Ariel and Her Enemies: Isaiah Devotional Journal 62

Isaiah 29    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Divisions of Chapter 29

  1. Verses 1-4 are against Ariel, which is Jerusalem
  2. Verses 5-8 are against Ariel’s enemies
  3. Verses 9-16 judge the people of Jerusalem, especially its leaders
  4. Verses 17-24 concern a new season for Abraham and Jacob’s family

Characteristics of the People within the Divisions

The people of Isaiah’s day, as described in verses 9-16 are contrasted with a people of a later day in verses 17-24. Both of these groups of people are called “Israel.” Paul in the New Testament (this is a Christian viewpoint) describes the relationship between these two groups.

Romans 11:7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (ESV)

Who are the elect? They are a group within a group. Isaiah also presents these contrasting groups. However, he does not give the “elect” group a label, as Paul does. We will see in a bit how he handles the distinction.

Ariel and Its Leaders

1. “Woe to the city of Ariel” (verses 1-4)

Context (verses 3 and 7 LXX, 8) indicates that Ariel is another name for Jerusalem. David conquered it shortly after becoming king (2 Samuel 5:6-7). She will be no better off than the pagan nation of Moab (Isaiah 25:10-12). God himself in this oracle will afflict Jerusalem, encircling her with a barricade, as David did. In particular, God will take for himself her strength and wealth (vs 3) and will humble her words and speech (vs 4).

2. The enemies of Ariel/Jerusalem

In American politics, people often think that if a person is against a certain political party, then they must favor the opposing party. For many, however, this description fails to capture the reality that some people condemn both parties. Isaiah always makes the fact of punishment against both Israel and her enemies very clear. God judges and punishes his people, yes. But, he also judges and punishes “as many as have fought against Ariel, and all they that war against Jerusalem” (Isaiah 29:7). In verses 5-8, God turns these enemies to dust-like chaff and blows them away. His wrath in verse 6 is extreme. Notice that the Septuagint uses both the names Ariel and Jerusalem synonymously in verse 7. The Masoretic does not.

3. “A spirit of deep sleep” (verses 9-12)

If God were a man, we would say that he is deeply frustrated with the lack of understanding of his people. Verses 9-12 describe the Lord’s chastisement upon them–he will put them to sleep (vs 10) and take away even what little understanding they may have (11-12). These verses describe a deep, spiritual blindness, a total inability to perceive the Lord and his ways. The Lord intensifies their stubborn spiritual rebellion by giving them a “spirit of deep sleep.

Isaiah 29:9 Faint, and be amazed, and be overpowered, not with strong drink, nor with wine. 10 For the Lord has made you to drink a spirit of deep sleep; and He shall close their eyes, and the eyes of their prophets and of their rulers, who see secret things.

The Apostle Paul quotes this portion of Isaiah.

Romans 11:7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (ESV)

Paul neither gloats nor rejoices over the fact of Israel’s failure. No Christian should. Paul grieves tremendously over the state of his fellow kinspeople (Romans 9:2-3).

4. Punishment for the Hypocrites (verses 13-16)


An appropriate word for the religious leaders portrayed in verses 13-16 is hypocrites. While Isaiah does not use the word “hypocrites,” Jesus certainly does. Both Isaiah and the Lord Jesus describe very similarly the characteristics of the religious leaders of their respective day.

Isaiah directly quotes the Lord God in verse 13.

13 And the Lord has said, This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and they honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; and in vain do they worship Me, teaching the commandments and doctrines of men. (CAB, LXE)

And Jesus chooses this verse from Isaiah to quote.

Matthew 15:7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

According to the concordance, Jesus uses the word “hypocrites” seventeen times in the three synoptic gospels.


Isaiah 29:14 Therefore behold, I will proceed to remove this people, and I will remove them; and I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will hide the understanding of the prudent. (CAB, LXE)

Verse 14 above from the Greek Septuagint differs from the Hebrew Masoretic. The Hebrew text does not contain the word “remove.” A comparison of the two textual traditions (see Link) reveals that in this instance, the Septuagint word choice best matches the context of this verse and the surrounding verses, both before and after. For example, a change of circumstance brought on by removal fits well with the imagery of a potter who speaks to his rejected pot in verse 16. Very commonly, potters remove an unsatisfactory clay vessel from their wheel. They crush the clay and toss the used lump back into a bulk bin to be reworked and formed into another, brand new pot. But the word “remove” is not critical, in any case. Verses 13-16 of both textual traditions display negative judgments toward “this people” Israel.

To Be Continued: Blessing upon Abraham and Jacob’s progeny in Isaiah 29:17-24

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *