DIG: Up to this point, how have the men responded to Isaiah’s message (see 28:7-10)? Why might he be turning to the women at this time? What does he anticipate for them? What does he mean by the thorns and briers (see 1:7, 5:6, 7:23, 27:4)? What is wrong with the revelry and merriment over which he calls the women to mourn (see 22:12-13)?
REFLECT: What is the difference between “security” in God’s love and “complacency” that you are in the right? Are you at ease because you think you can manipulate the LORD? Or because you are resting in Him? Are you merely going about your business as if everything will remain the same? How can you be sure that you have the correct view of the events in this world? What lights your path?
The righteous far eschatological Kingdom described in 32:1-8 will be preceded by judgment. ADONAI has every intention of providing a final restoration, but judgment for sin was demanded first. As in the previous chapters, Isaiah alternates between the near historical invasion of Assyria in 32:9-14 and the far eschatological righteous Kingdom of 32:15-20; between the LORD’s indignation of one nation and God’s anger with all nations. Here Isaiah reverts back to the present Assyrian threat and points out another area of sin that must be punished, the false security of Judah’s women (see Av – The Women of Zion Are Haughty). They were probably representative of the attitude of Judah in general.
You women who are so complacent, rise up and listen to me; you daughters who feel secure, hear what I have to say (32:9). He calls these Jewish women to listen and to hear. While there is nothing inherently wrong with ease and security, they are destructive when based on a false premise (Amos 6:1). Those women were living in such a self-confident state that they failed to see the coming judgment and the calamity that would come with it. Throughout the Scriptures, the recurring question is, where is your trust? And if the answer is anything other than ADONAI, you are headed for trouble.
The devastation would begin soon, in little more than a year Assyria would invade Judah in 701 BC. At that time, those very women who felt so secure would tremble. The grape harvest would fail and the harvest of fruit would not come (32:10). So the first evidence of judgment would be the failing harvest of the grapes and other fruit as the Assyrians would overrun their fields. It is as if Isaiah was saying, “You may rejoice now, but what about next year when the harvest fails?” It is easy to trust in our circumstances, assuming everything will go unchanged. Trust in God, however, raises us above our circumstances. I know that is easy to say and hard to do. But faith, in the face of calamity, can only be seen in a relationship with the LORD that is so strong that it overcomes fear. And even then, we may have to say to Jesus: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24).
The prophet called on the women to begin to mourn for the land about which they feel so confident. Tremble, you complacent women; shudder, you daughters who feel secure! The harvest time was supposed to be especially joyful. Here, Isaiah’s words would have been especially painful. Particularly in happy times, we do not like to be reminded that death stares us all in the face. Isaiah would not let the women of Judah escape the reality of the coming judgment. Thus, because of the coming disaster, the women are told to strip off their clothes and put on sackcloth around their waists (32:11).
The people of Noah’s day displayed the same attitude and so, according to Jesus, will those who live in the last days before His return. False security is a constant problem, and it is the way of wicked people to indulge in it even when disaster is staring them in the face. It is a way of avoiding the necessity of coming to terms with reality.112
The grape harvest was the basis of their economy, and its failure would cause Judah’s women to mourn for the land in which they had placed their confidence. Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vines (32:12). It seems that it was common for women in the ancient Near East to bare their breasts and put sackcloth around their waists during mourning.
And for the land of My people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers – yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry (32:13). The phrase, and for the land of my people, makes it very clear that just because the Jews might be called the people of God, He is not some lucky charm for them (Jeremiah 7:4). They did not have some kind of magical claim to Him. The pleasant fields and the good vines could be overgrown with thorns and briers as quickly as any other place whose people were out of harmony with God. Elsewhere in 1:7, 5:6, 7:23, and 27:4 the terms briers and thorns are used. But here Isaiah reverses them and uses thorns and briers, which is the phrase used in Genesis 3:18 with respect to the curse on the land.
The climax of the mourning is reached in this verse. Why the mourning? Because Jerusalem would become empty. Perhaps most significantly, the fortress, or the palace will be empty. There would be no earthly king in Judah. It was as if Isaiah was saying, “No, the Kingdom I am talking about will not be brought in by people going about their business as usual.” The gutless, scheming leaders of Judah described in Chapters 28 through 31 would not bring in a new day. They would bring disaster.
The Assyrian advance was the beginning of the end for Jerusalem. The City of David would fall to the Babylonians 115 years later in 586 BC. Therefore, Isaiah was not saying that the judgment would be completed in little more than a year but that it would begin in little more than a year. In the near historical future, the fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted (Lamentations 1:1); the citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for unfettered flocks (32:14). This was foretold in 6:11-13, implied in 11:11, and predicted again in 30:8-17. The general sense one gets is that, what was formerly cultivated, now has become a wasteland.
Olam, the Hebrew word forever, does not always carry the same weight as the English word “forever.” In the next section we learn that eventually the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon Israel and the people of God will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest (32:15-20). Consequently, it is obvious that Isaiah saw a day when the desolation would cease. So it is better to understand olam here as meaning for a long intermediate time.
The women and men of Judah had lost their way. They were looking to the world for help (First John 2:15-17). So how can you be sure that you do not go in the wrong direction in your life? The Bible teaches us that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Recognizing that His Word was his light to direct him (Psalm 119:130 and Proverbs 6:23), the psalmist vowed to follow it (Psalm 119:105-106). How about you? Is it easy? No, the world, our flesh and the devil tempt us (James 1:13-15). But is it worth it? Read on.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2013