Trusting Egypt Doesn't Work (Isaiah 31)

Isaiah 31

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!" (Isa 31:1, ESV) "Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against" (Isa 31:6, NIV).

The major theme of this section--chs. 28-33--is "Woe to those who do not trust (wait on) God" with Isa 31:1 being the key verse; it is also the 5th woe in this section. To recap:

  1. the 1st woe was against the drunken leaders of Ephraim (Isa 28:1).
  2. the 2nd woe was against those in Jerusalem who presumed themselves as God's people (Isa 29:1).
  3. the 3rd woe was against those who hid their counsel from God (Isa 29:15).
  4. the 4th woe was against those who stubbornly insisted on their own plans (Isa 30:1).
  5. this 5th woe is specifically against those "who go down to Egypt for help" (Isa 31:1).
Thus, the climax (or nadir) has been reached. Drunken leaders seeking their own glory gave ungodly advise which stubborn and rebellious people adopt without seeking God's counsel. They have chosen to trust men and horses instead of "the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 31:1). They chose to trust created things rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25). Isaiah 31 duplicates, in shorter form, the structure and content of Isaiah 30.
  1. Trusting Egypt Doesn't Work / Don't trust Egypt (1-3). [The folly of dependence on Egypt.] This will not help and necessarily involves rejection of God. They choose a poor and useless option and reject the true.
  2. Trusting God Does / Trust the Lord (4-9). The Lord is the only One who can deliver you. He will fight for Jerusalem and destroy Assyria. This is similar to 30:19-33. Negatively, Isaiah abolishes the false hope, and positively, he depicts the grace of God in such a way as to attract the people to God. He makes three points:
    1. Why does trusting God work? God will defend Jerusalem (4-5). The Lord cannot be diverted from his gracious purpose. Isa 31:5 uses an image from nature to depict the Lord--as a mother bird hovering over her nest, seeking to distract the attacker or, if necessary, to give her own life to protect the nestlings.
    2. How does one trust God? Turn back to God and away from idols (6-7). Since the promises of the Lord's care are assured, then surely they should cease their revolt against God and return to obeying him (Isa 31:6).
    3. Why should one trust God? God will destroy Jerusalem's enemies, for Assyria is no match for the Lord (8-9). Just as 31:1-3 is the most specific in denouncing the counsel to trust Egypt, so 31:8-9 is the most specific in promising deliverance from the Assyrian threat (Isa 37:36). Isaiah's main point is that it is much wiser to trust God than Egypt in the face of the Assyrians. The Assyrians will put the Egyptians to flight, but God will put the Assyrians to flight. God is the flame that burns in "Zion," and anyone who puts a hand in that "furnace" will likely get burned.