122. Edom: Visions of Silence! Visions to ask about? Visions of movement and undeclared Conclusions!

Isaiah 21:11-12


  1. 11. This is a message against Dumah (Edom): There is someone calling to me from Seir. “Watchman, how much of the night is left? How long before morning? Watchman, how much longer will it be night?”  (Lannon’s Expanded Paraphrase) (Bald translation: The burden of Dumah. He calls to me from Seir: “Watchman! What of the night? Watchman! What of the night?”)


1 EDOM-1073x1650x300It was the militaristic norm in the regions of the East in biblical times, to erect lofty watchtowers, so high as to be above all surrounding buildings, and then to man the tower with a skilled watchman, who should observe all that came within their view and then report accordingly. The design of this custom was to prevent the approach of an enemy unforeseen. From what we have learned from Isaiah 21:1-10, Babylon may have stayed Chaldean for generations longer had they not believed that a high and broad wall would fit the job of a guard perfectly without the use of manpower in acting as a the skilled watchman. An astute and observant watchman in his lofty tower would observe in the distance the gathering of armies and the mustering of hosts; and then give warning for the people to prepare for the attack. There are frequent allusions to this culture in the Scriptures (Isaiah 62:6; Ezekiel 33:2.).


The watchman of Isaiah’s vision having seen the downfall of the yet to rise Babylonian empire, now, strangely has a call that pulls on his prophetic gift from a next door neighbour – as it were. Edomites want to get hold of whatever the prophet has to say about them. Was  it fear, or was it a naieve desire for anything supernatural.


Edom lay to the south east of the land the Jews possessed. Edom was contiguous with the inheritance of Judah. Dumah was a barren, remote and rugged region, peopled by a race whose oddity reflected the harsh and bleak nature of that environment. Edomites were continuously at war with their various neighbours Philistia, Ammon and Moab, and especially with the Jews. They disbursed a large ration of their war time and political decision processes making inroads into Judah for the purpose of bootie, loot and subjugation. As far as Israel, later Judah, were concerned, Edom was a downright malicious pest. There were only a few brief moments of biblical Old Testament history when Edom was quiet towards the Jews and peace was in the air.  Edom was the land and people of Esau’s descendants.


Exactly like Moab, Philistia, and Ammon, Edom had once been part of the dominion of Kings David and Solomon. However, in the after-days of rebellion and division, each of that trio had broken away from Jewish domination. This fact was, of course, part and parcel of why they were to be judged. So having heard of Isaiah’s messages and pronouncements over many other nations that surrounded Judah and the whole of the Promised Land, we are now about to be informed of what was to happen to Edom.  At the time when the Assyrian was spreading death and devastation all around–what exactly was Edom’s future?


As far-fetched as it may sound, the Edomites seem to have indulged themselves with the same grudge as the founding father of their families and tribe. Edomites came from Esau. Esau, of course, had carried a grudge against Jacob because, as far as Esau’s perspective was concerned, Jacob had “stolen” his birthright.  And even though we read of a meeting after the giving of the blessing by Isaac, where it was all “love and peace man,” the good-will of that moment did not carry through the generations. Jacob was invited to follow Esau after their incredibly surprising conciliatory hug-ups and bridge building meeting, but Jacob lied promising to follow after Esau. Jacob did not follow, nor are we told whether or not Jacob ever met Esau again apart from their mutual presence at Isaac’s funeral. Straight after their warm meeting, Jacob stopped on the Eastern side of the Jordan and built a house to live in for a decade or so before he even went back to see his father. Strange eh?  I have not read any theory about Jacob staying with Esau while living in Succoth, but I suppose it was possible. However, whatever the motive for Jacob’s delay at Succoth, all the generations of Esau thereafter despised with a jealous hatred the blessing and the development of the nation of Israel, the descendants of their father Esau’s brother. They regularly attacked and plundered the Jewish people.


The landscape of Edom

Edom’s wild terrain.

On account of these invasions, and also because they later, after Isaiah’s days, joined the Babylonians against the Jews, the most far-reaching condemnations were pronounced against them by some of the prophets. In the course of history these prophetic denunciations were fulfilled and arrived at manifestation via disasters within the Edomite social and geographic infrastructure, in consequence of which the Edomites became a dwindling, beaten and conquered people, and were finally integrated, or at least incorporated to some degree with the Jewish nation. Then, when at a later period the whole of that region passed into the hands of the Greeks and Romans, Edom became known by the Greek name of Idumea, Dumah being the old Hebrew name. Hence the “burden of Dumah” means the prophecy concerning the fate of Idumea or Edom.


Why was someone heard to call from Seir? Was it fear?  Well might Edom have been in terror after the generational perpetual abuse of the children of Israel. The descendants of Esau had behaved to terribly towards Judah, and were, in Isaiah’s future, to act in an even worse manner in Judah’s hour of deepest affliction with malignant hatred which would distress her to the heart. In Obadiah, Amos, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, one can freely become acquainted with the departments and manifestations of their crime. And because we are talking of supernatural prophecy we can declare that whether or not Isaiah himself could or could not see what was coming more than a century later, God, of course, could clearly see – and eternally beyond.  From round about 605BC through to 587 BC  when many Jews fled before the advances of Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian hordes, the Edomites, true to their miserable destiny, their hand against every man and every man’s hand against them, had cruelly massacred and intercepted helpless fugitives from Judah, and had actually urged Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem.


It is to this that the prophetic Psalmist, singing of the future exile alludes when he says: “Remember, O Lord, against the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem, how they cried, ‘Down with it, down with it, even to the ground.’” (Psalm 137:7). Naturally, therefore, in the prophetic watchman’s vision, Isaiah has not much comfort to bestow on these cruel and treacherous” sons of the desert.


Landscape of Edom 2

Glancing across a typical Edomite scene.

So, in this ever so brief two verse drama of Isaiah’s vision, Edom is personified as “a voice” from Seir. Seir was possibly Edom’s largest population centre at the time. The Edomite voice from Seir pleads for a vision from Isaiah that would reveal their destiny and the direction of their future. A sort of childish jealous cry of, “Isaiah! You have had a message for all the other nation states around here about their dark night of their national soul. What about us? What about the night that surrounds us?” It is impossible to tell whether the question is supposedly sarcastic in the vision, or borne of genuine desire to hear God. Judah is to be ultimately saved and rescued. That overrides everything, even the brief judgement that is promised them. The prophet has seen the Persian host in its varied array, troops of chariots and horsemen crashing around the environs of Babylon. He has seen the subtlety of the Persian forces entering the great city beneath the brazen gates of idolatrous Babylon, extinguishing its annual feast in blood and rising above it with the cry of victory. It will be wonderful news for Judah when it all comes to pass. But now, Isaiah, what shall it be for Edom? What does the future hold for us in Seir?  One writer brilliantly notes; “It is as if the voice of Esau cried out once more, “Have you not one blessing for me, Oh my father? Bless me oh my Father?””  And so as the prophet Isaiah stands in his lucid spiritual reality on the peak of the hill upon which his watchtower stands, he hears a voice calling from the Edomite capital Seir. It is a sharp, agitated cry, “Watchman, how far in the night?  What hour of the night? Does the darkness still linger, is the morning near?” There is a desperate loss of direction and purpose that has gripped Edom. Even fear is included in the call.




  1. 12. The guard answered, “Morning. What will be happening is coming, but then night will come again. If you have something else to ask, then come back later and ask.”  (Bald translation:  The watchman answered, “The morning comes, and also the night. If you want to inquire more, come back later and ask.)


The prophet hears the appeal that comes with anxious repetition, addressed to him as God’s watchman. The words, “Watchman, what of the night? How much of the night has passed?” (21:11) contain the cry of desperation to know the state of things in the world. It was a cry, if not a petition for light and guidance.


All he can say to the Edomites at first is a poking riddle of a message of which not much can be immediately understood. But then, after this initial unyielding and uncertain answer, as though Isaiah was somewhat softening his heart towards the Edomites, as the watchman, he cries, “If you wish to ask again at a later date, come back then, and ask.” In other words. “The oracle for you, sons of Edom, is no verbal injection about a mere earthly future. Your national destiny is still dependent on your future conduct.”


In short, like no other prophetic message of Isaiah, the divinely inspired answer is nothing but an oracle of silence. Mystically, and logically, the word Dumah literally means “silence.” So this is “The burden of silence.” How strange! It is a very intriguing thought. Sin, hatred and grudge holding is a great silencer.  Assuredly that was true in the case of Edom. It was true at the time when the prophet spoke, it was to be true of it still more completely in the ages to follow. One writer states: Experts of biblical history and the lands of the Bible tell us that if we want to know how Providence can turn a fruitful land into barrenness, and make a thriving defenced city a heap, for the iniquity of the inhabitants thereof, we have only to look at Edom, with its hills and plains picked clean of every vestige of vegetation, and its ruined palaces, once the home of busy men, now the haunt of vultures and the lair of scorpions, all human sound gone.
This answer is, in one way, worse than the promise of judgement and death. Surely, there can be nothing so terrible for us on earth as to know that God has nothing more to say to us. It was Martin Luther that wrote, “O, my God! “Smite me with famine, with want, with pestilence, with all the sore diseases on earth, rather than be silent to me.” Yet God is sometimes thus silent to wicked men and, here, to wicked nations; He is silent for their castigation. Hosea 4:17 tells us, “Ephraim is turned to idols. Leave him alone.” So, the doom of Dumah (silence) was not inevitably fixed; she would yet be indulged with mornings of opportunity; and the only sure ground of hope was in a returning to God and asking Him for His opinion.


Excavation at Edom

Modern excavations in Edom.

The prophet has nothing to predict. It is a vision and he sees nothing that can be reported. Things will come and suggest that Edom is in blessing. Then nights will come and suggest that they are being judged. Life will go on, and God is watching. But for Edom it is a divinely pensive response. Edom, as you plod on through time and history, take heed to your responses both to God and to His people Judah and Israel.


History is full of fallen and dissipated nations and empires that were guilty of Edom’s crimes. Egypt, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome. In each case we may distinctly trace their more or less speedy downfall to the operation of the same eternal law of justice; requiting on each the iniquities of the previous giant, and making those iniquities the very causes of their own overthrow at a later generation. What likelihood, then, is there of the same principle not being carried out again; of its not being carried out in the case of nations and kingdoms in which we feel more than an historical interest? To them, too, will come, as the morning, so also the night.


We need to add that it is, of course, most difficult to appraise the fortunes, to calculate the probable destiny of any nation of which we ourselves form component parts.  The likes of giants like the USSR seemed so huge and powerful that their fall could not be easily perceived apart from the Spirit of God. It was the true function of the Hebrew prophets to rouse the conscience of the nation to whom they spoke.

121. Babylon: Visions of horror! Visions that scare! Visions that bring pain to the Seer! Isaiah 21:1-10

Isaiah 21:1-10


Gentile nations seated on land that was promised to Israel.


Full IsraelThe most basic ground zero reason for the prophets to declare what is happening and what is going to happen to the nations around Israel is profoundly simple. These nations existed on land that Yahweh promised to Abraham and his descendants. It’s a fact – but one that is argued and disputed by those that think God has finished with Israel for the sake of the church.  Babylon (south of the Euphrates), Arabia, Edom, Moab, Ethiopia, Ammon, Damascus, Phoenicia, Philistia, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon are all on land that is ultimately promised to Abraham and Israel.  See the geographical parameters of the original promise given to Abraham as seen on the attached map (Map #1). These are the geographical parameters of the interests of Israel long term, and by long term I mean that it undoubtedly won’t be part of Israel until the millennium when He returns. This is all the land that was promised.


For that reason, with a long term and far reaching vision, the Holy Spirit talks to the prophets of all that is relevant to the people of Israel, the promises of God, and the future of the planet. No matter how much of a joke such a perspective might seem to those who hold a “Cessationist” theology, (i.e. the opinion that God has finished with Israel and the subject of the promises to Israel is now replaced by the church) the fact of the prophet’s interests in these nations can only be seen to hold importance as a news broadcast of “current affairs” without any eternal weight at all. Arabia and the cities mentioned in Isaiah and other prophets will be Israel’s land at some future point of time, no matter how far off. The same can be said of much of what was Babylonian territory and all of the other nations mentioned.


Read Genesis 15:18-21. The Jewish rabbis state this as the proper extent of the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. The passage describes the area as the land of the ten named ancient peoples then living there. So we hear Yahweh declaring, “To your descendants I give this land, from the River of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” – that is the red border line on the map placed over the Nile Delta all the way north using the border line of the Euphrates – “The land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” That is ten complete nations. Historians and archaeologists inform us that these ten different peoples lived in what is today Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, part of Asian Turkey, and of course all of Israel, including what we refer to today as Gaza and the West Bank.


Other statements are made of the extent of the borders of the Promised Land. Exodus 23:31 describes them as from the Red Sea, the “Sea of the Philistines” i.e., the Mediterranean and the “River”, the Euphrates. This is the furthest extent of the Kingdom of David as stated in 1 Kings 4:24.  The fact that the Red Sea is mentioned puts the southern borders of promise are far more distant than commonly imaged or thought of. The Red Sea at the south, and the Euphrates River as the northern border as far east as it flows. There are those that prove the Red Sea in ancient times meant the entire waters that surrounds Saudi Arabia, and not merely the Red Sea as delineated by our modern maps, meaning that it included the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. I personally do not press that point, but it is made by some excellent secular historian academics who have no axe to grind or point to make on biblical inspiration or Israel.  If this is so it would render the entire Arabian Peninsula within the borders described. Modern Jewish scholarly maps depicting the region take a reticent view, like the one show above and often leave the southern and eastern borders vaguely defined.


However, the borders of the land to be conquered given in Numbers have a precisely defined eastern border which included the Arabah and Jordan. Numbers 34: 1-15 describes the borders allocated to the twelve Israelite tribes. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh received land east of the Jordan.


The border with Egypt is given as the River of Egypt in Numbers, as well as in Deuteronomy and Ezekiel. This is universally accepted to be the River Nile. Pedantic scholars argue about what branch of the Nile Delta is meant. However, as the land is not yet Israel’s even here in the twenty first century after Christ, the debate is presently hypothetical and for that reason I go no further with it.


What we then have throughout Deuteronomy and Joshua is the land as far it was conquered and necessitated by the population of Israel as it was at the death of Moses and the succession of Joshua.  Deuteronomy 19:8 indicates the possibility of Israel possessing more of the Promised Land when “enlarging your borders” is brought into the equation.


In the borders of Ezekiel’s visions, the five more northerly tribes are clearly given borders far more easterly than the Jordan.


The promise to Abraham is obviously the master template of what denotes the “Promised Land.” This implies that the Jewish settlement under Joshua actually fell drastically short of what was truly promised. It also explains why the prophets were so persistent in speaking over those nations that occupied territory that were promised to Abraham’s descendants.


000001 Isaiah 13Three burdens totally unrelated by time.


It has to be noted and presented that “the burden concerning the desert by the sea,” “the burden concerning Dumah,” and “the burden of Arabia,” are three separate prophetic messages. Babylon fell 539 BC. Edom was not predicted to fall at all by Isaiah. The prophet’s silence about Seir (euphemism for Edom) is deafening. Nothing per se is actually predicted. The Edomites gloating over the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC was damned by the prophets. In Greaco – Roman times, Edom was renamed Idumea and reduced to only a small area of land, the vast majority of which was previously part of Judah. Perhaps that is why Isaiah was shocked at what he saw but could not say what the Edomite horror was. As far as Arabia is concerned, this writer holds a hypothesis that the reduction of population in Arabia referred to here after the death of the military may have been the result of an Assyrian invasion around 715 BC when defeated civilian Arabians were deported to live in Samaria, where after intermarriage, they became known as Samaritans.


