Insights Into Isaiah: A Day of Trouble


Terry Ball:  We welcome our viewers to our continuing discussion of the scriptures of the church, of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints. I’m Terry Ball from the department of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and joining me are three of my colleagues from the Department of ancient scripture.  With us today is professor Terry Szink, Terry welcome. Also joining us is professor Michael Rhodes. Welcome Michael.

Michael:  Thank you.

Terry Ball:  And once again we have with us professor Ray Huntington. Welcome Ray.

Ray:  Thank you.  

Terry Ball:  We’re doing our in-depth study of, the writings of Isaiah. It’s been a delightful experience. And today we get to start with chapter 21. We’re in a section that has called the prophecies to the nations, probably starts with a chapter 10 of Isaiah and moves clear through to about chapter 23.  And a lot of prophecies to other nations surrounding Israel and Judah. Again, I think to make the point that Jehovah is the God of all people in all lands, regardless of what they think of Him. Now in this prophecy in chapter 21, it says it’s the prophesy, it’s the burden of the desert of the sea.  Who could that be?

Michael:  Well generally it’s interpreted as Babylon because Babylon is mentioned further on, for example, now in verse nine, and Babylon is a kind of a sea of sand, if you will, with the Euphrates river running down through it. And so, the analogy probably works, and the Euphrates river also would over flood its banks, like the Nile did not to the same extent, but it would be a large marshy area at times of the year and give the imagery of a sea in the desert.

Terry Ball:  Now with these prophesies to these other nations, the prophecies are all essentially the same, you’re going to be destroyed. And we understand that these prophecies of destruction are all a type for the destruction of the wicked in latter days. We’ve already destroyed Babylon a couple of times in chapter 13 and chapter 14. And we’re going to do it again later on. We’ll see destroyed later. I like the way that professor Victor Ludlow puts this repeating theme. He’s using the imagery that Isaiah is making a tapestry. Like you’re weaving a tapestry, you take that thought and you weave it through one way and then you turn it around and weave it back the other way. So, after you’ve woven the same thought back and forth a few times, you end up with this beautiful tapestry that gives you the full view of what he’s trying to say. So, we shouldn’t be disappointed he’s destroying Babylon again. Verse 2 raises some interesting questions in regard to this prophecy concerning the destruction of Babylon now.  Ray, why don’t we have you read verse 2 for us. Will you?

Ray:  “A grievous vision is declared under me, the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously and the spoiler spoileth.  Go up, o Elam, besiege, o Media, all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.”

Terry Ball:  Now I want you to put on your textual critic, your academic scholar hat Ray, and you just read this verse, tells us how you analyze it.

Ray:  Well, some people don’t believe that Isaiah wrote it for a couple of reasons.  One, they believe it was somebody who is latter Isaiah, if you will, since, at least from their academic perspective, nobody can be that in tune with prophecy because Elam, and Media probably didn’t exist or if they did, Isaiah probably didn’t know a whole lot about them in his time period, but here he is specifically telling us that Elam and Media which will be part of Persia, is actually going to destroy Babylon.

Terry Ball:  And we know that when Babylon falls, it’s a coalition of the Persians, Elamites, and Medes, that conquer them.  So, they think how can Isaiah of the 8th century BC have ever looked that far ahead into the future.

Terry:  Not only seen the destruction of Babylon, but given the names of two countries, as you mentioned, didn’t really exist at that point and seeing that they would call a lesson and destroy Babylon.

Terry Ball:  Actually, they do kind of exist at that point, but they’re not the military might.  In fact, at this time, what’s the relationship between Babylon, Elam and Media? Do you remember that they form a coalition and conquer who?

All:  Assyria.

Terry Ball:  Assyria, but now, these former allies going to turn enemies and conquer Babylon, and if you don’t believe that prophets can prophesy then you read verse two.

Terry:  You have to place it at a time, subsequent to the event, and so that’s what many scholars do. That’s why you come up with Isaiah or Isaiah, because for example, later on, Isaiah will mention the name Cyrus, and so, scholars who don’t believe that the prophets have the ability to look into the future said, well, how could he know the name of a man who would come hundreds of years after him and release the Jews and let them go back to Israel? Therefore, this must have been written later.  

