The “Ax” and the Chopper
“Will the ax enhance itself over the one chopping with it?”—Isa. 10:15.
1, 2. (a) What use of individuals or nations is not uncommon in history? (b) What instances do we have of this use of humans as tools?
IT IS nothing unusual for one person to be used as the tool of another person to get something done. It is nothing unknown in human history for an entire nation to be used as a tool by some person in authority who is looked up to as being superior to the ruler of the nation used as a tool.
2 For instance, there is the case of King David of Jerusalem. He used his Field Marshal, General Joab, as a tool in having the faithful Hittite military officer, Uriah, abandoned to certain death in battle. Thus Uriah died in ignorance of the fact that King David had violated his wife, Bathsheba. (2 Sam. 11:1 through 12:9; 1 Ki. 15:5) Then there is the case of Pope Hadrian (Adrian) IV, an Englishman by birth. In the year 1155 C.E., he made England under King Henry II his tool to start the subjecting of all Ireland in order to bring the Irish religious leaders under the control of the papacy of Rome.a
3, 4. (a) In ancient times, what nation was used as a mere hand instrument? (b) In what prophecy of Isaiah is the name of the One using the Assyrian nation as a tool embedded?
3 In ancient times, centuries before the submission of the Irish Church, there was an instance of where a mighty, highly militarized nation was employed as a tool or an instrument by a still greater power. That ancient nation was Assyria, at the time that it was the world power of the day, the second world power of Bible history. What, though, was the greater power that was able to use the Assyrian World Power as a mere tool or hand instrument? The identity of that greater power was made known to men sometime before the Assyrians under King Sennacherib invaded the land of the Kingdom of Judah in the year 732 B.C.E. The identification of the power superior to the Assyrian Empire was imbedded among the following words:
4 “Will the ax enhance itself over the one chopping with it, or the saw magnify itself over the one moving it back and forth, as though the staff moved back and forth the ones raising it on high, as though the rod raised on high the one who is not wood? Therefore the true Lord, Jehovah of armies, will keep sending upon his fat ones a wasting disease, and under his glory a burning will keep burning away like the burning of a fire. And Israel’s Light must become a fire, and his Holy One a flame; and it must blaze up and eat up his weeds and his thornbushes in one day. And the glory of his forest and of his orchard He will bring to an end, even from the soul clear to the flesh, and it must become like the melting away of one that is ailing. And the rest of the trees of his forest—they will become such a number that a mere boy will be able to write them down.”—Isa. 10:15-19.
5, 6. What does Isaiah say later on about the capability of Jehovah to use Assyria as a mere tool?
5 Those words were recorded by the inspired prophet, Isaiah the son of Amoz, who completed writing his marvelous book of prophecy about the year 732 B.C.E., the year in which the Assyrian invasion of the land of Judah took place. Thus Isaiah declares that the Great Power using the tool is “the true Lord, Jehovah of armies,” yes, “Israel’s Light . . . and his Holy One.” Is this Holy One capable of using an entire nation as a mere tool? For an inspired answer to this question let us hear what the prophet Isaiah says, later on, about “the true Lord, Jehovah of armies,” as follows:
6 “Who has measured the waters in the mere hollow of his hand, and taken the proportions of the heavens themselves with a mere span and included in a measure the dust of the earth, or weighed with an indicator the mountains, and the hills in the scales? . . . Look! The nations are as a drop from a bucket; and as the film of dust on the scales they have been accounted. Look! He lifts the islands themselves as mere fine dust.”—Isa. 40:12-15.
THE SYMBOLIC AX
7. So, in comparison with Jehovah, the nations are like what, and, in Isaiah 10:15, He likens himself to what?
7 In comparison with the “true Lord, Jehovah of armies,” all the nations, including Assyria, are like a tiny drop of water falling from a bucket or like the film of dust on the scalepans. With the greatest of ease, then, he can use any nation that he chooses as his tool in carrying out his divine purpose. So, in Isaiah 10:15, he likens himself to a chopper, a sawyer, a wielder of a staff, a brandisher of a rod. He declares that He is “not wood.” No, he is not the handle of the ax, or the staff or the rod. He is the living God, the almighty Handler of these symbolic instruments. What, then, is the symbolic ax with which he does a chopping work?
