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Articles Bible Study Facts Isaiah


white concrete houses under blue sky at daytime


The land of Javan was probably the Ionian region of Greece, which is the western coast of present-day Turkey. Isaiah says that even this far-off land would someday declare God’s glory among the nations (66:19).

white pig

Pig flesh

The Israelites were not the only ones who did not eat or sacrifice pig flesh. The Assyrians found the pig to be equally offensive, as do some people groups today. However, many other people groups ate and sacrificed them to… Read More »Pig flesh

grayscale photo of ships on water

Ships of Tarshish

The phrase ships of Tarshish (60:9) describes huge ships, able to go on voyages as long as three years (1 Kings 10:22). Isaiah says that ships like these will someday bring the nations to Israel to worship the Lord.

right human hand


Finger-pointing (58:9) was a very serious gesture that had several potentially negative meanings. It could be taken as an official accusation against someone or could mean that the person was the subject of gossip (Prov. 6:12–13).

Keeping the Sabbath

Keeping the Sabbath was an important expression of faith for Israelites (56:2). All of life was organized around the weekly Sabbath. It also set them apart from the surrounding nations, none of whom kept the seventh day of the week… Read More »Keeping the Sabbath

Head of the street

The head of the street (51:20) referred to prominent corners or intersections within a city. Few cities were laid out according to a specific plan. Most had buildings scattered randomly, with narrow streets and dead-end alleys.16

Feeding idols?

Feeding idols? In Isaiah’s day, people treated idols almost as if they were human. Some even fed, bathed, and dressed their idols. Isaiah spoke of how foolish it was for people to worship something that they themselves had made (46:6).


The highways of the ancient Near East were not paved like many modern highways around the world today. Rather, they were maintained by the people living along the roads. They did their best to keep the roads level and free of obstacles… Read More »Highways

“He who counted”

“He who counted” (33:18) refers to tax collectors. If people couldn’t pay their taxes, their property might be seized or they might become forced laborers. If the official failed to collect all the taxes due, he himself was punished.


Watchtowers (32:14) sometimes served as signal beacons when an invading force was approaching. By lighting small fires at the tops of the towers, watchmen could signal other towns that danger was near.

Yearly “round” of feasts

Hebrew schoolchildren were taught the yearly “round” of feasts (29:1) at an early age. But the Lord is never impressed by insincere religious observances.


Chalkstone is a type of limestone that, when crushed, can be used for things such as whitewashing and as mortar for brick-laying. Because it was so easy to crush, Isaiah used it as a visual example of how the Lord will… Read More »Chalkstone


Cyprus (23:1) is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Seafarers like the people of Sidon (23:12) would have valued it as both a seaport and a place of refuge.

Competing Pharaohs

Competing Pharaohs. Beginning in about 1000 b.c., Egypt fell into a period of decline and royal feuding that lasted nearly 400 years. During Isaiah’s time, there were four rival pharaohs claiming the Egyptian throne.

Olive harvesting

Olive harvesting was very similar to grain harvesting. The olive harvesters would beat the branches of the tree with long poles, knocking the olives to the ground. The uppermost branches were left untouched so that the poor could gather what remained… Read More »Olive harvesting

Payment in lambs

Payment in lambs. The people of Moab offered to pay the Israelites to protect them from their enemies. Such tribute was often paid in goods rather than with money; since the Moabites had many sheep, that’s how they paid (16:1).

Joyful trees

Joyful trees. For many centuries, the “cedars of Lebanon” were hauled away by powerful empires like Assyria and Babylon. When Babylon is defeated, those trees will rejoice that “no woodcutter comes up against us” (14:8).

Farm animals and wild animals

The idea of tame farm animals living in harmony with wild animals such as lions and bears (11:6–9) would have been a startling thought for the people of Isaiah’s day, for whom such predators were a frequent threat (see also 65:17–25).


Yokes were wooden frames placed on work animals such as oxen to harness their power. When Israelites heard prophets like Isaiah speak of the yokes placed on them by their oppressors (10:27), they would readily understand what he meant.


Shaving. Being forced to shave was a mark of humiliation (7:20). In some nations of that time, the hair of slaves was shaved in a particular way to identify them as their owner’s property.

Ten acres of vineyard

Ten acres of vineyard would normally produce 10,000 gallons (37,850 liters) of wine yearly. Isaiah says that the Lord’s judgment upon Israel would be so severe that ten acres of vineyard would produce only one bath, or six gallons (23 liters).… Read More »Ten acres of vineyard

tinkling of feet

The tinkling of feet mentioned in 3:16 is probably the ankle bracelets many women wore in the ancient world. They were usually made of bronze and were attached permanently.

Pruning hooks

Pruning hooks (2:4) were used to cut away newly formed leaves and shoots from grape vines. The blade curved into a sharp hook at the tip, allowing it to capture and cut new growth more easily than a straight blade.