Terry Ball:  Now latter-day saints have a nice rebuttal to this whole argument. Don’t they? First of all, we believe prophets do prophecy, so it’s really not that much of an issue for us, but we also know that many of the chapters that are ascribed to a post-Babylonian captivity, Isaiah are found quoted in the book of Mormon. There’s a quote in the book of Mormon where they’re quoting them from.  

Michael:  Press play, so end to date, the Babylonian captivity, and so on…

Terry Ball:  Meaning that prophets can prophesy; this is truly a remarkable prophecy then.  Here Isaiah is telling us that Elam and Media are going to conquer Babylon.

Terry:  And let me add one little thing here. I think that those of us who are Christians and who believe that there are there prophecies of Christ that will clearly spell out Christ’s life and his mission.  If Isaiah was able to see that, why don’t scholars say, well, this must have been written by someone who lived after Christ was able to see his life or the passages that talk about Joseph Smith? Do we have to see it in Isaiah who wrote after the days of Joseph Smith to see those prophecies fulfilled? And so, for us, it’s a whole different point.

Terry Ball:  Now it is true that this text could have been edited and worked over by others besides Isaiah. But I think we were making them a terrible choice to say this cannot be written by the 8th century Isaiah because it contained such accurate prophecy, right? Our witness is that prophets can prophesy, and how grateful we should be for that very fact. He actually speaks to Babylon going clear down through verse 10. You know, Babylon is a type for pride and sin in the world and so forth. As you skim through these verses, 1 through verse 10, anything press you particularly about the prophecy concerning the destruction of Babylon.

Michael:  Verses 3 and 4, particularly, he stresses the anguish he is feeling in seeing this destruction. You know, this is Babylon and Babylon that he has seen is going to destroy Judah. And yet, Isaiah has compassion upon them even in spite of their wickedness. We’ve seen this before, but this is a prophet, in reality, mirrors the anguish that our Father in heaven feels for this.  And rather than rejoicing, oh good, my enemies are destroyed, He is filled with a dismay. He says night pleasure is gone from in… These images are awakening him at night. He is distressed at the destruction and not at all happy to have to be able to prophesy against these people. He would much rather have prophesied something good, but he has to do what the Lord tells him.

Ray:  And another thing that strikes me that you… adding to what you’ve said, how many times in the last chapters have we read at the beginning of the verse, the burden of Egypt, the burden of Tyre, the burden of Moab. This is a prophet who bore messages of doom and it must’ve weighed on him. I can only imagine how he felt to have this information and then, and then had to share it.  What a weight, this prophet had to carry. And I think we overlook that.

Terry Ball:  Maybe that’s why the Lord gave him a break once in a while, by giving him some of the remarkable prophecies and millennial messiah and the mortal Messiah, and what he would do. And that’s an interesting idea. Well, after giving us prophesy in destroying Babylon, verses 1 through 10, verses 11 through 17, is kind of a smorgasbord of other little city nations that are going to likewise suffer because of their wickedness, and he mentioned lots of them, verse 11, Duma, which we think is probably some place, it’s about two hundred and fifty miles east of the Dead Sea, say, Elam verse 11, some places south and east of the Dead Sea,  Arabia and Dedanaim verse 13 and Tema, perhaps we think these are people who are descendants of Abrahams third wife, Keturah. And the message is essentially the same, that the god of all people and I know it’s going to happen to all people. We don’t know a lot about these little nations. Now, why don’t we for the sake of pacing today, let’s go to chapter 23 where it does give another burden concerning people we know a lot about, and an unremarkable burden of prophecy in its own right? This is the burden of the Tyre. What do we know about Tyre?

Michael:  Tyre is along with Sidon, are the two centers of Phoenician civilization. The Phoenicians…if Babylon was the land power or Assyria, depending on which timeframe you’re talking, but Assyria or Babylon were the land powers at this time. Then the Phoenicians were the sea power, the merchants.  They had a huge mercantile empire that stretched throughout the entire Mediterranean and if Babylon is the image of a brutal power and military conquests, Tyre and Sidon are the images of the world in economic conquests.

Ray:  This is the Wall Street of the Middle East.

Michael:  Exactly.

