Isaiah 20-23: The Last Prophetic Warnings of God’s Judgment to the Nations

God’s not done with the nations and He’s not done with the world — YET. His warnings to the nations continue. There are some new ones added to the docket and some previous ones are called out again. Once more, we have prophecies that came true “BC” (before Christ) some in the first century and others are still to come. But first, our hero, Isaiah, has to go through a rather humiliating experience. Yes, it’s the naked truth. Let’s dig in….

Isaiah 20

In the year when King Sargon of Assyria sent his commander in chief to capture the Philistine city of Ashdod, the Lord told Isaiah son of Amoz, “Take off the burlap you have been wearing, and remove your sandals.” Isaiah did as he was told and walked around naked and barefoot.

Then the Lord said, “My servant Isaiah has been walking around naked and barefoot for the last three years. This is a sign—a symbol of the terrible troubles I will bring upon Egypt and Ethiopia (Cush). For the king of Assyria will take away the Egyptians and Ethiopians as prisoners. He will make them walk naked and barefoot, both young and old, their buttocks bared, to the shame of Egypt. Then the Philistines will be thrown into panic, for they counted on the power of Ethiopia and boasted of their allies in Egypt! They will say, ‘If this can happen to Egypt, what chance do we have? We were counting on Egypt to protect us from the king of Assyria.’”

Isaiah 20 NLT

Would you do it? If God told you to take off your clothing and shoes and go around preaching His Word naked and barefoot, would you do it? That’s dedication. This is the same guy who in chapter 6, said, “Here I am, send me” when God called him into service. Isaiah didn’t ask, “What am I in for?” Wait till you see what God tells Jeremiah to do!

Ultimately, God had a purpose. He always does. It was “a symbol of the terrible troubles I will bring upon Egypt and Ethiopia.” He was foretelling of how the Assyrians would invade, take the Egyptians and Ethiopians prisoner and make them walk barefoot and naked. It’s the utmost humiliating experience.

It’s kind of like what happened to Jesus on the cross.

Going on…

Isaiah 21 – Babylon, Edom and Arabia

This message came to me concerning Babylon—the desert by the sea:

Disaster is roaring down on you from the desert,
    like a whirlwind sweeping in from the Negev.
I see a terrifying vision:
    I see the betrayer betraying,
    the destroyer destroying.
Go ahead, you Elamites and Medes,
    attack and lay siege.
I will make an end
    to all the groaning Babylon caused.
My stomach aches and burns with pain.
    Sharp pangs of anguish are upon me,
    like those of a woman in labor.
I grow faint when I hear what God is planning;
    I am too afraid to look.
My mind reels and my heart races.
    I longed for evening to come,
    but now I am terrified of the dark.

Look! They are preparing a great feast.
    They are spreading rugs for people to sit on.
    Everyone is eating and drinking.
But quick! Grab your shields and prepare for battle.
    You are being attacked!

Meanwhile, the Lord said to me,
“Put a watchman on the city wall.
    Let him shout out what he sees.
He should look for chariots
    drawn by pairs of horses,
and for riders on donkeys and camels.
    Let the watchman be fully alert.”

Then the watchman called out,
“Day after day I have stood on the watchtower, my lord.
    Night after night I have remained at my post.
Now at last—look!
Here comes a man in a chariot
    with a pair of horses!”
Then the watchman said,
    “Babylon is fallen, fallen!
All the idols of Babylon
    lie broken on the ground!”
10 O my people, threshed and winnowed,
    I have told you everything the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has said,
    everything the God of Israel has told me.

A Message about Edom

11 This message came to me concerning Edom:

Someone from Edom keeps calling to me,
“Watchman, how much longer until morning?
    When will the night be over?”
12 The watchman replies,
“Morning is coming, but night will soon return.
    If you wish to ask again, then come back and ask.”

A Message about Arabia

13 This message came to me concerning Arabia:

O caravans from Dedan,
    hide in the deserts of Arabia.
14 O people of Tema,
    bring water to these thirsty people,
    food to these weary refugees.
15 They have fled from the sword,
    from the drawn sword,
from the bent bow
    and the terrors of battle.

