He uses the tradition, that the farmers had of burning the fields to clear them, to give an example of what was going to be happening to their beloved home land. .
He uses the scorched grass and rotting roots to tell them that there would be judgement inflicted upon them as well as judgement that would come in the form of consequences which would be a direct result of their wickedness. The fire was going to take care of the surface problems and then the roots, which would usually be spared by the fire, would rot of their own accord.
Isaiah is also using this analogy to let them know that it would not be a quick process. It was going to take some time to see this judgement to its conclusion. (When Ezekiel was taken into captivity with the first wave of exiles it would be eleven years before Jerusalem fell and was completely devastated.)
When the children of Israel were taken into exile, the royal line of Judah looked like it would not be producing the messiah after all. Their royal roots had been rotten for a long time. The devastation seemed complete. Their way of life was gone. Everything they owned belonged to the enemy that marched in and obliterated their lives at God's command.
Of course they had the promise from Genesis 49:10 that said that Judah would remain the royal line, that the kingdom would not depart from the tribe of Judah until the messiah came, but now everything they saw would make them believe that the kingdom was gone.
Here is where these encouraging words from Isaiah become important, "Then it will come about in that day that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glory".(Isa. 11:10)
If we look just at the prophesies of Isaiah, he tells them many times that "the root" will come back and save them, and their land.
He says "the root" because he needed them to know that just as a root lies dormant in the ground, unseen but still full of life,the Lord was still with them. They could not see Him in their terrible trial. They had to be faithful and trust Him, and some would.
Daniel was a classic example of an Israelite whose faith in the Lord sustained him through the great exile. Many scholars believe that it was because of Daniel that the wise men (Matt. 2) were watching for the Lord's star and came to worship Him from the east. Daniel was a classic example of a man who waited to see the "root" come forth again.
In Isaiah 11:10-16, there is a glorious description of when the Lord will come and save them. It starts by saying that the "nations will resort to the root of Jesse" Jesse was King David's father.
In Isaiah 27:6 It says, "In the days to come Jacob will take root. Israel will blossom and sprout; (remember verse 5:24, "root will rot, blossom will blow away"), and they will fill the whole earth with fruit.
****side note, per Wikipedia, Israel is one of the worlds leading producers of fresh fruit and vegetables. They grow and incredible amount of fresh produce with a miraculously small amount of water.
In the end of verse 5:24 we are given the core reason why all of this had to take place. "For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel"
Hints have been given to the people through Isaiah, that the Judgement will come through a war with a foreign nation (Isa.3:25, 5:13), But now the terrible invasion is announced.
In verse 5:25, He starts to talk of the inevitable as if it's already happened. It is possible that he is talking of what had already happened to the northern kingdom of Israel.
At one point in Israel's history the nation split in two and became 2 separate kingdoms with separate Kings. The North was know as Israel and the southern kingdom, including Jerusalem was known as Judah. Assyria invaded the northern country of Israel in 722BC. This could have been where "corpses were laying like refuse in the middle of the street"(5:25). This would be a horrible idea to the Jewish people. To have their dead rotting in the street would mean a total breakdown of their society.
In verse 5:26, It talks about the Lord lifting up a standard to a distant nation, and whistling for it from the ends of the earth.
(the King James says "hissing" to them. In their day, bee keepers would hiss at their bees to get them to leave the hive in the morning and hiss to them to return in the evening. Not sure how that worked.) At any rate, hissing or whistling, the idea is the same. The Lord was in control of the attack on Jerusalem to the point that the enemy would respond to the direction of the Lord in the same way that bees, dogs or trained sheep would respond. The enemy was coming at His command and timing.
Isaiah then goes on to warn them about the readiness of the army coming to destroy them.
It is possible that they had already seen this happen to the northern kingdom.
In 2kings 16:7-9 Ahaz, king of Judah asks the king of Assyria for help to fight the kingdom of Israel. The King of Assyria conquered the the kingdom of Israel and displaced all the people. Samaria was the capital city and the King of Assyria did not destroy it but kept it for his own. He filled it with non-Jewish foreigners however. This is what caused the bad relationship between Jews and the people of Samaria which was still evident even in Jesus's day.
In verse ,5:27-28, he says that none of them are old and tired. Their equipment is in tip top shape and they are well armed and their horses are strong. The wheels of their chariots are like whirlwinds (a tornado is a whirlwind). (5:29) The enemy will be like a lioness. (they considered the lioness to be more fierce than the male lion). No one can fight against or stop a lioness as she carries off her prey.
Verse 5:30, The lioness will protect its capture. It will growl over it with the volume and unceasing steadfastness of the sea. Everywhere the people may look, they will see darkness and destruction.
(another side note. I live in Vermont very near the Canadian border. Occasionally there will be fires in Canada so severe that they darken our sky and make the air smokey. There was a lot of burning, when the cities of ancient times were invaded.)
Here are some other books of the bible that give more information about the captivity.
Ezekiel...16:46-49, Ezekiel was taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzer at the same time as King Ahaz and Daniel. They were taken 11 years before Jerusalem was destroyed. In these verses he talks about the southern kingdom not heeding the warning of what happened to their sister "Samaria", the northern kingdom.
Habakkuk. In the book of Habakkuk, He starts by complaining to the Lord about the sin of his people, (1:1-4) In verses 5-11, the Lord tells him what he is going to do to finally deal with the evil of the people. Starting in verse 12, Habakkuk is shocked by the Lord's response...keep reading, it's very interesting.
|ancient carving of the captives and their instruments|
And the end verse about the "little ones" being dashed against stones, was written to express a desire for revenge for what the invaders had done to the Jewish infants.
The more you read, the more you realize the connections between the different books of the bible. Keep reading ladies. The bible is so full of amazing history and lessons of faith.
God bless you ladies