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Isaiah 32

Chapter Thirty-two

v. 1:  The description of events in this chapter is so general that I do not believe it is possible to determine the specific era it refers to.  Of course, as a type (at least), it applies to the Messianic Age.

v. 3:  This verse must allude to other passages such as Isaiah 6:9-10 and suggest that the condition of the people described in such passages would be reversed in the time when “the spirit from on high is poured out on” the Jews.

v. 9: I wonder why the women are singled out here?  Compare this passage with Isaiah 3:16 (and see note there).  The Oxford commentary says women are mentioned because the Jews would have associated the act of lamentation more with women than men.  Barnes suggests that the lamentation of the women parallels the barrenness of the land (the earth being associated with femininity).

It is interesting to note that no actual army is mentioned (unless metaphorically) in this chapter.  Nevertheless, in the context of the previous chapters, it seems reasonable to see an invading army (Assyrian or Babylonian) as the cause of the disastrous effects listed here.  

v. 15: Here “forest” must signify something good.  The clause begins by saying that the events in this verse are the result of “a spirit from on high” being poured out on Judah.  Therefore, when “the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,” Judah will be improved; the wasteland described in verses 13-14 will become a productive land once more.  “Forest,” then, must be a hyperbolic description of the productivity of the fruitful field.  It would make no sense whatsoever to see “forest” as a synonym for “wilderness” and thus as a sign of Judah’s return to misfortune. 

v. 19: How odd that Isaiah would use the word “forest” again at this place; it is the same Hebrew word (ya’ar) that he uses in v. 15 to describe the productivity Judah would enjoy while the Spirit of God was poured out upon the land.  Here, however, a forest is being destroyed. 

Since this one verse describing ruin and destruction is inserted (with no noticeable transition) among five others that describe Judah’s peace and prosperity, I believe it should not apply to Judah but rather to Judah’s enemies.  “Forest” might signify fruitfulness here just as it does in v. 15, the only difference being that the fruitfulness of v. 15 is Judah’s whereas that of v. 19 is the fruitfulness of Judah’s enemies. Barnes suggests that “forest” represents the army of the Assyrians, claiming that the same image is used in Isaiah 10:18-19, 33-34 for the same purpose (475).  If Barnes is correct, we might call this inconsistent use of “forest”[1] in the same chapter a mixed metaphor (and thus an aesthetic flaw by our poetic standards), but such uses of metaphor may have been aesthetically pleasing to the ancient Hebrews.  If a language itself can change and die out, why not culturally accepted poetic conventions?   


[1] In one place (v. 15) “forest” seems to mean productivity, and in another (v.19) it seems to mean an army.

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