16 The Lord said to me, “Within a year, counting each day, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end. 17 Only a few of its courageous archers will survive. I, the Lord, the God of Israel, have spoken!”

Isaiah 21 NLT

The last part of verse 8 is quoted by John in Revelation 18. “Babylon the great has fallen!” Babylon is in Iraq, and today is just some ruins. Nevertheless, the Antichrist will make it his capital city in the not too distant future. It’s got to be raised up before it can fall again.


Isaiah 22 – Jerusalem

This message came to me concerning Jerusalem—the Valley of Vision:

What is happening?
    Why is everyone running to the rooftops?
The whole city is in a terrible uproar.
    What do I see in this reveling city?
Bodies are lying everywhere,
    killed not in battle but by famine and disease.
All your leaders have fled.
    They surrendered without resistance.
The people tried to slip away,
    but they were captured, too.
That’s why I said, “Leave me alone to weep;
    do not try to comfort me.
Let me cry for my people
    as I watch them being destroyed.”

Oh, what a day of crushing defeat!
    What a day of confusion and terror
brought by the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
    upon the Valley of Vision!
The walls of Jerusalem have been broken,
    and cries of death echo from the mountainsides.
Elamites are the archers,
    with their chariots and charioteers.
    The men of Kir hold up the shields.
Chariots fill your beautiful valleys,
    and charioteers storm your gates.
Judah’s defenses have been stripped away.
    You run to the armory for your weapons.
You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.
    You store up water in the lower pool.
10 You survey the houses and tear some down
    for stone to strengthen the walls.
11 Between the city walls, you build a reservoir
    for water from the old pool.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
    You never considered the One who planned this long ago.

12 At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
    called you to weep and mourn.
He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins
    and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse.
13 But instead, you dance and play;
    you slaughter cattle and kill sheep.
    You feast on meat and drink wine.
You say, “Let’s feast [eat] and drink,
    for tomorrow we die!”

14 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has revealed this to me: “Till the day you die, you will never be forgiven for this sin.” That is the judgment of the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

A Message for Shebna

15 This is what the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, said to me: “Confront Shebna, the palace administrator, and give him this message:

16 “Who do you think you are,
    and what are you doing here,
building a beautiful tomb for yourself—
    a monument high up in the rock?
17 For the Lord is about to hurl you away, mighty man.
    He is going to grab you,
18 crumple you into a ball,
    and toss you away into a distant, barren land.
There you will die,
    and your glorious chariots will be broken and useless.
    You are a disgrace to your master!

19 “Yes, I will drive you out of office,” says the Lord. “I will pull you down from your high position. 20 And then I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah to replace you. 21 I will dress him in your royal robes and will give him your title and your authority. And he will be a father to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. 22 I will give him the key to the house of David—the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them. 23 He will bring honor to his family name, for I will drive him firmly in place like a nail in the wall. 24 They will give him great responsibility, and he will bring honor to even the lowliest members of his family.

25 But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies also says: “The time will come when I will pull out the nail that seemed so firm. It will come out and fall to the ground. Everything it supports will fall with it. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Isaiah 22 NLT (bold emphasis mine)
Crown of thorns and nails representing Jesus' crucifixion.

Verse 22 takes a prophetic turn to foretell of the Messiah. From 22-25, it seems the timing is a bit reversed. In the end, Jesus will reign in David’s house eternally. Not so, however, when He first came. That’s what the people of Israel were expecting. A king to rule and get rid of the Romans right then and there. To His followers, He seemed so “firm”.

Little did they know that God would “pull out the nail that seemed so firm.” In 70 AD, Jerusalem fell to the Romans, the city and the temple were in ruins.

In Jesus’ letter to the church in Philadelphia He writes…

“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”

Revelation 3:7 NLT (bold emphasis mine)

Jesus can open doors of opportunity and close doors shut where you shouldn’t go. If you put your trust in Him only, you’ll see that everything will work out.