8. Exactly who is “the Assyrian” spoken of in Isaiah 10:5, 6?
8 Earlier in the same tenth chapter of Isa Isaiah’s prophetic book Jehovah himself identifies what the symbolic ax is. So, in Isaiah 10:5, 6, we read these words of Jehovah: “Aha, the Assyrian, the rod for my anger, and the stick that is in their hand for my denunciation! Against an apostate nation I shall send him, and against the people of my fury I shall issue a command to him, to take much spoil and to take much plunder and to make it a trampling place like the clay of the streets.” Ah, yes, the symbolic instrument that Jehovah uses in the carrying out of his stated purpose is “the Assyrian.” This designation does not mean an individual Assyrian, not even the imperial king of Assyria. It means the entire nation of Assyria, the Second World Power of Bible prophecy. No individual Assyrian, not even the king himself, could single-handedly carry out the work that Jehovah has assigned to “the Assyrian.” This is indicated by the fact that, after calling the Assyrian the “rod for my anger,” Jehovah addresses the “stick that is in their hand for my denunciation!” (Isa. 10:5; note Isa 10 verse 24.) From this it is clear that a composite Assyrian is meant, namely, the whole nation of Assyria, and particularly its military forces.
9. In what way does fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 10:5, 6 affect us today, and how does the apostle Paul indicate this?
9 However, of what interest is that ancient prophecy about “the Assyrian” to us today? It is of much interest. It is not a prophecy that belongs just to the long-dead past. It is a living prophecy, the fulfillment of which in our day will affect all of us. In our own generation it must have its large-scale, final, complete fulfillment! The application of the prophecy was not all over with at a fulfillment of it in the eighth century before our Common Era. Why, look! the Christian apostle Paul quoted Isa 10 verse twenty-two of that same tenth chapter of Isaiah and applied it to his own day in the first century of our Common Era. True to Isaiah’s prophecy, a bare remnant of the Jews accepted Christianity, for which reason the apostle Paul went on to say: “Moreover, Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Although the number of the sons of Israel may be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved. For Jehovah will make an accounting on the earth, concluding it and cutting it short.’”—Rom. 9:27, 28. Also, see Romans 15:4.
10. How is the identification of the “apostate nation” and “the people of my fury,” as spoken of by Jehovah in Isaiah 10:6, made sure?
10 What ancient nation was it against whom Jehovah of armies used the Assyrian as a “rod” and an “ax”? The reason why such a question concerns all of us today is that the ancient nation foreshadowed modern Christendom! Jehovah called the ancient nation “an apostate nation” and “the people of my fury.” (Isa. 10:6) By those words Jehovah meant the nation and people that made up the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel, with its capital at Samaria. It had broken away from the kingdom of David, which had its capital in Jerusalem. The breakaway had taken place after the death of King Solomon the son of David. Testifying to the religious apostasy of the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel, “the Assyrian” himself speaks contemptuously of the capital city Samaria and “her valueless gods.” (Isa. 10:11) Since, in the year 997 B.C.E., that kingdom of Israel apostatized from the worship of Jehovah as God, how could the gods introduced by the apostate kings of the nation be anything else but “valueless gods”? After Israel persisted for more than two hundred and fifty years in rejecting Jehovah as God, He was fully justified in speaking of them as “the people of my fury,” upon whom to use the “rod for my anger.”—1 Ki. 12:25 through 13:6; 16:8-33; Isa. 10:5, 6.
11. What religious organization today matches the apostate ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel, and why do we not want to be found now in that organization?
11 How well Christendom of today matches the apostate ten-tribe nation of Israel! Christendom’s apostasy from true Christianity was more than merely foreshadowed by ancient Israel’s rebellion against Jehovah as God. It was also distinctly foretold by Jesus Christ and his apostles. (Matt. 13:24-43; Acts 20:29-31; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; 2 Tim. 4:3, 4) All believers in the Bible may confidently expect, therefore, that, at the due time, Jehovah of armies will use the symbolic “rod” for His anger, yes, the symbolic “ax” upon this modern-day “people of my fury.” We certainly do not want to be found among such people as that! That being the case, it will be good for us to learn what today is symbolized by the “rod” and the “ax.”
