Jehovah Is King
1, 2. (a) Who will experience Jehovah’s wrath? (b) Will Judah be exempt from punishment, and how do we know?
BABYLON, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Edom, Tyre, Assyria—all will experience Jehovah’s wrath. Isaiah has foretold the calamities that will befall these hostile nations and cities. What, though, of Judah? Will the inhabitants of Judah be exempt from punishment for their sinful ways? The historical record answers with a resounding no!
2 Consider what happened to Samaria, the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. That nation did not keep its covenant with God. It did not keep separate from the lewd practices of the nations round about. Instead, the inhabitants of Samaria “kept doing bad things to offend Jehovah . . . Therefore Jehovah got very incensed against Israel, so that he removed them from his sight.” Forcibly removed from its land, “Israel went off its own soil into exile in Assyria.” (2 Kings 17:9-12, 16-18, 23; Hosea 4:12-14) What happened to Israel bodes ill for her sister kingdom, Judah.
Isaiah Foretells the Desolation of Judah
3. (a) Why does Jehovah forsake the two-tribe kingdom of Judah? (b) What is Jehovah determined to do?
3 Some kings of Judah were faithful, but most were not. Even under a faithful king, such as Jotham, the people did not turn completely away from false worship. (2 Kings 15:32-35) A climax in the wickedness of Judah is reached during the reign of bloodthirsty King Manasseh, who according to Jewish tradition, murders the faithful prophet Isaiah by commanding that he be sawed apart. (Compare Hebrews 11:37.) This wicked king “kept seducing Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do worse than the nations that Jehovah had annihilated from before the sons of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 33:9) Under Manasseh’s rule the land becomes even more polluted than when the Canaanites controlled it. Hence, Jehovah declares: “Here I am bringing a calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, of which if anyone hears both his ears will tingle. . . . I shall simply wipe Jerusalem clean just as one wipes the handleless bowl clean, wiping it clean and turning it upside down. And I shall indeed forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they will simply become plunder and pillage to all their enemies, for the reason that they did what was bad in my eyes and were continually offending me.”—2 Kings 21:11-15.
4. What will Jehovah do to Judah, and how is this prophecy fulfilled?
4 Like a bowl that is turned upside down, allowing all its contents to spill out, the land will be emptied of its human inhabitants. This coming desolation of Judah and Jerusalem is again the subject of prophecy by Isaiah. He begins: “Look! Jehovah is emptying the land and laying it waste, and he has twisted the face of it and scattered its inhabitants.” (Isaiah 24:1) This prophecy is fulfilled when Jerusalem and its temple are destroyed by the invading Babylonian armies under King Nebuchadnezzar and when the inhabitants of Judah are decimated by sword, famine, and pestilence. Most of the Jewish survivors are taken captive to Babylon, and the few left behind flee to Egypt. Thus the land of Judah is wrecked and completely depopulated. Not even domestic animals remain. The deserted land becomes a wilderness with dreary ruins inhabited only by wild beasts and birds.
5. Will anyone be exempt from Jehovah’s judgment? Explain.
5 Will anyone in Judah receive preferential treatment during the coming judgment? Isaiah answers: “It must come to be the same for the people as for the priest; the same for the servant as for his master; the same for the maidservant as for her mistress; the same for the buyer as for the seller; the same for the lender as for the borrower; the same for the interest taker as for the one paying the interest. Without fail the land will be emptied, and without fail it will be plundered, for Jehovah himself has spoken this word.” (Isaiah 24:2, 3) Wealth and privileges of temple service will make no difference. No exceptions will be made. The land is so corrupted that everyone surviving—priests, servants and masters, buyers and sellers—must go into exile.
