105. 716 BC and the Philistines are still around?

Isaiah 14:28-32.

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The picture tells more than a thousand words

“People of Judah! Do not be fearful! I know that the pesky Philistines seem to have been getting one up on us here in Judah each time they have attacked us for the last sixteen years or so, and I know they want to wipe Jerusalem and Judah clean off the map. I know also that it seems they are continually gaining strength to fulfil their nasty threats. However, it is the Philistines that will disappear of the map, while Judah, poor and humble though its people might be, will sit in peace and comfort. Judah, hear me and hear the voice of God, Yahweh has his hand on you and wants you to know you are protected and saved in perpetuity.”

 

There you have it! The above paragraph is Lannon’s “free paraphrase” – or better “Lannon’s free interpretation” of Isaiah 14:28-32. What I mean by that is that it is my attempt at the gist and kernel of the message of Isaiah 14:28-32 and its statements about Gaza and the Philistines.

 

It is important to know the divine motive behind Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the nations and the world. It is also significant to note that what is true about Isaiah in this respect, is true of all the prophets and their messages about the rest of the world outside of, and beyond the borders of what was Israel and what was still, in Isaiah’s day, the nation state of Judah. In the context of the international upheavals and the actual dissipation of many of the nation states of the Middle East during the era between the eighth and the fifth century BC, as well as the rise of other empires, God required all the Jewish nation as well as anybody else who heard what the prophets were saying, to know that the course of history was in Yahweh’s hands. It always was, always is, and always will be. God is in complete control. Such an issue is vital when millions see the world as being out of control. His control of all things was always to the benefit and prime purpose of building up Israel – even the 587 BC catastrophe was really a blessing for the benefit of the Jewish people.

 

It was by clear accurate foretelling of the future, and the plain and literal fulfillment of many of the prophecies within the real time of Old Testament history, that the reader and thinker cannot but be awed by the fact that the seemingly random battles, with rises and falls in the size, strengths and attitudes of various nations, were not random at all, just as they are not random in our day. God is in total control. God had a purpose just as He has today. And in the midst of His overarching control of the international scene, He has His eyes particularly on the blessing of Israel, and always on the increase of His kingdom.

 

PHILISTINE 3ashkelon_philistine_fjenkins082308_32tIn the vast swathes of prophecy that have already  been fulfilled we are painfully aware that the prophets and their predictions were so accurate that we have had, for 150 years or so, the so called “Higher Critics” claiming that the prophecies claimed as being fulfilled were all written after the events that each respective prophetic theme refers to. For instance: The details of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” is a classic example of what I am talking about. Isaiah’s predictions of the birth, ministry localities, death and resurrection of Christ the “servant of Yahweh,” were so literally and accurately fulfilled that a couple of generations of modernists were convinced it was religious nonsense written after the events had taken place. It would have to have been divine and …wait for it, while I use what was to them the dirtiest of foul language… it would have to have been miraculous, supernatural and directly inspired of God.  Steady! Some readers might want to pause for a while and take their breath with that remark.

 

The promulgation of the arguments of faithlessness about the inspiration of scripture seemed to drag on and on in the nineteenth century. The evangelicals generally backed out of the discussions (at least I do not think I have read any volume of the late 1800’s or even the early 1900’s that “took them on.” Most Bible believing evangelicals just tended to ignore the faithless arguments and got on with preaching the word.). The unbelieving academics, like King Jehoiakim of old, simply cut scripture up into fire fodder while they laughed at its message and its claims of relevance and credibility to their respective generations. The evangelical argument was simply to affirm that they still believed God’s Word was inerrant and true.

 

Then!

 

Then the Bedouin shepherd Muhammed edh-Dhib discovered the caves at Qumran between November 1946 and the following few months, and changed the world’s perspective on Bible text and prophecy when, amongst 932 scrolls, he found complete and intact copies of Isaiah (the entire book) which carbon tested to dates that were undoubtedly and uncontestably two centuries or more before Christ was born. All arguments were settled.

 

PHILISTINE 4 philistine2The prophets put history, which was still future to them, in the divine spotlight, enabling us to see the hand of God in various issues around the planet. The prophets help us understand that the godless and demonised dictatorships that have long been building empires and slaying millions in order to achieve their selfish purposes have all been limited in their activity by God Almighty Himself. They go as far as they are allowed, and then are removed from the scene of time. Having seen the history of the Middle East with a Bible in one hand and a History book in the other, and having noted how clear and literal the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy has always been, why on earth do we have academic debates on, “How to Interpret Biblical Prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled.” It is plain, it is literal, and it is definitely set for fulfillment.

 

You may think that this broadly viewed introduction to Isaiah 14:28-32 seems to be making a debate worthy “mountain” out of a happenstance of a “mole hill.” Judah at that point of time was, I believe the tiniest of tiny states, and Philistia (so called here by Isaiah) was hardly anything more than the Gaza Strip. (It was always and ever referred to in my life time as the Gaza Strip, until the Palestinians moved in and claimed it, whereupon it was deemed insulting to the Palestinians to refer to the land they claimed as theirs as nothing but a “strip.” Yet! Truly! A strip of land 7 miles or so wide and 32 miles long is exactly what it is. I am told that there is many a farm in the USA that has more square miles than Gaza.

 

In Isaiah’s day, believe it or not, the Philistines were still there after something similar to 400 years in the land. They were what was left of the nation Yahweh had at first demanded that Israel annihilate (Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 7:16.). The Philistines had from the days of the Judges been spared, as the tribe of Dan merely decided not to fight them and move north. It is not that Israel spared them after hard fought battles where Israel had been defeated. Not at all. The tribe of Dan simply decided it was too much trouble to live amongst the Philistines and moved away (Joshua 19:47). So “Philistia” was left to prosper and conquer, excepting through the days of the Kings David and Solomon, after which they never returned to the strength and dominance of the days of the Judges, yet their entire history was still infamous as a thorn in the side of the Hebrew people (Numbers 33:55.). The noxious acrimonies which were seemingly ever existent between these two nations, meant that whenever the Jews sustained any defeat, the Philistines rejoiced. They all heartily wished the disintegration of the Jews, and no incident could give them greater enchantment than when the Jews were reduced to the deepest misfortune and anguish. The Prophet therefore reveals the divine purpose against them as against the constant enemies of the Kingdom of God.

 

To the five verses of the text itself:

 

PHILISTINE 5 This 200-foot-long Philistine structure in Jordan dates to 1100 B.C.

This 200-foot-long Philistine structure in Jordan dates to 1100 B.C.

In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden- this vision – this oracle. (14:28)

Ahaz died 716 BC at 40 years of age.  It was six years after the fall of Samaria. Hezekiah succeeded Ahaz as king of Judah at the age of 25. Sargon II was ruling Assyria and had done since 722 BC. The Philistines, at this time were being ruled by a certain king named Hanno.

 

Whilst under the rule of Ahaz, the Philistines were continually victorious over Judah. That wicked monarch, who had forsaken Yahweh and eagerly hunted the external aid of the arm of flesh via the force and face of idolatrous Assyria, was divinely penalised for his treachery. During his reign the Philistines (2 Chronicles 28:18) had occupied those towns which Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6-7) had relieved from their occupation. Because of the death of Ahaz, however, the Philistines became still more arrogant and militarily aggressive towards Judah. They fully expected that they would be able to occupy more towns and cities, as Ahaz’s son, they thought, was a young man who had no experience in kingship or warfare.  They cockily perceived Hezekiah as being without shrewdness, authority, or wisdom.  Isaiah had words, however, that might have upset the Philistines if any of them had rallied the nerve to visit Jerusalem and hear what he had to say. But those same words were targeted to comfort, edify and inspire the new king Hezekiah and his people. The Philistines were a spent force in history’s timeline.

 

Ahaz was buried in Jerusalem but not with the other kings. (“Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king.” (2 Kings 16:20) and “Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of Jerusalem, but he was not placed in the tombs of the kings of Israel. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king.” (2 Chronicles 28:27))  The Philistines had suffered grievously at the hands of Judah in the reign of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6), and had retaliated robustly throughout the reign of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18). Isaiah warns Philistia that her rejoicing at the death of Ahaz and the advent of the young and inexperienced new king was profoundly premature and based on a gross error of judgement.  Hezekiah was not to be the insipid ruler of Judah that the Philistine people hoped for. In that respect he was not a chip of the father’s block at all. The purpose of Isaiah’s prophecy to Judah concerning the Philistines was to put faith in the heart of Judah. It was not in order to call the Philistines to repentance, since the prophecy was undoubtedly never circulated among them.  Isaiah announces their final subjugation by the power of Yahweh through the hands of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was to be a great king, and that vision is cryptically embedded in this prophecy concerning the end of the Philistine people.

 

In human terms, the dynamics of international politics in the area that plotted the Philistines’ annihilation were as follows: Shalmaneser died 722 BC just before Samaria fell. Sargon II finished the job as the new Emperor of Assyria. Having taken Samaria and exiled its people, he rushed home quickly to ensure his throne from insurgent usurpers. On the way home he even suffered a defeat in battle in 721 BC.  The nations that were servile to Assyria were set alight by encouragement that Assyria had lost a battle, and the king was insecure on his throne. If there was ever a time when some of the tiny states thought above themselves, thinking themselves ready to take on Assyria, this was the moment. While all this was known to the nations round about, in hope that Assyrian politics would keep them off their back and making them weak, the King of Hamath, Damascus, the tiny remnant that was left of Samaria and Hanno the king of Philistia formed a coalition against Sargon. To sat that this was a huge error in judgement is an understatement..

 

It was in these moments of 716 BC, while the Philistines seemed stronger than they had been for generations, that Isaiah spoke doom over them. The prophet’s words defied what empirical evidence told any political observer. “The Philistines are on the rise!” or so many saw and believed. “The Philistines were doomed!” said Isaiah.

 

PHILISTINE 6 phil60

Rejoice not thou, whole Philistia and Philistines, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. (14:29)

 

Isaiah starts by confronting the vain and groundless confidence with which the Philistines were puffed up. He stresses that the whole of Gaza is to be annihilated as did Amos, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Ezekiel and the whole of Jeremiah 47. There would not be a corner of Philistine land exempted from the stroke of Yahweh’s sword. In all its length and breadth, it would immediately and universally be visited with utter destruction. Only a handful would survive, and they would be spending the rest of their lives in deep and sorrowful mourning.

 

“The rod” that Isaiah refers to could not be referring to Ahaz because in all his battles with the Philistines he was vanquished. The book says so: (2 Chronicles 28:18). With the treaty of Philistia, Damascus and Syria (together also with Egypt some think) giving a false identity of strength over Assyria, and the death of Ahaz giving the Philistines a fabricated optimism in having  repeatedly defeated their closest neighbours, Philistia was in a state of solemn delusion. The Philistines might have had a momentary glimpse and a faulty hope of regaining the “power” days of their history…but Isaiah tells them not to get too optimistic. For the Philistines, “the only way is down!”

