Our reading today begins with another woe (same as the “Ah” from the previous chapters). Here, woe is again pronounced on those who rely on worldly powers instead of YHWH (31:1). Egypt is used as the example because both Israel and Judah have tried to get Egypt’s help, and some Judahites will flee to Egypt during the Babylonian siege. Verse 2-3 expound the sovereignty of God over kingdoms and men. In verse 4-5 we see that God will sovereignly protect Judah from the Assyrian invasion. This may also apply to Christ and His church. Verse 6 is a call to Israel to repent and return to YHWH, which may also apply to the call to Israel to believe the Gospel in Jesus’s day. Verse 7 has our “in that day,” indicating that this whole section may have a dual fulfillment. We know there was no day in which everyone has ceased idolatry, so verse 7 points to the return of Christ and the final judgment and restoration.
Verses 8-9 pronounce judgment on Assyria. The swords of men (the armies of Judah) will not be necessary to turn Assyria away, because God will sovereignly defeat them. Isaiah is predicting the events of 2 Kings 19:35-36 (and Isaiah 37:36-37), where the Angel of the Lord fights for His people. God will prove His sovereignty over kingdoms and over men.
Chapter 32 offers a respite from the woes. Isaiah begins here by predicting the reign of a righteous king and just princes (32:1). This is likely a reference to Hezekiah and the other good king that comes from his line (Josiah). Some believe this is a reference to the Messiah of 11:1-5. However, in verse 2, we see that this is referring to multiple people because “each” will be a welcomed relief from the evil kings before them. Verses 3-8 refer not to the salvation of the Messiah, rather they speak to the justice and righteousness of these two kings who restore both proper worship and justice to Judah.
Verse 9 begins an indictment against the women of Judah who live complacently, that is, they are satisfied with both their vain lifestyle and their lack of true worship. The “little more than a year” of verse 10 is the Assyrian invasion. While God would turn them away (see 31:8-9), we need to remember that Assyria captured some of the cities of Judah and came against Jerusalem, cutting her off from the rest of Judah, much to the dismay of those in Jerusalem. This is what Isaiah is predicting in verses 10-12. But God sticks with the agricultural motif to refer to the people themselves (v. 13). The soil of the people is not yielding fruit. This is why Assyria will be used as a call to repentance.
Verse 14 points to a time when the city will become empty and the wild animals live in it like a wilderness. This never happened to Jerusalem. This is speaking spiritually. God is going to send His people into the wilderness, as it were, for time (the silent years), and then the final restoration will begin. This is the Spirit being poured out in verse 15. This is the creation of God’s church. The wilderness of the world will become fruitful, and then a forest. Then true justice and righteousness will be done (v. 16) and peace achieved (vv. 17-18). This is all through the First Coming of the Messiah. Verses 19-20 speak of the judgment and restoration that will occur together at His Second Coming.
Chapter 33 returns us to the woe (“Ah”). This is again woe on worldly powers, specifically using Assyria as the example. 33:1 refers to Assyria’s loss of dominance on the world stage to the hands of Babylon. The prayer of verses 2-4 again refer to God saving Jerusalem from Assyria. The prayer of verses 5-6 is likely a reference to king Hezekiah reigning justly and righteously before God. Verses 7-9 continue the woe on the nations. The covenant being broken in verses 8 may refer to Assyria’s attack on Judah despite Hezekiah paying tribute (see 2 Kings 18).
However, there is a dual fulfillment here. This refers to the judgment of the wicked and the salvation of the righteous. While the Lord will arise to fight for Jerusalem and judge Assyria, He will also be exalted at the final judgment when He destroys the enemies of His people. The chaff will be burned in the fire (vv. 11-12 – see Matt 13:40). The call to repentance will have gone out to the whole world (v. 13). Verses 14-16 speaks of a proper fear of the Lord and turning from sin to righteousness. Those who repent in this way will see the King, and the kingdom that “stretches afar” (to all the nations – v. 17).
Verse 18 is fulfilled in both the fall of Assyria, but also the destruction of the world powers at the end. This is also a reference to Satan, the prince of this world (see 14:10-12). In verse 20, Zion is the church. We are the dwelling place of God “whose stakes will never be plucked up” and none of our “cords be broken.” This is clearly not physical Jerusalem, which would be destroyed twice! We, the church, are the place described in verse 21. YHWH is our King, and He will save us (v. 22)! Verses 23-24 explain that this is the sovereign work of God, Who forgives our iniquity.