6. Why does Jehovah withdraw his blessing from the land?
6 In order that there be no misunderstanding, Isaiah describes the completeness of this coming disaster and explains the reason for it: “The land has gone to mourning, has faded away. The productive land has withered, has faded away. The high ones of the people of the land have withered. And the very land has been polluted under its inhabitants, for they have bypassed the laws, changed the regulation, broken the indefinitely lasting covenant. That is why the curse itself has eaten up the land, and those inhabiting it are held guilty. That is why the inhabitants of the land have decreased in number, and very few mortal men have remained over.” (Isaiah 24:4-6) When the Israelites were given the land of Canaan, they found it to be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 27:3) Still, they continued to be dependent on Jehovah’s blessing. If they faithfully kept his statutes and commandments, the land would “give its yield,” but if they bypassed his laws and commandments, their efforts to cultivate the land would be “expended for nothing” and the earth would “not give its yield.” (Leviticus 26:3-5, 14, 15, 20) Jehovah’s curse would ‘eat up the land.’ (Deuteronomy 28:15-20, 38-42, 62, 63) Judah must now expect to experience that curse.
7. How would the Law covenant be a blessing for the Israelites?
7 Some 800 years before Isaiah’s day, the Israelites willingly entered into a covenant relationship with Jehovah and agreed to abide by it. (Exodus 24:3-8) The terms of that Law covenant stipulated that if they obeyed Jehovah’s commandments, they would experience his rich blessing but if they violated the covenant, they would lose his blessing and be taken captive by their enemies. (Exodus 19:5, 6; Deuteronomy 28:1-68) This Law covenant, given through Moses, was to remain in force for an indefinite, unspecified time. It would safeguard the Israelites until the appearance of the Messiah.—Galatians 3:19, 24.
8. (a) How have the people “bypassed the laws” and “changed the regulation”? (b) In what ways are “the high ones” the first to ‘wither’?
8 But the people have “broken the indefinitely lasting covenant.” They have bypassed the divinely given laws, ignoring them. They have “changed the regulation,” following legal practices different from those that Jehovah gave. (Exodus 22:25; Ezekiel 22:12) Hence, the people will be removed from the land. No mercy will be shown in the coming judgment. Among the first to ‘wither’ because of Jehovah’s withdrawing his protection and favor will be “the high ones,” the nobility. In fulfillment of this, as the destruction of Jerusalem approaches, first the Egyptians and then the Babylonians make Judean kings their vassals. Subsequently, King Jehoiachin and other members of the royal family are among the first ones taken into Babylonian captivity.—2 Chronicles 36:4, 9, 10.
Rejoicing Leaves the Land
9, 10. (a) What role does agriculture play in Israel? (b) What is the significance of each one ‘sitting under his own vine and fig tree’?
9 The nation of Israel is an agricultural society. From the time that the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they have settled down to a life of cultivating crops and herding livestock. Thus, agriculture occupies an important place in the legislation given to Israel. A compulsory sabbath rest is commanded for the land every seventh year to allow fertility to be restored to the soil. (Exodus 23:10, 11; Leviticus 25:3-7) The three annual festivals that the nation is commanded to celebrate are timed to coincide with agricultural seasons.—Exodus 23:14-16.
10 Vineyards are common throughout the land. The Scriptures list wine, a product of the vine, as a gift from God that “makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” (Psalm 104:15) Each one ‘sitting under his own vine and fig tree,’ denotes prosperity, peace, and security under God’s righteous rule. (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4) A successful vintage season is considered a blessing and is a cause for singing and rejoicing. (Judges 9:27; Jeremiah 25:30) The opposite is also true. When the vines wither or produce no grapes and the vineyards become desolate wastes of thorns, it is evidence that Jehovah has withdrawn his blessing—a time of great sorrow.
11, 12. (a) How does Isaiah illustrate the conditions that will result from Jehovah’s judgment? (b) What grim prospects does Isaiah describe?
11 Appropriately, then, Isaiah uses vineyards and their products to illustrate the conditions resulting from Jehovah’s withdrawing his blessing from the land: “The new wine has gone to mourning, the vine has withered, all those glad at heart have gone to sighing. The exultation of the tambourines has ceased, the noise of the highly elated ones has discontinued, the exultation of the harp has ceased. It is with no song that they drink wine; the intoxicating liquor becomes bitter to those drinking it. The deserted town has been broken down; every house has been shut up from entering. There is an outcry in the streets for want of wine. All rejoicing has passed away; the exultation of the land has departed. In the city an astonishing condition has been left behind; the gate has been crushed to a mere rubble heap.”—Isaiah 24:7-12.
