People contaminate the land with sin
God punishes people and trashes land1
The LORD is going to devastate this land.
He’ll tear it up so much that people will run away.
They’ll scatter abroad, leaving ghost towns behind.
Priest and lay person.
Slave and master.
Merchant and customer.
Banker and borrower.
Rich and bankrupt.
3 The land will become a wasteland
Plundered, stripped, and trashed.
The LORD said so.
4 The ground dries and life on it withers.
The world retreats and life on it withers.
People everywhere hide and grow weak.
The land is polluted now,
Contaminated by the people’s sin.
They ignored the laws,
Violated the rules,
And broke their promise to God.
People die for the guilt of their sins.
Few remain of those who lived there before,
Lightly scattered across the land.
7 New wine tastes bad.
Vineyards dry and die.
Happy people sink into sadness.
8 No one plays the tambourine.
No one sings the song.
No one plays the strings.
9 No one drinks to the music.
There’s no music in the land.
Those who drink in silence
Choke a bitter beer.
Happiness banished in broken city10
The broken city is decimated.
Houses are boarded shut.
Because they don’t have wine.
Joy is gone.
12 There’s nothing left in this desolate city,
Beyond the gates shattered and useless.
13 This is a picture of what’s coming
To nations all over the world.
They’ll be stripped naked as an olive tree
When the harvest season is done.
There’s happiness somewhere14
There are people watching
And singing for joy
And cheering the strength of God.
people say good things about the LORD.
They praise the God of Israel.
16 Music honoring a Good God
Plays all over the world.
People of earth, here’s what you get:
Terror and traps
And a hole in the ground for a tomb.
From a frightening sound,
Will fall in a trap in the ground.
Anyone climbing out of the pit
Will get caught in another trap.
For heaven is watching
And shaking the earth.
19 The land is decimated,
Shaken and stirred,
And violently torn apart.
20 Land staggers and sways
Like a drunk on a walk,
Sin on his back so heavy
He falls and never gets up.
21 There’s a judgment day coming
For armies in hills,
And kings on their thrones.
The LORD will punish the high and the lowly.
22 They’ll be rounded up and arrested,
Tossed into prison, kept there a while,
Then punished as they deserve.
23 The LORD of all will reign on Mount Zion.
Jerusalem will cheer his glory.
Moon and sun
Glory of the night and glory of the day
Are embarrassed in the presence of God.
It’s unclear what “this land” refers to. Scholars who interpret this as the entire world will read this prophecy like an apocalyptic message about the end of the world. Others say “the land” more likely refers to the land in the previous chapter: the kingdom of Tyre and outlying areas destroyed by Assyrian invaders crushing a revolt against their authority in the region. It’s anyone’s guess what the background is. But if it has to do with events in Isaiah’s day and near his Jerusalem home, the writer is probably describing what God is letting the Assyrians do in the region.
Many times in the 700s-600s BC, Assyria shredded cities and villages throughout what are now Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian Territories, and Egypt. They leveled towns, pillaged farms, and scattered terrified herders, farmers, and city folks who ran for their lives.
The writer doesn’t say who these people are. Are they Israelites watching Tyre fall and fearing they are next? Are the people “in the east” (24:15) Israelites exiled by Assyrians to what is now Iraq? What scholars say we do know is that these people, real or imagined to illustrate a point, approved of what God was doing.
The language more literally says the LORD will punish “the host of heaven.” That’s a phrase that can mean heavenly beings such as an angel army. It can also mean an earthly army, or all the people everywhere. So, when Bible writers talk about the LORD of the Heavenly Host or the LORD of Hosts, the writer could mean any of those. Interpreters have to look for context clues to know how to translate it for today’s readers.
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