Larry Hunt's Bible Commentary


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Isaiah 30

Chapter Thirty

v. 7:  “Rahab who sits still” is another example of Isaiah’s satirical, ironic tone.  Rahab, according to the Oxford commentary, is a “mythical sea monster,” which also doubles sometimes as a figure for Egypt.  The word means arrogance, fierceness, or aggression (Barnes 451), but here the so-called arrogant, boastful, fierce one (Egypt) is impotently sitting still.  Thus, the Jews’ trust in Egypt is in vain.

vs. 11-12:  Here is more irony and satire.  For satire, verse 11 finishes with the words of the faithless Jews: “…let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”  To which Isaiah responds in the beginning of the very next verse: “Therefore, thus says the Holy One of Israel….”  For irony, verse 12 says the faithless Jews have put their “trust in…deceit.”

vs. 15-16:  Here is yet more irony and satire.  Note again the mention of the title “the Holy One of Israel” (see vs. 11-12).

I’m not exactly sure of the interpretation of verse 16, but I think it could be paraphrased in one of the following two ways:  First, “we will flee upon horses” might express the fear which led them to seek Egypt’s help in the first place (i.e., “We will flee before our enemies if we don’t seek help from Egypt”).  In this case “we well flee upon horses” could be a kind of proverb without specific, literal reference to horses, just as being “up a creek without a paddle” simply implies being helpless in a tough situation without specific, literal reference to a creek, a boat, or a paddle.[1] If this is the proper interpretation, then the irony of using this proverb is double: First, a large part of the Jews’ hope in Egypt was based on the help that country could offer by means of its famous battle horses.  Second is the fact that the Jews need not have fled at all (if they had trusted in God) but since they trusted in Egypt, they had to flee indeed, just as they feared.

I get the other interpretation from Barnes, who says that the Hebrew verb translated as “flee” may simply refer to motion on a horse.  In this case, the sentence could be paraphrased as “we will fight on horses procured from Egypt” (454-455).  If this is the proper interpretation, then the irony of verse 16 is in the double meaning of the Hebrew verb itself: nuwc.  The following paraphrase may bring it out more clearly: You [the Jews] say, “We will nuwc (fight) upon horses;” How true, you will indeed nuwc (flee) upon horses.

v. 18: I am not sure why “therefore” is used here.  Perhaps the general point of this and the preceding verses could be paraphrased in the following deductive arguments.

Those who do evil suffer

You have done evil (vs. 9-11)

Therefore, you will suffer (vs. 13-17)

The LORD helps those who suffer

You will suffer (vs. 13-17)

Therefore, the LORD will help you. (v.18)

Barnes explains the verse by translating the word as something like “nevertheless,” which would flow more seamlessly from the previous verses.  If he is correct, a paraphrase could run like this: “You have done evil, and you will suffer; nevertheless, I will take care of you.”

v. 19:  Barnes believes this refers in some way to the return from the Babylonian Captivity, but I do not believe he is correct.  Verses 29-33 are obviously about Assyria (and the destruction of its army), and the beginning of the chapter is also about Assyria (and its threat to Judah) so I think this whole chapter has reference to Assyria and the events surrounding its invasion of Judah.

v. 20:  It is interesting to me to note the difference between the German translation of this verse and the English translations.  Luther translates this as “Und der Herr wird euch in Trubsal Brot und in Angsten Wasser geben.”[2]

v. 21:  I think the fact that the Jews will hear a word “behind” them alludes to the basic idea inherent in repentance.  Shuwb, translated as “repent” by the NRSV in Ezekiel 14:6 means literally “to turn back” according to Strong’s Concordance.[3] If you repent, you turn back from the way you are going.  Where else would you hear the word calling you to repentance but from behind you?

v. 26:  I think this is simply hyperbole.  It has obvious application to the time of the Messiah, but I do not believe that it is primarily a sign of that time.  I believe it is a sign of the time of peace, joy, and faithfulness that will follow Judah’s deliverance from Assyria.

v. 27:  I sense the presence of the Sublime here in the poetic phrase “the name of the LORD comes,” but I cannot articulate why I feel this way.  It has something to do with the prophet’s saying “the name of the LORD comes” rather than simply “the LORD comes.”  See also notes on vs. 11-12.

[1] For instance, you could be dying of thirst in the middle of a desert and be “up a creek without a paddle.”

[2] “And the LORD will give you bread in [times of] trouble and water in [times of] distress.”

[3] Although shuwb does not appear in Isaiah, I believe the idea inherent in it is implied here.  The LORD definitely wants his people to turn away from their idols and repent.


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