Isaiah Chapter 29

Two (numbers 2 and 3) woes spoken for Jerusalem:
1) 29:1-14 - Woe to "Ariel" (the altar hearth)
2) 29:15-24 - Woe to those who Hide from God

The first woe was chapter 28, "Woe to Ephriam."

Now comes the counter “woe” spoken to Ephriam’s sister city, Jerusalem. 

'Ariel" is a name for Jerusalem.  "Ariel" means literally "altar hearth".  The only altar-hearth that God is pleased with is found in Jerusalem.  
An altar-hearth is the surface of the altar that the burning sacrifice sets on.  

Israel is worshipping at the altar of God in thoughtless religious ritual

Jerusalem is relying on its religious system and refusing to respond to God.


The people prided themselves in David.  Though, David was a man of God the many of the kings and people that followed
him in Isaiah’s day demonstrated none of his qualities.

”Add year to year” is an invitation by Isaiah for the people to continue with their worthless rituals.

These rituals could do nothing to prevent the judgment that was coming.
The seasons of religious festivals would have made Jerusalem very busy.
It would be during these times that the people's religion would have taken further and further from the truth.  
The people at this time had reduced the sacrificial system to a ritual and the entire religious system a total external experience.
The more they worshipped at the altar the further from understanding Isaiah's words they were

The place of the altar-hearth (Ariel) of God will be attacked by God and the whole city will become an altar hearth.
"Altar hearth” is the same Hebrew word as Ariel.


besiege” – the Assyrian reliefs depicting their battle scenes show us their many inventions and devices they used to tear down the walls of cities.

They had large towers on wheels with a battering ram at the bottom and carried troops at the top.


Since the sacrifices offered in the temple were not sincere and thus did not remove the guilt of the worshippers, then
they themselves will bear the burden of their guilt.

This is similar to the words to the church in Hebrews 10:26:
”If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but
only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”


Or, Romans 8:13,
”For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”


“I will encamp” – when Isaiah made this statement it must have angered the religious people who thought they had God on their side

because of their religious rituals.  It would have sounded very irreligious to them and made them mad at Isaiah.


The word whisper is used for mediums and spiritists in 8:19.
The voice of Jerusalem will be heard but only as one speaking from the grave.  As if speaking after they have been destroyed and died.

Message to Jerusalem's Enemies
Verses 29:5-8 switch from words of judgment against Jerusalem but to words of restoration and judgment against the nations.

Why are they still speaking after destruction?  Because their destruction is not final.  It is discipline.  They will return.  

Jerusalem was shown as speaking from the dust.  Here their enemies are destroyed like dust.  

Why fear mere man?  Even the greatest of them is only dust.  When we fear men and temporal things God’s power becomes less and less
available to us.

Psalm 118:5,6, “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”
Psalm 56:4, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”


The appearance of God fighting his enemies with a manifestation of a theophany. (Exod. 19:16-19; 1 Kings 19:11-13; Ezekiel 20:47-48)


“The Lord Almighty will come” and he comes to right the wrong.  If you are:
a) living in sin his coming means punishment.

b) living oppressed and wronged his coming means deliverance.

The nations that attack Jerusalem will become like a figure in a dream to Jerusalem.  When they wake up the enemies will be gone just like:
a) food in a dream -  the satisfaction gained from eating food in a dream passes away when you wake
b) water in a dream -  thirst returns once a person wakes from a dream about water
c) So shall it be with Jerusalem's enemies.  When Israel wakes up the damage caused by the hordes of enemies is gone.


Jerusalem was to wake up one day in chapter 37 only to find that Sennacherib’s army that surrounded them had vanished in the night like a dream.


Literal Hebrew says, “stupefy yourselves and be in a stupor”
Calvin: “tarry and wonder”

Rotherham: “stand ye stock still and stare.”


The point is that Isaiah is telling them to think real hard and try to figure out what he is saying.
But, mockingly, they will never figure out his message because of their rebellion.

The main problem with Jerusalem is that the spiritual and moral leaders are so blind by their own traditional religious system that they can not even
understand God’s revelation if it were written down.   The prophets and the seers do not understand what God is saying nor can anyone read and understand
the words of the prophets or of the Law.


Jerusalem rejected the revelation that they understood.
If people see the will of God and refuse to do it they will become incapable of seeing and doing any further thing God has revealed.
As a result of this they will be spiritually blinded from understanding anything further.
If you reject known spiritual truths, you will be cut off by God in the future from understanding other truth.
This would result in Jerusalem slipping further and further away from God and into judgment.

