Isaiah 33:1-6 speaks of those who come to bring destruction upon people (a generalization) referring to those who spoil and deal treacherously with others for no particular reason aside from the wickedness in their hearts. Isaiah says that in the midst of this, the Lord will be exalted and glorified, and the nations will be scattered. The Lord fills Zion with judgment and righteousness (Isaiah 33:6) and wisdom and knowledge will fill that place. We learned last week that wisdom and knowledge consist of the fear of the Lord, studying His Word, and applying it to our lives. Isaiah goes on continuing to speak of mourning over the destruction (Isaiah 33:7-9) and of the Lord promising to deliver His people (Isaiah 33:10-16). Here in the opening verses for this section, Isaiah describes a situation that seems hopeless, there is a massive army encamped outside of the city, and the people do not know what to do. The emphasis here is that they recognize that God alone can save. The historical setting for this chapter is likely the time when Sennacherib had accepted the bribe to leave the land, and after having received the tribute, he decided to destroy the city anyway. This is what Isaiah meant when he said they deal treacherously with others, they simply were trying to get as much money out of the land and the people as possible before doing what they had already set their hearts to doing. This treachery is what leads to the people being utterly hopeless and is the moment in which the Lord God moves to draw His people back to Him. An important point to observe is that sometimes the Lord God provides help in a way that is different from what we expect. In the biblical narrative according to the Exodus, the people were delivered from bondage and entered into the wilderness where they faced various challenges. One of those challenges was food and water in such a dry and arid place. We read how the Lord God provided for the needs of the people again and again, water, bread from heaven, and meat, etc. If God could provide for the needs of the entire nation of Israel, He surely could provide for Judah and Jerusalem, and even for the needs of you and I today! David gave the following testimony according to the Psalms:
ספר תהילים פרק לז
כג מֵיְהֹוָה מִצְעֲדֵי-גֶבֶר כּוֹנָנוּ וְדַרְכּוֹ יֶחְפָּץ: כד כִּי-יִפֹּל לֹא-יוּטָל כִּי-יְהֹוָה סוֹמֵךְ יָדוֹ: כה נַעַר | הָיִיתִי גַּם-זָקַנְתִּי וְלֹא-רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק נֶעֱזָב וְזַרְעוֹ מְבַקֶּשׁ-לָחֶם: כו כָּל-הַיּוֹם חוֹנֵן וּמַלְוֶה וְזַרְעוֹ לִבְרָכָה: כז סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵֹה-טוֹב וּשְׁכֹן לְעוֹלָם: כח כִּי יְהֹוָה | אֹהֵב מִשְׁפָּט וְלֹא-יַעֲזֹב אֶת-חֲסִידָיו לְעוֹלָם נִשְׁמָרוּ וְזֶרַע רְשָׁעִים נִכְרָת:
Tehillim / Psalm 37:23–28
37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: And he delighteth in his way. 37:24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his seed begging bread. 37:26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; And his seed is blessed. 37:27 Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell for evermore. 37:28 For the LORD loveth judgment, And forsaketh not his saints; They are preserved for ever: But the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. (KJV)
Here we are told that מֵיְהֹוָה מִצְעֲדֵי-גֶבֶר כּוֹנָנוּ “from the Lord are the steps of a man established.” This means that we need the Lord to help us and guide us in walking in His ways. Most importantly, a man is using the Word of God as a guide for life. David continues saying נַעַר | הָיִיתִי גַּם-זָקַנְתִּי וְלֹא-רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק נֶעֱזָב וְזַרְעוֹ מְבַקֶּשׁ-לָחֶם “I have been young, and now am old; Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his seed begging bread.” The idea here is that the Lord God has supernaturally provided for His people, and in the Torah context, the people still complained and grumbled because what they got from the Lord was not what they had expected. In the situation the people found themselves, having left Egypt, in the wilderness / desert, their stomachs longed for the food they left behind in Egypt. The imagery of the food such as bread from heaven, we find there is a spiritual connection to food coupled to the idea that they longed to be fed by the ways of Egypt as opposed to the ways of God. These things demonstrate the intentions of the people, whether they were willing to live for the Lord or live according to the ways of the world. This is the significance of Tehillim / Psalms 37:28 which states, כִּי יְהֹוָה | אֹהֵב מִשְׁפָּט וְלֹא-יַעֲזֹב אֶת-חֲסִידָיו לְעוֹלָם נִשְׁמָרוּ וְזֶרַע רְשָׁעִים נִכְרָת “For the LORD loveth judgment, And forsaketh not his saints; They are preserved for ever: But the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” David says that the righteous are preserved and the wicked perish. The point is that when the Lord brings His deliverance, we should not allow our expectations to cause us to be discontented. The Torah describes a people who wanted the Lord God to provide for them in a different way, they wanted the Lord to do it their way and not in His way. The lesson here is we are not to grumble against what the Lord has for us, we are not to grumble against God’s supernatural provision regardless of how it comes. We also note that God’s ways are a mystery according to the NT text. (Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10, Romans 11:25, 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, 4:1, 13:2, 14:2, 15:51, Ephesians 1:9, 3:3, 3:4, 3:9, 5:32, 6:19, Colossians 1:26, 1:27, 2:2, 4:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Timothy 3:9, 3:16, Revelation 10:7)
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began (KJV 25 Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑμᾶς στηρίξαι κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ*, κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν μυστηρίου χρόνοις αἰωνίοις σεσιγημένου*)
1 Corinthians 2:7
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: (KJV 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν,*)
1 Corinthians 4:1
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (KJV 4 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ.*)
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: (KJV 9 ⸀γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ,* κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν °αὐτοῦ ἣν προέθετο ἐν ⸁αὐτῷ)
The few references here speak of the μυστηρίων (mystery) and the Scriptures demonstrate how the Lord God does not think or act as men do. The Lord God Almighty is the One who defines all that is good, holy, and right. We at times are unable to comprehend His infinite plans, but because we are unable to understand everything, that does not mean that God wants us to remain ignorant about His character or His ways. This is the point of His giving us His word and the history of Israel. These things demonstrate how the Lord God always provides a response to the needs of His people. How we respond to His response is the major question. We respond by continuing to seek Him and His Mashiach and continue to remain faithful and walk in His ways of righteousness and truth regardless of what happens to us. Those who have no deep concern for ethical righteousness have only a narrow view of who God is and what he seeks of us in our lives as His people. How far has society and culture today diverged from ethics, morals, and righteousness as defined by God’s Word? The major concern today is the need to turn to God’s Word and to seek His help for our lives. We all fall short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23-25) This reminds us again of the mercy and grace of God which is provided for our repentance and gives us the opportunity to seek the God of Israel for the forgiveness of sins in Yeshua His Son. God’s power and his character are inseparable, the point is to remain on the side of mercy as opposed to living in unrepentant sin and reap the consequences of doing so.
