Tag Archives: The prophet Isaiah

Visualizing Isaiah 30: not a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to dip water out of the cistern

There were those in Israel who wanted to rely on Assyria and others who wanted to rely on Egypt. The prophet Isaiah urged that the LORD’S people wait on Him.

Trust in Egypt would be like dependence on a wall that was ready to collapse. The destruction would be as complete as “that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.” (Isaiah 30:12-14 ESV)

The Believer’s Bible Commentary has this comment on our text:

Let it be recorded for posterity that the treaty with Egypt (and all such misplaced trust) is a blatant rejection of the law of the Lord through His prophets. Judah will see that Egypt is a poor wall of defense. In fact the high wall will bulge and crash. It will be smashed as completely as an earthenware vessel, with no fragments big enough to use in minor chores.

During archaeological excavations thousands of broken pottery shards are recovered. The destruction (judgment) of the LORD would be so complete that there would not even be a piece large enough to use to move coals of fire from a hearth, or large enough to dip water from a cistern.

In the photo below, made at Ramat Rachel between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, we see part of a pile of pottery shards recovered during the excavation of the site.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If enough large pieces of a pot or jar are found they may be restored. This can be seen in the photo below that was taken at the En-Dor archaeological museum.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jeremiah used a similar illustration during the Babylonian period (19:10-11).

Visualizing Isaiah: a booth in a vineyard

Because the events of the Bible took place in the Ancient Near East, we expect it to use illustrations from that world. Many of these cultural practices are different from those we know, but others are similar.

The prophet Isaiah describes what will happen to Jerusalem as a result of their sin.

And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. (Isaiah 1:8 ESV)

Almost everyone has seen a fruit or vegetable booth along a highway during the picking season. Months later we may see that same booth in disrepair. In Biblical times, watchtowers and temporary booths were set up in fields to provide a moment of shade for the workers.

Our photo today was made a few miles east of Sardis (Revelation 3:1) in modern Turkey. It is near a vineyard and set amidst another crop. One can easily image it still standing in disarray when the winter rains come.

A booth in the field, east of Sardis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A temporary booth in the field, east of Sardis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Judeans of the 8th century B.C. could easily visualize what Isaiah was describing, and those who were living when the city was destroyed by the Babylonians would see it as a fact.

Jeremiah’s lament over the city after 586 B.C. illustrates the point:

How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. (Lamentations 1:1 ESV)