12. (a) How did Jehovah use “the Assyrian” as an “ax” with respect to ancient Israel? (b) At that time, what was Assyria’s relationship with Jehovah’s organization?
12 In the days of the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah wielded the Assyrian World Power just like a “rod” in dealing the final blow to the apostate ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel. The fatal year was 740 B.C.E. Then Jehovah used the Assyrian World Power as his “ax” to chop down the idol-worshiping nation of Israel. This He did by letting the Assyrian armies climax their three-year-long siege of the capital of Samaria by capturing and making it like a miry trampling place. (2 Ki. 17:7-23; 18:9-12) Here let us be careful to note one particular thing. What? This: Although Jehovah used the Assyrian World Power as his implement for destruction upon apostates from His worship, Assyria was not a part of Jehovah’s organization. It was a part of the visible organization of Satan the Devil. The land of Assyria was called “the land of Nimrod.” This was the Nimrod who founded the city of Nineveh, which became the capital of Assyria. The founder became notorious as “Nimrod a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” (Mic. 5:6; Gen. 10:8-12) Here, another fact for us to note is this: Although Jehovah used Assyria as his “rod” and “ax,” that world power did not thereby become a part of Jehovah’s visible organization. It did not take up His worship!
THE “AX” TRIES TO ENHANCE ITSELF OVER THE CHOPPER
13. What was the attitude of “the Assyrian” toward being used as Jehovah’s instrument?
13 Ancient Assyria never had the idea of serving Jehovah and had no desire to continue to serve His purpose for his vindication and glory. That is why He went on to say concerning “the Assyrian”: “Though he may not be that way, he will feel inclined; though his heart may not be that way, he will scheme, because to annihilate is in his heart, and to cut off nations not a few.”—Isa. 10:7.
14. (a) Although the way in which “the Assyrian” was used was merely as an instrument, how did he himself “feel inclined”? (b) In keeping with that inclination, what is it in his heart to do, and why?
14 “The Assyrian” felt inclined in a direction in which he was not meant to go. At that time Jehovah meant for “the Assyrian” merely to be an instrument in the divine hand, to serve the divine purpose in administering discipline to a wayward nation. But, contrariwise, “the Assyrian” felt inclined to be something else, something in line with his own ambition. Yes, he schemes, but is it because his heart lovingly moves him to serve as a tool in the hand of the God against whom the mighty hunter Nimrod had set himself in opposition? No, his heart is not that way; that is not how his heart is. It does not move him to purpose and plan in harmony with Jehovah’s righteous purpose. He schemes to annihilate and cut off nations merely for the sake of doing so, with the zest of a hunter who likes to kill animal life wantonly. Thus he hopes to please his own false gods, and not Jehovah. He is purely out for world conquest. He does not want to be what Jehovah chooses him and commissions him to be, that is, to be a disciplinary agency. The further course of “the Assyrian” demonstrated this to be the case.
15. To whom does “the Assyrian” give the credit for his conquest, and how do his words recorded in Isaiah 10:8-11 indicate this?
15 Because “the Assyrian” does not recognize the Almighty God who uses him like a mere tool, he does not give any credit to Jehovah but takes all the credit to himself. It is easy for us to note this attitude of “the Assyrian” as he approaches the overthrow of the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel and the capture of its capital city Samaria. That Israelite kingdom was one of the nations that “the Assyrian” was determined to annihilate and cut off: “For he will say, ‘Are not my princes at the same time kings? Is not Calno just like Carchemish? Is not Hamath just like Arpad? Is not Samaria just like Damascus? Whenever my hand has reached the kingdoms of the valueless god whose graven images are more than those at Jerusalem and at Samaria, will it not be that just as I shall have done to Samaria and to her valueless gods, even so I shall do to Jerusalem and to her idols?’”—Isa. 10:8-11.