Ray:  And I think what the Lord is saying is, I don’t like this power, this brute force that Babylon wields, but I don’t like this either because this economic power that is vested in these two cities, and he talks about the way they destituted the poor and how they’ve dealt with others. And so, it’s…

Terry Ball:  A lot of extremes here. You are a joyous city. You become poor and destitute. There’s no more joy, there’s sorrow and so forth. What part of this process I think is…especially remarkable is some of the details that we think we understand historically. Look with me in verse 15, “And it’ll come to pass in that day, ” the day that Tyre’s going to be destroyed as outlined in the previous verses. It says, “Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years according to the days of one King. And after the end of the 70 years shall tire as an Harlot and taken to harp and go about the city thou harlot that hast been forgotten. Make sweet melody.”  And in verse 17, “it will come to pass after the end of seventy years the Lord will visit Tyre and she shall turn to her hire. “Then it goes on and talks about how, once again, there’s going to be some destruction factor, treasures will become holiness to the Lord, in verse 18. That phrase often means consecrated for destruction. What do you make of this? Have you ever heard any commentary on this idea that Tyre’s going to be conquered and then have seventy years of respite and then being conquered again?

Michael:  Well if that in fact happens.  And I think the Lord is saying here, you’re going to be conquered and then you’re going to have a period of respite in which you can repent and in fact, they do not. And they’re conquered again.  The Lord does that over and over again in history, gives people a chance. Gets their attention with that two by four. And then gives them a second chance. And historically this indeed does take place.

Terry Ball:  In fact, they seem to be conquered right as Syria was waning in power. So, they’re conquered, but then have almost no for about seven years until the Babylonians come in.

Michael:  And take them, so…And a bit later Alexander comes and takes them, and so on…

Terry Ball:  If you picture of Israel and Judah on the map, then look what Isaiah’s done in chapters 10 through 23 as he’s prophesied. He talks about the Philistines there. And in chapter 14, he’s talked about the Moabites on this side and he’s talked about Syria and Damascus and now he’s picked up He’s gone all the way around, Egypt and Babylon as well. I think he’s done a marvelous job making the point that in spite of what the culture says, there’s really only one God, the god of the whole earth. And he is Jehovah.

Sandwiched in between these two prophecies, are other nations, chapter 21 and 23, we have chapter 22, which is a prophecy made to the valley of vision. What do we understand the valley of vision to be?

Terry:  It’s Jerusalem.  

Terry Ball:  Yeah, so now he’s turned back to the covenant people just to give us a message. You know, I always think this is really two separate prophecies sort of, I would…if they had asked me when they were divided into chapters, I would’ve made 1 through 19, one chapter, and 23 in another, but verses 1 through 19 are talking about a destruction of Jerusalem. And Isaiah seems to be seeing this in vision. And there’s a lot of tension here because look at verse 2, what are the people in Jerusalem doing.

Ray:  Well there seems to be in verse 2, he says, “thou that are full of stirs,” that’s a noise, “a tumultuous city, a joyous city,” there he’s describing everyday life in Jerusalem…

Terry Ball:  And in fact, if you look at verse 1, they’re even up on a rooftop.

Ray:  Yeah, they’re partying, but then he says, “thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle.” In other words, death is coming to the city, but it’s not going to be by battle. It may be by an army that’s going to come in and shut off the water system, shut off the food supply. People may be dying because of famine and pestilence and other things like that.

Terry Ball:  How about this.  He sees them up partying on the rooftops and he observes, you’re dead men, you’re not slaying with the sword, you’re slaying with what?

Michael:  Your neglect.  You’re being unaware of the impending doom that is coming.  

Terry Ball:  You see in verse 4, that he sees them out partying. They’re having all this fun, and what is he doing?  “I will weep bitterly, labor not to comfort me because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.” So, while they’re partying, here’s a prophet who knows what their future is and what their spiritual condition is…

Terry:  And he’s weeping over them.

Terry Ball:  Just weeping over them.

Michael:  “They have trouble and a treading down, breaking down the walls, crying to the mountains. Right? As I read this, we often think of it as the Babylonian conquest, but this would fit equally well with the Roman conquest of 70 AD.

