This is one of the most important passages in the Word of God, so important, in fact, that God gave the same message through two different prophets.
This chapter has three paragraphs. The first (Isaiah 2:1-4) speaks of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God from Mount Zion by God himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; the second (Isaiah 2:5-11) is a call for apostate Israel to repent and heed the word of God; and the third (Isaiah 2:12-22) reveals the inevitability of the “Day of Jehovah,” namely the Great and final judgment identified with the second advent of the Son of God.
“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established upon the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways; and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
This is one of the most important passages in the Word of God, so important, in fact, that God gave the same message through two different prophets.
Micah 4:1-3 has this:
“But in the latter days, it shall come to pass, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow into it. And many nations shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem; and he will judge between many peoples, and will decide concerning strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
It is a great hoax among critical commentators in this era of Biblical exegesis to engage in very erudite and scholarly guessing as to who copied whom, whenever very similar, or identical passages are encountered. To us, such scholarly doodlings are ridiculous. All such allegations are founded on the incredible proposition that God could never have given the same message to more than one prophet. Where is any authority for a canard like that? Jesus gave identical, or nearly identical, teachings on many occasions, as witnessed by the two records of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew and in Luke, and also his repeated prophecies of his Passion. As An example of the critical comment offered on passages like this, we cite the words of Rawlinson:
“The resemblance of this prophecy to Micah 4:1-3 is so close as to necessitate the conclusion that either one of the two prophets copied from the other or that both copied from an earlier document.”
The tremendous importance of these passages in Micah and Isaiah is such that there cannot possibly be any wonder that God gave the same message twice. In the first place, this teaching is not talking about the earthly Jerusalem at all, but the “heavenly Jerusalem” which is our mother (Galatians 4:26). God simply was not speaking of the literal Jerusalem, nor of the Law of Moses in any sense whatever in this passage. Moses’ law never went forth from Jerusalem, but from Sinai; and “many peoples” have never flowed unto the literal Jerusalem, but unto the spiritual Jerusalem which is Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22).
That God Himself actually revealed this prophecy to Isaiah is affirmed in Isaiah 2:1, and no believer has a right to understand it any other way.
“It shall come to pass in the latter days …” “Whenever the latter times are mentioned in Scripture, the times of the Messiah are always meant; and, with regard to this passage, nothing could be more clear and certain.”
It is significant that here is revealed the earthly center from which the true authority would be issued, that being here designated as Jerusalem, and not Rome, Salt Lake City, Boston, or any other “source” of true religion.
“Jehovah’s house shall be established …” This is not a reference to the Jewish temple, but to the Church of Jesus Christ. As an apostle expressed it, addressing a faithful church, “Ye are the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Other passages that identify God’s “house” are Heb. 12:18-23,1 Timothy 3:5.
Perhaps the most difficult portion of this prophecy to understand is the last portion of it which speaks of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, which is often misunderstood to teach that war shall pass away as an instrument of national policy and that universal peace on earth shall prevail. This is totally in error. Christ himself taught that “there shall be wars and rumors of wars” throughout the current dispensation” (Matthew 24:6). What we actually have, therefore, is a statement of the way it will be among the citizens of the kingdom of God, or the church of Messiah.
Here the prophet is certainly not speaking of the world, for its peoples will war continually, but rather of the all nations and many peoples who will come to Jehovah’s house. He is describing the citizens of the new kingdom.
The fulfillment of this prophecy is seen in the general practice of believers in all generations. Except for the example of the apostate Medieval church’s acceptance of war as an instrument used to further their secular ends, God’s people have consistently rejected war as an instrument of evangelism or for any other purpose. This is a sure indication that denies authenticity, in the sight of Christ, to the followers of Mohammed.
Homer Hailey’s writing on the subject of the swords and plowshares is by far the best that we have encountered on this subject. The new kingdom would not be extended or defended by the weapons of carnal warfare’ because the apostle Paul gave us a list of our spiritual weapons in Ephesians 6.
Another most important teaching of these verses is the call of the Gentiles to be co-members with the old Israel in the new kingdom of God which was announced by John the Baptist in Matthew 3. This is the specific teaching of verse 3 in this chapter (above).
An example of the teaching of Millennialists is the following: “All will be governed by Christ’s judicial decision; weapons of war will be converted to tools of peace; the Millennial kingdom will be a warless society.”