 

The practical reason why Isaiah addresses the prophecy to “whole Philistia,” was simply because it was made up of a number of Philistine principalities (1 Samuel 6:18). It was divided into five districts over which there were five lords, (Joshua 13:3. 1 Samuel 6:4) and just as they were all rejoicing in their late successes in Ahaz’s days, and were now in hopes of still greater success, how difficult it was for them to even conceive of how they were to suffer in the calamity hereafter threatened by several Hebrew prophets. Isaiah’s message concerned the Philistine population in its entirety. Pronouncements like this, against the Philistines, are common amongst the writing prophets:

 

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Philistine incense burners

“This is what Yahweh says; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holds the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn my hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, says Yahweh the Lord.” (Amos 1:6-8.)

 

 

“For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. Woe to the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites!  The word of the Lord is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy you, so that there shall be no inhabitant. And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon. In the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the Lord their God shall visit them, and turn around their captivity.” (Zephaniah 2:4-7.)

 

“This is what the Lord Yahweh says: Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred, therefore this is what Yahweh says; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast. I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance on them.” (Ezekiel 25:15-17)

 

“Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. A bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remains, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.” (Zechariah 9:5-7)

 

philistine 10 This nearly 4-foot-tall, two-horned altar from the site of Tell es-Safi (Gath of the Philistines) suggests the origins of the Philistines are to be sought in the Aegean world.

This nearly 4-foot-tall, two-horned altar from the site of Tell es-Safi (Gath of the Philistines) suggests the origins of the Philistines are to be sought in the Aegean world.

“The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza: This is what God says: Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is in it; the city, and them that dwell in it: then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl. At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands; because of the day that comes to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyre and Zidon every helper that remains: for Yahweh will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor. Baldness is come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley: how long will you cut yourself? O you sword of the Lord, how long will it be before you are quiet? Put up yourself into your scabbard, rest, and be still.  How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord has given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore? There has he appointed it.” (Jeremiah 47 – the entire chapter)

 

And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant. (14:30)

Isaiah sees Judah so impacted by the raids if the Philistines that he refers to the nation as “the first-born of the poor.” Judah must have, economically speaking, been in a wretched state. The prophet promises that the Lord will deliver them from misery and defeat, and will again feed and nourish them. This tells us forcibly that the Philistines were cut down and destroyed for the benefit of Judah and the people of God. The message is not to mess with God’s people, whether it be ethnic Israel, or the church of Christ. God Almighty who obliged Himself with a promise to Abraham saying “I will bless them that bless thee, and I will curse them that curse thee” is ready to act. Those who are hostile to the children of God will find that ultimately God is hostile to them. (Genesis 12:3)

 

While Isaiah promises that Judah shall be made to lie down in safety, the promise is also to kill the roots of the incredibly deeply embedded society of the Philistines. Yahweh shall slay the remnant no matter which human hand he uses. I have not a clue what the scholars mean when they tell me that “the possessive before the word “root” is emphatic.”  However I do understand that the first half of verse 30 refers to Judah, and the latter half refers to the Philistines. While the Philistines disappear because of famine, the people of Judah shall sit comfortably. Israel good and prospering. Philistines bad and dying. That is the true essence of Isaiah’s prophetic statement in these verses.

 

Having had an easy 16 years or so when fighting against King Ahaz, Isaiah warns the five Philistine lords that Hezekiah would be more terrible to them than Uzziah had ever been. Instead of rejoicing, there would be sore agonizing cries of lamentation amongst the Philistines. Their whole land, tiny though it was, would be ruined.

 

philistine 7 Dagon

Image of the Philistine deity DAGON

Howl, O gate; cry, O city; you, whole Philistia are dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed time. (14:31)

The howling of leaders everywhere shall be shocking.  The smoke from the North is the camp fires of armies coming down through Syria, undoubtedly referring to Assyria.   He threatens that there will be mourning in each of the cities, and mourning of no ordinary kind, for it will be spread through every one of the most crowded areas.

 

The Philistines may have indeed thought that they were gaining by what the Jews suffered, as, for instance, when they sustained any defeat from the Assyrians; but they found at length that they suffered along with the Jews in such defeats. The day and the time is set and divinely appointed- the prophets had said so

 

What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it. (14:32)

I see a picture here of multi-racial visits of both politicians and traders to Jerusalem. They enter the city and discuss. “Have you heard the news? What do you Jews say about the fact that the Philistines are no more?  It is as if Isaiah is asking, what shall we of Judah answer when asked about the fall of Gaza? He directs his people not to mock, or smirk and make joke of the disappeared race or their culture,no matter how cruel it was, and especially against Israel and Judah. The answer must be a solemn line of thanksgiving and praise to Yahweh. “The Lord hath founded Zion.” The destruction of the Philistines will be a singular proof of God’s compassion towards his people, that all may understand that the Lord is the guardian and protector of Judah. Their foundation does not consist of lime or stones, but of the gracious promises of Yahweh.

 

When reading the Hebrew prophets it must always be remembered that prophecy against other nations is always a moral and a spiritual issue. God’s judgement stands against the breaking of natural law. All men are conscious of their sin and evil. That the Philistines had committed deep crimes against Israel throughout the centuries was (and is) a well-known fact. But their deepest sins were directly against Yahweh Himself.

philistine 9 Two Philistine temples have been uncovered by archaeologist…Both temples share a unique     design—the roof was supported by two central pillars!

Two Philistine temples have been uncovered by archaeologist…Both temples share a unique design—the roof was supported by two central pillars!

 

104. The atmosphere of Fear in Isaiah’s day

(Thoughts extrapolated from brooding over Isaiah 14:24-27)

Assyria 3 assyrian-cavalry-from-the-reign-of-tiglath-pileser-iii-745-727-bc

Assyrian cavalry rider from the reign of Tiglath Pileser III (745-727BC)

Isaiah was like a very Godly and divinely sent character of great importance to the Israeli king’s that were contemporaneous with him and the people of Judah. Although it doesn’t seem quite correct to liken the prophet to Winston Churchill and his role in the Second World War, nevertheless Isaiah’s voice to Kings, national leaders and the general population had the same kind of rallying call. There was no “fighting the enemy on the beaches” that was required, and there was to be at a future date (701 BC to be precise) a moment that could be called Isaiah and Yahweh’s finest hour when 185,000 Assyrian soldiers perished overnight while the city of Jerusalem slept, though perhaps not in perfect peace like Isaiah did. Nevertheless Isaiah’s comprehensive body of teaching and prophetic predictions, together with his calls to repentance and his words of severe judgement and exile if Israel continued on the sinful pathway, were Churchillian in as much as it resonated as a voice with heavenly authority throughout the entire land. I feel safe in likening the situation to Churchill, simply because, in the end, the people and the later king- Manasseh – rejected Isaiah altogether once the Assyrian crisis was over, just like the British did with Churchill once the Second World War was over. Unfortunately, what the people and King Manasseh did not know that fear of Babylon was to even worse than the fear of Assyria.

 

Isaiah prophesied publicly and wrote down his burden in the contextual backdrop of an almost universal fear of the nation and Kings of Assyria.  It was year upon year with almost the entire Middle East trembling and anticipating the hateful and torturous sword of Assyria to come and do its dastardly work.  For over a seventy to eighty year period it was a case of “Assyria rules! OK!” in the most literal sense. It was OK for those with Assyrian affiliations, but it was a humiliatingly distressing scene for the rest of the Biblical world. Those who submitted to Assyria were humiliated by their “Yes sir! No Sir! Three bags full sir!” existence. Nevertheless even though kings (like Ahaz) sucked up intensely to Assyria and Tiglath Pileser III, they had the satisfaction that their cities and their people were not annihilated or exiled and extradited by the cruel and nasty Assyrian jack boot – eh – should I say “Jack-sandal?” Is there such a thing? The reader will know where I am going.

 

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It was just as it was when the entire globe was fearful of World War III when President John F Kennedy, President of the USA, told Khrushchev, who was “running” the USSR at the time, “If you are not out of Cuba by next Monday (I believe the phone call took place on a Friday) we are at war,” imagine the fear and the anxiety that gripped the world for those three or four days in October 1962, and then try to imagine living in that kind of context for a life time.  It was the hateful pressure and a fear of sudden death that lasted for 70-80 years, and not just 3 days as it did in 1962. Present Traumatic Stress Disorder was the plague of the day. There was no “Post- Assyria” for many, possibly millions. A whole generation was born into the fear of Assyria, and died with the terror of their Assyrian overlords still over their lives. I find it hard to grasp the impact of such an existence. Depression and mental illness might have been unheard of and unimagined in biblical times, yet I guarantee that if we could visit Isaiah by a Time Machine, and walk the streets of Jerusalem with him, I am sure the black dog of depression, and the roaring dragon of mental illness would have been sniffing and growling in almost every home.

 

Assyria was the biggest and cruellest “world force” ever seen up to Isaiah’s point of time in history. The cruelty and the desire to make the whole world part of the Assyrian empire was greatly intensified or slightly diluted from monarch to monarch. Some Assyrian kings were monsters that make some modern fascist dictators seem tame. None of them could be given a positive thumbs up for kindness.

 

In Isaiah’s life time there were a few Assyrian successors, just as there were a few Kings on the Davidic throne. Her is the order in which they reigned and the place in the scriptures, with a few notes about them and a brief history.

 

 

Tiglath Pileser III.

Assyria 1  Tilglath_pileser_iii

Tiglath Pileser III

He “flourished” (That’s how Britannica expresses it) as king of Assyria betwixt 745 and 727 BC. He was the mastermind and dreaded force behind the last and greatest phase of Assyrian expansion during the eighth century BC. He ground down Syria and Israel under his rule, and later (circa 728) actually merged the kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia. This was of course long before Babylon outgrew Assyria and broke the back of their power. It was “Tiggy” who introduced advanced civil, military, and political systems into the Assyrian aggressive fighting culture. Historians refer to Assyria at this time as the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  If “Tiggy” had had a mind to relate and exchange notes with some of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (a mind that he definitely did NOT have) there is the slightest chance that he might have identified with those of the northern kingdom who also manipulated popular coups. In the midst of an Assyrian civil war “Tiggy” killed all of the previous royal family; men, women and children. “Nice chap was Tiggy!   NOT! (LOL)”   He did this to ensure his position of king. He was obviously utterly ignorant of any thought of a final judgement.

 

Long since the reign of Adad-Nirari III (on the throne 810–783 BC) Assyria had been politically and militarily weak. Its northern neighbour, Urartu, dominated the states controlling its principal trade routes to the Mediterranean and to the Iranian plateau. Several sections of the Assyrian empire had ceased to pay the tribute money required by treaties. In the spring of 745 BC a rebellion against the weak king Ashur-Nirari V, a son of Adad-nirari III, brought about an Assyrian civil war from which emerged a new ruler: it was our “friend” “Tiggy.” This new ruler assumed the throne name of “Tiglath-Pileser” (Surely no self-respecting mother would dare to curse her child with that name!?) in what was a deliberate reference to an illustrious forebear, Tiglath-Pileser I (1115– circa 1077 BC).  Assyria’s empire expanded meteorically during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III who annexed regions to the west of the Euphrates River and to the east.