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 33:7.
ספר ישעיה פרק לג
ז הֵן אֶרְאֶלָּם צָעֲקוּ חֻצָה מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁלוֹם מַר יִבְכָּיוּן: ח נָשַׁמּוּ מְסִלּוֹת שָׁבַת עֹבֵר אֹרַח הֵפֵר בְּרִית מָאַס עָרִים לֹא חָשַׁב אֱנוֹשׁ:
Isaiah 33:7 states, “Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly. (הֵן אֶרְאֶלָּם צָעֲקוּ חֻצָה מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁלוֹם מַר יִבְכָּיוּן)” Isaiah 33:8 “The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man. (נָשַׁמּוּ מְסִלּוֹת שָׁבַת עֹבֵר אֹרַח הֵפֵר בְּרִית מָאַס עָרִים לֹא חָשַׁב אֱנוֹשׁ)” Here the Hebrew text writes הֵן (behold) which appears to open a new section of statements following the opening statements in Isaiah 33:1-7. Isaiah says אֶרְאֶלָּם צָעֲקוּ “hero cried out” using the past tense verb צָעֲקוּ. The hero shouted outside (חֻצָה) apparently outside of the land due to possibly being exiled. Isaiah goes on saying “messenger of peace weeping bitterly” (מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁלוֹם מַר יִבְכָּיוּן). There is a contrast here to the mighty ones crying out and weeping bitterly, and similarly to the messengers or as the KJV translates “ambassadors” of peace are weeping bitterly, these things follow from the Assyrian army dealing treacherously and not leaving after having been given tribute. Isaiah 33:8 draws in the context that the people will be driven from the land by the comment that the highways will be empty and speaks of the people who broke the covenant, despising cities and regarding no man. It is interesting how this could again be referring to the Assyrian army. The Text comparison LXX and Targum adds more context to the meaning of these verses.
The LXX provides us more context saying, 7 ἰδοὺ δὴ ἐν τῷ φόβῳ ὑμῶν αὐτοὶ φοβηθήσονται, οὓς ἐφοβεῖσθε, φοβηθήσονται ἀφʼ ὑμῶν, ἄγγελοι γὰρ ἀποσταλήσονται ἀξιοῦντες εἰρήνην πικρῶς κλαίοντες παρακαλοῦντες εἰρήνην. 8 ἐρημωθήσονται γὰρ αἱ τούτων ὁδοί, πέπαυται ὁ φόβος τῶν ἐθνῶν, καὶ ἡ πρὸς τούτους διαθήκη αἴρεται, καὶ οὐ μὴ λογίσησθε αὐτοὺς ἀνθρώπους. 7 Look, now! These people will be frightened with fear of you; those whom you feared will cry out because of you. Messengers will be sent bitterly weeping, begging for peace, 8 for the ways of these people will be made desolate; the fear of the nations has ceased, and the covenant with these people is being revoked, and you will certainly not consider them people. (LES) Here the people are being made to weep and beg for peace. The TgJ ads more to the narrative here suggesting that the messengers are those of the nations crying out when the Lord reveals Himself to them, saying, הָא כַד תִתגְלֵי לְהֹון יַצוְחוּן בִמרָר אִזגַדֵי עַמְמַיָא דַאְזַלוּ לְבַסָרָא שְלָם תָבוּ לְמִהוֵי בָכַן בִמרָר נְפַש׃ צַדִיאוּ כִבשַיָא פְסַקוּ עָדֵי אֹורחָן עַל דְאַשנִיאוּ קְייָמָא אִתרַחַקוּ מִקִרוֵיהֹון לָא חַשִיבוּ בְנֵי אְנָשָא דְבִשתָא אַתיָא עְלֵיהֹון׃ 7 When Thou shalt reveal Thyself to them, the messengers of the nations shall cry bitterly in the street; those who had gone forth to proclaim peace, shall return to weep in the bitterness of soul. 8 The highways lie desolate, the wayfaring man ceaseth: because they have forgotten the covenant: they shall be removed far from their cities; they have not considered the sons of men, evil shall come upon them. (TgJ) The nations crying out seem to place the burden here on the nations and not upon Israel. In the LXX, it is unknown what it means that the fear of the nations will cease, but the Torah context speaks to those who break the covenant with God are cut off. One such reference is found in Bereshit / Genesis 17:13-14.