12 The tambourine and the harp are pleasant instruments used to praise Jehovah and express joy. (2 Chronicles 29:25; Psalm 81:2) Their music will not be heard at this time of divine punishment. There will be no joyful grape harvests. There will be no happy sounds in the desolated ruins of Jerusalem, with its gate “crushed to a mere rubble heap” and its houses “shut up,” so that no one can enter. What grim prospects for inhabitants of a land that by nature has been so fertile!
A Remnant “Cry Out Joyfully”
13, 14. (a) What are Jehovah’s laws on harvesting? (b) How does Isaiah use the laws on harvesting to illustrate that some will survive Jehovah’s judgment? (c) Although there are dark seasons of trial coming, of what can faithful Judeans be certain?
13 In order to harvest olives, the Israelites beat the trees with rods so that the fruit will fall. According to God’s Law, they are forbidden to go over the boughs of the trees to collect the remaining olives. Nor should they gather the leftover grapes after harvesting their vineyards. The remnants of the harvest are to be left for the poor—“for the alien resident, for the fatherless boy and for the widow”—to glean. (Deuteronomy 24:19-21) Drawing on these well-known laws, Isaiah illustrates the comforting fact that there will be survivors of Jehovah’s coming judgment: “Thus it will become in the midst of the land, in among the peoples, like the beating off of the olive tree, like the gleaning when the grape gathering has come to an end. They themselves will raise their voice, they will cry out joyfully. In the superiority of Jehovah they will certainly cry out shrilly from the sea. That is why in the region of light they must glorify Jehovah, in the islands of the sea the name of Jehovah, the God of Israel. From the extremity of the land there are melodies that we have heard: ‘Decoration to the Righteous One!’”—Isaiah 24:13-16a.
14 Just as some fruit remains on the tree or vine after harvesting, so there will be some who are left over after Jehovah’s execution of judgment—“the gleaning when the grape gathering has come to an end.” As recorded in Isa 24 verse 6, the prophet has already spoken of these, saying that “very few mortal men have remained over.” Still, few as they are, there are to be survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah, and later a remnant will return from captivity to repopulate the land. (Isaiah 4:2, 3; 14:1-5) Though righthearted ones will experience dark seasons of trial, they can be sure that there will be deliverance and joy ahead. The survivors will see Jehovah’s prophetic word unfold and will realize that Isaiah has been a true prophet of God. They will be filled with joy as they witness the fulfillment of the restoration prophecies. From wherever they have been scattered—be it the islands of the Mediterranean in the West, Babylon in “the region of light” (the sunrise, or the East), or any other distant place—they will praise God because they have been preserved, and they will sing: “Decoration to the Righteous One!”
No Escape From Jehovah’s Judgment
15, 16. (a) How does Isaiah feel about what will happen to his people? (b) What will befall the unfaithful inhabitants of the land?
15 For now, though, rejoicing is premature. Isaiah brings his contemporaries back to the present, stating: “But I say: ‘For me there is leanness, for me there is leanness! Woe to me! The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously. Even with treachery the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously.’ Dread and the hollow and the trap are upon you, you inhabitant of the land. And it must occur that anyone fleeing from the sound of the dreaded thing will fall into the hollow, and anyone coming up from inside the hollow will be caught in the trap. For the very floodgates on high will actually be opened, and the foundations of the land will rock. The land has absolutely burst apart, the land has absolutely been shaken up, the land has absolutely been sent staggering. The land absolutely moves unsteadily like a drunken man, and it has swayed to and fro like a lookout hut. And its transgression has become heavy upon it, and it must fall, so that it will not rise up again.”—Isaiah 24:16b-20.
16 Isaiah is filled with grief over what will befall his people. The state of affairs around him causes feelings of sickness and woe. Treacherous ones abound and cause dread to the inhabitants of the land. When Jehovah withdraws his protection, unfaithful inhabitants of Judah will experience terror both day and night. They will be uncertain of their lives. There will be no escaping the disaster that will befall them for forsaking Jehovah’s commandments and ignoring godly wisdom. (Proverbs 1:24-27) Calamity will come even though treacherous ones in the land, trying to convince the people that everything will be all right, use falsehood and deceit to lead them on a course to destruction. (Jeremiah 27:9-15) Enemies from outside will come in and plunder them and carry them away captive. All of this is very distressing to Isaiah.
