The Ideal and the Actual (Isaiah 2-4): Bible Study Questions

Isaiah 2:1-4:6 (2:1-5; 2:6-4:1; 4:2-6); 2:2a, 5, 22


"In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains..." "let us walk in the light of the Lord" "Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?" (Isa 2:2, 5, 22, NIV). [Exaltation of God and Humbling of the Proud; Present Judgment and Coming Glory; Hope in the Midst of Judgment.]


Theme: Despite our dark present reality (Isa 1:4-8, 10-15, 21-23), our hope is in Isaiah glorious vision of God's coming kingdom. Therefore, live in light of this (2:5). Set your heart on God. Live in the power of this future hope.

  1. The Ideal: Our Glorious Future Hope (2:1-5). [The opening positive part has 5 verses.] Promises of God's future kingdom produce trust.
    1. What God does: God establishes his rightful rule (2-3) and judges the nations (4).
    2. How we respond: We walk in his paths and in the light of the Lord (3b, 5).
  2. The Actual: Our Dark Present Reality (2:6-4:1). [The middle negative part has 44 verses!]  The removal of pride and the exaltation of God (2:6-22). The recurring common theme is human exaltation (pride, arrogance and self-sufficiency). This results in God's judgment on:
    1. God's people (6-11). Idolatry (magic, money and military might).
    2. All people (12-22). Humiliation, disillusionment and fear.
    3. Men. Oppressive leadership (3:1-15). Removal of Judah's arrogant male leaders.
    4. Women. Vanity leading to flirtatiousness, ostentation, shame and insecurity (3:16-4:1). Removal of Judah's proud women.
  3. The New: Our Glorious Future Hope (4:2-6). The Branch (What is yet to be). [The closing positive part has 5 verses.] God's glorious holy kingdom.
    1. The Branch of the Lord (4:2a).
    2. A fruitful land (4:2b).
    3. A holy city (4:3-4).
    4. A canopy of glory (4:5-6).


  1. What is the relationship between 2:1–5 and 2:6–4:1? How is Jerusalem described in 2:1–5 and in 2:6–4:1?
  2. Why is the "mountain" of God's house so important that all nations will come there (2:2)? What is the significance?
  3. Notice the same verb in 2:3 and 2:5. What does this say about salvation? God's intent for us (Gen 17:1; Eph 1:4)?
  4. What does it mean to judge (2:4)? Why do people not like to hear about judgment?


  1. Look for a common theme in 2:6-4:1. What is the problem with humanity (2:9, 11-12, 17; 3:16)? What is the most deadly sin according to church teaching (Gen 3:5; Prov 3:34; Jas 4:6)? Why?
  2. What is a common word in 2:6–8? What are the four topics? Compare to 6:3. What is the problem?
  3. How are 2:9–11 the logical result of 2:6–8? How do we find worth and significance (Lk 14:11)?
  4. Why does the worship of humanity (which is what idolatry amounts to) necessarily humiliate us (2:18–22). What is the point being made by 2:22?
  5. What is the repeated theme among the three stanzas in this section (3:1–5, 6–8, 9–15)? What happens when we idolize or idealize our human leaders? What should we do?
  6. Why does the prophet "pick on" the women here (3:16ff)? Why the "overkill" in the list of finery in 3:18–23? What is the relationship between 2:16 and 17, and between 2:18–23 and 2:24-4:1? How does this relate to what has been said ever since 2:6?


  1. What is the relationship between 4:2–6 and 5:1–30? How is Jerusalem described in 4:2–6 and in 5:1–30?
  2. What is the question about the identity of  the branch in 4:2?
  3. Compare the condition of Jerusalem in 2:6–4:1 with the condition described in 4:3–4. Specifically, what is the difference? Read Ex 19:5–6; Dt 28:9–10.
  4. How will the cleansing occur (4:4)? Reflect on what has been said about God's intended purpose in judgment.