When you are reading a prophetic passage, it is very important to keep the original context in mind. That is why studying God’s word as a whole can be very insightful. One passage gives light to another passage. For instance, dating the prophecies in Isaiah can help us to cross reference passages in II Kings. The oracles in Isaiah 1-35 seem to be written chronologically progressive, so we know that the next prophecy was written after the previous (i.e. Isaiah 14:18 King Ahaz dies which is after Isaiah 7). Everything from Isaiah 14:18 through Isaiah 39 should be considered prophecies during the reign of Hezekiah. Notice Isaiah 20:1 has a date as well being the year that Sargon sent his commander against Ashdod. The commentaries I read date this 712-711 BC. So in reading everything from Isaiah 20-35, we can safely put this well into Hezekiah’s reign. So I read this prophecy about no more lions in Isaiah 35.
8 And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Now why would this give hope to the people of Israel? I can understand the idea of Isaiah 35 foretelling a time when the earth will be transformed. I can understand the people of God returning to Zion, or Jerusalem. But no more lions? Wait though. Remember where we are at in the biblical chronology. Hezekiah is reigning and the northern kingdom has gone into captivity back in 722 BC. So Isaiah is prophesying (theoretically) at least ten years after the fall of Samaria. Take a look at one of the conditions of the land of Samaria during that time found in II Kings 17:25-28.
And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the Lord. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the Lord.
As the northern kingdom was hearing this prophecy of Isaiah, this gave them hope that the plague of lions would one day be over. Also, the restoration of Israel would occur and they would return to Zion with joy. The context helps us make sense of the prophecy. Also, the idea of two future events blended into one is brought out. The Israelites of that day saw the plague of lions being put in the past according to the word of Isaiah. Yet there are some things that would not occur for centuries. The ending of the plague of lions would be the down payment that the entire prophecy could be trusted. Isaiah 35 will yet be fulfilled.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman