Woe to you, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David settled! Add year to year and let your cycle of festivals go on. Yet I will besiege Ariel; she will mourn and lament, she will be to me like an altar hearth. I will encamp against you on all sides; I will encircle you with towers and set up my siege works against you. Brought low, you will speak from the ground; your speech will mumble out of the dust. Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth; out of the dust your speech will whisper. But your many enemies will become like fine dust, the ruthless hordes like blown chaff. Suddenly, in an instant, the Lord Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night— as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion. – Isaiah 29:1-8
So this verse contains only a tangential reference to water in the form of thirst, but it was such an interesting passage I decided to explore it today. I had no idea that the city of David, Jerusalem, was also referred to as Ariel. I am pretty sure that this term has nothing to do with a scantily clad Disney character, so I did a little investigation into the meaning and background of the word Ariel and it was an interesting “dig“.
Apparently there is some dispute about the origin and meaning of the word. According to the Jewish virtual library (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org) Ariel, “ari-el, can mean “lion of God” or “Great Lion.” I find this meaning intriguing in that one of my favorite fictional characters is Aslan the lion from the Chronicles of Narnia. The other possible meaning which I uncovered is more disturbing. According to the web site Arabim.com (http://www.abarim-publications.com) Arial can also mean hearth or altar. In this sense it would mean a place where sacrifices, specifically burnt offerings, were made. This has led some to interpret this passage as a description of a coming holocaust for Jerusalem which involves burning or incineration. I do not claim to be an old testament scholar so I will leave the debate there and push on with the rest of this passage.
This passage seems to be describing God’s judgment against Israel in Jerusalem: “I will encamp against you on all sides; I will encircle you with towers and set up my siege works against you.” The sense is that this judgment is to be a great humbling of the people of Israel so that they will ultimately turn to God. They are to be beaten into “dust” in this coming calamity that involves “many enemies” who “will become like fine dust, the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.” It sounds like the battle for Jerusalem will result in destruction for both the oppressor (enemies of Jerusalem) and the oppressed (people of Jerusalem).
As I read this I cannot help but get the uncomfortable feeling that everything being described here would fit a description of a nuclear conflict centered on Jerusalem, mutually assured destruction (MAD). I certainly hope and pray that this is not the judgement that is being described here. The passage ends with an interesting twist on this depressing depiction of devastation: “the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel…will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night— as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still.”
It sounds like in the end God wins and the forces that are arrayed against Jerusalem find that their “victory” was an illusion that disappears when they awaken from their sanguineous stupor. The dreams of destruction that seemed to be at hand will turn out to be in the end nothing more than a dream that does not satisfy the hunger or thirst that these oppressors were feeling. I think in the end that is because the oppressors and the people of Jerusalem are thirsting for the wrong thing. They are not alone in this.
God wants all of us to hunger and thirst for Him and Him alone. True inner peace and rescue from the type of calamity and conflict described in this passage comes from realizing this while we are still here in the “Land of Oblivion” we are to pursue God as passionately as He is pursuing us.
Prayer: God thank You for pursuing us and giving us peace. Help us to pursue You as passionately as You pursue us.