In plain language, the three burdens of Isaiah 21 are together simply because of the loss and trauma that their ebbing fortunes of power and population scenarios would bring to the Middle East as a whole and devastation that would be caused to trade, living standards and the Jewish people and their nation state.


Three burdens intended to encourage Israel.


These three prophecies were delivered to the people of Judah (the only extant Jewish state in the world at this point of Isaiah’s time) to build faith and a positive expectation of the long term future. Yes judgement was on the way to Judah, but God’s purpose for Israel in the far future was set, and the people were to be encouraged to see how God’s dealings with all the other nations that at that time possessed land that was promised to the Jewish people, were being judged for the sake of, and moving towards the blessing of the nation state that goes by the name of Israel.  In other words: “Israel rejoice because Babylon may rise and be hated by all, they shall be judged and banished for your blessing. Edom may hate you and dismiss you totally, but they shall be diminished to the point of shame. And as for Arabia, some of them will be transported to your land in Samaria and will be glad that they can live there in peace. Everything is done by the hand of God, for the building of His purpose, and the blessing of people of faith and the ethnic state of Israel.


It is my opinion that these three particularly vivid and horror filled prophetic words are connected by no other string than the triple X rated horror certificate that each of these burdens carry in the words and obviously in the mind of Isaiah. The language suggests that Isaiah is smitten with shock at what he is seeing about the future of these three areas.  Having seen in his vision, or his dream – however such shocking events were revealed to him, it is as if the vividness of the scene, and the emotion of the words spoken and shouted left him ill and pained to the point that he briefly explains the movement of his experience and leaves the actualities of what he saw to the imagination of his readers, omitting the detail that we all crave for.


Here is my own paraphrase of the chapter. Each verse is followed by an immediate “naked” statement of how my interlinear copy of Isaiah reads, and followed by my thoughts concerning each.


  1. This is an oracular prophetic message, a burden and divine revelation about and against Babylon – the “desert (wilderness or pasture) by the sea”:

As disaster comes, advancing like a windstorm or hurricane – a whirlwind passing over and blowing through the Negev (the southlands of Judah) and sweeping on, so comes an invader from the distant desert wilderness, from a frightening nation, a land of terror and awe that is feared. (Lannon’s own Interpretation) (Direct translation: The burden concerning the wilderness of the sea. As windstorms in the Negev pass through from the wilderness, so it comes from a terrible land)


Isaiah hitherto in his volume has brought us four particular burdens. They were the burdens of Babylon (13:1), Moab (15:1), Damascus (17:1), and the burden of Egypt (19:1). Here in one chapter we have the burden of the desert of the sea (21:1), the burden of Dumah (21:11) and the burden upon Arabia (21:13).


The word burden has quite a breadth of meaning. A message. A prophecy. A divine revelation. And, yes, a burden that has to be carried. It is clearly a burden to the prophets that carried such communications. The Word of the Lord is truly a heavy burden. Divine, eternal and glorious it may be, but it weighs people down until their hearts are fully delivered of the telling of that message. It is also, of course, a burden on the people to whom the message was sent. Attempts to gain security in God whilst living in sin and rejecting God’s burden is the very suburb of hell, and the policy of the devil. Isaiah’s burden was to build the faith of the believing people of Zion. Babylon’s fall, some 150 plus years after Isaiah would bring remarkable blessing to Israel.


The “desert (wilderness or pasture) by or of the sea.” This cryptic appellation for Babylon is possibly adducing the actual character of the geography that extensively surrounded the city and its’ far stretched environs. The never-ending stereotypical image of a desert, being a sea of sand with knolls and sand hills instead of moving waves stretching to the horizon in a full 360 degree scan is what is engendered by Isaiah’s title.  He is referring to Babylon as is self-evident as the prophecy unravels. A veritable Atlantic Ocean of sand.


Preachers and teachers of previous generations who over indulged in metaphors, types and crypticisms have suggested that the phrase, “desert (wilderness or pasture) by or of the sea” alluded to the social and spiritual desolation that Babylon brought to the nations over which it ruled with a fist of iron. It turned out to be a metaphorical desert later, in their cruel, merciless and authoritative squeeze on Judah. Some have even suggested that the “desert” and “sea” terminology referred to the sight of their remarkably vast armies marching across vast swathes of land. A voluminous military force of humanity that stretched beyond one’s horizon would have been a spectacle indeed.


The movement of Babylon’s army making a breathtaking sight of marching military might as far as the eye could see would have been truly chilling to behold, especially when seen marching towards one’s own township.  However, where there are vast numbers of soldiers, there are even vaster seas of wives and children and extended families. The fall of Babylon was not only the defeat of arbitrary and selfish vicious military might, to which we could all shout “Hooray!” Armies needed paying and feeding. Pay was needed to maintain wives and homes and families. What was to happen if and when Babylon was to fall, and its armies crushed?  Negative shock waves of poverty and bereavement would touch possibly millions. Perhaps the only good thing that came out of the conquering empires of Assyria, and then Babylon, was the international trade, the interaction and exchange of knowledge and economic prosperity. The fall of Babylon would mean poverty and desperation for greater numbers than the folks who lived under the shade of the Babylonian tree. Yes the Medo-Persian empire brought greater wealth, but the transition would have been horrific for many.


The fall of Babylon that Isaiah was referring to, as we know it, was not a violent one. Babylon as an empire fell in one night in 539 BC. Unanimously accepted historical reconstruction of the fall of Babylon to Cyrus and the Medo-Persians has been problematic due to the inconsistencies between the various source documents. The Bible, the Babylonian Chronicles and the so called Cyrus Cylinder describe Babylon being taken “without battle,” whereas the Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon report that the city was first besieged. Babylon never saw a battle per se, although the slaughter within its walls must have been great.  The full story, however, as I have always understood it, is that any fighting, and there undoubtedly was some huge conflicts, was done away from Babylon city, while Babylon itself was taken quietly by subtle cunning. Cyrus took the initiative at a military engagement historians refer to as the Battle of Opis.  In the city, however, Babylon’s walls were so broad they were considered impenetrable. The only way into the city was through one of its many gates or under the openings in the wall that allowed the river Euphrates to flow through. Metal grates were installed under the wall, and under water allowing the river to flow through the city walls while preventing any fear of enemy intrusion. King Cyrus, however, devised a cunning plan to enter the city via the river. During a Babylonian national feast, his troops actually diverted the Euphrates upstream, allowing huge numbers of soldiers to enter through the lowered water level and through the grates. The Persian army conquered the outlying areas of the city while the majority of Babylonians at the city center were totally unaware of the breach. This account is explained fully by the historian Herodotus. It is also mentioned in Daniel 5.


  1. I have seen a stern, harsh and dire vision of hard times to come. It is terrifying and grievous. I see treacherous traitors betraying them. I see people destroying and spoiling them and taking their wealth and looting them.  Go ahead Elam, go against them! Media, surround the city, attack and lay siege!  Make war! I will put an end to all the moaning, groaning and sighing that was caused by Babylon. (Direct translation: A vision grievous is declared to me. The treacherous dealer deals treacherously and the spoiler spoils. Go up O Elam. Besiege oh Media. All the sighing thereof I have made to cease.)


By this verse we know Isaiah is seeing 539 BC. Elam and Media together in what was known as the Medo-Persian Empire took Babylon with stealth. The language is raucous. Those purists who are both academic and fluent in Hebrew all shout in unison that Isaiah 21 is one of the most superlative examples of Hebrew poetry in existence. Its violence, its energy, its abruptness and its intensity is rather extraordinary even in English.


It is as if Isaiah sees himself to be stood on a hilltop surrounding Babylon, and/or conceivably, even inside the suburbs of the city. Suddenly he comprehends a tsunami of a hurricane, a literal wave of invading armies sweeping down through the desert, approaching Babylon. “Go ahead Elam, go against them! Media, surround the city, attack and lay siege!  Make war! I will put an end to all the moaning, groaning and sighing that was caused by Babylon.”  It is an army amazingly equal in size to that of Babylon’s. The vision is so lucid and vivid it fills the prophet with an alarmed agony.  What will happen when one huge number of violent fighting men meets a similar mountain of force?  Out of the violent whirlwind, through and out of the mist, Isaiah sees troops of armed warriors flashing into ever more focused vision. God Himself declares that He will cause the Medes to win this battle. The world will be rid of the horror that was the Babylonian empire.


We need to keep clearly in mind, that at the time Isaiah spoke and wrote these words, Babylon had not yet risen to power.


  1. I saw those terrible things, and my body and loins were racked with pain and filled with anguish and convulsions. Pangs have seized me like the pain of a woman giving birth. What I hear staggers and perplexes me causing me to grow faint. What I see makes me utterly terrified, horrified and bewildered.  (Direct translation:  For this my loins are filled with pain. Pangs have taken hold of me like the pangs that take hold of a woman that travails. I was bowed down at the hearing. I was dismayed at the seeing of it.)


There are no moments as painful as a person’s moments in shock and trauma when one has quite literally lost their sense of time and space in the hub of strange things happening. To say Isaiah was out of his prophetic comfort zone is a bit of an understatement. This was clearly one of those moments of shock and horror for Isaiah. Others could not see what he saw, and clearly therefore could not feel what he felt.  Isaiah fell to the ground as a pregnant woman screams and falls in order to give birth. Isaiah was alone no matter how many people may have been present when he delivered the message. He was quite literally in deep pain – the text says so plainly.  The wise prophet and man of God searches out Yahweh’s own examination of the world and the far seeing implications of His judgements. This is what brought Isaiah to the ground. The sheer unadulterated undiluted pain of solitary responsibility to deliver what he sees is too much for Isaiah’s human frame to carry. What he sees is something that will impact the social fabric, such as it was, of the entire world that Isaiah knew. Isaiah saw the vision, and for want of a better phrase, experienced the horrors of what he saw. It appalled and overwhelmed him.


This is possibly one of the best instances that teach us of the heart of a true prophet and his partaking of the heart and mind of God. Isaiah feel God’s pain in the deceit and machinations of mankind.


  1. My heart pants, palpitates and is worried, reeling and shaking with fear. Horror has overwhelmed and appalled me. I longed for evening to come, but now it is here I am terrified of the dark. My pleasant evening has become a nightmare and a horror to me. Babylon is a wonder to me. (Direct translation:  My heart panted with fearfulness. He has turned the pleasure of my night into fear and trembling for me.)


Isaiah is clearly referring to the fall of Babylon as recorded in the history books as well as the Bible when Cyrus, the ruler of the Medo-Persian empire was to sneak in, unnoticed in the middle of the night and remove the Babylonian monarchy from the rule of the land and replace Babylonian rule with the Medo-Persian. It is a night that even the bible tells us of. We can even reveal what the prophet Daniel was doing the night this coup took place.


The violence Isaiah felt was the human pain and loss of life, not the city of Babylon itself. Babylon the reign, the religion and the title of a nation disappeared, yet the city, the bricks and mortar were to stand.


Babylon as a physically constructed city would not be destroyed till shortly after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. Alexander’s empire was famously divided amongst his four generals, and immediately fighting broke out between the four “mini empires.” The constant warfare and the constantly impacting victories and reversals in battles for key corners of the split world led (amongst many other things) to the complete emptying of the geographical city of Babylon. A tablet was discovered dated 275 BC and states that the entire inhabitants of Babylon were deported to Seleucia where a palace and a temple were built for the refugees. It is accepted that with this extradition, Babylon became utterly insignificant as a city and faded away in its “Ghost town” abandonment, looted over the years to almost total oblivion, apart from the ruins that exist today.  Saddam Hussein attempted unsuccessfully to rebuild the city.


  1. “Set the table! Set a guard! Prepare a feast! Spread the rugs, carpets and cloths to lie on next to the table! Light the lamps. Eat and drink! Officers -Princes, get up! Polish your shields!” (Direct translation:  Prepare the table they spread. Set a watch or a guard! Spread, eat and drink. Arise you princes. Anoint the shield.)


This violence, and the experience of Isaiah is happening simultaneous (in the context of the real time of his vision) to a splendid banquet, being held in the great Chaldean city. In cinematic terms, it is Isaiah’s prophetic cameras cutting from the outside of the city to the innermost chambers of the same. The tables are laid, the carpets are spread. Those present are eating, drinking and making merry. It was a national, Babylonian religious feast, and the huge metropolis was truly caught with its guards asleep and it pants down. The revelling was at its height. And while the saga of Daniel 5 and the divine handwriting on the wall was taking place,at that prophetic moment in the same real time history parallel to Daniel’s confrontation with Belshazzar, unexpectedly a wild and desperate cry is heard, “Officers, get up! Polish your shields!” This was the standard call for the military to scramble into battle mode. A foe was at hand. “Spring up from the banquet, smear with oil the leather coverings of your shields that the blows of the enemy may slide off from them in battle.”  The clang of arms disturbs the Babylonian feast. That very night Belshazzar was slain.



  1. Adonai said to me, “Go find a watchman, set a watchman on the walls – a lookout. Someone to guard this city. He must shout out and announce whatever he sees. Let him tell his vision. (Direct translation:   For this is what the Lord says: Go! Set a watchman! What he sees, let him declare.)


The prophet lying in pain hears the voice of Yahweh. The instruction is for him to set somebody as a watch and guard. Is this an angel that is referred to? How are we to interpret the prophet Isaiah being sent to appoint a watchman in the midst of an apocalyptic vision inspired by the Spirit of God? Surely Isaiah himself, as the prophet, is the watchman for us. Who or what else could the imagery refer to apart from the angel forces that protect the purposes and destiny of Israel? However the selection, appointment and activity of the watchman, as far as the text is concerned is immediate.


  1. And he saw chariots each with a couple of horsemen, chariots with horses and chariots of camels, and he listened diligently with full and close attention.” (Direct translation: And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot with horses and a chariot of camels, and he listened diligently with much heed.)


Immediately the visionary camera and focus cuts to the watchman on the tower. We conclude that the watchman is seeing in greater detail what Isaiah has already begun to see. What is it that the watchman sees?  The watchman catches what Isaiah is experiencing and sees what has made the prophet ill and to be desperately suffering in pain.


  1. Then, the watchman sentry who saw everything called out (like a lion?), “A lion! My master, every day I have been standing in the watchtower scanning. Every night I have remained on duty at my post, stationed at my assignment. (Direct translation: And he cried, A Lion! On the watchtower, my Lord, I stand continually in the daytime and am at my guard throughout the whole night.)


I confess that I am not sure who the watchman is in the image built by the text. The watchman in verse 8 sounds to me as if it is Isaiah that we are talking about. Methinks that Cyrus, the king and empire that Daniel saw as a bear in Daniel 7, is the lion to which the watchman here refers. The watchman has been looking, trembling and observing. The Lion he sees must have been waiting to pounce, but now is the moment, as far as the vision is concerned that is, that movement begins.


I concede a problem with understanding here inasmuch as verses 6 and 7 tell me that the Lord Himself instructed Isaiah to appoint a watchman, yet verse 8 suggests to me that Isaiah himself is the watchman. By scouring through 20 to 30 other translations, it seems to me that many “experts” have a problem with this text also.


Having declared his faithfulness to his craft as a watchman, the man on watch, whom I shall refer to as Isaiah himself, finally sees movement. His concentrated long term watch finally pays off.


  1. Now look what’s coming! I see riders. Men coming in chariots with a team of horses.” The messengers in the chariots answered and said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon. It has been defeated! It has fallen to the ground! All the carved images and statues of her false gods were thrown to the ground and broken into pieces on the earth.” (Direct translation: And behold, here comes a chariot of men with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said Babylon is fallen, is fallen. And all the graven images of her gods He has broken on the ground.)