 

Artists impression of Assyrian soldiers extolling Tiglath Pileser III

Artists impression of Assyrian soldiers extolling Tiglath Pileser III

His victories, particularly in the year of 741BC, were far-reaching, as noted in the Bible when Sennacharib in 701 BC sent a messenger to address Hezekiah and said:

 

“Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, (He was referring to Tiglath Pileser with his remarks) destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?” (Isaiah 37:11-13).

 

Tiglath Pileser III stemmed the barbarian pressures from the north that, after his reign, were to threaten civilizations throughout the area.

 

“Tiggy’s” soldiering skill is best seen in his handling of affairs in Syria and Palestine. This is where the biblical narrative tells the story that involves him. From an independent military headquarters he bypassed the ringleader of those that had rebelled against Assyria at Damascus, defeated most coastal cities, and then cut off supplies of timber from Egypt. He then sent a force to Ashkelon and Gaza. In 734 the border with Egypt was sealed. The tribes of Ammon, Edom, and Moab, who along with with Israel, had attacked Ahaz of Judah. Ahaz had, because of his cowardice and lack of faith, quite literally asked to be a “vassal” of Assyria, and because of his pleas for Assyrian help the smaller nations mentioned now had to pay tribute money. His insipid surrender to Assyria was not merely political, but included an attempt to absorb the very idolatrous religious culture of Tiglath Pileser’s empire. This is seen in two jaw dropping biblical statements:

aaaSo Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath Pileser king of Assyria, saying, I am your servant and your son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, who have risen up against me. (2 Kings 16:7)

 

And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath Pileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof. (2 Kings 16:10)

 

If he was aware of it King David, as the saying goes, would have “shivered in his grave.”

 

Over the next two years Tiglath-Pileser systematically broke the power of Damascus. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was made subject through the assassination of Pekah and his replacement by a pro-Assyrian vassal: Hoshea. Galilee was made part of an adjacent province, i.e. separate from Israel. This is recorded in scripture:

 

In the days of Pekah king of Israel Tiglath Pileser king of Assyria, came and took Ijon, and Abel beth maachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them away captive to Assyria. (2 Kings 15:29)

 

Tiglath Pileser sensed that rebels were encouraged into outright rebellion by the current Babylonian king at that time who, in 734, had seized the throne. Using supreme and consummate diplomacy, Tiglath-Pileser sowed discord among the other Aramaean tribes involved, one of whose chiefs he won over completely to support him. His strategy paid off. He was then allowed to mobilise the Assyrian army through areas held by loyal governors and vassals east of the Tigris. He split his army into two separate forces. One force seized Babylon and the other captured the rebel stronghold of another hotbed of rebellion called Sapia.

 

It proved to be the peak of his achievement, one that is not commonly known of, that in 729–728 Tiglath-Pileser himself also seized the crown of Babylon using his personal (or perhaps Babylonian) name of Pul. The name Pul is used in scripture as well as the name of Tiglath Pileser, as in the following:

 

Later on, King Pul of Aram attacked the land, and Menahem paid Pul 1,000 silver talents so Pul would join forces with Menahem to secure his hold on the kingdom. (2 Kings 15:19) Pul is quite definitely Tiglath Pileser.

 

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Please click on chart to see clearly the supposed Family Tree of Tiglath Pileser III

So the God of Israel incited King Pul of Assyria (also known as King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria), who took them prisoner and brought the descendants of Reuben, the descendants of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to Halah, Habor, Hara, and to the Gozan River, where they remain to this day. (1 Chronicles 5:26).

 

Historians tell us that even though the Assyrian army of the generation contemporary with Isaiah was already the greatest fighting machine the world had ever known up to that point of time, before he took the throne, Tiglath Pileser III intensified the Assyrian military training and efficiency by making his entire army a professional standing force of almost impregnable might and fighting skill. This was unique among the nations. Cruelty and downright inhuman hatred was a valid means of promotion within the Assyrian mentality.  It is also stated by historians how he developed a philosophy of population transfer. Deportations were intended to break the spirits of defeated former foes of Assyria. During the days when Isaiah was prophesying to Judah and Israel, Tiglath Pileser was a fear inspiring spectre in the subconscious of every monarch and national leader in the Middle Eastern cosmos. It is calculated and assumed that Uzziah died 740 BC. So we know for certain that Isaiah began his ministry as a prophet in the days of the man I personally refer to as “Terrible Tiggy.” I am glad I never met this tyrant who rose to power and built the Assyrian empire into the feared force that we now remember it as.

 

He seems to have died peacefully of old age and was succeeded by his son and chosen heir, Shalmaneser V.

 

Assyria 5 200px-Shalmaneser_V

Shalmaneser V. A stamped seal created in his lifetime.

Shalmaneser V.

This man ruled Assyria for five years i.e.727-722 BC. The name given him by his parents was “Ululayu.”  Following the tradition of all Assyrian kings, he invented a chosen name for himself once he was on the throne. Shalmaneser, I believe, is interpreted as “worshipper of fire.” It was Shalmaneser who subjugated the Northern Kingdom of Israel directing a violently punitive campaign to quell the rebellion of Israel’s king Hoshea:

 

“King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid tribute to him.” (2 Kings 17:3)

Shalmaneser is mentioned in the Bible, attributing to him the final conquest of Samaria, and the deportation and exile of the population comprising ten tribes of the Israelites.

 

Assyria 6 sh5-til-barsip-large

Shalmaneser V enthroned.

According to 2 Kings 17and18, Shalmaneser accused Hoshea, King of Israel, of colluding against him by sending messages to the Egyptian Pharaoh Osorkon IV, and so he came to Israel and captured him. Shalmaneser initiated the siege of Samaria in 725 BC.

“In the fourth year of King Hezekiah’s reign (that is, during the seventh year of Elah’s son Hoshea’s reign as king of Israel), King Shalmaneser from Assyria invaded Samaria and besieged it.” (2 Kings 18:9)

 

For three years he laid siege until “he broke the resistance of Samaria” (That is the phrase used in one Assyrian note). There is reason to believe that, as the siege of Samaria was proceeding, Shalmaneser retired to Nineveh and died, for, when the city was taken in 722 B.C, it is Sargon who claims, in his copious annals, to have captured it and carried its inhabitants into captivity. It is just possible that Shalman (Hosea 10:14) is a contraction for Shalmaneser, but the identity of Shalman and of Beth-arbel named in the same passage is not unanimously agreed on amongst academics.  (2 Kings 17:4-6; 18:9-11)

 

Assyria 7 lawrencesamaria

It was Shalmaneser that started the three year siege that led to the fall of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom.

Literally there are no proper in depth historical records of Shalmaneser V, just as it was with the king immediately prior to Tiglath Pileser III. None of his royal inscriptions, if indeed he composed any, have survived, with the result that knowledge of the period is indirect. However the list of Babylonian kings where he ruled under the Chaldean name of Ululai, links him with Tiglath-Pileser III, whose son he may have been.

 

His reign was short, and, because there are no annals, we have only the accounts contained in 2 Kings for his history.

 

 

 

Assyria 8 fall-of-samaria

It was Sargon II that claimed credit for the victory when Samaria finally fell.

Sargon II.

Sargon (meaning: True King, or Legitimate King) reigned 722 – 705 BC and was, along with Tiglath Pileser III, one of Assyria’s greatest kings during this, the last full century of its history. Sargon is the Hebrew rendering of Assyrian Sharrukin, a throne name translated as “the king is legitimate.” The name was undoubtedly chosen in reminiscence of two former kings of Assyria, particularly in commemoration of Sargon of Akkad who reigned 2300 BC. He extended and consolidated the conquests of his “presumed” father, Tiglath-Pileser III.  The experts are neither unanimous nor clear as to whether he was the son of Tiglath Pileser III or a usurper unrelated to the royal family. In his inscriptions, he styles himself as “a new man,” rarely referring to his predecessors.

 

It was truly Sargon who, after taking the Assyrian throne, completed Shalmaneser’s destructive siege of Samaria and carried away most of the people beyond the Euphrates, exiles that became known as “the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.”

 

Sargon’s ancestry is partly veiled in mystery. He was probably a younger son of Tiglath-Pileser III and consequently a brother of his predecessor Shalmaneser V, who may conceivably have died ignominiously or may have been deposed. It was for Sargon to resume the conquests and to improve the administration of the empire that his father had begun to assemble.

 

Assyria 9 Ruins_of_Samaria

The ruins of fallen Samaria.

Upon his accession to the throne, he was faced immediately with major problems: (a) dealing with the Chaldean and Aramaean chieftainships in the southern parts of Babylonia, (b) with the kingdom of Urartu and the peoples to the north in the Armenian highlands, and (c) with Syria Philistia and Judah.

 

In the year that the supreme commander, sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod, attacked it, and captured it. (Isaiah 20:1)

 

By and large, these were the conquests made by Tiglath-Pileser III. Sargon’s problem was not only to maintain the status quo but to make further conquests to “prove the might of the god Ashur,” the national god of the Assyrian empire.

 

Assyria 15Sargon-II

I do not know where the facial features or dress came from but this is supposedly Sargon II. Impressive art. He was a frightening reality.

When Sargon succeeded to the Assyrian throne, Merodach-Baladan (of note in the Old Testament), a dissident chief – cum – king of the Babylonian and Chaldean tribes in the marshes of southern Babylonia, committed the description of his victory over the invading Assyrian armies (720 BC) to writing on a clay cylinder, where it was placed in a public and often read site. The presence of this record obviously did not suit Sargon. After having discharged other commitments, he uncovered Merodach-Baladan’s record and removed it to his own residence, substituting what has been described as an “improved” version that was more to his liking.

 

“At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah, when he heard he had been sick and had survived.” (Isaiah 39:1)

 

The extant texts reveal little about Sargon himself. With few exceptions, ancient Mesopotamian rulers have left no documents from which to write an actual biography. No personal documents have survived from Sargon’s reign

 

Assyria 17 3039274118_a9418cfd32

An astonishing record of Sargon’s eighth campaign (714 BC) in the form of a letter to the god Ashur has been recovered. According to this letter, Sargon led the Assyrian armies from his residence, into the areas around modern Iraqi Kurdistan and into the highlands of the Zagros mountain range beyond. His purpose was to come to the aid of allies of the Assyrian realm who were threatened by a certain Rusa I, a king of Urartu and a bitter enemy of Assyria. During the progress of this campaign, the author of the account visualized, or anticipated, the reactions of his adversary as, from a mountain, he watched the approach of the Assyrian armies. The passage, like many others in this unique text, constitutes an ingenious stylistic device unparalleled in Assyrian historical literature. The phraseology utilised by the writer is original by Mesopotamian principles as they are known today: resourceful, creative, testifying to a fertile mind, and clearly deviating from the conventional inanities that mostly characterize the standard accounts of Assyrian kings. Whether or not Sargon himself is responsible for the wording of this narrative, it is to his credit that an account of this nature emerged “on his watch,” with his approval and endorsement. Sargon is assumed to have died in battle in 705 after a seventeen year reign, in 705 BC.