16. Against whom were those words of “the Assyrian” words of blasphemy, and despite what religious forces had he become “King of kings”?
16 What blasphemous words these are, for they are aimed contemptuously at the one living and true God, Jehovah! To “the Assyrian,” the cities to which his hands reach out to conquer will prove to be just like the cities that he has already conquered. The territories that he had conquered had been ruled by local kings. Now he had made them vassal princes. So his princes were in reality “kings,” and for this reason he could boast of himself as being “King of kings.” “The Assyrian” noted the fact that the cities whose kings he had overpowered had many “gods” along with many man-made images, in fact, many more than those of Samaria and of Jerusalem. And yet, despite the numerousness of all such gods and artificial images of those non-Israelite cities, “the Assyrian” had conquered those pagan cities. Did this not prove him to be more powerful than all those gods? To himself “the Assyrian” answered Yes!
17. So why did “the Assyrian” reason that Samaria and Jerusalem would be conquered easily?
17 Those “gods” were just as valueless as nonentities! Hence, the capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem ought to be conquered easily, because these cities had fewer gods and graven images than those non-Israelite cities that had bowed in subjection to “the Assyrian.” That is how “the Assyrian” King of kings reasoned.
18. “The Assyrian’s” ability to conquer Samaria was owing to what vital things?
18 At that time the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel had become an apostate nation, a religious renegade! It had gone over to the worship of golden calves, yes, even of the pagan Baals. Samaria did not have Jehovah as its God. Instead, it had valueless gods and man-made idol images. Little wonder, then, that “the Assyrian” crowned his three-year-long siege of Samaria with the capture of it in 740 B.C.E.! At this exploit “the Assyrian’s” arrogance would be built up still more, and, likewise, his insolence toward the worship of Jehovah in Jerusalem. For the military victory over Samaria and for plundering it and making it a “trampling place like the clay of the streets,” the Assyrian conqueror took the glory to himself. He prided himself on his seemingly irresistible war machine. How little did he realize that he was being used as an executional tool in the hand of the God from whom Israel had apostatized!
19. So what question now bobs up?
19 Now a very interesting question bobs up. It is this: Since Christendom was foreshadowed by Samaria and the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel, are we in our day going to see the duplicate of apostate Israel’s experience in connection with present-day Christendom?
AN ACCOUNTING WITH THE IMPERIALIST PROMISED
20, 21. Why should Jehovah be interested in what “the Assyrian” has to say, according to Isaiah 10:12-14?
20 What do we think? When a city upon which the name of Jehovah has been placed is spoken of in a threatening way, ought He himself to be interested? Naturally so! Hence, by his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah breaks in upon the self-glorifying monologue of the Assyrian empire-builder and says:
21 “And it must occur that when Jehovah terminates all his work in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I shall make an accounting for the fruitage of the insolence of the heart of the king of Assyria and for the self-importance of his loftiness of eyes. For he has said, ‘With the power of my hand I shall certainly act, and with my wisdom, for I do have understanding; and I shall remove the boundaries of peoples, and their things stored up I shall certainly pillage, and I shall bring down the inhabitants just like a powerful one. And just as if a nest, my hand will reach the resources of the peoples; and just as when one gathers eggs that have been left, I myself will gather up even all the earth, and there will certainly be no one fluttering his wings or opening his mouth or chirping.’”—Isa. 10:12-14.
22. In order to make his conquest earth wide, what prize of war would “the Assyrian” have to take?
22 From such speech out of the mouth of “the Assyrian” it is plain that the Assyrian World Power would not be satisfied with capturing Samaria. It would want to “gather up even all the earth.” Jerusalem and the land of Judah would be nice eggs for it to gather up. The Assyrian imperialist would think that he had the power, the wisdom and the understanding to make his conquests earth wide.
23, 24. (a) In what way would “the Assyrian’s” gathering up all the earth be as one gathering eggs from an abandoned nest, as he thought? (b) Why did Jehovah feel that he had something to say about this?