The watchman, with deep, impatient groans, as of a lion, complains that he had previously seen nothing; that he has been set there, apparently for no purpose, all day and all night long. But as he explains having nothing to report, there suddenly arises an awful movement that widens his eyes, drops his jaw and astonishes him.


From the land of storm and desolation, that is the desert between the Persian Gulf and Babylon, he sees a huge and motley host, some mounted on horses, some on asses, some on camels, plunging forward through the night. It is the host of Cyrus on his march against Babylon. In the advent of the Persian military hosts he sees the downfall of the dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar and the liberation of Judah from her exile – an exile, of course, that had not even taken place in the days of Isaiah. It was also an exile to a foul giant empire that had not even risen on the map at the time Isaiah saw it.  In that instant, as though secure of Medo- Elamite victory and Chaldean defeat, he cries out, “Babylon is fallen! Is fallen!” And Cyrus the Persian king, a monotheist though he would be, still a worshipper of fire and the sun, has dashed in pieces all the graven images of the city of Nimrod, the metropolis of Babylon. It was seen and clearly so some 150 years or so before it was to happen.


The allusion to idols in verse 9 is not intended merely to remind us that the conquest was a triumph of the true God over false ones, but to bring into view the well-known aversion of the Medes had to all images. Herodotus says they not only thought it improper to use images and idols, but ascribed irrationality and foolishness to those who did. Here is another incidental but remarkable confirmation of prophecy well substantiated by secular historians.


  1. My people, downtrodden, crushed and winnowed like the harvested grain and stalks on my threshing floor. I have told you and announced to you everything I heard from Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel. (Direct translation:   Oh my threshing and the grain of my floors. That which I have heard from Yahweh of Sabbaoth, the Elohim of Israel have I declared to.)


Then the watchman (Isaiah himself?) cries to his Hebrew brothers who were to be exiles in Babylonian captivity more than a century after tis vision was seen; “O my people, crushed and trodden down”–literally, “O my grain, and the son of my threshing floor”–“this is my prophecy for you; it is a prophecy of victory for a future monarch who would champion your cause; it is a prophecy of deliverance for yourselves, Israel.” God’s threshing. Babylon is the instrument employed by the Divine wrath to thresh with. Israel is Yahweh’s grain threshed, crushed and winnowed. Your freedom will come in that day is what the prophet is  saying, no matter how cryptic the statement is, or ignorant of it the people would have been in Isaiah’s day. Yahweh’s love takes part also in the work of threshing, and restrains the action of wrath. A picture likely to give comfort to the grain lying for threshing on the floor, i.e., to the people of Israel who had been scythed down as it were, deported and exiled from their native soil, and had been banished to Babylon, and there subjected to a tyrannical rule. Isaiah sees it in past tense in the spiritual choreography of the world, as if it had just happened. Isaiah was talking somewhere around 716 BC here, and Cyrus took Babylon in 539 BC


Babylon’s impact on Judah was to be devastating. That was future. However Isaiah’s message was to let them know that God owned them and was married to the Jewish state, and Babylon would pay a dreadful price for overstepping the mark that God had laid down for them to operate in.  The downfall of Babylon was to let Judah (Israel) know that they were still being overseen by the chesed (love and care) of Yahweh the God of Israel. The statements of Isaiah were to be held, treasured and pondered until the fulfillment of the original promise.


120. Why does Isaiah pronounce judgements over all the gentile nations?

“But that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. (Italics mine).  So says Revelation 10:17.

REV 00What does this verse teach us about the Old Testament prophets and men like Isaiah?

It demonstrates that even though externally it was a two bit tiny piece of real Estate called Judah, smaller than some of the shire counties in the UK, and even though it was a poverty stricken, and morally and spiritually bankrupt society, the message that these comparatively unknown men delivered in order to bring their comparatively tiny number of people in alignment with God’s plan and purpose, both individually and collectively, was not small minded parochialism or home spun yokels and philosophers that were quaint and fascinating to those who saw and heard them. It was not an eighth century BC “Carry On…” film as I have heard some Christians describe them, bungling their way through the days in which they lived. Neither were they religious eccentrics that were out to proselytize as many converts as they could.  As a matter of fact they probably lost more religious minded people than they gained spiritually hungry folks. They actually, quite literally slated the religious sacrificial system that was slavishly continued by some, but was practiced without any concept of faith whatsoever, without a proper hope, and definitely without love. These prophets were men who had touched God – or should I say God touched them. What they had taken hold of was whatever Father, Son and Holy Spirit in heaven were discussing, planning and executing in the earth at that moment of time and they courageously stood up to tell what they had seen and heard. They were seers and prophets. They saw the invisible world and what was going on there and they heard what was being discussed there, andmost of all, they entered into the mindset and worldview of God and heaven. And they all got killed for their possession of those insights. These men saw the universe as it truly is, and not only as men see it. These men saw the absolute reality of what governs the universe and they saw, heard and felt the exact same way that God saw, heard and felt. These men were after truth. They were in hot pursuit of God’s thoughts and declared them. That truth hurt and pained many, but they were not in any way trying to hurt anybody, in fact, quite the opposite. It is arguable that these series of men were the greatest men that ever lived, notwithstanding Christ Himself.


REV 01Jesus actually pronounced John the Baptist the greatest man that ever lived. As a prophet it is reckoned that the Baptist only preached for about 3 months before Herod put him behind bars. Men like Isaiah declared God’s immediate and contemporary word, in the context of the eternal and everlasting truth over three or four decades. It would seem that all the great prophets were the greatest of men. Meaning that the greatest of men all belong to the same “Trades Union.”


Isaiah and all the prophets saw God’s hand of blessing and/or judgement in everything that was happening on the face of the earth. They saw God’s purpose and plan in what had happened, what was happening and what was to happen in the future. Whether it was their nation, or nations all around the world that they knew. All nations were seen for what they were, and and what they are in the light of God’s eternal purpose for man, and for the nation and people of Israel. Some of their predictions were for the next year, some for the next decade, some for Christ’s first advent, some for His second advent and beyond. The prophets saw much that has not –as yet – been fulfilled at all. Isaiah saw the rise and the fall of nations, ethnic groups and empires; of those that were in existence as they spoke, as well as those that were not in existence at the moment he spoke.


Isaiah identified rampant sin, evil and iniquity that was governing those that governed the nations of the middle East, all of which had some interaction with Israel and or Judah somewhere along their time line, even if not directly, simply because of the geographical position of the Land that was given to Abraham. These men saw that the evil of men’s hearts, and the trickery f their motivations and scheming were bigger and larger than mankind could generally perceive.


REV 02Isaiah and the prophets of his time, right through to the fall of Jerusalem, were all painfully aware of the strategic nature of Israel and Judah’s geographical position. Nobody from the south, like Egypt or Ethiopia could interact with any other nation north of Canaan without travelling through Israel’s territory. Assyria and Egypt could not interact with each other without somebody having to walk on Israeli territory to get to the other. To Israel’s west was the Great Sea (The Mediterranean), and to the east was the scorching desert. This meant that all alien invaders or travelers had to march through the land that is Israel. Isaiah saw the evil of all the nations and he knew exactly what Yahweh was going to do about that evil. Isaiah saw earthquakes, drought conditions and political setbacks that were all a result of the conduct of the nations, their people and their leaders. They saw the coincidences of life that would cause dictator-like kings to miss a trick here, or fail to conquer there – and they stood up in full knowledge of the mind of God and declared, “This is what Yahweh says…” Their message contained material that was obvious, some of it strange, and some of it downright challenging to the understanding. We know full well that the Lord Jesus referred to the stuff they wrote continually. He argued from their statements, and rationally presented His worldview and conceptualization of life from the things that they preached and wrote.


REV 03Have you ever wondered why Abraham marched south after he had left Haran? He could have marched into Turkey and had a huge spread of the land of a vast sub-continent. He could have trekked north and become some kind of mountain dwelling race. But he was led southwards and was given the most vitally important stretch of real estate in the Middle East, if not, in the world. Every other city state, nation state or empire in the Middle East had to relate, to some degree, with that stretch of land the Bible refers to as Canaan, Israel, the Holy Land, or simply “His Land.” And that was the parcel of land chosen by God to be given everlastingly to Abraham and his descendants.


Every interaction that any nation had with Israel or Judah impacted their own future as well as the Jews.


Egypt were uncircumcised gentile people. (At least, if they were circumcised it was for hygiene reasons not for covenantal reasons with God) God had laid it on Isaiah to teach the kings of Israel and their advisors that faith in God was demanded from Yahweh, and the slightest inclination to ask for or to pay for assistance from Egypt was, really, to put some kind of curse on both Egypt and Judah, or Israel together. God was Israel’s Saviour, and to rely on anybody else, human, angelic or demonic, was a statement of their rejection of God and His promises.


But, there were never to be forgotten circumstances that impacted on God’s purpose for Egypt. A Pharaoh long previous to Isaiah had treated Abraham and Sarah favourably, even though Abraham had lied to him. A later Pharaoh had treated Joseph with great grace and kindness and raised him to be Egypt’s high and lofty second in command. For this fact, i.e. that Egypt had blessed Abraham himself, and in blessing Joseph had again blessed Abraham indirectly, according to Genesis 12:1-3, they themselves were to be blessed. That blessing has not yet been fully received and entered into, therefor we classify that blessing as unfulfilled prophecy. So in the midst of any judgement on Egypt, there was the future hope of His grace, and Egypt will be saved in the end days.


REV 04The Philistines had always been enemies of Israel, and later with Judah. Centuries of that kind of enmity finally filled their cup full of their condemnatory and idolatrous behaviour, and so final judgement was declared upon them. Sentence was declared upon them for their own idolatry as well as their crimes against Israel. Remember God promised Abraham that whoever blessed him would be blessed, and whoever cursed him would be cursed. The Philistines had spent every generation cursing Abraham’s seed and descendants. Heaven and earth passes away, but what God has spoken will never pass away.


Isaiah, along with other prophets, heard from God when various nations had reached critical mass in their immorality, sinful mindsets and evil conduct. The violence of the major empires of Old Testament times is a thing hardly understood today in our politically correct world, in which, half a dozen deaths in the armed forces while in full warfare requires analyses, court enquiries and public statements and apologies from the leaders of men in the armed forces. (I make no statement whatsoever as to the morality or immorality of such a thing) Isaiah was seeing through the eyes of God the various cultures and outlooks of nations where thousands upon thousands of men and women could die in armed warfare in a single day and their leaders would not so much as blink. The evil of those worldviews that counted human life so cheaply and unimportant were world views that even in such a ferocious and violent series of generations were ungodly and demanding of divine judgement. The prophets were raised up by God in the overflowing activity of the world in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. to state the facts of history before world affairs were taking place, so that the world would know evidentially that there was a God in heaven who rules the world and the kingdoms of men.


REV 05 Zechariah stoned

Zechariah slain between the porch and the altar.

The prophet Jonah preached in Nineveh, declaring that their cup of sin and evil was full and they were forty days short of divine annihilation. Nineveh repented at the very cusp of eternal damnation, and were saved, much to the chagrin of Jonah himself as it was equally to the pleasure of God. 150 years later Nineveh and Assyria had reached critical mass yet again filling their cup of iniquity as seen, observed and noted from heaven and were becoming ripe again for judgement. God will always accept the repentant heart, but once critical mass has been reached, folks have transcended, by their own choice, the potential within themselves to repent. They have literally chosen not to turn from evil or even consider that God speaking into their existence. The prophet Nahum pronounced their death sentence. The reasons Nahum gives us as to why God was about to overthrow Assyria are terrifyingly similar to the facts, figures and statistics of modern society in the west, and particularly in the UK where I live. Alcoholism was rampant in Assyria. Nahum said so. The men had become effeminate. The national leaders had become like grasshoppers.


How is it reasonable and logical to see, plainly, how Assyria could not escape God’s severest judgement because of these sins, and then we hopefully expect that we in our modern society somehow could be allowed to go free. As if God has changed his modus operandi for our modern “superior” democratic choices. The majority says that what was previously called sin could not possibly be anything but good and holy, so God must obviously bow his head and go with the votes of man. Prophets of peace and prosperity in the midst of such a cosmos seem to me to be like Nero fiddling, making merry and dancing while Rome was burning and people were dying.


History shows us that something like 20-22 civilisations have come and gone in the context of world history with the same classical cultural pattern of development followed by internal moral rot, and indeed, the same thing is happening again now even in the global village. Compared with the land mass of planet earth all empires that have arisen and peaked and collapsed were mere parochial small things. The prophets of both the Old and New Testament point towards a global empire, a world order that will cover ever nation on the planet, where the same idiosyncrasies will be present in its growth, maturation and fall. When that empire falls, how great will that fall be?

The one thing we have all clearly learned from history is that mankind does not learn from history.

REV 06

Jesus tells us that all the prophets were slain by the Jews.

Each one of these collapses and divine fells of  judgement were preceded by waves of prosperity that caused each civilization to be at rest in the evils that they sank into – evils that would finally see their culture die. God sees all and everything.


The Old Testament prophetic voice likened God’s judgement to a bow and arrow. Isaiah perceived it as the arrow of judgmental execution on the bow of God’s administrative right hand of power, and the bow string being pulled back further and further, ready to shoot that arrow of judgement at the heart of Assyria and later into the heart of Babylon.


The very night Babylon fell, the conduct of the Babylonian royal family is clearly seen in the fifth chapter of Daniel. Luxury, party, untrammeled wealth, blasphemy and a mindlessness that ignored the Medo-Persian army that was at their gates. Daniel himself listed 5 different civilisations that would rise and fall in this very same syndrome. When at their richest, nations, people groups and empires have tended to consider themselves immune to anything that even resembles God’s judgement. It happened with the Japanese empire, the Peruvian empire, and others. Growth. An outward mission that sent them conquering and to conquer. Wealth, affluence, ease – and then crash.  Financial chaos. Moral collapse. The arrow of God’s judgement finds the heart of an empire. If folks sin like Sodom and Gomorrah, they will undoubtedly pay the price of Sodom and Gomorrah.


REV 08Much of what the writing prophets said is pure revelation concerning the “mystery” of God’s plan and purposes worldwide. Is that why they are not read as much as other sections of scripture?

Revelation 10:17, the verse we started with, informs us that the prophets could see things down to the end of the time line that God has set for mankind, the world, and the whole of creation.  We seriously need to get to grips with the vastness of the horizon and the entire land of the future that Isaiah and the other prophets saw so clearly.





REV 10

119. Egypt and Ethiopia. Assyria defeats one and thereby defeats both

Isaiah 20

20 3 Representation of the Battle of Eltekeh.The Kushite attack on the Assyrians (8th century BC)

Representation of the Battle of Eltekeh.The Kushite attack on the Assyrians

Here endeth the lesson of Egypt and Ethiopia with the trilogy of Isaiah’s three chapters, 18, 19 and 20. (Not that Isaiah had a clue about three chapters. Nobody in the bible wrote in chapters and verses. That was a concoction of man to facilitate us learning, remembering and finding verses more easily.) Here we are, yet again, examining Egypt and Cush and their final collapse before the rampaging might and military force of an angry king Essarhaddon and the forces of Assyria who wanted so much to please their monarch.


713 BC is when the drama of Isaiah 20 commenced. 671 BC is the year his predictions explained within the chapter were fulfilled. That’s a 42 year gap between prediction and realization.


Let me spell out a little more of the history before we read the biblical text of Isaiah.