 

 

Sennacharib.Assyria 25 Sennacherib profile

 

As the crown prince, Sennacherib was placed in charge of the Assyrian Empire while his father, Sargon II, was on military campaigns. He reigned from 705-681 BC. Sennacherib figures prominently in the Old Testament. Believe it or not, all the academics tell us that his name means: “The god Sinn has replaced the brothers.”  Mmmm! Full marks for originality anyway. It is generally believed that Isaiah died prior to Sennacharib’s demise, based on silence concerning Isaiah’s death.

 

Unlike his predecessors, Sennacherib’s reign was not so much embedded in conquering the world and making war but was creative and artistic and became known for architectural renovations, constructions and expansions. After the death of his father Sargon, Sennacherib encountered numerous problems in establishing his power and faced threats to his domain. However, he was able to overcome these power struggles and ultimately carry out his building projects. During his reign, he moved the empire’s capital to Nineveh which he reconstructed in unparalleled splendour building a new palace, extending and beautifying the city, and erecting inner and outer city walls that still stand today. It is a strange phenomenon that Sennacherib not only moved away and vacated the capital city that his father built, but that he does nor mention him in any official inscription during his entire reign either. Perhaps Sargon’s shadow was too much for Sennacharib to handle.

 

Assyria 26 sennacherib-khorsabadAfter his biding projects, Sennacherib’s political priority was mainly preoccupied with trying to resolve the situation in Babylon, a region that had only recently been retaken by his father. Sennacherib’s main opponent was the biblically known Merodach-Baladan who was supported by the troops of Elam. From 703-689 BC Sennacherib fought to control south Mesopotamia until finally, after a fifteen-month siege, the city of Babylon was captured and sacked.

 

In 701 BC Sennacherib sacked the city of Lachish in Judah but failed to take the capital Jerusalem. The details of that story were considered so wonderful that it is duplicated twice over in the Bible.

 

In 701 BC, a rebellion backed by Egypt and Babylon broke out in Judah, led by King Hezekiah. In response Sennacherib sacked a number of cities in Judah. He laid siege to Jerusalem, but soon returned to Nineveh, with Jerusalem not having been sacked, in order to put down an attempted coup. This event was recorded by Sennacherib himself, Herodotus, Josephus and by several Biblical writers. According to the Bible, Sennacherib also withdrew because the “angel of Yahweh went out and put to death 185,000 in the Assyrian camp” (2 Kings 19:35).

 

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, besieging Jerusalem

Artiat’s impression of Sennacharib surrounding Jerusalem in 701 BC.

“Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape. Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms, and he sent out to me the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem with 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver, and diverse treasures, a rich and immense booty… All these things were brought to me at Nineveh, the seat of my government.”

 

II Kings 18-19 (and parallel passage II Chronicles 32:1-23) details Sennacherib’s attack on Judah and its capital Jerusalem. Hezekiah had rebelled against the Assyrians, so they had captured all of the towns in Judah. Hezekiah realized his error and sent great tribute to Sennacherib. This part of the story is clearly reported as above in Sennacharib’s own record.

 

Assyria 29 Sennachariba

Sennacharib

The Assyrian king, however, misses out a critical extra part of how the story ended. The Assyrians still marched toward Jerusalem even though Hezekiah had paid vassal money. Sennacherib sent his supreme commander with an army to besiege Jerusalem while he himself went off to fight Egypt. The supreme commander met with Hezekiah’s officials and threatened them to surrender; while hurling insults, so the people of the city could hear, blaspheming Judah and particularly Yahweh, the God of Israel.

 

When the King Hezekiah heard of this, he tore his clothes (as was the custom of the day for displaying deep anguish) and prayed to God in the Temple. Isaiah the prophet told the king that God would take care of the whole matter and that the enemy would return to his own lands. That night, the Angel of Yahweh killed 185,000 Assyrian troops. Jewish tradition maintains that the angel Gabriel was the angel sent to destroy the Assyrian troops, and that the destruction occurred on Passover night. Sennacherib returned to Nineveh in disgrace. Some years later, while Sennacherib was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, two of his sons killed him and fled to Armenia.

 

Here is every verse of scripture that refers to Sennacharib. For those who trust God, it is exciting reading beyond words.

 

Assyria 27 The_Death_of_Sennacherib_-_Google_Art_Project

Ancient art depicting the death of Sennacharib. His own sons killing him while he prays to his idols. Quite shocking really.

During the fourteenth year of the reign of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria approached all of the walled cities of Judah and seized them. (2 Kings 18:13 also Isaiah 36:1)

 

After all of these acts of faithfulness occurred, King Sennacherib of Assyria came, invaded Judah, and laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself.  As soon as Hezekiah learned that Sennacherib had arrived and had determined to attack Jerusalem, (2 Chronicles 32:1-2)

 

Assyria 30 sennacherib palace and throne room

Sennacharib’s palace and throne room

After this, King Sennacherib of Assyria sent his messengers to Jerusalem while he was in the middle of a vigorous attack on Lachish. They delivered this message to King Hezekiah of Judah and to all the people of Judah who had gathered in Jerusalem: This is what King Sennacherib of Assyria says: ‘What are you leaning on that makes you stay behind while Jerusalem comes under siege? (2 Chronicles 32:9-10)

 

King Sennacherib’s spokesmen said even worse things against the Lord God and against his servant Hezekiah. Sennacherib also wrote letters like this that insulted and slandered the Lord God of Israel: “Just as the gods of the nations in other lands haven’t delivered their people from my control, so also the god of Hezekiah won’t deliver his people from me!”  (2 Chronicles 32: 16-17)

 

Meanwhile, King Hezekiah and Amoz’s son Isaiah the prophet were praying about this and crying out to heaven. (2 Chronicles 32:20)

 

Assyria 31 Prism Sennacherib -6

Sennacharib’s prismatic Stele

Extend your ear, Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, Lord, and look! Listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to mock the living God. (2 Kings 19:16 and Isaiah 37:17)

 

Then Amoz’s son Isaiah sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says, to whom you prayed concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria.   (2 Kings 19:20 and Isaiah 37:21)

 

Now King Sennacherib had received this report concerning King Tirhakah of Cush: “He has marched out to fight against you.” When he heard it, he returned and sent messengers to Hezekiah:  (Isaiah 37:9)

 

That’s how the Lord delivered Hezekiah, as well as those who lived in Jerusalem, from Assyria’s King Sennacherib and all his forces, and provided for all of their needs.  (2 Chronicles 32:22)

 

So Rab-shakeh returned and found the king of Assyria at war with Libnah, because Rab-shakeh had heard that the king had left Lachish. (2 Kings 19:8 and Isaiah 37:8)

 

After this, the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. When Hezekiah’s army awakened in the morning—there were all the dead bodies!  (Isaiah 37:36)  

 

As a result, King Sennacherib of Assyria left and returned to Nineveh where he lived. (2 Kings 19:36 and Isaiah 37:37)

 

Later on, as he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with a sword and fled into the territory of Ararat. Then Sennacherib’s son Esarhaddon became king in his place. (2 Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 37:38)

Assyria 99 Samaria

Ruins of Samaria with what I think are Photoshopped figures. I may be wrong.

 

103. Why should Christians read the Old Testament Prophets?

Just a Brief Reality Check concerning the Relevance of the Old Testament Prophets to Christianity

 

Y1I have been asked by some why I am writing a long haul through Isaiah and not one of the New Testament Epistles or gospels. “Isaiah is big in Judaism!” I have been corrected. “He wasn’t even a Christian!” and other such remarks. Without remarking on what I thought of the intelligence or lack of insight that the questioners possessed in order to ask such questions, their query made me think.

 

So today: “Three reasons (among many) why Christians should get stuck into the Old Testament Prophets.”

 

  1. The Prophets saw Christ in each stage of His Revelation to Man.

Isaiah foresaw the virgin birth of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14). He predicted that Messiah would be preceded by a messenger (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9). He said that there would be a human son of Israel (i.e. Unto us a son is born”) who would be sincerely called God (Isaiah 9:6-7), and that adventuring into the miraculous would be His trade mark and way of life (Isaiah 35:4-6). Isaiah saw that the Messiah would be rejected (Isaiah 53:1-3), and silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7), and then He would be spat upon and beaten (Isaiah 50:6). He saw clearly that Messiah, the servant of Yahweh would die for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6) being “numbered with the transgressors,” i.e. His crucifixion would be alongside other malefactors (Isaiah 53:12). The prophet the  saw deeply that He would die and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9). He saw that God’s salvation would reach the ends of the earth, meaning that the gentiles would own Yahweh in a deeper way, even, that ethnic Israel were supposed to have known Him (Isaiah 49:6). He also prophesied that God will never forget the children of Israel (Isaiah 49:13-17).

 

The major issue in these surface remarks of what we know as biblical history of the New Testament 700 years into the future, is that he seems to know the mechanics, truths and spiritual dynamics of the mind of Christ and His activities. Most astonishingly Isaiah knew how the Holy Spirit would be the dynamic of Messiah’s words, actions and sinlessness.

 

Y2As well as delving into the deep ocean of Messiah and His first coming (remembering that there is no evidence that Isaiah or any of the writing prophets actually knew there would be a Second Coming) Isaiah necessarily prophesied of the destiny of every nation state that was in existence around the Middle East in his day. His insight and accuracy on all these various people groups would of course lead to total confidence concerning his prophetic messages on things like the future Messiah. Isaiah predicted that Babylon, as a nation and empire would be overthrown, permanently, and he saw that before it had even risen to power (Isaiah 13:19). That prophecy presupposed that Assyria would lose all power and even their national profile amongst the nations. Isaiah saw that the geographic city of Babylon would be reduced to being a swamp (Isaiah 14:23).  Still on the fall of Babylon, Isaiah saw that a king named Cyrus would have the gates opened up for him (Isaiah 45:1). He spoke of things to come re Assyria (Isaiah 14:24-27), Philistia (That was virtually just Gaza as we know it today) (Isaiah 14:28-32), Moab and its end (Isaiah 15 – 16), Damascus and its various rises and falls in the future (Isaiah 17-18), Egypt (Isaiah 19-20), Edom (Isaiah 21:11-12), Arabia (Isaiah 21:13-17), Tyre (Isaiah 23) and even the entire world was taken stock of in his prophetic glasses (Isaiah 24 – 27 and Isaiah 34-35).  It would, of course been something of an anomaly if he hadn’t also had incredible predictions about the future of both Israel (Isaiah 28 – 33) and Jerusalem (Isaiah 22).

 

The significance of these sections of scripture are profound in their revelation of the spiritual life and the role that the Holy Spirit plays in a believer’s experience. The revelation of the fact that God exists in the form of three persons is conceivably the peak of his grasp of the realm of the spirit, leaving us with the clear and unarguable statement of Isaiah 48:16, where clearly Yahweh and His Spirit send Messiah on His earthly mission.

