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).
Note: Isaiah 33 is referring to the treachery perpetrated by the Assyrians against the people of Judah. King Hezekiah had made a treaty with the Assyrians whereby, in exchange for a large indemnity payment, the Assyrians agreed to withdraw from Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 18:13-16). But now the Assyrians have broken the treaty, have returned to Jerusalem, and are determined to conquer the capitol city.
1. How does Isaiah describe the state of the nation of Judah in verses 7-9 (printed below?)
Listen! Their brave men cry out in the streets; the ambassadors who seek peace weep bitterly. (8) The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty has been broken, its witnesses are despised; he respects no one. (9) The land mourns and wastes away; Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon has become like a desert; and Bashan and Carmel have lost their foliage. (Isaiah 33:7-9)
Verse 7 describes a scene of despair: “Listen! Their brave men cry out in the streets; the ambassadors who seek peace weep bitterly.” Verse 8 describes a nation under the control of the enemy armies: “The highways are deserted; no travelers are on the roads.” Verse 9 describes a land that is being devastated by the enemy: the splendor of Lebanon and the beauty of Sharon are reduced to a wilderness by the armies of Assyria.
2. What will the Lord do to those who have dealt treacherously with His people? See Isaiah 33:1 (printed below)
Woe to you, O destroyer, you who were not destroyed! Woe to you, O treacherous one, but they did not deal treacherously with you! When you have finished destroying, you shall be destroyed. When you have stopped dealing treacherously, they will deal treacherously with you. (Isaiah 33:1)
Verse 1 pronounces a word of woe against those who deal treacherously. “Woe to you, O destroyer, you who were not destroyed”—here was an unprovoked act of aggression. “Woe to you, O treacherous one, but they did not deal treacherously with you”—here was an unjustified betrayal of confidence and good faith. As noted, this passage of Isaiah is referring to the treaty that Judah had concluded with the Assyrians (recorded in 2 Kings 18:13-16), but which the Assyrians have now broken (2 Kings 18:17a). Verse 1b goes on to promise a day of justice. Note: when the act of treachery has run its course, then, in due time, there shall come the day of justice.
3. What was Isaiah’s prayer on behalf of the Lord’s people? See Isaiah 33:2 (printed below)
O Jehovah, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, and our salvation in the time of distress. (Isaiah 33:2)
Isaiah, on behalf of the betrayed and invaded people of God, calls upon the Lord (verse 2). “O Jehovah, be gracious to us,” here is an appeal to the Lord’s promise (Isaiah 30:18a) and to His covenant faithfulness. Isaiah testifies to the Lord, “we long for you.” But the nation had not longed for the Lord, nor waited for Him (note Isaiah 30:15-16). Apparently Isaiah is referring to a small remnant who did, in fact, wait for the Lord (Isaiah 8:17)—and for their sake the Lord now spares His people. Isaiah then goes on to request of the Lord, “Be our strength every morning, and our salvation in the time of distress.” Isaiah requests the Lord to be the constant Defender and Preserver of His people; an ever present source of strength, support and defense (note Hebrews 7:25); and especially that the Lord would rise up to sustain and save His people in their hour of trial and distress (note Psalm 46:1).
4. What assurance is given to God’s people in verses 3-4 (printed below) and what response do they make to this word of assurance (see verse 5 printed below?)
At the thundering of your voice, the peoples flee; when you arise the nations scatter. (4) Your plunder, O nations, shall be gathered like the young locusts gather the crops; men shall pounce upon it like locusts swarm over the harvest. (Isaiah 33:3-4)
Jehovah is exalted, for he dwells on high; he has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. (Isaiah 33:5)
Verses 3-4 proclaim a word of assurance that the Lord will arise to rout the enemies of His people. Addressing the enemy, Isaiah declares that the people of the Lord will gather their spoils (verse 4). Verse 5 contains a statement of praise to the Lord for coming to the defense of His people. “Jehovah is exalted; for he dwells on high,” the redemption of His people and the defeat of their foes demonstrate that the Lord is exalted and cause His people to acknowledge this glorious fact with a hymn of praise. Te reason the Lord is exalted is to be found in the fact that He “dwells on high;” he is majestic and sovereign, He alone is God, and as such He alone is able to perform the works that none other can. “He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness,” oppression and treachery (verse 1) have been confronted and conquered by justice and righteousness; and now the Lord proceeds to cause that justice and righteousness to fill the whole land.
5. What promise is made to the people of God in verse 17 (printed below?)
Your eyes will see the King in his beauty; they will look upon a land that spreads out to great distances. (Isaiah 33:17)
Verse 17a presents the promise that the people of God “shall see the King in his beauty.” Historically, king Hezekiah was exalted (note 2 Chronicles 32:22-23). Ultimately, we shall see the Lord Jesus Christ return in power and great glory (2 Thessalonians 1:10). Verse 17b presents the promise that the people of God “will look upon a land that spreads out to great distances.” Here is a land free from the constraining presence of enemies and threats of terror, a broad land open wide to the redeemed—here is the description of the whole earth becoming the kingdom of God and the peaceful possession of His people.