah was incredibly graphic and clever with his words, even humourous.

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Moresheth

For graphic examples we have the details of chapter one that I have already referred to. He states God’s actions in a way that would upset the purists. To prophetically paint a word picture of God leaving the throne of heaven and to stamp his way to the gates of Jerusalem is radically bold. What?  Almighty Yahweh to leave His throne? Micah, of course was striving to let them know how important Judah and Samaria were to Him, and how high a priority their judgement was in the counsels of the Almighty.

In what we see as Micah’s second chapter, he condemns the priests, the leaders of society and the evil lying prophets, seeing them as lying awake all night, every night while they plotted and planned to steal, kill and destroy. Micah then, outrageously stark in what he sees in the Spirit, virtually tells them that God is getting up every morning planning evil against them in exactly the same manner, and just as nothing can stop the criminal element from acting on their plans, Micah asserts to them that God’s mind will not be changed on the issue either. Judah has a sickness for which there is no cure, just like Israel.  As The Message paraphrase puts it: “It’s doomsday for you!”

In the last two verses of chapter 2, Micah, like Isaiah, sees the Jews returning to Jerusalem after having been spread abroad the whole earth. This aspect of the prophetic message is so important to imbibe today, never mind in Isaiah’s and Micah’s day. Messiah will one day rule from Jerusalem on David’s throne, and therefore He will be the King of the Jews, king of Israel. The nations of the world will worship Christ and set their GPS’s to visit the city of the great King.

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Click on map to see close up details.

In Micah’s third chapter he tells us that there is not even a single upright leader, and that all the official prophets are liars and cheats, prophesying what people want to hear and charging them for the pleasure of being lied to. Isaiah saw exactly the same things.

There are several basic aspects to the whole prophetic message contained in the writings of the so called Classical Prophets. With these facets in mind, everything they say and do makes perfect sense and joins up the entire jig-saw puzzle of the biblical history and prophet.

  1. They refer to the guidance, providence and manifestation of God in the overall historical existence of the Hebrew nation. The historical accounts are not seen as myth or legend, but the accurate history of Abraham and his descendants. Accounts in Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles are referred to as factual points for contemplation, leading the Hebrews to repentance and faith. It is a fascinating observation that in the lives of the prophets Samuel, Nathan, Gad (1 Chronicles 29:29), Ahijah, Iddo the Seer (2 Chronicles 9:29), Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 12:15) and the prophet Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34) all of these prophets wrote history books. Each one of those seven characters were high profile prophets in their respective generations. There is a clear link with the classical prophets and a profound grasp of the history of Israel. I do not refer to plain history as man sees it, but the historical account as God Himself interprets it. To the prophets history is a living thing which strikes and smites us in our present.
  2. I believe it was Erich Sauer who wrote that, “Far from being a product of the Jewish mind, the Old Testament fights against the Jewish way of life!” This is exactly true of the writing prophets, and as such is an absolute phenomena. Each of the prophets lays into the lifestyle, customs and social practices of their contemporary society with scathing criticism and judgement. The Jewish population were not acting Jewish. The people of God were denying Him who created them as a nation.  They chose to reject He who chose them as His own. This scenario demanded severe confrontation. The present “now,” for each of the prophets in their respective life times was difficult because of the need for this confrontation.
  3. Because of the general apathetic response of the population in both the Hebrew kingdoms over a prolonged period of time, the severest judgement was coming to them both. Israel was scattered, destroyed and demolished in 722 BC. They were so randomly scattered that they are known as the ten lost tribes of Israel. Judah was bruised and battered over a longer period by Egyptians, Assyrians, and finally Babylonians and in 587 BC the judgement that the classical prophets had all detailed came upon them.
  4. There is also a great and dire judgement on the whole world on the horizon that the prophets create for us. They foresee the rise and the fall of kingdoms and empires. They see the climax of the ages with Messiah’s reign bringing an end of the present world order. People claim to be confused by the picture the prophets paint, but when pieced together it is clear they see the same photograph. More on this later.
  5. They see Israel converted and sanctified being the Island of divine sanctuary amid the sea of nations. People from the whole world will be converted and making pilgrimages to Israel and Jerusalem to hear the judgements and words of Christ the Messiah.
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All these things are embedded in the prophetic message. People ask me, “But what about men like Obadiah?”  The prophet Obadiah is no different. His perspective is smaller but still part of the whole. Obadiah’s message is the judgement on the nation of Edom who spitefully and wickedly mocked and made sport of the fall of Israel and Judah. It is a microcosm of a picture after one has seen the vast landscape of Isaiah’s writings, but consistent within Isaiah’s continent of thought nevertheless.