ספר בראשית פרק יז
יג הִמּוֹל | יִמּוֹל יְלִיד בֵּיתְךָ וּמִקְנַת כַּסְפֶּךָ וְהָיְתָה בְרִיתִי בִּבְשַֹרְכֶם לִבְרִית עוֹלָם: יד וְעָרֵל | זָכָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִמּוֹל אֶת-בְּשַֹר עָרְלָתוֹ וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעַמֶּיהָ אֶת-בְּרִיתִי הֵפַר:
Bereshit / Genesis 17:13–14
17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. (KJV)
Here the context of being cut off is to the covenant with God and the circumcision of the body. The Torah speaks of both the physical (Bereshit / Genesis 17:14) and the spiritual (Devarim / Deuteronomy 30:6) process of circumcision. This is where Paul got the idea of the circumcised heart according to Romans 2:29. This refers to one having a pure heart to seek and to serve the Lord God in heaven. Paul writes in Romans 2:25-29 saying, “For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” What Paul is trying to say is that there are two aspects to our faith, one that is spiritual (Faith) and one that is physical (Faithfulness). Paul writes here that one can outwardly appear to be obedient to the covenant of God, but if one is not inwardly set apart as well, then what happens outwardly is meaningless. We notice how in Paul’s day the outward sign of being set apart to God was emphasized while the inwardly one was not. Today, the idea of being inwardly set apart for the Lord (faith alone) is emphasized whereas the outwardly is not. It is obvious according to the book of James that this approach was also prevalent when James had to write that faith without works is dead. The point is that there is a cooperative work here, the Lord God circumcises our heart, but also must put in the effort in our own lives to live for the Lord and to avoid the trap of sin and this world. The major emphasis here is to change, we are changed within which has the effect of observing that change outwardly as well. This is coupled to the idea that we do not just say that we have faith, we also live as if we do! This was the major issue with Israel in those days serving other gods, their own lusts, etc. Because they refused to give all of their lives to the Lord God in heaven and His holy ways, Isaiah is saying that their highways will be deserted, they broke the covenant and therefore they lost the protection of the God of Israel.
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 33:9.
ספר ישעיה פרק לג
ט אָבַל אֻמְלְלָה אָרֶץ הֶחְפִּיר לְבָנוֹן קָמַל הָיָה הַשָּׁרוֹן כָּעֲרָבָה וְנֹעֵר בָּשָׁן וְכַרְמֶל:
Isaiah 33:9 states, “The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. (אָבַל אֻמְלְלָה אָרֶץ הֶחְפִּיר לְבָנוֹן קָמַל הָיָה הַשָּׁרוֹן כָּעֲרָבָה וְנֹעֵר בָּשָׁן וְכַרְמֶל)” Here it is interesting how when Israel looses faith, regionally speaking, the neighboring nations are also destroyed. This is the result of the Lord God bringing war and nations from far places bringing devastation and destruction along the way to Israel. We note that when one breaks the covenant with God, this affects others, including the land of Israel itself. We note that this is due to the covenant promises of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, how the Lord God promised the Land to Abraham and his descendents, and so when the covenant is broken, the direct effect is to the exile of the people. The Torah perspective of the covenant promises of God suggest that this language here is literal and not figurative. This is the idea that the enemy will come and plunder the nation, taking its fruits, vineyards, and orchards, etc. We note the significance of the nation, people, or person who breaks the covenant, or simply neglects to consider the significance of the covenant that we have with God, draws in this interplay between fruitfulness and barrenness and the Torah context of Devarim / Deuteronomy 28 to becoming aware of what is happening and amending our ways. Barrenness is the result of self-reliance, and fruitfulness is the result of relying upon the Lord God in heaven. There is a lot of significance to these things in relation to who we are in the Messiah of God, and how we should be living our lives, we should take our faith and relationship with God very seriously!
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 33:10-11.