23 Presumably this would be an easy thing for “the Assyrian,” just like picking out eggs from the nest that has been abandoned by the parent bird in fright. There would be no fluttering of the wings to beat back the aggressive hand that reaches out for the eggs. There would be no opening of the mouth in protest. There would not be even a chirp of complaint at the plundering and spoiling and the deportations carried on by the Assyrian war machine. So “the Assyrian” would do what he pleased with the conquered territories, changing or wiping out the boundary lines or deporting people from their native land, just as when “the Assyrian” deported the surviving Israelites from the God-given land of Israel to Assyria and repeopled the emptied land with other national groups.
24 Jehovah knew that the specially coveted prize of “the Assyrian” was Jerusalem and the land of Judah. That was the last remaining stronghold of Jehovah’s worship on earth. Rightly He should have something to say about that. He was obliged to act in such a case!
25. Why, at that time, was there a work for Jehovah to do in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem?
25 At that critical time in the eighth century B.C.E. Jehovah, as “Israel’s Light . . . and his Holy One,” had a work to do in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, which was located on Mount Zion. (Isa. 10:17) During the reign of apostate King Ahaz the land of Judah, including Jerusalem, had become polluted with pagan idolatry. But early in the reign of his son, Hezekiah, Jehovah’s spirit moved the new king of Jerusalem to cleanse the land of the worship of false, valueless gods and to restore the pure worship of Jehovah on Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, where Jehovah’s temple stood. Hezekiah began to reign five years before “the Assyrian” overthrew Samaria. He ruled in righteousness for twenty-nine years, till 716 B.C.E.
26. What did Jehovah now find the occasion ripe for doing, and what particular Assyrian king was involved?
26 King Hezekiah broke off the political alliance that his father, King Ahaz, had made with Assyria. This brought on a confrontation between “the Assyrian” and Jehovah, the God of Hezekiah. Under such circumstances it was that Jehovah found the occasion just ripe to punish the God-defying king of Assyria, thereby to “make an accounting for the fruitage of the insolence of the heart of the king of Assyria and for the self-importance of his loftiness of eyes.” (Isa. 10:12) The particular king here involved was Sennacherib, the son of Sargon II. His long name means “Sin Has Multiplied The Brothers,” or, “May Sin Replace The (Lost) Brothers,” the word “Sin” being the name of the Assyrian moon god.
27. Without interfering with Assyria’s internal organization, how could Jehovah nonetheless use it as his symbolic “ax”?
27 Sennacherib has his counterpart in our day. Just how Jehovah handles the modern-day antitypical “ax” with which he will do some chopping provides us now a interesting subject for consideration. As we undertake this study, let us keep in mind that Jehovah let the ancient Assyrian Empire have its own organization. He did not interfere with its own internal arrangements. Still it was possible for him to use the Assyrian World Power as his “ax.” How? By his directing its blows, by his guiding where the symbolic “ax” should strike. In that way Jehovah caused to be chopped down what he wanted to be chopped.b
a On this matter. M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume IV, page 641, column 2 under “Ireland,” says: “These invasions [by the Northmen] were followed by a period of anarchy, during which the moral condition of the Irish clergy greatly degenerated. The complaints of Rome at this time referred chiefly to the peculiar ecclesiastical practices of the Irish—the marriage of the clergy, the administration of baptism without chrisma, and the use of their own liturgy. The legates of the popes finally succeeded in obtaining the entire submission of the Irish Church to the Church of Rome about the middle of the twelfth century, which until then is believed to have been without auricular confession, sacrifice of the mass, and indulgences, and to have celebrated the Lord’s Supper in both kinds. In 1155 a bull of pope Hadrian IV allowed king Henry II of England to subject Ireland, the king, in his turn, promising the pope to protect the papal privileges.”
b As an illustration of this, note Jesus’ words at Matthew 22:7 in his parable of the King’s marriage feast. His prediction there was fulfilled upon the unchristianized city of Jerusalem by the pagan Roman armies under General Titus in the year 70 C.E.
[Picture on page 46]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Sin achi ir-i-ba
(Moon) (brothers) (he increased)
“the Moon has multiplied brothers”
Cuneiform for the name of Sennacherib along with its meaning