 

Isaiah’s intense portraits of the nature, the character, the mind and the thoughts of Messiah are wonderfully educational to the human spirit. Some of his snapshots of Christ are the cornerstones of the whole of biblical revelation. The Deity of Christ. The personality of the Holy Spirit. The universal call of the gospel to the entire gentile world and other rocks of faith are laid perfectly in place by the most regal of all the prophets.  Every Christian should spend time getting to grips with all the prophets.

 

The New Testament apostles had no other scriptures apart from the Old Testament. Of the Old Testament quotes in the New, the majority are Psalms and the prophets. Isaiah is quoted more than any other prophet throughout the 27 books of the New Testament. We thank God for both Testaments, and it would be evil to encourage one before the other, yet I feel strongly that ignorance of the Old Testament prophets leads to weakness in the faith of Christians.  The prophets were at the rock face of faith meeting unbelief, spirit clashing with carnality, Godly reasoning against irrational mob rule and godless reasoning. God help us if we miss the treasures of the scrolls of the prophets.

 

 

  1. The prophets teach us God’s real view of the law.

Y3Don’t mess with this particularly vital issue because it is the very best reason why Christians should meditate and get to grips with all the writing prophets. I have thoughts about this that I have not read anywhere else, subsequently I have to warn you that this is pure “Lannonism” so you can take it or leave it. My convictions are as follows:

 

Gentile Christians, with no Judaist experience of how they see the law, generally have a one track view of “the Law” and its definition. They read Paul in the New Testament and just run with his rationale.  Don’t get me wrong, I also run and accept the genius and inspiration of the Pauline epistles more strongly than most. But I feel strongly that something is missing when we push Paul’s arguments about the law. Let me explain.

 

By necessity I am talking of my own experience generally concerning Western Christianity, and particularly the British kind. In his epistles Paul was reasoning against the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and other Jewish religious people who had become Christians and were under the false assumption that faith in Christ was merely an addition to their rules, regulations and deep religiosity in their own set of practices. Although each group had their own approach and interpretations of the scriptures, the keeping of the law was the main plank by which they “earned a place in heaven”- or so they believed. Jesus, to put it gently, spoke against that mindset, as well as did the apostolic preachers. But when Jewish worshippers became Christians, they merely added Christ to their already entrenched ideas. This left Paul, as the apostle to the gentiles the heavy duty task of teaching Jewish Christians how the law was now obsolete because Christ had come.

 

Every single kind of sacrifice that Moses prescribed, every single type of offering that he included in the Levitical system, every single task that the priests were instructed to practice were merely tuition points to what was going to happen when Christ came. Christ was the High Priest, the sacrifice, and the offerer, Calvary was the altar, the publicly unseen parts of the Tabernacle was a physical rehearsal of Christ’s sacrifice being presented and accepted in heaven. After Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and the birth of the church, the entire Levitical system was abolished – yes! – I said abolished and made obsolete. The Law was a tutor to bring us to and introduce us to Christ Himself. Having done its work and fulfilled its purpose, it serves only as doctrinal and devotional teachings as to what Christ has done for us. That is all it was! That is all it is!

Y4

The Law is not of faith (Galatians 3:27), but Salvation is by faith in what Christ has accomplished (Romans 5:1). The practice of the Law was perceived by the Jews of Paul’s day as the vital and absolute means of pleasing God. But that was not true in Paul’s day, in the days of Christ’s flesh, or even in the days of Moses whose name is given to the Levitical system. Nobody ever was converted, made righteous or sanctified by the keeping of the law. Moses was a man of faith. Joshua was a man of faith. Faith was the wallpaper and backdrop that was supposed to sustain the entire Levitical system. Abel’s offering was accepted because of his faith. Enoch walked with God because of his faith. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord by his faith. Abraham left Ur and was heir to the world because of his faith, and we go on declaring that Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents and Moses himself all walked by faith in God and were justified by God because of their faith. There was no law in the lives of all these biblical characters until Moses went up the smoking fireball that was Sinai, and in the midst of the trumpets, the noise, and the quaking came down again six weeks later with two slabs of stone in his hands.

 

The practice and attempt to keep the Law without faith was a monstrous error in the sight of God and was never in His mind. The Law was instituted as a temporary tutor until faith came, meaning, the pure Gospel. This meant that the Jews would, of course, have been correct to keep the Law while walking in faith until Messiah came.

 

When mingled, mixed and mashed with faith the practice of the law kept the Jewish people looking at God and looking for God. Yet, once the eyes were taken off God, and the keeping of the Law became the obsessive “means to God” without faith, the nation’s lack of spirituality and faith led to evil of an incalculable measure.

 

Y5Imagine, therefore, the two Jewish nation’s pathetically attempting to keep some exterior practice of the law while turning anti –Yahweh in their hearts, indulging in all sorts of occult practice, and then crying out to God that He was not fair for bringing large swathes of social catastrophes upon them while they were immersed in idolatry, unbelief and general social debauchery.

 

So what did God do? He sent in the prophets. But before he sent them, he engrafted into each of them the clearest of clear views concerning faith and life. The Old Testament prophets saw the law and the life of faith just as God saw it. Each of the Old Testament prophets had a full and deep understanding of Abrahamic faith – which is of course, New Testament faith’s divinely appointed model and prototype.

 

So we have the prophets talking so strongly against the practice of the Mosaic Law without faith in the heart. They denounce the practice by oftentimes saying that they did not even need the law and the sacrificial system. The “downers” on such faithless following of Moses was perceived by many as utter blasphemy. That is why the prophets were martyred. And the words Jesus used suggest that every single one of them suffered martyrdom

 

For all the rationale of what is above, I believe that the most important reason why we should have the Old Testament prophets and their message engrafted into the Christian’s psyche is because they understood better than most Christians today, who have the full canon of scripture on their phones, in their computers and visualised on their DVD’s, as well as various different translations on their bookshelves, the full gospel. They knew the depth of the fight between flesh and Spirit, between law and grace, between truth and error, between spiritual syncretism and pure Yahwehism. The Old Testament Hebrew prophets are the greatest and most varied array of human characters that knew God solidly and with a remarkable depth of intimacy. They were strong and powerful in the Holy Spirit. They experienced the Holy Spirit within them and upon them. They loved not their lives unto the death and their contribution to the canon of scripture reveals the greatness in the inspiration of Yahweh in the human heart when that heart is totally submitted to the wooing of the Spirit.

 

Enough on this one. We need to be taught by the likes of the Hebrew Old Testament prophets, and that’s the end of it.

 

  1. The Prophets saw our Future

The prophets taught about Christ’s two advents. They do not seem to have known that there was a first and a second advent, but we know after the first advent that there was and still is a huge swathe of prophetic writings that show Christ on the throne, on planet earth, ruling from Jerusalem (or perhaps above Jerusalem?) and the resurrected redeemed (as well as the non-resurrected redeemed that were alive at His Second Advent) flocking to Jerusalem to sit at His feet, being hosted by redeemed and resurrected Israelis into the nation State of Israel in order to sit at the feel of the living, physically present Messiah. If it has not already happened, it is still to come. Therefore it is part and parcel of the hope and faith of the Christian.

Y6

 

102.Assyria who trampled down Israel and Judah so profoundly will be broken on Judah’s land(Isaiah 14:24-27)

Assyria 2Isaiah 14:24-27

John Calvin had a theory about Isaiah.

Yes! I am referring to the character whose brainchild was the cryptic theological TULIP conundrum (at least it is a conundrum to many. The TULIP signature however only works in the English language, so we are not quite correct to put the academic source of the anagram upon his shoulders, merely the contents of the significance of the letters.). I am referring to the man who, within the church of Christ, has a section that refers to itself as an “ism” claiming to believe exactly as Mr Calvin did.

The theory I refer to must be one of the least academically arrived at perspectives he ever promulgated.  It is one of those theories that I would absolutely love to be the exact truth, but in the same breath have to concede that his biblical “proof” for the idea is a slim one. Considering the genius of the man and his remarkably sharp system of biblical logic (whether you agree with him or not one has to concede his total genius), it is almost an illogical suggestion to suggest.

 

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Nineveh. Shamash Gate. Main entry seen from the East. Stone wall is reconstructed. April 1990.

Here is the theory. If Habakkuk 2:2 states “And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it,” where the meaning is clearly the thought of the prophet writing down the prophecies he has been divinely given on a tablet that is undoubtedly inferred to be put on public view so that people who read it and believe it can “run” their lives in the faith engendered by his prophecies. And if Isaiah 8:1 wrote “Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz,’” Calvin came to a conclusion.

 

It seems plain to him that Isaiah and some of the other prophets would write down the words that God gave them and hand them to the appropriate Levitical family who were in charge of the Temple gates and doors, and the prophetic words would be nailed to the door for a certain length of time until it had been read by the majority of Temple worshippers. After the time of display had run its course, the Levitical scribes and/or filing clerks would keep the prophetic messages of each individual in a scroll that would be kept in the Temple archives.

 

Hmm! Fantastic idea. If it was true it would solve a lot of questions about how the prophetic scriptures were kept in integrity. Fabulous! Wonderful idea Mr Calvin, sir!  I hope it’s true. I hold on to your theory with very loose hands, and have a thought that sowers the taste of his idea.

 

Assyria 1Without any shadow of a doubt, whether it was done with an audience watching, or in the middle of the night when nobody knew what was happening, when Martin Luther nailed his 96 points to the door of Wittenburg Cathedral in Germany, it was (and still is) one of the most dramatic, powerful, significant, culture changing acts since the canon of scripture was completed. The mental picture Luther’s act generates is powerful. Calvin, who obviously believed that the inspired Hebrew prophets were even more important and inspired than Luther’s action, nevertheless had the template in his mind’s eye of Luther when he read what Habakkuk and Isaiah said in Habakkuk 2:2 and Isaiah 8:1.

 

I jumped in today with Calvin’s opinion in order to get my mind around the next three verses of Isaiah 14 (verses 24-27). Isaiah wrote nearly two chapters of scripture (not that Isaiah wrote with chapters or verses of course) on the rise and fall of Babylon, yet only four verses here concerning Assyria.

 

I know the higher critics and some sceptical academics would like to move Isaiah’s passages and blocks of thought  all over the place declaring that this passage should be later, and the next one should be earlier in the body of work we refer to as “The book of Isaiah,” but I have an answer to their take on inspired scripture.

 

Jesus said, when talking of the manner in which the Holy Spirit works in the lives of people, that “the wind blows where it lists.” One cannot intelligently dictate what, where or how the Holy Spirit breathes on people. We do not know the why and wherefores of how the wind changes, but when it does we receive its gusts as it blows. Christ made the point to Nicodemus that “so it is” with things of the Spirit. (As a “by the way,” Assyria is mentioned later by Isaiah in chapters 19, 20, 23, 27, 30 as well as the classic account of 701 BC. In chapters 36 and 37).

 

With the usual prophetic succinctness Isaiah says so much with so few words.

