Isaiah 24 –
Is It Speaking Of Armageddon?

*Getting the Translation Right
*The Various Renderings
*Yahweh, Jehovah, or the Lord?
*Did He Really Say 'Earth?'
*Which 'Land' or 'Home' is it Talking About?
*The 'Earth' in Verses 21-23
*The 'Faithful' that will Remain
*The Fate of 'the Nations'
*Our Conclusions

Getting the Translation Right

If you realize that the Hebrew word הארץ and the Greek word γη can be correctly translated into three different English words, you will understand the problems with properly translating Isaiah 24, and why there are so many misunderstandings about the meaning of this Chapter. For both of the above words simply refer to the land underneath you; and whether that means the ground under your feet, the land you are living in, or to the whole globe of the earth is a decision that Bible translators have to make. And a wrong decision can change the implied meaning quite markedly. Also, there are differences between the Masoretic (Hebrew) and the Septuagint (Greek) texts, which we will discuss.

The Various Renderings

Take a look at verse 1, for example. The Hebrew text reads: הנה יהוה בוקק הארץ ובולקה ועוה פניה והפיץ ישביה, or, Look Jehovah laying/waste the/(ground, land, or earth) and/devastating/her and/He/will/ruin faces/of/her and/He/will/scatter her inhabitants.

But the Greek text says: ιδου κυριος καταφθειρει την οικουμενην και ερημωσει αυτην και ανακαλυψει το ĻροσωĻον αυτης και διασĻερει τους ενοικουντας εν αυτη, or, Look! The/Lord will/waste the/habitation and desolate/it and uncover the/face of/it and scatter those dwelling in it.

Now, look at how The World English Bible translates this verse from the Hebrew text: ‘Behold, Yahweh makes the earth empty, makes it waste, turns it upside down, and scatters its inhabitants.’

Then compare this to the way that Young’s Literal Translation reads: ‘Lo, Jehovah is emptying the land, And is making it waste, And hath overturned it on its face, And hath scattered its inhabitants.’

And compare that to the way we have translated it from the Septuagint (Greek text):
‘{Look!} The Lord will waste to the whole place where you live…
He will totally destroy it,
Then, He will uncover its face
And scatter those living within it.’

So, which translation is correct… will Yahweh empty the whole earth; will Jehovah just empty the land; or will the Lord waste the whole place where [they] live? As you can see, the proper translation can make a huge difference in the way this prophecy is interpreted.

Yahweh, Jehovah, or the Lord?

Note that the Hebrew text says that יהוה (YHWH) is bringing the destruction. And though YaHWeH (as The World English Bible renders it) is likely closer to the original pronunciation of God's Name, the common spelling in English (as found in Young’s Literal Translation) is JeHoVaH. Yet, notice that we rendered it as does the Septuagint, κυριος (The Lord), which is pretty atypical for us. Why did we do that?

In our translating, we have found that the four Hebrew letters יהוה seem to have been inserted throughout the existing Hebrew texts after the fact and often inappropriately, possibly by the Masoretic copyists. It's not that the Name wasn't originally there, it just may have been deleted in the texts that they had available, so they later reinserted it wherever they thought it should be. Why have we concluded this? Because there are too many instances where the Name is applied inappropriately (see 'Uses in the Hebrew Text Untrustworthy' in the linked document, 'Jehovah'). So this is why we left it as 'the Lord' in this verse, because we really don't know which 'Lord' it is speaking of, the Lord God or the Messiah. Unfortunately, later Hebrew copyists have clearly tried to corrupt any Bible verses that might have had Messianic references.

Did He Really Say 'Earth?'

So, is it the whole earth that is going to be destroyed, as The World English Bible implies? Just consider what the verse says… if God empties the whole earth, what inhabitants will remain to be scattered? It is obvious from the context that this probably isn’t the proper translation of the Hebrew words. On the other hand, Young’s Literal translation makes sense when it foretells that Jehovah will empty the land and scatter its inhabitants, for that's what really happened thereafter, when the Babylonian armies came and desolated JeruSalem.

