Isaiah 30:1-31:9 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does the Lord describe His people in Isaiah 30:1 (printed below?) What specifically is His complaint against them? See Isaiah 30:1-2 (printed below)

Woe to the rebellious children, declares Jehovah, those who receive counsel, but not from me, and who make an alliance, but not with the consent of my Spirit. Consequently, they heap sin upon sin. (2) Woe to the rebellious children who start out on their journey down to Egypt, (but who do so without having sought counsel from me), in order to strengthen themselves with Pharaoh’s strength and to take refuge under Egypt’s shadow. (Isaiah 30:1-2)

In verse 1 the Lord describes the people of Judah as “rebellious children.” The Hebrew word used here has the meaning “to be resistant to authority,” “to be stubborn.” One dimension of their rebelliousness was their refusal to seek the Lord’s counsel (verse 1). They would not look to the Lord and His prophets for their counsel and guidance; rather, they made their own plans and then proceeded in their effort to bring those plans to pass. They entered into an alliance, but not with the direction and sanction and blessing of the Holy Spirit; rather, it was a covenant which violated their covenant with the Lord their God—as verse 2 indicates, they were looking to the pagan nation of Egypt for deliverance from Assyria, rather than looking to the Lord.

2. What consequence would Judah suffer as a result of their rebellious behavior? See Isaiah 30:3-8 (printed below)

Therefore, Pharaoh’s strength shall be your shame, and the refuge under Egypt’s shadow shall be your humiliation. (4) Their officials are at Zoan, and their ambassadors have arrived at Hanes. (5) All of them will be ashamed because of a people who cannot help them, a people who will be neither a help nor a profit to them; but rather, will be a source of shame and disgrace.

(6) The oracle concerning the beasts of the South. Through a land of hardship and distress—the habitat of the lioness and the lion, the viper and the darting snake—the ambassadors carry their riches upon the backs of donkeys, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people who will be of no help to them (7) Egypt’s help is useless and worthless; therefore, I call her, “Rahab,” The Boaster, who sits still and does nothing! (8) Go now, write this on a tablet in their presence, inscribe it on a scroll, so that it may be perpetually preserved for the future (Isaiah 30:3-8)

Verses 3-5 speak of the consequence that would be suffered by these people for pursuing their own course instead of seeking the counsel of the Lord their God. Because they have aligned themselves with Egypt, the Lord will cause them to be put to shame and thrown into confusion and bewilderment when Egypt proves to be incapable of providing for their defense. In verses 6-7 Isaiah receives an oracle concerning the folly of Judah’s chosen course of action: a caravan is seen making the perilous journey to Egypt through a wilderness inhabited by lions and vipers. The caravan is seen carrying the riches of Judah down into Egypt—a caravan is supposed to bring riches home, not transport them to a foreign land! Likewise, the futility of their present endeavor is emphasized: they present their treasures “to a people who will be of no help to them.” Judah may put great confidence in Egypt, but the Lord calls Egypt “‘Rahab,’ The Boaster, who sits still and does nothing.” The Hebrew term found here means “to be arrogant,” “to make a noise;” it is used here in the sense of “empty boasting.” Isaiah is commanded to record this oracle and this description of Egypt as a witness against Judah’s folly (verse 8); note also Isaiah 31:2-3.

3. How did the people of Judah respond to the seers and prophets whom the Lord sent to them? See Isaiah 30:10-11 (printed below)

They are children who say to the seers, Do not see any more visions! and to the prophets, Do not prophesy to us what is right; rather, tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions! (11) Get out of our way! Move out of our path! Stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel! (Isaiah 30:10-11)

The people of Judah said to “the seers” (i.e.; the prophets as they received visions from the Lord as to the judgment that was about to befall this rebellious people), “Do not see any more visions!” (verse 10) In effect they were saying, “Do not tell us what lies in store for us in consequence of our personal and national sin, such visions disturb us and are at variance with our own vision of continued tranquility and a future of uninterrupted happiness!” They instructed the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; rather, tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions!” (verse 10) They desired to abandon what is right in favor of what is pleasant and comfortable to hear, fully knowing that such preaching is deceitful. They further commanded the prophets, “Get out of our way! Move out of our path! Stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” (verse 11) In effect they were telling the prophets to step aside and not block the way between them and their sins by confronting them with the Lord in His righteousness and His identity as the Holy One of Israel—they desired to indulge in their sins without the conviction of guilt or the fear of just retribution.

4. What is the consequence of Judah’s refusal to receive and heed the message the Lord has sent by His servants the prophets? See Isaiah 30:12-14 (printed below)

Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel declares, Because you have rejected this message, and have put your trust in oppression and deception, and have relied on them; (13) therefore, this iniquity shall be to you like a breach bulging out in a high wall, ready to burst—the wall will collapse suddenly, in an instant. (14) He will break it in pieces like pottery, shattering it so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found that is large enough for scooping burning coals from the hearth or for dipping water out of a cistern. (Isaiah 30:12-14)

Verses 12-14 speak of the consequence to be suffered when there is the refusal to hear and heed the law of the Lord. The people had requested the prophets to remove the Holy One of Israel from their presence, but the Holy One of Israel will not go away!—it is He Himself who now confronts them (verse 12). The Lord’s message is that they will bear the punishment for defying and breaking His moral law. Their rebelliousness is portrayed as a crack in a wall that causes the wall to bulge and suddenly to come crashing down—indeed, the Lord Himself shall break the wall, like a piece of pottery that is smashed to bits (verses 13-14).

5. What is the Lord’s attitude toward His people even though they are rebellious (see Isaiah 30:18 printed below?) How will He respond to their repentance? See Isaiah 30:19 (printed below)

Yet Jehovah longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion; because Jehovah is a God of justice, blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18)

O people of Zion, you who live in Jerusalem, you shall no longer weep. He will surely be gracious to you when you lift up your voice and cry for help. As soon as he hears you, he will answer you. (Isaiah 30:19)

Verse 18 declares that the Lord “longs to be gracious to you.” The Lord will wait until His people have discovered the folly of turning to other sources for their help and salvation; the Lord will wait until His people have run out of resources; the Lord will wait until His severe chastising work has had its intended effect of producing contrition and repentance—then He will show Himself to be gracious to them. Then the Lord will “rise (i.e.; arise to action) to show you compassion.” When all secular hope is gone and when His people cry out to Him for mercy, the Lord will act on their behalf to deliver them from the Assyrian invader. Verse 19 declares that the Lord “will surely be gracious to you when you lift up your voice and cry for help. As soon as he hears you, he will answer you.” As verse 19a indicates, their sorrow, caused by their own sins and the Lord’s judgment upon those sins, shall be replaced with joy in the Lord.