The land God intended the Israelites to possess was described for Joshua as being, “from the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast” (Joshua 1:4). The closest Israel came to occupying the entire land promised to it was during the reign of king David when a friendship was formed with the king of Tyre, the Philistine hold on Israelite territory was broken, the Moabites were subjugated, and Damascus was forced to pay tribute to David (David’s Conquests).
Because Israel never gained full control of the land, kingdoms such as Tyre and Syria continued to exist and were a continual threat to Israel’s well-being. The only way for God’s kingdom to truly be established was for these kingdoms to be destroyed. God used the Assyrian empire not only to execute his judgment on Israel, but also to punish the universal sin of the nations that rebelled against God and the establishment of his kingdom on earth.
Moab, a kingdom to the east of Israel, was described by Isaiah as an extortioner, a spoiler, and an oppressor that would be consumed out of the land (Isaiah 16:4). Concerning Moab, Isaiah prophesied, “but now the LORD hath spoken, saying, within three years, as the years of a hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble” (Isaiah 16:14). “The destruction of Moab was probably connected with an invasion by Sargon of Assyria in 715/713 B.C.” (note on Isaiah 15:1).
The crushing of Damascus, the capital of Syria, took place during the reign of Tiglath-pilneser king of Assyria who captured Damascus and made it an Assyrian province (note on Isaiah 17:3). Damascus was like Tyre in that it was included in the land given to the Israelites, but it could not be converted from Baal worship and it influenced Israel into practicing idolatry. Referring to Damascus’ destruction, Isaiah declared, “At that day shall a man look to his maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves or the images” (Isaiah 17:7-8).
An indication that Isaiah’s message about the doom of Egypt was both immediate and ultimate in its significance was its partial fulfillment in 670 B.C. when Esarhaddon conquered Egypt (Isaiah 19:4), but some of Egypt’s transformation had yet to occur. In particular, references to Egypt being converted to the Lord make it clear that Isaiah was talking about things that would happen after the Messiah was born (Isaiah 19:19-21). Isaiah’s shift in focus to the eternal kingdom of God indicated that the transformation of the world would not be complete until the Messiah’s reign began.
Speaking about the end of time or last days, Isaiah said, “In that day shall Israel be third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed by Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance” (Isaiah 19:24-25). God’s judgment for universal sin has not yet occurred, therefore, the transformation that occurred during Israel’s captivity was only phase one of God’s plan of redemption. In the end, Isaiah predicted, only God’s kingdom would be left standing.
Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof…Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously. (Isaiah 24:1, 23)