By the way, do you recognized verse 22:13? That’s become a famously quoted line, “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” It brings to mind what Jesus said about the “Days of Noah”.

One more…

Isaiah 23 – Tyre

This message came to me concerning Tyre:

Wail, you trading ships of Tarshish,
    for the harbor and houses of Tyre are gone!
The rumors you heard in Cyprus
    are all true.
Mourn in silence, you people of the coast
    and you merchants of Sidon.
Your traders crossed the sea,
    sailing over deep waters.
They brought you grain from Egypt
    and harvests from along the Nile.
You were the marketplace of the world.

But now you are put to shame, city of Sidon,
    for Tyre, the fortress of the sea, says,
“Now I am childless;
    I have no sons or daughters.”
When Egypt hears the news about Tyre,
    there will be great sorrow.
Send word now to Tarshish!
    Wail, you people who live in distant lands!
Is this silent ruin all that is left of your once joyous city?
    What a long history was yours!
    Think of all the colonists you sent to distant places.

Who has brought this disaster on Tyre,
    that great creator of kingdoms?
Her traders were all princes,
    her merchants were nobles.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has done it
    to destroy your pride
    and bring low all earth’s nobility.
10 Come, people of Tarshish,
    sweep over the land like the flooding Nile,
    for Tyre is defenseless.
11 The Lord held out his hand over the sea
    and shook the kingdoms of the earth.
He has spoken out against Phoenicia,
    ordering that her fortresses be destroyed.
12 He says, “Never again will you rejoice,
    O daughter of Sidon, for you have been crushed.
Even if you flee to Cyprus,
    you will find no rest.”

13 Look at the land of Babylonia—
    the people of that land are gone!
The Assyrians have handed Babylon over
    to the wild animals of the desert.
They have built siege ramps against its walls,
    torn down its palaces,
    and turned it to a heap of rubble.

14 Wail, you ships of Tarshish,
    for your harbor is destroyed!

15 For seventy years, the length of a king’s life, Tyre will be forgotten. But then the city will come back to life as in the song about the prostitute:

16 Take a harp and walk the streets,
    you forgotten harlot.
Make sweet melody and sing your songs
    so you will be remembered again.

17 Yes, after seventy years the Lord will revive Tyre. But she will be no different than she was before. She will again be a prostitute to all kingdoms around the world. 18 But in the end her profits will be given to the Lord. Her wealth will not be hoarded but will provide good food and fine clothing for the Lord’s priests.

Isaiah 23 NLT

Tyre was the southernmost city in Phoenicia, what is Lebanon today. The Ancient Phoenicians were seasoned sailors and tradesmen who traveled all over the Mediterranean. According to legend, around 600 BC, they supposedly sailed around the African continent. They colonized the northwestern coast in what is modern-day Tunisa, Morocco, Libya, Algeria as well as Malta, the west of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands and southern Spain. Basically, they built trading ports all around the Mediterranean.

Map of Greek and Phoenician colonies 550 BC
Click in the map to view in more detail.

Tyre was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. It is thought that Tarshish was their counterpart in the west. Probably what is today Portugal and Spain, maybe even the British Isles.

The Siege of Tyre by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. Map

Jesus mentions Tyre and Sidon in Matthew when He admonishes the towns where He performed miracles, yet they didn’t repented…

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

Matthew 11:20-22 NLT

The point being, God’s judgment will follow you. You can’t run from God! It seems like Tyre and Sidon’s judgment keeps going. Today, that’s Lebanon. Hezbollah, one of Iran’s proxy terrorist groups has a firm footing there. So much so that Saudi Arabia expelled their Ambassador. The people are suffering in the meantime.

If you want to keep up with what’s going on in the Middle East and how it all points to the End Times, follow the experts listed here.

Friend, we are living in the end times. There is no denying that. The question is, what are you doing about it? If you are a believer, you need to be out spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ’s salvation with a sense of urgency. If you’re not a born again believer, if you haven’t repented of your sins and surrendered your life to Jesus, do it now, before it’s too late!

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Top image from Wikipedia. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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