701 BC is definitely the year that Sennacharib, the king of Assyria lost 180,000 soldiers overnight. These were soldiers that were camped outside Jerusalem and ready to besiege the city of David. Isaiah and Hezekiah witnessed the event and walked through it. We will go into the details of that story when we get to the relevant chapters of Isaiah’s volume.


After that divine encounter with the Angel of Yahweh, Sennacharib returned home, and Assyria did not pester Judah again for twenty years or so, but when they did, my oh my, did they meant business! It took two whole decades for Assyria to sort out its rebellious vassal states like the Elamites, Chaldeans, Scythians and Babylonians. It must have been a desperate time when, believe it or not, religious beliefs got in the way of their heavy handed world conquering. I say that because, as I understand it, one of the main reasons why Sennacharib’s own sons killed him was the fact that in ransacking Babylon he defiled what Assyrians considered sacred and holy places, statues and priests. Esarhaddon assumed the throne of Assyria and was so fed up with the news he had been reported to over and over again concerning Egyptian interference with Assyria’s vassal nations around the Levant that he decided to end the nonsense once and for all.


20 2 end_antiqueRemember that while all this was going on, around 679 BC, Isaiah had probably been martyred by this time, Hezekiah was definitely dead, and Manasseh his wicked warlock of a son was ruling over and utterly destroying Judah spiritually, morally, and socially. Cush (Nubia cum Ethiopia) was still running and ruling Egypt.


So, we camp at 671 BC. We see Esarhaddon on the bloodiest of battlefields. Egypt has been thrashed on the filed of slaughter. Egyptians and Ethiopians were slaughtered alike, and they that did not die, were bound up and packaged for exile back in Assyria. Tuharka, the Nubian Egyptian Pharaoh that had led them into battle fled for his life. He fled not only to Egypt’s high walled cities, but down the Nile and back into the land of Cush. It was a total humiliation. From that moment on, Egypt was free of the Cushite twenty-fifth dynasty. In fact the twenty fifth dynasty was no more. The once mighty Egypt, which had receded in power and glory under the Nubian twenty-fifth dynasty for the last few generations, was now in tatters through the hateful Assyrian aggression, and even more powerless under its thumb. Huge numbers of both Cushites and Egyptians were chain ganged together and marched off to Nineveh and its environs. And let me tell you; walking from Egypt up along the Mediterranean coast to somewhere near Haran, and there making a sharp right turn and marching off to Nineveh or some other Assyrian metropolis is an awful long way to walk.


This Assyrian conquest ended the Nubian 25th dynasty in Egypt, and effectively destroyed the Kushite Empire. There you have the story. And Isaiah saw it all something between twenty to thirty years before hand.


Why did I suggest we also remember 679 BC? Because two years later Tirhakah tried a return bout with Assyria down south in Upper Egypt and was even more humiliatingly defeated by Assyria. Esarhaddon, after having returned to Assyria to celebrate his glorious campaign against Egypt, had set off to get rid of Tirhakah completely. Unfortunately for him he had fallen ill and died when he had hardly left home at Haran. Ashurbanipal, his son, succeeded him and was so confident of his generals that he did not even go himself to finish off Tirhakah. Instead, he sent a general and an elite army corps, a kind of Assyrian SAS corps who pursued Tirhakah out of Egypt never to return again. Tirhaqa died two years later in Nubia.


This is a further back cloth of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic word in Isaiah 18, 19 and 20.


  1. 20 0 isaiah20preaches20to20the20people

    Artist’s impression of Isaiah preaching to the people.

    Yahweh revealed the following message in the year that Tartan, the supreme commander in chief came to the Philistine city of Ashdod, sent by Sargon king of Assyria. He attacked it and took it. (Lannon’s extended free translation and paraphrase Verse 1)


The bits and pieces that the Assyrian kings have left behind are priceless with statements that equip us to know when and where certain events took place in biblical history. We know quite well that Ashdod, a Philistine walled city, was besieged twice during the reign of Sargon II, he himself left inscriptions that tell us so. It occurred, according to Sargon, once in his ninth year of reign and then in his eleventh year of power. The first occasion was probably overseen by Tartan, and the second time is generally understood to have been “generalled” by Sargon himself. The capture then that is referred to in Isaiah 20:1 is the first one of his reign.


The word “Tartan” is not a name per se, but a title. A “Tartan” was equivalent to “Commander-in Chief.”


At the time this siege took place Egypt and Ethiopia were under the same monarch, namely Shabok, sometimes referred to as Shabatok. The Philistine inhabitants were seriously looking forward to being delivered from the big bad Assyrians, by the big good Egyptian cum Ethiopian forces. On this occasion, the one referred to in Isaiah 20:1, the king of Assyria placed his own puppet king in charge of Ashdod and left for home. Soon afterwards, however, Ashdod deposed the Assyrian “Yes man,” and put their own choice of king on their throne, and then hurriedly and immediately went scurrying around the nations that surrounded them asking Judah, Edom, Moab and the Egyptian cum Ethiopian empire to assist them. They knew full well that Assyria would beat the daylights out of them for their hasty rebellion.


Foreseeing all that was to come, Isaiah was given a message from God that was meant to warn Hezekiah and the whole of Judah not to entertain union with Egypt or Ethiopia in anyway whatsoever. What was to happen to Egypt and Ethiopia would be the same as happened to all their allies.


Rather than preach and declare, “Keep away from Egypt,” he brought a much more easily grasped message. The message was a strange, and a somewhat embarrassing message that one could not help but see, hear, and understand.


  1. At that very same time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Go, and take the burlap hassock (sackcloth) you have been wearing from your hips and loose it from off your body and the sandals from off your feet.” So Isaiah obeyed the Lord and went around stripped without clothes or sandals, in undergarments and barefoot.  (Lannon’s extended free translation and paraphrase Verse 2)


This verse gives many commentators a need to justify the language. “Isaiah could not possibly have walked around 3 years stark naked,” they say. “It is just too immoral for a holy prophet to do such a thing!” There is a chasm of difference between those that say, “It means he walked around in an undershirt,” and those that answer, “But the showing of buttocks is clearly mentioned, indicating nakedness.” I leave the whole thing to my readers to judge for themselves. Slaves in Assyrian sculptures are commonly dressed in a short tunic. However, the word “naked,” is awkwardly and inexcusably unapologetic about its presence.


  1. Then the Lord said, “Like as my servant and bond slave Isaiah has gone without clothes or sandals for three years. This is a sign and a wonder, a veritable prophetic portent – a symbol, an object lesson and an omen of the terrible troubles I will bring upon Egypt (Mizraim) and Ethiopia (Cush). (Lannon’s extended free translation and paraphrase Verse 3)


Isaiah is God’s servant, God’s slave. With this epithet Isaiah joins the hall of fame with characters such as  Abraham (Genesis 26:24), Moses (Numbers 12:7), Caleb (Numbers 14:24), Job (Job1:8), Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20) and Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:23).


The three years, I reckon was something like 713 BC. To 711 BC, which was undoubtedly the period of time during which, Philistia (Ashdod), Edom, Moab and Judah were making representation to Egypt/Ethiopia for their military support against Assyria. 

20 1 naked

  1. So the king of Assyria will defeat and lead away the captive prisoners of Egypt and the exiles of Ethiopia. Assyria will take prisoners and lead them both away from their countries. The people, young and old, will be led away stripped without clothes and barefoot without sandals. They will be completely naked with buttocks bared to the public shame of Egypt. (Lannon’s extended free translation and paraphrase Verse 4)


20 8 nubian_face1

Classic Nubian featured demeanour

In the royal Chronicles of Sennacharib for 701 BC, Twelve years, I believe, after this prophecy was given,we read the following dictated notification. “The kings of Egypt, and the archers, chariots and the King of Meroe, a force without number, gathered and came to the aid of Ekron. In the neighbourhood of Eltekeh their ranks were arrayed before me, and they urged on their soldiers. In the service of Asshur my lord, I fought with them, and I accomplished their overthrow. The charioteers and sons of the kings of Egypt, and the charioteers of the king of Meroe, alive in the midst of battle, my hand captured.” Meroe means Cush. There was I believe a district and a city in the heart of Cush that was called Meroe.


This, although it is clearly stated as in the days of Sennacharib, was merely a foretaste of what was to take place at the fall of Tirkah and the end of the 25th dynasty in 679 BC.


  1. Those Philistines and their allies who looked to Ethiopia (Cush) their hope, and trusted them for help, will be shattered and afraid. Those who were amazed by and boasted in the jewel of their allies Egypt’s (Mizraim’s) glory will be put to shame.” (Lannon’s extended free translation and paraphrase Verse 5)


Those who will have resorted to Egypt/Ethiopia for aid shall be embarrassed and ashamed of their folly in having done so, and in deep fear as to the consequences of that policy pursuit.


  1. In that day, people living along the coast in that isle of rebellion, will say, “See what has happened to those countries we relied on, those we trusted to help us. We ran to them and clung to them so that they would rescue us from the king of Assyria.  Such was our expectation! But look at them. They have been captured, so how can we escape? ‘If this can happen to Egypt, what chance do we have?”  (Lannon’s extended free translation and paraphrase Verse 6)


Sargon, talks of the four powers that attempted to defy him who “sought after Egypt” as “dwelling by the seaside.” They expected Egypt to have wone the day on their behalf. The defeat and the shame was much to bear.


Few things in life are more difficult than bringing people, whether individuals or nations, to a place of complete surrender and faith in God.


20 5 Nubian dynasty


At the points of time where (a) in 701 BC Isaiah made the prophetic drama with a choreography of nakedness, (b) 701 BC where Sennacharib defeated Ashdod and the neighbouring parts (except for Judah), and 769 BC where Assyria conquered Egypt and in so doing buried the 25th dynasty of Pharaoh’s, Judah  lay absolutely at the mercy of merciless Assyria. There was, at those points of time, no existing power that could contend successfully with those vast and countless bodies of military commandoes which kings of Assyria could hail to the battlefield with a click of the fingers. Nothing but nothing could maintain Jewish independence for more than a few days but a blatant, in your face, miraculous act of God – which, of course, they had in 701 BC. But for that to take place some people, or person, had to be in the place where Yahweh was their sole trust and defence. By leaning on Egypt, that concept and caliber of trust was just not present. The lesson of the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC which had trusted in Egypt (2 Kings 17:4), and then had been destroyed by Assyria, was lost on them. The greatest practical lesson that should have built faith in Judah was simply not even heard, never mind received.


In connection with Ashdod, they had actually sent envoys and ambassadors to Egypt asking for assistance (Isaiah 30:1-4). It was then that Isaiah obeyed the heavenly instruction. The whole of the Middle Eastern world knew of the humiliation of being captured and exiled by Assyria. People chain-ganged and walking stark naked excepting for scanty loin cloths to Nineveh and the like and being sold off to the Assyrian aristocracy. The sight of Isaiah willfully humiliating himself, and knowing the significance of what it meant was a line of communication that could not possibly be misconstrued.


It must have made an impression on Hezekiah and his advisors, even though the message was not heeded.  However, after the battle of Eltekeh and Egypt’s embarrassment, Hezekiah and Judah had a spiritual revival of faith, as it were, and Hezekiah made a desperate appeal to Yahweh (Isaiah 37:4).  The prayer of the king ended the siege of Sennacharib, his Rabshakeh and the death of 180,000 crack Assyrian troops.

20 9 Egypt,_Nubian

A genuine real time Nubian Warrior.


118. Egypt? It is! But its Pharaoh is Ethiopian!


Egypt 4 assyrian-warrior-of-the-assyrian-king-esarhaddon-fighting-against-a-nubian-warrior-of-the-nubian-pharaoh-taharqa-in-the-7th-century-ad

Assyrian warrior of the Assyrian King Esarhaddon fighting against a Nubian warrior of the Nubian Pharaoh Taharqa in the 7th century-ad

This prophecy must in its immediate context refer to the invasion of Egypt by Esarhaddon, king of Assyria in 672 BC. The last verses of the chapter, however, with the conversion to Yahweh of Egypt and the harmony between Israel, Egypt and Assyria has simply never occurred, and therefore must remain as a future prediction. Jesus Christ Himself declared that the scripture cannot be broken, and at another time said “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away.” On that basis, with the understanding that the text of Isaiah is indeed the word of God and as it is the most quoted of the Old Testament scrolls in the New Testament text, we would suggest that we stand on solid ground when we declare that if Isaiah predicted an event or a process which today, 2700 years later, has not been fulfilled, we refuse to scurry around the history books in an attempt to vindicate Isaiah and point out that something or other was the fulfillment. We have covered these kind of thoughts several times in earlier pages on this platform. Throughout my remarks of biblical prophecy, if I read anything predicted by scripture, no matter how early in the chronology of the Bible it is written, if it has not been fulfilled, I refuse to even think the prophet “overstated” a case, or that he spoke in metaphors or symbols, I am in full expectation of the prophetic fulfilment in the future.


I start with this statement simply because the last half of this chapter of Isaiah, has obviously never been anything near fulfillment anywhere in history.


Egypt 2 ethiopians-chained

Ethiopians chained and exiled by the Assyrian Conqueror Essarhaddon

Assyria were cruel and fierce as seen in Isaiah’s vision. The early part of this chapter is a prophecy – a vision – of what was to take place at a critical point of Egyptian history. It would be an important moment for the Ethiopians as well. The catastrophe here envisaged in the first half of the chapter reveals what was happening within Egypt for years prior to their defeat at the hands of Assyria. It sucked the strength out of the nation of Egypt, and they never again achieved the strength they once had as a great power in the Middle East.


The short-lived empire of Ethiopia (a minor empire when seen against Assyria, and, later, Babylon) was whittled down to almost nothing. Tirhakah did attempt to regain Egypt from the Assyrians, but that attempt actually finished him off. He died in Ethiopia while still licking his wounds for losing Egypt.


In this chapter, Isaiah saw clearly the fading away of what was once the great nation of Egypt. The story of what happened to the nation of the Pharaoh’s, according to Isaiah, is paralleled to what happened with individuals within the borders of Egypto-Ethiopia, or, Cushite-Egypt. It is a tragic story, with a happy ending.


The text reads with a tone of excitement.



  1. Nubia10 nubian-tribute

    Nubians paying tribute

    A message about, and a prophecy that came to me against Egypt. It is a divine revelation: Look! See! Watch out! Yahweh is coming. He advances. He rides on a thick, fast cloud. He will enter Egypt, and all the idols and false gods of Egypt will tremble, shake and be moved with fear before Him. Egypt’s courage within him will melt away like hot wax in fear. (Lannon’s own translated version. Isaiah 19:1)


For all the 150 or so years that Ethiopia ruled Egypt they never gave any hassle to the weird and wonderful religions that Egyptians indulged themselves in. Egyptian religiosity was embedded in and neurotically involved with the subject of death.  Assyria, however, being ultra-religiously demonic, always made it a primary action when they invaded countries to rid them of their idols, idols that were seen as the ruling gods of the nations they had conquered. Assyria seems to have belittled and made light of the Egyptian gods that seemed to do little but major on what happened on the other side of the grave. Assyrian religiosity was all about the strength, power and aggression to kill on the battlefield, and to be the mightiest killing machine that they could possibly be. They felt confident then, that the spirit of ant nation was near to be broken, when their idols and most high profile invented deities were publicly destroyed.


This was to be a catastrophe indeed. However it would be a catastrophe that would lead to relationship with God. Modern theological terminology would refer to it as a “salvific catastrophe,” or a “redemptive catastrophe.” The catastrophe that Isaiah perceived was about to overwhelm Egypt would, in the end, be declared to be the most wonderful thing that ever happened to the nation that, in Hebrew, is called Mizraim. The entire event of the death and resurrection of Egypt would be coming by the direct means of the immediate hand of God. It was to come mysteriously. It was to come quickly. It was to be the absolutely divine advance into the heart of the nationhood and the heart of Egypt. A thick and fast advent of divine power and words were to shake the land, the idols, and all the very many religious ideologies that Egypt had been marinating in for centuries. Something was to take place that would eject all the intentions of courage, bravery and aggression from the hearts of Egyptian men.


