Isaiah 18–22: Justice & Mercy

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 4: Friday

The princes of Zoan are merely ignorant fools;
The counsel of Pharaoh’s wisest counselors has become senseless.
How can you men say to Pharaoh,
“I am a son of the wise, a son of the kings of old”?
Well then, where are your wise men?
Please let them tell you,
And let them understand what Yahweh of hosts
Has counseled against Egypt.
The princes of Zoan have acted as ignorant fools,
The princes of Memphis are deluded;
Those who are the cornerstone of her tribes
Have led Egypt astray.
Isaiah 19:11–13 LSB

Today’s Bible reading, Isaiah 18–22, continues with prophecies of God’s judgment of nations that began in chapter 13 and will finish in Isaiah 23.1 Chapters 18–22 contain judgments on Cush (Ethiopia/Sudan), Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia and Jerusalem. Derek Kidner titles Isaiah 13:1–23:18, Messages For The Nations, and 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.”2

Remember the Hebrew word translated as oracle is a word meaning burden.3 It 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).”4

Reading large sections of the prophets at a time is a repetitive lesson over and over again of the truth that God is a righteous God and He will judge sin. Nations may be powerful today, but He will judge them in His time. Realizing that God alone is judge also underscores the face that we are not. Trusting in His justice enables us to leave vengeance to Him. Trusting in His justice enables us to forgive.

The thread of God’s mercy is also woven into Isaiah. He smites in judgment; He also heals.

And Yahweh will smite Egypt, smiting but healing; so they will return to Yahweh, and He will be moved by their entreaty and will heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom Yahweh of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”
Isaiah 19:22–25 LSB

The prophets take us down to bedrock. Any skewed understandings or pretensions about God and ourselves cannot stand as we are brought face to face with God in their pronouncements of sin and inevitable consequences. In His judgments of justice and His acts of mercy we learn who we are, and we see who He is.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The “Ozymandias Collossus”, Ramesseum, Luxor, Egypt: Charlie Phillips, (CC BY 2.0). “The fallen statue of King Ramses II, mistakenly thought to be a mythical king called Ozymandias, immortalised by the 19th century English poet Percy Shelley.”
1, 2Derek 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.
3, 4Milton 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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