Isaiah 30 Study Notes
30:1 On woe, see note at 1:4. This is the fourth woe in chaps. 28-33 (28:1; 29:1,15; 31:1; 33:1). The rebellious children were God’s people who sought help from a foreign nation rather than from God himself.
30:2 The plan was to form an alliance with Egypt to counter the Assyrian threat. Shelter . . . protection, and shadow imply the relationship with Egypt would not be as equal partners; God’s people would be the junior partner. This arrangement involved the payment of annual tribute as well as the forfeiture of an independent foreign policy. The description of Egypt in this pronouncement fits with the time of King Hezekiah of Judah and may indicate the threat of an invasion by Sennacherib in 701 BC.
30:3 The purpose of the foreign alliance was to protect Israel against an Assyrian invasion; rather than preserving Israel’s glory, it would lead to shame because Egypt was an unreliable ally.
30:4 Zoan (also known as Tanis) was an important city, formerly a capital of Egypt, mentioned in this verse because it was the residence of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers (see note at 19:11). This is the only mention of Hanes in the Bible. According to extrabiblical sources, it “was an important regional capital” identified with Heracleopolis Magna (John Walton, IVP Bible Background Commentary).
30:5 God’s attitude toward Israel’s alliance with Egypt reaches its climax here. They are good for nothing but shame and disgrace.
30:6 The Negev was the wilderness region south of the southern Israelite city of Beersheba. It was on the way to Egypt. Nomadic peoples and various animals such as those listed in the first part of this verse populated this area. The people who carried their wealth on the backs of donkeys describe those who took tribute to Egypt to buy protection against the Assyrian threat. Isaiah saw this as a waste of money.
30:8 A record of the prophecy of destruction would demonstrate to future generations that what happened had been predicted.
30:10-11 People want to hear pleasant things, not the hard things that prophets like Isaiah told them. True prophets warned them of coming judgment and urged them to restore their relationship with God, but they responded by declaring they wanted nothing to do with this God. The Holy One of Israel is one of Isaiah’s favorite titles for God, appearing more than twenty-five times in his book. It emphasizes God’s distaste for sin (see note at 1:4).
30:12-14 The people rejected the prophet’s admonition to trust in God alone, and instead trusted in oppression and deceit by seeking the protection of Egypt. As a result, God will cause them to collapse. They thought that Egypt would be a high wall of protection against the Assyrians, but the wall had a huge crack. It would eventually be obliterated.
30:15-17 The healthy alternative was to relax and trust in God, but such an easy course was too hard for God’s people to accept. The result of their refusal to listen to God is that they would flee from the threat of just a few of the enemy (Dt 32:30).
30:18-26 After the judgment described in this pronouncement, God would restore his people to his favor.
30:18 God was waiting for the people to repent before turning his judgment into compassion and restoration.
30:19 The outcry of the people refers to their repentance, an acknowledgment of their sin, and a turn to God for help. As a result, he would respond with his favor. They will live on Zion in Jerusalem near the presence of God. The beginning of the fulfillment of this promise occurred after the Jews began returning from Babylonian exile in 539 BC.
30:20 The word oppression refers to the future exile and political oppression by foreign nations (Assyria, followed by Babylon, followed by Persia) that happened because of their sin. The Teacher of the people of God is a reference to God himself who would show them the right way to behave.
30:21 Walking in the way is reminiscent of the language of Ps 1 and Proverbs. There are two ways—a crooked path that represents an evil life heading toward death and the straight path of godliness that leads to life.
30:22 The spiritual transformation of the people of God involves moving toward the true God and away from false gods. Menstrual cloths were especially impure because a woman was considered unclean during her menstrual period (Lv 15:19-24).
30:23-24 Based on the lists of covenant blessings found in places like Dt 28, God will grant agricultural prosperity to his restored people. While they had nothing but bread and water (Is 30:20) during their oppression, they would have large quantities of food in the future. Even the oxen and donkeys would have plenty of good food.
30:25 Israel’s prosperity was normally tenuous because of limited water supplies. Here the picture is of overflowing waters. The reference to the great slaughter and the fall of towers is probably a reference to the downfall of their oppressors.
30:26 Not only will there be abundant food and water, but light as well. Light represents what is good and godly.
30:27-28 God’s anger is described in human terms as if he had lips . . . tongue . . . breath, and neck. He is hot with anger. He will take the wayward nations and bridle them as if they were a donkey or horse. Then he will guide them in the way he wants them to go.
30:29 The scene shifts to the people of God who will celebrate this act of God. The judgment of their enemies is a cause for rejoicing. They will praise God as if it were a holy festival like Passover or the Festival of Shelters. The mountain of the Lord refers to Zion where God (their Rock, a title that signifies shelter and protection) will make his presence known.
30:32 The blows of weapons are compared to the beating of tambourines. Babylon was the appointed staff of God to bring down Assyria in the late seventh century BC.
30:33 Topheth was located in the Valley of Ben Hinnom (Jr 7:30-34). This valley was immediately south and west of Jerusalem. At times it functioned as a garbage heap for the city. In Greek, this valley was known as Gehenna, which became associated with hell. We do not know for certain what the word Topheth means or where it came from, but we do know that King Josiah had desecrated this place earlier during his religious reforms (2Kg 23:10-11). It had been a place where the foreign god Molech was worshiped. Jeremiah said it epitomized the sin and guilt of the people (Jr 7:30-32; 19:6-13). God explicitly had forbidden human sacrifice as well as the worship of Molech (Lv 18:21; Dt 12:31; 18:10; see also Is 57:5,9; Jr 19:5; 32:35; Ezk 16:20-21; 20:25-26,31; 23:37,39). Here though it is being used for a good purpose—the burning of the body of the king of Assyria after his defeat.