ספר ישעיה פרק לג
י עַתָּה אָקוּם יֹאמַר יְהֹוָה עַתָּה אֵרוֹמָם עַתָּה אֶנָּשֵֹא: יא תַּהֲרוּ חֲשַׁשׁ תֵּלְדוּ קַשׁ רוּחֲכֶם אֵשׁ תֹּאכַלְכֶם:
Isaiah 33:10 states, “Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself. (עַתָּה אָקוּם יֹאמַר יְהֹוָה עַתָּה אֵרוֹמָם עַתָּה אֶנָּשֵֹא)” Isaiah 33:11 “Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. (תַּהֲרוּ חֲשַׁשׁ תֵּלְדוּ קַשׁ רוּחֲכֶם אֵשׁ תֹּאכַלְכֶם)” It is interesting how Isaiah 33:10 is written:
עַתָּה אָקוּם יֹאמַר יְהֹוָה עַתָּה אֵרוֹמָם עַתָּה אֶנָּשֵֹא:
Here the word עַתָּה means “now” and so the Lord is making three short statements, (i) now I will rise, (ii) now I will be exalted, and (iii) now I will lift up myself. What we note about this is how there will come a time when the Lord will take action, either for good or for drawing one back to Him. Isaiah 33:11 draws in the context of the chaff, stubble and fire consuming to those who do not wait upon the Lord or who break the covenant. Note that breaking the covenant is a thing even in the context of having faith in Yeshua the Messiah! It is possible to live unfaithfully and disregard what Yeshua had done for us, and forget the significance or importance of our living for him. The book of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (ESV) What does it mean to hold on without wavering? How does one hold on, is this simply having faith-believing? Once we have tasted life and freedom, should we return to bondage and sin? We notice how the concept of sin draws in the Torah commands since sin is a violation of the commands of God. When we are told to cling to the truth, we hold fast to the truth, to words of life, and hold to applying God’s word to our lives! Note how this naturally draws us back to the Torah, and to having the proper intention, we will seek the Lord God in heaven and His Holy Ways! On the other hand, if we do not hold fast, but live as if we are not in a covenant relationship with God, then as this verse states three times “now” there will be a point when the Lord God will move to draw us back to Him. When one is consumed with his or her own plans as opposed to the plans of God, one becomes unaware of the Lord God working and moving in his or her life. Clearly the Tanakh and the NT text speak and warn us not to become enemies of God through the way that we live our lives. The Scriptures always draw us back to righteousness and truth. Yeshua said the truth shall set you free (John 8:32) and clearly this is true, so we should make every effort to walk in that truth! The Scriptures reveal these things to us, and Isaiah demonstrates how the Lord God Almighty and His powerful work is coupled to the conquest of His enemies and the deliverance of His people! The Text comparison LXX and Targum reveal the following:
The LXX translates saying, 10 νῦν ἀναστήσομαι, λέγει κύριος, νῦν δοξασθήσομαι, νῦν ὑψωθήσομαι, 11 νῦν ὄψεσθε, νῦν αἰσθηθήσεσθε, ματαία ἔσται ἡ ἰσχὺς τοῦ πνεύματος ὑμῶν, πῦρ ὑμᾶς κατέδεται. 10 “Now I will rise,” says the Lord. “Now I will be glorified; now I will be exalted.” 11 Now you will see; now you will perceive. The strength of your breath will be to no avail; fire will devour you. (LES) The TgJ translates saying, עַתָּ֥ה אָק֖וּם יֹאמַ֣ר יְהוָ֑ה עַתָּה֙ אֵֽרֹומָ֔ם עַתָּ֖ה אֶנָּשֵֽׂא׃ תַּהֲר֥וּ חֲשַׁ֖שׁ תֵּ֣לְדוּ קַ֑שׁ רוּחֲכֶ֕ם אֵ֖שׁ תֹּאכַלְכֶֽם׃ 10 Now I will reveal myself, saith the Lord; now will I lift myself up on high; now will I be exalted. 11 Ye, O people! have purposed for yourselves purposes of iniquity; ye have worked for yourselves evil works, because your works are evil; my WORD shall consume you, as a whirlwind consumes chaff. (TgJ) We note here that Isaiah says according to the Targum translation that the Word (Memorah) will consume you. This draws us back to the Torah text, to Devarim / Deuteronomy 28, and to whether we are willing to live our lives for the Lord or unwilling to do so. This is how the Word consumes, it consumes our lives in righteousness, or consumes our lives in the consequences to disobedience. The plan of God in His Messiah was to empower us to overcome sin by His presence in our lives and to be a light unto the world. If we are living in sin looking like the world, how do we fulfill this call on our lives?
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 33:12.
ספר ישעיה פרק לג
יב וְהָיוּ עַמִּים מִשְֹרְפוֹת שִֹיד קוֹצִים כְּסוּחִים בָּאֵשׁ יִצַּתּוּ:
Isaiah 33:12 states, “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. (וְהָיוּ עַמִּים מִשְֹרְפוֹת שִֹיד קוֹצִים כְּסוּחִים בָּאֵשׁ יִצַּתּוּ)” Here Isaiah speaks of the outcome of sin. Sin leads to destruction. Here the word עַמִּים in modern Hebrew means “nations.” So one interpretation may be that the nations will be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up they will be burned in the fire. The reason this is so is because the nations do not seek the God of Israel. The Septuagint and the Targum translations agree with this assessment saying the following:
The TgJ translates saying, וִיהֹון עַמְמַיָא יְקֵידַת נוּר כוּבִין מְפַסְכִין בְנוּרָא יִתֹוקְדוּן׃ 12 And the people shall be as the burning of fire, as thorns are cut up and burnt in the fire. (TgJ) The LXX translates saying, 12 καὶ ἔσονται ἔθνη κατακεκαυμένα ὡς ἄκανθα ἐν ἀγρῷ ἐρριμμένη καὶ κατακεκαυμένη. 12 And nations will be burned up like a thorn in a field, thrown out and burned up. (LES) What this demonstrates for us is how the peoples are a common term that is used in Isaiah to refer to the nations around Judah and Jerusalem. Because of the threat of neighboring nations, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem have had the tendency to trust in other nations for help as opposed to God. This analogy of the people being as chaff burning up, illustrates the completeness of the destruction that is being prophesied will come. History bears out the utter destruction, one example of the nations utterly disappearing from the earth are the Philistines, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the moabites, etc. We note that only ruins remain of the existence of these nations and others. Notice that limestone is calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The point is that when limestone is burned, the heat of the fire drives off the CO2 so that CaO remains, and the rock turns to dust (it loses its structure). The illustration draws us back to the one who sustains and keeps us is the Lord God in heaven. When one is unrepentant and sins, he is reduced to nothing more than chopped and dried up thorns that are ready to be burned. Notice how when a plant is copped off, it will dry up and die. The only way to save a plant when it has been chopped off is to graft it somewhere else. A branch can be grafted into a tree that has righteous roots which then feeds the branch that was cut off from the wicked roots. This is the point of our salvation, of being grafted into the vine of life, into the family of God, which should produce righteousness, holiness, and good fruit. Note all of the NT parallels to these concepts!