 

The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24. New English Version)

 

Assyria 6Here, again, we have the prophetic declaration that God Himself makes an oath. What is about to be spoken is not something that can be changed, no, not even by repentance. The passage is referring to Assyria. God is, via his prophet, making a pronouncement that simply will not and cannot be altered. God, making oaths is a fearful thing, or a blessed thing depending on the nature of the oaths He makes, and it is on issues that simply cannot be changed. (See Isaiah 62:8. Amos 4:2. Amos 8:7. Jeremiah 51:14.)

 

 

“… that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.” (Isaiah 14:25. New English Version)

 

Assyria 7Note that Isaiah does NOT say that Judah shall fight and win against Assyria. What he says it that the catalysts that shall cause their downfall shall take place on the soil of the Promised Land. There is an incredible irony in this, inasmuch as Assyria soldiers and kings repeatedly trampled through Israel and Judah in order to subdue Egypt, Philistia and the other nations that were immediate neighbours to the Hebrew land. The amazing account of when the Angel of the Lord slew 185,000 soldiers in one night while they were encamped at the gates of Jerusalem was obviously part and parcel of the fulfillment of this prophecy but there was indeed much more to its consummation. The breaking of the power of Assyria was to lift the shouldered burdens of many a nation. The cruel back breaking fielty payments that were demanded by Assyria over all its subject nation states was to cease at the collapse of Assyrian power. That breaking of Assyrian arrogance was to take place in the nation state that arguably suffered more than any other at the hands of Assyria.

 

“This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.  (Isaiah 14:26 New English Version)

 

Wow! Isaiah is letting the guts of his revelation of God’s character and purpose gush out. This is huge. This is a statement that includes you and I and the nations we are part of today in the twenty first century. The point that Isaiah is making is that Yahweh is, even though He is referred to as “The God of Israel,” He is also the God and Lord of the whole earth.

 

Because, as nations go, Judah was tiny, and because as political influence goes, Judah was almost non-existent apart from its geographical location, the gentile nations were in deep and profound error to imagine that the God that they worshipped would be as insipid as they were at the moment of time that Isaiah was strutting his stuff.

 

God’s judgement and rule, His purposes and judgements are just the same today as they were in Isaiah’s day. He is the judge of all the earth. His hand was – and is – not just stretched out over Israel as if He has no power to extend Himself further. This hand that is stretched over Israel, and which is dealing with Assyria on Israel’s behalf, is the same hand that is stretched over all the nations. Earth – behold the glory and power of God.

 

 

For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14:27 New English Version)

 

Assyria4Let the world and its cynics speak as they wish. Let them blaspheme the name of Yahweh and His Messiah as is their want. God’s plans and purposes for Assyria and the motivation and criteria of judgement that God has measured them by is the same criteria today. Yahweh is the Lord of history. Isaiah declares it to be so in these verses.

 

God has a blessed purpose for Israel. There are constants in His plans. Today the church of Jesus Christ has people from every nation, tribe and tongue. In the “regeneration” as Jesus referred to it, Israel will be settled in the Land and all the nations of the earth will be hosted by Israel when they pilgrimage to sit at the feet of the physically present Messiah. As the off shoot of the progress of His plan, empires will wax and wane, rise and fall, attack and then retreat – but all will take place by Yahweh’s purpose and plan. “Who will turn it back?” Isaiah asks. It is truly a rhetorical statement with the acknowledgement that no man can stand against His majesty and power.

 

If we absorb what is said in this section of Isaiah’s vision, before and immediately after these verses we understand that this brief prophetic word was “published” while Assyria was still on the military “rise.”

 

These words would have brought a sigh of relief to Judah and all its immediate neighbours. No false comfort here. A profound solid assurance of Yahweh’s dealings in the world. All you nations surrounding Israel, put up with your sufferings a brief while longer. Assyria is going to fall, and fall hard.

Samsung

101. The Downfall of Babylon was Prophetically Seen by more than those that prophetically saw it rise

P.S:

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Artists impression of Cyrus’s troops entering Babylon

Just a post script to our last bit of sharing about biblical prophecy and the downfall of Babylon. I was in a state of awe, and attempting to rouse my readers to enter into the same degree of “Wow Factor Appreciation” at the fact that Isaiah and Micah saw Babylon’s rise and fall when the Babylonians were still “neighbour friendly” and comparatively peaceful and small. A prophetic view that anticipates over a century of history is astonishing as a stand-alone fact (bypassing the fact that that both Isaiah and Micah saw in advance the birth and birthplace of Christ 700 plus years in advance before it occurred, with Isaiah even seeing the actual locations where He would minister, how He would die and even the resurrection, as well as His Second Advent which could take place before you have finished reading this article or even in another thousand years’ time). I don’t want any first time Bible readers out there to be thinking that it was only Isaiah and Micah that had the prophetic goods in this department, for that would not be true. There were those prophets who saw ahead in an equally miraculous manner the fall of Babylon and they saw it while Babylon had burgeoned – and was still burgeoning into a monster Empire of horror and cruelty. It may be argued that the Babylonian empire was not quite as inhumane or torturous as the Assyrians – but they were not exactly pacifists or non-violent by any means. (That’s supposed to be a joke!)

 

Even if only Isaiah and Micah saw the rise and fall of Babylon a century or more before it started to even build empire, once Babylon was present and violently attempting to rule all the known Middle East, Hebrew prophets saw clearly that no matter how huge and powerful the empire had become, it was surely to fall – simply because Yahweh said so. History tells us that the fall of Babylon was as spectacularly dramatic as its rise was meteoric. Apart from a reference to a “Babylonish garment” in Joshua 7:21, there is no Biblical reference to Babylon after Genesis 11 until the great prophecies of Isaiah, Micah,  and then Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel who each unfolded God’s plan for the ancient city as well as the rest of the world. This prophetic fellowship of Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel, as well as the earlier duo of course saw the “vision extraordinaire” well beforehand. Most of the Biblical prophecies relating to Babylon are in relation to the captivity of the Judah i.e.: the 70 year exile in Babylon. God’s revelation to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel concerning the ultimate end of the captivity is plain to see in the text of them all.

 

We have the apocalyptic statements of Daniel concerning Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams that tell us as plainly as a child’s picture book that Medo Persia

 

fall4babylon

Simultaneous to Cyrus entering Babylon through the dry moat, Belshazzar’s knees were knocking as a hand appears and writes on the wall “Mene. Mene. Tekel. Upharsin.”

The northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 722-721 BC. (We shall see more about Assyria’s fall in another thought soon.) The southern kingdom (Judah) had been spared that catastrophe (see Isaiah 37) but, due to her ever degenerating and festering apostasy, was on a clear course to a fender-bender exile creating pile-up with Babylon in a generation or two after Isaiah’s departure to Sheol. The prophets warned that if Judah persisted with national mass rebellion, Yahweh would raise up Nebuchadnezzar as His “servant” and instrument of discipline to punish the errant Hebrews. Many of them would be killed; others would be captured and taken away as prisoners by the marauding Babylonians, as per Jeremiah 25:9. The Chaldean monarch, however, would not be divinely commended or rewarded for this endeavour; rather, after his subjugation and almost his annihilation of Judah, the Lord would punish him. By that divine judgement the Babylonian empire would inaugurate a self-initiated excursion of death enroute for obliviousness and extinction. Jeremiah summed up the history of this affair in the following way:

 

 

Israel is a hunted sheep; the lions have driven him away: first, the king of Assyria devoured him; and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones. Therefore thus says Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria (Jeremiah 50:17-18).

 

It would seem that “Old King Neb,” went beyond the purpose for which God had raised him up. Babylon itself and Babylonian culture, it has to be said, by all extra biblical and archaeological accounts was the quintessence of arrogance, superiority and pride. Daniel’s recorded interactions with both Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar vindicate this observation. Nebuchadnezzar’s boast virtually sounds like he had the delusion of having actually created the earth upon which his empire stood. Writings from the Chaldean libraries have exemplified the proud, arrogant and conceited temperament and disposition that characterized nearly all the Babylonian rulers. Babylonians in general felt absolutely secure within their mighty fortress, and believed that the capital city simply could never be conquered.

 

fall5babylon“I shall be mistress forever…. I am, and there is none else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children” (Isaiah 47:7-8).

 

The city of Babylon straddled the Euphrates River about fifty miles south of what is now modern Baghdad in Iraq.  It was the most remarkable, as well as the largest city of its day. The father of all historians Herodotus, who lived between 484 and 425 BC, tells us that he once visited the Babylon and said that “in magnificence there is no other city that approaches to it” He also claimed the incredible. The huge Metropolis was laid out in an exact square, fifteen miles on each side, he said. He wrote that the city was surrounded by a moat more than 260 feet wide. He stated that the walls were 75 feet thick and 300 feet high, with 15 large gates of brass on each side. Sounds like a wonder of the world to me. Some of the greatest of the Hebrew prophets said that Babylon was the “glory of all the kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19), the “golden city” (Isaiah 14:4), the “lady of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 47:5) who was “abundant in treasures” (Jeremiah 51:13), the “praise of the whole earth” (Jeremiah 51:41), and “great” (Daniel 4:30). However, if Yahweh tells His prophets that Babylon is going to fall, one needs to merely sit back and wait to see how such a feat could be done.

 

It is understandable how that many people who lived in its day, sympathetic with Babylon or not, must have believed the wisdom of the age that a city in an Empire of this nature would last “forever” and was unable to fall.

fallcyrusentersbabyloni

Artists impression of King Cyrus entering Babylon. October 539 BC

 

 

(1) Babylon’s fall was announced unequivocally.

Isaiah 21:9. Chapter 46. 47:1-2

Micah 4:10 (implied)

Daniel Chapter 2.

Jeremiah 50:2. 50:17-18 (Chapters 50 and 51 generally) (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)

(2) The time of the beginning of her end was declared.

Isaiah 47:1-2

Jeremiah 25:11-12 (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)

Ezekiel 21:21

(3) The invading forces were specified.

Daniel Chapter 2

Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)

(5) The final result—Babylon’s utter dissipation—was portrayed quite graphically.

Isaiah 47:1-2

Daniel Chapter 2

Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)

(6) The rise of the Medo-Persian Empire in the fall of Babylon.

Isaiah 21:2.  45:1.

Daniel chapter 2.

Jeremiah 51:11   (2 Chronicles 36:19-21)

 

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The conquering Medo-Persians set about disposing of those Babylonians that resist.

What actually happened? The historical facts are not disputed. The story goes like this.

  • The Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach (562-560 B.C.), who is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:27-30 and in Jeremiah 52:31-34.
  • Next came Neriglissar (560-556 B.C.), an evil conspirator who was defeated and slain in battle by the Medes and Persians.
  • Labashi-Marduk subsequently came to the Chaldean throne in 556 BC, but was assassinated after a few months.
  • Finally, there was Nabonidus, who ruled from 556-539 B.C. His son, Belshazzar, was co-regent with his father. Belshazzar was occupying the city of Babylon when it fell (see Daniel 5). Inscriptions have been discovered which make it clear that Nabonidus had entrusted the “kingship” of the capital city to his son while he campaigned in Arabia for about a decade.
  • When Cyrus advanced against Babylon, Nabonidus marched east to meet him, but fled before the Persian general’s army.
  •  Later, after Cyrus had captured the city (539 BC), Nabonidus surrendered to the Persians. And so, the biblical prophecies regarding the conquerors of the city of Babylon were fulfilled exactly.

