Isaiah 29

The Word Made Fresh

1Ariel, Ariel, the city where David settled!
Year after year the festivals are observed.
2But I will punish Ariel with moaning and worry,
and she shall be to me an altar hearth.
3I will encamp all around you
and surround you with towers and siege works.
4You will then speak deeply from the earth
and your words will come from the ground like a ghost’s voice,
and your speech shall murmur out of the dust.

5But your enemies, as many as the dust of the earth, shall come,
with a multitude of tyrants like blowing chaff.
Then, instantly,
6you will be visited by the LORD Almighty
with thunder and earthquake and loud rumbling,
joined with whirlwind and storm and a devouring fire.
7And the gathering of all the nations against Ariel
shall fight her in her stronghold and bring her distress,
and will be like a dream, like a vision of the night.
8Like a starving person who dreams of food,
but wakes up still hungry,
or one who thirsts dreaming of drinking,
but wakes up faint and thirstier still.
So shall all the nations be
that fight against Mt. Zion.

9Put yourselves in a stupor, and blind yourselves.
Be drunk, but not from wine;
stagger, but not from strong drink.
10For the LORD has spread a deep sleep over you.
God has closed the eyes of your prophets
and covered the heads of your seers.

11This vision has become like a sealed document to you. If it is given to one who can read and is told to read it, they will say they cannot because it is sealed. 12And if it is given to those who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” they will answer, “We cannot read.”

13The LORD said, “Since these people come open-mouthed
to honor me with their lips while their hearts are far from me
and their worship of me is a human order learned by rote;
14I will again do wondrous things with them,
things that will shock and amaze.
The wisdom of their wise ones will be nothing,
and their ability to understand shall be hidden from them.

15You who think you can hide your plans from the LORD,
carrying out your designs in the dark
16You seek to turn things upside down.
But shall the potter be mistaken for the clay?
Shall the thing made say of its maker,
“He didn’t make me.”
Shall the thing formed say of the one who shaped it,
“He has no understanding?”

17In a very short time can Lebanon not become a fertile field,
and the field be regarded as a forest?
18When that day comes the deaf shall hear words read from a scroll,
and the blind shall see out of their gloom and darkness.
19The meek shall receive a new joy in the LORD,
and the poorest among you shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20The tyrant shall be no more and the scoffer shall disappear.
All those who seek to do evil will be cast off –
21those who cause another to lose a case before a judge,
and those who entrap the judge in the gate
and without evidence deny justice to the one in the right.

22Therefore the LORD, the One who redeemed Abraham,
says this concerning the house of Jacob:
no longer shall Jacob be ashamed, nor shall his face turn pale.              
23When he sees his children, who are the work of my hands,
in his company, my name will be sanctified,
and the Holy One of Jacob will be sanctified,
and all will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24Then those whose attitudes were in the wrong
will reach an understanding,
and those who complain will accept instruction.


1-2: Most scholars agree that “Ariel” is Jerusalem. It is related to the word for “altar hearth,” and Jerusalem is the site for the altar on which the people of Judah made their sacrifices, thus tying the beginning of verse 1 with the end of verse 2. This chapter is a prophecy of the siege of Jerusalem.

3-4: God will lay siege to the city (using foreign troops, of course) and the city will become a ghost of a place.

5-8: The enemy will come, but the LORD will then intercede and in the aftermath the people will think they have been dreaming. The outcome of the siege will seem unreal.

9-12: The people will be stupefied as if drunk. So strange will be the entire episode that they simply cannot understand or “read” the prophecy.

13-14: The people have been practicing the form of their religion but not the substance, and God will therefore once again “do amazing things with this people.” The wisest among them will be dumbfounded by what takes place.

5-16: The siege of Jerusalem is described in 2 Kings 18:13-19:37. Isaiah says here that there were those who were counseling the king in ways that God would not approve. Who are they, he asks, to think they can hide a plan from God? The clay can’t become the potter!

17-21: These verses describe the reversal of fortune that only the intervention of God can bring about in human community. The reference to Lebanon reflects the reality that in those days Judah’s primary enemies — Samaria, Damascus, and Assyria – approached from that general direction. Lebanon’s restoration represents an end to that corridor of invasion. Verse 18 reverses the situation of verses 11 and 12. Next, the “unimportant” people are given cause to rejoice (verse 19). The “tyrant” is perhaps a reference to Sennacherib, and the “scoffer” to his front man, the Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:28-35). Verse 21 addresses the “important” citizens of Jerusalem who were cheating their unfortunate brethren.

22-24: The purpose of God’s intervention in Jerusalem’s troubles is to turn them back to what the author of Proverbs might call “the fear of the LORD.” Indeed, the purpose of all God’s interventions is to restore the people to a proper relationship with him.


We don’t really deserve God’s protection or approval. God’s involvement in our lives is a simple aspect of God’s love for us. We are God’s people, “the sheep of God’s pasture.” God simply wants us to enjoy the life given to us. When we turn away from God, ignore God, or refuse to even try to obey God’s will we are throwing away the wonderful life God wants to give us. It is a now and forever life. No other path but God’s can secure that life for us.