The Targum Jonathan is a Aramaic and Rabbinic translation of the book of Isaiah and there is a valuable resource for continuing to study the book of Isaiah.
תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אל ישעיה פרק לג:ז-יב
ז הָא כַד תִתגְלֵי לְהֹון יַצוְחוּן בִמרָר אִזגַדֵי עַמְמַיָא דַאְזַלוּ לְבַסָרָא שְלָם תָבוּ לְמִהוֵי בָכַן בִמרָר נְפַש׃ ח צַדִיאוּ כִבשַיָא פְסַקוּ עָדֵי אֹורחָן עַל דְאַשנִיאוּ קְייָמָא אִתרַחַקוּ מִקִרוֵיהֹון לָא חַשִיבוּ בְנֵי אְנָשָא דְבִשתָא אַתיָא עְלֵיהֹון׃ ט אִתאַבַלַת חְרֹובַת אַרעָא יְבֵיש לִבנָן נְתַר הְוָה שָרֹונָא כְמֵישְרָא וּצדִי מַתנַן וְכַרמְלָא׃ י כְעַן אַתגְלֵי אְמַר יוי כְעַן אַתרָמַם כְעַן אַתנַטַל׃ יא אִתעַשַתתוּן לְכֹון עַמְמַיָא עַשתֹונִין דִרשַע עְבַדתוּן לְכֹון עוּבָדִין בִישִין בְדִיל עוּבָדֵיכֹון בִישַיָא מֵימְרִי כְעַלעוּלָא לְקַשָא יְשֵיצֵי יָתְכֹון׃ יב וִיהֹון עַמְמַיָא יְקֵידַת נוּר כוּבִין מְפַסְכִין בְנוּרָא יִתֹוקְדוּן׃
Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 33:7-12
33:7 When Thou shalt reveal Thyself to them, the messengers of the nations shall cry bitterly in the street; those who had gone forth to proclaim peace, shall return to weep in the bitterness of soul. 33:8 The highways lie desolate, the wayfaring man ceaseth: because they have forgotten the covenant: they shall be removed far from their cities; they have not considered the sons of men, evil shall come upon them. 33:9 The land mourneth, it is laid desolate; Lebanon is withered, it shakes off its leaves: Sharon has become like a desert; Bashan is laid desolate, and Carmel. 33:10 Now I will reveal myself, saith the Lord; now will I lift myself up on high; now will I be exalted. 33:11 Ye, O people! have purposed for yourselves purposes of iniquity; ye have worked for yourselves evil works, because your works are evil; my WORD shall consume you, as a whirlwind consumes chaff. 33:12 And the people shall be as the burning of fire, as thorns are cut up and burnt in the fire. (TgJ)
There are a number of things that are apparent here in Isaiah 33:7-12 according to the TgJ. The Lord God reveals Himself to the nations, the messengers of the nations weeping and the highways being desolate because people have forgotten the covenant of God. This is what Jeremiah said according to the word of the Lord to him in Jeremiah 11:1-5 concerning the covenant.
ספר ירמיה פרק יא
א הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר הָיָה אֶל-יִרְמְיָהוּ מֵאֵת יְהֹוָה לֵאמֹר: ב שִׁמְעוּ אֶת-דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל-אִישׁ יְהוּדָה וְעַל-יֹשְׁבֵי יְרוּשָׁלָם: ג וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵיהֶם כֹּה-אָמַר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל אָרוּר הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמַע אֶת-דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת: ד אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִי אֶת-אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם בְּיוֹם הוֹצִיאִי-אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ-מִצְרַיִם מִכּוּר הַבַּרְזֶל לֵאמֹר שִׁמְעוּ בְקוֹלִי וַעֲשִֹיתֶם אוֹתָם כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-אֲצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם וִהְיִיתֶם לִי לְעָם וְאָנֹכִי אֶהְיֶה לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים: ה לְמַעַן הָקִים אֶת-הַשְּׁבוּעָה אֲשֶׁר-נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לַאֲבוֹתֵיכֶם לָתֵת לָהֶם אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה וָאַעַן וָאֹמַר אָמֵן | יְהֹוָה:
11:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 11:2 Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 11:3 And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, 11:4 Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God: 11:5 That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O LORD. (KJV)
We note how these words are reminiscent of Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:18-20 which states, “But remember that it is the LORD your God who gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers even to this day. If you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods to worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD has destroyed before you, so you will perish if you do not obey the LORD your God.…” Here Moshe repeats his words by reminding the people again that only destruction awaited them should they forget the Lord their God and fall away to serve false gods (see Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:25 and 6:14). The point is that it is the Lord God who gives us strength and life, and we are to recognize this truth and realize that it is by His mercy we remain and are not destroyed. Note that health and wealth come from heaven, from the source of life, the Lord God Almighty! This is the significance of these statements from the Torah. When we seek the living God, we are given things to make us stronger and wiser, and to grow. In this text from Isaiah he states that when the Lord reveals Himself there will be weeping, ז הָא כַד תִתגְלֵי לְהֹון יַצוְחוּן בִמרָר אִזגַדֵי עַמְמַיָא דַאְזַלוּ לְבַסָרָא שְלָם תָבוּ לְמִהוֵי בָכַן בִמרָר נְפַש׃ 33:7 When Thou shalt reveal Thyself to them, the messengers of the nations shall cry bitterly in the street; those who had gone forth to proclaim peace, shall return to weep in the bitterness of soul. (TgJ) We note that when the Lord reveals Himself at this point, the people who have forgotten God are to the point of no return, and when the Lord reveals Himself they realize the consequences of unrepentant sin which leads to weeping over the lack of peace. When one makes his own efforts to find peace, there is no real lasting peace. So not only is our health and wealth from heaven, so is our peace. We note something here according to the rabbinic commentary which explains the origins of physical health in Akeidat Yitzchak.