 

Without doubt, whether one is a believer or not, whether one is Jewish or Christian, and whether or not one has an interest in biblical prophecy, it has to be said that the entire mystery and depth of God’s revelation to mankind is seen in the multiple strands of character, personality and humanity that are the Hebrew writing prophets. They are glorious. They are the bottom line of the wonderful truth that the unknown and presently unresolved mysteries of God’s purposes are even more exciting than the stuff we know and understand.

fall6babylonian-release

100. What the Other Brothers in Prophecy said about the rise and fall of Babylon

IMB0So then! What did Isaiah’s compatriots in prophecy speak forth concerning the nasty regime of Babylon? Not much really! Needless to say, there was totall agreement in their message concerning the “Soon arising in a generation or two superpower of the Middle Eastern world, post Assyria.” When I say “not much” I am talking in terms of the volume of words and definitely not referring to the content of the message.

 

Looking to see what the writing prophets have bequeathed us with, we have to delete some of the fifteen giants of Hebrew history from the considerations of comparison with Isaiah for various reasons.  The main reason being that there was only one who stood at the same time and place as Isaiah and spoke of the same empire in the same why. Before I tell you what I said, so that the uninitiated do not think I am dodging the issue with all the other Major and Minor Prophets I shall explain something.

 

IMB01There are five books that we refer to as Major Prophets. They are not called Major because they are more important – not at all!  It is only because they are generally much more voluminous than the other twelve who are referred to as Minor Prophets. And before anybody sends me an Email to tell me that Hosea is longer than Daniel, or that several of the Minor Prophets have more chapters than Lamentations, allow me to cut you off at the pass by stating that it was a few extremely serious Jewish Rabbis of generations long gone that referred to them by these terms. Because it is commonly believed and accepted that Jeremiah wrote Lamentations we have four prophetic characters in those first five books. Twelve books in the Minor Prophet section means we have sixteen writing prophets.

 

So why am I excited simply because one of the other fifteen after Isaiah mentions the rise and fall of Babylon? On top of that; why am I even looking to see if anybody else agrees with Isaiah? Aha! There is a method in my madness here. There are so many weird and wonderful academics that, because of a lack of understanding and a surge of unbelief, do not think it possible that Isaiah (or anybody else for that matter) could predict anything at all of the future. They read what Isaiah says in Isaiah 13 and 14 and declare, “Oh yes! Of course! Isaiah could not predict anything. The days of miracles are past. So somebody else must have written chapters 13 and most of 14, and then sneakily added those chapters into the text while nobody was looking and claimed that it was Isaiah.”

 

IMB1I know many of you that are honestly filled with common sense and integrity would scratch you heads at this sort or remark, but I promise you there are a lot of books written about the book of Isaiah who take it for granted that there was another bloke somewhere who wrote extra bits. In fact some of these “superior” discerning scholars think there were several “Isaiah’s.”  So my point is, that if at least one other prophet said the same thing that Isaiah said about Babylon, who lived at the same time or even before Isaiah, who predicted the rise and fall of Babylon, whether it be explicitly or even implicitly by some cryptic language, it goes a long way to humiliating the “Higher critics” who seek to kill faith, confidence in the scripture, and the integrity of God in order to gain their Doctorates and PhD’s.

 

We have to exclude some of the prophets before we even look at what they said. There are good and solid reasons for this.

 

For instance, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were all contemporary to the final decline and fall of Jerusalem, a century or more after Isaiah. This means that they actually lived in the days after the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction of the rise of Babylon’s great empire.  Any remarks they made of the rise of Babylon would have been “history” in their school lessons. So there would be nothing supernatural in that. They did say stuff about Babylon’s fall (especially Daniel who was living in Babylon the night Babylon fell. See the whole of Daniel 5.) So put a red line under those revered names when it comes to checking the register of those who predicted Babylon’s rise and its impact on Israel and the nations in unison with Isaiah. These three were each born in and during the Chaldean reign of terror. So we have twelve others to consider.

 

We can strike out Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, for each of them ministered after Babylon had fallen and in the days of the Medo-Persians who humanly instigated the fall of Babylon by the inspiration of Yahweh.  Again I say that if any of those three referred to the rise and/or fall of Babylon, theye would be discussing what was history long past to them. And then there were nine.

 

IMB2Jonah only ministered to Assyria and in preaching a very effective message of repentance prolonged Assyria’s power for another few generations. He never raised his eyes to Assyria’s down fall, only their uplift by their repentance to his message. The countdown therefore arrives at eight.

 

Nahum was the opposite in the life of Assyria to what Jonah was to them. Jonah prophetically reprieved Nineveh, and in so doing reprieved Assyria for another few generations. Nahum’s message was supernatural because he went into the details of how Nineveh would fall before it seemed possible it could ever happen.  Babylon was not within the boundary of Nahum’s prophetic vision. He did not say a word about any empire but Assyria’s. Only seven other possibilities now!

 

Nobody is really sure whether Joel was talking of Assyria, Babylon or just the last days before Christ returns, or all of the above. And, as he does not mention any nation state or empire by name, except for the Greeks, we leave him also out of the equation. Nobody is sure whether he wrote before Isaiah, contemporaneously with Isaiah or even after the exile. Therefore as utterly marvellous as the book of Joel is, he is not in our shortlist for prophets that saw Babylon rising …or falling. So now we are down to the last six.

 

Zephaniah strutted his stuff 70 odd years after Isaiah, and spoke in the days of Josiah. Babylon was already, very much on the rise in Zeph’s day, so, in looking for prophetic support that foresaw Babylon’s domination before their ascension to the title of “the world’s super power,” he again was too lately born to qualify. He would have only been prophesying what could have been seen by all his contemporaneous political commentators. Even a non believing spectator ci his day could see that Babylon was rising. Nothing supernatural in that. Five to go.

 

Obadiah’s single chapter of inspiration is all about the gloating of the Edomites over the fall of Judah and Jerusalem and quite literally nothing else. Obadiah’s book is a single highly focussed dig at the soon to be extinct nation of Edom. It is plain that he could not help us at all.

 

Four more!

 

Hosea is on a different planet than to think of the future. He is more in a state of distress concerning the adultery of the wife, “Israel,” with Yahweh their husband. His distress was deepened by the reality of his own wife’s serial adultery as a prostitute. It is a deeply moving story with an incredibly powerful message. In short, Hosea’s life was a parable. However Hosea sheds no light of Babylon’s rise or fall.

 

IMB3This leaves us with two more prophets who were somewhat contemporary with Isaiah. Amos and Micah.

 

Amos never mentions Babylon at all simply because he zooms in on the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Samaria’s fall to Assyria.

 

Micah, however was a man after Isaiah’s own heart. Micah is the important one for the case we are prosecuting. Did Micah say anything similar to Isaiah concerning the rise and fall of Babylon? My dear reader, walk right this way.

 

Micah was contemporary with and compatriot to Isaiah. His burden is unleashed upon us with a similar opening line to Isaiah: “The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem” (Micah 1:1).  Called to speak to the same generation, in the same places and to the same section of the people, together with the same prophetic anointing as Isaiah, Micah’s most important words concerning Babylon are contained in a single verse. What we refer to as Micah 4:10 reads as follows:

 

Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail…

The shock and horror of this statement concerning what will be in Micah’s future is embedded in the fact that he likens the remnant few of the nation of Judah to a pregnant woman in labour. Whether he knew that there would only be a remnant population we are not told. Read it for yourselves with everything before and after the verse we are looking at and see if you do not find it as shocking as I do. In Micah’s analogy, the nation state of Judah is the pregnant woman that, while struggling and travailing in labour, is to be taken off to a Maternity Ward. But see! Can we read it and not be shocked?  The labour ward is a place named Babylon!  Nearly five hundred miles to the gentile delivery room of The Chaldeans. No paramedics! No gentle nursing while the offspring of this pregnancy is quietly encouraged to the threshold of birth. But hold on a minute! Who is giving birth to what? If the nation of Judah (the daughter of Zion) is the mother, who or what is the offspring that is being delivered.

 

IMB4… for now you shall go out of the city;…

It would seem that in 587 BC after the walls of Jerusalem were breached, Nebuchadnezzar removed the minimal surviving population of Judah out of the city before he set fire to the entire metropolis and razed its major buildings to the ground, including the palaces, the governmental halls and … wait for it…he even razed the Temple known as “Solomon’s” to the ground. Then, he chained them all in one long line and frog-marched the half-naked few thousand that were left alive to Babylon “General Nationhood Maternity Clinic.” According to Ezekiel as many died of disease in the city, before Babylon broke through the walls and gained access into Jerusalem, as were marched into exile, and just as many were put to the sword as the Chaldeans (Babylonians) rampaged through the City of David once the breach had been made. So Micah was absolutely correct, all the survivors within Jerusalem’s walls, while the insipid king Zedekiah “did a runner” and deserted his sinking ship as the Captain, “went out of the city.”

 

Micah may have been 120 or even 140 years ahead of the catastrophe but he was faultless in his description. A few lines earlier than 4:10 he had stated that “Therefore, on account of you, Zion will be like a ploughed field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the temple will become like the high places of a forest.” By this he was going even further than Isaiah did. Micah announces first that the entire entity of the city of Jerusalem will be demolished to the point where it will either be ploughed by some farmer, or it will be left to look like a ploughed field. Micah tells us this in chapter 3 before he bothers to explain to us what has happened to the population of Jerusalem.

 

This one liner of Micah is important also because what he is saying is nothing like what Isaiah said, even though they both said the same thing in the end. Why is that important? Well! At least I think it is very important simply because it stops the “higher critics” from even suggesting that Micah copied Isaiah, or vica versa. They both predicted the rise of Babylon a century or so before it occurred. Micah explicitly predicts the exile here in Micah 4:10. Isaiah implicitly predicts the exile in chapters 14:1-7 by predicting the return of the Jews to the Promised Land from a horrific exile, and their song of freedom is pointed at the fallen power of Babylon.

 

… and you shall dwell in the field;…

IMB5Continueing with Micah’s incredibly detailed prophecy of 4:10, being turned out of their homes and lodgings, the surviving Jews that were in Jerusalem at its fall were to be shepherded into the fields that encircled the environs of Jerusalem. There they would deliberately be exposed to and probably forced to watch the sacking of the entire city, and then tied or chained into a huge line and body marched in as undignified state as can be imagined to deepest darkest Babylon and the River Chebar. On that prolonged journey while following the Fertile Crescent eastward from Haran they would only be sleeping in the open fields. Their homes were now non-existent, and their streets were on the way to becoming ploughed fields. As far as the traditions of the people of Israel were concerned, it seemed like the end of the civilisation as they knew it. We need to add, however, that as far as the prophets were concerned civilisation was at an incredibly low ebb in Judah long before Jerusalem fell. That is why the exile was thrust upon them as a divine sentence. Plough your way through the writing prophets and come to your own conclusions.