The address of the prophet is made to Egypt. But Egypt integrated and merged with Ethiopia means that one could not be impacted without the other. As with our previous thoughts on Isaiah 18, we need to note that the kingdom to which all the three chapters (18, 19, 20.) refer is the same merger of national identities, namely, the Egypto-Ethiopian kingdom, or the Cushite-Egyptian Empire, whichever way one wishes to term it. However, it is so dealt with that chapter 18 clearly refers to the ruling nation – Ethiopia, chapter 19 to the ruled society – Egypt, and chapter 20 embraces them both together in the shame of defeat by the hand of Assyria and the humiliation of exile. Those that were exiled are not recorded anywhere as having ever returned.


The reason why the prophecy occupies itself so particularly with Egypt is that firstly, no people of the earth were so closely interwoven with the history of the kingdom of God from the patriarchal time as Egypt were . Secondly, as a result of the occurrences and predictions with which Isaiah 19 and 20 is full of, Egypt became an enslaved vassal state of Assyria, while Ethiopia merely withdrew with their defeated king (Tirhakah) back to dwell south of the most southerly Egyptian border, in their embarrassed and smarting state of Ethiopia. The shame of Tirhaka would have been made much more acute inasmuch as when he was defeated by Assyria, he would have returned home without many of the sons of Ethiopia, decreasing very much his popularity in his native kingdom. This personal, literal invasion of Yahweh into Egyptian life and territory was to have severe ramifications on both Egypt and Ethiopia in their mutual immediate futures.

  1. The Lord says, “I will arm, stir up and provoke the Egyptians to civil strife and set them to fight against themselves. Brother will fight brother, neighbour will be against neighbour, city will be against city, and province against province. Kingdom will also be against kingdom. (Lannon’s own translated version. Isaiah 19:2)


Egypt 1 binding-prisoners

The manner in which Assyrians bound some of their exiled prisoners.

Ah! Homemade terrorism! Social unrest of a violent kind! Ideological implosion! I see the Egyptian citizens becoming violently opposed to both Egyptian and Ethiopian neighbours. I see provinces falling out as others would seem to be receiving greater tax breaks and food supplies than some. I see cities with food-banks feeding their own domiciles rather than those of other population centres. Confusion and mayhem will dominate the nation of Egypt and across the races that dwell within its borders. Isaiah has seen it by the Spirit of God. It surely came and is well documented in the history of the nation.


However, this is not normal human inter-action, this is civil unrest activated directly by the hand of God. This is Yahweh working out his purposes. God is neither embarrassed nor afraid of people complaining about the divine modus operandi. If we knew God correctly, and understood the revelations He gives mankind through the mind of faith, we would not be so quick to raise our voices against the providence of the Almighty. He gives and He takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Egypt will go through something in its future, the ramifications of which, it will never recover from. To approach a hitherto unforeseen happy conclusion, Egypt would have to go through deep intestinal discord, national cardiac arrest and governmental hemorrhage of the brain. It was to be a kind of national death, preceding a national resurrection that it seems was to be at least two and a half millennia in Isaiah’s future.



  1. The Egyptians will lose heart, and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be demoralized, disturbed and emptied out. I will confuse their plans and strategy, confound their counsel and bring them to nothing and they shall panic. They will consult and plead, enquiring of their idols for wisdom and call on the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists, the charmers, the sorcerers, and the necromancers. They will seek guidance from the pits used to conjure up underworld spirits, and from the magicians.


The national morale would be broken. The Egyptian sense of self-esteem and respect would have disappeared. The demoralization, demotivation and destabilization of Egypt would be total. It will be as if the people of Egypt, from top to bottom, from kings to paupers, be they Egyptian or Ethiopian – would lose their common sense wisdom. The desperation of the nation would lead to an increase in dead and empty religiosity with their idols and spiritism coming to the fore like never before. The intelligence that is required by the professional academics in order for Egypt to make adequate plans for the future is seen by Isaiah as a liquid commodity that would be poured out and left to soak into the hot dry sand of the banks of the Nile. Necromancy and sorcery would rise in a high profile “occult revival” across the nation, making dark, spiritual, evil practices popular and normal. It will be a phenomenon, a supernatural phenomenon. The occult and necromantic religious inclinations that were fed by the Egyptian neurosis concerning death and the place of the dead would be a major force in the embracing of the social failures that are listed in these first 9 verses. The pyramids of Egypt are nothing but extra-large crypts, coffins and cemeteries. The obsession with death, though not mentioned here, was obviously a major contribution to their hitherto damnation in the eyes of the Almighty.


  1. “I will hand over Egypt and deliver them to the power of cruel and violent lords, a harsh and hard master. A mighty, powerful and fierce king will rule over them,” declares Adonai, Yahweh Commander in Chief of Heaven’s Armies.


Oh dear!  I have read that the Egyptians suffered only a little under the hand of the twenty-fifth Nubian dynasty. The Nubian Pharaoh’s were considered occasionally cruel, yet here, Isaiah predicts that a vicious rule is to hold them down. It cannot be escaped from. The cruelty of their future masters is not even compared to Ethiopia’s way of ruling. Assyria have always been infamous throughout all the annals of history as one of the cruelest empires that the world has ever seen. Essarhaddon, the king of Assyria that finally conquered Egypt, immediately after his victory over Nubian Pharaoh Tirhaka, treated the people with extreme severity. He divided Egypt into twenty different governments and actually changed the names of many of the cities. He then ordered his twenty governors to “slay, plunder and spoil” their subjects in their rule. Nice eh? He certainly deserved the divine epithet that God gave Isaiah to speak over him as a “cruel, violent and harsh master.”


Egypt -1Ethiopian heightsRockOfAges6_CNT_17jun10_LisaLimer_b_426x284

A photograph entitled, “The Ethiopian Heights.”

Plainly, Isaiah here sees the overthrow of Ethiopian led Egypt by the hateful might of Assyria. The nastiness of Assyria’s rule would lead the Egyptians to wish that Ethiopia were still masters of their nation.


  1. The waters of the sea will dry up and the riverbed of the Nile will fail to rise and flood the fields, and be parched and dry and disappear.


However! Worse things are on their way! As well as human problems, there will be natural catastrophes. Are such things linked, do you think? I absolutely believe that there are such links in much of the earthly phenomena we see around the world. In this particular circumstance and moment of history, the natural and the human situation are totally synchronized. Egypt depends on the cyclical rise and fall of the Nile for its economy and prosperity. They don’t get the rain, but the rain falls heavily at the sources of the Nile much more southerly than Egypt’s southern borders and it keeps the fishermen, the farmers and a bagful of related industries in business. The Nile is possibly the single greatest wealth creator in Egypt.  However, in the midst of the political, social, moral and spiritual catastrophe of this crisis that Isaiah is predicting, the Nile will actually dry up. For Egypt, things could hardly get any worse than this. Such deficiency in the waters of the Nile have often been the cause of terrible famines in Egypt. The picture Isaiah paints is, almost literally, the death of Egypt.


In verse 2 we have civil strife; verse 3, delusion; Verse 4 is bondage and verse 5, shrinkage. How sad! How terrible!


  1. All the rivers and canals will smell very bad and emit a stench. The tributary canals of Egypt will dwindle, thin out and dry up, and the water will be gone. All the reeds, cattails, rushes and water plants will wither and rot.


This is just a replication of the collapse of Egypt as seen in the days of Joseph in the latter end of Genesis. It is also somewhat similar to the collapse of the nation of Egypt after the ten plagues that were administered by the hand of Moses immediately prior to the release of the children of Israel from Egypt. The entire river bank vegetation that, of course, need the waters of the Nile to be sustained, simply fail, collapse and rot. Hence the stench that will  fill the atmosphere.


  1. All the bulrushes, the greenery in the meadows and the plants along the riverbanks of the Nile, at the mouth of the river, will die and blow away. There will be bare places.  Every sown field and all the cultivated areas along the Nile will become parched, will blow away and be no more. Even the plants at the widest part of the river will dry up, blow away, disappear and be no more.


We are not talking of a few months with a little less water resources, and the government asking if the public would kindly use less water. We are talking of a protracted, prolonged, severe drought. As I write, we in the UK are horrified to hear of the heatwave that has hit India where literally thousands of people, long used to the hot climate there, are dying because of the intensity of the temperature. It is a catastrophic social phenomena. That kind of merciless turns of nature, precipitated by the activity of the hand of God, is what will plague Egypt in these days prior to their defeat at the hand of Assyria.


  1. The fishermen, all those who cast hooks and catch fish from the Nile River, will become sad and groan, lament and pine away for lack of work. They will cry. They depend on the Nile River for their food, but it will be dry.
  2. Those who work with combed flax, who weave it into white linen and make cloth, will all be saddened and lose hope. There will be no flax for harvesters, nor thread for weavers. They will be confounded and ashamed.
  3. Those who weave cloth will be dejected and broken in the purposes thereof, and those who work for money, making sluices and ponds for fish will be depressed and sick at heart.


Egypt 00Ethiopia

Cush, also referred to as Nubia, also referred to as Ethiopia as it was in biblical days.

In these three verses we are given an in depth insight to the livelihood of the many millions who, hitherto, had maintained the buoyancy of the Egyptian economy, based on activities, sources and utilities of life that come from the Egyptian genius for utilizing the Nile. No Nile, no economy! No economic sustenance, no affluence, and the onset of poverty and unemployment! The nation is seen by the prophet Isaiah as being in a state of collapse on every social level.  But then there is even more to cap this horror.


To briefly sum up, Egypt is to become one of the worst areas of natural catastrophe and total humanity disaster that it is possible to conceive of. All stratas of society are equally devastated, and nobody knows what to do to alleviate the human distress.


  1. The leaders and officials of the city of Zoan (Tanis) are nothing but fools. Pharaoh’s “wise counsellors and advisors” give bad and senseless advice. How can they say to Pharaoh that they are wise? Their best counsel to the king of Egypt is brutish, stupid and wrong. They say they are “from the old family of the kings,” or, “disciples of the ancient kings.” However they are not as smart as they think. Will they dare continue to brag about all their wise ancestors? How dare they say to Pharaoh, “I am one of the sages, one well-versed in the writings of the ancient kings?”


The nobility and aristocracy of Egypt will also suffer from a severe lack of academic and intellectual ability and insight. The people that set up the national strategies and polices of maintenance will simply lose the plot. The pseudo caste system, or the pretended class system that was embedded in the culture of Egypt was also going to be proven to be its ruination. Strictly speaking, by western terminology there were no “tribes” in Egypt, much less what we would call “castes.” But there was employment distinctions marked by very firm and unbending lines of demarcation. Herodotus gives seven of them, i.e. Priests, Soldiers, Herdsmen, Swineherds, Tradesmen, Interpreters and boatmen. Isaiah gives us more, namely agricultural labourers, fishermen, artisans and official employees. The charge Isaiah indicts the Egyptian hierarchy with may, with some justice, be stretched to those in contemporary times who are everlastingly recapping to the ears of the world, directly or circuitously, of the self-worth of their lineages; and who, because they have no corporeal quality to boast of today, are ever shrouding themselves in the glories of their dead.


All these things are to fill the Egyptian atmosphere as the Lord of hosts, Yahweh Sabbaoth, comes quickly into Egypt on the thick cloud. This is the direct hand of God at work.


  1. Egypt! Pharaoh! Where oh where are your wise men now? They should learn what Yahweh of Sabbaoth (The Lord of hosts, God of the angel armies) has planned for Egypt. They should be the ones to tell you what will happen to Egypt.


Isaiah speaks plainly, not sarcastically. If the wise men of Egypt had really been wise, they would have spent time seeking God to discover what God was going to do with Egypt.


  1. The leaders of Zoan (Tanis) have been fooled, have acted foolishly and have actually become fools. The leaders of Noph (Memphis) have believed lies, so they lead Egypt the wrong way. The cornerstones of her people and tribes have led Egypt astray and caused her to stagger.


It is the silliness and lack of wisdom of the leaders that will have caused Egypt to go dizzy and stagger. The word picture of the prophet is radically graphic. It is a picture he expands on.


  1. The Lord confused them and has poured into them, and in their midst, a spirit of dizziness, distortion, perversion and confusion, making them positively undiscerning so that they wander around and lead Egypt the wrong way in all their deeds, thus making Egypt stagger in all that she does. Everything they do is wrong. They are like drunkards staggering around their own puke and then rolling in their vomit.


Egypt 6Assyrian_Archers

Assyrian Archers

This is a striking illustration of a comment on the coming state of Egypt. In his verbal graphics, Isaiah actually suggests that God has concocted a drink for the Egyptian race. The drink is, to draw some kind of human analogy, “spiked.” The point he is making is that this catastrophe is not just happening by a confluence of coincidences. All these blights coming together as some mammoth conjunction of tragic circumstances are coming to pass because of the direct control and unleashing of matters both natural and supernatural, human and geographical from Yahweh. He has poured down the throat of Egypt a spiked drink that will cause Egypt, comprised of both Egyptian and Ethiopian personnel at Isaiah’s point of time, to stagger and fall. The nation is drugged; drunk; in a kind of national social dementia. Like a drunken man that is reduced to losing his mind, his integrity, his wisdom and his employment, Egypt will utterly lose their way. They will be like the despised and contemptuous drunken man that has fallen in the street and is unknowingly rolling on the ground in his own vomit.


It is a practical manifestation of the truth that Amos declared when he said, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?” (Amos 3:6)


  1. There is nothing that Egypt, Pharaoh or his leaders can do. Head or tail, palm branch or reed. The heads and the tails.  The tops and the stalks of plants. The noble palm branch and the lowly reed. He that bends down, or that holds back. No one-leaders or followers, important or unimportant – will be able to do anything for Egypt. There will be no work for Egypt which its head or tail, its palm branch or bulrush, may do.


Isaiah closes his depressive run down of what was ahead for Egypt by explaining that the plug hole of catastrophe will end up at the bottom of the drain where nobody whatsoever has as much as a clue as to how resolve the situation.  It is the white flag of surrender after the onslaught of catastrophe after catastrophe. They are without hope.


  1. At that time the Egyptians will become weaklings like frightened women. They will shudder and cower with fear at the raising and shaking of the arm, hand and fist of Yahweh Sabbaoth over Egypt to punish the people.


At verse 16 Isaiah stops writing as poetry and returns to prose. What is the issue that causes the change of style and language?


Egypt 7Egypt_AssyriansThe point is that Egypt will, at some point on their descent into chaos and mob rule, realise that this is the hand of God. Their lack of understanding will not immediately lead to repentance and submission to God. The awe of being strapped to the maelstrom of divine judgement will reduce the mass of Egyptian humanity to a state of static trauma, like a rabbit that freezes when he realises that the headlights are about to kill him.


Whenever Egypt will think of Judah, they will think of their God and their knees will shake in fear. “The Lord. He is God.” Egypt will realise how Yahweh is Lord and Master over the whole earth, and they will wonder what it is that He will do next. What has caused Isaiah to change the tone and timbre of the word to Egypt?


  1. The land of Judah will bring fear and terror to everyone in Egypt and humiliate them. Anyone in Egypt who hears the name Judah will be fearful and terrified. This will happen because Yahweh of Sabbaoth, the Lord who commands armies (i.e. not just His own) has purposed and determined terrible things to happen against Egypt.