Akeidat Yitzchak 24:1:9
To come back to the Midrash quoted at the beginning, when man’s eyesight is perfect, he makes few errors in perception. Denial of physical health does not originate in heaven. On the contrary, heaven helps in the attainment of perfect health. Therefore, since failing health is usually the result of some moral failure, the deterioration in Isaac’s eyesight seems doubly baffling. When someone looks into the king’s bedchamber accidentally, observing the most intimate aspects of the king’s private life, such a person may become a source of major embarrassment to the king. If the person in question happens to be an average citizen, the king might have him executed to save himself future embarrassment. If he is the king’s son, however, the king may prefer to shutter the son’s windows rather than to execute him. At the time of the akeydah, Isaac had become privy to some of G-d’s secrets while he was lying bound on the altar. Afraid that what Isaac had seen might become a source of future embarrassment, and to help Isaac avoid making fatal mistakes in the use of his eyes, G-d decided to shutter his “windows,” as it were. When Moses complained about his speech defect, using it as an excuse to decline the role of leader of the Jewish people, G-d countered by saying, “Who gave man a mouth?” (Exodus 4,11). This means that imperfections in man’s physical attributes do not occur through oversight on the part of G-d, but on the contrary; since they are the results of G-d’s actions, they serve a constructive purpose, even though that purpose may not yet have been recognized by the person suffering the handicap.
Here Akeidat Yitzchak is speaking on a Midrash and states that the eyesight of men is not perfect. He states that denial of physical health does not originate in heaven and that perfect health is what heaven promotes. Failing health is due to a moral failure, his conclusion is that failing health is from this earth and what is done on this earth, meaning it is the outcome of one’s actions. He goes on to draw a parallel to seeing into the bedchamber of the king, and what the king does to save himself from embarrassment. The point is that those who are God’s people have tasted of the wellsprings of life, truth, righteousness, and holiness, and being God’s people, we are His ambassadors. Then having experienced these things to turn and sin and live as the world does, the point is that health’s effects are due to the imperfection that is the result of sin, and what happens here on earth does not occur through an oversight on the part of God, but that we are supposed to recognize these things which are meant to draw us back to the Lord. Personal handicap is supposed to make us stronger and draw us closer to the Lord. The Lord has given us His Word so that we can understand these things. The commentary Otzar Midrashim, Midrash Temurah writes the following concerning these things.
Otzar Midrashim, Midrash Temurah 1:33
Once an unbeliever came to Rabbi Akiva and asked him: “This world, who created it?” Rabbi Akiva said: “The Holy Blessed One.” The other said: “Show me a clear indication.” Rabbi Akiva said: “Come to me again tomorrow.” The unbeliever came again the next day. Rabbi Akiva said to him: “What are you wearing?” The other replied: “A garment.” Rabbi Akiva asked: “Who made it?” The other answered: “The weaver.” Rabbi Akiva said: “I don’t believe you. Show me a clear indication.” The other said: “What can I show you? Don’t you know that a weaver makes clothes?” Rabbi Akiva said: “And don’t you know that The Holy Blessed One created the world?” The unbeliever departed, and Rabbi Akiva’s students asked him: “Is the indication so clear?” He said to them: “My children, just as the house makes known its builder, and the garment makes known its weaver, and the door makes known its carpenter, so to the world makes known God as the one who created it.”