Terry Ball:  You know, I’m glad you said that because we can actually give a pretty close date for when this particular attack is going to come because in a later chapter it talks about a man named Shivnath, not as being one in the court of the king’s. And who was the attacking nation in the days of Shivnath?  

Terry:  It was Assyria.

Terry Ball:  Assyria. Maybe not a dualistic prophecy, the time when the covenant people are going to be destroyed by other nations because they no longer are entitled to the protection of Jehovah. So, Isaiah sees this vision, that people are out partying and he’s weeping because he knows that there’s an attack that’s coming upon them, and they’re already dead spiritually and there’s going to be a physical attack upon them. One of the things that’s interesting, the archaeologist side of me, he loves to look at verses 8, 9 and 10, be here he’s describing the frantic things that people will do to try and prepare for this Assyrian attack. Now we know historically that Assyria attacks around 701 BC, attacks Jerusalem, in fulfillment of this prophecy they attack.  Hezekiah is the king at that time. He inherited being a to the Assyrians because his father Ahaz, had sold him out to protect him from this Assyria, weaker alliance earlier that we read that you would have studied in chapter 7. Hezekiah tried desperately to pay the tribute, the taxes that Assyria was demanding, and couldn’t come up with enough. At one point he will even script gold off the doors to send it to him to buy himself some time, so he can prepare for what he knows is going to come. I siege to Jerusalem and Isaiah must have seen that because he described some of the things that Isaiah or Hezekiah did, to prepare for the Assyrian siege here in verses 8, 9 and 10. Going on it says, “and he discovered the covering of Judah,” this is verse 8, ” and thou didst look in that day to the armor of the house of the forest. Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David. Where you see holes in the walls in the city of David. There are many. “Ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. Ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem and the houses have you broken down to fortify the wall.  Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool.” Interpretation?

Terry:  They’ve done everything they can to set up the defenses, there where houses need to be destroyed so they can better fortify the city, they’ve done that.  They’ve prepared physically to prepare for this Assyrian siege, but right at the end of verse 11, he says, “but ye have not looked into the maker thereof.  Neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.” In other words, they’ve, they’ve relied on their own strength, but they haven’t turned to the Lord.

Michael:  Then there’s, of course, the archaeological remains of that tunnel that they actually dug through solid rock from the pool in Siloam to bring an external water source into the city so that they would have water within the city.

Ray:  As well in Jerusalem, you’ll find part of what they call a… We’ve seen that.  You can actually see where that wall was extended to kind of bring in, to protect part of Jerusalem. It was unprotected, but that wall, you can see it today actually goes through the remains of houses that they had to destroy, to use the stones to put into that wall. And Isaiah is talking about it here.

Terry Ball:  In the Jewish quarter, you look down in that hole and the broad walls’ been left exposed. You can see that it’s not built out of great big… It’s built out of small stones, and so we have archeological evidence that what Isaiah prophesied that you would dig a ditch or what we call Hezekiah’s tunnel to bring water into the city, and that you tear down houses to repair and build the wall to protect yourself.  It really came to pass.

Ray:  Which is really kind of interesting that they’re doing everything that you…. if you’re going to have a… if you’re preparing for a siege, you would be concerned about your armor. You’d want to have weaponry to protect yourself. You’d want to have enough water and they’d want to have enough protection. The spider not going to help.

Michael:  From a purely worldly standpoint, they’re being very prudent.  They’re making all the preparations they can and missing the whole point of, God is the one who will protect you. You know, that’s a real lesson to us today. If we’re relying upon worldly things to protect us, we’re going to end up, just like they did and it’s going to fail us in the end.

Terry Ball:  And then he turns his attention to Shivnath, this man, who’s the treasurer, who is a type for the apostate covenant people, whose been spending his time making sepulchers for himself in the Valley of vision, and as if he could ensure himself a good place in the next life by huge amount of sepulchers, instead of thinking about how to prepare a place for himself in the life to come and the prophecy comes in and says, Shivnath, you’re not going to be buried in your sepulcher, in fact you’re going to be, as it says, I love this imagery in verse 18, “you’re going to be carried away from here and tossed like a ball into a large country.”

Terry:  You like that because he mentions your name.