Suddenly, Isaiah takes a quantum leap into the deepest recesses of a future time. I say that because hitherto he has been referring to issues that, if not exactly contemporaneous with Isaiah’s immediate day, they were definitely less than half a century into his future, whereas what he now declares has not yet been fulfilled as far as anybody knows. It is, even now, still in the future.  On top of that thought, Isaiah’s proverbial, “In that day” usually means he is talking of the very last days immediately prior to Christ’s Second Advent, or immediately after into the Millennium itself.


Verse 16 seems to be the hinge of this leap in time. Verse 16 is the concluding remark concerning the collapse of Egypt prior to Assyria’s conquest in 672 BC. But the last phrase of that verse is the opening gambit of Isaiah’s explanation of Egypt’s conversion, submission to God as well as the period of total harmony and brotherhood of Arab, gentile Assyria and Egypt with Israel. That is, of course, an Entente Cordiale that has just never ever, yet, happened.


  1. In that day and at that time there will be five cities in Egypt where people speak Hebrew, the language of Canaan. One of these cities will be named “Destruction City.” The people in these cities will promise to follow the Yahweh of Sabbaoth.


From verse 18 through to the end of the chapter, we have the results that will bring us to a very glorious and righteous ending to the states of Egypt and Assyria.  Even though there may be a couple of thousand years between what has been predicted in the first half of Chapter 20, and what happens in the last eight verses, the strong inference is that what happens in verses 18 to 25 will not have happened if it was not for what happened in the early verses of the chapter.


We cannot come to any other conclusion when we read the end of Isaiah 20, other than that of Egypt’s spiritual conversion. In the plainest of language: Egypt get saved. En bloc. En masse. Matthew Henry quaintly declares, “Converting grace by changing the heart, changes the language, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Henry wrote that verse when commenting on Isaiah 20:18


When Isaiah talks of the five cities it is impossible to be clear as to whether these are cities in Egypt that are populated by Jews, or if it is five cities populated by converted Egyptians. In the days of Christ, Philo reckoned there was about a million Jews that lived in Egypt. Yet, on the basis of Isaiah’s “In that day,” I cannot see how this verse can possibly be legitimately construed as having ever been fulfilled. The Egyptian commitment to follow the Lord points to an explanation of conversion. I do not think such a phrase would be termed when discussing the Jews.


In all my research I have not yet read or heard of any idea concerning what the “City of Destruction,” or “Destruction City” means. I read lots of footnotes that the Hebrew word translated “Destruction” could mean “the sun” because it reads as a Hebraic transliteration of the word “sun.” (“Helios” and “Haheres.”) Many commentators make the same observation, but not one of them has the courage to put it in the main text of their paraphrase or translation. For that reason, I reject it as fully rational.


  1. In that day there will be an altar for Yahweh in the heart, the centre of Egypt. At the border of Egypt there will be an obelisk pillar of a monument to show honor to Yahweh.


Egypt 9 NubianMeroePyramids

Nubian Meroe Pyramids. Now geographically in the Sudan.

Yet again. Nobody knows of any historical reality of the fulfillment of verse 19. This again, suggests to this writer that we are here discussing the very last days of the end times. Christianity will be the normal framework for Egyptian worship when this verse comes to fulfillment.


  1. This will be a sign and a witness to show that Yahweh of Sabbaoth does amazing things when he is worshipped in the land of Egypt. Any time the people cry for help from oppressors the Lord will send help. He will send a Saviour, a leader and a great one, and defend the people to rescue them from those who hurt them.

Verse 20 seems to suggest that because of the catastrophic collapse of Egypt and the ensuing conquest by Assyria, if they had called on the name of the Lord and come to faith in the circumstances of verses 1-16, then they would have enjoyed a glorious deliverance from the hand of Assyria. Assyria did not conquer Egypt because Tirhakah and Egypt were the weaker army. They lost by the plan and purpose of God. In this distantly futuristic picture, Egypt calling of Yahweh and being delivered from all kinds of catastrophes will be the norm.


  1. At that time the Lord will reveal Himself and make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they really will know and acknowledge the Lord and His authority. They will worship and serve him and give him many sacrifices, oblations and food and grain offerings. They will vow vows to the Lord, and they will do what they promise.


In these future, possibly millennial days the masses of Egypt will walk in the revelation of the Lord. It will not be a nominal Christianity. It will be deep, spiritual and profoundly relevant to the whole life and culture of the nation.


  1. The Lord will punish and strike the Egyptians with a plague. He will strike them but then he will heal them. They will come back and turn to the Lord. The Lord will respond and listen to their pleading prayers and heal them.


Verse 22 brings us one of those strange interpolations of a wonderful ascent of Egypt. Just like Satan being released after the thousand year reign of Messiah, leaving the reader wondering, “Why? Why? Why?” Here we have a one liner by the prophet, having talked of an Egyptian conversion, then telling us that Egypt will be punished with a plague, followed by healing and repentance. It’s a strange one, but there it is.


  1. At that time there will be a highway connection from Egypt to Assyria. Then the Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians will go to Assyria, and it will all be done freely. Egypt will work and worship God together with Assyria.
  2. Then Israel, Assyria, and Egypt will join together and control the land. This will be a blessing for the land and in the earth.
  3. The Lord All-Powerful will bless these countries. He will say, “Egypt, you are my people. Assyria, I made you. You are my handiwork. Israel, I own you.  You are my inheritance, my special possession. You are all blessed!”


This is what God is moving towards throughout the process of all of history. A world where racial, tribal, historical religious and political splits and divisions are not covered over by grace and tolerance, but are veritably removed by world-wide conversion followed by a oneness of heart and spirit between nations that were hitherto vitreolically opposed to each other’s very existence. There will be some differences that will still be acknowledged, but divisions are gone. Israel will still be Israel. Egypt will still be Egypt and Assyria will still be Assyria, but unity will be a natural and deep-seated phenomenon.


Some scholars seem to think that this passage was all fulfilled for the days of the spread of the gospel in the early centuries of Christianity, but was reversed with the rise of Islam. Methinks that temporary fulfilment is no fulfilment at all. I could write a whole thesis on my reasons for that statement, but I leave it as a one liner.


Egypt 8In conclusion, the 25th dynasty was a line of rulers originating in the Ethiopian Kingdom of Kush who saw the land known as Napata as their spiritual homeland. They reigned in part or all of Ancient Egypt from 760 BC through to about to 672 BC. The dynasty began with Piye’s invasion of Upper Egypt and culminated in several years of both successful and unsuccessful war with the Mesopotamian based Assyrian Empire. The twenty-fifth dynasty’s reunification of Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt, and Kush (Nubia/Ethiopia) created the largest Nubian empire ever, and the largest Egyptian empire since the New Kingdom. They ushered in an age of renaissance by reaffirming Ancient Egyptian religious traditions, temples, and artistic forms, while introducing some unique aspects of Kushite culture. It was during the 25th dynasty that the Nile valley saw the first widespread construction of pyramids (many still stand in what is today known as Sudan) since the Middle Kingdom. After the Assyrian kings Sargon II and Sennacherib defeated attempts by the Ethiopian kings to gain a foothold in the Levant, their successors Esarhaddon and his son Ashurbanipal invaded Egypt and defeated and drove out the Ethiopians, and that was the fulfilment of the first 15 verses of Isaiah 19.


War with Assyria resulted in the end of Ethiopian power in Northern Egypt and the conquest of Egypt by Assyria. They were succeeded by the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Pharaoh’s, initially a puppet dynasty installed by and vassals of the Assyrians. This would be the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest.



117. Ethiopian envoys? … but they speak for Egypt! Isaiah 18.

Isaiah 18

NUBIA 1. Piye. The first Nubian Pharaoh

Piye or Piankhi. The Nubian king who conquered Egypt and became the first Nubian Pharaoh

I don’t mean to be silly, and I would never even think of making light of scripture, but I see Isaiah 18, 19 and 20 as a definite trilogy. I am not even sure the text should be three chapters, more like one long one. 18 is all about Ethiopian people without directly mentioning their racial derivation. The envoys that Isaiah saw were Ethiopian, but Ethiopia is not mentioned. Why? Because the Ethiopians were running Egypt during Isaiah’s life time and during Hezekiah’s reign. The envoys that chapter 18 refers to were Cushites (Ethiopians cum Nubians the three epithets all refer to the same race at this point of history) but they were speaking as envoys for the nation state of Egypt. It refers to the “rivers beyond Ethiopia,” and all the other unique phrases about the strange language and the buzzing insects obviously refer to Ethiopia. But at the very point of time that this prophecy refers to, Ethiopia was also Egypt – if you see what I mean. They were two separate entities, i.e.: two distinct nations, but the man who was king of one was also the Pharaoh of the other. Chapter 19 refers to Egypt. But in referring to the powers that ran Egypt, the prophet is referring to the 25th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, which is known as the dynasty of the Nubian kings, that is…they were all Nubians, also known as Ethiopian. Chapter 20 is all about Isaiah’s three years of walking around naked in order to model how both Egyptian and Ethiopian exiles would be marched off to the north by the Assyrian forces for having the nerve to have fought against them in refusing to pay tribute money. The point being that when Assyria finally defeated Egypt, they killed two birds with one stone. Having defeated Egypt they defeated Ethiopia. The Pharaoh at the time ran back home to Ethiopia/Cush/Nubia with his tail between his legs and was left as a beaten and humiliated monarch. Egypt was left with a new foreign power on the Pharaohic throne, namely, Assyria. Oh, the swings and roundabouts of power in the world. Some things have been exactly the same since the fall of Adam. There never seems to be an end of the violence and the desire for world power.


Isaiah’s trio of visions was meant to express how Ethiopia would be defeated and driven out of Egypt, and in so doing, explain how Egypt would be then overtaken by another power, namely Assyria, before “Assyria the Mighty” would also, later, be taken by “Babylon the Mightier Still.”


Nubia 2King Shabaka Pharaoh Neferkare8

King Shabaka of Ethiopia, known as Pharaoh Neferkare. The second Nubian Pharaoh

Hezekiah was king over Judah between 716 through to 687 BC. We are also confident in asserting that his son Manasseh ruled as king between 687 and 643 BC.  Before any of my bible sharp readers email me to tell me that the scripture says Manasseh ruled 55 years and not 44, I quickly add that 10-11 years of Manasseh’s reign was as a co regent to his father Hezekiah. And if you want to know how I work that out, you would have to read a marvelous book entitled, “The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings,” by the late Edwin Thiele. He presents a very rational account of who reigned when and where and how long and how all the dates of the kings in the Bible fit together. It’s a marvelous if not intense and demanding requiring a huge amount of concentration. Thiele was a Seventh Day Adventist missionary whose Old Testament studies have left us a very healthy legacy.


Having stated that Hezekiah and Manasseh reign betwixt 716 BC and 643 BC, we need to enquire as to who the Pharaoh’s actually were during that period of history. There were three pharaohs during that window of time. 1. King Shabaka, the Nubian monarch was Pharaoh of Egypt and naturally (?) gave himself an Egyptian name for his Egyptian subjects, so he called himself Pharaoh Neferkare.  (I am only stating both names because some readers will check the history books and they use different names.) Shabaka reigned 721-707 BC. He was followed by 2. Shebitko (Pharaoh Diedkare) from 707-690 BC., and 3. King Tirhaka (Pharaoh Khunefertumre) reigned 690 through to 664 BC.


Are you still with me on this? The rise and fall, the ebb and flow, the victories and the losses of the Middle East at this period of time were frankly mind boggling. It is plain straight forward factual history. But Isaiah was a human being in this time space world and was therefore in this historical setting. He was part of this history. This bit of antiquity, explained above, clarifies the drift and gist of these entire three chapters, I believe – three chapters that I refer to as a trilogy. Three chapters with one complex narrative. Three chapters that cover the trauma of two nations, Nubia and Egypt.


This means, of course, that when Isaiah addresses these Ethiopian envoys in chapter 19, he is actually addressing them as representatives of the Nubian rulers of Egypt, and when he addresses Egypt in chapter 20, he is addressing them as being under the feet of the Nubian dynasty.  Oh dear! I hope I have not lost you dear reader?


Nubia 3 Shebitku.Pharaoh Diedkare

King of Ethiopia -Shebitku. Also known as Pharaoh Diedkare.

These ambassadors were long and sleek, tall and slim, speaking a strange language – that means they were Nubians, Cushites, Ethiopians – take your pick, each epithet is proper and correct. But, although they were Ethiopian in race and colour, they were envoys politically of Egypt. I believe that the above complexity is the very reason why Isaiah does not actually address the envoys cum ambassadors that came to Hezekiah’s court in Jerusalem, as neither one nor the other.


Okey Dokey! With all that stuff packed under our belts, we move on to the biblical account. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin!


Context is everything. I have read and read this chapter over and over. Flashes of light mixed with tons of questions ensue. What? Where? How? When?  My inner compulsive mental “movie film” studio that needs to produce an Isaiah 18 short movie to store in my head, heart and memory banks, is at a bit of a loss. My usually astute mind’s eye falters. I am not sure of what cultural or external backdrop to image in thoughts as I read the verses. Who is talking to who? Where does the narrative take place? Which English translation has “the goods” in this regard? The screenplay is not written or perceived in Isaiah 18 itself. The choreography of the actors is not clear. The backdrop is unknown – literally. When defining those to whom the inspired text refers, one requires a lot of contemplation in order to correctly attribute the text.


On top of that, when one sees bible footnotes saying, “This verse could be translated thus,” which then quote the same verse with a totally different and or opposite meaning to the verse as interpreted in the main body of the text, what is a poor humble “amateur translator” to do with himself? What is a person like me, who doesn’t know his Hebrew jots from his Aramaic tittles, to do with that kind of translator’s revelry? “Ethiopia are conquerors” say some translations. Then: “See note at bottom of page.” And what do I get?: “This could mean that Ethiopia is conquered.” Great! Not much difference or difficulty there then!




So how do I handle this? I go to as many “experts” as I can find. I have been reading hard back books, Calvin’s remarks, Leupold, Horton, Strong, Henry, Maclaren, Binford Hole, Martin, Sutcliffe, Gill and others. No wonder I have not blogged for a while. I have been steadily searching the brains of many men of God – yet I am no better off than when I first started. I found and examined how they expressed the context as well as how they translated the text. Then, having assimilated something like half a different takes on the passage as far as who is speaking to who and why, I make a plump for the one that seems to make the most sense in the context of what I know of Ethiopia in biblical history at this point of time referred to here, in Isaiah’s text. Next, I strive hard and make a few phone calls to Hebrew speaking friends to collate my own translation cum interpretation cum paraphrase.


As an amateur “lay person” at scouring the Hebrew and the Greek, I have to say that I have never encountered any passage of scripture that has so many sections with an “either” or an “or” in the side panel, or at the foot of the page. Is Ethiopia stated to be an aggressor, or a victim of an aggressor? Are they really vines that die before the full harvest, or are they soldiers that die? If they are soldiers, whose soldiers are they? Is it Assyria? Is it Ethiopia? Or is it even referring to Judah? Is the “fluttering” referring to wings of insects or sails on boats? Are the boats on the sea or on the river? Is it literal language or metaphorical? Does it mean the land is divided by rivers, or is it flooded by the rivers?  All the professors and Hebrew experts seem to have different opinions. I am not talking of interpreting what the text says once translated, I am talking specifically of the translation of the Hebrew text. Isaiah 18 must be one of the most difficult chapters in the entire Bible to translate.