Intentional resistance and rebellion to God becomes results in being left in the darkness of the soul.  In this condition then a person will act out the darkness that is in them which will destroy their life and demand God's judgment.


This is in fulfillment of what God told Isaiah his ministry would be like when he called Isaiah in chapter 6:
”Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. 
Make the heart of his people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.’ ”

Acts 28:25-28, "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 'Go to this people and say, You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving."  For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand wit their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'  Therefore I want you to know that god's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"

Romans 1:24,26,28, "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts. . .Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. . .Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God he gave them over to a depraved mind,  to do what ought not to be done."

Hebrews 4:2, 3, "For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.  Now we who have believed enter that rest just as God has said, . . ."

Interestingly God does not rebuke the priests here but the prophets.
The priest and the Levites were to lead the established worship and teach the people the law.
The prophet was to wake the people up and call them back to the Law of Moses.

The priest came from within the established religious system, but the prophets came from outside the system.
(Or, if they where from a priestly family like Jeremiah they quickly found themselves outside the system.)

Revelation has been cut off.
The people chose not to obey God, now they do not even remember.
No one will be able to speak and explain the word of God.

Those who are trained and can read can not understand it.
Those who are not trained can't even read it.

Here the idea is communicated that people are without hope in this culture to understand God’s revelation because the trained religious
leaders are too “drunk” on religion to understand revelation.  This leaves the discovery of the revelation to the untrained who can not
even read it naturally let alone interpret it.

Notice that the scrolls and the doctrine is still there, it just can not be understood.


Because the prophets have failed to reveal God’s words (written in the scroll) the people have fallen into religious manipulation by the priest

Because they do not understand the revelation they must reduce it to rules and regulations.
They turn it into a religion.
Romans 9:30, "What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;  
but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  
They stumbled over the stumbling stone."  As it is written, 'See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'"

Faith here is seen as heart softened and determined to respond and follow God.
Not rules and regulations that are used to replace a relationship with righteousness.

Because they are so dull spiritually that they can not be a prophet and they can not read the scriptures God will have to shock them into understanding
like he did when he brought them out of Egypt.


God will work a wonder and he will upset any image of him fitting into their religious box.


Throughout church history and in many countries God has exploded on the scene with a novel and amazing work without contradicting his word and character.
The third "woe".  Woe to those who hide from God.
Probably a reference to the leadership in the land who were getting ready to  break their vassal treaty with Assyria and side with Egypt for help.
Hide their plans from God?  Who could think that?
A depraved man with an unrenewed mind is so reduced in their thinking that they can not apply the doctrine of the omniscience and omnipresence of God.
Because they do not think about God it gives them a false sense of security that God can not think about them.  Similar to a little child hiding their eyes to make something disappear.  It is really still there but by hiding their eyes they are relieved from having to deal with it.

Jerusalem and Egypt were having secret meetings to allign themsleves against Assyria.


Some translations: “Oh, your perversity”
A classic description of an attitude in rebellion to  God:
a)  God did not make me.
b)  God knows nothing.  (Or, I know what's best for me.)

The example of the potter and the clay is found again in:
Isaiah 45:9 - "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground.  Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' . . . ."
Isaiah 64:8 - summary and submission to the potter.
"We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."

Jeremiah 18:1-6, "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message. . .O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?. . .If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. . . ."
Romans 9:19-21, "One of you will say to me: 'Then why does god still blame us?  For who resists his will?'  But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?  Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?. . ."

(2 Timothy 2:20, "In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purpose, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."

Lamentations 4:1, 2, "How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull!  The sacred gems are scattered at the head of evey street.  How the precious sons of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter's hands!")

Isaiah 29:17-24

This is a promise of the result of the potters work.  The future day of glory is revealed again.

The section before concluded with quoting the unfaithful in Jerusalem who mock the Potter.
Here the Potter replies by giving an example of his wisdom which will be revealed in the future.
Lebanon is not a heathen nation in this image.  Lebanon is a symbol for the productive land in the future day of the Lord.  Lebanon which has been overrun will become a fertile and productive field and then that fertile field will become a forest.

The spiritual insensitivity will be removed and the humble and needy will rejoice in the Lord in his new kingdom.

The evil people will disappear:
a) ruthless – oppressors who use the weak to get whatever they can
b) mockers – those who change the absolutes and twist the standards of truth and honor
c) evil – are defined by d-f and are the political and judicial authorities
d) label innocent as guilty
e) ensnare those who defend people
f) lie to deprive the innocent of justice

The first three evils mentioned are from hearts in rebellion to God.
The next three evils are the things that these people do to others because they are in rebellion to God.


Summary of chapters 28-29