It is interesting, however, that the Septuagint didn’t use the word γη (ground, land, or earth) here, but rather the word οικουμενην, meaning 'the place where they lived,' or literally, 'their home.'

Which 'Land' or 'Home' is it Talking About?

As you can see from the meanings of the original words, it appears as though neither the Hebrew or Greek texts seem to be talking about a destruction that is to come upon the whole earth (as in Armageddon), but rather, of the destruction of the land of Judah, or possibly of all Israel, or possibly of the land of Tyre (see the previous Chapter). For notice why this destruction was to come, as explained in verses 4, 5:
‘Then the land's most important will mourn
For [that place] that is thought of as lawless…
They'll wail for the people who live there…
Those who have broken [God's] Laws…
For they've wiped away and traded away,
The Sacred Agreement of the ages!

Of course, the only land that claimed to be under God’s Sacred Agreement and His Laws at the time was the land of Judah, so despite the fact that the previous Chapter was talking about the land of Tyre, the context here indicates that the prophecy concerns the land that is under the Laws of God!

Also, notice that verse 13 says:
‘Yes, all these things will come to that land,
There in the midst of the nations.’

So you can see that this prophecy isn't about 'the nations' being wiped away, just the land of Judah.

The 'Earth' in Verses 21-23

Yet, contrary to the wording of Young’s Literal Translation, the whole earth does seem to be indicated in some of the words that follow. For verses 21, 22 go on to say:
‘God will raise His hand in that day
Against the arrangement of the heavens
And against the kings of the earth.

They'll be gathered as one congregation,
And in castle dungeons, be locked,
Where they'll stay through many generations.'

The reason why we have concluded that γη should be translated as earth in this instance, is because it speaks of many kings, and there was just one king reigning in Judah. So these later verses could in fact be referring to the Battle of Armageddon, which is to be God’s fight against the kings of the earth (see Revelation 16:12-16). Yet, notice that this battle seems to be preceded by what was described in the first verses of that Chapter, the desolating of the land of God’s Covenant people.

And thereafter, it appears as though God's King (Jesus) begins his rule in that land. For notice what we're told in verse 23:
'Then the bricks will melt and the walls will all fall;
The moon will be sad and the sun will be shamed;
For the Lord will start reigning in JeruSalem…
And before Zion's elders, he'll be glorified.

The 'Faithful' that will Remain

That some faithful would remain in that sacred land is indicated by the words found in verse 6, which says:
‘This curse will then devour [your] land,
For those who live there have sinned!
Then, only the poor will remain in the land…
Just a few men will be left.

Verse 14 says:
Those who remain in the land,
Will rejoice, to the glory of the Lord.

And going back to verse 2, notice the happy results that are foretold for those who survive:
And [those who remain] will then be like priests;
Servants will then become masters;
Handmaids will then become ladies;
Those who buy will be those who sell;
Those who borrow will lend,
And those who owe will be owed.

The Fate of 'the Nations'

But, what will happen to the rest of the people of ‘the nations?’ Well, verses 15 and 16 indicate that many of them will still be around and they’ll turn to the worship of the True God, for we read there:
‘And the glory of the Lord will be [seen]
On the islands throughout the seas…
And the Name of the Lord will be honored.
[For all the peoples will say]:
O God of IsraEl, Jehovah;
Of [Your] miracles, we've heard, throughout the whole earth,
And there's hope for those who respect You.

Our Conclusions

So, is the prophecy at Isaiah 24 foretelling Armageddon or not? The answer seems to be yes. For though the prophecy starts out by foretelling the bad things that would happen to the people of JeruSalem because of their unrighteousness, it thereafter goes on to tell of many things that didn't happen after JeruSalem's destruction by the Babylonians or after its later destruction by the armies of Rome. Rather, it appears as though the things that happened to those ancient people of God were just a 'type' of greater things that will happen in the future. And if so, then this is what we can expect:
Š Those calling themselves God's people will be attacked and carried away
Š Those who attacked God's people will themselves be destroyed (Armageddon?)
Š God's Kingdom will be restored under His 'Lord,' bringing indescribable blessings to His people.

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