Notwithstanding all this added complexity; I have read, mingled and merged something like twenty-five different translations, the results of which you can see below in the bold face font, that is, my own version. The plot and story-line that I use as the back drop to expose what is happening on each line is the one I consider the easiest, most plausible and the one that is most consistent with everything else that the prophets say about Ethiopia. It is the scenario painted most clearly by my old “friend” and study mentor H.C.Leupold. Egypt, conjoined to Ethiopia (also known as Cush or Nubia) had created quite a large empire, though not as huge as Assyria. The battles and wars between Egypt and the Ethiopians that finally resulted in Ethiopia’s defeat of Egypt began around 760 BC, with both sides winning some and losing some, finally resulting in “Ethiopia Rules O.K.!” Following which, being masters of Cush, Higher Egypt and Lower Egypt, they were naturally forced to strategise and take charge of facing up to Assyria on various battlefields. Why? Simply because Assyrian kings having chronic cases of megalomania, wanted to conquer as much of the world as they knew existed. To be extremely brief, much later, a long time after the storyline of Isaiah 18, Ethiopia was finally driven out of Egypt by Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. But that is for another day.


Nubia 4 king_tirhakah

Artistic take on Tirharkah

This generally unknown bit of history leads us to envisage that the story behind the seven verses that comprise Isaiah 18 took place within the time space window while the Ethiopian Pharaoh’s of the twenty-fifth dynasty were running the show in Egypt and were looking for help from all the nations in the geographical link between Egypt and Assyria. This meant that Edom, Ammon, Philistia, Tyre and, of course, Judah were all subjects of diplomatic approaches in an attempt to get them “on-side” with Egypt/Nubia’s rebellion against Assyria.


Here, then, we finally arrive at Isaiah 18:1 (I suppose you thought we would never get here). Sometime in the reign of Hezekiah, envoys were sent from the Ethiopian pharaoh, whoever he was at the time, to ask Hezekiah for help in facing up to Assyria. (Egypt had been subject to Assyria until Cush had conquered Egypt. It took Assyria several years to sort out the rest of the empire before they could drag themselves southwards to try and get Egypt back in their cage.


It would seem that at the point of time these envoys were sent, the long narrow sleek and shiny skinned Ethiopians were still a bit of a novelty to Semitic and Arabian eyes, together with their strange culture, strange language and strange dress sense. John Calvin seemed to think that these people were “Troglodytes,” that is cave dwelling people, who’s language consisted mostly of clicks and glottal noises between what we would refer to as normal oral language sounds.  Research of such things was totally negligible in Calvin’s day, for this reason, we are humoured by his remark, nod our caps gently to his genius, and move on. In contradiction to good Queen Victoria, “We are amused.”


NUBIA 5winifred-brunton-taharka-pharaoh-25th-dynasty-initiated-extensive-building-projects-in-both-egypt-and-nubia

Artist Winifred Brunton take on Taharka pharaoh 25th dynasty, He initiated extensive building projects in both Egypt and Nubia

Whether these ambassadors of the twenty-fifth dynasty ever got to see King Hezekiah or not, we are not told, but we know that Isaiah met them and in a very diplomatic manner sent them back home.


There is no prophecy, per se, of Ethiopia’s forthcoming doom at the hands of the Assyrians. Indeed, in the same manner that we do not have a date for when these envoys came to Jerusalem, we also have no clue as to how far in the future Assyria’s victory over Egypt and Ethiopia was. A prophet knows when to speak and when not to. But he politely sends them home knowing what dreadful fate is to fall on the Pharaohs of the twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt and the permanent recession of Ethiopia’s influence and power in the world (See Isaiah 20). The statements of Isaiah are cryptic and requiring of thought to see their substance. Perhaps the visiting Ethiopian envoys did not even hear it – and if they did, perhaps they could not understand it.


The story from Isaiah’s note book begins with a tone of surprise:


Ah! Woe to the land of shadowing whirring, buzzing insect wings, the land of fluttering sails along and beyond the rivers of Ethiopia (Cush), and even beyond the Sudan. (They are as good as dead).  (Isaiah 18:1 Lannon’s own translated, interpretational paraphrase)

Please note that I have included the bracketed phrase, “They are as good as dead,” which is obviously a paraphrased inference from the opening interjection of “Ho” which – yet again – scholars argue over whether it means an ejaculated, “Look!” or as it is commonly translated, a portentous “Woe!” Translators of the NET translation, obviously concluding from Isaiah’s twentieth chapter that Ethiopia was set for the Middle Eastern divine cull of the nations that were anti-God, inserted this little line to let the reader know what the future held for the Ethiopian fascist pharaohs of Egypt.(See Isaiah 20:1-5, Isaiah 37:9. Isaiah 43:3 and Isaiah 45:14) I think it is helpful to understand where the chapter is going in its pronunciations, but the reader must know that the line, “They are as good as dead,” is inferred by extrapolation of the text, it is definitely Not part of the actual Hebrew text.

The translator’s nightmare continues in the first verse. The word for what I have translated as “whirring, buzzing” has at least four different meanings. The word for “envoys” has at least three varied connotations. It is the context of the whole that seems to whittle down what the scholars declare it to be informing us.

Isaiah seems to be surprised to be receiving these envoys. If traditional history informs us correctly the beautifully smooth skinned Nubians would have been a striking ocular novelty. Ethiopia was (and some say still is) rampant with loud buzzing, flying insect life. These messengers seem to have come up the Nile on their flimsy water crafts made of bulrushes. Scholars are divided as to whether the text suggests they continued up the shores of the Mediterranean on these craft or whether it is merely a reference to yet another “idiosyncrasy” of the Ethiopian culture.

Nubia 6 a 25th dynasty priest. aswan-nub02

A Nubian Priest of the 25th dynasty. This work found near Aswan.

2 That land has sent ambassadors and envoys gliding and skimming down the Nile River towards the waters of the sea in swift papyrus reed boats made from the bulrushes. Go swift messengers! Take a message to the people who are tall and smooth-skinned, who are scattered and peeled and feared far and wide for their conquests and destruction that metes out punishment and oppresses. Go to that powerful and aggressive nation of strange speech and language that are victorious over other countries and have been terrible from their beginning hitherto, whose land is divided, laid waste and spoilt by flooded rivers. (Isaiah 18:2 Lannon’s own translated, interpretational paraphrase)

The scholars are yet again lost in the depth of the Hebrew language here. They are not sure whether Isaiah is talking about Ethiopia as the conquerors and the nation that has crushed Egypt, or whether, as a prophet, Isaiah is talking in the prophetic futuristic spirit and talking of Ethiopia as the nation that is defeated, i.e. talking from divinely gained prophetic insight, as if he is stood in a future moment looking back on defeated Cush. However, from our superior standpoint of having read the history books, and knowing how and when the international players were to collapse and fall, and rise and reign, we can honestly say that it doesn’t matter which is right. We fully grasp Isaiah’s point. As for myself, one can see from my expanded translation that I believe the verse to be referring to the victorious Nubians as they were at the moment that Isaiah had met these envoys.

Isaiah, it seems, interrupts the attempt at international diplomacy and he himself seems to be the one that sends them home. Perhaps he sent them away before they even met Hezekiah. That is my presupposition of the scene we have here. But I have to tell you that I hold my choreography of the chapter in very loose hands.

“Go swift messengers!” in modern street language, “Pack your bags and sling your hook.” In essence the prophet tells them bluntly, “You will get no assistance from us against Assyria or anybody else. We know who and what you are and we, as God’s people want nothing to do with you or any other nation in this matter!” I am told it is as blunt as that in Hebrew. “Go!” Judah wanted no tryst with Ethiopia or any other gentile nation.

Nubia 7Tirhakah_art

Stunning piece of work.

3 Like a banner, like flag on a hill, everyone who lives on the earth will see what happens. Like a ram’s horn shofar call, everyone in the country will hear it. (Isaiah 18:3 Lannon’s own translated, interpretational paraphrase)

This is Isaiah at his prophetic best. Did he say this to the face of the Ethiopian envoys? Or is this something he declared after they had gone? We know that by history books, Ethiopia was to fall, and we know by Isaiah chapter 20 that they were to be exiled along with many Egyptians in their fall. But when we read Isaiah 18 those two facts throw a pejorative weight on the translation. No matter how unclear it is when we read Isaiah 18 as a stand-alone seven verses, we naturally have to see chapter eighteen in the light of chapter twenty – and vica versa. Ethiopia was to fall and that fall would certainly shock the world as to the sudden swing in power from one empire to another. Boldly, Isaiah addresses, “everyone who lives on the earth.”  Can you believe that one? No quaint, homemade mumblings here!. Isaiah was speaking to the entire world. The news will be as loud in the world’s psyche as is a shofar in the midst of a Jewish celebration, and as visible to the understanding of everyone alive as is a vivid high visibility pennant being waved from a mountain top. Ethiopia will fall, and how great will be that fall, and how great will be its impact on all known nations of the time. History’s story is being told before it even takes place. These are the Hebrew prophets.

4 This is what Yahweh says to me: “I will take my rest – and be in the place prepared for me (the Temple?). I will quietly watch these things happen. (My presence will be) like shimmering heat in the sunshine on a beautiful summer’s day, at noon, like a cloud of mist in the heat of harvest.”  (Isaiah 18:4 Lannon’s own translated, interpretational paraphrase)

Isaiah is here intimating that the whole plan together with the pieces of the puzzle will run and play as Yahweh has predestined and foreknown. Yahweh has made his pronouncements through his prophet. Existentially the storyline, the plot, the battles, the wars, the winners, the losers, those that continue and those who grow stronger are all “set in concrete”, that is – the substance of God’s own timeline for planet earth and its people has been decreed. God will just watch the activity as nations, peoples, battles and wars bring forth the future fruit of change.

Nubia 8 nubia-the-other-egypt-4-7285 (Then something terrible will happen.) Earlier in the year, the flowers bloomed and the new grapes formed buds and began to grow. But before the crop is harvested, He will cut the plants. They will break the vines and throw them away. (Isaiah 18:5 Lannon’s own translated, interpretational paraphrase)

Isaiah likens the whole to a farmer’s crops or a gardener’s horticultural efforts. I believe he is talking here of Ethiopia. I would be misleading my readers if I did not explain that commentators and translators differ from remark to remark on this issue. Some think it is a prediction of the fall of Ethiopia who were the invading and invasive twenty-fifth dynasty that was running Egypt at the time. Some believe it to be a repetition of the prophetic prediction of the fall of Assyria. I think not! The chapter, brief as it is, is concerning Ethiopia, though cryptically so. Assyria’s fate has already been dealt with in an earlier chapter. Some are even silly enough to think Isaiah is predicting the fall of Judah. I think that is silly. The chapter is referring to the political force of Ethiopia that was ruling Egypt – yet it has to be said that Ethiopia is only hinted at throughout the brevity of the text.

Whoever it refers to, and I personally am convinced that it refers to Ethiopia who, until their defeat, were looking hearty, strong, increasing and expanding. That is why it was to be a world-wide shock. Verse 5 tells us that it is while they were looking to be full of growth and settling into their role as Egypt’s conquerors and embedded rulers, that something absolutely shocking takes place and their plants and crops will be cut to the ground both literally as well as metaphorically referring to their soldiers in full bloom of their strength.

Nubia 96 Your mighty army will be left dead in the fields for the ravenous mountain birds of prey and the wild animals to eat. The birds will feed on the corpses throughout the summer. The wild animals will gnaw at the bones all winter. (Isaiah 18:6 Lannon’s own translated, interpretational paraphrase)

Here is the statement that confuses the eggheads. Is it talking of the ruination of the forces of Ethiopia as they were confronted in their ultimate battle with Assyria? Or is it the forces of Assyria when the angel of the Lord slew 180,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night?

Because we know of the Assyrian catastrophe and the word picture that the Bible depicts of 180,000 cadavers that all needed clearing away it is easier and more convenient to say that Isaiah 18:6 refers to the huge volume of burials or cremations that were required to take place to clear the land. I take that account on board. However, I believe it refers directly to the Ethiopian deaths when confronted and defeated by the battles with Assyria and Babylon in the unknown and unmeasured future from when Isaiah published these words.


NUBIA1A unit-one-ancient-africa-8-6387 At that time, “in that day,” a special offering and gifts of homage will be brought to the Lord All-Powerful – the Lord of Heaven’s armies, from the people who are tall and smooth skinned, from those who are feared far and wide, from that aggressive powerful nation that defeats other countries and whose land is divided and spoilt by flooding rivers. This offering will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty, where the LORD of Heaven’s Armies dwells. (Isaiah 18:7 Lannon’s own translated, interpretational paraphrase)

Isaiah does not indulge our desperate desire for detail.  But verse 7 causes us almost to drop and cancel all I have said so far and simply to see the battle as something that has not yet happened in the whole of history. I believe, as is commonly the want of many of the prophets, to start a sentence discussing an event that is to take place in the near future, and then, without explanation, sometimes in the very same sentence to jump far into the eschatological future of the end days, the days of “Jacob’s trouble” or even the times within the context of the millennial reign of Christ itself.

The Ethiopians will bring gifts and offerings to the Lord? In Jerusalem? After their defeat? If it means after their defeat, does it mean that there will be a remnant of Ethiopia that will come to Jerusalem to worship? Or surely it is referring to some event that has not taken place yet, even to today, where the Ethiopian nation will be wholly converted and bring offerings to Jerusalem.

Lannon’s perspective is this: When the prophet says “in that day,” he is normally transported to the last of the end days possibly into the millennium. In other words, the first six verses are all about the near future of Ethiopia, and then as he sees them being defeated, so that he would not close with total negativity towards Ethiopia, he sees the far flung future time when a fully converted Ethiopian nation would bring their offerings to Jerusalem.

One commentator, whose name I shall not even mention, suggests that the Ethiopian Eunuch who came to Jerusalem in the book of Acts was the fulfilment of Isaiah 19:7. Oh dear! If I could stop laughing at such mental shenanigans, I might have found the keys on my computer keyboard to say “I disagree.” Some of the greatest eggheads do talk tosh sometimes.

Nubia10 nubian-tribute

116. Hezekiah’s Passover. Isaiah’s Silence.

Passover 1 Priestly_blessing_crowds,_tb100906963sr-794627

Passover in Jerusalem today. The gathering for the priestly blessing.

The first ever Passover, that is the real substantial one, after which all others were symbolic and emblematic of, took place by the light of the silvery full moon on the 14th-15th day of Nisan in the Jewish calendar (Exodus 12). It was consumed overnight, immediately after which Moses and the two million or so children of Israel marched eastward, out of the land of Egypt. It was held the following year exactly 12 months later (Numbers 9). We are not told of any such feast being held during the rest of the 39 years wilderness wondering. How strange is that! I suppose it is vaguely possible that they held Passover 39 times without it even being mentioned in scripture – but I doubt it very much. This historic, earth shattering and destiny pointing emancipation from oppression and captivity was not remembered nor celebrated again until Moses had died and Israel was under Joshua’s headship (Joshua 5:10-11).


Thereafter, concerning the Passover, there is silence for centuries. It’s hard to grasp isn’t it?


We hear nothing further about Passover during the epoch of the Judges, the era Saul, the ages of David and Solomon or the eons of the reigns of the several kings of Israel/ Ephraim and of Judah until we read of the arrival of Godly King Hezekiah of Judah who reigned while Isaiah was ministering and strutting his stuff on the wet cement of Judah’s history.


However, we are camping with and meditating on a long haul through the thoughts and words of Isaiah. We have no hint that Hezekiah even invited Isaiah’s input to the Passover arrangements. In fact we only have Isaiah’s strong words that sacrifices and religiosity without humility of heart towards God and His word were an abomination to Yahweh and a stink in his nostrils. In the 66 chapters of Isaiah, Passover is not mentioned or alluded to. Did Isaiah despise it so? If so, why?


