Isaiah 24–27 is a section in its own right within the prophecy. It deals with the conflict between Israel (spiritual and natural) and the world, and the ultimate triumph and blessedness of Zion, when Yahweh reigns therein in glory with “his ancients”. These chapters follow a lengthy section of eleven chapters, which deal with ten “burdens” upon the nations surrounding Israel.

General Notes

  1. The chaotic conditions portrayed in the prophecy relate to the world at the time of Christ’s return and the transition Divine intervention brings—the establishment of Christ as king in Zion (v23).
  2. This interpretation of chapter 24 is sealed because Jesus alludes to and quotes the prophecy many times in the Olivet prophecy (for example, verse 17 is cited in Luke 21:35 in reference to the days immediately prior to his advent).
  3. In Isaiah 24 the Hebrew word eretz (earth, land) occurs 16 times; 13 times it is translated “earth” (v1, 4, 5, 6 [2 times], 16, 17, 18, 19 [3 times], 20); 3 times it is translated “land” (v3, 11, 13). The Hebrew word adamah (earth, soil) is translated “earth” twice in verse 21. The word translated “world” in verse 4 is the Hebrew word tebel and refers to the “fruitful or habitable earth”. It also occurs in 26:9 where it is equated with the word eretz.
  4. Great emphasis is placed upon the matters dealt with by the use of repetition, poetic style (see RSV, Rotherham), and cryptic, staccato-like language.
  5. Tale of Two Cities. In this prophecy there are two cities, the “lofty city” (26:5) or Babylon, and the “strong city” (26:1) or Zion. The ultimate triumph of Zion and her king after years of persecution and controversy is foretold (24:23), and it is linked with the deliverance of the national seed of Abraham (Isa 27). As these chapters are considered the drama is unfolded, but it is good to be aware that this strife is basically between two systems, the kingdoms of men and the saints, their King and Zion.

Isaiah 24

Worldwide Devastation Gives Place to the Manifestation of Yahweh as King in Zion

24:1–3 The Ruin of the World is Seen by the Elimination of Class Distinction and General Chaos

Verse 1 “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof

Here is portrayed God’s intervention in human affairs and the resulting chaos. This is the “day of the Lord” for which saints have patiently waited. The rsv says, “Behold the Lord will lay waste the earth and make it desolate”. Isaiah 2:10–22 records details of the great earthquake which will rock the earth when the Lord comes (see also Ezek 38:20; Hab 3:9; Hag 2:6; Zech 14:4). The inhabitants of the earth will flee “into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of Yahweh, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth”. Isaiah 24:1 is a continuation of this scene. The marginal note says Yahweh “perverteth the face thereof”, and the rsv graphically depicts the scene “He [Yahweh] will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants”. Like chequers on a board are caused to run in all directions if the board is tilted, so there will be utter confusion when the great earthquake “shakes terribly the earth” (see also verses 18–20).

Verse 2 “And it shall be,
as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the servant [rsv slave] so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the taker of usery [rsv creditor], so with the giver of usery [rsv debtor] to him

This verse shows that in the face of absolute calamity all classes of people are brought to a common level. Rich and poor etc are in common need, in fact the rich ‘suffer’ more because they have more to lose. Ezekiel spoke of a similar day when disaster would engulf all the inhabitants of Jerusalem without exception, “the time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof” (7:12). James also goaded the rich who were about to be enmeshed in the fall of Jerusalem. Their riches would not deliver them and the loss of them would add to their miseries (5:1–3). From this calamity the saints will be withdrawn and enjoy Yahweh’s care and protection (26:20,21).

It is notable, too, that all facets of human life will be involved, the religious (“people… priest”); the domestic (“servant… master”); and the commercial and economic (“buyer… seller”).

Verse 3 “The land [eretz] shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.

Here we have repetition to emphasize certainty. The inevitability of the vision is further stressed by the last words of the verse, “for the mouth of Yahweh hath spoken this word”. This mode of expression is used elsewhere by Isaiah (25:8; 1:20; cp Micah 4:4). This constitutes a solemn warning to us as we await the Lord’s intervention.

The Cause Plainly Stated: Violation of Yahweh’s Laws

Verse 4 “The earth mourneth and fadeth away [rsv withers],
the world [tebel] languisheth and fadeth away;
the haughty people of the earth do languish.

In this verse we have an interesting example of progressive parallelism, as the point being made is repeated and elaborated. Again in this form of expression we can see the emphasis, the appalling devastation and destruction that Isaiah saw and which we face in these “perilous last days”. The people are described as being “haughty” and arrogant and what an apt description this is of the hedonistic, affluent idle rich of today. There is an obsession with self today and Paul’s description of society in the 21st century accords with this message: “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud [arrogant], blasphemers [abusive], disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection [inhuman], trucebreakers [implacable], false accusers, incontinent [profligate], fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady [reckless], highminded [swollen with conceit], lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:1–5). This description is corroborated in verses 7–9, and Isaiah 2:11–17.

Verses 5,6 “The earth also is defiled [rsv lies polluted] under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

“Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.”

The first thing to note in these verses is the explanation of why drastic Divine judgment is necessary. Men question Yahweh’s justice when calamity strikes. Here is the rationale, and it is only appreciated by those whose minds are in tune with God’s will, purpose and principles. The earth is described as being defiled or polluted under its inhabitants. This is the very description used of the Canaanites once the iniquity of the Amorites was “filled up” (Lev 18:24, 25; Gen 15:16; Deut 9:4–6). They were justly destroyed by Joshua and their lands inherited by the Israelites. What we shall witness is the destruction of the world by the greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ, a world similarly polluted and corrupt.

Not only is the reason for the judgment given but the basic cause of the gross wickedness of men, a total disregard for the Word of God. This is emphasised three times by the words “because” (v5) and “therefore”, which occurs twice in verse 6. How true this is. Men have undermined the Bible in order to escape its moderating influence upon their natural lusts and behaviour. Whereas there used to be some respect and belief in the Bible, especially in Western countries, this has now been thrown to the winds, and we behold the inevitable disorder in society, the family and the workplace.

In verse 6 men are described as being “burned” and “few men left”. This accords with other descriptions of God’s coming judgments, for example: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel …” (2 Thes 1:8,9; see also Ezek 38:22; Num 11:1–3; 16:35; Lev 10:2; 2 Kings 1:12; Psa 106:18). The result will be “few men left”. This description is also in accord with a number of significant prophecies of Christ’s coming judgment of the world (Psa 110:6; Isa 66:16; Jer 25:33).

These are fearsome thoughts. They should make us watch and be diligent servants within Christ’s household so that we might be “accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).