Isaiah 10: Woe Unto Those Who Oppress the Poor

Isaiah 10 contains condemnation of those who target the poor, a battle plan, and a prophecy ties the beginning of the world to the end.

Helping the Poor

Photocredit: Feliciotti
Evangelicals flock to the Republican party, many citing religious beliefs. This leads people to think the Republican party exudes Christian beliefs, but it's platform is just as secular as that of the Democrats. After all, politicians from this party have just as many scandals, which should tell you something. The most obvious reason the Republican party is not a Godly party, is summed up in Isaiah 10:1-4.

The condemnation of anyone who would write into law policies designed to hurt the poor in this passage is powerful; it even leads off with a woe. God isn't calling this a minor infraction, He is calling this out as a heinous crime! The Republican party supposedly supports lower taxes, something I think we all would want, however, in order to achieve this, they usually want to cut funds from programs that help the poor, disabled, etc. Dr. Ben Carson, who ran in the 2016 election and was appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by Republican president Donald Trump, has made numerous comments disparaging the poor. Not only does he think poverty is a state of mind, but he thinks they should have to pay more for housing.[2][3] Donald Trump refers to poorer countries as "s***hole" countries, and doesn't want people from those countries immigrating to the country.[1] If that wasn't enough to see a trend of discrimination against the poor, the fact that the party wants to take away healthy and subsidized lunches from schools should say it all.[4][5][6] For some of those kids, it might be the only meal they get each day.

The United States isn't the only country that struggles with treating the poor properly. Israel had difficulties in this area as well. The further we drift away from God, the easier it is to become selfish and greedy. Suddenly you are justifying making people's lives harder for your own benefit. God says that those who create policies to disenfranchise the poor are going to pay the price.


God uses the Assyrian army to inflict His angry upon Israel. The Assyrians dismantled the northern kingdom, taking them into captivity and repopulating the area with the Samaritans. Even though this was exactly what God wanted to occur, the Assyrians knew nothing of God and His plan. Their desire is simply to destroy and to conquer. This was interesting, because it reminds us that God's hand is always in the events of life, even for those who don't worship Him. Personally, I think this happens both for punishment and reward. Some people, even those without faith, are put in our lives to create challenges meant to strengthen our relationship with God or to punish us for straying from God (which sometimes might also bring us closer to Him).

Assyria's lack of relationship with God causes them to be boastful, however. They believe that they are a strong nation of their own accord. As they defeated each nation listed in Isaiah 10:9, they believed they had defeated the gods of those nations. Defeating Israel, in their mind, meant they had defeated the God of Abraham in their minds. God couldn't let that be the final statement. So, once Assyria carried out the task God intended for them, He would then punish Assyria as a show that they had not defeated the God of Israel—He is undefeatable.


16Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts,
send among his fat ones leanness;
and under his glory he shall kindle a burning
like the burning of a fire.
17And the light of Israel shall be for a fire,
and his Holy One for a flame:
and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;
18And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body:
and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth.
19And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few,
that a child may write them.Isaiah 10:16-19 KJV
In the next section (Isaiah 10:16-19), God talks about the judgement that will come upon the people. Those who were well off (fat) would begin to struggle (become lean). This probably applies to wealth and prosperity in addition to literal loss of weight from famine. Back then, people's livelihood came from farms and livestock. If the livestock died, or the crops didn't produce a good harvest they had nothing to eat and nothing to sell.

What I find most interesting about this passage however, is what follows God's proclamation to make the fat lean. God starts talking about light and fire coming out of Israel, both of which represent God symbolically throughout the Bible. God appears as a pillar of fire to the Israelites during the Exodus (Exodus 13:21) and as the burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3). In the New Testament, we find out that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). When you apply that to this passage, it sounds a lot like the final battle between God and Satan. Perhaps this is a double prophecy, having a short term fulfillment in the destruction of Assyria, and an ultimate fulfillment in the final battle.

One the first things God says this fire does is destroy thorns and briars. Where else are thorns mentioned? In Genesis 3, as part of Adam's punishment after the fall, God says that the ground will yield thorns and thistles, making it difficult for people to manage. To defeat the thorns and thistles of the ground would be to return us to the original state. The other obvious mentioning of thorns in during the crucifixion of Jesus. They put a crown of thorns on His head to mock Him (Matthew 27:29). Jesus overcame those thorns by rising from the dead, but He will also overcome their mocking by taking His rightful place as king.

Another hint that this passage is talking about God is the fact that the fire consumes both soul and body. Matthew 10:28 tells us to only fear He who can kill both the body and the soul; God is the only one capable of that. It is at judgment day that everyone will either experience eternal life or the final death. Those who are condemned to the final death will lose both their soul and their body forever. They will be eternally dead.