Terry Ball:  You know, we do know that this Assyrian siege took place in 701BC, but it wasn’t fulfilled like it says here, because this prophecy makes it clear they’re going to be destroyed and conquered. And they weren’t. The Assyrians come, but they don’t conquer Jerusalem because…

Michael:  Prophecy is always contingent, the prophets get prophecy, warning, and if you heed that warning then it doesn’t happen.

Terry Ball:  And Hezekiah is the king of Jerusalem when the Assyrian attack actually comes and he’s righteous.

Michael:  He’s exceptional in being one of the righteous kings. There’s really only two in Josiah that are righteous kings of all the kings of Judah or Israel.

Terry Ball:  You know, if his father had been the king when the Assyrians attacked or his son, Manasseh had been the king when the Assyrians attacked, they would have been conquered.  Today we would have talked about the twelve lost tribes. They would have been carried away like the northern tribes, but we see other times in the scriptures where there is a prophecy of destruction that has not fulfilled because the people repent, and this is another.

Terry:  The classic example is Jonah who goes to Nineveh and he doesn’t even give them an option. He just says, you know, in a few days Nineveh will be destroyed he goes up on the hill to wait for the destruction.  The people of Nineveh take it upon themselves, well, what if we repent? And they repent, and the destruction is avoided.

Terry Ball:  Now we need to talk about this last part of this chapter, which is one of the great prophecies in all of Isaiah in my estimation. It begins talking about a man named Alia Kei. An interesting name. And tell us what it means Ray?

Ray:  It suggests that God shall cause to arise.  Something’s going to arise here, which I think is a typology of the resurrection.

Terry Ball:  In fact, the footnotes here suggested Alie Kei becomes a type for the Savior. The prophecy says it’s going to say that Alie Kei’s going to take over Shivnath’s place.  Shivnath was apparently master of the house and had all the keys to open and lock and do all these things. Alia Kei’s going to take your place Shivnath, and then it turns Messianic in his language and his name is messianic.  Your God shall cause to arise. It can also mean your God shall be lifted up, or your God shall be…shall raise up and they all fit beautifully. They all fit what? As a type for the Savior, because the Savior is lifted up, he does arise.

Michael:  And as it says, he was lifted up that he might lift…

Terry Ball:  The messianic language speaking of Alia Kei, it says that the King of the House of David while I lay upon his shoulders, he shall open a nutshell shut and he shall shut a nutshell open. And in Latter Day Saints, find verse 23 particularly intriguing, ” and I will fasten him,” this man who’s a type of the Savior, “I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.  Fastened as a nail in a sure place, and he will bring glory to his father’s house,” in verse 24, “and they,” his father’s house, his father’s children, “will bring upon him…and they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue.” All of the offspring, all of his brothers and sisters hang upon him and they also hang on him vessels, of small quantity cups and… flags. What do you suppose that imagery means?  Here you have him fastened with a nail in a sure place, all of his brothers and sisters come, and they hang vessels… and cups on him.

Michael:  The imagery of Christ taking upon himself self our sins, is clear.  And the nail, makes it abundantly clear when we think of the crucifixion and the hanging there and burying all of our sins, in these small vessels.  Each one of us has a contribution to it, and the overall weight is enormous, but it’s little bits from each of us that contribute to that suffering that Christ did on our behalf.

Ray:  You know another part of this imagery is the first phrase in verse 24, “and they shall hang upon him all the glory of His Father’s house.  Everything that Jesus did in his mortal ministry was for the glory of his father and he constantly deflected it back to the Father. He was there to do the father’s will and glory be to the Father.

Terry Ball:  We read in verse 25 that he bears all this burden while he’s fastened with a nail in a sure place, and then eventually it says that the nail will be removed, be cut down and fallen a burden upon it.  It will be cut off. Every time I read this, I think of the life in the hymn, once in agony he bore, but he now shall bear no more. A wonderful prophecy of the atonement of the Savior of his suffering on our behalf and what he would accomplish for us. Thank you, brother.


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I’m a connoisseur of the esoteric, whether in scripture or desserts. Isaiah’s air of mystery reaches through the ages to draw me in and compels me to uncover his ancient mysteries. While design is my calling, occasionally I lend my words to


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