All such postulations are founded upon a mistaken view of the Millennium, which contrary to popular superstition has already been in progress ever since the resurrection of Christ. The present dispensation is, without doubt, the Millennium of Scripture; and, as we learn from the Book of Revelation, it is not a time of universal peace, but of conflict. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse give the true picture of this Millennium. The White Horse indeed continually goes forth conquering and to conquer in the preaching of the Gospel; but he was followed by the Red Horse of war and carnal conflict. Contrary to the popular current myth, the sacred prophecy did not depict that Red Horse as disappearing from history, but as going all the way to the end, followed by the Black Horse of famine and the Pale Horse of death. See my exposition of this whole sequence in Volume 12 of my New Testament Series of Commentaries, pp. 128-137.
Of course, we are aware of the urgent postulations of critical enemies of the Bible who, because of their a priori dictum that the Messianic hope did not enter the minds of Jewish prophets until after the exile, are determined not to allow the true interpretation of countless Old Testament prophecies that contradict their silly rules. The ultimate hope of the heavenly Messiah was not invented by post-exilic prophets. It shines in the great Protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15, in the prophecy of Jacob that the scepter should not depart from Judah until the coming of Shiloh (Genesis 49:10), and in that magnificent prophecy of Micah 5:2 which speaks of that great Ruler of Israel “whose goings forth have been from of old, even from everlasting!” Pray tell, WHO in heaven and earth could this Ruler be if not the Messiah. NO! As Eiselen pointed out, “One cannot escape the suspicion that specific objections (to prophecies like these we have just cited and to many others in Isaiah…J.B.C.) are meant simply to bolster up the assumption urged by many scholars that the pre-exilic age did not know any Messianic hope.” Of course, this is a profound fact; and, unless one wishes to be deceived, his first duty is to reject the arbitrary, irresponsible, and unbelieving rules of exegesis laid down by the critical enemies of Christianity.
All of the fog about multiple Isaiah’s and the ridiculous late-dating of various chapters in this prophecy are nothing at all except the efforts of unbelievers to identify the genuine prophecies of Isaiah with their post-exilic nonsense about the origin of Messianic Hope, which was most certainly known by Moses in his great prophecy of” A PROPHET LIKE UNTO ME.” See our somewhat extensive dissertation on this in Vol. IV of the Pentateuchal Series, pp. 203-210.
That the eighth-century Isaiah did indeed prophecy repeatedly of the Holy Messiah is abundantly testified in the New Testament, where our Lord and the New Testament writers quoted Isaiah, duly crediting him with literally dozens of quotations! One of the great joys which we unhesitatingly promise believers is the study of many of those wonderful Messianic prophecies in this incredibly beautiful prophecy.
“O house of Jacob, Come ye, and let us walk in the light of Jehovah. For thou hast forsaken thy people, because they are filled with customs from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners. And their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is brought low: therefore forgive them not. Enter thee into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, from before the terror of Jehovah, from the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be brought low, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day.”
This paragraph, despite its being addressed to the “House of Jacob” with an appeal for them to walk in the ways of Jehovah, is principally devoted to a recital of wretched apostasy into which the whole nation of Israel had fallen.
“Customs from the east …” These were largely the idolatrous customs imported and adopted from foreign nations.
“Strike hands with the children of foreigners …” This is a reference to business partnerships, marriages, and other types of fellowship with sinful and idolatrous nations. The extensive wealth, the reliance upon military strength, as indicated by the mention of horses and chariots, and the widespread idolatry of the people were all earmarks of Israel’s apostasy; and the words “forgive them not” show that the apostasy of the chosen people had, at this point in their history, reached a status of hardening. This judicial hardening of Israel introduced here by Isaiah was a subject to which he would return later in the prophecy.
“A proud look,” cited in Proverbs 6:17 as something that is hated by God Himself, is mentioned here in Isaiah 2:11, along with the haughtiness and arrogant looks of sinful men, such an attitude being common to sinful and rebellious men of all generations. Isaiah then referred to the fact that there would be a “day” when only Jehovah would be exalted. The mention of that day in Isaiah 2:11 seems to have set the tone for the third paragraph of this chapter.
As Hailey exclaimed with references to the last few verses, “What a lesson this should be to the godless, materialistic world of today.”