The prophecy is concluded by telling us that what is left will be so few in number a child can count them. These could be literal trees, and a reference to the destruction of the land. Or these could be the trees that bore good fruit, as in the fruits of the Spirit, which would make them the saved (Matthew 7:17-19). Out of a vast multitude of people (forest) very few people (trees) will be saved. We see in the very next set of verse, God promises a remnant of the people will survive and turn back to Him.

Who is Oreb?

Isaiah 10:26 is appointing a punishment based on a slaughter of the Israelites by the Midianites, led by someone named Oreb. When I first started the blog, I tried to keep a catalogue of all the people mentioned, but that became extremely difficult. So by the time I got to Oreb, I wasn't as diligent about taking note of who Oreb was or his significance. There are many people in the Bible we read about once and never hear about again, but many times there's a connection somewhere else in the Bible. This is one of those times. Thankfully, I have a study Bible with references to related chapters.

If you revisit Judges 7, you'll find Gideon (one of Israel's judges) battling the Midianites who had been oppressing the Israelites for 7 years. Judges 7:25 identifies one of the Midianite princes as Oreb, who apparently has a rock named after him. He was killed upon this rock. Isaiah 10:26 is invoking this image to say that Israel will triumph over it's enemies because God is fighting the battle, just as He led Gideon and as He parted the Red Sea.

Burden Released

These horses are technically yoked together.
When you read Isaiah 10:27, you might wonder what it means for a yoke to be taken off your neck. Putting context clues together, you probably gathered a yoke was a bad thing, but the average person (in the U.S. at least), probably has never seen an actual yoke. A yoke is what connects two oxen (or any animal, really) for the purpose of pulling something.[8] The yoke binds the two animals to each other. They must move in the same direction, at the same speed, at the same time; this is why God tells us not to be unequally yoked with people. However, it happens more than we'd like to admit. We allow ourselves to become yoked with ungodly people or even inanimate things (like drugs, a job, fame, etc.). When we are tethered to this baggage, it's hard for us to fulfill the purpose God has for us.

In Isaiah 10:27, God is promising to release the yokes that bind us and trap us in ungodliness. This is the equivalent of breaking chains and freeing slaves. This passage reminded me of a popular hymn we sung at the church I grew up in: "Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary."[7]

Battle Path

When God tells Isaiah this information, He doesn't hold back any details. We are even given the path Assyria will take to attack the people. It's pretty hard to win a war when the opposing side knows all of your strategies, don't you think? If we know you're going to attack a particular city, won't we fortify it? If we know a bomb is going to drop on a specific location, wouldn't we try to stop the bomb [9] or evacuate the city?

Many times, people wonder why prophecy in the Bible is so difficult to understand, particularly the book of Revelation. Prophecy is God's battle plan. God knows every move the devil will make; He knows every move mankind will make—He's insured the victory. On the other hand, the devil has no idea what God is doing. While the devil may understand some of what is in Revelation, he feels bold enough to continue his path under the assumption that we won't figure it out. If the Bible was straight forward and told us literal names, places, times, etc. the devil would have changed his whole strategy. In fact, during the dark ages, even during the adoption of Christianity by Rome, the book would have been destroyed or heavily altered. We would have lost the battle plan and no one would have a chance to out smart the devil...

Earthly countries follow this same protocol. During World War II, the allies were in a frenzy to crack the secrets of the Enigma, a machine used by the Germans to transmit coded messages. An entire group was created to decipher the messages that were transmitted on the machine, and the information was used to give the allies an edge. This group remained a secret because if Germany knew their machines had been decoded, they would have developed a new code.[10]

Remember this as you study prophecy. God is giving His people a coded message meant to help us survive the devastation that lies ahead.


  1. Ali Vitali, Kasie Hunt and Frank Thorp V. "Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as 'shithole' countries". NBC News. January 11, 2018
  2. Willa Frej. "Ben Carson Thinks Poor People Should Pay Higher Rent If They Want Government Help". Huffington Post. April 26, 2018
  3. Pam Fessler. "Housing Secretary Ben Carson Says Poverty Is A 'State Of Mind'". NPR. May 25, 2017
  4. Jay Newton-Small. "Michelle Obama Bites Back at Critics of Her Healthy School Lunch Standards. Time. May 27, 2014
  5. Ezra Rosser. "The Republican party is a threat to school lunches for hungry kids". The Hill. August 25, 17
  6. Judy Keen. "Republicans take aim at school nutrition standards, opening bigger debate". Star Tribune. May 6, 2017
  7. John M. Moore. "Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary". Adventist Hymns. 1952
  8. "yoke". Merriam Webster; visited May 2018
  9. "United States National Missile Defense". Wikipedia; visited May 2018
  10. "Enigma: German Code Device". Encyclopædia Britannica. February 14, 2018

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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