Isaiah 15–23: Prophecies against Nations That Do Not Serve the Lord

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 143–144

Isaiah 15–23 contains several prophecies about the destruction of nations surrounding Israel. By revealing to Israel and Judah that all surrounding nations would be destroyed, the Lord gave them good reasons to trust Him instead of trusting in any treaties or alliances with these neighboring countries.Isaiah 15–16 contains prophecies about Moab (see Bible map 10). The country is named after Moab, who was the son of Lot’s eldest daughter (see Genesis 19:37) and who settled in that country with his family. The Moabites often battled with the Israelites, but at this time the Israelites might have considered an alliance with Moab helpful in overcoming their enemies.Isaiah 17 gives a prophecy directed to Damascus (Syria) and Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom). Damascus and Ephraim joined together in an alliance to conquer Judah, but before they could attack, the Assyrians came from the north and destroyed the two would-be conquerors. Isaiah 17 records a prophecy of the destruction of these two nations and some of the destruction’s effects upon the two nations.Isaiah 18 speaks to a land “beyond the rivers of Ethiopia” (v. 1). Most translators name this land Cush (see footnote 1c), which some think was a nation south of Egypt. Chapter 18 is more hopeful than many of the chapters in this section, and there is much disagreement about what chapter 18 refers to or means.Isaiah 18 records Isaiah’s prophecy that although the people of this nation would be “scattered and peeled” and “trodden under foot,” they would be invited to gather to Mount Zion, where they will seemingly be well received. The last verse of the chapter may be of special interest because it speaks of giving the Lord a “present” of people who were “scattered.” Gathering the people of the earth and preparing them to meet the Lord is one of the great purposes of the Church in the last days.Isaiah 19–20 records prophecies about Egypt, which was one of the most powerful nations in the world in Isaiah’s day. Isaiah prophesied of ways Egypt would be troubled and how the Egyptians would not be able to solve their troubles through their own abilities or false gods. Isaiah 19 also contains the remarkable prophecy that at some future time Egypt and Israel will worship the same God and Egypt will be healed by the Lord. Even further, the prophecy suggests that Assyria will also be united with Israel and Egypt in worshiping God.Isaiah 20 speaks specifically about the time when Assyria would take Egypt captive—again showing the people of Judah a reason why they should not join together with another country against Assyria.Isaiah 21 speaks about the eventual destruction of three nations: Babylon (vv. 1–10), Edom (vv. 11–12), and Arabia (vv. 13–17).In Isaiah 21:10 the Lord seemed to specifically speak to members of the house of Israel who would be captives in Babylon nearly two hundred years after Isaiah’s time and who would need the encouragement offered by this prophecy of Babylon’s destruction.Isaiah 22 refers to the fall of Jerusalem and speaks of a time when this “burden,” or message of gloom, would be removed and Jerusalem would permanently be at peace. In this prophecy, Isaiah not only explained what would happen as a part of Jerusalem’s destruction, but he also explained why Jerusalem would be destroyed. He noted that the people were very proud about tunnels and canals they built to solve their water problems but did not worship the Maker of the water nor recognize that all blessings come from Him (see v. 11). He also criticized them for holding parties to celebrate messages that surrounding nations would be destroyed instead of reacting humbly and repenting (see vv. 12–14).Isaiah 22 also contains a short historical story that has important symbolic significance. The story is about Shebna, the keeper of the treasury of Jerusalem, who is a symbol of the attitudes of the people of Jerusalem at the time. Isaiah accused Shebna of being prideful about Jerusalem’s wealth. Then Isaiah said that not only would the Assyrians take many of Jerusalem’s treasures but the nicest riches from Jerusalem would be the “cheapest” items in the house of the king of Assyria (see v. 18). Furthermore, Isaiah said that a man named Eliakim, which in Hebrew means “God shall cause thee to arise,” would replace Shebna. There was important symbolism in the meaning of this name and story. Only by replacing love of treasures with love of God could Jerusalem be redeemed from destruction. And when Jerusalem turns to God, it will arise again as a holy city. The name Eliakim had even greater symbolic meaning because it pointed to the Atonement. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, God will cause all men to arise and have the opportunity to overcome all the destruction, disappointments, and death of this world. In the last verse of chapter 22, Isaiah testified of the great power of this redemption, comparing it to fastening a nail “in a sure place” so that it could not be moved. This image symbolized the permanent redemption Jesus Christ offered and the way He died and surely secured salvation for all mankind.Isaiah 23, which contains a prophecy about Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, is the last of the chapters prophesying the overthrow of nations surrounding Israel and Judah. (See map 10 in your Bible to locate Tyre.) Tyre was a city focused on the buying and selling of the treasures of the world. The things of the world were always more important to the inhabitants of Tyre than anything else, including God. Isaiah referred to Tyre as a harlot. This is because, in a sense, the people sold themselves and their sacred relationship with God for money—much in the same way a harlot sells her sacred virtue for money.