“Their land also is full of idols …” Isaiah used a word here for idols (Isaiah 2:8) which Cheyne translated not gods. It is the Hebrew word [~’ililim], which has also been translated “nonentities.” Kidner also commented on this, saying that, “The word is a favorite of Isaiah, perhaps because it is identical with the word worthless.”
There is no reason to trust the guesses of scholars as to the date when various prophecies of Isaiah were written, because there is practically no agreement among the participants in such futile activity; but we do like the opinion of Payne who placed the date of this prophecy, “very early in Isaiah’s career.”
The mention of “that day” (Isaiah 2:12) has been recognized for ages as, “The world’s judgment day;” but there were to be many typical fulfillments, much more immediately, each of them in turn being a type of that eternal and cataclysmic morning when Almighty God in righteous anger will at last terminate the rebellious race of Adam in the final judgment, when he will arise and cast evil out of his universe! Archer understood this as follows:
“Here the immediate reference is to the historical judgments of the Assyrian and the Chaldean invasions. Not only Israel and Judah, but all the heathen nations of that age as well were to experience the crushing blows of disaster, as each successive empire rose and fell.”
Throughout history, God has repeatedly judged and destroyed apostate, heathen, and degenerate cultures; and in each instance, whether stated or not, there is a foreshadowing, a type, for that terminal judgment of the Great Day, prophesied in Genesis 2:17. This lies behind the Saviour’s prophecy of (1) the end of the world and (2) of the destruction of Jerusalem with one set of prophecies, the latter most certainly being a type of the former (Matthew 24). Furthermore, there is no need to doubt that, as time progresses, God will further execute his judgments upon excessively wicked and rebellious cultures until, at last, when the cup of human iniquity is full, there will fall upon wretched humanity the terminal judgment of Zephaniah 1:1-3, in which prophecy God said, “I will wipe this Adam off the face of the earth.”
“For there shall be a day of Jehovah of hosts upon all that is proud and haughty, and upon all that is lifted up; and it shall be brought low; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every lofty tower, and upon every fortified wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant imagery. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away. And men shall go into the caves of the rocks, and into the holes of the earth, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake mightily the earth. In that day men shall cast away their idols of silver, and their idols of gold, which have been made for them to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the caverns of the rocks, and into the clefts of the ragged rocks, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake mightily the earth. Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?”
Human pride will be destroyed in the final judgment; “Proud men will be humbled by the destruction of the things that minister to their pride.” The question of what, exactly, are those things to be destroyed is somewhat ambiguous. They are mentioned in pairs: Cedars of Lebanon and oaks of Bashan; high mountains and hills that are lifted up; the high towers and fortified walls; and the ships of Tarshish and all pleasant imagery. Of course, the cedars of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan might stand for prominent and powerful men; but the other pairs resist such an explanation. Leupold thought that there is a mingling of literal and figurative language in this place; and this is probably correct. Certainly, there will be literal destruction of practically everything on “that day,” as indicated in Zephaniah, who stated that even the fishes in the sea shall be destroyed (Isaiah 1:3).
That the destruction to come upon the earth in the final judgment will have cosmic dimensions is everywhere apparent in God’s Word. Revelation speaks of every island and every mountain being moved out of its place (Revelation 12:6:12-17). The author of Hebrews also indicated that the shaking of the earth (mentioned twice in this paragraph) would ultimately refer to its removal (Isaiah 12:26,27).
“Ships of Tarshish and all pleasant imagery …” It is hard to be sure just what is indicated by this. The word used here for “pleasant imagery” also means “pleasant pictures”; and Dummelow stated that a word closely akin to this one is used for “idolatrous imagery” in Numbers 33:52 and for “idolatrous images” painted on walls in Ezekiel 8:12. It seems fairly certain, “that works of art of some kind are meant,” very likely related to idolatry.
As Dummelow suggested, the fact of these pleasant images or pictures being mentioned so closely in connection with “ships of Tarshish” might be a reference to an ancient custom of embroidering sails with attractive designs.
The casting away of all idols to the “bats and to the moles” shows how worthless will be those things which cater to the pride, vanity, and idolatrous worship of evil men.
“Cease ye from man …” “This must be regarded as an appeal for Israel to give up their trust in man, from which trust had flowed all of their other errors.” It will be remembered that the great apostasy of the Northern Israel was described as Ephraim’s taking the place of God; and this has always been a temptation for men to follow human leaders instead of the God of heaven and earth.
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.