Isaiah 31

The Word Made Fresh

1Woe to those who go to Egypt for help, who rely on horses
and trust in their many chariots
and in their strong horsemen,
but have no respect for the Holy One of Israel
nor think to consult the LORD.
2Yet God, too, is wise and will bring on troubles.
God will not have a change of mind,
but will rise up against the evildoers
and against those who promote sinfulness.
3The Egyptians are not God. They are human beings.
Their horses are flesh and blood, not spirit.
When the LORD reaches out a hand
those who try to help will fail
and those who are helped will fall,
and they will perish together.

4This is what the LORD told me:
As a lion growls over its prey –
even when a group of shepherds come out against it –
it is not frightened by their shouts
or turned back by their noise.
Just so, the LORD Almighty will come
to fight on Mt. Zion and its hill.
5The LORD Almighty will protect Jerusalem
like birds hovering above.
The LORD will protect and rescue the city
and it will be spared.

6People of Israel, turn back to the One you have betrayed so deeply. 7On that day all of you will throw away your idols of silver and gold, things you have sinfully made with your own hands.

8Then the Assyrians will be defeated by a sword,
but not a human sword;
they shall flee from the sword
and their young men shall be put to forced labor.
9His foundation shall pass away in fear,
and his officers will desert his flag in panic,
says the LORD whose fire is in Zion,
and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.


1-3: Isaiah declares that reliance on Egypt is not only futile, but ill-considered. God is stronger than horses and chariots, he says.

4-5: God will be no more terrified by the Assyrians than a lion is by a few shepherds. God will protect Jerusalem.

6-9: Throw away your little artificial gods, he says, and turn back to the LORD. God will defeat the Assyrians, but not by the sword. We learn in 2 Kings 19:35 (repeated at Isaiah 37:36) that indeed the Assyrians had to break off the attack on Jerusalem because God struck them down in the field. God’s action is in response to Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 18:13-19 and Isaiah 37:14-20) in which he acknowledges that there is only one God.


Over and over Isaiah tells the people of Israel that their trust should be in God rather than in other nations like Egypt. When we are searching for a way out of trouble, should we not first commit our situation to God? God can show us the path to take and the companions with whom to walk. We too often imagine we can solve our own problems when a lot of trouble can be avoided through prayer.