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Passover and Exodus themes in Isaiah

The Background

When Isaiah's contemporary, the young king Hezekiah (25 years old), ascended the throne of Judah (c 720 BC), he began to purify the Temple, which had been defiled and neglected under his forefathers, and to reinstitute the true worship of the LORD there (2Ki 18:1-7; 2Ch 29). He next invited all Israel -- including those who were left in the north after the Assyrian invasion of Israel -- to come to Jerusalem to keep a renewed Passover (2Ch 30). This was accomplished in the second month (not the first month, as is the regular requirement) because the cleansing of the Temple and the people was not complete at the earlier time.

In the 14th year of his reign, when Hezekiah was 39 years old (2Ki 18:13), Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked the Southern Kingdom, Judah. He captured most of the defensed cities of Judah until, finally, Jerusalem was the only place of safety left (2Ki 18; 2Ch 32). At the same time ("in those days": 2Ki 20:1) Hezekiah was struck down with a deadly disease. But through his faith, and prayers, Hezekiah's life was spared an additional 15 years and his nation was also saved from the Assyrian threat through the miraculous overthrow of Sennacherib's army -- 185,000 strong -- by an Angel of the LORD (2Ki 20:1-6; 19:35,36; 2Ch 32:21-23).

There are good reasons to think that both Hezekiah's healing and the nation's salvation came at the time of the Passover:
"Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer" (26:20,21).
Deliverance from the Assyrian is plainly described in "Passover" language.

"And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail. The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria; with his scepter he will strike them down" (30:29-31).
The Passover was the only "holy festival" in the Jewish calendar which occurred at night!
"Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will 'pass over' it and will rescue it... Assyria will fall by a sword that is not of man; a sword, not of mortals, will devour them. They will flee before the sword and their young men will be put to forced labor. Their stronghold will fall because of terror; at sight of the battle standard their commanders will panic, declares the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, whose furnace is in Jerusalem" (31:5-9).
In this case, the city of Jerusalem -- rather than the individual houses of the faithful in Egypt -- became the place of safety, protected by the "passing over" or hovering Angel of Life.

Future fulfillments?

Many of the prophecies of Isaiah have a dual fulfillment. A first, or primary, fulfillment always relates to the days of Isaiah himself. (This was necessary, because it was by some partial fulfillment in his own day that every prophet of the Lord was confirmed as a true prophet rather than a false one: Deu 18:20-22). But also, a second, or final, fulfillment relates usually to the Messiah of whom Hezekiah and Isaiah were "types" -- sometimes to events of his first coming, sometimes of his second coming, and sometimes to both!

Therefore, many of the prophecies of Isaiah (and maybe especially the ones having to do with the Passover and/or the Exodus) can be read as Last Days prophecies, about a great King (the Messiah, "son" or descendant of Hezekiah) who saves his nation Israel (ie, the portion thereof which has faith in him) when they are threatened in the end times by another "Assyrian" invader (at the time of another Passover?). This point should be kept in mind in any consideration of Isaiah.

Some Isaiah references
Isa 4:5: "Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy."
The allusion is to the pillar of fire and canopy of cloud in the wilderness. God protected Jerusalem from Sennacherib's destruction. God will provide such umbrella protection in the future.
Isa 10:24-27: "Therefore, this is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: 'O my people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did. Very soon my anger against you will end and my wrath will be directed to their destruction.' The LORD Almighty will lash them with a whip, as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb; and he will raise his staff over the waters, as he did in Egypt. In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck... "
In Isaiah's day, Assyria was overthrown like Egypt was, and the Jewish captives went free. In the future, God will overthrow the Last Day "Assyrian" and free His people.
Isa 11:15,16: "The LORD will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that men can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt."
Who are the "slaves" who went free in the "exodus" of Hezekiah's day? Probably some or all of the 200,000 Jews from the Northern Kingdom who had been carried away captive to Assyria or Babylon (a vassal city of Assyria at this time) only a few years earlier. Now, out of fear for the God of Israel who could so easily destroy a great army, Sennacherib releases his new slaves and sends them back home. Like Pharaoh, he must have said something like: "Get out; take whatever you want and leave; I never want to see another Jew!"

