One of the Bible passages I find difficult to understand is Isaiah 10:28-32. The New International Version renders it as:
"28 They enter Aiath,
they pass through Migron,
they store supplies at Micmash.
29 They go over the pass, and say,
‘We will camp overnight at Geba.’
Gibeah of Saul flees.
30 Cry out, O Daughter of Gallim!
Listen, O Laishah!
31 Madmenah is in flight;
the people of Gebim take cover.
32 This day they will halt at Nob;
they will shake their fist
at the mount of the Daughter of Zion,
at the hill of Jerusalem.”
“They” in vv.28-29 refer to the Assyrians. This we know from v.24. But what significance do the places mentioned above have, places such as Aiath, Migron and others? I reached for a Bible atlas and a Bible encyclopaedia for enlightenment but got nowhere.
The natural tendency is to assume that the passage is about the Assyrians and to then proceed to dig up more information about what they actually did. However, the passage is not about the Assyrians. Neither is it about the places named, although the Bible atlas does show that the places in vv.28-29 lie in a north-south line, the route the Assyrian army would take towards Jerusalem, their main target. But if the passage does not tell us much about the Assyrians, nor about the places mentioned, could it be that it tells us about God? After all, the major purpose of the Bible is to reveal God to mankind. Let’s see.
“They enter Aiath” is God foretelling, through His prophet Isaiah, what the Assyrian army would do: they would conquer Aiath. When an attacking army entered a city or a town in those days, that means that they captured it, either by force of arms or because the defenders had surrendered. How awesome is God that He knew what was going to happen to Aiath. Aiath is mentioned only once in the Bible, in the very passage we are examining. So it was a rather obscure town. Yet, God knew what the Assyrians would do in such an obscure town long before it happened.
“They pass through Migron” similarly foretells the capture of Migron. No army passes through a town unless it has control over it.
“They store supplies at Micmash” reveals God’s foreknowledge of the Assyrian army’s activities and not just their movements. God knows all our activities, even secret military activities like the storage of food supplies, weapons, and other materials needed for warfare.
“We will camp overnight at Geba” foretold what the Assyrian army commanders would say to one another in their planning meeting. Although such meetings are held in secret, God already heard them long before the words were spoken. He hears what we say in our most secret conversations even before we say them.
And what language did the Assyrian generals speak? Assyrian, which is very similar to Babylonian. Yet God understood them, just as he understands all human languages and dialects. How amazing is our God!.
Is there anything we can ever hide from this almighty, all-knowing God? In the earliest days of mankind, Adam and Eve probably thought that God would not know if they ate one fruit. After all, does a tree not produce many fruits in the fruiting season? And Cain obviously thought no one would know that he had killed his brother Abel. Since then, countless fools have also thought that they could murder, swindle, cheat, rape and commit terrible sins, and hide these from the eyes of others and from God. But the God who heard the Assyrian army commanders planning where they would stop also knows every one of the sins we commit.
So God, who knew everything the Assyrians would say and do, also knew what the Israelites would do and say. God is not limited to any place or people. He saw the people of Ramah trembling, the people of Gibeah fleeing, and the distress of the “Daughter of Gallim”, of Laishah and Anathoth. What did all these Israelites do in their distress? Did they turn to God for help? Alas, no! And God knew beforehand that they would shake their fists at the hill of Jerusalem (10:32) where the Temple of God was. Were they not blaming God for their troubles instead of repenting and turning to Him for help?
Since God knew all this way ahead of time, is He not a long-suffering, patient God who eventually punished a sinful and unrepentant nation with ample justification? Does the passage not reveal God to be fear-inspiring and awesome in His knowledge of everything we do and say, and also His ability to punish with justice? Truly the ancient sages who proclaimed that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom knew what they were talking about.