The general timbre of all the prophets is one of “Away with outward ceremony and religiosity. The whole purpose of the law is to drive us to softness of heart, humility of spirit, and faith towards Yahweh. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without ceremony, but with the heart and faith tender towards God and man, Yahweh is pleased indeed.” The classic lines of scripture that support this line of thought and action are exemplified with:


Passover 2 Jewish+Israelis+Celebrate+Festival+Passover+J1WMvVj7QU_l

Passover in Jerusalem recently. I do not think that Hezekiah would have seen anything like crowds like this on the Passover he called.

 “But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Samuel, the last judge and the first prophet to the nation in the Land set the standard. By the Word of the Lord, Samuel had asked King Saul to wait for him to come to where he was and make sacrifice. Because soldiers were deserting him, Saul made a sacrifice which was not at all in the brief of any king. Levites only were allowed such utility. Saul; claimed to be doing the right thing in the attitude of, “How can it be wrong when I am sacrificing to God.” Because Saul’s actions were birthed in deep fear, there was seriously no faith or worship in his action. It was empty religion. Samuel saw right through Saul’s motivation and spoke the words in 1 Samuel 15:22. God wants the cost of a surrendered heart to be paid, an action in which animal sacrifice is supposed to be naught but a symbol of the reality of the heart.


“O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. 16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:15-17

Here we see the Prophet King David uttering the extremely lucid thought that all the later prophets majored on. David, in an Isaiah like strain, actually declares that sacrifice and burnt offering are not at all pleasing towards God without the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Even in David’s day it was true that without faith it is impossible to please God. That has been true since Adam’s creation. This is not David’s only line in that direction. Read Psalm 40:6, Psalm 50:8, Psalm 69:30-31.


“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”   Proverbs 21:3

This verse from Proverbs does not exactly negate the sacrificial approach, but it does state things in the spirit of what the prophets declared a century or so later. There was not the abuse of the sacrificial system in Solomon’s day as there was generations later. It was a gradual downward slide.


“The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” Isaiah 1:11

Isaiah declares it as it is. Without the heart, God does not even acknowledge the sacrifices no matter how meticulously Moses set the rules. Isaiah’s generation was so full of godless, faithless religiosity that Isaiah set about tearing up the status quo in his very first chapter. He cuts the religious emptiness with the knife of his words.


Passover 3 920x1240


“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.

But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’” Jeremiah 7:21-23.

In most English translations Jeremiah here sounds as if he is being sarcastic. “Go ahead and carry on with more and more sacrifices. But the day I brought you out of Egypt I did not so much as say a word about sacrifices and burnt offerings. Faith, the hearing heart, and the obedient servanthood is all God wants in reality.


“What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.

Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth – then my judgments go forth like the sun.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:4-6

Jesus Himself referred to Hosea 6:6 three times. See Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7, as well as Mark 12:33. Hosea literally explains that the prophets came to cut them in pieces in order to draw close to God. Burnt offerings are stated as being useless without a true acknowledgement of God.


“Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.

Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:22-25

Again and again, the prophets are virtually declaring New Testament gospel truth. “Keep you sacrifices. Stop the religious outlook that thinks as long as it is sacrificing expensively, nothing else matters. Stop the lot! Just give me your heart, and obedience.” The law was being completely abused. The law is not of faith. One could outwardly obey as many details of the outward sacrificial system as one could know about, but without faith it is sheer nonsense – and that nonsense is despised by God Himself.


“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

The religious intensity and the costly sacrifices that are referred to in verses 7 and 8 and useless before God without the contents of verse 8 being resident in the heart.


“But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts.

“But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts.

“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you.” Malachi 1:8-10

Even as late in the biblical time line the same thing was happening and the prophetic message could not change. From Isaiah to Malachi is a stretch of something like 300 years. Israel was exiled. Judah was exiled. The return to Jerusalem was complete, and the Jews had become people of the word – nevertheless the emptiness of unbelief that was partnered by expensive sacrifices and time consuming religious meetings was still Continueing and Malachi laid into the situation just as all the prophets before him had done.


Passover 4mocking_israelites

A sanitised imaginative peek at the proclamation from Hezekiah’s message calling all Israel together.

This kind of evidence blows to bits the stuff and nonsense of people teaching that “the God of the Old Testament is different than the Christ of the New.” If a believer cannot see with the eyes of the Spirit that the same God who commanded the man in Numbers to be stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath is the same God who died on Calvary’s cross for the sins of the world, that person’s theology and understanding of the character of God needs a complete re-examination. Faith needs overhaul after overhaul until the unity of both Old and New Testament is clearly seen.


And so, it is because of these kind of statements from the prophets, statements which were lengthily repeated and elucidated upon by Isaiah, that this writer opines that he did not really want to link up with Hezekiah in the arranging of the Passover. Isaiah saw too much lack of broken heartedness, contrite spirits and practical faith to approve of it. Hezekiah clearly saw many social benefits within his kingdom that would accrue because of it. But social benefits and cohesion of society are serendipity’s and side issues that flow from such national celebrations – but the celebration itself is as far as the east is from the west as far as its primary function stands.


In Exodus 12:11, 12:27 and Leviticus 23:5 the feast is referred to as “The Lord’s Passover.” “Yahweh’s Passover.” In John 2:13, 6:4 and 11:55 it is referred to as “the Jew’s Passover.” The significance is striking. In between the two notions we have “Hezekiah’s Passover.” Whether or not the Passover that Hezekiah arranged was “Yahweh’s Passover,” I leave my readers to judge.


Even though it seems like a huge negative that Passover had never been held in Israel since Joshua’s day, it takes deep thought and profound judgement to decide whether one believes that the Passover here benefitted the spiritual life of the people of God in Hezekiah’s day. Godlessness and debauchery, idolatry and worship of demons had been rampant since Solomon. Hezekiah was only one man, no matter what rank he was in the pecking order of society. But did his call for Passover come out of his renewed self in God, or the political father of the nation wishing to rid his people of the Israel-Judah split, even after the exile of the north?


Things had drastically changed since Joshua’s day, by the time Hezekiah sat on the throne and called for Passover for the whole nation. You see, there were only two full tribes left in the land. Well … three tribes if we include Simeon who had been assimilated into the throngs of Judah and disappeared early on in the days of the Judges.  Judah and Benjamin were all present and correct to hold Passover and meditate on the deliverance from Egypt, but the remnant of all the other tribes were nothing but the odd families and small clans within what used to be the northern kingdom. The majority of the folks up in the north of what David and Solomon knew as Israel, weren’t even Jews. Oh dear! Hezekiah’s call to the nation to come and exult in Yahweh through the celebration of Passover has a little bit of a hollow ring to it to my ears.


I am not suggesting that Hezekiah was at fault. Far from it! Hezekiah was the godliest king since David and Solomon’s youth. He was making do with what he had. And he only had a fraction of the full count of Jews that were alive on the planet as he called for his subjects to gather in Jerusalem.


Even the historians thought it unique and bold of Hezekiah to venture forth with Passover. According to Josephus in Antiquities 9;13:2,3 the Passover festival had not been celebrated in Jerusalem – at least not in a memorable manner – since David had made Jerusalem his city and Israel’s capital.  So this would have been the very first Passover ever seen in Jerusalem. Hezekiah apparently wanted to make up for lost time and organised festivities on an unparalleled and incomparable measure and panache. The motives, as we shall see, show the true character of good king Hezekiah.


Passover 5 hezekiah_passover

An extremely sanitised view of Hezekiah’s Passover.

Royal couriers with formal invitations went south throughout Judah and north through the nearly deserted Israel/ Ephraim. The proclamation was read out wherever the messengers saw human beings, and there might have been a few thousand at the most over all the land. The announcement heard was:


“People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” (2 Chronicles 30:6-9)


The mission of the proclamation must have been seen as a successful one. According to the account in Chronicles and in Josephus, pilgrims came from the areas of Zebulun and Issachar in the north to join Judah in the south celebrating Passover. So it clearly was not just a Judah and Benjamin show. The worshippers from the northern tribal zones were certainly notable at this celebration in Jerusalem because that year would have been somewhere around 700 BC. 22 years earlier, the kingdom of Israel/Ephraim in the north had been devastated by the Assyrian Army and the whole ten tribes had been dragged away into captivity. Evidently there were enough people left to at least make a show and come to Jerusalem and the Temple for the Passover.


But there was an astonishing incongruity – nay – irregularity in relation to the timing of the festivities mentioned in the book of Chronicles. I am referring to an abnormality that is not even mentioned or even hinted at by Josephus. The truth is that the so called “Hezekiah’s Passover” was not held in the month of Nisan but in the following month of Iyyar. In the west one might not get hold of the significance of this point. It would be like the UK government deciding that we hold Christmas one day in June. It is an astonishing fact reported by the biblical text often glossed over by preachers and commentators.


So why did Hezekiah make such a radical change to the divinely ordained date for Passover?  Answers are given, but they still leave the spectator in a bit of a shock. According to the text not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:3). Could this be the only reason? I mean, seriously, Passover would have been the very high point of the year for the Levites as priests to the nation.  Unless Hezekiah the king left it right until the last minute to call Passover, why on earth would the priests not be ready?


Is this the real reason?  Perhaps Hezekiah called Passover days after the incredible account of the deliverance from Sennacharib had taken place. If so we may understand and give them grace for not being ready. What I mean by that is that we know with absolute certainty that Sennacharib’s army, along with the nasty old Rabshakah, were shooed away by Yahweh Himself overnight in 701 BC. No historian questions that as a fact. There were 180,000 corpses outside the gates of Jerusalem that had to be shifted and burned. If the Levites had got stuck in and helped rid the capital of the stench and terrible site of 180,000 cadavers, and if Hezekiah had called for Passover immediately afterwards as a celebration, perhaps we have a good reason why the feast was maintained at the later date and also why the priests were not ceremonially clean. Numbers 9:9-10 OK’s the “month later date” for priests, suggesting that those that were unclean could hold their own Passover later than the rest of the nation. So for Hezekiah to do what he did, perhaps the vast majority of the priests had somehow encountered a huge number of Cadavers. It sounds logical to this writer.


Passover 6Hezekiah’s grandson Josiah, who reigned some 75 years later arranged an authentic Passover rejoicing at the correct date, probably having announced its celebration well in advance(2 Kings 23:21-23. 2 Chronicles 35:1). Josiah was also, like Hezekiah, an especially godly man. He was seen as being so godly that he was even compared to Moses. See  2 Kings 23:4-6 in relation to Exodus 32:19, and then read 2 Kings 23:25 in relation to Deuteronomy 34:10


Or perhaps Hezekiah was expecting a few “overdue” fugitives from the displaced servitude in Nineveh or wherever else the people of the northern kingdom had been taken, to return just in time for Passover? This is the very thought that was in his mind when he sent the proclamation around the north of Israel. He may have expected some kind of mini exodus from Assyria’s capital because of his call to Passover. It is obvious from the proclamation that Hezekiah believed the national Passover held in Jerusalem would cause wonderful activity in heaven.


Or did he also use the unfortunately unclean priests as an excuse to wait for refugees from among the remnants of Manasseh, Zebulun, Asher who had not been taken by Assyria and remained in obscure caves and corners of Israel?


Or perhaps, after 200 years or so, of the people of the northern tribes having been banned from returning to Judah and the Temple in Jerusalem by the various dictatorial kings and Queen that had reigned over them through the generations, they were concerned about breaking the ban even though there was no reigning monarch to execute any judgement now, even if they chose to return to Judah and live there.


I believe Hezekiah had to delay Passover because of events that were utterly beyond his control. It was a willful executive decision that he made?


It seems also, to this writer, after several readings of the biblical account, that his reason was political. I am half convinced that it was a shrewd move to reunite the two kingdoms sundered two centuries earlier.  Judah was somewhat depleted, and the remnant of Israel would have been very small. Whatever, however, he wanted every Jewish man and woman that he could possibly contact, to gather as one in Jerusalem, the city of David that Sennacharib had belittled, and to celebrate Passover as an act of worship to the God of Israel that Assyria’s Rabshakah had so denigrated and blasphemed.


After the death of Solomon, the young “hothead” Rehoboam reigned in Judah. Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned in in Israel/Ephraim. At his accession to the throne, about 930 BC, Jeroboam reasoned that his kingdom could conceivably revert to Judah and be taken over by Rehoboam if his northerners partook in  sacrifices and religious festivities like Passover down south at the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26 on). So Jeroboam the son of Nebat instigated a sinful yet cunning plan to keep the northerners under his reign.


In order to forestall a potential coup by disaffected northern citizens (see 1 Kings 12:27) Jeroboam made two golden bull calves (no doubt recalling the Apis bull-calf of the Egyptians) for worship, situating one in Bethel, near Judaea and the other in the far north, and then he arbitrarily appointed non-Levitical priests to administer to the religious needs of the people. He literally allowed any Tom, Dick or Harry who had an inclination for religiosity to act in a role that Yahweh had set aside for Levites only.


More than this, he instituted a festival of sacrifice in Bethel, which was only 12 miles north of Jerusalem, on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, and went up to the altar to make offerings. (1 Kings 12:32-33). This was the most seminal act of sin by any monarch in both Judah and Israel. Solomon’s marrying strange women for political gain, and building idolatrous temples for the demon gods they brought with them was huge enough, however, once these bull calves had been installed in Bethel and in Dan, the scripture repeats over and over again that what was rotting the northern kingdom of Israel was the adventures into deeper and deeper evil in Ephraim that kept on sprouting up, all because of “the sin with which Jeroboam the son of Nebat made Israel to sin.”  It’s a classic line of repetitive scripture.


Passover 7

Another artists impression of Passover in biblical days at the temple in Jerusalem.

Jeroboam chose the eighth month for his pseudo Passover. The eighth month was Iyyar. Perhaps it was a deliberately late feast he invented “like the festival held in Judah” (1 Kings 12:32) bearing in mind that the golden bull-calves he had set up were stated to be the gods who had brought them out of Egypt (1 Kings 12:28).


Clearly, Hezekiah knew something of the ritual festivities that had been in existence up in the north during the generations before he was born. Perhaps the times did not correspond with those current in Judah, especially in view of the fact that originally Jeroboam had chosen an arbitrary festival date. In order to accommodate northern religious sensibilities then, and to co-ordinate northern with southern celebrations, Hezekiah might deliberately have delayed arrangements for Passover festivities, and especially if he also anticipated the late arrival of some returnees from Assyrian captivity.


It was a shrewd political move, an effort of compromise and reconciliation, and it received some positive response from the north and resulted in a measure of reunification of the long cleaved northern and southern tribes – or at least what was left of them all.


Hezekiah’s diplomatic skill is further exemplified in the naming of his son, Manasseh, who was to reign after him. Such a clearly northern name was surely no accidental choice, but carefully thought out beforehand, calculated to soften the hearts of the separated northerners back to the Davidic dynasty. After all, Solomon and his rash son Rehoboam were long dead and gone.


Unfortunately, Manasseh carried on with the sins that Jeroboam the son of Nebat had made Israel to sin. That was one “northern” bit of culture that rotted the very heart of Judah. In fact, it was even worse in Manasseh’s day, for he carried on the abominable practices down south, in Judah and … wait for it … even in the very temple.  It is for this reason that King Manasseh is castigated as paganish and evil (2 Kings 21:1. 23:26). Manasseh well plunged Judah into a place of non-repentance that the inspired writers explain as the final reason why the later destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and the exile of Judahites to Babylon fell with the anger of heaven.

Passover 10

Artist’s impressions of portraits and scenes of Hezekiah and his times with the overriding biblical statement as to his character.