(21) Threat And Counterthreat
Recent History: Ethiopia/Cush has conquered and strengthened Egypt (25th dynasty, 780-656BC). Assyria has conquered Israel, Philistia and beyond. Babylon is attacking Assyria from the North, and Egypt/Cush attacks periodically from the South. Isaiah looks at what has happened, and tells how God sees things will turn out.
1. Read Isaiah 18:1,2,7 How does Isaiah view Ethiopia’s rising power? How do we view nations rising in power?
2. Read Isaiah 19:1,2 Egypt, though still powerful, has split into factions. Who does Isaiah credit with this? Who do we credit when former enemies begin to fail?
3. Read Isaiah 19:5-10 What do we learn about life in Egypt from these verses? How does that help convince us about when they were written?
4. Read Isaiah 19:18. Heliopolis was called An, which can be misinterpreted (through a pun) as the Hebrew City of Destruction. Five can be half of ten – a short human list. And “In that day” can always point to end-times. Before reading on, how would expect this passage to continue?
5. Read Isaiah 19:24-25 Bearing in mind who Egypt were and who Assyria are at the time of writing, the end-times hint of the passage, and the importance of the number 3, what might Isaiah be referring to?
6. Egypt’s not the only nearby nation, and to some nation’s (e.g. Moab) Judah might appear strong. Read Isaiah 15:1,5,7, 16:1,5,13-14. Zoar was spared when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed (Read Genesis 19:22). Lambs were a common offering when requesting aid. Sela was probably an Edomite fortress (try 2 Kings 14:7). The throne could mean an immediate request for aid from Zion, and the future Messianic reign. And three years would be God’s completion (three), except they’d be short, since hired men sign off early. What nearby nations might turn to us for aid when they should turn to God?
7. Read Isaiah 23:1, 6,12,13 Do you remember what Tyre’s political position was? Which nation will conquer it?
8. Read Isaiah 23:15-17. Tyre was such an important trading port, it always recovered from disaster and conquest.
And now: Isaiah looks at what is happening. Egypt would like to conquer Assyria, but it’s working more the other way.
1. Read Isaiah 30:1-2, 31:1, 20:1-6. Isaiah predicts Assyria’s successful attack on Egypt/Cush and its consequences. Hebrews who fled to Egypt won’t find help there. Where do we “flee” for earthly help as the world grows dangerous?
2. Read Isaiah 30:8 What do you suppose Isaiah wrote on? Why might it be difficult now to work out which “chapter” goes where?
3. Read Isaiah 30:14 Why does pottery get broken?
4. Read Isaiah 30:15-17 Are we tempted to flee? Read Isaiah 30:18 How willing are we to wait?
5. Read Isaiah 30:21 Why might you not listen to a word “behind you”?
6. Read Isaiah 30:26 Isaiah writes about water, grain, cattle and now the sun and moon? Why, and why sevens?
7. Read Isaiah 30:31-33 Tophet was a place of possibly human sacrifice in the Valley of the Son of Hinnon (it’s not yet been found, but it’s mentioned in 2 Kings 23:10). Read Matthew 5:22,18:9. Is there a connection?
The promise: Isaiah looks at what will happen and promises that God will redeem and reign
1. Read Isaiah 31:6-9 Is Isaiah promising Assyria’s overthrow by Babylon, telling Judah that God will be the real overthrower, or promising the end-times?
2. Read Isaiah 32:1-4 Which part of this promise has most meaning for you personally?
3. Read Isaiah 32:5-8 Again, which part means most personally?
4. Read Isaiah 32:12-15 Does this sound like a threat or a promise? Read Isaiah 32:16-20 And this?
History: The Ashdod rebellion (Philistia and Egypt, with a bit of help from Judah, vs Assyria) was put down around 712BC. Hezekiah was probably feeling rather vulnerable by now, which might have made him easy prey to illness, and also to receiving envoys from that upstart nation, Babylon. Since Hezekiah was granted 15 more years after his illness and died in 686BC, the following events must have occurred around 701BC.
1. Read 2 Kings 20:1-11, Isaiah 38:1-8,21, 2 Chronicles 32:24-26 Can you think of a scientific way the sundial’s shadow could change? Would that alter the fact that it’s a miracle?
2. Is there scientific value to the idea of a fig poultice?
3. Read Isaiah 38:16-17 How would we respond (or have we responded) to miraculous deliverance?
4. Read 2 Chronicles 32:27-30 Have you heard of Hezekiah’s tunnel? The water goes to the Pool of Siloam. The water source was already protected, but building the tunnel ensured all the outflow stayed within the walled city – great preparation for a siege. What other preparation do you think Hezekiah should have been making?
Assyria appears poised to attack, and the newly healed Hezekiah might turn to Babylon for aid.
1. Read 2 Kings 20:12-20 (also Isaiah 39:1-8) Chronicles 32:31 Why did Hezekiah show off all the treasures? What are we tempted to show off, as a nation, as a church or as individuals?
2. Read Isaiah 36:1 Historians conclude the chapters are out of order because Hezekiah’s 14th year is 701BC, the same year as his illness.
3. Read 2 Kings 18:13-14 So much for all that gold.
4. Read 2 Kings 18: 17-21 Assyria threatens invasion. Hezekiah, Eliakim, Shebna & Joah meet their leader.
5. Read Isaiah 22:15-16 Isaiah preaches against allying with Egypt, but he’s not the only prophet. Shebna builds a posh tomb (as a rich, influential prophet might) instead of caring for the people of God. He’s believed to have encouraged Hezekiah to turn to Egypt for aid. What do our leaders build? What do we build?
6. Read Isaiah 22:20-25 What does Eliakim do wrong? How easily does the world tempt secular and religious leaders?
7. Read 2 Kings 18:22-25 Does the Assyrian chief of staff (Rabshakeh) really serve God? Do modern leaders?
8. Read 2 Kings 18:33-35 The argument is that Hezekiah has betrayed the god of the land by destroying the altars. Have we heard people argue against us, by implying they understand God’s will better than we do? Or have we ever made such an argument?
9. Read 2 Kings 19:5-7. Remember Isaiah’s prophecy about how Assyria would fall? (Isaiah 31:8)
10. Read 2 Kings 19:8-10. Tirkanah became a king in Egypt around 690BC. His arrival delays the battle. Meanwhile Isaiah delivers a message to be sent to Assyria’s leader in 2 Kings 19:21-25. How do we remind ourselves of God’s power?
11. Read 2 Kings 19:29-34. Do you suppose that tunnel was useful after all?
12. Read 2 Kings 19:35-36. Remember Nineveh?
13. Jerusalem is saved, but Judah suffers terribly. Isaiah tells the same story as Kings, then preaches against the rulers. Read Isaiah 22:8-11 What is God’s view of the tunnel? What is God’s view of our clever ideas?
Assyria goes on to destroy Babylon. Hezekiah dies and Manasseh becomes king of Judah. Isaiah continues to prophesy through the reigns of Manasseh, Amon and Josiah the reformer. Zepheniah and Jeremiah also preach during Josiah’s reign, so we’ll reach them soon!