It should be noted that this chapter relates solely to the city of Jerusalem — also called Ariel (see Isaiah 29:1). At what time this was delivered is not known, though it is evident that it was before the invasion by Sennacherib, and probably before the time of Hezekiah. The prophecy in the chapter consists of two parts: (1) The invasion of Judea by Sennacherib, and its sudden deliverance — Isaiah 29:1-8. (2) A reproof of the Jews for their infidelity and impiety (verses 9-22). (Barnes)
This paragraph and following rebuke registers still further complaints against Israel. Their religion is not sincere. They still sing the old songs and repeat the terminology of worshipping God, but their hearts are simply not in it at all. One cannot avoid the fear that today there must be some worship of God that falls into the pattern of what is condemned here. Ironically, Jesus Christ reiterated the thought expressed here when we read Matthew 15:8, 9; Mark 7:6, 7. (Coffman)
“This people draw near me with their mouth.” — Samaria had been punished for open idolatry and flagrant neglect of Jehovah (2 Kings 17:7-17). Jerusalem had not gone these lengths. She still, in profession, clung to the worship of Jehovah, and had even recently accepted a purification of religion at the hand of Hezekiah, who had “removed the high places, and cut down the groves, and broken in pieces the brazen serpent,” because the people burnt incense to it (2 Kings 18:4). But her religion was a mere lip-service, which God detested — it was outward, formal, hypocritical (reference Isaiah 1:11-17). Jerusalem, therefore, no less than Samaria, deserved and would receive a severe chastisement. But have removed their heart far from me. Here lies the gist of the charge. It was not that there was too much outward religion, but that there was no inward religion corresponding to it. Lip service without inward religion is a mockery, though it is not always felt as such. (Pulpit Commentary)
(Also note Isaiah 30:1; and 31:1 for similar warnings). In this text we observe an effort to conceal their project in an attempt to deceive God’s prophet, which in itself is an act of rebellion; an attempt to “outsmart” God. (Are you kidding?) That they had other reasons for working in the dark is no doubt true; but these were of small moment compared with the sin of refusing to Jehovah a voice in their counsels of state.
Observe, too, the third “Woe” (verse 15), for it is here that the prophet unmasks the designs of the conspirators and renouncing them for pitting their foolish plans against the purpose of the Almighty (Isaiah 29:15-16). (Cambridge Bible)
The following paragraph, to the end of the chapter, relates to the times of the gospel with the prophet foretelling in figurative language, the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles.
“Lebanon, a barren mountain, a desolate wilderness,” here stands for the Gentile world.
This was to be turned into a fruitful field — “into Carmel (Hebrew expression), or the “vineyard of God,” as the word signifies. On the other hand, the fruitful field, what had formerly been the vineyard of God, the Jewish nation, should be esteemed as a forest (review further this interpretation as it is confirmed, Isaiah 32:15; and Matthew 15:7-8).
Verse 22 is somewhat questionable from both its position in the original, and from its contents. There is no incident in the biblical history of Abraham to which the expression “redeem” is especially appropriate; there is, however, a late Jewish legend about his being delivered from a fiery death prepared for him by his heathen relations (one would have to research the Book of Jubilees; see chapter 12).
Ideally, when we read from the Authorized King James Bible, we see God’s directions to Abraham to remove from a land of idolaters (Joshua 24:2, 3; Acts 7:2, 3) were practically a “deliverance.” The work thus commenced could not be suffered to remain incomplete. Israel — the true Israel — would not be “ashamed” or “wax pale” through fear anymore; they would be God’s children, his true worshippers, and would have no need to experience either fear or shame. So, too, my friend, those who have been delivered from sin by the blood of the Lamb (the Lord Jesus Christ), have likewise “escaped” (been delivered) from the “wrath to come.” (note 1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.