17. (a) Why will no escape be possible? (b) When Jehovah’s judgment power is released from the heavens, what will happen to the land?
17 Yet, the prophet is bound to declare that there will be no escape. Wherever people try to flee, they will be caught. Some may escape one calamity, but they will be caught in another—there will be no security. It will be just as with a hunted animal that escapes falling into a pit only to be caught in a snare. (Compare Amos 5:18, 19.) Jehovah’s judgment power will be released from the heavens and will shake the very foundations of the land. Like a drunken man, the land reels and falls, heavy with guilt and unable to rise again. (Amos 5:2) Jehovah’s judgment is final. Utter destruction and ruin will befall the land.
Jehovah Will Reign in Glory
18, 19. (a) To what may “the army of the height” refer, and how are these gathered “in the dungeon”? (b) Likely, how will “the army of the height” be given attention “after an abundance of days”? (c) How does Jehovah give attention to “the kings of the ground”?
18 Isaiah’s prophecy now takes on a greater scope, pointing to the final outworking of Jehovah’s purpose: “It must occur in that day that Jehovah will turn his attention upon the army of the height in the height, and upon the kings of the ground upon the ground. And they will certainly be gathered with a gathering as of prisoners into the pit, and be shut up in the dungeon; and after an abundance of days they will be given attention. And the full moon has become abashed, and the glowing sun has become ashamed, for Jehovah of armies has become king in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and in front of his elderly men with glory.”—Isaiah 24:21-23.
19 “The army of the height” may refer to the demonic “world rulers of this darkness, . . . the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) These have had a powerful influence on the world powers. (Daniel 10:13, 20; 1 John 5:19) Their goal is to turn people away from Jehovah and his pure worship. How well they succeed in seducing Israel to follow the corrupt practices of the nations that surround them and thus merit God’s divine judgment! But Satan and his demons must answer to God when he finally turns his attention to them and to the rulers on earth, “the kings of the ground upon the ground,” whom they have influenced to turn against God and to transgress his laws. (Revelation 16:13, 14) Speaking symbolically, Isaiah says that they will be gathered and “shut up in the dungeon.” “After an abundance of days,” perhaps when Satan and his demons (but not “the kings of the ground upon the ground”) are temporarily released at the end of the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ, God will bring upon them the final punishment they deserve.—Revelation 20:3, 7-10.
20. In both ancient and modern times, how and when does Jehovah “become king”?
20 This part of Isaiah’s prophecy thus left the Jews with a wonderful assurance. In Jehovah’s due time, he would bring about the fall of ancient Babylon and restore the Jews to their homeland. In 537 B.C.E., when he demonstrates his power and sovereignty in this way in behalf of his people, it could truly be said to them: “Your God has become king!” (Isaiah 52:7) In modern times, Jehovah ‘became king’ in 1914 when he installed Jesus Christ as King in His heavenly Kingdom. (Psalm 96:10) He also ‘became king’ in 1919 when he demonstrated the power of his kingship by liberating spiritual Israel from bondage to Babylon the Great.
21. (a) How will ‘the full moon become abashed and the glowing sun become ashamed’? (b) What resounding call will have its grandest fulfillment?
21 Jehovah will again “become king” when he brings an end to Babylon the Great and the rest of this wicked system of things. (Zechariah 14:9; Revelation 19:1, 2, 19-21) Afterward, Jehovah’s Kingdom rule will be so magnificent that neither the gleaming full moon at night nor the glowing sun at high noon will match it in glory. (Compare Revelation 22:5.) They will be ashamed, so to speak, to compare themselves to the glorious Jehovah of armies. Jehovah will reign supreme. His almighty power and glory will be manifest to all. (Revelation 4:8-11; 5:13, 14) What a marvelous prospect! At that time, the call of Psalm 97:1 will resound throughout the earth in its grandest fulfillment: “Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice.”
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Music and rejoicing will no longer be heard in the land
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Some will survive Jehovah’s judgment, just as fruit remains on a tree after the harvest
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Isaiah is filled with grief over what will befall his people
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Neither the sun nor the moon will match Jehovah in glory