Isaiah 24 Study Notes


24:1 While chaps. 13-23 focused on the judgment of particular nations, chaps. 24-27 speak of the whole earth (a word repeated twenty-three times) as the object of God’s punishment.

24:2 This long list of pairs of opposites is a striking way of saying that all human inhabitants of the earth will be judged without regard for social standing.

24:3-4 Verse 3 essentially repeats v. 1 with the addition of for the Lord has spoken this message. This gives the reason Isaiah knew that God was going to act.

24:5 The cause of this horrific judgment is human sin. The people have broken the covenant between God and Israel (Ex 19-24). The reference to permanent covenant reminds the reader of the Noahic covenant between God and all the inhabitants of the earth (Gn 9:16).

24:6 The covenant form called for a curse if the law was broken (see Dt 27-28 in relationship to Dt 5-26). The remnant theme is seen here in the fact that a few will survive.

24:7-9 God’s judgment brings joyful singing and drinking alcoholic beverages to an end. Both of these involved celebration. Wine and beer were the two main types of alcoholic drinks in the ancient Near East.

24:10 The city of chaos is not a specific city. It represents evil men and women who are subject to God’s judgment.

24:11 Wine production will decline, so the people will cry for wine but go unsatisfied. Wine is associated with joy and celebration; the judgment of God will bring such festivities to an end. Wine also blunts pain. This may be another reason the people will cry out for wine—because of the suffering that God’s judgment will produce.

24:12 The gate in a walled city represented its defenses.

24:13 A harvested olive tree or a grape vine after harvest had only a few olives or grapes. So the cities of the nations will have just a few people left when God’s judgment falls.

24:14-16a Those who sing out are not specifically identified. They could be Israel or the remnant from all the nations. The fact that they are in the west, the east, the coasts and islands of the west, and the ends of the earth, suggests that if it does refer to Israel, then it imagines a time when they will be scattered among the nations. In any case, these verses indicate that there were some people who celebrated the downfall of the wicked described in the previous verses.

24:16b Isaiah (the first-person speaker) does not join the chorus of celebration of vv. 14-16a. Perhaps he was horrified by the destruction or, more likely, by the depth of the transgression of the nations.

24:17-18 The words panic, pit, and trap (pachad, wapachat, wapach) play on the similarity of sound of these three words in Hebrew. They stand for the judgment that God has prepared for the sinful inhabitants of the earth. The open windows of the sky imply rain and suggest devastating flood. The shaking foundations would be experienced as earthquakes.

24:19 The verse is very emphatic (lit: “broken is broken the earth, split is split the earth, shaken is shaken the earth”).

24:20 A drunkard cannot think or stand straight. A lightweight hut sways in the wind. Both ultimately will fall down. This judgment is connected to rebellion against God by virtually all people on earth.

24:21 The phrase on that day points to a future but unspecified time. God’s judgment is extensive. It not only covers the earth but also the army of the heights, a phrase that either indicates the stars (perhaps also suggesting pagan deities) or fallen angels.

24:23 Even the moon and sun will pale in comparison with the brilliant light emanating from God as he exercises his sovereign rule from the temple.