 

… and you shall go to Babylon …

Micah says it! It would seem ridiculous to the hearers as would Isaiah’s chapter 13 and 14. It was almost like predicting the United States would become a world power even before the first Puritans had arrived at Plymouth Rock. There would be two “ex-Hebrew kings” maintained in Babylonian captivity when the last contingent of Judah would be marched into Babylon after 587 BC. The first group of Jewish people were taken in 605 BC. This group included Daniel and all the regal, intelligent and knowledgeable governmental workers.  In 597 BC King Jehoiachin and the artisans were taken (2 Kings 24:12-15), Ezekiel was amongst this group. 587 BC was the final fall of Jerusalem and the exile of all Jewish survivors who were still alive in the area at that time. It was in this final group that King Zedekiah, of course, was blinded and taken.

 

Micah’s prediction was stated clearly and fulfilled literally.

IMB6

 

… There you shall be delivered …

The exile was 70 years in length. From the day that Joshua marched the armies of Israel over the dry river bed of the Jordan, until the breach of the walls at Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah and King Zedekiah, 490 years had transpired. If the Mosaic law had been obeyed there would have been seventy separate sabbatical years (one every seven years) that would have occurred. As the sabbatical years and the jubilee years had never been taken advantage of during the Jews occupation of the land of Canaan, God judged the seventy years to be granted to the land via the absence of the Jewish nation.

 

Having taken Babylon as his own, as recorded in the last verses of Daniel 5, Cyrus, the king of the Medo-Persian Empire, decreed that the Jews were free to return to Jerusalem. They were no longer in bondage, no longer slaves, and each had total liberty to return to what once was Jerusalem, and to rebuild life there.

 

This writer sees the deliverance of Israel that Micah refers to as not merely a deliverance from bondage and slavery to the gentile nations in order to facilitate their building both their temple and their City, but deliverance from the previous culture of idolatry and the cultural absorption of all things secular and ungodly that utterly dominated Israel and Judah ever since the latter days of Solomon.

 

… there the Lord shall redeem you from the hand of your enemies.

The Babylonians/Chaldeans had been their enemies.   Medo Persians had never been their enemies. Later in our notes we shall see how Isaiah even predicted that the kings name who would set them free would  go by the name of “Cyrus” (Isaiah 44:27-28).

 

Therefore, even though it is only a single line from another single prophet that utterly concurs with Isaiah’s prediction of the rise and the fall of Babylon, the full ramifications and implications of Micah 4:10 are inescapable. Both Micah and Isaiah, in the same generation, saw the rise and the fall of Babylon, the bondage and the resulting freedom of the Jewish exile, and thus the supernatural shroud of glory that was thrown over the two prophets is seen as an integral part of their message and ministry.

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99. A Quick Glance Back on What we have been Handling in Isaiah 13 and 14

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With the reality accepted that the book of Isaiah was written in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, we have to look up to heaven, roll our eyes and confess that the entire volume is far out and downright miraculous. In a protracted section of prophetically foresighted predictions, the first one we have looked at concerning the final rise and definitive total disappearance of Babylon is wonderful. The so called “Higher” critics devalue the whole with the Deutero-Isaiah babblings and their subjective feelings of what is and what is not the writings of the original Isaiah. Certain words that they do not suppose could be used in certain times, and certain word choices in one section that are not in another section lead them to declare that Isaiah 1:1 cannot be referring to the whole sixty-six chapters. The entire concept is conceived and gestated in the amniotic fluid of unbelief and an undernourished idea of divine inspiration. I pour contempt on the very idea of their rationale based on the final authority of John 12:37-41, where the Apostle John refers to what the modernists consider to be different writers from two different sections of Isaiah, and claims that both were stated by Isaiah himself. One has to choose whether the idea that Jesus Christ knew a little more than modernist Higher Critical scholars I suppose.

The prophet Isaiah, broadly thought to have been a Jewish aristocrat who had easy access to the Davidic royal family, leaves us captivated with the authenticity of the divine inspiration of his prophecies. In the 45 verses covering the fate of Babylon we cannot be anything but convinced that it was Yahweh Himself that communicated the burden to his prophet. Isaiah saw the future clearly.

The episode recounted in Isaiah chapter 39 concerning the envoys of Babylon being shown around Hezekiah’s treasure house, a story that is repeated in 2 Kings 20:12-19, reveals to us the fact that Babylon, though still a minor power against the weight of Assyria at the time that those two narratives refer to, was active enough in the world to be enquiring about the surrounding nations. The fact that Babylonian envoys were received kindly and voluntarily shown around Jerusalem, and especially the fact that Hezekiah was foolish enough to show his wealth off to them allowing them to calmly leave Judah with that knowledge well stated in the reports to the Babylonian king without any anxiety on Hezekiah’s part, proves that, at that point of history, Babylon was no seeming threat to anybody.

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This engraving is entitled “Isaiah’s vision of the fallen Babylon.”

Babylon was a literal empire and a geographically known domain in this time space cosmos on planet earth. That would seem to be an unnecessary and elementary remark. It is, however, also a symbolic name for all anti -Yahweh religion and cultures throughout the world. In plainer language, the Bible talks of a Babylon that is spiritually corrupt. Babylon is the symbol major enmity towards God and one of the ultimate strongholds of darkness on the earth. Babylon is the literal spirit of an evil force in human civilisation that is the heart, if not the brain of the world’s arrogance and enmity against Christianity, Judaism, Jews and God.

The day that Isaiah originally stood up to declare, “I have a burden concerning Babylon,” was a momentous moment. To my understanding he was the earliest of the Hebrew prophets to raise his eye to future events of such proportions. Without dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” he actually details the entire reality of what both the Old and New Testament’s refer to as “Babylon.” His burden covers the very historical empire that was Babylon, along with the capital city of the same name. By the ingenious choice of language and his statements of what occurs after its fall we see not only the disappearance of Babylon from the map – a historical event that is documented by archaeologists and historians as accurately detailed by Isaiah and other prophets (539 BC) – but also the fall of some civilisation and/or world power at the return of Christ – an even that is still future to us. It is astounding. Added to that, by double naming the king of Babylon and referring to him as Lucifer, we are also given, in the same swathe of prophetic statements, the downfall of the true king who reigned over the two Babylon’s both literal and spiritual, namely, the devil himself.

This writer is also totally convinced that every nation that is mentioned or prophesied about in Isaiah (together with every other prophet that ventured into such mysterious and wonderful visions of the rise and fall of various states) were only mentioned because those nations had negatively interfered with the destiny of Israel. It was clearly a case of Israel being the apple of God’s eye and anybody who touched Israel offending God and suffering His divine displeasure because of their actions towards the children of Israel. It’s a thought that riles many, but biblically is the exact way things are.

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This portraiture is an engracing entitle “The Prophet Isaiah”.

Apocalyptic predictive prophecy oozes with the paradox of hiding so much, yet revealing more than we know. It reads mystifyingly and enigmatically clearing the eyes and fogging the horizon, so much so that one can generally buy a dozen books concerning the interpretation and relevance of apocalyptic biblical prophecy and read a dozen different explanations.  Yet the mountain peaks of this kind of prophecy that has been fulfilled reveals the text to being as straight forward and as pragmatic as was never perceived before its fulfillment. Prior to the advent of Christ the Messianic body of predictive prophecy was full of guesses and theories, prognostications and vague ideas that caused the Jews to have a thousand presuppositions on the whys and wherefores of Messiah’s advent. However, after the resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those great prophecies that referred to His first advent seemed as plain straight forward statements as clear as the street language of any generation.

The overall presentation of biblical prophecy and those prophetic scriptures that have been already fulfilled have always been literal fulfilments. The swathe of prophecy in the Old Testament concerning Christ’s birth, life, death, burial, resurrection ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit seemed so numinous, cryptic, figurative and apocalyptic before the event. Yet those very same scriptures seem so matter of fact and down to earth after the events that I personally have a problem as to how the Jews who pored over scripture missed it.

Silly me! History seriously repeats itself in this domain. The more time passes, the more the claims that these are “the last days” legitimises and becomes a solid substantiated tenet of the faith for both Jew and Christian.

The authority of Isaiah in chapters 13 and 14 grabs us by the throat with his claims to be seeing what is to happen in the future in our time space world, what happens in Sheol, the momentous details of God’s various judgements and the terrible and shocking signs in the heavens that accompany those judgements. The Day of the Lord is not a mere dealing with evil rulers and dictators over humanity, but a profound ploughing through heaven and earth, things spiritual and physical, temporal and eternal and bringing the entire cosmos to where it was before the fall of man. It is a revelation that the God who owns tiny Israel in a comparatively tiny plot of land that joins Asia to Africa is actually and truly the God of the entire planet. All nations are subject to Yahweh. His intention to bless the earth, honour Christ, and sustain the nation state of Israel with true ethnic descendants of Jacob in the Land that Yahweh declares as theirs is the dominating principle overall the world’s history. Via Christ and Israel, the entire planet with the righteous people of all generations in the resurrection will be blessed to a degree never seen since Adam walked in Eden.  God has an ultimate intention to glorify Christ while He rules over humanity. No matter what state of spirituality or morality Israel descended into (and Isaiah does not hide the reprobate nature of the Jewish nation in his own generation – see Isaiah 1 in particular) Yahweh’s compassion will be poured out upon them drowning their history in an ocean of love, compassion, delegated authority and blessing to all men. The ultimate intention of Lucifer is made plain, an intention that was passed on to historical Babylon as well as the spirit of the Babylon of the future.

a4 isaiah-14-27-550x320The nature of this outburst of divine revelation in Isaiah transports both the prophet and “the prophesied to” into a new dimension; hitherto virgin land for prophetic sandals to walk on. God is opening up the breadth, depth, height and length of where the cosmos and all of humanity is going. Isaiah sees a destination at the end of some horrific world events. It is clearly not a vision of time rolling on and on for millions of years. The whole is coming to a conclusion. Humanity, planet earth and the cosmos has a final end point. Destination – Jesus Christ the Lord of All. The earth will not wind up and disappear into some kind of black hole and annihilation. Christ will come again. His return will be as big and bright, as cosmic and loud, as universal and inter galactic as it is possible to be. Jesus Christ is Lord, and one day will be seen by all to be so. Eternal conscious meaningful bliss for those redeemed by “the blood of the lamb,” and eternal regretful conscious existence for those who refused the gracious offer of God in the probationary period of time that we refer to as “life.” A real heaven. A real hell. And a tangibly real Christ.

No matter how quaint and parochial Christianity, Church and all things religious may seem to some, the agenda is cosmic. There is no greater or bigger project in the entire universe. No matter what faults and blemishes there may evidently be in the earthly body of Christ today, a time is coming when all things shall be seen as they truly are. At that point the resurrected Christians will be seen to be very much in the majority. I believe it.

Even so, Come Lord Jesus!