And what about the Last Days? A similar deliverance for Jewish believers from Assyria and Egypt (where they have evidently been carried by the Arab invaders) is also alluded to in Isa 19:23-25; 27:12,13; 35:1-10; 43:1-7; 52:1-10 -- as well as Jer 3:18; 16:14,15; Joel 3:2-7; Zec 10:9-11; 14:2; and possibly Rev 13:10 and Rev 16:12 (which appears to quote Isaiah 11:15).
Isa 19:1,3,5,11,15: "An oracle concerning Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them... The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing... the waters of the river will dry up, and the riverbed will be parched and dry... There is nothing Egypt can do -- head or tail, palm branch or reed."
God fought against the idols of Egypt, and against Egypt's "foolish counselors". Will there be a Last Days realization of this prophecy, to match the one in Hezekiah's day?
Isa 19:19-22: "In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the LORD at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD... The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them."
This is Exo 2:23-25 again: God's people, in bitter servitude, cry out to Him; He hears their cry, and sends a deliverer.

Will some of the Egyptians (and Assyrians) worship God too? Consider Isaiah 19:23-25, where these erstwhile enemies of God and His people will be blessed along with Israel. Surely this is a vision never truly realized in the past. What a wonderful thing it will be -- and soon! -- when it becomes reality in Christ's Kingdom!
Isa 27:1: "In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea."
The two "serpents" are probably the Tigris River (which "glides" or "flees" or "rushes" -- cp Isa 8:7,8) and the Euphrates River (which "coils" or "twists") -- hence identifying Assyria/Babylonia (Syria and/or Iraq); the "monster of the sea" would be the crocodile of the Nile River -- signifying the power of Egypt. Thus Isa 27:1 is explained by...
Isa 27:12,13: "In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem."

Isa 29:7,8: "Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night -- as when a hungry man dreams that he is eating, but he awakens, and his hunger remains; as when a thirsty man dreams that he is drinking, but he awakens faint, with his thirst unquenched. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion."
("Ariel" -- which signifies either "the Lion of God" or "the Altar of God" -- is evidently a figurative name for Jerusalem.) Here is the destruction of God's enemies, who disappear like a dream in the night! This recalls, of course, the night of the first Passover.
Isa 35:1-10: "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom... they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you'... Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way... the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."
This section is filled with analogies to the Exodus. Israel's enemies are defeated, and the captives go free, through the desert -- where water is miraculously furnished to sustain them (cp 41:17,18; 43:19-21; 48:20,21) -- walking in the "way" set out by their God, until they come in rejoicing to Zion, or Jerusalem. Something very much like this must have happened to the captives in Assyria and Babylon when they were freed after Sennacherib's great defeat. Is this a Last Days prophecy also? Surely!
Isa 37:36: "Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning -- there were all the dead bodies!"
The enemies of God's people smitten by an Angel of the Lord!

Will there yet be a similar defeat of a great occupying army of Arabs in Israel (Joel 3:11-16; Psa 83:9-18; Oba 1:15-20)?
Isa 51:9,10: "Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over? "
"Rahab", or "strong one", was a well-known nickname for Egypt. The "monster" (or "dragon") refers to the crocodile in the Nile, a Biblical symbol of Egypt. "Cross over" refers to the Red Sea crossing. So Hezekiah's people were being urged to remember the Exodus. But Last Day Israel will one day talk about a deliverance which far exceeds that of the Mosaic Exodus:
" 'However, the days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when men will no longer say, "As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt," but they will say, "As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them." For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers'" (Jer 16:14,15).

Isa 63:11,12: "Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people -- where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses' right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting renown... "
"Everlasting renown"? Is this an Exodus/Passover term? Yes, it is equivalent to the everlasting, or covenant, Name of God -- Yahweh, or Jehovah -- revealed to Moses in the burning bush of Sinai (Exo 3:14). The God of Israel is from everlasting to everlasting; He is the Eternal God, and He vows to make Himself known to all nations through His people Israel. That purpose is as firm now as it was in Moses' day, or Isaiah's day, and it will be fulfilled in the future when God, through His Son, delivers His people (the faithful remnant of believing Israel) out of Egypt and Assyro-Babylonia once again.

Deliverance at Passover?

Reasons -- valid reasons -- may be produced for reading the "times" of Dan 12 (and Rev 11 -- 13) as descriptive of a literal period of about 3 1/2 years. The location of the special "feast days" in the Jewish calendar allows for the possibility that all three termination dates (the 1,260th day, the 1,290th day, and the 1,335th day) fall on special "holy convocation" days. This is either a most extraordinary coincidence, or a divine design.

In this scenario, a period of 3 1/2 years could begin with the Feast of Tabernacles (in the 7th month of the Jewish calendar) and end at Passover (in the first month). And the final 45 days (during which is accomplished the last great deliverance of Israel) could begin at that same Passover (the 1,290th day) and culminate at Pentecost (the 1,335th day).

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