Isaiah 12–17: Burdens & Refuge

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 3: Friday

“For Yahweh of hosts has counseled, and who can thwart it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”
Isaiah 14:27 LSB

Today’s Bible reading is Isaiah 12–17. Chapter 12 is a song of praise of the remnant. If you look back to chapter 11, you’ll this is a remnant God has yet to gather, and this song is to be sung in the future by God’s people.

Chapter 13 begins a section that continues to the end of chapter 23,  God’s sovereign judgment of the nations. Derek Kidner writes,

“For all their obscurity of detail, these chapters teach a primary and central truth: that Yahweh’s king­dom is the world. This is easy to announce in general terms; to spell it out, as this section does, is to show that this sovereignty is nothing titular, but actual and searching.

“The oracles were given at various times (cf. 14:28; 20:1); brought together they form a prelude to the world-visions of chs. 24–27, and an interlude between the prediction of the Assyrian crisis in chs. 1–12 and its onset in chs. 28–39.”1

As you read, remember to look for a greater understanding of who God is, even when you do not understand all of the circumstances or events. There is not time in these posts covering large amounts of the Bible to go into details, nor can these posts be a substitute for in depth Bible study.

As I wrote two weeks ago, when you watch someone’s actions, you learn about who that person is. You also gain knowledge of who a person is when you understand someone’s thoughts—whether through conversation or through writing. In the prophets you will read what God revealed to His prophets regarding His actions and His thoughts about the nations mentioned. You will also learn about people, and as you learn about people, obviously, you will learn about yourself.

Isaiah 13–17 contain oracles regarding various nations and peoples. The word translated as oracle is a word meaning burden.2 This word is:

“a prophetical speech of a threatening or minatory character…The word appears twenty-seven times, only in prophetic contexts, with the exceptions of Prov. 30:1; 31:1.

“…it was a burden, not just a prophecy or utterance!

“Isaiah uses this burden form for his messages against the foreign nations.  It occurs ot [sic] 13:1 (Babylon), 14:28 (Philistia), 15:1 (Moab), 17:1 (Damascus); 19:1 (Egypt), 21:1 (Babylon), 21:11 (Dumah), 21:13 (Arabia), 22:1 (Valley of Vision), and 23:1 (Tyre). He also uses it in the midst of his six woes in 30:6 (the beasts of the Negeb). These messages are all minatory in nature, although occasionally there is subjoined a rose-tinted promise such as the one in Isa 19:16–25).”3

In today’s reading Isaiah 13–14:23 is the oracle concerning Babylon. Assyria is mentioned in Isaiah 14:24–27, and Philistia in Isaiah 14:28–32. Isaiah 15–16 is the oracle concerning Moab. Isaiah 17 is the oracle concerning Damascus.

As you read these chapters you understand why judgment is coming: evil and iniquity, arrogance and pride, ruthlessness and oppression.

There is warning and instruction in these chapters from which we can learn.

“In that day man will have regard for his Maker
And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel.
He will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands,
Nor will he look to that which his fingers have made,
Even the Asherim and incense stands.”
Isaiah 17:7–8 LSB

As God’s children, Christians must remember to have regard for God, who is our Maker, and heed what He has told us in His Word. We may not build altars, but we need to ensure we don’t live as if we regard the world more than our God.

“For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
And have not remembered the rock of your refuge.
Therefore you plant delightful plants
And set them with vine slips of a strange god.
In the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in,
And in the morning you bring your seed to blossom;
But the harvest will be a heap
In a day of sickliness and incurable pain.”
Isaiah 17:10–11 LSB

These chapters teach us that the pride of men and of powerful nations is as nothing before God. He is sovereign, and He will bring judgment upon them for their deeds.

God’s people must remember to have regard for God alone and remember that He alone is the rock of our refuge.


Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Rock prow south of Coire Faoin: Trevor Littlewood. (CC BY-SA 2.0
1Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 599.
2, 3Milton C. Fisher. “1421e מַשָּׂא (maśśā’) II, burden, oracle.Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol.2, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds. (The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago IL: 1980) 602.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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