Isaiah 33 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Isaiah 33)

Verse 1

[1] Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.

To thee — Sennacherib, who wasted the land of Judah.

Verse 2

[2] O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.

O Lord — The prophet contemplating the judgment which was now coming upon God's people, directs his prayer to God for them.

Their arm — Our arm or strength. The change of persons is frequent in prophetical writings.

Every morning — When we offer the morning sacrifice, and call upon thee: which yet is not meant exclusively, as if he did not desire God's help at other times; but comprehensively, the morning being put for the whole day. The sense is, help us speedily and continually.

Verse 3

[3] At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered.

The noise — Which the angel shall make in destroying the army.

The people — Those of the army, who escaped that stroke.

The nations — The people of divers nations, which made up this army.

Verse 4

[4] And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them.

Your spoil — That treasure which you have raked together, by spoiling divers people.

Gathered — By the Jews at Jerusalem, when you flee away.

Like the caterpillar — As caterpillars gather and devour the fruits of the earth.

As locusts — As locusts, especially when they are armed by commission from God, come with great force, and run hither and thither.

Verse 5

[5] The LORD is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.

Exalted — By the destruction of so potent an army; and by the defence of this people.

Verse 6

[6] And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.

Thy times — He turns his speech to Hezekiah. Thy throne shall be established upon the sure foundations of wisdom and justice.

And strength — Thy strong salvation.

The fear — Thy chief treasure is in promoting the fear and worship of God.

Verse 7

[7] Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.

Behold — That the mercy promised might be duly magnified, he makes a lively representation of their great danger and distress.

The ambassadors — Whom he shall send to beg peace of the Assyrian.

Shall weep — Because they cannot obtain their desires.

Verse 8

[8] The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man.

The covenant — Sennacherib broke his faith, given to Hezekiah, of departing for a sum of money, 2 Kings 18:14,17.

Cities — The defenced cities of Judah, which he contemned, and easily took.

Verse 9

[9] The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.

Mourneth — Being desolate and neglected.

Hewn — By the Assyrians.

Bashan — Two places eminent for fertility, are spoiled of their fruits.

Verse 11

[11] Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.

Stubble — Instead of solid corn. Your great hopes and designs, shall be utterly disappointed.

Your breath — Your rage against my people shall bring ruin upon yourselves.

Verse 12

[12] And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.

The people — Shall be burnt as easily and effectually as chalk is burned to lime.

Verse 14

[14] The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

The sinners — This is spoken of the Jews. The prophet having foretold the deliverance of God's people, and the destruction of their enemies, gives a lively representation of the unbelieving condition, in which the Jews were, before their deliverance came.

Who — How shall we be able to endure, or avoid the wrath of that God, who is a consuming fire; who is now about to destroy us utterly by the Assyrians, and will afterwards burn us with unquenchable fire?

Verse 15

[15] He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;

He — Who is just in all his dealings.

From hearing — Who will not hearken to any counsels, tending to shed innocent blood.

From seeing — That abhors the very sight of sin committed by others, and guards his eyes from beholding occasions of sin.

Verse 16

[16] He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

On high — Out of the reach of danger.

His waters — God will furnish him with all necessaries.

Verse 17

[17] Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.

The king — First Hezekiah, and then Christ, triumphing over all enemies, and ruling his own people with righteousness.

Very far — Thou shalt not be shut up in Jerusalem, but shalt have free liberty to go abroad with honour and safety.

Verse 18

[18] Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver where is he that counted the towers?

Thine heart — This is a thankful acknowledgment of deliverance from their former terrors and miseries.

Where — These words they spoke in the time of their distress. The scribe, whom we call muster-master, was to make and keep a list of the soldiers, and to call them together as occasion required: the receiver, received and laid out the money for the charges of the war; and he that counted the towers, surveyed all the parts of the city, and considered what towers or fortifications were to be made or repaired. And unto these several officers the people resorted, with great distraction and confusion.

Verse 19

[19] Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.

A fierce — That fierce and warlike people, whom thou hast seen with terror, near the walls of Jerusalem, thou shalt see no more.

A people — A foreign nation, whose language is unknown to thee.

Verse 20

[20] Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.

Look upon — Contemplate Zion's glorious and peculiar privileges.

Solemnities — This was the chief part of Zion's glory, that God was solemnly worshipped, and the solemn assemblies and feasts kept in her.

Quiet — This was but imperfectly fulfilled in the literal Zion; but clearly and fully in the mystical Zion, the church of God, in the times of the gospel.

Verse 21

[21] But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.

There — In and about Zion.

Rivers — Tho' we have nothing but a small and contemptible brook to defend us; yet God will be as sure a defence to us, as if we were surrounded with great rivers.

No galley — No ships of the enemies shall be able to come into this river to annoy them.

Verse 22

[22] For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.

Is judge — To plead our cause against our enemies.

Lawgiver — Our chief governor, to whom it belongs, to give laws, and to defend his people.

Verse 23

[23] Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.

Tacklings — He directs his speech to the Assyrians; and having designed their army under the notion of a gallant ship, verse 21, he here represents their undone condition, by the metaphor of a ship, tossed in a tempestuous sea, having her cables broke, and all her tacklings loose, so that she could have no benefit of her masts and sails; and therefore is quickly swallowed up.

The lame — They shall leave so many spoils behind them, that there shall be enough left for the lame, who come last to the spoil.

Verse 24

[24] And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.

The inhabitant — Of Jerusalem.

Sick — Shall have no cause to complain of any sickness or calamity.

Forgiven — They shall not only receive from me a glorious temporal deliverance; but, which is infinitely better, the pardon of all their sins, and all those spiritual and everlasting blessings, which attend upon that mercy.