Isaiah 10

The Word Made Fresh

1Woe to those who make wicked decrees
and write oppressive laws
2as a way of turning away the needy of the people from justice
and robbing the poor of my people of their due.
Widows are your targets,
and orphans are your prey!
3What will you do on the day of punishment?
What will you do in the disaster that comes from far away?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you hide your riches
4so that you don’t have to cower with the prisoners
or fall with those who are killed?
For all this, God’s anger has not turned away.
God’s hand is still outstretched.
5Assyria is the butt of my anger.
The club they hold in their hands is my fury!
6I sent Assyria against a godless nation,
and ordered him to punish the people with whom I am angry;
to take spoil and seize plunder,
and tread them down like the mud in the streets.
7But this is not what he wants to do.
He has something else in mind.
In his heart he wants only to destroy many nations.
8He boasts, “My commanders are all kings, are they not?
9Calno is like Carchemish. Hamath is like Arpad.
Samaria is like Damascus.
10My realm has reached to the kingdoms of the idols
who were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria.
11Won’t I do to Jerusalem and her idols
what I did to Samaria and her idols?”

12When the LORD has finished all the work on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem, the arrogance and boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughtiness will be punished.

13For God says:
“By the strength of my own hand it has been done,
and by my wisdom; for I have knowledge.
So, I have removed the boundaries set by people
and have sacked their treasuries.
I have brought down like a raging bull
those who sat on thrones.
14My hand found the wealth of the peoples as if in a nest,
and as you might gather eggs that were left behind,
I have gathered the earth.
And none of them so much as moved a wing
or opened its mouth to chirp.”

15Does the ax think itself more important than the one who swings it?
Does the saw puff itself up against the one who handles it?
Does the rod raise itself above the one who lifts it up?
Does the staff lift up one who is not wooden?
16Just so, the LORD of hosts, the Sovereign One,
will send a sickness among their strong warriors,
and under their pomp a fire will be kindled.
17The light of Israel will become fire;
God’s Holy One will become a flame;
it will burn and eat up
all the thorns and briers in a single day.
18The glory of his forest and fruitful land
will be destroyed by the LORD, soul and body,
as if it were an invalid wasting away.
19What remains of the trees will be so little a child can list them.

20On that day, what remains of Israel – those of the house of Jacob who survived – will no longer lean on the one who defeated them, but on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 21A remnant of Jacob will return to Almighty God. 22Even though Israel was like the sand of the sea only a remnant of them will return. Destruction, overflowing with righteousness, will overtake them. 23The LORD God of hosts will make a complete end in the whole land as was decreed.

24Therefore the LORD God of hosts says this: “My people, who live in Zion, don’t be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat at you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians had done. 25In a very little while my anger against you will end and be directed at them. 26The LORD of hosts will lash them with a whip, as Midian was stricken at the rock of Oreb. The LORD’s staff will hover over the sea and God will lift it as in Egypt. 27That is the day their burden will be taken off your shoulders, and their yoke will be shattered from your neck.”

28The Lord has come to Aiath,
passing through Migron,
storing the baggage at Michmash.
29They have crossed through the pass
And lodged for the night at Geba.
Ramah trembles. Gibeah of Saul has run away.
30Cry loudly, daughter of Gallim!
Listen carefully, Laishah!
Answer her, Anathoth!
31Madmenah is fleeing;
those who live in Gebim run for safety.
32Today God will stop at Nob.
God will shake a fist at the mountain of daughter Zion,
the hill of Jerusalem.

33Look! The Sovereign, the LORD of hosts
will chop the trees with terrifying power.
The tallest ones will be felled;
the loftiest ones will be brought to the ground.
34God will hack away with an ax at the thickets of the forest,
and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall.


1-4: This paragraph continues (and completes) the section that began at 9:8. God’s judgment is visited on God’s people in 4 movements, each ending with “for all this, God’s anger has not turned away; God’s hand is still outstretched.” This word is for the courts and the judges and their unjust treatment of the poor, the widow, and the orphan.

5-11: Now attention is turned to Assyria. Isaiah says that though it was God’s intent that Assyria would be the instrument by which Damascus (“a godless nation”) and Samaria (“the people with whom I am angry”) would be punished. The Assyrians will over-achieve and have designs on Jerusalem, too. After all, they’ll think the idols of the other kingdoms over which they have prevailed are more impressive than anything related to the God of Israel.

12-14: Their haughtiness will be their downfall. The king of Assyria thinks he is gathering up nations like a forager gathers birds’ eggs.

15-19: Assyria, says Isaiah, is nothing more than a tool in God’s hands. God will send a “wasting sickness” among the Assyrian soldiers and they will be defeated. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, did besiege Jerusalem, but his army was decimated by a plague and was forced to withdraw (see 2 Kings 19:35-37).

20-23: The aftermath of Assyria’s failure to capture Jerusalem: they will no longer lean on Assyria (King Ahaz had actually petitioned Assyria to come to Judah’s aid — see 2 Chronicles 28:16-21) but on God. A handful of refugees will return and resettle Jerusalem.

24-27: Therefore, Isaiah assures them that when the Assyrians attack the people of Jerusalem need not be afraid.

28-32: Some of the place references here seem to refer to locations north of Jerusalem. We know from sources outside the Bible that the Assyrian attack was launched from the south. Some scholars think these verses, appearing as an interruption of the narrative, were originally meant to refer to the earlier invasion of Judah by the alliance of Samaria and Damascus.

33-34: The image of God lopping off the tops of the trees is intended to present a picture of God removing the leaders of the enemy army. Surely Isaiah’s hearers would have been encouraged by this metaphor.


Isaiah paints a picture of God’s plan for Jerusalem and the people of Judah. When things are at their worst, God steps in – a lesson to keep in mind! The people will suffer (the result of their own foolishness) but God will not let them be destroyed. A remnant will remain for God to claim as God’s own people. Jerusalem, though ravaged, will be spared.