What about Jonah? It is still in the same category and within the parameters of all the other writing prophets. Jonah shows us how Yahweh is Lord of all the nations and not just Israel and Judah. Repentance by Jew or gentile brings reconciliation with God. Assyria responded very positively to the same kind of message that Judah and Israel had heard and utterly rejected over previous centuries. In Jonah, incredibly, the Assyrians are the good guys and the prophet is the “baddy.”

Ploughing through the writing prophets is a wonderful construct for the understanding. If one reads them in quick succession with a focused mind, all the above aspects surface clearly. Each prophet has his own emphasis. One stresses one aspect more than another. One prophet may have all aspects as listed above in his writings, another may particularise according to his burden and his vision.

Isaiah scans the entire Old Testament historic vista in his epic volume, while Micah merely homes in on the fall of the two kingdoms. Having brought to the Hebrews the most terrible of all news, Micah then rises into ecstatic joy in chapters 4 and 5 where he sees Messiah’s reign on earth quite clearly. He then closes with a call for the people to come to God.

ZZZ7In the midst of all this, we cannot spend time trying to understand Micah in comparison to Isaiah without noting that his statement that we refer to as “Micah 6:8” is generally acknowledged to be the peak of spirituality in the human experience, and the peak of morality as expressed in the Old Testament.

Finally, Micah has a sense of humour that I cannot anywhere perceive in Isaiah.

Micah loves puns.  He plays with words to a degree that is utterly lost in translation to English. In his first chapter for instance there are several towns mentioned after he has announced judgement over Judah and Israel. In the common translations it is a formal and dry declaration of what was going to happen to the towns and cities of Judah that surrounded Jerusalem, and those that surrounded Samaria. and how it would be so terrible a destruction that folks would not like to talk of it. So we have in Micah 1:10-15 in translations like the NASB the following kind of list :

10 Tell it not in Gath,
Weep not at all.
At Beth-le-aphrah roll yourself in the dust.
11 Go on your way, inhabitant of Shaphir, in shameful nakedness.
The inhabitant of Zaanan does not escape.
The lamentation of Beth-ezel: “He will take from you its support.”
12 For the inhabitant of Maroth
Becomes weak waiting for good,
Because a calamity has come down from the Lord
To the gate of Jerusalem.
13 Harness the chariot to the team of horses,
O inhabitant of Lachish—
She was the beginning of sin
To the daughter of Zion—
Because in you were found
The rebellious acts of Israel.
14 Therefore you will give parting gifts
On behalf of Moresheth-gath;
The houses of Achzib will become a deception
To the kings of Israel.
15 Moreover, I will bring on you
The one who takes possession,
O inhabitant of Mareshah.
The glory of Israel will enter Adullam.

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This kind of translation is absolutely true and proper. Translators are not to be faulted at all. But there are idioms and puns in the Hebrew text that are lost in translation  because the words don’t sound as similar in the English as they do in the Hebrew language. There is, therefore, another genuine take on the translation that Eugene Peterson has tried to capture in “The Message”. Peterson cleverly sees the puns and uses them. The NIV while not using the puns in the translation nevertheless highlight the fact in their notes at the bottom of the page. In his paraphrase, Peterson interprets the same passage above as:

10-15 Don’t gossip about this in Telltown.
Don’t waste your tears.
In Dustville,
roll in the dust.
In Alarmtown,
the alarm is sounded.
The citizens of Exitburgh
will never get out alive.
Lament, Last-Stand City:
There’s nothing in you left standing.
The villagers of Bittertown
wait in vain for sweet peace.
Harsh judgment has come from God
and entered Peace City.
All you who live in Chariotville,
get in your chariots for flight.
You led the daughter of Zion
into trusting not God but chariots.
Similar sins in Israel
also got their start in you.
Go ahead and give your good-bye gifts
to Good-byeville.
Miragetown beckoned
but disappointed Israel’s kings.
Inheritance City
has lost its inheritance.
Glorytown
has seen its last of glory.

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Micah Preaching

In my personal readings I find many scholars refer to these puns quite freely yet somehow seem to feel it inappropriate to suggest that a prophet could be cracking cryptic jokes in the midst of such a serious message. This writer thinks that perhaps they have spent too much time in university lecture chambers and not enough out on the streets ministering to the common folk. It isn’t that these Town and village names actually have the meaning that Peterson has given them, but they do sound as if they have that meaning in the Hebrew.

Even in the fun of playing with his language, aiming for the total engagement of his Hebrew audience, the seriousness of his message is still endorsed. The list of villages were located in both Judah and Israel. The fall of the two kingdoms was sure and certain.

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