Isaiah 31: Devotional Journal 67

Isaiah 31    Septuagint Modernized   NETS

Rebuke of Assyria and Israel

In Isaiah 31, Isaiah continues to rebuke Assyria. The rebuke specifically and locally (in the time frame of Isaiah’s own life) began in Isaiah 30:31-33. There is more to God’s anger, however. Isaiah also rebukes Israel.

1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, who trust in horses and chariots, for they are many; and in horses, which are a great multitude; and have not trusted in the Holy One of Israel, and have not sought the Lord. 2 Therefore He has wisely brought evils upon them, and His word shall not be frustrated; and He shall rise up against the houses of wicked men, and against their vain hope, 3 even an Egyptian, a man, and not God; the flesh of horses, and there is no help in them; but the Lord shall bring His hand upon them, and the helpers shall fail, and all shall perish together. (CAB, LXE) (1)

Who Is the Object of “Woe to them” Verses 1-3?

We know from biblical history that Assyria did not seek help from Egypt in their attack against Israel. On the contrary, Israel sought help from Egypt. It is likely that the regions of Judah not under the direct control and protection of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem may also have journeyed to Egypt for help (2 Kings 18:13). The Bible records that King Hezekiah appealed to and trusted in the Lord. Therefore, God preserved Jerusalem, while the rest of Judah fell (2).

Verses 1-3, quoted above, clearly state God’s anger against Israel and possibly those in Judah’s “strong cities” who went down to Egypt for help. In fact, Isaiah 31:2 (LXX) states that God himself “wisely brings evils upon them, and His word cannot be set aside…” 

Change-up in Verse 5

5 As birds flying, so shall the Lord of hosts defend; He shall defend Jerusalem, and He shall rescue, and save and deliver.

Rather suddenly, which is not unusual in Isaiah, the prophecy turns. Assyria is now the object of God’s anger. God protects Jerusalem.

Question: we know that God used Assyria to punish his errant children Israel. Why then, did he turn against Assyria? Isaiah 30:33 LXX gives one reason: Assyria overstepped its bounds.

Isaiah 30:33 For you shall be required before your time; has it been prepared for you also to reign? … (CAB, LXE)

Anyone reading the Rabshaka’s words (2 Kings 18:19-37; 19:4) will recognize the arrogant pride with which he spoke. Speaking in Sennacherib’s name, his emissary resembled Satan in his exaltation of self and denial of God. God had set limits upon the punishment of his children. He intended to spare Jerusalem all along. (At a later time, however, even Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians.) In keeping with his intent to spare Jerusalem, God placed the godly King Hezekiah there at just the right moment. Hezekiah called upon God’s name and asked mercy for Jerusalem. God granted this.

What About Verse 4?

A NET Bible study note, note 14, indicates debate over a preposition. Namely, is God, roaring like a lion, fighting for Mt Zion or against it? In addition to Masoretic translators disagreeing on the Hebrew, Septuagint translators also differ. Two of three independent translations indicate that God, the metaphorical lion, fights for Mt Zion. One translation indicates against.

The consequence is that if verse 4 indicates God fighting against Zion, then verse 4 belongs with verses 1-3. If, however, God fights for Zion, then verse 4 contains the sudden switch-up. In this case it belongs with verse 5.

The Main Points Are Clear

Ultimately, Isaiah’s main points are clear. And yes, Isaiah transitions very suddenly without warning.

  • Verses 1-3 prophecy against the Israelites who turn to Egypt for help, but not to God.
  • Verse 5 prophesies God’s defense of Jerusalem.
  • Verses 8-9 prophesy the defeat of Assyria by means of God’s own sword, “a sword not of man.

That Leaves Verses 6 and 7

In verse 6, God through Isaiah calls out to his people to return to him. Isaiah lived and prophesied in the years just before the northern kingdom’s fall. There was still time for them to repent, as the people of Ninevah did in response to Jonah’s prophesying there.

NET Isaiah 31:6 You Israelites! Return to the one against whom you have so blatantly rebelled! (Isa 31:6 NET)

6 Turn, you children of Israel, who devise a deep and sinful counsel. (CAB, LXE)

Verse 7 looks to the far future. A far future is indicated for two reasons, one textual and the other historical.

7 For in that day men shall renounce their silver idols and their golden idols, which their hands have made. (CAB, LXE)

1. The text. In that day” in Isaiah often indicates the future in which Messiah shall reign.

2. The historical record. First, the record of 2 Kings indicates that Israel the northern kingdom did not repent and turn to God. The Assyrians carried them off into captivity. Second, Sennacherib of Assyria overran the “strong cities of Judah” and took them (2 Kings 18:13 LXX). Third, King Hezekiah began his reign by removing the high places of pagan worship (2 Kings 18:1-7). Therefore, he is not specifically in view in these verses.


Isaiah does not present a new message in Chapter 31. Rather, he repeats the warnings of judgment he previously gave. He also prophesies, as he had in prior chapters, that Jerusalem would be spared (Isaiah 8:7-8; 30:31).

Repetition is good. Parents and teachers endlessly repeat, repeat, repeat what their children need to learn. Repetition indicates God’s great desire for the salvation of his people. God does not hide his counsel, but he proclaims it loudly.

Some things never change. Today as much as ever, the world and the people of God need to hear that there is final hope in none but God. Other people and nations may supply help for a season. But ultimately, only God saves. We as individuals, churches, people groups, and nations need to know and pay attention. God’s call for us to turn away from vanity and to him is as relevant today as it ever was in Isaiah’s time, as presented in Isaiah 31.

Finally, God is sovereign. What he says he will do, he does. God is not against people. Rather, God is for people. In his prophecies through Isaiah, God’s love shines through strong.


1 The Complete Apostles’ Bible. Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito, and, The English Majority Text Version (EMTV) of the Holy Bible, New Testament. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito.

2 See Link to Isaiah 30 Two Kingdoms and 2 Kings 17-19. Isaiah 36-37 also records these details.

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