Here the Midrash speaks of one who does not believe in God and makes an argument concerning his cloths, on how obvious it is that someone designed and made one’s clothing, and since this is true, how much more obvious should be of the Creator who made this world and everything that is in it! According to the Scriptures, the Lord God spoke everything into existence, the earth was created, and the land masses were separated from the sea. The heavens, God created in three distinct areas, the sky about the earth, the universe, and the realm of heaven which is unreachable by man. God created the animals, insects, and sea creatures, and he created the first seeds for fruits, vegetables, herbs, and all of the vegetation on the planet. God then created man, the last of His creation, and the crown of His creation, in two distinct sexes for the purpose of taking care of and replenishing the earth. (Bereshit / Genesis 1:28 and 2:15) The point is that there is such complexity in God’s creation, that it simply happening by chance is statistically impossible. Everything that was created was for life here on earth, even the stars in heaven for the telling of the time, seasons, and years, etc. The point is that God had created order in this world, in His creation, so that life can continue. Sin and disobedience bring disorder. This draws us back to the concepts of the covenant of God, and His commands, and how He created us for peace and life, and not to walk in sin and death. The outcome of sin and death perverts what God has created, such as in His creation of men and women, two sexes, not a multitude of sexes as we see being taught today in the gender confusion and the pronoun movement (he, her, they, them, non-binary, etc) where sin has led people to become confused about who they are. Simple biology should demonstrate the creator’s choice of who we are, whether male or female. When one turns from the truth, from remembering these things, from the covenant of God and from remembering who God is, the God of Israel, this leads to confusion in existence and how to live one’s life.
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to the TgJ, ח צַדִיאוּ כִבשַיָא פְסַקוּ עָדֵי אֹורחָן עַל דְאַשנִיאוּ קְייָמָא אִתרַחַקוּ מִקִרוֵיהֹון לָא חַשִיבוּ בְנֵי אְנָשָא דְבִשתָא אַתיָא עְלֵיהֹון׃ 33:8 The highways lie desolate, the wayfaring man ceaseth: because they have forgotten the covenant: they shall be removed far from their cities; they have not considered the sons of men, evil shall come upon them. ט אִתאַבַלַת חְרֹובַת אַרעָא יְבֵיש לִבנָן נְתַר הְוָה שָרֹונָא כְמֵישְרָא וּצדִי מַתנַן וְכַרמְלָא׃ 33:9 The land mourneth, it is laid desolate; Lebanon is withered, it shakes off its leaves: Sharon has become like a desert; Bashan is laid desolate, and Carmel. י כְעַן אַתגְלֵי אְמַר יוי כְעַן אַתרָמַם כְעַן אַתנַטַל׃ 33:10 Now I will reveal myself, saith the Lord; now will I lift myself up on high; now will I be exalted. יא אִתעַשַתתוּן לְכֹון עַמְמַיָא עַשתֹונִין דִרשַע עְבַדתוּן לְכֹון עוּבָדִין בִישִין בְדִיל עוּבָדֵיכֹון בִישַיָא מֵימְרִי כְעַלעוּלָא לְקַשָא יְשֵיצֵי יָתְכֹון׃ 33:11 Ye, O people! have purposed for yourselves purposes of iniquity; ye have worked for yourselves evil works, because your works are evil; my WORD shall consume you, as a whirlwind consumes chaff. (TgJ) These verses describe destruction and death, all of which comes due to one having forgotten the covenant of God and neglected to walk in His ways. What does it mean to walk in God’s ways? When we study the Torah, we read a lot about what it means to walk in God’s ways. The Torah states, כִּֽי־תִשְׁמֹר֩ אֶת־כָּל־הַמִּצְוָ֨ה הַזֹּ֜את לַעֲשֹׂתָ֗הּ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֣י מְצַוְּךָ֮ הַיֹּום֒ לְאַהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ וְלָלֶ֥כֶת בִּדְרָכָ֖יו כָּל־הַיָּמִ֑ים “if thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways…” (Devarim / Deuteronomy 19:9) laying out in multiple places that drawing near to the Lord God in heaven is synonymous to loving God and obeying His commands. Here the Torah describes that God will enlarge Israel’s territory if she will listen and obey. The Hebrew text writes explicitly saying לָלֶ֥כֶת בִּדְרָכָ֖יו כָּל־הַיָּמִ֑ים “to walk in His ways all of your days.” The Chazal in the Talmud asked how it’s possible for human beings of flesh and blood to walk in the ways of God, who is all-powerful and above time and space? Their response to the question is that walking in God’s ways is to be like God, not in the physical sense, which is impossible since it requires perfection, but to emulate God’s attributes in our lives. What this means is that we are to be merciful and gracious because God is merciful and gracious, etc. In the NT text, Matthew 25:35-36, Yeshua spoke of three attributes for those who find favor in God’s eyes. He says those who enter into the kingdom are those who do the following, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” We note that these consist of the attributes of mercy and being gracious towards others. Here we find Yeshua’s conclusions were exactly the same as the rabbinic opinion on the subject matter. In the context of the book of Isaiah, here the people forgot the covenant of God. They forgot that they were to live their lives emulating the attributes of God in mercy and grace. The commentary Duties of the Heart (by Rabbi Moses Hyamson, New York, 1925) expand upon these concepts saying the following:
Duties of the Heart, Third Treatise on Service of God 6:3
הראשון טובת הבורא הכוללת כל האדם והוא המציאם אחר שלא הי׳ דבר נמצא והחיותם והטובה להם בכל אשר הקדמנו זכרו בשער השני מן הספר הזה וע״כ הם חייבים לבורא יתברך עבודה כוללת והם כל התורות השכליות אשר נהג בהם אדם וחנוך ונח ובניו ואיוב וחבריו עד ימות משה רבינו ע״ה. ומי שדבק בהם כלם לעבודת האלהים ייטיב לו האלהים בטובה מיוחדת משאר בני אדם ויתן לו מעלה יתרה בעוה״ז והגמול הגדול בעוה״ב כמו אברהם שאמר לו האלהים (בראשית ט״ו:א׳) אל תירא אברם אנכי מגן לך שכרך הרבה מאד. ומי שימרה האלהים בטובותיו יפול ממדרגת המדברים ומעלותם אל שפל מדרגת החי שאינו מדבר ויהיה דינו כדין הבהמות בעולם כמ״ש (תהלים לז) ואויבי ה׳ כיקר כרים וגו׳ ודינו בעוה״ב הרע שאין למעלה ממנה כמ״ש (ישעיהו ל״ג:י״א) רוחכם אש תאכלכם.
The first is the universal goodness of G-d which embraces all mankind, in having brought human creatures into existence when previously they were naught; in keeping them in life and bestowing on them bounties which we have cited in the second treatise of this work. They are accordingly under a universal obligation of service to the blessed Creator. This consists of obedience to all the rational laws observed by Adam, Enoch, Noah and his sons, Job and his companions, up to the days of our teacher Moses, peace be upon him. If one adheres to all these laws for the sake of G-d’s service, the Almighty will bestow on him favors beyond those enjoyed by other men, and give him a higher degree in this existence and a great reward in the World to Come, as was the case with Abraham, to whom G-d said, “Do not fear, Abraham; I am your shield; your reward is exceedingly great” (Bereishis 15:1). But one who rebels against G-d, despite His beneficence, will fall from the degree of rational beings and their excellencies, sink to the low condition of irrational creatures and share the fate of the beasts of the earth, as it is said: “And the enemies of the L-ord shall be as the fat lambs (they shall be consumed; into smoke shall they be consumed)” (Tehilim 37:20). And in the next world they will be sentenced to an evil of which there is none greater, as it is said: “As to your spirit – fire shall devour you” (Yeshaya 33:11).
Here Rabbi Moses Hyamson writes that because of man being created by God, he is obligated to be in the service of the Creator God. He says there is a universal obligation upon all of mankind. This is why all peoples are not exempt from the judgment of God because of sin. He also provides a warning to us speaking of those who rebel against God will be consumed as in a flame and this is a reference to both this world and the world to come, in this world the body is destroyed, in the world to come the spirit is ravaged by the flame. The logic is that those who rebel against God are synonymous with descending to the level of irrational beasts and so the one who chooses to be no different than the irrational beasts will suffer the fate of the beasts of the earth. This is how Isaiah continues according to Isaiah 33:12 in the TgJ, יב וִיהֹון עַמְמַיָא יְקֵידַת נוּר כוּבִין מְפַסְכִין בְנוּרָא יִתֹוקְדוּן׃ 33:12 And the people shall be as the burning of fire, as thorns are cut up and burnt in the fire. (TgJ) Rabbi Moses Hyamson provides a picture of hell drawing upon these verses from the book of Isaiah. The Midrash Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer expands on this in the following way.
Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 40:9
למה הראה הקב”ה למשה מתוך הסנה? אלא האש אלו ישראל שנמשלו כאש, שנ’ והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה, והסנה אלו אומות העולם שנמשלו כקוצים ודרדרים. א”ל, כך יהיו ישראל בתוך העמים, לא אש של ישראל אוכלת העמים שנמשלו כקוצים וכחרולים, ואין אומות העולם מכבין שלהבתן של ישראל שהן מדברי תורה, לעתיד לבא אשן של ישראל אוכלת העמים שנמשלו כקוצים, שנ’ והיו העמים משרפות סיד.
Why did He show unto Moses the fire in the midst of the thorn-bush? || But the fire refers to Israel, who are compared to fire, as it is said, “And the house of Jacob shall be a fire” (Obad. 18). The thorn-bush refers to the nations of the world, who are compared to thorns and thistles. He said to him: Likewise shall Israel be in the midst of the nations. The fire of Israel shall not consume the nations, who are compared to thorns and thistles; but the nations of the world shall extinguish the flames of Israel—(these flames) are the words of the Torah. But in the future that is to come the fire of Israel will consume all the nations, who are compared to thorns and thistles, as it is said, “And the peoples shall be as the burnings of lime” (Isa. 33:12).
Here the Midrash describes the fire of the burning bush as Israel and the nations as being the chaff. It is interesting how the chaff is described as initially putting out the flame of Israel. This is analogous to allowing the ways of the nations to extinguish the fire that God has put in our hearts for Him. This is a very real danger if one chooses to go along with the woke liberal ideologies which directly lead to turning one away from the truth of God. We should be very careful to not quench the flames that God has set in our heart for His Word and His ways. The Midrash writes that the ultimate outcome of life is to be a light to the nations. This appears to be the idea of the words of the Torah of God being as a flame to consume the ways of the nations, which may be analogous to changing the gentiles to draw them to the God of Israel. We note how this is the outcome of what we read in the NT text and having faith in Yeshua the Messiah! Note that this is the picture that Isaiah gives us in Isaiah 2 at the beginning of His book, the nations streaming to the mountain of the Lord. The purpose of God’s word is to reveal to us the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua, and to draw us to repentance, to turning from sin, and to walking in God’s holy ways! The point of the consuming fire is the burning away of evil, sin, wickedness in our lives so to walk in mercy, graciousness, holiness, righteousness, and truth. These are again the attributes of God who has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate to us each day! And because of who we are in the Messiah, we should live these things for the glory of God!